Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That time of the year


A casual conversation when a student at University of Minnesota encounters another on his/her way will definitely have winter as one of their major topics of discussion. Not any winter, but spine chilling Minnesotan winter. And now, it is that time of the year. We have had our first snow fall during the weekend, the lakes and water bodies around started to freeze and mercury dropped below the 0 level. Well the scale is only Centigrade yet, but soon the mercury will fall below 0 Fahrenheit as well. And this means dressing in layers, searching for reasons not to go outdoors, coming up with justifications how winter has advantages (which is really hard) so as to not hate ourselves, and not to mention gaining weight due to decrease in physical activity! I think I will need some of these to remind me of summer! Didn't I say gaining weight? 

And its Thanksgiving time too, here in the US. Really looking forward to the four day break. Its fun killing time by checking out all the Black Friday deals on the internet, even if you don't want to buy anything. Its a little more fun if you do that in office, by occasionally taking a peak to make sure the boss is not around. And, it is even more fun if the boss happens to be not in office, which is the case today! How productive are you, when you do not have any urgent issues and you know your manager is not around?

Now that I'm home let me go do some more - err, do we have a term for window shopping online - e-window shopping. Until then, help yourself by looping Why this Kolaveri di! Wondering what it is, then you definitely are in pattar yug. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mouse and Keyboard Without Boundaries

At office, I used to work on a laptop until my request for a Desktop was approved recently. The day I received my desktop I felt my desk was a little cluttered with two monitors, a CPU, a docking pad for laptop, two mice, two keyboards and all the cables that are part of the package. Not to mention those sticky notes, notepads and printouts of random documents haphazardly scattered around. In order to make some room on my desk, I decided to figure out a way to control both my machines with a single mouse and keyboard. All I want is an application or a tool that lets me navigate from one computer from another, in an intuitive way, as we do in the case where multiple monitors are connected to the same machine.

On doing a simple Google search, I came across Synergy. Synergy is a simple yet great tool, which does the job perfectly. Using a single pair of mouse and keyboard, multiple computers can be controlled over the network. The best part is there is no restriction on the operating system of your computers, it can support connecting a Mac with a PC or a Linux box. All it requires is to install their application on all the machines you want to operate with your mouse and keyboard and configure the computer to which they are connected as Server, and all others as clients. I could intimate the software tool by letting it know how my computers are positioned. And yes, you can copy text from your Windows and paste it in your Mac. For me this is definitely better than the j5 Create's Wormhole Switch, I do not have to shell out money as this is an open source software. 

Despite Synergy being free to use I was not completely satisfied with the way it was working on Windows machines. Whenever there was a User Access Control pop-up on the Client Windows machine, I had trouble transferring the control to Client machine. And, on hitting 'Ctrl + L' I was expecting Synergy to lock all the machines, but only the server gets locked. And, I could not intuitively drag and drop files between computers sharing the resources. 


Incidentally about the same time I was frantically searching for a good solution for this, Truong Do - a software developer at Microsoft - unveiled the project Mouse Without Borders he worked during his spare time. It takes care of all the issues I was complaining while using Synergy. I could drag and drop files between my computers, and it works exactly the way I want. Although Synergy could connect far more number of computers using a single pair of mouse and keyboard, Mouse Without Borders can support only four computer at the maximum. I do not have any complaints on this, since there is no way I can get one more extra computer for what I do at office. However, Synergy is the best option if you have to work on multiple operating systems. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Movies of my mind

Exactly 4 years and 4 months ago, I was writing about capturing dreams. I started by calling it a weird thought, but looks like it is no longer weird anymore given that bright minds have started to think alike and work in this direction. Today, we have neuroscientists from University of California, Berkeley working on this idea made  some initial progress. An initial progress that would very well become an important breakthrough one day.

Shinji Nishimoto and his team are working on a project that would attempt to reconstruct a video by scanning a person's brain while that person is watching a movie. From their results, they show the similarities between reconstructed images and the original movie clips the person is watching. The subjects are made to watch movie trailers, and fMRI technique is used to measure the brain's activity by keeping track of the flow of blood through visual cortex. The cool part is, they have used Youtube videos to reconstruct thoughts of the subjects they were experimenting with.

Out of my curiosity to learn about research related to dreams, or thoughts - anything to do with capturing cognitive capabilities in visual form - I have tried to understand the procedure further. A two step process this is, where in the first step scientific data related to brain's activity is captured when a subject watches a movie clip. In the second step, this scientific data is fed into the computer, and the computer based on experimental results tries to make a  movie by making a fusion of sample clips available from video pool (in this case Youtube). Lo and behold! We now have a output video with hazy shapes and blurry figures which are quite similar to what the subject was watching while brain's activity is captured.

According to the Professor Gallant who headed Shinji in this project, practical applications of such a project in the long term can be to communicate and understand what is running in the minds of people suffering from Cerebral Palsy, where the patients cannot communicate verbally (A few years ago I have written another post about the feelings of a person suffering from such a case, although I really don't know what runs through their mind). Who knows, this might altogether make the research of interacting and interfacing with human brain popular!

Atleast for now I can say, we are one tiny step closer in understanding how our human mind works. Here is a short video demonstrating the results of their experiment, watch it out for yourself:



Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Reading Woman

The gracious simper!
Is it what she is reading? 
How I wish I knew?

This bronze statue of Roman Goddess Minerva is located at the entrance of Minneapolis Public Library, Downtown, Minneapolis. The sculpture of this ancient Goddess of Wisdom, made by Jacob Fjelde, was installed in 1889. Since then, the reading woman with a pleasant smile on her face has been an inspiration to many book readers.

