*** MOVED ***

NOTE: I have merged the contents of this blog with my web-site. I will not be updating this blog any more.


FOSS.IN/2006: Impressions

FOSS.IN/2006 is over. This year the event was held in the J. N. Tata Auditorium complex of IISc, Bangalore. This meant that we had much better seating arrangements and acoustics compared to last year, though some of the halls were awfully musty and for some reason the airconditioner in every hall was set to too low a temperature for my comfort. The food was much better than what was there last year and there were enough pure water dispensers to quench everyone's thirst throughout the day every day.

The scale of the event however was much smaller this year compared to last year. It was held for just three days instead of four days as in last year and there were just five simultaneous talks through the day instead of six as in last year. While many of the American hackers chose to skip the event this year due to its unfortunate overlap with the Thanksgiving weekend, I don't know what would explain the much lower turnout of Indian delegates and exhibitors.

I didn't find that many interesting talks this year so it was a bit depressing for me. In addition, there were many a glaring error in a couple of talks that I attended. Among the talks that I did like were the ones by Christof Wittig and Russell Nelson on the first day, the one by Aaron Seigo on the second day and the one by Tim Pritlove on the third day.

In a talk on OpenAlchemy, I asked why anyone in India should buy an Amida Simputer when it has a bulky form factor and is more expensive than a Palm Tungsten E2 which at first blush seems to have many a desirable feature and looks far more polished. Another member of the audience asked where it stands now that the OLPC project is here. I wasn't happy with the answers provided for either of these questions.


New York, Philadelphia and Boston

In the last week of my recent US trip, Anusha and I tried to cover the cities of Philadelphia, New York and Boston. When the time for travelling between these cities is factored in, we had almost no time to see any of these cities properly. The weird policy of the hotels in the US to have check-in after 4 PM and check-out by 12 noon made the problem worse. It also didn't help that the sun used to set around 5 PM.

We spent about 2 and a half days in New York while staying in New Jersey and we still managed to visit five families of our relatives, meet Saikat and Kalpana and see some of the most famous tourist attractions in New York.

Hotel accommodation in New York, especially Manhattan, seems insanely expensive, even for the hotels with only the most basic of amenities. Ditto for car rentals and parking charges. Fortunately for us, decent hotels in New Jersey are somewhat more affordable and there are excellent public transportation options for shuttling between NJ and NYC. As a matter of fact, we stayed in a hotel in Jersey City that was a five minute walk from the Journal Square PATH train station. PATH trains were numerous and frequent throughout the day and took us into the heart of Manhattan in 20 minutes. Within New York, the excellent subway system made travelling within the city relatively painless.

Visiting the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building took half a day each because of the number of tourists and the elaborate security procedures. The view of New York City from atop the Empire State Building was very nice and the audio tour by "Tony, the cab driver" was quite useful for an utter newbie to the city. By the way, I didn't know that the Statue of Liberty was made out of copper sheets and the green colour was due to the usual patination of copper.

12x Optical Zoom is Cool

Central Park was quite impressive with its lush greenery and peace right in the middle of Manhattan. Actually it was amazing just how many parks there were in Manhattan itself. The Grand Central Station was simply awesome for a train station. The New York Public Library was fairly impressive as well. Times Square in the night was just as they show on TV and in the movies but for some reason it had just a lukewarm effect on me. The site where the twin towers of the WTC stood seemed big and eerily empty. Walking on the Brooklyn Bridge was a charming experience. It was nice walking around in Manhattan soaking in the sights of the city and gaping at the numerous skyscrapers.

We didn't get time to watch a Broadway show or visit any of the famous museums. In a city with more than 13,000 restaurants offering the most varied cuisines in the world, we were mostly so pressed for time that we used to just grab a quick bite in a fast food joint. Some day I hope to come back to this city and stay for at least a week or more.

We were not able to see much in Philadelphia due to a lack of time and Boston was only slightly better. In Boston, our misfortune was compounded by the long-term renovations being carried out at the sites of the Boston Tea Party and the Bunker Hill Monument. As if that was not enough, it was also raining persistently throughout the first half of the day we had set aside to see the city. We still managed to follow some of the Freedom Trail, see the USS Constitution and explore Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, etc.


Las Vegas

Anusha joined me on the second weekend of my recent US trip for a visit to Las Vegas along with VikGup and Pooja, who took turns to drive all the way. It took us about 10 hours each way with a break or two and that meant that we had just a little over 24 hours to spend in Vegas.

The glitz and glamour of Vegas was unlike anything I had seen before. It was particularly striking after having driven through hours of arid and dreary landscape. The sheer display of wealth and beauty has to be seen to be appreciated. It also becomes very obvious, very fast, how this city earned the moniker "Sin City".

We hopped from hotel to hotel checking out the attractions on display. It was amazing to see so much money and effort spent on recreating the landmarks of Paris, New York, Venice, etc. We didn't gamble much and I even managed to make a tiny profit. One of the most memorable part of this trip for me was watching the show "O" by Cirque du Soleil at The Bellagio.

Anusha checking out a slot machine


"Canon Rock" by Jeong-Hyun Lim ("Funtwo")

It has apparently been a rage on the Internet for some time now, but only recently have I come across the cover version of "Canon Rock" played by "Funtwo". The original version was arranged and played by "JerryC".