November 22nd, 2006


Insignia 2006

Insignia 2006 began with a talk by Anivar on the philosophy of Free Software - the interesting fact about his talk is that most often, it examines Free Software and surrounding issues of Intellectual Property, copying etc from a wider social angle. This time, he had a set of funny (and interesting) photographs poking fun at draconian licensing policies and demonstrating why "copying" is not such a big sin as it is made out to be by the media monopolists. It's sad that people like him are not talking at FOSS.IN - every free software enthusiast should realize that there is *much* more to free software than just hacking code and having fun.

Anivar's talk was followed by Shuveb's - he talked lucidly on the history of the personal computer - unfortunately, I was unable to attend most of the talk.

anivar shuveb

cameras group

After Anivar's talk, we went around the exhibition area visiting stalls where students were displaying small (but interesting) projects. One reason why I like Insignia so much is that it gives students a chance to really *do* something on their own - I am happy to say that a lot of students were motivated to do good work!

Good work doesn't mean it has to be technically challenging; it can be something as simple as collecting information about some great mathematicians/computer scientists and displaying it on the walls, as was done by a few third semester students:


Knuth, Boole, Grace Murray Hopper, Turing ... the walls of the expo area was adorned by photographs and brief descriptions of the work done by these giants (on whose shoulders our industry stands, and cries out aloud to patent ideas as revolutionary as a `shopping cart').

A few third sem students went for something more interesting ... they learnt Python, installed it on a Nokia series 60 phone, wrote some cool programs and conducted a `mobile hacking' workshop! It was indeed good to see such excitement and motivation. This is what makes learning so much fun!

Praveen and friends had a cool demo - they made a visualization plugin for xmms - the interesting thing was that the visualization was done on an LED matrix!


I had asked a few students to do some simple stuff using stepper motors and relay coils - move the stepper using the parport, fire the relay and pick up small coins lying on the table. These kids made it look much more interesting:


Aswin and friends had GNU/Linux powered anemometer for display:


A few students took my model train and wrote some code to control it using an H-bridge and PC parport. A few others displayed PWM based motor speed control. Toy cars too were not spared - a few girls dissassembled the manual control unit of a radio controlled car, fitted some relays onto it and controlled it using the parport!

train pwm

Jins had something interesting to show, an egg plotter:


There were a few stalls displaying `antique' items ... can you pick out the motorola 68K CPU on the board?


The Free Software User's group, Thrissur guys had put up a stall at the entrance to the expo area - they were handing out freebies like Mandriva CD's - they were also doing something very important - talking to the visitors (mostly school students) about GNU/Linux and motivating them.


Enthusiastic participation by school students was the highlight of this year's Insignia.

schoolkids4 teachingkids

There were a lot of software demos as well .. OpenMosix clusters, PovRay, LyX/LaTeX ...

latex cluster

The technical part of the event concluded with Dr.Sasi Kumar giving a talk on scientific computation with GNU/Linux and Free Software tools:


I conducted a `hack-the-badge' worshop and contest, for which I had designed a small PCB using gEDA tools - that story is described elsewhere in this journal!

Bye, bye, Insignia 2006!