Monthly Archives: December 2009

How can we improve students and industry collaboration on innovative projects? (Answer & win prizes)

Update: The contest is over (but the discussion can still continue!) Abhay Patil, who judged the contest, had this comment about the contenst:

On behalf of IITB Alumni Association (Pune Chapter) – organizers of Innovations 2010 – let me thank PuneTech and it’s members for this set of insightful, passionate and well articulated responses. You literally made our day and have given us enough high quality stuff to digest before we plan the next edition of Innovations!

I will share the ‘verdict’ of the organizers with Navin shortly. You would agree that this exercise is not just a ‘competition’. We should/ would figure a way to move forward with these inputs. Thanks again!

After looking at the quality of the answers, the IITBAA(Pune) has decided to increase the number of prizes to 5, so we have 5 winners: Manish, Ruchika, Abhishek Nagaraj, and Vijay Patil. Vipul gets a special prize for the best student answer. Congratulations and thanks, your free passes are in your email.

Now for the next steps – actually implementing some of these ideas…

We are giving away two passes for Innovations 2010, worth Rs. 1000 500 each (Update: after this article appeared, Innovations appears to have dropped the ticket price down to Rs. 500), for the best answer to the problem laid out in this post. Read on for details.

Earlier today, we wrote about the Innovations 2010 event happening in Pune next Saturday, and while it is great that we have interesting innovations to showcase in events like this, it is a cause for worry that a country of a billion people cannot come up with more innovation; especially when you consider that we probably have more high IQ people than the entire population of the United States.

One of the problems, as I see it, is the lack of collaboration between our best students and Industry. We have lots of smart students wasting away in a bureaucrat controlled education system. They have time on their hands, and even motivation to work on interesting stuff (if you manage to catch them at the right stage). What they don’t have, is the experience and guidance necessary to work on the right problems. I’ve seen many bright students working on difficult, but ultimately pointless problems/projects, because nobody pointed them in the right direction.

Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune
Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune

By contrast, there are enough bright people in industry who are full of brilliant ideas, but who are too busy with their delivery schedules, and they just don’t have to time to implement and try out any of their ideas. Connecting the two sets of people is an obvious solution, that many groups of have tried without much success, for many years. There are lots of initiatives, like Peepaal Campus, projects4students , but I don’t see any of them really achieving critical mass. I’m not sure what the problem is, but I feel that one of the issues is the fact that many of these initiatives are focused on B.E. projects of 4th year engineering students – and that, in most cases, is a waste of time. By that time, most of the students have lost any interest/motivation in doing a good job of the project. Most BE projects, which are supposed to represent a year’s work for 3 to 4 people, are worthless, and could be done by a passionate/motivated student in 2 weeks. For a more detailed discussion of the problems with motivating 4th year students with industry projects, see this interesting discussion on

But, let us not give up. Cynicism is over-rated. I think we can still do something. At least in Pune, a few people getting together can make a difference.

So, here is the challenge:

Suggest a specific, detailed, implementable initiative that a few of us can start in Pune, to get students and industry to work together on innovative projects. To improve your chances of winning, give a proposal that is:

  • Specific (as opposed to general handwaving)
  • Detailed (as opposed to short one or two liners)
  • Implementable right now (as opposed to a 10-year plan)
  • Implementable by us – people like you and me (as opposed to something the Government is supposed to do for us)

Leave your proposal as a comment on this article, or you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere and leave a link (or a trackback/pingback) here. Extra credit if you’re willing to be one of the persons who will implement the suggestion! The best two entries get one Innovations pass each. Of course, you’re encouraged to enter even if you’re not interested in the Innovations pass. (In that case, please indicate that in your entry, so we can give the pass to the next best entry.) The deadline for this contest is Tuesday, 5 January, 2010, midnight, IST.

Innovations 2010: Showcasing the best science and technology in practice – Jan 9

On next Saturday, 9th January, Pune will play host to a number of innovative inventors from across the country, as part of Innovations 2010, the flagship event of the IIT-Bombay Alumni Association, Pune Chapter. This is an event that showcases some of the best science and technology innovations in India (whether they are from startups, large companies, or elsewhere), that have been implemented in practice. The innovations showcased could be in the form of processes, products or applications from varied fields such as medicine, agriculture, mechanical/electronic/chemical technology, IT products, etc. In the past, everything from solar powered pivot irrigation by a lone inventor, to integrated system for ethanol production from sorghum, by Pune’s Praj Industries, to wi-fi security by AirTight networks, to stem cell therapy for pre-eclampsia, has been featured.

