My 2 paisas

Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

When was the last time you lent few hundred rupees to your best friend without thinking of getting it back in return? When was the last time you showed your collection of Coins or Stamps or DVDs to your nephew without being tensed of they spoiling it? When was the last time you lent your car to your dearest friend without hoping that he will return it without an extra bump or scratch on it?

Long long time ago, probably when you were kids. I guess not, kids especially are possessive about their toys and stuff.

Now again, when was the last time you shared a hilarious video link with your friends? When was the last time your shared an idea with your friend and other who follow you on Twitter? When was the last time you kept a movie on torrent even after it was fully downloaded so that others could download it from you? When was the last time you wrote a nice poem or a story or an experience on your blog so that others can enjoy it?

I guess, the answer for almost all the second set of questions is “Today or yesterday”.

Why such a difference? Why is sharing much more easier on Internet but not in real world?

Well, no prizes for the right answer. Because the obvious answer is that sharing on internet does not mean that you are loosing something. You will still have the video with you to watch again, you will still have the idea with you and you will still have the poem or the story or the experience with you. Which means, things on internet are growing as you share  them.

A perfect example is “Wikipedia”. While an Indian match goes on, the score of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar keeps getting updated on his wikipedia page after every run he scores. I can understand why cricinfo guys do it, for the ad money but why is a person sitting in some remote place in front of his T.V. watching the match updating the wiki page simultaneously. Because he just wants to give the most updated information to his set of readers whom he does not even know. He is just contributing to it so that others also do the same for the contents which he reads on the internet.

So the obvious answer for the question was that on internet things grow as you share them and that is why we share them. As long as we do not loose the stuff we have, we are quite happy to share it others.

Then, how about software? Shouldnt they be also shared? I mean, even softwares grow as we share them with others without loss to the source.

Similarly, what about knowledge? Havnt we reached this wonderful world of technology with Iphones and 3D movies and aeroplanes because our predecessors shared the knowledge that they had without restricting it? Zero was discovered in India and it travelled all the way to Persia from where it reached all the corners of the world. Havent we been sharing knowledge from long long time.

So here are some more difficult questions for you.

In the world of sharing of knowledge, where does patents fit in?

In the world of sharing of softwares, where does licenses and proprietary softwares fit in?

And does it makes sense to put any type of restrictions on people sharing over internet?

Please share your views.

P.S. I thought of writing this blog when I read few lines of a junk article in a newspaper by Arindam Chaudhuri where he condemned internet and said that internet was full of articles that were written to spread wrong news and justifies the latest policy of Indian government to put restrictions on internet bloggers/contents.

As always, this is my another new attempt to do some contribution to Free Software community. Hopefully this will give some result unlike all my previous ventures. So let me explain how to start.

I have taken up debian-installer package for localization. No specific reason other than that the person who introduced me to localization was already working on it and hence it was a good starting point.

So to start with, you need to get all the packages which help you type kannada in your system.

Packages that you need to install are:

  • Scim : Smart Common Input Method (SCIM) is an input method (IM) platform.  Input methods are needed to enter complex characters in many non-latin languages.
  • Scim-bridge-client-gtk : scim-bridge is a wrapper libray for SCIM, written in C.
  • Scim-m17n: M17N (Multilingualization) Input Method Engine enables SCIM to input many non-latin characters from the keyboard using libm17n library.
  • ttf-indic-fonts: This package merely depends on the various Indian language font packages available in Debian. Use this if you want fonts for every official Indian language.

This should get the system ready. To test it, Open Gedit. Right click on a new page and Select Input Methods as Scim-input-method. Now Press Ctrl+Space. You should see the icon of scim on the bottom right of the screen. Select Kannada in the list and in Kannada select Kn-itrans. Now type something in english and you will notice that it will get converted to Kannada while you type.

Different type of Kannada input methods:

There are mainly two types:

Kn-itrans: In this, you will be typing in english and that will be automatically getting converted phonotically in kannada. So if you type in english as “nanna hesaru vignesh”, you will notice in the screen as “ನನ್ನ ಹೆಸರು ವಿಗ್ನೆಶ್”. This is good for people who are planning to use kannada only occasionally and hence dont want to understand the complete keyboard layout of Kannada. There are problems also in this method. Like I have not yet been able to find a way to type in “swanta” the way it should come in kannada with a “n” circle. I am able to get “ಸ್ವನ್ತ” but this is wrong.

