Thursday, November 6, 2014

Yarl Geek Challenge - Season 3 - Selections

Already a lot of independent posts have been made about YGC3 selections. This post is biased and from my own pair of dark shaded glasses. Pictures used in this blog are by Hareesan.

Format of YGC

We have been toying with the format of YGC from season 1. Evolving from a reality styled show to what we have currently. Which is a hybrid of a hackathon and a business plan competition. I think that we are heading in the right direction. Doesn't mean its perfect still. As YIT I think we need to keep on experimenting till we get it right. Hence we made it a point to go out of our way to ask from all the participants to throw all their criticism at us. One, it keeps us grounded. Two, it gives us an opportunity to look for brighter ideas to achieve the vision sooner.

YGC Junior

The kids were impressive and left the first timers to YGC awestruck. Gnanakeethan looked very promising and technically sound. He has a great journey in front of him if he manages to keep himself focused and stays grounded. Aptly the award for the overall winner prize was given away by Dr. Maheson a legendary personality in terms of IT in Jaffna.

Team from Jaffna Hindu College was adjudged as the Winner of Yarl Geek Challenge Junior Season 3.
Again I am impressed with the Girls from Vembadi. Their presentation and speaking skills are exceptional. I hope that they do take to IT. Watching them I was thinking that a grassroot level initiative is needed to make more girls take to IT and start creating things. They should break out of the stereotypes on the job categories designated for women. Probably ladies already in IT should help to take this message and inspire the kids to take to IT. Any volunteers? YIT will back you!

Teams from Vembadi Girls High school won the two category prizes for the best mobile and best web applications. The winners of the mobile application category created a mobile application to help in the fight against Ebola. I was wondering and then finally walked up to them and asked on how they came up with that concept.

VGHS team who won the best mobile category getting the prize from Sarves

VGHS Team which won the best web application category getting the prize from Dr. Roshan.
This time we also had a hardware category. A team from Karainagar with minimum resources managed to win this. Thanks to Niroshan they had a working prototype of a letter detector for letter box made out of Arduino.

Best hardware Category was won by the team from Dr. Thiyagaraja M.M.V, Karainagar.
Prize was given by Eric - Chairman of LAN

I do not wish to comment about individual teams at this point of time. Since the opportunity round is happening this weekend and the finale will be held on the 22nd November. In short, the teams look promising. I hope and pray a few start ups will get funded and take their products to market.

Out of the 6 teams which have qualified for the finale  as of now . Two teams are from the 6 month old Engineering faculty from Kilinochchi. They come with minimal resources when compared with all the other Universities who competed from all over the Island, but had a lot of passion and commitment to make a statement.  Thananjeyan and Arunan. That's the biggest coup you guys could have pulled off. I am impressed. Now that you guys have set standards expecting to achieve greater heights.

Will be back with more after the finale.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Automating irrigation

Recently while I was in Jaffna it was extremely warm and humid. I asked my uncle, when was the last time it rained, he nodded and said he cannot recall. He then told me that a few years back there was a prediction saying that in 20 years time Jaffna will be a desert. He feared at this rate it might happen for real. I've no idea how accurate this prediction is or who made this prediction, but it gave me one more reason to believe that the Yarl IT Hub's newest project - Irrigation automation using open hardware makes a lot of practical sense.

In a region like Jaffna, where although water is a scarce resource agriculture either at commercial scale or as home garden is plentiful, the need for an affordable automated irrigation system is a must. YIT's DIA project tries to solve this problem.

Using open hardware the hand picked team of talented youngsters will build a localized blue print of mobile controlled DIA project. What they will be producing will be made in to a "Do it your self" open source project. Which basically means, a kid living in Jaffna will be able to buy the relevant affordable open source hardware either online or at shops, follow the instructions given online and set up the mobile controlled automated DIA irrigation project in his or her own home garden.

In Tamil they say "ஒரு கல்லில ரெண்டு மாங்காய்", direct translation means "Two mangoes with one throw". This project also has twin agenda, while solving the problem of irrigation we want to make open hardware accessible to the youngsters. So at least a few of them will take a few more steps and start experimenting with open hardware. Then hopefully, they will do greater things with it in future!

