Friday, October 9, 2009

Blogging break

Have not written anything for quite a while now. My last post was a month ago! Have quite a few things to write about, but blogging has been moved on to the backburner for now. Hope to give it sometime coming weekend. Lets see...

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Best (after) illusion I've ever seen!

Its worth the minute. Watch in full screen.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Twinks #2

Eight year old exploit uncovered in the Linux kernel

9 out of 10 Americans carry Cocaine with them, unknowingly!

Female focused explanation of evolution of sexual behaviour - A tall claim IMHO.

Brave (or oblivious ?) mouse - Amazing photos

A Formally Correct Operating System Kernel

How big a cluster can you build? With a little math and the speed of light you can find out

Interesting read - Lies, Damn Lies and File Systems Benchmarks - Paper -

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Amazing acrobat!

This is the most amazing form of acrobatics I've ever seen. Hats off to this guy!!

Dramatic Acrobat - The most amazing bloopers are here

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Biggest invention/discovery by man

     I was recently intrigued by the following question - what is the invention/discovery that has made the most direct practical difference to man since he appeared on the earth ? I'm not considering theoretical/philosophical discoveries (like cosmology or quantum physics or theory of mind or invention of zero). I'm talking about things which brought about phenomenal changes in man's life in addition to helping him survive.

     The first thing that came to mind was the wheel. The ubiquity and utility of the wheel are beyond question. What else ? Aha.. the lever. Another simple machine which must have helped man to move boulders, push heavy loads and eventually build homes (and pyramids too). Wooden and stone tools also deserve an honourable mention. Without them our ancestors would have been killed by wild animals and other men. Another significant one is of course fire (not referring to the Fully Integrated Robotised Engine from Fiat :D)! Fire kept away predators and allowed man to control temperature of his near surroundings to some extent. An important side-effect of having fires at hand was cooking. With cooking, man could condition food to suit his stomach and that probably widened the range of things he could eat thus, increasing his chance of survival. But, what could man cook ? Dead animals ? and easily available plants maybe. Man did not grow crops until about 10 thousand years ago. Around 9-10K years ago, man made the greatest invention of all time IMO - agriculture!

     In school, we studied a bit of history of agriculture but, I never appreciated it. Rather, I always thought that there is hardly any point in studying what crops man grew thousands of years ago, and how he settled near river beds and dug channels for water. Only now I realize that, the advent of agriculture/farming is an event of super importance in the history of mankind. Here is I imagine how -

     Before agriculture was invented, man was totally dependent on nature for his food, whether it be plants or hunted animals. That is why man must have been nomadic, because his stay at a particular place would have been dictated by the availability of food. Once he had harnessed completely whatever was there around his dwellings, it was simply impossible to stay at that same location. Artificially growing crops i.e farming must have given man the reason to stay at one place for many generations. Thus agriculture brought stability into man's life. Without stability man would have never gone into building permanent structures like houses, temples and townships eventually. With stability, there germinated a scope for long lasting art, music and endemic cultures. With stability, there developed kingdoms and there arose the politics of power.
     Before agriculture, the growth in population of man was directly limited by the naturally available resources around. Man could consume only what the forests produced at their natural rate. Acceleration in growth was not possible without extending boundaries i.e going to far-off places for hunting and gathering. Man had to search around for every bit of food that he must have ate. Agriculture solved that problem once and for all. Man could let his population grow by using more and more land for husbandry. Those that get rid of any kind of dependence are always great breakthroughs. For our forest scouring ancestors, this one must have been groundbreaking to say the least!

     Agriculture needs hard work. man learnt to offload the heavy duty work to animals. Thus the importance of maintaining cattle rose up and gave rise to animal husbandry.

     With agriculture came surplus produce, and what does one do with surplus grains ? Trade them of course!

     What does man do when it does not rain ? Pray to the rain God! And thus became important theology and religions...

     The amount of land and cattle controlled by men began to indicate their social status, thus a social hierarchy must have been created.

     In short, the coming of agriculture led to formation of civilizations(along with all its problems) which is the foundation of the kind of life we live today.

     Thus, agriculture is probably the biggest invention made by man so far. Many other inventions/discoveries improved man's life to a large extent, but none of them have transformed it to a degree that agriculture did then.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Twinks #1

Here is the first set of 'Twinks', read more about Twinks here

These are in no particular order -

RSS Subscribers or Twitter Followers: Which Are Worth More?

Nikon's latest digicam has an unusual feature - a digital projector! (video)

'Double check your damn pointers, okay ?'

Preposterous and funny -

Have a look at Canon's amazing supertelephoto lens The huge 1Ds looks tiny relative to it.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tweeted links to come on this blog.

      Twitter has become a massive phenomenon and, although skeptical about it in the beginning, now I too have become an active tweeter. Twitter is an excellent way to share knowledge and interesting links. Posting to twitter is much easy than posting on a blog. I can be found on twitter at
      Everyday I come across many interesting pages(via twitter and otherwise). I am planning to post some of the better links on his blog. The topics might range anywhere from technology to psychology not excluding webcomics ;) There is already a 'Link Of the Day' series on the blog. Now, in addition to that, I'm going to run a 'Twinks' (Tweeted Links) series of posts, which will contain no more than 10 links a post. As for the LOD posts, there will be no fixed frequency for Twinks.

      Lets see how it goes... :)

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Now you know where Apple gets their ideas from ;)

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

MapReduce for the shell.

Google brought MapReduce into the world. At the core, it is essentially a divide-n-conquer with distributed processing support.
The guys at implemented a poor man's MapReduce in bash. It is definitely worth looking at.
Here is an article about it in linuxmag and here is BashReduce's page on github.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

How much is a Terabyte ?

Recently, I heard that one of my movie collector friends was going to buy another 500GB disk drive. He already has a 1.5 terabyte store at his disposal which contains tens of hundreds of movies.
Thinking about that, lead me to think about how much a Terabyte of data actually is.

Here is one interesting compilation about units of data and their relativity -

Excluding additions done by myself, all the data is taken from here.

