Monday, February 28, 2005

I have gone back to XEmacs and ddd for my C++ needs. I toughed it out for a while with Eclipse (it has a plugin for C++ development), but its sluggishness finally got to me. I would have liked to use Anjuta or KDevelop, but there doesn't seem to be a way to import an existing CVS module into a new project (both of them insist on creating a new module for me). Moreover, much as I love open source software, I am not yet ready to put Vajra through the grind of autoconf, automake and libtool; I am perfectly happy with a hand-crafted makefile for the time being, thank you very much. When I was using Anjuta in my Debian days, I remember being able to force it use my makefile, but this doesn't seem to be possible with the version packaged with Suse.
Richard Stallman has written about his recent trip to India. Doesn't look like he had a very enjoyable experience here (he was made to pay Rs 25 for a landline call at Delhi airport and also had to endure various other discomforts). Can't help but compare this with the reception Bill Gates got here, with his larger-than-life mug being plastered like election posters all over the place and getting treated like royalty.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bloggers have been getting a lot of attention lately, and comparisons (both favourable and unfavourable) have been made between their journalistic capabilities and that of the mainstream media. While breaking a news story is a worthwhile thing, an even more important purpose is served by bloggers who link to online news sites -- especially foreign ones -- that carry stories that would otherwise not come to the attention of readers ( is a good example).
Arnold Schwarzenegger has been nominated for the "Razzie" awards eight times, but has not won even once. Therefore, he gets honoured with an award for being the worst Razzie loser.

Reminds me of the quote, "If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?"
Quote of the day:
...instead of "charming" them with his offensive, he came off as simply "offensive".
Continuing my tracking of brainy primates, here is a story about a gorilla who gets to gawk at women's breasts.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The knockout phase of the Champions' League has begun. English clubs are not doing so well in this phase, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United suffering defeats, and Liverpool conceding an away goal. One thing I have noticed in these matches is that the commentators' pro-English bias invariably raises its head (in their dismay at Leverkusen's injury-time goal, for example) how much ever they try to mask it.

If you follow the English Premier League in ESPN-Star Sports, the hype would have you believe that the top English clubs are the cat's whiskers, whereas the truth is that they usually more than meet their match at the hands of clubs like Real Madrid, Milan and Bayern Munich.
I have been spending quite a lot time recently on the different J2EE frameworks (Spring, Hibernate, etc.). The power of most of these frameworks flows from their ability to substitute implementations at runtime, by simply replacing the name of a class in a configuration file. Come to think of it, even the much-maligned JDBC works this way -- you can replace your driver class in the place where you set up your connection pool. Dynamic loading of classes at runtime is what make this possible. Reflection is also used to provide additional flexibility; for example, Spring uses reflection to invoke getter and setter methods on the classes and further abstract away the relationship between them.

I have not worked in .NET, but I think these features must be available there as well. In the earlier days, the only way one could do such things was a) loading a shared library dynamically from a file name supplied at run time (nowhere near as powerful as loading a class) and b) specifying a CLSID or IID in COM (my knowledge of COM is a bit rusty right now, so I am not sure whether this can be done at runtime).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

This article appeared in The Economic Times recently as part of a debate about open source software. Some gems from this FUDfest:
Microsoft's own products are tightly integrated and they interoperate with non-Microsoft environments based on open industry standards.
Any sentence that has "Microsoft" and "open industry standards" without the word "not" in between is either a joke or is false. Anyone need a quick hug from Microsoft?
Keeping sensitive information secure is a government priority. Microsoft dedicates security resources for emergency response, product engineering, user-feedback and industry certifications.
Is that why CERT recently advised people to move away from Internet Explorer? Because it was too secure?
...OSS products have more vulnerabilities than Windows, but few of them are backed by a comprehensive, organised security response/testing framework. Platform and data interoperability is very important.
Leaving aside the fact that the first sentence is highly debatable, the next one is a non sequitur.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A and B are enemies.

A 'bad' event E is beneficial to A.

E occurs. Who is to blame for this event?
  1. Since E is beneficial to A, Occam's Razor says A caused E.

  2. B caused E to show A in a bad light (the benefits of E to A are outweighed by this bad publicity)

  3. A caused E, but is trying to set things up such that B gets the blame for causing it, because B wants to put the blame on A because A derives the maximum benefit from it.
Where am I going with this, you might ask. Substitute A = Syria, B = Israel and E = Hariri's assassination, and things might make a little more sense.