The team is working with a target to get an end to end prototype working by early June and then to have a complete blue print ready in three months time. Looking forward to an exciting time ahead.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kids these days

'Kids these days' is a pretty popular phrase used by each generation on its next. To be precise each generation used to complain about the next. Now that I am old, seems like I have also picked this up. But in my case I am not complaining, but instead intrigued by the possibilities they present. While we tell others and more than others, we tell ourselves to think different. I am quite fascinated at times how kids think differently without anyone telling them to do so. 

In one case, I asked little Thenmozhi to show me a picture taken earlier on her father's phone. She picked the android phone clicked camera icon on short cut. I was about to repeat and tell her that I don't want her to take a new picture but instead want to see one of her earlier ones.  Before I could say it she clicked on the small picture icon on the left hand corner of camera view and started browsing the old pictures. I realized I have a very constrained and stereotyped world view. For me if I wanted to take a picture I need to go to camera app. If I wanted to browse earlier pics I wanted to either use file browser application or go to photos application. I have trained myself to see a one to one mapping between a function to be performed and an application. There by not seeing the most efficient access method.

The second case was little Dharshika, she so small that she can barely speak still. Someone has given her a toy phone with buttons on it. For a while it was her main toy. But recently she has started to reject it. Reason, she has observed that one of my aunt's have a phone on which she swipes. She has figured out swipe was cooler than keys ( How long did research in motion take to figure it! ) Not stopping at it after a while she walked up to the TV and took a good long swipe at the screen and the adults were not too pleased. I am not sure whether if they already have tvs where you can swipe and is free of all buttons.  But for me it was intriguing,  because on some of these, I have almost resigned to the fact that these stuff are already at optimal designed.

When I thought beyond the debate whether the questions they pose are right or wrong, it opened up an unadulterated perspective on technology.

I felt that those who are building products would have to wake up to a different reality.  It is going to be a different generation.  Growing up with devices and has a different intuitive thinking. To be a winner you will have to convince them.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. 
In the expert’s mind there are few" ~ Zen Monk Shunryu Suzuki

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Understanding the larger picture

I used to play a fair amount of Chess while being at school. I was an average player, but I did love the game. So most of my after school hours were spent pondering over the squared board and hammering the chess clock using the captured piece. We didn't have a coach, so it was all our paradise.  So one fine day one of our distinguish old boy's came to spend the evening with us and put up a nice little competition.  He set up a position on a board ( I don't recall the position he set up. But for those who are new to chess, it will look something like this)

Image from
He gave us a task. Was pretty simple, we were given three minutes to look at the board. After which he would break the position. We need to go to our own chess boards and re-create the same position. The competition was to evaluate how many pieces each one of us managed to recall and set up at the right square.

With a bit of swollen headed arrogance, I wondered that it was a pointless task and went about simply memorizing the position. So rank by rank I tried to store in memory the shapes of the structure. For example, unmoved rook, white king side castled. Kings gambit like pawn structure for white, etc... Then when three minutes ended I went and tried to set up the position. I was left bitterly confused. Managed to set up only about 50% of the pieces. That too mostly the pawns.

On the contrary there was this other player who managed to set up the whole structure. I was about to conclude that he had better memory power and was good at memorizing. Then when the old boy asked him to explain how he managed to remember and set up the exact position. He explained that, if its white to move there was a two moves forced mate. The mate was to sacrifice the queen and mate with knight and rook. Largely its a two pawn up position for white. For the rest its black squared bishop against white knight.

For me it was one of those "Eureka" moment's in life. Initially as soon  I realized the blunder I had made, it made me sweat, felt half ashamed that "how come that this kind of a thinking didn't even cross my mind". Seriously I had been arrogantly fighting with granular details, without even realizing that this was not the approach to solve the problem. What I was fighting against was not even the real problem. It made me cringe and realize I was the absolute "frog in the well" . Growing up, this incident gets replayed in my mind often. It always reminds me irrespective whether if its in IT, Software engineering, Business analysis, organizing, planning, life etc,,when you  want to solve a problem understand the larger picture. When larger picture is clear, rest of the petty issues and details will fade in to insignificance. Its only after you understand the bigger picture you are really starting to solve the real problem. Till then keep fighting the petty issues like counting the pawns :D

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yarl Geek Challenge - Season 2

Last year's Yarl Geek Challenge was a resounding success and even before the dusts had settled a lot of super hyped competitors, judges, mentors and organizers started discussing about the next season. One of the most pertinent points discussed was how this could be extended to reach the grass root level.

