Thursday, November 15, 2007

Trying out the Android SDK

After upgrading to Gutsy Gibbon and reclaiming and saying goodbye to Vista partition. Time for some fun. Giving Android a trial run. SDK download and setup instructions here

that was smooth and easy, no hiccups.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Light My Fire's Swedish Firesteel Mini

Light My Fire (LMF) released a new Mini version of their excellent Swedish Firesteel. I think Ryan Jordan may have had some hand in the design of these. Excerpt from Backpacking Light

"At the heart of this kit is the new Firesteel Mini firestarter. Ryan commissioned the design and manufacture of this product for the ultralight community - at less than half the weight of a Firesteel Scout, the Firesteel Mini should prove its worth to the ultralight community when every gram is debatable. The firestarting tool, the sparker, and the cord have all been lightened up in the Firesteel Mini." -- Backpacking Light

I already reviewed the Swedish Firesteel (Army Model) some time back. A life time supply of sparks. By the way, of all the flints "and fire rods" that I have tried, this (Light My Fire Firesteel) is by far the best and has come to be my favourite. Its just the "quality". Good large and hot sparks. Even the provided striker is excellent. I think it may actually last me a life time (if I don't lose it that is).

Problem: it is too big for my modified Penrith tin. Their scout model just doesn't cut it. This is just perfect when you want the comfort of a quality product in a really small size.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"By Endurance We Conquer"

This was Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton's family motto. This bird has earned it. It made the longest recorded nonstop flight ever measured - 7,145 miles (11,500 kilometers). Simply wow. For comparison - Even F16s and a Boing 737 cannot manage half of that without refueling.

National Geographic via Newlaunches

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Openmoko and gPhone rumour

I have been watching the Openmoko (FIC Neo1973) developments like a predator stalking its prey. But, pouncing on the "Phase I" release of the phone - I must admit requires much too much courage for me. I am waiting and saving for their Phase 2 release due in October. I was initially eying the Greenphone, but, after this, I gotta have an Openmoko.

But, guess what Google may be eying the Openmoko too for its rumored gPhone. Too much heat ...

Buy Openmoko here
Openmoko developments here
For Greenphone go here
A List of Linux based Mobile Phones

gPhone Rumors (Hopefully there will be more):
More gPhone rumours
Google Using OpenMoko For gPhone?

My next phone has to be Open and has to run Linux.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) - Initial Impressions

Plenty to explore and talk about but, I think these were the first few things that caught my attention.

1. Disk usage analyzer: A Linux user's conditioned reflex when asked to look up disk usage - du and df. Well stumbled upon 2 new interesting ways to view disk usage (Applications -> Accessories -> Disk Usage Analyzer).

for the graphical usage map (right click on a folder name on the left pane).

2. How interesting can a battery applet get? It's just supposed to show you how much juice is left in your batteries. Well... click on the battery icon. You are greeted with a fair amount of info about your batteries. Then, right click and view the power history. It shows how much power your laptop has been sucking up in watts plotted against time since the system started.

The graph above told me some interesting things about my machine:
  • consumption between an idle CPU and 100% CPU utilization is about 20W!. The >35W on the graph is my CPU on ~100% (Used BOINC to run seti@home jobs to fill up the idle times).
  • And the display takes about 5W between off and full brightness.
3. And then there is Beryl........

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dual booting Ubuntu (Feisty Fawn) and Windows Vista

Smooth and easy way (obviously apply common sense where ever necessary):
  • Make your Vista recovery disks and take backup of all important files before proceeding.
  • Install Vista first. Don't waste your time trying to partition your system using the utilities provided in Vista - Disk Manager and the Defrag utility. They just don't cut it. I was not able to shrink the Vista partition to my desired 30 Gigs. Wasted quite some time trying to delete/move system files so that a defrag could move them to the beginning of the partition. Instead try GParted (the next step)
  • Boot from the Ubuntu CD. Use GParted (System > Administration > GNOME Partition Editor). Yes, it recognizes NTFS and it did an excellent job resizing my Vista partition. After resizing restart the system and boot into Vista. Make sure to let Checkdisk run during boot. Verify your Vista installation is okay.
  • Boot from the Ubuntu CD again and this time you click on install. When asked for partitioning choose to manually partition your drive. Ubuntu rightly recognizes the service and the Vista partitions and makes suitable entries in the /boot/grub/menu.lst. (I just edited the label for the /dev/sda1 - the service partition). These are the entries in the menu.lst on my system

