Thursday, October 20, 2011

The fall of the mighty: On Gadaffi's death

A man who ruled over an entire country for 42 years like God, was dragged out of a drainage pipe and killed in cold blood.

However good or bad a ruler he was, its sad to see someone who lived like a king for 42 years being brought down to a state wherein he begs for his life on the streets to a bunch of hooligans. Some of his sons were also killed in cold blood.

The uncivilized nature of mob justice was in full display.

Saddam Hussein is a similar name that would come immediately to one's mind. But he at least had the chance of a trial.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dennis Ritchie (September 9, 1941 – October 12, 2011)

Another great pioneer passes away.  Just a few days after the death of Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie the man who gave us C and one of the great influences in Unix, passed away. May be less famous than Steve Jobs for non-techies, but in no way lesser.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs (Feb 24, 1955 – Oct 5, 2011)

The irreplaceable loss of a business visionary, innovator, creative genius and thought leader.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Setting up Reliance Netconnect on Linux

It can be a very confusing and frustrating to setup wireless broadband like Tata Photon, Reliance Netconnect, etc. on Linux. Here's my experience on successfully setting up Reliance Netconnect on Fedora 15 using the wvdial PPP utility. The same could work for Tata Photon or any other modem based Internet service.

The concept is fairly simple. All such services work through a modem connected to the computer via the USB interface. We need to setup a PPP connection to the service provider via the modem. the wvdial command is more intelligent wrapper over the basic ppp utility.

1) Connect the USB Modem (Huawei EC 150 in my case)
2) Open terminal as root (or run the commands using sudo)
3) Type wvdialconf on the command prompt. This will create a default configuration file /etc/wvdial.conf with the following contents
[Dialer Defaults]
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = Analog Modem
Phone = Phone
ISDN = 0
Username = Username
Password = Password
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Baud = 9600
Note: The values for some of the properties might be different based on your modem type

4) Modify /etc/wvdial.conf as follows:
[Dialer Defaults]
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = Analog Modem
Phone = #777
ISDN = 0
Username = your MDN number
Password = your MDN number
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Baud = 9600

5) Type wvdial on the command prompt. By default it takes the setting from  /etc/wvdial.conf if required you could place this file anywhere and pass it as the first argument to wvdial.
[root@juby juby]# wvdial
--> WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.61
--> Initializing modem.
--> Sending: ATZ
--> Sending: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
--> Modem initialized.
--> Sending: ATDT#777
--> Waiting for carrier.
--> Carrier detected.  Waiting for prompt.
~[7f]}#@!}!}!} }8}"}&} } } } }#}$@#}%}&"7Hj}'}"}(}"e[12]~
--> PPP negotiation detected.
--> Starting pppd at Fri Sep  2 10:38:55 2011
--> Pid of pppd: 1836
--> Using interface ppp0
--> pppd: <
--> pppd: <
--> pppd: <
--> local  IP address
--> pppd: <
--> remote IP address
--> pppd: <
--> primary   DNS address
--> pppd: <
--> secondary DNS address
--> pppd: <

6) Add the primary and secondary DNS addresses to /etc/resolv.conf with the following entries:


7) Make sure that Internet traffic is routed through the PPP interface using ifconfig command.
If there are other interfaces (say LAN) turn them off by typing ifconfig if-name down
8) Ensure that the default traffic handler goes through the PPP interface. Type route on the command prompt. You should see something as follows:

[root@juby etc]# route
Kernel IP routing table
Destination     Gateway         Genmask         Flags Metric Ref    Use Iface *      UH    0      0        0 ppp0   *        U     0      0        0 virbr0
default         *              U     0      0        0 ppp0

The default entry ensures that Internet traffic is routed through the PPP interface.

Till step 5) is usually straightforward and the procedure is explained in many other articles and blogs. However many people typically face problems from  step 6) onwards, wherein inspite of having their modem setup and connected, they are not able to access the Internet.

Note: Please see the man pages for wvdial, wvdialconf, ifconfig, route for the details of these commands.

This approach should work on most Linux distros and versions provided wvdial is installed and the system is able to detect the USB dongle.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Innovation is as much about "not doing" as "doing"

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away..
 - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Steve Jobs says: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.  I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.  Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.

Full article here.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden (March 10, 1957 – May 2, 2011)

Afghan terrorists (back then they were called freedom fighters) were heavily supported by USA in order to fight USSR in Afghanistan. In a way Osama Bin Laden and the bunch of Afghan terrorists groups bearing different names have received direct/indirect help from US in its war against communism. "Our enemy's enemy is our friend" kind of logic.

May be its right to say "The terrorist Osama Bin Laden: created and destroyed by the USA"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sai Baba: The death of a human God

Self proclaimed human God Sai Baba estimated to have about 6 million followers worldwide, died yesterday at the age of 84. The term "human God" need not be considered derogatory as a human God is by no means lesser than an imaginary God.

He (or his disciples) not only claimed him to be a Purna Avatar in the Hindu tradition, but also claimed that his divine incarnation was predicted by Bible and Muhammad. He has predicted that he will be reborn as "Prema Sai Baba" in 2012 somewhere between Bangalore and Mysore.

The good news for the Guru/Baba/Amma worshipers is that, 100s (if not 1000s) of Gods are still left in our country. We may have shortage for food, water & shelter; we may have shortage for jobs; we may have shortage for  natural resources; but its unlikely that we in India will ever have shortage for Gods.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

World cup cricket 2011 victory celebrations, and confused dogs

I got a little curious about an incident amidst the the "World Cup Cricket 2011" victory celebration. The place is south Bangalore, and the time late night of 2nd April, 2011. Having spent (or rather wasted) many years on active cricket and having totally lost interest on cricket now, I didn't bother to watch the final between India and Srilanka. But having had a quick look at the office TV earlier, I was aware that India was on the way to victory.

Sometime late in the night, bursting crackers and howling fans on the road confirmed that India has won the 2011 cricket world cup. I went for a walk amidst the celebrations.

In the middle of all this human action was the plight of the street dogs. Many of them got scared and ran away from the noisy scene to quieter places. A few bold and social ones joined their two legged friends with rhythmic howling. Howlers or quitters; bold or scared all of these dogs had one thing in common "they couldn't make heads or tails out of what was going on around them" (or so I believe). Most of them in their dog-sense would have though or asked each other "What the hell is going on here?"

Many a night most of us have been disturbed by the barking and howling of dogs. Mostly such barking and howling usually ends up in wailing agony for the dogs at some angry sleep deprived guy's stone throw. I tried to think about it a little differently. On such occasions, would the dogs be celebrating or communicating something very important to them? Something as important as our World Cup victory in their world!

Who knows!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri: A 10th century rationalist

An interesting personality during the Islamic Golden Age. He rejected religion in general and didn't accept that Islam was any way special.

The following quote (courtesy wikipedia) well expresses his feeling: "The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains."

The fact that he could express such thoughts and still live in a largely Muslim society also speaks about the tolerance during the Islamic Golden Age.

Wikipedia article on Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Five stages of programmer incompetence

Five stages of programmer incompetence:
  1. The Enthusiastic Newbie
  2. The Budding Genius
  3. The Abstraction Freak
  4. The Veteran
  5. The ‘Guru’
Original Article:

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Ascent of Man

One of my all time favorite documentaries is the series Ascent of Man, by Jacob Bronowski. The topic, content, and presentation are equally outstanding.

The quality and beauty of the series is  particularly due to the fact that more than a commercial attempt, its a result of  Bronowski's life long learning and personal word view.

Sadly Bronowski passed away in 1974, about one year after the series was released.

The 13 part series (list courtesy Wikipedia) :
  1. Lower than the Angels — Evolution of man from proto-ape to the modern form 400,000 years ago.
  2. The Harvest of the Seasons — Early human migration, agriculture and the first settlements, and war.
  3. The Grain in the Stone — Tools, and the development of architecture and sculpture.
  4. The Hidden Structure — Fire, metals and alchemy.
  5. Music of the Spheres — The language of numbers and mathematics.
  6. The Starry Messenger — Galileo's universe—and the implications of his trial on the shift to "northern" science.
  7. The Majestic Clockwork — Explores Newton and Einstein's laws.
  8. The Drive for Power — The Industrial Revolution and the effect on everyday life.
  9. The Ladder of Creation — Darwin and Wallace's ideas on the origin of species.
  10. World within World — The story of the periodic table—and of the atom.
  11. Knowledge or Certainty — Physics and the clash of the pursuit of absolute vs. imperfect knowledge, and the misgivings of the scientists realizing the terrible outcome of the conflict. Auschwitz. Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  12. Generation upon Generation — The joys of life, sex, and genetics—and the dark side of cloning.
  13. The Long Childhood — Bronowski's treatise on the commitment of man.
Part 13 and the final conclusions/suggestions made are very interesting and relevant. Some of the key concepts discussed are as relevant today as they were in 1973:
  • The need to democratize scientific knowledge, what Bronowski calls as "democracy of the intellect"
  • The importance of scientific thinking for the lay man
  • The danger of pseudoscience and new age thinking
  • A trend of declining scientific thinking in the Western world, and the possibility that Western dominance in Science will come to an end
The last point was very well put by Bronowski as follows:
"It sounds very pessimistic to talk about Western civilisation with a sense of retreat. I've been so optimistic about the ascent of man. Am I going to give up at this moment? Of course not.

The ascent of man will go on. But don 't assume that it will go on carried by Western civilisation as we know it. We are being weighed in the balance at this moment. If we give up, the next step will be taken, but not by us. We have not been given any guarantee that Assyria and Egypt and Rome were not given. We are a scientific civilisation.

That means a civilisation in which knowledge and its integrity are crucial. Science is only a Latin word for knowledge. If we don 't take the next step in the ascent of man, it will be taken by people elsewhere - in Africa, in China. Should I feel that to be sad? No. Humanity has a right to change its colour. 

And yet, wedded as I am to the civilisation that nurtured me, I should feel it to be infinitely sad.I, whom England made, whom it taught its language, and its tolerance and excitement in intellectual pursuits. I should feel it a grave sense of loss, as you would, if, 100 years from now, Shakespeare and Newton are historical fossils in the ascent of man, the way that Homer and Euclid are."

Some really good quotes from the series:
  • Man is unique not because he does science, and he is unique not because he does art, but because science and art equally are expressions of his marvelous plasticity of mind.
  • The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation.
  • There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy.
  • Dream or nightmare, we have to live our experience as it is, and we have to live it awake. We live in a world which is penetrated through and through by science and which is both whole and real. We cannot turn it into a game simple by taking sides.
  • This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave.
  • Man is not the most majestic of the creatures; long before the mammals even, the dinosaurs were far more splendid. But he has what no other animal possesses: a jigsaw of faculties, which alone, over three thousand million years of life, made him creative. Every animal leaves traces of what he was. Man alone leaves traces of what he created.
  • Man masters nature not by force, but by understanding. 
  • We are all afraid - for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every man, every civilization, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. The personal commitment of a man to his skill, the intellectal commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one, has made the Ascent of Man.