Do you read books? If so, how do you define an ideal reading experience? That feeling of gentle rapture, that moment of euphoria? The feeling you get when you are deeply absorbed in your favorite book, the intense pleasure that soothes your life's little troubles in that moment?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Sicilian


This evening I had the opportunity to visit the library, after much procrastination, and grab some books to read. This reminded me of the books I read recently, and now I cannot help sharing about one with you. Most of you might have already read Mario Puzo's famous novel The Godfather. It is amazing how much he knows about Mafia. Strangely, Mario Puzo is neither of Italian or Sicilian origin nor does he have any relations with the Mafioso. I still wonder how this creator of Don Vito Corleone knows so much about the gangsters behavior. 
The real "Sicilian" Salvatore Giuliano (Source: Wiki)

"The Sicilian" by Mario Puzo also revolves around Mafia and bandits. This book - a story about friendship, honour, courage, trust and treason - is based on real life adventures of a handsome young bandit Salvatore Giuliano. Its about how this young book loving peasant turned into a bandit, and became a force in Sicily. Its about how he became an epitome of Robin Hood by robbing the rich and feeding the poor. Its about how he got entwined in a web of bloody vendetta by opposing corruption and Bosses of bosses (the dons of Mafia) in Sicily. 

Puzo dramatized Turi Giuliano's exploits into a crime thriller in his book, and conveniently weaved characters of The Godfather like Micheal Corleone into this true story. Turi and Aspanu, although  different in their thoughts and behavior are cousins and friends since childhood. By a twist of fate, they get involved in a crime and become outlaws. With Aspanu's support, Turi nurtures his ideals and becomes a bandit. Michael Corleone, who is in exile after avening murder attempt on his father, tries to save Guiliano by bringing him to USA. And this is a story of a good guy who loses.

This book is yet another masterpiece from Mario Puzo, the author through his narration provides an  insight of the Sicilian history and the oppression they had faced for many years. The book also beautifully captures many elements like how Sicilians take pride in their honour, love their country and never forget to avenge the deceitful, "So die all who betray Guiliano!" 

A must read if you have read The Godfather and liked it. A must read even if you haven't read it. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Project Gutenberg and the Indian Connection


If you have not heard of Project Gutenberg, it is oldest digital library, in making since 1971, encouraging distribution of free e-books. Since then, it has not just made 30,000 e-books in various languages free to access but also many useful audio books and videos. For more information, we have Wikipedia. Now, you have one minute to free your mind and set it on thinking to guess what the Indian connection is. Think wild, set your imaginations free. Free your mind! For those of you bright minds who have guessed it right, hi-fi. And, never mind if you have not figured it out yet.

It is none other than our very own second century collection of Sanskrit writings by Vatsayana on Kama Sutra. This book is the most popular e-book on Project Gutenberg, scoring the most number of downloads. Apparently, Apple rejected an app on Project Gutenberg for iPhones because people could search and download this book on love through the app. Strange and funny, but true!

As always we have tough competition as to what India is famous for at international level, and this case does not help solving the issue. What do you think is India famous for - (a) head wobbling, (b) mystic and spiritual yoga gurus, (c) the curry smells, or (d) as Land of Love?

P.S. There are some excellent books in this website. If you are a Kindle person, then this is your gold mine because this resource lets you download versions of e-books for Kindle Explore it, leisurely! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Google acquires Motorola, in a bid to reach the top spot


Image Source: paidcontent.org
The entire world knows how Apple grabbed the smart phone market segment with its cool smart phones. Google with its Android platform has been trying really hard to grab the market, but only with partial success. With duopoly dominant in every sector in the USA, I think it is the case that Microsoft and Apple wanted to be the two big players of smart phone business. They joined hands together and attacked Google with patents. Microsoft and Apple together bought old patents of Nortel and Novell, and the technology outcome of these patents were used in most smart phones, and demanded Google to pay $15 per Android phone for using these patents. This would significantly increase the cost of Android phones, which would lead to loss of its market share. 

In their latest move, Google today made their announcement to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion USD. I guess the excitement is high in Mountain View as Larry Page himself announced the news through their blog. Now Google will have strong patent portfolio, could manufacture its own handsets and could beat the shit out of its competitors. Lets wish Google the best, and hope this competition will lead to better technology from all the biggies. 

Midnight Musings


It is 02:00 AM on a Sunday night (rather Monday), and I am still trying hard to catch some sleep so that I can be ready for a work week ahead. The reasons were many. It is always difficult to call it a day when you could savour the wonderful moments you had afresh, just the way you would relish the taste of your favourite food item dished out by your mom leisurely. Reminiscing the fun moments, in general, brings a positive feeling inside. And, I will call this particular instance adventurous for my friend's sake. 

But what kept me awake until this point is the Shaheed Bhagat Singh's beautiful handwriting and the mental strength he showed at a very young age. I have watched films on him, we all did. And, have been inspired by the songs he penned. To read his writings in his own words is a different experience. Until today I have not had that chance. His choice of words, the command he had on legal proceedings and the courage he had shown at the most difficult times were exemplary. When today's young generation are busy raising their virtual farms, feeding their e-cattle and supporting every cause with a "Like", this 22-year old shackled a midst four walls dreamed of revolution and longed for change, for better. If only I could know how much he had gone through, mentally. If only we had access to the diary he maintained during his incarceration. If only all his writings are available to the public. 
Source: The Tribune

At the age of 21, Bhagat Singh published articles in Punjabi periodical on Anarchism. He dreamed of a society without obsession for money. A society free from God and money, two major reasons people fight amongst themselves. How many of us have heard of Anarchism at that time? How many of us know about it now? It was the books on Marxism and the life of Lenin he read in his condemned prison cell, while we comfortably read romantic fictional work by Sydney Sheldon and James Patterson. It was three month fast that this young man took part in only to be force fed by the authorities and to restart the fast later, while we care only a little for the brave Anna Hazare who is fasting for a better India and who gets branded as a corrupt person by this corrupt politicians.

