March 18, 2007

Here, I had suggested (predicted?) that Google should buy Gapminder’s stats tool (by Hans Rosling), and this link tells us that it has happened.


Information is the key to most of the things.. Most of the jobs revolve around info gathering at some stage or the other.. but that is just half of the story.

What good is the info if it cant be interpreted or understood properly? Any chimp could gather info, but it is how we analyse that sets us apart. There is tons of info out there on the internet.. in the form of databases, as underground stacks of files.. but unless they make sense, they are mere numbers. You could read on and on about what the wealth or life expectancy for a country/region was in 1980, 1990 and so on.. but what if you could instantly infer something, say a pattern out of that? You could, unless that is in a presentable manner. You need info/data in a useable manner to further develop or work on it..

Google realised a huge potential for info and data.. hence their motto is “organizing the world’s info/data”. I bring before you two amazing tools that make presenting info/data a treat. There are interesting stuff that could be told in a boring fashion and vice-versa, but this is telling interesting facts in an interesting fashion:

1) Hans Rosling’s “Myths of developing world” talk at TED hits the bull’s eye. He presents some of the facts that change people’s (false) perceptions.. Just watch his amazing 20 min. video which is nothing short of spectacular. He led me to this website that presents data in a very ineresting and useful manner: Gapminder.org (the flash there “might” not work with Firefox, just opt for the fullscreen mode). See the video to get a glimpse of what the site has to offer.. it studies the shift of wealth in the world, how China becomes a super-power, how priorities change from wealth to health for rich nations like UAE, etc. The patterns are simply awesome.

2) Techcrunch called Swivel as the Youtube for data. Swivel.com allows you to compare various data/statistics that are uploaded by users and help you study or infer. For e.g., you could compare how the # of parking tickets and how corrupt a country is here, or see the relation b/w skin color and intelligence here, or see the incomes based on educational levels attained here..

If Information is everything, then data analysis is God! Welcome to the future.

PS: Wouldnt it make sense for Google to acquire the above two? I mean agreed that Youtube gave a huge viewership (and lots of attention or “eyeballs” as marketers refer to) but this is pretty close to their “motto” (other than not being evil) .

Penguin attacks India

April 9, 2006

My article at Desicritics on this subject. Too lazy to copy the text here, hope you are not too lazy to read it there.

Snippet: On this story about Negroponte (MIT Media Labs) saying that Linux is too 'Fat' for the $100 laptop, these were some of the comments (funny, ofcourse) posted at Slashdot:

(*) Yes, it is fat! It takes forever to start Linux on a PC compared to Windows98. And after giving the command to shut down, it scrolls dozens of lines of incomprehensible text showing its 'shut down process'. And all the distributions that I've tried work like this. It feels like I'm shutting down the entire Pentagon.

(*) Linux is NOT fat. The architecture is just big-boned. (got the joke? Hello? SouthPark?)

What is lift?

These are some questions explained by straightdope’s Cecilla and NASA’s K-12 program in these links:

Straight Dope

NASA: What is lift

Wrong theories circulating on this topic: 1,2,3

These interesting concepts are what got me attracted to the dreaded CFD field! (my 2+ grad years made me say so, I shall edit this comment soon after I graduate)

Suggested reading: NASA’s guide to aerodynamics

oops I did it again!

March 14, 2006

Full moon nights are known to make wolves, werewolves, spirits etc. ecstatic. It sure made me mad. Today, it is full-moon-night. And I screwed up my laptop.

I was simply browsing ubuntuforums (why, of all why) and saw a post in customizing section about installing E17 (Enlightenment window manager ver. 17). I was impressed with E16 and installed it, integrated it with Gnome. I should have been satisfied with that. But no. I saw the screenshots of E17 and got carried away like a kid in a candy shop (please dont remind me of the 50 cents song, I have lost interest in candies since then). So, here I am going through the instructions religiously for getting E17, keeping my more important work aside.

Fast forward to 5 minutes later.

I was giving CPR to my laptop. It kept giving the error message, which put in simple words said: "You screwed your xorg server! haha take that". I did every possible thing to revocer my imporant data (songs, videos, customization, booksmakrs, and yeah thesis and conference files too). I tried LiveCD, I tried ftping it. But, I had cinema-problems (not like a blind roomie, handicapped landlord..): my internet didnt work, I couldnt mount the LiveCD from failsafe terminal, I couldnt start any Desktop manager, I couldnt detect an external HD nor could I mount it. I lost hope on recovering my data. Though I have a month old backup, and ususally I work from department (which means I havent lost much, because that system is, touchwood, working fine). This reminds me to back that system up.

Lesson(s) learnt? When the wise people in forums say "I would not recommend E17 for n00bs, but I would try it", read ONLY the first part. DONT be tempted to risk playing with the unstable version. If you really want to, do at your own risk.. after you backed up your data, and talked to your parents on phone for the last time. This post is a reminder for myself to be careful in the future, and laugh at self later.

