Friday, March 31, 2006

Blog Tech...

I was fairly amused by the amount of technology that has gone into my I thought it would be a good time to discuss them with you... And no, this is not about CSS/HTML.

Lot of my friends have asked me to put my blogroll on my blog, and quite clearly I have not. The answer is simple: I read around 50 feeds regularly (and some notorious feeds like that of churns out 50 entries per day) so putting them on my blog will simply consume a lot of space.
Any serious blogger worth his salt uses some form of feed reader to keep track of blogs, I use bloglines for its web interface goodness. The link on the right hand side labelled Frequent Reads links to my separate blogroll.

The other awsome feature of bloglines is that it allows you to create email subscriptions. It is a really cool concept. It generates unique email IDs for you which are shown as feeds on the bloglines feed reader. Now how is this useful???? You would have subscribed to some emails( or would have given your email ID for registering to some service) and dont want it to hog you inbox space... simply give the bloglines email address and all the emails to that address will appear as feeds. Also its amazing if you use it with This site generates emails for you everytime some site you are monitoring(which does not expose RSS feeds) changes. Almost none of the University professors have RSS enabled web pages (or your college job employment site)... and since you have to keep an eye on them for any new entry, just generate a new bloglines email address and use it as your default email account in ChangeNotes. Now you have a RSS feed for your feed reader for a site that does not have a RSS feed exposed. How cool is that!!!

Another tech feature that I love is the performancing metrics provided by Notice the performancing label end of the sidebar (under the heading blogmates)... It is on the lines of google analytics, but unlike its google counterpart is completely *free*. It generates feeds too... Here's an example of what I get daily in my feeds (by performancing ofcourse)

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. I get information I never dreamt would be possible for me to get without considerable work. I get the demographics of people visiting the blog, browsers they are using, platforms they are using, screen resolutions, Outbound links etc etc... the list is endless. I was fairly amused when I saw that there were considerable amount of users using Linux and FreeBSD to access my blog. Also I came to know the different screen resolutions people were using and a decline in the number of visitors using higher screen resolutions... Only 65% of the users had 1024x768, 4% had 800x600 and rest had higher resolution (as high as 1536x960). I got hold of a bigger monitor and opened my blog... and man ..those people had a reason not to visit my blog again. The whole template looks weird on higher screen resolutions. Many blogs, with customized templates, had the same problem. Performancing helped me find a problem which I never knew existed... Thanks a lot Performancing... great job.

I was trying to integrate LighBox JS and flickr into my blog but that would have effectively killed my low bandwidth readers.

Do you guys have any other kewl stuff that I can integrate into my blog? and which does not hog any space? (the two stuffs I explained above are just two links... so I would like stuff more in those lines). Also I am searching for an optimized tagging service. Technorati is good but I have'nt seen many blogger sites with visible tags or tag enabled services (i.e you can subscribe to feed labelled as... say "life" and ignore the rest). Google.... are you listening??

PS: I have decided to give technorati a try... hence the search box. Now I will be tagging my enteries too. Lets see how it works.... and yeah my performancing account crashed :(( and I lost all my metrics.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Why do we live???

"Who? Who is but the form following the function of what. And what I am is a man in a mask."
- Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta
The question was asked in a community on orkut: Why do we live?
This question is troubling me ever since. I scrambled to find the answer everywhere. Ofcourse there were canned answers like "to explore the horizons of living... loving"..blah but why do we have to do those ? Why do I have to fall in love? Why should I respect elders? Why should I breathe? Why should I stay Alive??? The question reverberated through my mind... after all if you lose all the pretense of being a human and see the humans as a third entity, say in the manner humans see lab rats... these emotions are just neurological signals to the brain.

Quoting Agent Smith from the movie matrix:
"Do you believe you're fighting for something, for more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is, do you even know? Is it freedom, or truth, perhaps peace, could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson, vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose! And all of them as artificial as the matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it Mr. Anderson, you must know it by now. You can't win, it's pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. Anderson, why? Why do you persist?"

