Friday, April 28, 2006

Political Views: None

When we see the profile of many people we find this familiar line "Political Views: None". People tend to shy away from political issues, views, political agenda and stuff. What I have been feeling for past few months is that our carelessness towards political issues is the primary reason behind all the problems we face and will continue to face.

Regarding my political stance; I have a liberal view on major issues with a little bit of conservative corner. I generally have an opinion regarding every issue that affects global harmony, global equality, and environment. I do not have a die hard strong opinion about any issue. Being Hindu believer, I can sustain and discuss long arguments for and against Hinduism. Being Indian, I can sustain long arguments for and against Indian policies, history and as such I am not going to get involved in fight if I don't agree with you, and I would respect that every person in the world has a right to have his/her own opinion about several issues and if don't then they should have an opinion about it.

When I say everybody should have an opinion about the things affecting them, I mean that if we do not have an opinion about things surrounding us, we give the power to other people (say politicians, religious leaders) to decide what is good and bad for us. The irony is that it is always the normal citizens who has to suffer the political decisions the most, and the rich and powerful people are not affected by it. Still it is the rich and powerful who decide everything for us. Its been same for ages. Earlier, kings used to do that, now politicians.

In many cases, its same with religion(s), ages long opinions and thoughts are put on us and those who follow them are atheist, and good, while others are bad. Anyways, I will discuss it some other time.

So lets see how politics affect us in our day to day life. I read an article in rediff and below is a good summary of these kind of political decisions.

"Whenever the Indian leadership has hurriedly entered into an agreement with another state, without involving its policy-making processes in the decision, it has proved to be a blunder. The nuclear deal is a historic blunder in the making. If it takes effect, it will prevent India from ever emerging as a full-fledged nuclear-weapons state, and thus rank as serious a blunder as Jawaharlal Nehru's decision to take the Kashmir issue to the UN and accept a ceasefire, the return of Haji Pir to Pakistan under the Tashkent Declaration, and the repeat surrender of battlefield gains at Simla in 1972 without securing a Kashmir settlement."

If you have read the details, the old Mandal commission report was implemented by V.P. Singh in an overnight decision without proper consultation with parliament. Arjun Singh suddenly got up from his bed and proposed to implement Mandal in remaining educational institutions and private sector. We, "especially who think we are elite educational class" do not bother to ask Government, what is the logic behind this policy? where are the statistics? where is the study on which the HRD minister even thought of implementing it?

It is our carelessness that Arjun Singh had courage to make a stupid announcement without backing it up, without discussing with parliament. We do not ask Government proper questions.

  • We do not ask government, what they are doing with population issue?
  • We do not ask, where they are in regard to promoting alternative energy issue?
  • We do not ask government, what they are doing with restoring water quantity and quality for next 50 years?
  • We do not ask!
  • We do not ask!
  • We do nothing!
What we forget is this; India's poor response to Energy issue brought India to such a point where we have to make a nuclear deal as soon as possible else the increasing energy crisis in India will lead up to internal unrest, possibly riots, and halt all the economic growth in India, which will lead to major problems (this could be in less than five years). If it was a secret for you, then this is actually the impetus behind Nuclear Deal.

India's poor response to water resources today will bring India to a point where India will have to get involved in a deal where we may have to buy water from other countries. It appears rubbish now, but it may become a reality in future, which means ten or less than ten years. These are not "just" speculations, these are probable realities. We do not ask our government what they are doing about it.

Its a duty of every citizen of every country to spend some time of the day in reading and understanding (that's most important, before expressing yourself) and commenting thoughtfully through newspaper article, comments, online discussions, blogs, peer discussions, writing letters to news channel about discussing this issues and lot more.

Real democracy will only come, if the individuals express themselves.
All in all, express yourself. We can bring a change.



Category: Political

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Following on with UBUNTU 6.06

In an earlier post, I discussed about UBUNTU 6.06 being released, and I did mention about what it is and what are the advantages of using UBUNTU over other OS. In this post, I will talk about how easy I found the install of UBUNTU 6.06 Beta, and what other variants of UBUNTU has to offer.