Innovations is an annual conference to showcase new ideas from across the country. It is hosted by the IIT-Bombay Alumni Association, Pune Chapter
Innovations is an annual conference to showcase new ideas from across the country. It is hosted by the IIT-Bombay Alumni Association, Pune Chapter. Click on the logo for other PuneTech articles about Innovations.

In addition, the event also is a great place for “networking”, i.e. meeting a whole bunch of very interesting people in one place. About 200 to 300 people from all over the country, interested in science, technology, innovation and commercialization of the same will be there – and our experience has been that this is a rather different crowd from the usual suspects that end up in the more usual web-2.0 / proto kinds of conferences that are more normal.

Last year, we had an article about what to expect at Innovations 2009, and why we think you should attend. Most of that advice remains intact, so you should take a look at it to decide whether you’re interested.

Registrations for Innovations 2010 are open, and at Rs. 1000, it falls exactly at the borderline of PuneTech’s policy of only writing about events that are free, or don’t cost too much. What this means is that, in our editorial opinion, this event will be worth it, in spite of the price tag. (But do remember, PHPCamp, which is a free event targeted towards PHP developers, will also be big, and is on the same day. You should check that out too. (Expect a more detailed article about PHPCamp in a few days.))

PuneTech is also giving away two free passes to Innovations 2010 in a contest, so be sure to check that out.

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Pune engineer’s solar-powered crop irrigator covered by MIT Technology Review

Pune-based Padmakar Kelkar has developed a solar-powered crop irrigator that can be a huge boon for farmers in these times of failing monsoons and 14-hour rural power cuts.

I had no idea what pivot irrigation is, so I looked it up in wikipedia, and to save you the trouble, I’ve copied the relevant paragraph here:

Center-pivot irrigation (sometimes called central pivot irrigation), also called circle irrigation, is a method of crop irrigation in which equipment rotates around a pivot. Central pivot irrigation is a form of overhead (sprinkler) irrigation consisting of several segments of pipe (usually galvanized steel or aluminium) joined together and supported by trusses, mounted on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The machine moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the circle. The outside set of wheels sets the master pace for the rotation (typically once every three days). The inner sets of wheels are mounted at hubs between two segments and use angle sensors to detect when the bend at the joint exceeds a certain threshold, and thus, the wheels should be rotated to keep the segments aligned. Centre pivots are typically less than 500m in length (circle radius) with the most common size being the standard 1/4 mile machine (400 m). To achieve uniform application, centre pivots require a continuously variable emitter flow rate across the radius of the machine. Nozzle sizes are smallest at the inner spans to achieve low flow rates and increase with distance from the pivot point.

MIT’s Technology Review (India Edition) covered this a couple of weeks back (the same article also appeared as a featured innovation in DARE magazine). Kelkar’s technology was one of the featured innovations in the IITB-Alumni Association’s Innovations conference in 2008 that happens every year in Pune. (By the way, Innovations 2010 is happening in a couple of weeks – you should consider attending).

The TechReview article points out the advantages of this irrigator:

The solar panels charge the battery, and this in turn runs the machine when there is no sun. “We have run the machine 19 hours continuously without solar energy at all,” says Kelkar. The use of solar panels could be a boon for farmers in those states that get ample sunlight but not enough electricity.

Other advantages include water savings of about 30-50 percent over other pivots, zero land erosion, 30-50 percent more yield, higher return on investment, and minimum labor requirements. Compared to the drip irrigation, Kelkar’s pivot is more cost-effective. “Drip irrigation may cost around Rs 35,000 an acre, whereas my machine costs around Rs 45,000 an acre. But the cost in case of drip irrigation includes laying it out in the field every time and taking it out once it gets damaged, and you may have to spend another 15 percent every year. On a long-term basis, the cost of my machine comes out to be much less,” he adds.

Having already spent 20-25 lakhs of his own money in developing the technology, Kelkar is now looking for funding to start commercial production. One of the sources he is considering is the Government of India’s Technopreneurship Promotion Programme (TePP). (PuneTech had covered TePP about an year back.

In his efforts at finding funding, he is being helped by Pune’s Venture Center. You can see all of our coverage of Venture Center’s activities here. Thanks to @kaushikgala for tipping us. Also, you can follow MIT Technology Review’s India Edition here.

