"From Engineer to Entrepreneur" - Event Report

On September 11, 2017, a talk, titled "From Engineer to Entrepreneur" was organised by the Dublin chapter of Founder Institute and the UK and Ireland chapter of IEEE Young Professionals. The event was kindly hosted by Google at their European HQ in Dublin.
I was fortunate enough to accompany Matthew Ellis on behalf of IEEE YP UK&I.

The wonderful audience
The event started off with the wonderful Patricia Scanlon, CEO of Soapbox, who walked us through her journey as a researcher, an intra-preneur and then an entrepreneur.
Patricia discusses how she scours the earth for the best talent
Her definitive work on voice recognition in children sits at the core . She shared her stories about the trials and tribulations that come as oft-ignored baggage with the entrepreneurial journey. Her voice recognition work at Columbia University, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent(Bell Labs) and Trinity College Dublin provided for a compelling story, and prepared her for the road ahead, where her work at Soapbox has acquired several laurels, including a $1.2 million seed funding earlier this year.

The old adage that children are often seen, not heard, is brought back into harsh focus, when we realise that the vast array of voice-recognition and control platforms, from Google's Assistant to Amazon's Alexa, are so attuned to adult voices, but perform horrendously when presented with a child.
This is the founder you have been looking for...
We also got a peek into the investment opportunities and collaborations she was able to leverage, including support from Enterprise Ireland and the spinning-in of Soapbox Labs into the Learnovate Centre at Trinity College Dublin.

She spoke about the myriad relationships, amongst all of the stakeholders, the investors, the employees, the clients and collaborators and how it all comes together to solve anything from a customer pain point to core speech engineering issues, or to even ensure that there was always money in the bank for keeping the lights on. 

While I was writing this article, Patricia showed up on the news again for her talk at InspireFest2017!

Patricia was followed by the delightful Neal O' Gorman.

Having graduated from Electronic Engineering in University College Dublin, Neal has gone on to become a serial entrepreneur with Artomatix being the 3rd company he has founded – the first was acquired by Agilent Technologies in 2006. His second company was a social games company that had an acquisition offer from one of the top social games companies in the world.

Neal is also the Director of the Dublin Chapter of Founder Institute.

Neal spoke about the challenges faced by engineers, when they set off on an entrepreneurial path.
Neal talks about the Founder Institute
Some interesting misconceptions are widely observed when we look at why people want to get into the "start up game". They range anywhere from being a "get-rich-quickly" scheme, the ability to control your hours, to "being your own boss".

Neal stressed on the importance of perseverance, and abandoning your comfort zone. The zero salary periods, the work-life balance, and need to be planned and accounted for.

He mentioned how being away from home helped in his journey, as social and personal commitments and startup duties are always competing for the same scarce resource that is time.

He spoke about not getting too attached to an idea, identifying the right problem, building the right team, having that insane degree of commitment.
"Few startups succeed, and fewer ever turn a profit" - Neal
Once the speakers were done, the audience got a chance to mingle with each other and get 1-on-1s with the speakers.
Neal and Patricia comparing notes!
Regaling after!
Overall, the event was well received, and will hopefully prove valuable to the attendees planning to set upon their own entrepreneurial journeys.

About IEEE Young Professionals

IEEE UK & Ireland (UK&I) Young Professionals is an Affinity Group for electrical, electronics, software and computer systems engineers that have graduated in the last decade. IEEE UK&I YP is a professional network that assists with transitioning from university into the professional world.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. IEEE and its members inspire a global community to innovate for a better tomorrow through its more than 423,000 members in over 160 countries, and its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities. IEEE is the trusted “voice” for engineering, computing, and technology information around the globe.

About Founder Institute
The Founder Institute is the world's premier idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program.

Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 170 cities and 60 countries, the Founder Institute’s mission is to “Globalize Silicon Valley” and empower talented and motivated entrepreneurs to build companies that will create one million new jobs.

The Founder Institute was founded in 2009 by Adeo Ressi and Jonathan Greechan. It is operated out of Palo Alto, California.

PSA : Linux support for Kaby Lake laptops - JANUARY 2017

This isn't as much a post, as it is an update on the state of Kernel and Distro support for Kaby Lake laptops, as of early January 2017.

Trivia:
Kaby Lake support was introduced in Linux 4.5, and only came of age closer to 4.8, although not with its fair share of quirks. GPU support for corresponding Intel integrated graphics is very much a work in progress, but as of 4.9 seems to be in usable condition.

Test Environment:
CPU : Intel Core i5 7200U 2.5GHz
GPU : Intel Integrated Graphics 620
RAM : 8GB DDR4 2400MHz
HDD : Sandisk Ultra II 480GB SATA3 SSD

All installs, unless otherwise specified, used an encrypted LVM disk with default setup.

