Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

March 4, 2024

Watch Article 370, the movie if you haven’t already

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:41 PM

Watched the movie ‘Article 370‘, the movie yesterday and I loved it. Each and every Indian should watch this movie as it walks you through a slightly dramatized version of what it took to get Section 370 revoked and which the revocation was required. A lot of people don’t realize how bad the situation in Kashmir was before 370 was revoked and I am glad that the stories of the atrocities over there are now coming out with movies like Article 370 and Kashmir Files.

The acting in the movie is phenomenal and when they show the Article passing in the Rajya Sabha the entire theater burst out in cheers and clapping. Same happened during a lot of the other scenes as well. Its been a while since I have watched a movie that made you think so much and made you proud of the people who work in the shadows, on the frontlines and in the halls of power.

After the movie, me and Ronak were talking and just wondering how much more India could have been if we had Sardar Patel as our PM instead of Nehru. With him in power Pakistan would still be part of India, Kashmir would be a non-issue. We would not have lost land to China and would be taking back our rightful place as one of the leaders of the world. Instead what we are doing now is working on undoing the generational harm done to the spirit and confidence of India.

Imagine if we actually taught people about how advanced and civilized India was in the past. It wasn’t for nothing that India was known as sone ki chidya (Bird of gold/Land of the riches). Folks are taught about how the burning of the Library of Alexandria was so bad but hardly anyone talks about the burning of the Taxila and Nalanda universities. Centuries of records were burnt and all teachers and students killed so that they couldn’t share their knowledge with others.

Our books hardly talk about the achievements of Ancient India but mostly focus on Mugal and British rule. Even though the Chola dynasty ruled for more than 1,500 years, making them one of the longest-ruling families in human history, if not the longest we hardly learnt about them; instead everyone keeps talking about how long the Romans ruled even though their empire lasted only 844 years which is little more than half the time the Chola FAMILY ruled their empire. All this is because we were taught to be ashamed of being Indians by keeping us ignorant of our own history.

The history books keep teaching Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to come up with the theory that the Earth, along with the other planets, rotated around the Sun in 1543, completely ignoring the fact that the heliocentrism had first been theorized by Yajnavalkya, an Indian philosopher sometime between 9th-7th Century BCE. There are so many examples of how advanced India used to be and how far we fell because people wanted to take advantage and the best way to rule a population is to convince them that they were nothing before the benevolent rulers came and took over for our own benefit.

The interesting trend is that earlier people who knew the actual ancient Indian history tried teaching it via books, articles and seminars etc but most people found them to be very dry and ignored it. Now, we have movie makers taking the stories of the glory of ancient India along with their trials and achievements and creating an engrossing tale that everyone loves. RRR showcased to the world some of the atrocities that were done by the British. Ponniyin Selvan: I (PS: I) showcased the Chola empire to the world and similarly many other movies are now showing our rich heritage to the world. This is bringing the actual history to the masses (with some masala and a lot of special effects added to make them fun to watch)

Well this is all for now. Looking forward to more such movies and India actually becoming sare jahan se achha (Best in the whole world).

– Suramya

March 2, 2024

EU adopts euro instant payments rules, which India has had for over a decade

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 3:42 AM

Most people don’t realize how much advanced the Indian Banking system is as compared to other countries. Last week EU adopted euro instant payments rules that would allow customers to transfer money within 10 seconds to any account both within the same country and to another EU member state. What is interesting is that this is being portrayed as a major breakthrough advance in Banking technology.

In India we have a service called Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), which is enables instant inter-bank electronic funds transfer in India. Funds transferred using IMPS are credited to the receiver within seconds and the service is available 24×7 throughout the year including bank holidays. This service was launched in 2010, i.e. over 13 years ago.

The UPI (Unified Payments Interface) is built on top of IMPS and that can be used to make payments/transfers to select countries outside India. List of countries where UPI can be used is available here.

I just find it amusing that something we have been using for over a decade is being portrayed as a breakthrough innovation outside India. Although, to be fair for good amount of time in 80’s & early 90’s things/systems which were common outside India were launched in India as an innovation. So I guess life is a cycle.

Source: Reuters: EU adopts euro instant payments rules to take on Visa, Mastercard

March 1, 2024

If buying isn’t owning, then piracy isn’t stealing

Filed under: Computer Software,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:27 PM

Nowadays it is quite common for folks to move from having physical copies of books, movies, TV series etc to having digital copies of the same. I like having digital versions of things because they are easier to store but that brings a whole lot of problems. Basically having an electronic item specially something that is hosted on a service or needs an external system to approve your right to open that file/game/book then it means that you don’t really own that item. The service can arbitrarily decide to remove it from their system, alter it without telling you or decide to reduce functionality and make you pay more for something that you already paid for.

