Gearing Up for FUDCon Pune 2011: Day -2

We’re in the final stages now, and things are mostly in place:

  • Website: working fine
  • People have started arriving, cabs booked for all coming via Mumbai
    • A couple of them missed their flights, but they’re on their way with a new schedule
  • Posters, booklet, banners printed
  • Budget is under control
  • Videographing set up (but will only be available for one room)
  • Hotel and Guest House rooms ready for speakers coming in
  • Lunch and FUDPub menus finalised

And we have an overwhelming response for the conference:

  • About 50 speakers
  • About 60 sessions (talks, demos, workshops, hackfests)
  • Almost 500 registered attendees
  • About 40 volunteers from COEP

Looks like this FUDCon is set to be the biggest in terms of attendance. We’ve had to propose a draft schedule to avoid confusion with such a huge crowd. The schedule’s put up at

What’s left?

  • Adding power extension boards for classrooms and auditorium — scheduled for tomorrow afternoon
  • Checking wifi access at venue.  We have rented a few routers to boost their signals if needed (we think they’ll be needed)
  • Setting up banners around the campus — tomorrow, after classes

Hmm, amidst all this, I have to find time to ready my slides and prepre for my talks. /me runs to get it done.

First FUDCon India meeting

A few of us at the Red Hat Pune office strolled into a conf room to discuss plans and fix responsibilities for organising the FUDCon India 2011 at Pune. It was an impromptu session; we couldn’t include non-RH organisers but we kept the details to what the people present in the room have already committed to, according to the list of organizers.

We agreed on a set of action items.  There are no dates attached yet; those should be discussed and decided in the next meeting.  Some clarity needs to come from others; the first planning meeting on IRC scheduled for the 15th of July should shed light over those matters.

In addition to all that’s listed below, we might get extra sponsorship money (in addition to the FUDCon budget) from some companies.

If there’s some budget surplus, who’d like a fully-sponsored elephant ride through the city?  (Or at least to the event venue?)  Be quick to nominate yourself!

  • All: blog about the activities you’re doing. Ensure your blog is aggregated on
    • (Rahul to contact other organisers to do this) 
    • Done: Rahul sent an email to the India list.

  • Banners – Suchakra taking care of this
  • Booklet – Ankur Sinha with others.
    • Rahul to take part in this too

  • 1st priority: get international speakers to book flights ASAP. Get them to submit ‘sponsorship needed’ tickets.
  • 2nd priority: contact HR, get invitation letters for foreign delegates
  • 3rd priority: book hotels

All these 3 depend on:

  1. who’s coming?
  2. who are we sponsoring for flights/hotels (visas are self-sponsored)
  3. other guidelines — should get clarified this friday on irc meet

  • People not listed on talks page but will come:
    • Members from the Red Hat Community Architecture team
    • They will come from their own budget. Confirm if stay is also from their budget.
    • Get them and their talks listed on Wiki page.

  • T-shirt design: Rahul to contact design team
    • Done: Rahul opened a ticket
  • Videos: Ramki to contact pycon people who have offered to videograph + host videos

  • Swag: Can come from Ambassadors budget, but we could put our money if we have enough sponsorships.
  • FUDPub: Kushal to contact pubs.

  • Lunch: Should we sponsor till a cut-off? All? Only speakers + outstation delegates?
    • Only sponsor speakers + outstation delegates, have for-pay counters for everyone else. Rahul says he hasn’t seen a conf where food is free.
    • If we get lunch out of the budget, we can do better things for fudpub (starters in addition to one round of drinks) and swag (for more people)

  • Website + online voting (for barcamp): Saleem
    • Rahul to send initial mail about website to fedora advisory board.
    • Done: Rahul sent initial mail.
  • Hotels + logistics: Satya + Murty
    • Get quotes
    • Book as soon as we know number of int’l / non-Pune delegates who we are sponsoring
    • We could book for people who are staying on their own budget, eg., self-sponsored delegates / speakers. 
  • Food/catering: PJP
    • multiple options
      • boxed set
      • stall
    • explore both for two days. 3rd day will be paid for by individuals (or adjusted if budget permits).
    • Check with COEP if they can keep canteens open for all three days
  • To check with COEP – Logistics team + Rahul
    • infrastructure – wireless
    • canteens remaining open for all 3 days
    • stalls for food allowed near conf rooms?
    • set up a fedora mirror
  • Barcamp voting
    • Need to have printers, stationery at site on first day.
    • Stick schedule per room and per day on each room.
    • Possibly display schedule on projector
    • Suggestion: Have 2-3 keynotes (talks w/o parallel tracks) on first day and ask participants to vote online or on a board somewhere before breaking for lunch. This can reduce confusion.

  • Fudcons generally have 4 parallel tracks
  • Keep a schedule ready 2 days before event; minor changes allowed after voting on first day.

FUDCon APAC 2011: Pune, Nov 4-6

Jared Smith, the Fedora Project Leader, has announced the Pune bid has won for the APAC FUDCon for 2011.