We, the risk averting generation, who want a clean nation without our hands getting dirty can safely learn one thing from him. It is questioning and reasoning when we believe in what we do. Criticizing what we would otherwise blindly follow, only to build our own ideas on top of it. Can we do that, atleast for our own good?

If you have not heard of "Operation Trojan Horse", it is time to do so. Hit a search query with this term along with the words 'Bhagat Singh'. Ghastly as it sounds, but could be true from the controversy the British have created on the very unfortunate day we lost these three young people by imposing the penality earlier than the supposed time. 

Have you come across a statue of this legend in our country where we have statues for living people?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Competition and life


I wonder why we all take competition so seriously in life. Everybody is busy competing with somebody, in a bid to prove their right to excel. "To be number one in your class." "To be more popular than your friends and classmates." "To get into better college than your friends." "To make a better earning job than your peers." The list never ends.

Ranks. Marks. Grades. Since the day we join school, we are made to work hard and compete to get good grades. My parents promised me that it would end after I complete my Class X. It did not, but this time it was my elder brother who promised me that the competition to excel would end after I finish my XII class in flying colours. I was mistaken again. And, it was my lecturer after my class 12th but with a different message. He said, "This is the beginning, all the while you were being prepared for what you would face from now on!". I was shocked to know that. All the years I so wanted to get done with school since I was under the impression that I can live without and hassles and tensions after school, and my lecturer tells me this is the beginning.

Source: Google
Many people fear competition all their life, although they cannot escape facing it. Blame the pressure that was put on them as kids, or the competition and the results they have personally experienced. But it is all in the attitude with which we respond to it. Do we all not love a cricket match with your favourite team winning a close one? Have we all not enjoyed the tennis games between Federer and Nadal? It is the competitive spirit with which these players or teams play that makes the games interesting to watch. When we can enjoy competition between others, why can't we enjoy ourselves being in one? It is all in our attitude. The moment we realize competition encourages improvement in performance, and we can make kids understand this I guess they will enjoy competing with their peers.

“A competitive world offers two possibilities. You can lose. Or, if you want to win, you can change.” -Henry Ford

A near one month of staying away from blogging has done some damage to my blogging credentials. My Indirank has dropped by about 10 points to 63. And my Alexa rank has increased 5 fold, which does not mean good either. This reminded me of the competitive world around me, and my experiences related.

So what do you think of competition among school children and in general? What were your experiences?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Google+ is not Facebook


I have been blogging a lot on tech things these days. Although I want to maintain my status as a mixed bag blogger by writing about anything and everything, I could not resist writing when I come across something new. And the topic of the day is Google+ with all the media attention it generated in the week. 

Did you see the day's xkcd cartoon? Google+, What is it? Not facebook. What is it like? Facebook. How true! Let us compare and contrast Google+ with Facebook later. Before that, let me walk you through a simple tutorial.

Do you know how to increase popularity to your website or product?

  • First, create hype! Do your best! Blog about it, make some tech blogs write about it and let a few top shots try it and make sure they feel good about your product.
  • Second, restrict access to your product. Give access to people based on invites. And then, very shortly make a big announcement that you ran out of invites. The bigger your announcement is and the sooner you do it, the greater will be the hype generated.
  • Third, make sure to leave some ways so that people can get invites and call them hacks. So, the final picture is people have to hack their way to get access to your product.

And, Google followed all the three steps to make their new social networking stint "Google+" popular. And "the hack" to invite your friends is update your status message and share it with your friends through email addresses. They would get an email with a link, and clicking on it would create a Google+ account for them.


Google+ is the new Facebook. Unlike, Google's previous digs at social networking the interface is much cleaner and simpler. Remember how Orkut was filled with clutter in order to compete with Facebook's apps. And, Google Wave only saw the ebb but never raised high unlike a wave. Looking at the design of this new utility promising to connect you with your friends and family, this is here to stay.

If you have noticed the recent change in Google.com's interface, then you should understand that it is part of the big plan. Once you have created a Google+ account for your self, then the right most corner of the black bar on the top will come to life. You will have the "Share" box and notifications indicator waiting hungrily for your action.

Google+ lingo and insight tutorial (Level: Beginner)
  • News Feed on Facebook is Stream on Google+.
  • "What's on your mind" is Google+'s "Share what's new".
  • Pages on Facebook will be called "Sparks" herewith.
  • The famous Facebook "Like" button's competitor is not so well known "+1" button.
  • Friends or Family are the only two categories on FB. We have the new "Circles" concept. Drag and drop your fellow Google+ members into Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Family circles. You might as well create your own circle.
  • You have your Picasa photos, Google Talk and the infamous Google Buzz integrated.
  • Hangouts and Huddle are the new features to watch out for. Huddle is the group messaging feature and Hangout is the polished version of video chat. I am yet to explore these features completely.
So, are +you ready for Google+ ? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Did you watch the Blood Red Moon?



"Mom, what's an eclipse?"
"Eclipse occurs when sun or moon disappears for a short time."


"Why do they disappear?"
"Because Rahu and Ketu gobbles them up."


"Why do Rahu and Ketu eat sun or moon?"
"Because Lord Vishnu caused harm to these demons."


"Can I watch it?"
"No, because the snakes might eat you"

I still remember a conversation like this happening between me and my mom many years ago. And, since I was always not allowed to stay out during a grahanam, as a little kid, I had huge imaginations about it. I used to imagine that if I watch the sun during an eclipse through an exposed film, I could as well see huge snakes slowly swallowing the part of the sun disappeared until then. I used to think of those humongous snakes. Although I never thought about partial eclipses. May be that happens when the Rahu boy and Ketu dude are not so hungry.

So, did you guys have a chance to see the eclipse? India was one of the few regions from which entire eclipse could be viewed. I watched the eclipse at regular intervals from Dubai. Well, not really in person, but through Slooh. Thanks to Google for sharing this with me! And, Slooh is the silent hero behind Google's lunar eclipse logo. 