“Drupalkar” – an initiative to disseminate Drupal Love to Pune colleges

(This post gives an overview of a new initiative by the Pune Drupal Community to increase Drupal awareness amongst Pune college students. It was originally posted on by Dipen Chaudhary and is reposted here for wider dissemination.)


drupal icon, svg version
Click on the logo to see all PuneTech posts about Drupal. Image via Wikipedia

In the last pune drupal user meetup ( 26th dec, 09) we all agreed to the need of more drupal awareness as a whole and one of the ways we discussed was to tap the interest early at the student level. To this effect project code named drupalkar (having both hindi and marathi connotations) was planned in which seasoned drupal developers will donate 1 hr to a student gathering in a college to spread drupal joy/way of web development. Approach here is simple, in that 1 hr drupal developer would demo how a website can be made from scratch in 1 hour in form a interactive demo and giving out more ideas and possibilities at the end of the demo. The same would be followed in many colleges with different developers donating time with different demo’s (or maybe same, if one works out to be exceptionally good to catch attention)


Approach to reach out to students is simple, show something they can make in an hour rather than a speech/talk on why drupal, how drupal? as the talks get incoherent ( its upto the drupal developer conducting the demo session to open up for Q/A which I strongly recommend) and over the time ineffective. We would pickup models from internet and show students how to make that site in drupal and how easy web development is with drupal.


To pilot the drupalkar project we decided to pick 5 colleges (list pending and hopefully will be sorted in comments) and 5 drupal volunteers, after which we will map colleges to drupal volunteers and let the individual drupal developer run the show, with some syncing among developers over whats being demo’ed, what was the response etc. As the events would be linear we can adapt and evolve from the feedback of the initial events.

Drupal Volunteers (Drupalkar’s)

  • Dipen Chaudhary
  • Rajeev Karajgikar
  • Parsad Shirgaonkar
  • Nikhil Kale
  • Abhishek Nagar


  • PICT (TBC)
  • COEP (TBC)
  • Wadia College (TBC)
  • Narangkar (not sure of the name; TBC)
  • Symbiosis ( Abhishek to confirm)

College Coordinators

  • Arun Nair
  • Amit Karpe
  • Vipul (PICT contact)


Tentative timeline for the pilot to be executed is 5-6 weeks, which might be adapted and updated on this page for clarification.


Drupalkar currently is only for pune and maybe taken over to new cities in India by drupal evangelists else where. I am cross posting this to India group for feedback on the approach etc.

Any comments, feedback on the approach or volunteering is important for success of drupalkar, most importantly we need students and organizers to patch colleges in for the drupalkar pilot.

(Comments on this post are closed. Please comment at the original website)

4th Mentor India Internship in System Programming

For the last 2 years, KQInfoTech has been trying various experiments in trying to take the students that are output from our engineering colleges and then actually provide them with the education that the college should have been doing, and the Mentor India Internship in System Programming is one such initiative. They take on a batch of about 15 to 20 students and teach them system programming fundamentals with a very hands-on practical approach. While the students are learning, they are expected to work on actual Industry projects that KQInfoTech gets from other companies based on the reputation and vast experience of KQInfoTech’s founders (and now a track record of KQInfoTech that is slowly being built). At the end of this 1-year program, students leave with a lot of real life experience, and most of them are either absorbed by KQInfoTech or find jobs in industry at the end of the program.

Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune
Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune

The best part of this is that the students actually get paid a stipend during this period. It is unfortunate that there exist companies in Pune today which actually charge students for the internship that the students do with them. This practice is, in my opinion, despicable. But the desperation of students is such that in many cases, they end up paying. In such a scenario, even an unpaid internship starts looking attractive to students. In this context, the fact that KQInfoTech is doing a 20-person classroom style training-cum-work internship with stipends is very commendable.

This is what we wrote about KQInfoTech in one of our previous articles about them:

Pune-based KQInfoTech is an organization started by Anurag Agarwal and Anand Mitra, both of whom chucked high-paying jobs in the industry because they felt that there was a desperate need to work on the quality of students that is being churned out by our colleges. For the 2 years or so, they have been trying various experiements in education, at the engineering college level. All their experiments are based on one basic premise: students’ ability to pay should not be a deterrent – in other words, the offerings should be free for the students; KQInfoTech focuses on finding alternative ways to pay for the costs of running the course.