We have so many examples of this happening, such as services removing movies that you bought from your systems because they figured it was more cost effective to not renew rights to the movie. Amazon Music has removed music that was paid for from their system or have changed it. Books were removed from Kindle by amazon when they felt it needed to be inspite of the users having purchased it.

Earlier this week in example no 400035 that shows that we don’t really own the digital content we ‘bought’, Sony deleted content that they had promised would be there forever with little to no recourse for the users to get their content back when though they had paid for it.

Funimation, a Sony-owned streaming service for anime, recently announced that subscribers’ digital libraries on the platform will be unavailable after April 2. For years, Funimation had been telling subscribers that they could keep streaming these digital copies of purchased movies and shows, but qualifying it: “forever, but there are some restrictions.”

But soon, people who may have discarded or lost their physical media or lack a way to play DVDs and Blu-rays won’t have a way to access the digital copies that they were entitled to through their physical copy purchase.

A little while ago Philippe Tremblay, director of subscriptions at Ubisoft made a comment that gamers need to get used to the idea they don’t own their games anymore and embrace digital downloads. This is absolutely ridiculous and should not be normalized. If I own something I should be able to do whatever I want with it. Unfortunately that is not the case because the content is protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management) which is supposed to be a tool to prevent piracy but instead is a tax or punishment for doing the right thing and buying content legally.

If I pirate a movie or a book I can do whatever I want with it and watch it wherever I want or convert it to another format that is easier for me to consume (mobi->epub for books as an example) But when I legally buy something the DRM on it stops me from doing the same thing as it is a felony for me to remove the DRM so that I can access stuff I paid for in a way that is convenient for me.

Before streaming services and digital stores became popular, at times the only way to get content was to pirate it. To give an example, back in 2007/2008 books by most of the authors I like were not available in India so if I wanted to read a book I would have to buy it from Amazon and have it shipped to India. Amazon used to charge $10 PER book to ship it to India at that time even if you ordered multiple books and paying that for a book that costed $7 made absolutely no sense. Same was the case with movies and tv series. With streaming and digital media taking off, I can now buy a digital book when it is released or watch a new TV series when it is launched legally. Now with this nonsense of deleting stuff that people have bought, we need to start keeping copies of all the stuff we buy offline so that I still have access to what I paid for even when a corporation decides that it is more cost effective to delete/remove access to it.

Source: Here We Go Again: Sony Disappears Digital Content That Was Pitched To Customers As ‘Forever’

– Suramya

February 29, 2024

Scientists are using wood of all things to build a satellite and launch it to orbit

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,My Thoughts,Science Related — Suramya @ 9:08 PM

When people talk about strong materials that can be used to make durable satellites wood is nowhere even close to being considered. I mean come on, the image people (including me) have in their mind of wood is that it is something not too strong and for the most part is not durable. However, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are set to prove that is not the case and are planning to launch the world’s first wooden satellite into space. Yes, you did read that correctly; they are planning to use wood to make a satellite instead of Stainless Steel or titanium which will make the process a lot more sustainable. LignoSat is a coffee mug-size satellite made from magnolia wood and will be launched into orbit sometime during the Summer of 2024. Wood has an advantage over other materials in that it will burn up into ash during reentry into the atmosphere without releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere (which is what happens when Steel or Titanium reenters the atmosphere and burns up).

To verify the feasibility of using the material Kyoto University researchers sent samples of magnolia, cherry and birch up to the International Space Station and exposed it to space for 10 months, after which tests were run against the samples and when they confirmed that there was no decomposition or deformation in the samples it gave them confidence to move ahead with the project. LignoSat will be made using the wood from magnolia trees primarily because of the relative ease of working with it, dimensional stability, and overall strength as compared to the other candidates.

Another advantage of a wooden satellite is that it is less reflective than other materials which means that it would reduce the amount of ambient light pollution that astronomers have been complaining about over the past few years. Especially since the Starlink low orbit satellites were launched. Wood is also easier to grow so the overall cost might be lower.

One potential problem with this approach would be that it will require a lot of wood which would mean that forests would be logged offsetting the environmental gains made by using wood. Assuming the test is successful, we can look forward to using wood in more places instead of non eco friendly materials. But I doubt that it would replace the traditional materials completely.