Those emotions of love, hatred are just special neurological pattern in our brains.. what is the bigger picture? How different are we from a single cell amoeba who even though have no emotions, live... They can only move/exixt and reproduce... i.e unlike humans' that is definitely a simple cause (though there are more reasons than the cell it has).. If it is then why does it exist. If there is a reason say A for amoeba to exist.
Now for humans, even though there are many reasons to live, everything boils down to A.
So everything is what it is because of A. I guess we also know A as God (or whoever we believe in).

But then the question redirects itself to A... why does A exist?
Just for argument sake lets say that A exist because of B, B due to C and so on... This results in an infinite series. Since this is an infinite series there is no end to it.
The following proof is involves order theory so you may stop reading:
Now we have the set $={We Humans, A, B, C, .... } which is infinite. This set has no upper bound but it is directed, we being the lower bound of $. Since $ is not an element of $ so we can make a new set $$=$U{$}, which contains {$} as its topmost element but is still infinite.

Now I am not relegious or anything but lets take a closer look at {$}. {$} is the topmost element in $$ and contains everything present in/out of the universe... hence {$} is omnipresent and we all are a part of {$}. Next {$} is the topmost element in the chain of this directed-complete poset so clearly {$} is above all of us. {$} is an infinite elements away from us. Infinty is incomprehensible to humans... something which we cant know. Hence there is no way of knowing what {$} is.

If I say that {$} is God then the whole equation actually makes sense. We are all part of him. He is omnipresent. He is above us. And there is no way of knowing him exactly hence knowing the exact purpose of our living... so live in the moment and plan for the future... you may only predict the future and the nature of {$}.

PS: Tell me if you find any flaws in this proof

Friday, March 17, 2006

V for Vendetta

Nah not the movie... the torrents aren't out yet :P. Am talking about the comic series. There is a popular quote:
Never Judge a novel by its movie.

So I decided to read the novel before the watching the movie. Normally anything related to movie/novel goes on my movie blog but since it was a comic and was kindda special to me, it made it to my regular blog.

Whoever said that comics were for kids cannot be more wrong. It is an adult comic book. If you have seen the movie or read the reviews, you would be knowing the basic story behind the comic. The strip was originally published between 1982-1985. The book was sorta futuristic for its time as it is based in the late 1990's. The movie shifted it to the late 2020's to retain the futuristic effect.

Few weeks back I was told about the movie. I was blissfully ignorant about its release date, so when a V for Vendetta torrent caught my eye, I immediately downloaded it. Much to my dismay, it turned out to be the original classic 10 issue comic book series. Not wanting to waste all the bandwidth, I started to read the comics and believe me its the best comic I have ever read, and I have read about millions of them.

Today I finished the last issue, and the end makes you to rethink your priorities in life. You feel good about yourself in a funny way and bad in other weird ways. Unlike movies like Swades or Rang De Basanti which make you feel patriotic or thereof lack of it, this comic book splits open all your self doubts and makes you feel miserable. The ending, however makes you feel good and surreal.

Update: saw the movie... a class in itself. Hugo Weaving has yet again given a classy performance, as V. Although the mask hides his face, the dialogue delivery makes up for it. The slight deviation from the original comic series has a big difference on the story. They both are parallel stories with different endings and are awesome in their own respect. A MUST WATCH

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

XGL+Compiz+Ubuntu = Nirvana

I have been trying out desktops for a while now, and just so you know, my idea of a perfect GUI is that of a macintosh. After having my windows transformed into a MAC look pony I was itching to give my ubuntu a mac look too, but there was nothing available. Gdesklets sucked and did not come any closer, so I ended up running an OSX theme on Gnome which was not all that great.
For the zen types, yeah I know simplicity is great, I tried using fluxbox and simple window manager for sometime. The problem is that they are too stable to be interesting :P and I dont like it when the sea gets too calm. Also lemme use my 1 GB ram will you..?? :D

So I got a link to a great article which just gave a few steps to install XGL+compiz on ubuntu. There's a lot of buzz going on about XGL in comp Sci community so I decided to give it a try. And believe me the screenshots dont do justice to it. You gotta see it in action. The best part is that it uses full hardware acceleration and does not run like other graphic intensive pigs.
If you have ubuntu installed, definitely check the article above. Check out this video too. Well I took it on my cam and the quality sucks but hey...who cares!! I have a desktop rivallling mac :)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

New York...

