The world, how it works, surroundings, myself, etc.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

My third job offer

I received my third job, this time from Nvidia, Pune. The interview, scheduled at 9:00 in the evening didn't start before 10:30, and that left me enough time to grab two episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on a vacant PC I found near the interview spot. The interview began with one of my projects, video streaming to a (wireless) PDA and the interviewer delved into Multimedia-related questions (what factors affect the bitrate of a video stream, what's q-value, how does it affect the bandwidth requirement....). This was followed by a question that I did not answer in the written test (which I did solve then), and a simple question on probability -- that's it. 1:30 AM -- results out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

gdb generic error

I had gdb-ing my application to figure out the reason why it had been
misbehaving for long. It had been so long that gdb tried to console me
with: "Cannot find user-level thread for LWP 7912: generic error"
I didn't particularly like the "generic error" phrase. What was it
trying to say? Is it trying to console me by stating that this error is
a generice error -- as in, everyone gets it -- and that I need not get
so annoyed? As if to say, everyone has a bad day -- just that it's yours
too today!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

gcc commentary

Gcc has some humorous commentary built into it. I tried the datatype "long", and then tried "long long" and just for fun tried "long long long" and here's what it says:
    error: ‘long long long’ is too long for GCC

Curiously enough, gcc doesn't remark similarly for "short short". I expected it to say: error: 'short short' is too short for GCC!


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I eat shocks.. everyday

I'm eating shocks..literally. Electrostatic charge runs down by body and to the plate when I put forward my hand to pick it up after having finished my meal. I get a shock right after my meal, three times a day, everyday! I understand that there's something about electrostatic discharge which should be blamed, but it's kind of queer. If you are sitting with me on the mess table, you can almost hear the sparking sound while poor I get the shock (Paresh, Tarun, Ketan, Ranta, etc confirm this). I had heard about electrostatic discharge rendering electronic components useless and that you need to ground yourself before you touch things like the computer motherboard -- to avoid damaging the board. But here I am, without a single capacitor or transistor in my body, and I keep getting these shocks on a regular basis.

There are some strange observations about this phenomena:
  1. This phenomenon started only after I returned back from home after my Diwali hols. I was perfectly okay before that. I used to wear the same clothes and eat and sit similarly. Did I burn a bit too many crackers in Diwali? Or do I have an evergreen Diwali with me now?
  2. I get up 1-2 times before finishing my meal to load some more things from the counter. On these occassions, I don't get any shocks as I pick up my plate. It's only when I'm finished with my meal, my stomach is filled, and I get up finally, that I get these shocks. As a hit-and-try experiment, I once retired my meal without having filled my stomach, and lo..I did NOT get the shock. However natural this electrostatic discharge phenomenon be, how does it predict if my tummy is unfilled?
Well, untill I find explanations to the above, I'll keep getting shocks meal after meal, three times a day, everyday.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Being Bangalored ... interesting

A shamelessly direct lift-off from someone else's blog. The usage of Being Bangalored even figured in this week's India Today, and I decided I'd rather yield to the temptation. Here you go:

Strange but true. "Bangalored" is a verb which has been recently accrued in the english vocabulary. A person is said to be 'bangalored' if he lost his job because the work got outsourced to bangalore or any other city in India. "He got bangalored last week" is an example of its usage.

I ain't kidding people. Google it up I say. Lot of people in US got bangalored that it became an issue during the US presidential election. Thats exactly when this word was coined.

Dictionary defintion :
Bangalored adj. (said of a corporation, project, or employment) having been relocated to India; having lost business or employment due to such a relocation.

Here are some quick links to 'Bangalored'..hmm it feels really awkward to even pronounce it.
Click: A and B.

And guess such similar verb is "Shanghaied" which means kidnapped. "Shanghaied" - this word even exists in Webster's dictionary. Try and see yourself. Shanghaied has been known since about 1870, at first in the sense of kidnapping a person to make up the crew numbers on a ship, but now more generally to be for ced into doing something against one's will. There is one more... 'Sodom' from the Bible.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Morality and the Constitution

I always used to wonder why the opposition starts demanding the ruling party(-y+ies) to own MORAL responsibility whenever they falter. I mean, why moral responsibility. Why not constitutional responsibility? Why not legal responsibility? Turns out, they can't. The government is not constitutionally/legally responsible for anything. I repeat. The government is not constitutionally/legally responsible for anything. There's not a single law (or even a suggestion) in the 395 odd articles of the Constitutional crap that can hold the government responsible for anything. The opposition, therefore, keeps blackmailing on moral grounds, for, it can't do anything better.

In other words, the government can do whatever it pleases. The Supreme Court, the highest court of appeal in India, will keep expressing discontent, but they can't do anything either. Their hands are tied. They are just supposed to interpret the constitution -- not act as per righteousness. In such a scenario, I feel that the government is actually very very moral whenever it does anything. What else, if not morality, stops it from modifying the constitution to make amendments that ensure that the same party keeps winning every time? What else, if not morality, stops them from framing laws making their rule permanent? Nothing. Pure morality. All strong words like sovereignty, democracy, liberty, et al, combined don't have enough power to stop this -- and yet, we have the government performing at least some degree (+ve or -ve).
G B Shaw mused:
Democracy is a device which ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
What recently happened in my home-state, Bihar, raised similar demands for moral ownership. A "constitutionally elected" assembly was dissolved because the governor did not deem the majority party deserving enough. That was on 23rd May. Four months later, the Supreme Court wakes up (why??) to announce that the governor was wrong. It was constitutionally wrong, but nothing can be undone. Who owns the constitutional responsibility in this case? Oh, I see -- The can-always-be-blamed Mr Nobody. The opposition, unfailingly, has again renewed its demands for the government to own moral responsibility! And the prime minister, it seems, has agreed that he cannot disown moral responsibility. Oh, how cute. I love you. Please go to hell (on your own money).

So hopeless is the nature of the holy constitution of the largest democracy of the world (yeah, it's India) that I wonder -- Isn't this collection of 395 articles no more than a huge and perfect crap-book? What's the use? I tried to reason out some possible uses of the bulky constitution.
  • Use as Toilet paper

Given the bulk of the constitution, each member of the Lok Sabha can get one paper each for toilet-paper usage. Assuming that all the MPs go to the toilet daily (I doubt it, though), it won't last more than a few days, however. Besides, a majority of them won't like using toilet-paper. But those who would, perhaps they can use both the sides of the paper, one side each day.
  • Use for literature study

I confess, I learned a whole set of new words when I first chanced with the constitution. The only knowledge I have of heavy-weight words like sovereign, secular, democratic, republic, fraternity are derived from my school civics book describing the constitution. Besides, the composition is enticingly poetic. I still remember:
"Article 32 confers upon the citizens of India the right to constitutional remedies. ...."
Ah, don't worry what this right is -- 'tis too impractical. This is the only place in my 22 years of life that I have seen the "confers upon" phrase being used, and I find it sweetly poetic. Perhaps the makers of the constitution mistook this exercise as an endeavor towards the Nobel Prize for Literature. They didn't get it -- and they died of shock. "We, the people of India, having solemnly ....." is another favorite and by-heart.
  • Use as a flare

There still are several parts of the country that suffer from freezing cold. The pages of the constitution can burn for quite a while to provide some warmth. I'm told the pages are good, and hence, they should sustain fire for quite some time.
  • Making Kites

This is a perfect usage. Use the pages as kites. Boring holes in the pages will give additional delight and attaching a tail would suit the page's content to a T.

That's it. No more practical uses of the crap called the Constitution of India. Sorry founding fathers. None that I can think of presently. And no -- it does not deserve the Literature Nobel, either!

Al Qaida's Hiring

It's true. Al Qaida's Hiring.

I had heard and read that the economy was going strong, that the bears were unable to hold back the bulls who had been raging the stock market with each passing day. But that the upbeat mood has tingled till Al Qaida too still trickles me. So, they've placed proper advertisements asking people to join their force.
Someone please take up the issue with our placement officer. Schedule a Pre Placement Bombing (akin to PPT) soon. :-)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Thy OS is thy religion

Imagine the Year 2015 AD: Barely 10 years from now

The world is casted based solely on one demarcation: your religion,
except that it's not actually Hinduism or Christianity, or Islam but
instead your OS. Your OS is your religion; it represents you, teaches
you, guides you and inspires you. There are great heroes to sing of --
they've done groundbreakingly significant work in the upliftment of your
OS (Linus, Jobs, Gates to name a few). The preamble of the crappy
Constitution of India is rewritten to include the term "equality of all
Operating Systems". To the phrase "equality in protection by law
irrespective of caste, creed, color, sex, sect" is appended "or
operating system".

There'll be some secular political parties, some pseudo-secular, and
some infamously communal (with deep religious attachment towards their
OS-es). There'll be communal wars in the name os OS-es.

