Friday, December 31, 2004


While in graduate school, I was going through a period of angst that was quite unlike my usually easy-going character. Various reasons including the usual - funding, money and the quest for employment were all part of the equation, and the overriding question was "Is this all worth it? "

Sid, a voice of reason in the most irrational of times had the answer as always. He said that working with underprivileged children at Akanksha among other things had given him an appreciation of life as we have it. Having so much and yet not being appreciative enough is a theme that has recurred strongly in my mind in the past few days since the tsunami struck.

Impossibly cruel, but true:

"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you"

Various Artists - Do They Know It's Christmas?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Return of the Prodigals

Even as Australia showed why they are the best, halfway across the world, a challenger rose. It's been a good run by the English. They have shown as much (maybe more) promise as the Indians did in the golden Australian summer of 2003, when the Indians almost did the unthinkable -beating Australia in their own backyard.

There are no reasons to think this run may last longer than the Indian one did. But, I feel that India were done in this year by what I believe was a combination of statistical anomalies. So many top batsman losing form at the same time combined with bowlers being injured at the same time did take its toll.

But England seem (I say seem, as cricket for me is what I follow online) better poised this time around. I am writing this as we still go into the fifth day of what has been an intense Test match so far.

This summer's Ashes promise a tough fight. I know the world's waiting for someone to give to Australia as good as they get, and I sure don't mind it being the limeys.


As I sit at a PC typing into an Emacs window, a thought strikes the mind.
Why is it that my code looks clean, and someone else's gobbledygook?

To wit:
Kya mera khoon khoon, aur baaki sabka paani hai?
Mera code maintainable, aur sabka spaghetti hai?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


As the world celebrated yuletide, thousands died, and millions wept.


My U2 "Best of 1980-90" cassette broke two weeks back. Made me kind of sad. I dont have a CD player in my car, and my old cassettes give me good company during long drives.

A lot of my cassettes have special memories associated with them. Especially because as a student in Pune, Rs 125 on a cassette was a guilty pleasure. You couldn't buy these too often without making a dent in your "allowance money".Actually, I didn't have a fixed allowance, but my parents had a good idea of how much money I'd have to spend per diem in Pune as a indigent hostel student.

Not that they'd mind me buying music. But, with other indulgences including movies, concerts, (and dinner outside on weekdays when the mess food was bad, which was often) supported on the same budget, buying cassettes was a special occasion, something you didn't do on a whim.For instance, my Bon Jovi "Crossroads" was among the first albums I bought after starting engineering. It was in a hole-in-the-wall place somewhere on M G Road. Then of course, there's Scorpion's "Acoustica" bought at the MusicWorld near Blue Nile, just before a long train journey to Chennai.

The advent of MP3s changed that to a great extent.But, there is something distinctly boring about a Gig of songs with plain file names. Unnamed actors in a plain iTunes window.They don't speak to you the way a well-designed inlay does.

So, I am returning to the old days -with CDs this time around. I somehow missed the album covers, and neat inlays with lyrics and notes. Pearl Jam's "Ten" cover is enough justification for the love affair to begin again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Woo Hoo!

Talk about good Christmas presents. My cousin just gave me 50 free credits on his Napster account, ones that he got on his Creative Nomad.

50 songs for the buying...

I've already used up 9 credits. 41 more to go before the year ends and they expire...

Addendum: Napster is pretty neat, though the whole environment reeks of a iTunes rip-off all the way. Well, nothing beats free and legal.

Tracks so far: 2 from Howie Day, 4 from Goo Goo Dolls (including the divine Iris) and 3 from Vertical Horizon.

I am the kid in the candy store.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Microsoft has been under fire due to the security flaws in their products lately, especially in Internet Explorer. Enough has been said about that. However, its latest move to acquire anti-spyware software maker Giant doesn't look good on its resume. The key to secure software is prevention, and Microsoft of all people has no right to complain of a resource crunch.
They have the money and the (highly skilled) manpower to throw at this problem. Absolutely necessary is a drastic reworking of the browser - a la SP2, where they let applications break, but put security first.

Even more galling is the possibility that they may charge for this software. The reason spyware exists is because of the bad security model that Microsoft used for IE. I don't say this - CERT does. ActiveX, and the whole "zones" model is completely broken. In a recent statement, Microsoft said that spyware was the users' fault, not theirs. Yeah right.

In most cases, maybe. But I've been infected by spyware without ever clicking "OK" on anything. It was due to streaming music websites (before you think of other, more "unclean" reasons). I'm not that dumb. I used Firefox then too, but my realplayer plugins didn't work cleanly on it then. Valuable lesson learnt: NEVER use IE-only sites, unless they are your bank or something and you have no choice.

Another pet grouse to get off the chest: For those who say that all of Microsoft's problems stem from marketshare, I call their bluff with two words - Apache and Oracle. I don't even remember the last time a major Apache server or an Oracle database (both market leaders by a wide margin) was taken out by a vulnerability. Slammer, of course is fresh in everyone's mind.

Complacency is one thing open-source can do well to guard against though. It wasn't so long ago that Debian's servers were hacked into just days before a major release, rendering the whole source of Debian vulnerable to tampering. Mercenaries are exactly that - they have no respect for authority or principles, making open-source software an equally good target if the incentive's right.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I link to Ramanand's keen insight on what's wrong with COEP ( PIET, since they insisted on effacing any history we ever had) , and what can be done to fix it

I can't say it any better, so here goes

Friday, December 17, 2004

It's been interesting over the past few days to see the obvious influence of Andy Warhol on popular culture and art as it stands today. A trip down a good music store's aisle showed me at least 2-3 albums with covers influenced straight from one of Warhol's prints. Problem is, I cannot remember the album names, nor did googling help very much.

A typical example is linked here from the Warhol store:

Then I saw this. A tad on the expensive side, but a nice nod to pop culture as would be defined by Indian cricket fans.
Amit Varma writes in Cricinfo about choking, and how it is related to implicit versus explicit learning.

hmm...worrisome. Definitely worrisome for someone who's stumbled through life more or less on what is called "implicit learning" that is.

This may explain why for some inexplicable reason I've lost the plot at times I'm not supposed to, as also why I revel in the same ulcer-inducing conditions at a different time and place.

Actually, this does make sense. I've looked back at times in my life when I've done well, and honestly, I have no f*&^ing clue what I was thinking of then. Which makes that success irreproducible. (Heisen-success anyone?). The heartening part is, it's happened enough times for me to know that it isn't all uncertainty.

But I do need to bone up on that "explicit learning" part he goes on about.

Read the article for sure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Someday I'll fly

Someday I'll fly...

Someday I'll soar...

Someday I'll be so damn much more...

'cause I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for.

