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

Emacs!

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 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editor_war

xkcd has this beautiful one on emacs -
http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/real_programmers.png

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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: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/how-wall-streets-quants-lied-to-their-computers/?partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scenes from India

Came across this on Digg - http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/09/scenes_from_india.html
They all are photos of recent(past couple of months) happenings in various parts of India.

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LOD 1E

Send free SMSes to almost any country in the world - http://www.wadja.com/
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 too.blogspot.com. 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...

Addendum:
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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LOD 1D

http://hackedgadgets.com/

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

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

BLOGGER SUCKSSSS!

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

LOD 1C

http://wufoo.com/

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

LOD 1B

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: http://picasaweb.google.co.in/pranavpeshwe/BikeTripAugust2008

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