Setting up a planet

So, how does one set up a planet?

In case anyone thinks I’m nuts, I’m talking of setting up a planet like this (or this). A planet here is just a collection of blogs, and I’ll talk about how to set up one using the software called planet venus. To get started just download the tarball. Extract it into a directory of your choice (using tar zxvf venus.tgz), and you’ll see the directory structure as on the website. The documentation is quite detailed, but if you want a planet quickly, you won’t have to read most of it.

Here’s what I did: I made a directory and copied the file themes/classic_fancy/config.ini to this directory (you might prefer some other theme, in this case choose the appropriate config.ini). Edit the file accordingly; mostly you’d need to change the [planet] section. The other important settings to check are cache_directory and output_dir. It’s better to set the full path here and in the other places which require a directory (template_files) — this helps when running the cronjob later. All the generated files will be in output_dir. You can find the index.html.tmpl (index.html template) in the theme directory and the other templates (Atom, RSS feeds) in the themes/common directory.

Remember to put planet.css and other relevant images in the proper places, otherwise people will see an ugly page!

Now add the feeds which you would like to have in the planet in the following format:

[http://blah.wordpress.com/feed/] # This should be the feed url
name = My Name

You’re done! Now switch to the directory where you untarred the planet venus code and run python planet.py /path/to/config.ini. This will download the feeds, store them in the cache and generate the index.html, Atom and RSS feeds.

Finally set this thing to run as a cronjob (using crontab -e); the snippet below will make planet.py run hourly:

0 * * * * /usr/bin/python /full/path/to/planet.py /full/path/to/config.py

Science Conclave at Allahabad

Merry Christmas to the blogosphere!

Christmas evenings are a nice time to talk about lots of things, so I’ll talk about the trip to the Science Conclave at IIIT Allahabad which I attended along with my friends (eight of them, to be precise) and a scientist from our institute. This science conclave was attended by quite a few nobel laureates and other expert scientists.

Five of our friends had reached IIIT Allahabad in the morning of the 14th of December (the conclave duration was from 15th to 21st December). We reached via a different train at nearly midday; it was quite nice that we got a room on the same floor as the other group. The conclave was due to begin the next day, so there was actually nothing that I could think of doing, and that’s what happened. We were staying at the boys’ hostels on the ground floor (almost literally; what separated us from the floor was a blanket). There were nice blankets on top also to keep out the cold (of which there was a lot).

The next day was the first day of the conclave; as usual I got up a bit late; breakfast was done in a hurry and we’re off to the lectures. The morning lectures were held at a pandal on the campus. Since I don’t remember the order of the lectures, I shall not now be going into the details of them (not too much, anyway any details become foggy after a few days). After the lecture there was a felicitation ceremony and speech by the director of IIIT-A. By this time, I was feeling hungry (always happens after lectures) and soon my stomach was satisfied (at least I thought so, I did not know then what was to happen a week later!). The second day passed like the first day, with one exception.

One evening, someone suggested that we should play the game of “mafia”. I wondered what that was and why others seemed so excited about it. I’ll leave the explanation of the game to wikipedia; what was amazing was how I changed from a bored bystander to a fan of the game (apparently, this always happens in this game). We had lots of rounds of Mafia, and I managed to guess people correctly quite a few times, though as the night wore on, my guesses wore out 🙂 I slept at around four o’ clock and woke up with a nice attack of rhinovirus. Oh well.

The interaction sessions were held at the computer centre; interaction sessions were divided according to discipline; though I didn’t much like it, for in my viewpoint I consider science to be indivisible, it would be infeasible for all of the almost over thousand students to interact with the Nobel Laureates — that would only result in chaos of the non-interesting kind. The questions ranged from nice, profound to downright silly, so one could almost plot a Gaussian there. The nobel laureates were very helpful and listened to all the questions carefully. We had interaction sessions with Prof. Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Prof. Jerome Friedman, Prof. Martin Perl and Prof. Harry Kroto. I slipped into a Mathematics interaction session once where I could interact with Prof. A A Slavnov of Steklov Mathematical Institute.

We heard nice lectures from all the nobel laureates; most of them were on high energy physics and the Large Hadron Collider and the interesting prospects the LHC opened up for a new generation of research. Arguably the most inspiring one was however, Sir Harry Kroto’s. I never knew that I would like a chemistry lecture so much! The presentation started with a very loud sound (to wake us up) and continued in a fashion which was like a well arranged salad: flashes of humour, beautiful animations, pictures from the past and visually striking, simple images which make us understand in an instant what his research is about, and on why he loves bucky balls aka fullerenes. I’ll never feel the same way about chemistry, or at least fullerenes again. He gave two lectures; both were different but in some way carried the same spirit.

In the evenings were the cultural programmes. I didn’t expect a cultural programme of this magnitude at a science conclave, but then there it was. Many eminent people performed at the cultural programme, including Hema Malini, Peenaz Masani, Anoop Jalota, Dr. Shobha Naidu and Bhupinder & Mitali Singh. There’s no need to say how they were: they were all astoundingly brilliant and beautiful.

Thus as you see, a lot of things happened at this conclave. We had lots of fun, listened to interesting lectures and talked with interesting people. Space and time, restricted they are; to tell everything of what happened at the conclave would take days and more words than I’ve the patience to type. However, it was a memorable experience and I thank all those who made it happen.

Oh by the way, as to what happened a week later: I had a nice stomach upset.

Update: added links.