Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Press releases and Yahoo

You come across a 'news' story, find that it's from the Yahoo domain, and think it's a legitimate bit of journalism. But look closer, and you'll find that it's a press release (a careful scrutiny would have revealed the presence of 'prnews' in the URL), not subject to the rigours of checks for accuracy and editorial oversight.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Browser rivals playing catch-up?

I don't think so.
Like great minds thinking alike, the Internet's two main competing browsers unveiled new improved versions just days apart last week.
Please, give me a break.
Both browsers now provide built-in search windows, so that one does not have to open a new Google, Yahoo or MSN page to search on a keyword.
Incorrect again. Firefox has had the Google search bar from, like, the pre-1.0 days.

I also don't think the emphasis on anti-phishing protection features is really warranted. Is this probably because Microsoft is touting this feature as a competition-beater?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Well, finally I got it right and managed to download the right version of CD #5.

There was a twist in the tale, though; after downloading the ISO image, I found that I had run out of blank CDs. After a bit of head-scratching, I figured out the solution: mount all my five ISO files and make YAST use the resulting file system as an installation source.

Result: I've finally, yes, finally, managed to compile and install the Crystal window decoration. The effort was worth every bit of the struggle. Check out this screenshot.

An unintended benefit of permanently mounting the CD images in /etc/fstab is that my system has become very snappy as well, for whatever reason. Plus, installation of additional packages from the hard disk is, of course, much faster.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I heard this word for the first time this week, from two different people. Question: in what way is this different from, say, migration? If not, why do we need a new word at all?

Methinks this falls under the same category as re-branding 'Testing' as 'Assurance'.

Alright ...

... now I'm really pissed: SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD5.iso from here is actually the remastered version, but somebody mistakenly named it without the 'Remastered' tag. Another eight-hour download, only to end up with a file that I already have. Maybe I'm missing something here, but if the remastered version of the CD is identical to the original one, why is YAST not able to pick up packages from it?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This has got to be the most inane and senseless letter to The Hindu that I've ever read (it's about the veil controversy in the UK):
Those advocating the removal of the veil feel the burqa hampers effective communication. What more is required to prove the degradation of values than the fact that we cannot accept a woman dressed decently and respectfully but would love to see her in indecent costumes? We put forward the most inane and senseless reasons to support our argument.
Straw man? Non sequitur? Slippery slope?

Remastered my ass

I have the first four OpenSuSE 10.1 CDs (did I mention that I'm now on an unlimited download plan?); I found that I needed CD #5 for installing the KDE development packages, so off I went to the download page. There I found that the ISO images were now adorned with the moniker 'Remastered', whatever that means. I didn't pay much attention to this and went ahead with the download. Big mistake. When trying to install the packages from this CD, YAST refused to proceed and kept whining that I was shoving in the wrong CD.

Googling reveals that the FTP mirrors contain the original ISOs as well as the 'Remastered' ones. Grrr.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Selling out to The Man

Considering how my Conexant How To page seems to be one of the main sources people turn to for installing Conexant USB ADSL modems, I've decided to try and make some moola off of it; I'm going to see if Google AdSense accepts the page.

Update: It turns out that there's no need to ask Google to accept my page; if I'm already an AdSense member, I can simply paste the AdSense code in any other page or site that I want (subject, of course, to Google's policies).

Firefox 2.0

I decided to wait till the dust settled down and 2.0 was well and truly available via getfirefox.com before downloading it. I had tried the release candidates, but didn't feel like abandoning 1.5.

There seems to be an issue with installing 2.0 over an existing 1.5 installation, i.e. an upgrade; updating my extensions or installing new ones failed with the 'installLocation has no properties" error. I ended up starting with a clean slate and downloading all my extensions -- ahem, add-ons -- again.

Anyway, 2.0 is way faster than 1.5, which alone is worth the cost of upgrading. Also, the spell check feature -- dotted red lines below misspelled words a la Microsoft Word -- is really really nifty. Makes posting to the blog a breeze.

Oops. When I click on the 'Check Spelling' button provided by Blogger (yeah, I'm like that), nothing happens. The error console says 'spellcheck is not a function'. Oh well.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oh my!

