Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Reader's Digest Newsweek's guide to FOSSSL2006

Last week has been both exhilarating and some what exhausting with a series of events that began with the Hackathon on Monday, and ended with Geekout on Sunday (though I came back on Saturday).

I've finally got around to uploading the photos which is available at my flickr blog. Here is the recap:

Sunday 13th

On Sunday, I spent the whole day setting up my barebone with Ubuntu64 and testing out VLC hoping to steam the cricket match during the Hackathon. First I tried the multicast mode of steaming video via ipv6, which sort of worked, except that it flooded the network to the point that no one could browse the internet. So much for that! Instead, I settled for the good old http streaming.

That evening we went out to dinner at the Thai restaurant at Trans Asia with the "geek people".


After dinner, I was very much intoxicated after a hefty meal, but knew that the show must go on. So I set about to test the video streaming setup in a similar condition to that in the conference. Luckily for me, we had two rooms reserved at TransAsia for some of our guys to stay over, so I decided to spend the night hacking at the video streaming problem. As a result of the wireless router (belonging to WSO2) being bought from the US, it required a 110v power supply, which was only to be found in the bathroom, where you would normally plug an electric shaver. The solution involved co-locating the equipment near the bathroom, which enabled us to conduct a successful test :)


Monday 14th


With all that testing, you would have expected me to say how managed to stream the match. But Murphy had his way and we were never able to stream due to several problems such as an unstable wireless link. Nevertheless (on a positive note), we did show the match using a video projection on to a big screen. I'm not sure if people coded or watched the match, as I didn't stick around to watch. I had to run off to FOSSSchool and FOSSUni.

Out of those two events, FOSSSchool was extremely successful with a full house, while FOSSUni was moderately successful, perhaps due to other prevaling circumstances.

Tuesday 15th


ApacheConAsia got on to an awesome start with several interesting talks. I was surprised that even though I wasn't directly part of the Apache Developer community, there seemed to be a track that suited the technologies I was interested in (hint: not java).


Russ Nelson stood out as the other "geek with an attitude" ;) I could have sworn he was my twin older brother when it came to the love for gadgets. Actually he is much smarter and geekier than I could ever be. After all he writes packet drivers for a living!

He had a cool glove like keyboard, which he had developed to make it easier to type (after a not soo steep learning curve), in mid air without ever touching a conventional keyboard. Keystrokes are transmitted via bluetooth to his awesomely cool Nokia 770 tablet PC, which by the way was also running on GNU/Linux!

Another fun session at the ApacheCon Asia were the "Lightning Talks". Unlike Count Dracula's lightening talks, which involved counting numbers, accompanied by thunder and lightening, these topics weren't restricted to just counting, though there was a count down timer of 5 minutes. Each person had the freedom to talk about anything, be it technology or "what they did last summer", as long as it ended in exactly 5 minutes.


IMHO, Mifan probably did the most hilarious talk involving an adaptation of the Sahana disaster management system for managing, well family disasters, so to speak :). David Recordon, more commonly known as Dave, started his session talking about a RPG game called, WereWolf, which at the time seemed total greek - that was until geekout (see below).

apachecon_asia_00501.jpg The last session for the day was another common item in the ApacheCon menu, known as a BOF (pronounced Boff) which stood for Birds of a feather. BOF's are basically a place for small interest groups to informally meet to discuss on an interesting topic. As I didn't much understand what was actually been said, instead I concentrated on something more tangible and at arms length -- free Beer!

Finally we all went out for dinner to the Gallery Caffee which had a nice romantic ambiance.



Wednesday 16th

apachecon_asia_00536.jpg Woke up late after a night out and missed Sanjiva's talk on, "The world is flat in Apache" :( I had some catching up to do with organizing fossenterprise that was going to happen in another 2 days, so spent most of my time was spent at the Hackathon lounge. I still managed to squeeze in a few interesting talks such as Embedding Axis2/C by Samisa and ofcourse the panel discussion that was moderated by Manju Hathotuwa.


The day ended with an award ceremony, followed by cocktails. During the awards ceremony, I was called up on stage and given a T-shirt for mentoring FOSSCode. I also won a nice IBM denim shirt from a lucky draw that was held by US Technologies.

Cocktails were fun, especially for Russ who seemed to enjoy playing the role of the "confused, wanna-be" minister.


Thursday 17th

I came late on Thursday, just in time for the "Web Application security bootcamp" tutorial, by Christian Wenz, which literally scared the crap out of me! He dazzled the crowed with some amazing JavaScript and SQL injection methods to show how naive web developer's are and how easy it was to penetrate their web sites. While he did show how to write secure code that can minimize this sort of cross scripting vunerabilities, at a considerable cost of putting in a lot of extra effort. Good security concious framework should (hopefully) make this trivial.

