Tech

Removing encryption from (legitimate!) PDF files on Ubuntu

Many service providers have started encrypting the statements that they send you. While at some level, it does add some amount of security when the path to your inbox is not very secure. However, it is sometimes a major pain when you want to archive your emails. This is because every provider has decided on a different secret to encrypt your PDF. So if one day you wish to access a statement of your phone bill from three months back, you have to look up the bill from your archive and read the mail to find out what they used to encrypt it.

Apple is as big a threat to FOSS as Microsoft

Many FOSS enthusiasts do not realize is that Apple is as, if not more, significant threat than Microsoft in the war for software freedom. Most of the technical arguments that FOSS evangelists have, fall apart when you are talking about Apple and Mac Os X. Mac Os X has very less, if not none, of the perceived instability of Windows. Default applications bundled with the OS do quite a decent job for many users.

Using ffmpeg on Ubuntu to convert DV videos for video sharing websites

To begin with, this is the problem that I had. I had recorded a short clip using my Panasonic NV-GS330 camcorder. I had to upload it to Vimeo, my video sharing website of choice. From the camcorder to the computer Importing the video from the camcorder to the laptop was not much of a problem. I plugged in the camcorder to my laptop using a firewire card. Then I used Kino to position the tape (the camcorder uses mini dv tapes) just before the beginning of the clip I wanted to import and hit the capture button.

Draft of Indian Government's policy on Open Standards in e-governance released

Thanks to Vinay Sreenivasa for letting us know on the ILUGD list: The government has released a draft version of a Policy on Open standards for e-Governance. It is presently open for Public review. Please find the policy at the link below- http://egovstandards.gov.in/Policy_Open_Std_review The policy seems to have some really good points like- 5.1) Mandatory Characteristics: 5.1.1)Selected Standard should be Royalty Free for life time of the standard.

Why I returned my Mac

I realize the title of this post is a bit provocative, but I could not think of any other way to put it. Some weeks back, I got a new Mac Book Pro at work. This was my first exposure to Apple’s computer products, and after the initial few moments of aah-ooh’s wore off, I started using it for what I was supposed to do - work. It so happens that after about a week of use, I returned the MBP and went back to the other standard (and much less expensive) HP notebook used in the company.

The network effect of Flickr's social photography

On April 8, 2008, Powerhouse Museum based out of Sydney, Australia, released their publicly-held historical photographs for access on Flickr, becoming the first museum in the world to do so. Earlier on Jan 16, 2008, the Library of Congress had released over 3000 photos on Flickr. What is common between these two contributions was that the rare photographs were in the public domain - they had no known copyright and are therefore free to reuse by anybody in the world.

The Microsoft Tax Refund campaign at ILUGD

ILUGD is presently furiously discussing a legal procedure to get refund for the Microsoft Tax applied to all desktops and laptops that you buy from the branded market in India. Here is a good definition of Microsoft Tax. Some relevant snippets for the impatient. The Microsoft tax is an unofficial, but commonly used term that refers to the licensing fee that Microsoft charges major suppliers of personal computers for each unit sold and that purchasers thus usually pay for such computers, regardless of whether or not they want or intend to use a Microsoft operating system.

Getting Twitter and Google hosted domains to talk over Gtalk

I was quite irritated to find out recently that if you have a Google hosted domain and use that to login to Gtalk, you cannot communicate with Twitter without jumping through a few hoops, and even then, only under certain conditions. My first thought was that “these sort of things” should just work ™. Turns out I was really wrong … Kavinda explains in detail how to get this setup the right way.

pagii - Yet Another Social Network (YASN)

Just now got an invite to Pagii, from some stranger, sent directly to my office email. Bad, bad. This turns me off such ventures completely. Getting invites from known folks who are trying out different YASNs, is irritating but not completely obnoxious. However this is. Looked around a bit to see what this is about. Turned out this is a social venture from Freewebs, and descriptions from various places on the net makes it out to be a place where you can make fancy home pages in ajiffy, and comment on other’s.