Bytes (8 bits)

  • 0.1 bytes: A single yes/no decision (actually 0.125 bytes, but I rounded)
  • 1 byte: One character
  • 10 bytes: One word (a word of language, not a computer word)
  • 100 bytes: Telegram; two punched computer (Hollerith) cards

1,024 bytes; 210;
approx. 1,000 or 10

  • 1 Kilobyte: Joke; (very) short story
  • 2 Kilobytes: Typewritten page
  • 10 Kilobytes: Page out of an encyclopedia
  • 50 Kilobytes: Image of a document page, compressed
  • 100 Kilobytes: Photograph, low-resolution
  • 200 Kilobytes: Two boxes (4000) punched computer (Hollerith) cards
  • 500 Kilobytes: Five boxes, one case (10,000 of punched computer (Hollerith) cards

1,048,576 bytes; 220;
approx 1,000,000 or 10

  • 1 Megabyte: Small novel; 3-1/2 inch diskette
  • 2 Megabytes: Photograph, high resolution
  • 5 Megabytes: Complete works of Shakespeare; 30 seconds of broadcast-quality video
  • 10 Megabytes: Minute of high-fidelity sound; digital chest X-ray; Box of 3-1/2 inch diskettes
  • 20 Megabytes: Two boxes of 3-1/2 inch diskettes
  • 50 Megabytes: Digital mammogram
  • 100 Megabytes: Yard of books on a shelf; two encyclopedia volumes
  • 200 Megabytes: Reel of 9-track tape; IBM 3480 cartridge tape
  • 500 Megabytes: Average data content of a CD-ROM

1,073,741,824 bytes; 230;
approx 1,000,000,000 or 10

  • 1 Gigabyte: Paper in the bed of a pickup; symphony in high-fidelity sound; broadcast quality movie
  • 2 Gigabytes: 20 yards of books on a shelf
  • 5 Gigabytes: 8mm Exabyte tape
  • 20 Gigabytes: Audio collection of the works of Beethoven
  • 50 Gigabytes: Library floor of books on shelves
  • 100 Gigabytes: Library floor of academic journals on shelves; large ID-1 digital tape
  • 200 Gigabytes: 50 Exabyte tapes

1,099,511,627,776 or 240;
approx. 1,000,000,000,000 or 10

  • 1 Terabyte: Automated tape robot; all the X-ray films in a large technological hospital; 50,000 trees made into paper and printed; daily rate of EOS (Earth Orbiting System) data (1998)
  • 2 Terabytes: Academic research ligrary
  • 10 Terabytes: Printed collection of the U. S. Library of Congress
  • 50 Terabytes: Contents of a large mass storage system
  • ~70 Terabytes: Total space taken up by Google Earth imagery

1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes or 250
approx. 1,000,000,000,000,000 or 10

  • 1 Petabyte: 3 years of EOS data (2001)
  • 2 Petabytes: All U. S. academic research libraries
  • 5-8 Petabytes: Dec '08 estimate of monthly internet traffic of the entire world
  • 20 Petabytes: 1995 production of hard-disk drives
  • 200 Petabytes: All printed material; 1995 production of digital magnetic tape

1,152,921,504,606,846,976 bytes or 260
approx. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10

  • 1 Exabyte: 50,000 years of DVD quality video
  • 5 Exabytes: All words ever spoken by human beings (in text)
  • 988 Exabytes: Estimated size of total digital information created/duplicated in year 2010.

1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 bytes or 270
approx. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10

  • ~2.25 Zettabytes: Amount of information that can be stored in 1 gram of DNA
  • 42 Zettabytes: Storage for all human speech if digitized as 16 kHz 16-bit audio

1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 bytes or 280
approx. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10

  • 1 Yottabyte: Higher end estimate of the total number of grains of sand on earth

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GPS based maps of the Sahyadris

Here are GPS based maps of most of the popular forts in the Sahyadri mountains -
more at

Extremely useful for anyone trekking during the rainy season.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Hijacked brains.

      Another interesting incident happened to me recently. This one took place near our office. The story goes this way -

      It was around 11 in the morning, I was in the office and got a call from my friend. He said he was near my office and wanted me to come down quickly. I climbed down quickly and looked out on the road. At some distance I saw his car along with half a dozen people standing around it. I realized that, he was in trouble.
      Now, I am not particularly interested in roadside squabbles, but I am certainly interested in psychology. I believe, roadside tiffs lift the cover off of a usually unused facet of (modern) man. When I went near my friend's car, a guy supported by pals were arguing with him and asking him for compensation for some broken parts of their bike. What had happened was that - my friend, after putting the indicator on was taking a U-turn, just then, this guy tried to overtake him from the right and bumped straight into his cars rear door.

      Those guys were very aggressive and were determined to get the compensation. A few passers-by had gathered around and were suggesting the usual - 'भांङू नका, मिटवून टाका...' (don't fight, settle the matter). I tried to argue as logically as possible, fortunately, those guys were still in the realm of logic. It is extremely difficult to argue with someone who does not adhere to rationality, rather it is impossible to argue with such a person, especially if he is mad with anger. His argument was that, my friend must have seen him coming in the side view mirror, but he purposely did not stop. I told him that side-view mirrors are convex and, cannot display objects that are very close. I demoed that to him and he somewhat agreed.
      Then things become hot over his friend using foul language and my friend objecting that. This was probably a result of a commonly occurring misunderstanding. When people use F words(and equivalents), it is not necessary that they are directed towards any individual. In a situation like a roadside fight, when one party hears bad words, they are predisposed to assume that the words were directed at them. In fact, foul language is an excellent way to express one's frustration/disapproval/disappointment about the situation! For e.g Nasty language is regularly put to use when one's favorite sports team loses narrowly. Are we cursing the team ? Generally not, after all, they are a favorite and, one cannot win every match. Then, are we cursing the team who beat them ? Probably not, winning is no crime, they played well and so, won. Then, why the bad words ? What we are cursing is in fact the undesirable situation that we have been forced to experience!
     The most interesting part of episode is what happened next. The sun was almost overhead and it was not very comfortable to stand in the heat. So, i suggested in these very words- 'फारच ऊन आहे, वाद घालायचाच तर आपण तिथे सावलीत जावून घालू.' (Its too hot here, lets continue our conflict in the shadow over there') And my friend and myself moved towards the tree by the roadside.
Suddenly a surprising thing happened, the guy's friends(who were supporting him all this time) suddenly realized that they had other important stuff to do, the passers-by probably came to the same conclusion and everybody mysteriously left the scene! Ultimately, only the biker guy was left in the shade along with my friend and myself. He must have been disheartened by the reduced support, for, within a couple of minutes he almost agreed that it was his mistake. Even more, he said that the vehicle was not his and that, he had previously suffered two accidents which had damaged the bike! After all this, there was no question of giving him any compensation. The whole matter ended. We both gave him a friendly advice to drive carefully here onwards, and left for work.
     The turning point was when we decided to shift to under the tree. The change of subject, brought about change of thought in everybody's brains. The people who were least concerned suddenly realized that, they were investing in nothing useful.
      Taking the liberty to theorize, I would say that all the time during the dispute, the limbic system(the amgydala to blame in particular) had had hijacked the brains of everybody. After the limbic system takes over, the neo-cortex which is responsible for much of the rational/logical thinking by humans is sidelined. Evaluative beings turn totally emotion driven. The takeover of non-life-threatening situations by the amygdala more often than not creates trouble. The role of the amygdala is to make one act quickly in an emergency situation. When man lived in the jungles, the quick response initiated by the amygdala saved many a men. No wonder the amgydala made it through the evolutionary journey to homo sapiens sapiens.
      The good thing about amygdala activation is that, it lasts only for a very short amount of time (unless continuosly fuelled). To get the cortex back into control, a major change in topic or a sudden distraction is enough. In my case, the question whether we should shift to under the tree accidentally served this purpose and everyone was back to their rational, evaluative behaviour.
      I think a lot of fights and arguments would end better if we succeed in getting people to think using their cortexes rather than their excited amygdalas :)

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Marriage age and economic progress.

