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Silver Reflects

My reflections on various topics under the sun

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I have moved!

This blog has moved to a new home at http://rajatupadhyaya.net/blog. Please update your bookmarks & the links which were pointing here.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

First Anniversary

It has been a year since I started this blog with this post. The most memorable thing about that first post was the first comment that was registered - by Mr.Barger himself in response to the "Did you know?" section in that post. "How did he know about your blog?", you may ask. Presumably he had used one of those tracker thingies which send out alerts whenever there is some new content on the web about the topics you specify. Anyway, thanks Mr.Barger - for the comment (that made my day) and for the erstwhile neologism.

Thanks to all of you who still try to follow my posts despite my erratic posting patterns. Muchas gracias!

P.S. I have certain things planned for the blog. Let us see how things turn out. (And for the Doubting Thomases out there, I am not joking. ;-)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Premier Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Premier Bookshop to redeem the coupons we had won at two of KQA's open quizzes (in particular, the open quiz on February 5th by Avinash Thirumalai & Siby Kuriakose of the Thought Gang & the one conducted by Dibyendu Das & Vinay Das on March 26th). We had been instructed to redeem them before April 15th. I didn't understand the reason for this until I read Suresh Menon's article in the Sunday Herald supplement of the Deccan Herald dated March 26th :-

“Soon the bookshop itself will no longer be there: Premier is on the verge of closing down.””
Needless to say, I couldn't believe my eyes. Premier? Closing down? What's happening? At the bookshop I talked to the proprietor, Mr.Shanbhag about this - it seems the lease for the place has expired & now the owner is reluctant to renew it. Mr.Shanbhag has been asked to vacate the place by around April end. So he is currently searching for another place where he can set up shop again. It was heartening to see some customers offering to help him out in searching for suitable places. I wished him the best in his quest & returned with these :-

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Browser War, Reloaded

In the last week of January, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2. This works only with Windows XP SP2. I had read about the amount of freshly copied features from better browsers (read Firefox & Opera) which would be available in IE7. Curious to see how the new & improved(?) IE would look, I downloaded & installed the browser.

Check out this screenshot of my desktop with IE7 showing the Google search page :-

Quick! Can you find the Stop button? Time up. Now can you find the Refresh button? Time up. Well, could you find them? Immediately? No? Look hard at the top right area of the image. Found them?

Typically one would be accustomed to having all the navigation buttons together at the top left. To achieve differentiation, Microsoft seems to have gone in for unintuitive interfaces. I want to stop some page from loading & I suddenly find that my Stop button is missing from its usual place. By the time I spot what I think is the Stop button & click on it, the page would have already loaded. Moreover I feel that both the Refresh & Stop buttons are not very responsive - they hardly seem to get depressed. And what is the reason for this wholesale shuffling of buttons? MS says they want to foil the attempts made by some sites to trick users into clicking on imitation toolbars at the top of the page. Huh? Whatever.

Tabbed browsing, anti-phishing tool(s), RSS feed detection are a few of the new features in IE7. But most Web developers want IE to support standards first - an area where IE has differentiated itself very well from its competitors ;-).

The release doesn't make any difference to me anyway. I have been using Firefox for a few years now & before that I had been using Opera (Before Opera? IE 5.x, of course. But those were the times when I was just getting my feet wet online. That's excusable, I guess :-).

Interesting fact about the browser wars :- Microsoft is beginning to face stiff competition from Firefox, which actually rose out of the Mozilla codebase which in turn was contributed by Netscape Corporation when they were being blown out of the browser business by Microsoft in mid 90s. So, will Firefox become IE's nemesis and avenge its ancestor? We can only wait & watch.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Bookworm's Diet

An update on the books I have read since my last update :-

Currently reading :-
  • The Complete Adventures of Feluda - Volume 2 by Satyajit Ray (Translated by Gopa Majumdar)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A villain remembered

The year was 1996. It had been around 2 months since I had entered high school, when I received a letter from my 'alma mater' asking me to attend that year's Independence Day celebrations in our locality as I would be receiving an award for being the school topper in the Class VII examinations. I knew there would be some big names at the event as it had been the practice of the organisers to invite prominent personalities from various fields to the function. Naturally I was excited at the prospect of being 'feted' by some big shot :-). However I was a tad disappointed to learn that the award would be given by Vajramuni, one of the most popular villains in the Kannada film industry. The appropriateness of inviting a 'bad guy' to give away an award for 'academic excellence' to impressionable youngsters was lost on me at that time. August 15th arrived and I went to the venue along with my parents & my kid brother. Now, Vajramuni had a characteristic style of demonstrating villainy - while plotting the downfall of the hero (usually Rajkumar) his eyes would narrow down to slits, his anger would be theatrical to the core, the typical sneer would be present most of the times. It was rather strange to see the same man looking serious in a dignified way and actually smiling kindly. In the end, he presented me with a cup & also garlanded my dad. I still have two photographs of the award ceremony.

