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  • Akarsh Simha 4:21 pm on October 2, 2009 Permalink  

    Shaastra 2009 Hackfest – Day 1 

    Okay, Day 1 started with me trying to schedule some sleep in vain. While still trying to setup a distcc farm, build Qt, I went at 10 AM for a break, followed by Atul Chitnis’ talk on “FOSS and Technology” at 10:30 AM. Atul was down with Chickengunya, but gave an excellent talk nevertheless. I don’t know about others, but I did have something to learn from it.

    He started by saying that the talk would appear a little biographical to begin with, and went on to talk about his younger days, when he pulled apart a grandfather clock, and about his college project – they had quite a lot of learning in them. The punch line of the first bit of the talk, if I’ve got it right, was “Understand everything deeply, to the core. Because, if you want to develop something new, you had better know the inner workings of the system at hand”. Trying to take things apart is sometimes the way to understanding the inner workings of a system, and Atul stressed that this is of educative value, even if it fails. Even while putting things back together, you can learn something. He then explained how the FOSS way of doing things – open interaction, open source code, a nice community that is always willing to help – supported the user to dive deep into the working of technology. He asserted that it is through Free and Open Source Software that new technologies could be born, because building new technologies implies the requirement of understanding how things work on the inside – not just how to use an API. He also explained how FOSS was beneficial to students of technology, in enabling thinking, and in helping them to work with a large team. (On a side note, I was wondering whether the community-interaction in the scientific community would be analogous to that in KDE and other FOSS projects would, when he said this). He told the audience several anecdotes – I found the one about Harald Welte’s GSM stations the most exciting. The question-answer session at the end was very interesting. Someone who had attended one of Atul’s talks before could easily say that Atul had Chickengunya, because he wasn’t moving about as much as he would, but I don’t think someone who was blindfolded would! His talk very good in my opinion.

    We quickly broke for lunch, because Shreyas’ talk was next. Shreyas re-did the “FOSS Foundry” talk after guaging the audience’s skills, although he had originally intended something different (and more exciting!). It was very interactive, and everyone in the audience was actively participating. He managed to keep people who had not slept the entire night awake and absolutely active. I’m sure everyone enjoyed his talk.

    Okay, now let me talk about the pre-hackfest talks. I assumed the responsibility of building KDE this hackfest. Prakash has been running around doing many other things, so he goaded me to join him in the pre-hackfest talk for KDE. I didn’t know what to say – we didn’t even have presentations prepared – but I think we did something reasonable. I couldn’t afford to stay through the rest of the pre-hackfest talks (that were intended to give an overview of various organizations), so I can’t comment.

    Then, the hackathon began. The kernel hackathon seemed to be the most attractive and the best in my room. Aneesh is a charismatic speaker, and from whatever I could gather during my compile-time breaks, he, Kamalesh and Prasad really had motivated their participants. Participants stayed up as late as 4 AM. I heard that they talked about the release cycle of the Linux kernel, helped people build the Linux kernel, went over some of the options in the kernel config, and talked about how to debug the kernel running on an emulator using gdb.

    As for KDE, we had a few people staying as late as 4 AM. Kashyap was probably busy with other responsibilities, while Prakash gave an introduction to the KStars code-base and I sat trying to build KDE. (I made a lot of blunders, which is why it still hasn’t built). Later in the night, I live-fixed a simple bug to demonstrate the thought process and the procedures involved in fixing a bug and commiting it to the repository. Here’s a link to the commit. The participants made several suggestions, and we filtered the good ideas from the “unclean” ideas. Some folks were still hacking on KStars early in the morning with Prakash’s help, while I went back to the failing build.

    The Mozilla JetPack hackfest seemed to be going really well, although they were in a different room, and I didn’t get to hear much. Siddharth was very enthusiastic. He was teaching people JavaScript, which was a pre-requisite for JetPack.

    The GNOME mentor Arun found out that people didn’t know about function pointers, so they couldn’t understand event-driven programming. So he opted the route of “get your fundas right” and strengthened participants in the basics, so that they can hack GNOME today. I don’t know much of what happened there.

    I was completely isolated from the Sugar hackfest, so I have no idea what went on.

    Jai was conducting the ffmpeg hackathon. They submitted a patch for review. Today, they will be writing a decoder! That’s a lot of nice news :). Kudos to Jai.

    So that was Day 1. We knew what to do, unlike last year. Things were completely under control and went off fine, although KDE didn’t go as good as expected.

    We should be hanging out on #iitm-hackfest on FreeNode. Do catch us!

    • Pranesh Srinivasan 10:17 am on October 4, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I seem to have missed some awesome fun too 😐

    • Hobbes 5:16 pm on October 10, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      “guage” is not an English word, “gauge” is — couldn’t resist the temptation to pick on you(see para 3). Nice write up.

    • coenEveveLeld 6:51 am on November 25, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Lots of people talk about this issue but you wrote down really true words.

  • Akarsh Simha 3:31 pm on October 2, 2009 Permalink  

    Shaastra 2009 Hackfest 

    Apologies: This post is coming MUCH MUCH later than it should have!

    Wow! I wonder if you remember last year’s “Hackfest” at Shaastra, the technical festival of IIT Madras. Last year’s hackfest, despite failing miserably in a LOT of ways, had a whole lot of impact in other ways. I learned that it was partly responsible for the creation of two new LUGs, and the activation of one dormant LUG. It also indirectly played a role in bringing two new KDE developers, apart from quite a few things that I’m sure have escaped from my sight.

    Last year’s hackfest was something that we coordinators placed really low on our priority list. S V Vikram, Sanjeev Sripathi and I were coordinators last year, and SVV and I had our most heavy academic semester going on. We really didn’t want to do the hackfest, but well, no one else pursued it. I did expect some juniors to do that! Well, nevertheless, we hardly spent any time working on it. The whole thing was a terrible disaster in terms of organization, but it actually did something significant!

    Considering that this was one of those events which would actually motivate people to contribute to FOSS and to learn deeper, this event has entered the mainstream of Shaastra! We had four third year students – Prakash Mohan, Kashyap Puranik, Vinay Hegde, and Kashyap Garimella – applying as coordinators for this event. That felt really nice – something I wanted to do, but someone else (mind you, they are equally inclined towards the event as I am, or probably more!) to organize it! I decided not to pull myself in until those 4 days of Shaastra (we’re on Day 2 now) where I promised to be available to help with KDE – some contribution to KDE from me after my commit rate has been dwindling :|. It’s really awesome to see motivated juniors taking care of the event. They have worked REALLY HARD on it. Thankfully, their fifth semesters are lighter than ours was.

    We got Atul Chitnis (tech. guru), Shreyas Srinivasan (GNOME, RadioVerve), Aneesh (Kernel), Kamalesh (Kernel), Prasad (Kernel), Jai Menon (ffmpeg), Vamsi Davuluri (Sugar), and Siddharth Agarwal (Mozilla) to give talks / mentor people during the Hackfest. We also have our very own Arun Chaganty (GNOME), Prakash Mohan (KDE), Kashyap Puranik (KDE) apart from me (KDE) mentoring folks at the hackfest.

    I was hoping to publish this post before the hackfest, but I couldn’t rest because KDE was not building. Not that I’ve built it successfully now, but I’ve decided to do something else to keep me entertained while it builds. I was hoping for a better Day 1 than what actually went, but unlike last time, Day 1 was pretty good this time! Hopefully, Day 2 will see the real work happening.

    I will describe Day 1 from my POV in the next post. Till then Tschues.

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