It’s a small utility

When Atul commented about open source being “seen as some kind of ‘hobbyist’ thing” in India, I was reminded of another incident in college.

In 6th semester of VTU B.E., we had a DBMS (Database Management Systems) lab. We were supposed to write some software that demonstrates database design, ‘understanding’ of SQL and using databases in a programming language.

As per the norm, 98% of the class used pirated copies of Oracle and Visual Basic, but Yashwanth and myself had a policy of doing “doing interesting things” and the Oracle-VB projects had been done to death especially with the same topics appearing every year. We were big open source fans by then as well. Moreover, we had a policy of not programming on Windows*. There was only one project we were forced to work on Windows in the entire B.E. and we flicked that one. I think it was Graphics lab where we had to create a paint program using Turbo-C on DOS… later, I found out that there were alternatives such as the Allegro library that Amit Gandhi Manu Bhardwaj used.

Coming back to DBMS lab, we were seeking to do a “real world” project, and finally came up with creating a medical laboratory management software for an uncle who was a doctor. He planned to use the software to manage the diagnostic laboratory where he is a partner. So, we two got all excited about it, and uncle wanted us to do the software on Linux. I would’ve never imagined a doctor asking for a software to be developed on Linux. We immediately got started and worked on the “analysis” and database design during the one month of holidays we had before the actual semester started. I called it “Diamond” which stood for DIAgnostic Medical centre OrgaNizing Device (or something like that).

The choice of database was MySQL since it was easy to get started with, at that time. We were discussing which GUI toolkit to use and we had to choose between Qt and GTK. I wanted to use GTK but Yashwanth wanted Qt. He said, in very strict terms, “We are going to use Qt only” and finally I caved in. In hindsight, that was a good decision. Soon, we went through all the tutorials and learnt to use the Qt Designer (that thing totally rocks).

A few weeks after the semester started, we had to register our project details, and our teacher came up with an objection for us. He told us not to use MySQL. We asked “Why?”. He said “MySQL is a small utility in Linux to store data. You should use a database system like Oracle for your projects.” It took us several moments to recover and then I started arguing that there are many companies using MySQL and besides this software will be actually used by someone instead of being thrown away like every other project, and so on. He still didn’t accept it. We finally went to the Asst. HOD and fought with him. He finally relented after he realized that we were not going to change our minds. It helped that I had a good rapport with him.

So, after the roadblocks were cleared, we worked on the project and we had an awesome time learning MySQL and Qt while working on the project. The demo in our lab exam went smoothly and our (internal) invigilator was very impressed. It was unfortunate that the software itself was never used by my uncle due to reasons that are beyond me. However, I was glad that I did the project because I learnt a lot.

Readers of my book will recognize that the next part of the story is where I learnt Python.

If only I could tell that teacher about the kind of things for which we use MySQL at Y! ….

* I don’t hate Windows nor people who use them. It’s simply a matter of personal choice and preference. I prefer Linux and Mac OS X.

13 thoughts on “It’s a small utility

  1. Very good read!
    Share more such experiences.

    If this post converts 10 students to use Open Source technologies (Python,Postgres…whatever) it will be a great achievement :)

  2. Hmm, give me credit for Allegro as well! Gandhi wrote the whole DBMS project that term, but the Allegro thing was my baby!

  3. Hi Swaroop,

    A lot of flashbacks from your engineering days on the blog.(Even I Hpe to do the same sometime in the near future… bcz currently me doing final year comp. engineering! LoL)

    Feels good to read. Keep them comming ;-)

    [Have been following you blog for quite sometime now. Finally leaving a comment :) ]

  4. @Akky: Yes, a few flashbacks here and there didn’t do Bollywood any harm, so I thought I’ll write some flashbacks as well, heh.

  5. Outstanding story. One has to be Asian to appreciate how hard it is to stand one’s ground against one’s teacher, even when the teacher is clearly wrong.

  6. O boy!

    DBMS 6 sem project. And the pirated Ora/Win copies, LOL!
    I remember something on the lines of some lecturer again telling us NOT to use MySQL.

    Good post.

    A fellow VTU sufferer! :-D

  7. Pingback: Sriram Krishnan
  8. Hey,

    Great post! and lots of laughs (and some tears) too about ” MySQL is a *small-utility* ” good enough to go into the daily WTF.

    And Pirated Copies of Oracle? Well, thats no big deal. compared to whats happening here in my college -> We are actually supposed to have a MS club and all that and we actually get free (as in beer) MS Development tools and guess what? The ones running in my lab are pirated stash!!!

  9. @Chui: Yes, that’s true.

    @Prasanna: VTU == V Torture U ;-)

    @Sriram: SQL Server is free (as in beer), is it? ;-P

    @Vishnu: :-) That happened in my college too…

  10. “I don’t hate Windows nor people who use them. It’s simply a matter of personal choice and preference. I prefer Linux and Mac OS X.”


  11. Dude… you studied in PES and you are complaining…… think about how worst it is in the other colleges. We has SS(system lab) lab where we had to use Lex and Yacc and the problem was that the lecturer didn’t have a clue about Linux( and you might say SS).
    In class she would tell us about Microsoft mother boards and the fact that EDIBIC format is natively understood by processor/s. I am not making fun of her but in my college if they say, only Fags use MYSQL and all the other people use MSSQL and Oracle then we have to accept that.
    I just hope i push through B.E without a fight.

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