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Luciano Araujo :: Blog

July 05, 2010

On Monday, June 21st, was the Fête de la Musique (Festival of the Music) here in France and Rennes for being a vibrant college town has the reputation for having pretty nice activities around the city. Indeed the entire town was taken over by music, food, and plenty of alcohol! There were about 5 official stages spread throughout the city and each stage had a predefined list of bands with a common theme from classical to reggae. These official stages were located in the main squares of the city and concentrated large crowds.

I left work, picked up my camera and headed to the city center to wonder around by myself and take some photos before my friends’ arrival. Early in the evening the streets were mainly populated with families and older folks and as the sun started to go down the college crowd took over the streets and people were drinking, eating, and having a great time!

What I liked the most about this festival was that in almost every corner there was an independent band just jamming their music and having a great time. People walking around like me would stop for a few songs and move on to the next band. These bands were mainly college students and some of them were pretty good. There were also some solo musicians playing their instrument of choice which included drums, guitar, and violin. I also saw many DJ setups on the streets and one in particular was playing only reggae music which drew a large crowd of hippies. On Place Sant Anne there was a metal rock band right next to the place were we usually eat Kebab and these guys were super hard core. A mosh-pit broke out in the middle of the square and at some point they played a song with the words “vive la revolution francaise” and chairs began flying… quite a scene!

Later in the night we positioned ourselves in front of one of the big stages and checked out some of the more professional bands which turned out to be awesome! At around 2am the town was taken over by drunks and bottles and fights were breaking out left and right. We figured that would be a good time to call it a night! Another awesome experience here in Rennes, France!

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June 30, 2010

The TRISKELL team here at INRIA / IRISA Rennes was kind enough to invite me to their annual seminar. The purpose of this 2 day retreat was to discuss the focus of research for the next year and to view a small presentation from the first year PHD students. The event was held at a beautiful golf resort on the north of France called Saint-Malo hotel golf and country club.

Members of the TRISKELL team and some guests (including myself) composed the list of 30 attendees. The first day of the seminar we had short introductions from the attendees and the first year PHD students presented their topic of research and after each presentation there were questions, suggestions, and discussions regarding the direction of the research. The entire seminar was conducted mainly in English but some in depth discussions and presentations were made in French. Frequent breaks for coffee were made which gave us the opportunity to watch the world cup matches being showed at the clubhouse bar.

At the end of the first day, most of the team went out to play golf and there was an instructor at the driving range to help us improve our swing! I believe I was the only one that had played golf before so I did ok! The entire golf course was quiet and deserted and the scenery was amazing.

The food at this resort was phenomenal. We had long 3 course lunches and dinners on both days accompanied by plenty of red or whine wine. During our meals, I had the chance to get to know some of the other team members that do not work directly in my project. There was one guest that really called my attention; an admirable older woman professor (about 60 years old) at the Universsity of Rennes 1. She refused to conduct any technical discussions in a language other than French and only spoke in English during her introduction and her closing remarks. I didn’t need to understand what she was saying to know that she was very knowledgeable and showed great interest in the topics being discussed.

Overall this was a great experience because I was able to see first hand how the PHD process is conducted here at IRISA and had the opportunity to strengthen my friendship with some team members as well as establish new ones.

        

 

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Last week the weather was really nice and one of the guys at the research center put together a bbq at his house and invited the entire TRISKELL team. I obviously wouldn’t pass on the opportunity to see how a French bbq is like and accepted the invite. Greg (the guy hosting the bbq) lives in a house on the outskirts of Rennes so there is no bus service to his area. The group managed to arrange the carpooling and we were on the way there promptly after work. Because it gets dark here really late in the summer, we enjoy almost 4 hours for sunlight after work. Greg’s house sits on a huge green area with some farming around where small farmers grow all sorts of things. Beautiful and quiet setting!

