Kushal Das

FOSS and life. Kushal Das talks here.


My talk in MSF, India

Last week I gave a talk on Free and Open Source Software in the Metal and Steel factory, Indian Ordinance Factories, Ishapore, India. I met Mr. Amartya Talukdar, a well known activist and blogger from Kolkata in the blogger's meet. He currently manages the I.T. team in the above mentioned place and he arranged the talk to spread more awareness about FOSS.

I reached the main gate an hour before the talk. The securities came around to ask me why I was standing there in the road. I was sure this is going to happen again. I went into the factory along with Mr. Talukdar, at least three times the securities stopped me while the guns were ready. They also took my mobile phone, I left my camera back at home for the same reason.

I met the I.T. Department and few developers who work there, before the talk. Around 9:40am we moved to the big conference room for my talk. The talk started with Mr. Talukdar giving a small introduction. I was not sure how many technical people will attend the talk, so it was less technical and more on demo side. The room was almost full within few minutes, and I hope that my introductions to FOSS, Fedora, and Python went well. I was carrying a few Python docs with me and few other Fedora stickers. In the talk I spent most of time demoing various tools which can increase productivity of the management by using the right tools. We saw reStructuredText, rst2pdf and Sphinx for managing documents. We also looked into version control systems and how we can use them. We talked a bit about Owncloud, but without network, I could not demo. I also demoed various small Python scripts I use, to keep my life simple. I learned about various FOSS tools they are already using. They use Linux in the servers, my biggest suggestion was about using Linux in the desktops too. Viruses are always a common problem which can easily be eliminated with Linux on the desktops.

My talk ended around 12pm. After lunch, while walking back to the factory Mr. Talukdar showed me various historical places and items from Dutch and British colony days. Of course there were again the securities while going out and coming in.

We spent next few hours discussing various technology and workflow related queries with the Jt. General Manager Mr. Neeraj Agrawal. It was very nice to see that he is updated with all the latest news and information from the FOSS and technology world. We really need more people like him who are open to new ideas and capable of managing both the worlds. In future we will be doing a few workshops targeting the needs of the developers of the factory.

Event report Fedora 21 release party Kolkata

On 1st February, we had a Fedora 21 release party in Kolkata. I arranged the meet in my house. It had low attendance, but we had people who are using Fedora as their primary distribution. We also had Subratam Biswas, who is looking forward to contribute to the Fedora security team.

At the beginning we went through the feature changes of Fedora 21, though we spent most of the time talking about two flavors, server and cloud. I had cockpit running in one the box, so we played around a bit with that. After that the discussions went more on the tools and workflows we follow in Fedora project. We looked into the cloud images and containers, and discussed how they can help developers.

Discussions related to the FOSS communities in India went on for a long time. I ordered few pizzas in between. People picked up workstation DVDs, I had the ISO image also handy, we made a few Liveusb sticks during the meeting.

We will be meeting again in the next week, to discuss more on latest developments and to play around with the latest Raspberry Pi 2.

Fedora Workshop in Bethune College

Two weeks back I did an one day workshop in Bethune college, Kolkata. Had around 20 students as participants. The goal of this work was to introduce Fedora as an alternative OS for the students.

The students were from the following departments.

  • Humanities (English)
  • Bengali
  • Mathematics
  • Biology

So you can easily understand that these are not our topical engineering college students. They use computers to do some particular tasks other than programming. We also made a list of those tasks (major ones)

  • Reading: web pages and PDFs
  • Writing: reports, books
  • Presentations

At the starting of the workshop, we just looked into a Gnome3 desktop and students kept clicking randomly to explore the system. We saw Firefox as the default browser, which most of them were already knew. Evince as PDF reader, and then just went through LibreOffice suite for documents and standard presentations. We also learned "How to learn touch typing" using gtypist package. The classroom was full with excitement, everyone was trying to type better than their friends.

Next we learned the basics of reStructuredText, and how to create presentations from them using rst2s5. The studentsliked this part of the workshop as everyone were doing things in their laptop and the results were visible within a second. Instant feedback is important to keep the new people going and when the feedback is coming from the computer they simply liked it. I already told them the biggest problem for most people is typing mistake(s). It was again proved to be right during this workshop :)

After the lunch we resumed with sphinx. Using sphinx-quickstart we started a new project, and started writing our first book/report. The PDF output using pdflatex command showed them how easy it is to create a professional looking document at home without any paid software. I also demoed vim as editor. We then moved into l10n and everyone logged into their system using bn_IN as the system language. The students were quick to find few translation issues in couple of the major applications. I will write about them in a different post. We ended the workshop while chatting about different aspects of FOSS and how they all can contribute to make their own life better. I will be going back to Bethune again to help them with installation and any other issues.

Setting up the laptops were the easier part of this workshop, which generally takes a lot more time. We took few seconds for each computer. How? Liveusb images. Using livecd-creator I created an image which had all the required packages for our workshop. So we never had to configure anything, things just worked out of the box, no missing packages.

I will be doing similar kind of workshops in few of the other biggest colleges in Kolkata, where the students will be from different streams than engineering. I also thank Assistant Professor Shuchismita Mitra for arranging this workshop.