Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Snow at Work

Probably the snow had taken off for the weekend. We knew that it was round the corner because of the clouds and the wind.

And promptly enough, on monday morning, just when we were having breakfast at the Hotel, it was back to work. It snowed and snowed, and continued to snow for hours together till afternoon. And what was left back was a whole new white picture of the place.
and promptly enough...

The old taxi driver says, "The sun'll come out soon and clean all this away". High hopes. But that that was just the beginning. For it again snowed after a couple of days, only heavier this time, accumulating more work for the sun. And also for a lot of people - people who clean the snow off the roads, the traffic police who'll have to be on the lookout for accidents, and so on.

It was just beautiful! The way the snow settles down on the ..on practically everything, is a sight to see.
With Christmas in the vicinity, all the trees and buildings are wonderfully decorated, and along with the snow adding to it, its all the more impressive. The festive mood strongly strikes one who walks through the streets.

By saturday, the snow again took a break and the sun started. It took more than two days to clear all the backlog and now the streets are back to their original colours.
hard work...

But I don't think its for long, though. The snow is just lurking behind somewhere and will soon be back I'm sure.

P.S.: Click on the image for actual size

Monday, October 30, 2006

Uniquely Singapore

My Diwali this time was spent in a unique way - in Singapore!!
Being my first visit outside India, it was a great experience.

To begin with, here are a few facts and comparisons (source):
Singapore, though has a very short history (of about 600 years), established its identity in the guild of nations of the world.
It is a very small country compared to India, being 699 sq.KMs(190th largest country) and having about 4 million people.
India is the 7th largest and has 3,287,590sq.KMs and more than a billion people (!!) (source)
But in terms of the GDP per capita, India(122nd place) is way behind Singapore(22nd place) (source)
Tourism is one of the largest industries of Singapore, with about 9 million tourists in 2005.

Singapore has a rich mixture of different cultures as it is mainly formed out of immigrants from Malay, Chinese, Indian, British among other places. From what I observed, the identity of singapore as a country has evolved as an amalgam of the different immigrants who have settled there.

The importance given to small details which may seem insignificant to us Indians, hit me right on the face. Be it the roads, or the cleanliness, or the infrastructure effort that has gone into the architecture and planning, especially with respect to the tourists, it is commendable.
The blend of art and technology is visible everywhere. Its indeed very difficult to get lost out there, with all the indicators and helpful people. The creativity with which the places are built makes it a pleasure for tourists to spend time.

Well, they do have their own set of problems, which I wont go into now, but on the whole, it is a beautiful country.My visit made me learn a lot about India too, along with, needless to say, Singapore.

I am not trying to compare two nations and rate them or anything of that sort. The few days that I have seen in singapore is very trivial to make any such comparison. And also, as obvious from the facts, the scale at which these countries operate is totally different.

It was definitely a good decision to visit Singapore. Thanks to my sister who pushed for it the most, we decided to go in the last moment. I'll upload a few snaps when I get some time.

Majulah Singapura!! (Malay:"Onward, Singapore")

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hair Raising!!!

No! I'm not talking about my visit to Wonder-la. Yes, no doubt that was hair raising.
But I'm talking about literal hair raising - yes "hair raising".

Well, there's nothing serious about it. I had grown my hair quite long till last week (It was almost starting to touch my shoulder). Everyone around me was quite surprised and i saw different kinds of expressions. Some were of the opinion that it was horrible and i should get it cut as soon as possible, but there was a minority of them who showed quite positive reactions to it :-). Some asked me if I had taken a vow or an oath that till I do something I wouldn't get it cut and some others teased me saying that my girlfriend had probably ditched me and i had lost interest in life. I was being compared to all sorts of people ranging from musicians to saints to film actors to mythological characters and what not! There were very very few people who were totally indifferent to this and went on as normal.

Nevertheless, i continued growing my hair till I felt like doing it. Honestly, there was no other reason at all. And there need not be.

