Linux Conference Auckland and TimVideos Sprints - Part II

Owen G. Glenn Building of University of Auckland



11th January, 2015 :

We got ourselves registered at the registration desk, as AV Volunteer. I got a very lovely swag bag and an awesome red colored Volunteer T-Shirt! Swag bag contained a nice Power Bank (huge relief these days!), Coffee Cup & Tuihana Cafe Coffee vouchers, sun screen and other useful items.
After registration, we headed towards Fisher & Paykel Auditorium for our AV Training conducted by Ryan. I must mention, I have rarely seen a person having so much energy as Ryan. He is cheerful even in most pressureful situations!! And not to mention, he has very high geek quotient! Our training was over in around 45 minutes. After that, we were free for the day! Roamed around the University campus for a bit and then decided to head back to apartment, as I was dead tired due to summer heat! Meanwhile, I don’t know how I lost my Conference Volunteer T-Shirt! Damn! I was quite saddened by losing the lovely red, penguin T-Shirt! :(



12th January, 2015 :

Conference opening today! Went to F&P auditorium at 8:30AM itself as there was a meeting scheduled for AV team. After the meeting, we to Registration desk to get T-Shirts for the day. Volunteers were supposed to wear new T-Shirts everyday due to summer. But, I managed to have only 2 T-Shirts, with one being lost. Lowest number among all volunteers! Nevermind, I went back to F&P Auditorium for the Conference Opening Ceremony. Quite liked it. After the conference, were host of talks scheduled. I was not assigned any AV duty today, instead we (myself, Ajit and Aayush) were told to sit besides others and learn how to operate the equipments. Meanwhile, myself and Ajit went to Open Radio Miniconf, were huge number of people were assembling their SDRs (Software Defined Radio). I must mention we had also had a hard time finding the location of NICAI Workshop where the Open Radio Miniconf was being conducted. But eventually, did find it with help of university students. Also, seeing us free of any volunteer duties, Mark Foster assigned us the job of enforcing Code of Conduct for the miniconf. But, that was unnecessary since there was actually no talk going, and the Code of Conduct was only applicable to a speaker when he his giving his talk. Thereafter, I attended talks on GStreamer, VLC and good documentation. Finally went to Open Radio miniconf again. A meeting was scheduled for all volunteers at 5:30PM. Became free after attending the meeting. And, thus the first day of conference ended! Returned to apartment, had rudimentary dinner and went to sleep after sometime.



Saw Carol today too! She is Program Manager at Google for Summer of Code Program. Said “Hi!” to her today and introduced myself as previous year’s GSoC participant. She was really friendly and asked if I had any questions for her. I said “Nope. I’m just too excited having met you! Forgot all my questions!” She laughed and said its Okay! Then we wished each other Good Day and parted ways.

13th January, 2015 :

Everyday, AV team had to reach F&P Auditorium at 8:30AM for meeting. This day was no unusual. Yet it was! Today was Prof. Eben Moglen’s Keynote address. After his keynote talk I was like “Wow!” for whole day! He raised thought-provoking issues and has very powerful way of communicating with his audience. I was completely immersed in his speech for the whole time he spoke! After the keynote, just as when I stepped out of the auditorium, I spotted Linus Torvalds! Yes the same guy! The Father/Creator of Linux!! Wowwww! Later that day, I did manage to get a pic with Linus! Thanks Linus so much for obliging for a pic with a huge fan! :) <3 #Honoured. He is a real nice, friendly guy. And, not to mention, is wonderfully photogenic! Infact, I may have come up as some weird behaving fan to him! :D Really Sorry if it was the case!!



After the Morning Tea, I attended talks on Astronomy and the Open Hardware Miniconf. I liked the talk on Square Kilometer Array telescope. We also had a job to move back all the AV gear from NICAI Workshop back to NOC after the conclusion of Open Hardware Miniconf, which we did. At the end, Shenki and others went for a drink at a bar. Tim told us it would be good idea for us to be there too, for socializing! Ajit and Aayush went there, I along with them, but just on the same path not same destination, as I had to go supermarket to replenish my special food provisions.
I don’t know why, but Ajit and Aayush came running from the bar. They didn’t tell what happened there, just murmuring among themselves. Anyways, I called it a day after having dinner and went to sleep.

