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March 30, 2012

No way I am trying this Delicacy from China: Urine-Boiled Eggs

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:52 PM

I am all for trying out the local cuisine when visiting various places as long as its vegetarian or has eggs but there is no way I am every going to try this Delicacy from Dongyang, China: Urine-Boiled Eggs. At first I thought that this was a joke but its on the food section of Gizmodo and a search on Google gave articles going back a few years so it looks like this is real. These are regular eggs that have been boiled in urine collected from boys under 10 years old. Yes, you read it correctly. The eggs are boiled in actual urine and then eaten.

The recipe for Virgin Boy Eggs is quite simple really. One first collects a bucket of piddle from the local primary school. Only the water of boys under the age of ten is suitable. Virgin Boy Eggs are first soaked in in a pot of urine, then brought to a boil. Once firm, the eggs’ shells are cracked to allow fuller penetration, and bathed regularly through out the day with fresh piss to prevent them from overheating.

This is all for now. I am going to go throw up now.

Source: China’s Urine-Boiled Eggs Are a Cultural Delicacy I Will Not Try

- Suramya

March 24, 2012

Einstein Archives website starts project to get 80,000 documents online

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:55 AM

Seems like slowly everyone is finally figuring out that sharing information is good (except for RIAA/MPAA etc). First Royal Society journal archive was made permanently free to access then Sir Isaac Newton’s scanned notes got published online by Cambridge. Now the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has published some 2,000 digitized documents from their Albert Einstein’s archives ranging from personal correspondence to scientific papers online (on alberteinstein.info). These documents are fully searchable and can be examined right down to the finest detail. They will continue adding additional documents over the course of 2012, with the ultimate goal being to get all of the 80,000+ items in the university’s archives online.

This is an amazing collection that can maybe help more people understand how one of the most brilliant men in history thought. I would love to go through the archive, but unfortunately they are mostly gibberish to me. I am sure other folks would find them most interesting and who knows, this might spark some idea in someones mind that could end up changing the world.

Source: CBC News
Thanks to Engaget for the initial story.

- Suramya

March 23, 2012

Study claims that “The More Facebook Friends You Have, the More Unhappy You Probably Are”

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:51 AM

Saw this in my news feed today and found this interesting enough to share. Facebook (FB) has become the defacto medium by which most young folks share information with their friends and keep in touch. I can’t even count the no of times I went out with friends met someone new there and once I got back home had a Friend request from the person I had just met. Now this study claims that the new generation is becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships. While its not true for all folks on FB, it is true for a large majority. How many of the 500+ ‘friends’ you have on FB have you had a conversation with in the past one year? Even I have people on my friend list that I haven’t talked to in over a year (although that could be because I don’t log on to FB that often :) ).

From the article:

Researchers have established a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a “socially disruptive” narcissist, confirming the conclusions of many social media sceptics.

People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newsfeeds more regularly.

The research comes amid increasing evidence that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships.

The latest study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, also found that narcissists responded more aggressively to derogatory comments made about them on the social networking site’s public walls and changed their profile pictures more often.

For me friends are people I interact with on a regular (semi-regular) basis as a friend in real life, hence I hesitate in adding folks I barely know as friends on FB. That just dilutes the meaning of ‘Friend’ for me, but I think that this is not the case with most people. BTW, I am not saying that we need to be best friends before I add you to FB, just that I need to become friends in real life before becoming friends on FB. (Another reason for not adding you could be that I just haven’t logged in on FB in a while)

Was reading another article a couple of days ago where they talked about how people tend to exaggerate their life on FB to appear to be more popular. This phenomenon is not unique to FB, when MySpace was popular you could actually pay ‘pretty’ people to add you as their friends and post messages on your wall (don’t remember what MySpace called it). You can even buy FB friends for fairly cheap.

Moral of the story, don’t just post about having a good time; go out and have fun in real life with real folks. This photo is very accurate and something I see on a fairly regular basis and I am sure you all do as well:

What do you think?

Source: Facebook’s ‘dark side’: study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism.

Thanks to LifeHacker for the initial story.

- Suramya

March 15, 2012

Collection Society wants to charge Libraries for the ‘privilige’ of Reading books aloud to kids

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:46 PM

“Say what??” Was pretty much my initial reaction when I first read this article on Techdirt. Then I thought that this must be some sort of misunderstanding as no one can be dumb enough to want to charge libraries extra for each time volunteers read their books (Not books they have written mind you, but books that they manage copywrite for… basically they are making money off other people’s work.) to kids. But unfortunately that was not the case. These idiots actually want to charge libraries extra because unpaid volunteers read books to kids.