Do single people take more economic risks than married ones ? And if that is the case, will countries with singles getting married late have more entrepreneurs ? And as a result, will a country with people marrying later progress faster ?

Here is what Scott Adams had written about it -

Here is a pdf supporting his theory - Take a look at the bar graphs given at the end.

Of course, the data only suggests a correlation, there is no way to determine causality from it. Better economy might have in some way caused singles to marry late :-/

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vintage Bhimsen Joshi clip.

     Here is a vintage video clip of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi performing a Komal Rishab Asavari at the Sawai Gandharva of 1975. The performance, no need to mention, is impeccable!
     I am from the generation which was not here when maestros like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj and Gaansaraswati Kishori Amonkar were at their peak. A video clip like this one gives an idea of what it must have been to listen to them then. The energy and सहजता in the singing is simply awesome!

     When there will be invented a time machine, the first thing i will do is to go back and listen to all the Sawais I've missed...

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cars without onboard fuel ?

Electric cars are becoming popular, but folks at a South Korean university have gone even further. They have developed a system in which cars will be inductively powered by power lines beneath the road surface. Here are some more details.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009


A useful online free OCR (optical character recognition) service:
Tried it with a sample and it worked very well.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Toying around with Wolfram Alpha

The makers of Mathematica recently released their much anticipated online tool - Wolfram Alpha.
For the uninitiated, Wolfram Alpha('WA' here onwards) is, as they call it a 'computational knowledge engine'. The primary interface - a single text box, looks similar to Google but WA is very different from Google. Google is like a peon at office who can search for the file you asked in the entire office and bring it to you diligently; WA is like an intelligent consultant who will try to understand what information you seek and will search for it in his own knowledgebase (rather than your office), find relevant data, correlate it if possible and present you with a succinct summary and a graphic visualization if feasible. WA does not depend on the Internet for information.

Here are some things I have tried out on WA -
Am not posting the screenshots, they would take too much of space and time.

First, I began with some silly 'Wh' questions - who are you ? where are you ? why are you ?
- WA failed on the why are you ? I was hoping to get something like 'I am because my creator created me.'
Then slightly different one - are you conscious ? and then, can you pass the turing test ?
- WA returned a satisfactory answer for the first, but failed the second

An inquiry about Pune gave some useful information but better is available on the wiki.Any two things can be compared by putting them next to one another like this.

Thus, contrary to the pithy phrase, one can very well 'compare
apples and oranges' ;)

I asked WA about meclizine and then asked it to compare meclizine and meclozine
- WA correctly recognized it as a drug ingredient and gave very useful info about it. This is where having a reliable, structured knowlegebase of one's own makes a huge difference. WA need not spend time and power trying to classify the word(query) from scratch. It already has the classification ready, it just selects a category and uses it to fetch specific info. The Internet hosts a prodigious amount of information, but to extract, classify and interpret it is IMHO a herculean task. WA does not try to do that.
WA failed in the comparison. Meclizine and Meclozine are the same compound, WA interpreted Meclozine as Meclizine but could not infer that there is no point in giving a side-by-side comparison of two same things. Poor logic IMHO, but easily fixable.

Tried out a conversion I often need to do - miles per gallon into km per litre. Google Calculator cannot handle it, but I was sure WA (with Mathematica backing it) could do it easily.
- The answer came out well, WA also showed some relevant relative comparisons for the number I'd entered. US dollar to Indian rupee conversion worked fine too, it gave me a lot of additional info I'd not asked for :)

Tried to get a truth table printed for a simple expression
- Worked nicely. WA showed the minimum forms and even the logic circuit!
Then I tried to check equivalence of two expressions. I tried to use the same syntax used in Mathematica and it worked. Although WA showed the truth table with all 'T's, it did not give a verdict whether the expressions were equal or not, so my question remained unanswered. This also should be easily fixable.

Attempted to get some information about P & NP algorithms, sorting, Hamiltonian cycle, Huffman code but WA seemed to be oblivious about them :( Mathematica is aware of some of them though.

This comparison I tried out proved that WA has excellent resources when it comes to chemistry and materials.

WA also has a superb knowledgebase of genomic sequences, I'd expected to see hardly anything when I tried this. It was a cool surprise! WA not only knew the gene by name, it also knew a lot about it even including nucleotide polymorphism frequencies!! The data although not exhaustive, comes handy at times.

Next, I tried looking for a note - A natural
- WA gave useful info including freq, notation and key location on a keyboard. Then I tried to search for C#. WA was not aware about C# as a language, it interpreted it only as a musical note.

Tried to check out WA's fluid mechanics by searching for Reynolds number. WA brought up an interface which allowed one to calculate the RN by giving inputs. It had tabulated the inputs and laid out the equation well. With raised expectations then, searched for worm gear. Sadly, nothing relevant turned out. Instead, WA completely condoned the important word 'gear' and displayed information about worms(animals). Disregarding user input is the last thing to do!

Overall, WA is an interesting tool, but it is hardly as useful as Google. With the limited data that it currently has, many of our questions go unanswered. It is good for a quick overview and comparison of objectively quantifiable topics and for doing maths and statistical calulations that google calculator cannot yet handle. Google won't be left behind, the folks are already working on Google squared. With the vaaast amount of data already indexed by Google, IMO, Google will definitely have an edge over WA when it comes to coverage. WA on the other hand, will be better in data correlation and compute power requirements owing to the structured nature of its data sources.

Here is Wolfram Alpha for you to try out -

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A superb video.

An amazing episode from the wild.
A longish one, but worth a watch. You can read about it here.

     I'm glad that we(humans) are far from those days when we had to (literally) fight for our lives; animals in the wild have to. Nature has set up a set of unwritten rules for these creatures to live in. The one which treads least best is liable to physical harm. Neither brutal nor caring, nature is but perfectly apathetic!
     The video reiterates the age old maxim - Unity is strength.

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The useful vice.

    Whats the single most productive way of writing code ? The answer IMHO is - writing as less as possible i.e laziness.
     By 'laziness' I do not mean laziness in general, I just mean laziness towards writing code. I am extremely lazy when it comes to writing code. I have to get over a colossally stupendous amount of inertia to lift my hands and start coding! I try to find every other valid reason to avoid writing code, even if the problem I'm working on has a pretty obvious solution. I find thinking to be much more rewarding :)
     I think really hard on trying to avoid creation of new code. When given a task, I try to come up with various designs and prove it to the client/boss that the new creation might be optimized out or a previously created module could be employed again. But, is this not just the plain old funda of 'reuse' ? Yes, it is reuse, but not merely reuse. Laziness brings a very very strong urge to question every design decision taken(previously by ourselves or the boss or the client) and test (mentally) whether it really brings any good into the big picture (as far as we can see it). The urge is so strong that it never allows me to start coding until I'm totally convinced that every line of code that I'm going to write is indispensable and will never have to be changed(unless there is a major alteration in the design). While hunting for ways to avoid new code I often run into solutions that I could not think of earlier, ways that appreciably reduce the complexity and, arguments to prove to the client that a particular feature/facet is redundant or can be bettered if thought about in another manner. I often just sit still in my chair brainstorming about how I could get out of the situation without writing a single character of code.
     In this way I've saved myself hundreds of lines of code which effectively means I finished coding faster! Also, I am a strong believer in 'lesser code = lesser bugs', so, I've saved myself(and future maintainers of the code) a considerable amount of debugging time too. Another very useful attribute that automatically comes from laziness is - aversion towards complications. Will a truly lazy person ever write complicated code ? Never; unless it is absolutely unavoidable. With such lazily written code, during a code review the programmer is in a position to defend every single line of code he has written. In addition to that, the client/boss is never unhappy to see a programmer thinking rather than just programming.
     Thus it becomes a win-win situation for both of us - the client/boss is glad to know that I am trying my best not to write non-utile code and, I'm happy because I get more time to read my favorite blogs ;)

