Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hyderabad LUG tech talk

Yesterday I gave a tech talk to the Hyderabad Linux Users Group (LUG) on the subject of mail filtering for high volume sites. There were about 50 people who had plenty of excellent questions and experiences of their own. It was a great night and somehow ended up being almost 4 hours (not all talking of course)!

Of course these things never go without a hitch and we started off with my laptop point blank refusing to talk to the overhead projector. After a crash team of Linux doctors assisted in trying various options the best we could come up with was command line only. OpenOffice is good, but not that good.

Thank Google for the trusty Interweb! I had uploaded the presentation to my website just before the talk to pre-empt any "where are the slides" questions. So Plan B came into operation and we switched to running the presentation from there. A big thanks to Suman for organising things and to everyone who turned up.

We finished off the evening with a brief overview of Google by Amitabh, one of our software engineers. We introduced some of the many positions we were hiring for in Hyderabad and Bangalore. I got to say, "I can't comment on exactly what operating systems we use at Google, but we're hiring Linux Systems Adninistrators." :)


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Picking at the entrails of culture

I managed to spend a little time on Saturday seeing some of the city. Hyderabad is about 400 years old and the Charminar (Four Towers) is in the centre of the older part of town. It is surrounded by bazaars and traffic. There are the usual "volunteer guides" who don't want money to show you around. In fact, no money changed hands.

I'm still getting used to non-resident prices though. The entrance was capped by a large Rs. 5 sign, whilst the non-resident price was actually 150 rupees (3 euro)!

I went on to visit the Salar Jung museum, containing the collection of the last Nawab of Hyderabad. It was a nice museum with a strange mixture of items. As well as Indian, European and Far Eastern statuary, paintings and furniture there were children's exhibits. This including a scene of village life complete with little plastic farmers, houses, cows, pigs and chickens running around. In the middle of the scene a cow was dead on the ground with its entrails being picked out by a vulture! I can't see museums back home adding that level of realism to their children's exhibits!

It was nice to finally see a bit of the city and its history. That way I also avoided the cocktail making (and drinking) class that did some damage to many of the guys from work. :) We went on to a club called Bottles and Chimneys, which was a laugh. But more on that another time.


Monday, June 20, 2005

An Irish Joke from India

Well aren't we the famous nation? Sitting down to dinner at Angeethi's restaurant in Hyderabad last week I found an Irish joke in the middle of the menu. I still don't understand it, but "naturally" it involves the Irish all getting drunk. Maybe one of you can figure it out and tell me. :)
The Irish Team and The Patiala Peg

By informed sources
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, who ruled the princely state of Patiala, was six and a half feet tall. He was an avid horse ride and keen enthusiast of equestrian events.

He once invited an Irish team for a match of tent pegging. Scared of losing face, his team of Nihang warriors got the Irish team drunk by serving double measure of every peg disguised as a normal peg.

Naturally, the visiting team lost the match next morning. When they complained, the Maharaja replied, "Yes, in Patiala, our pegs are larger".


Walk to work day

A bunch of us walked to work for a change. We get driven everywhere, so this made a nice change and I got to see a bit of the weird countryside-industrial estate mixture that is HiTec City. It's only about a 20 minute walk.

A lot of women are construction workers here. There is constant building going on with new office blocks and apartment blocks going up. Almost all the women workers wear brightly coloured saris as they sledgehammer boulders, dig trenches or carry materials around. They have a version of the standard yellow hard hat with a hole in the top, flattened which is used to better balance items on their head. In many places construction continues all night.

More pictures here.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

My visit to 10 Downing Street

Everyone should be invited to 10 Downing Street once in their lives. I went last Friday and although I didn't get to stay that long I really enjoyed my visit.

It was 70s night so I decided to grow my hair long for the evening. Hyderabad nightlife shuts down at midnight, so nothing too wild for us!

Brian, Neel, Des and Ramsey. From Ramsey's World.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sri Sailam in a day

Our visit to Sri Sailam, one of the 12 holy Hindu sites in India was nothing if not eventful. We had a fantastic time, but ended coming back the same day instead of staying overnight.

