Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Online vs print reading.

A one pager about the findings about differences in reading online vs reading a physical book. I enjoy reading a book much more than reading online. And, I've observed that I remember more from what I have read from a book/newspaper. But, reading online has a big advantage - there are a lot of references available and, any new word/concept can be immediately searched and read about. But sometimes, this facility itself turns into a disadvantage. I often realize that, when reading about a previously unread subject, my online reading becomes a breadth-first traversal of all the links. I start from some topic and after a few minutes, I land up reading an entirely different subject with tens of tabs open in my Firefox window. This surely takes a toll on my comprehension and recall of the topic I started out with. Of course, in this case, it is myself and not the technology to be blamed.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

LOD 27

Google year end zeitgeist -
Created by "studying the aggregation of the billions of search queries that people type into the Google search box".

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The incredible machines!

Which is the kind of machine that has existed for ages, will continue to exist, has proven its resilience time and again, is available in varying complexities and most importantly, it has spread (almost) everywhere on the earth ? The kind of 'machines' I am alluding to are living beings!
Living beings are by far the most complicated machines ever created on earth. Human beings might be at the pinnacle of complexity.
Some people might not be comfortable and might even feel insulted by calling humans mere 'machines'. But, according to science we are only a machine, a self-replicating one though. We generally think of living beings as a higher form of matter i.e something that is not merely matter but contains an invisible ingredient which non-living things lack. From a pure materialistic point of view, what is the difference between a stone and a kitten ? Nothing actually. Both are composed from elements available on the earth. But one is made such that we attribute 'life' to it. IMHO, the difference between a dead living being and its life-full form is similar to the difference between a working clock and the same clock when its battery is dead. The contents and mass are largely unchanged, its just that the necessary chemical reactions are missing. It is shocking to realize that mere chemical reactions decide whether a person and a clock is dead or alive!
Thinking about simpler forms of life makes the definition of 'living being' broader and broader. At the level of viruses, the definition becomes blurred, and whether a virus is living being is a matter of debate. Going further down the hierarchy we come across virus like particles (VLPs). These officially are non-living things. The primary difference between a virus and a VLP is that VLPs lack the DNA/RNA which is necessary for replication. So, a VLP cannot replicate and infect cells like a virus can. This case suggests that ability of self-replication is a principal differentiating factor between living and non-living things.
Is is morally bad/incorrent to think of living beings as mere natural machinery ? I do not think so. In fact, thinking that way has made me humbler and compassionate and lets me appreciate the beauty and millions of years of natural engineering that went into building each of the living beings present today. Unlike what major religions in the world preach, I no longer regard a cat or a cockroach as a 'lower life form' compared to humans. They are machines which fared well and survived the journey through time, like we humans have...

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Programming languages popularity.

Came across the 'TIOBE Programming Community index', it is an index of the popularity of programming languages. They have calculated it by using data from various search engines and sites which have an appreciable Alexa rank . Importantly, it is not the number of lines of code that exists of a language. They also have graphed past 6 year trends for various languages and displayed data for various categories of languages. The interesting thing to note is the rise of dynamically typed languages and the fall in statically typed languages. Since, in the past few years Python, Ruby, JavaScript and PHP have gained much popularity (and importance too), the graph seems logical. The index can be viewed here . The way they calculate the ranking is given on this page.
    Another site which uses similar technique to determine popularity of languages is Langpop .
Although both these rankings are not precise, they certainly are good indicators of popularity.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cupertino effect

I have experienced that, the 'intelligence' added into modern word processors sometimes proves to be more irritating than useful. Cupertino effect is the name given to the (from wikipedia) 'tendency of a spellchecker to suggest inappropriate words to replace misspelled words'. I never knew that exasperating spellchecker annoyances had a name of their own ;)

On searching, i came across this interesting writeup here about the effect.The writeup also explains why the phenomenon is called so -

An automated spelling checker attached to a word-processing program is one of the curses of our times. In the hands of an inexperienced, over-hasty or ignorant user it readily perpetrates dreadful errors in the name of correctness. One example appeared in a piece in the New York Times in October 2005 about Stephen Colbert’s neologism truthiness: throughout it instead referred to trustiness, the first suggestion from the paper’s automated checking software. In September 2006 an issue of the Arlington Advocate included the sentence, “Police denitrified the youths and seized the paintball guns.” The writer left the first letter off identified and the spelling checker corrected what remained.

In 2000 the second issue of Language Matters, a magazine by the European Commission’s English-language translators, included an article by Elizabeth Muller on the problem with the title Cupertino and After.

Cupertino, the city in California, is best known for hosting the headquarters of Apple Computers. But the term doesn’t come from the firm. The real source is spelling checkers that helpfully include the names of places as well as lists of words. In a notorious case documented by Ms Muller, European writers who omitted the hyphen from co-operation (the standard form in British English) found that their automated checkers were turning it into Cupertino. Being way behind the computing curve, I’m writing this text using Microsoft Word 97, which seems to be the offending software (more recent editions have corrected the error); in that, if you set the language to British English, cooperation does get automatically changed to Cupertino, the first spelling suggestion in the list. For reasons known only to God and to Word’s programmers, the obvious co-operation comes second.

Hence Cupertino effect for the phenomenon and Cupertino for a word or phrase that has been involuntarily transmogrified through ill-programmed computer software unmediated by common sense or timely proofreading.

A search through the Web pages of international organisations such as the UN and NATO (and, of course, the EU) finds lots of examples of the canonical error. A 1999 NATO report mentions the “Organization for Security and Cupertino in Europe”; an EU paper of 2003 talks of “the scope for Cupertino and joint development of programmes”; a UN report dated January 2005 argues for “improving the efficiency of international Cupertino”. And so on.

Other notorious examples of the Cupertino effect include an article in the Denver Post that turned the Harry Potter villain Voldemort into Voltmeter, one in the New York Times that gave the first name of American footballer DeMeco Ryans as Demerol, and a Reuters story which changed the name of the Muttahida Quami movement of Pakistan into the Muttonhead Quail movement.

It could be worse. Leave out one of the os from the beginning of co-operation as well as the hyphen and you might be offered not Cupertino but copulation. Now that would be an error to write home about. Or perhaps not.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Sawai over :(

The Sawai Gandharva music festival about which i had blogged here and here ended yesterday (technically today :) ) at around 1 in the morning. Yesterday and day before saw many superb performances from both senior and upcoming artists. Most notable (in my opinion) were Pt Rajan and Pt Sajan Mishra (vocals), Ganesh and Kumaresh (violin), Ronu Mujumdar (flute), Vinayak Torvi (vocals), Tejendra Mujumdar(sarod), Aruna Sairam(carnatic vocals) in addition of course to sangeet martand Pandit Jasraj ji! Pandit Jasraj won the hearts of the crowd as usual. For an octogenerian, the range, stamina and quality he displays is simply beyond imagination!
As usual, the fest ended with Pune's own Kirana gharana torch bearer Shrimati Prabha Atre. She demonstrated a couple of kaunses. The ease with she sings at the age of 75 is remarkable! At the end of the program, a record of Sawai Gandharva's Bhairavi is played. Out of respect, people stood as still as they would have during the national anthem. No wonder, Pune is so well known for its art loving crowd.
There are a lot of things to write about, especially about the security arrangements at the venue. Will blog them down in free time...
Clicked a few snaps while i was there. For those who have never been to Sawai, they might give an idea of the immensity. Click here to view them.
Just an year left for the next Sawai, am waiting....

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Splendid performances!

