Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2010

Someone to Guide You: For Better or For Worse?

We were trying this out on an Arduino, but we found its computational capacity less, so we switched to an ARM, said a friend of mine who is studying in BITS Goa. In our college, only the most daring would use an ARM. The ones who do are accused of overkill. Most people use AVR, and would not look beyond AVR. What could be the reason?I believe that a major reason is that we have seniors who have used AVR. Because they knew AVR, they held coding sessions for AVR, which is why we have not bothered to look beyond AVR. Now, this is not so much of an issue as when there is a shortage of AVRs, as there is now. When an AtMega8 costs Rs. 300, i.e. $6 in the retail market, then we have an issue. Not only that, but we also have to be content with the lesser capabilities of the AVR.This is just to illustrate an important point: is it better or worse to have someone to guide you?I guess that the example that I stated just goes to show that it really isn't all that good to have someone to guide…


What defines India as a nation? The question stood out like an ugly thorn. Until we heard that question in the Literature class, none of us had ever questioned the notion of India as a nation. Of course the nation exists, and is as diverse as any can be. That is something we've always been proud of. But then, there has to be something binding the mosaic together. Otherwise the whole mosaic would fall apart. What is it that holds India together, apart from the constitution and the government?This question is rather difficult to answer. We read the views of two eminent people. Salman Rushdie, in his essay, The Riddle of Midnight says that it is communal-ism or the politics of religious hatred. William Dalrymple in his essay Bangalore and the Fast-Food Invaders mentions the Mahatma Gandhi syndrome, a fear of big organizations and everything विदेशी (foreign). So difficult is it to answer this question that I have been thinking of it ever since that day and trying to find a convincing …

On OEM installations of Windows(R)

If there is anything that annoys a geek like me, it is being forced to use/do/say/think something. More so if it is useless and annoying.I have a Compaq laptop. It came pre-installed with Windows Vista. Along with the OS came a bunch of goodies utterly useless software by HP. They were HP Health Check, HP Battery Check, HP Wireless Assistant and HP Update. I shall now proceed to attack these software one-by-one.I start with HP Health Check. Perhaps the most annoying software of them all. It checks your PC periodically for issues(?) and then gives the most annoying pop-up of them all. It reads
HP Health Check has finished checking your PC. Click this balloon to view results.
And when you click the balloon to view the issues, most of the time, you are greeted with this message:
HP Health Check did not find any issues with your computer
Sometimes, it finds a whole bunch of drivers which are outdated. But it does not update them, nor does it give an option to select the drivers to be updated.…

A year of scams and revelations

The 2G scam, the Radiia tapes, the Commmonwealth games, the IPL, the PDS... the list of scams this year has been endless. The media sure has had a great year, with news channel viewer-ship at a high. But they have left out the biggest scam of them all, and one with higher stakes than any other that they have reported.I am talking of the scam in the education sector. For the first time, students in Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) schools have been given an option of whether they wish to appear in their board exams or not. All in the name of reducing pressure on the students.Why do I call this a scam? The simple answer is that these students, including me, shall be the citizens of tomorrow. And I ask, is this what you wish to make us? Good-for-nothings that give up at the smallest hint of pressure?If people claim that the pressure for board exams is high, then what about the pressure in college/university exams? So should we do away with those too? And when we work, would t…

The Story of the Rat Continues

The Rat went to the Cheetah, and the Cheetah went ahead and told the Lion.The Lion roared. Immediately the alligators left the Rat. The Rat went ahead and drew water from the stream.But as the Rat was drawing water from the stream, the Frog came up and told the Rat, Hey! You need to take permission from the stream too.The Rat ignored him and drew water anyway.Now the Rat should be able to prove his work. Wish him luck.