If you’re planning to attend, there’s information on travel and costs on the bid page above.  A few community volunteers who will speak at the event can be sponsored, subject to budget restrictions.

Make sure to get your proposed talks or hackfests listed on the link above.  We already have a healthy list of topics; I’m eagerly looking forward to the event.

For people local to Pune, you can help organising the event. Please contact Rahul Sundaram, the event owner, or send an email to the fedora-india mailing list for details.

Japanese Tragedy

It’s a terrible tragedy that has struck Japan: first the earthquake, and then the tsunami. The earthquake shocks were handled quite well by the structures: it was a very high severity earthquake. However, the tsunami that followed later caused a lot of damage: water flooding the streets, houses floating on water, cars and ships being washed away. The most destructive effect, however, could be the

Rather than believe the media’s hype, here are a few websites that can help you track the developments at the nuclear reactors:

That is the International Atomic Energy Agency website providing updates on happenings at Japan.

That is the website by MIT’s Nuclear Science and Engineering department that’s providing updates and information on the happenings at Japan.

It’s best not to panic; the radiation levels are not high as of now but it’s safest to take precautions and help others.

PS: I’m amazed by the restraint shown by the Japanese people themselves; images show they’re swamped with water, snow and aftershocks but they’re still helping each other and there’s no looting in the streets.  Excellent! I hope we can re-get that culture in India, but it looks like we’ve moved too far away; people injured in accidents are left lying on the roads with vehicles making their way around them. Forget about taking them to the hospital, they aren’t even taken the the side of the roads.. as a visitor recently said: “Pune has lost its humanity.”


An outing after quite some time. While thinking of overnight / day-long trips, I felt some nearby destinations for the overnight trips might be overflowing with people on account of a long weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun, on account of Gandhi Jayanti on the Friday). So it was decided we’d go for a day-long trip. It could start with a visit to some fort — there are plenty around Pune — and then proceed to other places from there.

From the list of forts that we shortlisted which were within a radius of 80 kms from Pune, Vichitragarh sounded very interesting. Weird Fort. Who wouldn’t be intrigued? Its description mentioned it’s hidden behind clouds most of time so that added some curiosity as well. So it was decided we’d start at about 7:30 towards Vichitragarh.

Vichitragarh, or Rohida fort, as it’s also known, is just off Bhor near Bajarwadi. From NH4, pass the first toll gate towards Bangalore, pass the Narsapur phata that goes towards Baneshwar and look out for a turn to the right towards Bhor village. From Bhor, it’s about 10 kms towards Bajarwadi. The total distance would be about 50-60 kms from Pune.

View from the car while going towards the fort

Entering Bajarwadi makes you feel Pune isn’t so a bad place after all. Here is a place that’s removed from population and the city chaos. A very clean-looking school is the first sight of any building in Bajarwadi. For us, it was also the last. We parked the car in the open near the school and began the trek fort-wards.

View from the place we parked the car – top of the school and the hills covered with clouds

A helpful local mentioned the fort is easily-reachable and is 30 minutes away. I thought 30 minutes of climb isn’t too bad for a site that’s below clouds most the time. And an easy climb, that too.

We began our march towards the fort, with no visibility of it. There were clouds covering a lot of the landscape in front of us, but surely the beauty of the place wasn’t lost on us. I’ve spent a really long time in Pune but I’ve never seen a place more likeable than the one I was standing at that moment. It was full of greenery on either side of us. Small, nicely marked farms towards the slopes of the wide hills which we were now climbing. The hills themselves were full of life. Shrubs, and goats and cows and oxen grazing on them.

Bambi mentioned the view you get here is the view you get everywhere in Kerala. I agree. Beautiful slopes, Extremely green hills staring at us and clouds to welcome us to our summit.

What started as a gentle walk towards the clouds soon started morphing into negotiating a ghat section on foot. As we walked further, we realised we were going atop not directly, but via a series of curvy paths. Perhaps that explains the ‘easy’ part of the climb. Whenever we looked back, we could see we were gradually passing small hills. We were going farther away from the school — and also leaving it way below under us.

Some helpful people have marked rocks and trees with arrows to guide people to the fort from what we guessed would be the path of least hardship. Without the arrows, one would soon be lost in the winds and the trees. Not to mention all the hills that dot the landscape.

It looked like a perfect day to go on such a trek, too. Cloudy — no sunshine to sap our energy and not rainy — to ensure we didn’t slip while negotiating the ghats.

But it was windy. Wind strong enough to make a person sway. However, sitting on lush grass and watching the grass dance away is a delight. A delight that can make one think of not going back and be provided with a laptop and broadband connection. The farms below would provide for the food and a small hut some shelter. Funny how the basic necessities of life have been so accommodating to indulge in the new additions.

