Wednesday Jan 30, 2008

A Student's Guide to Participation Age - Part III - Your Chance!

Students who wish to contribute first need to find an ongoing project in their area of interest and if none exists, they are always welcome to start. If you wish to contribute to a particular project, like OpenSolaris, Netbeans, MySQL etc, you can always join the mailing lists at the websites of these projects and get to know what is going on. Every open source project has a website where the details and ongoing work is listed. They also maintain a list of TO-DOs where you can get to know what work you can do. In the TO-DO, you can find work right from developing a device driver, to writing a simple help file. And there is no contribution which is not credited. Every bit of contribution to the community has its value. At universities, we have many opportunities open to our students who wish to make it big in this age of participation. For example, GLOSS - the open source community at my university, has been working towards popularizing open source amongst the students and providing them technical support and learning so that they can sharpen their skills and contribute to the communities of their interest. Programs like OpenFoundry, offered by GLOSS enable students to get themselves introduced to international open source communities and work under guided mentorship of industry engineers!

Second avenue to the success in this arena is by participating in competitions like Code for freedom. Winners of such high profile competitions get immediate spotlight in the community. There is plenty of support provided by the organizers of these competitions and they are the best place for the amateurs to start.

Companies like Sun always look for the popular contributors of the communities to recruit for the high profile jobs in their organization. You shouldn’t be surprised if you get to know about 20 odd year guys earning hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in these companies. Invariably these guys would have started their career as open source contributors.

Opportunities always existed in this world. The go-getters always made best out of everything. Winners and icons of today are what they are because they could see the opportunity and knew how best they could make use of it, when others failed to notice. Today we stand a better chance than the icons of yesterdays because opportunities were never this apparent and open. Giving concrete shape to your ambition and hunger for making it big is very simple! With a bit of determination and desire to work a little more than what is asked for is all what you would need to earn yourself a place amongst the “DIFFERENTS”! At universities like mine (SASTRA University, INDIA), which enjoys lots of support from open source giants like Sun and where we already have a vibrant open source community, becoming an open source champ is very simple. If your university still has no rocking Open Source community, what are you waiting for?? Just hit the roads yourself and take the lead! Form one community yourself and pool your friends in.. What will be left after that for you to do is to “PARTICIPATE!”!! :-)

A Student's Guide to Participation Age - Part II - The Action

Call yourself back to the current date, when a very interactive, fast and secure global network of computers in no more a technocrat’s dream but a rock-hard reality! Now the question is what we students have in store for us in this wide sea of opportunities! Answer is simple, “There is something for everybody in here!” In participation age, the outlook of the technologies and people associated with it has very drastically changed. Today, talent and skills are the only requirements to make it big. Amateurs can make into the team of core decision makers of mission critical projects like Linux Kernel or Mozilla Firefox. With almost every important technology, be it operating systems, RDBMS, IDEs, programming languages, business critical process support tools like ERP or productivity suits like office suits, migrating towards community driven open development model, the avenues to show-off your technical skills are almost everywhere. Not to mention, with more than 100,000 projects active on SourceForge alone, one can always find an open source project running in their own area of interest.

The opportunities are not limited to hardcore coders and programmers only. Even people from non-programming or in fact non-computer science backgrounds altogether, are very much in demand. For example, a project to develop Gene sequencing and modeling application would always need contributors from biotechnology and related areas. Right from open sourced microprocessor chips to education support tools for elementary schools, open source community is developing everything, and thus people with knowledge of non-computer fields, especially that of mechanical, electrical, electronics, biotechnology and bioinformatics, finance, languages and artwork are always sort after as consultants to the developers team.

Now the question often raised is how does this model of free and open software work? How is it profitable? Why multibillion dollar companies like Sun, IBM and Google invest so much money in these projects, which finally they don’t even own? What do contributors get in return for all their efforts? There are many answers to these interlinked questions. An open source software model generates revenues via selling professional support. Fundamentally, there are two types of users one can find in this world. First are those who can spend time to save money and there are others who can spend lots of money just to save time. Startups, small and midcap enterprise, computer geeks and educational institutions usually fall in the first group and giant enterprises, business tycoons, and many governmental institutions fall in the second category. The first set of users help in developing the technology by investing their time and skills, and the second set of users invest their money in the community so that the applications can be quickly developed. This way, both the sets of users share a relationship strongly tied by their mutual interest in each other. For example, Sun supports the Apache Foundation, the community which develops Apache web server, Tomcat application server and Apache Derby database management system, in two ways. First it invests millions of dollars in cash to support the contributors. Second it pays its own employees and engineers to contribute to the projects of Apache Foundation. This way Apache Foundation earns enough funds to continue its work, pay to its contributors and organize conferences and meetings worldwide at exotic locations! Continued financial support from companies like Sun and IBM propels the developers at Apache Foundation to come up with better product every release, and a better and free product compels enterprises and business houses to use them. These enterprises and business house which use these open source products in their mission critical applications look for professional support. And there comes companies like Sun and IBM which sell professional support to these customers. As the option of professional support on a high quality, open, free and reliable software falls to be cheaper than proprietary, closed, expensive software and support combo, IT industry has seen many big companies migrating to open technologies. This way open source communities always have money, companies selling support always have customers, and business houses always have better and custom software matching their exact needs! Everyone’s happy, everyone’s winning!!

