Sunday, April 10, 2022

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2022

This year, Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is open to anyone who is a newbie to open source. Not just students. As such, we replace the term "Student" with "Contributor" this year.

Given below is an introductory presentation to GSoC 2022. There are some more important changes to GSoC this year compared to the past years. Specifically, workload has been made flexible this year. Some projects are medium size, requiring a half-time effort (18 hrs/week, 175 hours in total) as in 2021. Other projects are large projects (full-time, 35 hrs/week, 350 hours in total). Make sure to find the project that fits your availability. Of course, large projects yield to double the stipend compared to the medium size project, as your effort will be double too. Additional flexibility also include the potential to complete the GSoC up to 2 months later, with the mentors' prior approval. 

2020 and before, the potential to commit full-time to GSoC was a major deciding factor. Mentors would avoid selecting candidates who already have an on-going internship or a job unless they still exhibit the potential to commit the same amount of time and effort. This year, just like 2021, allows the half-time (medium-size projects) contributors to have other internships in parallel.

Mentors and collaborators can even schedule their work hours the way they see fit.

Good luck!

 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Random spam and a train journey...

Kansas City, KS
Have you ever received a WhatsApp or a WeChat (WeiXin) message like, "Hello, I'm Stella, are you Mr. Jack, the costume designer introduced by Annie?" from someone with a Chinese woman as the profile picture but a US number?

My friends and I kept receiving those messages frequently. The template is always the same:

"Hello, I'm [a woman], are you [a man], [description to the man's job] introduced by [another woman / my colleague / my secretary]?"
A Google reverse image search on the profile picture will take you to the source - where they have stolen the image from.

For fun, we tried to reply to those to see where they would go. "Oh, sorry, you have messaged the wrong person." They respond, "my bad, at least you are kind enough." But these never proceeded further. They always sensed that I was trolling them and discontinued the chat almost immediately.

Train from Kansas City to ABQ
But managed to continue the chat a bit longer as I was on a long train trip. After this "wrong number," the person, who claimed to be a cloth designer from California, suggested I add to their Telegram since the WhatsApp is apparently for their work discussions only. So, I added them to their Telegram, a number from Indonesia. The person also introduced themself as a divorcee with a child and even shared a family photo (again, stolen from the Internet) after I shared a selfie from the train. They again shared the sketch of some cloth they designed and their lunch downloaded from the Internet. At this point, I can see how lazy these scammers are. They are not lazy. They just don't want to invest too much time on each potential victim as they cannot be bothered and have to function at large. Seriously, why can't they send an actual selfie of their lunch?

Anyway, in the beginning, they mentioned they also invest in crypto (they shared a selfie in front of a crypto dashboard - again taken from the Internet). At this point, I was sure this was either a crypto scam, romance scam, or a scam that would make me pay for their cloth design. This chat was dragging on over a couple of days as if they had formed a close and caring friendship with me. Usually, their conversation was in bad/broken English. But every time they talk about crypto, they get more professional and convincing - as if they were copy-pasting some paragraphs they wrote sometime back (not from the Internet. No text matches on the Internet). They even offered to help me invest. Ok, that is when I decided this was a crypto scam. My long train trip was coming to an end too. They also realized I wasn't falling for them - instead, I wasted their valuable scamming time. Their chat was getting repetitive with little time investment from them (just photos and videos stolen from the Internet). They stopped trying to convince me into crypto investments, and I blocked them.

Some arrests have been made on these crypto scams.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

When the reality exceeds the hype

Utqiagvik airport, midwinter 2021, -35C
Some events in life - we anticipate those for a long time. Before they happen, they feel almost like a dream. Then it happens. Sometimes they disappoint, after all those hypes and hopes. Other times, they surprise us even beyond our expectations.
 
A few come to my mind. First, the Erasmus Mundus. Doing an MSc in Europe, not just in one country - but two! It felt like too good to be true. Then I got accepted and spent 2 years in Portugal and Sweden: 3 semesters in Lisboa and a semester in Stockholm, to be precise. I left Sri Lanka on the 20th August 2012, 10 years ago, and arrived in Lisboa on the 23rd August, after spending a few days in New Delhi. The Erasmus Mundus experience, especially as a masters student living alone for the first time, together with many similar students, felt special and it pleasantly surprised me.
 
Utqiagvik airport, summer 2021
When I was in my third semester of the MSc, I applied to the PhD program under the Erasmus Mundus (now discontinued and replaced by Marie Curie funding) funding again. It felt it is going to be a larger version of the Erasmus Mundus masters, spending time in 2 EU countries again - but for 4 - 5 years. More time for those pleasant encounters. Then it happened. I spent my PhD in not just 2 countries in 2 years - rather 5 countries in 5 years! In addition to my universities in Portugal and Belgium (the host universities of my PhD program), I spent a few months in other universities in Croatia (1 month), USA (7 months), and Saudi Arabia (2 months), with research internships. While my MSc started this mobility experience with Portugal -> Sweden -> Portugal, my PhD felt like my MSc experience on steroids. More diverse experience. Now, looking back, my MSc + PhD experience of 7 years, 2012 August - 2019 August (2 years of MSc followed by 5 years of PhD) feels like a sweet past birth. An ultimate nomad life. I surely want to go back to Portugal for those memories.
 
No sunrise in the midwinter in Arctic
My visit to the North Slope in Alaska in 2021 was a travel experience that exceeded my extremely high expectations. I visited Anchorage (and surrounding towns - Whittier and Spencer Glacier) and Utqiagvik (and Point Barrow) in the summer, after wanting to visit Alaska for 2 decades since 2001. Utqiagvik, the Arctic Alaska, felt other-worldly, despite being the USA. I had to visit Alaska again (!!!) within a few months, in the midwinter, as I was so mesmerized by Alaska - this time to Anchorage, Fairbanks (and College), and Utqiagvik. Again, Alaska exceeded my expectations, making me want to go there for the third time. I even like that tiny Utqiagvik Barrow Airport. It does not have restaurants or anything fancy. But it has a minimalist and home feeling to it. Love that.
 
I am happy for these memories. But that also means I also want to go back in time (i.e., visit these places again). Hope I will still love Alaska and Portugal the same when I visit them again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The roads

Roadside in Birmingham, AL
Roaming the streets with a small backpack is fun. It does not highlight me as a tourist. I like when I can make a story in an uneventful purchase. My current backpack has a story.
 
My previous backpack's front pocket zip got damaged in Fairbanks as I was roaming the streets in blizzard conditions. It just froze while I opened it. I tried to pull it hard, and it broke. I thought of continuing my onward journey (to Utqiagvik and finally to return to Atlanta) with a broken front zip. But that means my backpack's usable compartments become less. Since my flight from Fairbanks was delayed, I had two additional days in Fairbanks. Close to the hotel where I stayed for the second segment of my Fairbanks trip, there was a Walmart. I found this backpack in that Walmart and immediately bought it - to avoid traveling further with a useless front pocket.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

The 3rd year

A seagull facing the Atlantic in Boston
We are reaching the end of January in 2022. The third year into the pandemic. The year seems to go pretty much like 2021. Old pre-pandemic memories are replaced by the lone memories of the pandemic. Let's see how long this goes.