Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

January 2, 2020

Thoughts around Doctor Who: Spyfall Part 1

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:51 PM

Watched the new episode of Doctor Who and I absolutely love Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, she is a much more accurate representation of the character than Peter Capaldi who is a great actor but didn’t do the character justice in my opinion. Plus the storylines for Jodie’s Doctor have been a lot more interesting and fun than the previous season. I know a lot of ‘fans’ are against this iteration of the Doctor because it doesn’t fit their stereotypes, prejudice or whatever but that’s their problem. I love this iteration. However that being said I have mixed feelings about this episode.

The remainder of the post contains spoilers!!!

For the first 20-30 mins of the episode my reaction was mostly ‘meh’, they ripped off as much of James Bond as they could without getting into legal issues. This includes having ‘C’ as the head of MI6 and lots and lots of gadgets which were used for moving the plot along and showing off the spy skills of the group. In this episode the Doctor and team use the gadgets given to them a lot more often than the Tardis and the Sonic for some reason and that combined with a threat that didn’t really sound interesting made for a boring start of the episode.

Last Warning, Big Spoilers ahead!!!

Then suddenly things became a lot more interesting towards the end of the episode. That last min twist, yes that one was mindblowing. I didn’t expect that at all and I can’t wait to see how they will take this forward. Finding out that the Master was behind all their troubles was a shock. Plus this iteration of the Master appears to be a lot more interesting than Missy. She was a very poor villain and I found her to be more annoying for the most part than dangerous. This version seems to be a mix of the Master as played by John Simm and Roger Delgado which is fantastic. Lets see how they take it forward but so far it looks good.

The companions for this Doctor are mostly ok, no major feelings for any of them either for or against.

Lets see what happens next when the remainder of the story this Sunday. Though I will be traveling at that time so I will probably have to wait till Monday to watch it.

– Suramya

October 31, 2019

You can’t have ‘b’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘r’, and ‘t in your password if you are using macOS 10.15.1 aka Catalina

Filed under: Funny News,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 12:50 PM

Users of Twitter App on macOS 10.15.1 aka Catalina just found out that they couldn’t log in to their account if their password contained any of the following characters: ‘b’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘r’. When I first read the news I thought it was a joke but then realized that its an actual issue in the latest version of the MacOS. The problem is showing up on the Twitter app but other programs might be effected as well.

According to Twitter in-house developer Nolan O’Brien, these particular keypresses are gobbled up by a regression associated with the operating system’s shortcut support. Normally, users can press those aforementioned keys as shortcuts within the app to perform specific actions, such as ‘t’ to open a box to compose a new tweet.

Something changed within macOS to capture those shortcut keys, rather than pass them to the password field in the user interface as expected. So, in other words, when you press a shortcut key in Twitter when entering an account password, the keypress is ignored in that context rather than handled as a legit password keypress.

This reminded me of the weird and basic bugs that showed up in older versions of Windows. Apple really needs to work on their quality control if they want to stay in the game.

Source: The Register: You’e yping i wong: macOS Catalina stops Twitter desktop app from accepting B, L, M, R, and T in passwords

– Suramya

October 17, 2019

Japanese Pop-star stalked using reflection in her eye – Highlighting dangers of digital debris in our digital artifacts

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:26 PM

Over the years we have all learnt that sharing personal information like address, phone no’s, location etc with strangers over the internet is a bad idea. However with Social media this line is getting pretty blurred and people post all sorts of personal data online without any thoughts on how it might impact them. In addition to people personally posting information the various data items that we post online have digital information embedded in them in form of meta-data that tells information that you might not want to be public. For example, all modern phones embed location information in any photo taken unless the user explicitly opts out (which is rarely done). Looking at one of the pics taken with my phone during a trip you can see that it has the following information (There’s a lot more info, but this just shows some of the more interesting parts):

Looking at the data you can see that I was at Kovalam beach on 7th Oct and if I had something to hide about where I was during this time then this image would give information that I might not want known. A few years ago there was a case where a model posted a cropped version of a photo on her blog without realizing that a thumbnail of the original uncropped version was embedded in the cropped pic and one of the visitors to her blog managed to recover the thumbnail and view the original image which happened to show the lady in the nude. There are now software available to strip this and other information from any photos you share. I suggest you check them out if you post images frequently.

In addition to the information embedded in the file you also need to be aware of what is visible in the picture itself. Earlier this week a Japanese stalker was arrested after he stalked and assaulted a 21-year-old “Japanese idol” at her home. The guy zoomed into a high-resolution selfie posted by the singer to view the train station reflected in her eye. After he found the image he used Google Street view to identify the station and then used the angle of the sun and other data points to narrow down the building and the floor the star was staying at. The guy identified himself as a ‘fan’ whereas a more accurate description would be a creep or stalker.

