Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Opt-in instead of opt-out

From Bruce Schneier's blog about a Wired editorial on identity theft:
Require opt-in rather than opt-out permission before companies can share or sell data.
Bingo. I recently received a letter from my credit card company saying that they were going to share my data with the regulatory authorities unless they heard from me within 30 days. Guess the situation applies here, too.

Second thoughts about Haloscan

Haloscan's comments system seems to be broken:
  1. Even if there is more than one comment for a post, Haloscan reports that only one comment is present.

  2. There is no email intimation when a new comment is posted.

  3. One of my replies has simply disappeared.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Object behaviour

From an article on object-relational modelling (emphasis mine):

Objects provide an abstraction that clients can interact with. The behavior of an object is the collection of provided interactions (called methods or operations and, collectively, an interface) and the response to these method calls (or "messages"). All interactions with an object must be through its interface and all knowledge about an object is from its behavior (returned values or side effects) to the interface interaction.
Hmm, interesting...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Smalltalk it is

As I spent a little more time thinking about writing a program for solving Sudoku puzzles, I realised that I was giving Smalltalk the go-by for a pretty flimsy reason: my lack of familiarity with two-dimensional arrays. Then it struck me: use an array of arrays (duh). Once this hurdle was out of the way, the rest was pretty straightforward (except for the GUI; I am not very comfortable dealing with value/domain models yet, so this is yet to be tackled).

I am glad that I went ahead with Smalltalk because I am pretty sure the same effort in Java would have taken me much longer. The ease and benefit of incremental coding and testing (the Workspace really comes in handy for this) was really striking.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Come to think of it

...though The Shutter Island is a very good novel, I can't shake the feeling that there is some level of dishonesty in the narrative. Both real and imagined events are presented from the point of view of a neutral observer. One thus tends to think that he is being presented the facts as they are.

Reminds me of a short story by Isaac Asimov I read long ago, in which Asimov (deliberately) spelt a word the way it was pronounced and used this as a cheap trick to set up and resolve the tension in the story. I don't remember what this story was about, except that the word was 'Bailley' or something similar sounding. I vividly remember feeling very cheated, though.

Book Review - Shutter Island

Shutter Island is a great read. The ending is pretty out-of-the-blue, sort of like The Sixth Sense, but much more disturbing (I don't want to say more and spoil it for people who haven't read it yet).

By the way, this book from the author of The Mystic River. Makes me all the more eager to get my hands on that one.

The Secret Service at Booker Elementary: The Dog That Did Not Bark

I think Michael Rivero should go a bit easy on this issue:
With a supposedly unknown number of planes flying over the nation and crashing into buildings, with Bush's presence at Booker Elementary announced in the media three days in advance, and with an airport just 4 miles away, how did the United States Secret Service know for a fact that Bush was safe where he sat reading about goats? How did they know they did not need to throw him into that armored limousine and start driving to foil an intercept? How did they know that by keeping Bush in that room they were not making targets out of all those teachers and students? How did they KNOW they were not targets?
It seems to me that too much stress is being placed on the fact that it was foreknowledge that prompted the Secret Service to act the way they did, when it could just have been an inability to respond correctly to the situation because of various reasons ("never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained with stupidity" comes to mind).

DC dumbs down Sudoku

Looks like I spoke too soon. The Deccan Chronicle has made its Sudoku puzzles as easy as those of The Hindu by making the initial board less sparse. Now it's just a question of mechanical elimination to figure out the solution. So mechanical, in fact, that I am currently working on a Java program to do this. I wanted to do this in Smalltalk initially, but my lack of familiarity with Smalltalk's collection classes (in particular, static two-dimensional arrays) made me go with Java.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Alright, I admit, there's one thing that The Deccan Chronicle is better at than The Hindu: Sudoku. I have been trying my hand at these things for the last two or three days, and while Hindu's puzzles can be usually solved in fifteen minutes or so, I am yet to solve even one of DC's.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Easy way out

Rather than take the trouble of learning how RSS and syndication works, I have opted for the easy way out: start another blog and post links to Robert Fisk's articles to it. Here is the blog, and here is the site feed. I didn't spend much time creating it; just accepted the Blogger defaults, so go easy on any criticism.