- John Mayer "Bigger Than My Body"

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Rage against the system

A wonderful article about why today's metal and hip-hop music is so violent and depressing. Traces this right from Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, thru hip-hop icons Tupac, Jay-Z and Eminem.

Eminem is Right

via Amit Varma's (of Cricinfo fame) wonderful new blog: The Middle Stage

Friday, December 10, 2004


When was the last time a piece of writing brought a lump in your throat, made you appreciate life all over, AND re-affirmed your faith in words like hope, optimism and bravery?

I hope this does some of that. Ivan Noble is a writer for BBC who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He has been undergoing chemotherapy and underwent surgery to be cured.However, his tumor is in remission now. He writes every week about his struggle with the disease, his pain, and
his hope for the future. All without sounding maudlin.

A toast to courage.

Hackers Part Deux

Paul Graham certainly has some interesting things to say. Actually, he says things that I've thought of at times, but never really articulated, because these things weren't all clear in my mind. (If they were, maybe I'd be a genius of his caliber) But his essay here on hackers is remarkable.

After my previous post on hackers, this makes for an interesting sequel. I've met people who fall in this category, and I know what it entails on their part to be that way, and though I am not half as good a coder, the attitude rubs off.

And this guy writes well: "At our startup we had Robert Morris working as a system administrator. That's like having the Rolling Stones play at a bar mitzvah." Amen to that.

For those who don't know Robert Morris, here's a blurb: The man wrote the first ever worm, which accidentally spread so far and wide that it brought down the Internet as it stood then (in 1988). He was sentenced to 3 years of probation. Finding the last refuge of true hackers, he is now a Professor at MIT.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Time to face the moojik

It's amazing when you realize that a decade passed you by, with an alarming lack of exposure to quality contemporary music.

I am referring to the blighted late 90s and early zeros, when we had the pleasure of MTV and Channel V with a disgraceful mix of boy bands and bubblegum pop princesses passing off as "Music" (this, in addition to a few dozen punjabi singers and the drivel they pass off as remixes). I didn't notice too much, maybe because I was hardly at home, and also because my hostel and friend network provided me with enough classic rock to sustain me through the blues of COEP.
A good ride on Internet radio over the past few months has left me with a long list of bands/singers from the last few years that I'd like to hear more of:

Green Day
Goo Goo Dolls
Matchbox Twenty
John Mayer
Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Great Quote

U2 frontman Bono at a Labor Party Conference a few months back:

"Excuse me if I appear a little nervous. I'm not used to appearing before crowds of less than 80,000."

"How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" - their new album is out today. USA Today calls it their best album ever. Tall claim that - beating "The Joshua Tree", or even "All That You Can't Leave Behind" is not going to be easy.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Top-down, bottom-up

I read We, the Media recently. The book is available at the website for free download.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking look at how new media is changing the equations on content and news.It talks of, among other things, the rise of of RSS news feeds, which allow you to have a greater say in the news you get, and its relevance to you. (similar to the push vs. pull case I made a few weeks back - it was probably before I read the book. Great minds do think alike.). Importantly, it talks of grassroots journalism, and the rise of blogs and things like the Wikipedia, online content that is driven from the bottom-up.

Adding to this theme, I now realize how easy and cheap it is for anyone to really get information out there today. Two technologies on the Internet make this cheap: the first is, of course, freely available blog sites like this one. The second one is BitTorrent. While most people associate it with downloading pirated movies, and software, it is turning out to be an amazingly effective tool for distributing content on low budgets. (I got my latest linux isos, and firefox downloads via bitTorrent - almost as fast, and a bit less server load for the orgs.)

Note: If you don't know about BitTorrent, do check the official FAQ. The protocol's darn impressive. According to some studies it accounts for one-third of the traffic on the Internet today

Imagine an incident like the Rodney King incident happening today. An ordinary person could get the word out, and if s/he has a digital video of it, it could be downloaded by millions without grief to his/her bandwidth bills, simply by posting a BitTorrent link online. With official media increasingly reluctant to take on the government in the US, especially on anything related to "security", this may be prove increasingly important in the future.

For an insight into how news-reporting is giving way to increasingly biased reporting, watch this interview footage from Outfoxed.

NOTE TO SELF: I am beginning to sound like a radical left-wing loonie here. But I 'd like to think I stand by facts, and I like my news like the beeb delivers it. Give me healthy skepticism over "You're with us, or you're with them".

Red, Blue and Purple

An increasingly fractured country?

The Republican and Democrat candidates this election looked increasingly similar on many policies including the war in Iraq and gay rights. However, most maps show the US in sharp relief, neatly dividing up the country into red and blue - with the interiors mostly red, and the north-east and the west blue (literally and figuratively, after the elections). But this link gives a very good insight. Using some neat map techniques, the US map has been transformed, so that population density and margins of victory are given importance too. And they used purple too.

The U.S. of A is nowhere as close to fractured as the mandate made it out to be.

In other news, Ramanand added me to his blogroll. The number of COEPians (even only among the ones I knew) blogging is pretty impressive. I'll get around to a list of blogs on the LHS of this page sometime soon. Maybe some stat counter too. (Ego trip? Maybe. What the heck)

And yes, South Park rules.

You will respect my authoritah.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The curse of the Bawa, and amending religions

An interesting article over at rediff. Talks about how the Parsis are dwindling in population. Having one good Parsi friend (from whom I have a lot of inside dope on the issue), this did make for a good read.

An important point (that at least I wasn't aware of) raised in this article is the difference between religion and ethnicity. Parsis are Zoroastrians, but all Zoroastrians are not Parsees. Complicated? Kind of. With these being synonymous in India (like Punjabis and Sikhism for most people south of the Vindhyas) , it's easy to make the mistake.

For those who come in late, Zoroastrianism is very rigid. Women who marry outside the religion, 'leave' the religion, and if men marry outside, the wife is never inducted into the religion. The children of a woman marrying outside can never take up the religion, though children of men can.

A non-Parsi is not allowed in fire-temples. This means that a woman marrying a Parsi will be effectively excluded from all religious rites involving her children, from the baptism to the funeral. Obviously, a woman married to a Parsee may not necessarily be very enthusiastic about allowing her children to take up a religion she won't be part of. There have been attempts to change this, but this has divided Parsi society right down the middle, with many people both for and against such reform. That there may not be much left to reform in a couple of generations is an entirely different issue.

This does make for a bigger philosophical question. Are religions rigid, strictly defined by the Holy Books as they stood maybe a few centuries ago, or can/should be they adopted to meet the needs of the time?

The whole gay marriage issue in the US, shifting social norms over the world, and a stronger awareness and assertion of women's rights make this question all the more relevant.

