Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

February 13, 2018

Explaining HTTPS using carrier pigeons

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Security Tutorials,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 7:07 PM

HTTPS is something that a lot of people find hard to explain without going into a lot of technical jargon which frankly just confuses most people and causes them to zone out. However it is an essential service/protocol so understanding it is a good idea. To address this issue Andrea Zanin who is a student created the following primer that explains how HTTPS works using carrier pigeons as the messengers.

Below is an explanation on how HTTP would work with carrier pigeons:

If Alice wants to send a message to Bob, she attaches the message on the carrier pigeon’s leg and sends it to Bob. Bob receives the message, reads it and it’s all is good.

But what if Mallory intercepted Alice’s pigeon in flight and changed the message? Bob would have no way of knowing that the message that was sent by Alice was modified in transit.

This is how HTTP works. Pretty scary right? I wouldn’t send my bank credentials over HTTP and neither should you.

Check out the link for the full writeup.

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

– Suramya

December 14, 2017

My primary desktop is dead

Filed under: Computer Hardware,My Life,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 12:00 AM

The fan on my computer was giving me some problem (it sounded like an aircraft taking off) so I thought I’ll replace it with a new one. The new fan/heatsink arrived earlier this week and today I finally had the time to try installing it.

First I had to remove the old fan and heat sink so I looked at the video online on how to remove the fan and followed the instructions exactly. But unfortunately the Glue used to stick the CPU to the heat sink was a little too strong and while I was trying to remove the heat sink I managed to get the top half the CPU separated from the bottom half. So now my computer is a very expensive paper weight still I get a new CPU. 

Looking online I found that the AM3+ socket that my motherboard uses has been phased out and even though there are processors that will work with it for the same cost or slightly cheaper I can get a new more powerful CPU and motherboard. So obviously I am going for the latter option.

I have selected a new board and CPU on Amazon but didn’t order it yet because I want to check the cost at some of the local shops before I order. Plus the Amazon order will take a couple of days to get here and I want to avoid the delay.

Its not that I don’t have a machine right now as I have two laptops but the desktop was my primary machine configured to be exactly the way I like it and it’s annoying to have to use a laptop which is not configured exactly the same as the desktop. 

I am dictating this blog post on my phone using the Google voice type and it’s about 99% accurate which is pretty cool. I still can’t figure out how to put punctuation during the dictation but other than that it works perfectly.

Well this is all for now will write more later hopefully on my new desktop.

– Suramya

December 5, 2017

Dominos Pizza online has stronger password requirements than Citibank India Online

Filed under: Computer Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

Today I decided to change my IPIN (Internet Pin) on Citibank as I haven’t changed it in a while and its a good idea to change it on a regular basis. So I logged in to my account and clicked on the password reset link and I got the following text:

The first item there is fairly standard but what really surprised me were items # 3,4 & 6. What do you mean I can’t have any special characters in my password? Why can’t I have a password longer than 16 Characters when the NIST password guidelines recommend that you allow a password of up to 64 char’s in length.

In contrast The Dominos Pizza’s Online portal has stronger security and requires you to have Upper case, Lower Case, Numeric Char and a Special Character in the password. Making it a lot more secure and harder to crack than the Citibank password.

This is not all. The best part is yet to come. I use a password manager and my generated password was 22 characters long this time, so I pasted it into the form and the system accepted the password change. Now since I am a paranoid person I decided to check if the password changed successfully by logging in with the new password. Imagine my surprise when an error message popped up on screen when I tried to log in telling me that my password can’t be longer than 16 chars. I was confused since the password change form took my 22 char password without trouble, so I tried logging in with the old password and that obviously didn’t work. Finally I tried removing the extra 6 characters from my password and was able to log in.

Basically the stupid system truncated my password to 16 and then saved it instead of warning me that my password was too long when I was changing the password which would have been the logical thing to do.