Albert Park. Picture taken while returning back to apartment


14th January, 2015 :

After the regular AV Team meetup at 8:30AM, we signed our volunteer attendance sheets and headed back to F&P Audi for Bob Young’s Keynote address. His name is quite apt for him. Even though he is quite old, he is more energetic than me! He gave nice keynote talk, after which I went for the Morning Tea. I was assigned AV work in OGGB3 Auditorium. So most of my day was spent there. There were some nice talks there too like the one on ‘seL4’. Some were going above my head. But, the best talk without doubt was Shenki’s “FPGA killed the video capture star” :D I had the privilege of recording that talk! Wow! :) Not to mention that Ajit and myself were featured in that talk! Yay! :) Shenki’s talk was the last talk of the day. I became free after that. Ajit and Aayush went hanging out around the campus. 



We had Penguin Dinner scheduled at MOTAT today! B) The event which everyone was waiting for. There was shortage of willing volunteers for helping people board the buses heading to MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland). Since, I was free after all, I instantly agreed to volunteer in helping people board the buses. Since, this was steam-punk themed dinner, people were urged to dress in costumes and victorian gadgets. But unfortunately volunteers helping with buses including me didn’t get time to even atleast change our red volunteer T-Shirts to something casual. And we had to wait for last person to get reach MOTAT before we could go. So, we finally reached MOTAT by the last bus! Perks of being a volunteer! :D Nevermind, I reached MOTAT by ~6:30PM iirc.

Sending people to Penguin diner!

Soon, It dawned upon me that this got to be the most awesome event of the conference! MOTAT is a place for geeks! :D The ambience there overwhelms you! And add to that, people dressed in costumes. It seemed I’d reached Victorian age with all those steam engines and retro machines. I started wandering around, shamefully in my red volunteer t-shirt, which many people pointed out! Anyways, there was just one problem there, which many people faced: Acute shortage of vegetarian food and option. Infact, there was quite lengthy discussion on mailing list next day on this topic. I mostly had orange juice there and had my dinner when I returned back to apartment. Overall It was really awesome dinner! Met and socialized with many new people like Diego, Himangi, Alexandra etc. Had very funny conversations with Carl (related to FBI :D ), with Tim (related to Yak shaving :D ), Leon and Himangi. Ryan was looking dead tired today. He was under most pressure for the whole duration of conference! Also learned that Shenki was also a total fan of steam engine, like me! After some time, I returned from dinner quite early compared to others. 

Shenki, the awesome kernel hacker!
Ryan, Carl and Shenki! Awesome people!

During the bus travel while returning, I met with a gentleman sitting besides me, who was like a guru to me in the field of IC,s ASICs, FPGAs, high-speed circuit design etc. He has designed all types of ICs since 1990. You name it, he has designed it! We had very lengthy talk in which topics ranged diversely such as electronics, FPGA, Bangalore, Silicon Valley, Dangerous Prototypes, Shenzhen, Huaqiangbei Electronics Market etc etc. Interestingly, he mentioned that his Wife was born in India, and grew up here for much time. She spoke perfect Hindi! Wow! Now, that was amusing! :) He had done many awesome projects in his lifetime and now was mainly into his hobbies. Even then, his current projects are very cool. I’ve to recollect his name from his business card. Then I’ll post here. Nevertheless, he was just awesome man to me! We got off the bus at the same stop, at the end of Queen Street near Queen Wharf Ferry Bay. I said him goodbye, and went up the queen street. At least it seemed so. But, infact I had got disoriented (even with GPS and Maps! LOL) and went perpendicular to Queen Street. I quickly realized my error, asked a couple on the road for directions and they helped me get back on Queen Street! Reached my apartment, exhausted, had dinner and slept.
 


15th January, 2015 :

Usual AV Team meeting in F&P Audi then attendance at registration desk. After that, we went to F&P Auditorium. Today was something different. Instead of a keynote, there were 3 rapid talks scheduled under the name “Plenary: What the Foo?”. Speakers were Cooper Lees from Facebook, Carol Smith from Google and Mark McLoughlin from RedHat. I knew Carol quite well (read few paragraphs back). She was the Program Manager at Google for Summer of Code program. She gave a talk on Google Summer of Code program, its achievements, statistics and news about GSoC 2015 which she launched from the conference! After all speakers, there was a short Q&A session. Then, we headed for Morning Tea. I think I’ve not mentioned that Volunteers had a special room at 2nd Floor, OGGB (Owen G. Glenn Building) where food arrangements for us had been made. It was very nice with all drinks and food. Once, we had really tasty curry & rice which I relished so much. Another time, we had pizza, noodles etc. Overall it was very very nice arrangement. Vegans’ requirements were taken care of very nicely.
I was assigned OGGB3 for the whole week, so I same for today. Went there and recorded the talks. The one I liked best for the day was “Programming Considered Harmful by Dave Chinner” Even the Linus himself was present  in this talk, which made me more nervous while recording the talk. Murphy's law states "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." Yes, it did happen. The audio system of Auditorium's AV systems was horrible, so was the lapel mike. It regularly used to start distorting (or clipping). Due to this, AV guys preferred keeping volume down. Volume generally also depends on the speaker himself. But the audience liked more volume (or atleast audible volume). We AV guys had headphones so we didn’t notice at that time, volume was too low for the audience. One of them asked us to help with the volume. So I went and increased the volume. Major embarrassment when Linus himself is in the room! Sigh! But, the talk was really exceptional even though Linus didn’t agree with some points raised in the talk. This was the last talk of the day. After that, there was a PDNS(Professional Delegates Networking Session) later that night, but me and Ajit decided not to go. Aayush went there. Me and Ajit  came back to apartment, had dinner and slept. 
 