Friday 18th

Got up earlier than usual and rushed off to water's edge. Most of my involvement at FOSSSL 2006 was with the planning of FOSSEnterprise, which was about to be put to the test. At first, there wasn't a huge crowd, apparently due to a high traffic jam as a result of the security arrangements for the SAARC games. But by about 10am we had a full house of corporate people wanting to know about FOSS. As a result, by the end of the day, we only had two file dockets left of which I took one. Anuradha took the other ;)

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Danise did a touching opening speech on what FOSS was all about and how it has/is changing the lives of many in the world that at one point I had to fight hard to keep my eyes dry.

This was followed by 5 short case studies, each lasting no more than 15 minutes, which talked about how FOSS was the differentiating factor. My talk on "securing your infrastructure using FOSS" was the last talk for the day and was rushed to finish in 15 min. Luckily I ended up escaping an official escort even after taking 18 minutes.

After FOSSEnterprise we got on the Geekout bus and started our journey to Kithulgala, which turned out to be a long long long journey...

By the time we got there, it was raining hard, and we were starving. The bus we came in had a few glitches that prevented it from going anything over 30km/hour. Pretty much everyone who was using alternative transport beat us to the destination. Nevertheless we managed to kill time arguing over the GPL License and what it meant that we didn't notice it as much.

geekout00621.jpg The "Kithulgala Rafter's Retreat" we stayed in was indeed a great retreat from modern life. The cottages we stayed in were well designed to look simple and in touch with nature. For example, you could barely see the wiring, that provided electricity to the ancient looking switches. The yellow ambient lighting (which was of energy saving type), gave a warmth feeling.


Each cottage was uniquely built to fit the landscape it was in. Myself, Anuradha and Sanjaya shared a cottage. After a tiring day, we decided to hit the sack early. There was a constant loud sound of the water stream rushing a few feet across and below us. One could also hear the sound of frogs, crickets and other natural beings. But we were too tired to appreciate these by this time.

Saturday 19th


Got up late to a lazy Saturday but after a naturally cold shower I was ready for anything! After having a delicious breakfast consisting of bread/string hoppers with samen,dal, coconut sambol, we started to contemplate on white water rafting. But before it was the time, there was a little time left to play a little game called Geocache, which was basically a modern hitech version of "Hide and seek" or to be slightly more accurate "treasure hunt", but using a GPS device to locate the hidden treasure.

The way the game went was as follows: First Russ hid a box containing nothing useful :) somewhere in the field (of leeches) and then gave the Geo Co-Ordinates which we entered on to Rich Bowen's GPS device. Then it was a matter of walking around trying to find the hidden box. Ofcouse its not easy as it sounds due to the relatively lower accuracy of civilian GPS and that fact that you have to be constantly moving to get a reading. We eventually managed to find the device but had some bad leech experiences along the way.

White water rafting was truly exhilarating but the hightest point for me was that of jumping off a high rock into fast moving water stream. It didn't feel dangerous until it was my turn. My body only felt it was suicidal just a split second after letting go of the ground, but then it was too late. I can't wait to do that again!

After coming back and having a delicious lunch, we started playing WereWolf, the weird game that Dave was talking about during Lightening Talks. I found myself in an awkward position when I discovered that my girl friend was a were wolf, capable of eating me as I was a mere villager. Convincing the other villagers to get rid of her would also prove touch as they might suspect me as a werewolf. Ultimately I played it safe and helped kill off two of the other Werewolves before they relialized she too was a werewolf. The final werewolf turned out to be Ken core, whom I pointed out as my dying last word purely on gut feeling and it turned to be correct, ending the game.

Later that night we had a barbecue after which I rushed back home, thanks to a ride by Rucith and the gang!


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

FOSSSL 2006 bill board

Well you haven't made a mark until your up on a billboard, so they say and that's what I saw yesterday as I was driving my way to the ApacheCon conference.


Many thanks to Virtusa for donating their hoarding to the FOSS community during the FOSSSL 2006. Also a special thanks to the army dude that gave me permission to take this picture. Sorry for forgetting to take your name down.

You can see the hoarding in front of the Bera Lake.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Blogging from ApacheCon Asia

I'm currently at ApacheCon Asia, the first ever ApacheCon in asia which is also a part of a week long FOSS event known as FOSSSL2006.

You can catch all the pictures from the event on my Flicker photo blog.

We had a good event yesterday at the Univerisity of Moratuwa, called FOSSSchool and FOSSUni which was to talk about FOSS in the academia.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Door-to-Door marketing FOSSSL 2006

We are not your average sales people. We couldn't be... had we even tried to. We shouldn't be... because we are already selling just fine. We ought to be... because that's what people seem to expect.

