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2012 August 3 [Friday]

Rest in peace Lawgon

Am breaking a long hiatus from blogging to report a really sad news :: Kenneth Gonsalves, (lawgon on IRC), a long time Free/Libre software (especially INPycon) contributor is no more. When I first saw this mail in my inbox, I could not believe it was true.

My first interaction with Lawgon was via the LinuxChix mailing lists. Back then, I was surprised to see posts from a "nilgiris" domain name and I assumed he was an USA-NRI actively posting on their lists. Later, via the Mumbai-LUG list when I had tried to install his "avsap" accounting software ~ it would not work on my machine and I wrote him a mail with the gory error details. Finally, in 2007, I met "lawgon" on IRC, ##linux-india. I was never an IRC person but when he got banned from the channel, I had a long argument with Devdas (f3ew on IRC) about it - mostly because I felt that the rules were not clear, and even more importantly, felt that rules ought to be implemented uniformly, sans cronyism.

A few moons later, I met him in real life for the first time at the first formation meet for Fosscomm and sat next to him through the whole meeting. In my eyes, he was like a father-figure, a person you can talk to freely, someone who didnt see IT and FLOSS as the road to self-publicity, fame and riches. Rather, he saw Libre software as I did - of, for and by the people. It was nice talking to him and hear the stories via the work he had done at NRC-Foss/AU-KBC.

He was someone I respected because unlike some FOSS people, he actually wrote and released his code publicly: https://bitbucket.org/lawgon, and worked within the community, had no illusions or superiority complex about himself. Most of us in the FLOSS community were his kids age and in my interactions I didnt find him patronizing nor elitist in "demanding" we respect his age. Quite the opposite, he never hesitated to ask for technical help from people younger than him, quite ego less. His fiery rants on his blog (http://lawgon.livejournal.com/) always made me chuckle. There are very few blogs I follow and thusfar, I've read every post of his - strong opinions peppered with character. His own!

In his mailing list communication, he could be quite blunt in his comments, and I've had my moments sparring with him on the lists, but if you take a moment to look behind the scenes, his honesty and sincerity towards Libre software showed. I remember his mail asking me not to leave the Mumbai LUG list and my response on the kind of Libre community (the lack thereof) we foster, which, to my surprise, found an echo with him. I remember his long email rant (about someone which I wont get into in public) where he mentioned "...and I'm scared of you" ~ yeah, I too scrubbed my eyes and smiled at his droll sense of humor, as I typed out an apology.

I remember his IRC comment that he wanted his daughter to meet me and my curiosity piqued ~ this was long before I had met him in real life but after meeting me in his blog he used the word "legendary Svaksha" and I was surprised that it was not "fiery Svaksha" given my frank replies. Going by the stereotypical Indian fathers attitude, I very much doubted if they would want their daughters to be like me - Or maybe it was his sense of humor - I'll never know!? Some moons later an email asking for some information on "legal rights of women in India" for her coursework, IRC discussions on virtualenvwrapper (he asked me why I wanted to use it and for a moment I thought he was testing me -- I could not imagine a long-time Python developer (atleast a lot longer than me) asking me that, unless he was pulling my leg or if it was an interview question?), discussing a recent Python workshop he held at Kerala, and so many other interactions... {Edit1:: His recent mail on the open source business model has some excellent advice for wannabe entrepreneurs.}

I was hoping to meet him at InPycon this year but now the conference wont be the same without him. I hope and pray his family finds the strength to carry on without him and may his soul rest in peace! You will be missed Lawgon..and try not to kickstart a "GPL Vs. BSD" argument in heaven!

2009 December 27 [Sunday]

Red Wine and White Xmas

Rain kinda killed my hope for a white christmas but after catching up on 2012, good food and dancing with friends over this holiday season, I ain't complaining. The flurries flew in last night and today, so after the lake trip, which turned me into a five year old fishing for smooth pebbles in icy waters, our weekend turned red - literally, with merlot, cabernet, and dolcetto flowing around.

I found the dolcetto quite acidic [a detailed listing for acid/alkaline forming foods] as compared to the cabernet, although technically its the other way around. But am told that this also depends on many other factors like the soil, the fermentation process, region it was produced, etc. That I agree with, as it rewinds me to the experience of drinking wines produced within India, to put it politely - now imagine me scrunching my face in disgust at the horrid taste. Besides, the humid Mumbai weather makes it a pain to store wines properly and I only have so much space in my Fridge. Mom, in all probability, must've thrown the last bottle of red wine which I'd preserved for some years, as an experiment.

The whites (Chardonnay and its ilk) dont work their magic for me. I prefer the dry and semi-sweet (scale of 0 to 7 and mood permitting may even push a 10) and the most tempting surprise was Eiswein, but it tipping the scale at 24 was a definite no go.

Maybe I'll be more adventurous the next time! 2009 had forgettable recovering surgical moments and I so look forward to 2010.

Happy holidays / Merry X'mas (belated) / Happy 2010 !!