If the US has painted itself red and blue over same-sex marriage and abortion, India too has a strong debate over the Uniform Civil Code and rights for women in poorer, less educated societies, both Hindu and Muslim. Ridiculous cases like this beg the question: is faith an artifact of our mind, or is it ordained from above, something that is 'there', strong, unassailable, unchangeable? I personally think the answer will vary with religion too. In fact, interpretations of religions themselves may give you different answers to this high-level question.

Arguments may never end, and what is sinful and 'out there' today is normal tomorrow, but these are questions that need to be addressed. The answers may not be to everyone's liking, but they're important.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Firefox 1.0

I could not let the day go by without my review of Firefox 1.0 , the much awaited browser from the Mozilla community. It is arguably the best project in terms of ease-of-use to come out of the open-source community.

The upgrade from 1.0 PR was tried in multiple ways - install over an existing version of 1.0 PR on my laptop, and upgrade using the 'check for upgrade" in the options menu for my desktop in office. Happy to say that both went off smoothly.Unhappy, however to say that googlebar did not port over as smoothly.

Quick notes:

1. First loading is slower than PR. Dunno why. Once loaded, is nice and snappy.

2. Multiple tabs open smoothly, even for 6-7 bookmarks using the "Open in Tab" feature. Neat for opening all mail accounts , or all news sites at one go.

3. Nifty small features - search for eBay and Creative Commons part of the standard search options. Added IMDB and AltaVista to the list myself.

4. Neatest feature new to 1.0 - can open links from external programs (say, mail client) in new tab in the same window instead of a new window. Perfect for me at work, when I have multiple emacs windows open, and would prefer only one browser window for all web-related work.

5. Still cannot subscribe to all RSS feeds. Less forgiving compared to regular RSS Readers.

6. Wish I could save passwords for things other than websites on the password manager. I need like a dozen passwords for the various applications/sites in use in my office. Many of them are IE-only, which makes it very inconvenient.

Overall verdict? Highly recommended. Security is of course a prime consideration (just found a couple of tracking crap on my computer last week - am positive it came from a streaming site which was IE-only. Permanently off my list now). It just sets new standards in ease of use.

Take back the Web.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Film-making in my opinion is composed of two important parts: the first is the art of telling a story, of making authentic characters, and of a logical progression which makes a movie fit together as a whole. The second part is the visual part - what kind of vision can the director
impart on the screen.

There are directors who have a sense of one without the other, and vice-versa.

George Lucas fits into this mould - a grand visionary with a bad sense of story. Star Wars pushed the right buttons for me visually, but did nothing for me in terms of the storyline. The good versus bad allegories were lost. I feel I am being unfair on the movie as I saw it on video and not on the big screen which may actually skew my opinion a bit.

But Spielberg fits the bill of the complete director. Seeing "Minority Report" a few months back reiterated that fact perfectly. Again, I saw this on DVD. The idea of the world in the future was simply fabulous. Intrusive, in-your-face advertising based on biometrics, and the ideas of public transportation, plus the way Tom Cruise and the other cops orchestrate the thought projections was simply impressive. In addition to the eye-candy, the story-telling was what it needed to be. It was tight, and kept you hooked. I haven't been on the edge of the seat for a movie since forever. But this movie had me rooting for Cruise and the Minority Reporter (Samantha Morton) till the end. Her being pre-scient adds to the fun. Check out the neat scene where she makes him release the balloons at the perfect moment, to fool their pursuers.

The movie which kind of re-inforced my two-pronged view of cinema was "A Beautiful Mind". Showing schizophrenia on screen is a tough thing to achieve. However, Ron Howard does an incredibly good job of it (He did win an Oscar for his effort, so I am in great company on that judgement). He manages to convey how newspapers and seeminly innocuous blobs of text have
special meaning for Nash through the use of light and special effects very ... well, effectively.

Looking forward to watching "The Incredibles" for more of the same. (the word incredible probably appears on my blog an incredibly high number of times)

I am a sucker for good animation. Pixar's never disappointed me, though Disney's had some serious lemons in the past few years. (Sinbad, for instance).

So, Mr. Incredible, Dash, Elastigirl and Violet (that shows you how many reviews I've read online), looking forward to meeting you.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Ray of light

"Ray" with flavor of the year Jamie Foxx in the eponymous role makes you laugh, cry and sing along. With an incendiary performance by Foxx, a set of songs from his early days peppering the soundtrack, and very good direction, this movie is easily among the best this year. Foxx is a shoo-in for an Academy nomination, and I won't be surprised if the director and screenplay pick up nominations/awards too.

The story focuses on Ray Charles' early years, from his losing his sight in early childhood, to his arrival on the vibrant Seattle and then New York music scene. It's an uncompromising and yet celebratory look at the genius (and the man behind the genius, warts and all). His fight with drugs and philandering as he rose to fame make up the bulk of the story.

Although a tad on the longer side, a non-linear narrative, with the use of flashbacks to show the loss of his sight, and his mother's tough-love upbringing, makes this film eminently watchable. If you don't have a thing for the blues or R&B, this might just make you interested enough in Charles' music as it uses his songs to great effect to enhance the narration. The ending to me was a tad reminiscient of "A Beautiful Mind". However, I'd say it was more of a nod to it, since like "A beautiful..." , it was a decision to focus the movie on the part of his life that was the most difficult.

An interesting sidelight was the executive at Atlantic Records who notices Ray's talent and nurtures it. I don't know if such scouts exist in the record industry anymore. Maybe they do, because we still have good music being made. But the amount of bad (or simply mediocre) music on the airwaves means that these people are few and far between. With the focus shifting from music to the bottomline, the big labels are on their way down musically.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


It's the only word one can use for India's victory in this match. All the grouses about the pitch are just whining. Like Durban or the WACA's "where's a lawn-mower when you need one" pitches allow matches to be played over 5 days.

Australians are too good a team to accuse of the sour grapes phenomenon.But they did miss Warne. Like we missed Harbhajan in the last game, and Pathan in the last two games. But one thing is affirming itself, that this test rivalry has been incredible over the past 3 years. Overshadowing the Ashes? hmm...that will have to wait till the next Ashes, since now Australia will have a new England to contend with.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


A set of interviews from a now-famous documentary about Fox News and its "unbiased" coverage of the news and government.

Link is here. Licensed under Creative Commons' Sampling Plus license

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Random observations on a New York weekend

Going to "the City" as everyone in a 100-mile radius of NYC refers to it, is always an interesting experience. The influence of the Big Apple on everything in the vicinity is evident from the banners at NJ Transit stations advertising Broadway shows and financial institutions.

