Archive for the 'ILUG-CAL.ORG' Category

Making change happen - the case of the IOTA job ad

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Since reading Rajib’s passionate mails, and Rohit’s (iamhere) email about the WBCS officers’ training on FOSS, I thought of sharing the recent case of the IOTA job advertisement.

The background : IOTA is planning to recruit on contractual basis 2 multimedia developer and 1 project consultant for CBT development. The CBTs are intended for schools across the state.

The case that was : Until 18th Feb, 2010, the advertisement asked for people with work experience on *entirely* proprietary software - Adobe Flash, AfterEffects, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premier, 3D Studio Max. You can see a copy of that ad here below:


The Change : On 19th February evening, a meeting was convened at IT Department under the chairman-ship of the MIC IT, Prof Debesh Das. Clear guidelines were laid out. The minister re-iterated that IOTA can not do such as thing while it has the mandate to take the message of FOSS across the state. A committee sat down on the 20th Feb, afternoon at IOTA office, went through the use-case scenarios around the CBTs to be developed and identified the potential software stack to be used in the changed scenario. The updated advertisement, which is entirely pro-FOSS can be seen here


or on the IOTA website. The change was made on 20th evening itself.

The Message : A case where things got “right”-ed in a govt dept, although in Harry Truman style, the “buck” finally stopped right at the “top”.

Upcoming - “System Administration Reloaded” a lecture by Devdas Bhagat on Dec 26, 2009.

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

What : A lecture by Devdas (f3ew) Bhagat, who will be passing through town and was coaxed into giving this talk.

Where : Dept of Physics, West Bengal State University, Berunanpukuria, Barasat.

When : At 12:30 PM on Saturday, 26th December 2009.

Lecture Synopsis - “Most people who end up being system administrators are self taught. There is little formal theory in this field so far. System administration also involves very different sets of tasks, ranging from helpdesk issues to management reports, from wiring to software.

A very large number of people also start off with small numbers of machines to run and few issues to troubleshoot. As the number of machines grows, keeping pace with troubleshooting becomes impossible. Sysadmins spend time firefighting, and then burn out. Hiring is often very limited due to budgetary constraints or simply due to lack of available labour.

This talk deals with the constraints sysadmins work under, and how to work around them so that they aren’t as big a bottleneck. We take a look at the mindset required to do this work, and how to convince management that the solutions you are implementing are cheaper than the alternative. We also take a quick look at some of the solutions available for sysadmins to reduce their workload.”

Speaker Bio

Devdas Bhagat is just another recovering sysadmin, and is currently playing database administrator for a large domain registration system. In his copious spare time, he works with other business units at his workplace to help tune their systems, add business benchmarks and other general monitoring stuff. He has spoken at the sysadmin miniconf at LCA’09 (Linux Conference Australia) on system automation and on DNS benchmarking. He has spoken at various network operator group (SANOG) conferences on spam control, DNS, operational issues, large scale email systems, etc. He has also been a speaker on databases at FOSS.IN and it’s previous avatar, Linux-Bangalore. When not busy working with computers, he spends time in the hills trekking and photographing.

Organised by : West Bengal University of Technology in association with Kolkata Linux Users’ Group (ILUG-CAL.ORG)

BESU, Instruo ‘09 and BigBeard’s talk

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU), the erstwhile BE College, Shibpur, is a venerable institution of higher learning in the country. Unfortunately, of late, it has frequently been in the news, for reason that had little to do with its glorious past of academic excellence. So, when after a large-ish gap, the students there tried to organise their techfest - Instruo ‘09 on 11 - 12 April, efforts were made to support their effort at the climb-back.

Prof Suryasarathi Barat, Director of the BESU’s School of IT (PDSIT), had requested me if I could help them scout for “big speakers”. I did know of one “big speaker” and therefore got in touch with Atul Chitnis (Toolz). With everything in place, suddenly there was the sad news of Toolz’s dad passing away and he having to rush to his mom’s side in Germany. With like 4 days to the Techfest, things could have gone into a tailspin, except that Toolz asked me to talk to Kishore Bhargava (BigBeard).

Kishore was available to speak on the 12th. He was also a great sport, as Kabir (his son) was going to give a recital later that evening which BigBeard didn’t want to miss. He landed up on 11th evening from Delhi. The next day (12th) we landed up around 11:00 AM. Kishore was already there. He’s talk was just before the lunch. Even though the awareness about FOSS in the student community was really low (when asked about having heard of FOSS, only 4 hands had gone up in a room with over 70 students). This is a bit strange as the professors keep insisting that they “have linux in all our labs“. There is some serious disconnect here.