2009 October 18 [Sunday]

A silent Dipavali

High decibel levels have always resulted in a migrane and since childhood I've always cringed silently at noisy pubs/discos, honking while speeding, loud music and other public noise pollutants. So what is it about Indians being noisy in any celebration? --whether its a marriage or ganesh chaturthi or divali or holi or just about any event ; most Indians think its their public birthright to keep a loudspeaker facing your home because they are the truest custodians of your religion. Gee, isnt a festival supposed to spread cheer, kindness and generosity instead of noise ?!

The maximum pollution is reserved for dipavali -- the firecrackers noise and pollution from chemicals fumes that one is subjected to, whether its the horrid sutli-lakshmi bombs (that was what it was called when i was a kid and i detested the chemical fumes and noise) intended to awaken the neighborhood at 3:30 am or pre-pubescent boys thinking its oh-so-funny to burst fire crackers as women walk past or train a rocket at someone's home as a prank -- Ever heard of a fire hazard !?!

Its strange how people can become a public nuisance under the guise of celebration and indulge in public displays of wealth. In grade4 I had read a news report on small children in sivakasi being exploited to make crackers and seeing pictures of their hands with boils made me resolve that I'd never touch a phuljadi or buy firecrackers (I had also resolved to not wear silk or use leather objects but was forced to give these two up after I outgrew my teenage years) which didnt go down well with my family and especially with school friends who thought peer pressure and jeering would make me change my mind. Didnt happen, this one made it :)

Over the years I used to wonder if we will ever learn to celebrate in silence and despite not foisting my beliefs/thoughts about chemical pollution on others, when I read about school kids being more aware of their environment a few days ago, life came to a full circle -- Eight-year old Mitul Mehta is my favorite!

2009 October 6 [Tuesday]

another new theme

For over a year, getting a new theme has been on my mind because S hated the black theme. Pffft, out went the "depressing" black screen and for a few days I tried living with the white background, rewrote the CSS with bigger fonts, added some colour, and tried keeping images to the minimum. No can do. I hated the white background. A middle ground compromise had to be gray and even though pastel shades are dreary on webpages i'll live with it for now.

Other important stuff like the linguistics blog that I started has been sitting on the back burner these past few days, partly because i've been having a more interesting time talking to people with similar interests. Also I daresay its the back-to-back chaturthi + navratri season and a sudden writers block but what about the other love of my life : Music !?  Its been months since I attended music class and I have no clue how a one month break stretched out this long.  As the initial frequency of practicing at home dipped the disapproving murmurs grew louder and louder and I've never managed to get away with "mood nahi hai". Traveling, surgery, lost my notation book, were some excuses that aided moi not wanting to practice -- for me music is something that i've got to feel from within me, not because my neighbour loves to hear me belt out a revati or todi. When that mood strikes its usually midnight and the whole world around me is sleeping or i'm among a huge crowd of people -- imagine belting out Tukaram's abang while walking on the road...heh, people would wonder if i'm crazy!

2009 April 6 [Monday]

summer hell

I hate (indian) summers for its heat (and the heatstroke and conjunctivitis I am recovering from), the humid and sweaty conditions, the water cuts and worse the electricity cuts.

The sane bits in this horrid summer are my family + friends + good food :)  Belated Gudi Padwa and (advance) wishes for a happy Baisakhi/Vishu.

Summer still sucks bigtime though !!!!!

2009 February 28 [Saturday]


This week had more newspaper reports that gangs of fundamentalist men are attacking women in Bangalore for wearing jeans. The DeccanHerald and Express buzz also carried the news and local groups in Bangalore sprang forward to support women but this brouhaha subsides after a few days. Frankly I dont expect passers by to do anything, much less help a stranger and I say this with prior experience in multiple situations in the past.

Well, as a mark of protest against the jean-hating facists, I am contemplating wearing jeans to the next hindu wedding I attend. So there!  But before that I thought of blogging the whole specification that I had discussed with Ashwin Mahesh (of Mapunity). At the last barcamp (BCB7) I heard that they have implemented my idea so I'm blogging about it publicly, partly in the hope that cellular service providers encourage more such applications.

Ideally facilities like these should be available akin to the '911' service that North America has, but well, we live in a country where life and safety has lost meaning so I hope someone can take the idea and convert it into a social instrument of change and safety for Indian women, instead of the greedy entities that one gets to see always -- There is only so much value to caller tunes and ringtones and its my assumption that women (and children too) would be willing to pay for a safety service app. Millions of people dont use smartphones/GPS enabled devices in India and I wanted them to be able to utilize this tool and get help in an emergency too. Here is the spec :


Pressing a combination of One or two buttons to initiate and send a distress/alert message to more than one person together with information like 'his/her location' and 'how to reach that location'.


Present day phone sets offer only single button (speed dial) feature to initiate a call to one single receiver/destination. In a situation where the person finds herself in danger/helpless, it may not be possible to use the instrument for dialing  or typing out an SMS. Hence the need for an emergency button feature. Besides, the emergency button when pressed can dial single numbers only which can be introduced by the handset provider. It is therefore necessary to introduce another emergency "2 button press" feature to initiate sending an SMS text message containing one or more telephone numbers to the Mobile service provider software running at the base station.

