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September 24, 2014

India’s Mangalyaan successfully enters Mars orbit

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:00 PM

Yay! India’s low cost Martian mission successfully entered Mars orbit earlier today. The 4.5bn rupee ($74m;) mission is the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken by the world. In fact production of the movie Gravity cost more than the entire mission.

This is an amazing achievement, now my only question is: what are we doing to reward the scientists that made this possible? When India won the world cup, every state in India rewarded millions of rupees to the players who were already well paid and compensated. Why is there no similar prizes being announced for the scientists who made history today? Mr Modi, this is a question for you and your government…

Additional links:
* http://www.engadget.com/2014/09/24/india-successfully-reaches-mars/
* Mangalyaan: India’s race for space success

– Suramya

September 22, 2014

Project Hieroglyph: Returning to Science Fiction that inspires

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:13 AM

If you have been following the Science Fiction Genre recently you will have noticed that most of the popular SciFi stories nowadays are about post-apoplectic future where civilization got wiped out by a virus or zombies or some other disaster etc etc. Not many stories are being written that talk about a golden future with new advances etc that would serve to inspire folks to create new stuff like Author C Clarke’s writings on communication satellites that inspired folks to actually create them, or Star Trek Communicators that partially inspired the creation of cell phones. Those items along with numerous other things both small and large were initially created by writers as Science Fiction but then slowly became reality.

Recently Neal Stephenson wrote an article entitled “Innovation Starvation“, where he called for a return to inspiration in contemporary science fiction, this call inspired people and Project Hieroglyph was born shortly thereafter.

The name of Project Hieroglyph comes from the notion that certain iconic inventions in science fiction stories serve as modern “hieroglyphs” – Arthur Clarke’s communications satellite, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ship that lands on its fins, Issac Asimov’s robot, and so on. Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research described hieroglyphs as simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.

What science fiction stories—and the symbols that they engender—can do better than almost anything else is to provide not just an idea for some specific technical innovation, but also to supply a coherent picture of that innovation being integrated into a society, into an economy, and into people’s lives. Often, this is the missing element that scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and entrepreneurs need in order to actually take the first real steps towards realizing some novel idea.

While the mission of Project Hieroglyph begins with creative inspiration, our hope is that many of us will be genuinely inspired towards realization.

Here writers post questions or just talk about idea’s that are meant to make people think and speculate on the important question in life “What if?”. The site is a great read not just for authors but for readers as well. It pushes you to think about new idea’s or a different aspect for an existing idea. Check it out and you won’t be disappointed.

– Suramya

September 21, 2014

India’s Mangalyaan races to MARS

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 7:30 PM

Did you know that India’s very own Mangalyaan is racing to Mars and about to do the final course corrections to enter Mars orbit? If the corrections work then India will be the first country to successfully enter the Mars orbit on the first try and the first Asian country to make it to mars.

The Indian Space Research Organisation has published a handy slide deck (PDF) explaining what happens next. There’s lots of little chores like uploading of commands going on at the moment, but things get interesting on September 24th. :) The PDF has a breakdown of what is expected when the action starts so do check it out.

I am going to try staying up at night to see if there is live coverage of the event. This is a great day in the Indian Space age. :)

Now, there are a lot of folks who are making comments to effect of “India should spend money on feeding the poor, instead of launching space rockets”. I have seen multiple comments to this effect on various blogs and forums. What these folks don’t realize is that spending money on the poor is all well and good but we need to start spending money on the Space program as well because end of the day we don’t have that much room on earth and the only place for us to go once Earth is full is out in space. There we have a lot more resources, enough space to expand and figure out new technologies that will make it easier/cheaper to feed the folks on earth.

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

– Suramya

Links:

1. India vs America: Earthling invaders in race to MARS
2. India’s MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
3. ISRO Website

July 19, 2014

Would you read an entire book in Emoji?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:27 PM

A little while ago the Unicode Consortium announced [1] that it has approximately 250 emoji to the standard for written computer text. I read this article and promptly forgot about it, since I rarely use emoticons other than smileys. A few days later I was searching for something on the net (I forget what) and I found this article about a complete translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick in to emoji. At first I thought it was a joke and clicked on the link just for the heck of it. Then I realized that this is an actual book that you can buy in hardcover for $200 each. Apparently it sells enough to net the ‘author’ (actually creator) about 200-300 dollars each month.

Emoji Dick is a crowd sourced and crowd funded translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick into Japanese emoticons called emoji.

Each of the book’s approximately 10,000 sentences has been translated three times by a Amazon Mechanical Turk worker. These results have been voted upon by another set of workers, and the most popular version of each sentence has been selected for inclusion in this book.

