Jun 162010
 

Internet has grown out to be a source of information, huge in magnitude and unimaginable by human memory standards. Lots of data is available at our finger tips. Google has become a synonym to search(though google has spread its branch much wider then just search technology) and wikipedia is considered to be the boss of all the encyclopedias. But wikipedia cannot by itself help us comprehend the diversity and the vastness of the internet. Lots of websites go unseen by majority of netizens. Lots of information goes unaccessed. I personally would have been happy to access more pages with interesting contents. But its very difficult to go through the different combinations of web addresses.

So, something has comeup on the internet which excites me. Stumble upon!! I actually stumbled upon this site while going through few blogs. And I was quite surprised about the way it works.

All we need to is login to our personal account on stumble upon and choose the preferences of the websites we would like to visit. Then we start stumbling. Just on a click of a button, a random website is displayed as per our preferences set before. This website might turn out to be quite interesting or plain boring, and we can indicate that by clicking on the thumbs up or thumbs down button. The website will remember this and try to refine its choice of webpages for us. The sites that are  displayed, are actually submitted to stumble upon by various user of net under some catagory, when they find it to be of their interest.

We need not always go onto the stumble upon website for stumbling. Addons are available for different browsers which add a toolbar containing the stumble tools into the browser window. After a one time login, it becomes easier.

Whenever we are bored, or just want to be fed with some useful or unwanted information, stumbling can be a good option. For once we find it very good upon “stumbling”.

Few of the websites that I stumbled upon are listed here. I felt they were quite ineresting.

1. Funny windows messages.

2. Funny conversations that travel booking staff encounters.

Jun 022010
 

Computing has come a long way since the first IBM PC ever built for a common man. From a few KBs of RAM running the primitive and complex operating systems to the fastest desktop, laptop and even handheld devices, no one had ever gauged the evolution of these electronic data cruncher. The latest form of computing being the cloud version. Many of us know what it stands for , but for those newbies to the virtual world, here it is in laymans language.

Cloud computing is nothing but virtual computing. Except that the hardware is real but minimal, and software is virtual. All you need is a basic internet capable computer, and an internet connect with respectable speed. The computer connects to the internet and the software applications and the storage is present on the cloud, ie. internet itself. Its bit hard to understand the logic behind adopting this method of computing initially, but the advantages are vast in number.

First of all, lets say you are a CADD professional working from home as a freelancer. You get individual projects from different firms, which require different softwares to complete them. You have two option in such case. Either you buy all the softwares as per the client requirement, wherein the cost shoots up, or you use pirated softwares which will either crash at crucial point or not give you complete functionality. And your client will insist on the work being carried out on legal software. Also the hardware requirement for such work is unimaginable. So what choice are you left with? Well, cloud at your help.

The modus operandi of cloud is that you subscribe for their service after paying a nominal fee, which is far less than he cost of he software and the hardware. The cloud servers for that particular software will have enough resources to execute your programs smoothly. All you need to do is login to the cloud using your credentials, on a high speed internet line which is becoming more and more accessible. Upon logging, you will be greeted by a welcome screen very similar to your home computer. One advantage is that you can access cloud from anywhere, any computer.

Cloud computing is already in place in big business houses relying on computer networks for their day-to-day activities. Very powerful servers host the application which are then accessed by hundreds of users at a time. The only difference is that it is limited to an organisation and an outsider doesn’t have an access to those applications.

The second aspect of cloud computing is storage. The size of the storage devices have bombed out, yet they seem to be lesser by day. Cloud services will give enough storage to dump all your data at one place on the net and access it from anywhere, at anytime. All you need to do is create a secure password to protect all your data, and you are free from worries. Even the backup is not your lookout, as its handled by the service provider.

Application hosting on cloud, along with data storage, security and backup will be a big boon to large companies, who spend lots of money on these infrastructure. (My wife will lose her job if all this is shifted to cloud). But cloud computing has been on the web in bits in pieces in various forms. Picassa allows storage and editing of pictures using their online utility. Thats nothing but a miniature cloud. Playing mulitplayer games online is nothing but a form of cloud computing.