In January, they are starting their 4th batch, and looking for students to join this batch. The entrance exam is on 9th and 10th January. If you’re a student interested in making a career in systems programming, you definitely need to appear. For more details see the KQInfoTech website.

Pune Drupal Developers / Users Meet – 26 Dec

What: Pune Drupal Developers Meet
When: Saturday, 26 December, 4:30pm-6:30pm
Where: Richmond Ventures, C-30, Liberty Society – Phase 2, Behind Baskin Robbins Icecream, Near Pizza Hut, North Main Road, Koregoan Park, Pune.
Registration and Fees: This is a free event. No registration necessary. Please call : 9822602183 (Nikhil) / 9850504668 ( Rajeev) for more information about the meeting and directions.

Click on the image to see all PuneTech articles about Drupal. Image via Wikipedia


The Agenda for the meeting is :
– Networking of Pune’s Drupal community
– Discussion on Drupal based Social Networking sites
– Discussion on Zen theme usage.

Anyone interested in knowing more about Drupal is also invited.

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Meeting Report: Pune Rails Meetup (Dec 2009)

(This is a report of Pune Ruby on Rails meetup that happened on 12th December. This report was originally written by Gautam Rege on his blog, and is reproduced here with permission for the benefit of PuneTech readers.)

Click on the logo to find all punetech articles about Rails in Pune

It was great to be a part of the Pune Rails Meetup which was held yesterday (19th December, 2009) at ThoughtWorks, Pune. It was an idea initiated by Anthony Hsiao of Sapna Solutions which has got the Pune Rails community up on their feet. Helping him organize was a pleasure!

It was great to see almost 35 people for this meet — it was a probably more than what we expected. It was also heartening to see a good mix in the crowd – professionals in rails, students working in rails and students interested in rails – not to forget entrepreneurs who were very helpful.

Proceedings began with Vincent and _______ (fill in the gaps please — am really lousy with names) from ThinkDRY gave an excellent presentation on BlankApplication – a CMS++ that they are developing. I say CMS++ because its not just another CMS but has quite a lot of ready-to-use features that gets developers jump-started. There were interesting discussions regarding how ‘workspaces’ are managed and how its indeed easier to manage websites.

After this technical talk, I spoke next on my experience at the Lone Star Ruby Conference in Texas. I tried to keep the session interactive with the intention of telling everyone how important it is to know and use Ruby effectively while working in Rails. Dave Thomas’s references to the ‘glorious imperfection’ of Ruby did create quite a buzz. To quote a little from Dave’s talk:

name {}

This is a method which takes a block as a parameter but the following line is a method which takes a has as a parameter! A simple curly parenthesis makes all the difference!

name ( {} )

Similarly, the following line is a method m() whose result is divided by ‘n’ whose result is divided by ‘o’


but add a space between this and its a method m() which takes a regular expression as a parameter!

m /n/o

It was nice to see everyone get involved in these interactive sessions. More details about my experience at LSRC is here.

After this there was another technical talk about a multi-app architecture  that has been developed by Sapna Solutions. Anthony and Hari gave a talk on this and it was very interesting to see it work. Using opensource applications like shopify, CMS and other social networking apps to work with a shared-plugin and a single database, its possible to create a mammoth application which is easily customizable and scalable.

Hari did mention a few problems like complexity in migrations and custom routes which they currently ‘work-around’ but prefer a cleaner approach. Some good suggestions were provided by Scot from ThoughtWorks regarding databases. I suggested some meta-programing to align models. Working with git submodules and ensuring rake scripts to sync up data, this indeed seems to have a lot of potential.

There were some new entrepreneurs from ______ who have already developed a live application in Merb which they discussed and explained details of. It was good to hear about how they managed performance and scalability testing. The Q&A forum which was the next event was extremely interactive. Some of the discussions were:

Which are really great CMS in Rails?

There were some intense discussions regarding RadiantCMS, Adva and even BlankApp. The general consensus was a ‘programmable CMS’ Vs WYSIWYG. Those who prefer more of the content management prefer CMS’s like Drupal, Joomla. Those who prefer more customization via programing and code, prefer Radiant. This topic could not close and is still open for discussion.. Do comment in your views – I am a radiant fan ;)

What about testing? Cucumber, Rspec, others?