Click here to go to the final part of Student's Guide to Participation Age: Part III, Your Chance! 

A Student's Guide to Participation Age - Part I - Prologue

You might find the title very tongue in cheek :-) But anyways.. Read On!!..

Societies and communities are children of communication. Their shape, size, behavior and scope depends only on the way its units, that is, we the people, communicate. The very basis of a society or a community is inter-individual communication for fulfillment of mutual interests. They have evolved with evolution of mankind and its intelligence. And in every age, technology played a crucial role in defining how we communicate and thus directly impacting our social life and structure.

It was not long ago (not even 250 years ago!) when most of us lived all our life in the confinement of hardly couple of tens of miles of the place where we were born as there was no swift means of transportation and traveling was difficult. World for us was indeed a small place back then and community meant handful of people who were invariably either neighbors or relatives. But then one fine day in the recent history, automobiles hit those dusty roads which were once trodden only by tough hooves of horses and oxen. World suddenly became wider and bigger and certainly more interesting. Things got even better when automobiles became a commonplace and aircrafts started to clutter the skies making men, women and avian alike. Cross culture interaction was happening everywhere and societies were developing varieties in it! You could have tuna in Shanghai and salmon in Morocco because logistics was no challenge anymore! Soon everyone was talking over the telephone and mobiles made every individual available 27x7 making his or her physical location almost immaterial. Mails took not even a day to cross the mighty Atlantic and thanks to cable T.V, everyone knew what is happening in the other half of the world! We had limitless communication channels made available to us and distance, which once tested endurance limits of swaggering explorers, was being ridiculed every day. World seemed a smaller place once again, very much like how it was 200 years ago. But we never have enough of innovation do we? This time innovation was the Internet. Email, Instant messengers, web pages, information was everywhere and every soul was communicating via this novel channel. Silently, mankind stepped into an age, where information was no constraint. Commonsense was skewed so as to take information for granted. Silently, mankind left the much celebrated legacy of industrial age behind and with much pomp and show we entered into the Information Age.

But the story I am about to tell you is not of the age in which static web pages coded in HTML flooded the cyberspace oozing information from every direction in almost all conceivable genre. The story is about that age in which content on the net was being created daily in volumes exceeding any measure ever known to the history in form of blogs, discussion forums and mailing lists. This is the age of Googles and Youtubes and Wikipedias. This age got everyone working together, collaborating over the network and giving birth to innovation that virtually redefined the term 'INFORMATION'! Yes! This story is of the new era of collaboration and mutual exchange of expertise facilitated by the network. We are talking about the Participation Age.

When the dot-com “bubble” busted, it had a devastating effect on the technology business oriented around the web. Many companies went out of business and venture capitalists, who invested their millions into the dot-coms and what was called the “information highway”, suffered enormous losses. The root cause of this mishap was the overestimation of pervasiveness of Internet and miscalculations of the reach of computers. But no mistake in the history of mankind would have been a bigger blessing! Little did anyone know, that the billions which were then giving sore throats to the IT industry, were actually spent in paving path for a new beginning. In less than three years, we witnessed the revival of Internet oriented businesses. But this time Internet had better bandwidth, more number of users and better hardware support. Technologies like PHP, Perl and Java which powered the last avatar of Internet had also matured and nascent technologies like AJAX, XML, Ruby etc had made their maiden entry into the developers arena. The web became more and more interactive day by day and the traditional “Request-Serve” model started to blur. One fine day we all realized that Web 2.0 was here and this time, it was here to stay!

 Click here to go to the next part of Student's Guide to Participation Age - Part II, The Action

Wednesday Jan 09, 2008


At GLOSS, we spent most of our time in Jan, in getting acquainted with netbeans! And now in just 8 days it looks to be that already most of us GLOSSers are having an affair with netbeans! :)

Anyways as university will be closed for most of the time for the pongal holidays next week and then will come the most dreaded mid-sem examinations, so I though it was high time thinking what to do in FEB... well in FEB GLOSS with try to have a good stab at Open Solaris!

What do we need to call a open source technology stack complete? we need a OS,  programming and scripting languages, a DBMS, a Webserver, and to make life simple and keep our sanity intact an IDE.. Now when already Netbeans (IDE) and JAVA (the programing language) has mesmerized us, I think its good time to let the OS do its magic.. So, Feb will be dedicated for Open Solaris!!

Wish you all a very happy and prosperous Pongal ( and all the best for the midsem exams! :)

Our present day challenges!

