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March 30, 2013

Will you get fired over your Twitter history?

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 6:00 PM

Ideally you should know if you have posted something online that will get you fired, but as we all know there are people in the world who are a bit slow and need extra help in figuring out stuff. So for these people there is a new web service called “FireMe! Who wants to get fired?” that goes over your tweets and uses an algorithm to figure out the chances of you getting fired if you boss reads your Twitter history.

Personally I think that if you need help figuring out whether you said something online that will get you fired then there is a high chance that you actually did post something which will get you fired. 🙂

According to the site, they are doing this to raise awareness about the dangers of public online data. Plenty of folks have been fired for things they posted online. Don’t become another statistic, post responsibly.

Thanks to PopSci for the initial Link,

– Suramya

March 28, 2013

A Wedding ring that reminds you of the Day of your anniversary by burning your finger.

Filed under: Humor,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:05 AM

Found this while surfing the web. This is not an actual product yet but once it’s available I think people who don’t know how to setup a reminder on their phone or online (I use google Calendar), are really forgetful and like pain might want to invest in this. As per the site once the ring is on sale you can buy it for a measly price of $760 only.

From the product description:

If you’re prone to memory lapses — or simply have too many secret second families on the side — then you may want to consider the Remember Ring. Here’s how it works: A full 24 hours before your special day begins, a “hot spot” on the ring’s interior will begin to warm up to 120º F for approximately 10 seconds. And in case that doesn’t do the trick, the ring will continue to warm up every hour, on the hour, all day long!

120 Deg F (~49 Deg C)! Ouch… I think I will stick to my SMS alerts and reminders. 🙂

Thanks to Gadget Lab for the link.

– Suramya

March 24, 2013

“Cloud haters: You too will be assimilated” – Yeah Right…

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:39 PM

Cloud Computing is the supposedly ultimate in computing experience where all data is stored on online central servers and all you need is a computer with internet connection to access the applications/data. People keep talking about this as if this is something new but it’s not. If you remember the era of computing before personal computers became popular that is exactly what they used (albeit on a much smaller scale and with lesser speed). So its not something new, and it’s not something that will fit all use cases. Today I read an article on ZDNet where the author (Jason Perlow) talks about Cloud Computing and basically tells us that we should stop whining and embrace this new and great technology because we don’t have a choice. My response: *yeah right*.

Don’t take me wrong, Cloud computing has its advantages, but it has it’s disadvantages as well. Telling folks who point out the disadvantages that their complaints don’t matter and that they have to come on to the bandwagon no matter what is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. You should go read the article and see what Jason has to say about this. I am not going to nitpick on his article as he is entitled to have an opinion. 🙂

Here are some reasons that I think you need to be careful about Cloud computing:

Data Access Control/Security: When I have a document on my local computer, I control who can see it. If someone who I don’t want to see the document wants to view it, they will have to break into my computer, steal it, put a court order or something similar. The same is not the case with data stored in the Cloud. In that case the company you are using to store the data controls who can be granted access and for what reason. A government can send a legal request to your provider or a bored employee can decide to check out what you have stored in the account. The company hosting the data will react based on what is best for them and not what is best for you. If you got a court order to share your data then you have to option of contesting it but if your provider gets the same order they will comply with it because it’s easier for them.

Secondly, people target the cloud servers because it’s a bigger target and the payoff is much larger if they manage to break in. They don’t care about your ‘secret recipe’ or your financial documents so they won’t target your computer specifically, but if they break into the Cloud server they get all that and a whole lot more so plenty of folks will be trying to break in.

One of the common responses that some people give when we talk about people breaking into cloud servers is that these companies hire some of the smartest people in the industry so your data is safe. However that is not true as it only takes one vulnerability and since no system is perfect sooner or later someone will get access. The more the no of people trying to break in the higher the chances are that someone will succeed.

