December 18, 2003

Careful what you wish for...

A very popular line of thought in the FOSS camp is that we desperately need a shot of the corporate for true success - a successful business based on FOSS, a successful business partner, a corporate contributor, a successful corporate desktop. A favourite pastime for moderates and arm-chair supporters in the FOSS camp is to smugly wallow in the success of products, services, initiatives and companies that depend on the FOSS output.

I used to do the same too, but, I believe it is now time to review this mentality. For now we are faced with the grave danger of having the voice FOSS hijacked - by the corporate PR team.

FOSS and products like Linux have been coming of age. Common people, unlike the ones that read slashdot, are beginning to situp and take notice. The media has now stopped making moving pieces on FOSS and Linux and has started 'reporting' news in the same breath as IBM and Microsoft. FOSS is moving out of being a news worthy oddity to plain vanilla news.

But where do the news crews get their news from? When the common man and the common editor did not understand FOSS and Linux, the reporters who wrote needed to "understand" the phenomena for themselves and then report. But now everyone understands it, and all they need is quotes. And these quotes will now come from someone who has "credibility" with popular press - the corporate entities.

RedHat will now be a bigger "authority" on Linux than Torvalds. IBM will "understand" usability better than Ximian. Sun's views on Linux will will be "expert" views. And then Google will start spilling out sponsored links for searches related to FOSS.

And this is the next big hurdle that the FOSS camp will have to overcome - to gain a media prescence, a credible link to the world and not lose its voice to its corporate cousins.

This is bigger than any of the problems faced by Open Source and Free Software today - bigger than Microsoft or SCO. If a company makes an irresponsible remark, then the company will labour to correct it, because it will directly be affected by it. But with FOSS, as usual, you have new problems, unheard of before. Companies will now be free to make comments today, but there will be no one to retract those comments. Bruce Perens may counter SCO today; but how long and who all can be countered this way.

How can we go about giving FOSS a voice of its own?

- ravikiran n.

October 31, 2003

User Interfaces

Gawd, I _*HAD*_ to post this.

check this out for the best in User Interfaces.

we aim to please

- ravikiran n.

October 14, 2003


I was talking today and I got this idea.

Think about the time when you were faced with a problem. Not a problem which is defined in terms of problem -> ? -> solution. Rather a problem which is like a mass of unknown mass. All you know is ?? -> ?? -> ***. You only have a vague idea about what you want, and what you can get depends on what you have, and what you have is not totally defined and how you are going to do it is also not defined.

Typically called an unstructured problem.

The items in this drama are these...

1) unstructured mass of information or data

2) unknown process

3) approximate output is known.

Think about a diamond cutting process. When the diamon cutter gets an uncut diamond he has something he does not truly understand. He has a process, but does not know how to use the same. He knows roughly what the final output looks like.

Think about the process as logic. You have the tool, to cut the unknown mass of data, but dont know how to use that tool. Coz there are a billion ways of using it, just like a billion ways of cutting a diamond. But only a few of them give out the clarity which a diamond can give. And that is the way of using logic to cut the information and classify it so that you get that clarity that guides you towards the solution.

The diamond cutter cutting the diamond and the problem solver solving an unstructured problem.

In fact to facilitate this process of problem solving and making it more of a repeatable process than an abstract art is the effort of a majority of mankind. There is one such method and its name escapes me, googling too does not seem to help.

Anyways, liked the analogy so put it here,

other stuff,

- ravikiran n.

PS: new .sig, more corporatish, and massively scaled in terms of data content

September 30, 2003


This has to be online.

Did you know DOS had device files? NO? You thought only *nix had that disease?
Welll, do this.

Create a folder called con on the root of your drive...

yeah yeah, in Dos or Windows boxen not *nix...

What was that again? you could not. Dont tell me you cannot create a simple folder in your drive?

You cannot even create c:\con on your computer and you are reading this?

okay, then go ahead and create c:\com1 or c:\prn


Mebbe something is wrong with your folders. Try creating a text file with those names. c:\con.txt or c:\prn.txt, or for that fact try creating c:\con.??? on your computer... failed?

well, here is the reason.

conning away the M$ bashers, this is sick and sad


September 24, 2003



Well, the first news is this. I have the domain name with me. You can do a whois on it by clicking here. That will probably give you a lot more information to you than you probably will need :).