Kn-inscript: In this, you will be typing in kannada itself and hence you will have to know the exact layout of kannada keyboard. Obvious way is to replace the English alphabets with Kannada alphabets on the keyboard. This is useful for those who regularly use Kannada for typing and hence will soon get to understand and memorize the layout.

With this understanding you will be able to start typing in Kannada.

Having missed most of the excitement of the two days of the State level academicians convention on Free Software in Research and Teaching, I arrived at the venue fortunately to get a chance to attend the panel discussion. The topic of discussion was “Foss in Curriculum”. The discussion was moderated by Senthil and the panel consisted of the following distinguished persons.

Prof. K Gopinath, IISc

Dr. K. Rajnikant, Principal, MSRIT

Dr. C. R. Venugopal, Prof and Head, SJCE, Mysore

Dr. Sunil Manvi, Prof and Head, Reva ITM

A time limit of 8 minutes was given to each panellist to express their views. Senthil started the discussion by stating the position of Free Software Movement on the subject. He said that the whole FOSS movement was started initially by academicians and researchers from various universities who did not want vendor lock in for the tools they were using in their research. Hence it was apt for even faculties and university as a whole to ensure that there is no vendor specific courses or instances in the syllabus. He compared the situation of profs struggling to understand the proprietary tools  even when FOSS tools are available like people trying to get the recipe of Coco-Cola even though there is tender coconut available. He emphasized that when tools are proprietary and hence closed for everybody, how will the students be able to play with it and understand it. It is like asking a mechanic to learn to repair the car without actually being allowed to open the car hood. With this, he asked Dr. K. Rajnikant to express his views.

Dr Rajnikant who is principal of MSRIT and also an academic senate member of VTU was the VTU representative for this panel discussion. He told that when the questions comes of mandating tools in curiculum, there are many factors they need to consider. Due to this factors, they are forced to keep a blend of both proprietary and FOSS tools in the syllabus. One such factor was the importance of the knowledge of tools to the students placement. If the industry is using mainly a proprietary tool in particular domain then for helping students to get placed in the industry, they will have to inclucate such a tool in the syllabus. However, he made it very clear that VTU did not have any mandate on compulsarily using any proprietary tools in the curiculum. For example, he told that the graphics subject is already being thought using OpenGL which is a popular FOSS cross-platform API for developing graphics applications. Hence colleges always have freedom to explore various FOSS tools if they want. But in reality, since colleges already have paid licensed versions of proprietary tools and thier profs already have put effort in developing course material around the proprietary tools, they are unwilling to move to FOSS tools. Another factor he pointed was that at present, students are using the just the tools to develop the applications and not to actually understand how the tool is developed and internals of it. Hence for them, it does not matter even if the source code of the tools actually exist. In conclusion, he made it very clear that VTU in near future as such cannot mandate the use of FOSS tools in its syllabus and it was necessary for them to keep a blend of both proprietary and FOSS tools in the curiculum.

After this, Prof C. R. Venugopal from SJCE, Mysore and also an academic senate member of VTU right at the outset declared that he was a lover of open-source. He said that during his post-graduation in IIT-Bombay, there was already a culture of Eat Breathe and Drink Linux. He emphasized that as a computer science engineer, a student must be knowing inside out of the computers which can only be possible if they start playing with the source code of the tools which is possible only with FOSS in the curiculum. He said that the main problem that needs to be addressed immediately is the lack of faculties who can teach current subjects with FOSS tools.

Prof Gopinath started the discussion by giving his encounters in life for promoting FOSS. He said that when he had started teaching his subject, operating systems, he was making use of minix and encouraged students to start enhancing it and he found many students who were able to do it. He said that even after trying hard to equip his department machines to linux, he was not successful way back in 1992 as it was considered to be inferior. But within next 2-3 years, the institute itself started getting pre-loaded linux machines and soon all the machines were running only on Linux. In his opinion,FOSS is the perfect platform, a infrastructure to start to building things on it. Hence, it is the right way to teach any subject. He also said that, instead of colleges going to industry to buy licenses of softwares, colleges should actually invest on developing the necessary tools internally. He said that if the faculties find FOSS tools to be not as competitive as a proprietary software, then it should be used as a base for teaching. It can then be used to understand the problem and solve it. He also mentioned that he was probably a wrong person as a panellist as he has always been using FOSS and anything other than that is unthinkable to him. Hence even for the sake of discussion if he suddenly starts talking anything against using FOSS, then probably his head needs to be checked.