This is just one instance of the kind of intrigue that goes on in the Middle East every day.

One aspect I have not seen covered much regarding Syria's presence in Lebanon is Robert Fisk's take on things:
Syria, you see, has a strategic reason for being here. In 1982, the Israelis invaded Lebanon and got up to beyond Jounieh. And had they struck east with their tanks, they could have cut Syria in half. And Syria wants to make sure there are going to be no more pro-Israeli governments or Israeli-sponsored governments in Beirut, who might allow such a devastating event to take place in Syria. So, there's a kind of long term strategic reason why the Syrians are here. They're not here because they want to throw snowballs on the mountain of Sanine, or they like Iraq or they are keen on Lebanese society. They're here for strategic military reasons.
Here is a good essay by novelist Michael Crichton about how the scientific method is being supplanted by non-rigorous, consensus-based studies to serve political ends.

While we are on the subject, here is a related essay by Richard Feynman.
SEBI has issued a notification that all stock market investors who enter into transactions of value one lakh rupees or more should obtain a unique identification number (UIN) after submitting their thumb prints and photographs to designated service providers. This should be done before March 31, 2005.

As is typical of any bureaucratic notification, it is ambiguous: it doesn't say whether it applies to persons who have done such transactions prior to the announcement of the notification (or even prior to 31 March, 2005). Also, is this number required even if I have two transactions that cross the threshold when taken together, but not individually?

Unless the designated service providers process the application free of charge (which I doubt very much), I can't help thinking that some undeserving people are making a killing here.

Oh and SEBI, while even a person's height is a biometric measure, calling fingerprints biometric impressions sounds a bit highfalutin.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I am right now watching the umpteenth repeat of Goodwill Hunting. One of my favourite movies of all time. Three scenes are particularly noteworthy: a) the scene where Matt Damon wades into the obnoxious college grad in the bar b) when he finally breaks down after Robin Williams keeps repeating "It's not your fault" and c) when he toys with the closet gay psychiatrist ("putting from the rough" -- ROTFL!).
Fact: The biggest explosion ever observed by humans occurred in a neutron star 50,000 light years away.

"Had this happened within 10 light-years of us, it would have severely damaged our atmosphere and would possibly have triggered a mass extinction"
Note carefully: the scientist didn't say, "Had the star been 10 light years closer to Earth, it would have severely damaged our atmosphere and would possibly have triggered a mass extinction"
It is precisely this kind of attitude that fuels Islamophobia in the West and draws supporters to the Hindutva ideology in India:
Iraqi representative, Sheik Bassem al-Shommari says: "Sharia will be the foundation for the constitution. All the laws must be taken from Sharia because the country has a Muslim majority."
In other words, a Muslim-majority country should not be secular.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Joel raises the concern that Microsoft's entry into the anti-spyware market would "wipe out a useful industry and replace it with something that's difficult to trust due to conflicts of interest," but I wouldn't be so worried about that. Microsoft's track record vis-a-vis viruses, spyware and sundry other nasties is so poor that no one would consider them the first choice in this space. Not to mention that Ad-aware and Spybot S&D are already free.
The Windows command prompt can never be as powerful as any of the Unix shells, but is it too much to ask that the auto-completion feature (that retrieves the directory or file name when you enter the first few letters and hit the tab key) add the file separator ("\")? This causes immense irritation whenever you assume that the separator would be filled in and start typing the subdirectory's name, only to find the computer refuses to play ball with you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Greenpeace's exhortations to North Korea asking it to renounce its nuclear weapons are laughably naive:
[North Korea] should immediately set aside their weapons and rejoin the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. They should advocate for the disarmament of the US and other nuclear weapons states from within the treaty system, not from without.
In short, North Korea should simply bend over and invite the US to have a go at them...
There is a vendor of straw mattresses (called pais in Tamil) in my neighbourhood who is leveraging technology to peddle his wares: instead of using his voice to hawk the mattresses, he plays a tape of himself from a small cassette player which he proudly carries along.