Usually its still adhoc – testing is expensive for smaller firms — so adhoc blackbox testing is what is done. I opined that cucumber and rspec ROCK! Cucumber is great for scenario testing and testing controller logic and views. Rspec is great for Direct Model Access and Cucumber can make great use of Webrat for browser testing.

In Rpsec, when do we use mocks and stubs?

It was suggested that mocks and stubs should be used when there are no ready model and code. If the code is ready, its probably just enough not to use mocks and stubs directly. Comments welcome on this!

How do you do stress testing?

Stress testing, concurrency testing and performance testing can be done using http-perf. It was interesting to note that ____ have actually done their own implementation for stress and concurrency testing. I recommended they open source it.

How are events, scheduled job and delayed jobs handled?

This was my domain :) Using delayed_job is the way to go. Following the leaders (github) and using Redis and resque would be great too but definitely not backgrounDrb or direct cron!

What project management tools do you use? Pivotal Tracker, Trac, Mingle?

Pivotal tracker suits startup needs. Mingle rocks but becomes expensive. Scott ? ;) Dhaval from TW mentioned how easy it was to co-ordinate an ‘mingle’ with their 200 strong team over distributed geographies.

Which SCM do you use? git, svn, cvs?

People have been very comfortable with git and more and more are migrating from svn to git.  It was heartening to see that nobody uses CVS :) Jaju (I have have misspelt) gave an excellent brief about how code and diffs can be squished and ‘diff’ed with another repository before the final merge and push to the master. Dhaval gave an idea about how they effectively used git for managing their 1GB source code (wow!)

Some pending questions – probably in next meet-up

  1. Which hosting service do you use and why?
  2. TDD or BDD?

Suggestions are welcome!

About the Author – Gautam Rege

Gautam Rege is the co-founder and managing director at Josh Software, Pune.

Gautam has an engineering degree in Computer Science from PICT, Pune. In his 9 years in the IT industry, he has worked in companies like Symantec, Zensar and Cybage before starting Josh 2 years ago.

Gautam’s technical knowledge spans from various languages like C, C++, Perl, python, Java to software expertize in various industry domains like Finance, Manufacturing, Insurance and even advertising.

As with the company name, Gautam has a lot of ‘josh’ about new and emerging technologies. His company is one of the few which works almost exclusively in Ruby on Rails, the cutting edge web technology that has taken the industry by storm.

(Comments on this article are closed. Please comment at the location of the original article)

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Internship Mela: Get full-time interns (for 6 months) for Pune companies – 23 Dec

What: Internship Mela, to allow companies to find students for 6-month internships
When: Wednesday, 23rd December, 10am to 1pm
Where: Institute of Management and Career Courses (IMCC) campus, 131 Mayur Colony, Kothrud, Pune 411029.
Registration and Fees: This is a free event. Students do not need to register. Companies must register here
Eligibility (Students): Any student who has read all the instructions given in here is eligible to apply. Student must be studying for a computer science degree, and is interested in a full-time, 6-month, internship with a Pune company can attend. Just show up at the venue at 9:30am.
Eligibility (Companies): Only Pune companies are eligible. You must register at the Internship Mela Registration page


Students who are studying for MCS/MCA/M.Sc. ( Computer Science ) typically have to do internship (Industrial Training) with some company for 6-months (basically their last semester of college) as a part of their degree requirements. The students are expected to work full time for the company during this period, and are typically paid a stiped by the company. At the end of this period, the company is expected to give a certificate of completion of the internship, and the student are expected to submit a project report and give a presentation in their college. These students have usually completed all the other requirements of their degree, so they do have all the knowledge that a MSc/MCA/MCS degree holder is expected to have – specifically, exposure to .NET, Java, PHP & Linux etc. Internships for a number of colleges will start in January 2010 (to continue until June 2010), so December 2009 is the right time to get students.
And other side we have lots of IT startup companies who are looking for best talent. So we are organizing an “Internship Mela” where companies that are offering internships can give a short presentation (3 minutes) to the students, and then students can apply to the companies they find most interesting.