P.S: I couldn't find a way to write it with a lesser number of 'I's. It might seem that I'm all extolling myself here, but I humbly state that I'm not!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time dilation experiment.

     Came across a really cool experiment on the web. The experiment was about experiencing time dilation. Thanks to general relativity, we know that time slows down with increase in speed and decrease in gravitational attraction(pardon the oversimplification).
      As a personal experiment, this guy takes 3 atomic clocks for a ride, to experience and measure time dilation. He expects to age 23 nanoseconds more than his wife who stayed at home :) His measurements at the end of the expt show that the dilation was between 20-30ns.
Here is the page with photos and details of his setup -
Pretty kewl I think B-)
     Also, do take a look at the world's first atomic wristwatch ;)

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Timeline of a vehicle crash.

      Here is an interesting write up about safety features in Ford's Falcon -

Here is a video of the 50km/hr crash test -

      The most interesting information is towards the end of the write up where they have given the timeline of the collision. The important part is at the end of that timeline - '150-300 ms - Occupant becomes aware of collision.' Thus, it can take up to one third of a second for us to just to become aware of the situation completely. Acting upon it will take at least another 200-300ms (brain will process the inputs, inject epinephrine into the nervous system, and will send signals to the heart and various muscles; after receiving the signals the muscles will begin their work). Completing the act (taking a solid hold of the handle/steering wheel, zeroing the throttle, depressing the brakes completely) will take at least another 500ms. The total comes to around 1100 ms which is a very optimistic estimate. Generally, 1.5 secs is the figure used. With rain or darkness the figure may double. It will take some more time for the vehicle to actually start braking after the brakes are pressed. Assuming that this whole episode takes an optimistic 1.5 secs, the car/bike (at 50 km/hr) will have travelled around 20 meters even before it starts to slow down! Age, vision acuteness and the surprise factor ('that puppy came out of nowhere!') are other important things to be considered.
      The reaction time can be decreased by driving practice, but only by a small amount. The only thing which can improve the situation is to have urgent & reliable brakes. The significance of good brakes can hardly be overstated. Losing a mere one tenth of second to your non-urgent(a better word welcome :)) means travelling four more feet without braking. I hope that my school pal, with whom I argue many times over the sloppy brakes on his bike reads this post.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Facebook's Haystack.

'Haystack' is the name of Facebook's photo storage and service infrastructure. Its an amazingly large and superbly scalable system which allows facebook to store and retrieve photos uploaded by millions of users. The system incorporates a distributed data storage which handles a whopping 25 terabytes of photo uploads every week!
Here is an interesting article about Haystack on facebook's engineering blog.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Funny comments in code.

Came across this thread at StackOverflow -
Some of them are really funny!
(Caution: Somewhat risque language on the page. You have been warned.)

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

I voted.

      I voted! After multitudes of trips to election centres since the last couple of months I finally got my name into the list. I went to a computerized centre near our place to check whether my name is in the list. Amazingly, it was there! They had made it 'Praveen' instead of 'Pranav' but, that is okay. I could vote after showing my driving license. I guess, today is the only day when you can show your middle finger to everyone, proudly ;)
      At the computerised centre, I could not help observing how they were treating the computer. The computers there were loaded with a Visual FoxPro based software (VFP I guess, because the software used DBF files). The machine was a P4 running Windows XP with <= 512 MB of RAM. The search was working at an acceptable speed. Suddenly, the operator realized that the machine was not responding to the keyboard. I was standing close and I pressed CAPS LOCK to check whether the keyboard led would respond. And indeed the keyboard was the problem, the wire was loose. By the time I could replug the wire, the operator had pressed the restart button! For the 15-20 mins I was standing there, she restarted the machine thrice. Only then I realized her expectation. She, very rightly, expected the machine to just work. She neither cared nor knew about filesystems getting corrupted, or the thrashing caused by insufficient RAM or the low speed due to mechanical harddisks. When she saw that, the machine was not performing well, the restart button solved her problem most of the times. In general, for a non-tech person, restarting Windows (rather than going to the root of the issue) is a nice way to temporarily get rid of the problem ;) With all those cold reboots, lets hope that the OS will survive the day...

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Native memory management in the JVM

Understand garbage collection and memory management is an essential when one wants to run business critical apps in a JVM. Although exhausting native memory is rarer than exhausting the Java heap, knowing when and how native memory allocation works would be a plus. Here is a nice article about how the JVM manages its native memory -

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Avoid URL shortners! is my favorite URL shortner. For the uninitiated, 'URL shortners' are web sites which allow you to convert long and wierd looking links to short ones. The advantage being, shorter links are easy to copy/paste, do not contain unusual characters (+, =, ? etc) and look tidy. URL shortners' popularity rose to a new high since the arrival of Twitter. URL shorterners ('US's from here onwards) are awesomely useful to the '140 challenged' twitter users ;)

     But, recently I realized that there is a big disadvantage of using USs. The disadvantage is - loss of data due to the camouflage. The disadvantage dawned upon me when after furiously searching all my mails for a particular link I could not find it. I distinctly remembered to have shared it with a friend over email. The link I knew was to a book from Amazon so, I tried to search for 'Amazon' but did not work. Finally when i found the mail, I saw that the link was a shortened url.

     The shortened URL hid my own data from me. This was a good enough reason to stop using USs. Another reason is that, with a shortened URL you don't know what site it will open until you click it. In addition, there is yet another very serious reason to rethink about using USs. Today, there are dozens of USs. But, not all will survive the competition. Looking at their business models, some are bound to shutdown one day or the other. Then, what will happen to all the links they shortened ? Of course, those links will be dead. Sadly, the links which were shortened by the US might be very much alive then. Even then, they would be inaccessible just because the US site died. In other words, we are entrusting our data into the hands of not-sure-whether-reliable services. Effectively, once shortened my data is locked into the US's private DB.

     That was only the personal impact. I think there might be a much bigger impact. Out of curiosity I ran a couple of 'real time' searches for '' at twitter. From some observation and a rough calculation, I concluded that around 10 links are tweeted per second! That is close to one million links a day just for, just at twitter. Thus, one must agree that twitter has become heavily dependent on whether it wishes or not. An outage at tinyurl for an hour and, tens of thousands of tweets around that hour will become meaningless! However, twitter can easily avoid US. They can change their 140 character limit to something like - 140 characters + one url (say upto 280 chars). The characters beyond the 140 limit would be ignored(as usual) unless they are part of a URL.