We are the Sri Lankan FOSS community and we're coming to your door step - well if we find time, that is.

Here are the top 5 reasons, why your never going to think of us as the average sales person:

  1. We don't wear a tie. We don't have shiny shoes. We generally like to wear jeans and cool FOSS T-shirts, some of which, has the GPL license printed on the back.

  2. We don't carry a brief case full of sh**. We might have a poster or two in our hand.

  3. You like what you hear so much that you have an urge to invite others to listen to our gospels.

  4. After a few minutes of listening, your not sure what we're here to sell. You might even ask "So what is it that you want from us?" or "So what's in it for you?"

  5. We leave your place without having taken a penny or a filled up registration form. And yet, you feel like we've sold you something.

Even though my feet are killing me after all that walking, it was a very satisfying day. All the places that we visited was welcoming and they had already heard about Free & Opensource software (FOSS) to some degree or the other. You could tell they knew something about FOSS but were eager to learn more.

After talking with many guys in the banking, insurance, shipping and the telecom industry, it was apparent that there is a high demand for learning GNU/Linux and about other Opensource software that could replace their current proprietary IT infrastructure. Many of them had a sense of "Opensource is the new trend, the future", but was somewhat unsure of how to go about deploying it. While some places I visited had already adopted one or two servers for handling mail or proxy, the majority is still running on proprietary systems, with an expensive overhead. What is evident is that they realize that its high time to start shopping for an alternative - something that brings back control and reduces cost.

This thirst to know more is the primary motivation for us when we organize events to educate the public at different levels. FOSS(SL) was a week long series of events we started last year, around the first ever Software Freedom day celebrations. So while the rest of world was celebrating a day, we were doing a week :)

Similar to last year, this year's FOSSSL 2006 is a special one as it encompasses the first ever ApacheCon for Asia. ApacheCon is a very popular conference in the US and Europe, that brings thousands of developers and technologists on to a multi track sessions comprising of talks and tutorials. ApacheCon Asia will have a star line up of speakers both local and international. This will be a good opportunity for our local developers to interact with key developers of the popular Apache software that powers nearly 65% of the web (at the time).

Another useful event for the above said local industry looking to migrate is FOSSEnterprise which looks at the know how of adopting FOSS in the enterprise. There will be several real world case studies followed by panel discussions that will be moderated by key FOSS personalities. Similarly, there will be prominent line up of speakers, who have a lot of experience working with the industry.

To end it all off, there is a fun event called Geek out which is an action packed camping trip with a chance to hang out with the geeks!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Buddha statues emitting magical rays or Mass Hysteria?

On my way home today, I got caught to an unusual traffic jam. The kind you get when there is a heavy storm, an accident or a very smart cop trying to override traffic lights! But as soon as I turned off from the Nawala junction towards, Nugegoda it was evident none of those were the cause. For some weird reason, traffic was just moving slow as far as the eye could see.

Then without thinking much about it, I joked to myself, if this was caused by "yet another Buddha statue" emitting rays and people flocking to see. All day, I've been hearing people musing about how this phenomena was happening in multiple locations and how it had caused traffic jams and even few accidents. But I was too busy at work to think much of it. I didn't really think there could be anything other than a Sri Lankan cricket match that was capable of such things.

After getting home, I got to know that my mom, my girl friend's two sisters and a few other relatives have also witnessed this phenomena. Dinner was spent debating the different theories ranging from that of a conspiracy theory to misdirect attention, to possible chemical agents that might have reacted, to glow in the dark phosphorous to.. well the list goes on. Things got more bazaar when I learned that my gandmother and aunt had seen this in their own living room!

Ladies and gentleman, we have just witnessed Mass Hysteria, induced possibly by an optical illusion caused by a memory effect in the retina due to over exposure. Shocking isn't it?

Mass hyteria can do some horrific things to people as in the case of War of the world's, radio broadcast.

"The War of the Worlds, a radio adaptation by Orson Welles based upon H. G. Wells' classic novel, was performed by Mercury Theatre on the Air as a Halloween special on October 30, 1938. The live broadcast reportedly frightened many listeners into believing that an actual Martian invasion was in progress." - wikipedia

Though I personally didn't get much excited to stop the car and witness this myself, the following demo might illustrate what people think they are seeing.


Concentrate on where the red meets yellow for some time and you should begin to see a light-green glow that changes in width and intensity. Many people have supposedly reported green as the color of the rays. But this theory requires the statue to be of two colors. Anyway these are not my findings but some that I heard on ITN from some viewers that have done some field research.

The final decision by the experts are yet to be announced. Fingers crossed for I hope they don't say that its real :)

What you see is not always what you get. Check out these optical illusions.