Carol giving her talk on GSoC


16th January, 2015 :

Last day of the conference! :( Fortunately to lighten my mood, there was an hour long Q&A session with Linus Torvalds today at F&P Auditorium. I can’t remember any good/striking question asked, but if you wish, the videos for all the talk and sessions at the conference are available on the Youtube channel linux.conf.au. After the Q&A session with Linus, followed by Morning Tea, I went to OGGB3 to start recording. First talk was Diego Biurrun’s “All your multimedia are belong to us”. I met him in Penguin Dinner. He is a senior libav developer. After that, was an awesome talk by Rusty Russell titled “Pettycoin: Towards 1.0” Later that day, I came to know that Rusty was the one who started the Linux.conf.au tradition with the first ever  conference in 1999, paid entirely from his credit card! Respect for him! Feel happy to have recorded his talk! After that there was another awesome talk from Olivier Bilodeau on “Advanced Linux Server-Side Threats”. He gave some awesome tips and tricks regarding that. Rest of the talks were not much interesting for my domain. At 16:25 all talks ended. Time to assemble in F&P auditorium for the Closing ceremony. It was quite emotional moment to see the conference close. But, we were happy that the conference was successfully organized! Cherie and Steve thanked everyone involved, and the baton for next year’s conference was passed to Geelong!

Stalwarts of Linux World!


After the conference closing, I hurried packed all the equipment in OGGB3 and shifted them to NOC. Today, we also had a TimVideos Group Photograph session, being our last day! Tim gave me an awesome Digilent Zybo board for playing with! It is a workhorse board! An FPGA + 2x ARM Cortex A9 cores in a single die! Wow! Thanks Tim! :)

Zybo Board from Tim! <3

After the conference I went along with Himangi to Catalyst office, since they had a post conference meet organized there. After that, we toured around. Ajit went to his relative’s home for dinner. We had an awesome time that day. I returned back to apartment by 11PM. Soon after, Tim, Ryan and Carl too returned. It was getting time for sleep. Our flight was early next morning. Tim wished us happy journey and gave us farewell. I thanked Tim again for having taken so much of his effort in helping me (and us) attend the conference and the sprints! He is a real guiding mentor everyone should have!

After farewell from Tim, we rested but didn’t sleep since waking up early is much harder than not sleeping. At 5:00AM we said goodbye to the apartment which was our home for previous two weeks. Took Airbus to Auckland International Airport, went through security, coincidentally found Shenki too there! Chatted with him for some time, then he went to board his flight. After sometime, we too boarded our flight. We arrived at Hong Kong. I parted ways with Ajit and Aayush after saying them goodbye and boarded my flight in 30 minutes. Mine was the shortest layover while returning. Flights were uneventful. Reached Delhi at around 9:00PM iirc. My father was at airport waiting for me. Finally returned home.

Finally, my awesome mentor Tim! Thank you sooo much Tim!

And, thus concluded my most exciting, wonderful and amazing journey of lifetime. The time which I will recall with nostalgia for the whole life. Adios!

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Linux Conference Auckland and TimVideos Sprints - Part I

This New Year was off to a great start! I participated in TimVideos Hackathon and volunteered for the linux.conf.au Linux Conference, Auckland. It was so awesome, memorable and wonderful experience that I *have* to share it with you!


