(malware) Dim Vista

Don't know why I didn't come across this till now... yes it's a little old but so much fun to read, and from a non-tech magazine like Forbes too!


Some good quotes:

  • "Vista is at best mildly annoying and at worst makes you want to rush to Redmond, Wash. and rip somebody's liver out."
  • If I can find plenty of problems in a matter of hours, why can't Microsoft? Most likely answer: It did--and it doesn't care.
  • His reply: "Does any other operating system do that?" That tells you all you need to know about Microsoft. The real slogan: "No innovation here."


is LWN worth it?

I pay 54 USD a year for access to LWN.  I have never doubted that it is worth it -- Jon Corbet is the best.

But there are times when it feels as if $54 is a bit low, for what we are getting, and if I were living in the US I'd probably up my subscription :-)

Consider this masterpiece from http://lwn.net/SubscriberLink/261820/ba3e6e870fa9a1c5/ , where he is working on getting home videos from an old video camera onto the computer:

Another possibility was mencoder, a tool which is packaged with mplayer. Your editor does not doubt that mencoder is capable of acquiring a video stream from this device, converting it into any format one could imagine, and, while it's at it, changing the camera angle and improving the musical talents of the children being filmed. But anybody who has read the mplayer/mencoder man page knows that it is a masterpiece of its kind - a work written to a length that less verbose authors (Neal Stephenson, say) could only dream about - though Stephenson does do a better job of keeping the plot moving.


(security) protecting yourself against phishing

[feel free to pass this on to whoever you wish to. This is written at a "user" level]

SImple rules to avoid phishing and such scams, as much as possible:

(1) Do not ever click on any links sent via email. Ever. No respectable bank or money related site will do that anymore. If they do, stick to paper dealings with those banks -- don't do anything online with them!

(2) Typing in the URL yourself everytime is good, but beware of "typo-squatters", who register domains with similar spellings to the legitimate site in the hope that someone will mis-type the URL and come there.

(3) The best method is to type in the full URL once and bookmark it. From then on, use the book mark.

(4) Do not use IE. Even if you are forced to use Windows for whatever reason, at least install Firefox. Get the latest firefox and keep it updated. Firefox does this automatically anyway.

(5) Do not browse to any unknown sites while logged in to the bank site. In fact the best way to access your bank site is to do this:

- close all tabs
- click on "tools", then "clear private data" (or use the Ctrl-Shift-Del shortcut keys)
- in the prompt that comes up, select ALL the boxes except the first one ("Browsing History")
- open the bank site using your bookmark, complete your work, and log out of bank site when done
- (do not open other tabs with any other sites while logged into the bank site)
- once again "clear private data" as above
- surf other sites normally

This will protect you against any (unintentional) Javascript vulnerability in the bank site or malicious (intentional) Javascript in other sites.


All this will still not protect you from any viruses or trojans, or key loggers that may have been installed in your computer without your knowledge, if you're running Windows. A lot of programs that are supposedly "free" (but not open source) and "useful" are actually spyware, and in many cases the user himself has installed it without knowing there is something bad. Such software can track your keystrokes, and mouse movements. Coupled with tracking your web accesses, this kind of software can get your password regardless of what precautions you take. Some examples of spyware are here.


great day for me...

A few days ago a friend of mine managed to install, after a couple of false starts, Mandriva 2008 on his desktop all by himself.  Which means he is more techie than he claims to be, or Linux really is getting easier :-)

And today, he managed to get a PCI wireless card (WG311) working using ndiswrapper.  Without using the command line!  And my only contribution was to give him the names of the files that constitute the Windows drivers.

In other words, Mandriva has become that easy to use :-)  This is so totally awesome, because if a device needs ndiswrapper, it means the manufacturer has not released enough specs for the open source folks to write a driver for it, so you are forced to use the Windows drivers somehow.  This sort of stuff does not always work as expected, plus we were using the Mandriva Free DVD (the "priced" one would have done all this automatically anyway).


I am so glad it was not possible for me to go to his home and install it my way :-)  If I'd been able to do that, we'd never have known how easy the GUI really is, which is really, really, important for evangelism!


(funny) What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Microsoft?