From a COLA post:
>> The question isn't what matters.
>> It's the answer that matters,
>> you <expletive> moron.

> You know a person has no stance or
> debating ability when they
> consistently have to use
> personal attacks as part of
> their argument.

Those are called "ad hominems" there, wjbell. And you, without exception, have no stance or debating ability despite your refusal to resort to ad hominems, you microcephalic toad.

Explosions in Baghdad

Here is a video from an Arabic news channel about the recent explosions in an American base in Baghdad. There are all kinds of unconfirmed reports going around, claiming that the extent of the American casualties in this attack is being suppressed.

What stands out in this footage for me is the humongous explosion that you see at about 3:50 or so minutes into the video. Considering that the camera is quite a few kilometers from the base, I can't imagine how powerful the explosion must have been to produce that kind of a blinding flash of light. It was Diwali yesterday, so I guess I'm paying more attention to such things than I usually would have.

Here's a shoutout

... to anocturne :-)

Some Smalltalk

I have a small shell script that backs up my blog archives; it has a bunch of calls to wget for all the archive files since April '04, which is when I started blogging. Since I don't know shell scripting all that well, the script is not even intelligent enough to figure out the current month and use a for loop.

I decided to redo the script in VisualWorks. Problem was, I kept getting the exception related (I think) to Seaside that I mentioned earlier. I bravely stepped into the debugger, and I don't know what I did, but I now started getting another exception, something that seemed more fundamental; I wasn't even able to open the image successfully [*]. Back to a fresh base image (BTW, loading Seaside in this fresh image went through incredibly smoothly -- probably on account of all the downloads of the dependent packages the last time).

I managed to do nearly all the things I wanted to do, except for one thing: create a single tar.gz file that contains all the archive files. The GZipWriteStream class seems to create only single files. My not-so-elegant workaround is to feed all the archive files one after the other to the output .gz file's stream, in effect creating a single huge HTML file. Definitely not elegant.

[*] Coincidentally, Episode 6 of the Industry Misinterpretations podcast talks about image-based development and ways to recover from situations similar to mine.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Spelling bee contests

  1. Why is ESPN, of all channels, broadcasting a spelling bee contest?

  2. More important, why the hell am I watching it?
Both very valid questions, but my post is about the need for such competitions: the quirkiness of the English language. It almost seems like making a virtue of a necessity, and brings to mind the glorification of design patterns, when some people consider them as nothing more than ways to overcome the deficiencies of some programming languages.

What's happening in Georgia

There's an article in The Hindu today by Vladimir Radyuhin about the situation in Georgia.

Ignoring the pro-Russian bias in the article, what struck me the most about it -- apart from its incisiveness -- was this: how the big powers conduct their, for want of a better phrase, geostrategic business in such a brazen manner, readily discernible to any literate person willing to pay attention to these issues, and yet get away with pulling the wool over the majority of their populations with their fake concerns for things like democracy, human rights and free trade.

Staying on the subject of Russia, here's something from Rigorous Intuition:
You may know that Israeli President Moshe Katsav is facing indictment for the rape of two female staffers. Earlier this week in Moscow after a brief public appearance with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Vladimir Putin remarked "Say hello to your president. He really surprised us." The New York Times notes that the microphone "was quickly turned off as reporters were ushered from the room," but Putin was overheard to continue. "He turned out to be quite a powerful man. He raped 10 women. I never expected it from him. He surprised all of us. We all envy him."

There but for the grace of God go I

This is supposed to be funny, but sorry, not for me. People taking telemarketer jobs in the U.S. may not be that badly off, what with the general high standard of living, but when you consider their counterparts here in India, it's downright cruel to have fun at their expense or be rude to them. Come on, these are just people trying to eke out a living, people who have the same hopes and aspirations as you and me for a good life. I agree that they are irritating at the best of times, but that does not give anybody the right to treat them badly.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The next time I hear

... someone use the word 'metamodel' just to sound smarter than they really are, without knowing WTF the word means, I'm going to call them on it and ask them to explain themselves.

