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2010 November 5 [Friday]

Google Code-In 2010

Today Google announced the list of participating organizations for Google Code-in --earlier known as GHOP, is targeting school-going teens (upper age limit is 18 years) to contribute to Free/Libre software projects. The Code-in starts on 2010-Nov-22, so do read up on all the organization's task lists and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to participate!

UPDATE: Carol had posted a longer mail to a private list, which is more informative than my two-line post :)

We’re pleased to announce the Google Code-in contest starting this 22-November-2010 and ending on 10-January-2011. This contest is modelled on the success of our pilot program, the Google Highly Open Participation Contest, that was run in 2007-08. We will again be giving 13-18 year old students around the world an opportunity to get involved with open source projects by doing tasks ranging from documentation to outreach to hands-on coding. We're hoping to get lots of women involved in this effort, so we're hoping you'll spread the word about it, or participate yourself if you are eligible.

The participating open source projects that will be serving as mentoring organizations have been chosen from past participants in Google Summer of Code for their commitment to working with younger students as well as their overall mentoring skills. The 20 organizations - twice as many as were in our pilot program - are listed on our site at http://www.google-melange.com/gci/program/accepted_orgs/google/gci2010.

The participants have a chance to earn prizes including cash and teeshirts, with 10 grand prize winners receiving a trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California for an awards ceremony. Grand Prize contest winners will be announced on 14, February, 2011.

We’re looking forward to a fun contest this year and hope you’ll consider participating yourself if you are eligible or spread the word to friends, family, and colleagues about the program.

We encourage you to join the Google Code-in contest discussion list: http://groups.google.com/group/gci-discuss and announcement list:
http://groups.google.com/group/gci-announce.

Please see our blog post: http://google-opensource.blogspot.com/2010/10/google-code-in-schools-out-codes-in.html for further details and feel free to contact me directly if you have specific questions that aren’t answered on the website: http://code.google.com/gci.

Cheers,
Carol Smith

2010 October 11 [Monday]

Extract msi archive format on Ubuntu

I was googling for some information which was only available in a .msi archive format which I could not extract directly on ubuntu. Since I didnt have windows on the machine, I could not extract it there and just copy the files over to linux.

On ubuntu, installing WINE (and trying to extract with msiexec) didnt work -- wine kept whining about it not being an executable (on linux? *g*), the source being from an untrusted source, etc...

Next, I tried p7zip -- install it with

sudo apt-get install p7zip-full

Then, change directories, and type:

7z x filename.msi

While this extracts all the files, it will still not be easily viewable nor is it usable -- windows executable dlls, bitmaps, windows installer package, microsoft cabinet archive, some icons, and other useless cruft compressed in the folder. Other than manually digging out text files for the information, there was no easy option.

The data was locked inside the database (hint, extract the cabinet archive) in the .mbd (MS Access) format. Google threw some perl modules to convert a .mbd file to .txt. BUT there was a gnome mbd-reader tool which you can easily install with

sudo apt-get install mdbtools

sudo apt-get install mdbtools-gmdb

Then, click on Applications>Office>MDB Viewer.

In Ubuntu, mdbtools includes command line tools such as mdb-export and mdb-schema and to export data from the MS Access .mdb files, extract contents from each table from each .mdb file through the shell --for which one needs to determine table names before using:

mdbtools <filename.mdb> <table name> <output_filename.txt>

mdb-export filename.mdb tblfoo

The compressed archice included among other things, files with .ocx and .tlb extensions. More googling (yay!)

TLB, a Visual Basic OLE Type Library, is a binary file containing all the type information for using procedures or classes in DLLs.

LINKS:

o. mdb-tools and postgresql script

2010 October 9 [Saturday]

Openhatch IRC meet

On the Ubuntu-Women list we get a number of women introducing themselves, listing their coding skills, wanting to contribute, etc.. Right now we simply re-direct them to the specific communities within Ubuntu -- to find a project to contribute they have to use keywords to search Launchpad.net for bugs.... search for "perl" / "python" packages, or search for a specific project of choice and squash the bugs listed there -- this does not seem like a terribly efficient way to track participation or contribute, besides being confusing and/or intimidating for someone who is new to the community and is completely un-aware of how floss communities work.

Before anyone says IRC, I should chime in that the infrastructure issues (power outages, poor bandwidth, poor tech support, etc...) in India make it that much harder to contribute. This is not true for other nations with superior basic (power, water, roads, etc..) infrastructure.

So how do we know if a contributor actually searches and finds what she wants to work on or is even comfortable working with? Does she leave because the information she came looking for was not available and/or was simply intimidated by the sheer size and vast technical scope within Ubuntu? These are unanswered questions which I have wondered about -- not knowing if we managed to retain a contributor is a grey area.