Summary
Good : openSUSE Tumbleweed, Fedora 25
OK : Ubuntu 16.10
Bad : openSUSE Leap 42.2, *buntu 16.04 LTS
Unknown : antergos, Linux Mint 18.1

In some greater detail...
openSUSE Leap 42.2 is on Kernel 4.4, as is Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS and its myriad derivates(tested on Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu and Xubuntu.).

Fedora Workstation 25 comes with an outdated kernel, but a dnf update on a fresh install takes the kernel to 4.8. It had no visible issues, except this was the only distro where sound did not work out of the box. Running  service alsa force-restart as root solved the problem however. 

openSUSE Leap 42.2 consequently has some bug which results in "X Window System" having CPU utilisation skyrocket to the point of unusability. A purely CLI session which startx disabled seemed to work fine for the limited time I tested it.

*buntu 16.04, on the other hand, seems to start up fine, but freezes at random intervals, usually triggered by browser start-up. The only way to restore control is a force reboot, as keyboard shortcuts, force logouts and switching off X, all seem to have no effect whatsoever.

Ubuntu 16.10 (also tested on Kubuntu) comes with Linux 4.8, which thankfully has much better support.However, hardware acceleration seems iffy, and running a 4K video on vlc, or YouTube has framerate issues that weren't present in Fedora's similar kernel.

openSUSE Tumbleweed (release 20170104), openSUSE's rolling release runs on a 4.9 kernel, and has stellar support on KDE, but tracker takes up way too much RAM on GNOME. Not sure if it is a GNOME issue or Kaby Lake issue, though.

For antergos, the ISO Refresh 2016.11.20 failed to boot up from an USB key. There is now a new ISO download available (as of Jan 6, 2017) which I have not tested.

Linux Mint 18.1 MATE seemed to have it's mirrors down last I checked. I will try to update it's testing once I have a chance to give it a spin.

Analytics - Phase 4

It's that time of the year again. 

Just kidding. If there is one thing about this blog's schedule that is consistent, that is its inconsistency of schedule.

There has been this irregular tradition of looking at what kind of people (read "computers") chance upon my little corner.





In its latest iteration, we see a surprise surge in visits from the Cult of Mac! Also, Chrome has finally dethroned Firefox at the browser helm, over two years after it did so in the world's wider web.

Well, how have the interwebz shifted over the years then. We see quite a few interesting trends as time passed by. This is the 4th such post, so let's see how the balance has shifted over the years.



Since its early days, Chrome users had held their own in terms of traffic. In the last couple of years, however, it has grown from lingering in Firefox's shadow to claim its place under the sun, while IE, almost always on the verge of a comeback, will likely never quite catch on in these parts.

Also of note is the "other" section, fuelled almost entirely by esoteric KHTML and Dilo-like renderers in the early days, but replaced by more simplistic, yet consistently growing mobile-based alternatives.


Speaking of mobile alternatives, the practical absence of mobile visits can be better visualised by the OS share variance with time, with "other" accounting for a humongous 0 percentage points during the earlier years, while growing to a healthy 10% in recent times. 

Given it's FOSSy leanings, Linux-based user-strings have always been over-represented for this blog that for the web-at-large, but the sudden spurt in Mac visits is an unexplained surprise, which may or may not be explicable by the proliferation of "cheaper" Macs like the Air, the Mini and the Pro non-retina.

Note 1: All of these number are cumulative(since early 2009), so the trends would be more pronounced if we take each period in isolation. A year by year comparison might be in order, especially if compared to overall trends in market 

Note 2: Previous iterations lie here: Part 3 2 1

Petrol price misrepresentation on social networks

A misleading post regarding petrol prices in India and Abroad is doing the rounds (again!). 
Here's a copy of the post in question
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1643365812604804&set=gm.497492003745383&type=3&theater

Let's look at the accuracy of each of the above claims, just so we learn that the purpose of any media needs to go beyond the reconfirmation of the reader's preconceived notions.


Country Price in shared image(INR) Actual price in USD Actual Price in INR Difference in %age





Pakistan 26 0.6 40.2 55%
Cuba 19 1.41 94.47 397%
Nepal 34 0.94 62.98 85%
Afghanistan 36 0.77 51.59 43%
Bangladesh 22 1.29 86.43 293%
Italy 14 1.51 101.17 623%
Burma 30 0.55 36.85 23%
Sri Lanka 34 0.88 58.96 73%
India 82
60 -27%
Conversion rate used : 1 USD = 67 INR

As we can see clearly, not only is the data clearly misrepresented, but we can see how ridiculous the bias in "reporting" is. Italy and Cuba, purported to have the cheapest petrol on the list, actually have the most expensive. 

India, whose government the creator of the image so callously dismisses, is the only location with over-reported prices. Not to mention, prices vary way more based on crude prices, than on variation of taxation, given a fixed jurisdiction.