Once we arrived at the house, we started to drink beer and wine and Greg began prepping the bbq. Some of us engaged in playing soccer or badminton on the grass which was quite fun. Once the food was almost ready we all gathered around the table and talked and ate for nearly 3 hours. The conversation was carried mainly in French and at times I had no clue what they were saying but for the most part I could understand the topic by picking up a few words here and there. If I felt like jumping in the conversation I would just do so in English. You must be curious as to what was on the grill right? Sorry to disappoint you but nothing out of the ordinary, just some sausages and really thick pieces of a sort of bacon. I stuck with the sausages as the other bacon stuff just looked way too fating. The grilled stuff was served with a salad and a baguette… what a surprise! :) By around 11:15pm it was already dark and kinda chilly so we got back in the cars and went home.

   

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June 07, 2010

This past week the weather here in Rennes has been very nice with sunny days and warm temperatures. Talking to the guys that live here, they say that there is a sense of happiness in the air due to the great weather and be summer approaching. So with that in mind I decided to take my first side trip and go visit Saint Malo in the north of France. The initial plan was to go with some friends but they couldn't wake up early on Saturday morning after our late night out on Friday. I don't blame them, I had a really hard time getting up early but my time here is limited.

I went to the the main bus station here in Rennes and from there took a bus to St Malo. The ride costs 3.90 Euros each way and takes about an hour. Because I went on a Saturday, the bus was full of young people (mostly middle and high school kids) with bags and coolers ready to spend the day at the beach. Watching the youngsters one thing that struck me is how young they begin smoking here in France. Kids that looked 12-13 already smoking and rolling their own tobacco with great skill. In regards to the scenery of the drive north I can't comment much because I slept the entire way. I can only say that we must have passed through about 100 roundabouts :) Arriving at St Malo there was a strong fog in the air which made most of the kids on the bus disappointed! It was only 10:30 in the morning so I figured it would probably clear up as the day progressed.

Built on a granite rock in the Channel, St Malo is jointed to the mainland by a causeway. The city is surrounded by a wall and you can walk on the wall and look at the city from the top which is great for people watching and to take photos. It's popular with the English, specially Channel Islanders, and its warm brown sands give it a modest claim to being a beach resort destination. It has some nice shops and restaurants but nothing really impressive! After walking around town and going down to the sand for some photos I had lunch at a hidden Creperie which looked cozy and was quite full. I figured the food would be good and regularly priced since it was a bit off the beaten path. I had a pre-fix menu for 14 Euros which included a Crepe Super Complete (with ham, cheese, mushrooms and an egg), a sweet Crepe and a glass of Cidra (apple cider is very popular in this region). It was indeed good!

After lunch the fog was less intense but was still present. I headed down to the beach and took a much needed nap and just watched the french people and their habits. Old ladies bathing topless, group of young people gathered around a circle and eating their baguette sandwiches, guys playing around with a soccer ball, kids running into the water... just a typical beach scene! The afternoon ended sooner than I expected and it was already time to get back on the bus to Rennes. Given the cost and short distance from Rennes I recommend a visit but make sure you come during a warm day!

   

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I have been in Rennes, France for a week now and I think its safe to give a quick report on the city. Rennes is the capital of Bretagne, region northwest of France near the United Kingdom. Actually, the weather here is very similar to the one in London; it rains often and is quite cold! The best way to describe the city is a medium size charming college town. There is an old downtown with many timber houses, cafes, narrow streets, and stone roads. This area is my favorite and I often go there after my day is over at the research center to sit at a cafe and have some food.

The people are generally polite and the majority are young university students. There are many places to go out and have fun and I will do a separate entry specific to the nightlife in Rennes including the legendary Rue de la Soif. Most people don't speak English around town and the ones who do speak the bare minimum. This is actually good because it forces me to learn some basic French just to get around.

Apart from the old town, there are some areas that are quite modern but I have yet to fully explore them. Rennes also has some beautiful parks with fabulous gardens which I cannot wait to go explore one of these days.