Great stuff -- makes you realise what life will *really* be like if the
borg takes over the whole world :-)



more drool maal...

yep -- that's a whole PC with a 40GB hard disk.  Just add monitor, USB keyboard, and USB mouse.  No fan, so extremely quiet.  Runs on a 5V adaptor, consumes only 3-5W of power.


Ideal for a simple home PC for non-geeks or a good second PC for geeks...


(photography) 15 Spectacular Lightning Images

Brilliant, in more ways than one!


(criminal,malware) Linux Today - Lessons from Africa: How to Kill Your Own FUD

As someone said on slashdot, you know you're really really corrupt when the government of Nigeria steps in to stop your scam :-)

"in a world where Windows is supposed to be so much better than Linux on every platform, how come Microsoft has to pay people to get them to use it instead of Linux?"



(funny) ASUS Eee PC: Exclusive Inside Look! :: TweakTown

Very funny. Beat me at my own game (see previous post about Kubuntu and Mandriva)



(security) IndiaTimes website 'attacks visitors' | The Register


The article doesn't mention if using FF makes a difference, but I suspect it will.

This also puts paid to the "I trust this website, since they are so well-known" logic. NOTHING can be trusted.


my brief flirtation...

So, I had some fun with Kubuntu for about a month, but have now gone back to my old flame Mandriva.

What can I say? Kubuntu was definitely younger and arguably prettier, but I finally decided she didn't have enough "experience" for a man who knows his way around like I do. Mandriva has plenty of that, and I think she's actually looking younger in her brand new 2008 wardrobe.

Of course, if I could figure out a way of being with both of them simultaneously, that would be awesome. Guys dream about stuff like that...

[yeah, I know, you're expecting more details. Sorry, this is a family-friendly blog ;-) But see http://lwn.net/Articles/256038/ for more juicy details and behind the scenes gossip ;-)

(photography) How to Photograph a Rainbow




(criminal,malware) Mandriva Blog » An open letter to Steve Ballmer


Money talks indeed.

You can always tell the techie-turned-CEO -- they'll look human, and they'll have this passion and fire and lose-my-cool-if-you-provoke-me-enough attitude. In contrast, the typical manager-turned-CEO looks soulless in comparison. The best they can do is dance like a monkey... but I suppose they're still evolving so we will have to wait :-)


A personal note: Francois Bancillhon has a PhD in Object Relational Databases (IIRC), and was CEO of a small but very techie OODB company called O2, which was acquired by the company I worked for in days long past. So technically we were colleagues for a few years, and one of his top techies (hi TC, if you ever read this!) and I were quite pally during my Denver days. Of course, this has nothing to do with my Mandriva loyalty -- I started using Mandrake long before Francois became the CEO.


PS: to people who read the "Why ubuntu" post recently: despite intending to, I did not switch from Mandriva to Kubuntu on my work machine, and I now see no reason to do so. The reasons are here: http://lwn.net/Articles/256038/


(funny,security theater) Schneier on Security: House of Lords on the Liquid Ban


Another zinger from my favourite security expert. This is short enough that I'm reproducing it here in its entirety; I'm sure Bruce will forgive me the minor plagiarism!

From the UK:

"We continuously monitor the effectiveness of, in particular, the liquid security measures..."

How, one might ask? But hold on:

"The fact that there has not been a serious incident involving liquid explosives indicates, I would have thought, that the measures that we have put in place so far have been very effective."

Ah, that's how. On which basis the measures against asteroid strike, alien invasion and unexplained nationwide floods of deadly boiling custard have also been remarkably effective.

[Also see http://members.tripod.com/Tiny_Dancer/erniebanana.html ]


(wow,security) Schneier on Security: Security by Letterhead


"It's an effect of technology moving faster than our ability to develop a good intuition about that technology."

This is why Bruce Schneier is Bruce Schneier:

I too read the original article he is referring to (at http://worsethanfailure.com/Articles/Security-by-Letterhead.aspx ), a few days ago. I too had a good laugh at the idea that a letterhead is any measure of security, and thought to myself that people who do not know technology as well as we do are forever going to be digging themselves into holes like this one.

But it takes a Bruce to analyse it in such a crisp and concise way, yet pack much more meaning into his analysis than I ever could.

This is not because he knows English better than I do (although that may well be true too). It is because he has been thinking about security a lot more deeply than I, or indeed pretty much anyone outside of deepest academia, has been doing.

