I’m blogging from a Ubuntu Linux desktop in the awesome 24-hours Computer science lab in NIT, Calicut. This place is so big!

Coming back to the event that we had come for – the FLOSS Meet @ NIT Calicut, it was very successful and we had a great time today.

Actually, the morning didn’t start out well for me, we didn’t travel in a good bus and we landed near IIM, Calicut at 4.30 am , we then took an auto rickshaw and reached the NIT Calicut campus. We had a few hours of sleep and then we got up groggily and had to get ready to give a talk on stage!

We had a small inauguration function on stage. I’ve seen many inauguration functions where you have the names put up in front of the seats on stage and we usually clap at the speeches and stuff but I never expected my name to be on such a platform! ;)

Dr. S S Gokhale (the director of NIT Calicut), Dr. K P Mohandas (Professor at NIT Calicut) and Mr Sudhakar (Vice President of CSI) were the dignatories on stage. We were then introduced to the audience and some background info on where we studied, whats our interests, etc. was mentioned.

The Slither away with Python! Talk
The Slither away with Python! Talk
The Slither away with Python! Talk
The Slither away with Python! Talk

There were some 140-150 students in the auditorium. It was good that we got the first turn to give the talk since the students are fresh in the morning and are usually more retentive. After all, we all have been students at one time and understand the psyche of a student.

Soon, Pradeep and myself took over the stage and we started asking the students about what their previous programming experience and what they are interested in. Almost all students knew C++ and didn’t know Perl. So, yaay! They hadn’t been spoilt by Perl and we knew it would be exciting to introduce them to a clean language like Python to C++ students.

We gave a pep talk to them that Python is used in the real world. In fact, Yahoo! Groups runs on Python and also Pradeep’s company ZeOmega deliver real-world solutions for hospital management.

The first thing we showed was the Python’s interpreter prompt. You can always see the sparkle in the eyes of anybody new to Python when you show them that you can type code on the prompt and get back results immediately. We then talked about the other basic stuff like indentation, more syntax stuff, functions and more importantly, the ‘Pythonic’ way of approaching things.

The Slither away with Python! Talk
The Slither away with Python! Talk
Pradeep
Myself

We two had actually one plan – do a better Miguel-and-Nat act than Miguel and Nat. Well, I think it’ll suffice to say that we may not have beaten them at their own game but we did pretty well. We were having fun on stage and explaining things at the same time. We were giving an example of a college marks card application and our marks was like this:

[python]
students = {

'Swaroop' : [60,70,80],
'Pradeep' : [40,40,40]

}
[/python]

Needless to say, the students laughed and enjoyed it. Before we knew it, one and a half hour was up and we took a tea break. Then, we talked about OOP and classes and then some cool Pythonic stuff such as list comprehensions. After that, Pradeep talked about his company ZeOmega and their project Zepp which they plan to open source in the coming weeks. I then asked whether anybody was not aware of Yahoo and of course, nobody raised their hands, so I didn’t talk about my company ;)

The audience
The audience
The Banner

Yahoo! had given me some T-shirts to give away to students. So, we asked some questions to students and whoever answered got a free Yahoo! ‘Open Minds Open Source’ T-shirt. We asked questions like ‘Who is the current maintainer of Linux’ and ‘Which is the only BSD-based LiveCD’ to ‘Which was the first Linux distro ever’ and ‘Who was the founder of GNU?’.

So, we rounded up the talk and were happy that the talk went well. I usually measure a good talk by the number of doubts and questions asked – it means that the audience is listening to you and digesting what you are saying. We took questions throughout the talk and answered them immediately.

Then, we had a lunch break. This was followed by Shanker Balan talking on FreeBSD and Atul Chitnis giving an energetic talk on the philosophy of FLOSS. I especially liked the way he emphasized that open source is a process, not just a product.

This was followed by a demonstration of Slynux by Sarath Lakshman. It was cool to see a 15-year old demonstrating his customized distribution of Linux.

I want to mention Dilip and Praveen who are students of NIT, Calicut and took the initiative to organize this FLOSS event. Congrats to them for making it a great success :)

I think I better stop writing now. Its almost midnight and we are going trekking in the hills and see water falls tomorrow morning at Thusharagiri :D

Note : I will put up the photos and presentation when I get back to Bangalore on Monday.

