Surrendering to temptation … again

In this season of GSoC related blog entries, I could not resist doing one myself. I signed up as a mentor again – 3rd time. I just love those T-Shirts. And in a pattern known for long to mentor organization administrators, as the last day for submission draws near – the project seems to be filling up with applications / proposals exponentially. Why oh why cannot applicants submit throughout the time window rather than waiting for the last days ?

In the happy news section I read that at least 2 of the GSoC candidates from last year (limited to the subset of the candidates I know) have turned mentors this year. Super nice.

In the this-should-have-happened-last-year news section, a fine gentleman has decided to put his hat into the ring as a mentor as well. Ideally, he should have done that last year but then he insisted that he was not ready. Eugene has blogged about his ideas here and is also looking out for applicants. So, if you are an applicant and want to work on this nifty instrumentation tool called Systemtap, you should know whom to get in touch with.

Umm…doesn’t anyone feel that ImportFiltersFromThunderbird is a good thing to do for Evolution ? Or, BackupThunderbirdProfile a good thing to do for Thunderbird ? The latter would save me the trouble of scripting it when moving machines and the former would get me to try out Evolution someday soon :)

View from the CCD at Mariplex Kalyaninagar – the sunlight was nice enough to come out well on a piddly mobile phone camera.

“Online” retail in India

I noticed (as did others as well) that in recent times I have been doing a whole lot of purchases online. I generally buy books and a little bit of music so I thought I can share some experiences with online retailing and a few retailers in India. In no particular order, here goes:

Indiaplaza.in

  • big online presence supplemented by being the back-end various *shopping portals
  • landing page is much too cluttered
  • good selection of books
  • reasonably good selection of other items (haven’t bought any from there)
  • search engine is unstable – throws up lots of irrelevant results
  • an unexpectedly bad customer service that doesn’t have a RT (or like system)
  • packaging quality of consignments are uneven and generally going down
  • the inventory does not catch “Out of Stock” items quickly (one can actually still order them and wait for refund)

Flipkart.com

  • a bare site design – functional and pretty fast
  • good selection of books and details associated with each book is accurate
  • good quality of packaging
  • path to cart is short and easy
  • search engine needs some love – throws up irrelevant results
  • doesn’t have a recommendation thing (“those who bought F00 also bought Bar”) thing yet
  • not many user reviews of books
  • no tie in with Goodreads
  • average customer service (nothing exceptional that is)
  • not all payment gateways are functional at this point

 MusicYogi.com

  • landing page has too many moving images / bright colors
  • path to cart is short and easy
  • good selection of Indian Independent Music
  • not so good selection of other kinds of music
  • the emphasis on movie DVD is a bit odd
  • awesomely good customer service
  • search engine needs love – times out more often than not
  • not too many reviews on the site – user feedback needs to be worked upon

Sagepub.in

  • doesn’t seem to work with Firefox, worked with Konqueror but barely
  • a range of selection of books and journals
  • path to cart is complicated (asks for far too much detail than required to complete shopping)
  • payment gateway is sluggish at best
  • search functionality is better than other online book retailers but requires improvement
  • currency details are overdone and that level of details is jarring

Most of the portals seem to suffer from not being designed with the “online” experience in mind. More like the traditional over-the-counter experience being somewhat morphed into the semblance of online. The other additional aspect is that none of them work on creating a social network around their portals which would lead to a community of loyal users. Which in a way is very strange given that it is a good thing to do.

And in a completely unrelated news, SCIM is up for translation.

When “No” is the sweetest word…

BIS voted against OOXML today. A big round of applause, congratulations to all those who worked long, worked hard and worked against tremendous odds to make it happen. When good people come together, good things happen.

Update: News on the voting. Microsoft said “While we are disappointed with the decision of the BIS LITD 15 committee, we are very encouraged by the support of IT industry players like NASSCOM, TCS, Wipro and Infosys who voted in favor of Open XML becoming an ISO standard”

Oh Mondays !