    I missed yesterday's performances at Sawai because i'd to attend a family function late in the evening :( I could only hear Prakash Khaparde from the Rampur gharana, a disciple of Ustaad Rashid Khan. He is a young artist and sang really well. His voice at upper notes sounded similar to Rashid Khan sahib. He displayed some good taans and movement into the kharaj* during his paramparik bandish (traditional composition) in Raag Multani. I have heard that bandish - 'Gokula gaan' performed by Rajan-Sajan Mishraji and Pandit Jasraj too, it is a nice compostion and Mr. Khaparde rendered it really well.
    Devaki Pandit could not perform yesterday because of a sore throat. Instead of her, her gurubandhu* Mohan Darekar took to the stage. He started off with Raag Gavati. I left when he started. I sorely missed Malinitai Rajurkar's performance alongwith her unusual taranas :(
    The day before, i.e 11th was the day of Ajoy Chakravarty! The first three performances of the day were average. Pt. Shivkumar Sharma then beautifully draped Durga in his scintillating santoor. It is indeed amazing and, at times unbelievable that, an instrument as simple as a santoor can be so enthralling! Yogesh Samsi was at the tabla and did a fabulous job as usual. The only thing that marred the performance was sound system problems, a rather rare occurrence at Sawai.
    And then came the unbeatable Pt. Ajoy Chakravarty! In my opinion, he was miles ahead of everyone who performed that day. His experience and tayyari* shone magnificently from the asthayi* to his ati-drut* taranas. For the first time in life, i heard a khayal in Raag Khamaj. Conventionally, Khamaj is employed when singing light classical such as thumri or in Dhrupad gayaki. Ajoyji with his honey like smooth voice, moved freely around in all the three octaves. He presented some amazing taans starting low in the kharaj and ending somewhere up in the taar saptak* (reminded me of Pt. Jasraj). The best part of the performance was a whole sentence he sang in kharaj. That was the deepest kharaj i've ever heard!! And, to maitain it for that long is more than remarkable. As with all good things, his performance seemed to end quickly :( But, on public request he sang a Bhairavi. Never have i heard such an energetic Bhairavi! It has permanently altered the impression of that raag in my mind. Amongst Pune Police's warnings of 'time over' he ended the Bhairavi with a sacred Sanskrit shloka. Such awe-inspiring was the performance that, people were loathe to get up and go home for the night...

kharaj - lowermost octave possible for the singer 
gurubandhu - a male learning from the same guru as oneself
tayyari - literally - preparation 
asthayi - start of a rendition, generally lacking the accompaniment of tabla     and any high notes
ati-drut  - very fast, faster than drut
taar saptak - uppermost octave

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sawai starts today.

The 4 days i wait for whole of the year have arrived - its Sawai time :) The programme will begin in just one and a half hour from now.
   Hopefully, the performances will be as good as previous years'. Also hope that, the ASPM has  made enough arrangements and planning, should any kind of  emergency situation arise.
Insha'Allah all shall go well...

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


How to get a geek to go for a walk ? Here is the answer ;)
     Although i'm not that geeky, i do enjoy free internet surfing on my WiFi phone. The deployment of WiFi has grown tremendously in Pune. I know a couple of spots in the city where there up to 3 wireless connections available for use. I have (just to test the bandwidth) even streamed youtube videos using open connections.
   These days when people buy a laptop, they get a wireless router with it. What they forget to do is to set up a security system like WPA (or atleast WEP) on it. I have observed that, if the name of the wireless connection is the default for that router, then there is a high chance that the connection is open.
     When you get a wireless phone, it becomes a habit(or addiction ?) to check whether there is an open connection wherever you go. The other day, i was visiting SBI's branch in Camp when i noticed that, they too had an open WiFi connection. Till my turn came, I was monitoring stocks on the internet. I had decided to let the bank know about it but, i forgot :( I know a software company in Pune, which has a deployed a ridiculously powerful router. Their WiFi is reachable standing even at 70-80 feet from their building. Although the connection is not open, having a connection reachable from such a distance is risky. Also, merely having a powerful router is of no use. 802.11 needs two way traffic; if the WiFi device is not powerful enough to reach the router, a powerful router is of no practical use.
     I am waiting for a software(for my phone) which will continuously scan for open WiFi nodes and connect to them. More importantly, the software should handle the handoff transparently from one router to another while i'm walking/driving out of one's range into another's. I can manually do that, but its too cumbersome to scan and change the access point. Wireless is not that popular in Pune yet, but if, it grows even more, then I think it would be worth writing the s/w myself :P

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Layoff Tracker

Techcrunch has built this layoff tracker for tech companies in the US.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Was long overdue...

At last, people at large have woken up and charged against the rulers. Was extremely happy to read this.
It was looong overdue...

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Two suckers gone.

Mr Shivraj Pail - the home minister of India and Mr R.R Patil - the Depty Chief Minister of Maharashtra have resigned following their failure to secure Mumbai and, the nation in general. Their resignations are just a face-saver for the ruling Congress party, in the center as well as in the state.
       Intelligence agencies, in India, as well as the US had intimated possible terrorist strikes via the water route. But, the officials and govt were too busy not performing their duties. All the hints were either neglected or not taken as seriously as they should have been.
      The problem is that, the maximum a politician can lose is his post, power and earning capacity but, the maximum a common man can loose is his life and family! The tragedy is that politicians have nothing to lose, absolutely nothing, compared to the man on the street! Even after the Indian politician loses his post, he retains money and power more than enough to feed at least next 3 generations of his. While a minister, he will always have hundreds of security men around him wherever he goes. No matter how unsafe a state becomes for the man on the street, the minister will always be secure at the cost of his security men.
      More should be at stake for the politician. The first time a terrorist attack happens, all the security for the responsible minister should be withdrawn, as a punishment. Let him feel the risk a common man feels. The next time an attack happens during his rule, he should be sacked, no questions asked. Moreover, he should be penalized by not giving him at least one month's salary. If a terrorist attack happened, then, it is evident that he did not work well, so he does not deserve to be remunerated for that work. Like the common man lives in fear, the politician should live in a constant fear that, any lethargy on his part would get him out immediately. Only then, there is a chance that, they will work seriously for those who voted for them.
Jai Hind!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

LOD 26
Checks on multiple sites whether a username is available for registration.

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Had never thought that, the post count would ever reach 100 on this blog. But, surprisingly that did happen! This is the 101st. Of course, not all the posts have been 'post's in the true sense, some of them have been mere links. But still, i am happy about the fact that, if i decide, i can do something persistently for months.
The main deterrent in continuing to write a blog is that - there is no payoff. Since i do not run ads on my blog, there is no (even theoretical) chance of income from it. Also, I know that, I am not a great blogger so that, one day my blog will be big and famous and in turn, it will make me famous. In fact, a blog cannot become famous until it is focused on something (like for eg Om Malik's or Jeff Atwood's). This blog, on the contrary contains stuff about a super-wide variety of things - from computer viruses to evolution to classical music and even photos of my treks. Then why am i into writing this ? In the time i've spent writing all these 100 posts i could have finished reading 2 good books. The only reason i can spot is - the joy of creativity. However small and insignificant for the world, I am creating something which was not there before.
Hopefully, this joy of creativity will egg me on further.
Thanks for reading and, keep reading...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A useful BIOS feature.