Update : I have finally uploaded the full collection of photos. Also, here’s the presentation titled ‘Slither away with Python’.

There is a FLOSS Meet tomorrow at NIT Calicut, Kerala and I will be giving talk on Python along with Pradeep.

The organizers informed me that around 100-150 students are expected. Also, apparently, today’s edition of the New Indian Express features news about the event as well :)

Other speakers include Shanker Balan (talking about BSD) and Atul Chitnis (talking about philosophy of FLOSS).

Here’s the poster of the event (click on it to see the full-size poster)

FLOSS Meet at NIT, Calicut

The event is sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services, IEEE Students chapter, IBM ACE Centre, NITC, CSI Calicut branch and GNU/Linux Users group, Calicut.

Also, we will go exploring lots of places on Sunday and get back to Bangalore on Monday. This is gonna be a fun trip :D

Okay, gotta go have dinner and run to board the bus!

I guess you must’ve already heard that OpenSolaris is now ‘open’ for business. So, Sun has open sourced Solaris. Sun expects a cheering community and welcoming of OpenSolaris with a lot of fanfare ; but (unsurprisingly?) they are getting a lot of flak over the ‘Common Development and Distribution License’ that they have chosen for OpenSolaris. Groklaw has a detailed analysis of the license.

So far, this is what I’ve understood:

  • Sun says Solaris is powerful and something called DTrace is supposed to be a cool feature.

  • Groklaw says Sun is trying to hard to adapt to the new open and free world but they have taken only a half-step and didn’t go the whole way to make it GPLed

  • You can’t mix Linux code and Solaris code unless you’re really really careful about licensing issues

  • I say, did anybody miss that the license is OSI-certified ?!

  • Slashdotters say that Sun is trying to revive a dead OS i.e. trying do a Mozilla.

I think it boils down to this – will Sun succeed in building a community around OpenSolaris ? I personally think that’s difficult. Maybe for the simple reason that there’s too much confusion about mixing CDDL and GPLed code.

Is it just me or are you also fed up of legality taking over technology? I mean if you have to write a software and an open source one, first thing that matters is the license and the next thing is the code? If that part is decided, then comes the hovering problem of patents! I recently heard that patents are now applicable in India. I find it strange that I have somehow missed this announcement. Is this true? I thought only embedded software was patentable in India.

Even if that doesn’t appear to be an immediate problem, then comes the problem of how legal contributing code is. For example, some companies have the policy that any code that you write belongs to the company, even if you write it for an open source project (Wipro comes to mind…). I’m lucky that Y! has an open mind about such things.

Similar is the issues between DotGNU and Mono, the scuffle between them may have had personal overtones but I feel its the licensing that plays a role in keeping the two communities and projects apart from each other. On one hand, the DotGNU community is more about freedom and providing a choice and I like that. They have the code GPLed. On the other hand, Mono seems to be more about pragmatism. It is liberal in licensing and allows you to contribute code to their libraries under the X11 license which is the one of the most liberal licenses ever. I can easily contribute to both but what happens if I decide to use a part of the code in another project (say under a BSD license) or even a project at work? Does anybody know if this possible? Again, we get muddled up in legalities. Sigh.

After quite a while, I was reading again, Battelle’s posts on Yahoo and Google and their role in media and technology . Its an interesting read.

It got me thinking on how the cultures of Yahoo and Google are so different, yet they are so similar in what they do – the media and technology fields. Its like this – Yahoo is a media-focused technology company. Google is a technology-focused media company. Heh. They are working in the same areas but looking at it from different angles. More precisely, Google creates technology and then wonders how to make money out of it. Yahoo creates technology but with a business plan already in mind. This is a huge difference and this is what stands out most in a comparison between them. The way I look at it, Google has more ways of doing interesting stuff and can do more innovation but with the caveat that it may not lead anywhere ; Yahoo has more stricter ways of developing something but has more chances of making it happen. In my view, I prefer the Yahoo way because its been there and survived. I find Google’s business model scary to say the least. I hope I’m wrong about Google and I still think they’re much smarter than me and have more things up their sleeve.

