Sunday, April 30, 2006

New Lessons

I had been to Bangalore to attend the MSAPP expo. And incidentely, the same day was also for Imagine Cup National Finals. So, on the whole there were 20 teams for MSAPP and about 12 teams for Imagine Cup. Judges arrived at 12PM and went through all the projects. The best projects received a hefty sum as cash prize. At the end of the day, the best projects selected would be showcased before the whole student and the judge audience.

MSAPP - Microsoft Academic Project Program
The best one in MSAPP was a project called iTrust. You can read more about it from Praveen's blog. His team walked away with Rs.75000/-. The runner up was an innovative project named "Computer for Blind". Based on the Braille system, they developed a simple keyboard, which can be used by the visually challenged to type out text, as we do on a normal keyboard. They developed the whole circuit and plugged it to the CPU thro' the serial port. Once the typing is done, a simple voice command saves the file and another voice command retrieves the file. They also made a simpler version of braille printer. Lots of people advised them to patent their idea. Hope they do it soon.

Imagine Cup
Three teams were selected for Imagine Cup National Finals, to present their idea over the whole audience. This time, the judges selected 2 best projects. The ideas of the 3 selected teams were brilliant. But only the other 2 could make it to the International Finals. Btw, the international finals are happening at Agra by August. The two selected projects were about a whole new computing experience for the visually challenged and for cerebral palsy affected people. Two inventions that really touched me deep were the "mouse" they had developed for cerebral palsy people. They had developed the mouse in such a way that the affected people need not grip the mouse. The second one was the navigator for the visually impaired. Moving from left to right on the screen, there will be a change in sound that will tell the person his position on the desktop. Similar things happen when he moves from top to bottom. It also announces the name of an icon when the mouse is over it. One task that the team did before the audience was that they closed laptop and cleared the recycle bin blind-folded.

Teachings of the Masters :)
Coming back to the title of the post, what had i learnt from all these teams??
1. The people with the idea should not piss off in the middle of the project. They must be as involved as others.
2. The full team should be working on every aspect of the project with the burning desire of winning.
3. The team should have decent marketing skills to market their idea.
4. And last but never the least, the team picker must ensure that all the above happens with minimum effort.

As i was returning to the room where i was staying, all these things hit me. I knew the mistakes i made. I picked up a wrong team member as part of MSAPP. My buddy Moyeen was the one who helped me all along to get it going to MSAPP as part of the top 20 projects. Thanks a lot dude! I owe you a lot.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, i had some amazing experiences and will continue to have them. Will surely share them over time. Bye!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Perils of Paid Projects

Oofff !! paid projects! They are really goddamn useless. I know, if you had got a paid project, you would have experienced it. Ok ok, if you are not aware of what im talking about, its about the final semester project for BE students, specifically CSE and IT people. Almost every friend of mine studying BE, paid to get their projects done. What they do is, they go a project center, pay Rs.3000 or more per head (if its a group project) and buy all the powerpoint presentations that we should be presenting for every review, all the source code and full documentation. Now, thats cool, atleast by the look of it.

Many people i know, who paid for such projects, got paid for paying them. First, they don't get any working knowledge of the technology on which the project is based on. Second, most of the paid projects just won't work. Third, my final review was today and people were configuring their projects on the college computers. The moment they copied all the files and executed the project, they got a "File Not Found" error. Wondering what had happened, they copied everything again and ran the project; still the same error !!!???!!!

Those idiots at the project center, wrote a small snippet of code that will erase all the files during execution if the date is on or after 2nd April 2006. Imagine all those people configuring the project and during the review, it crashes on the face of the external examiner. That is sad. Who should be blamed here? The students or the project centers??

My answer will be the students. As long as there are people who get cheated, there will be cheaters. They have got 3 full months to learn a technology and implement a decent enough project. Only when you implement a project, you will really learn a technology, its working and how you can make the current version of your project better. The external examiner today asked us to open source code of the project. He pointed at an arbitrary function and asked us to explain its working. Since we did the project on our own, we were able to answer. All those people who got paid projects are doomed for sure :( :((. They just cannot explain the source code of the project, let alone understand the technology behind it.

To all my juniors, Guys, NEVER go for paid projects. They will make your life miserable. Even if you had never learnt anything in all the 4 years, this 3 months is enough to learn and implement a decent enough project. The main purpose of projects in the last semester is to test your working knowledge. When the paid project you give is not going to give you the knowledge you want, then what is the use of paying Rs.3000 per head?? Think and look before you leap.