[originally posted at GeeP]
Recently, i upgraded my home PC. Apart from many others, the one feature which i was waiting to have was the 'Wake up from S5' feature. 'S5' is the ACPI spec name for the powered off state of a computer.
    What this feature makes possible is - in the BIOS settings, one can set a time at which the machine should power itself on and save the BIOS settings and poweroff the machine. The machine will wake up on its own at the specified time. This feature is present on all the newer(released in the last 6-8 months, at least) Intel motherboards. Don't know about Gigabyte and others though.
    The use case for me is - I have BSNL's DataOne broadband which is free from 2-8 am. Instead of keeping the machine running from 10pm or so, i can have it start just before 2. Saves ~4 hours of power and machine usage for every night that i download. Quite useful...

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Einstein proven right!

103 years after he proposed it, Einstein's 'E=mc^2'  was computationally proven right by researchers.
Read interesting details here .

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Disk cables and disk speed.

Recently, i got acquainted to a baffling fact. Here is the story -
I attached a new SATA hard disk drive to my office machine. But, it failed to perform. The disk bandwidth was capped to a meagre 3.54MB/s irrespective of the block size, reading patterns, amount of data read and the OS. Normally, one gets read speeds upto 70MB/s from such a drive.
    I thought the HDD might be defective and so, we called our vendor. He said, change the disk data cable. That was a silly suggestion i thought. Had the cable been defective, the disk would not have worked at all. The performance metrics suggested that some mechanism(or absence of some) was capping the speed at precisely 3.54MB/s. After trying out a few disk  utilities, BIOS options, DMA settings and a couple of different kernels from various linux live cds, I finally gave up and decided to live with the slow speed.
    A couple of weeks after that, Ashutosh enquired whether the disk problem had been fixed. When i said no, he insisted on changing the cable as the vendor had suggested. I was sure that changing the cable won't help  but, since everything else was had been tried, i agreed. As we booted up the machine after plugging in a new cable, i was dumbstruck! The disk returned to its normal speed!! I could hardly believe. My understanding that, disk cables are binary i.e either they work perfectly or they do not work at all, proved to be a total myth. Later, i switched the cable to the old one and as I'd expected, that worked too. The problem i guess, was a loose contact!
   This was really strange and i've still not understood the exact  reason behind this. From what little i know about hardware - i guess, the loose contact might have been on one of the trasmit/receive pins in the cable(rather than ground pins).  The error correction mechanism might be doing a lot of work to get/send the data correctly(lots of retransmissions ?) which caused the throughput to reduce to a low.  Of course, this is a wild guess, i would be happy to know the correct answer.
Thanks to Ashutosh for the inistence :)

Lesson learnt:  Do not cling to your views and knowledge too much. Be open to evalute other's views however unconvincing they might seem at first.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

LOD 25

Practical wireless electricity - Witricity

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Another trek.

Last Sunday, we friends went for a trek to a fort named 'पुरंदर' (Purandar). It is a small climb, takes around 70-80 mins to reach the top(via the 'Bini darwaja') and further 15-20 mins to reach the Rayreshwar temple located at the edge of the fort. We were eight of us. It was a quick decision taken late Saturday night; in contrast to many of our meticulously planned trips which are yet to happen. We decided to leave late morning(sevenish), rather than, decide to leave very early morning and leave late morning ;)
For me, the trek was not the only attraction, more important was the fact that we were going to go on bikes! I love my bike and, am always waiting for a chance to drive it. Driving a Bullet is a wonderful experience! More on it sometime later...
Overall, it was fun. Rode the bikes hard. Although the weather was sunny, we enjoyed the trek quite a lot. This time, i did not make the mistake i made last time and wore light weight sport shoes to the trek :)

Here is snap of the statue of the great warrior Murar Baji Deshpande -

Here are some more snaps .

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Write Only Memory

     If we have 'read only' memory (ROM), then why can't we have 'write only' memory (WOM) ? Seems logical, doesn't it ;) It seemed so to some managers at Signetics and, they officially published and circulated a datasheet of 'Write Only Memory'. You can check out the datasheet here, it is worth having a look at :)
    The story of WOM goes thus - An engineer at Signetics who, painstakingly wrote datasheets got frustrated because, the datasheets which he submitted for printing were not even read by the approving managers. They were forwarded without checking. So, he decided to play a prank and, wrote this datasheet of 'Fully-encoded, 9046 x N Random Access, Write Only Memory'. There is hardly any need to say that, WOM is utterly useless! Also, the entire datasheet is funny, including the block diagram which shows(among other things) a dripping faucet connected to the IC and, a clock signal which just comes and goes without driving any circuit :D Even then, the datasheet went through approvals, got printed and landed in stores. The management realized their foible only when customers asked for the product and its price(don't know who found it worth buying ?). The company later recalled the catalogs and removed WOM from them.

Thanks to Mangesh for introducing me to this novel technology :)

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Process substitution (in *nix shells)

Some times we need to give output from multiple processes(commands) as input to another command. The common use case i used to come across was when, i needed to diff two config files located on two different servers, while i was logged into only my workstation.

For eg. if i need to diff say /etc/rc.local from server1 and server2, then the typical flow would be -
1) get rc.local from server1, store as say tmp1
2) get rc.local from server2, store as tmp2
3) diff the two and delete after use.

I wanted to find a slightly elegant solution for this. After some searching, i found about bash's 'process substitution' feature. Bash allows you to redirect to or, from multiple processes using the '<' and '>' operators. The '<' is more useful. The '>' is more like a pipe.

The command for the above use case would be:

diff <(ssh server1 cat /etc/rc.local) <(ssh server2 cat /etc/rc.local)

The substitutions can be nested, for eg -

sed 's/Nov/November/g' <(sort -r <(grep sshd /var/log/secure|tail) <(grep pppd /var/log/messages|tail))

This (rather useless) command greps for 'sshd' and 'pppd' in two different logs and collects twenty rows which are given to sort, by use of process substitution. The sorted output is then fed to sed via another substitution. Finally, sed replaces every occurrence of 'Nov' by November.

Not that process substitution makes any impossible things possible, its just that, the code can look better and intuitive. Theoretically speaking, it will perform better too(if implemented using the same logic, of course).

To know more about how process substitution works, let us do a cat <(sleep 15m)
This will keep cat waiting for input for 15 mins, which will give us some time to experiment.

Then, on another terminal we can check out from where cat is trying to read the input from.

ps -ef|grep cat

Output is -

[root@pranav ~]# ps -ef|grep cat
root 6310 4448 0 12:11 pts/4 00:00:00 cat /proc/self/fd/63

So, cat is reading from /proc/self/fd/63. We won't be able to read /proc/self/fd/63 of cat, we'll have to refer it using cat's pid i.e via /proc/6310/fd/63

Doing a stat /proc/6310/fd/63 reveals interesting details -

[root@pranav ~]# stat /proc/6310/fd/63
File: `/proc/6310/fd/63' -> `pipe:[61741]'
Size: 64 Blocks: 0 IO Block: 1024 symbolic link
Device: 3h/3d Inode: 61746 Links: 1
Access: (0500/lr-x------) Uid: ( 0/ root) Gid: ( 0/ root)
Access: 2008-11-01 12:21:02.860555104 +0530
Modify: 2008-11-01 12:17:10.310805099 +0530
Change: 2008-11-01 12:17:10.310805099 +0530

The /proc/self/fd/* entries are being used by the process to read the output of the other. 63 is a symlink to the pipe which is opened for writing by the subshell running sleep 15m. Cat reads from the reading end of that pipe which is aliased as /proc/6310/fd/63. Thus process substitution is accomplished using pipes. Since cat is reading from /proc/6310/fd/63, if we echo anything to /proc/6310/fd/63, it will be visible on the terminal we are running cat on.

