Update on FOSS activities at NIT Agartala

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.

Blogging from ODF Olympiad (india) prize ceremony at Kolkata

December 26th, 2008

Just watched Jaijit from Sun announce the names of the winners from India at the Science City Auditorium. Bright kids all, and also from A-list premier english medium schools.

Nothing’s wrong with that, except they are hardly the kids that *really* need FOSS… I was also wanted to hear the total number of participants this year, but only got to hear the details on webserver logs.

More burnt omelette ideas on the way

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.

Playing with The Potato Guy! (aka KTuberling)

November 9th, 2008

A group of semi-literate (and *totally* computer illiterate) Group D (or Class IV i.e. the lowest grade of employees in governmental employment) staff at an University near Kolkata amusing themselves playingThe Potato Guy“. The pertinent fact is that they have never used Linux on the Desktop and here they are completely at ease with it!

Linux is supposed to be tough! Linux on the Desktop is “Orrey baba!” (a Bengali expression that basically says “Wow! that’s not my cup of tea!“)… yet all of my experiences from the last 6 years of working with people on the ground has been otherwise, this is the latest case in point. Almost all first-time users adapt to Linux pretty fast. It’s the so called “computer literate” that have problems galore.

For what it’s worth, it was their fifth day on a computer.

Let a thousand flowers bloom aka seeding FOSS User Groups

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! :)

Clustering LTSP … high performance delivered!

October 20th, 2008

This is still in the planning, but the looks of it, we are soon going to get a chance to build our second clustered LTSP solution. Yesterday, I had some very interesting and involved discussions with Shwetav Agarwal who volunteers at The Future Foundation School for their ICT in education initiatives.

It looks as if we are going to design and deploy at 6-node (standard COTS hardware as opposed to our other clustered LTSP solution that we are deploying using HP’s c3000 Bladesystem) clustered LTSP that designed to scale up as well as scale out. The 6-node cluster would presently comprise of standard Pentium IV boxes with 2GB RAM each. The OS is likely to be Intrepid Ibex or Fedora 10. The idea is to run the a consolidated, full-fledged thin-client infrastructure that takes care of 100+ nodes.

I also had a nice round of discussion with Stephane Graber, the ltsp-cluster project is all set for v1.5 release in December 2008, and the PPA packages are all Ubuntu 8.10 ready.

Test blogging from my E71

October 15th, 2008

Just a test blog after installing Wordpress Mobile Plugin. The Nokia E71 has been great experience so far, being my second smartphone after the Motorola A1200. I’m finding Google Maps a lot better experience than Nokia Maps. The entire Durga puja holiday was spent fiddling with S60 potion on the phone. That was a good way to spend the holidays. The phone is fast becoming my convergence device of choice. All few annoyances are there, but over all a great piece of hardware!

IOTA Teachers’ Training FOSS Workshop at WBSUB

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 OpenOffice.org 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 OpenOffice.org. 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 OpenOffice.org 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 OpenOffice.org 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.

Baishakhi Linux Updates - OOo 2.4 modifed src tarball et al

September 11th, 2008

1. There is now a “OpenOffice.org 2.4 modified source” section with an option to download from here. It’s a 402+ MB tar.gz file. I’m presently downloading that. It should be done in a couple of hours.

2. The link to the Japanese mirror site hosted by Mat3Impex for Baishakhi Linux download has been removed from NLTR website. The Japanese mirror was *way* faster as the NLTR.ORG website (the only site to download anything from) as presently hosted in the US is at least 6 times as slower as far as downloads are concerned. (this could become a point of concern though unless this is looked into soon)

“Baishakhi Linux sources are available from *the* CD using mount”

September 11th, 2008

Most of you who have been following the Baishakhi Linux saga unfold already know that quite a few people from all over India have had requested for the source code to be made available for the project.

I too, has used the SNLTR Forum as later on also suggested by Prof. Anupam Basu of IITKGP and Director, SNLTR, for requesting information as to where I can get the sources from - http://nltr.org/snltrforum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8

My enquiry was short and simple -

বৈশাখীলিনাক্সের ISO‌-র সোর্স কোড কোথা থেকে পেতে পারি?

Postby ইন্দ্রনীল on Wed Sep 10, 2008 3:52 pm
$SUBJECT-য়েই এই পোস্টিংর সার বক্তব্য :)



Where from can I get the Baishakhi Linux ISO’s sources” followed by “$SUBJECT says it all

So far, that question went without any answer - mails to their devel mailing list via the web-based feedback form (done after I had received the invitation for the inaugural program) or the forum (done yesterday) and the only thing close to an answer was Prof. Basu’s reply yesterday evening -

“The release was on the 8th of September and it was planned to make the source code available upstream, within a few days as is expected of open-source activities. Please keep your weather eyes open on the SNLTR site.”

I was away from Kolkata since morning and now on coming back, I found this “reply” waiting for me in the Forum by one of the developers.

বৈশাখী লিনাক্স ১.০ সংস্করণটি Ubuntu 8.04 এর উপর ভিত্তি করে তৈরী করা হয়েছে ।
Ubuntu এর মতই এর CD কে মাউন্ট করে সোর্স কোড পাওযা যেতে পারে ।

তারক নাথ

meaning “Namashkar! Baishakhi Linux version 1.0 is based on Ubuntu 8.04. Just like Ubuntu the Baishakhi Linux CD can be mounted to access the source code

/me is presently pondering on what should be state of his mind be