Thursday, November 14, 2013

Facebook is bad

Facebook is bad. I realized this in my sleep and I’m writing this at 5 in the morning ‘cos good blog ideas are hard to come by these days. And I’m blogging about this ‘cos it was too big to fit in a tweet. 
 
I have a lot of friends know a lot of people. I used to have a lot of friends before I started using Facebook, now I don’t have many. 
 
I’ve changed a few schools in my life and before Facebook came in, I used to be in touch with a lot of my old pals. By ‘touch’ I mean, actual phone conversations. Every year I made sure I wished them either on the start of a new year or an academic year and enquired about their well being and spoke about how our lives changed since we were last seated in the same bench. It used to be refreshing and nostalgic and I really enjoyed these calls.
 
Fast forward 2013, Facebook is in. People are using it like an e-diary, my old teachers are using it to upload an album with 135 pictures of a road trip (pictures of clouds, the highway ahead, the masala dosa devoured all included). The ‘met ABC in primary school adda’ entry in the diary is now ‘Checked in with ABC in Basaveshwarnagar Café Coffee Day and feeling nostalgic’ in Facebook provided ABC is cool enough and you want to be seen hanging around with ABC.
 
Like i said, I realized this in my sleep. I was thinking (or dreaming?) about this gory accident an old friend of mine met with and was wondering how I could have helped if I was there. This old friend was big boned and it would have taken at least 4 people to help carry him to a doctor. Then I started wondering if this friend of mine was still, um, big boned. I hadn’t spoken to him in 5 years and I didn’t know how his bones were now. Whoa, wait a minute and back up here a bit, I haven’t spoken to him in 5 years, let alone meet him. Hell, I haven’t even spoken to him over chat! Shouldn’t I be calling him a ‘guy I know’ instead of ‘friend’ here? 

I usually am ridden with guilt when I think of long lost friends and blame myself for not keeping in touch. But I wasn’t so here ‘cos I was still connected to him through Facebook and it gave me this false sense of connectedness that I know all about him through his sparse Facebook updates while in reality I don’t actually know anything about him. 

To prove my point further, the only friend I regularly call up and talk to, drumroll please, is not on Facebook*. Moreover, now I think of it, the only reason I call him is because he is not on Facebook! I’m sure if he was on it, I wouldn’t have called him at the same rate. 

I don’t even stay in touch with my friends on Facebook either. I have been offline in Facebook Chat for 2 years now. Just before I went on an offline hiatus, I remember myself praying that no one ping me on Facebook whenever I logged in. When was the last time, you pinged an old friend out of the blue and asked how they were doing? Do yourself a favor, go to your friend list and ping someone whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time and talk to them! Ask them how they are doing. Not ‘cos they are lonely and need someone to talk to but to stay in touch! And pray that your out of the blue ping is not met with a raised eyebrow. 

Facebook has turned into an excuse for not keeping in touch, an excuse for not calling your old friend up and speaking and an excuse for calling your old friends, ‘friends’. Before you know it, your old friends have turned into acquaintances. 

Well, thank you Facebook, for connecting me with my friends and making them ‘people I know’. 

* This friend is a doctor now, so excuse him for not being tech savvy. People who save lives can be pardoned for not being on Facebook, right? 

Sunday, October 6, 2013 Friday, August 9, 2013

Installing Sublime Text 2 in Linux/Ubuntu using Terminal

 

 Open a terminal with Ctrl+Alt+T and type:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/sublime-text-2
$ sudo apt-get update

Just to be sure, remove any installed Sublime Text packages:
$ sudo apt-get —purge remove sublime-text*

Now to install Sublime Text, type the following:
$ sudo apt-get install sublime-text

Now you have Sublime Text! Type the following to start sublime 
$ sublime-text

Monday, July 29, 2013

Remove Linux Mint Google search from Chromium

Linux Mint comes bundled with Chromium and it has its own custom search with the Linux Mint logo. I find this annoying. It did not even go away after I switched distributions. 

This is what I did to remove the Linux Mint branding - 

Sign in to your Google account (if not already signed in) - open Chromium / Chrome settings - go to the Settings tab - section Search - Manage search engines (or just type chrome://settings/searchEngines in the Chromium’s address bar to go directly to the step we need) - locate the string www.google.com/cse**** - remove it.

Linux Mint’s search results page is now gone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PES Open Source Community completes 2 years of existence. 

A brilliantly compiled video by Sathyam Vellal. 

It sums up my last 2 years in PESIT. Talk about nostalgia.. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Being 1PI08CS070 - Sem 6

Everyone had holidays right after 5th semester - I did not. 