Like the eager kid I used to be when going to Bombay(now Mumbai), there is a certain buzz of anticipation you feel as you approach the city. There is an effervescent spirit in New York City, that constantly reminds me of my nanihal, the city of dreams that Mumbai is. The City is (in my own words) a zoo, with the most interesting set of characters you will ever get to meet. Unlike the fairly sanitized interiors of the East Coast where two colors of skin abound (with a smattering of brown Indian software engineers and doctors), the city is a riot of colors, the quintessential melting point, where mainstream radio plays Punjabi MC with as much enthusiasm as punk rock.

The city prides itself on being culturally progressive.The kind of clothes most people wear is (in my opinion) a reflection of that. On weekdays, the dark, sober colors of corporate America seem to dominate especially in the business district. But venture out on friday evening and thereafter, and there is a distinctly eclectic blend of couture on display. People seem to pride on an a la carte approach to dressing , and on stamping their individual brand on what they wear. A refreshing change from sale-rack fashion for sure.

So, we did the usual and the unusual. An afternoon in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, looking at Mughal miniatures, sacrophaguses (or is it sacrophagi?) and an amazing collection of Monets, Renoirs and Rodin sculptures. And dinner at a place in Greenwich village selling Kathi rolls, quite like those we used to eat in Pune. Apparently it gets so crowded with drunken patrons from nearby pubs/clubs at night, that the owner has a bouncer to keep a check on things after 11 PM.

Then, it was onto a club with a Bollywood style theme night. The guy collecting the entry fee was wearing an Indian cricket jersey . On it, he had pinned on a Vote John Kerry badge. Talk of interesting combinations.

However, the number of non-desis at a Bollywood theme party at a nightclub was surprising. The party itself was a true Bollywood one, with theDJ playing bona fide 70s and 80s hits and not the remix trash that clogs Indian airwaves today . Assuming that these (non-desi) people are here with Indian friends is taking the easy (and plausible ) way out. But this proved not to be completely true.

The night's bill:

Dinner bill for 3 in Greenwich village - ~$30 (for 3 people - cheap!)
Entry at the club - $12 ea.
Catching a cab to get home - $15.
Hearing an American PYT say on the phone " Bollywood was awesome"? Priceless.

Today, New York...tomorrow, the world? Muwaahhhaa( evil Bollywood villain laugh)

Friday, October 29, 2004

A couple of interesting vides on the web right now - anti-Bush, anit-war. (Any way you want to see it). The animation on Eminem's video is good. Some of today's animation videos , - (Linkin Park's "Breaking the Habit" anime video comes to mind) are pretty nifty. My favorite though is Pearl Jam's "Do the Evolution". It's not for the faint-hearted though - lots of violent imagery.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

India needs a Schwarznegger

India needs Arnold Schwarznegger. No, I am not joking. The reason a lot of real reform and progressive measures get held up in government is because of vested interests. Everyone has their axe to grind, and axe-grinders are generally people who have supported the formation of the government. It isn't very different in the US. It's more sophisticated and they call it "lobbying". Arnold however, has been more successful as compared to others in pushing through some things, and it looks like he may be able to get more done than most.

Don't take my word for it. Read this Wired magazine article.

Having Warren Buffett as consigliori doesn't hurt, of course. However, he derives his power not from backroom politics, ( gotya as we would have called it back in the COEP days, or jugaad in my CMU days) but from his star power and charisma. He doesn't need senator or congressmen endorsements to survive. Which is the reason he can ram through fiscally and politically tough decisions, and get away with calling his opponents "Mickey Mouse men".

A government like that won't hurt in India. No vested interests means the best man for the job, and some great progressive measures (first on my wishlist: A complete overhaul of the judicial system) .

However, in India , we cannot do with just a PM like that. We need 273 mini-Arnolds, to keep him in power as well. But even one popular person at the helm with nothing to lose, and things might get interesting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The case against pirated software

There are a lot of tools that we need, which do not come standard with Windows. Common ones include CD burning software to burn ISO images, an FTP client, a SSH/SFTP client, Office productivity software, firewall software, and importantly anti-virus software. Some of these may come standard with the computer you purchase, but most of this is stuff you need to install yourself. There is an obvious temptation to just head over to Kazaa, or BitTorrent, and get pirated copies, or get eval copies and keys / cracks off astalavista.

However, over the past couple of years, there are an increasingly large number of genuinely free - meaning free as in beer and/or freedom options available for a lot of this software. This in itself makes a case for not using these. Head over to to find pretty good free versions of software you need.

But enough of me moralizing. The REAL reason you should not download this is that the potential for malware is fairly high. It is trivial for someone to totally mess up your system by making you install malware Nasty 2.1 when you think you are installing Nero 7.1. Why take the risk? It is increasingly not worth it, when there are mature, stable pieces of free software available for most reasonable uses online. Except for MS Office and Symantec AV (I have this from an academic license from school), everything else I run is freeware/open source. And absolutely everything I run is 100% legal. No piracy in software.

here's a list to give you a better idea
Windows XP home - came bundled with my laptop
Browser - Firefox
Mail Client - Thunderbird
Firewall - ZoneAlarm free version
Music Player/CD burner -iTunes
DVD Player - Intervideo (came bundled with my laptop)
CD (ISO) Burner - DeepBurner
FTP/SFTP client/server - Filezilla (GPL - from sourceforge)
Photo manipulation - GIMP - it's overkill, since I use it mainly for lowering resolution on digital photos.

Additonally recommended - AVG
Spybot search and destroy

Get all these off - fast mirrors help the case.

I rest my case - except for Windows itself (I need that for VPN access to my office), and Office XP ( for legacy reasons - many documents don't work well with OpenOffice), I've reached the point where my dependency on paid software is reduced. It makes eminent economic sense, as I am getting off the latest and best upgrade treadmill that companies want you to be on. I am not a gizmo freak, so the support for the latest USB/FireWire knick-knack isn't important to me. Support for a digital camera, whenever I buy one will be, as will be support for sound and wireless. For my present and short-term future requirements, this seems to be working fine.

If you feel you are the cat's whiskers when it comes to coding or something, hop over and land a hand at one of the open-source projects. Find one that fits your interests and skills, and maybe you'll feel justified for taking all that stuff for free :-). And even if you don't, it's perfectly legal. Though it's amazing to see how so many people seem to be giving back.

No, I don't work on any of those projects. However, I do documentation for the Internet Archive

Push vs. Pull Media

I don't come home and watch TV( I don't own one, and don't plan to buy one for the next few months). My entertainment comes from music, reading news online, reading books from the library and online, and watching movies on my 15'' PC monitor. (that may be a big factor in me eventually buying a TV) . I 'pull' in media I am interested in - no one shoves it down my throat. This includes finding music on the radio/web that may be interesting, and then buying or downloading it off iTunes (Though I prefer free off :-)). I want no one to control what I can read/listen to. Having a TV, to me personally at least is an invitation to passivity. I'd pretty soon get to just channel-surfing, and watching the countless reality shows/sitcoms TV puts out.