Although the syntax is similar, process substitution is very different from the commonly used command substitution technique i.e - cat <(ls) is much different from cat `ls`. In the former, the parenthesized commands are replaced by the file descriptor pointing to the generated output, and in the later, the parenthesized commands are replaced directly by their own output.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Google SMS channels.

Google has launched an interesting service called SMS channels. A 'channel' is something like a mailing list for SMSes. The SMS sent through the channel is broadcast to all those who have subscribed to that channel. But, unlike a mailing list, you cannot reply to the SMS you got via the channel.
     Anyone can go to (for India) and subscribe to the already present 'channels' or create his own. The good part of the service is that - it is free :) The bad part is that, the delivery is not at all reliable(at least for Indian channels). I was planning to create a channel for us friends and use it to 'push' meeting times and other plans to everybody at once. But, i observed that the message might take from a few seconds to 12 hours to reach the reciever. So, the service cannot be used for such purposes. But, it is ideal for sending jokes and advertisements. Worth giving a try.
    You can also try out It is a service similar to Google's. I am subcribed to it for more than an year now and have got some nice jokes from them :)

PS: I've created a channel which will let you know about new posts on this blog. You can subscribe to it from here

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Monday, October 27, 2008

LOD 24

A useful site for converting files online and offline - YouConvertIt

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tracking laughs - laughing tracks.

I was watching 'Friends' on Zee Cafe the other day when, I realized that it isn't that funny. Of course, I like Friends and, Friends is by far, one of the best TV shows I've ever seen. Its screenplay and chemistry between the actors is unmatched. What i alluded to in the first sentence was, even though it is funny, it would not make one laugh/smile as frequently as it does, had it not been for the laughing tracks.

    Friends(among others) has laughing tracks all over the place! That day, as an experiment, i decided to consciously ignore the laughing track(LT from now onwards) and, take the joke(if there was one) at face value. Not to my surprise, most of the places where they've inserted the LTs, there is close to nothing to laugh about. At places where there is something, the LT was a bit long.
    I don't know who discovered(or should it be 'invented' ?) LTs, but its an extremely brilliant idea! The cost is close to nothing but, the results are appreciable. And not just that, most of us, most of the times, do not realize that we are being manipulated(or should it be 'forced' ?) to laugh. As far as i know, why a LT makes us laugh/smile is because of the fact that laughter is contagious. Not uncontrallably contagious, but contagious enough to be called contagious. We tend to laugh if, we see or hear others laughing. The important point is - even if we start laughing after looking at someone, we enjoy the laughter normally. What i mean to say is, there is no difference between 'imitated' laughter and original(for lack of a better word) laughter. So much is the effect that, one can start laughing against his/her will. This, I think, is the fact that is made use of, in playing a LT. I have experienced this while walking in a park where there was a laughter club. After hearing them laugh, i was about to start laughing(even though i did not want to) when finally, i changed my way. It takes quite a bit of will to stay away from laughter for long. That is why i was thinking of using 'forced' instead of 'manipulated'.

     Since the subject of contagiousness has come up, let me share a 'discovery' i made when i was probably in the 7th or 8th grade. The discovery was that - yawning is contagious. Sometimes, my mom/dad used to sit with me while i was studying; if i yawned, most of the times she/he yawned after me! I observed this many many times and later, i observed that i yawned if they did! I told my dad about my big discovery. Sadly, he already knew about it :(
    Many years later, i came to know that, this psycho-contagion is one of the effects of a certain neuronal assembly in the premotor cortex. This neuronal network is popularly known as 'mirror neurons'.

Very Offtopic PS: While i was reading the post before publishing it, i noticed that - in the second para, I had used 'place' to denote an instant of time! As if, to make the representation simpler, time was temporarily transformed into a continous strip of matter and, i could demarcate places(instants) on it. Of course, there is nothing great about that kind of usage, it is quite commonly used. To me, it seems analogous to Fourier and Z transforms which I tried to learn during my engineering days.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What is intelligence, anyway?

Here is an excerpt from Issac Asimov's autobiography (italics mine) -

What is intelligence, anyway? 

When I was in the army, I received the kind of aptitude test that all soldiers took and, against a normal of 100, scored 160. No one at the base had ever seen a figure like that, and for two hours they made a big fuss over me.
(It didn't mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private with KP - kitchen police - as my highest duty.)

All my life I've been registering scores like that, so that I have the complacent feeling that I'm highly intelligent, and I expect other people to think so too.
Actually, though, don't such scores simply mean that I am very good at answering the type of academic questions that are considered worthy of answers by people who make up the intelligence tests - people with intellectual bents similar to mine?

For instance, I had an auto-repair man once, who, on these intelligence tests, could not possibly have scored more than 80, by my estimate. I always took it for granted that I was far more intelligent than he was.
Yet, when anything went wrong with my car I hastened to him with it, watched him anxiously as he explored its vitals, and listened to his pronouncements as though they were divine oracles - and he always fixed my car.

Well, then, suppose my auto-repair man devised questions for an intelligence test.
Or suppose a carpenter did, or a farmer, or, indeed, almost anyone but an academician. By every one of those tests, I'd prove myself a moron, and I'd be a moron, too.
In a world where I could not use my academic training and my verbal talents but had to do something intricate or hard, working with my hands, I would do poorly.
My intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an arbiter of such matters.

Consider my auto-repair man, again.
He had a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me.
One time he raised his head from under the automobile hood to say: "Doc, a deaf-and-mute guy went into a hardware store to ask for some nails. He put two fingers together on the counter and made hammering motions with the other hand.
"The clerk brought him a hammer. He shook his head and pointed to the two fingers he was hammering. The clerk brought him nails. He picked out the sizes he wanted, and left. Well, doc, the next guy who came in was a blind man. He wanted scissors. How do you suppose he asked for them?"

Indulgently, I lifted by right hand and made scissoring motions with my first two fingers.
Whereupon my auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, "Why, you dumb jerk, He used his voice and asked for them."
Then he said smugly, "I've been trying that on all my customers today." "Did you catch many?" I asked. "Quite a few," he said, "but I knew for sure I'd catch you."
"Why is that?" I asked. "Because you're so goddamned educated, doc, I knew you couldn't be very smart."

And I have an uneasy feeling he had something there.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Height of advertisement!

Here is a height of advertising - US presidential candidate Barack Obama advertised himself inside a game on Microsoft's XBox 360 gaming console!
Have a look at the image here -

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

LOD 23

A very interesting read about Apollo Lunar Module's software.

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Only 4 digits now!

The Indian stock market fell yesterday too, and it fell to an unimaginable level. The BSE30 (commonly known as Sensex) fell below 10,000! Its a four figured Sensex now. Too bad, really very bad. The Sensex today is available at more than 50% discount compared to its peak of 21,000 in Jan '08. It took 1 and half year to go from 10K to 21K and, hardly 10 months to go back to 10K. We are today where we were in July 2006!!
It was predicted some months ago the sensex would breach the psychologically important mark of ten thousand. But, it was only a prediction. There are so many predictions being told by so many 'experts' that one amongst them will always come to be true. It is like one expert saying it will be heads and, the other saying it will be tails. One of them will be correct no matter what.
People who have invested in Mutual Funds and direct equity have lost a lot. When the market was at 21K, it was predicted that the rally would take the market to 24K. No wonder, some people invested into the market at peak! It was just then when, the hyped Reliance Power IPO happened! The IPO was oversubscribed within the first minute of its launch!! When it closed down, it was oversubscribed more than 60 times, which means, Anil Ambani wished to generate only 11,600crore Rs from the public but, around 7 lakh crore Rs were generated! Most of the subscription was from stock brokers and institutional investors. But, how did so many of them manage to shell out so much money to subscribe to the IPO ? What they did was - they sold the stocks they owned to put money in the IPO. With such enormous selling, the market naturally fell. The market never saw a good day since :( And, the worst part is - Reliance power was listed at a much lower price than was 'predicted'. Today the value of the share is less than half of what it was sold in the IPO(including the bonus issued later). Too bad :( Of course, it was just a matter of events, i do not mean to say that Reliance guys had engineered things to happen this way...
After the subprime crisis hit the US hard, India too was not spared. FIIs took away a lot of their investments in the Indian markets and the markets fell further. Yesterday, Sensex and Nifty fell down breaking all resistances! Nifty broke the one at 3600 long ago, then 3400, then 3200, 3150 and even 3100. The Sensex yesterday had a huge resistance at 10K and, it hovered between 10,100 and 10,000 for around 5mins, once even going to 10003 and rising again. Ultimately it fell below 10K to 9998, to 4 digits again after 2 years! Nobody can say whether this is the bottom, and it is probably not. But, one can say that it is the right time to invest for the long term (5+ years i mean).