Citibank needs to update its system to follow the NIST rules and start allowing people to choose more secure passwords.

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

– Suramya

September 27, 2016

How to install Tomato Firmware on Asus RT-N53 Router

Filed under: Computer Software,Knowledgebase,Techie Stuff,Tutorials — Suramya @ 11:43 PM

I know I am supposed to blog about the all the trips I took but wanted to get this down before I forget what I did to get the install working. I will post about the trips soon. I promise 🙂

Installing an alternate firmware on my router is something I have been meaning to do for a few years now but never really had the incentive to investigate in detail as the default firmware worked fine for the most part and I didn’t really miss any of the special features I would have gotten with the new firmware.

Yesterday my router decided to start acting funny, basically every time I started transferring large files from my phone to the desktop via sFTP over wifi the entire router would crash after about a min or so. This is something that hasn’t happened before and I have transferred gigs of data so I was stumped. Luckily I had a spare router lying around thanks to dad who forced me to carry it to Bangalore during my last visit. So I swapped the old router with the new one and got my work done. This gave me an opportunity as I had a spare router sitting on my desk and some time to kill so I decided to install a custom firmware on it to play with it.

I was initially planning on installing dd-wrt on it but their site was refusing to let me download the file for the RT-N53 model even though the wiki said that I should be able to install it. A quick web search suggested that folks have had a good experience with the Tomato by Shibby firmware so I downloaded and installed it by following these steps:

Download the firmware file

First we need to download the firmware file from the Tomato Download site.

  • Visit the Tomato download Section
  • Click on the latest Build folder. (I used build5x-138-MultiWAN)
  • Click on ‘Asus RT-Nxx’ folder
  • Download the ‘MAX’ zip file as that has all the functionality. (I used the file.)
  • Save the file locally
  • Extract the ZIP file. The file we are interested in is under the ‘image’ folder with a .trx extension

Restart the Router in Maintenance mode

  • Turn off power to router
  • Turn the power back on while holding down the reset button
  • Keep holding reset until the power light starts flashing which will mean router is in recovery mode

Set a Static IP on the Ethernet adapter of your computer

For some reason, you need to set the IP address of the computer you are using to a static IP of with subnet and gateway If you skip this step then the firmware upload fails with an integrity check error.

Upload the new firmware

  • Connect the router to a computer using a LAN cable
  • Visit
  • Login as admin/admin
  • Click Advanced Setting from the navigation menu at the left side of your screen.
  • Under the Administration menu, click Firmware Upgrade.
  • In the New Firmware File field, click Browse to locate the new firmware file that you downloaded in the previous step
  • Click Upload. The uploading process takes about 5 minutes.
  • Then unplug the router, wait 30 seconds.
  • Hold down the WPS button while plugging it back in.
  • Wait 30 seconds and release the WPS button.

Now you should be using the new firmware.

  • Browse to
  • Login as admin/password (if that doesn’t work try admin/admin)
  • Click on the ‘reset nvram to defaults’ link in the page that comes up. (I had to do this before the system started working but apparently its not always required.)

Configure your new firmware

That’s it, you have a router with a working Tomato install. Go ahead and configure it as per your requirements. All functionality seems to be working for me except the 5GHz network which seems to have disappeared. I will play around with the settings a bit more to see if I can get it to work but as I hardly ever connected to the 5GHz network its not a big deal for me.


The following sites and posts helped me complete the install successfully. Without them I would have spent way longer getting things to work:

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

– Suramya

August 18, 2015

Dumping plastic balls in water can at times actually be beneficial

Filed under: Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 9:10 PM

When I first read about this my reaction could be summed up with the follow phrase “say what now?”, but then I read the science behind it and it kind of makes sense after a bit of thought. Basically California is suffering from a severe drought and LA’s city reservoir was loosing about 300 million gallons of water every year due to evaporation. So they came up with this novel idea of dumping 96 million hollow balls into the 175 acre man made lake. These so called ‘shade balls’ Shade balls deflect the Sun’s rays keeping more of the water in liquid form. They also help protect the quality of water by preventing formation of bromate which is created when bromide (which occurs naturally) mixes with sunlight and chlorine (from disinfectants).