Installing an OS can never be easier than this. It is as easy as installing any other program on your computer. So, you can go ahead and insert the UBUNTU installer CD in any computer and restart the computer. When the computer starts, it will give you an option of starting (booting) in UBUNTU or the existing hard disk. Just choose UBUNTU. The new operating system will start i.e. CD will work as live CD.

On screen you will see the new OS, however it is not installed yet, and it is just working from CD (it will be slow since it's working through CD). You can go ahead and see where are the menus, how the menus look like, and start programs if you are interested. If you are connected to internet, you can start firefox (webbrowser) or GAIM (instant messenger).

Now you can click on an icon on the desktop which says install. When you click install, the installation procedure will start, and it will ask you questions, about your language, time zone, name, password etc. One you are done with that, it will ask you, if you want to install UBUNTU on harddrive by removing everything or partition the HD according to your wish. You can choose either one depending upon what you want.

The installer will show you the partitions of your hard drive graphically, and you will be able to do more partitions, resize existing partition upon your wish. Suppose you have a computer with 40 GB, and you want windows to have half of it and rest for UBUNTU, you can resize the windows (ntfs) partition and install UBUNTU in rest area. Click next, confirm and you are done. It should take 30-45 minutes to install on a reasonable computer. Once it's done, restart the computer and enjoy your new OS. If you have two OS (windows and UBUNTU), you will get a choice when starting your computer, where you can decide which OS you want.

Guide with screenshots.

Linux (and hence UBUNTU) is popular in two major flavors GNome (UBUNTU, and EDUBUNTU) and KDE (KUBUNTU). These are just different flavors and you can install either one, and get another easily when you want it.

I personally like EDUBUNTU, which is mostly GNome based. The theme is very cute, and is directed towards kids. The desktop background, icons everything looks very kiddish and nice :). It has lots and lots and lots of program for kids (you can get them in any flavor though, but they are in default with EDUBUNTU). It has many educational programs, language learning, typing skills, math skills, vocabulary building, GIS software, space program (where you can study the stars above your location), besides other programs. All of these are high quality, wonderful program built in numerous languages. And all of these are FREE.

UBUNTU is GNome based, which is very similar to EDUBUNTU and KUBUNTU is KDE based, which looks a lot like windows (sometimes mac) to me. You can use any program in any flavor though, although some are default programs for each flavor.

In a latter post, I will talk about how UBUNTU is relevant or not relevant to India.


Category: Technology

EDIT: Here is a link showing cheap EDUBUNTU installation in a grad school in Mexico

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How much power are we gonna eat for our stupid conveniences?

Saw this interesting article on BBC. Basically, the article talks about how much energy inefficient we are.

The article looks at very simple thing, "electronics on stand by". Well, we never thought about it, right? We just keep our computer, VCR, DVD, TV on standby so that we can switch them on using remote in an "instant". But how much power do we consume doing that? Just to give you a perspective from the data in the article.

"Figures from the Energy Saving Trust on standby power use in the UK home are astonishing:

  • Stereos on standby cost £290m and produce 1.6 million tonnes of CO2
  • VCRs and DVD cost £263m and produce 1.06 million tonnes of CO2
  • TVs on standby cost £88m and produce 480,000 tonnes of CO2"
This number clearly shows how much we are harming our environment for our stupid conveniences. Conveniences are good, that makes life easier, but at this cost??

In my apartment, there is no switch for the plug points i.e. I have to pull the power plug to diconnet the device. I think that is becoming pretty much the standard. However, we should have a switch to disconnet the devices. Here is an article on similar lines, which say that Britons waste the equivament of around two power stantions worth of electricity by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby.

What I am really concerned about is that the article talk about a very normal and small issue which has big impacts, and we are gonna forget about it as soon as we see another interesting news. My reason for blogging about it is to highlight the issue more, so that a few more people can think about it.

What we should do right now?

