Sunday, November 30, 2008

SMS SPAM filtering?

Been there, done that. That's what you would hear if you are talking about SPAM filters for your e-mail. The other new area that I am constantly getting irritated about is the mobile SMS SPAM that make their way into my cell phone.

One way or the others, we inadvertently give away our mobile phone nos to the various dealers who pass on the same to bulk SMS generators. They in turn make it a point to enlighten you of the various offers that you should be thankful to spend your money on! Thank God I am not charged for incoming messages!

I know most providers like banks or the telecos provide a Do Not Call registry usually hidden away in the small-print. They abide by your request, but it is the other sources where you are forced to give away our number from where the main problem arises.

One thing that I noticed that most mobile phone lack is an active SPAM filter for your mobile phones that can scan your incoming SMSes and over a course of time, learn from you, on what you regard as SPAM and what are valid message. This algorithm of scanning the frequency of words that makeup an SMS and classifying them based on your inputs as one of 'possible SPAM', neutral or 'likely a valid SMS' is called the Bayesian SPAM filtering.

Looking at the Java MIDP API, I could not find any way by which I can intercept or takeover the built-in SMS application. However, from the forums, the friendly folks at Nokia informed that it might be possible using the C++ SDK.

So, my next possible app would be to try on the feat before which there might be a few simple applications to hone my skills on the S60 API. Check out the source forge project mymobiletools shortly for simple apps that might enhance your experience with your mobile.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Design Patterns: The art of making TV serials or masala movies

After being tortured to sit through one too many series of never ending serials, here are a few rules or patterns that I had observed:

Design patterns on serials or movies
  • The-Not-Good-as-it-seems Pattern: If it is too good to be true, it is a dream and in real-world, it will happen exactly the opposite
  • The-One-is-not-enough Pattern: One of the primary character will have two wives and will struggle between the two (or more?).
  • Medical-Miracle Pattern: Someone will get amnesia and later will be always be cured.
  • Double-Trouble Pattern: If twins are born, they will get separated to meet again 20 years later. Of-course, there will be scope for impersonation.
  • The-Cryptic-Prophet Pattern: Swamijis, gypsies, sadhus will usually be able to give cryptic clues on what is about to happen next
  • The-Cycle-of-Life Pattern: If a primary actor's family is portrayed as being very rich, chances are they will become poor. Conversely, the family opposing the hero / heroin will have the lifestyle opposite to them.
The art of extending airtime
  • The-Matrix-Bullet-Time Pattern: When the situation becomes tense, you get into slow-motion mode with background accompaniment *after* every statement / action made by the actors.
  • Manic-Mondays Pattern: Friday (for serials that are aired on weekdays) sessions will usually be a cliffhanger, ending just before a pretty tense moment which will usually fizzle out on Mondays.
  • Bored-With-the-Existing-Faces Pattern: When things become too dull, introduce a new set of characters and follow a side storyline
  • The-Forget-Me-Not Pattern: On long running soaps, introduce a recap session that compresses all major moments that had happened earlier which the actor will ruminate
Now a days, a lot of reality shows have made it into our TV channels. Here are a few patters that I have observed here:
  • The-Blunt-in-Your-Face Pattern: The judges make it an effort to be rude while pointing out the participants faults, with closeups of both the judges as well as the participants at the recieving end with again, background accompaniments.
  • The-Let's-Cry-Together Pattern: When a participant or pair is bumped out of the contest, you should watch the emotional drama. The relatives and friends of the bumped out participants hurling verbal assaults towards judges and the judges themselves get into an emotional state deciding to quit and all others wooing them to come back. This is something that you should not miss . OK, OK, I was kidding about the last statement!
  • You-Have-Yet-Another-Chance Pattern: When the participants are dropping off the chart like flies after you switch on the repellent, the organizer will decide to pardon the non-performers and continue to the next session.

CD-less Car Audio Systems

The new Honday City comes with an audio player that takes your portable player, collections of memory or USB sticks. Though a good option that gives flexibility allowing you to carry your music and listen to all of them, the minus point is, they now lack a CD player.

I see this as a disadvantage. Guess where I will play a newly purchased CD? In my car, on my way back home! The same goes for CDs purchased during a long trip. I might not have my laptop handy to rip and transfer songs on the go.

The music download scenario currently in India is not good either. Amazon and iTunes do not offer song downloads here. So, purchasing online music which is likely to happen during your home or office are not it atleast in India.

With these audio system, I will have to hold on until I reach home, rip the songs, copy them to my USB stick and only then, I will be able to listen to them in my car. Though most cars offer to add a CD as an option, for the cost, I feel this should be standard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Age of the Hybrid?

Honda recently offered a slash in their new Civic Hybrid model. Though not all are sure if it was a publicity move or an inventory clearing sale, I believe with good mileage figures and a growing concern on how green everyone should be, hybrid cars will see an increase in prominence in the Indian roads.

The Indian market is price sensitive. Be it an industrialist who is buying a Rolls Royce or a car enthusiast pining for a BMW, the inevitable question remains: "What is the mileage?". This has led to a slew of Diesel cars in the market . Though economic to us, it still fails against the 'green' parameter.

The other competitor to hybrids are the all-electric vehicles which may be termed greener (assuming that the cost of production, battery is far less harmful than the actual emissions), they lack in range, ability to quickly recharge (which seems to be a 5 minute affair for it's counterparts) and the lack of accessible recharge locations (do you think at the current electricity cuts).

The hybrid vehicles usually offer dual modes which combines the benefit of being green (to an extent), offer great mileage along with the ability to refuel using popular modes quickly. Maruti and Hyundai have already started offering a less greener dual option: CNG and petrol to the consumer which guarantees fewer paise / km.

So, hybrids, though being more expensive caters to all the other needs. The government can, to encourage this, offer to reduce the import duty for such cars as, in general, they help the environment much better than the other vehicles on the read.

So Toyota... are you listening?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dynamic Math Question Paper

If you have kids who are into schooling, now would be the time when you are revising their knowledge for the upcoming mid-term and half-yearly exams.

A good way to check up on your kid's (and your) math skills is to setup up a question paper. Unfortunately, kids have good memory power that you can't reuse the same maths question paper. Otherwise, you would see them breeze through the QP as they tend to 'remember' most of the answers.

The alternative is to have multiple QPs. But that is a pain and I had been thinking of coming up with a simple script or software (TeX) to generate the QP dynamically.

The final solution was much simpler. Use Excel or Open-office Calc (in my case) to dynamically generate the question paper. The key is, for each of the question, have a bunch of random numbers (to your specifications) generated so that you can construct the parts required for your sum and generate multiple versions of the question paper by recalculating the workbook.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A bookshelf in your palm

With the advent of e-books, software readers, hand-held devices and the Project Gutenberg, you literally have access to more than a book shelf.

A good e-book reader for your mobile when you are standard at some place with nothing to do is Mobipocket reader. It comes along with a good PC based e-book creator that can take simple HTML or .txt files and convert into a format usable from a mobile device.

With the text files combined with Emacs and a few regexps, I was able to convert most of the files to readable html files in a few minutes and feed them back to the e-book format converter for hours of readable entertainment.

So, my current bookshelf contains:

  • Arabian Nights
  • Robinson Crusoe by Defoe Daniel
  • The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
With these books with me, who would mind waiting on a long queue?