Our “trek” was more of a leisurely stroll with a few hardships. Hardships hard enough to make some wonder if we should leave the fort alone (which, after one and a half hours of climbing, was no where to be seen) and just return from whatever percentage of our journey had so far been. The clouds have a way of obscuring details. No wonder the met department finds it difficult to predict what they claim they can predict. Anyhow, not wanting to think of the retreat, I was adamant on reaching “there” and also explaining to the troupe, by way of reason, that it couldn’t be much farther away if we went by the gent’s estimate of 30 minutes to the top.

It finally seemed we were getting somewhere — or at least someone else was getting at where we were — for we heard some voices. In about 2 minutes’ time, we could also see the people. They mentioned the fort must be 10 minutes away so there was some added sense of relief. Advice to not look at the climbing-down or rather slipping-down party was good indeed and we continued onward. Everyone had a general feeling of the descent not being as easy because of the water on the rocks and the party’s efforts to stay upright weren’t encouraging visuals.

We could by now see the faint outline of the fort walls and it was but natural to have experienced a sense of an achievement.

The majestic doors of the fort welcomed us in. A few steps further up and we were in front of an informative board confirming that we were at Vichitragarh.

The board says

The fort’s entrance is shaped like a cow’s face and a picture of Ganesh at its head is unrecognisable now.

To the right of the second entrance is an eye-catching 3x3m. water tank.

The third entrance, made of stones and which is closed forever, has impressions to either side of it. To the left is some text in the Devnagari script and to the right is the text in Persian. (Some words in the Devnagri script read ‘Hazrat Sultana… Mudpakshala…’)

To the west of the temple are a few water tanks… of which 3 are connected…

The Fort’s history
This ancient fort…

Bandal refused Shivaji’s offer to fight for Swaraj.. and hence Shivaji attacked Rohida.

Some of the text is illegible because of the rust.

A map shows some of the other forts that are visible from Vichitragarh (or Vichitragad). Sinhagad to the North, Purandhar to the East, Raireshwar to the South, Kenjavgad and Kamalgad
to the South-West and Rajgad and Torna to the North-West.

As for us, we couldn’t even see 10 ft in front of us thanks to the heavy fog / cloud cover.

There’s also a mention of the expanse of the fort: 5 hectares.

Once safely up at the fort, we sighted a nice semi-circular sitting area and immediately took to the throne. I was pretty impressed seeing a solar panel assembly which fed energy into a lamp. The government does do some good some of the time, I thought.

A while later, we heard sounds of a bell. Anticipating a person selling kulfis would have been unwise but one can’t stop thinking of such possibilities when the bell rings such. A man casually strolled towards us a short while after and explained it was him offering prayers at the temple, instantly melting any more thoughts of kulfis.

He mentioned he’s the keeper of the fort, with the authorities having felt the need of appointing someone to guard the fort at day time after a heist of Rs. 50,000 solar energy equipment. Night times are guarded by closing the doors to the fort. Robbing equipment — I thought that certainly wouldn’t figure in tourists’ lists of getting tick-marks against when visiting the fort. It had to be an inside job, a job carried out by locals. The guard started getting over-friendly what with questions about where we stayed, repercussions of swine flu and taunting people who couldn’t speak Marathi. We felt that should be enough chit-chat and thought of taking a stroll around the fort.

All we could was knee-length grass swishing away and clouds obscuring any other view. It certainly is some experience watching such tall grass being shaped into contours by persistent winds.

The track we were walking on soon disappeared and for any further progress, we would’ve had to walk amidst the grass, that was depositing all its dew on our clothes. The prospect of getting introduced to snakes taking their siesta wasn’t a particularly inviting one so we thought we’d skip the rest of the fort and also the temple, by way of which we’ll skip another friendly encounter with the guard, who didn’t fail to mention he’d jot down our details on a register as is the custom for tourists visiting the fort.

So off we went by the solar panel assembly; whatever remained of it, out the door, and back amidst the wet rocks and the friendly flora around. With some aprehension, we started the descent. It wasn’t raining, thankfully, but now we were well aware we’ll have to pass steep declines as well as rocks with thin films of water on them, making the descent slippery and slow.

Add to that, the arrows weren’t visible everywhere to guide us back, and when having to choose between multiple routes we went by the looks of the terrain rather than memory. A few “interesting” slopes later we were on the plains with the grass swaying exactly the way we had left it.

The blowing wind made walking down difficult too. Slight imbalance and the wind would made its effect felt.

Nevertheless, the climb down clocked at 1:30 hrs compared to the 2:00 hrs walk up. A total of 5 hours were spent for the extremely enjoyable journey up and down the Vichitragarh fort. I’m already thinking of going back with a few friends who I know will enjoy going to such an outing.

On the way back, we stopped for a short while at the Baneshwar water fall, entirely giving the temple a miss. Not much to talk about the waterfall itself, but the place around it looks like a good jungle and a separate trip there might turn up some interesting memories as well.

I’ve tried some GIMPing with these pics — the first time I’m trying that.