     If USs proliferate widely on the internet (i.e on newsgroups, forums, blogs, articles, howtos etc) we would have created for ourselves critical points of failure. The worst part would be - if a big US fails we would not even know what we would have lost. If millions of URLs suddently go defunct, the web might lose a large part of its connectedness! To add to it, US make it no easy for search engines. I wonder how much additional energy would be spent in first resolving shortened urls before they can be of any use to the search engine.

     I know, I have been a bit too skeptical throughout this post. But, theoretically, the things mentioned here could very much happen. Who would have believed 10 years ago that, going ahead majority of people will come to depend on one single company (Google) for their web search, emails, social networking(orkut), news, other reading(reader), shopping(froogle, google checkout) , maps, photos(picasa) and many more services.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

A really wierd experiment by me.

Yesterday evening I set out from office to go to 'Relax' - the regular meeting place where we school pals meet every other weekend or two. It was around 8pm and there was quite some traffic on the road. At a signal on the way (name unimportant :)) I reached the crossing just as the light turned red.

        I was already dead slow and had almost stopped. Then I observed the middle-aged policewoman who was standing in the chowk to my right side at a distance of around 10-15 feet. Looking at the expressions on the face and her overall posture, I had a hunch that she would not be interested in stopping me(or anyone else for that matter) even if I went right through the red light. So, just to verify my (rather nonsensical) hunch I decided to jump the red signal, right under the nose of the police! It was an absolutely crazy idea, but for some unknown reason I was ready to risk a 100 buck fine to test it. So, I put my bike into first gear and slowly passed by her! Under normal circumstances, I would have been surely and easily caught, but yesterday it did not go the normal way. I missed the racing traffic from other directions by just a few feet. The couple of seconds it took me to cross the chowk seemed like a minute or so!(more on this phenomenon sometime later).
        I could feel the same kind of stress one feels when breaking one's principle or copying in an exam or while stealing some thing after making sure that nobody is looking(just a guess, haven't done it myself :)). But the big difference here was - there was stress but, there was no fear! Since, I was prepared beforehand to shell out the fine if the trial failed I could 'savour' (for lack of a better word :( ) the stress as i slowly drove past. It was a very different experience, worth writing on the blog!
        The important question that remains is - was my intuition that the policewoman wouldn't bother, an informed one or a pure stroke of luck ? I don't know the answer. One thing is sure though, I had never thought of or planned doing it before this time, it was a decision made in a split second. If I assume that, it was an informed decision then, can i define the decisive parameters employed in analzying the police's expressions ? No, I can't. And that's why I referred it to as a 'hunch' and 'intuition'. The only logic which can somewhat explain the phenomenon is to accept that, there is more to the brain than meets the consciousness! In other words, our brain does a *lot* of processing internally which we are not consciously aware of. Some of that 'invisible' processing is used to produce results which we call hunches or intuitions. After all, intuitions have to be a result of some orderly processing our brain does on non-random input. Intuitions definitely cannot be created from random input and random processing on it inside the brain.
        The hallmark of an 'experiment' is - acute control on your input variables; which, unfortunately, I entirely lack here. So, from the point of view of a purist, calling this episode an 'experiment' would be wrong. But who cares ;) I ain't writing a paper, its just a blog! So 'experiment' is fine :)
        Just to be clear, through this post I'm *not* trying to put forward any hypothesis like 'guessing people' without active interaction with them is easy or that I can do it (even to the slightest extent). I feel that, yesterday's experience of mine can be more easily attributed to serendipity than anything else.
        Lastly, shame on me for breaking a traffic regulation!!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Amazing imitator bird!

Nature is great!

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LOD 30

A useful site to check out and compare side by side different fonts -
The side by side comparison IMO is the more useful feature.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Violinist in a metro.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work. The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on. In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This was a social experiment about perception carried out around 2 years ago
Had they announced beforehand that Joshua Bell was going to play at that same place, people would have gathered by the hundreds. Although thousands of people passed by him while he was playing, no one could appreciate the music. What must have been the reason ??
One reason was that, those who heard him must have already been biased - how good can someone playing at the station be ? We often are consciously or unconsciously biased by the looks and condition of a performer. I've myself experienced such a bias. At Sawai Gandharva 2007, while I was sipping tea at a stall, standing beside me was a villager. Black in colour, zero in sophistication and wearing typical Maharashtrian white shirt (सदरा) and white cotton pants (पायजमा). I was told that he was going to present a vocal performance in the evening. My thoughts after looking at him were like - will it be worth listening to him ? I doubt how good he will be, etc. His performance in the evening turned out to be one of the best in the day! I remember his Yamani bhajan (कान्होबा तुझी घोंगङी...) to this day! The singer was able but not very well known in Pune(till that day) - Anant Teredal. I was incorrectly biased by his appearance.
Returning to the experiment - another reason for the un-appreciation would be - hardly anyone has enough time to hear music while hurrying for a train to work. This brings to light another important point - art needs you to spend some time with it until it beings to interest you and you appreciate it. Someone who is really interested in the art would have definitely stopped by the player after hearing only a small piece. In fact, one did stop, and he said(in the survey) that, the player at the station was 'superb' and 'technically proficient' and he had 'never heard anyone of that caliber'. Thus, he could enjoy the oddly positioned, unusually timed but brilliant performance which many people failed to notice. I've heard many people say that they do not like (for e.g) classical music. The reason I reckon is that, they've not spent enough time with that form of art to get to know it and decide whether they are interested in it. People tend to form an opinion even before taking enough experience.

A wonderful article describing the whole scene and containing Bell's comments along with a small video clip of his performance resides here.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Car controlled using an iPod

Not even close to Bond's car's controls in 'Tomorrow Never Dies', but pretty interesting nevertheless; considering that, this has been put together at home and not at a multi-million dollar govt sponsored lab ;)

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

My favorite Windows utilities - Part 3

Many a times one needs to know which folders on the disk have taken up how much space. This utility is missed especially when one wishes increase free space on a drive by uninstalling programs and deleting data. Windirstat is the program which comes to use in such a case. Windirstat is actually a clone of kdirstat from the linux world. This utility scans a given drive or folder and graphically displays how much each sub folder costs you. Turns out to be really useful at times.

Windirstat is free and open source. It can be downloaded from here (size 630KB)

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Monday, April 6, 2009


Useful links to download all kinds of stuff - audio, video, ebooks, clipart, fonts, games, graphics, software etc

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

IPv6 over Social Networks!

Low IPv6 adoption has been long established to be a difficult nut to crack. On the other hand, social networks (Facebook, MySpace, Orkut etc) are facing scaling problems! How about using the burgeoning social network mesh to 'tunnel' IPv6 ?
That is exactly what RFC 5514 suggests. In fact, IP over Social Networks (IPoSN) has been implemented for facebook. Here lies the facebook app implementing IPoSN.
Enjoy ;)

P.S: For the uninitiated - this is a hilarious 'April Fool's' joke; RFC included.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Amazing camaraderie!