System/Service Availability: You spend a couple of days uploading your data to a cloud based service, what guaranty do you have that the company won’t decide that it’s not worth it and shut it down? It’s happened too many times in the past for anyone to claim that this is not a possibility. What if you have a critical presentation and Google Docs has an outage, or your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has an outage? It has happened multiple times this year (e.g. Google Drive , Microsoft Cloud Storage.

Personally I don’t like access to my data dependent on others. I have been burnt multiple times by that in the past so I prefer running my own services whenever I can and keep multiple backup copies of stuff I have put up online.

Any new technology has it’s downsides and we should be aware of the risks before we start putting all our eggs in the same basket.

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

Original source: Cloud haters: You too will be assimilated | ZDNet.

– Suramya

March 22, 2013

OTP (One Time Pins) in Banking. Be careful when enabling them

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:02 AM

One of the security features that is starting to get more and more common is the use of OTP (One Time PIN). The idea is that everytime you do a transaction, a One time pin is generated and SMS’d to you and you have to enter the pin before being able to make the transaction. It sounds like a great idea and makes things a bit more difficult for people trying to hack your account. However there is a downside that you need to think of as well. What if you don’t have access to your phone? What then? Oh, you might say that that would never happen but it does happen. What if your phone ran out of battery and you don’t have a charger handy? What if you are traveling to a different country and you need to make a transfer or payment. If your phone is not active in that country and on roaming, you will not be able to make a transaction.

I travel quite a bit for work, and I never enable international roaming on my phone. I always get a local SIM and use that instead, since that makes more economical sense. Now, if I had to make a transaction and I had OTP enabled I would be in a fix since I don’t have a working cell connection. In some cases the system also emails you the OTP but that assumes that you have access to your email account at that point in time. For example, I can’t access my personal email while at work. So I would have to go out; find an internet cafe, log in, check my email and then hopefully be able to make a transaction.

If you don’t travel or are ok with the risk that in an emergency you might not be able to make a transaction, then you should go ahead and enable OTP. Otherwise keep a secure password that you change on a very regular basis.

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

– Suramya

March 21, 2013

Superhero Toilet Paper Brings Sound Effects To Your Bathroom Experience – Seriously, it does.

Filed under: Humor,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 3:17 AM

This is an actual product that you can buy. I am serious. No really. My first thought when I saw this was: You have got to be kidding me. Although it might be fun for kids or make a good gag gift for the Geeky person in your life. The product is being launched in April at the Nerd Approved Shop. The product details on the site say it all:

When you use Superhero Toilet Paper, no more courtesy flushes are needed! This toilet paper will really empower you to let rip like a superhero. Embarrassing noises from the smallest room in the house will be a thing of the past as you confidently launch into action with each tear. Make every trip to the restroom much more comfortable in superhero style with the Superhero Toilet Paper! The sound effects overshadow all undesirable noises.

Thanks to Nerd Approved for giving me a good laugh.

– Suramya

March 18, 2013

Airtel wants to pick up cash payments from your house… Scam or Real?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:31 PM

I got a call today from a guy claiming to be calling on behalf of Airtel, telling me that the payment for my Cellphone was due and that I needed to make the payment ASAP. So I told him that I would make the payment online later in the day once I got back to my desk (I was at work). Then this guy tells me that “that would take up to 2 days to process” (??) and that I needed to make the payment immediately so he would come over/send someone over to pick up a cash payment for the amount due.

My immediate reaction was “Are you serious???” Do you really think I would hand over cash to someone who just claims to be from Airtel instead of using the online payment which is faster, more convenient, trackable etc? Even if it takes up to 2 days for the payment to process (which is nonsense, as I have seen the amount reflected in my account in a few hours at the most) I would still make the payment online, or at a proper Airtel outlet.

When I talked to some co-workers about this, one of the counter-arguments I heard was that “they will be carrying a Airtel ID”. Yes, they will be carrying an ID. How do you know it’s a valid Airtel ID? It will take someone who knows what they are doing a couple of hours at most to create an ID that looks reasonably official and valid. How many times have you looked at someone’s ID really carefully?