Personally I would prefer to read the actual book but then again I have been known to read quite a lot. What scares me is that this is actually making money for this guy and I just hope others are not inspired to create more books like this because if that happens then soon we will have libraries filled just with books that contain only emoji. Not sure I would want to live in a world filled with folks that dumb.

What do you think? Would you read a book in Emoji?

Source: Emoji Dick

– Suramya

[1] More Than 250 New Emoji To Be Released

April 20, 2014

Facebook Stat generation followup

Filed under: Computer Tips,Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 2:16 AM

In my previous post I had talked about some of the stats I pulled from Facebook about it’s usage by my friends. This was an ad-hoc number crunching done just because I was bored and got curious. After the post went live a friend of mine, Ankush asked for more details on how I generated the numbers so in this post I am going to go over my process and how I got the numbers I shared.

Before we start, keep in mind that this is all data that is publicly available on FB, or at least shared with me. If you don’t want others to generate data about your activity on FB, you should change your privacy settings on FB and restrict access. Please don’t try to use this information to try to get access to data you are not supposed to. You will get in trouble and I will not take responsibility for it. Now that all that is out of the way, lets get to the details of the process.

The first thing you need is to have the Facebook Command Line client installed. Instructions on how to install are here so I am not going to repost them here. Make sure you authenticate the install and follow the steps in ‘Obtain Additional Authorization’ section of the installation guide otherwise the rest of the guide won’t be of much use to you.

Once you have FBCMD installed and configured, you can start playing with the options. Check out fbcmd Commands for the list of available options. You can also run the script with –help for the same.

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php --help

Since I was interested in the photos uploaded the first command I ran was:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php OPICS =all FB_Pics

This command gets all the photos uploaded by folks in my friend list and downloaded them to the FB_Pics folder. As I mentioned in the previous post, this downloaded over 58k photos to my system. So be careful when you run it. You can also restrict it to a particular user by passing their name as a parameter.

To get the wall post count’s of all my friends, I ran the following command:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php FINFO wall_count =all

This gave me a output similar to the following:


NAME WALL_COUNT
Suramya Tomar 247
ABC 1405

I took this output, put it in an Excel file and did some analysis on it to get the max post count, least post count, Total count and top 10 user post counts. I could have done this using shell commands as well, but since this was a one time task I didn’t see the point. Maybe in the future I could set up a job that would do this periodically and do trending on the data but lets see. I don’t see much use for this data except for the coolness factor and to satisfy my curiosity.

Getting the birthday count was as easy as running the following command:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php FINFO birthday_date =all |wc -l

This returned the number of folks who had shared their birthday’s on FB and then I got the current location count using the following command:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php FINFO current_location =all |wc -l

So there you have it. This is how I generated the numbers I had posted earlier. As you can see there is nothing too complicated about it, so if you want you can generate similar stats for your friends as well.

Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer.

Well this is all for now. I should go and get some sleep now.

– Suramya

April 19, 2014

Some stats & numbers from my friends on Facebook

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:54 AM

A few days ago I was trying to get a download of all the photos/events I was a part of from Facebook just so that I have a local copy of them. After looking around a bit I got the bright idea of using the Facebook Commandline interface that I was already using to sync the blog to the site. Instead of running it for only photos I was tagged in, I thought it would be easier if I ran it for all photos my friends had uploaded and then remove the ones where I am not there and events I wasn’t part of. I kicked it off at night before I went to sleep expecting it to have completed by the time I got up. The download ran for almost 36 hours and downloaded over 58,000 photos.

Keep in mind that these are all photos that I have access to on Facebook i.e. I can view the pic by clicking on the photogallery of the person that uploaded the photo. There might be more pics posted by these folks that I don’t have access to which are not accounted in this total.

The time it took to download it all wasn’t the most surprising part, that was for the number of photographs I downloaded. I have ~250 friends on Facebook and between all of them they have uploaded over 58k photos. Yes you read that correctly over 58,000 photos totaling about 4GB in size. Looking at the number of photos I just deleted all of them as I don’t have the time or energy to go through all of them searching for photos of me. I will at a later time kick off another download which will be restricted to only photos where I am tagged.