    # This entry automatically added by the Debian installer for a non-linux OS
    # on /dev/sda2
    title Windows Vista/Longhorn (loader)
    root (hd0,1)
    chainloader +1

    # This entry automatically added by the Debian installer for a non-linux OS
    # on /dev/sda1
    title Lenovo Recovery Partition (loader)
    root (hd0,0)
    chainloader +1

  • Install Ubuntu following the instructions.
  • Reboot - You will automagically see the options to boot into the various partitions during startup. Only caveat the thinkvantage button no longer works during startup. And yes if you choose the Recovery partition to boot it does start the recovery program

Friday, June 15, 2007

A program that prints itself

Update 17th July 2007: Rummaging through my notes I found this - This is a corollary of the Recursion Theorem. This is the way a virus can get a description of itself and print it to a file and do other "wonderfull" stuff to itself like - mutate. Check out this interesting article that talks in detail about the Recursion Theorem - Link

I had been told that any Turing Machine can be made to print itself. Programs are Turing Machines, so they should be able to print themselves. I never actually tried to write such a program myself.

Getting into an argument with some colleagues, I got cornered into defending my statement with a (at the moment) running program or retract my statement. So, with trembling hands, a vague memory of description of such a machine during one of the lectures I attended once and copious amounts of faith in the professor, I gave it a shot. And by golly I got it right ...

Let me lay the ground first.

The program
main() { printf("Hello, world");}

Hello, world
Should print:
main() { printf("Hello, world");}

To make a program print itself one can attempt:

The program
main() { printf("#include<stdio.h>\nmain() { printf(\"#include<stdio.h>\n main() { ...\") } ");}

main() { printf("#include<stdio.h>
main() { ...") }

Should Print:
main() { printf("#include<stdio.h>\nmain() { printf(\"#include<stdio.h>\n main() { ...\") } ");}

So, one gets into a mirror reflecting a mirror kind of a situation.

A program to print its own description:
main(){ char *str="printf(\"#include<stdio.h>%cmain\(){char *str=%c%str%c; \",10,str,34,34); printf(\"%s\",str); printf(\"}\");"; printf("#include<stdio.h>%cmain\(){char *str=%c%str%c; ",10,34,str,34); printf("%s",str); printf("}"); }

main(){char *str="printf("#include<stdio.h>%cmain(){char *str=%c%str%c; ",10,str,34,34); printf("%s",str); printf("}");tr"; printf("#include<stdio.h>%cmain(){char *str=%c%str%c; ",10,str,34,34); printf("%s",str); printf("}");}

The general idea is like this:

[PartXBegin] = main() { char *str=[PartY];
[PartY] = <Print [PartXBegin]> <Print str> <Print [PartXEnd]>
[PartXEnd] = }

Any program can print a description of itself (obviously,only if it can at least perform the basic turing operations).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lenovo (IBM) Thinkpad R60: New world, New thinking

Time to say farewell to my old Dell Inspiron 8000 . I have managed to stick with it for more than a very long time (> 5 years). When I bought it, it had an enviable configuration at an unbeatable price.

I have to admit though, that, I wasn't particularly very pleased with Dell inspiron 8000's build quality from the beginning. Creaky "plasticy" feel, wobbly hinges and then the weight. But, I guess that being one of the first model in the series these should have been Ironed out in the later releases of the series. So, I won't pass a judgment. Moreover, Dell's customer support was excellent during this period.

Now, time to welcome the new. This time in addition to the configuration, I decided to consider the build quality and the weight. I did consider dell again especially their latitude models and HP's business models. Eventually, I began eying the the T60. The T60 is supposed to be slightly thinner, lighter and more robust than the R60 and has over the years made quite a name for itself. But, after consolidating my cards into a loan ended up with only enough to spare for a ThinkPad R60 instead (with a modest configuration*).

