Smorgasbord - Politics, Lisp, Rails, Fencing, etc.

My musings on assortment of things ranging from politics, computer technology and programming to sports.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On this day:

India Rising

Farid Zakaria has this article in Newsweek titled India Rising. Its a pretty long article and it talks about the rise of India, about its burgeoning middle class, about how the rise has been due to efforts of Indian entrepreneurs and populace, in spite of the corrupt bureaucracy and political class. It also compares India vis-a-vis China, and stresses the important role which democracy has played in India's progress. India's growing proximity with the US has also been discussed. Overall it is a good article, but a little bit too fawning.

There is one particular line in the article, which I found to be extremely offensive. I quote

China's Mandarin class has been able to rethink its country's new role as a world power with skill and effectiveness. So far, India's Brahmins have not shown themselves the equals of their neighbor.

I don't know about China and the Mandarin class, but in India although the number of educated and successfully Brahmins may be more than other communities, but by no stretch of imagination (and thankfully) they call the shots. It is the entire country and the general population which needs to rethink their role, and not some cast, or special group of people. Thankfully, in most Indian cities the religious, parochial, casteist, communal, and racial differences are hardly an issue.

Rails and AJAX, even getting better

Ruby on Rails is very close its 1.1 release. This release will introduce a plethora of new features. The one which I am most eagerly looking forward to is Rails RJS, a new form of template, called JavascriptGeneratorTemplates. These templates generate instructions on how to modify an already generated page, thus making it even more easy to incorporate AJAX into web applications. This article through a simple example demonstrates RJS.

Monday, February 27, 2006

On this day:

Button Maker - promoting your feed

I wanted to add buttons to my blog which will allow people to easily subscribe to my blog's feed using google, yahoo, bloglines, etc. Initially, I was searching for each individual publisher and then generating their html code. But then I found this link for button maker" which lets one customize and choose the buttons, and then generates the code.
But the image files of feed buttons instead of being embedded from the rss feed aggregator website, are embedded from Top Rank website.

In case, if one doesn't wants to embed images from the Top Rank, here is a list of some links, where one can get the HTML code for buttons of the corresponding aggregator:

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On this day:

Holocaust, Cartoons & Free Speech

An interesting story in news is of British historian David Irvine who has been sentenced to three years in jail by an Austrian court for denying the holocaust. Denying the Nazi genocide in Austria is a crime which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. At the same time, many newspapers and political parties have been defending the right of people to satirize and publish any cartoons they want.
Huh? Freedom of Speech.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On this day:

VMWARE - SUSE Linux 10 & KDE 3.5

I tried out binner/vmware/">SUSE Linux 10 & KDE 3.5 on vmware player and the look and feel of it is just fabulous.
Also, it is extremely easy to install and use it.

  1. Download vmware player . Install it.

  2. Download and unzip binner/vmware/">SUSE Linux 10 & KDE 3.5

  3. Start vmware player, it will show you pick a file dialog box. Go to the folder where you unzipped SUSE Linux, and select the vmware file.

  4. You will be logged on as guest, and you will not have access to Internet connection. If you want to create user accounts, acesss Internet, change other system settings, then logout as guest and log in as root, the password is toor and start up yast. It will be one of the icons in the bottom.

  5. The default user accounts will have Internet connection enabled.

To download the SUSE Linux 10 & KDE 3.5 you might consider using bittorrent.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

On this day:

Vegan Lunch Box

Vegan Lunch Box: a good blog promoting veganism.

Freedom Net

Today morning I saw an article in the slashdot asking whether it is possible to have a back-boneless Internet, without any sort of governmental control, completely free and democratic.

My first reaction was to think that indeed such an Internet exists, and it is called Free Network Project. Freenet allows one to access the contents of Internet in a completely secure manner, and it is practically impossible for anyone to find out who is doing what. Also, one can publish whatever they feel like on Freenet and again no one has any way of knowing who was the original publisher. It is based on peer-to-peer technology, the users contribute to the network by giving bandwidth and a portion of their hard drive, but unlike normal peer to peer softwares they don't control what is stored on their computer. It is sort of an Internet inside Internet.

Whenever someone wants to publish something the data is encrypted and stored and replicated in bits and pieces on several computers. In other words every machine which connects to Freenet is a web server. Various factors like the newness and popularity decide the amount of replication. Also, because the data is encrypted the user of the computer where it is stored cannot decipher and find out what he is storing. Similarly, while retrieving something to view either from Freenet or the Internet, the request instead of going directly from one computer is routed through many nodes making it extremely hard to determine the requester of information and its content.

But the problems which plague this network are: one it is extremely slow, this is due to the overhead of encryption and the distributed nature of almost every operation. The second problem with this network is that because of its anonymous nature most of the contents found on it are child pornography and other such objectionable materials which regular web-hosts will not carry.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On this day:

Elephant's Memory!!!

