Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You and your Research

You and your Research by Richard Hamming [PDF].

I've read the transcript of this talk about 4 times. Each time I do that, I find something interesting. Here are some of the best quotes:

  • You can lead a nice life; you can be a nice guy or you can be a great scientist. But nice guys end last, is what Leo Durocher said. If you want to lead a nice happy life with a lot of recreation and everything else, you'll lead a nice life.
  • Newton said 'If I have seen further than others, it is because I've stood on the shoulders of giants.' These days we stand on each other's feet!
  • There is an element of luck, yes and no. Luck favors a prepared mind; luck favors a prepared person. It is not guaranteed; I don't guarantee success as being absolutely certain. I'd say luck changes the odds, but there is some definite control on the part of the individual.
  • The day your vision, what you think needs to be done, is bigger than what you can do single-handedly, then you have to move toward management. And the bigger the vision is, the farther in management you have to go. You can't make it happen from the bottom very easily.

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Re-constructing Wikipedia

My research work requires re-construction of Wikipedia on a local PC. Before this I didn't know this could be done. These are the steps required for getting a local version of Wikipedia running on your Desktop PC or laptop. Minimum requirements are php5, mediawiki 1.7, Linux (duh!) and around 8 Gig's of Free space.

  • Install Mediawiki by following these steps (Debian specific).
  • Configure it in the normal manner you configure any mediawiki installation.
  • Download the latest Wikipedia dump. I got the pages-articles dump.
  • bunzip2 enwiki-latest-pages-articles.xml.bz2
  • Move to the maintenance directory of the mediawiki installation. On Debian systems this would be in /var/lib/mediawiki1.7/maintenance.
  • cat enwiki-latest-pages-articles.xml | php5 importDump.php

If you view your mediawiki from your browser and visit a random page, you should be able to see the Wikipedia articles which got imported.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Nokia 870

Anyone remember the Nokia 770 ? Well, it became the linux-hacker's favorite toy last year and was a hit among the Debian and GNOME projects, mainly because it used a custom Debian distribution and a bunch of GNOME apps. Well, Nokia hasn't given up on the internet-tablet and we seem to have the succesor to the 770, the Nokia 870. New features seem to be a web-cam and better VoIP support. It should surely have GPS built into it. If this thing has some sort of mobilephone functionality, I'll buy it the first day it releases.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Long Holiday

My "long vacation" (a week) comes to an end today. In 2 hours it;s back to bangalore. Some interesting work needs to be done once I get back so this vacation was important for keeping my energy-levels high for the next one month. Oh! Happy Deewali and Eid Mubarak (belated) everyone one.


Is Fedora the new Slackware ?

Well, Fedora Core 6 finally released after a couple of delays. Here is the official announcement. As I say this, the fedora site seems to be down , maybe because of the number of downloads taking place currently. What's interesting to note here is the community buzz surrounding this release of Fedora Core. There is none!


The one good review I found is available here. Rahul Sundaram has his 'Inside Fedora Core 6' article on RedHat Magazine. Of course Slashdot and Digg did carry the release coverage and the news made it to the front page.

But what is missing here is the Linux newbie reviews. The teenager who got his first copy of the Fedora Core distro and ran to blog about it. The 'Fedora Core rokxorx!' reviews are missing. Where are the kids running wild on digg claiming 'Ubuntu is teh hakxor OS, Windows sucks!'. All this reminds me of 2002-03 when RedHat 8/9 was at it's peak and each release of RedHat was greeted with the same fanfare and festive planning that Ubuntu receives today. RedHat replaced Debian/Slackware as the desktop distribution back then and now Ubuntu seems to be returning the favor. Slackware 10 was the last Slack distribution I tried out from before I stopped paying attention to it.

For a second, let's consider Google Trends as a worthy benchmark to measure buzztivity (activity around a buzzword). Here's what I see for a comparision of ubuntu and fedora.

