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September 23, 2009

Top 15 books that I liked/I will remember

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:51 PM

Over at Facebook Tarini asked people to list 15 books that affected you the most and that will always stick with you. I don’t have a lot of books that affect me (probably because I mostly read fiction) so I have modified the requirements to show top 15 books that I liked and will always remember:

1. 1984 by George Orwell: One of the most popular and lasting books about the issues with a Big Brother society

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Amazing book about a future where critical thought through reading is outlawed and all books are burned on sight.

3. Jungle Adventures: This was the first novel I read back when I was in 4th.

4. Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope: The first mystery novel I read. (This was the second novel I read)

5. Earth Invaded by Nathan Elliott: Pretty cool book about alien invaders that can only be hurt by physical weapons (bullets/arrows etc) when such weapons are no longer in use.

6. Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard: An awesome book where humans are an endangered species on Earth

7. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs: One of the first books I read as an ebook

8. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Great novel about how several teenagers defend themselves against what they see as the Department of Homeland Security’s attacks on the Bill of Rights.

9. Jurassic Park By Michael Crichton: Do I even need to say more?

10. Lost World By Michael Crichton: Do I even need to say more?

11. Invasion by Robin Cook: Pretty chilling story about an Alien invasion that transmutates people

12. All books by David Weber: One of the best military Science Fiction authors of all times

13. All books by Mercedes Lackey: One of the best Fantasy authors of all times.

14. All Dr Who Books: My all time favorite TV show and books. Terrance Dicks used to be my Favorite author

15. All books by David Drake: Another great Science Fiction and Fantasy writer.

This list above is no way complete. There are probably a hundred more books that I really like but these are the ones I could think of right the top of my head.

- Suramya

September 22, 2009

Joys of Flying Air India. Or rather trying to fly them

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 3:59 AM

Today (actually yesterday if you want to be technical about it) Vinit, me and Surabhi drove over to the Airport so that they could change their Air India flight from Friday(25th) to Today(22nd). The plan was that they would change their tickets and then we would grab dinner.

The reason they had to go to the counter was because this was a non-refundable ticket and they were told that they should come to the reservation counter at the Airport and get the tickets rescheduled for today. We thought that it would take them a few mins to do this and then we would be free.

It took them almost 1 1/2 hours. Actually it might be a bit more also… They were first told that they have to go to the reservation office in Safderjung to get it changed and Vinit very politely pointed out that the counter they were standing at had reservation written on it in Big blue letters. So then they told them that the flight cost was Rs. 5000 and not Rs 3,000 something that they had checked and which was what their original tickets had costed. So they used my Phone to go online and show them the price for a ticket on their own website.

Still they wouldn’t believe them and continued to argue with them. While this was going on I was sitting in the car waiting because we hadn’t put the car in parking thinking that it wouldn’t take long. Finally the cops asked me to move the car because I had been standing there for half an hour. When I told them I was waiting for someone, they asked me to move to a different corner of the airport and I waited there for another 1/2 hour. Finally the cops asked me to move along. So I got a phone from Vinit and drove off to wait.

Because Vinit and Surabhi had my phone I didn’t have anything to read or do. Luckily, a little while later I found a Dr Who book that Surabhi had left in the car so I had something to read. By the time the call from them came to pick them up I was almost half way through the book.

Funny thing is that they still couldn’t convince them to move the tickets to the new date because apparently the Internet sales department is completely isolated from the rest of the departments and they couldn’t see the lower price on their systems. Finally they (Vinit and Surabhi) ended up buying the tickets online using my Phone. (Yay me) On a side note: Opera Mini is the best browser for the mobile phones. I use it on my N95 and they had absolutely no problems buying tickets even with all the redirects/javascripts etc on the site.

They are going to go yell at the reservation department again today with their tickets and ask for a refund. Good luck to them.

Me.. I am waiting for them to get up so that I can drop them off to the airport and will then go to sleep.

Well, this is all for now. Will post more later.