Open source is a beautiful concept! And surprizingly, unlike many idealistic concepts, it is feasible too. Its sustained presence and unprecidented acceptance are testimony to this fact. Here at SASTRA, we have been trying for quite a long time now to grab a large share of the unexplored Open Source arena of India. But then, we have our own problems.. inadequate knowledge of technology is ofcourse the biggest issue! The traditional model of learning which we follow, hardly leaves any room for developing skill sets to become a hardcore contributor. But this can be solved.. GLOSS is taking initiative to make students aware of finer details of computing and place diversion arrows in the learning path of the students so that they can enrich their depth and width of knowledge base through the series of seminars and personal one-to-one interactions.

Second is the issue of lack of time. A hectic 8 hours schedule of college leaves students quite weary to do anything as serious as coding a OS or desiging a Database Engine. :p But then.. as I always tell my friends and folks at GLOSS, Contributing to Open Source is lesser a test of knowledge and techincal expertise and bigger a test of individual Character and emotional determination! I'm sure my zealous friends would overcome this problem.

In short, even after all the huddles placed in the course, our marathon towards being the largest contributor in the country will continue... and will continue with all its pace :) 

Tuesday Jan 08, 2008

Netbeans - The accelerator of the car called "Productivity!"

Today was yet another day with netbeans. Everyone in SASTRA seems to be in love with netbeans.. try to figure out why.. the answer you will get would be.. WE ALL LIKE SPEED!

Netbeans takes your prductivity from 0 to 60 something like 6 microseconds!!! once you learn how to steer it properly :) Best proof of this is the experiment which we did today in the GLOSS powered seminar on Java in netbeans. We made a desktop calculator in netbeans, in a stop-clock time test :) In 10 mins we were up and running... Compared with 3 hours which we otherwise took when we wrote it using notepad (trust me it is still being done in labs) during our coursework lab.

I had 30 people with me in this seminar and everyone was impressed with it!

I also took this opprotunity to give Karthik, a first year student of CSE, his prize which he won in the surprize prize plan of my last seminar on C, C++ and JAVA in Netbeans. He wins a FOSS.IN DVD and an exclusive pen for his pose of " The Most Interested Chap! " :)!

As just after 2 days from now, the college will be  closed for the pongal holidays for almost 10 days, everyone is already in party mode!

GLOSS will get back to business once we are back after a much awaited holiday!! :)


Happy Pongal! 

Sunday Jan 06, 2008

Last-Day-Of-First Week.. With Netbeans!

The last day of the first week of this new year was yet another interesting day. Most of the students who attended the seminar on C,C++,JAVA in netbeans, if put in their own words, were "Desparate with a capital D" to have it installed on their systems and start using it! So, I scheduled a small  install-fest in Sandipani Sadan, the boys hostel for the first year students. On the sunday morning we had around 40 to 50 students surrounding me learning how to install netbeans and CygWin. I had burnt a DVD with all the required stuff for installing netbeans with C and C++ support in it and everyone made copy of it. Once the first set of students saw me installing it for them, they were soon helping their friends to install it.

Everyone at SASTRA is in love with netbeans.. and why not.. after all its world's best IDE! The fair and simple interface of netbeans can any day beat the complicated eclipse in useblity. Plus thanks to vibarent netbeans community we have thousands of plugins available to help us program!

One fact which everyone liked about netbeans is that it takes off the load of thinking about trivial details of syntax and help concerntrate only on our program.. making programming a "truely lovly experience!" :)


The first year students.. installing netbeans on the brand new laptops!! 


I wish all the netbeans user a "happy programming!" ;)

Saturday Jan 05, 2008

OpenSource on a new roll!

GLOSS started with a bang in the new year 2008!

We started it with a seminar on C, C++, JAVA, and how to program in these languages using netbeans! And the response was good! We had 60 people coming up to attend the seminar at 9 O'clock in the morning on a Saturday... I appreciate that! It turned out to be a long seminar as I expected it to be but everyone sounded interested! And at the end of it, everybody agreed that Gloss will achieve its target of becoming the largest single student powered developers community in the country!

In the seminar, what we discussed first was what programming is all about, and then we took up C. Moving ahead, we discussed Object oriented programming and then took up C++ and Java. The objective was to let the audience know the basic principles of programming common to all languages. Most of the attending students where first year and second year students, (surprizingly most of them where NOT from computer science or related deciplines!)

And then came mother of all.. I did a demo on netbeans, and the response what I got is best summed up in the phone call which i recieved from one of the students later in the evening. He said.. "From the moment i have seen netbeans, I'm desparate to get my hands on it. Can I have a copy of it please!" :)


I'm sure soon everyone is going to be a fan of netbeans! After all its the best IDE in the world!


And the good news is, from this semester on, we will be making seminars like this a weekly ritual ;) So there is going to be more like this to come..!! :)

Visit the Gloss official blog on 

And.. Wishing you all a very happy, successful and prosperous new year 2008!



I am Abhishek and I work for Sun/Oracle! In this blog, I share my interest in systems, solaris, linux and other technologies :-)


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