Updates: My own planet system and twitter

Resurrection of lug-delhi planet. I intend to put in different planets based on my interests. I am calling it a planetary system :-P Hopefully others would find it successful. In other news, I have been trying out Twitter for the past few days. It is turning out to be quite addictive. Aren’t we often stuck at times, with nothing to do for hours, with just your mobile to give you company?

Cameras don't take pictures, people take pictures

Flickr’s camera stats is an enormously humbling resource for me. It would be the most powerful message for newbie photography enthusiasts - creativity rules technology any day, so stop thinking too much about your camera. The kind of amazing photos taken using basic point-and-shoot cameras by talented photographers from around the world, keeps me firmly rooted to the ground while I lug my bulky Rebel Xti wherever I go.

My GPG Key has changed

Very embarrassingly, after a spate of reinstalls, crashes, backup of wrong copies and my policy of destroying old backups in the house, I discovered that I have lost the secret keys of my GPG keypair(I had not used them for a while). The revocation certificate, printed on a scrap of paper, was lost during my relocation to Bangalore.I was always procrastinating its re-generation, and I seem to have paid for this now.

An Interesting Excel Bug

Joel has an interesting post about a current Excel 2007 bug. Here is the short explanation given by Joel. What is 3 x 1/3, if I ask you? You would rattle off “1, of course”. What if I tell you - “note down 1/3 in decimal on paper, then multiply by 3” ? Now since there is no finite decimal representation of 1/3 on paper(you will keep writing 0.333333333333 …. forever), you will stop after a few decimal places.

Yeah, and a J to you too!

I finally figured out why I kept seeing a mysterious “J” frequently in mails. I use Thunderbird, and it never struck me that what was common between all these mails is that they are all from Outlook users. It seems that in all its wisdom, Outlook converts any smileys (like : - ) ) in the plain text mails to the letter “J” in Wingdings, which stands for the smiley in that font.

Ubuntu Edgy out in October end

Haven’t written in ages. So thought I would write down something that I am really looking forward to right now. My distro of choice Kubuntu/Ubuntu is releasing their latest on October 26. From this blog, the RC will be out on 19th Oct. I started using Dapper from RC release itself, and that is what I will be doing this time too.

Check out Blinklist for your social bookmarks

Ever since the host of problems at del.icio.us this past week, which left me stranded without my bookmarks, I have been looking out for other social bookmarking services. I checked out both Simpy and Blinklist. Simpy has a clean, delicious kinda (actually better) look and seemed nicer at first. But then I saw their URLs for tags and people, and hated it. Yes, they probably have it in their todos, but I want a delicious replacement today.

Gmail's crazy dot-in-your-email-address policy

According to this Gmail FAQ, Gmail doesn’t recognize dots (.) as characters within a username. This way, you can add and remove dots to your username for desired address variations. … If you created your account with a dot in your username and you wish you hadn’t, you can change your ‘Reply-to address.’ … Please note that to log in to Gmail, you must enter any dots that were originally defined as part of your Gmail username.

Why does the common man still support patents?

A recent study found out that 1/5th of all research papers are being abandoned because of conflicts with patent holders. One of the slashdot readers asked why. There was this remarkable answer, which was different than other normal economics drenched answers. We have them because the average American wants to believe in a world where he/she can one day strike it rich by inventing some widely used product. The problem is, the patent system doesn’t really work that way, no matter how much patent supporters pretend it protects powerless inventors.

MTNL is twice as stingy as BSNL in ADSL data caps

Take a look at the following table showing the difference between similar ADSL broadband plans of BSNL and MTNL - the two public sector telecom companies of India. MTNL only operates in the cities of Delhi and Mumbai, while BSNL operates every else. Delhi and Mumbai are probably the two largest commercial cities of the country, but as the graph shows, MTNL believes that they should therefore pay twice as much as the rest of the country.

Pathetic Tata Indicom Broadband service in Delhi

Seems that my blog is turning out to be a general gripe column. I don’t think I should be blamed for it though. Our country is full of technology companies who are only out to fleece people. When you use the services of a company who considers quality of customer service as a variable business decision, you know you have seen a company who is just after your money. After my awful experience with Sify, I decided to try out Tata Indicom.

