Friday, January 18, 2008

RMS events in Sri Lanka

rms_ucsc I've just come back from UCSC's roof top, where RMS came to say hi to the many geeks, students and staff as the last event before he heads back tomorrow noon.

The last couple days had been quite hectic, balancing between home, work and organizing RMS events. From before his arrival on the 14th to the present day, its been a juggling act of trying to stay on top of things. It was challenging and non trivial considering the nature and importance of the visitor (after all RMS started it all) and the fact we wanted to get so many different groups involved. There was ICTA, FOSS.lk (which in itself is a bunch of groups), SLIIT, UCSC, UoM, UoP, IIT, NIMB, APIT, PC House, Cannonical, Redhat, WSO2 and probably more. And looks like we pulled this one off quit well, phew!

RMS arrived in Sri Lanka on the 14th of Jan and I ended up tagging along with Himira of ICTA/LKLUG to the airport. The flight was supposed to be at 11:45am and we were doing the whole CIP (Commercially Important People as opposed to VIP) thing. But it so happens the new CIP doesn't have a lounge and so we ended up staying at the VIP lounge. Besides getting up close but not personal with CBK, JRaj and SarathA as well as me reading RMS's book, we were pretty much waiting, waiting and waiting, for 4 hours! RMS was on a Sri Lankan UL flight from India, which was only supposed to be an hour flight. When asked as to the reason of the delay from one of the airport staff, he humorously explained it was due to UL flights being Usually Late. There was nothing we could do anyways since we were pretty much in house arrest with no way of even going out for a bite.

He finally did come at about 2:30 pm. We greeted him at the terminal and proceeded to immigration after taking few pictures (I'll post them as soon as I get them). RMS started reading and replying to his mail, which I presume he had downloaded before getting on the plane, using Emacs, on his rather bulky Thinkpad, using vt text console. He also offered a stack of CDs and challenged us to pick a CD to listen to. I picked the first one, not knowing exactly which was better. It turned out to be some pretty nice Vietnamese music, which we listened to on our way back to Colombo. There were a few little nice things that happened such as getting my book autographed and him offering us delicious New Zealand cheese but I'm too lazy to blog about details. Your just gonna have to read my twitter if you wanna catch that, or better yet follow me so you don't miss it next time :)

Anyway I didn't see him again till today at the Malabe SLIIT event where he delivered a speech which can only be described as one of the best speeches I've heard of his filled with humor, ridicule, inspiration and wisdom. Somehow he managed to create a perfect fusion of speeches he is known to give into one spectacular speech. The auditorium, known to support about 800 people was full with a few people even standing at the back. And yet the place was silent, if not for RMS's voice. Ven. Mettavihari and Chamath managed to clear the Ubuntu CDs that Cannonical had couriered from customs and bring it to SLIIT just in time, before the event ended. Those CDs vanished fast - 600 CDs gone in 600 seconds!

Now if you knew and admired RMS and still missed the events, may be because you didn't know or just couldn't make it, well you have my apologies (for not doing enough advocacy) and sympathies (might have been a once in a life time chance if he never comes back, though you never know). If you don't know him, well then you probably think your not missing much, but boy were you wrong! In any case we do hope to encode and upload video of his speech on to one or more of the popular video uploading servers. So come back to this post and you might just find a link to it.

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