Do share your experiences about this lunar eclipse, or photos if you have clicked any!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Multiple copy buffers in Vim


All these days I have been looking for multiple copy buffers on Windows or Linux, or anywhere. I thought this feature is so cool and useful that I just wanted to see this implemented in some software or other. And finally I am glad to be able to found the feature on a text editor "Vim". 

We all know how Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V works, and how useful it is for most of the mundane text editing tasks we deal with regularly. Doesn't having the ability to do something like Ctrl+C+1 for copying text1, Ctrl+C+2 for copying text2, Ctrl+V+1 for pasting text1 and Ctrl+V+2 for pasting text2. With multiple copy buffers support we can copy as many text we want in computer's memory and paste it whenever necessary while editing text files. 

On Linux, of all the various text browsers available, Vim is my favorite. Reasons - simplicity, speed and capability. And, I was so happy to find the multiple copy buffers feature available on this simple yet powerful text editor. In Vim, you will have to use yy to copy a line and p to paste it elsewhere in Command mode. To copy a line to buffer a, you can use "ayy. To copy a line to buffer b, you can use "byy. To paste the line copied into buffer a, you can "ap. Similarly, to paste the line copied into buffer b, "bp can be used and so on.

Although the notion of using something else apart from the standard Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V for copying and pasting for newbies who haven't used Vim quite often, there is a very high chance of you starting to like this textual editor once you explore its full potential. And, this multiple copy buffers feature only adds to its potential. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Adding keyword based site searches to browser


Have you ever wondered how typing "wiki mahatma gandhi" in your firefox browser's location bar redirects you to Gandhi's wiki page? Don't you think searching content on some sites you visit regularly by typing stuff directly in your browser without going to Google or Bing makes it lot easier? Here is a simple tutorial to add custom search engines to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Before we get started, make sure to have the following items ready. Pencil, sharpener, eraser, ruler and a sheet of paper. Lol, I'm just kidding. All you need is your computer with a browser, Firefox or Chrome. In this tutorial, I will add keyword based search feature for my blog site on the above mentioned browsers. For this I will be using the search box provided for the blog site by Blogger.

Google Chrome
To add custom search feature on Chrome, you will have to identify the search url first. You can do that by doing a dummy search. In the figure below, for search query "table" the url is identified by the box highlighted on the top (http://psychesvisage.blogspot.com/search?q=table). Replace the query string with a %s and that will be your generic search string pattern. In our case, it will be "http://psychesvisage.blogspot.com/search?q=%s". Let's call this search query url.


Now, you may either type "chrome://settings/searchEngines" in your browser address bar or right click on the address bar of your browser and hit "Edit search engines.." as shown below.
This would open a page as shown below. Under "Other Search Engines", populate an empty row with the your site name, a keyword and the search query url we talked about earlier. In my case, I filled the row with "Psyche's Visage", "blog", search query url we identified earlier. 

Now, all I have to do is type "blog gandhi" in the address bar of the browser to search for all my blog posts related to Gandhi on a Google Chrome browser.

Mozilla Firefox
Firefox is a lot easier to deal with for our problem. All you have to do it right click on the search bar in your webpage, and hit on the option "Add a Keyword for this Search..." as shown below.

This would bring up a dialog box for creating Bookmark. Fill in the required details and save. In my case, I filled the values "Psyche's Visage" and "blog" for name and keyword respectively. 

Now I can search for content related to "Nehru" on my blog by typing "blog nehru" in the address bar of my Firefox browser as well.

I hope you find this post helpful.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Periodic Table 2011 Update


Apparently operating systems and softwares are not the only ones to get frequent updates. The elements of periodic table also have their turn. It is about time for all the science teachers to update charts of the periodic tables on the class room walls as two more artificial elements made their place permanent in the table. Although the life span of these these unnamed elements, only identified as element 114 and 116, is very short  scientists have decided to make their place permanent in history. These new elements are very unstable and they disintegrate seconds after their formation. I wonder who or what they will be named after, as 112th was named Copernicium after Nicholas Copernicus.
Taxi wrapped in Periodic table for promotion by Oxford Science Park last year.

Periodic table gave me a hard time when I was a kid, as we were expected to remember all its elements by heart. It was really hard trying to remember all the 103 names of natural elements by categorizing them. But in the end it was fun as you compete with your friends and play games with all those weird sounding names. Recently man made elements were making their place permanent in the periodic table and increasing it size.

More elements will more names for kids to remember! So, how many periodic elements did you have to remember when you were a student?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have you found your inner peace?


"Anything is possible when you have inner peace" says Master Shifu to his student Po, and this is how "the dragon warrior" saves not just the Valley of Peace, but entire China. Enjoying the confidence he has gained as the dragon warrior after defeating the evil and ferocious snow leopard Tai Lung in the first part, our Kung-Fu Panda continues his adventures along with the Furious Five in this new sequel. Just like Spiderman reasserted the statement "With great power comes great responsibility", Po restates "To protect from a powerful villain, a great hero will be born". 
Source: moejackson.com

And this evil villain, a peacock, becomes a trouble to deal with for our warrior Panda when he claims "China is mine" and determines to eliminate and destroy Kung-fu with his almighty metal spitting weapons. In fighting the evil peacock Lord Shen, Po has to find answers. Answers about his past, about his parents and about how Lord Shen is related to his past. On learning the answers to all his questions through the soothsayer, a female goat with a long beard, Po finds his inner peace and sets forth to save his friends, the furious five, and China from the evil antagonist. All this action  doesn't mean that our Panda lost interest in gobbling up dumplings or lost his funny tooth. He is all the same, but a little more dynamic after perfecting his kung-fu skills.

Year after year, quality of CGI has been improving dramatically and this movie is no exception. There were pretty complicated scenes designed in this movie, and the action sequence in ocean as the movie ends stands out. I strongly felt that the movie and the animations were designed specifically keeping in mind the effect it would give while watching in 3D. So, if you haven't watched this movie yet, go for it. And go for it in 3D.

