Suramya's Blog

Visit suramya.com Who am I?

April 11, 2014

France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours

Filed under: News/Articles — Suramya @ 11:58 AM

France because a very attractive place for employees yesterday when an agreement between employer organizations and labor unions in France has made it illegal for French managers to contact their employees about work-related matters outside of normal business hours. Think about it… if you were in France right now you could switch off your blackberry/email after 6pm and not worry about any work related items till next morning.

Although this is great news for workers, thinking about it from the employers perspective, it is not such a great ruling. What if a critical server went down at 7pm? Would you have to reach out to outsourced IT call centers for resolutions?

The agreement, which amends an existing pact signed in 1999, specifies that employees must have “the opportunity to disconnect from remote communication tools at their disposal” (in the words of Google’s Francophone translating robots) to ensure that they comply with strict rules on working hours.

That means French workers who receive emails or calls from coworkers or the boss at dinnertime can now safely ignore them without fear of retribution.

I bet a lot of folks are thinking about moving to France right about now…

Thanks to The Register for the story.

- 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

February 12, 2012

Google Wallet PIN cracked on Android devices

Filed under: Computer Related,Computer Security,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:53 PM

The past few days there has been a lot of press around the fact that the Google Wallet Pin was cracked on rooted android phones. Lots of people including computer programmers and technologists (who should frankly know better) have reacted to this by posting messages/comments equivalent to: “rooting is bad”, “rooting causes security holes” etc etc etc… Guess they have forgotten the simple rule of computer security: “physical access is total access”, basically it means that if I have physical access to a device I can get full access to it eventually.

This fact was demonstrated it quite nicely by the news that you don’t really need to root your phone to get your pin hacked, all you need to do is reset the application data.

The problem in both cases is caused by the fact that the Google Wallet’s pin is stored locally on the phone itself instead of online so if you can get access to it you can bruteforce it or if you clear the app data it removes the pin and lets you choose another.

One way of fixing the second issue would be to force the phone to link to the internet after the local cache is cleared to sync the pin with the online secure server instead of just letting a user choose a new one. The fix for the first case is a lot harder because you can’t have a wallet that requires the phone to be connected to the web everytime you use it, and if you store it locally then you are just asking for trouble.

Another way would be for the receiving side to validate the pin sort of line how we do it for credit cards but that doesn’t seem too feasible either. Or we could salt the pin with the user’s account info/do a dual encryption, first one requires the pin to unlock the second one requires the account password.

Now if I can come up with such solutions then I am sure the people at Google and the various banks working on this issue will come up with other more secure options. Its not the end of the world. yet. This is a new technology and like all new tech it has its teething issues and I am looking forward to the final fixed product.

- Suramya

February 10, 2012

Kodak discontinues its Camera business

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles — Suramya @ 6:33 PM

Its been expected for a while now but its finally official; Kodak is shutting down its camera business by June to focus on its current brand licensing program, and seek licensees in these categories. Its sad that the company that was once a synonym for camera’s and photos is going to shut down. :( I remember my first camera, it was a point and shoot Kodak camera that I spent loads of time and effort on to take some really cool and interesting photos with. I think I still have it at home sitting in one of the boxes of old stuff along with my Nintendo and other artifacts of my childhood. Future generations will have no idea what a kodak moment refers to and that just sucks.

From their press release:

Eastman Kodak Company (the “Company”) (OTB: EKDKQ.PK) announced today that, as a result of its ongoing strategic review process and commitment to drive sustainable profitability through its most valuable business lines, it plans to phase out its dedicated capture devices business – comprising digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames – in the first half of 2012. Kodak will instead expand its current brand licensing program, and seek licensees in these categories. Following this decision, Kodak’s Consumer Business will include online and retail-based photo printing, as well as desktop inkjet printing.

Kodak has contacted its retail partners, and is working closely with them to ensure an orderly transition. Kodak will continue to honor all related product warranties, and provide technical support and service for its cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames.