My flight itinerary was: Departure from Delhi on 1st January, 1AM local time, arrival at Hong Kong at 9AM local time, then after 6 hour layover, final flight to Auckland at evening. I reached Auckland on the morning of 2nd January, along with Carl and Ajit. Our apartment was in “Bianco Off Queen Apartments”. We used the whole day for rest. Next morning, 3rd January, we went to supermarket to get food and daily consumption products. After having our breakfast, we headed out for sightseeing of nearby areas. Our apartment, luckily, was almost at the ideal location.

We walked along Queen Street to reach Auckland Queens Wharf. Wow! It was beautiful! :-o Even the weather was awesome and cloudy that day! We strolled along the harbour whole day till we got hungry. Then, we returned back to apartment. Another member from our Hackathon group, Aayush had also arrived by then. We all headed for a dinner, again along Queen Street. Found a shop to our liking where Carl and I ordered our food. Aayush and Ajit went to a different outlet for getting their food, which apparently hurt Carl! Meanwhile, I must say being a vegetarian is *really* *really* tough outside India. Here, I never have to worry about my food being veg/non-veg as by default its veg unless you explicitly order non-veg. And there are lots of options on vegetarian food. On the other hand, in Auckland (or probably anywhere outside India) getting quality vegetarian food is very hard. So, for the next two weeks, except few occasions, I had to mostly take food just for being alive :D. Although, I had some really great vegetarian food on some days, which I’ll be mentioning as we go. Will also mention about a great food incident!
So, coming back, after we all had dinner we spent the rest of day on our laptops. And then called a day.


 
Just for laugh: Carl missed his New Year while travelling. Technically, there was no 1st of January for him even for a second during the whole flight duration, due to timezones! Think how it may be possible! :D He was quite hurt by that! :)

 

Next day, on 4th January I and Ajit woke up early for a more rigorous sightseeing. We went to Auckland Sky Tower which was the starting point for Auckland Hop On Hop Off Explorer Bus tour. We reached there, sprinting, just in time for the 9AM bus. Tickets were $45 NDZ whole day pass. Curiously, the bus had malfunctioning AC that day, but the commentary & views from bus were nice! Our first stop was Savage memorial and Mission Bay lookout. We went to the beach and strolled there for a while. Next stop was Kelly Tarlton’s museum, which was really worth the price! Penguins (ultra-cute!), stingrays, sharks everything! It was really awesome! 


Next we went to Parnell Rose gardens, passing through an area where New Zealand is thinnest in width! Roamed and clicked pictures in Rose Gardens then waited for our bus. Summer heat was now starting to take a toll. Next stop was Holy Trinity Cathedral, after which we went to Auckland War Museum to change to Blue Circle bus. We were currently on Red Circle (click for info) bus. The blue circle bus would take us to Mount Eden, the highest point on Auckland. The view was awesome there! Only if weather wouldn’t have been hot! After that we were back at Auckland War Memorial Museum. We got off the bus and went to Winter Gardens nearby. Damn! We should have gone to this place earlier! Beautiful place it was! All colors & hues of flowers! wow! Then we raced back to Auckland War Memorial Museum the last departing bus. Bus dropped us at stop “Civic Theatre Corner”. From there, we walked up Queen street and returned to apartment, fully exhausted by summer heat, hungry and dehydrated. I had picked a take-away Indian food for myself from an outlet on Queen Street. Back in apartment, I had my food, not particularly tasty which Indian food are widely acclaimed of, but hey, in hunger one only thinks of eating and not about its taste. After having food I collapsed to bed.


Some minutes Ajit woke me up informing that Tim, my GSoC mentor, my trip organizer and in every sense, my mentor, had arrived! I went and greeted him. Ryan and David had also came along with him. They all 3 were to be in the same apartment in which Aayush was.

We quickly got ready for the planned group dinner. I realized, oops I just had a load of food when I was hungry. Thus will not end well! Anyways, I went to dinner. Tim had organized the dinner. And, the restaurant we went to also looked quite expensive. I was full, but nevertheless had orange juice there. Veg options were not good, and also pricey. I ended up not eating a part of my part. Felt great humiliation at wasting food & money. But, I couldn’t help. I was *so* full. For the whole time walking back to apartment, I felt as if I would throw up on the way itself. On way back to apartment, we spotted a supermarket. Everyone went in to buy something. I was feeling uneasy so I got the keys for apartment from Carl and walked back alone to apartment. And slept. God, sleeping made me feel so much better!
 


