Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Cell

After a lot of brainwashing done by my friends, I got a mobile phone. I had one in India and hated my dependence on the hardware. I mean I have enough dependencies... E.g. glasses, computer... and now a cell phone. I felt lost if I didn't feel the weight of cell phone in my pocket... well I was avoiding that but now I got a cell..... finally.

Its a Nokia 6682... one of the latest cellphones in the Nokia S60 series and another gadget in my arsenal :P. It is a powerpacked baby and is only a stylus away from being called a PDA. The usability features are awesome and are totally "Nokia like". Only a software guy can appreciate the effort that would have gone into all the abstraction provided to an innocent looking piece of hardware capable of detonating a WMD.

I did a night out to study its intricate features. Here are the finer points I discovered... you wont find few of them on the features page...
  • Have light sensors that automatically adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen to give you the best display.
  • Need just one hand to operate... This is a big issue. Unlike other flip phones, you don't need both the hands to operate.
  • The strange looking keyboard is totally ergonomical. All the keys are seemingly equidistant from the thumb and can be easily reached without strain (a big relief for SMS junkies like me... I have ended up with swollen thumbs numerous times).
  • Special button for accepting voice command and switching to handsfree mode.
  • 1.3 mp camera with flash.... how kewl is that!!!
Some other power features that I have grown to love:
  • Side slot to put extra memory card... now no more removing the battery and putting the card exercise.
  • Bluetooth rocks... just downloaded a cracked version of Salling Clicker. Trashed the windows bluetooth stack for the Widcomm stack and now the setup kicks ass. I can use it as a remote control to control my computer(Interestingly came across a rant by a Windows developer complaining that Widcomm is not open source :P). Will be experimenting with ubuntu soon.
  • Has an inbuilt modem that I can use to connect to internet ( with the crazy price... i doubt I'll use it in the US... in India it'll save the day).
Just downloaded the Symbian theme studio... hopefully i'll get some time to play with it.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Summer .... vacation?

After a lot of wading through the uncharted waters, I gave up all hopes and attempts to get an internship. I had applied to just a handful of companies... mainly the IBMs, MSs, Intels... you get the idea. Something in me hates C#/ Java jobs and I have no idea what, but it costed me $$$$$.

So here I am in Syracuse, without an internship. You would be wondering what would I possibly do in a deserted city for 3 damn months. I asked myself the same question over and over and over... well its technically summer "vacation", what better than lazing around?? This is where my masochistic self kicked in.

In a nutshell I am working more than 40hrs/week on cognitive Science (what I did earlier)... Now technically I am allowed to work only for 40 hrs but my pay will be hiked accordingly to keep the time sheet to a clean 40 hrs whilst \me getting paid for the extra hours.
Secondly I am taking a course (Financial Applications in Neural Network)... well again its illegal to take a course whilst working 40 hrs... so I didn't register for the course. Just sitting through it... probably will take it as an independent study.
Next there was a really interesting project going on under Dr Du where we have to setup a wireless sensor network using crossbow motes. And ofcourse, how could I not do something that kewl.
And wait there is more... I have finally started gymming.

I told you 100 hours/week worth of stuff I'll be doing this summer. And don't worry I will keep on blogging... will just subtract a few hours from my sleeping time.

Some vacation eh!


Friday, May 12, 2006

Google Calculator...

WARNING: For geeks only...

I was toying with the idea of a command line calculator for a long time. Windows does not have one and Linux/*nix has the powerful but ancient bc. So I came up with this nifty perl script which is totally platform agnostic and does command line computations wonderfully... I present you the Gcomp (google computer.. right click and save link).

The kewl thing is that it does all the processing at the google servers and displays you the parsed output. You cant search using it but you can give it any query that google calculater can take (such as 12 cm in feet or 1 USD in INR, sqrt(-4) etc)... the possibilities are endless. Now since this is my first perl program (apart from the other 5 liners I cut paste from the websites)... please dont flame me, any suggestions would highly be appreciated.

I am planning to write a yahoo widget on top of it, but I am not sure when.

