Archive for the 'WBUT' Category - 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

2nd CASTLE rollout begins

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

After Bijra High School, where we had earlier setup the first pilot of the CASTLE (Computer-Aided Studies, Teaching and Learning Environment) initiative, it’s now the time to start rolling out the second school - Radhakantapur High School in the West Midnapore (পশ্চিম মেদিনীপুর) district of West Bengal. This time, the engineering college at Chandrakona town will act as the local partner to the project just like BCREC has done for the Bijra project.

The boys - Soumen Bar and Anutosh Dutta, who will act as local support for the project at Radhakantapur, arrived in the city on Sunday. However, I still needed some volunteers to work on the deployment readiness phase of the project, and so sent out a call to the WBUT-LUG members. Within, 15 minutes, 13 of them (from 2nd and 3rd Year BTech IT) had enthusiastically responded. The teams are in place.

I’m visiting the school today for a site survey. Soumen will be accompanying me. He will liaison with the school in getting the site ready after we make the necessary recommendations. The project implementation ETA - 15th of May, 2008.

“Time you old gypsy man, will you not stay?” - the first registered NTP server in India

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

We are glad to announce that the first and sole (at this time) time server (NTP) in India has been setup at the West Bengal University of Technology.

You can verify this by synchronizing your computer clock to As root:

#ntpdate -u

This cluster is automatically generated. Due to this, the server may not be included in the cluster for very small time periods. Otherwise all clock sync requests from India should be redirected to this server which hosts the service. :)

At present, this is a Stratum 2 server, we are trying to ensure upgrading its status to a Stratum 1 server. Hopefully, we will soon get a few more servers across India.

Free Map India 2008 (CCU) - Day 1

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

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Yesterday when Schyuler and Mikel arrived at WBUT, Prof Thakur happened to talk about Chaos and non-linear system dynamics. His words turned prophetic today! :P

Went to the Jadavpur University guest house in the morning to pick up our guests. Turned out that Mikel wasn’t feeling too well… we arrived at WBUT. I had someone go find some ORS for Mikel, he looked close to collapsing.

With Schyuler in the driver’s seat, we started off around 10:15, with a brief 2-minute intro from Prof Thakur. Arindam called up from somewhere en-route to Kolkata in Rajdhani Express, that they would be arriving directly to WBUT from Howrah station. Oishila had managed to secure their accomodation at SN Bose centre guest house.

With Mikel feeling steadily worse, had him lay down in WBUT’s day care centre. Apparently there were no babies in there today. So our big “baby” got to lay down there. Had the doctor come in and check him out. Pronounced it a case of stomach upset.

The workshop was in full-swing with Schyuler explaining the basics and working concepts to everyone. Except for the ILUG-CAL and FSF members, the sheer hands-on format of the workshop was unfamiliar territory for most. Yet when they got to go out with the GPS recievers, most got into the groove quite well.

Some like Santanu Chatterjee, a lecturer of CSE at WBUT and his colleagues, did a wonderfully detailed job of the task at hand, as did Susmit and gang (Subhodip and Arindam)…most importantly others too picked up the thread nicely.

I stayed back at the Uni, as did Schyuler. Urbi from Kalam landed up finally, and we had a nice discussion about how community mapping could find a place in a project like Neighbourhood Diaries. It was interesting to listen to Schyuler outline the idea behind the work he is doing for UNICEF.

We spoke about Free Software localization and the Collaborative Contents Network program which I’m trying to drive since the last couple of months. Urbi expressed a strong interest in having a localized blog setup for Neighbourhood Diaries project. We are planning to sit down with Bishan (Samaddar) shortly to discuss further on this.

With everyone coming back in with their collected data, we proceeded to the lunch. Checked in on Mikel, he was sleeping. We got some “cheerey” (pounded rice flakes) for him. Just what the good doctor ordered, in case he should wake up feeling hungry. The sessions got underway, post lunch.

That where things become more interesting for me, the actual plotting of the collected data and correcting the errors, including the lack of data in some cases. In between, I managed to bug Schyuler several times with questions like accuracy of GPS readings, the atomicity and transaction control of the data upload process, the strength of the developer community and OSM community processes in place for revision control and collaboration.

