Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This is really starting to bug me

This is the third time that sound has simply died in Kubuntu. No error messages, no warnings, nothing.

I have a feeling it's just the volume being turned down to zero because of some package update, but both KMix and ALSAMixer indicate otherwise.

Now I know how Robin Williams' character felt

... in Good Will Hunting.

I am an average IITian. I am not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. My net worth is nothing to write home about. I have not won any awards, either for my distinguished career, or for my efforts for the betterment of mankind.

Having said that, I still consider it fscking demeaning that a billionaire alumnus will contribute an amount to the alumni growth fund, an amount that will match the sum total of all the contributions other 'ordinary' IITians will make, provided that they do so by a certain deadline. It's almost like saying "Ha! Is that all you plebes could come up with? Watch me match it from my loose change".

The true way of showing gratitude and affection for your alma mater is to write a cheque, for an amount that you arrive at on your own, without indulging in any one-upmanship or putting down others.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dish TV, get your act together

I have ranted about Dish TV in the past, and they have improved their customer interface somewhat, but it's still nowhere near good enough.

They recently took to airing Star channels, but the channels are off the air now. Regular subscribers have been promised that they can get Star channels for free till December if they renew their subscription pronto. Having gotten used to seeing Seinfeld and Cheers again, I went to their web site to renew my subscription.

Long story short:
  1. The site's usability still rates -19 on a scale of 1 to 10.

  2. There is no option for renewing your subscription if the subscription is not due already. If you want, you can 'update' your package (but I don't want to do that; didn't you guys tell me I can get the Star channels without an update or upgrade till December?)

  3. Alright, let me bite the bullet and try an update: but I don't see the Star channels (Star Movies, Star World) anywhere in the listed packages. Methinks the web site is lagging behind the rest of Dish TV's marketing campaign.

  4. The way the online display of your transactions is designed leads me to this age-old question: what prompts otherwise normal human beings to commit such unspeakable acts of cruelty on their fellow men?
This list is by no means complete, BTW. I could go on and on, but let them figure out at least some things on their own.

Natwarji, please STFUji

None of us gives a rat's ass what you think.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hitler's Cross

What a moron.

Unless, of course, he's way ahead of us and has been gunning for this publicity all along.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Reddit : Digg == Slashdot : Kuro5hin

I unsubscribed from Digg quite a while ago, not on account of any shenanigans that I perceived, but because a) it had too many stories, with a very low signal/noise ratio -- at least for me b) the stories seemed to be slanted more towards sensationalism and somehow getting a visitor to have a look at them and c) quite a few of the submissions were really old ones, reminding one of the Eternal September.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Funny Firefox bug

Happens only in Windows, at work, so I'm not really bothered about it:

When I try to open a link in a new tab by clicking the mouse scroll wheel, nothing happens till I move the mouse, even if only by a fraction of a millimeter. If I don't do this, Firefox simply sits there, looking at me dumbly, and not doing anything about my request, till I say Alright, you win and tap the mouse ever so slightly.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Interesting discussion

over at the RI Forum about libertarianism.

As I am reading the thread, I feel like a spectator at a tennis match, turning my head this way and that, following the path of the ball. I used to think libertarianism had its positive aspects and was a good thing in general, but now I'm not so sure. The quality of the debate is such that I find myself nodding my head in agreement to the arguments from both camps. As with most questions in life, the answer seems to be a mix of "It depends", "Yes, but only as long as one doesn't take it to its extreme", "No, but there are other mitigating circumstances", etc. In short, nothing is black and white.

Dad will pay

Thomas Friedman on the Lebanon crisis:
Hezbollah and Iran are like a couple of rich college students who rented Lebanon for the summer, as if it were a beach house. "Come on, let's smash up the place," they said to themselves. "Who cares? Dad will pay!" The only thing Nasarallah didn't say to the Lebanese was "Hey, keep the change."
  1. I am not clear how "a certain amount of money for every family to rent for one year, plus buy furniture for those whose homes were totally destroyed" translates to $3 billion, when the total number of families "number 15,000".

  2. Hezbollah is a 100% local resistance, who do not simply visit Lebanon on vacation. As Seema Mustafa points out, they stand shoulder to shoulder with those providing relief to the affected families. If the Lebanese don't really support Hezbollah, don't you think they would have asked Hezbollah to cease and desist their activities long ago?

Excuse me, Mr Driver, but are you sure this is really the 21st Century?

Two news items:
  1. Jats to protest against Natwar's "ill-treatment"

  2. Mahim seawater draws big crowds

Here's a suggestion

Instead of holding something like the South Asian Games, where there is a small probability that one of the minnows we beat the crap out of refuse to stick to the script and end up winning a few medals, why don't we conduct the Indian Games, where the only participant is Bharat, and we can -- golly -- win *all* the medals?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Premier League has kicked off

... and the matches are in full swing. If somebody had told me yesterday that I would be home, but instead of watching the action, the TV would be off, I'd be listening to One and Don't Cry and Estranged, and wishing that I were stone drunk, I'd have told them they were full of sh*t.

