Tag Archives: #fedora-india

“I want a Fedora DVD, don’t know what to do !”

Following up from what I had written sometime back on this, I would say that the time is good enough to do a rethink.

When it comes to India, traditionally, we have been producing media specifically aimed at distributing at events. We do get large amounts of face-time with our participants at any event and, invariably it leads to sharing of media or, requests for media. This is besides the production that is carried out by magazines across the country. During the F12 cycle we conducted a small experiment.

We did not produce any media.

Not even for events.

Since this was a shocking thing to do, we spent the entire cycle with bated breath trying to assess the impact. As on date, it seems to be minimal. In fact, it has allowed us to do interesting things. Things like ensuring that at events we have an updated tree around for anyone who wants to update their system or, even update their trees. We have had a moderate measure of success with spinning LiveUSBs. But more importantly, we have had “Local Points of Contacts” and, some enterprising folks come up to fill up the void. Or, in other words, the deliberate creation of vacuum allowed some “retailers” to come in to the picture and, become the source points to obtain the media.

Producing media, even when done in the bulk that we do, is an expensive affair and, add the shipping costs towards sending them across to events and, you can figure out that it was becoming more of a “mass media production house” kind of business without actually having a full-fledged team doing it.

The next logical step would be to figure out how to provide the information about alternative sources of media (even if they are not zero-cost) to those who cannot obtain it via the Freemedia system. Providing them with an option to choose a retailer from which to purchase the media from is a better option than letting their Freemedia requests go unattended. A system that allows such vendors to be listed and, based on regions, information provided to the requesting parties would go a long way in addressing this. Clearly mentioning that this is a pure information provider service with no assurances of guarantees would perhaps be the caveat that would allow us to begin ensuring that anyone who requests a media has the information about where to obtain one from.

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Notes from the Leonidas Release Party at Pune

This Saturday (04-July-09) we had a Release Party at Pune. It was fun ! And, the one vein of feedback that we received was “we need to do this more often, and, have regular meetings”. Fine enough, we can see to that. The organizers did a wonderful job of getting the show on the road and, helping wrap things up – a strong start and, a strong finish made it a wonderful experience. We had around 50 people turning up and, with the number of Red Hat folks walk-in, that number would be well over 65. The DVDs were available throughout the meet and, they sure came in handy as folks requested extra media to pass around as well. Towards the end of the meeting, Ramakrishna took off for Bhaskaracharya Pratisthan where around 100 teachers had gathered to talk about curriculum and Open Source and, he ensured that he had enough media to hand around and, notes to show off things.

The party is on !Prasad talking about how he got into FOSS development

Photos are available with the tag “Fedora Release Party” The day kicked off with a short welcome address by Rahul Sundaram and, we dived into showing off some videos. Particularly, we got a strong response around the Red Hat Way. It moved into the new items that are in Fedora 11 and, predictably enough, there were plenty of questions around filesystems (ext4) and virtualization (libvirt and KVM). Rahul passed the mic to Rakesh who talked about Package Management, PackageKit, RPM (including a somewhat quick run-down of the RPM internals). It was time for Prasad to step-up and, talk about his projects and how, he got into FOSS and, learnt new languages by devising projects. There were moments of hilarity as the demo instance of pem was using Kushal’s expenses and, we sort of opened up Kushal’s accounts for the participants to ogle at :) Kushal showed off Sugar on a Stick and, talked about Sugar in specific and Sugar-Fedora parts in general. The pizzas (link to image) provided an opportunity to get the interaction going. Especially since there were students in the crowd and, that generally leads to lots of discussions and rapid-fire Q/A.

Post lunch, we had a demonstration by Satish of the work-in-progress Moblin Spin based on Fedora and, a quick introduction to Spins by Rahul. The latter was aimed at taking in feedback about what spins/remixes are worth investing time and effort on and, also an extension to the “what package is missing” survey that he conducted some time back. And, with that it was a wrap. It was wonderful to meet new people. watch the infrequent Fedora T-Shirt in the crowd allowing folks to take note of the communication means (web-page and IRC channels).

