Thursday, September 29, 2005

Everybody is Management

A couple of days ago we had a motivational speaker at work, talking about passion at work, giving one's best, and so on. One of the phrases used was 'Everybody is Management', meaning that each of us serfs were 'owners', in that we had both the power and the responsibility to steer the company's destiny in the most glorious, bestest way possible.

Everybody is Management, eh?
  1. Then how come my pay is muchos less than management pay?

  2. Why am I sitting in a cube farm and not in a corner office?

  3. Where are my stock options?
Everybody is Management my ass. I am not claiming that I do management work. I do my job, and I get paid for it. Fair enough. But spare me this BS, please.

Satyendra Dubey

I know this is not much, but I thought I would post this as a sort of homage and hopefully let more people know about Satyendra Dubey (I received this via the alumni mailing list):
Bio-graphical note on Mr Satyendra K Dubey

Former Deputy General Manager/Project Director, Koderma Project Implementation Unit, National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI)

Born in a small village in Sewan (Bihar), Mr Satyendra Kumar Dubey studied in a village school before successfully competing in the IIT joint entrance exam. He graduated from IIT Kanpur with a B Tech degree in Civil Engineering in 1994 with second position in his class. Fuelled by his desire of contributing to public welfare, Mr Dubey chose to join the Indian Engineering Services as opposed to pursuing a glittering corporate career or greener pastures abroad. In July 2002, he was posted as an Assistant Project Manager at the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Honest and dedicated, Mr Dubey made his mark on the Rs 450 crore highway stretch.

He used to ride his bicycle to the quarry to inspect the quality of stone and other equipment to enforce commitment to contracts. He never compromised on quality and once forced a contractor to reconstruct a 6 km stretch of highway after discovering inferior work. Mr Dubey invariably visited work sites several times a week, instead of the usual practice of once in some months. While posted at Gaya on a project, he once got three engineers suspended for mishandling of funds.

Mr Dubey was selected as the Deputy General Manager/Project Director of the Koderma Project Implementation Unit to handle the 5,200 km stretch in the Golden Quadrilateral Corridor Project. A dreadful fate however awaited the courageous and upright young man. While travelling by rickshaw to his house from railway station on the morning of November 27, 2003, Mr Dubey was murdered and was found lying near A P colony in Gaya, shot dead by a highly sophisticated weapon. It appears that some people who found it inconvenient to have Mr Dubey as the Project Director eliminated him.

Mr Dubey did what he did despite of personal consequences, obstacles, dangers and pressures. In recognition of his honesty, integrity, dedicated service and upright behaviour in public life, the Satyendra K Dubey Memorial Award has been instituted by IIT Kanpur.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Movie Review - The Island

The setting for The Island is the not-too-distant future when cloning technology becomes advanced enough for people to take out an 'insurance policy' against any structural deficiencies in their bodies: put down the requisite cash and get themselves cloned. This clone can then be harvested for body parts.

The clone factory is run by an Evil Genius. The clones are kept in his futuristic clone farm where their lives are carefully controlled and monitored. Whenever the time comes for one of them to be harvested, they are told that their names have been chosen in 'The Lottery' and that they will now spend the rest of their lives in a tropical island paradise, when the reality is actually a quick one-way trip to the operating theater.

The movie is about how two of these clones (Ewan McGregor and the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson):
  1. Learn the truth

  2. Escape from the clutches of the Evil Genius (Sean Bean) and his minions

  3. Get to wear designer clothes

  4. Do cool things like taking part in furious chases in a futuristic LA and smashing things up

  5. Foil the Evil Genius' plans and

  6. Live happily ever after
The Island is a pretty gripping movie. Though the first part of the movie is only so-so (not being a big fan of sci-fi flicks, I found the scenes inside the clone farm a bit irritating -- people being named Lincoln Echo Six, for example), the tempo really picks up after the clones escape, and the climax is quite riveting.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rossi is the MotoGP Champion

Rossi seems to be the most human and down to earth star of the lot. The camaraderie and fellowship he shares with his fans should be seen to be believed. In this age of stalkers and souped up security, it was refreshing to see him surrounded by his wellwishers, some of whom had brought along a T-shirt for him to wear (with the a huge '7' printed on it -- signifying Rossi's seventh championship title). He also found time to make his way to a photo-op with a group of fans dressed up as Snow White and the seven dwarfs.

When Rossi crashed into Gibernau's bike in the previous race, forcing both of them out of the race and postponing his championship victory, the way he immediately went to help Gibernau was also nice to watch. Compare this with the way a certain former F1 champion behaved in a similar situation recently.