Now I'll just have to make sure that I get notified of additions to and post it to the new blog. Wish there was an RSS feed for that. Oh wait...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Three reasons

... why Deccan Chronicle cannot hold a candle to The Hindu:
  1. Headline that screams "Mother saves sons"
  2. The emphasis on the fact that the Ambani patch up can take the Sensex to 7000
  3. Publishing bimbo photos on the front page (couldn't find a link; the bimbo is Mallika Sherawat, BTW)
As an aside, I think the Ambani settlement is more one-sided than it appears; if you look at the cumulative revenue figures, Mukesh's share is something like eight times that of Anil's.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Embedded journalists

Robert Fisk has a dig at embedded journalists:
More of (journalists) are dying in wars than ever before. And fewer people, I fear, care about us than ever before. This is not just because of the enormous toll of civilians who are being cut down in our modern wars - journalists deserve no god-like status above any other human (we, after all, can fly home business class if we tire of war, unlike the huddled masses who cannot escape) - but also, I suspect, because of the way in which too many of us like to pose on screen, to put military helmets on our heads, to parade our flak jacketed selves in front of tanks, to dress up in army costume.

I even remember a young American who turned up to report the 1991 Gulf War - Lou Fontana of WISTV, South Carolina, to be exact - wearing boots camouflaged with paintings of dead leaves, purchased for the desert at Barrons Hunting Supplies store. Anyone who has glanced at a picture of a desert, of course, must surely have noticed the absence of trees.

Movie Review: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

When I look back and think about what my reaction was as I sat in the theatre watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith, nothing particular comes to mind; this does not mean that the movie is eminently forgettable. It's just that I neither enjoyed any scene particularly, nor was I disgusted with any part of the movie.

The movie did have its share of good moments (car chase scene; not on account of the action, but on account of the great song that serves as the backdrop) and bad ones (the way Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie come out unscathed from the assault in the climax -- an Evil Overlord moment in reverse, if you will).

And Angelina Jolie? Let me just say that I know I speak for the entire male heterosexual community when I say "Yummy!".

Some karma whoring

I am going to start maintaining an RSS feed of Robert Fisk's articles in An opportunity for me to learn about Atom and related syndication technologies. A quick look at the atom.xml for this blog reveals a whole mess of XML goo; guess I'll have to start wading right in...

An easier approach would be to simply start a new blog called, say, and simply post links to the articles from, letting take care of the syndication bit, but where is the fun in that? :-)

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Public limited companies are always under tremendous pressure: they need to keep on growing at a 'healthy' rate every year, or face the wrath of shareholders and stock market analysts. It's not enough to simply maintain the previous year's numbers. Come to think of it, this applies not just to companies, but to the economy as a whole, be it that of a country or that of an entity like the EU.

Why should this be so? The only reason I can think of, and this explains only things at the level of a country, is that every year, a new batch of people enter the work force, fresh out of college. These people will not find jobs unless new jobs are created (unless, of course, they replace an equal number of people leaving the workforce on account of retirement -- which doesn't happen). Ergo, to keep them away from discontentment and to prevent them from becoming a law and order problem, new jobs have to be found for them.

That brings us back to companies. The stated reason is that we need a vibrant stock market in order to attract investors' capital into worthwhile ventures. This is possible only when the returns are attractive, in the form of an assured growth in the stock price. The stock price will continue to move north only if the company's prospects are good.

I take exception to this because we are encouraging speculative behaviour (albeit for a noble cause); an investor interested in a steady income will look for steady profits (achievable even with zero growth), whereas a more aggressive investor doesn't even bother about dividends; he is only interested in capital appreciation.

I initially thought that the speculative element is needed to attract money into IPOs, but even in that case, can't an IPO be fully subscribed with the investments from the first type of investor, i.e. the one looking for steady income? Speculators are always welcome to try their luck with VC firms, aren't they?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

El freako

...not guiltio

(that was a reference to Brad Pitt's poor Spanish in The Mexican, BTW).

Tale of two images

Two similar images, but the emotions are at the opposite ends of the spectrum -- one from page one, the other from the last page (I was not able to locate this image from the online edition, so it's just a scanned image).

Monday, June 13, 2005


I have recently started watching the MotoGP races and, I must say, they are miles ahead of Formula One in terms of excitement. The regularity with which the lead keeps changing among the top three or four racers is amazing. The races are also pretty short affairs, with no commercial breaks. All in all, definitely more bang for the buck.