Google has taken up the initative along with many other companies but giving cloud services in form of google docs, the online version of office package. Even microsoft has come up with office live workspace as a competition to google docs. But a few month back I had a raw taste of virtual, or rather cloud computing, when I downloaded chrome operating system, which when booted, into greeted me with just the logging screen for my google ID. Upon login, I was surprised to find some office applications from docs ready for my use. Though in its early stage, chromium OS is making true headway towards cloud computing.

May 262010
 

The 30th anniversary of PacMan was commemorated by google, by placing an interactive pacman doodle on its search homepage. The pacman game could be played by clicking on “Insert Coin” button in place of “I’m feeling lucky” that usually appears beside the google search button, giving it a retro feel. I had tried it on that day, and it worked well.

Now, the people have come up with the analysis saying that, 5 million man hours were lost due to people at workplace indulging in the game on that day. An estimated $ 120 million was the worth of the lost productivity. The analysis goes further to calculate the number of people from google that could be hired to form a team of work force, including Larry Page and Serger Brin for six weeks.

Oh these analysts!  How many man hours have they wasted in researching on such useless figures and facts!! Never once in the news report was there a mention of all the man hours gained by using google all this while.

Majority of the people using computers rely on google for all the answers to their questions. Developers search codes on google, so as to make a short work of their projects. Historians search up facts on google to give a miss to that detour to the library. Foodaholics google for recipes, tech freaks google for gadgets. Almost every computer googles for data half the time. I know a person who visits any website only after searching it on google, even though he has the entire web address. A common belief goes that, if all the google servers are down for a single day, industry will be brought to standstill for the lack of information. Such is the influence of google in our life. It truely has added hours into our days.

If I were to analyse a blackout of google, I would dare say that the industry stands to loose many times the figure reported in above news.

All said, Pacman has found a permanent place on google.

BTW, I think that, Tony Wright, the founder of Rescue Time, the “analyst”, mentioned above, must have used google to come to the reported figures.

May 262010
 

In april 2010, apple launched their mobile computing device, IPad, which satisfies many of the computing needs on the go. The device went on sale soon after worldwide, and has been welcomed by the on-the-go community and technology freaks alike. The device packs enough applications( more than 2,00,000) developed and available to be used.

But as with all the tech devices, there will always be some shortcomings, some of which are pointed out on labnol along with its best features. But I would like to put emphasis on the point that, it being heavy and a bit big, its not a real on-the-go device, except for desperates. Secondly, non accessible file system can limit the memory usage to few specific file types which are recognised and supported by its applications.

And finally, I would like to keep my cellphone at home. Why would I like to load myself with gadgets, if just one is available, which suffices all my needs?

Here’s where the Dell Streak comes into picture. As showcased on their site, dell seems to have included lots of features in their new device, one of them being the smaller form and the second, most important, being introduced is the ability to make calls. The smaller size may hinder the functionality for office applications, but it seems to be a true portable computing device, with all the connectivity features being incorporated at the first launch. On the soft side, dell has announced 38,000 application for this device. Should be enough for everyday work.

If smartly priced, streak can compete with ipad very well for its value addition.

I, in India, would prefer a smaller device in the already crammed space, for my mobile computing and communication.

What would you prefer? Lets wait for its launch in June.

May 182010
 

One of the experiences that every sea fearer has during his sea life is, being duped at some foreign port. No one has been spared of it, some for a small amount, some to a large extent. But a sea fearer always forgets the loss, comparing it with the very high salary he earns, and taking it as a part and parcel of his life.

I was duped once, off 50$.

It so happened that our ship had reached the port of longkou in the northern province china, and in the evening me along with few members of our ship went out for a round of the city. The very first store that we were taken to by the agent stocked electronics, and my eyes lit up seeing the display. I got particularly interested in a pen drive of capacity 32 GB(it was the year 2007, and 32 GB was unheard of)which was on sale for 85$. I tried to haggle the price but couldn’t get it below 80$. Now, I was in china, so wasn’t sure of it’s authenticity, so didn’t want to buy it unless I got it for cheap. By the time more of my fellow crew came besides me and showed interest in the pen drive. After a bit of haggle, the shopkeeper finally agreed to sell it to us for 50$ if we bought 5 pieces. We were four of us and we knew we could convince someone to buy one more on the ship. But we had a condition that we would check all the drives first and if all found ok we would buy. The shopkeeper was ok with that but informed us that he didn’t have those many pieces right at that time and would deliver it on our ship and we could pay at that time. Better for us!!

Or so we thought….

As we informed our other officers and crew on board, our captain became interested, and since it seemed to be a good deal, he called up his son in India, who immediately asked him to get two pieces. Our chief officer informed that he was duped by such seller on his previous ship, but when we informed him that we would check the drives before paying, he himself wanted one. So now we needed 7 pieces and we informed the seller through ships agent to bring 8 pieces so that we had a buffer of 1 piece if any found to be not working.

The seller came onboard and handed us the pendrives which we started testing one by one. We transferred about 18 GB data in to each one and checked that the properties showed 18 GB used and about 12-13 GB free, which it showed and we were satisfied. We handed over the cash and I went for sleep. By that time the seller had left the ship and we sailed out.

I woke up with plans to transfer my entire music collection to the pendrive to relieve me of th DVDs. And I did so in the officer’s lounge computer. As I entered the engine control room for my duty, I saw the duty motorman, Gerry Delrio, worried. After handing over the watch(handing over the duty is called as handing over the watch, in watchkeeping terms), the fourth engineer left, and the first sentence that I heard form the motorman’s mouth was,”Third!! We are F@#&%d!!!”

I didn’t understand what he was saying. He explained that the data was not going into the pen drive that he had. I told him that I had successfully stored just a few minutes back, and he asked me to verify it. I inserted the drive into the engine room computer, and saw that the folder were there on the drive. I browsed to one of the folder. and Oops!! No file in it. Thinking that the folder might be empty from the beginning, I browsed to another folder. Empty!! I checked the properties of the pendrive and found that it had occupied 18 GB with lots of folders, but it showed 0 files. Thinking that formatting it would solve the “error”, I formatted it. Only to find later that the capacity had come down from 32 GB to 20 GB. My heart sank. But all was not lost, since 20 GB was a good deal for 50$. Again I moved some data to the drive. Again I could see only folders, no files. My heart sank.

I carried out the formating number of times in a hope to rectify the situation, but each time the capacity reduced to 16GB, 10GB, 4GB, 1GB,128MB!! And finally, the computer gave up and stopped detecting the drive.

Same thing happened to all the people who bought it. Now I was worried two folds. I had paid for the captain’s pen drives and he was yet to return back the 100$. But within a couple of days he gave me back my money. A week later, the chief officer checked his drive, and came to know that he too was duped. He was a happy man till then, since no one had told him about this comedy. Or tragedy if you call it.

We had been duped by professionalism of the chinese sales person, and a shiny casing announcing a Sony Vaio Pendrive!! We were “Made” in China.

May 132010
 

How mad can an engineer be? It remains an unanswered question. But how crazy can an engineer be in his childhood? Analyse yourself after reading these incidents of my life.

(FYI : All the incidents in these stories are real, and any coincidence of the incidents with any other individual, is purely incidental. I reserve the rights to narrate my own stories.)

1. The very first fascination of my life, related to engineering, was electric motor. In my case, it the fan in our room, that went round and round, on a flick of a switch. I was too much interested in it.  And it had a regulator, which had to be rotated to increase or reduce the speed. I was really interested in knowing what went inside to make the fan rotate. And my interest inspired me to build up a crude theory that there was a smaller motor inside the regulator, which turned upon the rotation of the regulator knob, and it somehow made the fan to rotate.

Why I thought this, I still cant figure out. I was too small to understand the meaning of most of the words I have typed above. I never knew the word theory, or that fan, as it was called, which was actually a motor, or why a regulator was called so. But I had a desire to get the imaginary “small motor”, out of the regulator.

Once there was no one at home, and I decided to fulfill my desire. The regulator was housed in a casing which had charred of from the top, due to the heat generated in it. I inserted my tiny fingers in through the top.