It is a pretty simple program. Google has blocked anonymous requests so I masqueraded as a mozilla browser and got the requested queries answered. Next I just parsed the data recieved and displayed it... simple enough. Type $gcomp usage for input formats. And yeah, it is GPLed.


Saturday, May 06, 2006


Am back after 20 days of hiatus... My exams got over finally. I was just musing over the change in my viewpoint towards the exams.
I was a nerd and a book worm in school. I was not the topper but used to stay in the top 10s. Being born in a family of teachers has its own perks and pitfalls. You begin to believe that reading makes you smart, and that it helps you succeed in life. So you read and read, any failure to succeed is purely seen as the insincerity on the your part to cram useless pieces of information.

After being exposed to many cultures, namely south Indian, north Indian, Chinese, American and European, I have the luxury to evaluate the different education systems. They are both very similar and very different in their own idiosyncratic way.

Let me describe education (as I received in India):
I did my schooling (kindergarten to standard 12... CBSE board for the curious ones) in a reputed school from Kanpur. I had around 8 subjects each year. The purpose of the classes were to enable us to score maximum marks in the exams. We slogged and slogged till our strength drained out. We studied everything from American history, European history, Indian ofcourse and others too. I still see no reason why we did that, Americans don't study Indian history, Europeans or the Chinese don't study Indian history, then why do we do it??? Most importantly our education system impose English as a superior language over other Indian languages... The effect: 75% of Indian population speaks English... That's more than America.

Then came engineering. Like all other science nerds I aspired to get into IIT, India's most prestigious technical institute. Unfortunately my rank was 4387/1600000 people... number of seats being only 3500, I did not get in. Since I was kindda arrogant back then, I crapped other exams and ended up in a not so good college near Bangalore. This was where my real education started. I still had 8 subjects, not in 1 year, but cramped into one semester of 4 months. The concept of elective is non existent in India and everyone has to take courses in chemistry, mechanical engineering etc during the first year of engineering. The study was once again focused on scoring well in exams and not increasing your understanding of the subject. I got exasperated and since there was no one to check me, I decided to game the system. Education whether in India or America, judges you on how well you do on the exams. Exams don't prove how well you understand the subject, it just proves that you were able to solve the questions on the exams.

A quick lookup told me that the college highest was 82% for computer science. I decided to learn and score well at the same time. I knew I was good at maths and all the labs (chemistry, mechanical foundry, computers ofcourse) so I leveraged all my effort onto these subjects. My average on these subjects was around 95% and other theory subjects which I considered useless for my career path was 60%. I ended up scoring 79.6% overall, topping the college and earning a gold medal in academics... whilst doing some real learning. People stopped calling me nerd and started calling me geek :P.... The trick had worked.

The world see Indians as scholars... and rightly so, which other country feeds more information to the students than to a computer. Well that makes us knowledgeable in many fields. We are multilingual, have currency rate way lower than America, and have ingrained inferiority complex (people in India consider imported goods better than indigenous products and all the foreigners as Bill Gates with plenty of cash to give away)... What better could an outsourcing company ask for??

Then came MS in America:
Remember that popular belief that there is a pot of gold under the place where the rainbow meets the ground? Average Indian sees USA as that place, only to discover that it is not true. The same thing happened with me. I came here, along with 65000 other students, with a dream in my eyes, that I will change the world( I probably will). The education system here is nothing less than a fairy tale to a person in India. I thought that its always the knowledge that matters, not the grades. There is no use of a guy with a 4.0 GPA who doesn't know which way the earth rotates. But I was wrong again. I scored a 3.44/4 last fall and was automatically filtered out of the recruiting processes of companies like TI, a fact which I discovered later. Not to mention being left out of phi beta delta .... Now am back in the game. I did well in exams this semester, I am hoping for a better result.

So my advice to all the students... If you think that reading your course book over and over will make you succeed in life; you are wrong. If you cannot change the system, use it to your advantage. Do well in exams, but don't let exams or schooling ruin your education. The sooner you start this practice, the sooner you will taste success. And always remember, schooling is there to help you control your life, not control your life for you.

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
-- Mark Twain

PS: I am really sleepy, so please no flames for grammatical errors (if there are any, mail me)