There are things we could have done better. Some observations are as:

  • Having a discussion about localization and, internationalization specifically aimed at understanding how content in local language could be produced using Fedora.
  • Quick means to contribution – we barely touched about easy areas to become a contributor
  • Documentation – we should talk more about it
  • Virtualization – with the number of folks interested in questions around v12n, it would have been nice to talk about v12n
  • LiveUSB Creator – we did not anticipate questions around that tool and, there were use cases aplenty. Note to other organizers, never underestimate the power of a sleekly done UI wrapped around a “rock-my-world” tool
  • Project 389 – would have been lovely to have a show-n-tell around this
  • Predicting the footfall – always good to have more folks, but we sure did not anticipate 50+ folks over a weekend. Lesson there about using this momentum to have some form of regular meetings

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Some bytes about Fedora bits

During my trip to Kolkata last month, I’ve had a number of discussions around ‘making Fedora available to whosoever requests for it’. Ambitious as it may sound, we would have to end up doing it. Otherwise, there is simply no other way that we can lead the development of free and open source technology and content through a community of collaboration. Susmit’s blog entry has a pointer to the current problems, this is my take.

The current paths to obtaining Fedora media for folks in India are:

  1. Fedora FreeMedia Program
  2. Local Points of Contact
  3. Media produced for events

all of the above have a couple of shortcomings. So, let’s just itemize them to enable a much sweeter discussion. The underlying assumption is that we want to avoid falling into the massive media production trap – it does not return benefits. And, we would like to increase the participation at the *UG level.

  • The current issue with the FreeMedia Program is scalability. It is a fashionable term, but that’s what specifically what it is. The request queue gets so overloaded that the requests need to be clamped down within 3-5 days of being opened up. And, it would be fairly obvious as to why – last mile postal charges in India are exhorbitant and, asking folks to spend their own money to take this deluge of requests is going to take some inspiring feats of oratory and, a couple of miracles. However, that is not all. The other problems are – because the FreeMedia Program gates slam down fast, at every run there would be folks who – [i] did not make their requests in time [ii] are in the queue but we have no idea of knowing whether they did get the media. So, the second part is more important – accountability. How do we make the system a bit more accountable to ensure that the requests that did make it are getting met ? And, how do we track whether, because it is “free” (as in beer), duplicate requests are not originating ?
  • Local Points of Contact are a good way to off-set the huge and, somewhat human-absent nature of FreeMedia. This however is, “high touch”. And, currently has the same issues of accountability. That is, the system of tracking who-gives-whom-and-when/where is still not in place. And yet, at one level this is somewhat better. Because, the LPoC are not bound to give it away for gratis. They can charge (within bounds of reasonable practical reality) a certain sum to process the requests. In an awkward way, this could end up being very interesting for those who are diligent, disciplined and, want to make a little bit of money in the process. Money that can come in handy for things like broadband connections etc.
  • Media for events are done in bulk and, sent around to the event organizers so as to enable them to distribute it. We started this off from F10 and, would be doing this for F11. This is the life-blood of events and, is not going to go away, however, this does have a danger of becoming ‘yet another goodie’ and, so we need to figure what can be done to ensure that the massive doses of media being produced and sent to events does really end up going to people who need it and, the remaining media is passed around to Ambassadors or LPoCs who know how to make best use of the system.

A couple of things come to mind so as to ensure that while we do end up meeting every request, even after discounting the ‘freeloaders’ (those who request it just because it is free), we do end up making a significant impact.

  • Work out with various magazines if they want to ship Fedora media on a more regular basis. During the F10 lifecycle, we did have a significant number of media being shipped via magazines as part of their issues including spins and remixes
  • Insisting that the Ambassadors put a closer ear to the ground when it comes to local LUGs. A large number of requests initiate from the *UGs and, having Ambassadors actively looking at the lists it would be easier for us to meet the requests as well as get a first level of hand-holding in place
  • Making *UGs part of the LPoC cycle. In addition to individuals, providing the *UGs with the media so that they can distribute/sell/whatever does manage to take some pressure off the FreeMedia
  • Work on the long road to getting more mirrors. We are not breaking much new ground this year and, that is a cause for concern. The big name institutes do need to have mirrors in place. Private mirrors, if not public. A mirror that is updated regularly does provide the focus point for the *UG within the institute and, the immediate Fedora folks outside of it to ensure that the bits are at hand to re-distribute.
  • Keep on doing the “media for events” but work towards increasing the LPoC base.

So, the short summary is that we need to arrive at some protocol fast enough for us to work on:

  1. how to get media to those who request it
  2. how best to coach/guide/help those who need help to get started with Fedora
  3. how to bring down the number of ‘freeloaders’ in this cycle

and, in a small way, the second is ‘gated’ on the first.

