German cycle superhighway opens its first stretch

The first 5km of a 100km cycle only superhighway has opened to public in Germany. When complete, the route will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm, and four universities. Martin Toennes of regional development group RVR says almost two million people live within 1.2 miles of the bicycle highway and will be able to use sections of it for their daily commutes. With the rise in popularity of electric bicycles to help with undulating terrain, RVR says the bike way, which utilizes mostly abandoned railroad tracks in the Ruhr Valley, could replace up to 50,000 motor vehicles during daily commuting hours.

Essential qualities of an athlete

… and relevant to anybody who is a competitive arena - be it career, work, etc. When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.

Why we keep lying to the sales people

Seth Godin puts it quite eloquently: People lie to salesmen all the time. We do it because salespeople have trained us to, and because we’re afraid. … Of course we don’t tell the truth–if we do, we’re often bullied or berated or made to feel dumb. Someone who chooses not to buy from you isn’t stupid. They’re not unable to process ideas logically, nor are they unethical or manipulated by others.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta on state censorship in India

Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s brilliant article brings out the troubling state of our country today. Everyone utters the platitude that they respect freedom, but they then use the qualifier that no freedom is absolute in the most mendacious way. … In fact, the claim made by politicians that this kind of content (i.e. Twitter, Orkut, Facebook) will lead to violence is insulting doubly over. First, it is just a plain lie to justify censorship.

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.

Discussing Paul Graham's essay on software patents

Thanks to Saurabh’s mail on ILUGD, found out about this nice essay by Paul Graham on software patents. Not being much of a lawyer or an expert on these things, but nevertheless having a conviction that software patents are evil, I have dared to comment on parts of this essay. Of course, you are right, whenever possible I have quoted out of context to put him at a disadvantage. :-P

Catching up with Python

Am trying to catch up with Python where I left off years ago. What have they done to the language when I was gone? It is no longer the simple language as before. The decorator syntax looks so .. well, Perlish. List comprehensions, in some ways very inappropriately named, took a few moments to sink in. It is great that it is concise, but then .. so was Perl! Look where it got “them” - Concise Perl programs looks not too different from a binary file open in a text editor.

Blog split

For some (probably conceited :) ) reason, I felt that my blog was getting overrun (or about to really get overrun) with non-technical babble arising from my frustration about where this country is headed. So before I turn off those three of you who read my blog, I have decided to split my blog on a very fuzzy boundary of technical/non-technical lines. My non-technical rants will now be posted at the appropriately named http://rants.

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- 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.

A. R. Rahman on the future of music

It is indeed heartening to know that one of the finest composers in India has such a progressive outlook about the future of music. Excerpt from Hindustan Times. Music companies must recognise the changing ground reality. Today the conventional outlets for music sales are drying up. Soon all music will be free while the performers and performances will be paid for. Found the link at

Banks penalizing cash payments for credit cards

In another ridiculously anti-customer move, banks like ICICI and Standard Chartered are charging Rs. 100 for any cash payments made for credit card dues. This move is ostensibly for reducing footfalls at branches but seems like another revenue stream adding gimmik. Actually from the look at the note attached with this month’s electronic statement, there are a number of quite disturbing changes at ICICI credit cards: Firstly, it is the flat charge of Rs.

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.

Fight terror, but don't turn India into a police state

8 blasts in Bangalore today (at least till 6pm, there are rumours of a 9th). As much as I am concerned about terror in this country, I am more concerned about the knee jerk reactions of the insanely incompetent police force and government in this country. And I am as much sickened by the attitude of my fellow citizens in letting the police and government having their way in imposing stupid restrictions in the name of security on all of us.

Copyright renewal list now available for download

If you need to use a work on the Internet, you need to be aware (and careful) about its copyright. After all, copyright restrictions are becoming more and encompassing by the day. But what if you want to use content which is specifically in the public domain? How do you find out if the work you are thinking of using has passed into the public domain? For work created in US, the following applies:

visabillpay security

Uh oh. Doesn’t increase confidence too much, does it? … Crap. You can add billers to the website, but you got to call up customer service to remove them? @#$@#$% (testing blogging from flickr) Update: Instead of just griping like me, Balaji went ahead and wrote to Visa Bill Pay. It only got him canned responses though. Update2: Testing pingbacks for balaji.

