Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Take it easy ...

Almost everything is more expensive now than it was a couple of decades ago. More expensive, and more affordable. Thanks to liberalization and the gumption of the common man he can now afford that new model car, the wide-screen plasma TV, the home theatre, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner ... the list is long. In a nutshell, life is a lot easier these days.

This new found affluence is most visible on the streets . Cities that grow taller, denser, and (paradoxically) sprawl ever wider. New vehicles pour out of the factory by the thousands onto roads easily older than the age of the average indian. Even 20 years ago, the engineers who designed these roads could not have anticipated the spike in vehicle population. Whilst I do not have figures, I'm quite certain the average speed of vehicles on the road within a city today is slower than it was earlier. And yet the vehicles themselves are powered by more powerful engines, driven often by people with less patience. Driven by educated persons who fail to realize that catching the signal will gain them at best a few minutes, or so.

Seated in a cab in a snarl-up, I'm almost thrown against my baggage when the cabbie accelerates wildly to cover the gap in the bumper-to-bumper traffic before another vehicle sneaks in from the left! Good for me the driver was alert; I could have injured my back. The driver in the car that almost sneaked in, a young couple with their small baby looks at me and grins ruefully. Most people drive like this these days. Looking around it is common to see infants and toddlers in the passenger seat of a car. Cherubic infants and babies can be seen enjoying the rush of wind against their faces seated in front of a motored cycle with their little legs astride of the fuel tank. Still others stand on the floorboard in front of a scooter, or even stand between the scooterist and his/her pillion rider as it zips through narrow passages and squeezes through seemingly impossible gaps in near-stationary traffic.

Equipped with an air-bag, crumple zones, monocoque frame, seat-belts ... a car is so much more safe now that the driver often chooses to take risk. The risk of injury is scarcely there any more. Even if he is in an accident he'll probably survive to walk away from the crash ... and perhaps regret it.

Babies, and children are delicate creatures. An acceleration that would not budge an adult from the seat can catapult a baby out of the protective arms of it's parent head-first into the windscreen, or into the dash-board. The phone placed on the dash-board can rocket into the head of a baby. An impact against the back of the vehicle can throw a baby against the shift-stick, or on it's head against the floor. The air-bag that protects an adult can smother an infant. The seat-belt that helps protect an adult from being thrown into the dash-board, can crush a baby against the body of it's parent. With a motored cycle the injuries can be worse. A baby seated happily on the fuel-tank of a motor-cycle can slip and, by way of the hot engine and exhaust pipe be dragged beneath the vehicle ...

Sooner or later (hopefully), in India too, a legislation will make it mandatory for babies/children to be seated at the back of the vehicle with a parent. But why wait for legislation, and subsequent enforcement? Be careful, young parent, when you drive with your family. Let your precious one sit in the back... and let prudence take the front-seat.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

For the hypochondriac

My neighbour sent me this email with a bunch of online reference material for the hypochondriacs amongst us. So if you encounter any symptoms that remind you of one of the ailments listed ...


These tutorials require a special Flash plug-in, version 6 or above... If you do not have Flash, you will be prompted to obtain a free download of the software before you start the tutorial.

· Diseases and Conditions
o Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm <>
o Acne <>
o AIDS <>
o Allergies to Dust Mites <>
o Alopecia <>
o Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis <> (ALS)
o Angina <>
o Anthrax <>
o Arrhythmias <>
o Arthritis <>
o Asthma <>
o Atrial Fibrillation <>
o Avian Influenza <>
o Back Pain - How to Prevent <>
o Bell's Palsy <>
o Brain Cancer <>
o Breast Cancer <>
o Burns <>
o Cataracts <>
o Cerebral Palsy <>
o Cold Sores <> (Herpes)
o Colon Cancer <>
o Congestive Heart Failure <>
o COPD <> (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
o Crohn's Disease <>
o Cystic Fibrosis <>
o Depression <>
o Diabetes - Eye Complications <>
o Diabetes - Foot Care <>
o Diabetes - Introduction <>
o Diabetes - Meal Planning <>
o Diverticulosis <>
o Endometriosis <>
o Epstein Barr <>(Mononucleosis)
o Erectile Dysfunction <>
o Fibromyalgia <>
o Flashes and Floaters <>
o Fractures and Sprains <>
o Ganglion Cysts <>
o Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease <>(GERD)
o Glaucoma <>
o Gout <>
o Hearing Loss <>
o Heart Attack <>
o Hepatitis B <>
o Hepatitis C <>
o Hypertension <> (High Blood Pressure)
o Hypoglycemia <>
o Incisional Hernia <>
o Influenza <>
o Inguinal Hernia <>
o Irritable Bowel Syndrome <>
o Kidney Failure <>
o Kidney Stones <>
o Leishmaniasis <>
o Leukemia <>
o Low Testosterone <>
o Lung Cancer <>
o Lupus <>
o Lyme Disease <>
o Macular Degeneration <>
o Malaria <>
o Melanoma <>
o Meningitis <>
o Menopause <>
o Migraine Headache <>
o Mitral Valve Prolapse <>
o Multiple Myeloma <>
o Multiple Sclerosis <>
o Myasthenia Gravis <>
o Osteoarthritis <>
o Osteoporosis <>
o Otitis Media <>
o Ovarian Cancer <>
o Ovarian Cysts <>
o Pancreatitis <>
o Parkinson's Disease <>
o Pneumonia <>
o Prostate Cancer - What is it? <>
o Psoriasis <>
o Retinal Tear and Detachment <>
o Rheumatoid Arthritis <>
o Rotator Cuff Injuries <>
o Sarcoidosis <>
o Scabies <>
o Seizures and Epilepsy <>
o Sexually Transmitted Diseases <>
o Shingles <>
o Skin Cancer <>
o Sleep Disorders <>
o Smallpox <>
o Spinal Cord Injury <>
o Temporomandibular Joint Disorders <> (TMJ)
o Tennis Elbow <>
o Tinnitus <>
o Trigeminal Neuralgia <>
o Tuberculosis <>
o Ulcerative Colitis <>
o Umbilical Hernia <>
o Uterine Fibroids <>
o Varicose Veins <>
o Vasculitis <>
o Warts <>

