Sunday, December 21, 2008


From underutilization of "A day in the life" to reaching a point of realization that there are only 24 hrs in a day - is something! But, when that point is reached things need to be optimized, and tasks triaged to fit the day.

The plan simple - Health, Wealth & Wisdom in that order. Tracking is helpful. Tracking my wealth (income, debt, payments, expenses) in a simple spreadsheet for just a couple of months, helped me reverse the falling curve.

I guess tracking some aspects of one's health, could have its benefits too. Anticipating this device ( hopefully, it won't turn out to be vaporware ). Also, hopefully they have a Linux app. in addition to Windows and Mac, for syncing with the website.

Now, how about tracking wisdom?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Having my music organized and mobilized, one more problem to automate. How does one keep track of the music one likes? Move them to a folder/folders, rate them, keep large number of unmanageable play lists over no underlying structure, track the play count. Organizing music on the go is not possible with the iPod Nano. Rating music requires one to be proactive and takes effort. So, I will go with the simplest - tracking the playcount. Now the music you like will have the tendency to float up with a higher playcount. The iPod tracks the playcount just fine. Also, moving among operating systems, installing uninstalling stuff begs for a web solution - a centralized repository to maintain my listening history.

The solution to this one was simpler than I imagined. allows for something called "audioscrobbling". You can listen to music using your favorite software and install a pluggin that will upload your "listenings" automatically to

Now the problem is to upload the playcount from my iPod to Well, download the plugin for Rhythmbox and you are set. It seamlessy uploaded the playcounts from my iPod to Just keep listening to your music and occasionally sync your iPod with RhythmBox and Voila your playcounts are updated on

Also, has plugins for almost any decent music player under the sun and it can make listening suggestions based on your listening history.

Musicbrainz Picard

My music collection is was a strange mess confluence of ripped cds (using early non-standard rippers), downloaded music from the time of Audiogalaxy, Napster and kazaa. Okay, I pirated "some" music (there I said it) Har. In my defense - I have spent good money on purchasing audio cassettes and CD's and whole albums for just maybe one song. Anyway, that is besides the point. The thing is, I ended up with about 9 Gigs of unsorted disorganized music files. To make things worse I organized and renamed them to suite my tastes long back and ripped all my CDs using some shady ripper. A manual re-organization not only seems infeasible but, an intractable problem. Almost, came to point where decided to delete the whole damn thing in disgust and restart a clean collection.

1) Files with wrong names. Some music files just have names track001.mp3, track002.mp3 etc
2) Worse there are actually files in my collection that have the wrong ID3 or empty tags for most fields.
3) Smaller annoying problems, non standard naming of files some with underscores, some with spaces and some just a mess.
4) Folder structure crazy. Some like "I like", "Me Favs 12jul".

SOLUTION: for each file listen to it first. Look up the album on the net and then rename the tags and the files and put them in a proper folder. If I can remember the name of the song that is. Leave aside the question - how does one create a proper folder structure. And all this manually.

Pulling my hair with both hands and shouting Aaaaaah.....

But, just then the sun rose, the birds chirped, the flowers blossomed. Picard to the rescue (strange coincidence, considering how many time the character namesake of the tool has saved the day for the enterprise). It uses acoustic fingerprinting (equivalent of listening) during scanning of every song, then looks up that AudioFingerprint in the Musicbrainz database to figure out the album. Then optionally (using plugin) it can lookup the cover art, do a cross lookup to other music repositories like amazon or just do a google search. Also, it will fix the ID3 tags, rename the file and organize the folders by artists/albums. Optionally you can ask it to move all the files it was able to fix to another directory in well organized structure. Leaving the files that it couldn't look up the fingerprint for in the original place. And boy it is good. Of the 2400 odd files, now, I am only left with about some 400 files. It is so good that it figured out the right album for a files whose ID3 tags and file name I deliberately garbled. Took some time about 1 to 2 hours to sift through all my music.