Twice a month, the library in [the Belgian town of] Dilbeek welcomes about 10 children to introduce them to the magical world of books. A representative of the library in question is quoted in the De Morgen report as saying there’s no budget to compensate people who read to the kids, relying instead on volunteers (bless them).

SABAM got in touch with the library to let them know that it thinks this is unacceptable, however, and that they should start coughing up cash for reading stories from copyrighted books out loud. The library rep calculates that it could cost them roughly 250 euros (which is about $328) per year to pay SABAM for the right to — again — READ BOOKS TO KIDS.

Is it a requirement for people getting hired into such firms to be brain dead and lacking all common sense? How dumb can you get? Actually don’t answer that… I am sure they can stoop lower. These are the same upstanding folks who were Charged With Copyright Fraud, Embezzlement, Money Laundering and are waiting for the court date to be set for this.

All these organizations need to be banned and/or charged a heavy fine for every false complaint they make for copyright violation. At present it costs them almost nothing to send out these notices and if someone objects they can just withdraw the complaint without any downside/fines. If they had to pay every time they did stupid stuff then the number of false/stupid copyright infringement claims would go down a lot.

Actually… Now that I think about it, we should all send them money immediately before they start charging parents who read night time stories to their kids.

- Suramya

March 14, 2012

Ready Player One: Read this book if you like gaming/80′s movies

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:54 PM

Once in a while you will find a book that is so good that you end up staying up till morning just to finish the book. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one such book. I started reading it thinking that I would read a couple of chapters then crash as it was late and I had an early morning meeting the next day that I couldn’t miss. However the book was so engrossing that I ended up staying up till a bit after 5:30am to finish it. The next day was a blur that I survived only with the help of a *lot* of caffeine but the book was worth it.

The book is based in the near future (2044) where the world is an ugly place and most of humanity spends their waking hours in a virtual reality (OASIS) where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. The creator of OASIS (James Halliday) hid an Easter egg in the game that would give whoever found it controlling shares of the parent company that created OASIS which immediately translated to multimillion dollars of real world money and lots of power (enough to create a whole generation dedicated to finding the egg).

What makes the book really interesting is that James hid clues to find the Easter egg in references to 80′s movie/books/sci-fi/music in the virtual world and the players had to really know their 80′s trivia to find the hints. I am a big fan of a lot of the books/movies referred to in the book and had spent a lot of time playing some of the Games referenced as well, so the book was a great trip down memory lane. I am now really tempted to download some of the old games esp the text adventure games to relive some of them.

Some of the sub-plots in the book were a little predictable and a bit one dimensional but the main plot was pretty well paced and any issues with the complexity were easily ignored to enjoy a well crafted story line. The hacking shown in the book was a bit over the top but easily ignorable. Its not like most books don’t go overboard in showing that.

This is the first book by the author and I am eagerly waiting for more books by him. I believe that Warner Bros. has purchased the film rights to the script and I really hope they don’t screw it up as this has the potential to be a cult classic movie if done right.

Check it out: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

- Suramya

March 13, 2012

Running Ubuntu on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet

Filed under: Computer Software,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:25 AM

A couple of days about someone at work posted an email asking about Ubuntu Installer and if anyone has tried installing Ubuntu on their android tablet using this software (Sorry I can’t remember your name but am too lazy to log on to the office network to find it in my mailbox). I volunteered to try it out because it sounded interesting and cool to have. This application allows you to install Ubuntu on your Android device on top of android so you basically run Ubuntu as a virtual machine in Android in a fairly easy and painless way. From the FAQ on the developer’s website:

This projects aim is to bring a range of linux distros to your android device through a method known as ‘chroot’, see it has running a linux distro within a virtual machine on your phone. You can access this virtual machine and run it on your phone without causing any damage to your device, or having to overwrite anything. Why might you want this? well my apps are designed to make the install and set up process as easy as possible (more so in the paid apps) while still giving you some flexibility. Once you have the distro up and running then you can pretty much run and install any linux software you like (so long as there is a arm port or it is not architecturaly depenedent), sure there a very few big benefits over what android itself can do but it is still pretty dam cool. (and with the free ubuntu version, hey its free does it matter how useful you find it?)