And then there'll be some Nazis who won't tolerate any disgrace to their
religion -- either use their OS, or die! Takeovers follow when some
profilic superpowers try to spread their religious colonies throughout
the globe (or every other planets perhaps). Divide-and-rule based on
your OS still works. There is widespread anarchy in the name of one's OS.

Then there'll be a Mahatma. He'll be too lazy to attach himself to any
OS -- if you format his system and install your OS, he'll acquiescedly
offer his other PC as well (his forefathers used to offer the other
cheek when slapped on one). He'll be assassinated by a virus of the same OS.

Children's names rhyme with the OS internals -- Kernel Prasad, chmod R
Shastry, Insmod Pandey, Modprobe Chaurasia, Ipod Vidyadhar, Zotob Gates,
Bill Nimda, etc. Marital and funeral rituals are tied closely to the
nature of booting and crashing of your OS, respectively.

Whoosh! I'm waiting for 2015.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Halting the gears

It's general knowledge that glxgears can be used to get a quick peek of a graphics card's performance. glxgears is fill-limited, that is, the frames-per-second (FPS) depends on the size of the window. I describe here a small exercise with glxgears: Halting the gears.

Increasing the window size decreases the FPS. However, the perceived sense of rotation (clockwise or anti-clockwise) of the gears appears to switch as you increase the window size. That is, as you drag the corner of the window and make it larger, the gears will appear to be rotating clockwise and then at a point they'll apear to be moving anti-clockwise and then again they'll appear to moving clockwise at a point... and so on. This is akin to the rotation of a fan wherein you can sometimes feel the blades moving in a direction opposite to the blades' actual direction of motion. So, after making x no of rotations, if a point p on the periphery of a gear lands ahead of it's original place, the perceived sense of rotation is the same as its actual rotation direciton. However, if the point p falls short of its original place, the gear will be perceived as rotation in the opposite direction.

The Exercise: Drag the corner of the window to increase the size and bring it to the point such that the perceived sense of rotation of the gears is just about to change. At this juncture, it'll appear that the gears aren't even moving -- as if they're halted. It's a bit difficult to manouvre the size to a perfect standstill, but it's worth the pains!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Techies' In-expressive-ness

Techies are Inexpressive. Techies understand things, they analyze things, they reason out things, but they just aren't able to express it. They feel at a loss of words when contemplating description. For instance, if they are impressed, they have, in their gamut, precisely only the few words: cool, ulti-(mate), fundoo. Other more articulate and suiting adjectives remain foreign to them. Of these, the word "cool" is pretty vehemently abused. They have a bit too many numbers, equations, and logic going in the left lobe of their cerebrum to be able to attend to the artistic calls of the right lobe. Understanding things in terms of equations is OK but when it comes to several social aspects, equations simply falter. To answer in a more technical way, the descriptions of social interactions and understanding can be expressed only in very high degree equations, well beyond the impulses of the left-lobe. And I'm doubtful of even this.

With the breed of Geeks, the situation is even worse. Talk to them for a minute and you'll realize how inarticulate they can be. Ask a computer geek a doubt and he'll answer you back with a string of technical jargon, most of them obscure commands, and this array will be terminated by a broad grin (if you are lucky) emanating out from his bespectacled face. Needless to say, you didn't understand a thing and you are left with a similar doubt, only transformed a different and unfriendly space. Actually, they are not to be blamed too.
 -- PS: Exceptions are everywhere. I'm not referring to those. 

My short tryst with Death

First, a direct lift off from my yesterday night's diary entry:

Glass Cleaner is dying
One of my fishes, the one that used to spend most of its time stuck to the aquarium's glass walls, is dying right now. It had jumped out of the water and onto the floor, a shock for me when I returned back to the room. I put it back in water, but its fins are stuck. I can still see the to and fro movement of its lungs as it breathese, but the fins are still stuck. It cannot move its body. Though it seems to be trying hard for survival, gasping for breath, I don't think it can. By the time I'll be awake tomorrow morning, it'll be dead -- and I can't do anything about it! Oh! no. Even as I'm just writing this, it made a desperate attempt to move and has changed its place to the other corner of the aquarium. But why is it trying to reach the water surface? Please don't jump out again. Please don't die like this before me! I've covered the top of the aquarium now and put in some fod. The other two fishes are having their feed, whereas the subject of this writing is standing almost vertically on its tail, its body still appearing stiff. How painfully it must've writhed on the floor -- why did it jump out? Why does it want to change its silent life to a painful death? Why does it still want to jump out?

The smallest fish, a tiny body with a tiny mouth, is nowhere to be seen. Where did it go? Did it too jump out? I searched everywhere on the floor. I cannot find it. Instead, what I find is some flies and random insects sitting motionless. Oh! no, they too are dead. One is a more than usually large beetle, black and upside down -- its arrangement of legs are silent. Another is a black but grasshopper-like flying insect -- it can't move, its dead. There are innumerable other small flies, worms, ants too! What happened in my room -- did Yamaraj make a visit? And where must've the little fish jumped off?

I now look back at the aquarium, and find a black and white strip of body below some yellow stones. Oh! no, that must it be -- that is it. It's dead. I take it out of the water. Oh! my God, it's abdomen is eaten up -- it's completely hollow -- what happened? I cannot see what's inside and I throw it out.

But what exactly happened in my room? I remember well that everything was fine when I left it some 3 hours ago. Death, it seems, danced its way in my room. If I sleep, will I wake up? Has death left or ....?

Back to this blog:
I was scared like hell yesterday night. Luckily, when I woke up this morning, the glass cleaner fish is alive. It has survived. And so have I.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What's a "hi"?


I thought Hi was no more than a salutation. But seeing the overuse of this small word, I have reason to believe that it is being abused for varied purposes. You see it everywhere. A signification multitude of my mails have the subject "Hi", primarily used by someone who wanted to send me a mail but wasn't sure of the subject, but still didn't want to leave the subject line unfilled. I just got a mail which dealt with a sysadmin-related problem, but even this was greeted with a "Hi" in the subject line. The rest of the mail was entirely unrelated to the preamble of Hi. Don't people realize -- it's perfectly ok to leave the subject line blank instead of filling it up with the unnecessary Hi.

Looking at various other instances of Hi, every chat session invariably begins with a Hi. Actually, it's nice. Follows the KISS principle. Want to begin a letter, say Hi. Want to start a conversation, say Hi. Wish to start a speech, say Hi. Wish to write an invitation, say Hi. The problem is that it's not used as a salutation but as an opener, as if to get things in motion. We don't begin with a Hi because any other thing wouldn't suffice, but rather just to begin -- akin to clearing one's throat before a conversation. What would happen if everything began with a Hi? God would invent you and say -- Hi (instead of tathastu). The first thing you'd speak to a newborn would be -- Hi. Yamaraj would land at your doorstep and say -- Hi. Imagine every research paper beginning with a -- Hi. The morning newspaper starting with a Hi. The PM addressing the nation on 15th Aug and starting with a Hi. Often people look at you with awe and astonishment if you utter the name of one-who-must-not-be-named. But with the growth of Hi, people around you would be sent shuddering with astonishment if you _did_not_ begin anything with a Hi (one-that-must-be-named). Your examination paper question paper would start with a Hi. The answer-sheet will have a Hi already printed. Even then a student will append a Hi. A lawyer would drop the usual "Your Honor" salutation and begin his legal proceedings with the quintessential Hi. The judge, instead of saying "Objection sustained" would say -- "Hi, Objection sustained". The convict, standing before the jury would start with a Hi.

It gets even more painful. Even advertising isn't spared. Hutch is so confident about the applicability of Hi that they pay for gigantic billboards but use only a tiny corner of it to say -- Hi. Probably if Hutch had it's way, when you receive a phone-call, everything else would be proceeded by a machine-generated automatic Hi for bot the caller and the callee.

PS: Even this post begins with a Hi.

Friday, September 16, 2005

My theory on A$$holes

Here I describe my theory and speculations regarding the breed called A$$holes.

A$$holes: The breed of people who can't think. They perhaps have brains, but they just refuse to think. The idea of logic, brain, and the like is foreign to them. Invariably, they employ the power of speech as a substitute to the power of thought, which they never use.

A$$holicity: A$$holicity, or A$$holic content, of a population is defined as the ratio between the number of A$$holes and the size of the population. It can be expressed as a fraction or as a percentage. For example, if it's known that the A$$holic content of a population is 50% (or 1/2), it means that one out of every two person in that given population is an A$$hole.

A$$hology: The study of A$$holes. It's important because this helps in their identification. The farther you are from them, the better.

  1. A$$holes are everywhere.
  2. The A$$holicity of any given population is at least 1/3.
Theory: As a child I had known the story of a monkey and a bird. It was raining heavily. The bird was sitting happily in its nest, whereas the monkey was shivering in the rain. The bird felt pity and suggested to the monkey: "You are way stronger than I am. Why don't you build a home for yourself? Then you won't have to shiver like this." This monkey was an A$$hole. Needless to say, the logic didn't pierce into his top row. Instead, he attacked back and tore the nest of the bird itself.
That's how A$$holes are. It'll take all the power in nuclear forces before they accept reason.

