Visit to FISAT


Visited FISAT day before yesterday to conduct a workshop on `device hacking' with GNU/Linux as part of the Bharatham 2006 tech and arts festival. It was a hands-on workshop conducted in the computer lab where all the machines were networked and ran GNU/Linux. I had taken along a Blackfin development board, a Phoenix box as well as two Linksys WRT54G's - the idea was to connect the stuff to my laptop, get it onto the lab network and allow students to do some hands-on development. As soon as my machine was on the network, I noticed one fellow running `nmap' ;-) fortunately (or unfortunately), majority of the audience were not that `enlightened' - they were mostly 1st year guys and had very little experience with Linux. I had to be satisfied with showing them things like how to do an SSH onto the dev board/router, how to do cross-compilation etc - because it was `hands-on', the audience did not go to sleep and remained awake and alert (well, I hope so). Towards the end, myself and Sumod demonstrated a few interesting experiments with Linux and a Nokia series-60 mobile - I was happy to see that one student in the audience was motivated by my Hack a mobile phone with Python article to do projects using the same.

The organizers had planned a session on Phoenix for school/college teachers - but because of exams and all, just three people had turned up. I had an informal talk with them for half an hour demonstrating the working of the Phoenix box via its Python interface - because all of them were electronics teachers, I believe they had little difficulty in understanding things. I am very sad at not being able to devote enough time in letting more people know about the magic of Phoenix - this project has to get much more publicity than it currently has. Ajith has spent a lot of time building a very useful piece of hardware - perhaps the first `open' hardware product from India and maybe the only one of its kind working on GNU/Linux! At a time when most `open-source' development in India is confined to churning out more and more `distros' and `localizing' stuff like OpenOffice, it is essential that innovative projects get sufficient visibility and encouragement - especially when they have the potential to make a deep impact on the minds of young students.

There seem to be a bunch of students at FISAT who are passionately involved with GNU/Linux - they had written an interesting program using MySQL/Qt for managing the entire three day festival - Sumod introduced me to one of the developers who explained its functioning and mentioned that he found the Qt/MySQL combination easier to develop with than VB.

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