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 reasons behind the OOXML appeals

The story so far: December 2006: 7 ECMA approves OOXML as ECMA-376 December 2006: ECMA submits ECMA-376 to ISO for consideration as an ISO standard under the fast track process September 2007: ISO ballot process votes against adoption of the specs as a standard April 2008: OOXML gets approved as an ISO standard South Africa, Brazil, India, Venezuela, (possibly Denmark too) have for the first time in ISO history, appealed against the decision to make OOXML an ISO standard.

Atheists are not the skeptics they think they are

A very interesting critique on atheism and the methods used by atheists to explain their position. The author Edward Tingley, a philosophy professor, bases most of his arguments against the material written by Blaise Pascal on applying the scientific mind to discover the existence of God. The professor goes on to demonstrate how, in his opinion, it is hypocritical for atheists who profess a scientific approach to disregard the very fundamentals of the scientific temper that they are supposed to defend.

Ongoing fraud at various Bangalore petrol stations

Just saw this reported in our internal company mailing list. Operators at various petrol bunks in Bangalore (and possibly in other cities), are cheating passengers by breaking up the delivery of petrol in two steps, and distracting them in between the steps. Most of us are conditioned to check only when the meter first starts running, and when it finally ends. If the petrol is given to us in two batches, some of us either miss (or are distracted) at the point when the meter needs to be reset to start the next batch.

Public photography under attack

The incompetency of our police and government in handling our security is often sought to be hidden by fear mongering. Knee jerk reactions like banning liquids in airlines, utterly stupid checks while entering malls, and the topic of this post, actively discouraging photography at all public places. Citizens and private organizations, getting these clues from our public administrators, in turn have made life hell for amateur photography enthusiasts worldwide. Some years back, I was almost handed over to the police by some folks in our neighborhood for “suspiciously” taking photographs in streets in the night.

SC blasts insurance players for refusing to cover the elderly

The state of health care insurance in this country is turning as pathetic as some other countries that we know of. The private health insurance companies being the pests that they are, have already decided that theirs is a no-risks, high gain game. Their business plan is that the people who need the highest medical attention are the ones who should have the biggest problem in getting insurance, if they are given any at all.

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.

The POTA games

Watching Arun Jaitley’s interview about POTA, and his criticism of the PM’s idea of a federal investigation agency made me recoil with disgust at the games these political parties play. POTA was created during the NDA rule in 2002 as a replacement for the much maligned TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) which was allowed to expire in 1995 during the Narsimha Rao government. It was created not after some major event in India, but after 9⁄11!

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.

Tech specific feed of this blog

For those handful of people who are subscribed to this blog :) , you can subscribe to a tech only version of my blog here: . This was done “in anticipation” of me ranting a lot on non-technical issues in this blog in the coming days. :D

Celebrity blogs

I was looking around tonight to check out some celebrity blogs out there. It seems to be a fad nowadays - celebrities blogging is now almost a statement! Here are some that I found, and I will be adding more to this list when I find more: Aamir Khan: Aamir’s controversial blog which keeps making headlines. No blogging software used. The code looks like generated from some offline data. No comments on the blog page.

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.

People are not resources. Computers are resources.

An interesting read. People are not resources. Computers are resources… people are individuals with particular skills, passions, and ways of thinking. It is really easy to get lost in the “people are resources” mind camp. “Human Resources” We create departments in order to re-enforce this way of thinking. On charts and in discussions I hear this over and over. I catch myself saying it. It is a mental trap, something similar to saying “I want art on that wall”

"A more perfect union" - One of the best speeches I have ever heard

Granted, it is about 37 minutes long. But it is one of the finest that I have ever heard. It is also one of the rarest, in the sense that a political candidate, running for the president of USA, no less, could ever dare to make. It is also rare to find even non-politicians confront the issue of race so effectively on the face. It is also one of the best references for those learning about public speech.

