Monday, August 13, 2012

Memorable FOSS Fortnight

15 blissful days of FOSS

Hello all, I am again back with some thing special after a long lull. I have been thinking of getting in touch with all my readers but the opportunity has to be right and the occasion a perfect one.


Let me say at the very beginning that although I will be talking about a couple of FOSS workshops I did, there are some really special moments which I experienced along the way.
I must also mention that my colleague and our new FOSS soldier Trupti has also blogged about the recent campaigns. I will take a slightly different and a more detailed view of the past beautiful days of FOSS promotion.
Trupti (she is already in my follower's list ), has given a much classified breakup of our activities, while this blog will go into the beautiful experiences and outcomes of the last 2 workshops.
Before I start the narrative, let me profoundly thank all the team members.
Thanks a lot Ujwala for the excellent sessions, particularly on AJAX which you do so well, not to mention the handling of students.
Trupti, you have been really a wonderful company and it can be already seen that you have developed into a perfect FOSS campaigner in just a few days. Thanks for the fun you bring out in the workshop and also for your patient and intensive lab support during sessions.
I mention about my dearest wife Sayali lastly on purpose.
I did so because I needed enough time to find some words to describe her valuable contribution. She is not just a darling, loving and caring wife who always makes sure that I am relaxed, but she has been a perfect match when it came to my passion for free software and Rural education.
She has been an excellent coordinator and one of the most strict resource person we ever carried to our workshops.
Perfect in lab management during practical sessions, she is the main reason we are able to finish things in time. She has also taken up the important task of the takeoff work with her wonderful introductory session on the Unity desktop. The way she does it naturally attracts the participants towards the GUI aspect of GNU/Linux.
I don't wish to thank her for that, because it would mean thanking myself.
All in all, the real credit of my humble success belongs to my team, I am proud to be a part of such an amazing unit.

The FOSS tour of Vidharbha

This was a long awaited set of workshops, one properly planned and another obviously implied.
The Vardha workshop at Bapu Saheb College of Engineering was a planned one.
But every time I visit the said district, it is implied that I will have one workshop fixed at Amrawati, the native city of my dear old friend, prof. Dhananjay Dakhne.

So we began our journey on 16th night.
The railway has an Indian Stretchable Time (IST) yet in our case it was in time, except that we got stuck in bad rains.
The journey was quite OK, I got down to my birth with the Sony IcRecorder, listening to my favorite gazals.
On reaching Amrawati, we went to the Vandhu international hotel.
Generally, we go one day before to the destination for the workshop, because we need to setup the desktops with all the required software.
But this is not the case with Sipna collge of engineering, as Dhananjay as always takes care of all the logistics.
So we started the workshop in time.After the usual inauguration , we started our sessions on PHP.
On day one we took the basics and the sessions went pretty well.
On day two, we had a few glitches with form management and database stuff.
It was assumed that all the prerequisites have been taken care off.
But later on we realized that no matter how well Dhananjay tried, there are some management aspects which come in the way of elimination of those who are not suitable.
Generally it so happens that those who don't get selected for the workshop are angry and get themselves in after complaining to the higher authority.
Never the less, those who were learning, did it well and really enjoyed the workshop.
In-fact there was one student Aman, from that college who went to the extent of installing Ubuntu on his mac book.
Aman was the one who took very good care of our team and went with us to all the places, including Dhananjay's house where we met his 2 boys.
Many of the students kept in touch and even asked for project ideas.
In all the workshops our major emphasis is on generating love and awareness for Free Software and making the participants realize the importance of digital freedom. We could already see that the students were taking things seriously.
I feel that the real future of FOSS actually lies in the hands of students rather than faculties.
Almost all faculties we meet these days are not so concerned about FOSS. All that they care is to complete the syllabus. I request all faculties to understand the fact that it is our responsibility to make students aware of the current industry trends and also the importance of digital freedom. But there is always a golden lightening in the darkness.
Quite often we come across some teachers who are true to their profession and have a passion to make their students more passionate. Such teachers are always trying to provide new learning opportunities and developing the student's knowledge by all possible means.
I am in fact going to talk about one such lovely teacher couple in a short while.