This guy is amazing!

The power of the lion can be seen around 0:26-0:32 when, it pulls the guy down casually with just a single paw, as if he was just a stuffed doll or something :)
Cannot imagine the strength it will manifest when a lion's intentions are hostile :O

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Valid query to banks.

A sarcastic joke ;)

Dear Sirs,

In view of what seems to be happening internationally with banks at the moment, I was wondering if you could advise me correctly…

If one of my cheques is returned marked ‘insufficient funds,’

how do I know whether that refers to me, or to you

Thanks to Chirag for sharing this one from here.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

My favorite Windows utilities - Part 2

A big limitation of Windows is that, the clipboard is limited to storing only a single item (text, image, file, URL etc). A cut/copy operation irretrievably deletes the previous contents of the clipboard. Actually, Microsoft already has an implementation of a multiple item clipboard which is used in MS Office. I wonder why MS does not ship it with the OS also; probably, some anti-trust regulation or patent royalty prohibits the inclusion.
ClipX is the utility I use to get over this problem. Its a very handy feature, especially for developers, since they have to work on multiple files and cut/copy-paste a lot from here and there (read 'code reuse' ;) ). ClipX can remember upto 1024 clipboard entries! Moreover, it can restore the clipboard state across machine reboots. One can assign a shortcut key for clipX which pops up a menu showing clipboard entries. Selecting one pastes it. ClipX remembers text, bitmap and even files. One can set it to ignore any of the three if not required.

ClipX is free(of cost) and, can be downloaded from here ( size 108KB).

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Am a clairvoyant ;)

Got to know about an interesting site called 'You Just Get Me', thanks to The Mouse Trap.
The site is more of a psychology research experiment designed to understand how and how accurate are people's impressions about one another. The website is developed by a team researchers from Psychster Inc. The case they are studying is something like this - you meet a stranger in a party and form an impression about him/her after observing his/her behaviour for a very short amount of time(a couple of mins may be). A large part of the impression is contributed to by the person's facial expressions. Are there any specific factors which play a major role in assisting one to understand other person's nature, given access to his/her facial expressions and a subset of his/her traits ? According to the researchers at -
'For decades, journals wouldn't publish reseach[sic] on this issue, arguing it wasn't valid. If this site is a success and lots of people use it, we're going to strip off all the names (and other identifying information) and tell the world what we learned.'

At YJGM, you have to guess personalities of random people. You can go through their profiles before answering questions about them. After guessing, your guess and the actual personality are compared side-by-side. There is also a more interesting 'Mini Mind-Reading' quiz in which one has to guess a personality
'based on nothing but a thumbnail and a username'. A score of 0.60 over 20 guess fetches you a Certificate of Clairvoyance :D

I got one on my second attempt. Out of haste, I ruined a nice score of 0.8+ which i'd maintained till first 15 guesses in the first attempt :( My average answering time in the second attempt was around 8-10 secs. Since there is hardly any data to analyze, a few seconds are enough. IMHO, the trick is - rather than use the profile picture to guess the personality, use the picture to guess what the person must have thought
in putting up that picture. This gives a bit of insight into that user's personality. Not sure whether this method is correct though...

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Top 100 blogs for software developers:

The OPML file for importing them directly into your RSS reader is here.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My favorite Windows utilities - Part 1

After using Linux as the desktop OS for a considerable time, I had to migrate to Windows because we have to use Windows for development at office. The peculiarity of Windows as has been noted by many is - it is extremely friendly for a novice but extremely limited for power users esp. those who are used to linux and other command line operated OSes. So, I decided to share some software which i use everyday to make Windows power-user friendly. Most of the software in the list will be available for free(i.e free of cost). Any additions are more than welcome!

Here is the first part of the series:

The biggest problem with Windows is - the mouse! No one wants to repeatedly switch hands between the keyboard and the mouse. Doing so reduces speed quite a lot. In linux/unix most of the things can be done without using the mouse. But, going by the default settings and available options in Windows the mouse is almost indispensable. One essential software I use, to speed up program launching and even document opening is - Find and Run Robot aka FARR.
It is a extremely nifty software! It indexes all the programs from the Start Menu, documents from 'My Documents' and any other folder you wish to specify. Then at the press of a hot key, a small window pops up(similar to Gnome/KDE's Alt+F2 window) where you can quickly type in whatever you wish to run. With excellent auto-completion features builtin, you rarely need to type more than 3-4 characters. An important feature of the search is - the characters you type need not be the first, FARR can search substrings. This feature is an excellent optimisation. For eg. to launch 'Google Talk', I would have other wise need to type 'Google' and then scroll a bit though the searched apps to launch Gtalk. Instead, I just type 'alk' and Google Talk comes as the first one.
Every app is ranked according how frequently it is run. Thus, frequently launched apps always turn up at the top. One can manipulate the ranking by giving the app some additional score. FARR also contains aliases for common tasks. For eg. typing 'wiki gearbox' will take me to wikipedia's page on 'Gearbox'.
Another useful set of features is the set of plugins available for FARR. For example one can set up a short cut such that typing 'g python' will automatically google for 'python' and launch the results in a new tab in the default browser. There is also a calculator plugin. Here is the addons page for FARR -

There are many softwares which provide functionality similar to FARR, FARR's help file contains a long list of those. But, the customizability and SDK availability for FARR allows you to introduce additional features catering your specific need. This was one of the reasons why i chose FARR over some others.

Download FARR from here.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009


Whom else to mimic other than the most experienced creator* known till date i.e nature. Bio-mimicry is the science which studies nature and natural phenomenon and then, tries to solve modern-day problems by mimicking nature's solutions to comparable ones. Nature (i.e evolution) has been building solutions for its problems since millions of years. Even without any conscious thought or intelligence, nature has managed to produce extremely optimal designs which have survived the test of time. Copying nature is not all that unobvious then :)

Here is a list of some cool cases of bio-mimicry -
Visit the biomimicry institute website here.

*Pardon the anthropomorphosis. By 'creator', i do not wish to mean an intentioned creator.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

The dwindling art of Sangeet Naataks.

Got a chance to see two fabulous Sangeet Naataks in the last couple of weeks - 'कट्यार काळजात घुसली' and 'सौभद्र'. I am a fan of Natya Sangeet and so, both the plays were more than a treat for me :) . Saw the first one at Bharat Natya Mandir and second at Balgandharva Ranga Mandir.

'कट्यार काळजात घुसली' (Katyar Kaljat Ghusli lit. Dagger pierced the heart) is about 'Gharanebazi' and how it adversely affects an aspiring, young and talented singer. 'Gharanebazi' essentially means hostililty towards other gharanas. In the past, this practice was an integral part of the Indian Classical Music tradition. Today, distinction based on Gharanas is not uncommon but, the unfriendliness has subsided. The play is from the period when, musical Guru from one gharana would never teach a student who had earlier learned in another gharana. Nowadays, one can certainly have gurus from multiple gharanas.
I managed to click some snaps during the play - they are here.

