A few writers, a few snacks and a lot of Gyan.

One of the greatest joys in life is that of meeting people with common interests (Not on facebook, thank you!). This is the exact reason why I signed up for the writing workshop by Gaurav and Nisha. First of all, thanks to Ashwan, a man of many talents, my colleague at HasGeek, for bringing the workshop to my attention.

As much I love working and being a part of HasGeek, I was constantly wondering whether the city had something else to offer me. The last two days have been wonderful and the city assured me that there were wonderful things that it had to offer. I just had to get out, open my eyes, and look.

A few writers, 9 to be specific, including yours truly (if you can call me a writer) got together at a certain open, airy and yet shady place to share their passion for writing as well as to help each other out. Gaurav and Nisha, the ones who organized and brought together all of us.

Gaurav was this calm person with a gentle voice and a wonderful smile who sat there, listening carefully to whatever was being said and discussed, to offer advice out of his long years of experience. It was evident that he had the big picture in his mind and it would be years before I could get even somewhere close.

Nisha, on the other hand, had this very outspoken attitude which got through to all of us. A very friendly person who had almost the same amount of experience as Gaurav, she was pouring out suggestions of various books to read that none of us had even heard of before. The critiques they both gave for our works were very thought out and clean that we could identify where we were doing it wrong.

In no particular order, here comes the rest of the crew.

Azeem, a good looking, well built fellow who was an avid lover of fiction. All through the two days, he kept fictionalizing whatever was thrown to him and he did a marvelous job at that too. It is always heart warming to see motivated people who yearn to achieve something and as such, I hope he soon finds his graphic designer and gets his comic book published asap.

Deepak, the plump man with a wonderful humor sense whose writings were more directed towards the little hilarious things that happen in one’s life. We almost never tend to pay attention to those little things that brings a grin on our face. He captures those moments wonderfully with his writing, at the end, leaving all of us laughing, and making us think of those little incidents in our own lives.

Ranju, the cute lady hailing from Chennai. Words flow from her fingers so smoothly and yet so meaningfully and hilariously that you feel alive listening to her read out her writing. It is admirable to see how wonderfully she establishes her thoughts through a few quick sentences. I’m never going to forget how she merged the blog writer’s and drunk guy’s story into one!

Sam (I wonder where Frodo is. Also, her real name evades me at the moment). Maybe I am wrong describing her as nervous, but her face lights up with emotion, be it laughter or tension, when she expresses her thoughts. A writer seeking to find that perfect rhythm which would entirely convey her ideas to the world, she was a lively character through both the days.

Lalana, PrintOooooo! I don’t know why I put it like that, but I just did. Hey, it is “sosaysharis” after all. Just kidding. Well, frankly, I really enjoyed listening to her talk. She had this highly animated style of saying things that you could never feel ambiguous about the feeling that she was trying to convey with her words. A lady with a really nice smile, in her writings, I felt envious of finding the one thing that I always sought. The attention to detail and the vivid descriptions which capture the imagery of a scene so beautifully. Someday, I hope to write like that.

Last but not the least, Leanne Pais! WhooHoo! “The girl who kept turning back to assure me that she knew how to drive and her brakes were working”. Man she is going to kill me for this! Oh yeah, the only girl in the world who has had the privilege of having me on her bike. He he… I could have said that she was the first girl with whom I rode on a bike but hey, I’ve just been to a writing workshop and I should write things differently. All in all, her suicidal story (or “The story about one guy committing suicide”, as she would have me put it. Lol!) and the ghost who was enjoying his own funeral really made us all stand on our toes. I hope she finishes her work and gets them published soon.

It was a fun two days. Even though I had attended the workshop with writing just fantasy stories in mind, the way they structured the course and the feedback that they gave ended up in me writing up a small, non-fiction story from my life itself.

The idea was to pick one of those embarrassing moments of your life that had a lot of potential to be written but, you were too embarrassed to write about it. I roughly drafted one such incident that I had when I was a kid and wrote it down in about 250 words, as per their request.

They made us elaborate what we had written to double the size. That was interesting because you had to elaborate the already laid out content. Trying to do that (and in my case it was pushing the limits), I realized it was possible to breathe life into your story in more than one way. Setting the scene, including those tiny bits of information that you think has no relevance at first, etc, came out.

The critiquing of this piece was done seriously. No one held back and the thoughts we shared on each others’ pieces were really helpful for the next re-write that we did. Both Gaurav and Nisha were extremely serious in pointing out the subtle tweaks that could have made the stories better.

After this round was over, we were asked to re-write the story once more. The difference that sprouted in everyone’s writing was unbelievable! I never thought I could put more description into what I had already written, but, following the advice that all of them gave me, I really did make the scene more descriptive. I will post my piece shortly so that you can see what I mean.

It was an awesome experience and extremely fun. Thanks again to Gaurav and Nisha for putting this together. I look forward to more such gatherings in the future.

Cheers guys!

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Debian – Choosing between stable, unstable and testing.

After installing Debian, one of the problems that I faced was which version to use. Version as in stable, unstable or testing. Since I personally knew a Debian developer, Praveen A, I turned to him for guidance. The reason why I got into this state was because I found out that Debian squeeze stable had python 2.6 in its repositories. However, I wanted python 2.7 for my work.

I asked him what these versions mean and how I could switch between them. He gave me the following explanation:

“Sid is where all development happens, all new packages come there. Then it moves to testing when certain requirements are satisfied. At a certain point focus is shifted to fix all bugs in testing and this is called freeze.

So main distributions are stable, testing and unstable. There are nicknames for each. Unstable is always called sid – that kid in toy story who always break things. Current stable is squeeze, testing is wheezy and next testing is jessie. When wheezy becomes stable, squeeze becomes old stable and jessie becomes testing. A copy of testing is made and it is called stable, testing is renamed and freeze is lifted for next release cycle.

So change to testing means change stable/squeeze with testing/wheezy in /etc/sources.list and do apt-get/aptitude update and dist-upgrade. If you choose wheezy, you’ll get stable when it is stable, if you choose testing, you’ll always be on testing. Same for sid as well.”

Since testing sounded stabler than unstable, I decided to go with testing. So here is how my /etc/apt/sources.list looks like:


#

# deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.5 _Squeeze_ - Official i386 CD Binary-1 20120512-13:45]/ squeeze main

# Line commented out by installer because it failed to verify:
deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main
# Line commented out by installer because it failed to verify:
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main

deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian testing main
deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian testing main

deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian testing-updates main
deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian testing-updates main

I’m still not sure whether I should add any other repositories, but as of now, this has worked well for me. Once you make the changes to the sources.list file, you have to run:

$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Prepare yourself for long hours of download. It took me almost 8 hours to have my distro upgraded. Have fun!

Fare thee well Ubuntu. The Debian reign begins! (No wonder people don’t use GNU/Linux)

After six long years, I have finally let go of Ubuntu. For three years I had stuck with 10.04, which was stable and had a really good performance. 12.04 came along and ruined it all. Bad system performance, bugs every which where and crashing almost all the time. It was an LTS release and I had decided to stick with it whatever happened. I tried my best to get along well. However, I simply could not let my old laptop take anymore punishment. I had to help him out and I did.

Debian was the answer of course. Old and mature, stable and more than everything, apt! The real question was which desktop manager to use. Gnome was out of the question. Since the time they changed the old Gnome into Gnome classic, I had hated it. Since I had heard about XFCE from quite a few people, I decided to go with it.

I just have one thing to say – No wonder why people don’t use Linux distros. There was one serious hacker in my office while I was attempting it. I went to him for advice on installing a certain package and his first question was, “Why would you do this to yourself?”. That really ticked me off into getting this thing working. Finally, I’m happy to say that I have done it.

Of course, it took me almost five days to get the thing up and running. Googling, tweaking, persistence and what not. The first issue that I faced was of course, networking. However, it was the same old story and you can read about it here.

I’ll write about the different tweaks that I did and other issues that I faced in my coming posts. Otherwise this one will go on and on.

Cheers folks! The Debian days are here.