Internship Mela – 23 December 2009

‘Internship Mela’ will be held Wednesday, 23st December, 2009, in the morning, at Institute of Management and Career Courses (IMCC) campus, 131 Mayur Colony, Kothrud, Pune 411029.The details are as follows:

  • All companies who would like to offer full-time 6-month internships are requested to register at the Internship Mela registration page
  • All students, from any college in Pune (or outside), who are doing a Computer Science degree course and who are interested in doing a 6-month internship starting in January 2010 are open. No registration is required. Just come to IMCC at 9:30am on 23rd December, 2009.
  • Company representatives are requested to be at the venue at 9:45am.
  • From 10am to 1pm: Each company gets to present to the engineers for 3 minutes. Give a quick introduction of yourself, your company, what projects you plan to do with the interns, what kind of skills you are looking for, and whether you will be paying a stipend or not, and your contact info.
  • In the afternoon, smaller rooms will be made available to companies who are interesting in meeting students right away. (Alternatively, companies who don’t want to stick around in the afternoon can ask the students to contact them later over email/phone.)

The idea is that this is a marketplace designed to allow companies to find students quickly.

To register as a company offering internships, please follow these steps

  • Join the techstart mailing list (click on “Join this group” link on the right side of the page)
  • After joining, go to the Internship Mela Registration Page and add yourself to the list there. (Click on the “Edit this page” button, then add your info just above the last line in the list.)
  • Come to IMCC at 9:45am on 23rd December, 2009. Prepare a 3-minute talk that can help the potential interns decide whether they are interested in your project. Be as specific as possible. (Note: there will be no slides/projector)

Students interested in this program – just show up at the venue at 9:30am (see details above). No registration required. Bring multiple copies of your resume.

CSI Pune Seminar: Data Movement – Evolution & Challenges – Dec 21

What: CSI Pune lecture on “Data Movement – Evolution and Challenges” By:Biswa Bhattacharya
When: Monday Dec 21st, 2009, 6pm
Where: Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Atur Centre, Model Colony. Map.
Registration and Fees: Free for CSI members and students, Rs 100 for others, Rs. 50 for SICSR staff. Register here and pay on the spot.

Click on the logo to see all PuneTech posts about CSI Pune
Click on the logo to see all PuneTech posts about CSI Pune


The following topics will be covered:

  • Data Warehouse – Introduction
  • Different approaches of Data Warehouse Architecture – Pros and Cons
    • Star
    • Snowflake
    • Hybrid
  • Data Warehouse Components
    • Staging
    • ETL (Extract Transform and Load)
    • Reports and Analytics
  • Data Warehouse Implementation â Approach
  • Best Practices and Lessons Learnt
  • Q&A

About the Speaker – Biswa Bhattacharya

Over Twenty years of expertise in Information Technology with proven success in creating strategy and developing cost effective, quality and scalable solutions, using Best Practice Methods and working with all levels within the client organization. Known as an Industry Thought Leader, he is instrumental in helping Senior Leadership successfully implement their corporate visions. His experience spans across strategy, management, architecture, infrastructure, product evaluation, modeling and design of multi-terabyte large and complex data and information management solutions. Biswa is an excellent listener and deep thinker with an expertise in understanding clientâs business problem and providing different solution approaches. In his own words, “every client has a unique problem so the challenge is to listen and ask questions and then provide the best possible set of solutions”. He is also an entrepreneur and is being invited as a judge, keynote speaker for several US Colleges, like Fox Business School etc. He is the Founder and CEO of

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Conference report: The 4th IndicThreads conference on Java Technologies

(The IndicThreads conference on Java Technologies was held in Pune last weekend. This conference report by Dhananjay Nene was published on his must-read blog and is re-published here with permission. The slides used during the presentations can be downloaded from the conference website here and are also linked to in context in Dhananjay’s report below. In general, PuneTech is interested in publishing reports of tech events and conferences that happen in Pune, as long as they go into sufficient technical depth, and especially if links to slides are available. So please do get in touch with us if you have such a report to share.)

indicthreads logo smallThe annual java technology conference is Pune’s best conference on matters related to Java technologies. I looked forward to attending the same and was not disappointed a bit. The last one was held about 3 days ago on Dec 11th and 12th, and this post reviews my experiences at the same.

As with any other conference usually something or the other isn’t quite working well in the morning, so I soon discovered we had a difficulty with the wireless network being swamped by the usage. There were some important downloads that needed to be completed, so my early morning was spent attempting to get these done .. which meant I missed most of Harshad Oak’s opening session on Java Today.

The next one i attended was Groovy & Grails as a modern scripting language for Web applications by Rohit Nayak. However I soon discovered that it (at least initially) seemed to be a small demo on how to build applications using grails. Since that was something I was familiar with, I moved to the alternative track in progress.