Existing members are volunteers themselves with responsibilities, making it harder to track if we are losing technical contributions because we dont know what happens after the initial guidance to a query on the list. I'd been wondering how we could narrow the scope and find technical areas where UW can collaborate with other Ubuntu teams needing help.

In essence that is the usecase: Suppose a woman lists "C/C++ and networking" or "python and AI" as her skillsets, how could we scrape information from LP and use it to channelize women to specific bugs that need squashing --the difficulty level, its upstream/downstream, etc... Could we use an API for data-mining LP for possible areas of interest and list these on our wiki-pages, or post mails to the mailing list or push them into an RSS/Atom news feed on planet.ubuntu-women.org, enabling interested folks to subscribe to the news feed.

After that I pinged Asheesh of openhatch which does something similar -- tags all the floss bug trackers for open bugs, small bite-sized bugs and the big ones too. The idea sounded interestin to him and he called for a meetup -- The meetup is on Monday, Oct11 at 9am IST on #openhatch (logged) on irc.freenode.net and its just meant to bounce off ideas iirc.

PyDojo-20101008

As per the schedule, we had the first dojo meet at CIS yesterday. Met Satish Kumar while searching for the CIS office and a helpful biker who cursed google-maps actually guided us there as we were both relying on the wrong geo-location plots on Google-maps (openstreetmap someone?)...as if the city's whimsical penchant for one-way roads was not irritating enough. There is an interesting anecdote --the biker who guided us there took us to the exact building and i asked him how he knew the place when 'CIS' didnt strike a memory chord. He promptly replied that there was a foreigner (he used the term 'white') who worked at CIS whom he has seen around town. Ah! There is something about finding your way around Indian roads, something to be said about the human touch that google-maps or other tech gadgets cannot compete with.

The CIS staff were very helpful and Royson immediately arranged refreshments and we both started off discussing what the dojo was all about -- many dojo participants around the world were nice enough to have a discussion on how they did things, what worked and didnt -- so it being the first day we had time to discuss how to structure it or not to have a structure at all, etc... In the middle of this discussion NigelB and Akshay Gandhi walked in and the discussion veered to the RHCE course he had joined. Later Nigel showed us the git graph he was working on. We had a longish discussion on git, bug trackers, communities and it was 8.45pm when we left, but not before planning to meet next week to work on nltk at 7pm same place. Join us!

I'm was multi-tasking --listening to a IE9 product pitch for html5/css3, while typing this entry, so any errors and missing information can be attributed to the much tortured greycells. </excuse>

2010 October 5 [Tuesday]

The Sparsh BPO's Intelenet way to defraud BSNL

20131012-Update: I changed the title of this blog post as I just came to know via Valorie that the term "gyp" has racist connotations.

I've been having DNS issues since last weekend and since my ISP has been happily outsourcing its customer service obligations to Sparsh India, so whenever the DNS conks off (which is once a month at the very least), I get to have interesting conversations very often.

[after our initial conversation when I've tried explaining the DNS problem, in vain.]

ME: I've tried changing the DNS to point to 208.67.222.222, saved and rebooted the router, etc... , can ping "random" server, can use IRC, etc...BUT cannot connect to some websites like "www.zareason.com", which gets redirected to "http://searchportal.information.com/?a_id=92438&domainname=www.zareason.com". Please reboot your DNS server as it does not resolve some domains properly.
CSR: Click on 'start button', click on 'internet explorer', ...
ME: Excuse me ...Sir/M'am, I told you I dont have windows on this machine. I use a Linux-based operating system so if you tell me what information you require to troubleshoot, I can check for it locally.



At this point I'm put on hold, ...CSR returns after a few minutes to ask if I can connect to 'google.com'. I answer in the affirmative and he/she proceeds to say the problem is because I use Linux and there is nothing they can do about it. Simply stunning.

Asking to speak to another person who knows "linux+networking" or a team leader results in them disconnecting your call. That isnt surprising. A Business line article says "Sparsh BPO, which is the domestic arm of Intelenet Global Services, put in a bid at Rs 1.15 a call for providing contact centre services...." -- The higher the number of calls to the BSNL toll-free numbers will result in more income for Sparsh. I'm not aware of the finer points in their SLA but the pattern I have observed is very very common. Calls are always dropped, sometimes mid-way, etc...