Now, with what remains you can do a standard lookup based on the current ID3 tags (the screenshot shows what I have left). It will do its best to locate a match and present its findings with a color code ranging from green to red (great match to bad match). You can then visually sift through these. For those files with multiple matches it will present you with a web page allowing you to choose among the various choices.

Then to top it all off - "there's no Price for Awesomeness, or Attractiveness".

MusicBrainz Picard

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Klipsch image x10

In my attempt to be able to listen to my music collection anytime anywhere, got myself an iPod Nano (1st generation) long time back. But, just after a couple of days this got relegated to a dark corner of a cabinet. Did occasionally take it out, but then again and again kept sending it straight back in to that dark dingy corner. The problem were the uncomfortable headphones. My ears actually pain with these things. Toleration time was about max 30 minutes. Tried some other brand ear-buds too. But, gave up thinking my ears may not be the standard size or something !!. Got myself a Sennheiser px250. These I could tolerate for about an hour or 2. But, then the whole idea of having your music pocket-able gets thrown out of the window. These headphones are definitely not pocket-able. So, back went the iPod.

Organizing my music recently. Decided to give this one more shot. I had pretty much given up the idea of ear buds. So, balked at the thought of "in ear" buds. Having something so close to your tympanic membrane, gives me the shivers. Let alone the thought of some cheap headphone manufacturer, even giving a damn about your "ear health".

So, how do the really rich music guys who have all the money in the world, listen to their music? The answer surprisingly is NOT unaffordable really really expensive well calibrated music systems and special rooms, but custom in ear ear-buds!! Yes! Ah now the custom ear fit makes these comfortable. But, what makes the sound quality so great. Another surprise, their headphones don't use the standard micro speaker technology. These headphones are based on Balanced Armature technology. Usually dual or triple balanced armatures to be able to faithfully reproduce the full range of frequencies. This technology is currently only available in the US and the UK. Okay some quick translation is in order now. The micro speakers are more like ordinary speakers but small (micro) in size. Armature technology, on the other hand, directly produces sound frequencies more akin to a tuning fork (Am I right?). And, these are expensive really expensive.

After reading much about these, narrowed down my search to Klipsch x10 and SleekAudio sa6 and finally ended up with the Klipsch. Both have single balanced wide/ultra-wide band micro armatures. Some how the thought of dual/triple armatures did not appeal to me, maybe, because of how much more complicated (and more expensive)it is to design a good crossover. Well, if you are still in the dark ages of 5$ cheap Chinese headphones. I am sure you won't be disappointed moving to one of these. I have used these for over 3 months now and they are worth every penny. But, I suggest looking up various choices yourself before settling on one, as these can make quite a dent in your wallet. Actually, suggest trying before buying. Also, suggest pairing these with comply foams.

Klipsch Image x10 Retails for 350$ (got mine off ebay for 220$)

Also, check out these:

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Hadron Collider goes online this Wednesday

Woo Hoo or Big Bang. Any hoo big day for physics.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

5 Quirky Gadgets You’re Bound to Love

The following is an interesting guest post by Sarah Scrafford. Thanks Sarah.

Gadgets are taking the world by storm – they’re getting smaller, more sophisticated, and indispensable to daily life. While some are useful, others come with sheer entertainment value. They’re not must-haves for the serious gadget freaks, but for those who enjoy a good laugh now and then, here’s my list of five quirky yet charming gadgets in descending order of importance to me:

