Annual Motor Rally organized by the Virtusa Club was held on Saturday the 24th. The 50+ km route was was in the Colombo city and suburbs, starting from Virtusa's Trans Asia (TA) facility and ending at Keith's place near Bolgoda lake. We named our team the `Tux Racer', and had Anuradha W, Dihan and Nipuna of the KM team. 32 teams were lined up for the Rally. All the other teams were to be driven in cars, and my Suzuki Jimny turned out to be the only SUV. This was a mixed blessing, as we had to travel through bumpy terrains where it could do better, as well as good roads with sharp corners where cars are superior. External participants were also allowed as long as the majority of a team remained to be Virtusans. The `clue list' was long, but not very difficult. Teams also had to find answers to questions such as the number of red lines in a railway gate and times of watches shown on advertisements. Some activities were difficult; for example, we had to buy something prized between 18-20 Rs and two 500 ml bottles of soft drink from a named super market, and later when we reached a checkpoint, one member had to drink the whole one liter of drinks in a given time, all by him(her)self. This drinking part was not mentioned in the instructions and came totally unexpected! The event was fun, and apparently the pedestrians also were aware that something is going on as we were asking for certain landmarks. The course went through the Fort area, Slave Island, Borella, Parliament area, Athurugiriya, Homagama and ended up in Bolgoda. I was driving fast till the end expecting to finish in style. However, the very last bit was wetter than expected with grass and gravel, and breaking resulted in a 10-15 meter skid, and the Jimny stopped just less than an inch away from a big lorry parked right in front of us. It was a big lesson in estimation for me, luckily non-destructive, but unfortunately `Anuradha's entrance' also happened to be a discussion topic of the afternoon. Keith's place was located in a very scenic location by the lake. One part of the garden sloped towards the lake. After a pleasant lunch, the winners were announced. We turned out to be the 4th overall, and our team, along with many other teams, had been severely penalized for speeding between certain checkpoints. Being an event on the public roads, we were strictly supposed to maintain speed limits and adhere to all the other traffic laws. The organizers are expected to revalidate the calculations in due time. I once read an article about the `Paris-Dakar Syndrome', the participants looking forward to the next one at the end of each Rally. It turns out to be universal, not just limited to big rallies such as Paris-Dakar, for most teams were making plans for the next one. But more than everything it was such a fun filled event.
"Mirror mirror on the Web, who is the fastest of them all?" We are badly in need of HTTP/FTP mirrors, just like the Ancient Mariner who desperately wanted water: `Water, water every where, not a drop to drink!'. Our Swiss mirror is being throttled after Taprobane appeared on Distrowatch. There are many well wishers who are kindly offering gigabytes of bandwidth left in their sites to host Taprobane. Unfortunately, considering the terabyte of downloads from the Swiss mirror yesterday, we need more heavyweight hosting for the ISOs. We are trying some potential options, and any offers would be greately appriciated.
Distrowatch has added Taprobane to it's long list of GNU/Linux distributions. The waiting list is long and there is a 90 day waiting period to make sure that only sustainable projects get added, but apparently we have made it early. Wow! It's interesting to see that someone has taken the trouble to study what's in our first public release (0.4.1), and put that all information into a release page. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the folks at distrowatch and its contributors for their efforts. Also, the Taprobane team and everyone at LK-LUG should be commended for the hard work and support in contributing, distributing and advocating our own GNU/Linux distribution.