सौभद्र (Saubhadra) is a play about Lord Krishna's cunning plot to let his elder sister (सुभद्रा) marry whom she wishes to marry with (अर्जुन), rather than someone whom her elder brother thinks fit (दूर्योधन). The subtle message in the play asks us to accept love marriage as a valid way of matrimony. This message to the society was much needed in the nineteenth century when, the play was conceived.

Marathi sangeet naataks are a blend of music and dialogues. But so are Bollywood films, aren't they ? The important difference however, is - there is no playback singing in sangeet naataks. The songs (many of them based on raagdari) are sung and not lip-synced. Also, the songs in sangeet naataks are meaningful, well composed (rhyming etc) and at times philosophical. Unlike in bollyflicks, every song fits integrally into the drama and is temporally relevant. The songs serve to move the story ahead. Many dialogues which would otherwise have been in prose are incorporated into the songs.

The art of sangeet naatak has survived more than one and a quarter centuries. In the late nineteenth century, when Marathi naatak industry was in its infancy, Annasaheb Kirloskar is said to have created the first 'sangeet naatak' - Shakuntala. As with many marathi plays in that era, this one too was adapted from a Sanskrit play but, its music was said to be inspired by Persian musical plays. Sangeet naataks since then, saw many great writers, directors and actor-singers. Kirloskar, Deval, Kolhatkar, Bal Gandharva are few of the eminent names from the bygone era I am aware of.
In the mid and later 20th century eminent singers like Pt. Vasantrao Deshpande popularized natya sangeet and sangeet naataks. His role of Khansaheb in 'Katyar Kaljat Ghusli' become so popular that, he used to be called 'Pandit Vasantkhan Deshpande'. I have listened to his renditions literally hundreds of times and yet, I never wish to stop listening. The absolute ease with which he sang was his hallmark.

Today, sangeet naataks have not remained very popular. I think, sangeet naataks are a victim of their own requirements. For a sangeet naatak performer to be good, not only he needs to be a good looking actor, he also needs to be a learned classical singer. During the play, many songs get a 'once more', and the performer resings the song. But, it is an implicit requirement that the second rendition contains some improvisations and, is not just a copy of the initial one. To do this, one must have command and knowledge of music. Also, singing requires much more energy than dialogue delivery does. In addition to that, the performer has to learn-by-heart and practice the songs in addition to his dialogues. This translates into more time for rehearsals. An actor, willing and fitting to do all these things must be hard to find. Moreover, does a sangeet naatak performer earn appreciably more than a normal play actor ? Probably not. This fact might be keeping potential good performers away from sangeet naataks. Also, since the songs are based on classical music, those not interested in classical music prefer to stay away from sangeet naataks. Overall, the situation of sangeet naataks is not even as good as the situation of marathi naatak industry.

For people who like sangeet naataks, the only way to help keep the show running is - go and watch sangeet naataks. Once, twice, thrice.. whenever they have a show.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Top 10 tech companies that pay engineers the most -

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An answering machine like service for instant messenger accounts. Will be useful when one is out of town...

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Orkut bug ?

Orkut seems to have sheltered a rather silly bug :)
As of now, Orkut is using the word 'her' irrespective of the person's gender under the 'Updates from my friends' section on the homepage. Even for guys, the message shown is 'XYZ received comments on her photo'.
Lets see how much time they take to fix this one. Just curious...

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Virtualization on mobiles.

Virtualization on mobile phones has been talked about since quite some time. But, only recently did we actually see anything demonstrable. VMWare demoed their virtualization solution for the Nokia N800 device. They showed Windows CE and Android running side by side on the same device. Here is the video:

You can read the article here.

The big question however is - of what use is virtualization on a mobile phone ?
From an end user's POV the answer can probably be - portability. Suppose, i use a Nokia phone with all my favorite apps to check mail, measure and record my running speed (with the GPS), play various video formats, read bar codes etc etc. Moreover, I store and backup my contacts using Nokia provided s/w which stores them in their (possibly) proprietary format. Now, suppose, for some good reason I wish to migrate to another platform, say Windows Mobile, I would have a hard time adjusting with the new setup. More importantly, I'll have to find and buy new software for the new phone to suit my needs.
Instead, if i could run whichever mobile OS i want on the hardware i own, then i would get the benefit of portability and easy migration. I would be able to run my Nokia apps as well as take the advantage of the Windows platform. That saves me a lot of trouble.
Going ahead, even further, if one could seamlessly run apps from one mobile platform on the other(like what VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop enable us to do) , then it would be really amazing and useful.
If the virtual platform (VMWare's Mobile Virtual Platform for example) becomes popular enough, then mobile companies will start building their OSes for the virtual platform instead of tying up to a specific hardware. This would further increase its popularity and acceptance. Of course, this is easier said than done. But, one cannot say that things won't go that way in the future.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two excursions!

This month has been very exiting so far :) Been to Goa with college friends and then, to Lohgad last Sunday with school pals. Both the trips were a lot of fun!
Here some photos from Goa, and Lohgad.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009


Bespin is a web based collaborative IDE created by Mozilla Labs. You'll have to register to try it out. Bespin uses the 'canvas' tag from HTML 5 to render stuff using javascript.

A nice introductory video here:

Introducing Bespin from Dion Almaer on Vimeo.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009


Use of GPS is becoming commoner every day. Already, there are tons of location based apps for modern mobile phones and many of them have become popular. Google recently launched a controversial one named Latitude.
While reading up about GPS and related stuff, i came across this interesting idea- using TV signals (instead of GPS signals) to locate position. The method of positioning is roughly the same but, the hardware required will certainly be different. A company called Rosum has created a product which uses TV signals to locate your position (if you are in America). According to them, TV signal based positioning has many advantages over traditional GPS. More about it here.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't shout at your disks!

How much do you think noise would affect a (non solid-state) disk drive ?
Here is an interesting video and article about the effect of loud sound and vibrations on the performance of a disk -

Video here -
Additional text here -

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Phantom OS

Phantom OS - the new kid on the block - a purely Object Oriented Modern Operating System. Its kernel can be called a microkernel. The OS does not have a filesystem, or separate processes and isolated address space. It has no support for C and assembler. Only 'managed' frameworks might be supported. 'Reboot' is redefined in the Phantom OS.
More interesting reading here.
There is just the documentation right now, no link to the source though...

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Dagar concert.

Last Sunday I went to the felicitation ceremony and concert of Khansahib Ustaad Saeeduddin Dagar at Tilak Smarak Mandir, Pune. The Dhrupad genre which originated in songs of deity workship is said to be at least 500 years old; much older than the popular Khyaal form we hear today. The Dagars are descendents of Tansen's guru Swami Haridas from the 15th century. According to Ustaadji, he himself is a ninteenth generation Dhrupadiya, and his sons twenteeth!
Overall, the programme was well arranged. It was sure to attract crowd since, Ustaadji was performing in Pune after a gap of three years. There are few Dhrupad gayaks in Pune and, even fewer Dhrupad concerts.