I hope there are more people out in the world doing this. The consolidation of media in the US - especially TV and radio has left a major gap where there was thoughtful entertainment once. Mainstream radio offers no critiques of music, just the latest and cutest from manufactured pop (and now hip-hop) acts. There is no value left in being different or edgy any more. If Ashlee Simpson defines alternative rock (that's what plays on Yahoo!'s "Adult Alternative" station), God help us all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Yay for Homer!!!

A poll of the most popular TV character for Persident chose Homer Simpson as the next Prez.

Link is here

Nice role model that for people all over the world. A relief is that Martin Sheen of West Wing at least made it to second place. But Phoebe from Friends making it to the top 10 indicates where the Oval Office stands in terms of intelligence, in the minds of TV viewers at least.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Smart, Gross Humor

I got a chance to see South Park- The Movie last week. After having to bear absolute drivel like American Pie and Eurotrip in the past 2-3 years (not to mention the few dozen such teen "comedies" I completely avoided seeing), "South Park, bigger, longer, uncut" was a pleasant surprise.

South Park - The Movie, to those familiar with the TV series would come as no big surprise. But, for me, who hardly watches TV, it was a pleasant change. Sure, it has the usual 'grade-school humor'(as a reviewer put it). However, it has a lot of pointed references, that are even more relevant in the world we live in than they were when the movie was made. The incessant moralizing over the f-word, and the hypocrisy when it comes to violence, are all present. The South Park gang fart, puke and swear their way through morals-bound America at war with Canada over two "immoral" movie stars (modeled on the SP creators themselves). It's metaphor at its grossest. And it works.

Only, you need real stomach to forgive some of the regular South Park jokes ( Stan throwing up on his girl-friend everytime he meets her). But something in the movie clicked with me.

Watch out for South Park references, as I catch up with older series on DVD/P2P.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Of Iconoclasm and Hackers

I always thought being contrary was a quirk I had. I've never tried to curb it, but this consistent instinct to not confirm is an itch that I keep trying to scratch. I don't seem to succeed much at it though. Like a few million others, I ended up in the computer industry. That I did by choice and for the love of it (unlike many people I know) is entirely incidental. As is the fact that I decided to come to the US not because of a major fascination for all things phoren, but because I really wanted to get some education at an institution where I'd have fun learning. Add to that, the fact that I'm in New Jersey, the biggest adda of desis in the US. I think it would have been cool to have been the only Indian in town in a place like say, North Dakota. But maybe not. Life is complicated as it is, without adding to "I don't having a place to buy rotis from" to the list.

Do I sound confused? I think not. As Devendra would say, I am a Libran, and this is my primary characteristic. A Libran's favorite phrase apparently is "on the other hand", as he tries to balance out the two opposing trains of thought in his mind.

Forget it. Back to being contrary...

Paul Graham, says that this is an attitude hackers have. I am not a hacker by any standards (yes, I code, but hacking is on a different level. ) This man here is a hacker. But, I guess,I belong to that mindset. Or, I'd like to think I do.

However, I feel that his new book Hackers and Painters, should make for a good read.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

How you doin'

I was wondering today if I'm putting pressure on myself to write everyday just for the heck of it.

However, it's fun to kind of put down something extremely evocative. Maybe I'll read this when I'm 70, and get a slice of what I was going through back then. In that case, I should probably make this a very personal blog, a catharsis. A public display of my rawest emotions.

Sorry. Not interested. There are better places to put my emotional constipation on display. This here is dedicated to the Yankees (how you doin'). I don't follow baseball, and I don't even know if the (New York) Yankees are winning against the Boston Red Sox. But listening to all the pep songs on radio makes me say that. Let me say that again:

How you doin'

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'd rather dance with you

I notice that a lot of my posts over the past few days have been music-related. It's just that my antennae are really tuned in to music just now. This here is an amazingly sweet song. The video adds to the allure, sure, but this song to me is reminiscient of "Lemon Tree" - that song so defined life back then -

"I'm sitting in here in my boring room
It's another lazy sunday afternoon,
I'm wasting my time, got nothing to do.
I'm hanging around, waiting for you,

But nothing ever happens."

And, on the topic of music, Robbie Williams' Best Of CD is out in the UK today. Fat chance of getting it here, only horribly pricey imported CDs. Robbie Williams somehow never really took off here in the US, despite trying quite hard. In fact, he had a special CD release for here.

Amazing, but this country is really an island, with no clue of some of the really good stuff outside.

And yes, U2's new CD is out next month - 22nd November. It's titled "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" . Love that title.

I'm looking forward to them touring the US next year. They have a tour to promote their new album, and I'm almost sure they'll play here. Something to look forward to next summer.

Monday, October 18, 2004

U2 + Apple = cool

Its criminal. No brand should be allowed to be so cool. U2's new ad for iTunes + iPod is stunning. The familiar white earphones, combined with the distinctive U2 sound absolutely sizzles( Check: Album release date). If you have iTunes installed, check out the extended version. No wonder Apple sells for such a premium. People would kill to be seen wearing those white earphones. I think I'll get a pair of white earphones for my sastaa portable CD player, just to appear cool.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dada and his ideas

Ganguly's been much-maligned in the past few months. It's a bit harsh for someone who brought India to a competitive level after they'd been really down for a few years. His form as a batsman right now leaves a lot to be desired, and there are jokes about making him a non-playing captain, a la the Davis Cup. This article however makes a good case of his motivations. I myself find his treatment of Akash Chopra not quite exemplary, and I still don't know why we can't find a better wicketkeeper than Parthiv Patel. But Saurav Ganguly knows what he is doing. At least a billion people hope he does.

News for me. Stuff that matters

While cribbing all this while about the egregious quality of the Times of India, and looking for a Real Indian Englilsh newspaper, I kind of forgot the old suspect - the Indian Express. Revisiting it was a pleasant surprise.

A real emphasis on news and analysis. A nice array of columnists - Sucheta Dalal, Arun Shourie, Thomas Friedman. I am shifting affiliations - the TOI is not receiving too many of my pageviews now.

I don't remember doing anything so drastic. Not even when I stopped using IE for Mozilla anyway. I mean, a browser is a 3 year, maybe 4 year habit. It's not disruptive. You click on a different icon for accessing the same pages. But a newspaper is a lifetime association. But the TOI online has left me with no choice.