It was my lucky day, as I was standing on a wooden bed and only few fingers of my hand were touching the wall. I was thrown away by the electric shock on to the mattress and escaped shaken, but without injuries. My desire for the motor vanished, and during engineering, I found it to be my weakest subject.

2. Then after a few years my maternal uncle bought a scooter. And I was very much interested in its working. By that time I had read some of the volumes of ‘Young Scientist’ in our school library. And somewhere in those volumes, was the theory of thermocouples which became a point of interest for me. Now, I knew that scooter burned petrol for its power, but I was unaware of a machine called as internal combustion engine, residing inside the scooter.

On analysing deeper, the problem at hand(how scooter works?), and the limited data I had acquired(working of thermocouples), my somewhat adult mind put two and two together. I later found out that by putting two and two together, the answer that I had got was zero. Because I had made up a theory that the petrol burnt up to give out enough heat for one electrode of the thermocouple and the other electrode was placed somewhere far at the front of the scooter to allow proper cold temperature at that point. Armed with this theory, I completed my junior years in the college, and even educated my younger brother about it.

My theory was ultimately negated by the subject IC engines in the fourth semester of engineering.

3. The third incident also involved IC engine and my brother. My brother, luckily had an appetite for all the information and explainations I conjured about anything, with even doubting once….Not so now, after so many years of foolery.

I was in the second year of engineering, the first engineer to be in my family, and after completion of the third semester, our family went to Goa for a picnic. Once while crossing a river, we used the roll-on roll-off ferry boat service, and me, the ‘to be engineer’ of the family, choose to seat near the engine room, which offered a good view of the loud, smoky, oily engine.(I had no idea, that I would go ahead and become a marine engineer. But thats how fate works.) So as I was sitting there, admiring the oily, ugly thing, my brother approached me and asked what that black noisy thing was? And I informed that it was an engine. I had read somewhere about the different types of engines like 2-stroke and 4-stroke. And upon seeing the engine structure, I immediately “recognised” it to be a 3-stroke engine.

Any mechanical or automobile engineer will laugh at me at this point. There is no such thing as a 3-stroke engine. There are just 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, depending upon the number of power strokes for every rotation of the engine. What I had seen were the three cylinders of the boat engine, and assumed that they were 3-stroke. I even informed my brother that 3-stroke were more powerful as compared to 2-stroke, but less powerful than 4-stroke. My brother swallowed all the information and basked in the glory that his elder brother was so well informed.

My this theory was again negated by IC engines in the semester that followed immediately. As I reached home from the college home that day, the first thing I did was to tell my brother the truth. I didn’t want him to be laughed at.

He stopped believing in my theories from then on….

So, can’t you gauge how crazy an engineer can be in his childhood?

May 062010
 

Just today, me and my friend reaped one of the many benefits of having some knowledge of the internet, and bit of confidence in various schemes available on it. You might have heard of a website providing revenue generation schemes such as mginger. The modus operandi of this site is, once you register your mobile number on to it, you keep on receiving messages informing you about various schemes by different providers, and for every message you receive, you get paid.

Now the amount of money you receive for each sms is, well, peanuts. If you refer your friends, you will receive some small amount for every message your friend receive. Just to test the authenticity of the scheme, me and my friend had registered on that site last year, around this time. For a month or so we tracked the progress of our account, and finally deduced that it would take 7 lives to make the 300 rs., which are required for the payout. So we completely neglected it later on. The messages kept on coming, but we didn’t de-register since it was not harming us, and we could delete them even without reading.

Just few days back the subject of this registration crept up in our conversation, and again we logged in to check. The amount collected was 30 rs. well below the payout limit. But while navigating the site, we found and interesting tabs providing discount coupons. The catch was that for every coupon downloaded, 1 rupee was deducted from our balance on mginger, which was ok with us. On browsing the list of coupons, we struck gold. One coupon was for the online auction site tradus and on a purchace of 625 rs. and above on this site, it gave out a discount of 305 rupees.