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Google helps.

No doubt Google helps. Google has attained an extremely important position in the lives of software developers like us. And not just us, Google has an extremely useful offering for non-technical people too - Google local.
A couple of years back, I was in a small shop to get something photocopied, when i noticed a Google logo stuck on the wall. I asked the owner about it and he said, 'गूगलची माणसे आली होती इथे' meaning, people from Google were here. That day, i discovered a wonderful service called 'Google local'.
   It is amazing that, Google actually hired people to visit shops in lanes and bylanes of Pune to collect information. From wheel alignment to dentists, google local knows about everything and, more importantly, it can pinpoint the location on a map. Another splendid feature is that, you also get to know the phone numbers of the shop. Thus, google local becomes a yellowpages killer! A search for 'computer hardware pune'  gives a whopping 862 results!
   Since the day i've told him, my dad (and his colleagues in the office) has started using the service effectively. Nothing better :)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

LOD 22

An interesting plugin for GMail, amongs many other things...

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Monday, October 13, 2008

LOD 21

Useful app - allows you to share a part of a youtube clip.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Big Boss etcetera...

I have been wanting to write this post since i first heard about 'Big Boss' - a reality show similar to 'Big Brother'  which is shown in the US and EU.
     Since they have kept the show running for more than a month on 'Colors', I guess it's TRPs have reached the break-even and, probably have gone beyond it. My question is - what's there in programs like Big Boss or MTV Roadies or even those Saas-Bahu serials* that makes them popular ? Some of those Saas-Bahu serials have been  on TV for the last 100-110 years!  (in binary i mean :P)
     Big Boss season 2 is broadcast every day at 10PM on the channel called 'Colors'. This program is said to have brought the channel to notice, rather than the other way round. Do BB, Roadies and SBS (Saas-Bahu serials) have anything in common ? I believe they do. Is it the common factor which gives them their longevity ? I think, yes. The common factor is: in all those shows, the main theme is - individuals scheming against one another. Each one is trying to outwit the other(or group of others). Emotions rise and fall during the doing and, this makes the show even more popular. 
      But, is this factor enough to make a show popular ? Ratings indicate that it is. But, why does showing people scheming bring so many viewers ? It is because, the viewers have been doing the same thing all their lives! This is only a hypothesis of mine, it could very well be incorrect, but it might be correct as well :)
      Looking around carefully, one realizes that every one is continuously scheming. Trying to get the most out of the resources one has access to. One has to compete with fellow human beings all the time! Its there so much that, we do not realize that we are in a 'competition'. Climbing in a bus we compete for space, working in the office we compete for results/success, investing in the bourses we compete for money, to get a boy/girl friend we compete against suitors and, so on. Who are we competing against ? Humans beings all the time. Very rarely do we have to compete against nature. A child who cries louder will quickly get noticed and will be fed earlier than his sibling who cries softer. Isn't this a competition ? It is, and we participate in such competitions every day without consicous realization.
       Generally, the one who can manipulate human beings around him to his benefit wins the competition. To manipulate, one has to scheme. Isn't this the very thing the shows are all about ? Whether it is inside a family or between participants in a reality show, scheming is the thing. I think, we are innately attracted to scheming! It must be (i guess) an evolutionary adaption - the one who observes and learns more will probably acquire better manipulative techniques and be successful in the long term. We are always curious about things happening to others. Our brain is geared to be attracted towards such happenings from which it might learn something which will help it defeat other brains it is competing against. SB serials and reality shows are a treasure trove of cheating and vicious gossips. Gossip is an excellent way to manipulate people's opinions about other people. One who can gossip effectively, is certainly at an advantage.
     Apart from the above reason, there must be other reasons too. One of them is - if the participants are non-celibrities(like in Roadies), then people will tend to identify themselves with some of them. Also, if a certain reality show is the talk of the town then those not watching it will begin watching it because they do not want to be left behind when friends are discussing about how x made an ass out of y on the show.
     Today's reality shows last about 80-90 days, so, they have all the scheming concentrated into a short timespan, which makes them even more attractive. Actually, every one's life is worth showing in a reality show and  I'm not the first one to have gathered this idea. If you've not seen it yet, then 'The Truman Show' is a must watch!

*Saas-Bahu serials - These are a kind of popular Indian soaps wherein, intra or interfamily conflicts(in affluent families generally) are portrayed with stupendous exaggeration. Generally, the conflicts start between the mother-in-law(Saas) and daughter-in-law(Bahu) of a family, and later engulf all the family members, their ex-husbands/wives, their children, children's friends and sometimes, even those dead!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Internet in 2001

Google recently celebrated their tenth birthday . In the honour of that, they have opened up their 2001 index for searching. You can search using it from here. Searching for Xen, Windows XP, wikipedia, wtc 9/11, digg and many other things gives no meaningful results. Its an interesting travel back in time...

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Linus starts blogging.

After Sergey Brin, another biggie from the software world has started blogging. Its Linus Torvalds this time. His blog is located at:

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Windows Cloud OS.

Microsoft to release 'Windows Cloud' operating system within a month. Details here.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

LOD 20
Create online databases having some interesting and useful features.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008


While surfing, i stumbled across - Google's new application engine. By using the app engine infrastructure, Google allows you to host your own web application on Google's servers. You can go through the documentation, starting here.
I decided to give the engine a try and so, wrote an app using the engine. The app engine is extremely easy to use and, the interface to upload stuff is really simple and non-clumsy. Google also provides support for Django(an MVC framework) amongst other things. One of the reasons i liked the engine was because, it employs Python - a highly productive language IMO. Google has been a proponent of Python since long and they have continued their support for Python, at appspot. Google internally uses Python on a large scale and, i suspect that, they must have rewritten quite a bit of it to suit their needs (similar to what Facebook has done to PHP).
You can check out the app i wrote at :)

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Monday, September 29, 2008

A geeky, punny joke.

I liked this one very much!

The ark lands after the Flood. Noah lets all the animals out, saying, “Go and multiply.” 
Several months pass. Noah decides to check up on the animals. All are doing fine except a pair of snakes. “What’s the problem?” asks Noah. “Cut down some trees and let us live there,” say the snakes. Noah follows their advice. Several more weeks pass. Noah checks on the snakes again. Lots of little snakes crawl over the earth, and everybody is happy. Perplexed, Noah asks, “Want to tell me how the trees helped?” “Certainly,” say the snakes. “We’re adders, and we need logs to multiply.”