Anyways, I told him to go away and that I would make the payment online. I wonder if other people have been receiving similar phone calls.

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

– Suramya

March 12, 2013

Does your Handwriting suck? Now you can have a machine write for you.

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:20 AM

This is something I really need. 🙂 Those of you who know me, know that my writing is horrible and most of the time only I can read it. Here’s an invention by students from Olin College that solves this problem. Meet Herald, a machine that can produce beautiful calligraphy.

The machine uses a gantry to move the writing tip along the X and Y axes. The flexible-nib calligraphy pen is mounted on a sprocket which rotates the tip onto the writing surface, taking care of the third axis. The rig was beautifully rendered from their CAD drawings, then tweaked to ensure the smoothest motion possible before the quintet of Sophomores began the physical build.

Check it out in action at Herald Calligraphy. Now if only someone makes a portable version of this, I will be all set 🙂

Thanks to Hackaday.com for the initial scoop.

– Suramya

March 8, 2013

Citrix on Raspberry Pi: Updated instructions and working download image

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related,Techie Stuff,Tutorials — Suramya @ 2:36 PM

A couple of folks have reached out to me via email/messages to tell me that the instructions I posted at the Raspberry Pi forums don’t work with the latest version of Rhaspbian. Basically the problem is that the latest version of the Citrix client is not compiled for the armhf architecture (Which is what the latest version of Rhaspbian OS is compiled for), so you need to download and install the armel version of the OS (‘Soft-float Debian “wheezy”’) from http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads.

To make life simpler for people I have created a snapshot of my Pi install with Citrix installed and configured. You can download it from here. The image is 4GB so you will need to use a card of atleast that size when using this image. Follow these steps to install the image to an SD card in Linux:

  • Download the image file from the mirror (Approx 1GB compressed)
  • Unzip the file using the command
  • unzip Raspberry_Citrix.img.zip
  • Find out what the partition the SD card you are using has been assigned running the following command as root
  • fdisk -l

    Once you run the command, you will get an output that will show you all the disks attached to your system, look for the entry that corresponds to your card. In my case it looked like this:

     Disk /dev/sde: 3965 MB, 3965190144 bytes
    122 heads, 62 sectors/track, 1023 cylinders, total 7744512 sectors
    Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
    I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
    Disk identifier: 0x00016187
    
       Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
    /dev/sde1            8192      122879       57344    c  W95 FAT32 (LBA)
    /dev/sde2          122880     7744511     3810816   83  Linux
    
  • So now we know that the card is at /dev/sde. All we have to do is write the image to the card and that is done using the following command. Make sure you replace the /dev/sde with the correct path otherwise you will end up destroying all data on the wrong drive.
  • dd if=Raspberry_Citrix.img of=/dev/sde bs=4096

    You will not see any output on the screen so don’t worry about it, just let it run and wait for the process to complete as it will take some time because of the amount of data being written. Once the process completes you can eject the card and if all went well you should be able to boot the Raspberry Pi from the card.

The login password for this image is root/password, please do change the password if you use the image. Let me know if you have any questions or have an issue using this image.

Update (3/28/2013): Adding instructions on how to write the image when using windows. (Please note that I haven’t tested the windows instructions as I don’t have a windows machine. Use at your own risk)

Once you download the zip file from the mirror, right-click on it and select extract (I think that’s what it says, but I don’t have a windows machine so can’t confirm). After the image is extracted you will have a file called Raspberry_citrix.img on your computer. Now follow these steps to write the image to an SD card (Instructions taken from eLinux)

  • Insert the SD card into your SD card reader and check what drive letter it was assigned. You can easily see the drive letter (for example G:) by looking in the left column of Windows Explorer. If the card is not new, you should format it and make sure there is only one partition (FAT32 is a good choice); otherwise Win32DiskImager can make corrupt your SD card!
  • Download the Win32DiskImager utility. The download links are on the right hand side of the page, you want the binary zip.
  • Extract the executable from the zip file and run the Win32DiskImager utility. You should run the utility as Administrator!
  • Select the Raspberry_citrix.img image file you extracted earlier
  • Select the drive letter of the SD card in the device box. Be careful to select the correct drive; if you get the wrong one you can destroy your data on the computer’s hard disk!
  • Click Write and wait for the write to complete.
  • Exit the imager and eject the SD card.