– Suramya

Source: Wood Working Network: Japan set to launch first wood satellite

January 23, 2024

New research shows that Neptune’s color is more of a greenish blue than the vivid blue we associate with it

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:15 PM

When we look at the photographs of the outer planets in our solar system, the planet Neptune stands out because of it’s striking blue color as shown in the photos taken by Voyager 2 back in 1989. (See below)

Photo of Neptune as taken by Voyager 2
Photo of Neptune as taken by Voyager 2

In a new study just published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers found that the color balance in Voyager was a little skewed that led to the planet appearing more blue than it actually is. Basically due to the way the images from Voyager were contrast enhanced to accentuate fainter features and better illustrate the atmospheric features of the planet the image released was bluer than what the planet actually looked like. They used observations of the planet taken from 1950 to 2016 along with data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope to create a more accurate representation of the planet’s color which is closer Uranus’s color than the vivid blue we are used to seeing. (See below)

Panels a and b show early images of the visible appearance of Uranus and Neptune reconstructed from Voyager 2 ISS images in 1986 and 1989, respectively, showing Uranus to be pale blue-green, and Neptune dark blue (PIA18182 and PIA01492, credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech).
Panels c and d show more recent reconstructions of the true colours of these planets, showing them to be more similarly coloured (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Björn Jónsson)

From the Paper:

We present a quantitative analysis of the seasonal record of Uranus’s disc-averaged colour and photometric magnitude in Strömgren b and y filters (centred at 467 and 551 nm, respectively), recorded at the Lowell Observatory from 1950 to 2016, and supplemented with HST/WFC3 observations from 2016 to 2022. We find that the seasonal variations of magnitude can be explained by the lower abundance of methane at polar latitudes combined with a time-dependent increase of the reflectivity of the aerosol particles in layer near the methane condensation level at 1 – 2 bar. This increase in reflectivity is consistent with the addition of conservatively scattering particles to this layer, for which the modelled background haze particles are strongly absorbing at both blue and red wavelengths. We suggest that this additional component may come from a higher proportion of methane ice particles. We suggest that the increase in reflectivity of Uranus in both filters between the equinoxes in 1966 and 2007, noted by previous authors, might be related to Uranus’s distance from the Sun and the production rate of dark photochemical haze products. Finally, we find that although the visible colour of Uranus is less blue than Neptune, due to the increased aerosol thickness on Uranus, and this difference is greatest at Uranus’s solstices, it is much less significant than is commonly believed due to a long-standing misperception of Neptune’s ‘true’ colour. We describe how filter-imaging observations, such as those from Voyager-2/ISS and HST/WFC3, should be processed to yield accurate true colour representations.

It is facinating how much more there is to learn in the cosmos even about our own stellar neighbors never mind the whole wide universe out there with its infinite mysteries and grandeur.

Source: Neptune is more of a greenish blue than is commonly depicted

– Suramya

January 20, 2024

NFTs, AI and the sad state of Thought Leaders/Tech Influencer’s

Filed under: Artificial Intelligence,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

NFTs became such a big thing in last few years, going from millions of dollars to 95% of them being worth $0 in Sept 2023. The whole concept of a JPG of an ugly drawing never made sense to me but you won’t believe the no of people who tried to convince me otherwise.

Today I was watching Lift on Netflix and the first 20 minutes are this group of thieves stealing an NFT Oceans 11 style. It is one of the most ridiculous things that I have seen that someone would spend so much effort showing a NFT heist but the movie was scripted in 2021 when the NFT craze was starting to become insane. Haven’t finished the full movie yet and I doubt I will ever do so as it is very slow/corny and has poor acting and script (as if the whole NFT heist thing didn’t give that away).

It is interesting that all the folks who were shilling NFTs a few years ago have ‘pivoted’ to AI now. If you read the posts from Infuencers you will think that AI is the best thing since sliced bread. Saw the following in my feed and I did question the sanity of the person posting such ‘thought leadership’.

I can suggest an equation that has the potential to impact the future: E=mc?+ Al This equation combines Einstein's famous equation E=mc?, which relates energy (E) to mass (m) and the speed of light (c), with the addition of Al (Artificial Intelligence). By including Al in the equation, it symbolizes the increasing role of artificial intelligence in shaping and transforming our future. This equation highlights the potential for Al to unlock new forms of energy, enhance scientific discoveries, and revolutionize various fields such as healthcare, transportation, and technology.
Technology Consultant’s thoughts on AI

Each influencer keeps posting things like this to make them sound more technical and forward thinking but if you start digging into it then you will find out that they are just regurgitating a word salad that really doesn’t mean much but sounds impressive. Actually now that I think about it, they are just like an AI bot that sounds impressive if you are not experienced in the that area but when you start digging into it, you find out that there is no substance to what they are stating.

