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Developer Camp/VAST

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Because this was first of its kind experiment, at least for Praveen, the details of the camp was not announced earlier. One reason was not to set wrong expectations, other was his dislike of comforming to schedules and topics. His personal style is to cover whatever is required to get to one task. So if he were to announce the exact goal, there was every possibility of falling short of that or having to compromise on some topics to achive the goal. Both of them were not desirable for him and he chose not to set clear goals. Basic goal of this camp, according to Praveen, was to introduce Free Software development process using personal experience of developers. Now that the idea is out, he does not claim any ownership, whatsoever on this idea, after all the idea was gained from the community. He can argue for credit only for the content of this particular instance only, because Sooraj and many others wer involved with the idea of the camp itself. So feel free to remix it, this was alpha release, so smoothen the rough edges. During early stage discussions Shyam was also involved and we dedicate this series on his memories.
==== Background ====
We decided to explore one bug in Open Office as a starting point. This particular [ bug in Malayalam display] was reported by Mahesh T Pai about 4 months back in August 2010 in debian BTS. The same bug turned up in Fedora 14 and with help from Ani Peter and Red Hat i18n team (Pravin Satpute and Naveen Kumar), we were able to track [ the offending commit] and reported it to ICU developers. This particular change was reverted upstream. Patched versions of icu appeared in both fedora and debian which restored correct rendering in Open Office.
This was a "teaching moment" for people to understand the inner workings of the Free Software community and get familiarised with people and process involved. It was logical for Praveen to pick this bug, because he knew the inside story and was involved in many of the steps (or he "lived through this bug").
==== Step 1, show the bug ====
We never thought it would be so hard to reproduce a bug like this. It was a bug in ICU upstream version 4.4 and any recent distro ought to have it. But that calculation was off the mark and we took most the time in trying to reproduce this bug. But that was also useful, because we covered many basic topics from file system layout, package structure, repositories etc. Praveen had a fixed version of ICU from debian unstable/sid in his laptop. Sooraj told him lab will have Ubuntu 10.04 installed. Everyone was looking for a buggy version of Open Office to demonstrate from the day before the event. Praveen had given clues to Sooraj that this particular bug would be discussed during the camp and asked him to go through it. Praveen thought Ubuntu 10.10 would have this bug since it was spotted about 4 months back in debian and Ubuntu is supposed to be packaging latest and greatest software. But it was not the case, they are shipping older version of icu in 10.10. So Praveen thought of using Ubuntu 11.04 or natty for demo. People who are still using 10.04 got shivers when they heard we are going to work on 11.04.
We started the day with a goal, install the latest version of Open Office (to make it easier, we told them to install libreoffice from natty). We anlysed structure of a package by asking them to find a deb package in the system and open it using file roller. Then we covered package repositories and adding custom repositories. But it turned out even natty does not have this bug, because they don't have libreoffice packged or Open Office linking to newer icu. But by the time they get to the newer icu, the bug is already fixed in debian and fedora. Pretty neat, right? Some gets to fix things and some others gets credit!
Praveen added debian squeeze repo in one of the systems and installed Open Office with icu 4.4 to show the bug. By the time it got installed most of the students from Vidya left because they had to catch a bus at 4.30.
==== Step 2, the bug ====
We discussed each comment in the bug report in detail and explained importance of giving as much information about the bug as possible in the report. We also appreciated the contributions of Mahesh T Pai, who tested various combinations of architecture specific (32 bit and 64 bit) versions and icu versions to pin point the bug to icu. We are also greatful for his strong lobbying on behalf of Malayalam users to get this bug fixed in squeeze release. It seems history repeating itself, since we lobbied in a similar way with [ a pango bug]. When we noticed this bug in icu, we were so angry, because we had the same bug 2 years ago with pango, and it felt like ghost the old bug is still haunting us.
We discussed character encoding, difference between ascii and unicode, rendering engines, open type fonts, gsub and gpos tables ... We demonstrated some examples of complex rendering with Malayalam. Praveen told them to report the same bug in Ubuntu. But launchpad seems to have automatic syncing of debian packages, at least changelog was highlighted there with details of this fix in debian. Hopefully Ubuntu's icu maintainers would include this fix in their new build.
==Photos ==