Swaroop C H

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Memories of Linux Bangalore 2003

20 Nov 2005

The VTU letter exhorting principals to motivate students to attend foss.in is a far cry from my college days, and perhaps even farther from Kalyan's days.

I remember asking our department's Assistant HOD (I don't remember his exact designation) whether our semester laboratory internals tests could be postponed so that we can attend the 2003 Linux Bangalore... he rubbished me and shooed me away from his office.

My partner Yashwanth and myself still wanted to attend Linux Bangalore at any cost. So, on the first day, we reached our college lab early and requested our ma'am to take a look at our project early so that we can attend Linux Bangalore. It was our fortune that ShriVidya ma'am (she had contributed to GCC in the early 90's, wow!) agreed and sent us off even before the previous batch students' projects were looked at. We then got on our bikes, raced off towards IISc and had a terrific time. The Miguel-and-Nat show was the highlights of course, and I enjoyed every moment.

Later that day, we had to again rush back home and actually do our Perl/CGI project to show the next day. We had never worked on the project in the whole semester because I had already created our (erstwhile) LinCDs.com where we used to sell CDs with Linux for reasonable costs. We submitted the same as our project and it was already running live. So, we had to make some changes to make it more VTU-compatible and we were done in just a few hours.

The next day, Yashwanth was hanging out at the Yahoo! booth and I was hanging behind Miguel and Nat. Eventually, he got into Yahoo! interviews and finally joined as an intern. During his interviews, he mentioned our LinCDs.com and the interviewers were (sort of) impressed with the website and after finding out that I had written it (I used my own XML schemas and used the XML::XSLT CPAN Perl module to render the site....) and asked me to send my resume. So, I thought, sure, why not. Then, I got into the programming tests. After that, there was the programming round where I was asked to write a shell. I was happy that they gave me a problem which I actually had some clue about.

I was asked to implement program execution, tab completion and a history, and was given any choice of language (the platform had to be FreeBSD though), and about 3-4 hours of time. So, I chose Python and although they were surprised, they asked me to go ahead. I struggled for nearly 2 hours trying to get character-by-character input working! I just didn't know how. I finally asked Kalyan (who was sitting in the same cubicle as me) whether I could use the internet and he said of course. Duh! Then, in two seconds Google (yes, Google) led me to a Python Cookbook recipe which solved the problem for me. After that, it was a piece of cake to use the os.spawn method to run the commands, used os.listdir to get the directory contents for tab completion, and finally just used a list to maintain history. I was so relieved that I actually got it working.

When a different set of interviewers came to ask me about the implementation, they were surprised to know that I wrote the program in Python and even wrote a "book" on it. A funny moment was when they asked how much history I was maintaining, and I said unlimited, because the Python list can store as much as the computer's memory allows, and they didn't quite expect that, mostly because they were used to #define SIZE 100 in C++ programs written by other students.

So, that's the story of how I got into Yahoo! It's interesting how it all started with Yashwanth and myself playing around with Red Hat 7 Linux and getting interested in open source...

Why did I recollect all this today? Well, foss.in, the newly-renamed Linux Bangalore conference is just 9 days away. So, go ahead and register yourself (if you haven't already).



Rk says:

Wow..was always eager to know this part of your story. :D Since I could not wish you then, let me do it now...congrats :)

Atul Chitnis says:

The saddest thing is knowing that most students don't have a clue just how valuable knowledge of FOSS technologies and tools is, and how many doors it can open for you. Everyone sees it as some kind of "hobbyist" thing, for which they don't have time, because they have to "score" and do well in exams to get a good job.

When will people understand that no one gives you a job based on your marks, but on your demonstratable abilities?

Sudheer says:

Desperately want to be there at Foss... but unfortunate!!!
Anyways... are the podcasts going to be released ??

srid says:


Nice that you shared this story with us. Great going! How is life at Yahoo!, btw?

Avinash says:

"#define SIZE 100 in C++ programs written by other students"

If people who wrote that in *C++* got as far as the programming contest...

Ah well. you know what I mean.

Was a nice read, down the memory lane.

adarsh says:

Great job swaroop ! u're an inspiration 2 students lik us.

Sundaramurthy C says:

Great and thanks for sharing your memories. I have to thank you for your book "a byte of Python"

Sid says:

That's an impressive story Swaroop. Thanks for sharing it!

Manu says:

Atul: I think people already know you don't get jobs based on your marks, but based on your demonstrable abilities. It's just that, almost always, your marks do reflect your "demonstrable abilities"... even in VTU!

srid says:

Swaroop: I always thought it was the other way around.