I picked it up from here
(Caution: There are some naughty ones on that page. You have been forewarned  :) )

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Thursday, September 25, 2008


I am an avid fan of emacs! I have been using emacs for the last half a dozen years still, i think, 90% of emacs still reamains unexplored. Emacs is almost as old as i am! No wonder it is reportedly the second oldest software repository in the whole world!
Emacs is just too much to be called an 'editor', since almost everything (coding, running the code, debugging, code-browsing, scripting, reading mails, web browsing, playing music (with playlists n all), working with files on remote machines transparently, filesystem browsing, version control, ascii art drawing, planning using the calendar, diffing, playing games, reading RSS feeds, viewing man pages etc etc) can be done inside emacs. And since, emacs includes a full-fledged interpreter inside it, you can virtually write anything you want in emacs' own language - elisp.

An emacs fan had put it this way - 'Emacs is my operating system, and Linux its device driver'.
Another had said - 'The purpose of a windowing system is to put some amusing fluff around your one almighty emacs window.'

Emacs is (in)famous for its lengthy, difficult to remember keyboard 'short'-cuts. My project mates used to jab me whenever i used emacs during our college project. They used to say - 'its not long before emacs will require people to use their toes too for pressing keyboard shortcuts'. I used to continue my emacs session, unaffected ;)

For those from the vi camp who have never tasted emacs, i would like to point to Vimacs to begin with.

Wikipedia has a nice entry on the holy war of Emacs vs Vi -

xkcd has this beautiful one on emacs -

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Garbage In Garbage Out.

An interesting article about the recent blow-ups on Wall Street and, how cunning (mis)use of software assisted it:

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scenes from India

Came across this on Digg -
They all are photos of recent(past couple of months) happenings in various parts of India.

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Send free SMSes to almost any country in the world -
I tried it out for Indian providers, it worked :)

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Billionare's blog.

While reading about 23andMe somewhere, i came across the information that, Sergey Brin has recently started blogging. He blogs at He has written some deeply personal stuff in the second post itself. I wonder why ?

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Looking for that 'perfect match' ?

I came across two really really interesting sites. What they promise to do is - ensure that you date/mate/marry with the one you share a perfect chemistry with; literally. ScientificMatch and GenePartner are two companies which study DNA samples of human beings to tell whether or not they suit each other genetically. In short, its a DNA based dating service ;) After you sign up for their services, you have to mail them a DNA sample(saliva) using the kit which send you. They analyse the DNA, and suggest biologically suitable matches for you.
I did not go through all the documentation they have provided however, the benefits they (scientificmatch) have mentioned on the homepage look a bit exaggerated to me. I am no expert on biotechnology, but to say that(verbatim) 'There will be less cheating in your exclusive relationship' is IMHO a bit too much . In humans, the second level replicators (memes) are far more dominant than the first (genes). IMO, culture, social background, upbringing, religion, friend-circle, occupation etc play a very important role in determining whether or not an individual will cheat. I think, there might be only theoretical truth in some of their claims.

The rising of such services and others like 23andMe* establishes one thing for sure - research and discovery in the fields like genomics and neuroscience may change our lives in unprecedented ways. Will our lives become more artificially/scientifically controlled ? Today, in many countries couples check for astrological compatibility before marrying. With the advance of genetic science, will marriages be cancelled because histocompatibility complexes are incompatible ? Maybe yes. Going further ahead, will parents will get to 'customize' their (yet to be born) babies ? Like, 'Please replace this allele, so that the eye colour is nothing else but blue'. And, to imagine the extreme - there might come a law stating something like 'a child bore by a couple will legally be considered as their child if, more than 50% of his genes come from the couple's gene pool'. Such a law would be necessary because people will have the capability to modify and substitute genes to a large extent and, that might possibly lead to biological identity litigations.
On the other hand, such immense advancement in biotechnology will probably get rid of many fatal and non-fatal hereditary ailments. Stem cell research will be a boon if we could regenerate organs.
Lets see what happens.Only time can tell..

*23andMe is a startup funded by Google amongst others. One wonders, how come Google invested in a biotech company ? Its probably because, the company is co-founded by none other than Mrs. Sergey Brin :)

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Gmail's new feature.

Gmail recently launched a new feature which i was waiting for since long. The feature is - gmail shows a popup if, from the text in your mail it infers that you have forgotten to attach the attachment.
Since google already scans and analyses(to some extent) the content of every mail while its being written (otherwise how do they show relevant ads?), this feature was a long overdue. Finally, they have put it in. Its  an experimental feature in Gmail labs; disabled by default.
  Unfortunately, the way they have implemented it is saddening, to say the least :( It can detect only the very obvious mentions of an attachment. Things like 'I have attached the file/photo/image/it' work. But 'Have attached the file/photo/image/it' doesn't! The commonly used shortform 'PFA' doesn't work, even if its the only thing in the body of the email :( I tried out many other constructions which failed to bring the prompt. From a company that is the pioneer and present leader in search and analysis of text, such a debacle was unexpected (even for an experimental feature). If an experimental feature is so poorly done that it will hardly be useful then, it won't be used and tested and the whole point of releasing it early becomes void.
   Hopefully, someday Gmail itself will be out of  'Beta' and so would the many features advertised...

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back after a lull.

For the last five days i was left internetless at home, thanks to India's biggest ISP - BSNL . I'm a BSNL broadband subscriber. BSNL gives ADSL broadband over POTS lines. My phone was out of order for the last 5 days and so was my broadband. In spite of many phone calls and a visit to the office nearby, the problem was not fixed. Some cable, i was told, was cut which had caused several phones in our area to go defunct. BSNL is  famous for its reach all over India and, infamous for its pathetic customer service (if at all it can be called that).
Today evening, finally, the phone and 'net started working. In a way, it was a good test for me. I did not miss the 'net at all. I was netless during the entire weekend too. It was nice to know that i'm not that addicted to the internet...yet :)

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

LHC network hacked.

Hackers found a hole in CERN's arrangements. And no, its not a black hole ;)
Details here.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Looking for the 'God's Particle'

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be active within less than a day from now. The billion dollar experiment has already gained a lot of publicity even before it starts! And, it would be longer still before any scientifically significant outcome comes out of the 27 kilometer magnetic conduit. The largest magnet i've laid my hands on (around 10 years ago) was the one my grandpa used for 'magnet therapy'. Its magnetic force was impressively strong and it weighed around 2kg. The power of a supercooled ~20 tonne magnet is simply beyond my imagination!
But, why are they(scientists) doing all this ? Curiosity, i believe. Its man's insatiable hunger for knowledge!
Scientists are madly in search of the missing piece of the standard model of particle physics - the Higgs Boson also known the 'God's particle. From what little i know about particle physics, what i understand is - scientists are searching for a field which gives fundamental particles(quarks and leptons mainly) their mass. When massless particles move in this field, they 'aquire' mass. Since, it is proven that nature exhibits wave-particle duality at the quantum mechanical level, the particle associated with this wave (field) is being sought rather than the field. Peter Higgs had proposed the existence of this particle/field long ago and so its called the Higgs boson/field. The Higgs boson corroborates the accepted Standard Model, but it has never been experimentally observed.
Higgs bosons decay too quickly to be observed. Scientists say that, the HB existed just after the big bang, and so they are trying to create similar high energy states artificially, by colliding protons(a kind of hadron) into protons travelling at near light velocities. A stupendous amount of data would be generated from the collisions inside the LHC. Scientists will have to analyse all those hadron collisons and, try to detect whether any unknown particle was emitted as a by-product. It must be like finding a needle in a needlestack! A special kind of high data rate network has been designed to handle and process the data generated by the collider. If not anything about physics, even a robust protocol to handle distributed data processing would be a significant outcome of the LHC ;) That is to expect the least.
If the LHC proves that there is no HB then, even that would be a very important discovery. Then we would require some major changes to the standard model or may be, look for something totally different.