* T5500(1.66GHz), 1GB RAM, 120GB 5400rpm HD, 15in 1024x768 LCD, Intel 950, CDRW/DVDRW, Intel 802.11abg wireless, Bluetooth, Modem, 1Gb Ethernet, UltraNav, Secure chip, Fingerprint reader, 6c Li-Ion, WinVista Business

So, lo behold my new Laptop.

I liked the trademarked phrase from Lenovo on the laptop's wallpaper - New world, New Thinking. To a good extent I think it is. A major jump from a PIII based model to a Core 2 Duo.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cordless Soldering Irons: Hakko FX 901 & Weller's BP645

I bought this cordless Soldering Iron called ColdHeat some time back. As, long as I was not bothered with messy soldering, this was okay. Recently, I had to do some real soldering. Now this is where it got real ugly. ColdHeat is a pain. One cannot form a good drop of solder over the joints. One has to have the solder between the tip gap for it to melt. Does not work with thin solder. Heat is produced when the gap between the tip is short circuited by the the solder. If you have expensive milli-volt components - The thought of the high current frying these components may send chills down your spine. And to top it all off I managed to break the special alloy tip into 2 (the plastic separating the pieces just melted!!). Its not me, these tips are supposed to be brittle! Now a replacement tip costs half the price of the iron itself. Moreover concentrating on holding the solder between the tip separation and also concentrating on soldering just did it for me.

Realization - there is no replacement for the "True Heat" soldering irons. You can literally let a perfect drop of solder spread around your connections with a little practice (heaven). Now the hard part -- cordless and "True heat".

I narrowed down my search to Hakko FX 901 and Weller's BP645. Both are still no replacements for true "corded" soldering irons but are good enough for ordinary PCB work. I recommend you use rechargeable NiMH batteries. Weller's is smaller and uses 3 AA batteries where as Hakko uses 4xAA. Hakko is prettier. You can find good "objective" reviews here and here.

All-Spec: Hakko FX 901
All-Spec: Wellers BP860MP (It appears Weller's BP645 has been replaced with the newer BP860MP ...Took forever to arrive )

NSD PowerBall

If you as a kid sat on the chair with the spinning wheel to get a feel of a gyroscope and still had questions, welcome to the club. This toy gives you the feel of how nature resists the change in angular momentum. I'll say its ingenious how this concept is used to make this into an exercise equipment for your wrists and forearms. Even though I use the term toy, this "toy" can give your forearms some serious workout in less than a minute. The ball states that it is capable of spinning at 250Hz which is equivalent to 250x60 = 15,000 rotations/minute amazing! There are mentions on sites, where people have taken this to 16,000 rpms (these people must have "power balls"). The scorecard of top 100 speeds are maintained here. Also, there is a steel version available, capable of 350Hz. I can personally vouch for this to strengthen your wrists and fore arms. The site claims that Powerball can help in fighting carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, tennis elbow and other wrist (& arm) ailments - and I have no reason to disbelieve their claims. More over the science of gyroscopes (something tethered to space and resisting change) still fascinates me. Just think about it for a minute...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

MIT's Open Courseware - Physics Lectures by Prof. Walter Lewin

"Professor Lewin puts his life on the line in Lecture 11 by demonstrating his faith in the Conservation of Mechanical Energy."

One evening after an attempt to explain relativity and the weird behavior of light to my cousin. I myself had a queasy feeling in my tummy of how little I knew. I decided to revisit some basic physics first. "Googling" for electromagnetism I stumbled upon MIT's open course ware. These videos are worth their price in gold (literally considering the tuition for one semester at MIT is about 25,000$ without scholarship). There are plenty of videos of actual courses taught at MIT. Believe it or not there are videos of the course "Introduction to Algorithms" by none other than Leiserson himself. One cannot ask for more. Just sip a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy. And while you are at it don't forget to support this initiative by giving (link on the upper right corner). I think this is a great thing that MIT has done.

Especially, the courses by Walter Lewin are gems. You can also find courses on quantum physics and relativity, but, I don't know how comprehensive they are. Give them a try, they will definitely be worth your while.

MIT Open Courseware

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dell to offer Linux on laptops ...this time it may actually!