Red Line is 'fedora' and blue is 'ubuntu'


Dear Fedora Project,

Your audience seems to be getting disinterested. The zealotry is missing. New users are looking elsewhere for cutting-edge goodness. The only user's still loyal to you are System Administrators who have made the move from using a RedHat based distribution on their servers to their desktop/laptop and the only reason why they are using it is because they refuse to learn apt/dpkg. Your hype-crankers have deserted you and the few loyalists still lurking around are getting frustrated for lack of freedom. At this point you are even re-thinking the community edition as the 'market-size' is unknown.

Hope, you get well soon.

- An Ex-RedHat 9 user

Digg This

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Toufeeq Hussain, I want to invite you..

For the love of GOD, please, somebody, make it stop!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Retrevo Gadget Search Engine

Retrevo is a domain specific search engine for consumer electronics aka geeky-gadgets. A search for my preferred MP3 player (iAudio A5L) turned up some good results. None of those e-com shopping-front pages which masquerade as a review-page just because they have a 'user-reviews' section which talk about why a particular device 'is teh suck'. It even filters out Amazon product-review pages. Blog reviews are indexed however which is good. It also manages to filter splogs (spam blogs) which is again great. The search results can be viewed in a two-pane with the right side providing a preview of a particular search result.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

My first n00by patch

Some of my work tends to float into the Linux-embedded space from time to time. It's instances like these when I need to get back to some kernel fiddling. I use a ARM 9202T based Cirrus Logic EP9312 board. The full specifications of the board are available if anyone is interested.

WinCE is supported on this board, but it's of no interest to me. Cirrus does provide a linux support for both the 2.4 and 2.6 kernel versions. The Cirrus based 2.6 linux is based on uCLinux and hence is crippled. There is however hope in the form of the ep93xx community which provides a full glibc based 2.6 kernel for the board. The ep93xx community was spearheaded by Michael Burian and his patchset is still very usable. The only problem seems to be that getting this into mainline was causing proving to be difficult. The mainline push was started by Lennert Buytenhek with 2.6.16 when traces of the ep93xx started appearing in the kernel tree. Support for almost all the ep93xx based boards are available in mainline with 2.6.19-rc1. My contribution to this is support for the EP9312 board. This was my first kernel patch to the linux-arm community. Hopefully, I should have time to sit down and get ethernet support for the board soon. Ah! I also see there's a patch floating around for the ep93xx-lirc.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Firefox 3.0 Brainstorming on Mozilla-Wiki

Firefox 2.0 is quite stable now and ready for day-to-day use. Of course some of the extensions have not been update so you might end up with a situation wherein once you move to Firefox 2.0, your favorite extension might not work. I'm currently facing this problem with the del.icio.us extension. Please for God's sake, update your extensions!

Looking into the future of Firefox development, Firefox 3.0 planning has already started. Mike Bletzner (Mozilla QA) had started a thread on the firefox.dev mailing list asking people to give feedback on what problems they face currently in Firefox. The thread produced some interesting feedback and quite a few people poured their gripes about Firefox into that thread. The thread can be viewed here.

After gathering the problems users/developers face it's now time to brainstorm on new features and modifications. The Mozilla Wiki has hosted a page called Firefox 3.0 Brainstorming to further discuss on the feature-set for Firefox 3.0. You can help out by adding the feature which you want to the growing list, or provide a mock-up of your new idea through a XUL file or a firefox extension. My Firefox 3.0 wishlist can be viewed here. I've concentrated on three things.

  • Import/Export of Firefox Addons-information. An extension which I'm currently working on and which should appear on AMO after I get it ready for Firefox 2.0.
  • A direct download solution for the Download Manager using URLs.
  • In-Page Bookmarking and content highlighting, possible through Web-Marker.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

My first flood

Thanks to the blogger beta update, I managed to flood Planet FLOSS India. As punishment they have thrown me out :(. All this thanks to the ATOM feed blogger provides. If you need a RSS feed of blogger you can get one from the following URL: http://blogger-alias.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss. RSS feeds are available, they are just hidden away. Funny thing was I never knew my blog was syndicated on Planet FLOSS-India.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dandeli Trip

My Dandeli trip pictures are now available on Flickr. Dandeli is by far the best place I've visited as a trekking spot. One can find more information on Dandeli from the master. I'll try and share some wisdom anyway.