And sorry if i had hurt anyone's feelings. I hope this has opened the eyes of my juniors.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ah! Kids Again

Two days ago, when i was parking my bike, there were some kids playing cricket nearby. An elderly man about 45 years of age, walked to them, grabbed their bat and asked them to bowl for him. Grumbling, they bowled 2 balls. That guy being a silly sadist, smiled and asked them to bowl more. This was getting interesting. After completion of an over, the children started whining. He started laughing and 1 of the children started crying at that. They were very small kids ok...

A larger one got really pissed off, took the ball and threatened to throw at his face if he didnt leave now. That guy started laughing so much that he picked up a small stone and threw on him. Ha ha ha !! The man was flabbergasted. How could such small children throw stones at him? He was shell shocked :D. By this time, a small crowd had formed and all were laughing at him for messing with the children :). The crying child stopped crying and they all resumed their game. Never again in his life will that man make a mistake with kids.

This reminds me of a similar incident that i encountered when i was in 4th standard. There was a small general store (maliga kada) very near to my house. I used to go there and buy butter biscuit for Rs.2, which will get me 8 biscuits. One such day, the shop keeper gave me only 7. I asked him whether he ate the other one and demanded him to give me the last biscuit. He refused to do so. I got so angry that i shouted the tamil word that starts with 'p' and ends with 'l' ...he he he. He got pissed off and came with me to my house. Tell you what, i spat on him and ran inside.

Though i got some nice whacks after that, those sadists learnt the lesson. Never mess around with kids.


Voice Message

When i was at BarCamp, the first presentation was on VoiceSnap, a tool that allows you to send voice messages. There is a red mic icon on the left. Click on that to leave a voice message for me :)


Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Personal DNA Test


Came across this interesting test called "Personal DNA Test" from Yuvi's blog. I tried it and you can read about it here. You can also try it too. Follow this link.

P.S: The test judged me as a benevolent leader :)

Friday, April 14, 2006

College Day

Hi! it was my last College Day on 12th April 2006. I'm in final year of BE and i would be working in another 2 months. Therefore, instead of sitting and doing nothing in my house, i got up and went to college for the *last* college day. College Day is a 1 day intra-college cultural fest that happens annually. The event starts early in the morning and goes on until night fall. Every department pitches against one another to see who is the King of culturals. Every staff and every student is equally enthusiastic, adrenalin rushing among the veins, as their department perform the various skits and dances on stage, before the whole college.

This college day was no different. It was awesome. The day started with our chairman giving away our placement offer letters by calling each of us (individually) on stage. It then continued with the toppers list and other such acad stuff. Then he went on to give his famous english oration ;).

Now for the simple rules. Each department is given 1 hour to show their performance. Apart from this, there are 2 sets of highlight programmes, 'cos there 2 chief guests (1 in the afternoon and 1 in the evening). The MBA dept. started the show and tell you what, they did some damn crappy stuff. MCA was next and they did not waste time doing the same old dances. They did some really cool martial art shows, like 2 of them fighting with fire. Another breathtaking show was where an apple was placed over the head of a student and the hero smashed the apple with full force using a nunchaku. Well, thats called timing. CSE (my dept.) came next. The juniors did some cool stuff.

It was time for lunch and after that, the college Orchestra did an excellent job. The team under Daniel Ebenezer did a great job of reproducing the songs as they are in the movies. It was 1 hour of pure bliss listening to them :D. The highlights 1 came after this. Of all other dances, the CSE guys did an awesome! show for MJ's Dangerous. They tried their level best to equal the steps. I know it was hard work and it paid off :). One thing that was notable here was the synchronisation between all the dancers. This was not there in other dance performances. Blaaze, who sang the "B to the A to the B to the A...BABA" was the first chief guest.

Bio-tech was their splendid usual with the comic love story skit. With a guy named Kylash for narration and Varun for heroine, the whole audience broke in peels of laughter after the stunning performance. Ramakrishna Prabhu was the brain behind the script :) IT, Mechanical and ECE were ok. Then came the 2nd highlights. The cine star for this was Arya (the hero of Pattiyal). The first dance during the 2nd highlight by a group of 3rd girls was great. Most of the dance were steps from Barathanattiyam and again, the dancers maintained perfect synchronisation. It is this part of the dance; the synchronisation; that is most important. Another dance by the 2nd year CSE guys also very nice.

