Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back from 2009

I just came back from Yesterday night (after a delayed flight as usual ) from Bangalore and I must say that the conference was true to its "show me the code " theem.

I arrived at the venu on 2Nd December 2009 along with Anusha, Preeti and prathamesh who are the part of the team developing GNUKhata,

I actually had a workshop/ tech talk on developing web applications with pylons on 4th, but we as a team had booked the FOSS expo space for putting up a display of GNUKhata.

As expected GNUKhata attracted majority of the crowd at the conference and we got some very good feedback and also a few constructive critical comments.
One particular achievement of GNUKhata was that we, with the help of Siddhesh from Redhat, could manage to make rpm package for GNUKhata. We also got offers for deployment in maisur univercity and also from some small and large organisations (details will be put up on the web site ).

One thing is for sure, The feedback which we got has now confirmed that the decision to focus more on web based client is correct. The developers of GNUKhata will rappidly work towards releasing the web based version at the most by end of Jan 2010.
We were very happy that more than 25 hackers vollenteared support for speeding up the development. All that remains now is to edit the wiki and add documentation for new features with the stable 1.0 version.
I will be updating the wiki by 10th December. I believe one major thing which has gone in favour of GNUKhata is that we managed to hire a full-time accountant as a domain expert. This helped us to really understand the proper accounting standards because none of the developers had an accounting background which was at the B-com or M-com level.

Another interesting side-effect was that while preparing for, we created a screencast for the display at the expo. It was done by our domain expert preeti and is available at
We are just about to finish fixing the miner bugs we recieved last week and we will make another screencast, this time with audio by preeti or anusha explaining the features.

While GNUKhata was a hit at the conference, there are a few things which impressed me apart from the venue and the overall "let's help them " attitude for every one.
The best talk in my view was the Indic OCR by debain (I hope I spelled that corect).
he seems to have tremendous understanding on the subject and I admire his hacking capability.

He actually solved many of the problems which I had in mind and I wished I had sufficient time to sit and work with him on integrating espeak with OCR Feeder and tesserac.
I know we are still in a nasent stage on Indic OCR but it is not so nacent now that we can't use it for test and research.

although I never had the time to tell him "show me the code" but I will surely be working on integrating his work with espeak and other related tools to create a OCR to Speech software.
Such a software is available in proprietory form under windows but not in FOSS.

Another highlite was the talk given by Rahul Sundarum on package kit. Amongst a few reasons for GNU/Linux not becoming popular with desktop users, the one major cause is dirth of one-click installers for for any software.
On windows, talk about install shield, nulsoft etc. and we have a user friendly installation for any kid. But after what Rahul showed, I think we already have a solution. Add to it we don't need to do "next,next finish!" on GNU/Linux unlike on windows.
I think the packagekit will become the turning point in filling the last gap in the way of popularising FOSS, particularly on advanced distros like Debian, Fedora or Ubuntu.

I think package maintainners should seriously look at this tool. And yes I will create a few one-click installers myself soon, because I do a lot of workshops in colleges and other organisations. One question they keep asking is "how do we make resolving dependencies and overall setup of software easy?" It is an irony that the installation of linux itself is so easy but not additional software.

On the last day, we at GNUKhata stall, got the maximum crowd and seems that GNUKhata will soon be in many organisations at least on a test drive. All that we now need is to further refine the interface and make it simple enough for people to work on for long hours.

Another important thing was the workout by Santhosh. I think his dwani speech synthesizer has really improved over the last few months. He told me that some hacker from afghanistan helped him to add pustu phonemes.
I and Debain were having fun over that issue with the throaty words like Khhha in Khan.
So Santhosh is doing a good job although his synthesizer still laks the proper internation and also needs a bit of more inflection.

Well, we actually also discussed about the need for India english as a synthesizer option. But we concluded that there were so many accents of Indian english that we may not actually get one. Although the kind of english which Indian news readers use is some thing which he may look at.

The only one thing which I did not personally like about this time's was the dirth of non-technical talks. I know "show me the code " is the theem. But I will say "show me the functionality and also the code ". I and my colligues observed that there were quite a few students who attended sessions like the one I took. Many for example had never used a web framework and could not pickup what I was talking about. Same thing hapened with the jango talk by Laksman Prasad.
Ah, that reminds me that I will be trying the jango templates with pylons to see how well they blend.

I will just like to suggest the organisers of that next time we must have at least 10% non-technical talks so that absolute beginners can get their hands wet.

And it might not necessarily be about "getting starting with linux " or stuff like that. Do allow emerging projects such as GNUKhata, or new modules on the desktop to be presented as a talk.

My overall view is that as a technical conference it was really great and yes, do keep this same venue next time.