Yeah finally went to NYC. Even though I live so close by NYC, this was the first time I visited the place. The place was reminiscent of Bangalore save the architectural spectacle. There were rickshaws, hot dog vendors, people peeing on the streets, the filth on the road... i felt right at home.
Check out these videos...

Nah i did not capture those in my cam. Unfortunately my camera's battery died down abruptly. Some of the pics were taken by Nihir and Sudheer.

The career fair was not all that great, the freebies were great though. I wont talk much in this post...i'll let the pics and video do their work. The topmost pic links to my flickr page and has all the NYC pics.

Hope you guys enjoy these.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The day I got cracked...

I hate crackers... they are mostly unethical and bring bad name to us hackers. Hackers are not the ones who break into the system and do some random hollywood movie stuff. The crackers do. They are not heroes... they are the worst villians because they dont know the consequences of their action. They are mainly script kiddies... let me explain. A hacker is mainly a hard core coder who delves deep into the code, sometime backend of webservers, find a vulnerability and publish the code in public so that anyone having a similar security hole will patch it. A cracker is one who gets this code and runs it on some website and cause mayhem. Why this sudden outburst? Well one of the comps in my lab got hacked... (will go with the lingo rather than the word cracked)

Frankly speaking those comps were anything but secure. It was running an ancient apache 1.3 webserver which got cracked. The sshd was also targeted but the attack on the ssh server was not really successful, although their failed attempts to hack into ssh server did give me a lot of information about the hackers.

Yesterday night the department's computer administration was informed by university's conmputing and media services about a possible security breach. The point of attack was located and was immediately hooked off the net. I ran a few post mortem scans on the computer. The logs were full of port scan reports, and the ssh logs were shouting about a possible security breach. It is really not a rocket science to detect these intrusions from the log files. The attempts were from the few ips who were trying all the common login names and password combinations. A whois on the those ip showed that the attacks were launched from Univ Of california, Berkeley, Univ of central lancashire, UK... and some private domains in Germany and Korea. Now either those computers had been hijacked or there is a student in the residence halls of those univ who is going to be in trouble. The logs have been passed to the abuse prevention department of the respective universities.

I personally feel really ashamed of myself that it happened in one of my labs. It's security probably never concerned me because there was no confidential information stored on it whatsoever. The hackers gained root access due to a vulnerability in the php engine, installed an irc server and used it for file sharing.... which is ironical as we seldom log in as root. Their activity was immediately monitored due to the spike in bandwidth usage, so a disaster was avoided.

I learnt my lesson... never underestimate the stupidity of a stupid person and dont be too optimistic about humans.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

HitchHikers guide to vx2.look2me

If you have no clue what the title is and you are running windows then you probably have it. It is one of the most nastiest adware/spyware i have ever seen. I got attacked twice (I am a frequent visitor of crack sites) and had a hard time getting rid of it. Today I cleaned my roomy's PC, whose PC had been adware infested for months.