The second thing and the thing I am frustrated with is what Verisign has been doing. This is so frustrating to see. I mean, this is the reason why enterprise should be kept away from the Net.

The Internet is probably the biggest collaborative effort by mankind since the development of the language. And even at that this is a bigger effort. When things like a language was developed it needed that the entire community accept and adopt a common standard for communication. This was independent of the use to which the language would be put to use to. We could use languages to communicate history, physics or math. The underlying feature to communication was the language.

The Internet is similar. It by itself means nothing, but a means to communicate. And on top of this structure you have the entire edifice of the email and the WWW which is the content that is being transmitted using the Internet.

This parallel between the Internet and language brings about interesting analogies. Imagine a scenario when language was probably patented. Imagine when you would have to pay someone, or were somehow inhibited from using the letter "I", say. Imagine if suddenly people could not use the word "sorry" and would have to use "hic-hic" because someone decided to change the meaning of the word sorry?

That precisely is the problem with the Internet and the entire fiasco of IPs, and commercial changes to the structure of the Internet. Even when a small but fundamental change is made in a small part of a standalone application, the changes of which would cause a great deal of problems to apparently unconnected parts of the application. Now when a company, for business gain alone, decides to change the fundamental structure of the Internet, which can possibly affect thousands of applications then it is time to do something about it.

Well, I have decided to get frustrated about it, what about you?


September 23, 2003

another link

I had to blog this for future reference. This is a story that talks about the origin of Murphy's Laws. Considering that I have quite an affinity for these laws, I am sure I will remember to check this out one day in the future.

And no further update on the site yet. Dunno when I am going to get any response on it.

hope dyeth not


September 19, 2003


Still waiting for that elusive domain name. The site says 48 hours before it is accepted. And processing will start after they receive and accept my payment. Which considering the timelines for the realisation of a cheque might well be long.

I am not doing a lot of work on stuff which mattered a lot to me once. Wondering what the reason might be. The only thing which is continuing is the speed at which I type. I dont think it is pretty remarkable, but I think it is nice.

regards to knowing why I am here, I dont have any,


September 17, 2003

Know What!

Something Amazing happened yesterday. I signed up for my first domain name :) yup, I did.

Well, the domain is Kewl huh? Well, I have not been allocated that as of now, but I should be soon, considering that I completed the formalities of paying for it and all that. So well, once that allocation is done, then I will be the proud owner of a domain.

In a way that sounds so powerful. I am the overlord of the domain. Har Har. Will post a whois as soon as I get one myself.

That is about the only thing happening in the last few days. Slashdot is doing nothing new. Started jogging and working out in the morning. Too much of time in front of the keyboard and the monitor have started taking their toll. Have a small little paunch hanging out. Looking to check it quick. Tried to jog today. And man was it painful!! Guess, it is going to be a long road out of hell, as Manson so eloquently put it.

lets see how tired I get walking it,


September 10, 2003

Talking about Sites

I thought I will put this in print.

Well, is there a site I like more than Slashdot? Yeah there is. It is called ArsTechnica. What makes this so special is the fact that this site does not give only news. It talks tech, smells tech and looks tech. And with a tremendous signal to noise ratio - better and more than any site, encyclopedias included.

Gawd it rawks,


Today's Weird Site

Well, todays weird site is this one. I love this kind of history. And the Internet is full of stuff like this. Spend time on it dude, and you will know what I am talking about.

Will put up more stuff as and when I come across it.

warm regards and stuff like that,


September 08, 2003


Day before yesterday, I bought this. For those of you who dont want to click or dont have the internet attached to your internet connection, that is a Creative Inspire 2500 2.1 speaker set.

A 2.1 Speaker is 2 satellite speakers and one subwoofer. The power is about 17+6+6 watts RMS. But that is the last thing i care about. The quality is brilliant!!