What if we do manage to find the God's particle ? and someday complete the unification of all 4 forces ? How would it benefit the common man ? What are the practical returns we would get from it ? and when ? No direct returns probably, and certainly not quickly. Wouldn't it be better to put on hold such expenses and, use all that money to do something else which is urgent ? We had a nice discussion about these things in office at lunch today. My colleagues said that, all that money could have been well spent on cancer research or global warming or for fighting AIDS in third world nations. I agree with them...somewhat. Those problems at hand are much more important than going after quarks and neutrinos. But, man is a curious animal and, knowledge(to some extent) is probably a need rather than a luxury. Also, research in fundamental sciences might not give quick returns like research in technology but, it certainly helps in the long term. In the long term, technology makers benefit from such research and the benefits are ultimately passed on to common people.
Of course, only developed nations should pour their money into such research. IMO, countries like India should consider particle accelerators to be the last thing to invest in. Roads and electricity would two better things to start with...

LHC rap! Its pretty informative BTW.

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Fun with gas!

Adam(from the 'MythBusters') demonstrates how and why helium turns you into Donald Duck, and sulfur hexafluoride into Satan.

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Interesting gadgetry. From book scanning robots to huge paintball guns...

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Saturday, September 6, 2008


Seriously! Blogger sucks big time! Blogger is not shown to be in 'Beta' like Google's tens of other services so, one can expect it to work well. The only reason they might not have put a 'Beta' tag on Blogger is because, Blogger might be in Alpha!
I was totally frustrated while customizing my template. Over time, I've changed quite a few things. Every now and then i get this:

What the heck ? Why do we have to 'Describe what you were doing' ? Can't the server figure that out ? I do not expect it to correct my CSS syntax or supply missing tags automatically when i submit the template. But, does the server not even keep a note of what action generated the error ? And why does the user have to supply the 'additional information' to Blogger support which the server itself has generated and displayed ?? Can't it be associated to the error code ?

Initially, i thought i was getting things wrong and writing incorrigible code. But, today i met that screen all the time. Finally, i removed all my changes and submitted the template as it already was on the server, without any changes at all. Even then i got the error. Thats when i realized that Blogger sucks! I tried to check whether anybody else felt the same thing. Google gave me 8,540,000 results for this.

Now thinking of switching to Wordpress...

P.S: Bugs are not the only reason that i'm looking for alternatives. I wish there were some more features in blogger. Hopefully, i'll find them somewhere.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Google chrome anomaly ?

Installed Google's much hyped 'Chrome' web browser. There is nothing impressive in it, if you ask me.
I do not intend to review Chrome here, this is a post about something interesting i found.

Here is a screenshot of Chrome's 'about:memory'.

[click to enlarge]

This page shows the memory usage of chrome and other browsers running at that instant.
The encircled figure on the left (49,556k) is the resident memory size of chrome and, that on the right (49,176k) is the size of the virtual memory allocated by it. AFAIK, the virtual memory size for any process should always be greater than (or equal to) the resident size, since VM size includes swapped out pages as well. But, here, the resident size is shown to be greater than the VM size! The same anomaly can be seen for IE and Firefox numbers too, in fact, the irregularity has become even more pronounced.
I wonder what this is - a bug in their software or in my understanding :-/

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Useful product for collecting information. A good alternative to emailing friends for deciding things like - which movie to go ? when ? etc :)

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About a common misconception.

I went to a mechanic near my place to tighten the front brakes of my Bajaj Super scooter. IMO, the brake shoes have pretty much worn out. I was complaining to him about the the brakes not working well etc. His comment on my plaint surprised me quite a bit! He said 'rear brakes are the important ones, front brakes are just for support'
I have heard a similar statement from more than few people. It seems to be a common misconception that rear brakes are to be used to do major braking and the front can be used for little assistance. Doing so is inviting trouble! Of course, for four wheelers, the driver cannot control how much braking force is applied to which tyres. The problem remains only for 2 wheelers.
A lot of people even think that pressing the front brakes will make their bike slip, which actually is exactly opposite of what happens(unless the braking is done on a sharp turn at an inappropriate speed). Due to weight dynamically shifting from front to rear during deceleration, the front tyre is loaded and, only a small amount is friction(traction) remains between the rear tyre and ground. At that time, if the rear brake is used more than the front, the rear wheel gets 'locked' i.e it stops spinning, and this is the worst thing to happen to any vehicle! The vehicle will go out of control and will usually skid on the road. The front wheel always has more traction during braking, so the front brake must always be used and not the rear one. No wonder, disc brakes are put on the front wheel rather than at the back.
Cars and high end bikes from Honda, BMW etc have an Anti-lock Braking System(ABS), which continuously monitors the wheel rotations. If the system senses that the wheel is about to 'lock', the brakes are released(even if the brake pedal is pressed by the user) so that, the wheel gains some traction and the vehicle does not skid. ABS overrides user command for his own good. Actually, ABS reduces the overall braking efficiency a bit. A skilled rider can bring his bike to halt in less distance and time without ABS than with ABS. I've heard that, TVS India is coming up with a bike having ABS.
Some bikes have disc brakes in the rear too(Bajaj's Pulsar 220 has). Discs are excellent for braking, but if not used carefully on the rear, they can exacerbate the problem of skidding.

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Monday, September 1, 2008


Amazing thinking! Kudos to the creator!

Genetic Engineering Homework

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Bike trip!

Three of us - Kedar, Mangesh and myself, went on a bike trip in the rain. Initially we'd decided to go to Rajgad. But, we changed the plan and decided to explore untreaded roads...

It was a fantastic trip! We stayed at Mangesh's place that night. An acquaintance in the village told us about a waterfall at some place called Kelad. We decided to go there instead of going to Rajgad the second time. The roads were bad esp. for the pillion rider, but the natural beauty around was just amazing! We never expected to find so many waterfalls, and such dense a forest in that area. The destination is yet to become popular, for we hardly saw anyone on the road during our journey.
After going to Kelad and seeing the waterfall, we decided to return via Panshet. We crossed the valley and rode to Panshet. Even that road was beautiful.
All along the trip, we felt that we'd hit an unexpected bounty of natural beauty!
Snaps here:

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another concert...

Been to another Indian Classical Music concert(previous one here). Was a good one. It was held at my favorite place - Bharat Gayan Samaj auditorium. Its a very small auditorium and so, one can watch the singer and the expressions on his/her face closely.

When i started listening to ICM, i always wondered how fellow musicians and saathidaars know when to stop, when to increase the laya or when to pickup from the main singer. Only, after watching a few mehfils did i surmise, that the singer subtly signals everyone around :)

The singer was Shrimati Sania Patankar from the Jaipur gharana. She is a disciple of Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande who is a disciple of Gaan Saraswati Kishori Amonkar. The mehfil started with a Jaipur gharana patent(not literally :) ) Raag Lalita-Gouri. Then came Durga and a Zoola and the Bhairavi. She seemed to have pretty good command on the upper middle and upper saptak, but i rarely heard hear in the lower one. All her taans and layakaari was in the upper notes. As usual, every singer has an area of expertise. Overall, the mehfil was good, certainly worth going!