1. Never leave your computer with Monitor "ON" or screensavers running.

2. Shut down your computer when you are going to sleep, unless you have some program running or you are waiting for the irritating sound from the instant messenger to wake you up.

3. Connect your devices like TV, VCR, and DVD from a surge protector or extension board with a power switch, so that you can switch these devices off with only one click.

4. In colleges, we cannot switch the computers off (due to whatever reason), make sure to switch off the monitor.

It our duty to contribute our small part, our small effort to make environment better and survivable for future generations., Lets not ruin it for our petty small conveniences.


Category: General/Random

Thursday, April 20, 2006

UBUNTU 6.06 Beta Released Today

UBUNTU is one of the very good linux based Operating Systems, and has been around for about more than two years. Today beta version of next release of UBUNTU 6.06 (code named Dapper Drake) is released.

For those who don't know what I am talking about, the explanation is this.

When we use computers, we work on an operating system (OS). Microsoft (MS) Windows XP is a popular OS. We use many softwares that run on an OS. So, if you use MS Word, then you are using a MS software on MS OS. People use many softwares on an OS; for eg. MS Office (includes word, excel), instant messaging (yahoo, msn), media playing (Windows media player, winamp etc.)

There are other operating systems too which are lesser popular than windows, but have their own niche, like MacIntosh, Linux based (UBUNTU, Mandriva, Fedora Core, Red Hat), Sun, Oracle. Linux has been used for long, but was less popular as desktop system for personal use.

UBUNTU, a linux based OS was released a couple of years back and is completely free. It contains package of all the softwares you are ever going to need (true for most users). Free doesn't mean low quality though. It is on a better level than proposed release by Microsoft which is "Windows Vista."

The next verssion of UBUNTU will be released on June 1, 2006 and its testing version "beta" is released today, which I am sure will be very stable for normal desktop use. The link to the title will take you to the page where you can get more info about this release.

So why use another OS? Well, there are several advantages to that.

1. It is free. Until you use pirated software, MS windows XP cost more than $100 (mostly it comes packaged with new computer, and you pay hidden price), MS Office is more than $500, Adobe Acrobat writer is costly too, Adobe photoshop is also more than $500, antivirus softwares are costly, MS money is more than $30, and so on...

2. No spyware. Your computer will keep running at same speed even five years after.

3. Extremely low threat from viruses ( I don't even care to use any antivirus software on my UBUNTU machine)

4. Easiest way to install all software you want.

5. It doesn't ask you to restart your computer, after every update or every computer install.

6. You don't have to go to Start to shut down your computer ;).

7. You can get it in any language you want. It is available in all the European languages, most asian language, most Indian regional language (hindi, bengali, gujarati, tamil, malyalam.....)

The advantages are a lot, few of which I will list in later blogs :). I switched from a full windows user to a UBUNTU user at home, and am enjoying it. I am sure you will love it too.


Category: Technology

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Indians are looking for Hi Tech Products

Felt good to read the article. It was still disheartening to see only 5% of Indians have access to the computers.

The article also mentioned about a wonderful keyboard, which can use Pen Gesture to be used for data entry. It may sound like tablet PC, but its definitely a much simpler, cheaper and efficient version. Especially, with so many languages an dilaects in India, this pen thing would actually help a lot of people getting acclamatised to computer.
Other interesting gadget was $100 green computer developed at MIT. It will be in production by 2007. I hope it will serve a long way in making India computer literate.


Category: General/Random

So, I probably won $25000, or a car worth $30000

I got a call yesterday, where the caller said that I filled a form in NRV Mall (Christiansburg) and it has been selected for a award. There are three awards of which I won one for sure. The first prize is $25000 or a car worth $30000, the second prize is a trip in a multimillion dollar hotel, and third prize is $500 cash.

The caller (Nicole Biery) invited me to "Wilderness Presidential Park" at Spotsylvania, VA to claim that prize. The address to that location is 9220-A Plank Road, Spotsylvania, VA. They gave me a award number and insisted that I go there with my wife.