Once I got these numbers I got curious to see what other numbers I could get while looking at my friend circle. So I tried getting the number of wall posts that were made by friends. For some reason I only got results for 206 friends when I ran this query, which could be because of many reasons, most likely of which would be that these folks have blocked the access for the program to look that their post count, or they haven’t made any posts (which is highly unlikely). These 206 friends made a total of 89182 posts to Facebook with the highest no of posts being 3047 and the lowest being 4 with an average of 432.9. My post count is 207 in case you are wondering. 164 friends publicly shared their birthdays on FB and 187 of them posted their current location. (Not sure how accurate that is, but I did get GPS coordinates with the results…)

I am sure there is a lot more data I can pull out from FB, if I felt like it. But this is about as far as my desire to collect this data goes. I knew people posted a lot on FB but these numbers are way over what I thought the count would be…

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

– Suramya

March 26, 2014

Using E coli to build futuristic materials

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:44 AM

Back in 2000 I had written an article for NJIT’s college newspaper ‘The Vector’ about how boffins at the University of Texas were using viruses to create semi-conductor chips. This weekend I was going through my files and I found a scanned copy of the article that I had been meaning to transcribe and post on the site but never got around doing, Then today I had a story about MIT researchers using Bacteria to assemble furniture pop-up in my feeds so I had to write a post about it. :)

Specifically, the MIT researchers were able to put bacteria to work producing conducting biofilms, some of which were studded with quantum dots, and arranging gold nanowires. This paves the way for the development of mass manufactured cell-based material factories, and even “living materials” that have some of the desirable properties of bones or trees, Lu confirmed.

They were able to do this by using E. coli, which naturally creates biofilms containing amyloid fibril proteins which, somewhat like the hooks in Velcro, help it attach to surfaces. The hooks on this gloopy velcro are made from a repeating chain of protein units called CsgA, which can be modified by adding peptides, which can be used to let parts of the film capture specific materials, like gold nanoparticles.

Basically the researches were able to make the bacteria grow in a particular design using a genetically engineered strain of CsgA, opening the way for future generations to be able to create bio-engineered equipment on demand. One of the things that is a bit scary is that they are using live bacteria for this experiment so they would have to be absolutely sure that they don’t mutate and cause a potential outbreak down the line.

I don’t know if this research is going to go anywhere or will it become another curiosity like the story on chip manufacture in 2000’s that never really went anywhere after the initial story. I did a cursory search today on that story but didn’t find any follow up articles or papers on it. Guess not every initial success is followed up by later successes and commercial successes.

Thanks to Slashdot and The Register for the original links.

– Suramya

July 24, 2013

My RaspberryPi Camera module finally arrived and it works great!

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 2:06 AM

After months of waiting (about 2 to be exact) my RaspberryPi Camera module finally arrived today and I took it for a brief spin. Setting it up was really easy, I just installed the Rasbian image I have, updated the install to the latest version and then enabled the camera. Once that was done and I rebooted the Pi, the camera started working without any issues. The instructions I followed are at: RaspberryPi Camera.

As part of the test I got the pi to transmit the images to my desktop and the clarity was pretty good, there was a slight lag in the display of about 1/2 a second but at 1080p I don’t think I can complain. Below are some pics I took of the setup and of the image being streamed to my desktop.


The Camera module next to my keyboard for a size comparison


Photo of my hand being streamed live to my desktop from the Pi.

I do plan to take pics using the camera module itself, but there is nothing interesting on my desk that I wanted to take photos of so you will have to wait for a day or two and I will take pics of the view from my window and post.

Well this is all for now, I should go get some sleep now considering I have an early start tomorrow.

– Suramya

July 21, 2013

Great Insults from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Filed under: Books Related,Humor,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:45 PM

Are you tired of using the same old insults for people who annoy you? Are you tired of using the same insults as everyone else? I know I am, but worry not, the great’s of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels have your back with some really cool insults that you can use without actually abusing. Folks at io9 spent some time to generate a list of 20 best insults and it has some gems. Below are some examples that I especially liked:

3) Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

“If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

5) Mort by Terry Pratchett

“‘It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,’ he said. ‘Have you thought of going into teaching?'”
6) Redwall by Brian Jacques

“To describe the young haremaid’s singing voice as akin to a frog trapped beneath a hot stone would have been a great insult to both frog and stone.”

Check out the whole list at 20 Great Insults from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Maybe I should start using these more often. :)

– Suramya

July 17, 2013

Mosquitoes do bite some folks more than others

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

At times I have felt that mosquitoes have some sort of vendetta against me as if there is even one mosquito in the room, I am the first one to get bitten. Then not to be satisfied with biting me once, that mosquito will go and invite all it’s friends for a feast. Now it turns out there was research done that proves that some folks are more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

Mosquitoes prefer blood type O

In their quest for a meal, mosquitoes are nearly twice as likely to land on people with type 0 blood than those with type A, according to a Japanese study. Indeed, the biting pests consider type 0 more delectable than any other blood type, the researchers reported. Most people secrete substances that allow mosquitoes to identify blood type before they bite.

According to the research they prefer folks with blood type O, beer drinkers (so I should start hanging around more folks that drink beer) and people who wear dark clothes (which might be another reason they like me so much). Another way for me to avoid getting bitten is to hang round pregnant women, as apparently they are more ‘tasty’ for bugs.

Source: Why are some people mosquito magnets?

– Suramya

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