  • E-Cigarette: An electronic nicotine patch? A cigarette-shaped placebo that hoodwinks you into ditching the nasty and unhealthy habit? Whatever it is, the E-Cigarette Anti Cigarette Nicotine Replacement Therapy cartridge promises to cure you of your smoking habit by simulating the smell and feel of smoking a cigarette, sans the harmful effects of tar and other cancer-causing chemicals. What it does have though is nicotine – each cartridge has supposedly less and less of the noxious substance to help you wean yourself gradually from the pleasures of smoking.
  • Wi-Fi Detector T-Shirt: Be prepared for the stares all around with this contraption. An instant Wi-Fi detector, this piece of clothing senses the strength of the Wireless Fidelity signal in the area around you and glows accordingly. The shirt is washable once you remove the animated decal and the hidden battery pack that powers the detector.
  • LED Faucet Lights: Like the idea of water that glows, both blue and red according to the temperature? If so, then this gadget is your cup of tea. Fix it to your faucet and light up your bathrooms, literally. While the blue LED gives your water a bluish shade, the blue/red LED makes the water turn red once the temperature touches 89 degrees.
  • Phone Excuses Key Ring: The perfect gadget to get you off the phone and away from the pest on the other end of the line – this nifty key ring has a whole range of sound effects that you can use to good effect to offer the most genuine excuses when you want to hang up the phone without being overtly rude.
  • Clocky: Though the moniker makes me feel all warm and snug inside, Clocky is one mean SOB when it comes to dragging you out of bed each morning. If you thought the snooze button was your best friend, Clocky the Runaway Alarm Clock is here to cause friction between the two of you – by running away from you as soon as the alarm rings. This means that you’re forced to get out of bed if only to shut up that dratted clock when the alarm rings after a snooze period. Clocky allows you between 0 to 9 minutes before it starts its morning jog, and a setting of 0 means you don’t get any snooze time at all.


Sarah Scrafford is an industry critic, as well as a regular contributor on the subject of Capella University Reviews. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Some words of wisdom

"For a good man there are no mistakes in life, only learning experiences" - Dr SA

"What do you dream yourself to be? That is where you should be concentrating your energies at" - Dr IBS

"The earlier you start doing what you like, the sooner you start living life" - Dr KA

"100 rupees is a 100 rupees not 99 not 101. One should say what happened, exactly as it happened" - Dr KA

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why do we forget? One perspective

Another dose of musings of a wandering mind.

Why do we forget?
This, I think has more to do with gathering correct data about one's surroundings and skill honing. By nature related events or objects have the tendency of occurring close to each other have (spatial nearness) or are repetitive (temporal nearness). By remembering only events that occur repetitively or close to one another, one has a greater probability of having consistent and generally correct information about one's surroundings in one's mind. Giving this a more detailed look one realizes that repeated activity say like improving one's skills at a sport (practice makes perfect) are not possible without forgetting the wrong move and reinforcing the right moves with time. We with our set of neurons in essence keep an impression of repeated events/associations from the environment we are immersed in. Why is it important to remember events which occur close to each other in space or time? One reason: Things or events occurring close to each other, generally have a causal relationship. An organism having the ability to recognize such relationships has a tremendous survival advantage. By recognizing certain events that may trigger unfavourable events, one can avoid those, well in advance.

But, there are ways in which to give certain associations a higher weightage than this default mechanism. Emotions are a way to give certain experiences a higher weightage than the default weightage. for example, we don't learn that fire burns by repeatedly burning ourselves. One such accidental burn may leave a lasting impression (and a scar) to remind us to beware of such an event in the future. More over already made associations may help recognize the cause of such events. The sensation of pain gives the associated event a higher weightage for memorization. And, how did we initially start to feel pain - by mistake. There may have been freak organisms that felt no pain and walked fearlessly into fire. They most definitely got filtered by the sieve of natural selection. One mistake (mutation) by chance may have advantaged an organism of that species with the severe feeling of pain from burning. Such strong sensation evokes a strong emotional response making a lasting impression. Many such fears/feelings may have been incorporated in our DNA quite some time back, with the subsequent branches all sharing these. Fear, love, camaraderie are all emotions which may have altering effect on the weightage of the memories, and may bypass the normal repetitiveness and forgetfulness mechanism. Also, what remains after the years are those that advantage an organism in some way to survive.

This same mechanism built into us by nature - that is recognition of patterns and reinforcing of repetitive occurrences helps us recognize mathematical formulas, languages. There may have been fine tuning in the later stages of evolution. This pattern recognition and association of similar concepts is what makes some ideas appear so fundamental to us and many ideas not so tangible to grasp from our understanding of nature. Object oriented programming and many other programming concepts being cast as abstractions of real world objects comes from our understanding and comfort with analogues from nature.