Here are a few snaps (click on them to enlarge) i managed to click-

To get a good seat, i went a bit too early :)

Finally, it looked like this. Nice.

The programme started with Saraswati vandan.

Guests on the dias - (from left) 3rd - Marathi music director Salil Kulkarni, historian Babasaheb Purandare, Dagarji himself, and Bhimsenji's shishya Upendra Bhat sitting second from right.

Ustaadji being felicitated by the 'Swaragayatri' award

The aalaap begins...
Ustaadji with his sons.

As is the Dhrupad tradition, the aalaap lasted lasted for a considerable amount of time. Ustaadji displayed some interesting meends during the concert. I am too inexperienced to judge, but considering his age of 70, I think he sounded great. Considering the time of the day, I was expecting Marwa or Pooriya or Multani or some other evening raga, but surprisingly he rendered Malkauns.
I felt that a raga is a bit easy to recognize/appreciate in the Dhrupad style than in a Khyaal. May be, it is a newbie characteristic, but i have felt the same thing earlier too.
An energetic Jor in Chautal and Sool taal...

Dagarji after the performance, humbly thanking the audience and the organisers.

This one was another nice concert to attend...

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Friday, January 30, 2009

LOD 2A - A very useul tool for sharing links.

Here is a sample sqworl that i created -

   My common usecase is  - A friend ask for some links during an online conversation. I paste them then and there. Later some time, eithier I myself  need them or the same friend asks for them again. It becomes time consuming to search and retrieve them from the chat history; worse still - if the chat client does not store history(Yahoo messenger for eg) then, the links are gone forever.  Sqworl comes in  handy here!

   Another use is to share links in an email. A small short link looks much better than a bunch of long ones. Also, there is no risk of newlines or any other characters breaking up the link(s).

Sqworl reminds me of Microsoft's ThumbTack but, sqworl's UI is extremely plain,  simple, efficient and loads in an instant as compared to thumbstack.

P.S: For the uninitiated, the LOD (Link Of the Day) counter is in hex. Thus, this is actually the 42nd LOD. Yes, 42 - the answer to life the universe and everything ;)

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

LOD 29

Here is a nice photosynth* of the new US president taking oath -

I was always dubious about photosynth's abilities and utility, but this one has managed to convince me to some extent.

*Photosynth is a software which analyses multiple digital photographs of a scene and, generates a 3D model of the scene from those photos.

PS: If not already installed, Microsoft Silverlight will have to be installed. It is a small download and, the link is available on the same page itself.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What a pity!

What a pity that, the Indian premier (Dr. Manmohan Singh) could not be there to accept the salami (salute) from the armed forces on the eve of India's Republic day. I felt really bad about it. Although, not being there to accept a salute does not make any huge difference, I think Indians are unfortunate to have aged PMs and presidents.
     I personally do not believe that someone who is physically unfit can run his responsibility well. That applies more if the person is old (65+ years). How can someone with a major heart problem(current PM) or somone who cannot walk on his own legs (previous PM - A.B.Vajpayee) run the country ? If they are so seriously ill that they have to be admitted and operated upon, will they ever be able to concentrate on what the nation needs and where it is going ? I do not think so. One argument against this would be - operations are rather rare, may be one or two during their tenure. But, the critical point is, they had to be operated because they were ailing since long. Thus, their ailment has always been there. Its just that, it reached the peak when they had to be operated upon.
   Just imagine this - the parliament is bombed while in session, will the PM be even able to run for a few meters to save his own life ? I doubt. And not just the PM, many others also won't. In my opinon, 50-60 is the right age for someone to become a PM.
     The root of the problem this lies in an accepted philosophy in the Indian political arena - age matures the person. In Indian politics, 55 is young and 40-45 is amateur, below 40 is just a  bacchha (a child). 70 is mature, and 75 ripe with maturity. But, at the age of 70-75, the body has wore too much to take the mental and physical load of office. And this is an unescapable biological truth. Age affects the body in ways that can never be reversed (with the currently available technology, i mean).
    One of the organs worst hit by aging is (unfortunately) the brain. Aging reduces brain mass. Scientists say that, people can lose upto 20% of their brain mass by 85. Myelin content in the brain reduces with age. As a result, the brain actually becomes 'slow'. Interconnections between neurons in the brain (called synapses) decrease with age, so the processing power of the brain inevitably reduces. Due to change and imbalance in concentration of neurotransmitters, memory becomes weak and unreliable. What old age brings to humans should not be new to people who have ever lived with their grandparents.
    With such obvious problems that age brings, should we have a 76 year old PM ? Never. Old people should definitely be respected and cared for for what they have done in the past. But their age should not be considered a plus when appointing for a responsible post. And this same is the way of nature - a lion who is the leader of the pack has to retire when he gets old. His age and previous experience beget him no advantage then. But, in Indian politics we do the opposite. I wish and pray that, this philosophy of Indian politics changes soon and, we get to see some young and dynamic PMs in the future...

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Monday, January 26, 2009

LOD 28

Can a fringe branch of mathematics forecast the future? A special adviser to the CIA, Fortune 500 companies, and the U.S. Department of Defense certainly thinks so.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taste of the Strawberry.

Here is another one of my favorite Zen stories. I could not appreciate it when, I first read it in a book a few years back. Today, i can make some meaning out of it...

One day while walking across a field a man encountered a vicious tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him.

Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he picked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted.

The characteristic of traditional Zen stories is that, there is nothing in them that cannot be literally understood. The language, the depiction and, the characters are extremely plain and simple. Unlike in other stories, there is no surge of emotion and the protagonist generally keeps calm or in some cases he/she even stays mute. In fact, this is what differentiates a Zen story from a normal one. In a Zen story there is no obvious highlight, one has to search for the highlight on one's own. The stories are open to arbitrary interpretation although, the writer writes it with a definite and purposeful interpretation/morale in mind.The substance in the stories remains very much relevant today, even after thousands of years have passed since their writing.

Here is my interpretation of the story -
IMO, this story comes near the common saying 'Live every day as if, its your last day on earth'. That is to say that - enjoy the present, the now. By 'enjoy' I don't mean to say 'get enjoyment from' or 'seek pleasure/fun'. 'Enjoy' in this context means, realize fully; experience without prejudice; become aware of. The story says don't think too much about the past (the vicious tiger) and, don't care too much about the future (the other tiger below). Even when caught in a bad situation, don't get drowned in worry, enjoy every little aspect(the strawberry) of life as you would have otherwise done.Of course, the interpretation is highly subjective and should not be taken to the extreme. If somebody stops paying his insurance premium because 'one should not care too much about the future' then, Lord save him and his dear ones.
The interpretation problem arises because of the limitation of words. Masters say that Zen can never be understood by words alone. Words are there just to help.
Interpreted in another way, the story means - be indifferent to change. No matter what comes, stay natural. Niether too calm, nor very excited. Just be.
Easier said than done...

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