My new found passion for projects led me (us, rather) to start working on the 6th semester special topic as early as the beginning of the vacation. The usual suspects of KLN, PNH and me worked with Sandeepa Nadahalli to create a new advertising platform for bloggers. Oh boy, we were pumped about it. ‘AdSanthe’, it was called. 

We released an alpha version after a strenuous nightout and grabbed a few early users. The ads were serving and everyone had complaints. Meanwhile I had moved to a completely Windows free laptop (and have remained so till date). The project gave me an overall satisfaction of doing something real which was being used by people, for the first time.

I also developed a short mobile app in this time. It was a app which gives the right fare to the user for his autorickshaw ride. I developed the app in about 2 hours as I was experienced in GPS applications. The app was put up on various app sites like getjar. I spammed all my Facebook friends with constant posts and links to download the app. Surprisingly, the app was a hit which spelt the end to my MBA aspirations. Though it might sound dramatic, I can say I realized my true calling by then. 

The affairs in class were pretty much the same. The subjects weren’t that daunting compared to the previous semesters. Java was taught by a new teacher to us - Mr. Srikanth. I wish each of our teachers had his attitude and approach to teaching. The friendliest teacher in the Comp Science lot, his energy in class was contagious and he knew how to keep the class hooked. The quizzes after each topic where the 3 columns of benches were pitted against each other or the tough looking examples he wrote in class or the problems he asked us in internals which made us pull our hair - he made the class a nice experience. By the end of the semester he was on back slapping terms with the students. By the end of engineering he was one of us. 

I picked the elective of Operations Research, taught by Mr. N Guruprasad. He had earlier taught us algorithms (not that well). But the class of OR was fun! The arithmetic nature of the problems was a welcome break with no fancy comp. science term. It was a mechanical department subject after all. NGP grew friendly with the students as well. Incidentally, that was his last year in PESIT as a teacher. 

In 6th semester, we faced a dilemma of picking the right Special topic guide. We needed the right mix of experience and lenience from the teacher to score that perfect grade. We were too late in seeking Srikanth sir and had to request Rinu Sarah Jacob as our guide. She was sweet and did not bother us much - just as we had hoped. 

There weren’t too many outings in 6th semester apart from the one off birthday treats. The first taste of interviews came with Microsoft visiting the campus for our seniors. And we juniors could write the same test for a lucrative internship. I did not pass the test. By this time, an event was organized by the HOD to celebrate the tier 1 placed students and all those students spoke about their interview experiences and successfully giving jitters to a few of us. 

Buddy sessions started with Prashanth Raghu and Suraj Agarwal at the helm. They briefed us the process of interviews and gave out many handy tips in each session. About this time, we also started getting mails about possible internships in startups and other not-so-well known startups. I reached out to a startup named ‘MobStac’ who were incidentally coming over to the college for placements. After a series of interviews, I finally managed to get the internship. Oh boy, was I happy. But I was still in the dilemma to take it up as I had my CAT preparation scheduled in the coming summer. 

Then came March 2011 - this is where my life took the real direction to where I am right now. I can as well say, it was life changing for my friends too. It began with losing a friend, and then a conference called conf.kde.in happened. This is where I understood what open source actually is. It is not just writing code - It is the people. I met people who worked so hard and selflessly that made me think about what I was really doing studying computer science. The conference didn’t teach us much about open source technologies. But we learnt about the open source ecosystem. We met Sunil Rao, a head in Nokia who were one of the sponsors for the event. That 10 minute interaction with him lead to the formation of Student Nokia Developer (SND) with Ram at the helm. Today it has grown into an International organization with over a 1000 students and won international awards. 

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conf.kde.in also gave us more insight into GSoC. After the talk by @nightrose, Phaneendra was determined to give it a shot. I wanted to too, but I was really confident that I won’t get it. Come on, a 3 month internship sponsored by Google and paying 2.5L? Yeah right. I applied to a community called Komodo and failed. But Phaneendra applied to a mysterious project called Nepomuk which was something related to desktop semantics. And to everyone’s surprise, he made it. He got the project and was over the moon. I rode to his house, in the middle of the night to wish him. My first sneak out-of-home without telling anyone. 

Then came the exams, which I consistently wasn’t doing well. Hence, pathetic grades. No regrets. 

Holidays started and we conducted a 2 day workshop on J2ME and Qt as the first step of SND. I was a speaker for the J2ME location based services session. I realized how bad I really was at public speaking. I haven’t volunteered to speak at any session after that, which I hope changes in the future.

The class guys including me, then went to a trip to Kerala which unfortunately turned out to be very bad. First reason was the weather - it rained continuously. Second, the driver was a scumbag who cheated us to low quality rooms for a hefty price. We ditched the driver on the last day and the weather improved too. Personally, the worst trip of all my trips with my classmates. 