One example is how Google created the amazing Google Suggest but then what are they going to do with it? Another thing worth noting is that Google states that Google does search. And we do it really really well. but its clearing moving away from that position. After all, there is Blogger, Orkut, Picasa, Keyhole, Google Print and of course, GMail. That’s clearly a wide range of stuff, but they don’t work together much, if at all. Blogger works well. Orkut is good when it works but I get the ‘bad bad server. no donut for you’ page too many times. I haven’t tried Picasa myself but I’ve heard great reviews about it. GMail is simply fantastic. What I am really wondering about is their future plans for all of these. Is Technology+Adwords simply enough? I tend to ignore most ads simply because they are USA-centric. If I don’t click, Google doesn’t get paid, yet I use their services. So how are they going to keep making money? (Of course, you could argue the same for Yahoo, but I’m coming to that…)

Another thing is Google gets to do more since most of their stuff are labeled ‘beta’ for prolonged times – they can change things at will and not get shouted at if anything is broken. However, this is exactly the same reason which makes me worry about relying on their services. This makes sense in the case of GMail and not Google. Call me paranoid but if I am waiting for an important reply from someone, I worry about using the beta GMail.

Yahoo, on the other hand, has a lot of stuff and many premium services. The key to Yahoo’s amazing success is integration. Everything works well together, from Messenger to Mail, Addresses, Calendar, Greetings to Search and Groups and lots lots more. On the other hand, I don’t even know half of the services that Yahoo provides! For example, did you know about the Yahoo Picks of the Day where Yahoo showcases an interesting website for each day? Also, did you know about the Yahoo! Message Boards ?

The downside to all this is that Yahoo has lots of stuff running and its very difficult to change it. It must have been really difficult to add RSS features to My Yahoo! and Yahoo Groups. The same is true in the case of the awesome GMail UI vs Yahoo Mail. I simply love the GMail UI and how the conversations, labels and filters work, its simply irresistable for me. Yahoo recently bought Oddpost and it looks like it will be upgrading its UI in the coming months. Also, its difficult to add cool new features to Yahoo products unless it makes business sense. This is a double-edged sword and a stumbling block ; but in the real world, thats how it is going to be.

Regarding the I-love-Yahoo and especially I-love-Google fanatics, I feel it is simply a matter of personal preference. I have noticed that when I use Yahoo Mail, I tend to use the Yahoo search engine and when I use GMail, I tend to use the Google search engine. I have no idea why I do that, but my guess is that since my eyes are adjusted to the UI, I tend to prefer the same UI – after all, GMail and Google Search have familiar UI and the same goes for Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Search. Also, Yahoo Search works pretty well most of the time for me even though I confess that I prefer Google search engine because Google gives slightly better results for ‘techie stuff’.

Continuing the different-yet-similar tone, Google Video Search was launched (beta, of course) just as Yahoo Video Search was integrated to the front page. More details on this at the unofficial yahoo weblog and Battelle’s Searchblog.

To sum it all up, Google is a swashbuckling cool guy who makes money through gambling on his coolness whereas Yahoo is a smart businessman who takes only calculated risks and is slow to change. Just to make it more complete, a friend once said: Microsoft was once a cool guy who’s now trying to figure out how to handle middle age and the round tummy.

What I really ponder about is the direction that these companies will take in the next 2-3 years or even this year alone!

Gadling’s photo of the day is a snake charmer in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. No, seriously, I’m not talking of Pythonistas, I’m talking about a real snake charmer!

Snake charmer

Maybe this can be the official logo for BaPy ? ;)

Update: ‘BangPypers’ seems to be the frontrunner for the name of the group!

I just read the book ‘How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories’, its a splendid collection of short stories by Sudha Murty. She has a very poignant yet subtle way of explaining things and I was smiling throughout each story :)

One of my favorite stories is ‘I Will Do It’ where she describes a young boy who secured a good rank in the IIT entrance exam but he could not join IIT because his father could not afford it. The boy did not give up hope and had these words in mind: ‘All students from the IITs study well and do big things in life. But it is not the institution, ultimately it is you and you alone who can change your life by hard work.’ Today, he is a successful person, an icon of simplicity, uncompromising quality and fairness. He is none other than Infosys founder Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murthy!

Some of my other favorite stories include ‘Abdul Kalam’, ‘Appro JRD’, ‘The Story of Two Doctors’, ‘A Journey Through Desert’ and ‘Doing what you like is freedom’. I was able to get my sis interested enough to read ‘I Will do it’ and she was impressed. A few minutes ago, I was surprised to see even Dad reading the book…

A very good book. Don’t miss it.