After the FOSS Fair events on Sunday, me, Suchetha and Sanjaya went to meet Rasmus and Sam Ruby, returning from their trip to Habarana, Minneriya and Sigiriya. David Axmark's flight was somewhat early in the evening, and the plan was for him to directly return to the Airpot. We met Sanjeewa Wijerathne and Rasmus at the Airport Garden hotel. The discussion over the dinner was quite amusing. There were some interesting comments about Slackware from Rasmus, which Suchetha didn't like of course, such as `Slackware is dying', `I have five years ahead of you for not using Slackware' (during a discussion about each one's age), and `like slackware?' in reply to a comment about a dying nation... ;-) It was very unfair for all of us at the table to bash a singled out Slacker, but I am sure everyone, including Suchetha, enjoyed the whole affair, and there wasn't anything personal. The matter came to a climax when Sam Ruby, who joined us after the dinner, commented in a mild serious tone `What's Slackware, we don't hear about it' and added that he used to hear many good things about Slackware years ago, but that has ceased lately. We bid farewell to Sam and Rasmus, and drove straight to Suchetha's place. It was a very scenic setting by the Bolagoda lake. After weeks of hard work, we crashed and slept tight, and woke up quite refreshed. After enjoying a fabulous breakfast prepared for us by Suchetha's mother, we made a relatively early start towards Kandy. The journey was pleasant and the drive was nicer with less traffic. Sanjaya was fast asleep at the back, while Suchetha and myself had a conversation which wondered all over the place. At once point, we started singing. In fact, we managed to sing `Mage Raththaran Helena' to completion, and a variant followed. Later we started a bit of `Panamure' as a part of an elephant discussion, but neither of us was successful at coming up with any more song suggestions. We met Greg Stein and Bruce Momjian at Kandy, had lunch at Senani, which was high up at Rajapihilla Mawatha with a great view of the city. Greg and Suchetha had a lot in common to talk about, and the discussion over lunch was a lot of education for the rest of us... :-) In the evening, we went to see a cultural dancing show at `Avanhala'. It was nicely done as a pleasant mixture of all three variants of Sri Lankan dance and music. At the end was a fire walking session. After the show, Sanjaya insisted that he wanted to try out fire walking himself, as he had done it few times before. But as the fire they had setup there was much hotter than a typical session, he took our advice not to go ahead. However, we made friends with the organizors, who turned out to be somewhat neighbours during our long stay in Kandy years ago, and one of them gave us the news of a funeral of a close aquaintance of ours in Ampitiya that took place on the very same day. Then we visited Dalada Maligawa in good time for 'Tewawa', the ritual of offering sounds. Among many things and people we showed Greg and Bruce was the old gentleman who was playing `Horanewa' for decades as his `Rajakariya' (King's duty). When the LTTE bombed the Maligava (which me and Sanjaya witnessed few minutes afterwards as we were in Kandy at that time) he was known to be performing the morning ritual. He has been thrown yards away by the bomb, but it is said that he picked up the horn (Horanewa) and completed the Thewawa in the midst of everything. The King's dury is generally taken very seriously. Greg and Bruce got a chance to peek inside the inner chamber as it was the time for the evening offering. We also went to the library of ancient books at Paththirippuwa and I showed Greg the place the King used to judge his subjects. Suchetha accompanied Greg and Bruce back, while I went to the funeral house with Sanjaya. It was nice to see some old places there, despite the sadness of the occation. After dropping Sanjaya at IFS, I joined Suchetha and Greg in the midst of a merry discussion. Our topics were very diverse, but we rarely got to anything technical. Next morning, Suchetha and myself joined Bruce for breakfast and afterwards Bruce went on to do some shopping. We followed with Greg later, and in the city I got a parking ticket, and one of my tires was loosing pressure. So I drove Greg and Suchetha to join Bruce at the place where he was shopping and returned to Kandy, paid the fine, got my driving license back and pressurized the tyres. After a couple of hours drive, I joined the others at Pinnawala elephant orphanage for lunch. The elephants were out for bathing, and we had a good view of all the hapennings from the table. It was interesting to watch one elephant that was chained to a rock in the river (probably due to violence induced in elephants in mating seasons) `learned' how to remove the chain from the connection and set itself free. However, this didn't create any dangerous sitation. A farewell dinner was sponsored by OpenWorld at the `Vadiya' seafood restaurant of the Mount Lavinia Hotel. After some tedious driving towards oncoming traffic with lots of lights, we joined Sanjiva and Shahani (Mrs Sanjiva), Deepthi and two others from OpenWorld. One thing I hated was the killing and cooking of sea animals right there, which I had seen only once before at a Chinese restaurant at San Fransisco. After the dinner, we bid farewell to Bruce and Greg. We also briefly met Himira, my group mate at the University and great contributor to the LK-LUG behind the scenes. I came back to my lodgings around the midnight, completely exhausted by weeks of work followed by a nice trip, and of course looking forward to work the next day.