This man who had been jailed, beaten & killed innumerable times on the silver screen, expired for the last time on January 5, 2006. I learnt about this the next day when I glanced at the front page of the newspaper before leaving for office. All through my journey to the office, a sense of sadness prevailed. Though I had met the man for a few fleeting moments, his presence that day had impressed upon me the distinction between reel & real life.

May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Landmark Evening

Yesterday evening I went along with my brother to Landmark at The Forum Mall, to utilize a gift voucher won by him for being part of the 2nd Best School Team in last year's Landmark Quiz held in Bangalore on November 1.

Forum was crowded as usual. In Landmark, the hordes seemed all eager to grab their copy of the 'contemporary classic' ON@TCC by Chetan Bhagat (the website claims that he is the author of two contemporary classics; needless to say, a barrel of salt would be handy here. Aadisht has written a nice review of the book). I happened to eavesdrop upon (unintentionally, of course) an exchange between two 'software types' :-

A : (lifting up a copy of Malgudi Days) "Hey, I have heard about this book somewhere before."
B : "That's by R K Narayan. Brother of cartoonist R K Laxman ...".
I didn't catch the rest of the conversation as I hurried away in the opposite direction. However, A's words left me awash with a feeling of incredulity which soon gave way to pity for the poor soul - after all, he didn't know what he was missing. The Chetan Bhagats of the world seem to have driven out the Narayans from the minds of the masses. A lamentable reflection of our commercialized times.

Before I sign off, here's what we bought :-

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Redemption, at last!

On December 4th 2005, we (SI, TD & myself) conducted the Ganesh Nayak Memorial Open Quiz under the aegis of the KQA. For our efforts, we received book coupons from the Premier Book Shop. After more than a month of procrastinating, I finally set out today to redeem the coupon for what it was worth. I left for the place at around 12 P.M and managed to catch a bus at around 12.30 P.M. Route No. 201 being the circuitous route that it is, took more than an hour to reach Residency Road. A ten minute walk from there & I found myself facing the book shop. Alas! The doors were locked & a sign dangling from the door plainly reminded me that the shop closes for lunch at 1.30 P.M and wouldn't open till 3 P.M. Resignedly I loafed around M G Road, went to Higginbothams, saw John Batelle's The Search there (currently toying with the idea of buying it), ..., well, never mind.

Anyway, I came back to the shop at 2.45, & thankfully Mr.Shanbhag had opened the shop early. So dashed in & after much searching, many enquiries and some quick mental arithmetic, I settled for Volume 1 of The Complete Adventures of Feluda by Satyajit Ray & Sir Thomas More's Utopia.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bombay Post

Last Wednesday, after attending the afternoon's talks at FOSS.IN, I went to this restaurant on Airport Road called Bombay Post for dinner with my team.

The place has an old-worldly charm about it. Much effort seems to have been expended to recreate the mystique of Bombay of yore. Almost all the walls had charcoal sketches of Bollywood stars of yesteryear. The walls near the table at which we were seated were graced by sketches of some of the best bad men of Bollywood over the years - Danny Denzongpa (I strongly suspect the sketch was of Danny's role as Bakhtavar Seth in Hum), the suave K N Singh, Prem Chopra and Pran. The soft lighting and the golden oldies playing in the background serve to heighten the feeling of being part of another era. All these nostalgic elements, coupled with some good food made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Bombay Post is located at Carlton Towers on Airport Road.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


FOSS.IN (India's largest Free & Open Source Software event) was held last week at the Bangalore Palace over a period of four days (Nov 29 - Dec 2). This conference, formerly known as Linux Bangalore, has expanded its scope this time to include other FOSS topics in addition to Linux.