All in all, the EEE Tigers stole the show with their creative stuff. They recreated the whole scene of the song "Africavin katupuli" from Aalavandhan. The set the whole thing on the stage and they even reproduced an almost exact version of the original dance in the movie. They also set up fire rings through which they went through. They got the award for the "Best Creative Performance". Bio-Tech got the 1st place with CSE and MCA following them :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

BarCamp Chennai was Amazing

Hello guys, BarCamp Chennai was 1 amazing event that shook me awake. Though i dabble in most of the technologies (and thats the reason why the student champs call me Java), the presentations were all at a very different plane that we mostly tend to miss. There were many presentations on usability (Adel, Muthu, Amit from Uzanto etc...). There were presentations on PodCasting by Sujatha and Sriram (cofounders of PodBazaar). Since they are based in USA, the PodCasting presentation was done over skype. We played the slides here and heard their voice over skype :). And the best thing is that, it wasn't tested here before. It all happened perfectly.

Since this was primarily a Web 2.0 'un'conference, bosky's slides were a bit different. He built it on ajax and ran it over a browser; quite different from the usual stuff; cool dude :D. The sessions on VoiceSnap by Ganesh Padmanabhan, Search Engine Optimization by Ganesh of rupya, Making money using blogs by Amit Agarwal were particularly excellent. Vijay Anand was very optimistic of making the future of Indians brighter with his Project Infranet. The session on NPL was good. Suman, who is the brain behind NPL, told that (over lunch) programmers face the common difficulty of understanding other's coding. His NPL tends to solve it.

Tracbac is a nifty Web 2.0 product that allows us to collaborate designs based on gifs, jpegs and swf files, over the internet. Its still in beta, so you have to sign up for an invite to try it. This tool will be useful for students on collaborating symposium poster designs and flash enabled websites that we build during the symposium. Atul Chitnis was @ BarCamp. I almost got lost on his session, and understood the point from vijay's blog.

Mobile computing is an entirely different mamoth. You require a different mindset to get used to the lifestyle of using mobile devices to aid you in your everyday life. You can't expect applications to behave the way that they do in your PC. But overall, they are capable of changing, or making your life better, if you are willing to give it a try.
Part of the reason of being lost was because i was setting up my project demo on rupya's HOT!! laptop. Myself and moyeen did a presentation on our final year project (mSync). Ganesh (not the rupya version), recorded it and has uploaded it to youtube. Watch it here. Shyam became ecstasic when we said during our presentation that we used YahooPops! to retrieve email from yahoo. Btw, Shyam is one of the lead developers of YahooPops and i will be troubling him from today. I was looking for a person to explain the structure and flow of YahooPops source code and there can be none who is better than Shyam :D. My project has been blogged here, here, here, another here, yet another here etc... Amit Ranjan has a very energetic post on BarCamp. It is a MUST read.

Beyond everything else, Narain and Vijay Anand inspired me beyond compare on some ideas. They have done it unknowingly and i hug them for sharing that knowledge with me. It happened on day 2 of the barcamp, very early, before the presentations, when we were hunting for laptops on which we could test our demos. Ganesh of Rupya came to the rescue and we used his laptop for our presentations. A huge hug to you buddy :D

Overall, BarCamp Chennai left an ever-lasting memory because of the way it was conducted. I made friends quickly, which usually doesn't happen at normal commercial conferences, and those people were only more happy to share their knowledge. He he, i also shared my 2 cents :). Lots of them have done live blogging on the event. You can find them at the bottom of the BarCamp Chennai wiki. Wish i had a laptop. I also wish more such events are conducted on a regular basis.

You can find a lot of photos on Day 1 and Day 2 of the barcamp at ChennaiBlog and Flickr.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Some Surprises Today !

Today some 6 of us (including Moyeen) went to conduct HOL (Hands-on-lab) sessions at MNM engg. college. The sessions went very well and there were quite some surprise elements today.