To complement the FOSS Week events that happened as seminars and conferences where participation was by registration or invitation, we also organized a `FOSS Fair'. The name, and also that of FOSSchool, was coined by Suchetha. There were public demos at Crescat and Majestic City shopping complexes, and an install-fest and seminars at BMICH on the 10th and 11th. The dates were selected to coinside with the Software Freedom Day. Martin, Danese and Micheal were to leave soon, and other speakers went on a trip to Habarana and Sigiriya over the weekend. There was a dinner for all the sponsors and speakers at the Havlock Lodge, to which I dropped in for a couple of minutes to say goodbye to Martin, David (who was to leave on Sunday evening after the trip) and Danese, and drove straight to Narada Center to join others on the BMICH events. The install fest happened at the `Restaurant Longue' of the BMICH, which was behind the committee rooms. There were booths from some sponsors such as RedHat, Neat, Suntel, IBM and Intel. After helping transport some of the machines to the install fest, me and my brother went directly to the Committee Room C reserved us for the seminars. As the Colombo International Book Fair was happenning at the main BMICH, we managed to get a fair crowd. After a while, Bud also joined to `load-balance' the seminars. During Saturday night, we got hold of some the banners used at the other FOSS Fair events, printed some direction signs, and started very early on Sunday. We maneged to put up banners all over the place, and direction signs for people to easily find the seminars and install fest. The turnover was much better. Dr Nandalal also did a few presentations at the seminars. After winding up the events, I started the long drive with Suchetha and Sanjaya to join the FOSSSL speakers. The details of that trip will come as a seperate post.
I was about to enter the FOSSSL Conference on Friday to listen to Bruce's presentation, when Sanjiva stopped me asking if I can take David and Sam to see Arthur C Clarke (`Dr Clarke', as we normally call him here in Sri Lanka). I had seen him many times, but had never `met', so I jumped at this and said `yes!'. Four of us, David, Sam, my brother Sanjaya and myself, managed to pack ourselves into my little Jimny, and headed towards Dr Clarke's residence. It wasn't difficult to find the place, and apparently we were expected. The office was in the 1st floor (if one start counting from 0, or `ground floor'), and there was an interesting 'road sign' in the middle of the staircase which had an arrow pointing upwords: `Mars, 30,000,000 miles'. Prof Sam and Danese had already arrived. Dr Clarke was very cheerful in his ways, although he was affected by post-polio syndrome. He looked at the `GNU/Linux' sign on my T shirt while shaking hands, and commented `so you are one of the Linux guys' (or something to that effect). He also came up with a funny joke popular in the FOSS circles. We spent about an hour with Dr Clarke and the discussion was diverse. David took pictures of almost everything in the room. When Danese asked Dr Clarke if he believes in god, he was quick to reply `No, but I hope she believes in me'. We all got copies of a reprint of Dr Clarke's famous 1945 article on Wireless World which led to the invention of satellite communication. He asked us to bring along the copies to his table to be autographed, and while doing that, he said in a perfect street-salesman tone `ten rupees, ten rupees!'. At the age of (around) 85, he is still active and cheerful, and is looking forward to dive again.