You should also go through the Basic setup guide for Raspberry Pi. Hope this helps.

– Suramya

March 6, 2013

DRM Chair only works 8 times

Filed under: Humor,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:30 AM

As if DRM (Digital Rights Management) wasn’t enough in the digital world, the boffins at the University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland have created a chair where you can only sit on it for a total of 8 times. After which the chair falls apart and you need to buy a new chair. Yes, you read that correctly, you can only sit on this chair 8 times. Although to be fair I can think of some really good practical jokes that can be played with this chair 🙂

The design of the chair is fairly simple; all the joints of the chair are cast in wax with a piece of nichrome wire embedded in the wax. An Arduino with a small switch keeps track of how many times the chair has been used, while a solenoid taps out how many uses are left in the chair every time the user gets up. When the internal counter reaches zero, a relay sends power through the nichrome wire, melting the wax, and returning the chair to its native dowel rod and wooden board form.

Hopefully folks will realize that this is not really practical and not decide to release it as an actual product.

Thanks to Hack a Day for the initial story.

– Suramya

March 5, 2013

Working from Home, some thoughts…

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:26 PM

Yahoo sent shock waves through the IT sector when they banned working from home. Following the by now infamous memo many articles/blog posts have been written. Initially I wasn’t planning on posting anything about it, however recently a friend asked me for my thoughts on this as I have worked from home quite often in the past in various roles. So here are some of my thoughts on the subject. Keep in mind that all this are my thoughts and not of any of my employers (past or present).

Working from home has its plus points and negative points so there is no easy answer to this question. In my personal experience I am a lot more productive when working from home if I need to focus on something and don’t want interruptions (e.g. if I need to code something). At work its easy for the person sitting next to you ask a question, or someone to walk up and interrupt you. When working from home this is not there and overall I think I get a lot more work done.

However there is a flip side, when at home you can’t participate in the on the spot spur of the moment conversations that might help you solve a particularly hard problem. Which is the point that Yahoo is making and the reason they banned working from home. A lot of times really amazing idea’s come out of water cooler talk and just overhearing the conversation next to you can point you in the right direction. The best way to innovate and come up with good idea’s is to discuss with people who can then build on top of your idea or point out issues that you might not have seen. (Which is why brainstorming is so important when you start solving a problem).

BTW, all this talk assumes that people working from home are actually working. A lot of the times a person will send out a WFH (Work From Home), send some emails in the morning; then disappear for a few hours and then come back and send a few more mails to appear like they have been working all day. These are the folks that give people who work from home a bad name. For the purpose of this post, I am excluding them from the discussion.

An advantage of working from home is that you can still work if you are unable to make it to work for some reason (could be sickness, need to stay for a delivery, to take care of a sick family member or whatever). Instead of taking a day off the person would still be productive and help you move towards your target. Plus if you need to work odd hours, working from home makes it more bearable. Basically if I have to work at 2 in the morning I would rather do it in my pajamas with music blaring than from the office where putting your feet up on the desk is frowned upon 😉

Overall I think that WFH is a great idea but should be used in moderation. Work from the office when you need to innovate and work from home if you need to focus on something without external distractions.

I am sure some (or maybe most) of you have thoughts on this so please feel free to discuss in the comments.

– Suramya

PS: I intentionally didn’t talk about the advantages of WFH for mom’s/elderly etc because enough people have posted about those aspects at other sites.

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