Once the proxy settings for java were in place, every one played around with the data and we got the first OSM gps data for Kolkata online. By 5 PM most of the participants were ready to call it a day. Only a handful, about 7 people stayed back for over an hour discussing in details and asking questions. Mikel woke up and announced he was feeling hungry. So it was washed “cheerey” with salt, sugar and Kinley bottled water for him… he had it sitting on the Day Care Center bed :P

Since both Mikel and Schyuler were not happy with the things at Jadavpur University guesthouse, after a bit of head scratching, we hopped over to Hotel Sojourn (”Ho-tell Sujon” in local speak). We were lucky to get accommodation for the night. Both of them were happy with the room. Tomorrow of course we have to look for new lodgings for our two speakers. Ah well!

Aabida speaks from Bijra High School

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Aabida Jamadar is a student of Class IX at Bijra High School. Soon after the CASTLELabs deployment at the school on 14 - 15th of November, Kushal shot this interview video. To me, this video really exemplifies what we are trying to do - to reach out, both in terms of technology as well as the more controversial topic of pedagogy.

I had been wanting to work on the post-production and sub-title this interview. Today I finally found the time. Here is the finished video. Many thanks to Kushal for shooting this spot-on interview.

Much of the credits for the success, go to my friends and colleagues from the Ankur Bangla Project, especially Deepayan’s Bangla Archive Project. Kids just love it! :D is back online

Monday, December 24th, 2007

As posted yesterday, the mirror came back online around 12:15 PM IST today. I ran the rsync scripts once by hand to update the trees. Finally , the things are back online once again.

Service outage on

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

After serving up over 7+ TB of FOSS content in the month of December so far, the mirror @ WBUT, went down for the first time today. However, like the early-September outage, once again it was the supply of electricity that decided to play hookey.

There has been a major cable fault at the HT transformer on the University campus, disrupting the University’s power supply. Around 2:30 PM, the power was restored temporarily, but there were issues with the load distribution. As a result, the phase the mirror was on, was again taken off-line. Power had to be diverted towards the bio-tech labs, where the incubators needed power to prevent the microbial cultures from going into thermal shock.

The latest update is that repair work is going on emergency basis and services to the affected phase is expected to be restored by mid-day tomorrow. We hope to be back on-line by 1:30 PM tomorrow, or if possible even earlier.

A city kid’s reaction to OLPC XO and other stories

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Day 2 and 3 from Bal Vividha

A small video of the reactions of a young city-based kid to the OLPC XO. The editing, subtitling and title card creation was done using Kino and Gimp. The video was shot using a Canon Powershot A610 digicam. This is my first attempt at doing something like this, so rough edges and bad technique is to be expected :P The uploaded version has loss of details, thanks to conversion and compression, it’s not *this* bad in the final edited version on my lappy.

A slightly older lad (studying in Class VII from the South Point High School) can to our stall, and played a nice game of
on one of our CASTLE Labs terminals.

Among other things, Lipika Bansal from Waag Society, Nederlands came around to the stall. She was very interested in knowing what we were doing. She wanted to visit Bijra to see what we were doing. It was a lovely exchange of ideas. She shared with me details of several projects that Waag was into at present. I particularly liked the idea of the experimental Scottie

On the last day of the exhibition, Satabdi and Debamitra from AID India came over. They too wanted to go and visit the Bijra High School project site. Probably we’ll all go for a visit on Tuesday (the 11th).

Mr. Arup Chakraborty - a member of ILUG-CAL.ORG and a key person with the Kolkata efforts of Indian Assn. for Blind Persons, came down as well, along with a colleague. They are presently using Orca screen reader and are interested in getting it to work with Bengali Unicode text. They have expressed a keen interest in closely working with ILUG-CAL in setting up a training program for the visually challenged persons in using Free and Open Source Software. We all agreed to establish a base-line reference for the program within December 2007.

Bal Vividha drew to a close on Sunday, 9th December. Chandita from Comet Media Foundation, Amit from OLPC India and myself, we all sat down for a quick review. We drew up the tentative plans have a program on ICT in Education at Mumbai during the 3rd week of February, 2008.

Day 1 of Bal Vividha

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Today we had our visitors - the kids!!! KGeography, KHangman and the huge trove of games proved to be a _H_U_G_E_ hit. Some kids even asked how to get the net connection going on the systems and how to view movie CDs. :)

The OLPC XOs which were on the first-ever public display in these parts of the world was a major hit as well. I spent quite a bit of time with Amit from the OLPC India team discussing the project’s progress in India and possible plans for West Bengal and the east. In between we went down to WBUT and had a meeting with Prof. Thakur as well.