Until then, in search of inner peace!

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Electron's new shape, is Dan Brown listening?


Apparently, electron is not a perfect sphere. You might say what difference does it make if its not symmetric by 10E-27 th extent, but hell broke loose to all the scientists after researchers at Imperial College London discovered this fact. Physicists say that this tiny difference - so tiny that if the electron is magnified to the extent of solar system the symmetry would be lost only to an extent of human hair - might make a lot of difference in terms of the interactions electron makes around. After years of all those science classes in school and college where my teachers over and over tried in drilling down various formulae, radius and size of these atomic and subatomic particles, now I find this discovery fascinating.

And, they say this slight difference might be one reason why it is difficult to manifest antimatter. I hope Dan Brown is updated with this article. This might help him build script for a sequel to his book Angels and Demons, in which the protagonists save the world from destruction due to antimatter. Danny boy, have you started working yet?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How to prepare your own 3 player chess board?


For all you chess lovers, three player chess board is "the" thing now. Three minds are always better than two. And hence, three player chess board is. It adds all new possibilities and complexities to the already complicated game. Not a chess player myself, but I am always amused looking at people outplaying their others. And I have a couple of friends who play really well. This post serves as a tutorial in building your own variant of a three player chess board. :P
Source: 3manchess.com
Apparently, the board above is patented. I wonder why I didn't come up with this, after looking at how this one is designed. :P It is made by dividing a circle into three equal 120 degree sectors, and then compressing one half of squared shaped chess board into a sector each! I guess a picture better explains this. But this should give ideas to people eager on inventing a 4 player chess board. What say!
Source: 3manchess.com
But this three player chess board is nothing new. People have been unleashing their creativity in trying to incorporate 3 players into one single board. And the simple rule to follow is to have parts of a 1/2 chess board. All the pictures below should give you a rough idea in case you want to come up with one of your shape.
Source: chesshouse.com
Source: boardwalkgamesinc.com


Source: sandyfly.net
Do post me a link to your site, if you come up with your own variant of this game. After all, I hope this post tried its part in highlighting how easy it should be in trying out your version of the game.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Technology, Love and Hate!

Skype might possibly look like this later this year after it gets integrated with Microsoft Windows Office suite! Who knows if we are all made to create and use Windows Live ID if we want to continue using their services

Do you think it is a big deal when Microsoft announces to buy Skype, the free video conferencing software which became a huge hit in the recent years? I think so having been a loyal Skype user for the past few of years now! Microsoft having had this reputation to monetize their technology makes me wonder if Skype also encounters such fate. Worse if it gets integrated with their Office 2012 suite for which we have to shell out bucks and soon enough made to pay the $8.5 Billion they have invested in buying Skype. Who knows, Skype might be made to stop supporting iPhones in order to boost up Windows phone sales. But for Microsoft this is a big step in capturing the user base of the Internet and Video Communications leader. Pity the loyal Windows Live Messenger, hope it does not get shelved after all the service it has done since 1999. 

The founders of Skype had quite a bumpy ride all these years despite their product being a hit among the masses since their product is widely popular for the free services they offer. But I still am unable to comprehend if this deal with Microsoft is a fitting finish to their effort or not! Let's hope this deal at least adds the much need cool factor to Microsoft that Kinect failed to completely bring to this technology corporate. Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, known for his eccentric behavior in the media and public conferences said "Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world. Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world."  

On the other hand, Google has been trying a lot of different things! Latest being their Youtube service testing its luck in movies business. Starting yesterday, Youtube is offering movies for rent at youtube.com/movies. I believe performance wise this new step does not create any major lag, as Youtube is used to seeing 35 hours of free video content uploaded to its servers every minute. Buckle up Netflix; what's your strategy now?

With all possible updates from technology giants, I wonder what Facebook is upto! All hail the "Zuck" and wait for the next big security lapse in Facebook. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

When the King lost the jewel in his crown


"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again." These were the words uttered by the first Prime Minister of India when British granted a dominion status to India and hence giving independence to its 40 crore people. But little do we about the detailed events that happened among the British in deciding to give India its independence. Alex Von Tunzelman in her book Indian Summer: The secret history of the end of an empire deals with, in detail, the lives of Nehru, Gandhi, Jinnah and the Mountbattens who are the crucial people in birth of India and Pakistan. These are the people who triggered various actions that led to the independence. And these countries endured a lot of struggle and suffering even after their birth.

The author, a history student at Oxford, starts with a startling perspective. There were two countries in 1577. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organised and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swathe of the earth; and the other was an underdeveloped semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its masses. Guess what! The first is India and the second is England. In 1857 it was the other way about! Now you know what alien rule does to the ruler and the ruled! But, the country divided by its diversity fell prey to the British who found a way to enter this land as traders in the name of The East India Company. And India became a prized possession in the King's crown.

It is difficult to make history an interesting read, but Alex overcomes this problem by making the text highly readable. Her research deals with treacherous politics and personal details of the key players and her presentation of the otherwise boring history, clear and restraint.

Of all the things this book had to offer, I was particularly disturbed after reading about the aftermath of the independence. The Indian summer of 1947 had witnessed the transfer of power by the British empire to the Indian Union and the Dominion of Pakistan. But, it had to also witness one of the worst tragedies mankind had ever seen. The tragedy in which about one million people were murdered in communal and religious clashes. Sad, we celebrate independence every year but fail to mourn the death of these countless civilians. Perhaps Stalin was right, 'Death of one man is tragedy; death of millions is statistic'.

And, these key players has achieved what had not been achieved in 130 years of Mauryan rule, 180 years of Mughal empire or 90 years of British Raj. A united India by bringing about 570 princely states together. But then, is India really united? I think Nehru's words during the hour of independence will achieve salvation only when India becomes united in the true sense!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Awake thou wintry earth



Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, "An Easter Hymn"

We, in Minnesota, are yet to see Spring in full green. I think it is just a few more days of wait, after all no winter stays for ever and no spring forgets its turn.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Come What May

 
When I first watched Moulin Rouge movie nine years ago, I so cursed myself for spending my two hours odd trying to make some sense out of all the boisterous pomp and gaudy flamboyance. But today when I watched it again my reaction was "Magnificent, opulent, tremendous, stupendous, gargantuan bedazzlement, Spectacular spectacular, no words in the vernacular", exactly the words of the character Zidler. Not everyone might like this movie, but this certainly falls under the category where you either love it a lot or hate it. Fairly difficult to categorize since it falls under many genres unlike hollywood movies which follow a particular genre. And that is expected since the director of this movie, Baz Luhrmann was inspired to make it after watching a Bollywood movie which usually has almost all the elements in it. And just as the inspiration, Moulin Rouge has a bit of everything in it. It falls under musical, romance, comedy, tragedy and drama. And after this Indian connection it is only fair that the director included  an Indian play within the movie as part of the story.

Much like the story of Charudatta and Vasantasena (yes, yes! you guessed it right if the movie Utsav is running in your mind), this is a romantic love story between Satine, a singing courtesan played by Nicole Kidman and Christian, a story writer played by Ewan McGregor. Set in the year of 1899 in the village Montemartre, Paris where people celebrate living in Bohemian style following freedom, beauty, truth and love as principles, the movie is about telling a story as loud as possible. Narrated in emotions expressed through modern songs, the movie is a bold attempt to incorporate modern songs into a century old story. And the best part is that protagonists sing their own songs, and they do it really well with all those little imperfections which only add to the emotions of the song. I know its really hard for us Indians to imagine our actors and actresses rendering their own voices.

Never till now have I enjoyed English musicals as much as I did this movie. The songs are absolutely fitting, and they go perfectly synchronised with the vibrant colors on the screen. The adaptation "El Tango De Roxanne" based on the original by The Police is the best part of the movie with the intense music, passionate dance and piercing lyrics doing their best describing the plight of the male protagonist. I also liked the song "Come what may" for its lyrics. It is this song that sets the love story between the protagonists. 

Screencast from the movie Moulin Rouge showing an Indian play.
I am really happy I gave this movie a second chance. Better late than never, and it paid off really well. I have been listening to the songs ever since. All in all its a deeply involving musical tale of deceit and love with comedy and tragedy.

As the voice of the children of the free Bohemian revolution says in this movie "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Google's Video Logo


It all started with colour doodles in 1998, and went upto animations. Later, we were all impressed with interactive doodles and games. Today, it's a video. Google inspires us all by paying respects to famous personalities and wonderful innovations with innovative doodles on the popular clutter-free search page.

Commemorating Charlie Chaplin's birthday, the search giant came up with a video as logo on their page. Their first video logo, also their second interactive logo, is a silent movie paying respects to the great comedian just the same way he entertained us all for years. The first doodle was created by Google's founders itself.

For all of you who haven't seen last year's Google logo for Indian Independence day

I hope Google comes up with many more doodles telling us their little stories and bringing back memories of great past.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I will sue you for the heck of it


One of the few things that amused me when I first came to US was the nature of lawsuits filed in this country. People here mockingly use the words "I will sue you". But, I understood the gravity behind these words only after I heard the story behind the caution on the paper cups in which coffee is served in the American coffee shops. I was having my first cup of Starbucks coffee in the US, and could not help noticing the warning "Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot". Of course it has to be, it's a cup of coffee. Who guessed, accidentally spilling coffee could lead to product liability litigation and fetch 640,000 dollars. In a country where warning signs on hair dryers read "Do not use in shower" for the fear of getting sued, it is totally sensible to have a caution on coffee cups reminding people that it's content is hot.

According to studies by the Economic Journal, Americans spend a lot more on civil litigation compared to others. In year 2002 alone, there were about 16 million civil cases filed in the courts. The fear of lawsuits has changed the way people do even the simplest of things. No longer can lives of people be the same when frivolous lawsuits are filed on a family owned restaurant for serving not so hot soup, or on a weather channel for not predicting rain, or on a school management when a kid gets hurt while playing.

Bizarre and funny lawsuits is a common case. One such instance happened in the 90s after a Michigan man watched advertisements by Budweiser beer company. In the advertisement, beautiful girls came across a man's way while he  was drinking the beer, but unfortunately for him it didn't work out. He went ahead and sued the beer company and the court dismissed the case. I wonder how the courts tolerate such junk and useless cases and waste their valuable time. There is no bound to creativity when a prisoner filed a legal litigation on himself for a few millions for the crimes he committed. Had he won the case, the government must pay him since he is in jail and not earning and could not pay himself for the legal lawsuit filed by himself. I don't really understand what exactly happens to common sense?

The sue-for-everything mantra became popular in America, when the legislators  in 1960s decided to give the people of this country a right to demand monetary compensation for any ill treatment meted out by them. Sadly, this "right" is very rarely put to use in the right way. Doctors suffer the most in this country, because a significant number of medical cases which lead to failures end up into a lawsuit - doctor getting sued, or the equipment manufacturers, medicines or even the hospital as such. This leads to a huge increase in cost of healthcare and hence costs of medical insurance.

Glad we did not have such a suing culture in India, else it would have been another source of free money people will be looking for, like lottery!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Secret life of computers as spam soldiers

Spam Mails in GMail (Source)

Did you know that 9 out of every 10 emails exchanged on the Internet are spam? And, the year 2007 went through its worst phase with spam exceeding 95% of email traffic. Spam emails which just started as another way to advertise products now turned to deception and fraud. And your computer might as well be a participant in bringing down a company's network through DDos attack, or in sending out infinite number of advertisements on viagra. It is like PCs having a secret  life because not even owners of the computers are aware when they are effected by spam.  Everything happens so discretely. However it is not the case always!