Well, I have never been so lucky, so I tried to get more information about that park in Google, and I found the following as the first link.

The interesting thing is that there is no such thing as "Wilderness Presidential Park", but somewhat related to it. Though the address appears to be correct (??).

I am scared to go there, and probably won't be going, but did anybody have any such experience regarding that? I would love to know more about that. Should I complain to police about it?

Anurag :(
(I wish I could win $25000)

Category: General/Random

Monday, April 17, 2006

Calling from PC to Phone - Reducing Rates

Yahoo Messenger finally reduced rates for its service to call to phone from pc (they were ridiculously high). The rates are lower than skype (reduced its rates just few days back), which is also a messenger plus phone service software. The rates to India are 12 and 10 c/minute in yahoo messenger which are equal or little lower than the popular service Reliance, I guess.

I used to call Africa using skype, but with yahoo reducing rates, I will have to switch for a while :). However, I think you need to check the rates individually before deciding to use the service.

I really wish yahoo could release its service for linux. The linux counterpart of yahoo messenger looks like a "beggar" in front of windows counterpart of yahoo. Although linux also has some good software for peer to peer chat, and phone call like Ekiga and Skype, I need yahoo too, because most of my friends use yahoo and msn. It is a shame that most companies do not make cross platform softwares.

Anyways, enjoy the reducing price of communication and enjoy calling.


Category: General/Random Technology

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What is firefox? (For complete newbies)

In the last post, I discussed about open source software from the perspective of a computer user who doesn't know anything about computer besides what a full installed Microsoft System offer. I did talk about firefox as the first open source software I came across, so I plan to talk about it for a novice computer user who just need basic functionality and want to make computer use pleasant and fast.

Firefox is an internet browser which can take you to different websites, much like Internet Explorer . Firefox, is definitely faster than contemporary browsers, and can be used on any OS (Windows, Linux or Mac). Besides being faster, the interesting thing about firefox is the lightweight and the functionality it can offer. Lightweight doesn't mean much in todays world, where you use computers with extra large capacities, but features does.

As a newly downloaded firefox, its not very different from any other, and you have to find out somethings about it. You can use it as it is after you download it, but you can add a lot more to it. I will try to go through a very few of them one by one. By no means this list is exhaustive, but it should give you a very nice comfortable start.

After installing firefox, you should immediately go to "Tools - Extensions- and click on Get More extensions". You will get to see a mozilla website where you can find lots and lots of extensions. Extensions are very small program and can add functionality to your system. From what I think you should definitely download following extensions.

1. Tabbrowser Preferences: This extension will help you manage the websites in tabs instead of opening new firefox windows. You can play with tools -> Options -> Tabbrowser Preferences and you are good to go. I also found a nicer extension, "Tab Mix Plus" which lets you save a firefox session (which may have several tabs and windows), which you can open the next time you start firefox.

2. No Script: Firefox by default blocks many popups and annoying ads, but "No Script" is definitely good to eliminate the annoyance. It doesn't let any website use "javascript" on your system without your permission. You can allow some sites which you use frequently to allow to run javascript (javascript are small scripts run on your browser to to do multiple things like, playing a game, playing a song, opening popup ads, displaying advertisement etc.). Allowing the website to run javascript is as easy as clicking on the "S" sign on right hand corner of window and clicking again on right option.

3. Padma 0.4.4 (If you want to read Dainik Jagran or amarujala in firefox). Unlike BBC Hindi, some hindi newspapers doesn't use standard coding options and it is not possible for firefox to display them without specific extensions. In this case Padma. If you use linux, then the hindi fonts with Padma, looks very beautiful.

There are a number of extra things you can do with firefox, you can make live bookmarks to display the latest news from any of your favorite sites you want, you can make firefox minimize to system tray on right corner, when you minimize it (another extension), make travelling bookmarks and lot more. People have developed innumerable extensions for their specific requirements and that makes firefox experience really wondeful.

There is one more extension to firefox, which is Mozilla Calendar, but I will talk about that later.