Sparshindia is a subsidiary of Intelenetglobal, meant to handle the pan-India BPO business. I am curious to know if Intelenet provides similar poor service to their US clients. Would a CSR disconnect an overseas call mid-way without solving the customers problem? Will they get to bill clients simply on the basis of number of calls handled without actually solving the problem.

http://www.sparshindia.com/opration_quality.html, states they monitor calls and have a good QA process. I beg to differ. If I call back and go through the whole discussion for the N'th time and insist on speaking to a TL, I'll be put on hold, and the same person pretends to be another person. Oh well, it takes more than changing voices and giving a fake name -- the 'trying too hard to fake it' bit that gives them away. Nine out of ten times the conversation has gone downhill when the CSR insists that you are having a DNS issue because you are using Linux.

https://www.zareason.com/  was also unable to connect and dig @8.8.8.8 zareason.com returns the correct IP address. While I grok that every ISP out there uses a transparent proxy to save on bandwidth. Using an anonymous proxy gives me the zareason website but what if its a site you want to order something. How can the user know or trust the site if the ISP has borked DNS which just redirects you to a phishing site?

On multiple occasions I have requested to speak to any technical person who understands "linux + networking" as the DNS issue has a simple solution -- Probably the DNS server used by the proxy is broken and its is caching incorrect data. The backend technical team (whom i've spoken to just once in so many years) can reboot the server and clear the cache. This is all it takes, all of 5 minutes to reboot the appropriate server and solve the DNS issue. BUT its easier to do a shirsasana (head-stand) than get the sparshindia agents to reboot the darn dns server.

UPDATE: I called Sparsh India yet again. This time I refused all the request to give the mobile number so the outbound process would call me. Erm...I would hold on forever until the DNS problem was solved. As of writing this, its been 2 hours that i've been talking to a TL (he claimed so), who finally booked my complaint which I checked here: 'http://bangaloretelecom.com/' --it has no details of the problem. The excuse this guy gives me is 'BSNL must have blocked the site" ...hilarious, why would bsnl want to block one site peddling computers? If it were a p0rn site that argument might atleast make sense. We retraced the steps of changing the routers WAN settings and other tasks which didnt help.

Which part of the sentence "I can access websites and surf online, only some sites like zareason dont work, reboot your DNS server and solve the problem" does a person not grok?  He even pretended to not know how to spell "cache" and i could hear his co-worker giggle in the background. So I politely told him that while he was busy 'pretending to not understand basic tech terms', he was not harassing me, rather, he came across as a dumb person with zero technical knowledge. That got his attention real quick and he didnt seem to enjoy harassing me anymore. Oh, the joys of being a sexist troll !!

At the moment it seems that Sparsh India is only interested in increasing their revenue by billing BSNL INR1.15 for each call that customers make --Not solving the problem in one phone call definitely helps Sparsh and Intelenet gain more revenue. Rebooting the server means the problem gets solved, hence less revenue.

2010 September 30 [Thursday]

Weekly Python-Dojo at Bangalore

In an IRC discussion this week, I suggested we kick-start a weekly python-dojo meet-up in Bangalore. Sunil Abraham of CIS was kind enough to donate their office space and even offered to sponsor the java (pun unintended). Thanks Sunil/CIS.

So here's the plan for weekly python-dojo sessions in Bangalore,

WHAT: Weekly python-dojo sessions in Bangalore which is inspired by dojorio (english translation) meetups in Brazil where they apply the "small acts manifesto". The idea is to create a friendly atmosphere which encourages "beginners" (...and experts and everyone in between) to share and learn with the community. Please bring your laptops/netbooks etc.. as the dojo will be hands-on where we will work on small problems that exist in FLOSS software which automatically helps us learn a lot more about our system. Folks that dont have laptops are also welcome -- atm, we cant provide machines to work on but you can watch others, ask questions, learn, and later try it out at home.

WHO can participate: ANYONE. Absolutely anyone can walk in and participate at the venue. There is no registration fee or cost (except your time and travel costs perhaps?). There is no agenda either -- please note that the environment would be similar to that of an unconference. There is no formal teaching involved. We are all learners here and you are free to ask any python-related question.

WHERE: The Centre for Internet and Society (google map link)
No. 194, 2nd 'C' Cross, Domlur 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560 071

WHEN: 7pm-8pm every Friday. We start from next week, 08Oct2010.

So if you are interested in python, dont hesitate to join us for the weekly dojo sessions and do spread the word -- dent/tweet, blog and mail your friends about the weekly dojo meetups.

PS: If anyone (women in particular) feels the evening timings are rather late for traveling please feel free to suggest a more convenient day (sat/sun?) and time <-- its not set in stone and suggestions are welcome.

2010 September 25 [Saturday]

PyCon-IN-2010

Kinda sad to see all the effort put into a complete community volunteer-driven event almost come to a standstill under the shadow of local communal politics -- the Ayodhya verdict. Given that I missed last years even for personal reasons, it seemed the Ayodhya verdict would be the roadblock this year. Not.