After much contemplation the team Yarl IT Hub team this time has announced the competition at two levels.

1. Yarl Geek Challenge - Senior

The competition will be similar in format to last years one but with a few minor changes to the rounds. The introductory round will be on the 5th of October and the competitive rounds will be from the 17th to 20th. We had picked a week end where if you  take a days (18th) official leave from work, you could get a 5 day 'vacation', be in Jaffna, forget about all the daily chaos, get in to a zen state and immerse yourself in an environment where IT ideas clash!

For those who are new to Geek Challenge, its a reality show styled competition where teams compete in 4 rounds and at the end of each day face a panel of expert judges who decide on elimination/s! All eliminated teams will be given another shot by competing in the 'opportunity round'. If you are planning to compete keep an eye on the announcements on our facebook page. Its all set to pick up from where we left last season and continue to set higher standards.

2. Yarl Geek Challenge - Junior

To reach out to the younger geeks at schools, we had opened up a new category, where school students are expected to form teams and develop a mobile application and send in their entries. A panel of judges shall evaluate the sent applications and call up the top 10 teams for demonstrations, which will happen in parallel to the Yarl Geek Challenge Senior round 2 on Friday the 18th of October 2013.

To get more details and to participate at YGC junior please read

So yet again as we gear in for an exciting time ahead, we are on the look out for volunteers who could help us out on various aspects of this competition.

How can I participate?

Competitor : Form a team and as per your age category send in the application. Then start preparing to compete. We guarantee that you will walk away with a tremendous amount of knowledge and memorable experience.

Judges: The panel of judges are the sole decision makers in the challenge. They evaluate the teams against pre defined criteria, give feedback to the teams and most importantly call the shots in eliminations. If you are a Senior Academic or a Senior IT professional, we would love to have you on the judging panel of the competition and share your expertise and guide the participants during the competition.

Mentor: Each team in the senior competition will be assigned a mento. The mentor will guide the team starting from the 5th of October. During the competitive rounds the mentor will be with the teams and help the teams prepare for the rounds. If you are an IT practitioner or an Academic who would be able to mentor a team through the requirement, design, user experience and business strategy rounds. You should be on board with us. We assure you would walk away from the competition with a lot of self satisfaction and a great network of IT professionals and students!

Organizer: A competition of this magnitude needs a lot of ancillary activities, from stuff like creating graphics for YGC content, media coordination, announcing, writing, linking up potential sponsors, etc. Yarl IT Hub is a not for profit initiative by the community for the IT community. So please do join us - you could make a lot of difference!

If you could contribute in any way, please do get in touch with us by filling in the following form  at or leave a comment here or on our facebook group at we could contact you!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More of monkey business

Who said people queue up only for apple before the stores open? :D

Speaking about monkeys, at last I watched Vishvaroopam and couldn't get over this passing comment made with brilliant timing, comparing and contrasting monkeys and men. I am not posting the comment here because I will be accused of posting something which is borderline vulgar and insulting my own kind, but in case if you didn't catch it, slow down and read the subtitles during the part where the old lady curses Kamal and his gang visiting the village after its bombed! Kamal the legend :D

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Portrait to pets

I have this unwavering belief that a lot of skills can be learnt by reading books. Sometimes ( others accuse that it is always the case) I used to push this a bit too much. The latest thing I wanted to learn was portrait photography. So I again seeked the only way I knew to learn, found a book and from last Thursday had been immersed in it. But the issue turned out, it was a bit like learning to swim without getting in to the water.

I couldn't find a guinea pig to be my model. So the only beings whom I could control were these two unsuspecting innocent kittens. So ended up saying bye to portrait photography till I manage to con someone to be the model and now started to claim that I wanted to learn pet photography!

We look away!

We look alike!