I attended a product demo webinar today, and something hilarious happened. The presenter was touting the RAD/MDA capabilities of the tool when someone asked him about support for AJAX. I don't remember the presenter's answer in detail, but the nub of it was that currently there was not much support. Nothing to get excited about, except that the questioner wanted to show how smart he was, and went on to say that AJAX was part of the upcoming World Wide Web Consortium's 2.0 specifications, and made it clear where he stood as far as support for such an important standard was concerned. At this point I backed away from the speaker phone, nearly crashed through the glass wall behind me, and ended up waking up the rest of the people in the room.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

That's a good one

Afzal's death sentence should be commuted because otherwise the lives of the judges who sentenced him may be threatened by people seeking revenge.

Going by this logic, we might as well shut down all the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

By the way, is it just me or does Abdullah's statement sound like a veiled threat, something a Mafia don would say?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Movie Review: The Lake House

I have always had a fascination with looking at something -- a building, a work of nature, why, even the moon -- through another person's eyes, someone who has been there before me, perhaps even millennia ago, and wondering what they must have felt. Would they have thought the same thing and wondered about me, a fellow traveller further behind them on a highway called Time? Little wonder then that The Lake House struck a chord in me, as soon as I realised that it was not a romantic ghost story a la Just Like Heaven.

I know that any movie involving passing messages back and forth across time is bound to have logical paradoxes and things that are difficult to wrap your mind around, but even so, The Lake House is a beautiful movie. I still haven't figured out how exactly the happy ending is brought about -- a visit to IMDB.com is probably in order -- but this doesn't prevent me from anointing this my Movie of the Year.

(Hello there, Mr Sentimentality, how are you doing? Who's that behind you? Oh, it's you, Mr Senility)

More on the death penalty

One argument we hear against the death penalty goes like this: "So let me get this straight: you're saying murder is wrong, and must be punished with murder? Give me a break!"

Yes, I'm saying murder is wrong and must be punished. But is the punishment to be considered murder too? I don't think so.

Both the crime and the punishment involve taking a human life. But murder, by definition, is the taking of a life "under conditions specifically covered in law". So the taking of life in the second case is not murder. You may argue that the state is arrogating for itself certain rights which the citizen does not possess, but that's how government works.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Slashdot moderation

I used to receive moderation points regularly in Slashdot, but then I started reading the articles via RSS and stopped visiting the site, except to read the comments on stories that I found interesting. I received points yesterday, and it felt nice, moderating comments after a long time.

Why doesn't Slashdot have an RSS feed for intimating me that there are moderation points available to me? They seem to have feeds for all kinds of crap.

Torture and the ticking time bomb

I really don't know what is the correct way to resolve this dilemma, but thinking about it objectively, isn't torturing someone to extract information that would save millions of lives equivalent to killing someone in self defence?

And no, the argument that the torture might have been in vain if it turns out that the person being tortured didn't really have the information doesn't cut it; by a strange coincidence, I ran across this in a novel I'm reading right now:
"...he was feeding his pigs out of a bucket with his back to me, telling me how he didn't rattle, how he wouldn't piss on a cop on the pad if he was on fire, then he put his hand down in his jeans and I saw something bright in the sun and heard a click, and when he turned around I put a big one in his forehead. It was his Zippo lighter, man. Can you dig that?"

And you are still against the death penalty?

From an article by Praveen Swami:
At lunchtime on Sunday, Handwara-based dental surgeon Mushtaq Ahmad Shah was tied to a tree, tortured, and finally beheaded with an old-fashioned barber's razor. Villagers working in the cornfields around Naupora Kalan, near Sopore, pleaded for Dr. Shah's life but were shooed away at gunpoint.
Dr Shah's 'crime' was to cooperate with the authorities.
  1. If the terrorists who committed this crime aren't punished in a suitable manner, how the heck can we convince people like Dr Shah that the Indian government will take care of people who respect and cooperate with it?

  2. Something doesn't sound right when you consider the pain and agony undergone by Dr Shah and his family and compare it to the punishment of life imprisonment -- which is not even a fscking life sentence -- which would be awarded to the terrorists if (and this is a big if) they are caught.