(malware) When antivirus products (and Internet Explorer) fail you | The Register


Good stuff. If any of my readers are actually using IE for routine web surfing, you haven't been reading my blog. Or you don't care about your machine and your data!

"Internet Explorer's interpretation and handling of mangled HTML and supported scripting input certainly contributed to making the Internet accessible to a wider audience, though now it is leading to making the platform more accessible to malware authors (if that was possible)."


google talk, yahoo messenger, jabber, and lotus notes sametime -- all on one client (pidgin)

About 4 years ago I discovered the magic of Instant messaging using a specific server (the jabber server) and any jabber compatible client.

Now I have discovered (courtesy a somewhat overdue OS upgrade on my work desktop, running Mandriva 2008 now) the magic of pidgin, a multi-protocol IM client that does everything that I could wish for. (Well it doesn't do voice and video chats, but that's a plus point in my book!)

I had written (back in 2003 or so) an article extolling the virtues of IM for a corporate environment. With a multi-protocol client available, I can now login to google talk, yahoo messenger, our departmental jabber client, as well as the company wide Lotus Notes Sametime network, all in one client! I'm logged into four networks using one client :-)

Of course, pidgin is available for windows also; in fact it's been called the firefox of IM clients :-) So you don't have to switch to Linux to use it.

What are you waiting for?


gotta love this...

I have to love something that simultaneously disses both Vista (for being crap), and Sony (for being proprietary) ;-)



Why Ubuntu?

[UPDATE: less than a month after this, I switched back to Mandriva, my favourite for the past 9 years or so.]

My first criteria for a Linux distribution has always been: how can I make this attractive to non-tech folks without scaring the shit out of them? For the last 8-9 years, the only real contender was Mandrake (now Mandriva). Nothing else came close, and if you think Debian or Fedora are good, you haven't seen Mandrake :-)

I now think Ubuntu/Kubuntu is even better at this than Mandriva.

[Security warning: Ubuntu uses only one password needed to get root - you just have to type it twice . This is only marginally better than Windows, where the user is the admin by default. On my ubuntu systems, therefore, the "sitaram" user doesn't have admin privileges. Instead, I create another user called "fakeroot" who has admin privileges, and if I have to admin the system, I have to jump from "sitaram" to "fakeroot", and then from "fakeroot" to "root". I strongly suggest anyone setting up a machine on the internet should do something like this.]

The update treadmill - catching up without running!

Linux changes fast. Windows 2000 is still in use on many computers, and I am told even Windows 95 is still around, but RH 2 (released fall 1995) and RH 7 (fall 2000) are unheard of, and if you still see RH 9 (2003), it's only because it was the last of the RHL series before they split into Fedora and RHEL.

Mandriva never seemed to encourage me to do regular, incremental, updates to the system. Its "urpmi" is just as easy to use and as capable as Ubuntu's Debian-derived "apt" system, but their equivalents for "update" are much slower than Debian's, both in terms of bandwidth as well as in updating the RPM database. On a home machine with limited connectivity, this became something to avoid. And while I haven't actually measured it scientifically, this seems quite doable in Kubuntu, even thought my internet pipe is only 64 kbps (barely more than a POTS modem!).

Anyway, as a result I used to upgrade using a full DVD, about once a year. And sometimes I would do a full install instead of an upgrade if I thought the upgrade would leave a lot of cruft on the system.

And so, for most of the year, therefore, pretty much nothing on my system would change except firefox and thunderbird (my mail client). For instance, some of the programs I use (like kphotoalbum) would come out with new releases and updates, but I couldn't get them because they required updates to core stuff like KDE or whatever

I guess it was a bit like being on Debian stable, although not quite so bad ;-)

And I also got tired of the treadmill. I found myself skipping upgrades simply because I didn't have time to do it. Even an upgrade from a DVD was a specific event, requiring (by definition) a reboot at least. Who wants to reboot just to upgrade?

What I really needed was something that I can stick on the machine and let it work pretty much as long as the hardware holds out, yet always be on the leading edge without being on the bleeding edge.

I needed to be able to upgrade much more frequently, but without having to worry about it as a task, or worry that it will break something.

I needed something in between Debian stable and Debian unstable :-)

Ubuntu fills that need very well.