Of new folks and old

For those who keep track of the welcome mails on fedora-ambassadors list or, are subscribed to the fedora-india list, a pattern would have been obvious by now. We have a large number of fresh faces who have signed up for Fedora Ambassadors in India. They are young, they are still at various colleges and, they are trying their best to get things going at their institutions.

This is somewhat of an interesting data point. The usual trend so far has been of folks who-have-been-around the FOSS scene for a while finally deciding to formally join up as they figured out that they had been in an Ambassador role anyway. Having newer folks, especially students, is a huge upside. It allows the project and the community to reach out to groups of people who now have a peer to look up to when it comes to things Fedora. So, such things could be installation, configuration or, contributing to the project or, even trying out projects within the Fedora umbrella besides the OS itself.

Given this benefit, it is only fitting that the existing ‘old dog’ Ambassadors and the rest of the community take time out to make better FOSS citizens out of the new joinees. This means doing ‘FOSS 101′ kind of hand-holding – in person, over IRC or, via e-mail/mailing lists. This is high touch, time consuming and, somewhat of a rote job. However, if done well and, it has to be done, it will end up creating a vibrant group of people who know the tools of the trade, understand how the FOSS game is played and end up learning the basics in a much more interactive manner than ever before. In fact, the ‘they will pick up stuff along the way like we did’  rationale of throwing the onus back would be negated.

The usual counter-argument is that this would be impossible given the number of Ambassadors and, the rate at which their tribe is increasing. I’d like to disbelieve that. No Fedora participant in India is alone. We are a fairly large group of people who can quickly band together to lend a helping hand and, so it is never a single person ending becoming a mentor for a large group. Secondly, and, this is a favorite line I (over)use – architecting a community is no different than building up a family. It takes time, it takes focus but most importantly it takes belief and trust that the basic elements of accountability and responsibility when applied would end up creating a competent, cohesive and compelling unit that others would like to emulate.

Additionally, if during the initial days, the new Ambassadors are encouraged to actively participate in any other part of the project, it should lead to greater involvement and appreciation of the Four Freedoms. This of course has the advantage of helping them build the social connects and network across projects/amongst individuals which is an invaluable part of being an Ambassador. It also builds up the required confidence in the Ambassador to go out and evangelize about contributing back to various projects and upstream. Because, if one has already drunk the Kool-Aid, talking about it is dead simple. So, for example, since most of the new folks end up organizing and leading installation fests and the like, a somewhat easier point of entry for them is QA Days. And, this is just one idea. There are many such obvious ideas being discussed and, in coming days would be slowly put to the ground.

Irrespective of when you joined the project and the community in India, keep a sharp eye on the implementation details of these plans. They are going to get things going !

Getting off the grid…

I will be getting off the grid from tomorrow till the first week of April. And, I expect to be significantly telco-challenged. So, if you :

  • have been promised some swag, I’ll try and make sure that I have put them in the courier or, have someone accountable for it. (Note: since this was a week of holidays, I’d suggest that you wait for a response from me on this before talking over various channels about the lack of a response)
  • have been requested to submit the expenses for an event for which there has been a previous ACK, please do send over the bills to my address (check the Pune office one). However, re-imbursements would have to wait till I get back to office
  • want to discuss an event for which you are requesting some funds from The Fedora Project, make sure you put Susmit in cc: of the mail and, we can get a discussion going
  • want to get in touch with me, please send me an SMS (if you have the contact #) or, send a mail to my Gmail ID (which you should have) and, I’ll try to respond if GPRS permits. I’ll be using a mobile device, so please don’t put in attachments or, expect me to traverse hyperlinks. A short mail that states the meat of the story should work out nicely.

Meanwhile, have fun. Don’t forget to use Rawhide. It is awesome.

Fedora Activity Day(s) @GNUnify09

GNUnify09, organized jointly by SICSR and PLUG was held on the 13th and 14th of February 2009 at the SICSR Campus. The schedule had 2 half days of Fedora Activity Day(s) and, this is intended to be the report.