  • Hmm… one’s respect for the work done by Leslie and her team increases exponentially with the number of inane RTFM mails hit the GSoC lists. And this is after the subscription to the list sends out the FAQ as obligatory reading material.
  • Monday gossip – heard an anecdote about a Product Management chap who quipped last week “I need a [Linux] product that will not require to be updated in 5 years.” Oh come on now …
  • Read Night by Elie Wiesel over the weekend. The effect has been like sandpaper on the soul.

Nice music and some other stuff

Spent last evening chewing mails, reading up Quality Improvement in Volunteer Free and Open Source Software Projects [PDF link thanks to Kartik] and listening to music from Soulmate. Mail chewage is a necessary evil and one of these days I am going to write down how to “get it done”. Got “Shillong” off MusicYogi (that awesome site which is making me sing praises for them) and was surprised by the quality of their oeuvre. I quite like Blues … , St Valentine’s Day Blues, Shillong (Sier Lapalang) and My Baby. Having never heard them, I didn’t know what to expect and they are good, real good. Wouldn’t mind at all to watch them perform live.

Waiting for this book to land up. Meanwhile finished Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country – doesn’t say anything new other than arranging the old facts in proper relational sequence and tying them together in a journal like form. Too much actual dialogues being written down which comes in the way of a good read. Speaking of which, if someone uses Goodreads.com, I am “Sankarshan” there – perhaps you would like to connect.
Looks like Microsoft is doing an IndiBloggers meet at Pune tomorrow.  Agenda being showing off the LiveWriter thing. Hmm… time for Kushal to work on his offline blogging application I think :)

In the not-so-good-news department it turns out that the industrial growth has dipped to 5.3% as per news reports. That of course will set off the usual cascade of dips in various indices and pundits on television proclaiming about “the fundamentals being tested“. Which, by the way, is a phrase I can never make anything out of. Add to that the alarming news about global food stocks and things don’t look to be rosy at all.

ps: Haven’t seen potential SoC candidates from India for GNOME – wonder what’s wrong ?

Linux Manipur needs you

The dedicated group of folks (some of whom I had the good fortune of meeting at foss.in/2007) are arranging for “FOSS 2008″ at Manipur University, Canchipur on 29th and 30th March 2008. This is a build-up from the IT Talent Search which they had organized to resounding success last year. This time they are aiming to create more desktop users, developers and in general contributors to FOSS.
The group would be well served by some assistance, primarily financial. They are not registered (last I checked) with the appropriate authorities so the tax benefits etc bits won’t apply.

If you want to be part of this do write in to: ringo_pebam (at) yahoo (dawt) com or sonnyboygit (at) gmail (dawt) com.
Ringo Pebam, the never-say-die leader of the troop writes:

Till the month of Jan / February there was no plan for having another IT-Talent Search like the last year we did. It was a shocking moment for us.

Hundreds of miles away from all the hustle and bustle, away from home, located in different parts of the globe and connected sparsely by phones and emails, we know the hurdles to conduct such a competition remotely in Manipur. It is becoming more and more difficult to co-ordinate and the kind of infrastructure and money needed to conduct such event remotely was putting a big question mark on every one of us in LM team.

But, when we close our eyes and try to remember those moments of IT-Talent Search, we remember those smiles worth million dollars of being a winner in spite of coming second, remember those early trips to make to the venue on time, remember those staying in relatives’ places who had come from far-off place just to be part of the event. Remember those stories of the rickshaw puller who wanted to be part of the event? The confidence of young minds, their joy and their dreams to do great are seen in our dreams. Those anxious moments of not getting things on time, those endless discussions, those worries, pains and sleepless nights seems to be so miniscule in front of the sweet moments of last year.

How can we let such beautiful memories and smiles go so easily? No excuse is worth enough to be given for not having such a thing again. Where there is a will, there is a way. Come what may we gonna stand against the tide to bring that smiles again. We gonna sweat again, put all the possible effort to make the event happen again because we all know deep inside our hearts that impossible is nothing.

“If we think we can then we can, if we think we can’t then we can’t, it all depends on what we want and think…”

This time we are coming back for 2 days. And we are coming back as FOSS 2008 which is little closer to what we believe at “Free as in freedom”. We wish to make the coming generation prepare for the freedom in Open Source. We wish to cover most of the aspect of Open Source and make people aware of it, use it, get benefit from it, and even contribute back to the community if possible.