(PHB^1000) Fox News hires Carly Fiorina, ex-chief of HP - International Herald Tribune


I always hated this woman. I had good friends at HP as well as at
Tandem, which eventually became part of HP, but even if I didn't, I
would still have hated her for what she did to such a great company.

As some of the comments on slashdot said:

- "I hope she brings [to] Fox the same integrity and good business
sense that she brought to HP"

- "And Lucent. Let's never forget the fine job she did there. It's an
astounding accomplishment to drive two of the world's premier
engineering organizations into the ground within a decade. Truly Fox

Too bad she's only going as a "contributor". I would have loved to see
her as CEO of Fox -- would have been a match made in heaven.


Bug #1 in Ubuntu

Been playing with Ubuntu (well Kubuntu -- the KDE version) a little over the last few weeks.  Learned a lot, pretty nice stuff there.

I started with Linux in 95 with Yggdrasil (*), very briefly, then a year or so of slackware, then RH till 98.  I switched from RH to Mandrake in 99 for one and only one reason: Mandrake made it much easier to evangelise Linux to the non-geeks.  And now, I think I finally found something to beat Mandrake, so I have been thinking of gradually switching all my desktop systems (as and when time permits).  I still love Mandriva -- 9 years is a long time, so this was not an easy decision.

The decider came when I found "bug #1 in Ubuntu", which, sadly, has STILL not been fixed.


Now how could I resist that one?



(*) yes, you kids wouldn't have heard of it; it's older than Slackware, I think, and actually when I started it was almost defunct!


(security) Be afraid. Be very afraid...

"Storm has been around for almost a year, and the antivirus companies are pretty much powerless to do anything about it."

But the really scary part?
"Oddly enough, Storm isn't doing much, so far, except gathering strength. Aside from continuing to infect other Windows machines and attacking particular sites that are attacking it, Storm has only been implicated in some pump-and-dump stock scams. There are rumors that Storm is leased out to other criminal groups. Other than that, nothing.

Personally, I'm worried about what Storm's creators are planning for Phase II. "

from "Schneier on Security: The Storm Worm"



(geek) The History of the World, as seen through /.


This is just as much as geek test as anything else -- if you get even half these jokes, you're a geek!


(security) Adobe gifts internal file permissions to unwashed masses | The Register


Amazing... :-) It seems they didn't even set the permissions right on their SSL private key file, and a "directory traversal" bug allowed pretty much anyone to get this key out, as the screenshot shows!


(FOSS) SCO and the Three Stooges | Open Source Initiative


Very nice article summarising the role and responsibility that the 3 idiots (Dan Lyons of Forbes, no less, Rob Enderle, and Maureen O'Gara) share in perpetuating the SCO saga, when it was clear to almost everyone familiar with the situation that the whole damn lawsuit was fraudulent!

[Dan Lyons is a little cleaner, if just as stupid. Rob claimed some open source people threatened him. Maureen actually did something so horrible that her own editors abandoned her. That is how misguided these pathetic fools were...]

The article closes with a very apt summary of the situation, and I am proud that -- small and insignificant as I am -- I consider myself part of the "hackers and geeks" community described here:

More importantly, I'm left wondering if the trade press at large has learned its lesson from this mess. Yes, we hackers and geeks are passionate and rude and overzealous and routinely violate the conventions of 'polite' business discourse -- but one good thing we almost unfailingly are is honest, not because we're angels but because we're too pigheadedly idealistic not to be true to our craft.

So, the next time we call bullshit on some polished corporate PR type, you journalists out there can save yourselves the embarrassment and grief now coming down on the Three Stooges by believing us to start with, rather than waiting four years to catch up.


lost my "geek" license yesterday...

...when I plugged a 110-volt adaptor (for a wireless router, if you are wondering) into a 220-volt socket.

And this wasn't even *my* router -- my brother had lent it to me!


(photography) one more "I wish I had taken that" shot...

...saw this on a page about using overexposure. I think it's one of the most gorgeous photographs I have ever seen. Another sample of the "when I can visualise and take that sort of shot, I'll consider myself an expert" category...


(security) Attackers turn Bank of India site into malware bazaar | The Register

Even your online bank can be turned against you...


...unless you're using Linux!


(photography) the goal...

