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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 8, 2014

World’s smallest 3D-printer pen allows you to create 3d art in air

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 6:10 PM

I have been meaning to blog about this for a bit now, but better late than never… Lix, a UK based company has unveiled the world’s smallest 3D-printing pen. To give you an idea of how small, it is about the size of a regular fountain pen and weighs about 40g. It is supposed to go on sale with the final production model by Sept and price is not that bad either (~$180)

Basically, Lix is a professional tool that enables you to sketch in the air without using paper.

Lix 3D pen is a dream coming true. With Lix 3D Pen you can create anything from small to big, from details to prototypes. It allows you to express your creativity on a whole new level. We are changing the world’s view on 2D as we are now giving the possibility to make your creations in 3D in an never-been-so-easy way!

I am eagerly waiting for it, not because I am an Artist (god no) but Anjali is and she could create some cool art with it. Plus it is a cool toy to have to play with. :)

Source: The Register
More details: Lix Kickstarter

– Suramya

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

March 4, 2014

MIT wants you to Peel a Pine tree branch if you need a water filter

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:12 AM

Boffins at MIT have run some tests and found out that if you peel the bark off a Pine tree branch and pour water through the stick, then it will block upto 99% of e-coli bacteria and a host of other bad stuff giving up to four liters of drinkable water per day. This makes it a lot cheaper than any current commercial water filtration implementation in the market and a lot more scalable.

Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world. ‘The most common water-borne pathogens are bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae), viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis, rotavirus), and protozoa (e.g. giardia). These pathogens cause child mortality and also contribute to malnutrition and stunted growth of children.’ People have been working on engineering cheaper and cheaper filtration systems for years, but now a group of researchers has found a promising and simple solution: a tree branch. ‘Approximately 3 cm^3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.’

Of course there are some caveats; the system can trap most types of bacteria, the smallest of which measure about 200 nanometers but currently cannot trap viruses most of which are much smaller in size. Also, the stick needs to be kept wet or the filtration is not that effective.

The researchers have published a paper in this week’s journal PLoS ONE where they go over their findings and demo this functionality. Check it out if you have some time.

I am definitely adding this to my things to know in case of an emergency list. :)

Thanks to Slashdot for the initial story.

Additional reading: Need a water filter? Peel a tree branch – MIT News Office

– 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

April 16, 2013

Adafruit launches educational show aimed at kids

Filed under: Computer Hardware,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 4:11 PM

If you are like me you love tinkering with technology and honestly speaking there is no age too early to start teaching kids about electronics and how they work. Adafruit has launched an educational show aimed at kids which is going to be a episode based series and their first episode is titled “A is for Ampere” and teaches the basic theory behind electrical current.

If you have young kids in the family, you should definitely check it out. I am going to try get Vir hooked on to it once he reaches the age where he doesn’t try to eat everything that is given to him. Don’t think Surabhi and Vinit will be happy with me if he manages to swallow a diode or a capacitor. :)

Source: Adafruit Launches educational show for Kids

– Suramya

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

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