Friday, September 30, 2005

The short story

I was tagged to write a 55-word story, and so, here's one. Rather unconventional, though. Seven paragraphs, seven sentences each, and exactly fifty-five words. Might seem random to you, though it does have an intended meaning.

Hunger. Safety. No control. Strength. Peripheral. Unpredictable. Survive.

God. Prosperity. Patterns. Cognition. Society. Vindictive. Settle.

Randomness. Power. Rule of law. Manipulation. Competition. Science. Conquer.

Routine. Discovery. Questions. Looking beyond. Riddles. Unknown. Search.

Separation. Merging. Artistic. Knowledge. Asleep. Essence. Create.

Potential. Awakening. Aware. Thoughts made manifest. Family. Me. Save.

None. Fulfilled. Embracing. Universe. Myself. Infinite. Be.

Let me know what you think the story's about, if you could get through it, even :) I'll decode it in the next post.

For those interested in extremely short story arts, I think you'll find better ones at Story Bytes - where they only publish stories of counts in powers of 2, i.e. 2 words, 4 words, 8 words and so on.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

For the good of Indian cricket

Neither the captain, nor the coach
Will the other's duty encroach
Though they bat on the same wicket
All for the good of Indian cricket

Like two children Bob and Alice
Being taken to the principal's office
Sternly told to bury the hatchet
All for the good of Indian cricket

Words they'll have, thats for sure
But team's image is oh-so-pure
Not a word they'll say to the media picket
All for the good of Indian cricket

Inflaming reports, the board can leak
Get all reporters to take a peek
Anything to get the seat they covet
All for the good of Indian cricket

We'll judge them now, they tell the mob
Based on how they do their job
Make them work and earn their credit
All for the good of Indian cricket

The talk today is all performance
Without a measure that makes any sense
But not without their favourite couplet
All for the good of Indian cricket

How in hell can anyone support
Such a blatant mockery of sport?
My blood does boil, my hands do fidget
Seeing this "good" of Indian cricket

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I love exploring close-up shots on the camera. Can you guess what this image is? (Quite simple actually, if you're like me; answer at the end of the post)


Of course, the best thing to use the macro mode on are flowers:
Pink flower

Here's another extremely close-up shot of a plaque of "Om" given to me by a friend. No more than 2.5 inches square in actual size.

And here's an oh-so-yummy Chips Ahoy cookie. I cropped a part of this image and played around with the colours a bit to generate the first picture above.

I love the macro mode. Unfortunately though, you can't use any kind of zoom (optical or digital), atleast in my camera when you're shooting something this close. I think going even the slightest bit tele changes the focal length of the lens to beyond 10 cm which means you're no longer doing macro.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Beauty of the beast

I've been really busy working on a research paper which is due this Friday but its thankfully drawing to a close. I found some time today to buy a new camera - something I'd been thinking about for a couple of months now. Its the Canon Powershot S2 IS, and its a real beauty. I really like the solid feel of the camera with the handgrip and heavier weight. Here are some of the first photos I took with it.

An idol of Lord Ganesha that sits on my desk:

Boston at night:
(Compare this photo to this older one to see the difference between my old Panasonic and the Powershot S2)

Zoomed (full 12x) into the domed building in the skyline:

And of course, no fun having a new camera if you don't bug other people with it, so here's my flatmate:

Macro mode test on the Powerbook keyboard:

Can't wait to really test this beauty out, but for now I'd better get back to work...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hindi on the web

My latest fascination for the last few days has been my mother tongue, Hindi on my computer. I've always been reading Hindi websites on and off, especially news sites like BBC Hindi. As for creating documents or typing in Hindi, I had done it very rarely using hard coded fonts like Shusha.

The urge to communicate fully in Hindi has never really left my mind. Even after I read this great article on Unicode, though, I still thought that sites like BBC Hindi used fonts like Shusha for which basically map ASCII english letters to Hindi letters. A couple of days ago, though, I clicked to see the HTML source of BBC Hindi and this is what I saw:

The Hindi text was actually part of the plain-text HTML file, and that gave me jolt, and the vague ideas in my head about Unicode started slowly lighting up. I searched furiously for some time and figured out how to enable and use the Devanagari keyboard input system on my Powerbok. Then I tried searching the net for one of my favourite Hindi poems - Basanti Hawa - and the result absolutely delighted me.

So I could now search Google to search in Hindi and I'd get results back - all thanks to the Unicode system which basically just gives the Hindi alphabet its own place in a character set which allows for the usual web page indexing means. I then discovered the Hindi wikipedia which actually has Hindi in its URL line, and is of course, completely searchable. Since then I've been reading up on Hindi efforts, chatting with friends and parents in Hindi and even blogging on the Shaayari blog in actual Hindi, and enjoying myself immensely, much to the bewilderment of many people around me.