When would I say "I've learnt all I want to learn about taking photographs"?

When I can take shots like this:




(stupid malware) Vista's performance

To start with, it seems that when you are using GigE (gigabit ethernet) cards, and transferring large files over the network, Vista uses upto 41% of your CPU!!! That is horrible. (Linux barely blinks when doing the same thing).

What's worse is that this affects music playing -- if you're listening to MP3s they start sounding choppy.

So, guess what Microsoft decided was more important among these two? Riiiight -- the music. If you're playing music, your network bandwidth is throttled down to about 15 MB per second! (A GIgE card can theoretically give you about 110 MB per second -- the gig is "bits", not bytes, remember?)

Robert Love: Those Dang DPCs Clogging the MMCSS: http://blog.rlove.org/2007/08/those-dang-dpcs-clogging-mmcss.html


(life) Neem Hakim Khatra-e-Jaan

Just went to my very first open-air play, in a small amphitheater at Saptaparni on Road #8 (BH).

Neem Hakim Khatra-e-Jaan is an adaptation of Moliere's "A Physician In Spite of Himself". (I found one "full text" link at http://www.bibliomania.com/0/6/4/1968/frameset.html).

The play was mostly in Hindi, both the regular variety and the Hyderabadi kind, with small bits of Telugu thrown in, and was done very well. The lead actor (Sganarelle, in the original play) was very good, but maybe we felt that only because he was on stage more than the others, and in fact they were all really very good. The man who played the "Deewanji" (Geronte in the original) had a particularly pleasant voice, and he looked quite distinguished and cultured in his role.

We went with 3 kids and they all enjoyed it immensely -- much of the dialog (often laugh-out-loud funny!) was understandable even by my brother's 5 year old, and it was certainly easy for them to appreciate much of the acting. Parts of it could almost be called hamming, but I would say the material called for hamming anyway :-)

Sutradhar ( www.sutradharactors.com, but the damn web site seems to require both JS and Flash, so I didn't bother to actually see what's in it) are the people behind it, and it looks like I will be looking out for more of their work, at least the comedy variety and if it happens so close to home.

All in all, it quite made us all forget (except the 1-minute silence at the start) yesterday's horrors...


(funny,security) too much technology?

Sometimes I think the whole purpose of most modern technology is to make the bad guys job easier!

Stolen satnav guides thieves to owner's home:



MyWire | Psychology Today: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature


Explains a heck of a lot of things!

There are some really wonderful one-liners (unintentional, no doubt), and even though it looks like heavy reading, it is well worth the time spent reading it!

Best line: "What distinguishes Bill Clinton is not that he had extramarital affairs while in office—others have, more will; it would be a Darwinian puzzle if they did not—what distinguishes him is the fact that he got caught."

And speaking of Darwinism, it does help in understanding this article if you know the basic premise of Darwinism in order to appreciate this article.

Another lovely line: "Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women."


(photography) just bought...

... a Canon S3 IS handheld digital camera.

While there is no dearth of extensive reviews of this camera everywhere, with loads of sample photos and colour charts and so on, this is one of the best reviews I have read:


Luminous Landscape is one of my favorite sites, and Michael Reichmann, the author of the review and owner of the site, is a professional who really knows what he is talking about!

Best quote:

The lens on this camera is a 12X zoom with a focal length of 6 - 72mm and an aperture of f/2.7 (wide end) to f/3.5 (long end). The focal length needs to be put into context with its 35mm equivalent; 36 - 432mm. This is a huge focal range, and a very fast aperture for such a long lens. If this lens had been designed for a 35mm full-frame camera it would weigh 25 lbs and cost more than most cars.


what would Scott Adams say, I wonder...

My daughter came back from school yesterday with a really bad migraine.  Apparently she didn't have time to have lunch because of a meeting!

Why does someone who's not even close to being a teenager have meetings?  Apparently she's the "junior house captain" or something for her "house" in school, and the meeting was to work out details of some duties that the house captains share.

Who says our education system doesn't prepare you for the real world?


(life) friendship day

Does this not remind you of the old joke about "women's day"? (The joke being that having a special day for women implies the other 364 days are "men's days").

The symbol seems more important than the reality to some people -- you can ignore your "friends" for much of the preceding year, and redeem yourself in one shot on friendship day. For added effect, take a bouquet or something along, and your "friend" is supposed to be suitably impressed and honored!