After about 6 months, one fine day I just went and got my haircut done and was back to my normal looks.
Now again all the reactions(fun ;-)) started. People who had liked my long hair started scolding me as to why I did this and lost my individuality! And others phewed sighs of relief and said that they could atleast see me now.
Again mixed reactions!
Anyway, my experiment ended here and I am "back to normal?"! Hahaha!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


How to destinguish a "true" random number from something else is often difficult to decide, since the concept of randomness is itself somewhat difficult to define. What is universally agreed is that any "random number generator" based solely on deterministic computation cannot be regarded as a "true" random number generator, since its output is inherently predictable. John von Neumann once famously said "Anyone who uses arithmetic methods to produce random numbers is in a state of sin", thus neatly summarizing the situation.
- Wikipedia (Random number Generator)

For eg., if you use a single random number generation algorithm and initialize it with the same seed twice, it generates the same sequence of random(??) numbers.
Yes, there are random number generators which use chaotic sources to generate "high quality" random numbers. But in the end, all they seem to use is the inherent randomness in the universe to generate random numbers.

This is in fact pointing to something quite fundamental.
Is there anything thats actually random in this universe?
Look at this now:
What exactly is chaos? The name "chaos theory" comes from the fact that the systems that the theory describes are apparently disordered, but chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data (see here).

To look at an example,
The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does. (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)

David Deutsch, in The Fabric of reality, goes on to conclude that given enough computational resources, it is possible to build a virtual reality generator whose repertoire includes every physically possible environment (The Turing principle).That is what makes reality comprehensible. Which kind of says that the universe in itself is completely deterministic.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The "Right" choice!

... or should I have said "Sahi"!!

Recently I had to give a demonstration to the customer about our approach to functional testing in my project. So I gave a demo of how Sahi works and how intuitive and powerful it is - and needless to say, they were impressed. Not with my presentation skills obviously,(I know that i suck at those things) but with the way Sahi works. Whether they will use it or not, I dont know, but one thing is for sure - I was even more convinced about this after the demo.

See for yourself if you don't believe me. There are lots of Web automation and testing tools out there and I'm not trying to compare. But the choice of a tool should not come in the way of development or maintaining the application. It should have minimum interference with the application but still achieve the purpose. And you should be able to extend the tool to your needs. And I think Sahi goes a long way in achieving all this. It just works like a charm. Well, I won't talk about what all it can do... just visit this and have a look.

Good job Narayan!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Of principles and prophets...

There is a lot of heated debate and protests going on against the storyline that indicated that Jesus Christ had married Mary Magdalene and that their union resulted in a bloodline that continues till date. (here and here)

Such protests are not new. They keep happening every now and then, for books/movies and every kind of media. What is the root cause of such fanaticism in people?

"...So in every religion you find there are the three stages: philosophy,mythology, and ceremonial. There is one advantage which can be pleaded for the Vedanta, that in India, fortunately, these three stages have been sharply defined. In other religions the principles are so interwoven with the mythology that it is very hard to distinguish one from the other. The mythology stands supreme, swallowing up the principles; and in course of centuries the principles are lost sight of. The explanation, the illustration of the principle, swallows up the principle, and the people see only the explanation, the prophet, the preacher, while the principles have gone out of existence almost - so much so that even today, if a man dares to preach the principles of Christianity apart from Christ, they will try to attack him and think he is wrong and dealing blows at Christianity. In the same way, if a man wants to preach the principles of Mohammedanism, Mohammedans will think the same; because concrete ideas, the lives of great men and prophets, have entirely overshadowed the principles.