[ The SMS text along with the list of Cell# (max10) will be provided and stored during normal times. ]

Delivery mechanism to be built in base station software.

The software at the base station should be able to recognise this 'distress SMS', scan the message and read, select and dial mobile numbers, get the dialers location, decide destination from/to route , pass the parameters to 'XYZ software, get the route details for person in distress  and send the SMS/call to all the listed receipients in the users data file.


Current feature set in the mobile instrument hardware allows a single key to be associated with one single number store in the phone-book.

Change needed in software :-- Instead a new feature of storing and attatching a list of member (say max 10 numbers) is made and on pressing the 'hotkey' like # or * along with the 'call' key, the mobile can dial and send SMS (as explained in the XYZ paragraph above) one-by-one automatically till all the numbers stored in the list are exhausted.

Features : 

- ease of navigation
- does not need gps phone
- user creates the config say, "*key + 99"


The new feature can alert upto 10 people, including maybe the police, and help can be provided in emergency cases. The feature is extremely useful in unexpected situations like accidents, hijacking or kidnapping, rioting, dacoity, rape/assault cases, etc...


[A] MOBILE user (requester) seeking route information to reach a destination

1] Mobile user to send SMS to '999' typing the text message containing parameters like :

+ names of destination,
+ landmark,
+ street name, etc...

Mobile service provider software with 'XYZ feature' to :
- Analysis of the senders GPS location (starting point)
- analyse the destination parameter (by searching the database)
- decide their geo-spatial location on the city map,
- identifies the road name, junction name, etc... along with the route from starting point to destination.
- links traffic congestion details generated by 'transport information API' to select alternate route.
- and finally list out road names, junction names to be passed through to reach the destination.
- generate a 'reply SMS' containing the above details and transmits to requester.

SMS charge can be recovered from user and shared between Service provider and others.


0] local hospitals/shops/companies can advertise if the person passes through a locality.
1] The 'XYZ feature' can in normal situation be availed to obtain route details to reach a new destination or call/invite/give directions to a new place.


Privacy is a huge factor in both the Applications mentioned above, but since these are opt-in models, i.e. the user will have to subscribe or activate the features as they are not default services provided with a cell phone, its expected that the subscriber will know what they sign-up for.

The cellular operators would need to ensure that they dont bundle or sell these services to unscruplous advertising agencies which spam cellular service users with unwanted calls and sms -- since the approximate location of the user will be known to the operator, steps to avoid misuse  must be taken.

2008 December 7 [Sunday]


While chatting the other day I was reminded that the common thread we share in this Planet is "relationships". Our capability to refine, understand and maintain a variety of relationships makes us superior to animals who also share this human-like trait. 

However we have created an institutional art-form (or business as I was told) called marriage which for better or worse is here to stay and everyone wants to taste it once.

Hmpf... so in all this whether its getting married or staying married, hardly any attention is paid to the whole process of where the relationship is going, or not.

Quoting from Jacinta Richardson's message :

I think such a group (in fact, I think schools should also do this) should teach about relationships.  About what things make a good and successful relationship; vs what things should be considered warning signs of a bad relationship.  I know this would be controversial, but I think it's important to tell young people all of this stuff.  Not all of them will have had good examples of adult relationships to learn from.  Once you've been in a few relationships, you generally have a good idea of what works for you.  I think the following are important:

       * Your partner makes you laugh
       * Your partner can make you smile even when you're really grumpy or upset (even if the smile is only for a few moments)
       * You look forward to seeing your partner at the end of the day
       * You feel confident sharing bad news with your partner
       * You feel safe when (gently) criticising your partner's behaviour (nobody is perfect, sometimes they will mess up)
       * You feel safe when being criticised by your partner
       * Your partner stands up for you against negative comments from their friends or family and asks the offending party to refrain from such.
       * Your partner never insults you, and never criticises you in front anyone else, and neither you, them.
       * Violence of any form is not part of the relationship.
       * You are never afraid *of* your partner.

All of these should be true most of the time.  Most of these should be true all of the time.  Even in a bad week, you don't want more than 2 of these to be false at any one time.

Wow...... That kind of sums it up right there with respect, love and trust forming the foundation for the best relationship ever!

2008 December 5 [Friday]

living your dream

I must've read Randy's Last lecture a zillion times, for moving me personally and yet kept postponing this blog entry. My take-away .......

And as you get older, you may find that “enabling the dreams of others” thing is even more fun.

Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted

Loyalty is a two way street.

...now I wonder if I will ever muster the courage needed to send that email !!!

2008 November 15 [Saturday]

déjà vu

It was a feeling of déjà vu all the way. Living with a Frantic Tornado means one gets to hear a "you are not helping me!!" cry very often. How is it possible for a FT to have a yen for numbers, math and logic and yet forget keys just beats me alltogether.... Is that the complexity of the human brain and the way each individual processes information ?...i dunno but would love to decipher this one !! Meanwhile, my suggestion to tie a small bell to the keyring was shot down coldly.

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