I despise the way firefox looks when I download it. It appears pretty boring. So, we have a work around for that too. Go to Tools --> Themes --> Get more themes and you can see a plethora of beautiful themes . Pick whatever you want and use it. This will change the way firefox appears.

Again, if you are developer and don't like something, develop some feature for yourself or help Mozilla Foundation in developing firefox, or give suggestions or best, just enjoy whatever is up there. Just google and you will probably find the answer for whatever you are looking for. If you are lazy just type the words in address bar and firefox will search for you.

You should be able to use comfortable keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-t opens new tab, Ctrl-w closes the tab, ctrl++ increases text size, and ctrl-- decreases), and you can find more about them in Help.

Enjoy Browsing,


PS: There is one more pretty and useful web browser, if you care about i.e. Opera. You will love its functionality too, but I guess that is not open source like firefox.

Category: Technology

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Introduction to Open Source

Hey Friends!

I recently came through some open source software and started getting involved with it. I liked this new experience, so I decided to share. The first open source software I encountered was firefox, which is an internet browser. I came to know about it a year back. Interestingly, this software made enormous progress and gave a strong fight to popular internet explorer. Well, I got into the habit of firefox and started liking it very much. Firefox can do a lot beyond our imagination, thanks to the extensions and themes , developed by firefox fans.

The other wonderful software by same people (
Mozilla Foundation) who developed firefox Mozilla, is thunderbird. It is a email management software with tremendous capabilities. Again, you can do a lot with it, thanks to its extensions and themes. One of the interesting extension is calendar. The mozilla calendar can be used an extension of firefox or thunderbird or alone as sunbird. Anyways, this calendar can be used exteremly easily for group scheduling, where you can post the calendar data file on the web and everybody can access the calendar, all very easily.

The nice thing is that these all are free. The other popular software like IE and MS outlook are good, but we have to buy Microsft Windows and Microsoft Office to be able to use them, and that is where we pay the price.

So, after having nice experiences with these softwares, I plunged into an open source operating system (OS),
UBUNTU, which is a linux based OS. Well, the word linux was scary to me, before I actually expereienced UBUNTU. It is a complete OS, which is supported by a nice community. The capabilities of this OS are also tremendous and for free. The nice thing is that I can install softwares to do anything on UBUNTU for no price. Most of them compete well with Windows based softwares. I can contribute to their development also if we want to, as a crtique or developer. I can cutomize my desktop in way I like.

I will talk about individual open source softwares which I use on UBUNTU or Windows in next blogs in the way I use them. I guess it would be ineteresting to plunge in this new world.

By the way, I have nothing against any costly or any other software, and I am penning down just my new experiences here.


Category: Technology

Friday, April 14, 2006

So, Brazil will be Energy Independent by the end of this year!

Well, does that surprise you? If not think about it a little more.

Brazil will be using ethanol produced from sugar for about half of its energy needs. Sugar is obtained from sugarcane, which can be produced in plenty of amounts in Brazil. In a world of fossil fuels where big wars (Iraq is the latest example) are going over just oil, this is a tremendous achievement. From where I look at it, its an issue of utter shame for all the developed nations, including US, and EU. Or, may be big nations do not care about it.

Anyways, in today's date, every country's major expense is in buying oil and gas, and its exploration. If a nation achieves this independence, just realize how much a nation can become independent with regard to its economy. This holds especially true for India. India is already having hard time in pursuading big nations to provide nuclear fuel to India for its energy needs, and with a nuclear deal with US, I don't see much better future either.

Becoming energy independent, and most of it depends on reducing dependence on fossil fuesl, will pay rich dividends for India and the world in future. Dr. Kalam also mentioned the importance of energy independence in his address to nation on Republic Day. I believe India should do some big investments in this sector, and probably we can be energy independent in less than a decade.


For more information about Ethanol as fuel, click here


Indian President's View on Renewable Energy.

I found a nice relevant article on similar topic but different lines.

Category: General/Random