Before you flame me for not putting enough cladding on Windows, know that I have Norton AV with Internet Security/Firewall, intrusion detector, spam blocker, Windows defender and ad-aware on my system... still that nasty adware crept into my sanctum :X. Interestingly it exploits both firefox and IE's URL hooks, pops a flash animation at regular intervals, automatically resizes the browser window and redirects to some random site... ironically to adware/spyware removal sites. Here is my DIY vx2.look2me removal guide (I am saving you from shelling out $40 to Dell spyware removal support guys or reinstalling windows):
  1. Get the following softwares: Ad-aware with vx2 plugin, ewido anti-malware scanner, hijackthis, spybot and killbox(no remove on reboot wont help)... these are all free softwares.
  2. Boot into safe mode and run a complete scan with both ewido and ad-aware. Delete all the nasties that show up. And DO NOT say OK to the box that asks to RUN DLL AS AN APP. Do all the next steps in safe mode.
  3. Now go to the addons section of Ad-aware and run vx2 removal tool. Most probably it will just say that there is a new variant... just ignore it for the time being (Although if it claims that your system is clean then read no further... your problem is solved).
  4. At advanced stages of mayhem the adware creates a fake copy of the system32 folder under C:/Windows with nothing in it.
    1. See if its a fake copy. If you double click a fake copy, you would find nothing in the folder. If are no fake copies... goto step 5.
    2. Goto the folder options and deselect "Hide system files". you should be able to see two system32 folders in C:/Windows
    3. go to the command prompt and do the following:
      1. cd c:/windows/
      2. attrib -s -h system32
      3. attrib +s system32
  5. Open Hijackthis, select scan and remove/fix anything suspicious... specially broken links and URL hooks.(Remember to get your log file analyzed online and remove all the stuffs that is shown as unknown or nasty... sometimes it shows important files as unknown, generally some rarely used software so dont burn your fingers).
  6. Next run spybot and fix/destroy anything you can.
  7. open the file C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts in notepad. Delete everything after the line localhost (unless ofcourse... you have added them yourself).
  8. Now search *.dll in your installation directory modified in the past 24 hours (there is an option in the search menu to select that)
    1. Select all the dll's of size about 230 kb.
    2. Drag and drop them into killbox (set the option of killbox to delete on next boot).
    3. drag all of them one by one, pressing the delete icon each time(the red cross)... but dont reboot each time, just keep on adding and deleting.
    4. Reboot your PC after adding everything to killbox.
    5. Do the same search again and now manually delete the files which will be found again in C:\!killbox
  9. Run hijackthis and now try to fix any thing which was reappearing even after fixing.
  10. Reboot into normal mode and run the ad-aware's vx2 tool. It should say Clean now.
If the above steps do not work, do tell me how you got rid of the malware. The first time I got infected, I monkeyed around with the registries to kill it..but i dont remember that approach.

PS: There is always an option of reinstalling the OS or putting Linux if you are too desperate.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Hmm... I got to tell you guys something... I got selected for second round of interview with MS. And believe me nobody is more surprised than I am. So soon I'll be flying off to Seattle (on their expense ofcourse).

I never told you about the interview. The interviewer was a female... and boy! she was really good looking. Well being a geek/nerd/dork myself, I generally like geeky females (probably the fact that I am single explains that :P... they are always in less supply). So I fell into an instant comfort zone with the interviewer... I was consciously controlling my tongue ( In words of Richard M Stallman... that would be like speaking about a rebel between peace corps) and was really trying hard not to compare Linux and windows in any way (It is definitely a matter of education to get any kind of bias out of your head., and heaven knows that I am trying hard to get educated). My work at the Dept of Psychology seemed to please her a lot (probably the term *Computational Neuroscientist* would have hit the spot)... And so after two weeks here I am, aspiring to get an internship as a Software Developer (SDE) in a company I was bitching about a few posts ago.
So if you have anything heavy and sharp, throw it at me.... AM FLYING TO SEATTLE.... YAY!!

And you would have noticed that the titles of my post seldom go with the content (A friend pointed it out to me)... well they are there for a reason. I am not a megalomaniac but I maintain my blog to document my life. Life is too vast to be documented in totality and since change is the only permanent thing in life and an essential attribute, I document it. My blog template, my posts, headers and even the side links shouts out CHANGE...
(you might think that I am a jerk but I like to read my blog a million times and introspect... just being libran :)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

New look...

Well I decided to give my blog a new look. Not that I have lot of free time to kill, just that I had already ruined my day so I wanted to ruin it completely :).

I would like your opinion on the design of the site, the color combinations, the readability etc. Rohith... I will be looking for your comment :P.

And yeah making templates is definitely not a rocket science so if any of you guys are interested in customizing your blog, download a freely available template, get a good photo editing software (picassa will be enough... if you want it to be too jazzy then go for photoshop) and you are good to go. You have to cleanup CSS but I am assuming that if one is savvy enough to use a blog then reading a bit of CSS wont be difficult.

Do tell me if something is crappy in here.