There remain some problems for Devanagari script (which is the basis for Hindi/Marathi/Sanskrit and even Nepali). The biggest problem is kerning, or display of vowels in the correct manner. Unicode Devanagari strings have the vowels of every letter in a word after the letter itself. Although the vowel or "matra" after the first letter is typed and positioned after the letter itself, it is (or should be) rendered as appearing before the first letter. Your rendering system has to be programmed to recognize this and render it accordingly. Mac OS X and most of its applications do this perfectly, and it appears to work quite well under Windows as well (or so my parents report), and I'm pretty sure I've seen Fedora Linux systems that render the fonts correctly. Even on the Mac though, there are some programs that don't render Devanagari fonts correctly. One surprising culprit is Microsoft Office for Mac. Here's how MS Word displays the word "Dil":

And this is the correct version (a screenshot from Text Edit):

Another surprising culprit of bad rendering is Mozilla Firefox for Mac. I've filed a bug and it appears that a number of people are looking into fixing the problem (the bug was instantly marked as a duplicate of several related bugs). So for now, I have to use Safari for Hindi website viewing, which renders flawlessly.

Well, thats another day, another discovery, another language to type in.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Definition of useful

Thursday, September 15, 2005

(Arz Kiya Hai) अर्ज़ किया है

Of all the shows I remember from good old days in India, I have the fondest memories for the Hasya Kavi Sammelan that used to come on Doordarshan around festival times, especially around Holi (I think a similar show plays weekly on Sab TV these days).

Shashwat and Avyakt got the idea of starting a collaborative Shaayari blog, and I joined them a bit later. So started Arz Kiya Hai (अर्ज़ किया है). I've just added my own attempt to emulate the poems of the good old show. And yeah, viewers are encouraged and welcome to bring out their inner Shaayar and extend our words!

Windows security

In a recent interview with seattlepi, Bill Gates of Microsoft has this to say about security:
Software in general, whether it was from Microsoft or somebody else, was not set up for an environment where all the computers were connected together.
The comment quite profoundly reflects Microsoft Windows' approach to networking. Through its history, Windows has always been a system for personal use and productivity. The basic philosophy of Windows (until recently, maybe) has never been that of a networked system. Worse, there seems to be no design-level thinking involved to address security.

Till today (in Win XP), the only thing that prevents me from fiddling with C:\WINDOWS folder on a PC is a warning in Explorer that says "this folder contains system files and should not be disturbed", with a helpful "show the contents of this folder" right below it. And even that does not apply to any executable program which could just possibly contain malicious code. Oh you'll come across Windows file permissions all right. Try this - install a fresh copy of Win XP on a new drive and try and access your My Documents folder on your old hard drive. It'll be locked and you'll have to painfully thread your way across re-establishing yourself as the owner and giving recursive read/write permissions to your old My Documents folder before you can get access. Yet, strangely enough, you can open and modify critical system files in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 without doing anything except clicking on "Show the contents of this folder" link. True, there are "limited accounts" in Windows XP, but you can't even change the timezone on your own with a limited account (a flaw that should be corrected in Vista, according to Deepak).

Unix on the other hand, was designed to be a multi-user system, which forced a system of security to be created and enforced. Even the first version of Unix (1974?) boasted the ability to handle two users at a time, and therefore no non-administrative user in Unix has ever been authorized to modify system files. And yet, even as a non-privileged user on any Unix system, I can download, install and run my own Window manager, development environment, web browser, email client, IM client etc., which is probably why I've only heard complaints about being given "limited access" only from Windows users. In Unix few users expect, or need, administrative (root) access.

The absolute worst period for Windows security was when SP1 was released. I remember trying to setup Windows XP computers in NTU in 2003, when the network was infested with worms. If you tried to do a straight Win XP install connected to the network, your computer would become infected within five minutes of the brand new operating system starting up - way before you had time to patch the system. The operative method then was - install with the network disconnected, install any firewall, enable the firewall and only then dare to connect that RJ45 cable.

The hordes of security issues resting around Windows have, thankfully, forced Microsoft to take proactive measures, and I think that they're actually doing pretty well after the release of SP2 because of Windows firewall. Whereas once it was always the latest versions of Windows XP to be attacked because Microsoft couldn't patch it up fast enough, these days an up-to-date SP2 system is relatively well protected and in fact the latest Zotob worm actually went back to targeting Windows 2000 computers, and even that was handled pretty well. Hopefully Vista will improve even on that and make security a minor issue as opposed to a major headache.

Firewalling, though, has been around as a standard feature in *nix since before Windows 95, because the designers anticipated the problem and did something to overcome it. What Microsoft needs to do is think ahead and think prevention to earn the label of making a secure OS.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hell's bells

Two hells that made me ROTFL.

The first, a piece of graffiti written exactly halfway across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge that leads to MIT.


The second, Sun's surprisingly aggressive advertising campaign for their new x64 servers against Dell (click on the image to download a high-quality PDF of the ad). In fact, they had even more outrageous ads that were censored by publications. And they're not stopping there either... they're inviting more provocative ad headlines by e-mail!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Massive Institute of Toil

Thats what MIT should really be known as. There is an aura of work around here - even if you think you don't have much to do... work materializes out of thin air; which is one of the reasons I haven't been able to post for so long. Another one is that I don't have Internet access at home yet, which should be fixed by Sunday.

I was in NY on Sunday and Monday which was good fun; met up with an old friend of mine. No matter what you say about it, NYC is a different place from most of the world - and as always I felt this uncanny resemblance to good old Bombay. I've taken some pictures and will post them soon.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


The tech watch blog will no longer be available. I'll go the modern blogger's way and aggregate my links and blog feeds. If you use RSS, please use this syndication feed. If you don't use RSS, the new page for links will be