On a story of the Rat

The Rat was very clever. He stayed in his lab all the time, working behind closed doors. He was content with his work, and had no need to stray out of his lab.One day, the Elephant approached him. He asked him to work on something that the Lion wanted. The Rat was happy. For the first time in his life had someone given him something useful to do.The Rat worked hard and long. At last, he cried out in triumph, It is done!Not quite, pointed out the Elephant. You must show that it works. So the Rat set out to prove that. Soon he realized that he needed water from the Stream to prove his work. But the Stream was full of crocodiles. What shall I do? thought the rat. He approached the Cheetah, and asked him to help. The Cheetah went to the head of the crocodiles, and asked if they would allow the rat to draw water. Okay, said the head of the crocodiles. But also take permission from the alligators.So the Cheetah went to the head of the alligators. He put forward the same request. The head of…

On my favourite music

With one post on what I dislike, I think it is time for a post on what I like.And I've often wondered, how did it all start?
Who found out that nothing could capture a heart
Like a melody can?
Well, whoever it was, I'm a fanruns an ABBA song. Right on track. Music is wonderful. It is, to me, a wonderful way of expression. It is one word that speaks straight to the heart. It makes me feel as if I'm on the top of the world. It makes us all come together and feel that we can work it out. Music is a path of discovery, one that we can pursue even in dreams. To me, music is a peaceful, easy feeling and the very spirit of man. It is the thing I like to wake up to on a Monday morning, and makes me feel alive. And let's face it, isn't it better to wake up to your favourite tune than to the sound of silence? If God could talk perhaps this would be the language that he would be speaking. There is nothing like a sad song and music never makes you feel that you are flying all a…

On why you must not even open a spam message

A spammer can embed some item that requires web access, like an image. It is very easy to embed a 1px transparent image in an email. When you open the mail, that image is accessed from his/her server.So what? you may ask. The trick is that (s)he may create a unique picture for every email that (s)he sends. This offers a easy, clean technique to find out which email ids are being used.So, just delete that message. Don't open it.Wikpedia article on Web BugsAlso, do not post your email id on the web where a harvesting bot can access itWikipedia article on email address harvesting

On Harry Potter and why I dislike the series

There could not be a better time for this post. There could not have been a worse time for this post. Now that the penultimate movie of the series is out, and my facebook wall filled with people who loved the movie. But this is something I really wanted to say, and I shall say it anyway.Harry Potter is pathetic literature.Now, you must be wondering why I say that. There are many reasons.Firstly, the storyline itself is flawed. When a writer sits down to write anything, he/she must set up some essential rules about what is happening. These rules must remain constant irrespective of how many times he/she changes his/her mind. This is so that the readers are allowed to have some sensibility in what they are reading. In the fourth book, Rowling goes ahead and kills Cedric. Then, at the end of the book, the horseless carriages are there again. Nothing special. We all knew that they are horseless. But then comes the fifth book, and BAM, the horses are actually winged beasts that only those …

On why geeks dislike IE

You hear this everytime. Everyone who is uses the internet often has his own favourite browser. And geeks have all kinds of favourites, text editors, OS, desktop environment, et cetera. But more about that later.I am narrating a story of arch-enemies that started around 1998. Microsoft bundled its crappy web browser with its relatively good OS. That meant that everyone who used the OS because it was good now used the crappy browser as well. This skewed all stats about browser usage. Suddenly, IE was the most used browser of them all.One of the prerequisites of being a geek is that you need to be prepared to kill the person who criticizes your favourite (that you are not able to do the same is another story!). So, naturally, the enmity began.Well, was IE all that bad? I don't think so. It was good to have a browser built into the OS. Moreover, IE innovated and is responsible for so many of the things that make up today's web, and which we take for granted. It was the first brow…

On stats and posting

Well, here is a post on how I write this blog.When I created this blog, it was to be as as outlet for the various things that I wish to say in the course of a day/week, but never can, because there are some things that do not make good conversation. But blogging is addictive, and soon, I was tracking page views, traffic sources and audience and getting excited about seeing the numbers rise up. So here is what the stats show.The first thing that I notice is that almost every post gets about 30 views. That would be the size of the audience that I have. Most people (~70%) use windows and about 20% use UNIX, and the remaining use a Mac. Firefox is the browser used by around 50% of people, and Chrome comes in at 42%. Not surprisingly, most of the traffic is not via facebook, where I post a link as soon as I update this blog. Of course, most people on facebook have news feeds full of farmville and other silly quizzes. Surprisingly, one referring URL is! How does t…