It is a long journey. But, we are very sure that you are also with us. Please help if you can. 

A lot of everything…

  • Noticed a thread about “Rethinking Supported Language” on the gnome-i18n mailing list. There are relevant links in the mail itself which point to a larger round of discussions happening. I think that there are two things to consider here:
  • “Supported Language” status is a tag that gets a language a mention in the Release Notes. A lot of communities put in a bit of sprint to ensure that the language ends up being “supported”. It is as much a badge of pride as it is a result of team work, communication and the very best of localization. The distributions which pull in GNOME as their primary, secondary or even tertiary desktop don’t really care much about whether the language is “supported” or not and build, qa and release it all the same.
  • Having said that, it might (note the “might” here) be a good idea to re-look into whether “Supported Language” should be more emphatic at GNOME as a desktop and not GNOME as a platform. The good side of this could be that languages with smaller teams can work a bit more actively towards being a “Supported Desktop Language” rather than a “Supported Language” on the platform. The implied downside is that once some language is a “Supported Desktop Language” the l10n support for the platform specific bits may not be happening. I tend to argue that any l10n team which wants to provide a complete and richer experience for GNOME in their language will eventually end up attempting platform and documentation as well.

In effect, perhaps a round of discussion on what is essential for the “Desktop” and what could be tagged as “Platform” may turn out to be a good way of doing things.

  • The report is out and is available. It has some lovely words and I particularly liked “I hereby thank all the people that hacked, translated, documented, decorated, and marketed all of this, making it a reality. You have given us freedom, good jobs, and a priceless group of friends.” The somewhat never talked about gain of participating in a FOSS project is the group of friends that one finds around oneself. They are what make the process of contribution fun.
  • Having had a taste of Avial (the Malayalam alternative rock group) at freed.in I obtained their album from MusicYogi.com. The album is much better than what I expected. A nice word here for MusicYogi folks as well – they send the CDs over well packaged and within time. I expect to get this as well. Yay !!
  • Dropped a pretty package on The Collector’s Edition and thus expect to be making time to watch it sometime.
  • Some friends have started off a project called Touchstone which hold promise of greater things to come.
  • Favorite picture of the week: Sayamindu in profile and the obligatory picture of the new toy: Bengali (India) on Asus EeePC

“The World is Open” award from Red Hat

Red Hat in India have put in place an award program called “The World is Open“. The award and the award process are driven by Skoch Consultancy Services Pvt Ltd. – an independent think tank and a strategy and management consultancy firm. All projects based on Open Source technologies as well as projects incorporating Open Source components are eligible for nomination. These projects may be implemented by the state governments, central government, private companies,institutions or civil society. The projects should be in the areas of governance,financial sector, telecom and education.

An awards committee comprising of senior professionals from academia, government, industry and other stakeholders in the ICT-supported development of the country. Initial screening of the project nominations would be carried out on the basis of information sought in the prescribed format. Additional information, if required, would be sought and may be supplemented with Skoch’s own research or the knowledge base of the awards committee. The awards committee will deliberate and finalize the awardees. The awards committee may also nominate projects that it feels should be in the consideration set.

The awards are proposed to be conferred in a special ceremony on the 18th March 2008 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Reliance ? What “reliance” ?

A mate at the office has a WiMax connection from Reliance Communications.

His connection has been “supposedly active” ie, the Reliance folks claim that it is, he cannot ping to any place on their network and surprise ! the bill shows zero on utilization of bandwidth (the bill does land up on time :)).

So what does our intrepid hero do ? He raises a complaint / support ticket.

Actually, he raises many since each ticket is closed without any intimation. The series of tickets increase – 61992323, 61993181, 62105605, 62111172, 64334042, 64333585, 64476745, 64377287, 64828709.

And they also seem to have a support system with a funny sense of humor. The stock response ? “With reference to your complaint regarding internet not working (64333585), please note that as per our records your request is already provisioned from our end, the issue has been resolved and the same has been confirmed to you

If anyone has has similar predicaments with these folks or, $DEITY bless you, have found a solution, can you please drop a line to sbathe at gmail dawt com ? I am sure he would be happy to get this annoyance resolved.