Here is a snap i managed to take from my mobile cam:

The two girls sitting behind there were singing really well (esp the one on her left). They were following her perfectly! I wish i could sing like them, that too at such young age...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Visit if you have some time to kill :)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


tamil *tSong;
english *eSong;
eSong = reinterpret_cast<english*>(tSong);


I mean, its a Tamil song interpreted and subtitled as if it were English...

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Google's datacenters

Do you wonder where Google stores the stupendous amount of information it spiders, along with user data, statistics and cache ? Here are some interesting facts about Google's data and processing stores:

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My bad.

Due to a faulty DNS entry, did not resolve to what it should , and the blog was unreachable for more than a day. I'm sorry for the folly (not that i have a huge number of regular visitors, but even if it happened to a single one, i ought to apologize).
I made only a small change, and since it takes some time for the DNS changes to propagate, i thought 'i will test it (a couple of hrs) later'. Generally, i immediately test such changes by going through American proxies, but i skipped that step this time.
The important lesson learnt is - no change is a 'small change', and testing is a must!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

LOD 19 - API search engine for various platforms.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

How you saw faked fireworks...

'Parts of the spectacular Beijing Olympics opening ceremony were faked, it has emerged.'
Details at:

Had the host been India, a special parliament session would have been convened to discuss whether this should be done or not. After a couple of walk outs by the opposition, finally it would have been decided that media should not be used to deceive the public. By this time, the whole world would have known the plan and, India TV would have had broadcast videos(animations) showing the differences between how it would have looked actually and how they were planning to broadcast it. After the parliament decided upon what to do about faking, the opposition again would have walked out on the issue that fireworks pollute air... and so on...
I know, i'm being a bit too negative here. But, i just want to highlight the difference between a democratic and a communist government. It is tremendous!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not for vegetarians ;)

Two easter eggs in Firefox 3 -

1) Key in 'about:mozilla' as the url in the address bar or click here
2) Key in 'about:robots' as the url in the address bar or click here

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Some photography to kill time :P

After quite a few tries and lots of fiddling with the camera settings, finally managed to capture the moment - a water drop falling on our window sill.

[click to view a larger size]

The window pane, after yesterday's heavy rain (does it rhyme ;) )

[click to view a larger size]

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

A recent music concert

Went to Raghunandan Panshikar's classical vocal mehfil yesterday. Raghunandan is the son of Prabhakar Panshikar, a veteran marathi cinema and rangabhoomi actor. I'd never heard Raghunandan before, so i was excited.
The performance(am judging as a shrota , otherwise who am i to judge any singer ? :) ) was okay, maybe 3 and a half stars out of five. I personally did not find it impressive. Often, in a mehfil, not the entire performance is impressive, but at some point, the performer presents an impeccable tAn or a novel tarAna or fabulous meend spanning multiple octaves. Something like that makes the mehfil remarkable.
Raghunandan is from the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, and i came to know just yesterday that he is a student of Kishoritai Amonkar for the past 17 years! Seventeen years under one guru is commendable, he must have a lot of patience :)
He started with a badA khyAl in raag Malhar. It was a pArampArik bandish which lasted for around 75 minutes. As far as i've observed, Jaipur gharana singers always tend to stick to
pArampArik bandishes rather than using new compositions. In Kishoritai style, he too made use of only the aakar. Not a single sargam was found :( He did display a meend dipping into the mandra octave, but that did not make a big impression on me.

After the Malhar, he asked the audience for a farmAish. Unfortunately, there was a big Kishori Amonkar fan sitting in the crowd. He pressed Raghunandan to sing Anand-Malhar which has been created by Kishoritai herself. After some resistance, the singer obliged to sing a small piece, and we had to listen to another Malhar :( There was some Yamani anga to the raag, but, for novices like me, it was not very different from the pristine Malhar sung earlier.
Then someone asked for a Yaman. Raghunandan agreed and started. For the first 15 seconds or so, i could not find any sign of Yaman in his singing. After listening for half a minute more i was surprised to realize that there was absolutely no Yaman in there! Infact it was an immaculate
Bhoop! Don't know why he tricked the audience this way :-/ Utimately, it turned out to be a familiar bandish sung by KA('Prathama sur sadhe').
It was already late, and I had to leave for an errand. Only then did i realize that, i'd misplaced my mobile cover when i moved to a different row. While i was searching around in the auditorium, a lady asked me if i was looking for a cover and gave it to me :)
It was raining heavily outside and i drove along humming the Malhar...

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LOD 17

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

LOD 16

Intel to open up details about Larrabee:

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When chemicals wreak havoc!

Yesterday, when i stopped for a red signal near Sarasbaug(Pune), i saw a 'mad' man. He crossed the road in front of me. His clothes were torn, skin blackened from lack of cleanliness, hair dishevelled and wet from rain, and was wearing no footwear. He was talking loudly to himself, making gestures in air. I felt pity for him. Seeing such people unexceptionally makes me feel that way. I would not feel that pity for a beggar; but, the commiseration is caused more by the fact that the mad man has lost even his senses in addition to whatever wealth he had. He is totally or partially oblivious of what is going around him.
Whenever i see such people, it makes me wonder what must have made them so ? Would it be the loss of a dear one ? loss of property ? Bollywood flicks have since long, depicted such sequences - people going mad because of mental/emotional shocks. But, it is very rare for such reasons to be the cause of madness.
Actually, i do not know the doctors' definition of 'madness'. At what point will doctors start calling a person 'mad' ? What are the precise symptoms ? I know not.
Another thing which always comes to my mind when i see such a person is - is he actually mad ? or, in other words, how far is he away from becoming sane ? We tend to think of madness as a serious, long-lasting and sometimes an incurable affliction. But, it might not always be that way. Many of those wandering on roads, tagged as 'mad' might not actually be insane.

Like Rishi Vashistha points out in 'Yoga Vashishta' - everything is in the mind. And mind is in the brain. So everything is in the brain. As long as the chemical and electrical processes in the brain are going well, everything seems well and good. Even a small abnormality in the brain can cause significant effects on the behaviour of that person. Each one of the billions of neurons in our brain depends on metallic ions for communicating with other neurons. Even a slight imbalance in concentration of these elements(primarily Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium) can wreak havoc with a human! Even the concentration of carbon-di-oxide in the blood is important for the brain. These things are so crucial that, a person with improper concentration of these chemicals will seem like 'mad' to people around him. In fact, he/she is faar away from madness in the real sense. It is only a temporary phase (a few weeks maybe) until things in the brain get fixed.

The effects are awful. The affected might see all kinds of immersive visions/hallucinations. They are so real for the patient that he/she will not believe if he is told about the actuality. The patient may ask you to look around and see how beautiful the garden and children playing in it look or to stop the car at the next crossing, so that he can get out or might ask you to get up to make place for the (non-existent)crowd that is arriving,... - all this, while he is on bed in his own room. Spatial and temporal perceptions are skewed. Noon might suddenly turn into morning for the patient, after he wakes up from a ten minute nap. Three people may be seen on a chair where only one will fit. The patient might hear noises, and converse with non-existent people. No amount of your trying to make the patient realize the actual situation will help. Logic and counter arguments will fall to the ground. Since the processor of logic i.e the brain itself has malfunctioned, how will any logic help ? I've seen a patient in such a condition, who, i thought was in a major problem. But, with proper medication, he became absolutely normal in about half a month. Some of the 'mad' people we see on streets might be victims of such an imbalance rather than chronic madness. Not a huge amount of treatment would be needed to bring them into sanity. They are unfortunate not to get it :(
I always tend to think - are such disorders a reminder of the fact that, we are nothing but a blob of chemicals ?

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