Friday, October 21, 2005

Home sweet home

Though its a little sad leaving Islamabad and the folks here, who has really taken good care of us during our short visit, I am looking forward to get back. For the past few days, we've been seeing and hearing about the earth quake and its survivors and have been totally our of the loop as far as Sri Lanka is concerned.

Judging by some of the funny emails, I've been getting, I can only imagine the heated atomosphere with the upcoming Presidential Election.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pakistan's Big Brother

Today we visited the Nadra (not to be confused with the more familiar Narada center), which stands for the National Database and Registration Authority. They are the government organization that issues National ID cards to eveyone. The place is amazing when you consider the data they have on pretty much everyone. For example they can, just by using your name along with your fathers name, tell pretty much everything about you such as whether your married or single, which cities you've been living in, and information about uour reletives. One of the IBMers, after seeing the demo, said "he felt naked".

Later in the evening, we visited the main hospital in Islamabad to talk with some of the senior doctors to see what can be offered. We then walked around the hospital and saw some of the victams. Due to space limitations, they were placed all accross the lobby area. According to the doctor, the numbers just keeps increasing.

We met one of the girls, who had been stuck between the rubbles for 9 days. Its an amazing story, that is just beyong belief. Just imagine being trapped in a confined space for 9 days with no food or water. Ofcourse when they found her, she had already passed out, so hopefully she had hibernated most of the time. Her father said that he had burried 12 other childern.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Boom shakala

This morning I woke up with a sudden gasp! I thought some one had jumped into my bed. After looking around and under the sheets, I went back to sleep a bit longer.

It turns out, I had experienced a slightly bigger after shock. Acording to the earth quake center, I believe it was of magnitude 5.6. Later that day we felt another smaller one in the evening. It was probably not as big, since I didn't get the usual email alert from the Earth quake monitoring center.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Taprobane Sahana Edition

ibm crowd
Started remastering Taprobane GNU/Linux to include the Sahana phase I as a LiveCD. Taprobane has a really neat feature which makes remastering quite easy just by running few make commands. For example, to customize the ISO image, all one needs to do is execute

# make chroot

That will drop you to a chrooted environment, sometimes referred to as a chrooted jail!, because you get trapped inside a directory (well atleast till you type exit in this case). Once in jail, you are free to install/remove packages before getting out using the exit command. Once that's done, remastering is as easy as ..

# make iso (or even just make)

After about 20 minutes, it will produce a freshly baked iso image that's ready to be served on a CD platter :)

But....thats just how it's supposed to work ;). Perhaps due to the manner in which I went about remastering, there were some challenges (one of the thing I picked up from the Brent Woodworth, who is the head of IBM's Crisis Response Team, was not to use the word problem!). I managed to figure out most of them but there are a few more that needs to be ironed out tomorrow.

Other than work, I just came back from a heavy meal at one of the most beautiful hotels in Islamabad, known as Serina. The whole scale of the hotel, not to mention the hill like landscape and its romantic candle lit dinner was just wonderful. The food we chose to consume was from an Arabic menu (they initially offered us an american steak menu), and was a quite large portion. Dinner was quite educational as far as learning about mitigation and dealing with an Earth Quake. For example, one of the useful tips I learned, that I hope to apply, is to scream and swear at the ground at tell it to stop shaking!!! Apparently that can help you prevent any phycological trauma that one might incur as a result of a violent quake.

If it wasn't for the last capuchino, I probably wouldn't have made it post dinner. Ashif and Rizwan, two IBM colleges came back to my room and we did manage to get some work till 1:30 AM. They are gone now, and so am I.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pakistan meets Sahana

We managed to catch an early flight at 5AM as opposed to the originally booked 7AM one and make it to the hotel early on. Though we made it to the hotel earlier, Murphy would have us wait for about another hour before we could see the rooms. Nevertheless after seeing the 60 inch plasma TV equipped with 70 odd cable channels, there weren't any hard feelings. The room at the Marriott is very nice and relaxing to be in.

plasma After a very short nap, we were escorted to the IBM office, where we met a lot of new faces. Chamindra presented the current Sahana system and I showed a working demo off one of the notebooks we brought with us. As soon as that meeting was over, we all rushed over to the Priminister's secretariat, which is a massive palace like building just a few meter's off IBM headquarters.