Day01

Reached the venue early, primarily to catch up with Susmit on the current plans and conspire a bit about the activities to be planned in the coming year (the financial year for Fedora starts from March onwards). Susmit was looking fresh as usual and over breakfast was a quick run-down of issues, events and plans. Thereon, the group (myself, Runa, Rakesh and Susmit) proceeded to the Speaker’s Lounge, where Rakesh promptly dozed off. The introductions got going and soon we were meeting folks from the Twincling Technology Foundation (Saifi and Namita) along with a couple of students from the institute who on and off do Fedora stuff. Susmit took a couple of moments to survey the room to check for infrastructure, coaxed the organizers to put up a few banners and posters on the boards and, laid out a bit of swag. I goaded the @fedoraindia twitter to come to life with a few tweets while waiting for the usual buzz to die down a bit as the event swung into action. Multiple halls across multiple floors started off with the talks and a couple of them looked promising enough to attend. Ramakrishna and Rahul text message about coming post-lunch and things were looking good. The regular photographer (aka paparazzi) at the event, Vijay swings by the speaker’s lounge to try and take a few candid shots of Vivek Khurana making faces at his laptop.

Since the FAD was not starting before 1430, a couple of us went into various talks particularly one on OSM which had a small but curious group of students talking about GPS devices and thinking up usage models of the OSM data. At around this point the OLPC India BoF notice was also put up (unfortunately clashing with the FAD schedule for the next day). Meet Pradeepto and Ajay Kumar (Sahana).

Post lunch with the arrival of the speakers, the FAD started off. The crowd started trickling in. Primarily because a round of the round-the-clock Fedora install fest that was happening in the next room got over. Rahul kicked off the FAD with his “User -> Contributor in 15 minutes” talk. Themed around the join.fedoraproject.org page, Rahul talked about the ways and means to collaborate in a project, the simple acts of filing bug reports. Questions start popping out and, the FAD is truly underway. Taking cue from a few of the questions, he pitches Art, Documentation and FEL. Joy. The Q+A session becomes collaborative with all the Fedora India folks chipping in to answer queries. Pradeepto goes to his KDE Talk and meanwhile talks with Rahul about the KDE LiveCD in F10 and whether it would solve some of the issues that he had faced while using KDE on F9. He promises to download, install and provide feedback.

Rakesh Pandit takes over from there with his ‘getting your favorite application into Fedora’ talk. Essentially about Packaging, the aim was to demonstrate the simplicity involved in the process and Rakesh took time to run the audience through the processes, necessary reading all the time using examples and on-screen explorations. Nicely packaged talk that took in questions during the talk and, had ample examples of real-life thanks to Rakesh being an avid packager himself.

More folks troop in and up goes Ramakrishna with his series of 4 lightning talks on “Things to know when you want to do FOSS”. A basic run down of list items that one needs to know, he tossed out cheat-sheets by the boatload. As he began, “Life is bad, Times are hard …” with the state of placements of students as they are, the theme sure struck a chord amongst the students. Meanwhile, we start distributing media and, around a 100 odd units fly off the table. More work done by Runa and Susmit in putting the media into jacket sleeves. More media put out, they fly off as well.

Susmit takes on the hard task of pulling together the last talk of the day “mirror-in-a-box”. Relates well to the crowd with his problems and solutions slide deck and the quick demo. More questions and answers and doh !! half day of FAD is over. A tentative schedule for Day02 is announced, the crowd thanked for attending, the mailing lists and IRC channels are repeated again. And, we troop off to the ‘poolside dinner’ organized at SIMS.

More talk and idle gossip at the dinner while waiting for the finger-food to land up at the massively ‘merged’ table that Pradeepto and Ajay created. Karunakar rummages through Ramakrishna’s bag to fish out the camera and starts clicking away. As is the norm, the recent [OT] stuff from various mailing lists come up along with the by-now-familiar lament about the increase in the ‘i want 2 do project’ mails. Having Shakthi around makes for good fun as he shares some of the gossip and chats.

Pradeepto comes back home with me and Runa and, we chat away till wee hours about randomly mundane stuff. Friday the 13th rolls over into Saturday the 14th.

Day02

Slight panic. Turns out that the ‘Genome’ talk by Saurabh Bathe might not happen. Saurabh is busy attending to his day job since he went on-call. Thankfully, we have a surprise speaker up and he is more than willing to make up for the speaker lost. More on that later.

We reach the venue early, hand over the media for the Academics Track to Manjusha, take a peep into the install fest. The immediately visible aspect is that the crowd is considerably lesser than Day01, whether 14th of February was the root cause remains to be found out. More plans with Susmit about the Fedora Ambassadors in India and, their roles and responsibilities. Some good points come up about mentoring the new Ambassadors and making them slip into their roles comfortable. ToDo items around IRC classrooms come up. More media packaged, around 100 more fly out. Stickers are being passed around. The Mozilla Camp during the first half sucks in a large part of the student crowd eager to see the “Bespin” demo and other stuff.