o Tests and Diagnostic Procedures
§ Amniocentesis <>
§ Barium Enema <>
§ Bone Densitometry <>
§ Breast Lumps - Biopsy <>
§ Bronchoscopy <>
§ Colonoscopy <>
§ Colposcopy <>
§ Coronary Angiogram and Angioplasty <>
§ CT Scan <> (CAT Scan)
§ Cystoscopy - Female <>
§ Cystoscopy - Male <>
§ Echocardiogram <>
§ Echocardiography Stress Test <>
§ IVP <> (Intra Venous Pyelogram)
§ Knee Arthroscopy <>
§ Laparoscopy <>
§ Mammogram <>
§ MRI <>
§ Myelogram <>
§ Newborn Screening <>
§ Pap Smear <>
§ Shoulder Arthroscopy <>
§ Sigmoidoscopy <>
§ Ultrasound <>
§ Upper GI Endoscopy <>

Surgery and Treatment Procedures

· Aorto-Bifemoral Bypass <>
· Cardiac Rehabilitation <>
· Carotid Endarterectomy <>
· Carpal Tunnel Syndrome <>
· Chemotherapy <>
· Cholecystectomy - Open Laparoscopic <> (Gallbladder Removal Surgery)
· Clinical Trials <>
· Colon Cancer Surgery <>
· Colostomy <>
· Coronary Artery Bypass Graft <> (CABG)
· C-Section <>
· Dilation and Curettage <> (D & C)
· General Anesthesia <>
· Heart Valve Replacement <>
· Hemorrhoid Surgery <>
· Hip Replacement <>
· Hip Replacement - Physical Therapy <>
· Hysterectomy <>
· Knee Replacement <>
· LASIK <>
· Massage Therapy <>
· Neurosurgery - What is it? <>
· Open Heart Surgery - What to Expect? <>
· Pacemakers <>
· Preparing for Surgery <>
· Prostate Cancer - Radiation Therapy <>
· Shoulder Replacement <>
· Sinus Surgery <>
· Stroke Rehabilitation <>
· Thyroid Surgery <>
· Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy <>
· TURP <> (Prostate Surgery)
· Vaginal Birth <>
· Vasectomy <>
· Prevention and Wellness
· Back Exercises <>

._,_.___ __,_._,___

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Resident Evil: Gadget buttons/Widgets

To all intent, the net is a near Pandora's box to feed the glut for news and knowledge. But it simply isn't enough to read something interesting. An interesting article is also a potential topic to discuss in fora online. It was possible earlier to merely email the link to an article or embed the article inline in a mail.

It is possible to 'like' the article on Facebook, '+1' it on Google Plus, 'tweet' the link to the article on twitter, 'stumbleupon' the article so on, and so forth; the list grows. Such a recommendation however requires you to authenticate yourself to the target site.

For instance, an article on may be recommended on Facebook, or Google Plus etc. Immediately upon doing so, every single person associated with me on Facebook knows about this.

Done right, technology is marvellous!

A few minutes after recommending this article on Google Plus I happened to visit the gmail web-page. Imagine my consternation when I discovered I was already logged in! I figure that the +1 gadget accepted my credentials and did not log me out explicitly when it was done. When I checked after this discovery, the same thing happened with several other gadgets on other pages too.

Now if I had recommended that article from an internet cafe, the next person to use the computer I used would have had a free run of my gmail account - and as an extension to my google documents, calendar, maps, photographs ... all the works.

Done poorly, technology is a signed uncrossed blank cheque in the hands of your most vehement enemy!