Just discovered:

I must have been living under a rock all these days. I just discovered Librarything yesterday. is your online bookshelf. It lets you enter just the ISBN of books , and will pull in all the rest of the meta info - even thumbnail cover images. If you have a bar code scanner, you can scan your hundred+ book collection in no time at all. For Indian prints, I use the US ISBN number of the original written in the inside pages next to the print information, and tagging the book “indian-edition”.

Lessig decides NOT to run for congress

So he decided that this was perhaps not such a wise move. There is a video presentation explaining why. The summary is that the representative he is fighting against is pretty strong, and for a first hand politician, the margin of defeat is going to be enormous. And “losing big” is not the best way to start such a campaign. Nice quote I read today which summarizes the frustrations of newbies in the FOSS world - I would RTFM if there was an FM to FR.

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.

Of Lessig, my years of self-delusion and beginning of realization

I just saw the update on Lessig’s blog - he is actually considering running for Congress this year! You can find more at Lessig’s announcement last year of the shift of his efforts over the next decade had significantly changed the way I look at myself. I had been involved in LUGs and FOSS advocacy for almost eight years by then. But I suddenly realized (and perhaps there are quite a few people out there who always felt that way about me) that I am nothing more than an armchair activist.

Wasps and zombie roaches

Wasp attacking the roach This is probably one of the the most chilling of wildlife stories I have ever read. And the video in the article was as scary. The wasp, which lives in tropical regions of Africa, India and the Pacific Islands, relies on cockroaches for its grisly life cycle. But unlike many venomous predators, which paralyse their victims before eating them or dragging them back to their lair, the wasp’s sting leaves the cockroach able to walk, but unable to initiate its own movement.

The fundamental difference between Western and Eastern societies is ...

Really nice quote in an article of the current issue of Time. I had never looked at the differences in this way before. The actual comparison here is done between Islamic societies and the west, but you can mostly replace “Islamic” with “Eastern” over here. “That’s the big difference between us,” he shrugged. “You Westerners make love in public and pray in private. We Muslims do exactly the reverse.”

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.

Giving up on bcm43xx in Gutsy beta

The only major issue that I have felt in my use of Ubuntu till date(and to be fair, this is not ubuntu specific) is the problems I keep having with wireless setup. I can live with any of it’s other flaws. In earlier releases, the problem had been WPA support. The default install didn’t have wpa_supplicant, and to install wpa_supplicant, you needed to have network first, dammit! So I had to run around looking for a network cable, sit next to my AP, patiently download the package, figure out the unnecessarily verbose documentation and finally set up the stuff(in two terminals, one keeping an eye on the messages of wpa_cli).

BSD or GPL in the ideal world?

This Slashdot comment probably summarizes the difference of intent between and BSD and GPL as succinctly as one can. Every person who is unclear about the licence to use in his code, or has been a blind follower (“Should be the right one, because everyone seems to be using it”), should keep this at heart. … when the only two ways to release software are BSD and GPL, the GPL will no longer be necessary, but we are not there.

Moved over to Gutsy

Just upgraded my notebook to Gutsy a couple of days back. It is still in beta and would be released on 18th October. I recently changed my desktop over to Gnome from KDE. I have been a Kubuntu/KDE user for years, but the look and feel of KDE has remained tacky for a while now while Gnome had a very clean efficient look about it. But this also meant that I had the complete Gnome and KDE stack on my notebook, so I had to download about 1.

Bush, USA and Public Healthcare

I have this queer interest in following US politics which I sometimes cannot adequately explain. It is somewhat the similar interest that people probably had some years back in Soviet Union. It was an example of a socioeconomic setup which tried so hard to be pure in their intent, but kept hobbling on its path as it found out that extremities either way, left or right, are difficult in any social setup.

ReCaptcha - Reusing the energy of fighting evil for social good

The other day I discovered reCAPTCHA , one of those really innovative nifty little ideas that warm my heart. Everyday all of us netizens use so much of our energy fighting the evils of spam - service providers keep warding off waves of attacks, while the users keep assuring providers through various means that they are not bots working on behalf on the dark side(read spammers). One of the ways of ensuring that the person accessing a web page is actually a human is to pass the CAPTCHA test.