Excluding the time it took to download the image, the entire process took me about 15 mins to complete so that shows you how easy & painless the entire process was. The app install takes only a couple of mins to complete and that just installs an application that gives you a user guide that explains the install process and buttons to make the process faster/easier. The process is pretty self explanatory and if you can read and understand English and are good at following directions you should have no issues installing. :) I would really suggest downloading the images over WiFi because downloading 1.5GB over 3G/GPRS would be too expensive.

There are two Ubuntu images available: small (450 MB) & large which is 1.5 GB, The large image requires 3.5GB of free space on your SD card and the small image requires 2.5GB of free space. If you have enough free space then you should go for the larger image as that has the Gnome desktop plus a ton of applications pre-installed the small one doesn’t have too many applications preinstalled and uses LXDE instead of GNOME. I first downloaded the small image to try it out and liked it enough to download the large image.

The install itself was mostly painless. I did hit an issue initially when unzip’ing the small image file (the download is a zip file) with AndroZip as it was unable to handle the large file size and kept dying on me. Using Astro’s built in extractor resolved this and I was then able to extract the file without issues. Learning from this I downloaded the large image on my computer and copied it over after extracting it there (plus I didn’t have enough space to download the file and then extract it on the tablet itself).

After you download the images, the instructions tell you to install the VNCViewer app and the Terminal app. It wasn’t clear from the instructions that VNC was required to see the actual desktop itself so I didn’t install it at first thinking that it was so that you could connect to your laptop/desktop from the tablet. I later realized that it was needed to see the Gnome desktop so installed it and was good to go.

The process to start Ubuntu is a bit cumbersome and requires you to type a few commands on the Terminal but once you start the image and select the desktop size you are good to go and all you have to do then is connect to the Ubuntu desktop using VNC. The desktop is fairly responsive and you can zoom in for more fine grained control. The large image installs the Gnome desktop and not Unity but still it was pretty good. Would have liked to get the option to try Unity as it was designed for tablets but I guess that is a project for another day.

Below is an photo of the tablet with the Gnome desktop running on it (Taking a photo of a tablet at night is a pain because the flash reflects off the screen and without the flash the photo is too dark):

Ubuntu on Samsung Galaxy Tab
Ubuntu on Samsung Galaxy Tab

Over all a cool and geeky thing to have, but not really that useful in the long run unless you have programs that you want to be able to work on when not at your desktop and don’t have net access.

- Suramya

March 12, 2012

Voice Recognition on Samsung Galaxy Nexus using Swype

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

I like the voice recognition built into Swype keyboard a lot and have been using it quite often to type out SMS’s etc when I have net access and am feeling lazy (The service requires net access to work). For the most part the recognition works quite well and it looks like it learns the more you use it. So I decided to stress test it by using it to type out a complete blog post… Unfortunately that didn’t work out that well. The first para came out ok, but for the next few para’s it got 90% of the stuff wrong instead of the other way which was what I was expecting. I finally gave up typing the blog on the phone because it was taking too long.

It would have been cool if it worked the way I expected so that I could make notes/reminders for myself while driving which is when I get a lot my my project ideas. At present if I use this to make notes then I would spend the next 10 hours trying to figure out what the hell I was thinking about, so I think that for now I will stick to trying to remember stuff and then transcribing it at red lights and traffic jams.

But for just typing SMS’s it works great and is a lot faster than trying to type stuff out.

Final verdict? Cool implementation but requires a lot more work before it can be used as a keyboard replacement.

- Suramya

March 7, 2012

Yet another post on Ebooks

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:18 PM

Long time readers of this blog will remember (or atleast I would like to think so) that I am an avid reader and have been posting a lot about ebooks on the blog. Today I saw this article(Ebooks on Tablets fight Digital distractions) on NY Times which made me laugh. The article starts off with the following heading:

Can you concentrate on Flaubert when Facebook is only a swipe away, or give your true devotion to Mr. Darcy while Twitter beckons?
People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

Then gets more silly as it goes on, This excerpt was especially interesting:

“The tablet is like a temptress,” said James McQuivey, the Forrester Research analyst who led the survey. “It’s constantly saying, ‘You could be on YouTube now.’ Or it’s sending constant alerts that pop up, saying you just got an e-mail. Reading itself is trying to compete.”

Indeed, the basic menu for the Kindle Fire offers links to video, apps, the Web, music, newsstand and books, effectively making books (once Amazon’s stock in trade) just another menu option. So too with the multipurpose iPad, which Allison Kutz, a 21-year-old senior at Elon University in North Carolina, bought in 2010. She says her reading experience has not been the same since.