Kishore’s talk was as always - lively. He drew in both the students and teachers, and made the session highly interactive. I tried to record his talk on my E71. The video is here, split up into 5 parts since youtube no longer allows for videos longer than 10 mins to be normally uploaded.

Part 1 of 5

Part 2 of 5

Part 3 of 5

Part 4 of 5

Part 5 of 5

Kishore’s presentation is here. It is under Creative Commons. BY-NC attribution. And if you use it somewhere please send nice “Thank You” to BigBeard :-)

Kishore finished up with inviting students and faculty members to attend this year’s FOSS.IN at NIMHANS. He then took in a series of questions from both students and the professors. The “Top Ramen” guy (Gaurav) seemed to have a lot of questions. One of the resonating queries was “On Windows we have .NET / VC++ to program with, what do we use to do GUI programming on Linux, there are so many choices PyGTK, Qt, Glade and many more?”. Apparently “C-H-O-I-C-E” is something neither the students nor the teachers here are very comfortable with. There is a deep sense of unwillingness to leave aside the cacoon of “imagined comfort of the known“.

We all walked down for lunch at the BESU guest house. There we met with the new Vice Chancellor - Prof Ajoy K Ray. He was very open and has invited us back at BESU for future programs and activities. With a pragmatic view about things, and a willingness to listen to others, it seems that Prof Ray is trying to bring in a new drive and energy about the place. BESU needs it badly.

ILUG-Cal collaborates with IOTA @ Kolkata Bookfair 2009

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Responding to the call for support from IOTA (Institute for Open Technology and Applications), ILUG-CAL.ORG team members did a wonderful job of presenting the case of GNU/Linux and FOSS in general at the Kolkata International Bookfair between 28th Jan and 8th Feb 2009.

Here some of the photos from that event:


From L to R : Rohit, Gaurav, Susmit, Nishant, Mukesh, Shinjan, Sarbartha, Dipanjan, Hemant, Shivam, Debnath, Saikat and me (sitting)

27012009233 27012009234 27012009235 27012009237 IMG_1048 IMG_1050 IMG_1052 IMG_1053 IMG_1054 IMG_1058 IMG_1059

Update on FOSS activities at NIT Agartala

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I had met Aveek Sen, 1st Year student from NIT Agartala during my keynote at Mukti ‘09 at NIT Durgapur. Since then he came down to visit me at my office. We spoke for some time, where I tried to share some ideas on what they could do at their college. Lack of bandwidth is the bane of their existence. He went back to Agartala and here is what he mailed to me on the progress so far.

I received a very good response in my college. I along with a batch mate Swapnil Paratey, seniors-Sushil Deshmukh, Nagendra, Sarfaraj & Rivu , are organising a seminar on Linux & FOSS on 24th February,2009.

We are also supposed to work on the database management system, website & online ticketing system of an auditorium in Agartala-Sukanta Academy.

As I mentioned earlier, I am planning to work on a nanotechnology experiments simulation software & require your help. Please get me in touch with some people as I would like guidance & certain experimental raw data from them.

Also, please let me know about the repositories in a disc. Sorry, I could not get in touch with Mr.Susmit Sanighrahi. He was unavailable on phone that day & after coming back to Agartala, I was a little occupied. I plan to contact him within the weekend.

I am on twitter now & have my blog on wordpress by the name Aveek Sen’s blog.

More burnt omelette ideas on the way

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

It seems that Adda Bites near RGH has become a regular host for mini iLUG-Cal sessions from days of yore…. Susmit, me and the youngsters would soon be having something online… on the side notes, the next round of high school teachers training conducted by ILUG-Cal on behalf of IOTA will happen on 6 - 7th December.

Let a thousand flowers bloom aka seeding FOSS User Groups

Monday, October 20th, 2008

A handful earlier interns from L2C2’s 21-day Fast Track FOSS internship program - Susmit Shannigrahi, Subhodip Biswas, Arindam Ghosh are busy with the $SUBJECT above these days. They are being led by Susmit who is also a Fedora Ambassador and an active member of the global Fedora Infrastructure group.

Their approach is very much in line with the overall ILUG-Cal’s core vision of helping set up a multitude of student FOSS groups and *mentoring* them so that there is faster and across-the-board uptake of FOSS in general and more active contributions and more Google SoC candidates.