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.

Moved blog to

After a long while managing my own instance of wordpress, I have finally moved my blog over to This site gives you wordpress hosting for free, but I opted for the additional paid option to use my own domain. Cost me $10 a year to put up my future blog URL - . There are quite a few limitations from using this hosted service. For one, they have a very limited set of themes for you to use, and most of these themes are non-fluid(i.

Forwarding jokes, are you?

Stop! I get too many forwarded jokes on my mail/cell already. And then there are those valiant souls who take upon them the moral responsibility of their entire generation by laboriously collecting snippets on a daily basis from all their “sources”, taking care day after day that their “friends” don’t miss any of the gems. As some of them have said, this is just to show that they care! The emotions I go through when I see each forwarded joke is indescribable and extremely moving.

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.

Google pumping for Mac in place of KFC, or just being too helpful?

Here is what a search for KFC India brings up on Google. I can understand that KFC is very bad in Google SEO and that is why there are no links to KFC homepage in the first page. But why does Google add an uncharacteristic link to mac donalds and suggest me about it in the middle of the result page? Giving me tips is an add on benefit, but the search engine has to primarily do its job - give me a link to what I want instead of other websites that has misused pagerank to shine.

Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging! The Default post that comes with my brand new account at

Check out Blinklist for your social bookmarks

Ever since the host of problems at 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.

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.

China - The country with balls

China has now become too big and heavy to be intimidated by any country or bloc of countries. The latest move by China against protectionists point to this. At first Chinese textile exports swamped markets world wide, causing countries like US or EU to protest. In an attempt to compromise, the Chinese government put in place export tariffs on textile products - tariffs to bring down their own exports. US and EU went ahead anyway and imposed further tariffs of their own against Chinese imports, like they do for every other country like India.

Beware of Visa electron based debit cards

Take a look at this post by Bhavin Shah talking about how insecure Visa Electron based debit cards (like my ICICI debit card) are. He has learnt this the hard way when HDFC bank refused to entertain any disputes on a fraudulent charging of Rs. 25,000 on his stolen card. In short, You are not asked to enter your PIN while swiping these debit cards. There is no obligation on the part of the merchant to check the signatures with that on the back of the card.

PrintFu - On demand PDF printing Give us your PDF and a couple days later, you’ll have a black and white, printed and comb bound book on your door step. Damn, this is something I have been looking out for ages! How I wish somebody offered such a service in Delhi! 😞

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.

Bulimia might have killed Terri Schiavo

Thaths mentions a news article which reveals that Terri Schiavo was suffering from Bulimia, a psychological condition similar to Anorexia. When Terri was 18 years old, she weighed 250 pounds. She developed an eating disorder, lost 100 pounds, got married and trimmed down to a Calvin Klein-acceptable 110. The only problem was, she was killing herself doing it. Her bulimia likely led to a potassium deficiency, which ultimately led to cardiac arrest and severe brain damage.

Pay-as-you-like food

A Bengali restaurant in New York experimented with a new concept - pay-as-you-like. You eat, and then you pay as much as you think that the food is worth. After causing serious conscience-related trauma in patrons, they finally had to put prices in the menu. Link to article. (via TriNetre - The Third Eye)

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> To: Sanjay Bhandari <sanjay_bhandari> , Puneet Sharma <puneet_sharma> , anamika <bbcoordinator_delhi> Cc: India Gii <india-gii AT> 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.

Ubuntu CDs cause Custom Troubles for Indian Linux enthusiast

Ubuntu Linux is a Linux distribution which Ubuntu promoters ship to enthusiasts all over the globe. The distribution was featured recently in a daily at Mysore. Excited by the article, Satish places an order for Ubuntu CDs at the Ubuntu shipit webpage. The CDs arrive promptly, and so does a show cause notice from the Indian customs department asking Satish to provide “Importer Code Number, Invoice, Purchase Order, Order Confirmation and Technical write-up” failing which he would be fined and/or have the goods confiscated.