In Vedanta the chief advantage is that it was not the work of one single man; and therefore, naturally, unlike Buddhism, or Christianity, or Mohammedanism, the prophet or teacher did not entirely swallow up or overshadow the principles. The principles live, and the prophets, as it were, form a secondary group, unknown to Vedanta. The Upanishads speak of no particular prophet, but they speak of various prophets and prophetesses. The old Hebrews had something of that idea; yet we find Moses occupying most of the space of the Hebrew literature. Of course I do not mean that it is bad that these prophets should take religious hold of a nation; but it certainly is very injurious if the whole field of principles is lost sight of. We can very much agree as to principles, but not very much as to persons. The persons appeal to our emotions; and the principles, to something higher, to our calm judgement. Principles must conquer in the long run, for that is the manhood of man. Emotions many times drag us down to the level of animals. Emotions have more connection with the senses than with the faculty of reason; and, therefore, when principles are entirely lost sight of and emotions prevail, religions degenerate into fanaticism and sectarianism. They are no better than party politics and such things. The most horribly ignorant notions will be taken up, and for these ideas thousands will be ready to cut the throats of their brethren. This is the reason that, though these great personalities and prophets are tremendous motive powers for good, at the same time their lives are altogether dangerous when they lead to the disregard of the principles they represent. That has always led to fanaticism, and has deluged the world in blood...."
Quoted from: Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Volume 6 (The Methods and Purpose of Religion)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Time to Synchronize...

I came across a weird situation a couple of months ago when I was setting up CruiseControl with Subversion.
There is a Subversion server on which our source code resided and I was setting up Cruise on another machine which was supposed to be our CI build machine.
Steps I followed:
  • Download and install CruiseControl
  • Do an initial checkout from the repository into the Cruise projects directory
  • Change the sample config.xml to set the build interval, repository location, publishing results etc etc.
  • To verify, force a build. (or checkin to the repository and see that it kicks off a build)
I did all this, and it worked perfectly fine and the build was successful.

But I found that later whenever some code gets checked in, cruise somehow was not picking up any modifications at all. After struggling a lot with the configurations and searching on the web I shot a mail to one of the people behind CC and quite soon, I had the answer.

There was a simple mistake that was causing Cruise to behave randomly. The problem was that the system time on the Repository server and the time on the cruise control box was not synchronized. There was some 5-6 hour difference between the two. CruiseControl checks for modifications that have happened after a given time. So if the time is not synchronized, obviously it wouldn't find modifications!

This is very important whenever CruiseControl and the Source repository are on different machines:
Make sure that the time/date on the cruise box is synchronized with the time/date on the repository box.
Btw, This may be helpful.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Last weekend I had been to Karwar with a few friends. We had a nice time there with lots of watersports like coracling, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, wind-surfing etc in the beaches of Karwar. In the evening, we went on a trek over a hill and landed in another beach, pitched our tents there and spent our night. It was just awesome.

I couldn't sleep that night. I was just watching the stars and the waves and the forest. There were hills on three sides and the endless ocean on the other. It was a silent night with only the sound of waves. Lots and lots of questions in my mind. Questions about the why and how of the universe; questions which would have probably crossed the mind of most of us, but still remained as questions. Questions about the approach of science to explain the universe and the approach of spirituality for the same.

Why do such questions come to our mind? Why does man want to explain the universe?
Why can't we get the answers?
- answers anyone?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Downside(?) of Simple Design

I was chatting with this friend of mine and he was telling me about his project. He was saying that the software that they (his team) are working on has evolved to a stage where adding new functionality to their application has become very simple. Probably it might at the most, just involve implementing an interface with a few simple methods.
The design is so simple that on a day-to-day basis, they wouldn't need to use any brains at all for working on that software. That set me thinking...

Is it really possible that you can arrive at a stage where the design is so much maintainable, flexible, and whatever?
But is it the time to stop thinking about the design of the software?
I think That is the time to sit back and look at the design from one level higher. That might be the time to try to bring in some domain language. That might be the time to figure out a way to automate the day-to-day tasks. That might be the time to bring in a new paradigm to the software. Maybe AI, maybe functional programming. I don't know the possibilities.

Bottomline: It is the time to take "The Next Step".