- Suramya

September 15, 2009

How to crash Windows 7

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:59 PM

I found an easy way to crash Windows 7 RC 2 when working on Gaurang’s computer. He has VMWare installed on his computer that is currently running Ubuntu so that he can learn Linux. We were playing around with it by trying to see if we could connect to it over the network using VNC.

First we ran the VNC server on the Linux instance and then connected to it from Windows using the VNC client and it worked great. Then we enabled Remote Desktop on Windows 7 and tried to connect to it from the virtual linux computer on the same system. Basically we were remote desktoping to the the same computer. As soon as I ran the command from the Linux system the entire windows OS crashed and I got the Blue Screen Of Death!

This is not good. There is no way that a remote desktop look like this one should crash the OS, at the worst it should have crashed that process (VMWare)…

Found it interesting that a small thing like this can crash the entire OS.

- Suramya

September 14, 2009

Visiting friends is fun

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:13 PM

Went over to visit Gaurang and Kangan over the weekend and it was a lot of fun. I left here at 3pm in the afternoon and as it was raining I thought I should take a different way to their place because the ring road and the outer ring road are usually jammed with traffic when it rains. Plus Gaurang had called to tell me to expect lots of traffic.

So I took a different route via India Gate. It was relatively free of traffic but when I got to Dhaula Kuan I got stuck there for about 1 1/2 hours. :( Then once I got out of there the road was relatively empty till I got off the express way then I got stuck in traffic for another 1/2 hour. In total the trip took me 3 1/2 hours instead of 1 – 1 1/2 hours like usual.

When I got there we (Me and Gaurang) went to pick up Kangan from her office and went to dinner at Pind Baluchi. Dinner was nice. I like this restaurant as the food is cheap and good. After dinner we just talked for a while then Gaurang and me worked on fixing his computer and getting Linux installed on it.

The next day we went to watch Final Destination and the movie was bad. I didn’t like it at all and am sorry that I spent money to go watch it… I hope they never make another movie in the series. It was that bad. Although it could have been that I thought it was bad because the movie looked like it was censored a lot.

In the evening we visited Tarini where we had home cooked food that her and her mom had made. The food was food and the company was great. We were up pretty late talking so it was fun.

The next day I helped Gaurang water proof their house. Some of their doors were not fixed correctly so there was a lot of space at the bottom where dust and water would come in even when the doors were closed. So we put a rubber strip under each door to keep the water and dust out.

The trip was a lot of fun and a welcome break from the daily routine. I think I should do this kind of thing more often. :)

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

- Suramya

September 9, 2009

Suvudu Free Book Library and thoughts about ebooks

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:42 PM

How do you know that giving books away for free increases sales? When most major publishers start giving for free samples on their site. Yesterday while going through an author’s site I found a link to Suvudu Free Book Library which is Del Rey’s free book library.

I have told you earlier about Baen Books that has the Baen Free Library for free downloads of books. Even Tor books has its own mailing list where they send out free books once in a while.

So it seems pretty clear to me that book publishers are realizing that making free copies of books available doesn’t necessarily mean lost sales. I think the music industry and the movie industry should take a good look at these sites and try to understand that people who download most are usually people who are huge fans and usually people who end up buying the most.

It takes me about 3 hours to finish a book and I read a lot. The way I discover books and new authors to try is by downloading a book by the author and seeing if I like it. If I do I usually end up buying most of the books by that author. e.g. Mercedes Lackey and David Weber are my favorite authors but the first books I read by them were ebooks I downloaded from the Baen free library. Now I have pretty much every book written by either of them in Hardcopy.

You have to realize that there is a small percentage of people out there who will not buy the book and would rather steal a copy to read, but then again these are mostly people who would not have bought a copy anyway. The advantages and the free publicity you get is phenomenal.

If an author is good people will go out of their way to help out. For example David Freer is moving to Australia from Africa and due to the exchange rate dropping he doesn’t have enough money to pay for the quarantine of his pets. So he put up a story jar where he will to put up a chapter a week of his latest book “Save the Dragons” assuming that he received enough donations to pay for that chapter. Each chapter costs $400 (US) and so far fans have put in $4855. That’s a lot of money put in in a few weeks.