I had another set of speakers that were also from Creative, but of the SoundWorks category. Now I used to think this was the best ones. But somehow, they seemed as if they were kinda screechy. Somehow high on the tweeters. But with this, the sound is a lot more clearer. The highs and lows are very very well balanced. I dont think I am an audiophile, but this sounds a lot better than the one I had earlier.

scream, with speakers that are well balanced.


September 05, 2003

Rant time again

Hey, it is back to my favourite activity. Microsoft issued five more security warnings, all at once, at a time when system administrators are still reeling form the effects of MSBlaster. Then hopped over with 5 mod points over to the discussion forum for the article on slashdot. There I found this which accurately describes what I really feel about the issue. Funny, someone made a AC post, and it already had a mod-up. I splurged on it too, though I strictly dont encourage AC posts.

I mean, i seriously dont understand that Microsoft has the nerve to compare its security / performance with something as rag tag as Linux. I dont see why Microsoft should not commit suicide in a drop of water. Look at the start difference between the setups of the biggest computer company in the world and the biggest collaborative setups in the world. One has all the resources in the world to make sure that the software is the best in the world. It has the beta testers which is probably bigger than the installed base of the other. It has the power to seek 'advice' of the best of the best in all fields - usability to security. And then it has the nerve to stand up and say its security is 'just as good'?

lord is watching, he will punish,


September 04, 2003

Teaching Technology

I dont know why people dont understand technology. Mebbe, it is the same reason people dont like mathematics, or logic or thinking. Because, technology is the closest one can get to naked logic and mathematics.

I guess it is okay, if most of us dont really understand technology, because a great part of technology also carries with it the responsibility of not needing to understand it. Technology is geared to have technically-impaired customers.

But technology needs technically qualified implementors. And technically qualified people dont grow on deciduous trees. Rather they are grown in classroom farms. And the quality of these implementors is directly dependant on the quality of the teacher teaching them.

The teacher forms the jugular vein of the entire cycle of technical resource development. A technically-impaired teacher is probably the worst thing that can happen to cloud the entire cycle of getting technically competent personnel.

Being a teacher is not easy. Being a technical teacher is even more difficult.

A teacher is not one who can merely transfer information to the student. A book can do that. A video can do that. A teacher is not merely an interactive data source either. A website would have been enough. A teacher is a live person, who can talk to a class, raise awareness of the subject in the class, raise interest about the subject in the class and get people to fight and argue about the subject.

The problem with our teaching system is that it is just that - a teaching system. The focus is on teaching, not learning. The focus is on completion of portion and not on the insights into subject. The course structure gains importance over class structure. Content delivery gains precedence over contect acceptance. But the most importantly the difference is in the time limits. A teaching class is complete when the class or course or test is done. A learning class is for life.

Many people have written about the inadequacy about our teaching systems. And to make things better most have identified that interaction is that aspect that is missing from modern schools. Interaction between students to learn from each other, to gain form others insights and to give a rather subtle point which others have missed. In a way, it is like taking the mantle of teaching away from teacher and putting it with each student.

But the method is still teaching. When all is done and the stove grows cold, all that the student is left is with what he has managed to learn. A half baked knowledge of the world around. A confusion of ideas learnt, and ideas idenfied and conflicts between then all.

But no smoldering desire to learn and to know more.

That is the crux of the difference between a teaching class and a learning class. A teaching class teaches. An interactive class betters some, worsens other and teaches a little more. A learning class, ignites a desire to learn, a desire that takes knowledge to beyond classes, courses and exams. That is the way to teach.

And that is what is wrong with teachers in general. But most teachers might get away with it. For knowledge changes at a pace that would not seriously challenge a snail. Hence teaching is not very handicapped by its inability to ignite a learning attitude. But that is where technical teaching is affected. And affected badly.

We are dealing with a rate of information upheaval that would leave the most ardent followers breathless. A technical subject is having its bases and roots rapidly obsoleted and wasted and revised. Such is the pace of change that teaching would not really teach anything. There is only one way of teaching and that is a learning class.

But that is where most of today's technical teachers lack.

A technical teacher needs to love technology. And get other to feel passionately about it.