'Cause I see the storm getting closer
And the waves they get so high
Seems everything we've ever known's here
Why must it drift away and die

Quote of the day

"If there is a problem between a weak nation and another weak nation and the UN takes action, the problem disappears. If there is a problem between a strong nation and a weak nation and the UN takes action, the weak nation disappears. If there is a problem between a strong nation and a strong nation and the UN takes action, the UN disappears."
-- Carlos Romulo, former president of the UN General Assembly

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Question posed to the wise ones at The Hindu's Science and Technology department today:
Why does the colour of urine vary from light to bright yellow when we do not drink water for a long time?
Some people have waaay too much free time on their hands.

Come to think of it, maybe not as much time as the bozos at the paper who have actually decided to take this question seriously and have wasted about eight inches of newsprint to answer it. I didn't bother to read the answer, but I can guess it probably has to do with the chemical changes in one's body as one sits and thinks of idiotic questions to pose to newspapers' science desks.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How NOT to install OpenSUSE 10.1 in 20 Steps

  1. Download only CD #1 of the five-CD set, hoping you can wing it.

  2. Boot from CD.

  3. When it's partitioning time, delete the existing Kubuntu swap partition, thinking that you can fool Kubuntu into using the new swap partition that is going to be created for Suse.

  4. Realise the folly of Step #1 when the installer demands to have access to CDs #2 and #3.

  5. Abort installation of software and keep fingers crossed as the system reboots.

  6. Pleasant surprise as system somehow manages to boot, albeit into a minimal FVVM desktop.

  7. Install Conexant driver (this is becoming a real breeze, nowadays).

  8. Realise that the minimal installation doesn't contain any web browser.

  9. Pat yourself on the back as you use wget to download index.html from www.getfirefox.com and determine the Firefox Linux download URL by parsing this file.

  10. Download and install Firefox.

  11. Use Firefox and Google to find out how to add online installation sources for Suse 10.1.

  12. Fire up YAST and try to repeatedly add these URLs, but fail each time, with either the 'Adding Catalog' dialog box hanging, or nothing happening on clicking 'Finish'.

  13. See if you can at least go back to Kubuntu, after tweaking it's /etc/fstab to use Suse's swap partition: nope; see Step #3.

  14. Go back to Suse 10.1 and download the mini ISO.

  15. Find that cdrecord (downloaded separately) complains that it cannot find /dev/pg*.

  16. Boot from both Kubuntu and Knoppix Live CDs and realize that thinking that you can get K3B from a Live CD to burn CDs is, well, dumb.

  17. Reinstall Kubuntu in a new partition.

  18. Burn the mini ISO from the new Kubuntu install.

  19. Boot from mini ISO and realise that it expects a freaking network connection before showing me a root prompt, dashing all my hopes of installing the Conexant driver and then proceeding with the Internet install.

  20. Make the new Kubuntu install my new home and proceed to spend the whole day customising it and installing all my favourite software. Sigh.

Movie Review: Cars

Cars is a delightful movie. Animation that is so good that you almost mistake it for the real thing sometimes, great drama, endearing characters, a wistful reminder of the Norman Rockwell times, a good story -- cocky, unwelcome outsider and a bunch of suspicious locals who nonetheless develop respect and love towards each other (I know it's clichéd, but still) -- all in all, more than worth the price of the ticket. Oh, forgot to mention this: there are no humans in the story; it's all cars.

And to think I almost didn't get to see the movie, thinking it would be yet another syrupy piece of crap.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dial A Diaper

You are holding your baby on your lap, cooing to her gently, and the baby, overcome with the sheer joy of your cooing, does what babies do best. You crinkle your nose, lift the baby up and place her on the rubber sheet. You then clean her up, and reach for the Shmuggles pack (or whatever the heck these things are called) and oops, you find that you're out of diapers. What do you do?

You dial for a diaper, of course.

I'm not making this up. I saw a van yesterday cheerfully proclaiming to answer just these kinds of calls.

Kubuntu screwed me over

I'll try a haiku this time:

Where art thou? Try reinstall
Half of KDE gone.

Alright, I admit, there's one extra syllable, but I'm too pissed off to care. There was not even a peep from Kubuntu that so many dependent packages will be uninstalled as well. I'm off to download Suse 10.1. Since I moved to an unlimited download plan with Airtel, at least I don't have to worry about my broadband bill.

How refreshingly different would it be if

... an actor/singer, instead of saying:
<insert name of film/album here> is very different from my earlier work
says something like this:
It's the same old crap. What? You expect me to come up with something new and magical everytime? Do you really think I'm a creative genius or that my producer would allow me to wander away from the tried-and-tested path? Why should I even try when I know there are hordes of die-hard fans (read sheep) who have left their senses way behind and continue to watch/listen to my stuff out of sheer sentimentality? Oh wait, come to think of it, this is different; this is my 37th movie/album, while the previous one was, let me think ... yeah, my previous one was my 36th.
This rant was the result of watching yet another performer lamely trying to promote his latest PoS on TV.

Linux security in action?

I know that this is pretty trivial, but thought I'd mention it all the same.

