Mahavilachchiya – day two

Yesterday was the second day of the FOSS-ed on Wheels at Mahavilachchiya.

The kids were some of the brightest I’ve met and they pick things up in a flash. The night before, I did a programming primer to a group of lads and lasses, 18 years old on average. The girls outnumbered the guys by a scary margin, approximately 10 girls and 2 guys. References to Ada Lovelace and Grace Mary Hopper were made in the hope of striking an inspiration. We can begin to hope for better gender distribution in the coming years for IT.

Woke up in the morning feeling a little stiff, but a bit of photographing around the perimeter did the trick. I brought T’s D50 with me, along with the 10x zoom lens and the array of filters, and that’s always fun to play around with.

Had a session with the younger kids in the afternoon and my voice kept getting drowned by the patter of rain on the roof. Like a cornered prey, I decided to do the rest of the talk in the middle of the room surrounded by the kids. That was an experience. We talked about how computers spoke to each other. This was the first time I got in front of such a young crowd and it was an enlightening experience.

While wrapping up, seven (or eight) year old Asela came over to shake my hand and say goodbye. That was probably the hightlight of the show, and made everything worth it.

This FOSS-ed has been a unique experience for me, and very different from the other FOSS-eds I’ve been involved with. I think it’s a good trend that FOSS is moving away from Colombo to places where it really matter. The future looks bright.

Also, I must commend the effort of Wanni which I think is phenomenally successful. We need more like him to do what he has done in other places with the same level of selflessness and dedication. For those who might not know, Nandasiri Wanninayaka (aka Wanni) is the founder of the Horizon Lanka Foundation.

Update: Some photographs from the event can be found here and here.

From Mahavilachchiya, with love

I’m at Mahavilachchiya right now, at the Horizon Lanka Foundation, with the FOSS-ed on Wheels troupe. So far the experience has been breathtaking.

Yesterday, we were at the Kekirawa Central College where we talked to a group of individuals eager to learn about FOSS. This group was very diverse, from teachers to school students, equally eager to try new tricks. I spoke to a group of students during a small break and since then I’ve been repeatedly telling everyone how great those kids were. One in particular, was an extremely enthusiastic lad and I kept wishing I could do more to help these kids.

Horizon Lanka Foundation is running a school here, in a very organized fashion. One of the first things we saw when we entered the premises was a large group of students organized neatly in ranks, all wearing yellow uniforms and looking very subdued. I was able to mingle easily with the students in my matching yellow t-shirt. Nobody believed my exclaims of coincidence.

FOSS-ed for Hackers, a footnote

FOSS-ed for Hackers ended last week, and the entire geek blogosphere has been brimming with posts on the subject so I won’t delve much into it. Overall, it was a success. The participation was extremely good and the event was organized in style, thanks largely to Devaka.

The appearance of Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons was definitely the highlight of the show, and he did a very interesting talk that had me captivated. As usual, there was a lot of bumping into old friends and catching up, as it is common at events of this nature where geeks congregate.

Being the undisputed king of procrastination and, when the mood strikes, bad hair day, I waited until the last moment to finish my presentation, and just barely managed to cobble together the slides in time. Despite my grievances, I managed to complete the presentation with just a few cringe-worthy moments. Thankfully, I got a couple of good questions from the crowd during the Q&A session that just went to prove, despite my views to the contrary, that everybody in fact was NOT sleeping. You can find the slides here.

On a slightly different note, I was somewhat disappointed in the mole that I planted in the crowd to ask intelligent questions when the time came to relieve tension and get the questions flowing. As anticipated, the mole failed to deliver and is now expected to refund the downpayment at earliest convenience.