If you like his books and want to help out make sure you visit: Save The Dragons

What I am trying to say is that we are not all thieves out here. So stop treating us like criminals. For a more detailed analysis/discussion of the problem you should read the Introducing the Baen Free Library by Eric Flint. He is an author with a huge list of published books and he does a great job of explaining why people downloading books doesn’t hurt the authors in the long term.

- Suramya

September 8, 2009

Hate colds

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:07 PM

Yeah, Yeah… I know I have said it before. But I do hate colds.
Its not the sneezing that bothers me that much. Its the watery eyes and the blurry vision that irritates me. Having a cold means that I can’t do any of the stuff I like: Reading, working on the computer, writing etc. Only thing I can do is listen to music and sleep.

Slept a lot these past few days. Now just when I thought I was over the cold I woke up a lot of coughing. Gargling seems to have helped. Plus soup also helps. I have had more soup in the past week than in the past 5 years (or maybe more)

So whats new? Nothing much is new on my side thanks to the cough. Planning on going to watch the Final Destination soon. How come all my friends are such scardy-cats? No one wants to go for this movie…

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

- Suramya

September 6, 2009

Airtel Delhi’s underhand billing tactics

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:15 PM

I have an Airtel broadband connection at home with the 1 Mbps unlimited plan for which I pay Rs 2222 (plus taxes) per month and I was pretty happy with it. Today while taking to a friend I discovered that Airtel had reduced the price for the 1 Mbps plan to 1699 4 months ago but have still continued to charge me at the same cost.

So I called up the Airtel support center, got their billing department and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Looking at your plans online I see that the cost for a 1 Mbps connection is Rs 1699, is that true?
Rep: Yes
Me: Ok, then how come I am being charged Rs 2222 for the same plan?
Rep: Hold on. (About 30 secs later) you are being charged for the Freedom 2999 plan which gives you 2 Mbps speed
Me: I know I don’t get 2 Mbps speed.
Rep: Let em check your plan again. Yes you are on the Unlimited 2222 plan which gives you 1Mbps connection
Me: Ok, so why have you been charging me 2222 when the plan is 1699?
Rep: Your plan was set a while ago thats why…
Me: I know my plan was set a while ago, about 2 years ago. Whats your point?
Rep: You didn’t give us any notification that you wanted to switch to a new plan.
Me: How am I supposed to know that the costs have changed?
Rep: The new plans were listed on the Airtel website.
Me: So your customers are supposed to check your site every few days to make sure that they are not being over charged?
Rep: The plans were also advertised via phone and email.
Me: I haven’t received any calls/emails from you regarding the change.
Rep: You must be on the Do not Call list, hence you didn’t get the call
Me: Ok, so why do I keep getting calls from you on my landline to buy ringtones but didn’t get a call about this?
Rep: Some random explanation…
Me: Ok, switch me to the new plan.
Rep: Can’t do that you will have to go for the 2 Mbps plan at Rs. 2999.
Me: What nonsense? I don’t want a 2 Mbps connection. I want a 1 Mbps connection. Why can’t you switch me to the new plan?
Rep: Let me check if thats possible. Can I put you on hold?

Rep: Ok, I will put in a request for your plan to be migrated to the new plan. Will be done in 3-4 days.
Me: Ok, now when was this new plan launched?
Rep: About 4 months ago.
Me: Fine, I need a refund for the extra amount that you have been charging me for the past 4 months.
Rep: Sorry that won’t be possible as you didn’t change your plan.
Me: Ok, explain to me the difference between the plan I have and the new plan you launched?
Rep: There is no difference.
Me: So why would I pay Rs 700 more for the same plan?
Rep: This plan gives you 100 Rs free calls also…
Me: Ok, so you still need to refund me 600 Rs..
Rep: Can’t commit that the amount will be refund.
Me: Why?
Rep: Because you didn’t change your plan.