LADWP is the first utility company to use this technology for water quality protection. Today’s deployment marked the final phase of an effort that involves the deployment of 96 million shade balls to the 175-acre reservoir — the largest in-basin facility of its kind owned and managed by LADWP. The small, black plastic balls protect water quality by preventing sunlight-triggered chemical reactions, deterring birds and other wildlife, and protecting water from rain and wind-blown dust.

A cost-effective investment that brings the L.A. Reservoir into compliance with new federal water quality mandates, the shade balls are expected to save $250 million when compared to other comparable tools considered to meet that goal. Those alternatives included splitting the reservoir into two with a bisecting dam; and installing two floating covers that would have cost more than $300 million. In addition, the shade balls will also prevent the annual loss to evaporation of about 300 million gallons of water.

It’s good to see folks thinking outside the box to help save water and our environment.

– Suramya

Source: Science Alert

May 6, 2015

How to Root a second generation Moto x running Lollipop

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Techie Stuff,Tutorials — Suramya @ 11:22 PM

I got my new phone today and as usual the first thing I did was root it before I started copying data over so that I don’t loose data when I unlock the boot loader. The process required a bit of work mainly because I was following instructions for KitKat while my phone was running Lollipop. That caused the phone to go into this funky state where the Play Store API’s went MIA and the entire thing stopped working to the point that I had to do a hard reset to get back to a stable state.

BTW, before you continue please note that this will delete all data on the phone so you need to ensure that you have a proper backup before proceeding. Without further ado, here are the steps I followed to get things to work using my Linux (Debian) desktop:

Unlock the Bootloder

The first thing you have to do is unlock the Boot loader on the phone:

  • Install the Android SDK by issuing the following command:
    apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot
  • Run the following command:
    fastboot oem get_unlock_data
  • Take the string returned, which would look something like this:
    (bootloader) 0A40040192024205#4C4D3556313230
    (bootloader) 30373731363031303332323239#BD00
    (bootloader) 8A672BA4746C2CE02328A2AC0C39F95
    (bootloader) 1A3E5#1F53280002000000000000000
    (bootloader) 0000000

    and concatenate the 5 lines of output into one continuous string without (bootloader) or ‘INFO’ or white spaces. Your string needs to look like this:

  • Visit the Motorola Website.
  • Paste the string you got in the previous step on the site, and then click on the ‘Can my Device be Unlocked?’ button and if your device is unlockable, a “REQUEST UNLOCK KEY” button will now appear at the bottom of the page.
  • Click on the “REQUEST UNLOCK KEY” Button.
  • You will now receive a mail with the unlock key at your registered email address
  • Start your device in fastboot mode by pushing and holding the power and volume down at the same time. Then release the power button followed by the volume down button. The device will now power up in fastboot mode.
  • Run the following command to unlock the bootloader:
    fastboot oem unlock 
  • If the code was correct then you will see a message confirming that your device was unlocked and the phone will reboot.

Enable Developer Options/USB Debugging

In order to proceed further we need to enable USB Debugging and in order to do that we need to enable Developer Options following these steps:

  • Pull down the notification drawer and tap on ‘Settings’
  • Scroll down to ‘About Phone’
  • Now scroll down to ‘Build Number’
  • Tap on ‘Build Number’ 7 times.
  • It’ll now say that you are a developer. Now press back, You should now see Developer Options above About Phone.

  • Click on ‘Developer Options’
  • Check the box next to ‘USB debugging’ and save

Root the Phone

First we need to download the correct image file for the model of your phone. I had to look up my model on Wikipedia because for some reason my phone decided not to share that information with me. Use the appropriate link for your model in the list below. I have a XT1092 but the XT1097 image worked fine for me.

After downloading the file, extract it. Run the following command:

adb reboot bootloader

This will restart the phone in the fastboot mode. Then boot using the image you downloaded in the previous step using this command:

fastboot boot /path/to/image/file/CF-Auto-Root-victara-victararetbr-xt1097.img

Once you run the command the Device will boot up, install su and quickly reboot (this is automatic, no user intervention is required). After the phone starts up, you need to install Chainfire’s SuperSU from the Play Store.

After that you are done and your phone is rooted. You can verify the same by installing a ‘Root Verifier’ application from the store.
Well this is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

April 26, 2015

How to create Electric Ink for projects

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Knowledgebase,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 9:48 AM

At times using wires in a project might not be the most practical option because of space/weight limitations. If that is the case then you should take a look at Electric Ink for creating cheap circuits. In fact you can make your own Electric Ink using a process which is quite simple. The good folks at the Popular Science site have provided us with an instruction guide that I am reproducing here so that I don’t loose the instructions in case PopSci decides to reorg their site:


  • Powdered graphite
  • White vinegar
  • Syringe
  • Elmer’s clear glue (I think any clear glue should work)


  • To make the ink, put powdered graphite in a cup, cover with vinegar, and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Once the graphite settles on the bottom of the cup, remove the clear liquid on top with a syringe.
  • Stir in about a teaspoon of glue to keep the graphite suspended. A thick line of paint has a resistance of a few kilohms per inch.
  • Draw the circuit, wait for it to dry and then you can test it out.

I was wondering if this would work on T-Shirts, under a laminate or other such protective coating to prevent the circuit from getting washed out. Maybe I should try this out over the weekend on one of my old T-Shirts. Wonder what kinds of design’s I would be able to make before hitting issues if this works.

– Suramya

April 17, 2015

How to find information when Google can’t find it

Filed under: Computer Tips,Interesting Sites,Knowledgebase,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:36 PM

For most people if you can’t find something on Google then it’s not there on the internet. However that is not true and there are other ways to find the information you are looking for even if Google can’t find it. Now some of you might be wondering, how can something be online without Google knowing about it because don’t they index everything? Unfortunately, that is not true. According to studies there are a lot of sites out there that are not indexed by any search engine. This part of the internet is called the Deep Web. Deep web is not to be confused with Dark Net which contains sites that can’t be reached via the regular internet. Deep Web sites are accessible via the regular internet and it is a lot bigger than the visible internet. In-fact some estimates suggest that the deep web is 400 to 550 times larger than the surface web.

So how do you find something that is in the Deep web or just not indexed by Google? Well, you can always try one of the following options depending on what you are looking for.

Wolfram Alpha

For example, if you are making factual queries about data (e.g. facts, figures, etc) then you should take a look at Wolfram Alpha. Their Wikipedia page explains how the engine works:

Users submit queries and computation requests via a text field. Wolfram Alpha then computes answers and relevant visualizations from a knowledge base of curated, structured data that come from other sites. The curated data makes Alpha different from semantic search engines, which index a large number of answers and then try to match the question to one.

Using the Mathematica toolkit, Wolfram Alpha can respond to natural language questions and generate a human-readable answer.


Topsy maintains a comprehensive index of tweets and since Twitter is the best place for real-time sharing of thoughts/news then it is a good place to search for current events/trending topics. I just tried it out and it looks to be pretty effective and efficient.

Image Search

If you are trying to identify an image, or find more information about a particular Image then you can always try Google image search. However if that doesn’t return any relevant results then you should try out specialized Image search engines like Tin Eye or I use a Firefox Extension called Who Stole my Pictures that lets you search across multiple engines in one shot from your context menu. Side note: This also search on Bing but 99.99% of the time Bing doesn’t return any results no matter what you search for.