As I had announced yesterday, we had a Python meetup at Ebony Restaurant today evening — Ten Pythonistas arrived and we had a rockin’ time :)

I knew only Pradeep and Premshree before, I met the other 7 just today – Anand Pillai, Sundar, Owen, Suresh, Anish, Ramdas and Gurpreet.

We met up at 7.30 and just started talking away! We eventually got around to giving our formal introductions. It was interesting to listen to the stories of how each of us became interested in Python and how we have come to like it so much. There were equal number of newbies, Python users and experienced guys amongst us. Most of us use Python ‘unofficially’ for our own purposes except for Pradeep and Gurpreet who use Python professionally in their respective companies.

BaPy photo 1
BaPy photo 2
BaPy photo 3
BaPy photo 4

After the introductions, we soon ordered the drinks and snacks. The conversations veered off in all kinds of directions from Linux Bangalore/2004 to Ruby on Rails (no, we don’t bash other languages, its just that we simply love Python) to the writing habit in us – Premshree, Anand and Pradeep have written various Python-related articles in many magazines, including the respected DeveloperIQ magazine whose publisher and editor is Ramdas ; and relatedly I have written a popular free book on Python.

Then came the topic of organizing ourselves into a tribe of snake-charmers. Oops, I meant a group of Python users ;) . We decided to create a yahoo group for ourselves but we soon got brainstorming and debating about a suitable name. For obvious reasons, we were trying to come up with names which involved ‘Python’ and ‘Bangalore’ … some of the names that came up were BagPython, BangPython (!), BaPy, PyBang, …. we finally decided ad-hoc on the name ‘BaPy’ but we’ll still probably have a poll for it (and no, ‘Bang-athon’ is not a suitable name ;) ). We can call ourselves as ‘bapys’ (try pronouncing it like ‘hippies’ :D )

Then, there was a suggestion to take on a project that all of us could take part in. It would be so cool if a group of Pythonistas from Bangalore, India could contribute to the Python community (and yes, anybody is welcome to help in the project, not just Bangaloreans)

I gave the suggestion of a CPAN equivalent for Python. This idea came out of a question I’ve had for quite a long time. If you’re a Perl user, you would know how CPAN allows super-easy installation and upgradation for Perl modules ; but Python does not have any equivalent. Ruby, which is much newer than Python has Ruby Gems! So, it was surprising to me that Python does not have any equivalent, even though there are many modules and packages available for it, many of which are listed in the Python Package Index (PyPI). Note that PyPI is only a listing of packages, it is not a central repository.

I was happy to note that everybody agreed that it was a viable idea, something do-able, something of interest to everybody and useful to the community at the same time. Premshree pointed out that it is not a difficult thing to implement but the more important thing to watch out for is to do it the right way. Ramdas volunteered to provide the webspace hosting and bandwidth for the project as well.

All of us are excited that we would get to work on a cool project we could hack on. However this is just our first meetup and we didn’t want to jump in right away with this. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was unanimously elected to be the lead for this project! :shock:

BaPy photo 5
BaPy photo 6
BaPy photo 7
BaPy photo 8

Our conversations continued and we got to know about the kind of work that each of us are into in their respective companies which were Yahoo!, Thoughtworks, ZeOmega, DeveloperIQ, Infosys, Computer Associates, Textual Analytics India. We inevitably got into a vim-versus-emacs discussion, how can a meetup be complete without it ;) and then later we had a VIM-and-emacs-versus-IDE discussion.

Somewhere in-between, we managed to gulp in some food as well. We had a great time and lots of discussions, the reason why I coudn’t click more photos as well :)

Thanks to Anand Pillai for taking up the initiative to organize this meetup. I’m looking forward to the list/yahoo group that we are going to create and more exciting discussions that will take place on the list. If you are interested, please feel free to join the group as well. Anand will setup the group in the next few days and I will announce the same on my blog.

Update : As Richard mentions, there are discussions on catalog-sig regarding the ‘CPAN for Python’ project (I am reading the archives of the list).

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you a scenery painting by my 7th standard sister Swathi using GIMP !! :)

'The Sea' as imagined by Swathi

Note that I’ve only taught her to use Linux and open GIMP, she learnt how to use GIMP by herself.

I explained her the concept of ‘Undo’ – she says she’ll use it to make better paintings in future!