This natural scheme of selective adaptation and a neural network capable of recognizing "important" patterns in the environment in which it is immersed in, is not only simple but very flexible. We don't expect fire to be cold. We grew in this environment. The hardwired feelings are only suitable to this environment. Feelings and emotions are a way to prioritize many of the experiences and translating them into increased weightages for the neurons they effect. Just immersing a blank neural network with forgetfulness function in a rich environment would retain associated events and objects because of their temporal or spatial nearness or higher frequency of occurrence. This observation of events and objects and their associations depend on the senses that pick these up and flood the network. An organism say with only auditory senses will be limited in its perception of its environment. But, if it survives, it may have gathered strange ways to prioritize what is important for survival. The interplay and associations between signals sent by various senses of an organism and the feelings they evoke - could be very interesting and could make for a colourful experience.

When thinking about intelligence. The first question that comes to mind is intelligent about what? Intelligent about one's environment? Intelligent in mathematics? Decoupling the environment of a machine or an organism and then talking about intelligence does not quite make sense. Or does it? After a certain amount of complexity is attained, an organism may in a sense "live in its own mind" - detached from nature, having the ability to see ideas and associations between them with no real analogues in nature. This may reach a point where now the being may want these ideal structures held in mind to be translated to reality or checked against reality. One is free to have anything in one's mind. But, an organism detached from the environment cannot survive long. If the organism is "unlucky" sooner or later the organisms ideas are tested against reality. That's where Science comes in where ideas get validated and tested against reality, from time to time. Some theories remain and some fail the test. A race has a better chance of survival if the knowledge it acquires is correct and consistent with what is real.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blue Ant z9

Wonder how I lived without one of these for so long. Guess, wanted to abstain from moving around town looking like one of those self styled and self proclaimed "secret agents". But, the sound quality, convenience and ultra light weight makes me join their league - I apologize. This is my first Bluetooth headset so can't make an objective comparison.

I have pretty much stopped picking up the mobile directly after this. I don't wear this on my ear all the time, just clip it on my shirt. When I receive a call, this speedily and miraculously gets worn on the ear. One doesn't insert this into one's ear canal, it justs rests outside -- very comfortable and easy to remove and put on quickly. Has dual microphones and voice isolation (in software) which is pretty good and provides clear sound to both the listener and the one whom you are talking to.

Most of all, very good for times when one has to take that important call while driving.

For using this in Ubuntu:
Put z9 in pairing mode (or reset mode)

$hcitool scan
Scanning ...
00:1C:D8:01:9A:21 BlueAnt Z9 v3.4

$sudo modprobe snd_bt_sco

$btsco -v 00:1C:D8:01:9A:21
btsco v0.42
Device is 1:0
Voice setting: 0x0060
RFCOMM channel 2 connected
Using interface hci0

For Skype:
Options > Sound Devices >
Sound In :BT Headset (hw:Headset,0)
Sound Out :BT Headset (hw:Headset, 0)
Ringing:BT Headset (hw:Headset, 0)

VLC Player:
Preferences > Audio > ALSA > Refresh: BT Headset: BT SCO PCM (hw:1.0)

retails for 99$. Got mine for 59$ on ebay
Blue Ant z9

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Playing with Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 on Gutsy Gibbon - Part 3

Next on the list are some GPS mapping softwares for linux. A popular one is GPSdrive. Installation was easy, Ubuntu has a debian package in its repositories. Sadly, does not have decent maps for India (see below) . Will, pass for now.