The teacher needs to understand technology, not just a concept, but the core. Needs to be friendly enough with technology to be able to introduce it as a friend to any audience. The teacher needs to realized that implementation does not matter, what matters is the core concepts. And understand these concepts.

A teacher needs to be able to get the students interested in technology, not just in how to work it or even in how it works. But the interest should spread and encompass the idea, the implementation and form a seed for new and unheard of solutions.

And a teacher needs to be able to enthuse not just technologists but every lay man to understand and love technology.

That is what we need form a technical teacher.

That is what we lack in a technical teacher.

We have technologists who love technology. We may have some teachers, who can make students learn. When will we have a technologist teacher?

blogging is blogging, writing is writing, don't confuse the twain


September 01, 2003

And more does

I know I cannot make those long posts anymore.

That is because, I sit in this corporate outfit, and I have to be all corporat-ish. So God help me.

Well, I had to write this. So I remembered this. I am in corporate, but I still /. and a lot. In the technology section, I found this article.

I dont know if you have been reading the news recently, but the Blaster worm has been doing the rounds. And then they "caught" this blaster worm writer. A script kiddie. An 18 year old who is just spending some spare times, grepping old scripts to change strings and replace then with his own names. And do you know what they called him?

Mr McKay would not elaborate beyond the allegations against Mr Parson, but said, "Is he dangerous? Yes, he's dangerous. ... There is serious harm to individuals, businesses, Microsoft Corp. being only one of them."

Oh my gawd. Gimme a break. I mean, they say the same thing against everyone. He is a dangerous deranged criminal. He is the reason I am going to miss my profit targets. Big valuations of possible problems, and then big flashes of photographers in the press conference.

I dont know if you know about another guy called Kevin Mitnick. I think i wrote about him earlier. The same with him too. I can understand the desperation of the media for these poor script kiddies. I so feel sorry for them. Most of the bigger fish are probably doing all they want to do, and making sure neither the media not the courts find anything against them. And then there are these kids, who know a little, have an attitude and in the end be those who have take the fall.

And to top it all, people act as if they were the persons to cause the trouble to begin with. The article acts as if 18 year old script |<1dd133 is the bad person and Microsoft is the victim!! How pathetic can journalism get.

I dont know if journalists will ever look beyond the obvious and reach out for the truth. And I hope that one day, people will understand the difference between hackers, crackers, virus authors and script kiddies. And one day, I hope, Microsoft is secure enough that script kiddies are mere kids and unable to cause 7.7 million dollar worth of trouble.

No, let me change that. And one day, I hope, there wont be enough of M$ left for script kiddies to do 7.7 million dollar worth of trouble.

Amen to that.

warm regards,


June 11, 2003

Time passes

Yeah, it does. Coz the last time I wrote that last thing, called woot, I was a student. Sitting away, tucked in some obscure corner of the world, in a place called Calcutta, having absolutely nothing to do, and no one to think about but myself.
Now, I am sitting far away.

Really far away. Farther than the biggest stretch of my imagination.
I am in Bangkok right now. In the JW Marriott hotel. In one of their biggest conference rooms. Listening to yet another talk about something that I had spent a lot of time learning about. This is strange. Once upon a time, I spent money and time to learn all this. Now I am being paid to sit through this class, and I don't even need it. Life does come a complete circle.

Oh, I have a laptop now. But yeah, it is not mine. Not loaned, but kind of owned corporately. And this is from the corporate network. So don't really know if people will be happy with this. But then, I frankly believe that this is a better utilization of my time as opposed to trying to listen to the class today. There is nothing to listen to.

As I was telling you, I have this laptop now. And the moment I got it, I wanted to move from my desktop to this. Which essentially meant that I wanted to install all the programs I had in my old desktop onto this machine and move over all my data files to this machine.

Then I got the shock of my life. They told me that all I could use was the core-load software. Nice term that - core load. But that really put the shackles on me. I could understand it in a way. They did not want any pirated software on the computer. Made sense. Obviously corporates dont really want to have pirated stuff on their assets, coz it might turn out to be painful for them in the future. Completely understandable.

