My experiments with open source, multimedia and other random stuff

Hacking A/V

Shaastra 2009 Hackfest

Thursday, October 8, 2009 by Jai

Note : This post has been long overdue, but was delayed primarily because of the lack of decent internet connectivity in the past week. Nevertheless, here it is... :)

As part of this year's Shaastra, the folks at IITM decided to include a Hackfest (a glorified version of last year's installment, if i have my facts correct), with the noble aim of getting students and enthusiasts started with code contributions to Open Source. At KStar's behest, I dropped in to do a track on FFmpeg which was IMO quite successful. I'll attempt to summarize the proceedings.

The "story" starts way before the hackfest days. I spent _a lot_ of time trying to come up with things students would even remotely find interesting. Sadly, we dont have any "Easy first bugs" or other such low hanging fruit (with the added constraint of the program schedule). Most bugs require a fairly decent amount of knowledge of format specs, multimedia concepts in general, audio/video coding theory etc. So fixing bugs was (mostly) out of the picture. Code cleanups and documentation, though important and useful, didnt seem like a good idea because I personally feel functional patches > cosmetics :)
So I finally settled on a simple and modular task of writing playback support for a format we dont support yet. Obviously, there were quite a few candidates, so I randomly selected Psygnosis YOP and HNM.

To start things off, there were a bunch of talks. I did one too (though I usually suck at these things). To my surprise, a lot of people in the hall that day actually knew about FFmpeg and some had actually used it too :)
Slides here

Moving on, Yadu and Noufal hacked on FFmpeg during the hackfest days. Day 1 mostly consisted of wading through the codebase and understanding the format and the other days were spent hacking together some patches. I'm quite happy to report that we did manage to get these patches posted as well :) Upvotes for you guys.

The other tracks were pretty successfull too. While Kstar tried to get dev builds of KDE ready, Kashyap and Prakash (KDE GSoC students for Kalzium and KStars, in that order) gave introductory talks and helped the participants get started with Qt and the KDE codebase.

Sid0 handled the Mozilla track impressively, to say the least ;) He managed to get in a decent coverage of JS _and_ got the participants started with writing stuff in Jetpack, the shiny new add-on writing API from Mozilla Labs.

Vamsi's Sugar hackfest went superbly well and from what I hear, Sugar got a long term bug wrangler/contributor :) This is probably one of the coolest things to come out of the hackfest, other than the usual slew of patches and bugfixes :)

Vimzard handled the GTK and GNOME sessions which I'm pretty sure turned out quite well (I couldnt be there because these were held in a separate lab).
(Its hard for me not to make a BloodNinja reference here, but I'll give it a pass..)

The hackfest organizers also managed to get in some improptu BoF sessions which were quite good too. The one on GSoC was quite well attended and was followed by similar discussions on version control systems, a brief rant on llvm (and parallels to gcc) and some more stuff I'm probably forgetting.

So overall, it was an awesome and productive 3 day nocturnal coding experience (though most of us arent strangers to the idea ;) ) Big ups to the Shaastra hackfest organizers, especially (and in no particular order) KStar, Kashyap Garimella, Vinay Hegde, Kashyap2 and all the fellow hackers who made the event a memorable one.

And yes, I dont usually blend FOSS with real life etc but I really did have a fun time. Just the very opportunity to put faces to IRC nicks makes it worth it. Infact, I just might change my mind and go to FOSS.IN :)

Pics courtesy Kstar here

Gotta go and listen to some awesome music I siphoned off sid0 a mile high ....

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