The female of the species

I don't know whether this is true or not (it's from a novel I'm currently reading):
Spotted hyenas frequently have twins. The cubs are extremely well developed at birth: they have fur and sharp incisor teeth. One cub will almost invariably attack the other, sometimes while still in the amniotic sac. Death is usually the result. The victor is also typically female and, if she is the daughter of a dominant female, will in turn become the dominant female in the pack. It's a matriarchal culture.

Monday, June 06, 2005

USB ADSL modem on Linux - at last

Going to post step-by-step instructions on this shortly, but for the time being I'm just going to sit back and revel in the satisfaction.

Update: Here are the instructions.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Savior

I have just now finished watching The Savior on TV. The movie is a pretty gripping story about the Bosnian war. But it's pretty one-sided, depicting the Serbs as the victims (the director is a Serb, so it figures). To be fair, there are some scenes depicting atrocities by Serbs. The climax, in which the Bosnian soldiers massacre the bus passengers, was pretty horrific, but the scene lost its appeal a bit when the mother starts singing a lullaby to quieten her baby (held by Dennis Quaid hiding nearby) even as she herself is about to be bludgeoned to death.

BTW, it was quite a weird coincidence, catching the movie at this point in time, with the recent surfacing of the Serbian execution video.

Installing a new kernel

I am going to make a determined effort to get my ADSL modem working in Linux. The first thing to do is to move to a kernel later than 2.6.10, since this is the version with which the AccessRunner driver is supposed to work. I therefore downloaded the latest kernel sources and set about compiling them. The compilation was a very straightforward process; just a question of a few configure and make commands, and adding entries to grub's menu.lst. The only catch is that you need gcc 2.95 for the compilation. Now I have the option of booting with either or Suse's default, 2.6.5-7.

There was one problem with running, though. The first boot didn't allow me to connect to my Windows machine, though the network interfaces appeared OK. This got sorted out by iteself on a reboot.

Some pop psychology

The bar in Cheers is described as "a place where everybody knows your name". It's a place where there are no strangers and you know everybody.

I was reminded of this when I was thinking about living in a big city, the very epitome of a place as removed from Cheers as possible; so many of your daily interactions are with people whom you'll most probably never again see in your life: auto drivers, traffic cops, the person you help out with directions, and so on (come to think of it, considering the proportion of unsavoury elements in the population, this is probably a good thing).

Anyway, the point I want to make is that such interactions are kind of special because a) you don't take any history [*] into the transaction (you are seeing the person for the first time, after all) and b) provided nothing untoward happens in the interaction, you leave the transaction in a pretty neutral state of mind. I think there is a lesson in this: if you are able to ensure that these two principles are adhered to in all your dealings, you will be well on your way to achieving better emotional health.

[*] Assuming you don't indulge in stereotyping or prejudice.

Just when you thought

...politicians can sink no lower, they show that they can. I wouldn't have a problem with Advani's actions if he had been consistent all along. After pandering to the right-wing elements for so long, he now sheds crocodile tears about the Babri Masjid demolition and tries to make nice with the Pakistani leaders.

His actions make sense (in a venal sort of way) if you look at it from this angle: he doesn't want to be left out in the cold when the Congress government is making good progress mending fences with Pakistan. He can then claim when it matters (i.e. election time) that he too played a part in the whole thing.

By the way, if Jinnah's vision for Pakistan was that of
"...a secular state in which while every citizen would be free to pursue his own religion, the state should make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith"
what was the need for partitioning India into Hindu and Muslim nations?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Linux geeks to take over the world

This article likens Linux geeks to the Mafia. Excerpts:
In a coordinated combination of attacks which included a broad DOS attack on Sys-Con
Incorrect. It was not a DoS attack, but a slashdotting.
This is power that Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and many governments could only dream of having. The power to control the press and the skills contained in this organization are likely capable of disrupting travel, power grids and other broad national infrastructure systems if their demands are not met.
Yeah, all Linux users are terrorists. Give me a break.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

At long last...

xymphora has changed his blog template.


Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

This post (the above sentence, that is) was created automatically by Haloscan. I wanted to delete it initially, but decided to let it remain. Let's give these folks some well-earned publicity.

I don't really like the trackback link. It sort of adds to the clutter, but there doesn't seem to be any way to remove it.

Smoking to be banned in movies, TV serials

What a half-assed idea. Going by this logic, why shouldn't the showing of murder and theft scenes be banned too?