Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Serious Experiments with FOSS

I have followed Linux since 15 years ago. The first time I tried to install, it took me more than two months to get a working system. Linux and FOSS software have evolved since then.

Our labs use Ubuntu. I learnt about Ubuntu about 3 years ago when my son came back from his college with Ubuntu loaded on his Notebook. The usability focus of Ubuntu is really amazing. The resistance to virus is a great feature. No need to look for drivers: all drivers are built in. I use Ubuntu 95% of the time. Windows takes the rest.

Our programming labs for C and C++ have been using GCC on ubuntu from the start.

Recently, we faced the issue of using Autocad for Engineering Drawing. I knew about Q-CAD which has a community edition available on Linux. I told Prof. Bamadev to try this. He was reluctant to start with. But I prevailed. He told me he does not have ubuntu on his machine. I gave him a VDI image of Ubuntu and made in work in his machine. I demonstrated how to make it work.

The next day when I visited the Lab, I found students using Q-Cad for Engg Drawing Lab. Bamadev told me that he had worked late into night working with Q-Cad and is comfortable now. The students had no clue about what they were missing as this was their first CAD software.

Our efforts will be to adopt FOSS as far as possible for following reasons: free, different, and innovative.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Commencement and Foundation Day Lectures

"Why have you stopped blogging?" one student asked me recently. I have not really stopped blogging. This year since July I assumed the position of President of Rotary Club. I started blogging for Rotary. You can see Rotary Blogs here. My principle is two to three blogs a month.

We started a very important tradition in the Institute: Various Lecture Series. We propose to have four Institutional Lectures in a Year: Commencement Lecture at the Beginning of the year, Foundation Day Lecture on 29th Nov, the Last Lecture and the Convocation Lecture.

We are fortunate to start the first two of the series. The first commencement lecture was delivered by Subroto Bagchi. The First Foundation Lecture was delivered by Bijay Patnaik. Both of them are members of the IIIT board.

Subroto Bagchi spoke on what it takes to be a professional. Bijay Patnaik spoke on the challenges a resource rich but poor state like Orissa faces in its path to Industrialization.

The commencement lecture was a sober affair with minimal organizational effort. The foundation day lecture was more flamboyant.

The point worth highlighting was the way students organized and got involved in the Foundation Day Lecture. They organized sports events, painting, rangoli, photography events and what not. On the day of the lecture the volunteers did a outstanding job and the lecture was a smooth affair.

The only hitch was the dinner. The Institute hosted a Dinner on this occasion. It was very unfortunate that the food was over by the time half the students had eaten. However, the situation was salvaged due the patience displayed by the students and some damage control action taken by Siddharth Padhi. I feel the the Institute owes the students one more treat to compensate for the fiasco of the Foundation Day Dinner.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chetan Bhagat and his stories

I took a break for about 5 days in early this month. It gave me opportunity to do some reading which my normal work schedule deprives me of. I read a couple of books by Chetan Bhagat and a book by Rama Chandra Guha. RCG is a Historian and his book a research into modern history. A reflection of that book is a topic for another blog. I will stay focussed on Chetan Bhagat.

Everyone knows about Chetan Bhagat after the release of the movie 3 idiots.

One of his books is based on his experience in IIT Delhi and another one based on his experience in IIMA. It was easy for me to identify with the characters of the book as I had the good fortune of passing through the portals of IIT and IIM. Some of my observations:

  • Chetan Bhagat gave up the career of a Investment Banker to become a writer.

  • His stories are based on his own experience and hence has sense of conviction.

  • The language he uses is a little foul but that adds authenticity to the novels.

  • The Books are cheap (about ninety bucks each).

  • The humour is superb.

  • You can make money out of your own experience.
Last few days, I have been telling our librarians that it should have the most wonderful collection of all kinds of books. The books entertain, inform, inspire the readers. We must reinvent the habit of reading. Who knows, one day one of our alumni will be great writer, movie director, reformer and what not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

IIIT to get Unitary University Status

There is some good news.

Last week the Cabinet of the Orissa Government decided to approve a bill to be passed in the Assembly conferring University Status to IIIT.

The process may take about six months before IIIT becomes a University.

There are many good things which will result from being a university: Academic Autonomy is the most important one. We will leverage this autonomy to increase the rigour of our programmes, improve the syllabus and challenge the students to reach higher.

It is our earnest hope that the process gets over ASAP.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Hostel now gets Messy

For last 7 months the kitchen of the mess operated in the Admin Building. The mess brought other forms of mess: flies, occasional dogs and I have spotted a cow once. The mess contractor always complained about the effort required to carry the foot 3 stories up and down. We wanted the mess in the Hostel to be ready ASAP.