The public transportation system here is very good. There are major bus lines that cross town and run often. There is even one underground metro line which crosses the town south to north. I purchased an unlimited monthly pass for 40 Euros which gives me access to all buses, metro, and bicycles. The bus line I mainly use is line #4 which has hourly service all night long from Wednesday through Sunday, which enables me to be out late! :)

In Rennes, most stores close at around 7 in the evening. So on a weekday I usually arrive in the downtown area at 6ish and there is a sense of hurry in the air with people walking around trying to buy their baguette before heading home, or getting their letter in the mail. After 7 the streets are calmer and only bars and restaurants are open. On a sunny day you see cafes full of people enjoying their drinks and smoking a cigarette. During the summer days, the sun is out until around 10:30 in the evening so it feels like you have having lunch at an outside bar when in reality you are having dinner at 8 pm.

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May 30, 2010

Today I woke up and got ready for my first day at IRISA where I will be collaborating with the TRISKELL team. Because I haven’t gotten my bus card yet, I took a 20 minute walk over to the building passing through the computer science building at the Universite de Rennes. The IRISA building is fresh and modern. Actually, they are still working on the completion of a new section. Each floor in the building is named after a color. I am now in the Orange floor which is where my desk is located. What I really like about this place is that each office is quite large and has a huuuuge glass window. They place two very large desks inside of each office and the wall across from the window is a floor to ceiling white board! ) The place is overall quiet, and people are just doing their own thing. Most of the people in the TRISKELL team are PHD students working on their dissertations or as assistant professors at the university.

The team was quite receptive and welcoming! People came out of their offices and introduced themselves to me. Though most are french, there are some PHD students from Chile, Colombia, India, and Spain. They invited me out for lunch and we took a short drive over to the university cafeteria where they serve a complete meal including salad, yogurt, main course, bread, and desert for 10 Euros. Nice meal! Most of  the people on the team speak good English, but I insist that they speak only French so I can begin getting used to it. Everyone seems friendly and happy . . . I think I will fit in just fine!

 

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I woke up Tuesday morning and everything was pretty much ready for my Trip over to Rennes, France later that day. I ran a few last minute errands including purchasing a travel book on France (Frommer’s France 2010) which turns out to be not that good. I guess this is what happens when you leave things for the last minute. I arrived at the MIA airport with plenty of time to spare and proceeded through check-in and security. Once at the gate, the American Airlines crew announces that mechanics are working on trying to discover what is causing a leak and they have no idea how long that will take. A few minutes after, the same announcer clarifies the PA by saying that they can’t even estimate the delay, because they don’t even know what is the cause at this point. Two hours into the delay, they announce that a new airplane has been assigned for the flight, which makes me feel more conformable then boarding a plane that was just fixed to cross the Atlantic. The problem with the delay is that now I have 1 hour from when the plane lands in Paris until the departure of my train to Rennes. I get out of the plane at 12:15 and rush ahead of the other passengers (mostly older in their 60s – 70s) to arrive at passport control before everyone else. I successfully clear customs by 12:25 and rush to get my bags. Unfortunately my two pieces of luggage were one of the last ones to come out! ( When they finally arrived, I rushed out towards the exit and informed myself where the train station was located. As I take the escalator down to the train platform, I see the 1:15 train to Rennes arriving! Wow, that was close! If had missed this train it would have been horrible.

The train ride was smooth. I had a first class ticket on the TGV which was quite empty. Because Paris Charles De Gaulle airport is so far away from Paris’ city center, I only saw the rural areas on the way to Rennes. Nothing interesting to see other than a small town here and there. While on the train, an older lady approached me and made a comment about my Mac. I obviously had no idea what she was saying, but I knew it was related to my Mac because she pointed to it. I then used my favorite phrase in French so far: Pardon madam, je ne parle pas francais (Sorry mam, I don’t speak French). Luckly she knew some English and she was able to explain what she was saying. Turns out she dropped her Mac and it no longer works!