It is not just humans who take revenge, even some animals have long memories and the ability to strike back on their tormentors.

Read the complete article at,,3-2043236,00.html.

Christening a Pet? Honor or Insult

Recently in Mumbai there were protests against Manisha Koirala because she had named her pet dog 'Mustafa', supposedly some prophet of Islam.

This event demonstrates an important difference between Oriental (at least South Asian) and Occidental (at least American) cultures. In America naming a pet after someone is an act of showing love and honor towards that person. My roommate's dad who is religiously Republican and a strong supported of the current President named his dog "George W." to honor him. Whereas in India people consider it an affront to their dignity if someone names their pet after them.

Poor Manisha, I am pretty sure that she had no inkling that what she thought of as an innocuous cool sounding name will land her in so much controversy.

Monday, February 13, 2006

On this day:

Fencing and Systema

Many people think that fencing is just fighting with swords and stabbing each other, but it requires a lot more than that. It is like a dance or a martial art, and also has the same principles. My past martial art experience with Systema is helping me a lot in learning fencing. The Systema principles of breathing, relaxation, posture, and constant movement are applicable to fencing also. Breathing is very important, and is a prerequisite to doing anything else correctly. Quite often during bouts when I make a mistake, and then on doing post-mortem I find that I had got over excited and was holding my breath. Keeping the body and mind relaxed is also equally important. I had read somewhere that good fencers hold their swords the way one would hold a small bird. This can only come by keeping the body relaxed. Also, a relaxed body allows one easy movement in any direction and to the ability to fight for long. Keeping the correct posture, ensures that one is not exposing his/her body to attacks, also it helps in keeping the balance right. The last principle of constant movement keeps the opponent guessing, and because one is in motion, and moving swiftly is easy because there is no inertia of rest (Newton’s principle).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On this day:

Alipore Zoo

Last Saturday I went to Alipore Zoo in Kolkata one of the biggest zoos in India. Once upon a time it use to be a big tourist attraction in Kolkata, but when I proposed to some of my cousins about making a trip to the zoo, I was mocked at. The zoo is really in dilapidated state, and there are rumors that the building Mafia has vested interest in this being so, the zoo takes a large prime piece of real-state in the heart of city.

outside the zoo entrance there were signs that the animals should not be fed anything, initially I was also scrupulous about this. But inside after looking at the malnutritioned animals and seeing other people feeding them, I lost all my scruples. My highlight of the day was watching a beautiful parrot dexterously peeling a peanut with its claw and then eating the nuts.

Friday, February 10, 2006

On this day:

Vmware Player

Today I succesfully installed and tried out vmware player on my Windows XP machine, and tried the pre-built Browser Appliance provided by vmware, it comes with ubuntu as the OS, and is a real pleasure to use. The benefit of vmware is that once I configure and save the virtual machine (VM) environment, I can allow anyone to use the VM and browse internet through it without worrying about what they are downloading and installing. Every time the browser appliance VM is restarted, it provides the same initial envionment, and everything saved/installed during the previous session is deleted, unless one saves an image of it. It is ideal environment for accessing bank accounts and doing credit card purchases on the Internet.

Now, I am downloading the pre-built SLES VM, it is a huge download, but should be worth it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

On this day:

Rails Framework and Agile Web Development Book

I am really impressed with the rails framework, it makes web development very easy. Also, the agile web development with rails is an extremely good introduction to rails, the first part of the book walks the reader through an example, and the second part then explains the framework. It is an ideal book for people like me who enjoy learning by exploring and trying out the code.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On this day:


I wanted to learn Haskell a year back, and I did pick up little bit of it, but then didn't do much pogramming in it and so forgot most of the stuff. I was really impressed when I was learning it, and with the increasing hype about it, there seems all the reason for me to go back to learning it once again.

Darcs and Pugs are two widely used open source projects which are using Haskell. Audrey Tang [1] the founder and the lead hacker of the Pugs project, an implementation of Perl 6 in Haskell, recently she gave a good interview explaining why did she decide to choose Haskell and the merits of the language.

[1] I don't understand why Chinese people so readily change their names and adopt an English name.

Fencing in India

Last day I went for fencing classes in Kolkata Maidan area. Unfortunately the state of fencing in India is pretty bad, not only are the fencing association short on funds and resources, there is a lack of quality coaches and even the standards are very low. Also, most people have very vague idea about fencing, when I initially told my family members about it, they thought I was talking about putting a barrier, or a boundary around something, rather than the modern sport of swordfighting.

I have only a week and half of fencing training behind me (2 classes at ASU and 1 here), and still I was asked if I am interested in representing West Bengal in the National Fencing Championship at Hyderabad. It reflects more on the low standard of fencing in West Bengal than my fencing ability.