The current state of AI is basically a massive hype machine which is trying to get folks to buy things or invest in companies because they are working creating an intelligent entity. Whereas in reality, what we have today is a really good Auto Complete or in some cases really nice Machine learning system. It does some things quite well but is nowhere close to being “Intelligent”. What we have now is something that is really good at extrapolating and guessing which can reduce manual efforts in a lot of things but it is not the cure all that everyone is making it out to be.

For example, Github Copilot automates a lot of grunt work while coding allowing users to reduce the time spent of writing code, but in a recent study it was found that Users Write More Insecure Code with AI Assistants. Now this might change in the future with advances in compute power, data and something that we haven’t even thought of yet. But the problem is that in the short term these can cause immense harm and problems.

– Suramya

January 19, 2024

Why do folks keep insisting that only kids who like playing outside are ‘normal’?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:37 PM

There is a unfortunate trend and narrative that keeps repeating the trope that folks who are geeky or not interested in playing outside are somehow not normal. A good example of how that keeps coming up is the screenshot below where someone posted about a kid who started coding at a young age (10 years!) and asked what were you doing at his age and another person responded stating “Being a normal kid and playing outside??”

10 years old boy writing program in python...what were you doing at his age? Being a normal kid and playing outside??
10 years old boy writing program in python…what were you doing at his age? Being a normal kid and playing outside??”

Why is it that it is considered ‘normal’ to play outside but not normal to create something on a computer or compose music, or write a book or write poetry or any other creative activity? Both require skill but one is considered normal and the other is not.

Media plays a big part in it especially the US shows and movies where the geek is someone who is an outcast and is always picked on by the more popular kids who are usually good looking but otherwise have no redeeming qualities. They are loud, rude and obnoxious and for some reason everyone thinks that this is a good behavior pattern to emulate. The recent push towards becoming ‘manly’ or alpha or whatever they are calling themselves now is another reason smart folks are picked on because these ‘alpha male’ folks want to showcase how tough they are. Due to this push too many people think that being manly means that you need to behave like an ass or put another way they think that:

Being an asshole is all part of my manly essence
Being an asshole is all part of my manly essence

Obviously this is not a good approach and unfortunately for them they are usually whiny snowflakes who are threatened by everything. If you read the definition of what it means to be ‘a man’ you will be rolling on the floor laughing or be scared because they think that having literally any emotion other than anger is something that makes you less manly and if you happen to be a smart person it makes you ‘less manly’ because obviously the only thing that matters is physical strength. Here are some gems that have come up in my feed over time and I collected them as I wanted to put them on a blog post. There are a lot more but I decided to just delete them/block when they come up in my feeds.

These folks need therapy, not that they would ever agree to go for it.

– Suramya

December 27, 2023

25th Reunion of the 1998 Computers Batch of AFBBS: The Class with a Class

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:33 PM

This year is the 25 anniversary for when I passed out from Air Force Bal Bharati School (AFBBS). I was there for two years and they were some of the most fun and memorable times of my life. During my time there I made some lifelong friends and learnt a lot about life and the good stuff. I was in the computer section, XII-C or “The Class with a Class” as it was otherwise known.

Class photograph of XII-C
XII-C The Class with a Class

A few months ago a group of people from one of the other sections in our batch started a thread about having a reunion and started working on it. Over the next few weeks I noticed that it was mostly folks from the other sections who were interested and actively planning for the reunion, our class was mostly silent on the topic. Since I was not much in touch with anyone from any of the other sections, or rather was never friends with anyone outside of the C section (my class) I was of two minds about attending the reunion. Then we found out that the event was not happening at the school and instead was in a place in Qutub Minar area somewhere.

Then someone asked a question in our class group if anyone else was going. Interestingly most of the folks said that they would rather meet separately with just our class instead of the whole batch. After seeing that me and Tarini got talking about it and thinking about a separate reunion for our class. Tarini was nice enough to volunteer her place for the event and thus we decided to have our get-together on the same day as the other one.

The event was planned for the 16th, and Jani and I flew in early morning that day to reach Delhi by 2:30pm. Since it would have taken us too long to go to Noida and come back (we would have spent the entire time traveling instead of spending time at home) we decided to show up early at Tarini’s place and start the party early. That way we got to spend time with the kids and Aunty as well before the rest of the folks arrived.

The evening was quite memorable with a lot of old stories being told to spouses about folks who I hope didn’t get into too much trouble once their wives found out what they had been up to in school. Crushes were explained in detail, famous pranks explained etc. It was much more fun and intimate than attending a party with loud music, though that also would have been fun if we knew more people there.