After two hours and forty minutes on the train I arrived in Rennes as planned. The train station is of medium to small size so its not super easy to find somebody waiting for you, but not highly difficult either. As I am walking towards the main exit, I see an older men carrying a sign that said INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique). Monsieur Pasqual looked friendly but after I exhausted my two sentences of French we drove to the INRIA building in silence. It is frustrating not knowing the language and not being able to communicate! I cant wait to at least hold an introductory conversation and ask some questions in French! The INRIA building is nice and modern, but I didn’t get a change to see much as we just picked up the key to my apartment and headed there.

My apartment is clean, simple, bright, and quiet. In my book, that is a winner! It has a small bed, a desk, a bathroom, and a closet. Its located about 2k from the INRIA research building, so a quick bus or bicycle ride is all I need to get to work! I settled my bags at the apartment and Monsieur Pasqual gave me a ride to the supermarket so I could buy basic food. Right by the supermarket there is a little mall with an Orange store (Orange is the largest cell phone carrier in France), so I walk in the store with the intention to purchase a prepaid SIM to use while I am here. The young men working at the store was helping somebody so I waited. When he freed up, I greeted him in French and asked if he spoke English. He gave me the dirtiest look and in less than a second said ‘No’. Without much to say I turned around and walked away without my SIM card.

This concludes my first day here in Rennes. Unfortunately the management office of the apartment is closed and I cant get internet access until tomorrow. See you next time!

 

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Bilateral Integration of EntiMid with Major Social Network Outlets

Industrials, associations and public institutions of the metropolis of Rennes, are working together on a project which aims to allow dependent people to stay at home as long as possible. Due to the large scale of the project, and the diversity of disabilities that have to be considered, the deployment context will be different for each equipped house. The technologies used will vary, in order to compensate handicaps or because a technology is already installed, and people do not want it to be removed. Moreover, the system installed in these houses will have to provide a remote access to the devices of the house, and transmit all the necessary information from the sensors of the house to a control center where information will be treated. Those access and transmissions can be realized through various ways (Internet, POTS, SMS) and the medium used will vary according to the availabilities. An abstraction layer over all these devices has been developed in the form of a multi-facet middleware called EntiMid.

With increasing adoption of social networks as a communication avenue, comes the demand for applications to integrate and leverage the viral proliferation and extremely convenient information delivery mechanisms. The goal of this project would be to connect EntiMid to social networks such as Tweeter, MSN, Facebook, etc. as well as to Skype video-conferencing using generative approaches (based on Kermeta) for their auto configuration. The connections are to be both ways: from the home sensors to the social networks to publish events (such as health or mood status), as well as from the social networks to home actuators (voice messages translating some tweet).

EntiMid is a working prototype based on research published at ICSE 2009, IEEE Computer (special issue on Models@runtime) and Service Wave 08. Some connections with Web Services are already implemented (eg GoogleAgenda) but nothing yet integrated with social networks.

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May 24, 2010

Hello everyone! Or should I say Bonjour à tous!

Because this is my first post I think its appropriate that I begin by introducing myself. I was born in Brazil about 27 years ago and I have been living in the US for the past 14. During these 14 years I focused on my academic career which combined with a passion for computers and problem solving led me to earn a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. After a couple of years of working in the industry, I decided to pursue a Master degree in Computer Science which is turning out to be a wonderful experience. My main area of interest in Computer Science has been the development of web applications, particularly through open source technologies such as the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) architecture. The revolution of powerful web technologies of the last 5 years have enabled web applications to behave as responsive as native operating system applications but with the benefit of being platform and location independent. The future of web application development is looking very exciting with the increase of momentum for the HTML5 adoption and powerful smart phones with full featured browser in the pocket of millions of people.

I believe that the opportunity to participate in the PIRE program will be extremely beneficial to my career and I hope to make the best out of it! Stay tuned for the next post where I will discuss the specifics of my research in Rennes, France!

See you soon!

Keywords: introduction

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