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.

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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.

A Dapper Weekend

Last weekend was eventful than most. My weekends are generally spent lazing around at home watching entire seasons of sit-coms back to back. The LUG has had an active week with a LUG-ercise taking place at Mount Lavinia beach where a bunch of LUGgers and their families met up with the express intent of socializing. Geek-talk was strictly forbidden (which made some of us very uneasy). After a couple of attempts at sports, I realized that I wasn’t cut out for strenuous physical activity and instead decided to just chill for a bit.

Kosala built a replica of the Fortress of Mordor (to scale) that was widely acclaimed by the gathering as an engineering masterpiece that was probably visible from space, and his talent was matched by Anuradha R who built Minas Tirith (also to scale) adjoining the behemoth of Mordor. To add the final touches to these masterpieces in sand, Mahangu dug a massive hole in the center of the Fortress. ‘Nuff said.

On Sunday, the Ubuntu Dapper Drake release party took place at Excel World where I dist-upgraded to dapper over the free wifi and did some work on my BF interpreter that I’ve been too lazy to debug. Had several shots of Espresso at the coffee shop and as a result spent the better part of the day (and night) in a state of agitation.

RMS @ MIT

It was a very eventful weekend. For one thing, the FSF associate member’s meeting was being held at MIT on Saturday. I’m not a fan of social events, but as it turns out, geek hangouts are where I thrive. Made the long and arduous journey to Boston with Supun, a colleague of mine and a free software aficionado, and took the subway to Kendall/MIT. It was a very pleasant day, perfect for some good ol’ curbside hackin’.

The turn out at the meeting was pretty good, and there were some FSF merchandise right outside and I promptly bought a couple of books. Scanning the lounge for familiar faces, I quickly noticed Niibe walking over. Niibe came over to Sri Lanka and participated in a Code Fest held at Virtusa as part of the sixth Asia Open Source Symposium. Niibe is well known for his efforts on the Linux kernel SuperH port.

One of the speakers was the venerable MIT professor Gerald Jay Sussman, who invented the Scheme programming language along with Guy Steele Jr, one of his former students. It was a very interesting talk titled “Software is never finished”.

Eben Moglen followed soon afterwards, followed by Richard Stallman. RMS spoke about the evils of DRM and the new provisions introduced to counter it in GPLv3.

After the presentation, I managed to have a little chat with him in the lounge area, and when I mentioned the LKLUG he was quick to point out that a name change was in order. You can trust RMS not to miss that one. There was a long and heated LKLUG mail thread on this same issue way back in 2004. Thanks to lurker, I’ve managed to dig it up.

Some photographs of the event can be found here.