From Amrawati we moved to Vardha (Sevagram ), the Karam Bhoomi (work field ) of the Great Mahatma Gandhi.
The Amrawati workshop finished on 18th July, and the Vardha workshop was to start on 20th.
So we went to the college on 19th itself because we knew that arrangements had to be reviewed .
Here I got my first surprise.Infact shall I say a beautiful gift?
I met my good old friend Prof Ram Mangrulkar and his lovely and sweet wife Pallavi.
Both of them have been my friends since 2010 when we went to their college for the first FOSS workshop.
Pallavi, as sweet and wonderful she is, one could see her determination backed by aggression when we visited the free lab which she has set up in the college.
I felt so humble and grateful. Humble because I had no words to express my happiness when I visited that lab, and grateful because Pallavi says she was inspired by your's truly for taking this so seriously.
We went out in the evening for a dinner with Ram and Pallavi with their cute and sweet daughter Mansi.
I must say, she had really refreshed our evening with her bubbly babbling all throughout. I am sure she too will be a smart girl when she grows up (just like her mom and dad).
Next day the workshop started as usual.
Here, I must mention that Ram and Pallavi were not the organizers of this workshop, it was a different department headed by prof. Dagadkar and the workshop was coordinated by prof. Parag Shende.
I thought that the workshop could have been managed in a much better way.
The management took a risk of taking student's laptops for setting up Ubuntu. As a result we had to make the bootable pen drives or DVDs available. Even after that, we knew that there will be so many issues, every machine is different.
The result was we had an unsuccessful first day in terms of practicals.
It was only due to Sayali's first session and sustained one-to-one interaction that kept students in the workshop.
Next day we had a lot of DVDs for the installation hands-on.
But this again came as an utter disappointment. The DVDs were not burned properly and only a few booted on the student's laptops.
Never the less we some how managed to get the setup through and moved on to other things.
At the end of the day, students were well convinced for using FOSS.
One problem with rural students is that they hardly get any exposure.
There are students who don't even know the configuration of their own laptops.
Actually they don't even know the meaning of the word configuration.
But when I see people like Pallavi taking initiatives like her free lab, I certainly see a bright hope.

From Vardha we moved on to Anandwan, the heaven created by Dr. Baba Amte, now taken well care off by his son Dr. Vikas Amte.
The one place I must say, is really a wonder.
The way Baba Amte dedicated his life to the cause of rehabilitation of the leprosy patients who are rejected by family and society is some thing we can't describe in words.
Now there is a lot of employment generated for them and much more, just to make their life more respectful and enjoyable.
We saw Anandvan on the first day of our visit, saw the projects on water conservation and wild life. Seeing the Samadhi Of Baba and his equally dedicated wife, I again realized how lucky I am, for I am one fortunate man to have an equally dedicated wife, who can one handedly handle all the rural education projects which I have initiated.
On the second day, we visited the school for the blind and it was another memorable event.
One could see the zeal in the students, perfectly mentored by their teachers.
We did a short talk on computers and the advantage of learning digital technologies.
As we all are so passionate about the digital empowerment of rural people, it was immediately decided that we will do a workshop with these students in the coming October.
We also had a meeting with Kaustubh Amte, the grand son of Baba.
He strongly feels about free software and we are about to launch a campaign in Maharashtra, the details of which will be revealed soon.
We had decided to visit the beautiful hill station of Chikhaldhara near Amrawati.
So we left for Sipna college again. Dhananjay had planned the entire trip.
He had arranged for a car in the early morning and we started by 8.
the place was just amazing. Just as we stepped out of the car for seeing the first point in the Mel ghat, our body literally switched over to winter mode. Such was the breeze and cold climate, that we wished we had our jackets on.
Truly the Switzerland of Maharashtra, it was so beautiful, I have the album on my facebook account.
The lush green slopes, the river streams, the scanty rain and the pure air, all added to the heavenly experience we had that day. To top it all, we had a wonderful late lunch at an Inn. it was a traditional Dhaba and the chicken was just delicious.
We came back to the guest house which Dhananjay had booked for us.
Next day there was a mini seminar on kernal compilation in badnera college of engineering followed by a formal meeting with the placement department of Sipna college.
We updated the placement officers about employment opportunities in FOSS which are now in abundance.
Finaly with golden memories of Palllavi's work in Vardha the time spent with Dhananjay in Amrawati and the experience we had at ChikhalDhara, we left for the station to catch the train.
All throughout the 9 days, i can say with confidence that not a single hour of the day went without Trupti or Ujwala or Sayali cracking jokes out of any thing we spoke.
Infact the days went like a fast forward seen.
We returned back for 7 days of break, just to go on another beautiful trip.