Post lunch the FAD begins in sync with the end of an install-fest round. Rahul begins with his “Spin” talk and demonstrates how to create a LXDE spin along with taking in requests from the crowd to show about creating other spins as well. Kashyap Chamarthy takes it up to talk about PKI. Speaking to a nearly full house he runs the audience down through the background of PKI, relates it to the curriculum, talks about theory and practice, provides real life examples and deployments and in general makes it a well rounded talk that is worth repeating at a couple of colleges and technical workshops. Wonderful work from him to show up and chip in when we realize that Genome isn’t happening. We do the wrap-up session with the usual pointers to the Fedora India community, talk a little bit about projects/internships and, there we are. FAD is over.

Somewhere in between I sneak into the OLPC BoF being organized by Amit Gogna. Good ideas are flowing and there is a nascent OLPC Pune group already being formed and a get-together camp organized on March01.

Little bits of talking with the organizers, we troop back to our house for what is now-called the ‘Konqueror Party’. The K-man said that pizza was his food of choice and so, pizza it was that we ordered and gorged on while talking about the usual banal stuff that comes up when friends meet.

Important lesson from the FAD(s) –

  • if we are facing a student crowd, it is always better to have handouts prepared for specific projects that they can take back. As of right now, I am not too confident about the hand-written notes that they jotted down.
  • putting out the URL for rpmfusion on the board during the install fest is a good idea
  • taking time during the install fest to point folks to IRC #fedora-india is a really nice idea
  • looking at GNUnify as an user generating event and tweaking the focus would reap us more benefits
  • following up GNUnify with a Fedora centric workshop would perhaps be nice

Photographs to be uploaded as soon as I get a decent connection. Some of them are here.

The all important board

Shakthi Kanna in a Fedora talk

The FUDCon that was not to be

Dear Fedora Community Members in India,

A number of you would be aware that we have been working towards a
FUDCon at FOSS.IN. I had recently made a blog post on that note as well.

Today, I would like to share the news that this is a FUDCon that is not
meant to be. Since yesterday evening, certain significant points of
disagreement have come up between the teams working towards FUDCon and
FOSS.IN. As such, in light of those issues, it is best that the FUDCon
is not gone through with at FOSS.IN

I will be getting in touch with the speakers who travel costs have been
sponsored in part or full by The Fedora Project.

FOSS.IN is a leading event and we, at The Fedora Project, wish the event
and the team working tirelessly behind the scenes all the best and
success they so much deserve.

There are positives to everything and the run up to the FUDCon has
brought a small number of wonderful members from the Fedora Community
closer together. They have been planning, coordinating, scheduling and
working like a well oiled machine. That is a great find. And, we will
continue that momentum and harmony.

We have come a long way since The Fedora Project Day at FOSS.IN last
year, and, though we have ambitious dreams for The Fedora Project this
year (and the coming year), we have a fantastic set of people who will
be making that happen.

And, since it is always best to end with a smile – here’s something to
keep you busy : Susmit Shannigrahi is now the proud owner of the largest
set of rare FUDCon swag.

Rock on,

Sankarshan

Read it off the archives if you want.

Fedora, Friends and FUDCon

The news is out and it is official. There is going to be a FUDCon at FOSS.IN and it is on the 28th of November, 2008. If you needed a reason to be there, this is that single reason. Just be there, jam with friends and while you are at it have loads of fun.

FOSS.IN poster

A big round of applause to 3 folks who have been working in the background to make this happen. I present – Kushal Das, Rahul Sundaram and Susmit. Together they stitched together the agenda, prodded the speakers, coordinated with the organizers, worked on the swag and of course, made everything look so easy.

The FUDCon will provide ample opportunities to meet up with friends, talk about or hack on a few features, soak in the freedom of a world-class operating system and be a leader. We expect good things out of the event, but we can’t do that without you. Fedora has always been about the community and our awesome trio are putting in place many surprises for the participants of the Fedora community who attend FUDCon.

There will be more blogs, I hope to see some of the speakers blogging about their sessions. And there will be pictures. But all that is when the FUDCon is on. So, go ahead and mark that date on your calendar. And remember to drop in to #fedora-india on irc.freenode.net