In reality he/she may be thinking: this is what my friendship has come to, like the joke about women's day.

I guess this is why real guy-guy friendships don't bother with friendship day. No woman involved, so no sentiment needed, whether real or pretended!

[to my 2 "girl/woman" readers: no offense intended; most women are very sentimental!]


Mozilla CEO denies Google decided Thunderbird's fate - LinuxWorld

I always loved conspiracy theories, and this one, despite the denials, (or maybe *because* of them!) sounds plausible.

Don't just think of it as "gmail". Think of google's enterprise email push, as the article says...



the nice thing about Himesh Reshamiya...

...is that he gives hope to all the crap singers out there. They're all thinking, "if this guy can make it big, why not me?"


Sony's Solid State 2.4 Pound Laptop Reviewed


Very nice comment explaining why solid-state disks can work pretty much forever (or at least no worse than normal hardware obsoletion times). Better still, it lays into Sony quality -- you know me, anyone slamming Sony gets my vote :-)

The main slashdot article is at


and the actual review is on



Re: FW: At an impasse with ergonomics folks.

This is nothing to do with <deleted> or any particular company -- bureaucracy exists everywhere, so no one should feel they are vilifying a particular company in writing this.  In other words, I'll bet they're all the same.

Since this looks like it happened in the US, let me narrate my (much more pleasant) experience, while working at a small firm called Unidata in Denver.

A co-worker saw me flexing my wrist in weird ways.  He asked me why and I said it feels good to do this, because there is some small stiffness or ache.

That's it.  After that I was not in control...!

He called HR and reported the matter.  The HR head (it was a small company, about 400 people in 4 floors of one building) came scurrying to my desk, had me sit down, asked me a bunch of questions, and called OSHA.

[This is OSHA, not OSHO, in case you were wondering, although the OSHA girl who came by the next morning to take measurements of my body in the typing posture was certainly the stuff of dreams.  I am now much, much older, and am considered to be in a position of responsibility, so I will refrain from describing this young lady in any detail.  It should suffice to say that most of my male colleagues were contemplating how to inflict similar wrist injuries on themselves and my female colleagues were nowhere to be seen for all the time this girl was at my desk ;-)]

OSHA fixed me up with a physio-therapist in a nearby health center, and I was asked to go there the next morning, and once a week for the next 3-4 weeks.  At the end of that I was given a huge check list and asked to report IMMEDIATELY should ANY of those symptoms make an appearance.

My desk was also fitted out -- yes sir!! -- with an articulated keyboard and various other paraphernalia that they deemed necessary for me to do my work without being in a situation where I could later sue my employer for work related injuries.

That's the power of OSHA.  I suggest your friend invoke this power and get himself an articulated keyboard.

Me, I would prefer an articulate keyboard over an articulated keyboard any day.  I come in pretty early in the morning and it would be nice to have someone to chat with while doing the morning chores like email etc :-)


PS: feel free to forward this to the same bunch of people you sent the original email to -- I haven't said anything here that may bite me later :-)

on 07/12/2007 08:06 PM <deleted> (<deleted>) wrote:

I dunno whether I should forward this or not… but it’s worth a read coz it’s a funny situation if you aren’t the one facing it… and it’s an email sent to a distribution list that I’m part of.


Please do NOT forward it to others*!






*(If you *do* feel like forwarding it, please remove my name and alias from the email body content… I don’t want to be kicked out of <deleted>! {Not yet, that is :P})

From: <>
Sent: <>
To: <>
Subject: At an impasse with ergonomics folks.


Folks, this is probably going to sound a little bit absurd, but I think what better way to let out a little steam than gather a little sympathy J


I have been working at <deleted> for about a year now and was a college hire. I am quite used to having an articulating keyboard tray which I found immensely useful. So, when I did not find it here and found working with the regular height table a bit cumbersome, I asked around how I could get an articulating keyboard tray. It was suggested that I talk to the ergo/HR folks and so I did. This is how the conversation went:


Ergo Lady> Did you read the ergonomics guideline on the website?

Me> Yes

Ergo Lady> Do you have an injury, pain, ache etc anywhere?

Me> No

Ergo Lady> So, how may I help  you?