On the first day I reached the venue at 8.30 A.M. But the registration process which was supposed to have started at 8 A.M. got delayed & I ended up waiting in the queue till 9.15 A.M. to get my entry pass & delegate kit. As a result of this delay, all talks were delayed by nearly an hour. The inauguration finally happened at 10 A.M. followed by Alan Cox's general talk on participating in open source projects. I followed this up by attending a bunch of tech talks - investigation of Kernel Mode Linux, performance measurement of Linux 2.6.10 kernel (last 10 minutes) and an egregiously bad talk on the pitfalls of Loadable Kernel Modules (the grating accents of the two 'professionals' who delivered this and the set of unprofessionally done slides which they used made the whole discourse all the more repulsive). But Andrew Cowie's talk on equivalence, which I attended next, made up for the insipid morning. Andrew is an amazing speaker - eloquent, brimming with energy, almost hopping with excitement on the stage. Following this I attended a talk on Sun's Project GlassFish & another one on the Apache Software Foundation's Geronimo project. But the highlight of the day was our drive back from the venue which lasted all of 2 hours as we managed to take every wrong turn we could have taken along the way. Despite my repeated assurances to Chandan that we were headed up the wrong 'alley', he chose to ignore my advice resulting in temporal losses for both of us.

On the second day, I attended the post lunch set of talks - Interaction of GPL & non-GPL code in Linux kernel - a very informative one and shared subtree concept & implementation in the Linux kernel. After this I proceeded to roam around the various stalls set up by numerous open source companies. Sun profited the most from this event as their OpenSolaris demos at their stall went down very well with the delegates.

The third day began with a talk by Andrew Cowie aimed at "motivating participation in FOSS from people who may not have yet found a way to do so". The best part was when he strongly derided the dogmatic stance adopted by Richard M Stallman regarding the usage of the word 'free' by citing one instance where RMS left a bad impression on the attendees at some conference when he started yelling at a translator who translated 'free' to imply 'at no cost' rather than 'without restrictions'. To substantiate his point further, Andrew also commented on the usage of the term GNU/Linux instead of just Linux to describe what RMS calls 'the GNU operating system which uses the Linux kernel'. These observations drew a huge round of applause from the audience. But the rest of the talks which I attended left much to be desired for. I returned back to work after lunch.

On the whole, the broadened scope of the event benefitted some sections, notable among them being Sun. But I feel this expansion has somehow diluted the event. According to the organisers of the event, "...it was a glorious success. 2733 delegates, 140+ speakers, 180+ talks, workshops, tutorials and BoFs. It was fantastic." Yeah, but that is just the statistical analysis & statistics can lie. Quality isn't assured by numbers. Honestly, very few speakers were convincing enough in their arguments. But my opinion in this matter may have been clouded by my attendance at only a few talks. Moreover even the ones I attended were mostly technical in nature - so I might be partly wrong here. Based on my experiences as a delegate at Linux Bangalore 2003 and FOSS.IN 2005, I can confidently dole out this piece of advice - as is the case with open source development, self reliance is the best policy when attending such conferences; always try to get an introduction to a topic rather than trying to get in depth information about it (you can always Google for the details anyway :-).

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Epiphany in an omnibus

I am sitting in the bus on my way back home. Radio City 91 FM is belting out Hindi & Kannada numbers at full blast. This cacophony coupled with the rhythmic jolting of the bus (courtesy the numerous crests & troughs which punctuate the arterial roads in Bangalore) leaves me in a hypnagogic state. That's when an ad break comes up on the radio. An announcement is made as part of the What's up Bangalore? section - "Rotary Club of Bangalore Indiranagar is conducting a general quiz on September 19. This quiz is open only to college students. Blah blah...". I am suddenly wide awake. I remember being placed third in this quiz 5 years ago (Mithun, Hemant and Chinmay would probably remember this). Arun Hiregange & Ochintya Sharma had been the quizmasters then. This time it would be Arul Mani.

"Ah! Excellent! Another college quiz. Must inform the gang soon." My hand goes automatically to my pocket to retrieve my mobile. That is when reality plays spoilsport. In one epiphanous moment, reality hammers in its blunt point into my psyche. For the first time, I truly understand that the stamp of finality has been indelibly embossed on those golden pages of my life. But more than that, I accept, albeit resignedly, the fact that those pages have been actually turned over irrevocably. An ineffable sense of loss pervades my soul as I meander through the remainder of the day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Bookworm's Diet

Here's a chronological listing of the books I have read since The Last Burden.

On the shelf, waiting to be consumed, are the following:-

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Godel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • Peter Pan by J M Barrie
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Lord Of The Rings by J R R Tolkien
  • Hindu Mythology by W J Wilkins

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Wild Weekend

Last weekend (17th & 18th) I went on a company sponsored trip to this place called Masinagudi at a distance of around 250 km from Bangalore. The journey in a hired bus started with a bang with TD's aural nemesis, the evergreen "Dhoom Machale" being belted out, with the frayed tape producing distorted voices for added effect. (TD has oft repeated that the tape is standard issue on all tourist vehicles - I find myself completely agreeing with that). Even the beginning of the return journey was marked by the same song, albeit in a visual form.