This has been considered a number of times, then removed from consideration, and then re-considered again by many like Dell, hp and IBM (Lenovo). It is being considered again. So what's new?...... This time the customers have asked for it and, in by no means a small measure. Dell was flooded with requests at DellIdeaStorm for Linux as a pre-installed OS option in their OS offerings. This time this may actually happen ...

10th March 2007: HP to beat Dell with Linux-loaded PCs?
14th March 2007: OpenOffice Openly Courting Dell

Reuters [Via] Engadget

Friday, February 09, 2007

Quantum Computer to be launched next week

I hope this does not turn out to be another steorm -- The perpetual machine thing remember. Anyway, the brief excitement will do for me today

D-Wave Systems is building a 'quantum' computer to solve intractable real-world problems. The secret: cooling the chip to -269 C with liquid helium.
Technology Review

...a quantum computer next week that can carry out 64,000 calculations at the same time in parallel "universes".
The Inquirer


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Red Had advertisement - Truth Happens

This video started a train of thought. I think I read the following in a magazine called "The Week" some years back. But, am not sure so I may be off on some details. Since, it is quite old try to read it in the "old times" context, not in the current political scenario.

Once a General of some country visited America. The American General showed him around their facilities and even showed him around their research base somewhere in Nevada. The other General asks the American General - "Don't you consider this a security threat. That is me seeing all this". The American General replies "Our openness is our strength".

Open source is no different. "We have nothing to hide" its open. This is how it is. A friend of mine once pointed out - then why do they hide behind the GPL (LGPL, APL etc for that matter... makes you wonder about his intent). Well, there is foolishness and there is strength. Giving away research (and weapons) as charity will eventually lead to those being used against yourself. Without GPL someone can just borrow some open source code make some small changes and claim it to be his own work (and "close source" it). The person who creates it tosses and turns in bed because, now, he is excluded from the growth of his own creation.

The foundation of open source is to bring together honest interest and participation in creating something great. More over, one may not be free enough to show off one's skills on a payroll. There are business models around open source, but the motivation may just be a reward unmatched by any other - Fun (2).

Watch this video. The comments on YouTube are interesting too. Especially the analogy of the cake recipe does a good job.

Is GPL enforceable? Yes, it is. There have been some interesting precedents. I learn't of this during a presentation by Herald Welte in Linux Bangalore. There are couple of interesting cases you can read about at GNU Monks and GPL Violations.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sexy Lamborghini Gallardo Promo Video

Lord I have sinned , but, I give a damn.

Friday, February 02, 2007

DIY 2: Chemistry: Potassium Permanganate + Glycerine = Exothermic reaction cool (I mean Hot)

Typical military survival kits usually have a vial of potassium permanganate. It can be used to purify water in dilute solutions, as a disinfectant when used in concentrated solutions and a marker for signaling in snow. But, it can serve one more purpose that of a firestarter. When a fine granules of potassium permanganate are rubbed with sugar or glycerine the result is an exothermic reaction. Using it in an actual survival situation, I reckon are slim. If you have access to potassium permanganate in a survival situation. It is most likely that it is, because, it was part of a survival kit. In that case you definitely have other more convenient means of starting a fire. But, sometimes just knowing a possibility exists can be a lifesaver.

14 KMnO4 + 4 C3H5(OH)3 --> 7 K2CO3 + 7 Mn2O3 + 5 CO2 + 16 H2O + Heat

Okay so what does one need to do this:
Potassium Permanganate
glass bowl (just for effect ;-))

that's all.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Oracle 10g

Organizing my folders I came across this diagram I made sometime back to give some newbies an overview and a quick start in oracle administration. Been sometime since I have done some real admin or database work. So, don't know if this is valid, updated or even useful anymore. But, what the heck I am putting it up here. If nothing much I may look at it over and over again and decide to update it. Or may be get some constructive criticism.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Patrick Stewart on Top Gear

Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS enterprise on Top Gear.

Via TechEBlog

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pepe Le Pew

Not blogged in a while. Am just bogged down with plenty of work right now. In the meanwhile feast yourself on these Pepe Le Pew videos I came across on YouTube. One of my favorite Looney Tunes character.

and here's another one