LaTeX Training and Career Tips, talk at MES College of Engineering.

Back in Bangalore after 6 days of awesome fun in Calicut. Took a break for Eid and hit home on Friday. Couple of mark lists and course certificates remained to be collected from the college. Hence I was planning a visit to MES this time. Spoke to Sajith Sir and found that Tuesday is a holiday, and decided to take Wednesday off and go to college.

After sometime, I ended up agreeing to do a LaTeX training for the final year computer science students on the same day. Later the Head of Department spoke to me over phone asking if I could share my experiences as a consultant and freelance hacker in Bangalore. So to sum up, this was it. Find everything related to the training here.

I took the early 6.45AM train to Kuttippuram and that was a ride into memories. It’s been four months since I stepped out of the campus and the long four years came rushing. Just bliss. Hung around a bit here and there and decided to get started with my work. Had to get no due confirmation from all the labs and departments. That was some work. Met Ranjith and Sharath, and that was totally wonderful.

The talk began a 1.30PM. I was supposed to talk around an hour but it was easily stretched to 3 hours straight. I was excited. The LaTeX part was easy. I knew students will doze off. Sessions right after lunch is perhaps the difficult to handle. Managed to get them ride through the very basics of document preparation and surprisingly there were a bunch of M.Tech students who had specific questions. We discussed over them and solved a few. Rakesh sir and Sajith sir added things which I missed to speak out. 1.5 hours. All good.

The next track was sharing my experiences and showcasing why the students need not run behind corporate jobs. I started off with the things which I achieved over the small period of 3 months in Bangalore. Shared some nightmares, fun filled events etc. Spoke about Geohackers, Azim Premji Foundation, Boost Tech and HasGeek. In fact, I asked them to start a github account and get some visibility as soon as possible. There you go, lot of question and I quickly moved to “Clients from Hell”, pause, laughs, applause :)

I was done. Three hours and my throat ached like anything, but my heart filled with joy when the Head of Department had his take on what I spoke and how he noticed our batch to be one of the best outgoing in his two minute roundup. I was excited. I literally cried.

Thank you so much for having me speaking in the campus again, everyone.



Geohackers in the news!

Finally, we have some attention from the media! Featured on the third page of the New Indian Express.
Geohackers shows the way in Open Mapping
About two years ago, in an open map party held in Hyderabad, some geeks sowed the idea of forming an open technology mapping consultancy team. Now, the idea has grown into a full-fledged, non-profit, open technology mapping consultancy team called Geohackers.

The team, which consists of seven active members and several contributors, gives consultancy services on open mapping for different organisations and projects, free of cost. The team is also contributing to the Open Street Map, a project to make free and open maps.

“With the belief in the ideology that information has to be free, we undertake consultancy works and training for students on cartography,” said Sajjad Anwar, a coordinator of the open map team and a student of the MES College of Engineering, Kozhikode. The contributors include several technology freelancers and techies, working in different parts of the world, he said.

Explaining that the Geohackers might be the first consultancy service on open mapping in the country, he said, “We thought about starting an open mapping consultancy team to impart the ideology of open mapping to the people, as the need of such a consultancy is high in the country.”

The team is involved in several open mapping projects such as Assistance for Maps for Making a Social Change project and Heritage project.

“The first project was sponsored by two NGOs- Centre for Internet and Society and Tactical Tech and we have conducted several workshops and training classes for the social workers on how to use open maps. The training and workshops were held in New Delhi and Ahmedabad,” he explained.

“Heritage is a unique project to help tourists. People can download maps from the website for free,” he said.

At present, the mapping of heritage sites in Ahmedabad, Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram has been completed.

“The project is aimed to cover the whole India. More heritage sites will be added to the website shortly,” he said.

For mapping purpose, we use GPS devices and free satellite images. The open mapping foundation has contributed two such devices for the purpose, he said.

Arky’s blog about the news is here

Reworking NIT-C Maps

The first Mapping Party in Kerala was held at National Institute of Calicut, Calicut, during 23-24 October 2009. The event was organized by the Free Software User Group Calicut and GeoHackers. Indeed the quality was poor. As a result of few discussions on the OSM emailing lists, I have been reworking with the data we collected. Added few new roads, paths etc. Making the map more rich. The map is here.

Mapping Party – How To

We had a very good experience learning more about OpenStreetMap and Mapping, through the NIT-C Mapping Party. Since then, we have been collaborating a google doc, to document the event. The How-to document is thus a part of the entire event, the geohackers initiative.


Map-making or Cartography aided mankind from the time when lived in caves, the geographic knowledge and the compass guided the progess of our civilization. Today such wealth is only available to those who can pay huge royalties or license fees. OpenStreetMap project (OSM) takes its inspiration from Free Culture philosophy and aims to provide geographic information of the entire planet to one and all.
Mapping parties are organized to teach map making skills and contribute to OpenStreetMap project. With the advent of GPS technology anyone with such a device and computer can build high quality maps. This document explains how one can organize a mapping party in their school or workplace.

The Tools

Lets look the tools that are needed for making maps, we need a GPS devices, a personal computer to edit the mapping data and a account on OpenStreetMap servers to upload your data.

GPS device

GPS is Global Positioning System. The earth is surrounded by 31 satellites, which provide us sufficient information to identify where we are on the planet. This tracking is processed with the help of geographic coordinates called Latitudes and Longitudes. There are lot of stand alone GPS receivers available in the market. At the mean time, most of the smart phones are equipped with GPS receivers. GPS devices are the primary data collection tool for mapping.

The data collected in the GPS devices are used in the GPX format. This is the most easy and efficient method for fetching the data from the device. The GPX file is the collection of traces and waypoints. Map images in formats like .jpg, .png etc are also used. The OSM data subsets are available in the .osm format.


Map editors are the workplace were we use the data collected from GPS to create the map. Creating the map involves proper tagging of the data. Many editors are available, like Java OpenStreetMap editor (JOSM), Potlatch, Merkaartor. Among these, JOSM is the heavy duty offline editor.

Getting an OSM account

We need to have a proper OSM account to validate and upload the map we created. You can create a new here.

Lets start mapping !

The next important step is creating teams. The entire party is divided into small teams based on how many GPS devices you have at your disposal and size of mapping area. Each team should have at least one person with good sense of direction. Each team can be given a name or colored arm band (optional). Each team is equiped with a terrian map with landmarks that show the borders of their sector. Various services like google, yahoo. provide terrian maps that can be printed before hand. A person can act as a control center co-ordinator. He is responsible to staying in touch with team in the field with mobile phone or portable 2 way radio (optional)

Data Collection and Downloading

Maps are created at this stage. The data we have mined are ordered, analyzed, and tagged. We need to make sure that all the team follows a naming convention or comment. The coordinator should watch for over marketing / mis-marketing of the same location. Once the data is properly tagged, it is time to upload it to the OSM server.


Each team would be provided with a feedback form, which they are intended to provide sincere information regarding their experience in the workshop. This step is a sort of improvement and corrective measure for the GeoHackers team.