George Bernard Shaw mused:
Few people think more than two or three times a year. I've made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week

It's bewildering to see how poorly used thought is.

Ayn Rand said:
If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.
God didn't force thoughts upon us. He left humankind with this choice -- and this was the flaw -- how can someone make a choice without thinking?
Everyone is entitled to be stupid. But some people abuse the privilege. -- Anonymous

Returning to the A$$holic characterisics, they are omnipresent -- in the park, in the lawn, in the school, in the bus, everywhere. You can't get rid of them. But maintaining distance is crucial. Their content in any of these population will always be at least 1/3. There's no magic about this number. It's just the theoretical lower limit. The actual (practical) A$$holic content of a population can far exceed this. For instance, the A$$holicity of places like Parliament, Assembly, politically motivated meetings are in the tune of 98%. The rest 2% are passers-by.

Even if there are only 1/3rd A$$holes in the world, they'll collectively account for 2/3rd of the mess. Practical values shoot this messiness to over 80%. This fits the 20-80 rule that 20% of the people are responsible for 80% of the productive work done.

A$$holes are important, nevertheless. In times of depression or when you are feeling low, they serve as the lower reference-point of a depressed state. You'll automatically start feeling better. Whenever you are depressed, think of an A$$hole.

Conclusion: Never reason with an A$$hole.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ufff.. the day today

What a pathetic day it was today. Things were going wrong with such
monotonic consequence that the even my PC gave up, just a day before I
have to give a demo to someone from Microsoft Research (sponsor for my
Display Wall project). It was wreckage. I was yet to complete the
preparations for tomorrow and here it was, my 1GB inferno lying
exhausted, uninterested in booting up despite all my pleadings. The HCL
guys were called up. I suspected an SMPS failure, as is generally the
religion in such outbreak; but the HCL guy declared that it was
something more serious -- the motherboard. It needed to be replaced. Now
started the wait for another guy from HCL service center who brought a
new motherboard. Things were settled not before 7:00 in the evening. I
had to settle with 512M RAM as this present motherboard supposedly isn't
supporting 1GB (needs some BIOS update, the HCL guy tells me).

And that was just one story. Today was the worst ever network failure in
the history of IIIT that has passed before my eyes. The central switch
in the server room broke down. Even rebooting the central switch, as is
infamously the norm in the server room, didn't work; it was hanging no
sooner it was booted. This ate up the whole day, and my lab (Room 227)
didn't get the network back even after all the others had got back their
life. Things improved only by 7:00.

The last two "No computers day" at the institute didn't leave me this
helpless but today I felt -- the PC doesn't work, the network doesn't
work, what the hell! what am I supposed to do?

Ufff.. the day today.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Making firefox real fast

Not for nothing is Firefox the coolest browser. A simple tweak and now all the sites open almost instantaneously. I don't have to see the status bar loading the page. Here's what I followed:

Open Firefox 1.0 and in the address bar type: about:config

1. Find browser.tabs.showSingleWindowModePrefs and double click on it so it = true
2. Find network.http.pipelining and double click on it so it = true
3. Find network.http.pipelining.maxrequests double click on it and change it from 4 to 100
4. Find network.http.proxy.pipelining double click on it and change it = true

That's it.

What do these changes do?
1. Then enables advanced tab options in your Tools/Options page
2. This enables option #3.
3. This makes FF use 8 threads to each page.. Bascially, if you thought FF was fast before, try it after this.
4. Use this if you are behind a proxy.
I'm sure tonnes of such tweaks can be done, especially with the myriad number of extensions available.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Using Google talk with GAIM

Kudos to Google for making sure that its newly launched talk service could be used with Gaim.
Google talk uses the standards compliant Jabber protocol. They will be the FIRST IM service to use the IETF messaging and presence standard. Thank you again, Google!

My Gaim settings are like: (they work at least here in IIIT)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My AC hates me

The AC hanging over my head in the lab hates me.

I had complained about it at least once in one of my blogs about how people keep oscillating it between high & low temperatures instead of just setting it to the desired temperature. And now methinks I have to face the consequences. The AC spills water. Not every time, though; only when you want to have water being showered on your head the least (Murphy's right, you see). It doesn't spare my PC's monitor too. As a workaround I've put a paper on the monitor to protect it but what about poor me? Should I sit in the lab with an umbrella? Even though it has been cleaned two times, yesterday itself being once, it hasn't stopped it's outpourings. I know there's a Rain God, Indra, whom people plead to in case of drought or drain. But is there a God for rain from ACs? I'm yet to hear about it. Who should I offer my prayers and offerings to?

I hope the AC doesn't get angrier. In case it does, it might start dropping other things as well, and then I might not be left to complain any more.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The ctrl-alt-delete test

Abstract: There are so many clues that mute devices can give about their owners. One such effective method is described here as an example.

Motivation: Given a PC, you have to make out whether the owner runs Windows or Linux on it. The system is switched off. No, you are not allowed to switch it on. In case, it's a dual boot system, find out if the user uses Windows more or Linux.

Background: Any regular computer user would know that the keys on the keyboard erode with use. With time, dust settles on the keys but they are consumed by the fingers which touch them. However, this consumption of dust away from the keyboard is not even. The keys which are used the most, look the shiniest. Therefore, the shininess of the keys give an idea of the relative frequency of keys-usage.

The ctrl-alt-delete test: Any windows user knows the importance of the Ctrl-Alt-Delete dose. It's needs to be injected every now and then, often out of wilderness. I argue that if the computer runs Windows, the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keys will be the shiniest. Windows users spend most of their time with the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keys. One might refute the claim, saying that the Space key could be shinier and it's used most often. No. Windows users hardly touch the keyboard except for this Ctrl-Alt-Delete medication. Interestingly, windows users instead use the mouse to bring up the start menu even though there's a full-fledged key on the keyboard dedicated just to this purpose (the windows key / super key).

Conclusion: The keys on the keyboard provide several clues about the user. Some of these are quite unexpected. Had Conan Doyle been alive, Sherlock Holmes would have found many uses of these in his investigations for the truth.

Future Work: Space bar, the longest key on the keyboard, can reveal a lot. For instance, if the space bar is eroded from the right, this means that the user is right handed. The relative shininess of the other keys also tend to let the cat out of the bag. The F & J keys can reveal if the user has to look at the keyboard while typing or is a touch-typist (can type without looking). The W, A, S, D keys reveal if the user is a gamer. So much so that the ASL (age-sex-location) keys will tell you if the user is an avid chatter! Many more of these promising arenas remain unexplored.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Microsoft promoting viruses?

As if the already existing windows wasn't vulnerable enough,, Microsoft keeps announcing about the vulnerabilities that it discovers in Windows and releases a patch to be applied for it's protection. If you don't follow verbatim the instructions issued from Godfather M$, hell breaks loose over you. This happened with the recent Zotob virus too. Here's how: In barely 3 days after the announcement of this vulnerability on Windows, proof of concept code demonstrating the exploit was available on the internet, and in two days hence the worms were in their hunting spree. However protective the intentions of Godfather M$ be, for people who did not heed to its warnings in a mere 5 days, they rendered their systems useless.

Or is it a strategy from M$ to stop illegal usage of Windows? The patches are available to legal users only. If it is so, then M$ is trying to cash in at the cost of some legal users too, who happened to be 5 days late in analyzing the situation!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Why TeX?

10 Good Reasons for using TeX

These are the reasons most often cited for using TeX, grouped into four areas: Output Quality, Superior Engineering, Freedom, and Popularity.

  • Output Quality You write documents to be read and understood. Your first concern should be: how good is the output? Is it as readable and as useful as possible? Is it, even, beautiful?
    • 1) TeX has the best output. What you end with, the symbols on the page, is as useable, and beautiful, as a non-professional can produce.

      This is especially noticable for complex documents, such as ones with mathematics; see this sample (from Rogers's Recursive Functions). It also holds for documents that are complex in other ways: with many tables, or many cross references or hyper-links, or just with many pages.

      Even on simple documents TeX does a better job than a word processor. Compare these samples of plain text (from Herigel's Zen in the Art of Archery) done in Word and TeX. These are short and the typographic differences are subtle but even a non-expert may see that the TeX page looks "more right." The word processor's page has some lines with wide gaps between words and some lines with too many words stuffed in (contrast the second paragraph's second line with its third). TeX's output is more readable.

    • 2) TeX knows typesetting. As the plain text samples in the prior item illustrate, TeX's more even line spacings are a consequence of its more sophisticated algorithms for making paragraphs and for hyphenating.

      Another way that this expertise gives better output comes in setting technical material. TeX moves the task, as much as possible, into the software. For instance, it automatically classifies each mathematical symbol as a variable, or a relation, etc., and sets them with appropriate amounts of surrounding space. It also sizes superscripts, and many other things. The result is that, because your document follows the conventions of professional typesetting, your readers will know exactly what you mean. You almost never have to fret with the formulas. They just come out right.

    The quality of output is the best reason to use TeX.

  • Superior Engineering Everyone has been frustrated with software that is slow, fat, buggy, or that undergoes frequent incompatible version changes. TeX will not give you those troubles; from a Computer Science standpoint, TeX is very impressive.
    • 3) TeX is fast. TeX ran quickly when it was developed in 1978 and so on today's machines it is very fast. It is easy on your computer's memory and disk space, too.
    • 4) TeX is stable. It is in wide use, with a long history. It has been tested by millions of users on demanding input. It will never eat your document. Never.

      But there is more here than just that the program is reliable. TeX's designer has frozen the central engine, the actual tex program. Documents that run today will still run in ten years, or fifty. So "stable" means more than that it actually works; it means that it will continue to work, forever.

    • 5) TeX is stable, but not rigid. A system locked into 1978's technology would today have gaps. That's why TeX is extendable, so that innovations can be added on, layered over the underlying engine.

      An example is the LaTeX macro package, which is the most popular way to use TeX today. It is a front end to the engine, affecting the way authors input their work. It adds conveniences such as automatic cross references, indexing, a table of contents, automatic numbering of chapters, sections, theorems, etc., in a variety of styles, and a straightforward but powerful way to make tables.

      LaTeX also adds a philosophy of encouraging authors to structure their document by meaning rather than by appearance. For instance, a LaTeX author might produce emphasized text by typing "it is \emph{hot} here" instead of specifying italics. This approach has two advantages. First, since it is a computer language command, it makes the type style, size, and spacing uniform throughout your document. Second, once the information is in the computer then you can do more with it. You can, for instance, distinguish between text that is italic because it is emphasized, and text that is italic because it is the name of a ship, perhaps by adding a command \ship{..} that saves the names of all ships for a separate index.

      And, LaTeX itself is extendable. There are thousands of "style files," which do everything from adapting the basics to the needs of the American Math Society, to making cross-references into hyper-references, all the way to allowing you to add epigraphs, the short quotations that sometimes decorate the start or end of a chapter.

      Just because LaTeX is the most popular macro package doesn't mean that it is the best one for you. Many others are available; see the the TeX Users Group's interest page.

      So TeX has been, and is being, developed and extended in many ways. (See also the nex two items.)

    • 6) The input is plain text. TeX's source files are portable to any computing platform. They are also easy to produce automatically, for example as output from a program. They are compact; all of the files for my 450 page textbook and 125 page answer supplement fit easily on one floppy. And, they integrate with other tools such as search utilities.

      Use of this type of input file stems from an overall mindset. TeX arose in the world of science and engineering where there is a tradition of cooperating closely with fellow workers. A binary input format, especially a proprietary one, is bad for cooperation: probably you have had to go through the trouble of upgrading a word processor version because coworkers upgraded and you could no longer read their files. With TeX systems that rarely happens -- the last time that a LaTeX release lost some backward compatibility was in 1995.

      There are even ways to run TeX directly from XML input, which many people think is the standard input format of the future. So, with the TeX formatting engine in the middle, the input front end may be adjusted to meet your needs, and changing times.

    • 7) The output can be anything. As with inputting, TeX's outputting step is separate from its typesetting. The TeX engine's results can be converted to a printer language such as PostScript, or to a web language such as PDF or HTML, or, probably, to whatever will appear in the future. And, the typesetting -- line breaks, etc. -- will be the same no matter where your output appears. (Did you know that word processing output depends on the printer's fonts, so if you email your work to someone with a different printer then the line and page breaks may come out differently?)

    Many people find that TeX's input language fits with how they think about their material. For instance, a scientist might describe a formula to a colleague over a telephone using TeX constructs.

  • Freedom Most computer users have heard about Free and Open-Sourced software and know that, as with the GNU programs, Linux, Apache, Perl, etc., this style of development can yield software that is first class. TeX, along with associated materials such as index makers or style files, falls into this category.
    • 8) TeX is free. The source of the main tex engine is open (the Free Software Foundation uses it for their documents). All of the other main components are open, also.
    • 9) TeX runs anywhere. Whatever meets your platform -- Windows, Macintosh, a variety of Unix, or almost anything else -- you can get TeX, either freely distributed or in a commercial version.

    So although the core of TeX was written some time ago, it fits well with today's trends.

  • Popularity Using the same system as many other people has advantages. You can get answers to your questions. Your problems might well have already been solved. And, because of this large user base, your system is sure to be around for years.
    • 10) TeX is the standard. Most scientists, especially academic scientists, know TeX. Research preprints, drafts of textbooks, and conference proceedings, all are regularly produced with TeX. As a result, many publishers of technical material are set up to work with it.

      Because it is the standard, TeX's support by other technical software is the best. For example, there are editing modes to make input convenient, such as AUCTeX for Emacs. Another example is that most computer algebra systems, such as Maple and Mathematica, will give output in TeX. And no doubt technical software developed in the future will support TeX, also.

      In addition, TeX is used by many people outside of the sciences, for all of the reasons given in this document. For instance, there is a way to produce beautiful critical edition texts.

    You wouldn't want to use a bad system simply because it is popular. TeX has earned its user base for sound reasons, some of them given above. Nonetheless, the existence of such a base is itself one reason to adopt a software package.


Thanks to Parry for leading me to

Monday, August 08, 2005

What after bleeding?

To bring out the technical edge of a product, I used to hear it being termed as burning edge. But that was long long back. Then came the term cutting edge which referred to really out of the world capabilities for use by professionals. And now I hear bleeding edge. Such products (esp graphics cards) have fundoo amateurs and single-headed fanatics too as their audience. I wonder what edge the future would be on. What after bleeding edge? Rubbing edge? Wiping edge? or.. is it clotting edge?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The perils of Over-Expression

Over-Expression is a routinely occurring phenomenon in world order these days. Things are often over-stated. Communication, it turns out, takes place mostly in the superlative sense. For instance, if the mess food is bad, one might label it as intolerable even though it would have been quite agreeable a meal. Most advertisements promote their products as the best of its kind. Mediocrity is infamous. Average expression is unheard of, though average quality is not uncommon. As if the superlative band has expanded to gobble up the average band.

There are a number of factors which lead to such a world order:
  • Strong feelings
This is the case in which things are over-stated without intention or deliberation. One might have a deep attachment with something which one sees getting damaged and therefore reacts voluptuously. One doesn't see the larger picture here. For instance, the recent MMS imbroglio in which a college student was caught selling (potentially) obscene stuff was a clear depiction of emotional outburst. Several people saw it as a misuse of technology. Some other stringent-minded people, however, viewed it as an attack on the women race -- as if this was the last straw and they had no choice but to demonstrate vehemently their outburst. World order becomes an exception for a while. Clearly, the entire scandal was over-advertised. Other significantly severe abuses of women's rights go unheard of while this one attains herculean proportions. Such narrow-minded syndrome needs a broader and beyond-the-sight therapy. There is more than meets the eye (or even emotions/hearts).
  • Partially deaf reaction mechanism
Owing largely to insensitiveness to routine behavior, normal expression goes unheard. Unless a situation is expressed in leviathan proportions, it doesn't beat anything on the ear-drums of the people involved in the reaction mechanism. For instance, a stoic complaint made to the telephone department for a non-functional line would have large chances of going amiss. Same for a complaint for preparing a faulty electrical line. However, when the situation assumes titanic proportions (dharnas, bandhs, etc), the reaction mechanism springs to action in a whisker. Call it nature but the bottom line is that humans are surprisingly adaptable and react only when over-expressed (damage mode). Computers, however, don't work in this damage-control mode. They continue with the routine mode equally well even after millions and millions of repetitions. Perhaps, therefore, it'd do good to replace reaction mechanisms with automated (lifeless) controls.

A very commonly occurring example of all this is with the operation of the AC in my lab. Instead of keeping the temperature to an agreeable value, it's often kept intolerably low. This is when it's hot and the AC is just started. As expected, the room starts freezing in a while and then someone would just pop up and switch it off (instead of increasing the temperature to the agreeable value). And the room heats up again. Greedy desire of instantaneous results leads to this cycle being continued, even though in a long run it is far from optimal.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

To remain or not to remain.. contemplations

For some time now I've been sitting over a decision which I need to make -- Should I quit my sysadminship? No, it's not about money. SysAdminship was never about money anyway. So what is it? And am I prepared for it? These are the questions I must answer.