Between 26th and 28th September 2008, they were invited by the organisers of VNIT-Nagpur’s annual Technical Fest - AXIS ‘08 to conduct a 3-day workshop on introduction to FOSS and followed by hands-on installfest and sessions on software development using FOSS tools and infrastruture.

That was 3 weeks back and the results are already coming in! They have formed the VNIT GNU/Linux User Group, so far it has 59 members and counting. They have also set up a local Fedora mirror (so that they do not need to depend on the college’s Internet connectivity at all times to stay updated).

We are expecting more exciting news from VNIT-Nagpur. Good job guys! :)

IOTA Teachers’ Training FOSS Workshop at WBSUB

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Last year, we - the Indian GNU/Linux Users’ Group - Kolkata Chapter, had conducted the highly successful 2-month long weekend program on GCC programming workshops and tutorials at the Rajabazar Science College, University of Calcutta.

Recently there was a call for support and collaboration from the Institute of Open Technology and Applications (IOTA), an autonomous society that has been recently set up under the aegis of Dept of Information Technology, Govt of West Bengal. IOTA’s mandate, afaik, is to identify cases and espouse the use and adoption of FOSS in the state of West Bengal. Towards that end, training in FOSS based technologies of high school teachers across the state, has been identified by the society as one of the courses for immediate action. Several training programs are in the offing. The teachers’ training program at West Bengal State University (WBSUB), Barasat was a part of that.

Between 2nd and 4th October, 2008, 51 high school teachers belonging to 42 different schools from across the district of North 24 Parganas attended the workshop. A team of six ILUG-CAL.ORG members gathered in Barasat (North 24 Parganas) from 4 different districts of WB, worked nearly against time to plan, execute and successfully deliver the program, with less that 20 hours of head-start before the event took off.

The following ILUG-CAL.ORG members were involved :

Susmit Shannigrahi   Fedora Ambassador
Sarbartha Sengupta   Co-ordinator, RCCIIT LUG
Dipanjan Chakraborty   Co-ordinator, RCCIIT LUG
Arindam Ghosh   OpenStreetMap GSoC 2008
Rabi Kumar   Python enthusiast & Phoenix fanatic
Indranil Das Gupta   Coordinator, ILUG-Cal

During the workshop, the team was also assisted by Dr. Subhojit Sarkar, Visiting Faculty, Physics, WBSUB

About the Workshop

The workshop was designed to impart a hands-on, working level familiarity with the FOSS Desktop environment and in using as a productivity suite and basics on Internet usage including emailing and accessing educational content from the Net.

Getting ready for the Workshop

The WBSUB is a very recent University (born like 4 months back), so infrastructure-wise nothing was really in place needed to conduct the workshop. And since we had just a 20 hours head-start before the workshop was to start off, Susmit hurried down to the Chandi Chowk market and brought back a WiFi router (WRT54G), CAT5 cable, crimping tool, RJ-45 jacks, LAN testers and other tools of the trade with him.

And so, in the first two hours of Day 1 (2nd Oct), the ILUG-Cal team hurried to set up a complete computer lab - 16 desktop PCs installed using the latest Fedora 9 DVD. We also set up the WiFi network in the lab (triple NAT-ed incidentally) and installed a 50 metre long trunk-line to connect the WiFi router in the lab with the University’s broadband ADSL router’s 100Mbit LAN port.

With all these happening in the background, Dr. Sarkar, myself and Prof Thakur (Vice Chancellor, WBSUB) got the first day’s initial theory session under way. By 1 PM, the infrastructure was ready and in place. Arindam was designated to prepare the hand-out documentation of the lecture schedule outlines. Susmit and myself assisted in bits and parts in the edit process.

I was happy to see the youngsters - Dipanjan and Sarbartha doing really well in their sessions. Rabi was OK, but he really needs a shot of confidence and more exposure. Being a non-native speaker of Bangla, he was ill-at-ease with the participants during his lecture/demonstrations. He was however good when it came to one-on-one guidance during the practical sessions. Arindam was as usual very good in his delivery of the content. As expected from him, he was also very competent in handling the technical nitty-gritty of Susmit has shaped up into a fine mentor himself and a competent speaker.

The training schedule

Between Susmit and myself, we managed put together this training program outline. We based it on instructions from Prof. S. K. Sen (President, IOTA) and Prof. Thakur.