On the other hand if you are just searching for images you should try which is a image search service allowing a user to search across over 3 billion pictures (as per the site).

WebForums and Discussion boards

Another great way to find answers is to search on enthusiast forums and discussion boards. These forums have a whole community of folks who are passionate about that particular topic and would love you to point you in the right direction or walk you through figuring out the solution. Just ensure that you are asking Questions The Smart Way. allows you to search across multiple discussion boards and forums available on the net. has multiple sub sections on hundreds of topics, has subreddits that focus on thousands of topics and most of them have actual relevant information as not all of the site is dedicated to cat video’s.


IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat and is designed to facilitate group communication in discussion forums, called channels hosted on IRC servers. There are channels dedicated to pretty much any topic you can think of on some IRC server somewhere and you can get answers to questions or help with a problem in real time.

The difficult part is finding the appropriate channel to ask your question.

I have used IRC Search in the past to find channels with a good success rate. Another option is

In addition to the options listed above, you should also check out the following resources for additional information and search options/methods that you can try out when searching for data:

That pretty much covers what I wanted to talk about in this post so this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

April 15, 2015

Please defend Internet Freedom in India

Filed under: Computer Related,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:34 AM

Not content with watching the US and certain other countries screw around with net neutrality the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided to pitch in and make a mess of things (again) in India. These are the same brilliant folks who decided in 2007 that an entire IRC network ( should be blocked in India because there are a few channels on it that promoted piracy. It took a few years for the stupid ban to get lifted. Even now a bunch of URL’s are blocked but for the most part things are ok.

Unfortunately that is not going to be the case for long if the telecom lobbyist’s have their way. They want to break up the internet access to Paid and free access with the Telecom’s deciding what content should be available to a user. If a site doesn’t pay then they would either get blocked or get put on a ‘slow-lane’ where traffic to the site is artificially slowed down to give more bandwidth to paying sites. In short they want to take away net neutrality. So what exactly does net neutrality mean? In short it means:

  • All sites on the internet must be equally accessible (that means that no site’s traffic is given priority)
  • The same access speed at the telco/ISP level for each (So assuming all else is the same then all sites will be accessible at the same speed)
  • The same data cost for access to each site (per KB/MB). (No reducing of data cost to sites that pay Telecom’s money)

TRAI has released a consultation paper with 20 questions and wants you to send them an e-mail by 24th of April, 2015. Please visit Save the Internet to submit your responses to TRAI. It is as simple as going to the site, reviewing the email with the answers and then sending it out. Your 5 mins just might save the net in India.

More information on this issue is available at the following sites:

Once you have emailed your responses please help in spreading the word to others via Social Media/Email/Smoke Signals.

– Suramya

March 29, 2015

Rosetta Stone for Unix/Linux

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 9:53 PM

If you have been in the industry for a while then you have been in a situation where you need to do something on the server but have no idea what the appropriate command is because you always worked on a different variant/version of the Operating System. Think having to work on Solaris or Linux when all you have worked on is the Mac OS. To make things easier for the poor admins that have to keep switching OS’s, Bruce Hamilton has created a site he calls the ‘Rosetta Stone: A Sysadmin’s Universal Translator‘. This site has a list of tasks and the corresponding command that you would have to run for each of the OS’s. The Stone supports the following OS’s:

  • AIX
  • A/UX
  • DG/UX
  • FreeBSD
  • HP-UX
  • IRIX
  • Linux
  • Mac OS X
  • NCR Unix
  • NetBSD
  • OpenBSD
  • Reliant
  • SCO OpenServer
  • Solaris
  • SunOS 4
  • Tru64
  • Ultrix

and covers tasks in the following categories:

  • hardware
  • firmware
  • devices
  • disks
  • kernel
  • boot
  • files
  • networking
  • security
  • software
  • patching, tracing, logging

Check it out, bookmark it. It will save you some grief down the line the next time you are in this situation.

– Suramya

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