And let us not even forget the fact that petrol prices, governmental acumen and quality of life have little bearing on one another

A request to all that may chance across this post :
Please, at least try to fact check random posts by people about "facts" and "data", before you jump to share and retweet these posts, and further contribute to the spread and celebration of misinformation.

Note that these prices are mostly accurate as of early March 2016, and may vary considerably base on a variety of factors.

P.S. And what is the deal with the .00 after every price in the image. I though significant digits were, well, significant.

Sources:

10.43252003274489856000 reasons why "X reasons Y" lists are boring

The barrage of sites with mind-numbingly stupid content and clickbait titles is neither new nor exhilarating.

However, ad-mongering, for the lack of a better word, and short-shorter-shortest attention spans of people, when paired with the ubiquity of technological access has made them garishly visible and overwhelming, sometimes to the point of frustration, and oftentimes, far beyond.

Here's a list of reasons why these word-bundles posing as "articles" are a force of evil. Also, the mandatory "You won't believe number 7!"
  1. Their titles offer little to no information about the actual content.
  2. Their content is usually unnecessary at best.
  3. Oversimplifications are not just made and brushed over, but celebrated.
  4. They are mostly opinion-pieces, with the opinion being "I am better than you" or "Yoohoo, You get a stereotype, you get a stereotype, everybody gets a stereotype! There's enough for everyone."
  5. The primary purpose of these articles is to entice with a title that tugs at heartstrings of potential readers, so that their clicks help earn ad revenue.
  6. The secondary purpose is to reinforce biases, stereotypes and self-indulgence.
  7. For some reason, a vast section of the populace believe other people share their biases and would love to read fluff pieces of no consequence.
  8. Most use cringeworthy images/gifs they don't hold the rights to publish.
  9. The authors are often deluded enough to think they have invested this new awesome format no one ever though of.
  10. The grammar is, well, horrendous on most occasions.
Notable trivia:
  • This post has the highest number of quotes I have ever had, scare or otherwise. If one chooses to be pedantic, yes, I mean quotation marks. There, there...
  • The list is 0.43252003274489856000 items shorter than the title. So Sue Me.
  • 43252003274489856000 is the total number of possible combinations on a standard Rubik's Cube.
P.S. I think "notable trivia" is an oxymoron, but I've been wrong before. 

Automatic headphone detection in Alienware M17xR4 for openSUSE Leap 42.1

All to often, people dismiss Linux if something tiny doesn't work out of the box. They claim that one does not face such problems in Windows, forgetting the extensive jumping through hoops known as installing a bunch of drivers that negates the whole "out of the box" premise.

I had just gotten a fresh install of openSUSE Edu Li-f-e, based on Leap 42.1, running on the behemoth that is Alienware M17xR4. All seemed fine until I realised that plugging a headphone into the relevant jack does not reroute the sound output through the headphones, while the speakers keep blasting away.

Pulseaudio, or rather pavucontrol, was helpful enough to switch between line-out and headphones on cue within the GUI, albeit with little effect, as the sound output remained unaffected.



The situation wasn't too different with the KDE's "Audio Volume" module, which largely seems to be a front end to pulseaudio.

As I was bungling through the settings, I realised that the issue wasn't detection of headphones, as it was the switching audio output from the speakers to  the headphone.

Enter, alsa!

alsamixer has a particularly unhelpful welcome display, which has no bearing on the level of customisability it offers.

AlsaMixer intro screen

We can, however, get much better controls, once we manually select the sound card (Press F6).
Note: If you fail to find the option for the given sound card, See Note 1 at the bottom of the post.

AlsaMixer - select sound card

We then navigate to the  HP/Speaker Auto Detect (in red in the image below) and toggle to ON (by pressing M).

AlsaMixer - change HP/Speaker Auto Detect

If you get stuck along the way,  help is just an F1 away.

Help menu for AlsaMixer

Note 1:

If you fail to find the option for the given sound card, add the line 
options snd-hda-intel model=alienware at the end of the file /etc/modprobe.d/50-alsa.conf .
If the file does not exist, look through the folder /etc/modprobe.d/ to check if any similar file exists with a different number preceding it, and edit the same.

Note 2:

Packages used:
alsa-1.0.29-10.1.x86_64
pulseaudio-7.0-3.1.x86_64
pavucontrol-3.0-5.3.x86_64


Note 3:

There are multiple audio jacks in the M17xR4, so for the above process to work the headphone/ext. speaker needs to be plugged into the jack shown below

Audio jack in Alienware M17xR4 for auto headphone detection

Dynamite!

"What are men to rocks and mountains?", Jane Austen had once said. I wonder if she might've reconsidered her position, if Alfred Nobel and Julius Wilbrand had lived and worked while she was still around.

It wouldn't be a huge ask given how early she died. Most of her work has aged tremendously well, and we could have had more.

Well, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Not the cricket kind, though.

openSUSE tweets