There were several high ranked Army officers to whom we (IBM/LSF) demoed the system and offered other templates and consultancy services Our presentation was taken quite positively by the officials, and they even offered to take the two leading guys from the Emergency Crisis Team on a chopper to see the disaster area.

Later in the evening, quite happy with the day's progress, Asif who is one of the IBMers, took us out to Pizza Hut to initiate eating after fasting all day. We took the special "All you can eat" offer that's happening these days due to the Ramadan season. I must say the quality of the Pizza was better when compared to what you get in Sri Lanka.

The day ended with some coffee and chitchat at a prominent Minister's residence about the current situation. There seems to be a lot of expectations from everyone to get the system operational ASAP. Hopefully all the elements will come together in the coming days.

Blogging from Pakistan

I've just arrived at the Pakistan airport in Karachi, trying to kill some time till the next flight at 7AM. Even though my search for wireless networks through kismet came up with 2 unknown essid's that seem to be unencrypted, I wasn't about to go any further with trying to hack into it just so I can get this blog out on time.

My self and Chamindra are in Pakistan on our way to Islamabad to help with the disaster efforts as a result of the Earth quake strike last week. No so much so by picking up shawals or buckets but by what we know best - Free & Opensource software.

I only got to know about our need for the visit on Thursday, when IBM requested us to join their Emergency Crisis Management Team. If your wondering why us, then the simple answer is, for building the Sahana system in a very short time when the Tsunami hit. Unfortunately as we built it very quickly, within a week or so, its far from perfect when it comes to implementing for a world wide disaster solution.

The good news is Sahana phase 2 is in full swing, and is being built by LSF as a generic system that can be use for just about any disaster. Unfotunately the new system is about 2-3 months away from being realized. That's where I come in -- as an architect (literally) of the old system :)

Our mission is to demonstrate the system as a proposition to managing the current crisis in the hope that it can ease some of the chaos and disorder usually found in such a situation.

Enough said about Sahana, my trip here was quite a company. Murphy seemed to have joined us along the way, following us secretly and popping up from time to time. From the setting up of the demo till the last minute to me loosing the ticket coupons while filling the embarkation to the tatty flight that a 1 hour stop over in Mumbai after circling the sky for about 20 minutes due to traffic! If that wasn't dizzy enough, we were forced to stay in the plane, while a cleaning crew tore plane apart. Which brings us to the present, sitting and blogging in an empty airport with another 5 hours to go.

Well I just bought a book -- "The beautiful Mind", and if its anything like the movie then I'd guess it would be a real treat.

Things can only get better....

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mini bug squashing CodeFest

Today a few of us got together at the UCSC to work on fixing few bugs as well as add some features to the next version of Taprobane. The plan was to get to a point where we can wrap up the 0.4.x series by releasing 0.4.3, so that we can concentrate on 0.5.

The morning session was spent on setting up the infrastructure as is the usual case. Unfortunately due to firewalls, we were only allowed to access http/ftp services via a proxy. An apt-proxy already filled with some debian packages was setup, inorder to speed up participant's access to packages. A local irc server was setup to remedy access restrictions to freenode.

As a whole the event was somewhat successful in my opinion, as we closed up several nasty bugs while adding some nice features such as drivers for the Huaweu Bell CDMA phone and ndiswrapper. Anuradha Weeraman seemed to have made some progress with the installer, which we hope will make it to 0.5.

peer_coding It was good to see several UCSC students, some of who are also LKLUGers to join in on the fun. Dr. Ruvan, Harsha and Chamath of the UCSC also dropped in to check on progress. Hopefully this will be a regular event.