Biting the “broadband” bullet again - Tata Broadband in Delhi

After my terrible experience with Sify broadband early this year, I decided to stick to dialup - Reliance rconnect over FWP actually. But the idea of keeping a phone busy all day doesn’t appeal to me much even if the plan I have (Platinum) doesn’t have download caps or per minute call charges. So today I decided to bite the “broadband” bullet once again, and registered for a Tata Broadband connection.

Is Canon selling overpriced digital cameras in India?

The Canon A95 Canon India is selling Powershot A95 at an MRP of Rs. 25,995/-. Amazon’s listing of A95 mentions a list price of $349.95 (or Rs. 15,121 at today’s exchange rates). Amazon actually sells it for $269.94 (or Rs. 11,664 today). The question is why does Canon India sell its regular products at a 70% higher price in India? How much duty do these products attract anyway?

Configuring Linksys WRT54G Wireless Router for my home

I bought my first wireless equipment a couple of days back - A Linksys Wireless-G router model WRT54G. I had selected this model after spending a number of days poring through online reviews of various routers. The Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G router The box cost me Rs. 3550 (with bill) in Nehru Place. I immediately started working on how to place it in my network. Finally an hour back, I could figure out the right way to configure it.

Microsoft vs. Google

A great article on the online tussle between Microsoft and Google. For anyone who has been watching Gates over the years, the idea that an upstart like Google could so flummox him and his fierce company takes getting used to. But Google is a rival unlike any he has faced in a long time. In previous battles, Microsoft always had a powerful trump card: It controlled the Windows operating system.

Google Calling my Firefox a Spyware?

WTF? This is from my Firefox 1.0.2 on FC3. UPDATE: Hmm. I read this post and it seems that others have found this problem too couple of months back. This got to do with some anti-virus search filter used in Google to prevent the Santy worm. But I wonder what is triggering this web page for me. I am not searching for anything remotely connected to php or phpbb.

Net4domains Goes IE-Only

Net4domains control panel on Firefox Today morning when I logged in my net4domains control panel, I was shocked to see the control panel missing. I tried to login using one of my end-user accounts (I am one of net4domains’ reseller), I couldn’t see the user control panel either. I use Firefox on Linux. The webdeveloper extension showed that there was a javascript error. So I opened up the Javascript console, and I found it full of errors about an IE-specific javascript extension(”document.

I am a victim of the Sify Broadband scam in Delhi

Here is the letter I sent to Sify contact points in Delhi yesterday. It chronicles my Sify broadband experience here in Delhi. From: Sandip Bhattacharya <sandip AT lug-delhi.org> To: Sanjay Bhandari <sanjay_bhandari @sifycorp.com> , Puneet Sharma <puneet_sharma @sifycorp.com> , anamika <bbcoordinator_delhi @sifycorp.com> Cc: India Gii <india-gii AT cpsr.org> Subject: Official complaint - My sify experience and a request for refund Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 14:21:23 +0530 Mailer: Evolution 2.0.2 (2.

Moving on to Sify (not)broadband

Inspite of my contempt for their loathsome Internet fleecing plans, I had to reluctantly sign up for a Sify cable internet plan today. Cost me a neat pile for installation and pre-payment for one month. The most painful part of this transition is going back to a NAT-ted private IP. This means no more gnomemeeting, no more yahoo voice/video chat, no more Bittorrent, no more gnutella/fasttrack/openft and other P2P networks, no more logging into my home machine when stranded outside my home office to retrieve a document I left at home.

Blog updated to Wordpress 1.5

Updated my blog to Wordpress 1.5. The new release has lots more than the last version. Currently it is running the default Kubrick theme, which I don’t find too bad. Not too many new templates available right now for this version of WP, so I will wait till I decide to change the theme later. One feature I like is the new anti-spam features. There is an option to prevent open-proxies from posting.

Delicious tags

Have come back online somewhat after the motherboard of my workstation got fried. It is still in repairs, and I am having to use a spare box that I had loaned to a friend sometime back. I just had to fit the motherboard from the other box with my present hard disks. Seeing an existing Linux installation adapt to a completely different system, with hardly any problems gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling, coz’ I know the kind of problems that can happen if you do this with, say … Windows XP?