If only somebody like NDTV would do a human interest story on him...
It has been nearly two weeks since the Iraqi elections were held; still no sign of official results. I think this indicates that certain people (you know who) are unhappy with the direction things are taking and are busily engaging in backroom maneuvers to get the result they want. There could also be tampering of the ballots (the ballot boxes not being sealed will come in handy here). Though it looks unlikely that my prediction about Allawi will come true, I wouldn't put it past the powers that be to pull a fast one and have him continue as prime minister.
All this newfound enthusiasm for women's tennis in India would never have happened if a) Sania Mirza's hemline were six inches closer to the ground (and her t-shirt were a bit longer and looser-fitting as well) and b) Indians were not so obsessed with fair skin. Do you really think any of these bozos care about how good her two-handed down-the-line winners are?

Friday, February 11, 2005

I occasionally come across reports from journalists belonging to an organisation known as the Free Arab Voice based in Iraq. They usually claim that US forces have suffered a defeat at the hands of the resistance forces, a chopper has been shot down, etc. The only problem is that you never get to hear these stories repeated in respectable media outlets (even alternative media sources), thereby exposing these stories for the sorry attempts at propaganda that they are (their bias is also evident from the way they report that "two resistance fighters were martyred"). The fact that their news stories are carried at a web site called Jihad Unspun is also a tell-tale sign. Another curious (at least for me) thing is that timelines are reported in Mecca time. I do not know whether this is a standard Middle Eastern custom, though.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The lead story in BBC World is that Prince Charles is going to marry Camilla Parker Bowles. It's either a slow news day, or they have temporarily forgotten that they are called BBC World. Knowing the British propensity to treat their royalty like they were sent from heaven, it's probably the latter.
Here is a page that tracks the usage of swear words in the Linux kernel source. Some more enlightening comments can be found here and here.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Saw National Treasure yesterday. Pretty entertaining if you suspend your disbelief and go with the flow. I have only one nit to pick (assuming you let all the other monstrous nits go by): when Sean Bean and Co try to find out what 'Stowe' means, they go to and type 'Stowe declaration of independence'! Haven't these guys heard of Google?

It could be just me, but I think there were some subtle barbs at the Bush administration as well (when Nicholas Cage reverently reads aloud a sentence from the Declaration of Independence about it being the responsibility of good men to act when they see something wrong happening, for example) .

Saturday, February 05, 2005

According to Gosling, Microsoft’s decision to support C and C++ in the common language runtime in .NET is one of the "biggest and most offensive mistakes that they could have made" because of these languages' inability to prevent things like arbitrary casting and so on.

Going by this argument, Java should never have had JNI. What prevents a native code call dumping all over your sweet and innocent Java objects?
While I agree with xymphora's sentiments in general, I do not think that the neocons (at least the younger ones) will end up in jail for their war crimes. In the 'Real' world (no pun intended), the rich and the powerful always manage to get away with whatever evil things they do. Being a citizen of a corrupt third-world developing country, this is borne out to me on a daily basis.
If Schopenhauer were alive today, he would have been instantly branded a male chauvinist. From his Essay on Women:
It is only man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual impulse that could give the name of the fair sex to that undersized, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged race; for the whole beauty of the sex is bound up with this impulse. Instead of calling them beautiful there would be more warrant for describing women as the unesthetic sex. Neither for music, nor for poetry, nor for the fine arts, have they really and truly any sense of susceptibility; it is a mere mockery if they make a pretense of it in order to assist their endeavors to please.... They are incapable of taking a purely objective interest in anything.... The most distinguished intellects among the whole sex have never managed to produce a single achievement in the fine arts that is really genuine and original; or given to the world any work of permanent value in any sphere.
Here we are, happily traipsing along, making A-lists and wondering when our favourite porn portal will start an RSS feed, and this guys shoots down our core belief systems without a hint of remorse or mercy ;-)
I was flipping through the pages of a magazine called Better Photography when I came across a photograph that had been adjudged a winner in a competition conducted by that magazine. It depicted a crying man cradling a telephone receiver to his ear; nothing special about this photograph, except that when you look closer, you can catch a glimpse (through a window) of a woman hanging from the ceiling of an adjoining room. The man was probably calling the police.

Which of the following jerks deserves to have his balls set on fire?

1. The person who captured this moment on film
2. The person who decided to send this image to the competition
3. The person who adjudged it a winner

I am leaning towards persons 2 and 3, though I wouldn't mind a lit match stick being held under person 1's cojones for a minute.