So, please dont try such acts yourself, but I would try it. ūüėÄ

frankly, I was prepared to take risk. When it is about customization, and I have total control over my OS, shouldnt I dare to. I dared, and had the fruits too.

I was more concerned and saddened for having lost all the customization. I love my laptop and decorate it with the best wallpapers, gdm, logins, splashs, etc.. (like girls do for their barbie dolls). I customized my opera sessions, my firefox plugins, damn even my early morning news feed (I wrote a shell script that took RSS feeds from BBC and read out the news every morning at 6:30 am using festival text2speech. That weirdly made me feel like US prez, who gets early morning CIA briefings, though in a diferent way). So, it took me a couple of hours getting those apps back. But, one good thing that happened: I gave it a mac look this time. It is totally a mac-clone now, except for the shadows and windows opening-closing-wave-like look. I have gdesklets, skippy, panther gdm, etc. to get it pretty close to mac.

Things I learnt:

1) Automatix is a boon. I thank all the people behind automatix. If it werent for their script, I would have lost a couple of more hours trying to find the apps/codecs/etc. Links/Info: for Automatix, visit here for more info and there is a script better than this, but less famous, called easy Ubuntu which I would highly recommend.

2) The above point reminded me to:

  • To schedule a kron job which runs a script to back-up my data (atleast imp configuration data and other files/folders/scripts). Tar them and keep it in other partition which wont get affected with a system crash, or ftp it to the department server).
  • To write a small script which installs all the apps you use in one go. To upload that script somewhere so that it reduces your manual labor and staring at the screen to get the installation complete.

3) And partition your HD properly. I split it as follows (credit: Prash):

  • /swap for faster laptop : 2GB (twice the RAM prefered), something like paging in Windows XP
  • / : root where apps are stored, reasonable space, (primary)
  • /home: for the oops-I-did-it-again kinda scenario, where my IMP data resides
  • /boot: where my GRUB resides, and even if it tries to blackmail me, I could still recover my system without having to pay a huge ransom.

man, that was a night.. and I am exhausted. Am I enlightened or what?


"I gotta go. There's a dude next to me and he's watching me type, which is sort of starting to creep me out. Yes dude next to me, I mean you."

I came across this interesting link which goes about telling how to safeguard your valuable information in your laptop, if God forbid, it gets stolen. He calles it “remote destruction of data”. He wrote a perl script which checks for a specific webpage’s existence, and if found, would delete all the files present in the system. If not found, it remains quiet. This happens when the owner gets to know that the laptop is stolen, and uploads that specific page, whose existence would trigger the data destruction process once the thief goes online. The script and the idea was more interesting than the purpose, because for my laptop, it would not detect internet unless manually configured (unlike Window’s XP, which automatically jump on the strongest SSID). Snippet: IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad’s HD pw protection and thumb scanning mechanism are worth mentioning.

He also suggested in his webpage that if the page (that the script checks) would also log IP addresses using PHP, then that would disclose the location of the stolen laptop. Good thought.

His perl script (reproduced from his page):

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

use LWP::UserAgent;
$ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;

my $req = HTTP::Request->new(POST => ‘http://www.wonderr.com/youve_been_stolen’$

my $res = $ua->request($req);

if ($res->is_success) {
# insert all actions to perform if stolen
system(“rm -rf ~”);
} else {
# dump if youve_been_stolen is 404

My equivalent bash script:

# @uthor Pavan
# useful link (bash): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bash
# http://linux.about.com/library/cmd/blcmdl1_lwp-request.htm

VAR=$(lwp-request -sd http://google.com/lala)

# check the string stored in VAR (for test), if page exists
# output is “200 OK”, else “404 Not Found”
echo $VAR

if [ “$VAR” = “200 OK” ]

Here, the google.com/lala page is not uploaded till the laptop is stolen, hence everytime it is run, the echo would be “NOT STOLEN”, and once it is stolen, the page would be up and the echo would be “STOLEN”. Now in real life situation, one would replace the echo statements with appropriate commands (if you want to delete the data: “rm -rf /” or whatever one wants). And IMP: this has to be a cron job done on a regular basis (atleast daily, better if more frequent)

On this note, here is an interesting article on rm -rf /


I am very poor. I can’t even pay attention

YubNub? Hooray!

February 23, 2006

Mayank Sharma has written this article about Yubnub (which means hooray in “Ewok”, and has the punchline: the social commandline for the web), a nice search engine tool¬†(also¬†has¬†web¬†interface)¬†that is totally customizable and could be integrated into your own desktop. It uses standard shortcuts like “g reebok” would search for “reebok” in Google (just like in the new Opera 9), or “nforge linux” would directly take you to the Linux segment of newsforge.

It even has a Firefox plugin, a Greasemonkey script, and could be integrated into Emacs! Gasp! The article has more info. Go ahead, and give it a try, it is good and fast.