Swaroop says:

@Rk: Thanks :-)

@Atul: Heh, that reminds me of another episode in college, will write about that in a separate post.

Let me give you one example of why students do not have any incentive to work on any project, let alone open source projects - there are very few companies whose recruitment procedures are actually relevant to projects. I personally know of people who were asked questions like 'What are the five uses of a tie?' in the interview and selected for the company purely on the basis of his marks. So, when the majority of jobs and people are like that, I doubt the situation is going to change.

@Sudheer: Too bad you'll not be here. There are some [efforts to podcast the talks](http://www.btbytes.com/blog/podcasting-at-fossin) but to be honest, it is a humongous effort and I wonder if it is possible to cover all the talks.

@Sridhar: Life is generally fun at Y!, there are up times and down times and right now I'm getting out of a down time.

@Avinash: Why? :lol: What should have they written instead of `#define` ? And yes, it was a trip down memory lane. The good ol' days...

@Adarsh: Thank you. Be sure to make the best of this year's foss.in to network, to talk to people, to get ideas, to get the feel of why writing code is fun, to get the feel why open source is important, especially to India, ... :-)

@Sundaramurthy: Thank you. I'm glad the book was useful for you.

@Sid: Thanks.

@Manu: What?

@Sridhar: What did you think was the other way around?

srid says:

>> What did you think was the other way around?

From what I've seen in my college days, students learn just for sake of scoring, thus they lack essential skills in development, which are NOT at all required to get good grades. That is the educational system we have in our college.

Swaroop says:

@Sridhar: Yes, true. See my comment above too.

Atul Chitnis says:


>> Let me give you one example of why students do not have any incentive to work on any project, let alone open source projects - there are very few companies whose recruitment procedures are actually relevant to projects. I personally know of people who were asked questions like ‘What are the five uses of a tie?’ in the interview and selected for the company purely on the basis of his marks. So, when the majority of jobs and people are like that, I doubt the situation is going to change.

Sid says:

I think its not just about jobs. Let's say you attempted an ambitious project in college, which you felt didn't get you much of a mileage in job interviews, I feel that you should still derive satisfaction from the fact that you have learnt some stuff you wouldn't have if you had not worked on that project at all. If you focus on the learning aspect, you'll also derive satisfaction from the fact that opening the source of your project lets others point out the things which could be done better if done differently, and gives you a chance to further improve yourself.

Swaroop says:

@Atul: You forgot to add your comment?

@Sid: That's an ideal world and you're describing an ideal student. We do not live in an ideal world, unfortunately. Majority just want a job that pays well.

Sid says:

Hmmm... my point was that if a student works on a challenging project he would definitly gain enough understanding of basic and advanced concepts from it to get himself a nice job, assuming that his performance in acads is good enough to clear the minimum gpa/percentage specified by the company he's interested in. Does that make sense to you?

Swaroop says:

@Sid: You're pretty much describing my experience. I managed to just (barely) pass the 75% marks in VTU which was a relief and a surprise, and I managed to pass the Y! interviews.

Sid says:

QED :)

Hey, I'll be at FOSS.IN'05. Let's continue the discussions there.

Atul Chitnis says:

Make sure you guys are at the FOSS in education Panel discussion at the event. I guarantee you a platform like you have never had before.

Atul Chitnis says:

@swaroop - yes my comment got chopped by your blog system - wrote a nice long one, but it all disappeared, leaving only what you see.

Swaroop says:

@Atul: The panel discussion should be interesting.

Regarding the comment chopping - I've never faced such problems with WordPress before... so don't know what's the issue.

Swaroop says:

@Sid: Sure, will look forward to meeting you in person.

Sid says:

@Atul: Yup, the panel discussion should be interesting. Also looking forward to hearing your talk "The impact of FOSS on everything".

@Swaroop: Cool... See you then!

Sid says:

I have no idea why the previous comment was posted twice :)

niara says:

Your post forgot to mention the some of the nicest people you met out there.
; )

Swaroop C H, The Dreamer » LinCDs says:

[...] Continuing the nostalgia, here are pictures of the LinCDs.com shirts that Yashwanth (it was his idea) and myself wore. [...]

Swaroop says:

@Niara: I'm trying to recollect who I met that fits that description ... :-P

Ankit Malik says:

Cool read!

Ankit says:

Hey, I am reading this again! And again, it's a cool read...even if i am reading the same thing after 3 years...awesome story...am really going through your archives today...There is stuff I couldn't understand while I was still in school, but now that I am in college, I have got a new perspective to your blog posts! So reading them again!


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