As the resolutions of photos go up so do the dangers of sharing these images, for example if you have a high-resolution photo with your keys in the image, it is now possible to create duplicate keys using the image. There is work ongoing to use the fingerprints shown on an image to generate high quality 3D prints replicating the fingerprints and in a test the printed finger was able to unlock a Galaxy S10 using the finger print scanner. In fact Tokyo Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper has gone so far as to tell people that they shouldn’t make the V-sign with their hand, which Japanese often do in photos, because fingerprints could be stolen. (What a world we live in, right?)

So you need to be very careful about what you post online. Stay safe everyone 🙂

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

– Suramya

October 16, 2019

Netflix greenlights animated series ‘Ghee Happy’ starring Hindu deities as Children

Filed under: My Thoughts,Uncategorized — Suramya @ 12:10 PM

Very happy to hear about this new NetFlix animated series Ghee Happy that has just been approved for development. It is a cartoon that will follow Hindu deities as children discovering their powers in a deity daycare. The series has not started production yet and it will be a few years before its launched but its a positive step.

Indian mythology is so rich and diverse and most kids nowadays have no idea about it. Talk to a kid and they will be able to name multiple gods from the Greek pantheon but ask them to do the same from the Hindu pantheon you will get 2-3 names at a max. This is because the Greek gods have been part of so many stories and adaptations over the years that are not 100% accurate but keep the basic story the same. Till very recently there were hardly any novels/stories about any of the Hindu gods or even about the Indian epics. This was because people were scared to offend others who would take offense about any deviation from the standard telling of the tales. Even with this I won’t be surprised if some idiot files a court case against the cartoon once its launched because they are offended.

I think we should allow such adaptations provided they are in good taste and not deliberately offensive. I would love to see similar series about the Christianity and Islam but don’t think that would happen in the near future. Although I do know there is a comic series where Jesus is a primary character and was in a lot of trouble because of it.

Source: Netflix greenlights Pixar veteran’s animated series ‘Ghee Happy’

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

– Suramya

October 15, 2019

Theoretical paper speculates breaking 2048-bit RSA in eight hours using a Quantum Computer with 20 million Qubits

Filed under: Computer Security,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:05 PM

If we manage to get a fully functional Quantum Computer with about 20 million Qubits in the near future then according to this theoretical paper we would be able to factor 2048-bit RSA moduli in approximately eight hours. The paper is quite interesting, although the math in did give me a headache. However this is all still purely theoretical as we only have 50-60 qBit computers right now and are a long way away from general purpose Quantum computers. That being said I anticipate that we would be seeing this technology being available in our lifetime.

We significantly reduce the cost of factoring integers and computing discrete logarithms over finite fields on a quantum computer by combining techniques from Griffiths-Niu 1996, Zalka 2006, Fowler 2012, Ekerå-Håstad 2017, Ekerå 2017, Ekerå 2018, Gidney-Fowler 2019, Gidney 2019. We estimate the approximate cost of our construction using plausible physical assumptions for large-scale superconducting qubit platforms: a planar grid of qubits with nearest-neighbor connectivity, a characteristic physical gate error rate of 10−3, a surface code cycle time of 1 microsecond, and a reaction time of 10 micro-seconds. We account for factors that are normally ignored such as noise, the need to make repeated attempts, and the spacetime layout of the computation. When factoring 2048 bit RSA integers, our construction’s spacetime volume is a hundredfold less than comparable estimates from earlier works (Fowler et al. 2012, Gheorghiu et al. 2019). In the abstract circuit model (which ignores overheads from distillation, routing, and error correction) our construction uses 3n+0.002nlgn logical qubits, 0.3n3+0.0005n3lgn Toffolis, and 500n2+n2lgn measurement depth to factor n-bit RSA integers. We quantify the cryptographic implications of our work, both for RSA and for schemes based on the DLP in finite fields.

Bruce Schneier talks about how Quantum computing will affect cryptography in his essay Cryptography after the Aliens Land. In summary “Our work on quantum-resistant algorithms is outpacing our work on quantum computers, so we’ll be fine in the short run. But future theoretical work on quantum computing could easily change what “quantum resistant” means, so it’s possible that public-key cryptography will simply not be possible in the long run.”

Well this is all for now will post more later

– Suramya

October 8, 2019

The hated font Comics Sans is actually very useful and life changing for people with Dyslexia

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 6:18 PM

Comic Sans is the font everyone loves to hate. In fact there is a whole movement to ban the font which is something I didn’t know till today. I don’t really like the font but spending money and effort to ban a font just because you don’t like it seems a bit extreme.

There’s a petition to ban it from Gmail and myriad stories about how terrible it is. Even Weird Al chastises people who use Comic Sans in his music video for “Tacky.” (“Got my new résumé/it’s printed in Comic Sans.”)