Masinagudi is located at the foot of the Nilgiris in Tamilnadu. In Masinagudi, we were supposed to stay at the Monarch Safari Lodge which is a part of Mithun Chakraborty's Monarch group of hotels. According to their website - "The jungle teems with many other wild species - gaur, sambhar, gaint(sic) Indian squirrels, mouse deer, wild dogs and much more. The variety of birds flitting in and out of our trees make birdwatchers drool!". As we approached the place we had our first promised encounter with the wild - an elephant herd crossing the road. That was enough to get us excited about what the jungle had in store for us that evening. We reached the lodge by around 3 p.m., late by a couple of hours. After having lunched & refreshed ourselves we set out on the safari in a jeep. We were lucky enough to spot many wild animals like spotted deer, deer with antlers, baby deer and so on. The guide also showed us some birds which were apparently peahen. After having travelled 30 odd kms into the forest, we gave up or rather the guides gave up & we had to turn back.

The next morning we set out on a trek up into the hills. The guide took us along what was supposed to be an elephant trail. On a muddy stretch, he pointed out to us a footprint, which he claimed was that of a leopard. (A single footprint in a very muddy area? - the cynic that I am, I sure have doubts.) But the trail was surely one frequented by elephants - half chewed bamboo stalks, fresh elephant dung and trumpeting, all indicated that we were very close to elephant territory. After having walked for around one & a half hours, we reached one of the higher spots of the hills. From here we had a clear view of the countryside for quite a distance. Though many of us wanted to continue the trek, we had to abandon the idea as the time available was insufficient.

Being accustomed to staring at the monitor for the better part of the day, the verdant landscape was a refreshing & rejuvenating treat for our tired eyes. The whole experience of being out in the open, far from the confines of our cubicles, walking through hilly terrain - hopping over brooks, dodging thorny bushes & creepers was a welcome change from the mechanical activities we do at office. Definitely, a weekend to remember.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Busy-ness Proposal

VapourWare Unlimited
World-class fuzzy solutions

Are you being troubled by pesky 'contacts' who inundate you with inane instant messages when you are rather busy? Do you find yourself unequal to the task of communicating effectively & impressively with your peers & superiors? Presenting BusyBuddy Instant Messaging Enhancements - a suite of cross-platform plugins which is guaranteed to be the panacea to all your IM complaints. BusyBuddy is the perfect supplement to boost the quality of your Instant Messenger so that your life online remains hassle-free.

The technology

BusyBuddy is a kind of middle layer between your messenger & you. It works with all the popular messaging clients across all platforms. BusyBuddy has at its core a fuzzy logic driven engine which intercepts your keyboard & mouse events and keeps track of the pressure & frequency accompanying these. Then using the MoodMeter(patent pending) technology, it generates a 7x7 matrix consisting of various parameters like current weather conditions, current status of the target & various other random & probabilisitic values reduced to their fuzzy equivalents. The inverse of the same is generated to accurately gauge your current mood based on which an appropriate response is sent. The responses are chosen from a humongous database of seemingly witty repartees with the most appropriate one being chosen by a set of complex algorithms. All this so that you can sit back & relax - let BusyBuddy manage your messages while you utilise the time thus freed to make a quick visit to dreamland, ogle at attractive colleagues or even for actually doing some work.

The company

VapourWare Unlimited is a start-up based in the New Lake Village area, right in the heart of Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India. We specialise in development of fuzzy & intangible software solutions for corporates. Our products are specially geared towards helping our clients achieve total employee satisfaction so as to enable greater increase in productivity which ultimately leads to more profits. Our motto is "Always keep your fingers crossed & hope for the best".

Product Features

All message transfers are encrypted by default using the popular & unbreakable Digital Fortress encryption algorithm which makes use of mutation strings to produce indecipherable gibberish for any eavesdroppers.

Status Messages
You may have noticed that when you haven't shown any online messaging activity for some time your messenger begins to show the time for which you have been idle along with a prominent status message. This may be interpreted to mean a serious lack of communication skills which may have a deleterious effect on your career. Hence BusyBuddy makes sure you are never idle in the chat landscape by frequently updating your status with random & sometimes witty messages like High (3rd Floor ;-), Too busy to respond etc. You can also choose the theme for your session from a variety of status message themes.