I am a fan of tradus and hence know the various useful products available for auction or sell. We immediately downloaded one coupon each from our accounts. Then I browsed through tradus and bought an 8gb sandisk pen drive costing about 800 rs+delivery charges, and paid only rs 574. My friend bought a 3 user license of kaspersky internet security 2010, for 649 and paid only 330 something.

So in the end it seems that we did manage to get some benefit out of this internet venture. And that too without any investment. Internet does provides with some good deals if  you have patience to search. I am hoping to get few more useful coupons from mginger.

Upon googling for such more schemes today, I came across a site called mgarlic. A colleague joked that he would like to come up with a site called mAjinomoto.com.

I laughed….and registered on that site too. Who knows what I might get next year?

Apr 242010
 

Disclaimer : The contents of this writeup should not be considered as an express mandate to download contents from the internet illegally. The author does not take the guarantee of a legal or a virus free download. Piracy is illegal and warrants appropriate actions against the perpetrator of crime by the regional government.

Downloads have a very high percentage share in the internet usage today. It could be anything from ebooks to movies, music, software or virtually any digital content available on the internet. Many of the different protocols(protocol, in laymans terms, is the way computers communicate with each other on the network)being used for file transfer online are HTTP, FTP, P2P etc. Bittorrent is the latest of all this protocols using P2P technology, and has taken over the world of downloads by constituting about 43% of the downloads on the internet. But it has been hard for people to use this technology, since the way it works seems a bit complicated for many who are used to traditional downloading protocols. Lets delve deeper…

Bittorrent download operation basically consists of two sets of file download. The first file is called as the torrent file which contains all the information of the file/files to be downloaded along with the information of the tracker(or the servers which sees through the file transfer. Once the file(which usually is about few kbs) is downloaded, it has to be opened in a download client which supports bitTorrent protocol. The most popular among them is BitTorrent and utorrent. Other file sharing softwares have started incorporating bitTorrent and can be used for such downloads. Once you run the torrent file using this download client, your actual download starts.

The file being download is not hosted on any single computer. In fact, it may not be hosted on any central server at all. People like you and me can create a torrent file and share it. The important factor is the tracker, or the computer which keeps the check of the status of each torrent file on multiple computers and facilitates the file sharing between them. The downloadable files are divided into several pieces and every other piece my be download from different hosts.

To begin with the download, one may have to avails the services of a torrent indexing site like torrentz.com, or go directly to the websites hosting the torrent files(like the monova, mininova, btjunkie etc.). Once you download the required torrent file, you are good to go about using the torrent client. Note that each of the page containing the torrent file also gives the information, authenticity, quality(in case of movies) etc. about the file you are about to download. Such information is fed in by the users who have already downloaded the file, and its quite useful to check it out before downloading the file.

There are two types of computers on a bittorrent network, seeder and leechers. Seeders are those computers which either seed a new torrent(seeding means keeping a file for others to download), or which seeds the file after finishing downloading themselves. Leechers are the computers which only download a file but do not share it. Bittorrent networks have tried many possible ways to thwart the leeching attitude. One way is by keeping the record of the upload to download ratio of a particular peer(peer is the computer connected in the bittorrent network), which should ideally be 1. This means that the peer has uploaded all the contents which he has downloaded.

For the download to be fast enough, the torrent should have a large number of seeders, which will be disclosed by the sites which host the torrent files. Once you start downloading, you become one of the seeders( you have the option of reducing the seeding bitrate if you are using pay per use connection, but multiple attempts to download in this fashion can lead to a blacklisting of your IP address).The success of bittorrent depends on the number of people sharing the files.

As I said earlier, the file being downloaded is divided in to large number of packets, and different packets may be downloaded from different peers. Also, once a packet is downloaded on your computer, it is shared automatically and any peer which has not downloaded that particular packet, can upload it from your computer. This goes on continuously till the entire download is complete and you wish to stop that particular torrent. Once you stop it, your computer is no longer a seeder for that particular torrent.

All being said, I should remind you that this technology has largely been used for sharing material illegally across the internet. Any movie of software that you come across on the internet may not be a version that can be distributed freely. Also many times, viruses are spread in the disguise of genuine content. Users should take care about that.

So go ahead. Bite the torrent!!

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