Ten of us (plus two drivers) set off in two cars at 6.30, working our way through Hyderabad and out into the countryside. It was a long time until we came to any areas that were light on people, this is a very populated part of the country. Cows and water buffalo wander back and forth across the roads fairly regularly, herds of goats are pretty common too and chickens are running around at every Village. There was the occasional hairy black pig too. So the wildlife was out in force from early on!

About 2 hours out from Hyderabad the road was blocked by a burnt out bus. Working our way around it we immediately encountered lots of armed men in plain clothes. These turned out to be police. They wanted to borrow a mobile phone to contact their headquarters because there was a second, unexploded bomb at the roadside (it was in a plastic water bottle). There was no mobile coverage in the area and they clearly didn't have radios of their own. They let us through and we noticed the small crater in the middle of the road a few metres past the bus. It looks like it was a landmine or a remotely detonated bomb, we were told it went off at 9.30pm the night before. Whilst there were several different versions of events offered to us, it appears most likely that Naxalites were involved. A government minister had apparently been visiting the area recently. There has apparently been a lot of Naxalite activity in this area.

So excitement over, we still had another 2+ hours of driving ahead of us. We came to the Sri Sailam dam, pretty big but awaiting the monsoon before there is much water - due June 7th we were told with some certainty! People boat, fish, swim, wash people, wash clothes in the lake beneath the dam. On the way up into the hills above the dam we passed the hut where the operators manage the flow of water through the dam. It was marked "Remote Control".

In Sri Sailam itself we first tried to find accommodation which had in theory been booked for us. Everywhere we went was full. We eventually found one place that had rooms, but the owners were insisting on one night's room charge in advance plus a second night's charge as a deposit that would in theory be returned. We weren't having any of this. It was at this point we discovered that the trip to the forest was suddenly off. Now we were told that we needed permits from the appropriate government department well in advance and they were usually only given to VIPs and Bollywood movie stars! Plus it was summer and all the large animals wouldn't be out during the day in any case. We had noticed that the town consisted of the temple complex and some shops and that was it. Things were starting to look a little less exciting....

After much schizophrenic discussion, we decided to visit the temple straight away, eat Cliff bars and crisps in the car and head back to Hyderabad before evening fell. Driving through the forest after dark was not looking to be such a good idea, what with the landmines and the tigers....

The temple complex was really worth the visit. We bypassed the two hour queue inside winding chicken wire fenced corridors by paying 100 rupees for our darshan. That gets you straight to the front of the queue. This is one of the 12 holy temples of Shiva in India. There were lots of little shrines and amazing architecture. At the front of the queue you stoop down to see some monks preparing coconut, flowers and flour in what I think was a silver litter for carrying the statue Shiva. This gets brought out in the evening time in a procession. An old lady gave me one of the little red dots on your forehead. Many people (though a minority) had gone one extra step and had their heads shaved for the occassion, including women and children. I had that done before I left Dublin, although not quite shaved enough. There was holy water, holy incense flames and all manner of things I didn't understand at all.

Just outside town is a second shrine to Ganesh, much quieter than the main temple where the press of people was intense. This was a much more peaceful experience and well worth the short time it takes to visit (you walk around and you're done, no stopping allowed). One of our group managed to leave his camera on a stall outside this temple and when he realised a few miles down the road, the camera was still there and waiting for him when we quickly returned. How cool is that?

We made it home, past the smouldering bus and through the herds of wandering cows just in time for tea. What a day! See the day in pictures.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Be very quiet, we're looking for tigers

I've been in India now for 3 days and I'm off in the morning with a bunch of the guys from work to Sri Sailam to visit a wildlife sanctuary, dam, temple and more. It's about 4 hours drive from Hyderabad where I'm based. Apparently the tigers are nocturnal (like some geeks) and there's not really that much chance of seeing them. But plenty of other wildlife! Hopefully some pictures to follow. :)

This is such a great place, I don't know where to begin. I've been busy though! Lots to do, great people, great food, what a life! And still another month to go - I bet it will fly by. I thought I'd have time to write more, maybe next week!