Rediff Hosting doesn’t allow changing DNS servers

Madhu Menon writes in at India-GII: “I’ve always been skeptical of Rediff’s technical chops (they still have a bug in their email system that I mailed them about 2-3 times many years ago) so this comes as no surprise: http://www.sumankumar.com/2005/01/hosting-your-site-on-rediff-think.html My friend Srini from Chennai, who runs a logistics firm, booked a domain name along with some web space on Rediff. Now, my friend wanted to host his site elsewhere.

Video Conferencing On Linux

I have normally had a bad experience with multimedia related software till today. An expensive IBM PC camera has not been working for quite a while, so I had banished it to my family’s Windows XP machine. But I needed one to play with for my own FC3 linux box. My hardware dealer at first insisted that I try out a damn cheap Chinese cam costing Rs. 950. The package was as cheap as it could be made, but the demo that he showed me was impressive.

IT vs other engineering fields

Cringely puts it well in this article: IT used to do this, decades ago, but no more. Today, IT is based mostly on selling general ideas. The requirements gathering process is superficial. The project proposal is mostly a “shell of an idea.” IT projects have lots of meetings, lots of issues to be resolved, lots of management to coordinate things. The workers rarely spend more than 35 percent of their time actually accomplishing something FOR the project.

Preventing mobile phone theft

After my cellphone was stolen from my car dashboard a few months back, I was left really mad, and I tried to convince my mobile operator Hutch to blacklist the phone IMEI. The operator told me that it was not worth the trouble because the IMEI of stolen mobile phones could be changed, and anyway there was too much paperwork involved in blocking the phone by IMEI. There is currently an interesting thread at India-GII about this.

Opensource catalyzes a paradigm shift in the computer industry

Going through the daily drudgery of earning to survive, one always keep wondering - “where are we going with all this?” or “which way should I turn now?” or if you are a business, then “which way should we take today so that we are where others would try to flock to tomorrow?“. You are always crying out for a larger view of things. And from time to time, you find the words of someone else with a theory that can shed some light on that possible path.

A world without TV ads?

This cartoon strip of Rudy Park today, in some way brings out the revolution in TV watching that TiVo has pioneered. Yes, we have all been pissed out with watching too much TV ads throughout the day. In India, there is still no no-ads subscription based cable TV service - even HBO. Star Movies is one of the nice guys, showing non-stop movies after midnight - no ads at all! Some channels like Sony AXN show more frequent, shorter durations ads, while others do the opposite.

Fixing annoyances in Wordpress 1.2

Havent used trackbacks much, but apparently WordPress 1.2 has an annoying trackback bug. Thanks to IoZBlog for documenting the fix to it (disclaimer: This post should prove whether trackbacks are working in the first place ;) ). Also, got my first comment spam today. Hell, this spammers dont even let lonely blogs like this in peace. A quick search at the WordPress wiki, revealed Mark Ghosh’s WP plugin for the same.

Tables are passe. CSS is here!

Eric Meyer writes that the Microsoft web site has been redesigned to use a mostly CSS based design as compared to the old table based one. The subsequent page size decrease was 75%+!! There is no denying the fact that CSS driven web page layouts are the future. All those web designers who still use Dreamweaver and Golive, wake up, and give us web programmers cleaner web pages to work on!

Instant Messenger Smileys Compared

I found this neat web page, which shows the various instant messenger smiley icons side-by-side. The result “obviously” shows how Yahoo’s smileys look the least “tacky”. update (2018): The link above no longer works. Sorry. 😞

QR-Codes, now machines have their own language

Boing Boing talks about QR Codes - the latest and hottest fad among mobile users in Japan. While machine readable languages have been here since the beginning of computing, this is the first time that they are also a statement of “art”. QR codes are graphical equivalent of any text that you want, something similar to barcodes in purpose. But while barcodes were one dimensional (vertical lines of variable thickness), QR codes are two dimensional - (like the image on the right).