I don't know how these gadgets/widgets work, but the impression I have is that it is impossible for the home site (Google, Facebook, Stumbleupon... ) to enforce the gadget logout explicitly. Perhaps the home-site may enforce a short-duration session cookie in it's gadget API but that is just a thought ...

The only real solution that comes to mind is to visit the home site for each gadget you recommend, and log out explicitly. Even better, until a workaround is available, stop using gadgets on third-party pages. Log on into your preferred home-site (FB, +, linkedIn - whatever your home-site/s may be), recommend the third-party page/app and log out explicitly; tedious, but relatively more safe.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Be not like dumb, driven cattle

With the media worked up on the situation in Mumbai, the things that are cited every time such an event occurs are Negligence, and Complicity. I find it hard to believe the incident could have been engineered without negligence, or complicity at some point ... that is to say, I concur.

At the same time, I believe mumbaikars ( and citizens of the World ) should realize that the average civilian is more likely to be subject to a violent death in the name of one thing or the other, than he was a decade or two decades ago.

Every single person, wherever he may be, is as much a soldier for the nation as he in the various armed and paramilitary forces. It is high time that we, the citizens, recognize this fact and increase our own awareness of our surroundings.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Real-time statistics

During the journey from life to death, we humans exhibit the creative urge in one way or the other. The walls on my ancestral house still exhibit some of my original creative urges in the form of scrawls/sketches, random lines and circles (well, not quite lines and circles). Why do we, as children, first attempt lines and circles anyway?

Anyhow, the creative urge remains throughout our lives. Contemporarily it is possible to release these juices by any number of technological tools; graphics tools such as google sketch-up, writing tools such as a few amongst them. But having created something, we must also have it appreciated. There is a child-like pleasure in the realization that some unknown person thousands of miles away finds our creation of use to them. But until such person/persons unknown choose to drop a note of encouragement/advice we just happen to be groping in the dark. In a sense it is like the early days of telephony when we stepped out of home, and returned home not knowing whether somebody called whilst we were out. The answering machine changed that uncertainty. Install an answering machine, and we would know not only whether somebody called but also when they did so.

I encountered Feedjit whilst reading the network-security blog
The tool is similar to google analytics but differs in that it provides a real-time note of the location of any visitors to the site. It could be of great value in data-mining; what pages on your site attract the most visitors, how the visitors navigate across the pages, search engine redirects, visitor demographics could be used to spin-off additional sites that cater specific to a region, and so on

The free version attracts advertisements, but that is a small price to pay (+:

Friday, March 18, 2011

A new Atlantis

There existed, once upon a time, an island inhabited by many men of wonderous and marvellous power, of ancient and flourishing culture. These men held sway over many lands, and were much renowned. So revered were they, that Gods themselves feared for being deemed ineligible for Godhood in favour of the Atlanteans. So the Gods, in one day and one night sent misfortune such that the island was levelled ... all that remained of that mighty civilization were those scattered atlanteans who had been abroad when misfortune struck.

In the past, as recently as the middle ages, physical prowess was the single reason to be a lord of men. Since then, times have changed. Over the last couple of centuries, physical prowess has taken a second place to economic and intellectual might. With intellectual and economic might, it is possible to make another do your bidding - physical, or even intellectual. This applies not only to the community of humans, but also to the community of nations. Amongst the nations that have taken the forefront in leading the community of nations, was the one nation that was utterly vanquished towards the close of WWII - Japan.

An island community of ancient culture ... inhabited by many men (of wondrous and marvellous power) whose thought changed the way we live our lives, flourishing as one of the strong economies of the world ... and then in almost one day, and one night - the earthquake, and then the Tsunami struck ...

The parallel is uncanny

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Institutional Amnesia

Just received an email that said a folder in windows can just not be named 'con'. Sounds weird but turns out, it is true. I just can not name a folder 'con'.

It might appear to be inexplicable ... if you're not exposed to old DOS console.

A lot of the windows OS was constructed on top of the old DOS shell. Now DOS used unix style short-hand a fair bit. So in DOS, 'con' was short-hand for 'console' aka command prompt.

Now file editing happened in DOS even in the days before wordstar etc. This was done by telling the OS to copy the contents written on the console to a file like this -

copy con myfile.txt

This meant as follows -
copy = duplicate the contents
con = source of the contents = command prompt = console
myfile.txt = target name where the duplication will be retained to disk

Apparently the underlying code didn't change; just to illustrate the example try this on the windows command prompt -
copy con con

So when windows explorer tries to create a folder named 'con', in all probability it is still using the same old DOS code where 'con' is a keyword. Therefore attempts to use 'con' as a name are fruitless
, and hence the folder remains unnamed.

As a programmer, I'm in favour of code reuse. As an engineer, I believe in the age old adage - 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!' The decision to reuse the known DOS shell code was fine as it was known to work well. But if Microsoft have to fix this now, how much effort will it require to change code no less than 20 years old?