“For some time, Kodak’s strategy has been to improve margins in the capture device business by narrowing our participation in terms of product portfolio, geographies and retail outlets. Today’s announcement is the logical extension of that process, given our analysis of the industry trends,” said Pradeep Jotwani, President, Consumer Businesses, and Kodak Chief Marketing Officer.

A few months ago I remember reading about how Kodak went from being a leader in its field to a struggling company that is almost ready to shut down, can’t find the article right now but it was a really interesting read.

RIP Kodak.

Thanks to CNET for the initial story.

- Suramya

February 9, 2012

Biocomputer can retrieve images from DNA storage

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 4:06 PM

Practical bio computers took a step closer to reality thanks to work by Sivan Shoshani1, Dr. Ron Piran1, Prof. Yoav Arava2& Prof. Ehud Keinan. They have managed to create a Biomolecular computer that is capable of decoding images stored in DNA. Biocomputers are something that I find really interesting and I try to keep an eye out for any new developments in the field. Even though this doesn’t sound like a big deal, its a huge step forward because till now we could only store a very limited amount of data in Biocomputers (stuff like a couple of 0′s & 1′s) but now that we can store an image we are closer to being able to store more complex data and the best part is that since this doesn’t require an interface it can work directly with organic flesh.

A biomolecular computer made in a test tube has proved capable of decoding images stored in DNA. The computer, built by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have created a mixture of DNA molecules, enzymes, and ATP (the substance that provides energy for our own cells) that successfully decrypts information from a DNA chip, in this case the images shown above. The images were first encrypted onto the chip, and then decrypted by the computer and stained in a way that displays only particular sequences. This means that several images can be overlapped on the same chip, then recovered separately by looking for separate genetic sequences.

The boffins have published their paper in Angewandte Chemie, a German journal of chemistry. Tried to read the paper but unfortunately its behind a pay wall and I am curious about the issue but not curious enough to pay for access.

Thanks to The Verge for the initial story.

- Suramya

January 5, 2012

A new file-sharing religion Kopimism is recognized

Filed under: Humor,Interesting Sites,News/Articles — Suramya @ 9:53 PM

When I first saw this I thought it was a joke and that maybe I have had too many cold meds in too short a time period. However it looks like the newly founded religion ‘Kopimism’ is real and its central tenet; the right to file-share has been formally recognised by the Swedish government. The Church of Kopimism claims that “kopyacting” – sharing information through copying – is akin to a religious service.

This is quite interesting and funny at the same time. Most governments in the world allow religious freedom so if that same right is given to Kopimism, then the war on piracy would grind to an abrupt halt because continuing would open a large can of worms.

The Swedish government agency Kammarkollegiet finally registered the Church of Kopimism as a religious organisation shortly before Christmas, the group said.

“We had to apply three times,” said Gustav Nipe, chairman of the organisation.

The church, which holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V (shortcuts for copy and paste) as sacred symbols, does not directly promote illegal file sharing, focusing instead on the open distribution of knowledge to all.

It was founded by 19-year-old philosophy student and leader Isak Gerson. He hopes that file-sharing will now be given religious protection.

“For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament. Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore copying is central for the organisation and its members,” he said in a statement.

Before you get all offended and upset, remember we already have a church of the flying spaghetti monster.

Thanks to BBC News for the initial news. If you want to learn more visit Kopimism’s Official website.

- Suramya

December 30, 2011

Yucky Slime may be what is needed to make the next breakthrough in Biocomputing

Filed under: Computer Related — Suramya @ 11:05 PM

According to Toshiyuki Nakagaki, a professor at Future University Hakodate the lowly slime mold that most of us associate with gym showers and broke college students may be what helps us make the next major breakthrough in Biotechnology and computer algorithms.

Basically, Physarum polycephalum, or grape-cluster slime which looks like mayonnaise when looked at without a microscope has the ability to organize its cells to create the most direct root through a maze to a source of food. During experiments the research team successfully managed to get the molds to form the pattern of a railway system quite similar to the railroad networks of the Kanto region centering Tokyo. If this can be harnessed then we can use the networks in future designs of transport systems. The best part is that the networks created are resistant to unexpected stimulus so if used in real world applications that would make them resilient and fault tolerant.