True that I was filled with joy when Nayani asked me (circa March, 2004) whether I wished to become the sysadmin. My joy knew no bounds then. I was always fascinated to see the smart black servers through the server room's glass doors. I was just a DigLib maintainer then and I did have a few reasons of entering into the server room, albeit only occasionally. And then it happened. I was appointed as the sysadmin (along with smr). Likewise I bequeathed the technical air around myself, which is the characteristic of anyone on this responsibility, I presume. I had long undergone the changeover from Windows to Linux. A certain degree of pride naturally infused into me as I was permitted to open and enter into the server room whenever the need be. All the servers lay there before me, which I best describe as: waiting for being commanded by my fingers. Not surprisingly, my image too underwent a changeover. My nickname changed from Ajeeb to root. A signboard bearing "System Administrator" was hung on my door.

All this was as if my complete self was getting submerged into the being of a sysadmin. As if I was getting lost behind this tag. But the job was interesting, the power addictive, , the road challenging, and I continued to tread on it. To avoid myself getting pampered and lured into misdemeanor, I had vowed to myself never to encroach upon the privacy of any person -- I needed strong determination against this temptation and I have been successful satisfactorily. A number of major changes took place in the server room management and network infrastructure and my number of hours in #111 (Server Room) had gone up, and I kinda loved it. Being on this hot seat also chanelled a lot of queries from people to me, all of them technical, and it's always fun answering them.

But all this has been there for over an year now. Things have changed. Times have changed. I have changed. Power doesn't allure in the same way now; don't know if the lack of it would hurt, though. I've learnt a lot of things in this responsible position. But the cynosure of my contemplation is -- Shouldn't I move on? I mean, being a sysadmin was good, but that's not nearly the destination. There's a long long road waiting to be traversed. In some ways, I've just now embarked upon the journey. The sysadminship load constantly mitigates my independence. Of late, there have been a number of instances when I've been irresolutely frustrated and dissatisfied with the latency of the server room activities (most of them beyond my hands), but the net result tends to reflect my efficacy too. My numerology indicates that I'm a bit stubborn; I have trouble leaving a thing once acquired. But with seasoned thoughts I know I can achieve a changeover. Does quitting sysadminship give me this changeover?

Submerged with such notions I had asked PJN sir for an advice. I was equally inclined towards both sides and all I needed was a backing from him to push me further in that direction. According to him, however, the decision is all mine. There are so many strategic developments that I'd like to see undertaken in the server room; so innumerable ways in which the process should be improved. But should I continue to get myself involved? I must lessen my load, I agree, but should I quit altogether? Should I listen to my gut feeling and quit now to avoid tumbling down the rabbit-hole? I'm looking for answers. The decision is still under contemplation.

Friday, August 05, 2005

My_new_roll_no % 3 != 0.. still

It's hardly been 3 days after I posted about my joy when I realized that my new roll no was divisible by 3. But now, it's not. Today it was announced that my new roll no is: 200102005 instead. Now, this isn't divisible by 3. The numbers less than 200102005 which divide it are: 5, 43, 215, 930707, 4653535 and 40020401. But the good thing is that of these factors, 3 are prime and 3 are composite. Having 3 prime factors is not bad! And.... if you add 5 to my roll no, it becomes divisible by 3 again. :-) (5 because my dual degree is a 5 year programme and that *should* have a part to play in the calculations.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Darwinism, the guiding principle for opensource and blogging

Little did Charles Darwin know about the idea of open source or blogging when he explained about "The Origin of the Species", but the same idea of "survival of the fittest" prevails here as well. That open source is analogous to letting a person choose what profession he wants to be in is the crux. This is because he'll perform the best in the profession he really wants to be, otherwise perish, giving way to better ones.

Accepting open source as a business model might seem foreign to most. "Why do something for free," one might argue. Well, you don't have to. No one forces you to blog. No one forces you to write and distribute open source. The crucial factor here is "force". You can do something best *only* if you truly love it. FULLSTOP. RedHat, supporting the Fedora project, is a gallant example of making money in symbiosis with OpenSource. And we've not even talked of the Google yet. Isn't it a working business model?

The threat of non-reliance on open source is a non-threat actually. Same for blogging. No one would read a blog which is poorly written or wrong. But something which many people do read *has* to be good. As humans, we communicate. One could ask, "Why speak for free?" I'd rather say, it's human to speak. It's just natural. Hearing is optional. And if there are many who hear me, it implies that I'm a good orator. So my speech will thrive only if I'm fit enough to speak -- survival of the fittest, or auto-perish of the frail. Parallely, to blog is natural. To try one's luck in working open source is natural.

Paul Graham has an excellent article on What business can learn from Open Source. Amateurs giving professionals a run for their money is natural. So what does that mean? -- there can be no professionalism? No. A person doesn't have to do one thing only. If I'm an employee, that doesn't mean that I don't talk, does it? But perhaps I'll be able to perform excellent in my amateur self -- or better still if my profession self and the amateur self are the same.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My_new_roll_no % 9 == 0

For the last 4 years, I had the roll no 200101049. Not that I'm superstitious or anything but this wasn't divisible by 3, and I didn't like it. Having switched to the Dual Degree Programme, my roll no has been changed to 200102049. This is divisible by 3, and, to add to my joy, divisible by 9 too! -- and I can't believe it even 27 divides it. Wow! I love my new roll no.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression

The Nonist has published (in PDF form) an interesting little pamphlet called What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression.
There is a growing epidemic in the cyberworld. a scourge which causes more suffering with each passing day. as blogging has exploded and, under the stewardship of the veterans, the form has matured more and more bloggers are finding themselves disillusioned, dissatisfied, taking long breaks, and in many cases simply closing up shop. this debilitating scourge ebbs and flows but there is hardly a blogger among us who has not felt it's dark touch. we're speaking, of course, about blog depression.
That's some deep, dark stuff. Nice! (Via zephoria.)
--   from: 

Sunday, July 31, 2005

To Chandu's

While returning back from Chilly and Peppers on this weekend evening, we  (Poppy, Paro, Pankaj, Majji & I) leisurely walked into Chandna (and Dixit & Pappu & TinTin)'s flat; and a hilarious time we had there. The flat's good (looked good even at the night time that we had entered). Boxes strewn all over in the main lobby greeted us (looked a lot like TinTin's room in the hostel).

We began with the Sutta na Mila song. These IIT guys have done a fun job with their band and we made the fullest out of it.

Pappu has grown his hair neck-long. Heard about his amorous successes due to this while he puffed in the balcony (they don't allow him into the rooms with his cig on). TinTin denied that he was overworked (as were the rumors); but did not let out any internal M$ secrets. I anyway rubbed salt by (falsely) announcing that M$ was to release a Linux distro in some time. He didn't argue much, though. Dixit was mostly quiet and chubbily laughing as ever. And Chandu -- wait, I notice it just now -- Chandu too was quiet. Perhaps his 24x7 workday is a reality. Oh God, give the boy some more hours in the day -- so that he can have like 25x7 or 30 x7 or make it 48x7! :-)

By 12:30 at night when we started to leave, it was sure that we wouldn't get any conveyance back to campus. A truck carrying bricks formed our voyage. We sat on the bricks -- ephemerally stood upright on it in "Chaiyya Chaiyya" mode; the weather was good. Hyderabad is always wow! in the evenings no matter how the day is.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

SCO's prime business? claims it to be a provider of software solutions for small-to-medium-sized-businesses (SMBs) and ... but I feel that it's primary business (or expertise) lies in suing. With bigwigs like IBM, Novell, RedHat, AutoZone,Terent in its sue-list it did not fail to sue even Daimler-Chrysler! I'm not surprised that they maintain a dedicated portion on their site as "The Right Place for SCO Intellectual Property Information" where they put to proud display the organisations against which they are engaged in mortal combat with.  In fact, what actually surprises me is that they don't keep all this on their first page itself! Even though SCO owns the rights for the UNIX operating systems, a google search for SCO reports groklaw as the second result, next only to SCO's own site and before everything else. Groklaw, by the way, is a site which maintains a listing of all such legal expeditions. I'll recommend my little brother (he's studying law) to seek placements opportunities with SCO. And now I'm afraid SCO might sue me for writing all this.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The drenching pizzas

It was a drenching excursion yesterday evening to Pizza Corner, HiTech.
It was my second time with Pizzas, for having not quite liked them the
first time, I had to be coaxed to budge this time. On the upstream way
we discussed Harry Potter. Parry (Parry Potter), at his enthusiastic
best, leaded the Potter club hullabaloo with ever-stupid Amal and
vicious Majji. Ranta & Rawat however were on the outer side of the
Potter ring and were cheesily muttering mischievous verdicts about this
community, much to the frown of Parry (and me). But the best experience
of the evening was yet to come.

Thanks to Manjeet (or was it Bansi?) for the pizza treat we took turns
with several of them. I, for one, didn't quite dislike them -- they were
good :-) . The departing bell at the Pizza corner is amusing. With every
ring, the waiters would sonorously burst with a "Thank You". Whatever be
the business mischief in this, it is remarkable. But now the rains were
out from the clouds, and heavily so. Standing for some time outside the
shop, we realize that the rains were in no mood to give in; so we did.
Amiable Ranta crusaded into the rains to get an auto and six of us (me
not included) left away in it. The rains were torrential now. Now it was
our turn. With no other way with the temptingly delicious rain, Amal and
I barged into it for another auto and by the time we got one, we were
dripping. The auto had to delineate towards the Petrol pump. The petrol
pump guy, though standing in the rain with an umbrella wasn't ready to
give any fuel. He needed some coaxing and then yielded, amusingly. The
auto, thereafter, was wading through the torrents. Water washed the
front glass and we were getting wet from both sides in the auto. Amal
continued with his stupid smiles, Manjeet with his cheesy remarks, Ketan
with his seduction and Rawat with his thoughts. I am happy I don't keep
a cellphone anymore. This is just one of the reasons.

The pizza excursion was a truly dripping one. Everyone of us was drenched.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tech features, etc explained in a lawsuit!

That AMD has recently filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Intel is common knowledge now but I was rather amused to find some technical description about processor architectures in the actual legal complaint that was filed. The 48 page pdf complaint even cites the benefits of a 64 bit processor architecture as against the traditional 32 bit one. The complaint begins with a hardcore and stoic legal lingo on the first page but graduates to a nice reading about the historical evolution of AMD with growing harshness from Intel orderly detailed to bring out the reasons/motivations for Intel's coercion towards large and small clients to maintain undue and society-unfriendly monopoly in the x86 processor market; journalistic lingo including terms like "economic muscle" are not nearly phrases I expected in anything of the semblence of a legal complaint!

Near-technical description being so flamboyantly detailed, I was finally surprised that they didn't draft this document in LaTeX (The pdf text reveals that it was converted to pdf from Complaint.doc with Adobe Distiller by joni!)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Forced to blog

I see Ranta blogging, reading blogs and commenting to blogs for so long now that I've seriously taken to supposing my life a waste without blogging. Falling in line with what I carelessly comment about him: "Talk him about something and he'll blog it", he actually blogged this after I had a small discussion with him about Einstein marrying his cousin. I understand that this news means more to him than plain curiosity about consanguineous marriages, but today enough was enough. I mean, for how long can you really watch a guy on your left blog-involved, before you actually get across the "To blog or not to blog" frame of mind and jump into the fray? And I blame it all on Ranta.

So, to begin with, I started going through some blogs on the IIIT blogroll and God! people have become so interesting at writing. I landed myself to this How to Blog blog. It's a blog every blogger should read and understand well before getting to real-time serious blogging (if that means anything). And who knows, someday one might be offered a job for blogging ingenuity.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Reservations and its irony

The AP state government has given the GO for 5% reservations for Muslims
in government jobs. Though the decision was taken a few days back, some
hopeful soul had challenged it in the High Court which did what it does
most often -- refer the matter to a committee, AP commission on backward
classes to be specific.

I don't understand what charm the so-called secular Congress govt finds in
effecting such quotas. When will they understand that such measures only
tend to widen the gap, even if it is assumed that all this was done out of
sheer public upliftment and benefit and not for filthy vote-bank politics?
For the past 55 years, India has had reservations for SC/ST/OBC and god
knows how many other classes. Wherein a temporary initiative helps in some
cases (perhaps most effectively in only so far as breaking a tie), a
prolonged benefit illusion such as this only hollows the core of the
social fabric. They talk of reservations for SCs, they talk of
reservations for STs, they talk of reservations for every damn wooable
minority. When will they even think about reservations for the general
With precious little leftover, I think it's high time they contemplate
reservations for the general masses as well -- for God's sake, they
comprise the bulk, dont they?

Add to it the irony that people think (or are made to think) that such
efforts actually help. By keeping the demarcation of castes, creed, etc
alive in all such excercises from birth ceritificate to death ceritificate
the govt has nothing but kept the flame of non-unity alight -- after all
it provides vote support! The core theme of democracy, which is supposed
to correct anti-welfare measures, is crippled, baseless and unrealistic
(more on this democracy crap later).

British, the history books said, divided India along religious lines --
the "Divide and Rule" policy which we always hated and considered the
outsiders as shrewedly talking advantage of the divide. But here what are
WE doing? At least the Britishers were outsiders. No damage can be more
irrecoverable than politically-motivated division in the garb of

Friday, June 24, 2005

It's black and white everywhere

I don't have to find myself alone anymore with the 32 black and white
pieces. The chess bug has bitten more people in my wing, inspired by
infamous me. Today, Manjeet and Pushpam were having a match in my room
while Ketan was onlooking. Tintin, exhausted after being back from M$
was busy on And he actually won a suicide match! He was
lucky to get someone other than the computer bots seeking for suicide
matches. Amal too came walking in a moment and joined the troop. The
whole point is that the excitement of chess (esp. the online chess
servers) has infused itself into a lot of people (not just me).

Since the freechess port 5000 is blocked by the firewall, we have to
connect to it via the students server.

xboard -ics -icshost -icsport 23

This needs one to login to first and then one can
"telnet" to unleash the doors open for all the blitz,
standard, suicide, crazyhouse, bughouse, lightning, and tourney matches.
It's black and white squares and chess pieces everywhere.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Sometimes it happens that the mind gets preoccupied so intensely that you
cannot think of anything else. This can be due to reasons of affection or
equally plausibly due to reasons of detestation from some other thing. In
my case it's the latter.

Well, I need to admit, I'm overly obsessed with Chess these days. I play
it online continuously for long hours. Yes, I've improved. Now I can't be
beaten by absolute idiots :-) But I can't call myself a good player yet.
But I will one day.

When prolonged, malafice determination,
Or hapless, hopeless detestation,
Makes a presentation,
Of the mind's imagination,

Outpours the manifestation,
Loaded with frustration,
In the garb of passion,
And the moves of addiction.

We call it obsession.

Installing FC3 on Athlon x86_64, SATA hard disks

We wanted to install Fedora Core 3 (actually even FC2 would do) for the
ACCV server. The system was a 64bit Athlon on a K8S MX ASUS motherboard.
Now here starts the trouble. I knew it wasn't overly trivial to get the
SATA hard disks working on the 64bit systems with FC3, and this
motherboard was all the more too new (and sophisticated) to have working
drivers in the FC3.

Meticulous fooling around with my head inside the open cabinet showed me
that it had a SiS 965L onboard SATA controllers. Luckily, I was able to
find the driver at, but that needed me to compile
the module, and that required a working FC3. With the promise RAID card, I
knew, the drivers would be found and the hard disks would be detected, but
the PCI bus would force sluggishness to the server which, of course, is
undesirable. Just to be able to compile the sata_sis.ko kernel module, I
installed FC3 with the Promise RAID card on. I needed RAID, but not with
the PCI RAID card. Having compiled the hard disk's kernel module
(sata_sis.ko), now I was to carry out the actual install. I got this
driver on a floppy (somehow found a floppy!).

I started the installtion with:

linux expert text askmethod noselinux selinux=0

I disabled selinux coz it's more of a painful paranoia than anything else.
When I was warned that the drives hadn't been detected (as expected) and I
had the option of choosing the drivers, I loaded ata_piix coz this would
load libata. sata_sis was mentioned as one of the options but it didn't
work for my Seagate 80GB SATA disk(s). With the libata loaded (with
ata_piix), on tty2, I had to mount the floppy and insmod sata_sis.ko.
dmesg just confirmed that the module was loaded properly and showed the
disks. Now the installation would proceed as usual.

However, the first boot was another problem. Surely enough, since I had
chosen ata_piix, this was used for installation, and not sata_sis. The
/etc/modprobe.conf had an alias entry for ata_piix as scsi_hostadapter. I
had to rescue the system (again the HD driver disk was required) and
change this alias to use sata_sis instead. This done, I copied my
sata_sis.ko to /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/scsi/ and the system
was ready for a normal boot now.

All this messing around, finding the drivers, forgetting something or the
other, trying to figure out things, etc took me a day and a half. RAID too
was to be configured. Hardware RAID would have been great but I settled
down to software RAID with the handy mdadm tool. I still don't know if the
Hardware RAID is supported on this motherboard or not. Even though I had
enabled RAID 1 in the BIOS and had mirrored the disks, I could still see
two disks in my linux. Even the software RAID for the whole disks
(/dev/sda & /dev/sdb) wouldn't be done coz the disks were in use and busy
when booted. Finally, I was happy with raid on two unused partitions
/dev/sda5 & /dev/sdb5.

Friday, June 10, 2005

My second job offer

I had been to Bangalore on 3rd last to solve a problem relating to a
video-streaming project with Trianz. Though I had planned the trip for 2
days, I had to linger on for no lesser than 5 days. I worked at
Dexcel Electronics Designs. Fortunately, the trip did not go vestigial, as was a very large possibility. We were able to demarcate the memory leak in the streaming application on the Zaurus PDA.

On the last day, before leaving, the CEO of Dexcel Electronics Designs, Amit Sinha, gave me a always-welcome job offer at his company.

The trip was amply useful. I learnt with the help of Amit how to solve
memory leak problems. With the ARM architecture of the Zaurus, I was
having a tough time since no memory leak detection tools like valgrind,
dmalloc, etc could not be run on the PDA.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My first job refusal

Lately, I too joined the ranks of people who can claim to have the honors of refusing at least one job in their career. Trianz, the Bangalore company for which my "Video streaming to a PDA" was going on, offered me a position in their company, which of course I refused. I have to complete my MS at my institute. But it feels good!

Monday, April 04, 2005

3 things my batchmates will miss terribly

There remains a mere 5 days before the end-sem exams end and my batch people start leaving, many of them forever. I try to enlist 3 things @ IIIT that people will miss terribly. But the good thing about life is that it goes on; people forget things, adapt to changing situtations and woes or otherwise, most things are forgotten.

1. Internet & Computer Services
A reasonably fast 24x7 internet connection. Even though an internet connection is perceived as a do-or-die necessity for a computer institute, there still are so many institutes that don't have a browseable internet and workable computing services. Besides, every user generally has near-to-nobody privileges on his/her system so that all that one might be able to do without interacting with the sysadmin is chat, browse, etc. But at IIIT, a student is the master of his lab system, and it's no surprise that all experiments of formatting, partitioning, OS-ventures are done on lab systems with illustrative efficacy.

The habits of pine, w, talk, write won't be forgotten easily as will the habit of being online on 200, the number which has a meaning quite different from just a double-century. It's our primary mail server (the IP actually) and every soul in IIIT beats with the same resonance when mentioned of 200.

2. DigLib and other collections
Want a software, song, or document/documentary? The idea of \\ will take time to evaporate from the minds. Apart from the ghostly gigantic DigLib, the numerous local collection have so much an integral part of life at IIIT that one doesn't realize the necessity of copying things onto one's own system before viewing. For most, such distributed access of docs/videos will remain forlorn sweet memories to sigh upon.

Starting with windows simple sharing and moving to advanced NFS file sharing and versatile samba sharing graduating over to the DC++ sharing, the network provides an ocean of its own timbre.

3. Hostels
Our hostel is remarkably different from those in other institutes. We have no warden. Even the one who would answer to the call of a warden isn't exactly what one expects from wardens: he isn't involved in dictating terms or even framing unecessary curbing rules. The hostel doors welcome round the clock (I've never seen it closed ever). A 24x7 unlimited supply of electricity and water is more than enough for ANY political party to claim victory. For long after coming to IIIT, I used to notice that even on the rare occasions when electricity used to blink off, it invariably came back before the fan hopelessly ceased its turns.

As the ticks of the clock grazes forward, it leaves behind some bitter, some sweet memories. Life doesn't stop. Nostalgic memories of college life will forever be related as one of the most exciting times where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.

Farewell '05

It was my batch's (UG2k1's) farewell on March 30th. The gaudy atmosphere was dazzling with the suits and sarees that my batch mates put on. Aditya Maheshwari, with his speech, went like:
I'm Aditya Maheshwari, Roll number 200101xxx. Very soon, this roll number will no longer be called out during attendance....
The already nostalgic air around gripped with intense feelings of the realization of separation after 4 years of company. Every human, however rough-hearted would have got sentimental at the occasion.

Then followed Imran, a bit nervous, but with the hefty personality of his, his speech worked a charm of its own, as he carried on with his characteristic tapori style talk.

The speech from the students were followed by speech from the Director and PJN sir's speech was filled with characteristic sarcasm and it lightened the atmosphere after the hefty nostalgic-mesmerization that had preceded: "Aditya Maheshwari spoke as if someone was dying," began sir, "but every weekend I see hoards of alumni in our campus; so they'll always keep coming..."

The formal stuff lightened to an informal students-only gathering, which had the quiver and provocation of an occasion such as a farewell and also forms an interesting part.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Basanti Hawa

"Basanti Hawa" by Kedarnath Agrawal

Friday, March 18, 2005

Blog: from the horse's mouth

The google and blogger developers blog about the development and status
if their services.


Thunderbird ideal to use gmail for mail storage

Since long I had been eying gmail as a perfect repository for all mails
I receive, even those I delete. However, the catch was that my official
id is and I receive mails on this id. I
can forward all my mails and retain a local copy but then I'd have to
visit the same mail twice and forwarding to gmail each time I receive a
mail doesn't seem very nice. I can forward without retaining a local
copy (to avoid repeated checking) but this still necessitates me to
check my mails on gmail, which for reasons obvious enough, I don't want.

Now, however, I've found this feature in Thunderbird which keeps a local
copy of my mails in "Trash" whenever I delete them. So I don't consume a
lot of space on my mail server. Periodically, I can now bounce all my
Trash-ed mails to gmail and that makes my backing up possible too. I use
pine for bouncing these mails, however. I wish Thunderbird provided me
the feature to bounce a mail as well.

Misremembering Kunal's b'day.

A funny thing happened today. Since 4-5 days now I had marked in my mind
that today (18th March) was Kunal Kant's birthday and that I needed to
post him his present. However, I didn't seem to have his address,
luckily. I say "luckily" coz when I called him up and started hinting
about bumps, et al, he added two and two together to decipher that I had
obviously misremembered 18th March to be his birthday instead of the
actual 18th May. Now what a chop it was! Teri googly ho gayi..he mused
and I acquisced (couldn't do anything else). I always wanted to be able
to remember a lot of dates but to mis-remember...well, that wasn't the
idea, I guess.

Nostalgic, the air around.

My batch (UG2k1) is to leave the institute in about a month's time now.
I have to stay back since I switched to the dual-degree MS/R programme
(with B.Tech, of course). The air in the ground floor of OBH is
nostalgic these days. Every now and then you can overhear someone
saying.. only 20 days left.. only 25 days more. Excited about their
future life that anyway they might be, everyone is nostalgic about the
almost 4-years now that they've spent here. Time passes and eats away
most of these feelings, but still the process has to be passed through.
Soon there'll be time when all these people will be packing their
luggage and be gone. Some won't be seen for the rest of the life. Some
will be in touch. However, the thing called UG2k1 will move to the
sacred ranks of alumni.

Friends part with heavy hearts, foes part with unconcerned looks.
Everyone wants to live every moment of one's college life before it
comes to a final end, forever. Of course, these days will be remembered
as one of the most liveliest days when there's complete freedom in most
respects (more so in our campus). The joy of proudly missing classes,
the sleepless nights watching movies in succession, the nights spent
studying, the days spent sleeping, the good things in life, the bad
things in life, this congregation.... we sure will miss things and miss
some people... A LOT.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

R & D Schocase '05 @ IIIT

My Institute's R & D showcase
concluded today. For several souls in campus, it was a two-day sleep and
fun bonanza with nothing bothersome to do -- no classes, no assignments,
nothing, whereas for others it was the D-day of hours of toil and burning,
counts of sleepless nights, and more. This time there was quite an
increase in the number of projects that were showcased. Severl corportate
representatives and students from several colleges arrive in campus to
have a look at the demons and interact with the people.

First Love

For many, First Love is a phenomenon the realization of which takes too
long a time but for some others, it takes as much a time as it takes a
pair of eyes to meet another pair of them. In whatever sweet or sour way
the proceedings at heart in such a juncture be, an innate sweet feeling
always lingers in the heart. From dawn to dusk, from noon to night, a
constant longing always immerses the heart in thoughts for your beloved.

Very few things in life appear as personal to as the First Love. It's at
this stage that one begins to realize how deep the meaning of love is and
how it glues two people together with vows for unity for ever and ever. At
times, these hopes materializes, while at other times it doesn't. In
several cases, the channel of love becomes two-way whereas in others it
remains a one-way. The feeling, however, doesn't mitigate; it lives with
you all your life.

When the realization of being in love dawns one's mind, suddenly the world
gets a lot sweeter. You start noticing the drops of rain pattering on the
window panes. You start noticing them making sinous ripples on the water
surface. You start hearing the distant cukoo sounding whereas at other
times you'd not heed even the blares of a sounding horn. All of a sudden
the smell of the first rain doesn't go unnoticed, and you can see the
rainbow stretching it's arms from heaven to the earth as if inviting you
to climb over it. When these things happen, realizing that one's in love
isn't rocket science.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Imposter Indiatimes on Sex Sells

I landed to this article titled "Too much sleaze spoils the song" on Times
of India, Indiatimes.,curpg-1.cms

Though yet another count+1 for an article in this
preserve-society-and-heritage category, the article shamelessly vomits out
the gossip, quite (conveniently) ignoring its own pages (

The author (VINITA A SHETTY) talks about the changing face of the Indian
music videos, that they get raunchier and sleazier day by day, and that
since nothing sells like sex, these upcoming music videos belittle the
already tiny clothes their cute ladies put up to harvest more are more.
Interesting however, is the fact that on the very same page where
authoress preaches DJ Doll being sleazy in Kaanta Lagaa and Sanober
gyrating provocatively to Meri Beri Ke Ber, the very same "sleazy" and
provocatively gyrating pictures are posted. Oh, they are just for
reference? I see. That's why the article had to span 3 pages so as to
envision the world with the sleaziness of all these girls!. And did we
forget that itself opens with a new semi-nude picture
enchanting your eye every day? Or did we miss the provocative pictures
that practically every page on this site displays? Now, don't tell me all
of your articles need a back-reference to the likes of Sanober's hips!

Grow up. Don't preach just for the sake of it. At least, follow as you

Monday, February 21, 2005

Indian ancient discovery and heritate: an example I found.

Often, unconsciously, we dismiss our ancient tradition as superstitious
and ignorant, but there do occur several instances when this view is

I was going through some bioinformatics essay on Diabetes at and at I found
that the symptoms of Diabetes was discovered as early as 400 BC by the
Indian physician Sushruta. He described the sweet taste of urine from
affected individuals lending to black ants and flies attracted to the
urine of diabetics. This sweet taste of urine was key to its diagnosis.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The sparkle of diamonds

I landed myself to a diamond jewelery shop yesterday evening. Tanishq,
the shop, bore the enchanting dim of an exotic place. The ambiance was
just right. Several small counters were segregately placed at a number
of places. Soon we were attended by the salesperson at one of these
counters. He showed us an earring, 22 carat gold studded with diamonds
in the middle. I held the diamond earring in my hand and gave it a look
and that was it -- I was mesmerized. The diamond shattered light into so
many sparkling colors several of them into my eyes and I was sure that
I'd buy it. The only pinch was -- it cost Rs 6600/- I know I'll have to
invest several months of my TAship money to fork that amount but the
thousand watt smile that'd light up the person to whom I'll give this is
totally worth it. Now I just need the money.

Truly enough, Diamonds are forever.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

World: Big or small

Sometimes we feel the world is so big and huge that we can get lost so
easily. There's scope for so much randomness and anonymity and
haphazardness that nothing at all can be predicted; nothing can be
relied upon.

However, equally probable are the surprises that so often greet you.
Quite often you feel that something magical has happened and you knew it
happening; randomness wasn't truly unpredictable. I just had one of
these feelings. I had sent a mail to my professor Dr P J Narayanan and
was sure that I'd be getting a reply but when -- I could never tell. And
all of a sudden I felt as if a mail had just dropped to my mailbox and
so I fired up my mail client and lo and behold there it was. It wasn't
there for long. I somehow came to know that the reply had come.

WoW! -- the human instincts.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Love, the divine feeling, the inexplicable sense of being that surrounds
everyone of us, the one thing everyone really craves for, the one
language everyone unanimously comprehends unobscured. Love, the feeling
whose medium of expression we do not understand. Love, the word which
fetches 149 million Google results.

I won't be utterly surprised if it's discovered that love is the
ultimate cause that keeps life moving; that it is for love that one
lives, works, eats, dances, cries, laughs, or does anything else for
that matter. It could be quite possible that it is love that answers the
cause for existence.

A newborn baby cries. Why? Admittedly, it's all that he/she can probably
do. And a gentle hug from his/her mother suffices to calm it down from
the unrest. A lover yearns for his darling, impatiently, heart beating
loud. Why? A gentle sight of his beloved extinguishes all speculations
and serenity condescends in his heart.

To talk of historic stories and epics, several deeds and misdeeds have
been done for love and we all know about it. Taj Mahal, the singular
monument of love for a wife. Imagine how much grit it must have taken
for ailing Shah Jahan to create something in memory for his darling.
Nostalgic the presence of love is. Why does one want to remember things?
Isn't there love in that?

A single thought of a gentle kiss on the forehead from one's mother
spreads the lips in way of a smile and further thoughts sure elongate it
to a grin. An eye-closed remembrance of the first time one saw one's
beloved sends the heart doing several beats faster than normal and a
strange but soothing calmness and serenity looms large in the mind and

Love, the whatever which has a presence in everyone and everything
however small of big, however busy of unemployed, is yet so little
understood. Poets try to replicate the soothing feeling in words. They
sure know how bitterly words fall short of expression in their composition.

Love reigns supreme.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Who are we? --Sankrant Sanu

I've just now returned from a singularly distinct and existentiality
provoking talk by Sankrant Sanu at the Seminar Hall in the institute. He
had been one of Dr Sangal, our director's, students. As a consultant and
freelance writer he has this website

It was befitting what he talked about..totally.
He began with how the West world chooses to study us Indians and dictate
terms, history, rules, vision, for us. And how carefully manipulated
their-presented facts have been as the once rulers of India to shatter
the self-esteem of the people. They, through their historians,
propagated that India, per se, didn't have any solidarity or the sense
of Indian-ness by itself and that it were the Britishers who
consolidated all the fallen pieces into one India. How more untrue could
they be when the West, England and United States included, themselves
have hardly a history to boast about. They themselves are hardly
one-and-a-half century old to boast about the solidarity of their nation.

Sanu went on to bring out the need to realize the latent talent amongst
the people and that our system, most of it a follow-up of the British
system forcefully huddled on our back, needs to improvise into a
confident and sustained self. We hardly need to blindly follow their
ideals and dismiss all our traditions as superstitious just because we
don't understand their relevance. This exactly had been deliberately

The closing sentence from Lord Mccauley's proposal on their colonial
efforts revealed that the damage or loss of ownership to our traditions
and thereby the self-esteem had been clearly proposed as the necessity
to achieve what they wanted: a dominion colony. It's bewildering.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The reason of being

An oft brewing question in my mind, the existential justification, takes
the better of me today yet again. Why do I exist? What is the purpose of my
life? Why do I do what I do? Why do I work? Why do I hope? Why do I eat?
Why do I survive? Why do I live?

I do not buy that survival is the ultimate essence of life. There has to
be a purpose, a reason, which would quantify the purpose of our
existence. It need not be anything complicated. It could be decently
simple. But what is it? Surprising, isn't it, that we (humans) carry on
with our daily chores, quite ignorant of your ultimate purpose? We don't
know where we are headed. All that we know is that we are moving --
directionless. Or are we still?

Humans are able to foresee immediate purposes and plans with easy
deftness, however, the successor to all these errands is bluntly
unknown. How could God manage to keep us in such illustrous illusion --
make us move without telling the direction? Isn't it something like we
set a rabbit to motion in a maze-like confinement. The rabbit doesn't
know where it has to go, in what direction to proceed. But it still
keeps going, appearing to be looking for a way out. It doesn't have any
direction or motivation. Perhaps, to think of a direction in the
maze-like confinement doesn't even make much sense. Is it the same with
us humans as well? Doesn't it make sense of asking of our directions?

Also interesting is the fact that we cannot satisfactorily explain what
life is. Every moment of time, however small, we experience life, but we
don't know what exactly it comprises of, what it wants -- directions.

Einstein said: I do not belive that the good Lord plays dice. I just want
to know his thoughts. The rest are details. -- How true!

Friday, January 21, 2005

What You'll Wish You'd Known

I came across this very exciting and interesting article by Paul Graham.
It talks about thoughts while growing up. Of course, it interests more
because I could relate my life a lot to it. No wonder because he talks
about my fascinating idols -- Shakespeare and Einstein.

Just read it:

Monday, January 03, 2005

Communication problem

Just how impossible communication can get with certain people, I just
realized again today. As a mess committee member for my institute, I had
gone to talk to Mr BLN, the so-called caretaker for the hostels and
messes. I wised to discuss with him issues about the Jan 2005 mess
functioning. But we ended up in a deadlock. He wasn't at all able to
understand what I purposed and everything I suggested he understood that
to be a demeaning to his authority. No wonder he's dug himself to become
one amongst the most hated persons in the campus. Every few minutes he'd
end up mouthing "You should not talk like this.. You should do this..
blah blah". I, per se, still don't realize what horrible it was I told.

In the end, the inevitable happened. The communication process broke
down. I smashed out of his dungeon.

Communication problem

Just how impossible communication can get with certain people, I just
realized again today. As a mess committee member for my institute, I had
gone to talk to Mr BLN, the so-called caretaker for the hostels and
messes. I wised to discuss with him issues about the Jan 2005 mess
functioning. But we ended up in a deadlock. He wasn't at all able to
understand what I purposed and everything I suggested he understood that
to be a demeaning to his authority. No wonder he's dug himself to become
one amongst the most hated persons in the campus. Every few minutes he'd
end up mouthing "You should not talk like this.. You should do this..
blah blah". I, per se, still don't realize what horrible it was I told.

In the end, the inevitable happened. The communication process broke
down. I smashed out of his dungeon.