August 9 - International day of the indigenous people

As of today, natural resources, including habitats of several indigenous communities in India are being senselessly encroached upon by the state and state-sponsored agencies. One example is from the state of Chhattisgarh. The rivers, which have been the source of water and food for several tribal communities in the state, have been sold out to private water corporations by the state government. Once sold, the corporations prevent the indigenous tribes from using the river for any purpose.

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Good Copy, Bad Copy

The last few days have been exhausting, and expensive! Almost all the systems in my lab went down with some problem or other - be it related to RAM, hard disk or motherboard. Things came to a head when my good old server, `bhim', went down with a corrupted hard disk. I was forced to do a restructuring of the network - got new motherboards, memory,disk drives - installed Debian Etch on all machines. Things are somewhat `stable' now.

I have just now finished watching the documentary Good Copy, Bad Copy, a documentary about, as the web page says, the current state of copyright and culture. Watching a film like this helps to get the audience in a frame of mind where they can better appreciate the logic of Free Software. It's fascinating to see how the digital computer and the Internet are starting to give new dimensions to creativity and culture. How can a musician live without getting money from selling CD's? The documentary takes you to Brazil, and shows you how the Tecno Brega guys do it. Go watch it NOW!

The ability to copy information at zero cost, manipulate it in an infinite number of ways digitally and share it with a global audience of millions is revolutionary. Big recording companies, studios and software houses who have grown tremendously rich doing business the `old way' (as one person in the documentary says - `doing business in the rich countries, laying out a fence and calling everyone outside it a `pirate') feel threatened by this ability of the society to create its own culture (and its own software) - the society itself becomes the biggest competitor to these megacorps.Those who are intelligent enough to sense the emerging opportunites will survive by developing new business strategies which recognises (and builds upon) the power of sharing. Others, however big they might be, will soon become irrelevant.


New batch, new setup and Monsoon ailments

PC's don't like the Monsoon - so it seems, going by the number of machines which fall `ill' during the time when God's own country is blessed with incessant rain! I am having a hard time repairing and troubleshooting the few supposedly `healthy' systems in my lab - that too at a time when new students are coming in.

I have a new gadget in my classroom - a Sony VPL ES3 LCD projector!


You can see my old Mac mini and an OpenWRT powered Linksys WRT54G in the pic.

It's always exciting to start with a new batch of students - there is always the expectation that you might `discover' a few motivated and talented guys/girls! I had a few good questions from the new batch. Here is a sample:

It's said that those students who start out looking forward to a management career switch over to the technical side under your influence. Is it true?

It seems that there are a lot of MBA aspirants in the new batch. God knows how they got so fascinated by MBA. One student was quick to point out that a B.Tech + MBA makes good `financial' sense!


Admissions open to University of Microsoft

Here is a chance for you to gain cutting edge degrees right here in India - the world's biggest, most advanced software superpower,. famous for the creation of card games, paint programs and eye-candy like Vista now announces the setting up of a MS university in the world's copy-paste capital, Bangalore. Initially, the following degrees will be offerred:

  • Advanced diploma in mis-editing with MesS Word
  • Advanced diploma in graphics, multimedia, animation and film-making with MesS Poor-Point

Later, University of MS has plans to offer graduate level courses covering topics like:

MS is in the process of charting out a detailed syllabus. It is rumoured that the Harry Potter books figure prominently in the literature for these courses which are intended to create M$ Technology Wizards who will take the Indian copy-paste industry to dizzying heights.


ATNGW100 arrives!

Which is the cheapest Single Board Computer running GNU/Linux? If LinuxDevices.com is to be believed, it is the Atmel ATNGW100 based on a processor having a brand new architecture called the AVR32.

I ordered a board from Digikey on 25th Jun - this was my first experience sourcing a part directly from a US distributor. Luckily, there were no problems at all and I got it delivered home by the local post office today - there was a duty of Rs.500.

I have a few interesting ideas to implement using my NGW100 - one or two will be for fun and one will be for profit! Keep watching this blog!

PS: Justin says Digikey has increased the price from $70 to $89


Karmarkar out of Tata's supercomputer project

The manner in which the venture was managed, says Mr Karmakar, seemed to suggest otherwise. For instance, the Tatas created tightly-bound employment contracts for the scientists working on the project, which prevented any kind of dissertation. A scientist who was on deputation from TIFR was unable to submit his thesis because of strict employment policies.

Such restrictions strike at the heart of the model of an open system that Mr Karmarkar had in mind when he took up the project. At its crux, scientific research is always a give-and-take model, he says. “When we started work on the project, we would perhaps have had to lean on other some people’s work.

So, it is incumbent on us to allow others to partake the benefits of our research, if scientific development has to take place,” he says.

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It is said that the Tata's were once a company with vision and social commitment. Where has all that gone now?.


FSF releases the GNU General Public License, version 3

Karl Berry, long-time GNU developer and Texinfo maintainer, believes that "the GPL is the fundamental license that ties the free software community together, and version 3 does an excellent job of updating the license to the present-day computing reality." Elated by the new patent clause, he bemoans software patents as "a scourge on our cooperative efforts."

Read the announcement

The GPL is indeed the foundation of the Free Software movement - without it, and an uncompromising visionary like RMS, "Linux" would have been just another technology fad. Long live the GPL!!


Your Freedom Needs Free/Libre Software

Some proprietary software is designed to restrict and attack its users. Windows Vista is a big advance in this field; the reason it requires replacement of old hardware is that the new models are designed to support unbreakable restrictions. Microsoft thus requires users to pay for shiny new shackles.

Read Your Freedom needs Free/Libre Software. by RMS.

It would be interesting to hear what M$ fans have to say about that!