I downloaded the binary installer for Poseidon 4.2 and attempted to run it by opening a bash shell and retrieving the file using the shell's auto-complete feature. But the shell couldn't locate the file for some reason. Then it struck me: if you are trying to execute a file, the shell will not bring it up unless the file has its execute bit set, which, in this case, wasn't so, in order to prevent malicious programs (especially those downloaded from the Internet) from executing. Neat.

Or is it Firefox which sets the file permissions during the download?

Friday, August 11, 2006

PETA plans protest outside KFC outlet

Where was PETA all these years? I've been seeing chickens carried in bicycles, tied upside down, practically all my life, and now when it's KFC it's a big deal? Something tells me it's not animals' welfare these people are really after.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I am underwhelmed

Is this the same Joel who wrote such great essays? The trilogy of management-related essays has culminated in something called The Identity Management Method, a singularly uninspiring piece containing nothing but a rehash of standard management best practices and a plug for his wonderful company where everyone gets to eat catered lunch everyday.

Rajesh is not on vacation. This post was blogged live. So there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Star channels available on Dish TV

I don't know when this happened, but I am now able to receive the Star TV channels on Dish TV. I guess there is now full interoperability between the content providers and the satellite TV vendors.

Now I have twenty more channels that I can ignore. Just kidding. It felt good to watch The Simpsons and Seinfeld after, what is it, three years?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Another schadenfreude moment in Formula One

No, I don't mean Schumacher retiring from the race just when he looked like finishing fourth and whittling down Alonso's lead further. I mean the nuts falling off Alonso's right rear wheel and forcing him to crash into the protective barrier.

I used to not like Schumacher till a little while back, but my even greater dislike of Alonso has made me a Schumi fan -- sort of.

Anyway, today's race is, hands down, the most dramatic and unpredictable of the whole season.

A Line in the Sand

I have discovered Gerald Seymour only recently, and A Line in the Sand is my second Seymour novel. Great read, but this post is not about how good the prose is, but about how one of the dialogues in the novel set off a train of thought in my mind:
"... every attack abroad by the Iranian killer squads has the authorization of the highest echelons of government. It's only the appeasers who say otherwise. Government provides the training for the killers, the weapons via diplomatic pouches, the digital secure-phone links, the passports, the finance. Every operation abroad is laid before the foreign minister, the interior minister and the defense minister sitting on the National Supreme Security Council. It is authorized, sanctioned, on one condition only. The condition? There should be no smoking gun in Iran's hand ..."
The above words are uttered by a Mossad station officer in the story.

The first issue is that this is quite a neat way of demonising your enemies using fiction. The second issue I have is on a more fundamental level; an event -- a bombing, an assassination -- has occurred, and one party points its fingers at somebody. When proof is asked for, it simply says the perpetrator has hidden its involvement so successfully that there is no smoking gun, and you'll just have to take their word for it. Sort of like the opposite of Occam's Razor: go for the most complicated, unprovable solution to a problem.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I really had high expectations for this one, what with all its record-breaking box office collections. But boy, did the movie suck.

Except for Johnny Depp's antics -- even they were a bit over the top sometimes -- there is nothing in the movie to grab your attention and hold on to it. Indiana Jones-style brushes with the natives, hideous creatures, general mayhem in the high seas, been there, done that, next please.

The RCMP rocks

There is a fitness plan developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force, called the 5BX Plan, which contains a set of just five exercises to be performed in 11 minutes. It's at least 40 years old, but still very relevant today.

I had a PDF version of this in my old (as in the late nineties) PC, and subsequently lost it. Google searches didn't really help me because I mistakenly thought that a) it was called the 5B plan and b) it was the RCMP who developed this.

I contacted the RCMP, not really expecting a reply, and was pleasantly surprised to receive the PDF from a very helpful gentleman.

My earlier experience with the plan was not very successful, as I presumptuously skipped the earlier charts and started in the middle; I stopped after three or four days after my body threatened to go on an indefinite strike. This time I am starting at the bottom, and going by the book. It's been five days now, and my body is holding up pretty well so far (touch wood).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Something happened on the way to the plane

Last night, at the Mumbai airport, I gave my boarding pass to the person at the counter and got into the shuttle. The shuttle travelled for about a hundred meters, made a U-turn and returned to the same spot we started from, but on the opposite side, and we got down and got into the plane, which had been waiting for us morons patiently all the while, right outside the building, probably shaking its head at the foolishness of it all.

Bonus weekend

I travelled to Mumbai yesterday. The trip was initially planned for four days, but there was a change in plans, and I returned home last night itself. End result: whatever time I have this weekend at home is bonus time. I don't need to stick to any schedule, don't have any chores to run, nothing planned. So what does one do in such a situation?
  1. Spend the entire two days without reading a single word, either on the computer screen or on the printed page (the non-verbalisation thought experiment).

  2. Do two days of zazen (yeah, like I really could).

  3. Find out what it's like to stay in bed the whole day.
Something tells me this weekend will be no different from the countless ones before. I have been in the rut for too long to do anything so out-of-the-box.