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conf.kde.in 2015

I started a new life with working at Aspiring Minds Research right after Google Summer of Code's coding period got over in late August 2014, and it has since then kept me more involved than I could imagine before. But it was a great feeling when I got an email from Shantanu in early March, reminding me to be a part of conf.kde.in 2015 in Amritapuri, Kerala. Last year I had to cancel all booked travel to DAIICT, Gandhinagar for conf.kde.in 2014 when my university scheduled exams on the conference dates, so Shantanu's mail hinted to me at a dream finally coming true. I sent a talk proposal as soon as I could, and KDE India was kind enough to accept my proposal and sponsor my travel and accomodation.

This news was positively recieved by my employer and team mates, and I couldn't have gone ahead without the kind of support I got from them. A week before the event the CTO invited me to present a mock talk as a Friday session (the whole RnD team gets together every Friday to share ideas), and I got detailed feedback for each part of the talk. I was all geared up to meet KDE India and the excited college kids at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham.

First one to meet was Somsubhra, who contributes to Krita and was a final year student at DAIICT, last year's hosts. We arrived at Trivandrum airport together, where our very hardworking host Tharun received us. We were lucky to get AC Cab for the ~100 km journey to Amritapuri. We took a detour to pick up Noufal (who was going to present the keynote the next day) and on our way back I had a lot of questions to ask about the work he did at Internet Archive and PyCon. The talk only got more interesting when during dinner, Noful started talking about his fondness towards using minimal window managers for a GUI dekstop (he said he used xmonad), the power of the command line (around which he'd give the keynote) and his interest in Calligraphy. Then I met Shantanu, Pradeepto, Harish, Tony, Pinak, Devaja, and Jigar and after quick intros with all of them, we headed to the guest house, for it had been a long day.

DAY 1

The event was flagged off by a prayer and lamp lighting (reminded me of the cultural richness of my school functions) and a formal inaugration by the senior-most of the college, who welcomed the KDE India community and invited Noful for the keynote. Noful gave the kind of keynote I had never heeard before, and he said he would break as many rules about keynotes as he could that day. He said that he:

  • "Will code live"
  • "Will go into details"
  • "Will go off KDE"

He spoke about the Unix Philosophy of doing only one thing but doing it really well; He advocated writing of programs that could talk over text streams, because that's a universal interface. He emphasized how these well written units can then be used together to solve larger problems. He played Sherlock Holmes and took off to mine a text (Moby Dick) using basic unix commands, out of which wc, unique, awk, paste, and tr were those that I hadn't used (enough) in day-to-day use. The information he extracted using just these basic tools (piped together) gave away most of the book's summary as on Wikipedia.

Next up were Pradeepto and Shantanu who spoke about the KDE India community and how it has taken form over the years. It was a nice introduction of KDE as a software compilation and not just a Desltop Environment, as the audience (which consisted more of first and second year engineering undergrads) was new to KDE. Shantanu gave a demo of cool KDE applications in action which was followed by Somsubhra's talk on Krita. This one really got the audience excited as watching videos of professional artwork being made using Krita made everybody believe that this was as much a serious business as it is a fun to use software. The questions being asked had a typical one too, "How is this different from Photoshop", and Somsubhra explained the difference between how an image creation software (Krita) has awesome brush engines vs image manipulation softwares (Photoshop, GIMP) having great filters, etc. People who asked questions got stickers! :D

Post lunch, Pinak spoke about his Season of Kde experience. His talk aimed at making people comfortable with using the tools and processes for contributing to KDE, viz. Internet Relay Chat (IRC), fetching-building-changing-building code, sending patches. This was followed by Shantanu's intro to the Qt framework. By this time, some attendees were curious enough to ask if they would get to learn something hands-on, as these were kids who had contributed before to FOSS projects in some form or the other. There was a hands-on tutorial planned in a huge lab that seated all the attendees and all speakers became mentors to help everyone build a small application using QML. Shantanu took the stage and we had a lot of fun in playing around with QML (the fun part was that I was using QML for the first time myself, and every time Shantanu gave a new task , I'd sit in a corner and try it out myself before I could go and help others). Day 1 was concluded with having made an animated car using QML (which had a box for a chasis but jazzy allow wheels that rotated) :D

A group of students were keen on starting playing with an actual KDE app, and wanted to try out Trojitá. Given that building Trojitá is rather simple, I sat down with this small group aiming to get the source and build the app. There were some glitches with missing packages on their lab's ubuntu systems (cmake, etc), but we were able to build the app, get comfortable with IRC and understand a junior job on the bug list, when we were told that we will miss dinner if we get any more late. :p

Post dinner, the KDE group went for a walk to the beach (perks of hosting the conference in a coastal location) and had a lot of fun and got to know each other much better. I was happy I could put a face to so many nicks that I saw on the IRC channels since the summer when I started working under GSoC :)

Day 2

I woke up with the realization that it was the day of my talk and I still hadn't made my slides (I can say I work best under pressure, but actually I procrastinate a little too much :p). So I joined the others by lunch time. By then Rishab had concluded his talk by demoing the game he made using QML (a minimal 2 player ping-pong that only pinged, but never ponged :p) but it was right on point on how easy it is to develop apps using QML. Devaja then gave a tour of KDE Projects (she calls them planets of the Galaxy). It was great to have her as she spoke about the Promo team, writing dot stories and helping in localization of KDE software. She introduced these ways of contributing, which are much different from the experience the rest of us (mostly) carried, i.e. contributing through code. Next was Ashish Madeti, who spoke about MPRIS and demoed controlling music on the KDE Desktop using a mobile phone by volunteers in the audience. The awesome thing about Ashish is that his journey with KDE started exactly an year ago in conf.kde.in, where he was an attendee introduced to KDE. And here he was, sharing his experience as a speaker an year later :)

Next and the last talk of the conf was mine, and I was going to tell the audience 'Why, What and How to contribute to Trojitá'. The audience had been with us for a long time, so I began with thanking them and telling them they deserved a huge round of applause for patiently absorbing so much of new information given off over the last two days. The thirty or so minutes of my talk really flew by. Looking back, I really enjoyed my talk as there were people asking questions in the middle as well, so I was happy that the ice was broken before I presented my talk. I tried my best to get into details only where needed, but I was pleasantly surprised that many amongst the audience voted to get into details like the application's architecture. I really admire the way Trojitá is written and tried my best to explain the basics of the domain knowledge that would help any one contribute to Trojitá or appreciate it. I was happy right after the talk when while concluding, Shantanu asked the audience which KDE app they'd want to hack on, and there were kids who said Trojitá. :)

The second day ended on a light discussion amongst a smaller group consisting of organizers and speakers in the lab, where everybody pitched in with stories of community building, feedback for this conference, and resolves for future. We were given certificates and some got books too :)

The organizers were kind enough to accompany us to a trip to the Ashram to catch the sunset from the 18th floor and for the group pic. It was a lovely time at the Ashram, and Kerala is indeed god's own country. Let the pictures speak their 1k words. :)

Sinny's Set on Flickr and Anup's Set on Flickr

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