Today, David Goodger kicked off the second Pycon-India 2010 in Bangalore with his keynote speech while briefly dwelling on his Indian 'adventure' -- no seat-belts in the autorickshaw!? The auditorium hall echoed with laughter!  Then it was a series of talks on python 2to3, multicore programming, and many more talks .... The only irritating part during one talk was one audience member interrupting the speaker to discuss the topic/ask questions. Probably this resulted in the speaker not getting enough time to finish his talk and demo the code completely. In a 30-min talk it would be a lot nicer if the audience restricted their questions to the last few minutes *after* the speaker completes the talk.

Another interesting talk was the screen scraping talk but I'll return to my lazyshell under the pretext that the videos will probably be uploaded online in a few days. Else, you could just attend the second day of pycon coz the nicest part was good 'ol networking, old friends, meeting new ones and the barcamp style corridor chats with people. Considering that the attendees were almost 500+, the inpycon team really pulled off a community event quite successfully! Now I gotta get some sleep if I need to make it for tomorrows event!



2010 September 24 [Friday]

CFP - PyCon 2011

Call for proposals -- PyCon 2011 -- http://us.pycon.org/2011/

Proposal Due date: November 1st, 2010

PyCon is back! With a rocking new website, a great location and more Python hackers and luminaries under one roof than you could possibly shake a stick at. We've also added an "Extreme" talk track this year - no introduction, no fluff - only the pure technical meat!

PyCon 2011 will be held March 9th through the 17th, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Home of some of the best southern food you can possibly find on Earth!) The PyCon conference days will be March 11-13, preceded by two tutorial days (March 9-10), and followed by four days of development sprints (March 14-17).

PyCon 2011 is looking for proposals for the formal presentation tracks (this includes "extreme talks"). A request for proposals for poster sessions and tutorials will come separately.

Want to showcase your skills as a Python Hacker? Want to have hundreds of people see your talk on the subject of your choice? Have some hot button issue you think the community needs to address, or have some package, code or project you simply love talking about? Want to launch your master plan to take over the world with Python?

PyCon is your platform for getting the word out and teaching something new to hundreds of people, face to face.

In the past, PyCon has had a broad range of presentations, from reports on academic and commercial projects, tutorials on a broad range of subjects, and case studies. All conference speakers are volunteers and come from a myriad of backgrounds: some are new speakers, some have been speaking for years. Everyone is welcome, so bring your passion and your code! We've had some incredible past PyCons, and we're looking to you to help us top them!

Online proposal submission is open now! Proposals  will be accepted through November 10th, with acceptance notifications coming out by January 20th. To get started, please see:    <http://us.pycon.org/2011/speaker/>

For videos of talks from previous years - check out:   <http://python.mirocommunity.org/category/conferences>

For more information on "Extreme Talks" see:   <http://us.pycon.org/2011/speaker/extreme/>

We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

Please also note - registration for PyCon 2011 will also be capped at a maximum of 1,500 delegates, including speakers. When registration opens (soon), you're going to want to make sure you register early! Speakers with accepted talks will have a guaranteed slot.

Important Dates:
  * November 1st, 2010: Talk proposals due.
  * December 15th, 2010: Acceptance emails sent.
  * January 19th, 2010: Early bird registration closes.
  * March 9-10th, 2011: Tutorial days at PyCon.
  * March 11-13th, 2011: PyCon main conference.
  * March 14-17th, 2011: PyCon sprints days.

Contact Emails:
  Van Lindberg (Conference Chair) - van@python.org
  Jesse Noller (Co-Chair) - jnoller@python.org
  PyCon Organizers list: pycon-organizers@python.org

2010 September 18 [Saturday]

Gnome outreach program for women - 2010 internships

The application process for the first round of internships sponsored by the GNOME Foundation are now officially open. The dates for these internships are 2010Dec15 to 2011Mar15.


Any woman who has relevant experience and is available for a full-time internship is welcome to apply. The application deadline is 2010Oct25. As part of the application process, they are asking women to take the time to learn about the participating projects and make a contribution to the one they are interested in. These projects include ones in programming, graphic design, documentation, and marketing. For more program details, visit: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen/OutreachProgram2010


Do consider applying for the internship, signing up as a mentor, or helping spread the word by encouraging woman to apply - Blog, email, dent/tweet or download this flyer (designed by Máirín Duffy) to send the information about this internship program to your local school/college/university or hand it out at conferences. All the materials for spreading the word are here: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen/OutreachProgram2010/SpreadTheWord

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