  • Visit during end of September or early October. Season starts from October to March. If September-end the forests are wet and have that rain-foresty look though most are deciduous.
  • The Bison River Resort
  • Book a good resort. All resorts are in Ganeshgudi and NOT in Dandeli. Dont think you can drop in Dandeli and expect rooms to be made available or expect to be in the middle of a jungle. Dandeli is a proper town.
  • Take the private buses, Suguma Travels and TRL are better options than the 14-hour KSRTC bus. The best route is the Bangalore-Hubli-Dandeli-Ganeshgudi route when travelling by car.
  • This is not the place to go with your family(grandpa's and grandma's and auntie's). If you have a healthy family then it's fine.
  • Be prepared to walk atleast 10KM every day to really make use of the trip.
  • Leech's will bite you. So learn to live with these parasites.
  • Parasite wound
  • You will slip, fall and have a few scratches.
  • Syntheri Rock is a good place to die. Be careful on the rocks!
  • dsc00755.jpg
  • You _must_ be _inside_ the Wildlife Sanctuary before daybreak (4:00 AM) or you've missed all the animals. Don't expect to see lions, tigers, (your favourite big cat). At the most you might see a wild-cat if you are really lucky.
  • If you are planning to visit Kavala Caves, you have to explore them on all fours with bats flying at you if you turn on your torch/candle. Also the cave-surface is filled with bat droppings and it STINKS!
  • If you see rapids don't think of swimming, most of the rapids have whirlpools and if you get sucked in you might emerge in Kerala.
  • dsc00752.jpg
  • You might end up spending Rs.2000-3000 for the weekend. 1250/- extra if interested in white-water-rafting.

dsc00749.jpg Have fun, Dandeli/Ganeshgudi is a thousand times better than Coorg, Ooty and (insert commercial hill-station) and at the same times thousand times painful/dangerous if you are not careful. All the pics were taken using my trusted Sony Ericsson k750i. A big thanks goes to lawgon who suggested the place.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006


I'm now on Blogger Beta. Don't find anything new, have to tinker around more to actually discover what's new here. There seems to the the addition of 'labels' (similar to tags) for each new blog-post.

I'm also playing with Wordpress. My wordpress blog is currently a mirror of this one. Not migrating yet, just figuring out how good it is.

Update :Looks like there are layouts which replace the templates. Good, no need to play with CSS. The biggest difference seems to be that instead of modifying CSS people just need to maove around bit's of CSS which give the whole blog a "layout".

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Y! reproduces Vannevar Bush's Memex using Flickr (sort of)

The winner's of Yahoo! Hack Day might not have such high aims as trying to solve the problem Vennevar Bush addresses in his 'As We may think' paper but the solution they provide is really interesting. Their 'hack' involves a combination of flickr , geotagging(i think) and the flickr API. It involves a phone-camera which is kept inside a ladies handbag and which captures a photo for every few steps traveled. This photo is then uploaded to flickr through the flickr API and posted to a moblog. Techcrunch has the full coverage.

This is really interesting as the device in question is similar to a memex. One can even call it the Web 2.0 memex as it seems to have a taken a Web 0.0 idea and implemented in the Web 2.0 world. Microsoft's Gordon Bell also seems to have worked on the memex idea and his MyLifeBits project is the result of his work.

The coolness of the Yahoo hack is the amount of simplicity it contains and way it's being implemented. The hack can be viewed online at BloggingInMotion. Pictures taken get added and are shown on the front page. At the time of this writing all I can see is a bright light.Maybe the handbag is kept near a table light, blocked by a piece of cloth or is facing the sun. All leading to some very interesting assumptions. :)

Now what's required in this hack is a way to capture idea's, feelings and emotions when the picture is taken and post it as the text of the moblog entry. That would make it the perfect dear-diary solution. Maybe even throw in GPS positioning and speech to text and we have a winner. An idea for a web 2.0 startup ?

Waymarkr is another solution to creating a Web 2.0 memex.

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The Onion State

It's one of the greatest articles I read every year and it never fails to surprise me. Well, if the author is Larry Wall, can you accept anything less. Hear me o Programmer, read this and be enlightened.

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