Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Online vs print reading.

http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=online-v-print-reading-which-one-ma-2008-12-23&sc=DD_20081224

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 - http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/zeitgeist2008/
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

Surfing4Free

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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