After Prof Gopi’s such strong statement, Prof Manvi, from Reva ITM was asked to express views on the discussion. He said that only FOSS tools can be played with. Hence a student should definitely use FOSS tools during his course. He also emphasized that at a time when colleges have very limited funds for infrastructure, they are forced to cut costs in every possible way and hence using FOSS tools in lab is a very viable option for colleges also. He mentioned that it costs around 5 lakhs per annum for 30 machines license of a popular proprietary tool used in Electronics department of which he is the HOD. If there is a FOSS alternative, like Scilab, then colleges should definitely use it. He said that using FOSS tools even after taking support license from vendors will save as much as 30% of the costs. He also mentioned that it is very difficult for colleges to use industry tools as the tools keep changing every 2-3 years and it is very difficult for them to upgrade it. It is even unnecessary for them to upgrade to newer versions as the subject fundamentals that they teach in the course remain the same. He pointed that the immediate problem that needs to be addressed is to the lack of necessary documentation for every FOSS tools so that the faculties can go through them and start using it. He saw this as the major hindrance for using FOSS in curriculum and if addressed it will certainly boost the rate at which colleges are moving to FOSS. Hence he requested organization like FSMK and FSMI to work on it. As a first step, he asked FSMK to come up with complete lab manuals for present lab subjects using FOSS tools.

With this we came to the end of the panel discussions and since very less time was left, Senthil quickly made the conclusion that as of now there was no complusion from university for colleges to use proprietary tools and if the few hinderance pointed by panellists were solved, colleges will deifinetely start using FOSS.

Again due to time constraints, only two questions were allowed. In the first one, an Audience pointed that to allow students to go to depth, it was necessary for the university to decrease the breadth of the course. For this, Dr. Rajnikant pointed that as an university it was necessary for them to look at a bigger picture while deciding the course. There are colleges which lack faculties in particular subjects and if the depth was increased then the lack of faculties for such subjects will be more. Hence they have to decide the curiculum keep these factors in mind. However, he pointed that under the university there were 14 autonomous colleges which had the freedom to decide their syllabus in each subject and conduct examination accordingly. But for this, colleges need to prove their abilities only after which the university can award them with such freedoms.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,000 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 30 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 144 posts. There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 280kb.

The busiest day of the year was April 15th with 63 views. The most popular post that day was FOSS for budding developers workshop.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were dengmao.wordpress.com, ranacse05.wordpress.com, hurley.wordpress.com, sunxran.wordpress.com, and myithaca.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for drupal error reporting, call to undefined function ldap_connect(), drupal turn on error reporting, drupal enable error reporting, and fatal error: call to undefined function ldap_connect().

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

FOSS for budding developers workshop April 2010

2

how to add different vim color schemes July 2009

3

How to enable error reporting in drupal October 2009
1 comment

4

using routes.rb to change the default home page in redmine September 2009
1 comment

5

How to enable Wireless on CentOS? April 2010

Lately after I have become a part of a new team, as usual I have been very expressive about my affinity towards FOSS. And again as always, I end up arguing the pros of FOSS in all aspects of software. However, sometimes I am forced to think why exactly does FOSS matter to me, personally. I am usually a follower just because I find someone else doing it and feel that even I should do it. This has been the case with most of my hobbies like Coin and stamp collection. Probably my likeness towards FOSS was also due to that. My first 5 semesters in college was always spent playing AOE or watching movies. However with the start of sixth semester, I started getting conscious about campus placements. As one of my close friend was deep into FOSS, it was very easy for me to enter FOSS world with his help, especially with 24 hours internet available. After entering into the world of linux, what attracted me most was the adventurous ride of trying out different things with being skeptical of Virus or formatting. Since everything was available online, I was able to try many different things. I kept trying different linux based distributions, different replacements of popular softwares used in Windows and trying to convince others to use the same. I remember me having to beg my friends to give me their laptops to play AOE as I didnt have Windows installed in mine. I also tried various ways to run AOE and other popular games on linux. However due to lack of dedication and discipline, I never came out with any thing productive or any contribution to FOSS. So while leaving college all I had learnt was to debug various simple problems in linux and chatting and talking to people on IRC and mailing lists.