Sometime ago, my windows laptop was completely taken over by malware. To my shock, I could see spam emails being sent from my laptop by those spam processes which got installed. And all my antivirus and security software could do was try to block all those spam emails sent from my laptop in vain. It's quite scary when you cannot control those spam bots on your laptop, and the best possible solution in that case happens to be deleting the operating system and formatting your hard drive. Thankfully I shifted to Linux which doesn't pose problems with malware and viruses. But email spam cannot be avoided by anyone at all.

With spam being such a pain, Microsoft was lauded as a hero when it brought down Rustock. Rustock is a bot net which is supposedly responsible for more than 40% of spam emails. Any computer effected by this spam bot could send about 2 lakh emails per day. And, most computers effected by this malware had Microsoft's operating system. Which is the reason why Microsoft invested so much in bring down spam bots that are responsible for degrading their brand name. But, do we have a day when all the resources are put to best use by totally destroying spam? Lets be hopeful, and the next unbeatable Internet giant will be the one which can provide spam less email service.

Are you aware of your computer's secret life yet? Keep your Windows OS and security softwares upto date. And make yourself familiar with the help available around. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reflections

View from the cafeteria of my new office which is located in 9th floor. Quite a view to spend breaks between work, isn't it? You could see the shadow of me clicking the photograph in the reflection. Also, the logos of Pepsi on the vending machine makes it to the reflections.


In the picture above, on the right is a lake still frozen despite the temperatures being a little more than 0 Centigrade these days. Below is a picture with complete aerial view of the frozen lake.


Reflecting up on today, all I could remember is Indian cricket team winning against their Pakistani counterpart. Moments of joy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Those moments


Your experience reflects mine. This is precisely the reason why I stay away from meeting newly married couples. Because eventually they will be made to tell their story. And their story reminded me of mine when Ajith and Prerna were telling how they met at a common friend's house on the day of Holi last year.

As they were telling their story, I could not help but take a ride to the past. This was three years ago. It was about six weeks since I met Samhita for the first time in the park during my morning run. The spirit of holi was in the air to the full extent, I could already find patches of colours in the park while I was waiting for her as I would every day. Gaudy purple and dark green. Pink and orange. I pictured in my mind how the park would look colourful and muddy the next day - the holi day. There were these three girls jogging in the park, and I was staring at them absent-mindedly when Samhita came. Narrowing her eyes yet smiling with them she said "I know what you were doing!" when I was about to give her some reason. I was always good at giving reasons, and she was always good at ignoring them. We slipped into a discussion as we started running. On politics, on music, on philosophy, on little nothings. And like any other day we had our share of arguments and disapprovals and were at peace by the time we finished our run. I loved to see her angry, and made sure to get an opportunity everyday. We said our byes for the day.

Holi Colour Cloud, Source: here
As she was walking away, I slowly followed behind her with a handful of gulaal. There was a momentary hesitation as I was not sure how she would react but I had decided to smear pink colour on her face. I was so unsure about what I was doing and I could hear my heart thumping loud. Worried she would turn around listening to that sound, I went ahead quickly. I could feel her soft cheek as I smeared the colour and my heart only thumped louder. For a moment, I wondered if she used Ponds face cream as her soft cheek reminded me of the googly woogly woosh commercial. I could see the anger in her eyes as she turned around. Infact she was very angry and quick to respond. She took the remaining colour powder from my hand and smeared on my face with a cunning smile, and said "So, are we ready for tomorrow?". That smile, I could hear saying to myself I know that smile and a broad smile spread across my face too. Its the moment that make you believe everything cannot be more perfect in the world.

The next morning, we had more company in the park. It was a larger crowd, enthusiastic and colourful. I could feel the spirit of holi in the air. And there she was, ravishing in white kurti and pajamas as she walked into the park. Armed completely with colours and a couple of pichkaris, its a complete contrast from her usual casual pony tail. Her hair was oiled and carefully bunned. She looked different yet elegant, her face glowing in that morning sunlight due to the obvious layer of cream. I was awestruck and froze like a statue looking at her until my vision was blurred due to the colour powder she threw at me as she came closer. As the yellow colour settled, there she was standing right in front of me sporting a cheerful childlike grin. The grin you see on a children's happy faces when their parents boast about the naughty things they do. After a little while I could not believe myself that the original colour of Samhita's dress was white. I could not recall how time passed by while playing with colours in the park that day. You do not observe and analyze when you are at one of the best moments in your life. You just live them and you are seized by those moments that make you forget the world around. And, may be I tried to live the moment with Samhita that day while playing holi!

Even today, it is memories like these which bring a smile on my face even in the times of distress. For our memories are the only wonderland from which no one can ever stop us ruling it.



P.S. Another attempt to continue the story further. Happy Holi everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Like the Dislike button

Have you ever observed the "like" to "dislike" percentage on youtube videos? For most of the popular videos with huge number of hits, the general trend is the ratio of dislike to like is about 0.1. And if a video isn't a worthy one, the ratio only increases. Earlier the videos on Youtube were rated based on a 5 star scale. I wonder how this effects the way videos are perceived by viewers when they see a particular number of likes and dislikes.

The "Dislike" button, do you like it?
This also makes me wonder about what would happen if Facebook is to introduce "dislike" button. It would only make us realise how much crap we end up posting on Facebook through status messages and etc. And also, Facebook has been smart so far in not introducing Dislike button, and this way everyone feels that no one dislikes what they have to rant on a daily basis! What do you think about this?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Change

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton Season 2 edition 18; the eighteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

I hate change
But my bus driver insisted,
And so did my vending machine!

Its a sad life.