The Participants

The turn-up was good, 51 participants from an expected total of 52 teachers was what we had. Considering that the schools were going in for their annual Durga Puja holidays in another 2 days and with the Pujas starting from the 6th of October, this was indeed *huge* turn-up. What is interesting to note is that the total attendance even for the 3rd day (4th Oct) was still 42.

  1. Participants’ Details (participant name and school name only)
  2. Detailed participants’ registration data (includes age, contact details, subjects taught) available in PDF format.**

** The file contains personal information of the participants and hence it has been password protected. Any persons authorised by the President of IOTA Society may mail me in private for the password.

Our participants were by no means a homogeneous set. Although there was a strong Physical Science / Maths contingent, there were a total sizable number of participants from Humanities / Social Sciences. There were upto 6 teachers in all, who looked after subjects like Physical Education / Work Education / Nutrition. Interesting to note : Only *one* teacher who taught computer applications in his school. Below is the detailed breakup of that list.

Physics   9
Chemistry   10
Mathematics   7
Statistics   1
Biology /Life Sciences   8
Computer Applications   1
Sanskrit   1
Bengali   4
English   3
Commerce / Economic Geography / Biz Org   2
Economics   3
Geography   4
History   1
Nutrition   1
Work Education   1
Physical Education   4 **

** Some teachers look after for more than one subject, hence totalling the count of teachers in the list above will result in 60 instead of the 51 participant count.




The program was delivered and over by 3:30 PM on the 4th October 2008, with the Registrar of the University - Prof. Kamales Bhaumik distributing the certificates and the Vice Chancellor - Prof Thakur addressing the closing session and and interacting with the participants, telling them how they can collect the hand-outs and software CD / DVD after the University opens after the holidays.

A total of 38 participants of the 42 attendees on the final day of the workshop opted to put in their feedback to the following questions (see the charts below), most of them also provided detailed personal remarks / suggestions / comments (it has been presented verbatim, except for possible typos during data entry)

The feedback

A Few Observations

  1. During the training sessions, nearly 25% of the teachers stated that they regularly need to input unit test marks, prepare marksheets, tabulate them, generate individual report cards, often using proprietary software or by a partially manual laborious process. They would like learn if can be used to largely automate such tedious but important every day work and if so, then how. They have expressed a keen interest in the idea of a separate workshop / training focussed on such school administration specific use of and other FOSS packages.
  2. The Birati High School team of 3 teachers, particular Mr. Sajal Kumar Banerjee expressed their interest in exploring free/open source school information system (SIS). Birati High presently uses a locally developed, highly popular but closed-source proprietary SIS product. The entire team expressed their helplessness about the vendor lock-in and annual maintenance contract, including horror stories about the product stopping to work when the annual renewal is due. If a viable alternative is available or is made available they are ready to shift.
  3. The biggest mindshare winner for FOSS was the realisation by the participants that Windows-based viruses and worms are rendered harmless on GNU/Linux platform, with several participants showing a keen interest in installing Linux on their personal and/or school systems
  4. Participants expressed a need for a resource centre or access to resource persons that they can turn to, post-workshop. So that when they run into problems in installing / using FOSS software they can be assured of help.
  5. Several of the participants expressed their helplessness about their inability to convince their school management. The argument went like this - “We have understood the benefits. But we are very new to this, how are we going to explain this properly to our management? Can you help us in anyway?”

Without question, this teachers’ training program, was at the end of it, one of the most hastily organised and yet most successfully delivered programs from ILUG-Cal. As a team working together, it had literally left us with zero room for error. Nearly everything has to be done on-the-go. The largest portion of the credit for the success goes undoubtably to the ILUG-CAL.ORG team. It goes to Susmit and Arindam who had just returned to Kolkata from VNIT - Nagpur on the 30th September where they conducted a hectic 3-day workshop on behalf of the Fedora Project (India). Arindam again came down all the way from Durgapur, even if it he had just gotten home and the Pujas were around the corner. To Dipanjan and Sarbartha, who inspite of personal engagements, came down to Barasat everyday all the way from Belur. To Rabi for being there to help out as needed, which is easy to get overlooked until you miss it. To Prof Sen and Prof Thakur for the advice, encouragement and constant support. Prof. Bhaumik for helping smoothen the administrative wheels and temporarily loaning the cash to buy the urgently needed networking supplies. To Sushil-babu, the soft-spoken Finance Officer of WBSUB for his quiet efficiency and helpfulness. To Bapi, Pinto, Sanjay and other support staff at WBSUB who helped in shifting materials, arranging them and for putting up with my demands for incessant cups of tea.