1. This was the first college that had 1st year students present for HOLs and those guys were well informed too. Some of them had programmed in VB also (thats cool !).
2. The chief organiser for this HOL was a guy from 1st year Information Technology named Aravind. Very rarely do first year buddies take so much interest in such activities. He also took enough pains to ensure that everything was in place...Very nice dude! Hats off to you.
3. The 1st year and the 2nd year people were able to grasp the concepts faster than the 3rd year people ;) and they developed all those small applications very quickly. Some of them were a bit slow and we were very very happy to get them on track.
4. 1 student specifically mentioned my name on the feedback form saying that the "Intro session from Aswin of Jeppiaar was excellent :D". Thanks buddy!! I'm going to keep the feedback form as a souvenir.
5. My brother connected some 2 extra speakers to the existing speakers and moved them to the corners of the room to get a mini-theatre effect, he he. Its surprising 'cos i was supposed to do this today and he did it himself...(claps)...necessity is the mother of invention.
6. A video of the presentation done by Moyeen and myself, at BarCampChennai is put up on YouTube. Have a look at it. There are more videos at the BarCampChennai wiki also. Enjoy! watching them too :)

Update: Narain, CEO of 360 Interactive, invites Moyeen, Prathul and myself for a cup of tea and is ready to give tips on improving presentation skills before a geeky audience. Ooo!! and we are sooooooooooooooooooooooo glad to accept it :D.

Update 2: Gmail isn't opening today and its giving some crap error. So, im downloading all the emails through mSync (my final year project) and viewing it on my web client ;). Kinda feels nice and great(!) you know...when you are on your own, he he.

The last week had been awesome, starting the trip to bangalore for MEDC 2006 and ending with the HOL at MNM Jain Engg. College.

Man!! Life ROCKS!!!


Saturday, April 08, 2006

MEDC 2006

Hi!! guys, MEDC 2006 is over and finally im back in Chennai and blogging from the comfort of my warm cosy home :D. The 3 days were exciting and we got lot of ideas for extending our project, 1 of them being notifying people through sms if they get new mail; or if they are currently logged in to the service, then send an alert to the software. This was the first mobile and embedded conference i attended and thanks to the Directors of my college who sponsored the cost :D

As usual, after a tired morning journey to Bangalore on 3rd, Moyeen, Siva and myself had lunch at Pizza Hut. We went to microsoft office that evening cos we had to meet some champs and decide about the event and how as students, we will be organising the contests n all. A contest was supposed to happen over the span of 2 days. The give-aways was a TVS Apache, a Windows Mobile 5.0 based Pocket PC and a Windows Mobile 5.0 based Smart Phone. Ooooo!! how i loved to have the 2nd one.

[4th April 2006]
The day started with the Keynote from the VP of Asia Services. It went on for a hour and a half with lots of cool demos. The second session that i attended was on "Creating Custom Controls for Mobile Devices". This session was awesome and told how easy it was to develop complex controls specifically for Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC. The control was for sending SMS from Pocket PCs that doesn't have phone capabilities. I tried using the API but it didn't work :( . If you are 1 of those successful ones, do ping back :)

The second session was "Developing Apps using Location Based API" by Gaurav Khanna. It was awesome and whole lot of new concepts that are possible GPS was exposed in a very appealing form; which reminded me of the Tracking Dot in the "Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. The architecture of this application and how the OS implemented it was great. Latest mobile devices have support for these features without any addon. The next session by the same person was on "State Notification Broker". The idea for the project i was talking about in the first para, came from this session. Moyeen was very happy about this relevation and was scratching my shirt (he he) to tell about this ;)

Amidst all the nice sessions, there are some crap sessions also. One such was the "Windows CE Compete". Somehow, i hated the session and it was truly boring. The rest of the day was spent with the student champs from bangalore and i spent Rs.400 giving a small treat. Moyeen's elder brother is a genius and gave us lots of tips on how to improve our existing technical skills so that companies could come looking for us. Though we were washed out through the day's events, we ended up chatting with him until 3am :D

[5th April 2006]
Paramesh, Director of Developer Tools at Microsoft started off with the keynote and his VSD team gave a demo of the device emulators. The emulators are such exact representations of actual devices that if u tap the emulator real hard with the stylus, it cracks (i mean it cracks virtually and the emulator switches off, which is damn cool). Developing data enabled applications are really simple now and it is almost equivalent to desktop development. The keynote continued with the embedded team of the IDC.