My only grouse - not just with the Express, but with many major Indian websites is the pop-ups. It's bad manners, and I think the websites themselves should know better than to force the latest matrimonial website, or online degree in our face. The surprising thing is, a couple of these escape through Firefox's pop-up blocker. Talk about Indian ingenuity.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The buzz in my ears

"I don't want to be anything other than what I've been trying to be lately
All I have to do is think of me and I have peace of mind
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms wondering what I gotta to do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't want to be anything other than me"

Off Gavin DeGraw's now quite well-known song "I don't want to be" (it's apparently the title track of some TV series, which kind of catapulted him to fame last year). The guitar riff's pretty neat and kind of draws you to the song quickly. Thats whats been buzzing in my ears all day - I've already heard this song at least 5-6 times.

He has a weird reference to a prison guard's son, but then I read somewhere that he IS a prison guard's son. Neat trick , weaving that into a song.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The democratization of writing

The arrival of blogs has let a lot of people, including yours truly go public with their opinions on all things under the sun. Atrocious writing, lack of knowledge, lack of an audience, nothing stops us intrepid bloggers from soldiering on. Try the next blog link on the top of my page, or that of any blogger blogs you visit, to see a surprising variety of blogs - in different languages.

This throws up the classic paradox. Freedom of speech is always a good thing. But, with the rise of blogs, the chances of encountering bad writing on the net are also on the rise. Many blogs are simply opinion pieces, but blogs are being increasingly used to mobilize more people and push agendas.

And speaking of pushing agendas online, Wired magazine recently carried an interesting set of articles on how right and left wing bloggers are working on increasing their candidates' online visibility (something ought to be done about their credibility too) in the forthcoming elections in the US.

However, this blog deserves to be banned, for the absolutely atrocious drivel on it. This article on the blog was linked on the front page of the TOI. I don't know whether to laugh at the sheer asininity , or to cry that my dear newspaper has stooped this low in terms of quality.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Conflicts of Interest

The past few months, there has been a lot of news on corporates not doing the right al. Moral dilemmas come are part of the score. David Lamont, my business management professor at school emphasized that "The primary responsibility of a company is to make money for its shareholders who are its owners". But what if this means it is not treating its employees well,
or if it is gouging its customers?

Its a difficult question to answer. Wal-Mart is supposedly doing the wrong thing by not giving its employees enough pay or benefits. Any company not paying its employees health benefits in the US should cease to exist, simply on grounds of cruelty.That includes some of our dear Indian blue chips, who send people to client projects, expecting to fend for themselves if they fall ill.

But,shareholders are happy, aren't they? comes the countershot. I read an article in the WSJ a few months back, which talked of how this was causing Costco, and other discount retailers to reconsider their benefits packages, because the stockmarket was not rewarding them enough as compared to Wal-Mart, which has better margins because of the poor benefits it offers its employees.

Where does this stop? Do we ever stop looking beyond the next quarter's earning results, and look to do the Right Thing (I'm sure there is a trademark on that phrase - I saw that somewhere). No one's talking of sinecures here - only reasonable benefits in this messed-up health system, where the costs of visiting the doctor are enough to give one an ulcer.

The Internet Archive

Even though I've been hearing about this project at a number of places, I never really went to the website. This week, I decided to, and it was quite a discovery. It's amazing, and one of the first things that came to my mind was: access to a computer with an Internet connection, and this site, and others like it, can transform thousands of schools in the world into ones with the best libraries ever.

But,but,but, my personal favorite section? The Audio archives. Not many big artists have freely available records yet, but high quality live concerts from up-and-coming artists like Gavin DeGraw, which they allow free downloads and non-commercial distribution of - the ones before they become famous, of course. After that, money takes over.

On a more serious note, this is one more compelling reason for India to invest in computers and connectivity for schools at a much greater rate. With access to such resources, we could bypass a lot of the financial constraints for good libraries, etc. at schools. Of course, there is a dearth of good teachers, and even a lack of building facilities in many schools right now.

TOI blues

My observation about Times of India's quality going down drastically is not the sole isolated one. Several people agree (anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence would notice this, of course). A good link to follow is this blog run by a bunch of puneites , called PuneTimePass . (Disclaimer: I knew one of the authors while at college there, though saying I knew him well would be stretching it: a lot) An even better link, that I found on this blog is this one. Particularly sickening is the whole notion of 'selling' news coverage. Even without doing that, the quality of the paper, and the portal as well, has gone too far south. When an editorial makes a mistake between 'lose' and 'loose', ('loosing' our marbles ,are we?), and the paper itself makes this mistake more than once, it is time to get concerned. It almost appears as if all the good journalists have moved (drawn, not by the lure of the lucre, but by their integrity) to other papers. The other problem, especially in Pune, seemed at that time to be the lack of alternatives that were even as good as this one. Indian Express didn't make the cut (at least in Pune) which left us in a bit of a bind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Famous CMU alumni

This link here has a list of well-known alumni from CMU. Geeks abound, including the venerable James Gosling, creator of the Java programming language. However, the real surprises are the artists, including Ralph Guggenheim, one of the producers of Toy Story. Rob Marshall, the director of Chicago has been celebrated, but Holly Hunter or Josh Groban, pop-star are perhaps not as well-known. Well, it's a relief to know that we produce a diverse range of nuts.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Wall

No, this is not the obligatory PF reference. ( A college-mate back in COEP used to say this - every quiz event had to have one Pink Floyd question - the obligatory PF reference) .

This is a nice article about the ICC cricketer of the year, Rahul Dravid. A classic case of what hard work, persistence and some sheer bloody-mindedness can bring a good player - greatness.

I've always liked Rahul Dravid. Since he hit that six off the backfoot off Allan Donald, I thought he had something about him. Thats why all the jokes about him not playing quickly enough used to get to me. I mean, this wasn't Ravi Shastri, scoring a 100 off 150 balls. He wasn't your typical slogger, thats all.

Then, in the past three years, he has shown that "de parvus grandis a cervus erit" - from "small things arise great ones." The constant hard work on the little things, (running singles, his lovely pull and hook shots, his fitness, his 'keeping) is paying off.

Importantly,his aforementioned bloody-mindedness in staying at the crease for hours at end, runs scored or not, has won us matches. Adelaide, Rawalpindi, and ones in the past too. He has saved the team even more often.

An interesting observation: generally his first 50 runs take more than a 100 balls (closer to 150), the next 50 take less than a 100, and generally the next runs come at around 4 an over. If he stays long enough (which is quite often nowadays) he is scoring runs at 3.5 an over. Justin Langer put it in the right perspective - its almost like he is meditating at the crease.

Here's to our man - we lost today, but it won't be often again if this man and the team can help it. Lets see if the Final Frontier still stands.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


My department at CMU has been kind enough to put up a load of photos of my commencement ceremony online. Nice work!!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Free FTP server

Just what I've been looking for! Filezilla , a free FTP/SFTP client/server. Much better than using a cracked version (never liked doing that), or one of those severely crippled trial versions.