This is by far the most important function of BusyBuddy. Auto-reply enables you to free up valuable time for other important tasks by taking up the onus of replying to all your messages, irritating or otherwise. The best part here is that all such transactions are transparent to you, the end-user. You also have the option of actually being entertained by the same automated conversations by using the easy-to-use wizard to set it all up.

Here are two actual conversation samples obtained during usability testing for BusyBuddy's auto-reply feature:-

Boss : Is the sub-optimal strategies evaluation report ready?
BusyBuddy : I am waiting for more input from the control group for graphical depiction of the thought processes behind the sub-optimal strategy decisions in incorporated entities. Will take some time.
Boss : Oh, all right. Carry on. Keep up the good work.

Friend : I have a bad feeling about today's match. You know the gut feelings I generally have, right?
BusyBuddy : Are you by any chance talking about your gas problem?


Q : Why the name BusyBuddy?
A : The name is partly a reflection of its origins in the constant appearance of busy status messages. The other inspiration is the word 'busybody' which refers to anyone who meddles in other people's business which is precisely what our suite does - intercept messages meant for our users & perform the desired actions.

Q : Being so feature rich, why don't you make it a full fledged messaging client?
A : We want to leverage existing infrastructure to derive optimum benefit both for customer & end user. Hence we decided to build a suite of plugins rather than a messaging client.

Q : I want to purchase BusyBuddy. Where do I go?
A : Thank you for your interest. BusyBuddy is currently in beta testing. We still have a few minor glitches (one of them being response routing mismatch which basically means that messages intended for your sweetheart maybe sent to your boss & vice versa) to sort out before we can release it for public consumption. Be patient till then. If you would like to receive regular updates about BusyBuddy's status, leave your email ID with us along with any positive feedback you might have.

Q : I don't believe you OR I hate you for unspecified reasons.
A : We always respect & value feedback from our target audience. If you have any reason to be dissatisfied with our claims or software, please leave your comments along with your email ID. We will get back at you by forwarding all the unsolicited messages we receive to your inbox.

This post is my protest against the constant indifference to my repeated attempts at online conversation with some of my contacts, the cause for which is supposed to be their various degrees of 'busy-ness'. After being constantly snubbed, I decided to profit from my frustration by converting it into a 'business opportunity with a social cause', so as to alleviate the sufferings of kindred souls facing a similar predicament.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The son of the soil is back!

It has been nearly a month & a half since I posted anything. This long gap has ensued due to a plethora of factors, the most prominent among them being my laziness & my tendency to procrastinate. Anyway, better late than never.

For what follows below, you will need to install Kannada fonts for your computer (that is, if they are not already installed). The same can be downloaded from the Baraha (which is an excellent freeware for document creation in Indian languages) website which can be reached by clicking here.

Sample this :-

"ಎಯ್, ಏನು ಹೇಳ್ತೀಯಾ?

ಎಯ್, ಏನು ಹೇಳಲಿ ನಾ?



ಬರ್ತೀಯಾ ಖಂಡಾಲಾಗೆ?

ಏನು, ಮಾಡಲಿ,

ಬಂದು ಖಂಡಾಲಾಗೆ?

ಅಯ್ಯೊ, ಅಲಿಯೋಣ, ಸುತ್ತೋಣ, ಕುಣಿಯೋಣ, ಹಾಡೋಣ,

ಮಜಾ ಮಾಡೋಣ ಏನಂತೀಯಾ?"

Well, that was the literal (almost) translation of the popular Aati Kya Khandala song from the Hindi movie Ghulam into Kannada. This movie starring Aamir Khan & Rani Mukherjee was directed by Vikram Bhatt & was based on the English classic On the waterfront by Elia Kazan. This song was sung by Aamir Khan himself along with Alka Yagnik. Anu Malik was the music director & the lyrics for this particular song were composed by Nitin Raikwar. Aamir himself was asked to lend his voice for the song because the song is basically a lyrical conversation between a tapori (from Mumbai, where else?) & his 'posh' girlfriend and the director felt that a natural approach would be best. The rest is history.

For the benefit of those who cannot read or understand Kannada, an English translation follows :-

"Hey, what do you say?
Hey, what do I say?
Coming to Khandala?
What, will I do,
after reaching Khandala?
We will roam 'n' wander 'n' dance 'n' sing;
generally have fun, what else?"

I have refrained from reproducing the actual Hindi song here, for the simple reason that if you have never heard the song, you won't know, literally & figuratively, what I am talking about.