Its hard to believe that its already been 25 years since we all were in school together and we have gone from:

to looking like this 25 years later:

I wish I could say that we all kept in touch throughout the last 25 years, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I was meeting Ravi after 25 years, Ankush and Rahul after ~16 years or so and it was a lot of fun to catchup after such a long time. To be honest it didn’t feel like so much time had passed since we last met. The rest of the folks I had been meeting them more frequently; some more frequently than others. It would have been great if the rest of the 40 odd classmates could have also made it for the reunion but that’s ok. There is always a next time.

In spite of only getting back to Delhi the day before Tarini went above and beyond with the food and drinks. I especially loved the mulled wine and that reminds me that I need to get the recipe from her, or instead get her to make it for me everytime I visit. Actually the second option seems a lot more fun and less work for me so I will do that.

The party went on till almost 4am, then me Tarini and Jani chilled out for a while after everyone went home and just chatted. The next day was again hectic as we had a brunch and headed back to the airport to come back to Bangalore so that we could prep for our next trip to Malaysia which we were leaving for the next day (18th). Got back to India on the 25th and that is why this post was delayed as I was having too much fun there to write about the reunion.

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

– Suramya

December 13, 2023

Researchers use living human brain cells to perform speaker identification

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Emerging Tech,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:51 AM

The human brain is the most powerful computer ever created and though most people have been trying to create a copy of the brain using Silicon and chips, a dedicated group of people has been actively working on creating computers/processors using living tissue. These computers are called Bio-Computers and recently there has been a major breakthrough in the field due to the work of scientists from the Indiana University Bloomington.

They have managed to grow lumps of nerve cells called Brain organoids from stem cells, each of these organoids contain about 100 million nerve cells. The team placed these organoids on a microelectrode array which sends electrical signals to the organoids and also detects when the nerve cells fire in response. They then sent 240 audio clips as sequence of signals in spatial patterns with the goal of identifying the speech of a particular person. The initial accuracy of the system was at about 30-40 percent but after being trained for two days (with no feedback being given to the cells) the accuracy rose to 70-80% which is a significant increase. The team’s paper on this project has been published in Nature Electronics

Brain-inspired computing hardware aims to emulate the structure and working principles of the brain and could be used to address current limitations in artificial intelligence technologies. However, brain-inspired silicon chips are still limited in their ability to fully mimic brain function as most examples are built on digital electronic principles. Here we report an artificial intelligence hardware approach that uses adaptive reservoir computation of biological neural networks in a brain organoid. In this approach—which is termed Brainoware—computation is performed by sending and receiving information from the brain organoid using a high-density multi-electrode array. By applying spatiotemporal electrical stimulation, nonlinear dynamics and fading memory properties are achieved, as well as unsupervised learning from training data by reshaping the organoid functional connectivity. We illustrate the practical potential of this technique by using it for speech recognition and nonlinear equation prediction in a reservoir computing framework.

This PoC doesn’t have the capability to convert the speech to text but this is early days and it is possible that with more fine-tuning we will be able to create a system that will allow us to to speech-to-text with a much lower power consumption than the traditional systems. However, there is a big issue of maintenance and long term viability of the organoids. Currently the organoids can only be maintained for one or two months before they have to be replaced which makes it difficult to imagine a commercial/home PC like deployment of these machines as the maintenance costs and efforts would make it unfeasible. On the other hand it is possible that we might see more powerful versions of this setup in research labs and data-centers which would have the capacity to maintain these systems.

I am looking forward to seeing more advances in this field.

– Suramya

Source: AI made from living human brain cells performs speech recognition

December 12, 2023

The entire Byomkesh Bakshi Series is available on YouTube legally

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:59 AM

Byomkesh Bakshi was one of my favorite Detective TV shows when I was a kid. He is the Indian counterpart to Sherlock Homes but is not a copy of the character. The character of Byomkesh Bakshi; an Indian-Bengali detective with proficiency with observation, logical reasoning, and forensic science was created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay in 1932 and appeared in multiple novels after that. In 1993 a TV series based on the character was first broadcast which adapted each novel into an episode of the show.

For some reason till recently there were hardly any copies of the original show available online to watch/download. I was searching for something else when suddenly I decided to see if I could find copies of the show and after a little bit of searching I found out that Doordarshan National, which owns the copyright to the show has uploaded the entire run of the show on their YouTube Channel (along with a lot of other shows as well from their golden days). This was an awesome find and over the next few days I am going to rewatch the entire series and confirm if my memory of the show is accurate. (I last watched it when I was ~13)

Interestingly enough I have met the actor Rajit Kapur who plays Byomkesh Bakshi a few years ago and he was extremely polite and considerate of the fans.

If you have not seen the show, I highly recommend you watch it.

– Suramya

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