A few days back, I saw an advertisement for a concert of this band
Groovelily somewhere. They have some free mp3s on their website for downloads, and the fact is, they are pretty good. Good enough to have a major release. Heck, I am a regular joe music listener. I don't know better - they can't seem to land a major record deal because the suits think they are not 'marketable' enough. I'd think a group with its own US military ad, an electric violin, two lead vocalists and some intelligent, questioning lyrics might get a better deal than Lindsay Lohan, the singer. Ah...the sweet ironies of life.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

"We are not evil"

How do you make that a tagline for your brand?

But when you are a record label, one of the more disliked entities around for most people serious about their music, its almost a battle-cry. Magnatune seems to be trying that with their "try-before-you-buy" methodology.

Seriously, though I have my doubts about this working (you need enough people to CARE about buying their music versus downloading it off some p2p network), this is a step in the right direction. If more people are to try this, and it actually works, we actually might have a different distribution model for music, something we need desperately in this time and age.

It actually saddens me to see the kind of collections people have, with absolutely no F%$#ing clue of the value of it. gigs of mp3s, and no appreciation of the music that one has. I know almost all of the songs on my laptop, whether free or paid for, and if I don't, I am in the process of listening to them and learning more about them. All this free downloading is taking some of the thrill of going out there and buying your music away. Building one's music collection was a painstaking job at one time, with distinctive CDs/ cassettes, great inlays, lyrics and liner notes adding to the excitement of owning the media.

Now all my CDs (even ones I bought on iTunes ) look the same - shiny silver of the blank CD, purchased last Thanksgiving with mail-in rebates equal to purchase price. Music is about substance, but the style... that's what makes it special. Where would the Doors be without Morrison's charisma, or the Beatles without the boyish charm of all of the Fab Four?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The case against copyright extensions

Good link to a number of articles, arguing against the extenstion of copyrights. As is quoted, Elvis is dead, who's making money off his recordings?

On a sidenote, isn't anyone surprised at the hype the new Star Wars DVDs have got? The movies are nice, but that's about it. (Unless you saw it as a kid, and were really blown away by it - which is where most of the target audience is, i guess.)

George Lucas for all his savvy, hasn't done much of significance in terms of films (7 major films, five of them the Star Wars series, plus the Indiana Jones and maybe a few other scripts). Comparisons to Spielberg are inevitable, but I think Spielberg's a true auteur. George Lucas may yet get there, if he stops playing with his toys, and makes some real movies like his American Grafitti, which (though not one of my favorites), still manages to capture something of that time and age.


O'reilly is soon to come out with a new magazine for Do-it-yourself hobbyists and tinkerers, called "Make" . An interesting proposition. O'reilly, with its name, should bring a new credibility to this hobby. Though I am not much of a tinkerer myself, it is something that needs more promotion. Practical, fun projects can do more to further interest of science and technology among children. This country needs more people to be interested in technology and science.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Discretion, the better part of what?

Anyone interested in security should definitely read one of Bruce Schneier's CryptoGram newsletters. He offers a refreshing insight as to how most of the security measures, taken post 9/11 offer just an appearance of safety, reassuring us that things are hunky-dory. One of the points he raises, took me off on a completely different tangent. He says, that having security guys check IDs is dumb. They will only block people on the ridiculous no-fly list, but they should be trained well and given more responsibility.

For the past 15 years or so, since liberalization began in India, I think this is exactly the kind of power that we've tried to take out of the hands of the government officer. The rules are clear, and transparent. No discretionary power in the hands of anyone. One in breach of the law is out, and one complying is in.The struggle in India is on, and we might yet win.

Slight hitch. The law, or the powers that be, mess up. Case in point: No-fly list. The Hon. Senators and ex-pop stars are getting caught.(OK, this one's a bit goofy) But don't forget the unwashed masses who don't get any publicity after being booted off the next discounted flight they were trying to board. Not much can be done here.

I had the pleasure of experiencing NJ's DMV in a similar way. I go all the way to Trenton in the morning negotiating weekday rush hour traffic to get my license transferred from PA to NJ, only to find that I could have done the same at my neighborhood DMV. Only, they forgot to update the website(that's a totally different story). I pay my money, get my mug shot, and then, the computer's on the blink. Not a problem, it should get fixed anytime. I wait for an hour. No one has a fscking clue as to what is going on. I am told, I can get my job done at My Neighborhood DMV.

Next day, MN DMV says, your file opened at Trenton can be only closed there, so go back there. They were polite, but that does not make my drive back any shorter. Common sense, anyone?. Just give the poor sod his license, since his paperwork seems in order. For all their well-meaning courtesy, they couldn't . The system isn't engineered to handle a file opened in Trenton, the computer going down, and restoring the file in South Plainfield. All those transactions in my Distributed Systems class begin to make sense now. Only, when the system went down, or was down, the transaction should have been rolled back. Maybe Raj should have been designing the system. (bad joke,forget it)

Anyway, the point is , when all power has been invested in the computer, you take away the brains and the discretionary power an official has. Which is a good thing for corrupt places like India right now, because you are putting things in the hands of a neutral authority. But, when the system fails, there should be enough procedures to account for that, so that Your Neighborhood government official isn't left with that "deer caught in headlight" look in his eyes.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Indiatimes Gas

Indiatimes claims it is the largest Indian website in terms of the number of page views. Big deal. Typical BS, what you'd expect from them. The Times of India, at one time the best newspaper in the country, and the Economic Times, still the country's best financial daily, are relegated to sub-domains on the Indiatimes portal. If you separate these, it would be interesting to see which website has the top page views. Other top rated sites include, interestingly,, our friendly neighborhood marriage portal. I don't know what is more ridiculous, the singles ads for these pretty girls in Piscataway that appears as a side-bar on my TOI session(I'm sure they don't exist), or that they chose the absolutely gorgeous Nauheed to model for shaadi . Well, showing an absolute nerd guy and a plain looking software engineer type girl wouldn't have worked.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Right to Read?

I'll say this,Richard Stallman has come off as being fanatical to me more than once, but hell, he is a visionary. The Right to Read is so eerily foresighted (he wrote it in 1997, mind you). Which brings me to my new topic of interest. Creativity and how it is being undermined by corporate control today. Oppose the Induce act, all!! Or, at least change it for heaven's sake, so that it allows some cool dudes to put out far-out technology that I'd find useful.(though people can use it for illegal stuff, for all I care). I hate sounding like a left-wing fanatic, but I find it increasingly true that the US Government is selling out to corporate czars, especially in intellectual property issues. I mean, the kind of software patents being issued are getting more and more ridiculous by the day. Anyone heard of prior art?