The stage is being set

The IAEA has referred Iran to the Security Council for NPT violations. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I was under the impression that the IAEA had a more favourable impression of Iran's cooperation. Need to do some more reading up on this.

One argument put forward by proponents of the hardline stance is that Iran does not need nuclear energy when it has so much oil. A little-known fact is that based on current and forecast usage, Iran will turn into a net oil importer by 2024. Even if it doesn't, so what, given the blatant hypocrisy of the nuclear haves? India has not exactly covered itself in glory, either, by voting against Iran. Now that we are on the other side of the fence and have been accepted as de facto nuclear powers, we want to play holier-than-thou. The sops being offered to us by the US played a part in our vote, no doubt.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Syria to be accused of Hariri assassination

A news item in The Guardian says that "UN investigators will next month directly implicate the Syrian government in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister". There are no indications at present as to how high up the Syrian regime the investigation will reach.

My two cents (assuming that Syria is really behind the assassination):
  1. The probability that the assassination of such a high-level figure was carried out by the Syrians without the knowledge and approval of Bashar Assad is very low. Unless, of course, Assad is not really in charge of things.

  2. The probability that there exists evidence that can implicate Assad is even lower.
As usual, some mid-level players will take the fall. The masterminds will escape.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The green screen folks

...sure have one thing going for them: they may be working on legacy mainframe code, but they can manage to look busy even just browsing their datasets. At least that's the impression I get when I look over their shoulders. Try looking busy moving around the Windows file system with Explorer and you'll know what I mean.

Post inspired by this Dilbert cartoon.

You know you're living in the cyber age

...when BBC deems a disaster in an online game worthy enough to be reported.

Monday, September 19, 2005 and BugMeNot

I went to yesterday to check out what people were saying about The Grudge and was asked to register to enter the forums. I know that BugMeNot should only be used to log in, and not to register, but I didn't realise it then; I kept trying to get valid logins by using the Firefox BugMeNot plugin, but got turned away each time with the admonition that the email address I was using was blocked.

Anyway, I thought I'd post this because I found the successive addresses that BugMeNot supplied me with to be quite funny:

Try 1: <rejected>
Try 2: <rejected>
Try 3: <rejected>
Try 4: <rejected>
Try 5: soyouwanttoplayhard2get@huh
Try 6: <rejected>
Try 7: <rejected>
Try 8: <rejected>
Try 9: <rejected>
Try 10: f** <rejected>

Alright, I made up some of these addresses. I leave it as an exercise for the gentle reader to figure out which those are.

Methink they doth advertise too much

I am talking about the IIPM guys who periodically assail our senses with screaming whole-page ads about their institute. Question for you guys: have you seen any ads by the IIMs? No? Why do you think it is so? Hint: it's not because they think they are so lousy that how much ever they spend on newspaper ads, nobody will bother applying to their MBA programs.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Movie Review - The Grudge

Short version: Move over, Sahara and XXX-2, you've got company. Treat her well, OK?

Slightly longer version:
  1. Most of the horror/suspense scenes take place at the same location, with the same pattern being repeated over and over - unsuspecting victim-to-be makes his/her way up a stairway to the haunted room, looks in every fricken direction expect the one from which the thing/danger springs, end of character.

  2. There is no variety in the scare tactics employed: just sudden noise and some disgusting gurgling sounds.

  3. Somebody has a hair fetish, that's for sure.

Cluestick time

Here is an example of the security vs convenience tradeoff: Hutch have recently launched their customer service portal in Chennai. There is a link for viewing all your bills, beneath which is this advice:
Note : To view your bill in shortest possible time please go to Tools on your tool bar and select Options. Choose privacy and set it at "LOW".
Also notice the blithe assumption that all their customers are on IE, for which they have to be complimented without reserve.

Child clothes 'fail to block sun'

A news item from the BBC says that children's clothes may not be providing proper protection from UV rays.

This is quite an important bit of information, no doubt, but I would not consider it on the same level as, say, the violence in Iraq or the election in Germany. But the RSS feed for BBC News (Front Page, World Edition) makes no such distinction [*].

Some sort of hierarchy or prioritising seems to be required. I think Google News addresses this somewhat by ranking news items based on their popularity, but that carries with it its own limitations, leading to Michael Jackson's antics being given more publicity than they deserve. The price one has to pay for choosing which items one wants to read about is to wade through all of them, I guess.

[*] Here is a link to much more pressing problems being faced by children in India and other developing countries.