Also had a nice chat with Lajpat, the guy who volunteered me his Ubuntu lappy yesterday. It was a good exchange of ideas. Also got Parantapa to meet with Jitendra, the lead devel for the Physics engine for the Virtual Lab authoring software from IIIT Hyderabad.

Tomorrow promises to be a busy day. In the meanwhile here are some of the pictures from the first two days.

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Day 0 at Bal Vividha ends on a positive note

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Went in early today to setup stall… found that others (Dr. Rituparna Chaki of CSE Dept, WBUT and other WBUT volunteers and staff) were already there. We didn’t yet have an electrical connection, so Rituparna-di had poked the BITM staff for one. The connection arrived soon enough, but without a proper ground. The OLPC-India guys at the next stall managed to escalate the issue and got it fixed for all. Thanks a bunch guys! :)

Meanwhile I managed to get hold Mr. Chaudhury, the Curator. He promised me that our flex stands, additional tables that I had requested for would arrive soon. True to his words, things worked out within the next hour or so. In the meantime, I did a quick-n-dirty orientation of LTSP and BN-IN interface for the two volunteers - Ira and Suparna (both ME students). Atanu informed me that one of the 12V DC TFT monitors have gone kaput and so one of the thin-clients we had fetched from untested stock.

Therefore, leaving Rituparna-di in charge, I took Atanu and went back to WBUT for replacements as well as the LCD projector. Unlike the day before yesterday, the driver I had with me today (Rajesh) was a good one who knew the bylanes et al nicely and we were soon at office.

I had planned to be back in 1 hour as I still had my presentation to prepare for my talk in the post-lunch session - “Innovative Experiments in using Technology within Schools”. However it was double of that. All thanks to Oishila and a loose CAT6 jack at WBUT. Somehow managed to fix that and left for BITM again.

On my way back, I got a call from Parantapa (a final year engg. student from BESU). He had come down to the stall to volunteer. It was great to see at least one person responding to my call for volunteers on the LUG list. He was a big help and has promised to come back tomorrow.

Interestingly the first batch of visitors we had at the stall was a group of relatively elderly ladies from Mumbai. Wearing burkhas and speaking only Hindi (with us at least), they demanded to be explained what was on the show. The volunteers were slightly at a loss in handling the group, partly due to not being fluent in Hindi, so I stepped in to the rescue :) .Turns out the ladies were housewives from Mumbai, on vacation in Kolkata and decided to walk in on seeing an exhibition. But it has to be said that they were very keen on learning all about it.

The second session at the Auditorium, started off at around 2:45 PM. I was to speak on the Bijra Project initiative and my slides weren’t in shape yet. Met the guys from Pratham, they were really interested in the Bijra Project and want to visit Bijra. Nizam bhai who was there, promised them all the help they may need locally.

At the session, there were a total of 3 speakers. Me, Arundhati from an NGO called Pragati and Dr. Jayanthi Sivaswamy from IIIT Hyderabad. I was the first speaker, however my F7 loaded Macbook’s projector display played hookey. When I had nearly resigned to the fact of speaking extempore, a guy from the audience, came up to me and asked if I would be comfy with presenting using his Ubuntu Laptop. Whoa!!! I finished my presentation using his Compaq lappy, he also had the mpeg codecs loaded so I could also play my videos. It felt really nice! :D

Dr. Jayanthi’s presentation was really interesting, she spoke about and demoed a Virtual Lab Authoring s/w for Physics, written using VC++ and OpenGL, the project being funded by Media Labs Asia. During the Q/A session, when she mentioned that the software would be given to school for free, I quizzed her about the degree of “free”-ness she was referring to. Her answer was straight and simple - GNU GPL. So I requested her to put up the project on asap as it looked rather interesting and useful stuff. She agreed. Later I got together with her team’s lead devel who is also attending. We exchanged cards and Dr. Jayanthi asked me if she could access some of the young local FOSS talent pools to further develop the software in a collaborative fashion.

The session closed with the screening of a film by Comet Media Foundation. It was a inspirational piece. Rather nicely done in my opinion. The credits screen had one more item was interest. The film was funded by Hivos.

I came back to the stall, and finally had my lunch around 5:45, since visitors’ streams ended up by six, we decided to wrap it up and call it a day. I went back to WBUT for a briefing session with Prof. Thakur, who in return shared with me the details of his meeting at FOSS.IN. Looking back it was a rather fruitful day. Tomorrow I plan on spending some time with the OLPC India team, particularly Amit (Gogna) who has been leading the Khairat pilot in Maharashtra.