Me: Who approves the refund?
Rep: The Billing department
Me: And you are in the Billing department correct?
Rep: Yes.
Me: So whats the problem approving the refund?
Rep: Because you didn’t change your plan.
Me: Please put in a request to change my plan and another request to refund my money.
Rep: Ok, here’s your request no: xxxxxxx
Me: What about the refund?
Rep: Thats also in the same request, but I can’t commit that the refund will be given.
Me: Ok, how will I know that the plan is changed?
Rep: You will get a confirmation call when its changed
Me: What about the refund?
Rep: If the request is approved then you will see the refund in your next bill otherwise you won’t.
Me: Fine. By when can I expect a response?
Rep: 3-4 business days
Me: Ok. Thanks.
———-

The stuff that irritated be about the call above was:

1. He lied to me about my plan to keep me on the same plan
2. He tried to tell me that I couldn’t switch to a lower cost plan with the same data transfer rate
3. They are refusing to refund the amount that they over charged.

So now I am going to wait for 4 days, if I don’t get a refund from them I will be lodging a complaint with the consumer court.

I think I will also email this to the customer care department. Lets see what they have to say.

- Suramya

September 5, 2009

Went to Hardrock Cafe

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 8:33 PM

Went to Hardrock Cafe with Friends last Thursday. This was the first time I had been to Hardrock in India so it was fun. We weren’t really sure of the way to the cafe but we managed to get there thanks to directions given by Anand.

There was a live band playing that night and it was a decent band. I would tell you what the band was called but I have forgotten the name, though I do remember that it was from Bangalore and had a very non-sensicle name. I did take pics but they are on Ruth’s camera so I can’t post them till she sends them to me. (Which she was supposed to do 2 days ago…)

The other ‘gift’ I got from the night out is a bad cold… Thanks Ruth. :p

By the time we got out it was 11:30 and raining heavily so I was worried that the roads might get flooded but thankfully we got home without having to swim.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

- Suramya

September 3, 2009

Sort a file list by Date in Linux (Including Subdirectories)

Filed under: Computer Tips,Linux/Unix Related,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 7:35 PM

I use Amarok to play music and I really like it, however my Playlist was created in Winamp/XMMS which I initially thought that Amarok couldn’t read. So all the new music I got since I switched to Amarok was no longer being added to a playlist, I just added the new songs manually then used the select 50 random songs option to play music.

Yesterday I figured out that Amarok does indeed read .m3u files (Winamp Play lists) so I wanted to add all the new music I have to the top of the old playlist. So basically I needed a list of all music in my system sorted by date. If you have been using Linux and are reasonably familiar with it then I think the first thing that came to your mind must have been: “Why can’t we just use ls -lRrt”? That’s pretty much what I thought. But unfortunately this command doesn’t work very well for what I wanted to do.

After playing around for a while I finally managed to get the system to show me a list of all music files in my system sorted in reverse chronological order. The command I used for this is:

find -name "*.mp3" -print0 | xargs -0 stat --format '%Y %n'|sort -r

Now the explanation:

  • find -name “*.mp3″ : returns a list of all mp3 files in the current directory and any subdirectory under it.
  • -print0: This tells find to use the ASCII NUL character instead of space to separate the filenames. If we don’t use this then xargs chokes on the spaces in file names.
  • xargs -0: This tells xargs to use the ASCII NUL character instead of space to separate the filenames.
  • stat –format ‘%Y %n’: This runs the stat command on every file returned by find. This command returns the Time of last modification as seconds since Epoch followed by the name of the file.

    e.g.

    suramya@Wyrm:~$ stat --format '%Y %n' unison.log
    1251802152 unison.log

  • sort -r: sorts the list using the first column (the creation time) and displays the result.

