Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BarCampKerala 6: An experience

So, another BarCamp just got over. I wasn't so sure I would be attending this one, and because of the same, I had registered very late. One advantage I had with this is that, the venue was Rajagiri College of Engineering, which is quite nearer, than Technopark or IIM-K.

As always, the sessions page showed about 13 sessions listed. But this being my 5th BarCamp, I knew most of them wouldn't turn up. So does the registered 160+ people.

I started early, thought against going alone. I invited @manikartha to come along with me, but he chose to wait for his friend. I reached Kakkanad, and by the time, I knew from the tweets that the sessions already started.

I walked into the hall (late) listening to Praseed Pai's session. After listening to him for 2-3 times, I've become a fan of him. Although most of his talks are full of maths and goes above everyone's head. His passion, and the effort he has put into grokking deep into dark corners of the subjects is simply impressive.

Only this time, he chose not to talk about maths or programming or complier design, but rather "Biases and Fallacies of Human Race". It was mostly, maths probability and lots of equations and abbreviations, but I enjoyed nonetheless. Simply, by listening to the way he explains the practical methods of utilizing probability into real life, is inspiring. If there was only one such teacher in my college who taught/explained the applications of such theorems, I'd have been a rank holder in Operations Research.

Kenney talked about "Voice Based Blood Search", a proposal to implement a voice based blood bank sourcing programme. Not only did he talk big, but he had already implemented it in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. I appreciate his effort of setting up a PoC implementation, so as to convince the audience it is possible, and that its not just talks.

Secondly, Kenney presented "TEN: Technology Evangelists Network". People in Kochi know that BarCamp is a venue which is attented by all people across Kerala. But we Kochiites have various events almost every week: ILUG meet, Cochin tweetup, Cochin Bloggers meet, and lately OWASP meeting. Kenney's argument was that, most of the meetings are attentend by, and lead by "drop-outs", he suggested these "drop-outs" have a better chance of entrepreneurship that college-educated candidates. (Correct me if I'm wrong, that's the idea I got). Kenney also compared Stanford dropouts, and MIT whizes who actually haven't completed their courses. This session invited a lot of heated debates. I believe the audience was left with to conclude the success ratio of drop-out/college-educated entrepreneurs.

Next Rajesh Venugopal (@Raj241071) was back with his sad stories of cultural status quo of Kerela, our wasted adherence to unnecessary religious ceremonies. I already disagreed with most of his points at BarCampKerala 5. True, there are some time-wasting cultural ceremonies, but that is what defines a civilization. If we were like Americans, simply pursuing job/career/entrepreneurship we would reach somewhere sans happiness.

But his slides on Young Kerala initiative back then interested me a lot. I agree with him fully on ignorance and disregard shown by Baby Boomers to Gen-Y. He also dragged us through his sorrow-filled entrepreneurial start-up life, bulleted points full of what set-backs he had to face, how he had revelations at various intervals of life. But his hard-earned experience from life would sure be of some leading light to some who steps into the shoes of an entrepreneur.

Rajesh's talks, coupled with Kenney's ideas, makes me say organisations should hire young people who are capable of accomplishing things successfully with passion, rather than having some hi-fi college degree and a bag full of certifications. But anyway, though I disagree with Rajesh in his attitude to so-called "unnecessary" ceremonies prevalent in our state, I'm going to join his Young Kerala group in Facebook, today, ASAP.

Arun Basil Lal, rushed to stage next, after having a restless time trying to woo gaallzz. His first talk was about a Mind Mapping software, the same old thing presented at BarCampKerala 4 at IIM-K. I'm sure Vishnu Gopal would have hated mind maps. At least, he hated it back then. He tore one off in stage, back at IIM-K.

Next, Arun proceeded to show a todo manager. He also took great care to insult Mac users, much to the agitation of @missy07. I don't know if Arun have used Macs, but if he has, he wouldn't be so enthusiastic about insulting them. Arun also talked about the origins of BarCamp, which is actually 'forbidden' in BarCamp rulebook. He mispronounced O'Reilly media as "oh-reality media" (which I'm sure anal geeks would take offense to). Also, foo was not just a short form for "Friends of O'Reilly", it was much more of a backronym of the metasyntatic variable 'foo'. Since FOOCamp was invitation only (from Tim O'Reilly), other interested people decided to create a open-to-all camp, and they chose the next metasyntatic variable used in geekdom — 'bar'.

Anand got on stage to talk about Carpooling. But by the time I returned back from the wash room, his talk was over. Sad, I couldn't listen to it.

After lunch, @manikartha, @vishnupsp etc. roamed around the campus hunting for 'colours'. ;-)

Post-lunch, we got into the hall as Manu Zacharia was going on through his "Ethical Hacking" presentation. Now, I always have this hostile attitude towards the word "Ethical Hacking" and anyone who uses it. I was once bummed buying a book by the so-called leading "ethical hacker" of India — Ankit Fadia. Don't buy his books, please. I was conned. Why I am hostile is that, within the hacker community there's a prevailing qusetion, "What's so unethical about hacking?".

But Manu handled his talks very neatly. Much better than I anticipated. He sure is someone who knows what he is talking about. The only other person I have seen with so much prowess is Jayakrishnan, from Xtend Technologies. Manu skimmed through the usual security related topics like SQL injection, the money matter, stealing credit card numbers, etc.