Me> Well, I want an articulating keyboard tray for my desktop so I can work better.

Ergo Lady> If you follow the ergo guidelines on the website, you would not need one.

Me> Huh?

Ergo Lady> What do you need the keyboard tray for?

Me> Well, to put the keyboard at a height that is suitable for my arms

Ergo Lady> Since 1998, we have been getting the  height adjustable tables. You can obtain a key to adjust the height of the table. I can order a key for you if you want.

Me> No,  no, you see, I want to add a negative tilt to my keyboard as well

Ergo Lady> Well, we can give you a wrist pad…

Me> No, no, you see, then the monitors will be too low, I want them at my eye level.

Ergo Lady> Well, we can give you monitor height adjustment stools…

Me> No, no, you see, I also want to keep rest of my stuff such as books, hardware etc at my eye level…

Ergo Lady> Well, you see, we can order a bookshelf for you to keep the stuff there.

Me (by now exasperated)> Well, how can I get a keyboard tray, it is just something that I find very useful, convenient and I am just so very used to it. It will make me happier when I come to work because I will find my workstation exactly the way I way I want to work on it.

Ergo Lady> Well, we cannot order a keyboard tray for you. A keyboard tray costs about $300. All that stuff (monitor adjustment stools, wrist pads) costs us a few bucks. If, however, your health care provider prescribes a keyboard tray for you, we can do it.

Me>Ummm…. You have been very helpful, thanks for your time….


I understand her reasoning,  I understand also how I can adjust my desk, add a wrist pad (which I hate) and get a shelf (which will take up a good amount of space in my doubled up office) but for the life of me, I cannot understand why spending $300 (retail) on something that will make me a happier, more productive developer is not worth <deleted>’s while. I am sure if I spend 5 minutes a day fretting about it and I am in general not as content with my workplace as I could be, it would more than make up for the $300 that they might have to spend one time on me. *Sigh* there are bad days and then there are days when you feel like you just are hitting  your head against a wall…






Quantum Cryptography



To create the key, the team first had to create pairs of entangled photons. Entanglement, which Albert Einstein called "spooky action at a distance," means that the fate of one photon is tied up with the fate of the other. Measuring any quantum mechanical property of one photon automatically changes that same property in its entangled partner, no matter the distance between them.

What Einstein neglected to mention, possibly out of fear, was that at first the photons thus created think this is love.  Then they get married, and then they realize the meaning of the word "entanglement"!

I'm just disappointed that it seems to happen at such a low level also.  God must be a sadist :-(


Linux: immune to large doses of whackiness from the US Congress :-)

As some people know, the US Congress mandated new rules for DST (Daylight Savings Time), such that instead of DST starting on the first Sunday in April, it starts on the second Sunday of March.  In the fall (or autumn), DST will now end on the first Sunday in November rather than the last Sunday of October.

This has predictably caused a lot of operating systems to update various bits of software to accommodate this change.

On Linux, you just need to upgrade one package (usually called the "timezone" package) and that's it.  The rest of the system, and all applications simply use the new information.

Apparently things are not so simple in the so-called "user-friendly" operating system :-)

[ stuff below was extracted from comments in http://lwn.net/Articles/224794/ ]

One comment said:

One thing that surprises me is that, for Microsoft Windows, you don't just need an update patch for the OS, you need patches for applications like Outlook as well. In *nix/Linux systems as far as I'm aware, all the apps just use the common zoneinfo data, so you only need one update for that to fix all your apps. Why doesn't Windows do the same?
And here's the explanation from another comment, of which I have extracted the best parts:
Microsoft products tend to do their internal calculations and storage formats in local time. This simplifies display, as there isn't any knowledge of time zone required. That was fine when DOS asked you the current time and date every time you booted, and was *somewhat* liveable after the advent of CMOS clocks. The OS just needed to know what DST algorithm to apply. [...] [But it] also gets weird when you have users from multiple time zones on the same machine.

UNIX and its derivatives tend to do those same things in GMT. This eliminates much of the clock twiddling mess and so on. Also, file date stamps are never ambiguous. What changes is time display. That needs a notion of the current time zone. The plus side is that you can have two dozen users logged in, each in different time zones, and each can see their own local time, just by setting TZ.