——-

Example execution result in my Scripts directory:

suramya@Wyrm:~/bin$ ls -l
total 2648
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya      77 2009-01-10 04:30 bookfixer.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya      76 2009-01-10 04:30 cardDesigner.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     548 2009-01-10 04:30 change_wan.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     478 2009-01-10 04:30 compare_entire_dir.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya    3462 2009-01-10 04:30 delay.pl
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya      66 2009-01-10 04:30 EditPlus
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya      88 2009-01-10 04:30 export_xterm
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     203 2009-01-30 04:29 extract.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya   82558 2009-01-10 04:30 lit2html
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     320 2009-01-10 04:30 makedir.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya      49 2009-01-10 04:30 mapsql
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     369 2009-01-15 02:11 MuteUnmute.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya 2350194 2009-01-10 04:30 pdftohtml
drwx------ 2 suramya suramya    4096 2009-01-10 04:30 Poet
drwx------ 2 suramya suramya    4096 2009-01-10 04:30 Remote
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     109 2009-02-08 19:47 resize.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya      48 2009-01-10 04:30 rootscan
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     397 2009-01-10 04:30 S41firewall
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     111 2009-02-21 20:15 sync_website.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     116 2009-01-10 04:30 text2img
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya     122 2009-01-10 04:30 uncompress.sh
-rwx------ 1 suramya suramya  180580 2009-01-10 04:30 vcdgear


suramya@Wyrm:~/bin$ find -name "*" -print0 | xargs -0 stat --format '%Y %n'|sort -r
1235227520 ./sync_website.sh
1235227520 .
1234102660 ./resize.sh
1233269990 ./extract.sh
1231965676 ./MuteUnmute.sh
1231542033 ./vcdgear
1231542033 ./uncompress.sh
1231542033 ./text2img
1231542033 ./S41firewall
1231542033 ./rootscan
1231542033 ./Remote/StarFlight
1231542033 ./Remote/Firestorm
1231542033 ./Remote/CyberNibble
1231542033 ./Remote
1231542033 ./Poet/poet.tar.gz
1231542033 ./Poet
1231542033 ./pdftohtml
1231542033 ./mapsql
1231542033 ./makedir.sh
1231542033 ./lit2html
1231542033 ./export_xterm
1231542033 ./EditPlus
1231542033 ./delay.pl
1231542033 ./compare_entire_dir.sh
1231542033 ./change_wan.sh
1231542033 ./cardDesigner.sh
1231542033 ./bookfixer.sh

As you can see, the ‘sync_website.sh’ script is the latest script in that directory.

Hope you find it useful.

- Suramya

September 1, 2009

Bio-computers – The downsides.

Filed under: Computer Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:23 PM

Was watching Eureka (Its a TV show, about this town with brilliant scientists) and they had an episode a little while ago where an organic computer got infected with a virus and got transmitted to a person when they used it.

This made me think, this can really happen once organic computers start becoming commonplace. After all human beings are pretty much an organic computer with a pretty face. So it would become possible to send an email attachment to a target group (lets say an enemy country) and infect their bio-computers. Then the virus would copy itself over to the human operator and set itself up as a background process in the human mind (There is more than enough processing power in the human brain for this) and once its set up it could monitor all actions/thoughts etc and keep a log of everything that person does, this data would then be sent back to the creator of the worm/virus to be used as seen fit by them.

The virus could even take over the human and make them do stuff that they wouldn’t normally do (like treason, or espionage) and I don’t think there is an easy way we could detect something like this and prevent it from happening. It reminds me of a novel I read a couple of years ago where humans had chips implanted in their heads to allow them to process/store data and one of the character’s chip got hijacked and they could no longer control their actions. Now the same thing will be possible without any extra hardware implanted in the target.

I guess to counteract this we would have to have an anti-virus program for the human mind: “Scan your brain for virus’s and trojans today”. Before any secret meetings all participents would have to have their brains scanned.

To make things scarier governments could release a worm that let them keep an eye on their subjects and stop any activity they don’t like before it got far. Think “Big Brother” in your head…

Makes you think scared doesn’t it?

- Suramya

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