the wonderful trip of Konkan

This too was an equally awaited trip.
In fact we had been planning this long before we had even planned Vardha.
I have a special attachment to this RMCET college.
The college is situated in Ambav, the green valley of Konkan.
This place is my native village and the air is really serene and cool.
The mountains around are lush green during the rain.
Apart from that, Dr. G.V. Mulgund is extremly pro free software and has a great vision for RMCET.
with him.
We share a really sweet relation and he has always been wonderful during our union for the last 2 workshops.
Truely speaking Dr. Mulgund as usual left no stone unturned to make our stay as plesent as possible.
The lab was ready with all machine setup.
All that we did on the first day (3Rd August 2012) was just copy the php toolBox.
We always make a point to utilise the LAN setup and put necessary things on all the desktops.
We always prefer to have students install all the necessary software, including the Eclipse IDE, LAMPP and other related tools.
We do this for all kind of workshops.
We also make it a point to carry the entire Ubuntu repository mirror (51 gb) on an external hard disk so that non-availability of Internet does not become a show stopper during the setup.
We had the food in the mess, much to the disappointment of me, Sayali, Ujwala and Trupti. The issue was that we wished to go to Parvati palace for the gourmet cuisine which we had taisted during our last visit.
never the less the rain was worth getting wet and we indeed had the chance in the evening for that.
next day the workshop started and we went through the usual stuff.
Prof. Vishal Parkar saw us through the starting few sessions and had to move on for all the managerial and organizational responsibilities.
The first 2 days went very well, except that we were off the schedule due to the slowness of the students in typing code.
The lab was divided into 2 with 1 projector screen each in the lab.
This is some thing we always find irritating as it becomes difficult to manage the students in 2 different labs at the same time.
But all went well and then on the Third day, for the first time we took up joomla session.
Sayali and Ujwala did it just fine as if they have been doing this for a long time.
One very interesting comment came much to my personal satisfaction.
one student exclaimed "ye bas karo yar, kuch coding ka shuru karte hain ", meaning stop all this dude, let's do some coding stuff.
Joomla is a content management system and does not need any coding, although configuration involves some command line stuff.
What started from the forth day was most exciting.
Symfony was pritty new framework to all of us and I still can't forget that night when Myself, Ujwala and Trupti sat for a long time for getting assignments ready.
Sayali was feeling sleepy and she went, Trupti lost her wicket soon after, but me and Ujwala continued.
We make the assignments for the doctrine and were amazed at its power to quickly generate not just the classes, but also the tables including getters and setters automatically.

Next morning we were ready to teach the wonders of Symfony and knew very well that students will be equally surprised
We were not proven wrong even by a an inch.
Students just loved the way we could generate secured beautiful urls which actually connected some other php fine in the background.
Students also were very keen to start their own final year projects using PHP and Symfony on LAMPP on Ubuntu.
Oh, I keep forgetting to mention, we have modified Ubuntu and made one more distro called AllRounder Linux. This brand contains all that Ubuntu has by default, plus many more software which the user has to otherwise download from the net.
Sayali is the key inspiration behind this and also the marketing force.
The best feedback was when students expressed their view that this workshop should have been for a longer time.
Of course just like Vardha, we had some not so serious and stupid lot sitting in the lab for nothing.
But as Prof. Mulgund was advising an angry Sayali, we must always assume .20% of the crowd to be like that every where.
The workshop was over and we were as satisfied as Prof. Mulgund or Prof Parker themselves.
Not to mention that we indeed had our dinner for last 3 days of the workshop at Parvati Palace.
So as soon as the workshop got over, we were invited to Mr. Mane's (well that's not my house ) residence.
Mr. mane is an educationalist and a former minister for education.
He is the chairman of Rajendra Mane College of Engineering and Technology (RMCET).
The food was great. (Prawns, Crab, oisters ) and kurried mutton, much to the delight of we non-veg fans.
Ah, and did I forgot to mention that Trupti has progressed in this field too?
She now loves the non-veg food and savers it as much as we do.
So Trupti, join the Gang!
The last day of our trip was the most amaising one.
After such a stressful yet satisfying workshop and the flash talks I gave to other departments on FOSS, the best day was yet to come.
We had booked a car to go to Thoseghar water falls, one of the most beautiful places around and a part of that western ghats which now is recognised by UNISCO for its beauty.

True to its reputation, this was what they call the 7th heaven.
Absolutely green and picturesque one can describe it as a freshly married princess in all her royal green dress with all the ornaments.
We went through the beautiful Amba Ghat that connects Konkan and Kolhapur and headed towards satara.
The air was so pure and to top it all, we had Kshitij, a photography freek who is passionate about that art.
he has published his artwork on a highly professional level to date.
We were also accompanied by Aniruddh, son of Dr. Mulgund.
Infact Kshitij's photos are already up on my facebook account along with a lot of once taken from Sayali's camera.
The wind was so chill that we had to start the heater in the car.
We savored the fun of getting soaked in rains and enjoying the chilled weather.
The waterfall was so loud, I was reminded of the moment when 60000 crowd went up in a tremendous roar on the stadium when India won the cricket world cup.
We really had a great day all in all.
Went back to RMCET by 1.15 AM past. we had the dinner in Chiplun at 12.15 before finally heading for the last part of our journey.
In short the last 15 days have been a dream come true.
An experience which has made such a mark on my memory that i would remember it till my doom's day.
A couple of great FOSS workshops, learning and teaching the Symfony framework and all this lovely places to visit, what more can one expect in a single package?