So if you don't patch Windows, it'll *use* the wrong time. If you don't patch UNIX, it'll just *display* the wrong time.
Yet another reason to love Linux -- immune to large doses of whackiness from the US Congress :-)


(funny,quote) on XML

XML is like violence. If it doesn't solve the problem, use more.

(USA,funny,quote) love this one...

There's free as in speech, free as in beer, and free as in range. Americans are free in the latter sense.

...found it somewhere on slashdot, of course!


(malware) Microsoft apologises for serving malware | APC Magazine


"We have learned that Microsoft was notified of malware that was being served through ads placed in Windows Live Messenger banners."

Don't they make enough money already? Why do they need to ''serve ads'' for God's sake...?


(geek) The Command line marries the GUI?


Take a look at the illustration at the top, and the simple description below.

Ignore the fact that this website is about mobile phones. The fact is, any interface that has grown too complex and unwieldy needs something like this, period. This is the only way to keep frequent users happy (which means productive) while simultaneously keeping it "friendly" for new users...

...and the faster we all realise it the happier mankind will be :-)


Dealing with telemarketers

Tired of credit card/personal loan/real estate solicitations?

The primary purpose of any response to a telemarketer should not be anger or criticism. It should be to waste their time without wasting yours!

The most effective way of doing this is to simply express interest, ask them to please hold for a minute or two, press the mute button on the phone, and then ignore the phone for some time. And if you can come back once in a minute or so and say "just 1 minute more please...", all the better!

If enough people do this, we can make a big impact on their moronic employers. Please pass the word.

Alternatively, you can trade time for entertainment and actually talk to them. Ask them about themselves. Their job. What do they get paid? Does their family like it?

Be genuinely curious and interested. And friendly. Don't get angry or insulting. They'll just hang up and move on to the next victim. You have to keep them busy.

Sometimes you get a real idiot. My favourite is when I confused the heck out of one poor girl by asking her to punch in her ATM pin code in order to be able to speak to me about my (non-existent) credit card! I told her until she does that I cannot believe that she is who she claims to be. [She punched in something but then she hung up.]

But all these methods require you to be engaged actively, instead of just letting your telephone be busy for a few minutes. For calls while at work, nothing beats telling them to please hold on...



why is...

the Times of India, with a history of not getting along with the Tata group, sucking up big-time to Ratan Tata?


How to piss off a teenage son...

well actually, "he started it" :-)

By constantly fighting with a girl who is half his age, his sister!

I finally got tired of it.  And decided if he wants to act like a little girl, I will treat him like one.

No more LOTR.  No more Star Wars.  No more Harry Potter.  No more cricket.  Manchester United? -- dream on!

So I rigged up squid (the proxy server that all his web accesses are forced to use) so that any accesses to his favourite sites (espnstar, cricinfo, jkrowling, etc) are immediately redirected to barbie, barney, sesame street, etc.

You should have seen his face, says my wife!


The youngest...

Two of the youngest adults in my extended family have suddenly become the oldest, today.


(malware) Internet Explorer Unsafe for 284 Days in 2006 - Security Fix


"For a total 284 days in 2006 (or more than nine months out of the year), exploit code for known, unpatched critical flaws in pre-IE7 versions of the browser was publicly available on the Internet. Likewise, there were at least 98 days last year in which no software fixes from Microsoft were available to fix IE flaws that criminals were actively using to steal personal and financial data from users


In contrast, Internet Explorer's closest competitor in terms of market share — Mozilla's Firefox browser — experienced a single period lasting just nine days last year in which exploit code for a serious security hole was posted online before Mozilla shipped a patch to remedy the problem



A vegetarian I know sent me the following link:


The first thing that came to my mind when I read the article was "aahaa! This proves that Bush is really stupid" :-)

And then it hit me: I had just linked someone's personal preference into a semi-objective indictment of that person simply because I don't agree with that preference.

That's bad. Very bad. I need to be more careful when justifying my opinions.

PS: the article also said "There was no difference in IQ score between strict vegetarians and those who said they were vegetarian but who said they ate fish or chicken" so if the vegetarian who sent it to me was trying to score a point against me it didn't work! Since I hardly, if ever, eat red meat, and this kind of empirical study does not tip on a binary (yes/no) scale, I can certainly claim to fit this category.