freed.in was held on 20-21 February 2009. You can find loads of pictures from freed.in on its Flickr group. As always, it was held at JNU. I arrived a tad late but found that the event hadn’t started. The official excuse for this year was ‘traffic’. At the registration desk, I found Abhishek – who was doing volunteer work for the event. Registered at the desk. Got a cool freed.in sticker which is of really high quality…and some ‘stickers’ printed on paper from Fedora which suck. Not even perforated, you need to cut them out with a scissor and then too you get only cheap stuff. Bought an ILUG-D T-shirt with a Universal Truth printed on it.
Goldwyn Rodrigues (works in software testing for Novell’s enterprise products) brought OpenSuse 11.1 DVDs for distributing; took one of those. Maybe I’ll OpenSuse 11.1 again some day in the future and will have better luck than last time I installed the same version, this time using the GNOME environment. Met @honeytech, @rajeshlalwani, @sepiaverse there. (Yes, people were tweeting live from the event. You can go through #freedin tagged tweets here.) The event started off with welcoming the ‘chief guest’…
That’s right. In the true spirit of a conference on free and open source siftware, the ‘chief guest’ at freed.in is You. Yes, you, you and you. And you too. All of you. Andrew Lynn, some professor from JNU started off talking about a project they’re spearheading called ‘Open Source Drug Discovery’ which uses idle time of computer labs in colleges across the country to analyze the stability of new molecules for drug development. (Phew, long sentence!) That was followed by a talk by Goldwyn Rodrigues on breaking into WiFi networks. Mostly about how weak WEP is as an encryption standard and how to use MAC ID spoofing + DNS forwarding to bypass authentication mechanisms on some networks. Shantanu Choudhary gave a talk on his efforts at creating an ‘offline Wikipedia‘. A lot of people kept asking him about “How will you incorporate the updates which are done on Wikipedia every minute?” I think that was completely missing the point because in places, say, like rural areas where they don’t have Internet connectivity even a static dump of Wikipedia can be a useful education resource.
JNU’s WiFi network kept logging us out every few minutes. Everyone was getting exasperated and shouting “Blistering barnacles!” before Captain Haddock came along and fixed things by logging me into the network with a four-letter password. (I dunno what it was.) It was time for lunch soon…and it was surprising that 220 people turned up to eat when there were only 100 or so people attending freed.in. Or maybe not, given that it was held at JNU. A lot of freeloaders from the JNU staff, JNU students and assorted people who’d come for other seminars pounced on the buffet before freed.in participants did. As a consequence of which attendees like Jasdeep had to go without the delicious jalebis.
Animesh Kumar (from Abhishek’s college) spoke about how they’ve utilized old Pentium III processors which their school was about to scrap for parallel computing. Senthil Kumaran showed how to make text-based ping-pong using Pygame.
Next was Krishnakant Mane, a visually challenged guy who gave a talk on ‘RPC for modular programming’. It was touching to see this guy touching typing code all by himself and then waiting for his screen-reader software to read it out to him to check if was correct. His grit truly deserved the thunderous applause he got at the end of his talk.
After that there were two presentations from Fedora representatives on some tools they’re building / already using to a) automate RPM checking process b) measure software usage statistics.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend day 2 of the event since I was going for WordCamp. Some more interesting sessions were held on day 2. More about WordCamp India later.