The one I switched to even as it was in progress was Java EE 6: Paving the path for the future by Arun Gupta. Arun had come down from Santa Clara to talk about the new Java EE6 spec and its implementation by Glassfish. Arun talked about a number of additional or changed features in Java EE6 in sufficient detail for anyone who got excited by them to go explore these in further detail. These included web fragments, web profile, EJB 3.1 lite, increased usage of annotations leading to web.xml now being optional, and a number of points on specific JSRs now a part of Java EE6. Some of the things that excited me more about Glassfish were, (a) OSGi modularisation and programmatic control of specific containers (eg Servlet, JRuby/Rails etc.), embeddability, lightweight monitoring. However the one that excited me the most was the support for hot deployment of web apps for development mode by allowing the IDEs to automatically notify the running web app which in turn automatically reloaded the modified classes (even as the sessions continued to be valid). The web app restart cycle in addition to the compile cycle was alway one of my biggest gripes with Java (second only to its verbosity) and that seemed to be going away.

I subsequently attended Getting started with Scala by Mushtaq Ahmed from Thoughtworks. Mushtaq is a business analyst and not a professional programmer, but has been keenly following the developments in Scala for a couple of years (and as I later learnt a bit with Clojure as well). Unlike a typical language capability survey, he talked only about using the language for specific use cases, a decision which I thought made the presentation extremely useful and interesting. The topics he picked up were (a) Functional Programming, (b) DSL building and (c) OOP only if time permitted. He started with an example of programming/modeling the Mars Rover movements and using functions and higher order functions to do the same. Looking back I think he spent lesser time on transitioning from the requirements into the code constructs and in terms of what he was specifically setting out to do in terms of higher order functions. However the demonstrated code was nevertheless interesting and showed some of the power of Scala when used to write primarily function oriented code. The next example he picked up was a Parking Lot attendant problem where he started with a Java code which was a typical implementation of the strategy pattern. He later took it through 7-8 alternative increasingly functional implementations using Scala. This one was much easier to understand and yet again demonstrated the power of Scala quite well in terms of functional programming. Onto DSLs, Mushtaq wrote a simple implementation of a “mywhile” which was a classical “while” loop as an example of using Scala for writing internal DSLs. Finally he demonstrated the awesome power of using the built in support for parser combinators for writing an external DSL, and also showed how a particular google code of summer problem could be solved using Scala (again for writing an external DSL). A very useful and thoroughly enjoyable talk. (Here is a link to the code used in this presentation. -PuneTech)

The brave speaker for the post lunch session was Rajeev Palanki who dealt both with overall IBM directions on Java and a little about MyDeveloperworks site. In his opinion he thought Java was now (post JDK 1.4) on the plateau of productivity after all the early hype and IBM now focused on Scaling up, Scaling down (making it easier to use at the lower end), Open Innovation (allow for more community driven innovation) and Real Time Java. He emphasised IBMs support to make Java more predictable for real time apps and stated that Java was now usable for Mission Critical applications referring to the fact that Java was now used in a USS Destroyer. He referred to IBMs focus on investing in Java Tooling that worked across different JRE implementations. Tools such as GCMV, MAT, and Java Diagnostic Collector. Finally he talked about the IBM MyDeveloperWorks site at one stage referring to it as the Facebook for Geeks.

The next session was Overview of Scala Based Lift Web Framework by Vikas Hazarati, Director, Technology at Xebia. Another thoroughly enjoyable session. Vikas dealt with a lot of aspects related to the Lift web framework including various aspects related to the mapper, the snippets, usage of actors for comet support etc. I was especially intrigued by Snippets which act as a bridge between the UI and the business logic have a separate abstraction for themselves in the framework and how the construct and functionality in that layer is treated so differently from other frameworks.

I subsequently attended Concurrency: Best Practices by Pramod Nagaraja who works on the IBM JRE and owns the java.nio packages (I think I heard him say owns). He talked about various aspects and best practices related to concurrency and one of the better aspects of the talk was how seemingly safe code can also end up being unsafe. However he finished his session well in time for me to quickly run over and attend the latter half of the next presentation.