I think I am slipping up: a post about news items without the obligatory, gratuitous DC-bashing? So here goes: DC doesn't even bother to give permanent URL addresses to their stories, thereby making them stale the very next day.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Galloway vs Hitchens

I haven't seen anything about this on the 'net, so I thought I'd write about it.
  1. Hitchens does say that Juan Cole has never set foot in the region. He also says that Cole changes his mind every week (or was it two weeks?).

  2. Though I disagree with Hitchens' views, he did come across as the more level-headed of the two. The way he held his ground against the hostile audience was admirable. He even got away with insulting them a bit ("you can make all the zoo noises you want...").

  3. Galloway is the master of insults: "You are the first recorded example in natural history of a butterfly metamorphosing back into a slug!". LOL!

  4. I think Hitchens was incorrect in labelling Syria's occupation of Lebanon as illegal. To the best of my knowledge, they went in with the approval of the UN and the western powers. Whether they overstayed their welcome is another story.

  5. I think it's a reflection of the maturity of western values that such a vitriolic, ad hominem debate can even be conducted. Try something like this in India, and you will end up with the debaters trading blows, questioning each other's parentage and what not (to say nothing of the mayhem inflicted by their supporters).

Friday, September 16, 2005


I was reading Adam Bosworth's ICSOC04 talk when the sudden urge to get up to speed on the whole WS-* thing hit me (I know, the speech should have made me go and download Python or some such thing, but that's just me).

I started off with this page. Notice how it says "This document is also available in these non-normative formats: PostScript version and PDF version."

What's with these folks? Non-normative? Would it have hurt too much to have simply said "This document is also available in PostScript and PDF versions?"

Anyway, that took care of my morbid, albeit temporary, fixation with web services.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Must be a cushy life

...being a Deccan Chronicle columnist. Just wait for two weeks to pass since Hurricane Katrina, collecting readily available information from the Internet during this period, pick out some choice bits from this, add a dash of personal opinion to make it seem original, and voila, you are good to go.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ruby On Rails Update

The problem in Cygwin turned out to be related to OpenSSL as well. Once I installed this, the Gems installation went through.

Next hurdle: Gems can handle only basic proxy authentication; since the proxy server at work uses NTLM, I couldn't automatically download and install Rails. Not willing to give up, I downloaded and installed all the required packages manually.

You would think my woes were over. You would be wrong. I do not have MySQL at work, so it looked like I wouldn't be able to build and run the sample Cookbook application. Having come this far, I decided to substitute for MySQL with Oracle. I fired up a SQL*Plus session and created the recipe table in a spare Oracle database.

OK, now I have to edit the database.yml file and fill in the details of the Oracle instance. Only problem is, I didn't have the ruby-oci8 package. Off to the relevant rubyforge page. Download. Configure. Error: I do not have the relevant OCI header files in the Oracle client setup in my machine.

Sometimes the signs are very obvious. Some higher power is telling you to stop, trying to gently drag you away from the mess, whispering it's not meant to be, give it up, son... but you pay no heed to these messages and keep on ploughing ahead, thinking just one more step, and then things will be alright... until you reach a stage where it's simply not worth it anymore, and you throw up your hands in frustration and proceed to rm -rf ruby-1.8.2 and watch with righteous wrath as tiny *.rb files run helter-skelter, squealing in panic, trying to beseech impassive *.cpp and *.sh files for help, only to be turned away and be hunted down mercilessly by the File Deleter.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ruby On Rails

I had been meaning to check out Ruby On Rails for quite some time; got around to it finally . I am still in the middle of it (just finished setting things up), so these are just preliminary findings. I started this at work (in Cygwin), came home and did it again in Suse 9.3.

  1. There is no uninstall target in the makefile if you install Ruby from sources. This is probably not the case with Cygwin alone.

  2. Attempting to install Gems failed saying that it couldn't find the file, although the file was very much there.
Suse 9.3:
  1. Suse ships with Ruby 1.8.1; this is no good because Rails needs 1.8.2. Back to installing from the sources.

  2. Attempting to install Gems failed saying that SSL was not installed, even though it very much was (see a pattern here?). I fixed this by installing a newer version of Rake (whatever that is), though there were some documentation-related errors. Anyway, reinstalling Gems with 1.8.2 went through without any problems.
Going to tackle the error at work tomorrow. Hopefully I can fix it quickly and move on to actual application development...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Three strikes for ESR

  • Strike One: Selling out to The Man.

  • Strike Two: Writing the essay on muff-diving.

  • Strike Three: Sending the arrogant, self-serving and rude email to the Microsoft HR person.