  3. Even if the people who did this do not fear death, the deterrent of the death penalty is sure to make at least a fraction of these fanatics think twice before embarking on such things.

Has this ever happened to you?

You are with a group of people, and you start to say something, and somebody interrupts you, and wanting to be polite, you defer to that person, and allow them to make their point, and when they are finished -- you don't want to repeat their mistake and interrupt them -- you start over again, only to be interrupted again, this time by another person, and you still want to be polite... this goes on for a couple more times, and then it's five minutes later, and you have almost forgotten what it was that you had wanted to say, and then you remember it, but by then the moment is long past, and an observer would conclude that you are a pushover, when all you were trying to be was a frigging polite conversationalist.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Is it just me...

or does this IceWeasel logo look like Mother Earth is being humped by an over-ambitious arctic rodent? Check out the gleam in the creature's eye, BTW.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea conducts nuclear test

Years ago, we made a train journey from Delhi to Haldwani, on the way to Nainital for a long weekend. We were stupid/brash enough to barge into a reserved compartment when we should have proceeded to the unreserved one, and occupied the space next to the toilets. The rightful occupants of the compartment didn't protest against this, and we settled down uneventfully. A couple of stations later, sometime in the middle of the night, someone opened the door, and a fellow 'unreserved' passenger, a pretty unkempt, ragged individual, entered the compartment. I did nothing; who was I to complain, after all? But get this: a well-to-do gentleman, a rightful occupant, woke up and caught sight of this bloke, and proceeded to indignantly berate me for letting him in, knowing full well that I too was in the same category as the new entrant. I could do nothing, except watch in astonishment.

Anyway, this incident was more or less the first thing that came to mind when I read that India and Pakistan were protesting North Korea conducting a nuclear test. What breathtaking hypocrisy!

Here are some 'soothing' sounds from CNN-IBN (these were run as part of the graphics at the bottom of the screen, probably as an attempt to mitigate the hypocrisy):
  • Pakistan supplied nuclear technology to N Korea

  • Indian nuclear program is wholly indigenous

  • If India did not protest, it would be construed that we are supporting N Korea
Nope, I am not convinced.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

An eye for an eye

I came across this article about how the Amish are dealing with the shootout in the schoolhouse, about how they are treating the assassin as a human being, offering condolences to his family and helping them cope with the disaster.

Considering how I feel about the clemency petition for Afzal, this got me thinking: is there something wrong with my value system? Is it incorrect to bring an element of vengeance into the whole thing?

The answer to this may be yes, but this does not mean that Afzal's sentence should be commuted. "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" may make all compendiums of quotable quotes, but there is a more fundamental law at work here: the law of karma, the law of action and reaction. Your reap what you sow.

Thus, though it may be wrong to harbour vengeful feelings towards the terrorist, it is equally wrong to interfere in the natural scheme of things.

One could, of course, argue that the death penalty in this case may be too harsh, but that should be addressed by changes to the penal code and/or the constitution, and not by an outside-the-system decision based on political expediency.

Dumbass quote of the day

The sum of the players is greater than the sum of the team.
-- Commentator's (David Platt?) remark during the England-Macedonia Euro 2008 qualifier, about how England, though it has a lot of great players, does not perform well as a team

That's funny

I get a download speed of about 30 kbps using the Conexant-based ADSL modem in Linux. I used to get 55-60 kbps earlier, but that's another story.

The funny thing is, when I connect to the internet from Windows -- installed as a guest OS using VMWare -- using the VMWare virtual network interface, and the same freaking connection that runs from Linux, I get 65-70 kbps. What am I missing?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time

For once I am in complete agreement with the folks who write letters to the The Hindu.

If there is one group of countrymen I still have respect for, it's those soldiers who climbed the peaks in Kargil, knowing full well that the odds were stacked against them, and there was a better than even chance that they will not make it back to their bases alive. Requesting clemency for Afzal is akin to spitting on the graves of these soldiers.

Oh but that's not me

I am the fifth biggest fan of Van Halen's Mine All Mine in last.fm.