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Snow covered car

Snow cover on Toyota Camry 2011 over night. Have encountered worse than this though! Waiting for the summer now.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Gmail's weekend data loss

Image Source: www.worcester.org 
Few months ago I wrote about our increasing dependence on Internet here: How dependent are you on Internet?. Despite the instances of data losses from internet giants being a possibility, one such instance is the recent loss of Gmail data effecting about 0.02% of its users, I am still one of those who relies on my email servers as backup for my conversations and documents exchanged via emails. In this recent Gmail incident, the bug effected all the multiple copies of the users' data Google stores in its servers. As of now Gmail team is still unable to recover the lost data completely, as the App Status page still continues to show the scary yellow wrench. 

Data loss sucks! I know it first hand since I lost years of work sometime back when a friend mistakenly formatted my hard disk. Ever since I was a little careful in making multiple copies of data. Now that buying Tera Bytes of space has become cheaper, taking data backups should not be as costly as it was earlier.

Do you also rely on your email servers and other Internet options to store your data? What precautions do you take to secure your data and prevent its loss?

Monday, February 28, 2011

When aliens contacted Jodie Foster

Ever since my laptop crashed, I have been watching movies in Netflix regularly on my phone . I for one want to get involved in my movie. And since that sense of involvement one gets while watching on a phone is quite less I watch one movie over a period of days. 

The previous two days I watched the movie Contact, a 1997 film starring Jodie Foster based on a book written by Carl Sagan, an astronomer. This movie deals with conflict between technological advances and religious faith when scientists working on SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) receive radio signals broadcasted from Vega, fifth brightest star we can see from Earth. Embedded in the radio signals are engineering plans to build a complex device beyond human capability that can transport a single person from Earth to Vega using a wormhole mechanism, a hypothetical mathematical explanation that allows matter to travel in space-time instantaneously. Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, who heads the SETI team takes the responsibility to travel in that device and to interpret humanity's first contact with alien intelligence.

Jodie Foster from the film Contact. In the background is VLA Radio Telescope in New Mexico, an array of 27 independent radio telescopes whose combined power can be used to pick up radio signals from stars. Radio signals are least effected by Earth's atmosphere and hence these telescopes can be installed on Earth without worrying about the loss of signals.
Having read the Space and Astronomy sections in "The New Book of Popular Science - Vol I" very recently, my fascination for these telescopes (my haiku on Hubble Space Telescope) and outer space has no bounds. I was pleasantly surprised with the 3 minute graphics of outer space in the beginning of the movie. I was thrilled to see VLA radio telescope in Mexico live in action in the movie. And using the first video signal ever transmitted into air, Hitler's speech at Berlin Olympics in the 1930s, as the message from aliens, rather Vegans, is smart. Since the star Vega is about 25 light years away from Earth, any electromagnetic signal would take nearly 50 years to go reach that star and come back to Earth. 

I wish I were into astronomy, except for that unexplainable phobia I used to have  as a kid towards celestial bodies. May be I should visit some observatory or space related museum to make sure if I still have that phobia! Do we have a name for this kind of phobia?
 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bring out the chef in you with Google!

For all you people like me who stay away from home and crave for delicious home cooked food every time you eat the food you cooked, here is some help. What was mastered by our mommies and grand mas through intuition in dishing out wonders, was turned by us - the new generation - into calculated numbers and instructed portions of ingredients. And Google, which is under an oath to follow the quote "Make hay while the sun shines" and which makes the best of the information available to them, is here to help us out in making lip smacking food ourselves with their Google Recipe View.

Searching recipes for Mirchi Pakora using Google Recipe View. You can filter out the results based on cooking time and ingredients.
Recipe View, as they say in their official blog, is based on Rich Snippets feature Google introduced a couple of years earlier for webmasters. And it allows users like me to search recipes based on ingredients and cooking time. Isn't that cool?

But after a brief beta testing using Indian recipe search terms made me think that Google needs to work a little more in organizing the data they have. While writing a recipe for mirchi pakoras, people might use "green chillies" or "green peppers" or "hari mirch" in the list of ingredients required. And Google's engine must be very smart in identifying that all these mean the same. And it should be able to list out all the recipes when an appropriate search string for recipe is given by users. This is the reason why they have given out certain instructions to the writers of recipes, which in the long run would help them in improving this feature.

And a note to all you super cooks out there who help us all the time by posting your recipes online. If you want to make the best out of this and want their Recipe View to feature the recipes you posted on your site, please optimize your posts on recipes by following the instructions here and here. By following their instructions, you are helping us as well in making your recipes available to us in a better way.

So, what's stopping you? Start using Google Recipe View and bring out the chef in you!

Friday, February 18, 2011

What does this cricket world cup mean to you?

"Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English." - Ashis Nandy
Google Logo for Cricket World Cup 2011. Doesn't the player in the doodle look like Sachin?

Beginning today, millions of people in India and around the world will be glued to their idiot boxes cheering their favorite teams. With cricket being one of the religions in India, world cup acts like a platform where in Indians come out of their cocoons and share a unique bond, unlike IPL where they take a dig at each other. And, the world cup fever only builds up more with the opening ceremony being a grand success.

This cricket world cup means different things to different people.
  • To youngsters using social networks, it means a lot of spam with cricket related apps on facebook, and endless feeds on match and score details on twitter.
  • To TV showrooms in India, it means lots of visitors outside their shops.
  • To a corporate manager, it means decrease in the productivity of his/her subordinates.
  • To a corporate employee, it means a reason to leave early in the evening to catch up with a cricket match.
  • To bloggers, it means lot more topics to blog about.
  • To people in movie business, it means off season.
  • To news channels, it means no need to worry about their breaking news ticker tapes.
  • To Sachin's fans, it means a reason to win the world cup.
  • To any Indian, it means a topic to initiate a conversation.
  • To my mom, it means an interruption to her in watching her favorite TV serials.
  • And to me, it's nostalgia

What does it mean to you?