There's a first time for everything

My first Suse 9.3 crash: system suddenly becomes completely unresponsive. No free memory available (including 1 GB of swap). Only running applications are Firefox and snotes (a sticky notes application).

As I was trying to post this entry earlier, the problem recurred: the culprit seems to be the Firefox window that opens up if you invoke Blogger's spellchecker. If there are any typos in this post, you knw whom to blam.

If Raikkonen were a Bollywood villain

Here is a wicked thought: seeing how difficult it is going to be for Raikkonen to beat Alonso to the F1 Championship title fairly, the best chance for him to win would be to get his teammate Montoya to run interference for him. By interference, I mean a strategically crafted, but innocent (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) 'situation' that forces Alonso to retire from the race. Mind you, this strategy has to be repeated more than once to bridge the points gulf.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Looking into the past

I recently bought a copy of Code Complete. As I was reading it, a thought struck me: being in India and hence outside the mainstream, so to speak, I get to experience a lot of things quite late, be it becoming aware of must-read books or even watching sitcoms on TV for that matter (Zee is right now proudly announcing the premiere of new seasons of Caroline in the City and The Sopranos; at a best guess, these are at least four/five years old).

The best analogy I can think of is astronomy; as we gaze at the sky, what we see is not the stars as they are now, but what they were when the light started its journey from them. Not a very good analogy, I'm afraid.

Dang, as I was searching for a link to Code Complete, it looks like I didn't even manage to get the new edition. I rest my case.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Now I know

...why J.K.Rowling didn't employ Bruce Schneier's services as a security consultant when writing the Harry Potter stories.

BTW, how can inadequate security be worse than no security at all? Imagine that you have a defective lock, which a few people know how to force open. In this case, your house is insecure from only these people. No lock at all, and your house is open to everyone.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Quote of the day

During the shot inside the Wal-Mart, the correspondent hounded the looters, who were loading up on supplies and a few choice gifts for their children, one man said to him that no one was worried about their lives, so why in the bloody hell would he worry about Wal-Mart's profit-loss ratio.
-- Bryan Newbury in Counterpunch

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I am not against people according due respect to their bosses, but can't this show of respect be at least a bit more measured? Case in point: when I was driving to work the other day, I happened to find myself behind a police vehicle. Since it was doing a fair bit of speed, I decided to tag along behind it. One advantage of doing so is that you can switch to autopilot mode and simply ensure that you keep a nice, safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you -- no need to keep a constant lookout for the pesky jaywalkers and unpredictable two wheelers. Anyway, as our mini-convoy approached a junction, the traffic cop manning it immediately sprang to attention and saluted the occupant of the police vehicle. As we passed more and more junctions (I counted at least three before I had to make my turn), this spectacle was repeated like clockwork at each of them, the only variation being the alacrity with which the cops sprang to action (some of them were a bit slow in paying their respects; I wouldn't be surprised if they were later chewed out for this).

Brand Equity

The Hindu has a news item about how Madras University is trying to build its brand equity by issuing coffee mugs, handbags and T-shirts bearing the university's logo.

Here is a clue for you morons: make your degrees worth more than the paper they are printed on, and the brand equity will take care of itself.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Suse 9.3

9.3 takes ages to install. One reason could be that since it comes in a DVD, there are plenty of packages that get included if you choose whole package groups like development, office applications, games, etc. There are so many packages that the 5 GB partition I installed it in is more than 90% full already (Update: Mea culpa. More than 1 GB of this was taken up by the interim files from the kernel compile).

Having come out unscathed from FreeBSD's disk partitioner, I thought I would find 9.3's partitioning a breeze. Not so. There are still enough mines to be wary of, if you want to preserve existing partitions (after a lot of hits and misses, I figured out that unless you make sure that the mount point is set to blank for existing partitions, they too would get formatted).

Since I am pretty up-to-date in terms of packages in 9.1, I didn't find 9.3 to be that much of a radical improvement. 9.3 doesn't have the perceptible slowness that I have experienced (and, in fact, continue to experience) in 9.1, though.

Parting tip: If you find Firefox's default menu and toolbar font sizes to be too small (happened with 9.3 for me), you can adjust them by updating the userChrome.css file.

Bloglines Plumber

Bloglines have taken to displaying a picture of a plumber sheepishly saying that the site is down, he is working on it, etc. All nice and sweet, but one thing I would do is remove/reword the part where it says that they've had a database crash. They could have just said that they were experiencing some difficulties; exposing 'ugly' things like database crashes somehow doesn't feel right. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence in their sysadmins and DBAs, either.