This just came up when I was talking to someone from India... isn't it
interesting how the prices for telecom services in India seem to be
dropping by the day, while prices seem to be stable in the US? I mean,
it's true that companies offer more for the same prices. But before
Virgin Mobile USA launched, there were no real pre-paid guys on the scene. Now, everyone
from AT&T to Cingular to T-Mobile is scrambling to introduce their own
pre-paid service. I haven't checked, but I am sure that their phones will be
locked, making switching between even GSM providers impossible.

heck, that is the problem with most American companies. Goddamn control is
what they want. All the free-market spiel they put out is just that - marketing BS.
All these guys are really interested in is protecting their own cosy
oligarchies. We need some serious competition here. Virgin, how about
introducing a thriving market in used cellphones, with even cheaper
air-time, and nights and weekends free?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Firefox turns 1.0

Mozilla Firefox finally gets a version that's almost 1.0 . The preview release is out, which means it won't be long before 1.0 is out. The best part is RSS integration into the browser itself. Thunderbird has RSS support too, which is brilliant.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig has some fairly interesting ideas on creativity, and IP laws. His book Free Culture explains how, today, culture is being bound, and it rests in the hands of the powerful
few. I agree with this, and find the whole monopolization, dumbing-down and "safe-ness" of media mind-numbing to say the least. India had this problem due to the monopoly of Doordarshan on TV. However, cable changed all that. We're seeing more of that in the print media now. Times of India is going the yellow way, (and boosting circulation to be the largest newspaper in the world), and though regional newspapers still hold on, how long before they succumb to the lure of the lucre? We need more independent thinking, not less.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Open Source software alternatives

This link has information about open-source options to your regular
software.Old, but still useful.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Real Player

Helix Player is GPLed. Good news for the Linux community, as you can then
use it for real audio and other stuff on Linux. Multimedia availability for
Linux will go a long way in making it easy for desktop stuff.

See here
for download information.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Storage Galore

This is insane. From no storage, I go upto 2.1 gigs in like 3 days. First Gmail . Then Yahoo! gives away 100 M and now Rediffmail gives away a GB. Somebody send me email, fast.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Congratulations to me. I just moved up one more step in the echelons of
geekdom. After orkut, I finally get my
gmail invite. So here I am ajayvb AT
gmail DOT com .

Thursday, June 10, 2004

There's more than one way to do this

I've been meaning to do some more useful stuff with Perl since forever.
This seems like a good way to go about doing it.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Firewalls for dummies

This one's a good article on getting started with using iptables for
securing your linux box.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Doing my bit

In combination with kernel janitors (described in my previous post), this
information should prove useful when I decide to get into this for real.
Let's see when I get around to doing this, but it should be soon enough.
Diff and
Patch info

compilation info

Kernel Module programming

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Kernel Janitors

This is an interesting project for newbies who want to start contributing
to the Linux Kernel. It has an explanation, and a list of TODOs for the
kernel that a newcomer can use to get his feet wet, so to speak. These
people can, then, of course, move on to heavier things.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Fedora links

Whoopeee!! Finally , I find NTFS support for Fedora that doesn't require me
to re-compile the kernel (and break a few dozen things on the way, since RH
insists on its own kernel tweaks)

excellante. Another website that looks good (where I found this link in the
first place) is:

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

apt-get for Fedora

I've been hearing a lot about apt-get being this really cool utility, and
it makes Debian a breeze to update. I've been using rpms so far for my
Fedora Core I, and the whole installation process isn't the easiest. Lets
see if this improves things.

Windows XP services guide

There are loads of services which come with WinXP that come loaded by
default. The sole reason is that it is easier to leave them on than
teaching a user how to set them up if s/he needs them. A security
nightmare, especially if the service is compromised. With even the RPC
service in Win32 being compromised once, I think it makes sense for a power
user to learn how to disable services he doesn't want/need. A good guide I
found a link to is here:

Friday, May 14, 2004

Windows Registry khel

The Windows registry is one of those few places I never really ventured.
Maybe it was the lack of enthusiasm, maybe the fact that it wasn't as
easily visible or user-friendly. Plus ominous-sounding warnings about
tinkering with it, though never a deterrent for me, put me off "till I get
some more free time". Which I never do. Then I found this, which I fully
intend to look at

O'Reilly produces amazing books, especially on open-source related tools
(though i liked their C# / .NET books a lot too). The "hacks" series is
pretty interesting. I'll probably pick up one of those when I get some more
free time...

Immigration Blues

As my quest intensifies, uncomfortable questions on my immigration status
and the new H-1 B quota arise. So here goes - tracking information for H-1s.

There are couple of forums and threads on

This one's the official website of an immigrant attorney.

and of course, mai-baap sarkar ...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Creative Commons License

A topic that has interested me a lot has been the debate over how copyrights go against the interests of genuine users/connoiseurs who cannot afford to buy copyrighted content, and are deprived of its use. Numerous debates rage, from illegal downloads vs. RIAA, to DeCSS for the use of DVDs on linux. An interesting way out is the Creative Commons License. I found this interesting article,17863,608619-1,00.html

This book (available under the same license) talks about the same issues.

Have got to read it. I might not buy it, unless I see compelling value to do so. After all, that is what it is about :-)

Cool Acrobat Hack

I found this really useful hack to make Acrobat Reader 6.0 load much
quicker on your PC. Since Acrobat loads a lot of plug-ins that you don't really
need, this helps remove superfluous plug-ins that you don't require for normal
loading, and loads them only on demand.

"Go to your Acrobat\Reader folder and take everything from the "plug_ins"
folder and move it into "Optional" except the following: Search.api,
Search5.api, IA32.api, EWH32.api, EScript.api. Printing and search will
still work, and it will load 75% faster."

This is on Reader 6.0.

HTTP Performance benchmark tool

httperf is a good tool to do benchmarking for performance of HTTP servers.
It gives pretty good results, taking out the pain of a lot of measurements
for a tester. Has proved a god-send while trying to decide how to evaluate
the cool stuff I'm doing for my thesis.

Official Homepage

EXt2 partitions on Windows

This is a cool utility that lets you view your ext2 partitions on windows.
Worked pretty well on my Windows XP home/ Fedora Core I laptop. I tried it
read - only though.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

first post!

Here it is, finally. My blog. I have been unwilling to put my life on public display for so long, but some of blogger's features, (especially the one where you can email in your posts) tempted me enough to think of this. This is not so much for personal musings, but more of a personal scratchboard. I would like to use this to put up my opinions on all things tech, hacks that I figure out, or find on the WWW somewhere. Might prove useful if I keep at it.