On the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

This is a post that I have been meaning to write from quite some time. Long hours spent typing code on my computer left my hands fatigued, and left me with a lot of pain in my wrists and fingers. That is when I decided to use the Dvorak.
But I have got the same bad habit as Dr. Watson, to tell a story backwards. Of course, you must be wondering what the Dvorak is.
The story of keyboards starts with the invention of the typewriter. Christopher Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter, tried with a two row piano style keyboard. But then, he got into many difficulties with the design. Then he finally settled for a four row design. This was similar to the QWERTY layout that most computers and typewriters today possess. The engineers at Remington, to whom Sholes had presented his design modified the layout a little further, and then the QWERTY was born.
As typewriters became popular, people got used to the layout, and started practising touch typing, i.e. typing without looking at the keys. And…

On Wubi and installing Linux

Well, here is the post that most of my friends would have tired hearing me repeat. However, there really are no good OSs out there that can truly satisfy my requirements.So, a course that I am currently completing discusses the POSIX API, and the UNIX system. For trying out any of the concepts in the course, I would need to have at least a Linux installation. But which one should I choose?I require my Linux installation to be friendly, so GNOME is a must. Moreover, it must have support for easily installing non-free software, like Adobe Reader, EAGLE, flash, MP3 plugins etc. It should be stable and functional, and should be fast, efficient, and better than Windows :) in terms of speed and power management. Naturally, there are three contenders. Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE.UbuntuDebian based, Ubuntu seems to be the distro of choice for many who are switching from Windows to Linux. It has many features that facilitate an easy migration, especially ability to shrink Windows partitions, to a…

On WYSIWYG editors and document markup languages

Hi again!
So, with a new blog, I suppose that there is a lot to learn. The thing that I learnt with the first two posts was that the compose window of this particular blog in a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. As soon as I understood this, I switched to the plain HTML editor.
Why do I do this? What is the harm in WYSIWYG?The simple answer is that document markup languages like HTML or LaTeX define the structure of the document which is invariant of how it is rendered. The document may be printed on A4 paper, or posted on the web, or viewed as a PDF file. Moreover, if anyone wants the headings to be in a different font, or a different size, the style may be changed, but the document structure remains the same. The main difference between WYSIWYG editors and markup languages is the separation of document content from the formatting.
Take the example of a website that I have created. The website uses HTML for markup and CSS for style. Now, if I want to change the layout of the…

On the process of critical analysis

If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself.
A powerful quote from Bob Dylan. It reminds me of Billy Collins.But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.Recent analysis in the reading literature class got me thinking about this point. Are we really doing justice to the piece of literature that we are reading by analyzing it? Or are we not doing justice to what the author had planned for us.

In our constant process of finding meaning in everything, we tend to find a little too much meaning in everything. So much that sometimes I feel that most of us are like the portrayal of John Nash in the movie, A beautiful mind. Of course, we do not imagine that the CIA has engaged us to find hidden messages in newspapers, but we do tend to try find meaning in everything. Be it in the behaviour of our friends, or in any picture that …

On the author’s first post

There are good blogs, and there are bad. And there are some that you cannot keep from thinking about. The blog that you are reading falls under the latter category.Written by an extremely obnoxious person, this blog promises to talk about things that the author feels strongly about, whether it is about Facebook’s changing privacy policies, or about a visit by Saint iGNUtius (of the holy church of Emacs) to his college, or about the fact that he could not install Ubuntu on his computer, because of the existence of the windows pagefile that prevented him from resizing his partition. In short, it promises to be like any other blog, completely useless. This is apparent from the title of the blog itself - Just another blog!The author believes himself to be a brilliant programmer, supportive of the FOSS movement, from the cliched way he has used the 80’s software joke of recursive names. Frankly who cares if GNU is not UNIX? I mean, ANU too is not UNIX. I mean, I agree that recursion may ha…