Arun Gupta conducted the session Dynamic Languages & Web Frameworks in GlassFish which referred to the support for various non java environments in Glassfish including those for Grails/Groovy, Rails/JRuby, Django/Python et. al. The impression I got was Glassfish is being extremely serious about support for the non java applications as well and is dedicating substantial efforts to make Glassfish the preferred platform for such applications as well. Arun’s blog Miles to go … is most informative for a variety of topics related to Glassfish for both Java and non Java related aspects.

The last talk I attended during the day was Experiences of Fully Distributed Scrum between San Francisco and Gurgaon by Narinder Kumar, again from Xebia. Since a few in the audience were still not aware of agile methodologies (Gasp!), Narinder gave a high level overview of the same before proceeding down the specific set of challenges his team had faced in implementing scrum in a scenario where one team was based in Gurgaon, India and another in San Fransciso, US. To be explicit, he wasn’t describing the typical scrum of scrum approaches but was instead describing a mechanism wherein the entire set of distributed teams would be treated as a single team with a single backlog and common ownership. This required some adjustments such as a meeting where only one person from one of the locations and all from another would take part in a scrum meeting in situations where there were no overlapping working hours. There were a few other such adjustments to the process also described. The presentation ended with some strong metrics which represented how productivity was maintained even as the activities moved from a single location to a distributed model. Both during the presentation and subsequently Narinder described some impressive associations with senior Scrum visionaries and also some serious interest in their modified approach from some important companies. However one limitation I could think of the model was, that it was probably better geared to work where you had developers only in one of the two locations (offshoring). I perceived the model as a little difficult to work if developers were located across all locations (though that could end up being just my view).

The second day started with a Panel Discussion on the topic Turning the Corner between Arun Gupta, Rohit Nayak, Dhananjay Nene (thats yours truly) and moderated by Harshad Oak. It was essentially a discussion about how we saw some of the java and even many non java related technologies evolving over the next few years. I think suffice to say one of the strong agreements clearly was the arrival of Java the polyglot platform as compared to Java the language.

The next session was Developing, deploying and monitoring Java applications using Google App Engine by Narinder Kumar. A very useful session describing the characteristics, opportunities and challenges with using Google App Engine as the deployment platform for Java based applications. One of the take away from the sessions was that subject to specific constraints, it was possible to use GAE as the deployment platform without creating substantial lockins since many of the Java APIs were supported by GAE. However there are a few gotchas along the way in terms of specific constraints eg. using Joins etc.

I must confess at having been a little disappointed with Automating the JEE deployment process by Vikas Hazrati. He went to great depths in terms of what all considerations a typical J2EE deployment monitoring tool should take care of, and clearly demonstrated having spent a lot of time in thinking through many of the issues. However the complexities he started addressing started to get into realms which only a professional J2EE deployment tool writer would get into. That made the talk a little less interesting for me. Besides there was another interesting talk going on simultaneously which I was keen on attending as well.

The other talk I switched to half way was Create Appealing Cross-device Applications for Mobile Devices with Java ME and LWUIT by Biswajit Sarkar (who’s also written a book on the same topic). While keeping things simple, Biswajit explained the capabilities of Java ME. He also described LWUIT which allowed creation of largely similar UI across different mobile platforms. He explained that while the default Java ME used native rendering leading to differing look and feel across mobile handsets just like Java AWT, using LWUIT allowed for a Java Swing like approach where the rendering was performed by the LWUIT library (did he say around 300kb??) thus allowing for a more uniform look and feel. He also showed sample programs and how they worked using LWUIT.

Allahbaksh Asadullah then conducted the session on Implementing Search Functionality With Lucene & Solr, where he talked about the characteristics and usage of Lucene and Solr. It was very explicitly addressed at the very beginners to the topic (an audience I could readily identify myself with) and walked us through the various characteristics of search, the different abstractions, how these abstractions are modeled through the API and how some of these could be overridden to implement custom logic.

How Android is different from other systems – An exploration of the design decisions in Android by Navin Kabra was a session I skipped. However I had attended a similar session by him earlier so hopefully I did not miss much.

However Navin did contribute occasionally into the next session Java For Mobile Devices – Building a client application for the Android platform by Rohit Nayak. Rohit demonstrated an application he is working on along with a lot of the code that forms the application using Eclipse and the Android plugin. A useful insight into how an Android application is constructed.

As the event drew to a close, the prizes were announced including those for the Indicthreads Go Green initiative. A thoroughly enjoyable event, leaving me even more convinced to make sure to attend the next years session making it a third in a row.

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