Methinks it's time to do some creative chart manipulation. Let's see, where can I find documentation on the Audioscrobbler API?

Bloglines podcast enclosures

There seems to be a problem listening to podcast enclosures in Bloglines: the audio plays at a higher-than-normal speed. I discovered this when trying to listen to one of James Robertson's Industry Misinterpretations podcasts recently. The problem is not restricted to Firefox; Opera too seems to be susceptible to this (let me check Konqueror: nope, Konqueror simply displays a link to the whole MP3 file, instead of the embedded Flash thing). I have contacted Bloglines about this.

Update: It looks to be a Flash Player issue. I received this email from Bloglines today (October 12):
Thanks for writing Bloglines regarding the podcast feature.

The Macromedia Flash player has a problem playing files that are encoded at a rate that is not a multiple of 11.025 kHz. This effect is sometimes called the “chipmunk” effect; in other words, the file is played at double speed. To avoid this, encode MP3’s at 11.025 kHz 22.050 kHz or 44.100 kHz.

The E Key

First problem with my Acer 1641: the E key suddenly stopped functioning, unless I pressed it extra-hard. I pried out the key -- man, these things are like chiclets, by the way -- and found that the problem was because of insufficient contact between the key and the rubber thingummy that sends the keystroke to the computer. A small piece of paper wedged between the key and this rubber thing took care of the problem, but the whole incident has brought down my confidence in Acer somewhat.

All right

I'm going to decouple my Robert Fisk articles blog from robert-fisk.com. The owner of that site hasn't updated it for nearly four months, and it doesn't feel right to come across Fisk's articles in Bloglines from other sources like The Independent's RSS feed and not do anything about them.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Now that's how trailers should be made

I have been watching movies on the Sony Pix Channel this week. It all started when I accidentally caught the start of the The Great Train Robbery this Monday. BTW, I loved the double entendre-laced dialogue between Sean Connery and the bank chairman's horny wife, and the reference to the '50 Miles Per Hour Club' -- a sort of pun on the Mile High Club, with steam engine-powered trains chugging along the countryside replacing jets in the sky.

Anyway, there were a lot of promos for other movies on the way, and I was struck by the quality of these promos: instead of splicing together short bits from a number of (memorable?) scenes from the movie, these promos focus on just one scene, interspersed with the details like the director/actors' names. This scene is invariably the scene in the movie, and you end up being impressed enough to catch the movie when its number comes up.

I was so taken in by this approach that I sat through a crappy thing called Krull. I don't know which was worse: a) sitting through the entire movie, or b) actually enjoying some of the cheesy action sequences. Oh well, never mind, The Golden Voyage of Sindbad is on as I type this. Someone, please take away the remote from me.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

ISI hand in 7/11 Mumbai blasts, say police

Dudes, I sure hope that you have much more clinching evidence with you, evidence that you are not disclosing at present for whatever reasons, because reading today's lead story in The Hindu leaves me feeling distinctly unconvinced:
All but one of the Pakistanis escaped. He perhaps could not get down from the jam-packed train compartment, and died in the blast at the Khar station. His badly mutilated body remained unclaimed. Mr. Roy said police had got the face reconstructed and conducted DNA tests on the body. Investigators learnt from narco-analysis tests on one of the arrested persons that it was the body of Salim, a resident of Lahore, Pakistan.

Mr. Roy said 11 Pakistani militants in three groups had reached India via three different routes — from Nepal in the north, Bangladesh in the east and from across the Gujarat border with Pakistan. One Pakistani died in an encounter with the police at Antop Hill shortly after the July 11 blasts. Nine of the 11 escaped and might have left the country.
You better have something more concrete to confront the Pakistanis with, as they are going to laugh you out of the door otherwise (they don't call it "plausible deniability" for nothing).

By the way:
  1. I wonder what the "narco-analysis tests" were. Hypnosis? Truth serum?

  2. To the presstitutes: please stop calling every bombing incident 7/11, 12/13, etc. For one thing, India follows the day/month format. Secondly, it reeks of attempting to shamelessly warm yourself in the embers of the American 9/11.