Saturday, June 05, 2010

World Tobacco Day - May 31

On my daily commute to my office, my only companion are the various FM radio channels. Most of them were hyping the World Tobacco Day on the 31st of May which included how much a person would have spent if he smokes a few packets to the various health issues. All this was nice until on that same day, where there were a few ads on the same channels sponsored from a tobacco company enticing listeners on their new offerings! Oh what irony!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

On the way to Sholinganallur via the IT highway, a flock of Pelicans have made the backwaters their 'in-transit stay' much to the delight of the commuters. Most of the commuters slow down and some (including myself) visited over the weekends to take a snap of the feathered friends.
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Sunday, August 09, 2009

50% off - Bah, humbug!

I had to do some shopping and was lured into a some of these shops by their big bold 'off' posters.
But alas, once inside, anything that I touch, the salesman utters "Sorry sir, but that does not have the discount". Not to be out-done, I ask "So what do you have on the discount sale?". He points to a table where there are a 'few' set of shirts that no one would pick up, in violet and pink and fluorescent green. But their prices seems to be barely justifiable even 'after' you apply the discount.

Note size of the '50%' and 'Sale' on the poster, where I think the entire wares on discount would comfortably fit in and you will still be able to make out what the poster says. Perhaps there should be some legalization on the size of the '50%' that you can have on the poster to depend upon the number of articles you have on a discount compared to the remaining items.

In the end, you end up buying the product at the same price you would have bought on any other normal day, but with the rush of eager shoppers, few choices and sub-par merchandise.

A+: Recommended visit if you have money to burn and love violets, pinks and fluorescent greens!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Desktop search vs good old grep

Been installing various desktop search tools like the Google Desktop, Copernic (once free), Microsoft Search etc and after a few weeks / months of usage, eventually felt happier to uninstall them. One of the primary reason I need a desktop search was I needed a tool to quickly search for mails. I would seldom search for files on my machine.

But one assumption that we need to keep in mind is that, these search engines are not exact. That is, the engines fetch you results, but they may not be comprehensive. The web crawling spiders that scour the web for data and index them, it is possible thet the server's index may be out of sync with respect to the actual web site as new data would have been posted after the spider index the content. In the Internet, sure, if you have a few sites missed out, it does not matter much. But desktop search apps seem to work in very similar lines. If at some time, for want of speed or to free up available memory, you stop indexing your mails or documents, chances are, these mails might not be indexed at all.

So, there were various instances where I was searching for that particular mail and it did not show up. Be aware that such search engines are not comprehensive and it is a good idea to resort to the good old linear search just it case. Though they may take time, they give you comprehensive results.

The same would apply when searching for keywords in code that you plan to manipulate. You would want to get all of the matching sources and not want to miss out even one.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

AJAX - Is it really worth it?

With the onset of interactive web pages that update dynamically the moment you move your mouse over a control, development of an AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML) based web site adds to the complexity.

For one, they mess up with your browser history and limit your ability to bookmark a particular page as almost all contents are loaded "in-page". The other disadvantage I see is the in-ability of custom scripts to access the site and extract information.

For example, I can write a perl script that can access the Indian Railways page and query the arrival of a particular train. If the site used AJAX, it's going to be more difficult. Cellphones that bundle with micro-browsers either lack javascripting or access is usually blocked by service providers leaving you grapping with an empty framework with no actual data in it.

Development wise, you introduce a sense of uncertainty into your web-page where when your page looks like it has completed loading, more data is still being AJAX'ed. This may lead to difficulties in maintainability.

Though there are a lot of benefits of using AJAX, the main being better user experience, for scripters, this is a blocker.

  1. A parallel web-service based interface would help those who are armed with Perl or Python to extract useful information at a jiffy
  2. A simplified web alternative will cater to the needs of the cellphone user or the average scripter.
Amazon, Google and a few other providers focus and provide open Web Services and / or a simplified interface, but this is something lacking from mosr of the other providers... With the popularity of consolidation sites ( anyone?), hopefully this will change.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ssh! Here's the scp

The other day, I was thinking of consolidating all my music collection from various machines and burn them into a DVD as a backup. There were various ways that I could have done the transfer:

  1. Extract the music back from the disk originals
  2. Copy them using a rewritable media like a pen drive or a writable media like a CD
  3. Connect over the network and copy the files
  • I can use Samba as some of my machines are Windows based
  • Setup a FTP server to copy files
  • I can setup a ssh server and securely copy the files to my Linux box
That was how I discovered ssh, the secure shell. I had originally been looking at setting up Samba on my Linux box, but was frightened with the possibility of it suffering a virus attach as most of the viruses / botnets would be scanning for a windows PC and this would become a backdoor for entry.

The other option was ssh which was simple to setup and quite secure. It basically provides a secure way to connect to a computer that enables the ssh service. You are presented with your standard console where you would be able to perform your usual activities.

Another prominent activity is copying files about, between the host and the client and this is where scp (Secure Copy) comes in. scp allows you to copy files between your client and the ssh server securely.

Now, scp is a command line tool and most get intimidated with copying files from the command-line be it the versatile '$' prompt or the more familiar 'C:\>'. On the windows side, you have winscp which is a GUI application with a Norton commander-like interface which would make GUI aficionados feel at home in copying files safely and securely.

Winscp comes as a portable app, which means, you can actually run this app in your windows machine without fear of cluttering your registry and contributing to registry bloat. Portable apps are targeted to those who would like to keep a handful of portable apps in their pen drive which can be executed without any requirement for installation or setup. Check out portable apps for more such applications.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Linux has better throughput?

The other day, I saw news item at slashdot where people mentioned that Linux seemed to perform better that Windows on network throughput. Some attributed it to the ISP throttling the bandwidth for the first few minutes where as others mentioned that the Linux network drivers seemed to be configured to maximize network performance where as the Windows settings are sub-par.

An indepth article depicting based on actual data is provided which eventually leads to thinking perhaps, you should tweak your windows network settings...

Though people had complained that both the machines tested had slightly different specs and hence the performance results could be skewed, I have been browsing on both a windows PC and a linux box and it does look like (no systematic tests conducted!) the throughput that I get on a Linux PC is much higher than as experienced on the windows PC so far.

The windows PC or laptop has 512MB RAM and is an Intel Centreno Duo 1.66GHz where as the Linux Box is a older AMD Athlon XP @ 2.66GHz with 384 MB of Memory. Both connect via the wireless. The few parameters which may make a difference are:
  • The XP box is laptop which may compromize for space rather than for performance
  • The Desktop has a higher MHz rating
  • Virus scanner on the laptop may bring down the performance. The Linux box has no such apps hogging memory or CPU bandwidth.
  • Network adapter differences - The desktop has a netgear wlan card which may offer better performance
So, based on these parameter differences, it looks like we would have to take the observation with a pinch of salt. On the better side, as more and more news and comparisons of different OSes gain popularity, it is the users who would stand to benefit.