In our last Construction Review meeting, the contractor promised to deliver the mess by end of the week. We were earnestly hoping that he will keep his promise. As April was coming to an end, I started querying about the status of the mess. Siddhartha told me it may be delayed by a week. I was a little disappointed. Finally, Siddhartha said he will try to advance the delivery by may be two days. I took his word and announced the mess opening on the 5th May.

The entire team swung into action. On 4th the contractor moved his stuff in to the new kitchen. On 5th May the breakfast was served in the mess. I went to the mess at about 11:30 AM. Some kids were taking breakfast :).

The hostel is partially ready. We have given the target of completing the Hostel by June end.

PS: The foyer of the admin block looks a lot cleaner though a bit bereft of life.

PS: The picture shown above shows mess from the US Navy

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nebula to Nostalgia

Let me say this at the risk of being called a MCP: One of the objectives of any Institute is to make men out of boys. We have been trying hard to create an atmosphere where talent is identified and enhanced. I have been prodding to Under-Grads to take initiatives and organize events which will break monotony and showcase talent of our community.

The first event was Nebula. The kids just organized a welcome party for themselves. The entire gamut of talent was on display. I was pleasantly surprised by the professional presentation. It was d**n good show.

Then the kids went into hibernation. Nothing happened for a long long time. One day Gaurav who belongs to the Post-Grad programme, approached and told me to leave the leadership to the Seniors. We just did that. Again the campus was abuzz with activities: cricket tournament, Debate competition, carrom tournament and many many more.

The climax was Nostalgia which resulted in some memorable performances by the students. The most touching was the skit by the kids from labour camp. My wife Sanjukta was so moved that She took all the money in my pocket and distributed them as prizes (Fortunately I do not carry a lot of money in my purse.).

As the Samsung Ad says Next is What after Nebula and Nostalgia?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The CG has changed!

When we were students in IIIT, there was a common prank among the students called changing the CG. The CG stands for Center of gravity. When a student does not cooperate with the extra-curricular activities, he is given a CG change. The mattresses will be moved to top of the almirah, the bucket will be on the study table. The CG will change with re-distribution of the objects.

Last month, the CG in the Institute has changed somewhat. The Library has now moved to its designated space on the 3rd Floor. The Workshop has started functioning the far end of the campus. Two floors in the hostel are now functional and a few students have moved to the Hostel.

We want to give more CG change to the Institute. The Mess ought to be ready by end of this month. The Hostel will be ready by three months time. The labs will be rearranged and some of the labs will move to the workshop area.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Two Stories

Last Monday was the International Women's Day. Times of India quizzed successful women of stories that inspired them. While most wrote trite stuff, there were two stories I liked enough to share with the IIIT brethren.

Solomon king of Jewish kingdom in Jeruselum wanted to play a cruel joke on his minister. He asked him to find a ring which will give happiness to a sad person and sorrow to a happy person. The king knew there is no such ring. He gave the minister 6 months to find or face grave consequences. The minister tried a lot in vain. As the deadline approached, he was getting worried. When he was roaming in the Jeruselum Bazaar, he came across a merchant selling rings. He asked if the merchant had a ring the king was asking for. The merchant thought for a moment and then picked up a ring and engraved some thing on that. He said read the engraving and then wear the ring. It will help you to get the desired effect. The minister read the engraving and wore the ring. The frown vanished from his face and a smile appeared. He knew the that the ring is doing the trick. The bought the ring and presented it to the King. The King laughed and warned the minister not to play any tricks. The minister told him to read the engraving and then wear the ring. The king did that and the smile vanished and a frown appeared on his face. The engraving read This Too Shall Pass.

This was story which inspired Rajashree Birla, Scion to Aditya Birla. In most difficult moments of her life, the story had give her inspiration to overcome those moments

One more story:

A lot of animals has fallen into a dry well in a jungle. They tried climbing the wall of the well to getout without much success. One frog fell into the well. The frog tried to get out by climbing the wall. The other animal kept telling the frog about the futility of his action. The frog kept of climbing. The animal kept shouting at the frog to stop trying. The frog kept trying. To the amazement of the animals, the frog scaled the wall of the well. The animal asked the frog how he managed this impossible task. The frog did not answer. The animals kept asking but the frog did not answer. Then, the animals realized that the frog was Deaf.

This story was told by Vidya Balan.

Even though I am personally against any form of reservation, I was happy to see that the women's reservation was passed by the Rajya Sabha abeit not without some Drama.