A Ban Comics Sans movement began in 1999 with graphic designers Holly and David Combs. In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Holly said, “Using Comic Sans is like turning up to a black-tie event in a clown costume.” Their manifesto states, “By banding together to eradicate this font from the face of the earth we strive to ensure that future generations will be liberated from this epidemic and never suffer this scourge that is the plague of our time.” Their website sells t-shirts for anyone who wants to drop $26 to make sure their stance on this font plague is clear.

Even though the site now redirects to its still not because they think the font is ok, it’s because the font is so hated and that makes it cool to use it (Yeah, I don’t get it either but that’s what ‘cool’ people do.). I personally think that the font is kiddish and would never use it for official communications or purposes. But there is an aspect of using Comic Sans that I wasn’t aware of till earlier today and it blew my mind. Basically Comic Sans is a font that makes it easier for people with Dyslexia to read. This is because unlike other fonts which use repeated shapes to create different letters, such as a “p” rotated to made a “q,” Comic Sans has irregular/unique shapes for each letter making it easier for folks to read the text. I personally find comic Sans to be a bit hard to read for long text but that’s probably because I am used to reading text in Calibre/Arial/Times New Roman etc. But for people who have issues reading regular fonts its a lifesaver. In this way using a Kindle is a great thing as I can choose the font I am most comfortable with for reading and it doesn’t need to be a ‘good’ font.

Check out the full article for more insights: Hating Comic Sans Is Ableist

This whole article made me think about how things we take for granted can be huge issues for others and that we should try thinking about things from the other person’s view without judging.

– Suramya

October 3, 2019

Pics composed of as many pixels as there are animals still alive in that species

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:16 AM

Inspite of what certain people might think, we are at the edge of ecological disaster and species extinction and biodiversity loss is a major threat. As per a UN report published back in May Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’.

The Report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.

The problem is that the numbers are too big and the species so removed from our daily lives that most people don’t bother thinking about it. An Imgurian user JJSmooth44 decided to make a project that visually shows how scarily low the population of some of these animals is by creating Pics which are composed of as many pixels as there are animals still alive in those Species. You can check out the pics here: These Pics Are Composed Of As Many Pixels As There Are Animals Still Alive In These Species

African Wild Dog. Estimated between 3000 and 5500 remain

Amur Leopard. Estimated about 60 remain

Asian Elephant. Estimated between 40000 and 50000 remain

Some of these animals are endangered because of loss of habitat and encroachment, the others because people think parts of their body have medicinal value or its just the ‘cool’/’in’ thing to have things made from animal organs or tusks etc. The thing is that this needs to change else we will loose priceless parts of our world and once its gone we can’t bring them back.

Think about it.

– Suramya

October 2, 2019

Chinese scientists manage to grow leaves on the far side of the moon

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:03 PM

As you know there is a new space race kind of going on where a lot of countries are working towards making a habitat capable of sustaining human life on the Moon (and on Mars). One of the key things that humans need to survive is Oxygen and there is only so much filtration and chemical systems can do to produce Oxygen. There are limitations in artificial systems used to generate oxygen and the easiest way to create Oxygen is to use a system that is self sustaining and depending on the type produces edible food as well: Plants.

Till now growing plants on the Moon has been in the realm of Science Fiction but not anymore… well Technically speaking we have grown a plant but we still have a long way to go before we can plant a garden on the Moon. China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft achieved this milestone earlier when they managed to grow two cotton leaves in the 2.6 KG mini biosphere that was part of the payload on the spacecraft. The leaves lasted a lunar day (14.5 earth days) and died during the first lunar night due to the cold. The experiment continued until May though to test the longevity of the apparatus and all systems were green at that time.

Plants have been grown in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station, but this experiment marked the first time a seed had sprouted on the moon. Xie Gengxin of the advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University, who led the design of the experiment, says he and the team are now writing scientific papers based on the results.

Xie says the team initially wanted to send a species of small tortoise on the voyage. However, the mission constraints were too great. “The weight of the Chang’e-4 probe demanded that the weight [of the experiment] can’t exceed three kilograms,” Xie said. The experiment had a pressure of one atmosphere. It was integrated with the spacecraft two months ahead of launch and spent another month in space before landing. “Even though it is very meaningful to choose tortoise, the oxygen inside the payload can only be used for about 20 days for turtles,” Xie says, in explaining why the idea was dropped.

Obviously there is a lot of work still remaining before we start talking about human colonies on the Moon, but we are a small step closer with this new achievement.

Source: IEEE Spectrum: China Grew Two Cotton Leaves on the Moon

– Suramya

October 1, 2019

Celebrating 15 Years + 1000 posts

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 6:58 PM

This post is a major milestone in my blogging journey as it is the 1000th published post on the blog and its been exactly 15 years since I first started blogging on 1st Oct 2004. I was in two minds about waiting till Oct to make this post as that would mean another 2-3 week gap in the blog but then after talking with Jani I decided to wait as its better to make a combined post about the milestones than two separate posts about similar topics. When I started Blogging it was in the golden age of Blogging where pretty much everyone had a blog, in-fact there was actually a blog that was supposedly posted by a dog and each post was basically ‘woof woof’ repeated a few hundred times.

Initially I was a bit hesitant to start a blog as I had a website that I updated regularly so didn’t really see the use of a blog but then Surabhi created a sandwich that I had to share it with others and my post on one of the most bizarre sandwiches I have seen anyone eat: A Peanut butter + Marshmallow + chocolate syrup + Banana sandwich started my blogging journey. Initially I had a goal of making a blog post everyday and for a long time I did manage to keep that schedule but as I started working and things changed this schedule was harder to keep and there have been months when I didn’t post anything and there have been days when I posted multiple times.

Its been an interesting journey so far and now Blogging is something only very few diehard users do as most people have stopped blogging and instead post on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc. I still prefer to use a self hosted service as over here I have complete control over my setup. I decide what to post and what comment to allow, its not on a third party system that might just decide to shutdown or remove my posts or maybe just loose some of it (Refer to the lost music from MySpace). I do post the link to the postings on social media usually using an automated service or hacked together scripts but the main text/post is on a system that I control.

Self hosting was a major criteria for selecting the blogging software I was going to use and the first iteration of the blog was running on Serendipity which is a PHP-powered weblog engine. Initially I was quite happy with the software but then it turned out to be too resource intensive for my barebones VPS setup that was hosting at the time and required constant hand holding so in June 2005 I migrated to WordPress and have been a happy user of WP since then. If I remember correctly the migration was done by a collection of scripts that I downloaded and then customized.

Over the years, I have posted about a very random set of topics and to no ones surprise I mostly posted about My Life, Thoughts and Techie stuff. The full breakdown of posts by category is as follows (Please note that a post can be tagged to multiple categories):

Category Post Count
My Life 339
My Thoughts 257
Techie Stuff 129
Interesting Sites 122
News/Articles 108
Website Updates 78
Computer Security 71
Linux/Unix Related 67
Humor 67
Computer Software 62
Knowledgebase 54
Tutorials 44
Funny News 37
Computer Related 36
Security Tutorials 29
Computer Tips 27
Books Related 25
Security Tools 20
Computer Hardware 18
Software Releases 16
Travel/Trips 14
Article Releases 7
Uncategorized 3

It took me 15 years to reach 1000 posts, but my goal is to reach the next 1000 posts a lot faster and now thanks to Jani constantly motivating (read as nagging 🙂 ) me to post regularly I think that I will be making posts more frequently on the blog. One major item in the To Do list for the blog is to install a skin/theme that is mobile friendly. A large population of users is accessing the blog via mobile and the current setup is not the most mobile friendly version as I had selected it when web browsing on mobile was rare and mostly text based.

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

– Suramya

September 13, 2019

Apparently knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work to no one’s surprise

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:58 PM

Let me start this by saying Eww Gross. I have no idea why someone would decide to make a knife out of their own shit but apparently that’s a popular trope in literature. The story goes something like this:

“There is a well known account of an old Inuit man who refused to move into a settlement. Over the objections of his family, he made plans to stay on the ice. To stop him, they took away all of his tools. So in the midst of a winter gale, he stepped out of their igloo, defecated, and honed the feces into a frozen blade, which he sharpened with a spray of saliva. With the knife he killed a dog. Using its rib cage as a sled and its hide to harness another dog, he disappeared into the darkness.”

So a whole bunch of researchers decided to test this story out and basically spent a lot of time freezing crap and then trying to cut things with it. I am really happy that I work with software and if/when I meet any of the scientists in this study I don’t think I will be shaking hands with them 😉 (Yeah, yeah… I know that they don’t touch the stuff with their bare hands but still). Though it is apparently possible though to use frozen feces as a chisel though as shown by the memoir of Peter Freuchen, the Danish arctic explorer. When he was trapped in snow in a pit and unable to get out he used his frozen excrement to make a chisel and get out:

Freuchen (1953) describes how he dug himself a pit to sleep in and woke up trapped by snow. Every effort to get out that he tried failed. Finally, he recalled seeing dog’s excrement frozen solid as a rock. So, Freuchen defecated in his hand, shaped it into a chisel, and waited for it to freeze solid. He then used the implement to free himself from the snow: “I moved my bowels and from the excrement I managed to fashion a chisel-like instrument which I left to freeze… At last I decided to try my chisel and it worked” .

While living off the land with no tools is good and all I would recommend that you try some other ways of making a knife if you actually want to survive instead of freezing your excrement.

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

Source: Science Direct: Experimental replication shows knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work

– Suramya

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