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After Kerala, it was time I made the choice between an MBA or continuing with CS. I had learnt about startups, open source by this time. My projects gave me the confidence that I wasn’t all that bad at solving problems using computers. I decided to continue with my Computer science and ditched plans of doing an MBA - hence the 24k for CAT prep down the drain. I didn’t even bother writing CAT. 

My internship at MobStac was very good - good knowledgeable people who made you realize how little you know, good environment, good work and good occasional team lunches. There were about 10 people of which 6 were interns! 

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On July 16th, Prashanth, Umesh, Suhas ( the seniors ) and the 3 usual suspects met in college with one agenda - popularize open source in PESIT. And this led to the formation of PES Open Source Community. Being part of this community is one of the best things that has happened to me. The community led me to meet knew people - seniors and juniors and befriended them all. The community has organized 2 hackathons till date and an open source conference. It has produced 7 GSoCers and and even more contributors. It is one of the few things I pride myself on.

And then there was the Yahoo Open Hack, 2011 in Lalit Ashok in Bangalore. My first hackathon which had Phaneendra, Geetanjali and Sandeepa and me teamed up. We came up with a new way to upload photos onto social networks. The overall experience was amazing! 

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Since the SND workshop, Geetanjali became a good friend and started hanging out with us guys. After the internship, all of us were made to attend a soft skills development programme in the college and they were supposed to help us prepare for placements and it was boring. PNH, KLN, RK, GGG and me and sometimes Nityata used to bunk those classes and seek refuge in the newly constructed Nokia lab ( which later went on to be my second home ). Pictionary, loafing about, counter strike, lunches became common. The wheeled chairs and ample smooth floor space helped us play dashing chairs too. Apart from this, we even prepared for our upcoming placements. 

Things learnt - 

  • I’m good at making computers do things for me
  • FOSS and startups
  • Small momentary decisions can lead to huge things like SND, PES-OS and a girl. 
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
disappointedvaadhiyaar:

caption thanks to @cheese_charmer

A classic depiction. 
I always wondered why people donate/offer money (only an example) to God(again, example) in odd figures of 101, 116, 1001 etc. 
They reason that 100 being a round figure, it symbolizes termination. But with 101, it symbolizes continuity. 

disappointedvaadhiyaar:

caption thanks to @cheese_charmer

A classic depiction. 

I always wondered why people donate/offer money (only an example) to God(again, example) in odd figures of 101, 116, 1001 etc. 

They reason that 100 being a round figure, it symbolizes termination. But with 101, it symbolizes continuity. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

shobhitic asked: Hey, can you provide some pointers on how you were able to get into gsoc? Is there something I should be doing other than gen coding? Thanks

Well it depends really. If you have an understanding of how open source works, you can start atleast by trying to contribute to some project you can connect to. You could develop your coding skills by contributing to open source than the other way round. 

How I got into GSoC, my first post on GSoC is about that. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

GSoC Update - After 90 days.

3 months of blood, sweat and tears ended. Not to worry, Spartacus will be back again next year. 

Ok, GSoC. It ended. Not really happy about it ‘cos it I’ll miss it. You can read the progress of my project till now here and here. So you know what I was working on. 

After the mid-evaluation, I have kept working on improving the query, making the plugin usable and a bunch of other useful things and it has kept me busy. The Nepomuk query had a complete overhaul : Nepomuk API was no longer used and a manual SPARQL query took its place. This made the query faster and hence the startup time reduced considerably. The query was also pushed to the background and made to run as a separate thread so that other components of Amarok don’t get hung up. 

Along with Artist, Album, Genre and Composer, support for Year and Labels ( tags in Nepomuk ) was also implemented during this period. Secondary metadata ( in importance ) like replay gain of a track was given support.  

There was a problem of tracks played through Nepomuk being grayed out in the playlist view which was fixed. And the nepomuk collection even started showing the right number of tracks in the UI. 

Minor features which look trivial but are important were implemented : The plugin throws a suitable error if Nepomuk is not found or not enabled, Make the compilation of Nepomuk plugin optional even if Nepomuk was found, change the rating of a song through Dolphin or add new tags to it and it gets reflected in Amarok etc.

Though the plugin is not feature complete ( No support for moving collections and creating new tracks in Nepomuk, scores are not being considered yet etc ), the plugin is usable and I have been using it since the beginning. There is no feeling more wonderful when the code you wrote is being used by you daily. 

My code should be merged with the Amarok master in a few days and I could officially call myself an open source contributor. Until then, check the code in my personal repos here and here

Though GSoC is over, I am committed to the cause of making the Nepomuk plugin mimic the existing SQL backend. I plan to hack on Amarok in my free time and whenever possible. 

Though it is a cliche to thank God, parents blah blah after every successful venture, I’d like to be more practical and want to thank Phaneendra who helped me get this project in the first place and then would be the crew of Amarok who pitched in with ideas and ways to make my code better. Matej ( strohel ) helped me by reviewing my code and making sure I don’t have a misplaced * or a ;. Vishesh ( vHanda ), the Nepomuk wizard and my Nepomuk mentor for helping me out on all my queries and even writing the most of the SPARQL query himself. I can certainly call the Amarok gang, my team. 

Finally, the success of the project belongs to Edward ( dr_lepper ), my Amarok mentor for the project. His patience in answering my doubts, his support when I was in dumps with a screwed git repo to patting me on the back whenever I made progress is actually a life lesson with my stay in the open source world. There are tons of stuff I learnt from Edward and I’m sure I couldn’t have done a better job with anyone else. I am in total gratitude to him for these 3 months.

An amazing time and loads of knowledge ( not just C++, much more ) was what I could get out of GSoC. It was never about the money, it was about the satisfaction of contributing back, and I achieved what I set out to. 

  Nepomuk logo big.png

Monday, July 30, 2012

Organizing a college level Hackathon [Part 1]

It has been a few months since we successfully pulled out a 24 hour hackathon in the last few months of stay at my undergrad college. I was one of the event heads and we were a strong team of approximately 40.

This series of posts contains steps and some do’s and don’t’s that might help you before organizing one at the college level. We pulled out the hackathon with exactly a month of preparation. Ideally you would want more.

Step 1 : Get permission and fix dates

Get permission from the college authorities ( or any other ). This can be a tricky part, as many colleges would be apprehensive of having students ( boys and girls ) stay overnight in their campus. They would be worried about security and other implications.

Set a date that doesn’t clash with major exams or other events in the town.

Step 2 : Gather your team

Build a strong core team with people who can help out and work on different categories. Its always better to analyze the strengths of each person and recruit the ones whom you think would really contribute to the event. Event organization pretty much works like starting your own company.

You are only as strong as your team.

Make sure you have people for all the different aspects you can think of. Generally you might need separate teams for :

  • Core
  • Sponsorship
  • Publicity and marketing
  • Registration ( works together with the PR and marketing team )
  • Hospitality and Stage Management
  • Food
  • Content writers
  • Website and technology
  • Design
  • Volunteers
  • Logistics

Organizing events is rarely a democratic process. You need leaders for each of the teams mentioned above and you need people under these leaders.

Step 3 : Gathering funds

Funds can either be provided by the college or by sponsors or by both. It is always a better option to get sponsors as it brings some credibility to the event and participants usually are attracted by big name sponsors.

Talking to sponsors is a long process and requires a lot of patience. It ideally needs 2 months and a dedicated sponsorship teams which comprises of people with good contacts in the industry. Make sure the personnel on the sponsorship team can deal with heartbreaks and turn downs and are good at convincing people.

Before you start reaching out to sponsors, make sure the sponsorship team has a well thought of, pitch. A pitch that tells a prospective sponsor why he is stupid to turn it down. He is least bothered about how the event helps save the humanity or what the food menu is. He wants to know what is in it for him. The kind of exposure he gets, the information he gets access to and to whom is his company and brand exposed to. A presentation to talk about your event when you pitch might sound old fashioned. But generally the higher ups in a company are old fashioned and old school. So old fashioned methods might be the way to go especially if you are speaking to companies which have layers of hierarchy.

Have 2 people ( preferably a girl and guy ) at the pitch and have a detailed sponsorship brochure. The sponsorship brochure should be sent to the prospective sponsor at the first contact. Don’t forget to carry a hard copy of the brochure when you meet the sponsor in person.

An crucial part that you must have ready before you pitch : A website.

Step 2.5 : The website

If not a fully functional website, at least a minimal one talking about the event and the date, and contact details ( not a gmail email address ). The tech team shouldn’t take more than a week to put this up.

If you have extra time on your hand, gather your design team and ask them to come up with a design theme and a color theme for the event. And follow the same on everything. Everything related to the event should follow the theme, be it posters, tickets, stage backdrop, table cloth, certificate, sponsorship brochure. Everything should follow the theme. This throws a professional look to the event. And even the logo of the event should be designed in this time. Again, it should follow the theme of the event.

Start a little publicity about the event. Ask your team to talk to their friends about it and visit the site. Put it up on Facebook and Twitter. When it comes to college level hackathons, there is always a golden hand on top of you monitoring your moves ( read college authorities )  and who can scrap the event at will. So make sure the event doesn’t garner any negative publicity.

Start a Facebook page and twitter handle only after the complete website is up. Ideally, the website, fb page and twitter handle should be announced and released together. But don’t forget to squat on those usernames.

The next part in the series contains the next steps that should be considered to organize a hackathon.