He also talked a lot about certifications, the importance, various available ones etc. I'm only sad that he too is an MVP. Why do all industry experts have this M$ certification in their pocket? ALso, watching his talk made me regret not going for the first OWASP meet. Binny had invited me for it, but I thought some other personal appointment was better. Now I really regret.

I am also not very sure he fielded my questions about Fadia and various loosely scattered certifications very well. I wanted to know why the media is not bringing out the fad behind Fadia. Manu seemed to be defending Fadia. No idea why. And once again, I despise the term "Ethical Hacking". Pen testing (for "penetration testing") seems to be a much more unambiguous term.

Manu also listed out the common vuln analysis tools like Nessus, Nmap, NetCat, SATAN/SAINT/SANTA, etc. (wannabe hackers please download them :-p). He also talked about his BackTrack like distro — Matriux. I'm definitely interested. Let me jump into it during my free time.

Manu had to field a LOOT of questions. I'm sure many people haven't still got their chance to ask what they wanted to clarify. And I also want to know if Arun Basil Lal managed to crack into his GF's Orkut account :-p (JK, don't hate me, Arun).

Next was Muneef's attempt to simplify Drupal 101. Since I was outside the hall meeting/talking to various guys, I couldn't listen to it properly. I met Hiran Venugopal outside. He's with SMC. I've been wanting to meet someone active from SMC to ask a few doubts. But we had to cut short our talks as Hiran was called off to answer some queries on TrueType font hinting.

Post lunch sessions, as always were devoid of the bubbly girls you see around at all BarCamp's inaugural sessions. They flock in, talk/giggle with their open laptops, check mails, scrap each other, have lunch and and leave the hall. I remember asking one girl sitting near me (seeing she was punching something fast on her mobile) "Are you on twitter?". She gave me a stare, gathered her bag, and left immediately, muttering "no". O_o

I then sat with Praseed Pai where I attempted to leak out maximum wealth of knowledge out of him. I always wish I loved maths, but sadly I hate it. Seeing people like Pai who mastered it all on his own, is a motivational feeling.

Lastly, Sameer from ILUG talked briefly about ILUG, and showed us the Open Movie — Big Buck Bunny. Pai all this time, was wondering about the math behind open source compositing, shader algorithms, and unease-of-use of Blender UI.

Binny spoke about his "hello script" method of learning programming languages. I like his method, but as he correctly pointed out, won't work with languages of different paradigms like Haskell, OCaml, or Scheme.

Praseed then decided to quiz us showing pics of famous personalities of computing. I'm sure, we can remember the name, but forgets the name when his photo is shown. After a long talk by Binny on Python, I found it difficult to recall the name of Guido van Rossum, when his photo was shown. So bad, my brain, bad bad! Later, as the BarCamp wound up, some of us stood in the verandah discussing various random stuff. This was quite an informal talk, but we enjoyed a lot. I could also meet @crazyjibin with whom I've only interacted on twitter.

I left the venue with @albins, who was kind enough to offer me a lift to Kakkanad junction.

This was a very interesting BarCamp, quite unlike the boring one at IIM-K. Thanks to organisers, and fellow BarCampers. Photos: here. Video (thanks to @karmadude): here.


Vishnu Shankar said...

ArunBasiLal pronounced O'Reilly as 'Oh-reality'.

After hearing the report, I really regret being late for Praseed Pai's presentation and for leaving early!

Mahesh Aravind said...

@Vishnu Shankar
I got messed up recalling previous day's memories. Yes, @ArunBasilLal pronounced it wrongly as "oh-reality" media.


Thanks for pointing it out. Fixed it there.

Manu Zacharia said...

Hey Mahesh,

I was not trying to field anyone, It's basically I was trying to be "always positive" - :) - I know there are some negative sides for always being positive. And thanks for the open views.

One more line caught my attention - "I wanted to know why the media is not bringing out the fad behind Fadia." - Good question - I wish media had the power to bring out all the truths happening around us - I hope you got the answer for your question :)

I am glad that we all met and exchanged our views and thoughts. Will meet up soon.

Mahesh Aravind said...

@Manu Zacharia

No hard feelings, pal. I understood you were sticking on to *NOT* paint anyone in a bad light.

LOL, regarding 'my question' I haven't (yet) got a satisfactory answer, but I definitely understood what you're hinting :) I know :-p

Looking forward to meet you soon, hope to see you at the next OWASP meet. Keep up great work!

PS: Didn't notice earlier, but your card says AFCEH (Ankit Fadia Certified Ethical Hacker?). Anyone with that would defend his certification right? JK! :-D

Prachi Telang said...

Sounds like a Geek EVE to me !!!

Arun Basil Lal said...

Great Writeup, Obviously the extempore presentation came with its flaws. Thanks for notifying.

Why does Vishnu hate MindMaps? He should have been there, would have loved to fight with him. We already have a Windows over MAC fight going on.

(Hey, I have used MAC for pretty decent time, the fight is for fights sake, but me a MAC and I will happily use it, but I wont probably dumb my PC, where will I run all the cracks? :D )