On a side note : On the second day of the workshop (3rd October) the ODF Olympiad information sachet from IOTA was also distributed to the participants. More on that later.

An “interesting” Friday

Monday, September 1st, 2008

The friday dawned cloudy with promises of rain and the TMC brigands…. er brigades, promising to bring the city traffic to a stand-still between 4 - 5 PM. Around 10:35 AM, Susmit and Sayamindu landed up near my house and together we headed down to RCCIIT - a local govt. run engineering college with a whole bundle of equipment - 3 laptops, 1 OLPC XO, 1 AMD UMPC, 1 Intel ClassmatePC, other assorted hardware and freebie goodies like stickers and badges from Gnome and Firefox. The occasion was TechTrix ‘08 - the college’s annual Tech Fest which Susmit wrote about here.

Reached the college, the final 120 meters had to be trudged on foot as the road was all dug up, courtesy a sewage project under implementation. Dipanjan and a few others from the local RCCIIT LUG (which is called a SLUG or Students’ Linux User Group for some reason). There was a power-cut and we were late in starting off the “show”. There were about 85 - 100 students, mainly from the 1st year and a few from the 2nd and the 3rd years, as well as a few teachers. I went up first, it was more of a general introduction to Free & Open Source Software and how it pervades all aspects of computing - from super computers to embedded applications like mobile phones and everything in between. Susmit was up next and he spoke about the Fedora project and how to start using and contributing to it. Finally with time running short, Sayamindu went up with a short but lively talk about the OLPC project.

In about 2 hours time, we tried to give these young students an overall idea about FOSS - using and contributing, trying to share with them the excitement from multi-dimensional perspectives. By the time it was over, the heavens had opened up. So we sat down and finished off the packets of snacks that the organisers had arranged. We ended up discussing with our young hosts what they could do next. Around 1:45 PM, already getting late for a proposed meeting with Tamal-da, we decided to call up a taxi and leave. Dipanjan our principal host volunteered to venture out in the torrential rains and get a cab as we were anxious not to get our equipment wet.

Dipanjan disappeared for 15 minutes and then suddenly came back thoroughly drenched. He informed us that the cab was there, but then very apologetically added that we would have to cross the sewage-cum-storm water canal over a foot bridge as the taxi can’t come to this side (college side) of the canal as the roads were all dug up.

The rains had by then dropped down to a drizzle but the roads were flooded. So, we jumped across large pools of water using slippery bricks as toe-holds and hoping not to skid and to get our gear across as dry as possible. The footbridge turned out to be standard issue rickety construction made of bamboo, over a hyacinth covered water body that looked poisonous in color. We crossed it in a single file and they even charged 50p (about 1 cent) per head as “toll”, finally clambering up the slippery slopes covered with slush from what-nots and finally we got into the cab waiting there for us.

By then it was already late and the spectre of the TMC road blocks looming large and ominous we decided to cut out proposed trip to Tamal-da’s office short and headed into the China Town for some much needed food and a place to hangout for next 3 hours so that we could “ride out” the crazy road blockade enforced traffic snarls.

We decided to go to our regular joint - Kafulok. But on reaching there we found the place’s to remain closed between 4 - 6 PM (we had never come at this time of the day before)… baah!!!!! Having left our taxi, it was now left for us to trudge back through the slushy lanes overflowing with the effluents from the tanneries…. nice touch… even nicer with Sayamindu detailing an even more worse Lake Market during the monsoons… YUCK!!!! suddenly our present situations looked a lot better.

We ended up going to the Hot Wok (very imaginative name indeed ;-) . Since Susmit is a teetotaler, it was left to Sayam and me to polish off a pint of Vodka and a couple of Bloody Marys while Susmit nursed a plain water and a Virgin Mary. That the excitement was far from over was pointed out by Susmit - the label of our bottle of White Mischief vodka ;-)

label on the bottle of vodka

By 7:45 we decided that we should be able to get transport and get back home. And so we got on the 2nd cab we found and headed home without any further incidents. - Ready and standing by for F9 bitflip

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Our mirror is ready and standing by for the Fedora 9 bitflip. Fedora 9 is planned for release at 15:00 UTC today. Out of the 141 global public Fedora mirrors that are supposed to carry the Fedora 9 content, about 41 has till now synced up for the i386 iso.

Thanks to Susmit’s efforts, the WBUT FOSS mirror is among these 41 mirrors globally that are first off-the-starting-block. Cheerio! :D