He says slime molds can create much more effective networks than even the most advanced technology that currently exists.

“Computers are not so good at analysing the best routes that connect many base points because the volume of calculations becomes too large for them,” Tero explained.

“But slime molds, without calculating all the possible options, can flow over areas in an impromptu manner and gradually find the best routes.

“Slime molds that have survived for hundreds of millions of years can flexibly adjust themselves to a change of the environment,” he said. “They can even create networks that are resistant to unexpected stimulus.”

Research has shown slime molds become inactive when subjected to stress such as temperature or humidity changes. They even appear to “remember” the stresses and protectively become inactive when they might expect to experience them.

Sources: Yahoo News & Engadget

- Suramya

December 13, 2011

Sir Isaac Newton’s scanned notes are published online by Cambridge

Filed under: Interesting Sites,News/Articles — Suramya @ 5:35 PM

Following in the footsteps of The Royal Society, Cambridge University has digitized and made available online; the notebooks in which Sir Isaac Newton worked out his theories that are the basis of most of the classical science.

Included in the collection are Newton’s own copy of his 1687 masterwork, Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica, in which he described with mathematical rigor his laws of motion and gravitation. The digitized version also includes Newton’s own edits and marginalia, plus many pages of handwritten notes.
Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica handwritten notes

Also included are some early papers; a notebook Newton inherited from his stepfather known as the Waste Book, in which he wrote down some of his work on developing calculus; a pair of college notebooks; and a raft of papers on Hydrostatics, Optics, Sound and Heat.

Looks like people are finally realizing that sharing information is good. Looking forward to seeing more such items being shared. Way to go Cambridge!

You can browse the archive at the Cambridge Digital Library.

Source: BBC News

- Suramya

December 10, 2011

Thinking about changing Hosting providers. Any suggestions?

Filed under: Computer Related,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:57 PM

I have been using 1and1.com as my hosting provider for a while now (since 2005) and have been happy with the service for the most par, however after their recent pricing change the service is getting to be a bit more expensive than I am comfortable with so I am thinking about changing webhosting providers. What hosting providers do you use and would recommend? I need the following feature sets in the service:

  • PHP4/5
  • MySQL DB: Fairly large no of databases with large storage allocations
  • Full SSH Shell Access
  • Unlimited Bandwidth (Have gotten bit by this a few times)
  • Email Accounts: A fairly high no with large quota’s (I never delete mails)
  • Perl Support
  • Multiple Domains allowed
  • High availability/uptime

Thanks in advance.

- Suramya

November 5, 2011

India formally presents a proposal for government takeover of the Internet in the UN

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles — Suramya @ 2:01 AM

Not satisfied with finally getting having access to blackberry messages for ‘security’ surveillance, the Indian government has formally put a proposal that a UN body should take over the running of the whole internet in front of the UN General Assembly in New York. Basically they have asked for a new UN body called the United Nations Committee for Internet-Related Policies (CIRP) to be created which would then develop Internet policies, oversee all Internet standards bodies and policy organizations, negotiate Internet-related treaties, and act as an arbitrator in Internet-related disputes.

In theory this sounds really good but in practice its a really bad idea. The whole idea behind the internet is to have a system that is not centrally controlled so there is no one point of failure or control, now if this new body is brought into the picture they will start enforcing rules that may not make sense to the majority of people using the net but are forced to follow because they are told to by a central agency.

Keep in mind that the folks ‘administering’ the internet are the same folks who are trying to get legislation’s/treaties like ACTA and E-PARASITE passed. And don’t forget the three strikes law from France or other similar insane policies that politicians that have no clue about the internet and are still sticking to the old ways of doing things want to enact.

Do you really want these folks to have formal control of the internet? I sure don’t. If this becomes reality maybe its time for folks to start building an alternate internet without the ‘big brother’ or the politicians.

Sources:

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress