Monday, December 1, 2008

foss.in2008 - my impressions!

I was afraid to attend this 2008 edition of because of the theme - you have to contribute or should already be a contributor. I then read the FAQ and coupled with the encouraging words of Radha and Prasad, decided to go there come what may.

I was following Harald Welte's blog and due to my buying openmoko Freerunner and seeing his contribution to Openmoko, I got interested in attending his GSM workout. I really was not sure how the workout would turn out and what I could do in it. Nevertheless, I had decided to be there in the GSM workout.

Krishna, Radha and Subbu were my friends who came along and we shared similar thoughts about how we haven't even started to do anything in foss. We all felt tiny and puny!

Atul Chitnis said - This is your chance, your opportunity to do something. Start today. It kept ringing inside me and I started off following Harald's workout from there. The first session of the workout was spent in getting the necessary code, building it and setting up things. I left near the end as my laptop battery ran out and I couldn't find a place to charge it (or was it showing my lack of confidence?).
Radha attended the BeagleBoard talk by Khasim and he was all charged up. He spoke with Khasim for a long time!

Day2- met up with Harald, Shajith at the BX BoF and Harald started to tell us about what he expects. He wanted to get the acquired GSM data to show up in Wireshark. I had downloaded Wireshark sources and built it. He wanted someone to look at how Wireshark acquires packets from an non-network interface. I tried the USB interface and we got to see the packets showing up in Wireshark. Harald changed his idea of using a TUN device (I don't know what that is even now) but changed it to use a UDP packet to encapsulate the GSM data so that it can be portable. A TUN device would be Linux specific.
I started to lookup the Wireshark code and see if I could start off writing a GSM dissector. I started reading the developer's guide and started to follow the dissector section. I really felt I could contribute in this

Day3- Harald asked me how I was doing with the dissector but I did not progress much. So, he went ahead and implemented it himself. I was back to square 1. I felt like running away. But, I stayed on. The feeling of contributing in this slowly faded and I realized that there is a lot of work to do before I can get there. I have decided to pursue the GSM part since I am interested in networks/protocols. Talk is cheap, I have to show the code.
Rakesh Peter was there and was discussing GSM stuff with Harald which left me feeling completely left out. I hung in there and resolved to stay and not run away.

Day4- No GSM. Entire day was spent in the 750 seater listening to the Linux Kernel Hackers Gathering. No words can describe how it was. There were talks about filesystems, scheduler, debugging/tracing kernel code, hacking a Windows mobile device. All that left me with the feeling that there is a lot to do and this is the time to start. Every talk left me inspired. The windows mobile hacking talk by Harald left everyone speechless.

I couldn't go to the foss on the last day, nevertheless, I started digging into GSM and starting to understand something.

Krishna has bought a laptop and is raring to go. Subbu pursued the dhvani project by Santhosh Thottingal and looks like he will get involved there. He was bursting with ideas after attending the cgroups talk by Balbir Singh.

All in all, it was one tiring that left all of us inspired.
I won't say anything further because - Talk is Cheap. Show me the code. I have the sticker stuck to my laptop which shows up everytime it is opened.

I must thank the team for providing everyone the opportunity to contribute. They got the workouts idea setup and working and I believe they have some results to show. Hats off to you all team people!!! Great job.

More later.


  1. I'sorry that you felt left out due to the fact the we moved on at a higher pace :(

    However, this was sort of within the spirit of the workouts, where organizers told all workout leads that we should focus on results, not stick with the easy questions, etc.

    I understand it is a big challenge to work on the GSM protocols if you had no previous exposure to them. So don't be sad about it. It's OK, you cannot learn about wireshark plugin development and the protocols in zero time.

    If you're still interested, just read up and learn more about it. The GSM protocols are so complex and have so many messages and information fields, it will be a long time until each and every of that can be decoded in wireshark.


  2. Hi Harald,

    I guess you said it right, the workouts were in the spirit of and it was my inexperience that made me feel tiny! However, it was a real big experience for me.

    Thank you for the encouraging words! I appreciate that.