My photos from Linux Asia 2004

Yes, it is over an year old now. I never posted them publicly because, frankly, I felt others had better cameras and better photos from the event. But rather than having them languish in some forgotten corner of my computer, I am uploading them to my Flickr account. So here is: Linux Asia 2004 - a photoset on Flickr

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.

Half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by medical bills

Half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by soaring medical bills and most people sent into debt by illness are middle-class workers with health insurance. Health is going to be a major issue in India in 2005. My previous post in this topic talks about what Brazil did out of desperation to get out the trap in which India just went into. Yes, I am against product patents in medicine (apart from software patents, of course).

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: 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.

How tall are you?

How tall are you, compared to dozens of Hollywood celebrities? This site lets you enter your height and then check how you compare to Brad Pitt, Brooke Shields and scores of others. (Via BB)

Height of Dumbness in Airport Security

Airport security in France, on supposedly a routine drill, put a bag of explosives in an unknown passenger’s bag and … misplaced the bag. Somewhere in the world, there’s a navy blue suitcase with a small pack of explosives tucked in its side pocket. As Schneier writes in his latest newsletter: It’s perfectly reasonable to plant an explosive-filled suitcase in an airport in order to test security. It is not okay to plant it in someone’s bag without his knowledge and permission.

America heading towards an economic armageddon

… so says Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, according to this article. The statistics are staggering: To finance its current account deficit with the rest of the world, he said, America has to import $2.6 billion in cash. Every working day. That is an amazing 80 percent of the entire world’s net savings. Sustainable? Hardly. Meanwhile, he notes that household debt is at record levels.

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.

Serious and Funny coffee making tips

I am starting off a new category of blogs called Pop Cuisine. I call it that ‘coz I am no elite food critic, but I enjoy food good enough to talk and gush about it. My comments on food, or my views on how food should be, is solely based on taste - my taste. So if I find something good (or good enough), and you don’t … too bad. This is my blog.

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.

My college photo gallery tops search results for my college!

Aargh! Just discovered from my logs that my college photo gallery is the first result given by a Google search for “REC Jalandhar” (Check here). Even before the college website itself! Since I have forbidden robot access to the Photo gallery (to keep it a little more private, if such a thing is possible), I expect this “anomaly” to get corrected in a month or two.

Extending Wordpress’s RSS excerpts

Wordpress has a queer default RSS excerpt limit of 50 words while creating rss feed content. And regardless of the “use full text” setting in the syndication section of the reading options, the description field of RSS, which is used by some news readers, is limited to this length. While syndicating content at - the ILUGD members blog aggregating site, I found out that all Wordpress sites were belching out tiny excerpts, while Drupal sites exported more content.

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.

The Importance of American Elections

I have been watching the happenings in the US election with some interest. And at the same time I keep wondering why there is not so much interest in India about this election. What most people dont realize is that the US election is sometimes more important to every Indian than, say, the way assembly elections in Maharashtra is important to us in Delhi. And look at the difference in media coverage!

Election opinion polls missing out on the mobile revolution

Cringely has come out with a insightful article on how opinion polls are missing out on the mobile phone revolution in US. This is even more relevant to Indians. According to Cringely, most of the opinion polls are conducted over telephone. I am not sure how many exit polls are conducted at the voting booths in India, so I can vaguely assume that this holds partly for India too. The problem is that lesser and lesser mobile younger people/college-students/ are taking landline connections because of all the installation hassle, as well as the perennial problem that these group of people are unlikely to be found at home for anything but sleeping or studying.

Madhu’s Shiok far eastern restaurant in bangalore

All those who know me, realize very well how much food excites me. I am passionate about (eating) it, though. But there are some people like Madhu Menon, who takes really shows what being passionate about somethings in life is all about. Madhu left his IT job about an year back and opened up his own restaurant in Bangalore, specializing in far-eastern cuisine. Now those are two things I truly admire - the strength to do things in life which you really really like, and of course being involved in the food art business.

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).