The FOSSSL Conference was a major event of the National FOSS Week. It was Sanjiva's idea to get two key persons for each letter of LAMP. We wanted to consider the broader meaning of each word, so L stood for the whole GNU/Linux platform, M for the database component, not just MySQL, etc. Martin Michlmayr, former DPL, and Micheal Tiemann, creator of G++ represented `L', the OS component. `A' was represented by Greg Stein, president of ASF, and Sanjiva, who is also a member of the ASF and OSI boards, and leading the Apache WS project. Database component was obviously MySQL and PostgreSQL. Bruce Momjian of PostgreSQL and David Axmark, co-founder of MySQL represented the letter `M'. As letter `P' has many sub-components, not just Perl, PHP and Python, but also upcoming Ruby on Rails. Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of PHP, and Sam Ruby, contributor to numerous projects including Perl 6, together represented `P' it at FOSSSL 2005. Danese Cooper also was a speaker at the CxO conference and was present for the panel discussion at the end of the conference. The main conference was held on the 8th and 9th. Each day, there were four 1 hour keynotes, each followed by another 30 minute speech. I had a slot on the first day to talk about Taprobane GNU/Linux, just after Martin's Debian keynote. Bud, Pradeeper and Chamindra also spoke. There was a dinner for the speakers on Thursday at `Akasa Kade', on the top (11th) floor of the same building where `Raja Bojun' is. The view of the sea from the top was fantastic. The sea side of that floor was kind of calm and quiet, and watching the great waves, looking small but numerous from afar, to meet the shore was a soothing site under the dim moon. At the dinner, Michael Tiemann explained, in reply to my question if he did any coding lately, about his pet project to calculate the lences he need to carry around by analyzing his past photographic records, and another to visualize some of his reports at RedHat. In addition to the main conference there were 4 hour tutorials by keynote speakers to cover technical stuff in detail. Two of them were on the 7th, and the others on Saturday the 10th.
The AsiaOSS codefest was hosted by Virtusa at its Trans Asia advanced technology center. Most participants were from Japan and Sri Lanka. We had Niibe, Kazuki Ohta, Masayuki Hatta from Japan (among others), and Bud, Anuradha Weeraman, Pradeeper and members of the Sahana team from Sri Lanka. I started working on Kudzu optimizations (which is yet to be blogged somewhere else), while Anuradha W started writing the installer for Taprobane using gtk2-perl. I did a short presentation about Taprobane. We also tried timing Taprobane bootup with Knoppix. Taprobane took nearly 2 minutes, while Knoppix took 3. But the win is not exactly 1 minute, because we didn't have pcmcia and scim starting. Me and Anuradha W finished the coding at around 5 a.m. and went home. The next day (7th), we were a bit late, and it delayed the starting of the `key signing party'. It was a nice experience. Martin Michlmayr also joined the party. The official innaguaration of the week was at Trans Asia, but didn't have time to join. Another very important outcome of the codefest is the SCIM Sinhala input module by Kazuki. He converted my GTK im module to SCIM and Niibe uploaded it to Debian. Me and Bud left the codefest in the afternoot for few hours to attend Martin's FOSSSL tutorial on `Contributing to Debian'. Rasmus Lerdorf did a parallel tutorial on PHP (obviously). In the evening, most of us joined the AsiaOSS dinner at Ceylon Continental. We met Bruce Momjian, Greg Stein, Sam Ruby, Rasmus Lerdorf and Danese Cooper outside the hotel. I also had a brief chat with Manju, CEO of ICTA, who had used Taprobane for his presentation despite it's still tagged `beta'. Overall, the codefest was very successful. We did get a lot of interruptions on organizing stuff, but neverthless managed to some good coding. We are looking forward to the next one and also to host a few local codefests. Devaka Randeniya and Tyrell Perera of Virtusa R&D did most of organizing behind the scene. Suntel provided Wifi and wired Internet connectivity, and Virtusa MIS helped with other IT logistics.
National FOSS Week made a great start on Monday (5th) with the FOSSchool event organized by LK-LUG / UCSC. The event was at the UCSC auditorium which could host about 250 people. It was a pleasent surprise to see delegates from CICC and several hackers from Japan, including Niibe, at the opening ceremony. The morning event was for schools. The auditorium was full, and we had to put extra chairs to host everyone. Each participant got an Ubuntu pack and a Taprobane CD. Prof Sam and Dr Ruwan of UCSC introduced the week and the event to the participants. LUG presentations included various aspects of FOSS including desktop, development and education. Evening session was for the grad/undergrad students studying CS related courses. Again, it was a packed house. In addition to our LUGgers, Martin Michlmayr, former DPL, and Dr Shahani Weerawarana (Mifan used the name `Dr Mrs Sanjiva Weerawarana' instead, while thanking everybody) also spoke. The event was considered a huge success and a great start for the FOSS week activities. After the event, Bud and myself joined Martin for dinner at Chamindra's place. Except for everyone's attempts to get Ranusha, Chamindra's little `fellow', call me `uncle Anuradha' instead of `Anuradha aiya', we had a nice time.