Next morning, 5th January, we will start our Sprint! Everyone got up in time. But, there were many equipments to be shifted to our working place. We would be working at the office of Catalyst, who were kind enough give us access to their office space & facilities, internet, drinks etc for the sprints. We shifted our equipments using a Taxi. Myself, Tim and Ajit came along in Taxi whereas others arrived on-foot. Later we came to know that, they had gone to an altogether different Catalyst office by mistake :D Apparently there are 2 Catalyst in Auckland :D
 

Day 1 was spent in unpacking and setting up our workbench. After that I had to test each of the 10 vMod-VGA Expansion boards I had brought from India, to check if they were working fine and then give them a unique serial labels. Unfortunately 2 of them turned out to erratic, and I brought them back to India to test them. After this, I got the work assigned to complete the porting of HDMI2USB Cypress firmware from Cypress toolchain to open source SDCC + fx2lib toolchain.



Day 2: Ajit was working on UART subsystem for HDMI2USB and Cypress, which would be useful in debugging. Meanwhile, I started looking at the code and structure of HDMI2USB Cypress firmware to understand it. I had to read FX2 Technical Reference Manual (TRM) to learn how it works. On actual coding front, I ported the Interface descriptor functions. Today, we also went to a local Hackerspace Tangleball and met with people there. We demoed them HDMI2USB, interacted with some interested people there and explained its working. At the end, we went to a group dinner at an Indian restaurant, which everyone seemed to like! A gentleman from Tangeball (can’t remeber his name) also joined us at dinner. 
 
Tangleball Hackerspace Tour
Intel i486 @Tangleball Hackerspace!

Day 3: By now, I had learnt quite much on how the cypress code worked. Also, TRM was very helpful in clearing all doubts. One thing I forgot to mention, my mentor Tim, he has *exceptional* practical knowledge and experience in almost every field! :-o Most often, I would seek his help in some doubts, and he would happily bootstrap/kickstart stuck problem! By the end of the day, the cypress firmware finally worked! Woohoooo!! B) (y)
 

Day 4: Joel (shenki), Michael & Leon joined us today from Adelaide for sprints! With the porting of cypress firmware to sdcc + fx2 complete, I was assigned another target [issue], to figure out mechanism for changing VID:PID of HDMI2USB as per requirement [wiki]. I had to create the necessary EEPROM file and figure commands for updating the VID:PID. I also had to figure out necessary udev rules to make the configuration and auto-upgrade of HDMI2USB firmware easier for general users. I completed the task except the udev part which is still to be done! But, first I’ll have to learn about udev rules. At the end of the day, we had another TimVideos Sprints Group Dinner planned to welcome our latest sprints participants. We went to Coco’s Cantina & Bar for dinner. They had an amazing ambience and were strictly organic! Even coke was not factory made Coca Cola, instead directly made from coca & kola plants! Wow!! Had an amazing food there, thanks to David, another pure Veggie, who help me choose food from menu! :D
 
TimVideos Sprints Group Dinner @ Coco's
TimVideos Sprints Group Dinner @ Coco's

Day 5 & 6: We were now furiously trying to debug problems in the EDID subsystem of HDMI2USB which seemed to be working erratically. We tried using frugal made logic analyser from Cypress Fx2 to see what was going on with EDID. We tried disabling EDID subsystems, that too didn’t work out. We profiled all laptops we had and made a spreadsheet to see which ones were having problems with EDID. Unfortunately, this issue is still not debugged. On night of 10th January (6th Day), we had long interactions among ourselves, with a liberal spread of “fosh ‘n’ chops”, although I had veg versions of spring rolls. We watched SpaceX rocket launch live on projector, late at night inside Catalyst office, had awesome discussions related to that and shared stories with each other. This was great bonding time for me!

Watching SpaceX Rocket Launch Live

Day 7: We had to attend a meeting and orientation for AV guys today. Also the Sprints was to end today. We packed all our equipment, said farewell to our host Catalyst and shifted all our equipment to University of Auckland using a vehicle kindly provided by Catalyst guys. Now, it was time to go into Conference mode! 

HDMI2USB EDID test setup

And , hence ended my first week in Auckland participating in TimVideos Sprints and enjoying all the time we had during Sprints! I personally enjoyed this time very much! 
 
Ryan, giving us(AV guys) training for handling AV

There were some funny incidents throughout the week. Some of us used to get regularly trapped inside washroom because we worked late(sometimes *very* late till 2AM) and the building security system disabled washroom access after 5PM :D Once, I ate a burger which contained tuna, which I realized after half eating it. Had to run to washroom to rinse my mouth with coke :D And numerous other funny incidents, which I’ll keep adding as and when I recall them!
 

Adios to Week 1 in Auckland. Moving to 2nd week in Part II ...

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