Then I wanted to install at least my open source software on it. My for example, so that I could at least edit my stuff in that format. The answer to my astonishment was "no". I was not allowed to load any of this software at all. All I could use was the MS products, for which I had licenses via the corporate route and nothing else.

No shareware, probably makes sense. Coz there might be license issues.

Unnecessary small testing of programs also makes sense. Coz there might be an security and malware issues.

But what does not make sense is why no OOo? Is OOo not different from a free mario clone on the web?

Dont corporates distinguish between them?

What if I had a problem with the machine and I could just use a free software off the web and set it right? Can I not do it?

How does corporate handle different kinds of software. Is it always this fearful and afraid of non MS products? Or probably something which they had not paid for?

When will open products get corporate acceptability?

Gawd only help me find those answers. Or mebbe slashdot can...

sweet lord


January 12, 2003


Ever read the jargon file? I think you should. It is a window into some of the most inventive of human intellect. And no, you dont really have to understand everything that is written on those pages. That is not the reason for reading them. The idea is to just skim them and read on, just to find ideas and thoughts that are truly unique in their own right.

Guess I am blabbering right now. Just wanted to remind myself to read this so wrote this in.



January 08, 2003

The weakening of the written word

With the explosion of the Information Age, there has been a great hoopla built about the easy accessibility of information. The great Information Divide it seems has been conquered. And Information is available to everyone and at everyplace. But what has probably been lost is the fact that this easy access to information has actually lessened the impact of information.

No, I am not talking about the Information overload that is causing people to spend lots of time just trying to find the information that is relevant to them. I am also not talking about the increase of information availability leading to people broadening themselves, speaking with reference to knowledge, and not gaining a sufficiently deep understanding at the same time.

What I am talking about is the relative weakening of the written word vis-a-vis the spoken word. Seems as though we have come a full circle, from the days before writing ever existed. When the only word was the spoken word. Now the Information age is restacking the odds for the spoken word - the word of the expert.

The reason is this. The explosion of the new era has driven down the costs of information disbursal - and the costs of information generation. Anyone can sit in front of a computer and can generate information - something like what I am doing now. This has meant that there is no automatic disincentive to generate information, which once allowed only those who actually had knowledge to embark upon disbursal. When a book was released, there was a certain certainty of quality associated with it. Though this has been coming down with the decrease in cost of publishing in the recent times, the information explosion has been among the last of nails onto its coffin so to speak.

The typical manifestation of it is seen in all sorts of situations. One is the proliferation of impersonation sites. These include sources of information that are not bonafide either by design or by accident. Those by design include the hoax sites, hoax email chains and so on. Those by accident include all the personal information sites which include and are not restricted to blog sites, information discussion fora, fun focus sites, ask a question sites etc. And the information is anything from health, to technology, to personal blacklisted email domains. These information sources have such a low signal to noise ration that it is increasingly becoming difficult to figure out signal from noise.

This has led to a rapid disillusioning of the information seeker. "I know this is true, I read it on the Internet" does not hold must water anymore. Once bitten twice shy, users are rapidly switching to not trusting the Internet for their informatino needs. Some who can actually separate the signal from noise are profiting, while there are a lot others for whom it is either mistrust or increasing exposure to quoting the wrong information.

Typically technology has responded too. A number of methods have come out which try to understand and review information. The volume of the Internet is so huge that it was deemed impossible to manually classify information. Hence there were a number of automatic, technical methods of information classification which came up. Some it seems succeeded, like the omnipresent google. However as with technology, somewhere the users got whiff of technology and go into the act of meta information manipulations. These moves is slowly rendering difficult data quality prediction using technology. The circle now is complete - it is back to man and manual methods to classify information. Back to the expert. May be technically it is the published word, but it is a good as the spoked word - the word of the expert.

A number of models which do this are currently in vogue. The's initiative is one such effort. It aims to manually give the best sites of information for all the information needs of the Internet users. The other model is that of peer and continuous evaluation. Sites like experts-exchange and slashdot are typical of this method, where experts are the users and where these experts cull out the best of the information available. Hence is the relative weakening of the written word vis-a-vis the spoken word.