After college, I joined a company completely dedicated to philosophy of FOSS and again my adventure of trying out many things for one particular problem continued. I was also close to making some meaningful contribution but then again I had to leave it in between. However the 8 months spent in the company were very useful to develop my personal skill set.  Not only was I able to get a good understanding of PERL, I was able to understand how big softwares are written and how problems in them are debugged. I also wrote few plugins in perl but since I left in between probably they were never included in the main stream project.

At this point of my life, after leaving the company I was in a very bad situation where I had no expertise in any specific domain and was a Jack of all trades. But it was not good enough and I had to struggle for 3 months before I could find a job for myself. The job had nothing to do with FOSS but I had no choice at that moment. But the new job gave me initially lot of time to again install Ubuntu on my (office) laptop and also get good internet connectivity using which I could continue my adventure of swimming in ocean of FOSS world and pick small fishes whenever possible. Along with the new job, I got engaged with a parallel activity of volunteering at FSMK. This was very important for me as this was the only means for me to connected to actual people contributing to FOSS. It also provided me very specific examples of how FOSS has helped change lives of so many people. This gave me the oxygen which I needed to keep swimming in the FOSS world. It also gave me an immense confidence of propagating FOSS to other people. Till I got connected to FSMK, I was propagating FOSS more because I used it and It made more sense then Windows as the options and features as a desktop OS were so much. However after getting into FSMK, I was able to see the real impact of FOSS philosophy. Seeing slum children use FOSS to nurture their creativity, watching blind people use FOSS to interact more easily with other world and compete with normal world. All this would never have been possible if FOSS was not there. And that is the real reason why I promote FOSS. I am not bothered with my freedom and my right to view the source code. But I want to make sure that everyone in the world gets a chance to showcase his creativity, improve his lifestyle and grow in his career. This can only be done with FOSS. All the proprietary companies can come up with massive plans of donating computer hardware and softwares free of cost just so that they can show it as their Corporate responsibility but none of these companies are going to cut their profits so that they can make any real difference to people’s lives. And this is why FOSS is the messiah of  the world of economically challenged and differently enabled people.

However the Mahabharat has just begun and probably this is the toughest time for FOSS. Because most of the developers of FOSS have become complacent towards the actual reason of existence of FOSS. FOSS is becoming more and more volunteering than a necessity and this might lead to its end. As there is a very strong force of profit and capitalism driving proprietary softwares but FOSS is driven only due to their philosophy. If the philosophy is compromised, then it will only be a matter of time before proprietary companies gulp the FOSS world. We are already seeing many FOSS companies getting acquired. Let us see what 2011 has in store for the FOSS world.

I am presently thinking of bringing out a collection of music which I like very much. It wont include any voice but just music. For that I mainly had two issues, first to split video files that I had in .avi format and second to split audio files that I had in .mp3 format.

For video files, I used ffmpeg utility

ffmpeg -i input.avi -ss 00:01:10 -t 00:04:45 output_file.avi

where input.avi is the file from which you want to extract the music.
-ss is the start point of the music
-t is the duration from the start time till when the music is to be extracted
output_file.avi is the file in this the extracted music will be stored.

It will be in .avi format only. If required you can also convert it into audio files.
This gave me the exact chunk of the music video that I wanted for collection.

For Audio files, I used mp3splt utility. I used its gui, mp3splt-gtk which is very easy to use.
All I need to do was select the file from which I wanted to extract music. Select two splitpoints, one for the start and second for the end. And select split button given at the top of the gui. Its as simple as that. Since this utility was available in Ubuntu Repository, I didnt have issues even with installing it

As use the same laptop in my house that use in my office, I usually have to keep chaning my proxy connection after I come back to home. In my house, I dont use a proxy but in my office I have to use one for Internet access. In firefox there is a beautiful add-on FoxyProxy which can be used for the same purpose


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