She is constantly fending off the urge to check other media, making it tough to finish books. For example, in late September 2010, she bought “Breaking Night,” a memoir about a homeless girl turned Harvard student. Ms. Kutz said the only time she was able to focus on it was on an airplane because there was no Internet access.

“I’ve tried to sit down and read it in Starbucks or the apartment, but I end up on Facebook or Googling something she said, and then the next thing you know I’ve been surfing for 25 minutes,” Ms. Kutz said.

Blaming tablets because you don’t have the self control to focus on one task at a time is a bit like blaming doughnuts or McDonalds for being fat because you don’t have the self control to stop eating. I read a lot on my tablet and I read a lot of paper books as well, and so far I don’t see a big difference in my reading experience or the time I need to finish a book on either platform.

I know some people have medical conditions that make it difficult for them to focus on one thing at a time (ADHD) but for most people the problem is a lack of discipline and self-control instead of an actual medical problem. The people who get distracted while reading an ebook will get distracted while reading a regular book as well. There is nothing that prevents a person reading a regular book from picking up the remote to watch a bit of TV or the phone to call someone or a laptop to surf the net. I don’t know Allison Kutz personally but I have a feeling that she would be hard pressed to finish a regular hardcopy book also without getting distracted in the middle.

These ‘studies’ seem very contrived and a conspiracy theorist could argue that the publishing houses are trying to scare people against buying ebooks and push them towards buying paper books. The following article in the Telegraph (Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society) doesn’t do anything to convince me otherwise either. People made the same claims about TV, Radio’s, VCR’s etc etc and we are still here… You can’t stop technology/progress, all you can do is adapt and work with it.

Well this is all for now, I will get off my soap-box and go back to my corner to finish this book I was reading.

- Suramya

March 3, 2012

Configuring Dual monitors in Debian

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related,Techie Stuff,Tutorials — Suramya @ 12:01 AM

[Update 8th Aug 2012: This is an older method of setting up the monitor kept for historic reasons. In the newer version of KDE the process is a lot simpler, please refer to this post for the updated steps - Suramya.

Recently I went ahead and bought two new Dell 20" monitors for my home system as I had gotten used to working with two monitors at work and wanted the same experience at home as well. The problem started because initially I tried installing another graphics card and hooking up the second monitor to that card using VGA. For some reason maybe because I was to tired and wasn't thinking clearly, I couldn't get both the cards to work at the same time. I would get one or the other but not both. To make things even more fun, the monitors are 16:9 aspect ratio and when I used the Opensource driver the only resolution with that aspect ratio I would get was 1600x900 which was too small and the fonts looked kind of jagged at that resolution.

Since I was going to be out of town and was planning on switching to DVI cables anyways I left the system like that (after spending a bit of time experimenting) and left. Once I got back I ordered DVI cables and finally managed to get the dual monitor setup working after spending about an hour one the issue. Below is the sequence I followed to get stuff to work (documenting this so that if I ever have to do this again I have a record of what I did):

  • Removed the second video card to reduce complexity. Might add it back later if required, or if I want to hook my old monitor as a third display.
  • Connected both monitors to the onboard ATI Radeon HD 4250 card, one over DVI and the second using VGA
  • Removed the Proprietary ATI and nVidia drivers (both installed in my previous attempts to get this working). Instructions here
  • Restarted X
  • Installed Catalyst (a.k.a fglrx) a proprietary "blob" (closed source binary) driver, using the following command:
  • apt-get install fglrx-atieventsd fglrx-control  fglrx-driver fglrx-glx fglrx-modules-dkms glx-alternative-fglrx libfglrx libgl1-fglrx-glx libxvbaw

Once the driver was installed I restarted X once again and got both monitors working, but the second monitor's display was a clone of the first one which is not what I wanted so I had to do some more digging and finally managed to fix that using the following steps:

  • Open a terminal/Command Prompt
  • Disable access control so that clients can connect from any host by issuing the following command as a regular user
  • xhost +

    This is required so that we can start a GUI command from a root shell. If we don't do this you will get an error similar to the following in the next step:

    No protocol specified
    No protocol specified
    amdcccle: cannot connect to X server :0
  • Run 'Ati Catalyst Control Center' as root
  • sudo amdcccle
  • Click on 'Display Manager' and configure your monitors (Resolution, location etc)
  • Click on 'Display Options' -> 'Xinerama' and enable 'Xinerama'
  • There is a bug in the display manager that prevents it from saving any changes if the xorg.conf file exists, to fix:

  • Run the following command as root:
  • mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf_original
  • Click 'Apply' in the Catalyst Control Center
  • Restart X

That's it. Once I did all that, my dual monitor setup started working without issues. Well... mostly. For some reason my desktop effects have stopped working (Transparent/Translucent windows etc) but I am not going to worry about it for now. That's a battle for another day, maybe over the weekend.

Please note, that setting up Dual monitors usually is not this complicated in Linux. When I hooked up my TV to this same system I didn't have to make any changes to get it to work. In this case since I was fiddling around I had to fist fix the mess I made before I was able to get this to work properly.

For those of you who are interested, the final xorg.conf that the above steps created is listed below:

Section "ServerLayout"
        Identifier     "amdcccle Layout"
        Screen      0  "amdcccle-Screen[1]-0″ 0 0
        Screen         “amdcccle-Screen[1]-1″ 1440 0
EndSection

Section “ServerFlags”
        Option      “Xinerama” “on”
EndSection

Section “Monitor”
        Identifier   “0-CRT1″
        Option      “VendorName” “ATI Proprietary Driver”
        Option      “ModelName” “Generic Autodetecting Monitor”
        Option      “DPMS” “true”
        Option      “PreferredMode” “1440×900″
        Option      “TargetRefresh” “60″
        Option      “Position” “0 0″
        Option      “Rotate” “normal”
        Option      “Disable” “false”
EndSection

Section “Monitor”
        Identifier   “0-DFP1″
        Option      “VendorName” “ATI Proprietary Driver”
        Option      “ModelName” “Generic Autodetecting Monitor”
        Option      “DPMS” “true”
        Option      “PreferredMode” “1440×900″
        Option      “TargetRefresh” “60″
        Option      “Position” “0 0″
        Option      “Rotate” “normal”
        Option      “Disable” “false”
EndSection

Section “Device”
        Identifier  “amdcccle-Device[1]-0″
        Driver      “fglrx”
        Option      “Monitor-DFP1″ “0-DFP1″
        BusID       “PCI:1:5:0″
EndSection

Section “Device”
        Identifier  “amdcccle-Device[1]-1″
        Driver      “fglrx”
        Option      “Monitor-CRT1″ “0-CRT1″
        BusID       “PCI:1:5:0″
        Screen      1
EndSection

Section “Screen”
        Identifier “amdcccle-Screen[1]-0″
        Device     “amdcccle-Device[1]-0″
        DefaultDepth     24
        SubSection “Display”
                Viewport   0 0
                Depth     24
        EndSubSection
EndSection

Section “Screen”
        Identifier “amdcccle-Screen[1]-1″
        Device     “amdcccle-Device[1]-1″
        DefaultDepth     24
        SubSection “Display”
                Viewport   0 0
                Depth     24
        EndSubSection
EndSection

Hope all this made sense and helps someone. If not feel free to ask questions.

- Suramya

March 2, 2012

Thoughts/Feedback on my Galaxy Nexus after about a month of use

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:29 PM

As I mentioned earlier I purchased the Galaxy Nexus in Jan end and really like it so far. However there are some parts of it that are annoying and I just wanted to list them out for anyone who is thinking about buying it:

  • The screen gets scratched really easily. Mine already has two scratches, one from my keys and another from the Rivet near my jeans pocket. On the other hand my GalaxyTab has traveled all over the place and doesn’t have a single scratch (so far) and my Nokia was in use for more than 3 years with barely any scratches
  • The ring volume is really low. The max is lower than what I used to put on my phone for Office use in any of my previous phones. Its to the point that I now keep the phone on the desk in front of me so that if someone calls I can atleast see the screen come on and answer. At times I have missed calls with the phone in my pocket, forget about it being in another room.
  • The Battery gets heated really fast. It touches 35 deg C in about 10 mins of use and I have seen the bat temp go up to 42 deg C.

Now for some of the Pro’s of the phone:

  • Really good battery life. With Wifi, Bluetooth, and listening to music + calls I routinely get about 2 days plus of use on a single charge. Plus it recharges really fast.
  • Screen is very good and bright. Easy to see even outside in the sun
  • Face unlock is very cool and fast
  • The camera is pretty good and takes decent photos in low light as well. The Zero shutter lag is also a big plus.
  • The position lock is very fast and accurate.

Those were the major points I wanted to cover. Over all, do I regret buying the phone? Nope. Love it. Do I recommend others to get the phone? Yeah, I do.

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

- Suramya

PS: Yes, I know that I haven’t posted about my trip to Renukut for Richa’s wedding. But things have been a bit crazy with the traveling and then catching up at work.

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