The second session was by Gaurav again and it was on synchronising your app on the mobile device with the desktop equivalent application. This session concentrated more on RAPI (Remote API) that works on top of ActiveSync. RAPI is used to build custom applications that need to synchronise the desktop and mobile equivalents of the application. Next session was the one where they showed Origami. Yes!! its Origami...Oooo!! its such a nice device that, everyone will want to acquire one at first sight. Ofcourse its not as s**y as iPod but then its powerful enough to run a full featured windows xp tablet edition. It also supports multiple input devices and you can operate everything with your fingers alone. There is also a keyboard that opens sideways on the device monitor itself. Kinda cool if u have a look at it...The session on RFID was also good.

Today evening, i met Nisha, who was my online friend until now and she will also be working with me in the near future. We saw the offices where we may be working and also visited the famous Bull temple and Coffee Day, where I was treated by her friends :D.

After another treat that night for the champs, we went back to the room and hey, what a surprise !! was waiting for us :D. Moyeen's brother brought home his Apple iBook G4. In a word, the device was *amazing*. I would like to own one just for the style factor alone. The coolest part of the iBook was the cd-rom drive. There is no u-click-a-button-and-a-drive-pops-up. Theres a small hole on the side on which u insert the cd and the drive pulls in the rest of it; u needn't push it all the way into the drive :) And the ejection of the cd is so powerful that it can launch a satellite :-)

[6th April 2006]
Aha!! this was the section i was waiting to blog for. Pardon me, i was too tired yesterday. This day was the HOL (Hands-on-Lab) sessions day. 2 tracks were happening. One track was on Mobile and other was on Embedded. I wasn't into the embedded track 'cos i was busy enjoying the sessions at mobile.

The first session (as expected) was handled by Gaurav Khanna. God!! he is an amazing speaker. Anytime of the day, he is one of those uber professional guys from whom we students have to learn how to do presentations and handle bizarre questions from the audience. Since the demos were very good and would be able to do them, i also volunteered to be a proctor. Proctoring a crowd is always nice.

There were about 50 computers each running WinXP Pro and had visual studio 2005 installed on them. Each computer had enough space to house 2 people. When Gaurav started the lab, i thought i was the slowest one in the whole group and was trying my level best to keep up with him. But hey when he was repeating the same stuff for over 5 times, i thought of going around and having a look of what people were doing.

Here is the 1st line of code:
int iNewValue;
bool v=i new Value ? value: yes;

If you are able to decipher something from the 2nd line, please let me know :)) I'm almost half bald now :( trying to figure what the second line meant. That lady even called me and told there were 50 errors when trying to compile the file :((...

Another fellow had a hell of a time writing a SQL query. The query was a simple insert query to insert 3 values in a table. And guess what, he messed up the query soooooooo much that my eyes were bleeding after reading that. Even a 10 year old kid would have understood what an insert query meant. As i had a tough time explaining what an insert query is, 1 of the other champs came besides me and told me to let him suffer. Cos that damn fellow was supposed to be a professional and we were supposed to teach him only mobile apps and not SQL.. Correct he was.

Ha ha ha!! we were laughing for the whole day when Reza told a guy to create a table with 4 fields named Sno, FirstName, LastName and Age. When Reza told him that, "u can give any name for the columns", the genius gave some number as Sno column's title, his first name, his last name and his age. We all broke into laughter at the same spot itself, well i just couldn't hold it.

The whole hall were full of these people and we had sooooo much fun teaching these guys. These so called goddamned professionals are a HUGE LIABILITY to the company they work for. Paying them is useless and they should very well go back to high school and learn a few things. See, not knowing a language or technology isn't a crime but not knowing how to declare a variable and not knowing to use it, surely is. What would you think of a crazy guy who gives his age as the title for the Age field huh! ??

Meanwhile, the embedded team had a very good time learning some really cool stuff on how to compile windows embedded OS. Their people were not only good but also asked some relevant questions for doubts it seems. Anyway, i had an awesome time today with all those people at the mobile track ha ha ha!!

Moyeen's bro treated us at a hotel tonight. As it was already very late, we left for the station immediately and :(( the train was late by 2 full hours. We spent the time at a nearby hotel on a sprite.

Thats it guys!! I'm leaving for the BarCamp event that is going to happen in a few minutes from now. It promises to be very exciting and I'm presenting my final year project on day 2 along with Moyeen. Whoa!! what a week its been !!