Installfest Zindabad!

Yesterday, 25th of August, 2007 will go down as a very special day in history of FOSS in eastern India. AFAIK, on this day the *first* successful Linux Installfest was organised by a student LUG - the WBUT-LUG. It was supported in this maiden endeavor by the ILUG-CAL.ORG.

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Despite being over-cast in the morning with heavy rains in between 9:30 - 10:30 AM, there were 5 desktops and 3 laptops which landed up along with 22 participants (including the 5 volunteers from the first year). The University provided about 12 computers additionally for playing around. From ILUG-Cal’s side, the following people turned up to act as volunteer instructors and as L1 and L2 support.

  1. Susmit Shannigrahi (WBUT Alumnus and Fedora Ambassador)
  2. Debarshi Roy (Author of Opyum, Fedora Ambassador and GSoC 2007 candidate, perhaps the only guy who did not have a WBUT connection)
  3. Soumyadip Modak (WBUT alumnus and GSoC 2006 candidate and long-time FOSS hacker)
  4. Arindam “mak” Ghosh (student under WBUT’s BCREC)
  5. Subhodip “beton” Biswas (student under WBUT’s BCREC)
  6. Ajitesh Chowdhury (student under WBUT’s BCREC)
  7. Swagnik Chatterjee (student under WBUT’s BCREC)

The last four deserve a special mention as they travelled down all the way from Durgapur, which is about 200 kilometres away from Kolkata. Thanks a lot guys for so overwhelming answering the call for volunteers :D

The biggest credit for setting up the installfest infrastructure goes to Susmit, who in his capacity as an intern with L2C2 Technologies, worked hard for the last couple of days to setup the local Fedora i386 repositories - base, updates, everything as well as the Livna repo. Not only did he lead the “show-and-tell” session at the Installfest, he made sure that bootable CDs for i386 and 64-bit ones were in place and that the infrastructure functioned without a glitch. All thanks to him, WBUT now has it’s own internal Fedora repository. :)

Ankur Kulshrestha (from 2nd Year MTech Biotech) and Rabi Kumar (from 2nd Year, BTech IT) as well as the first year volunteers (some 5 - 6 of them), for taking up the initiative and leading the preparations of the programme.

Support during the programme also came in from faculty members of WBUT, Subrangshu Supakar (Dept of Bio-Informatics), Santanu Chatterjee (School of Information Technology), Raju Chal (School of Information Technology), and of course the programme wouldn’t have happened unless Prof Ashoke R. Thakur, the Vice Chancellor had personally encouraged the students to go ahead.

The installfest, which was scheduled to start from 12 PM onwards, actually got underway around 1-ish, with last minutes preparations. The students asked me to “inaugurate” the programme. The InstallFest Howto had already been circulated earlier by email to all the participants to prepare them for the culture shock. So, I spoke on what to expect, some ideas of possible future roadmaps for the WBUT-LUG, introduced the ILUG-Cal volunteers as well as asking the participants to introduce themselves to their fellows.

We had a good mix. About 50% coming in from Biotech programmes and the rest from CSE and IT. And they came from all the years. Out of 22 participants, 7 were girls. While that may not be great, it’s better than the typical LUG atmosphere of nearly 100% male only participation.

The participants soon warmed up to the new concept of an Installfest. Excepting two systems, we managed to install all the systems, update and add support for stuff like mp3 and DVD playback. On one system there was a slight problem with the mouse. The mouse was working, but without a visible cursor. Soumyadip who is ILUG-Cal’s resident hardware geek, rose to the challenge and soon got that to work as well. Before that, nearly everything, from it being a 64-bit system to it being a Microsoft mouse, got blamed :D

One Acer Aspire 5000 AMD Turion64 based notebook, belonging to Ankush from MTech Biotech gave us hell, but by 9:15 PM it too got sorted out. Somehow, the participants didn’t expect the volunteers to stay back that late and really help out the way they did in sorting out “their” problems. Again, a culture-shock thing. However, it worked in the programme’s favor as I came to know when Ankur called me up this morning. He expressed their thanks to all the ILUG-Cal volunteers. Rabi and others wanted to know how to become a part of ILUG-Cal’s activities and how to drive the programme ahead within their own WBUT-LUG.

Also, while the programme was going on yesterday, some faculty members from other colleges who had come to attend an Intel Academic Initiative event that was being held in the adjacent lab, came over to our lab to watch. Some, like Kalyan Mahata, a lecturer in IT, at the Govt College of Engg and Leather Technology, wanted to know how *he* could participate in such a programme. To cut a long story short, he has offered to organise a similar programme at his college, provided that WBUT-LUG can assist them by the way of technical know-how and by providing resource persons as collaborators.

We called it a day/night at around 9:25 PM. The total expense incurred (as volunteers didn’t get any payments) was Rs. 1455/- only. The next two coming Saturdays are ear-marked for Installfest with other new participants, who couldn’t be accommodated in the first instance. Let’s hope we can keep up the pace, it is after all the Turn, turn, turn time.

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