Now we try Navit. By default it too does not have maps for India. But, the documentation says that it works with the following -

- OpenStreetMaps : display, routing, but street name search isn't complete
(see )
- Grosser Reiseplaner and compliant maps : full support
(see )
- Garmin maps : display, routing is being worked on
(see )

Install Navit
cvs login
cvs -z3 co -P navit
cd navit
make check
sudo make install

download planet.bin into /usr/local/share/navit/maps/ from: (1.3 GB file)
sudo gedit /usr/local/share/navit/navit.xml
map type="garmin" enabled="yes" data="$NAVIT_SHAREDIR/maps/planet.bin"

Optionally, If you don't want to download the maps for the whole planet you can try getting only the map tiles you are interested in:
wget -O map.osm,17.3825,73.56, 88,17.6825
the format is:
you can get the co-ordinates from:

Finally, If you would rather prefer Garmin maps (but, mind it these are pretty hopeless for India):

svn co libgarmin
cd libgarmin
sudo make install
re configure and re make Navit.

download garmin map tiles from:
sudo gedit /usr/local/share/navit/navit.xml
map type="garmin" enabled="yes" data="/usr/local/share/navit/maps/73551480.img" debug="4"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Playing with Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 on Gutsy Gibbon - Part 2

Well, the first though that struck me, was ah ha! why not Google Earth. Got me self a subscription to Google Earth plus only to be disappointed - it cannot talk to gpsd. Canceled my subscription. But, don't loose heart. Download the and gps.kml from here.

rfcomm connect 4
gpsd -n /dev/rfcomm4

gps = serial.Serial('/dev/rfcomm4', 4800, timeout=1)
In google earth open > gps.kml

What this does is this - it reads the NMEA formated string and generates the KML (Keyhole Markup Language) formated file called. /tmp/nmea.kml, which is then read by google earth at 1 second intervals.

As a side note, remember to make sure you don't have xgps running simultaneously with this script. I guess since both of them read from the same device at the same time, it causes the python script to fail as it tries to parse the partial NMEA strings at times (parts of the string may have been read from the buffer by xgps).

Okie dokey so far so good.

I have been talking about this NMEA string. If you like you can use the python script to make your own script to peek at the NMEA string that is sent by your device. Here is what it looks like


excerpt from Wiki
"NMEA 0183 (or NMEA for short) is a combined electrical and data specification for communication between marine electronic devices such as echo sounder, sonars, Anemometer (winds speed and direction), gyrocompass, autopilot, GPS receivers and many other types of instruments. It has been defined by, and is controlled by, the US-based National Marine Electronics Association."

cool isn't it?


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Playing with Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 on Gutsy Gibbon - Part 1

Just received this interesting little GPS receiver from Freedom Input. It is capable of receiving from 51 channels simultaneously. Freedom input sells 2 keychain GPS's. The original Freedom Keychain GPS and the keychain GPS 2000. The first one uses the SIRF III chipset and the latter uses the latest MTK chipset. Sirf III, as, maybe the name suggests is on its third revision, whereas, this is MTK's debut into the GPS world (and I reckon quite a good one). The 2000 version is more compact than the original and has 4 separate indicator lights for the various activities. Some would still prefer the Sirf III chipset, as it has a proven track record. After much brooding I decided to go in for the latter i.e. GPS 2000. Mind it neither comes bundled with any software, but, are supposed to be compatible with popular mapping softwares available.

Now the hard part getting all this to work in Ubuntu. After a hard days night, here is what I got.
In gist this is what I did (apply common sense where stuck)

hcitool scan
sdptool browse
sudo gedit /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf

rfcomm4 {
bind yes;
device <>;
channel 1;
comment “Serial Port”;

rfcomm connect 4
sudo apt-get install gpsd gpsd-clients
gpsd -n /dev/rfcomm4

Basically, we are creating a serial port /dev/rfcomm4 binding to the bluetooth device and then making the gpsd daemon talk to the port. The gpsd daemon then listens and services any requests for the standard GPS NMEA data. And voila..

The picture above shows the satellites that GPS device has latched onto. If it latches onto more than 3 satellites it is able to provide a 3D fix, which means, it can in addition to your position tell you your altitude. I think EPH tells you the horizontal accuracy and EPV tells you the vertical accuracy. Okay, now to get this to work with some freely available mapping software keep checking.

If still stuck check out these links