Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

August 31, 2007

Rakhi 2007

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:05 PM

This year Rakhi was a lot of fun. I was still in India so I got to meet some of my cousins when they came over to tie rakhi. Usha Buaji (Dad’s sister) was the first on the scene at ~9 am and she was the first one to tie Rakhi for my dad.

Usha Buaji Tyeing Rakhi

Then Rakhi Didi (Yes that is her actual name) and Jijaji (her husband) joined us along with Ria (my Niece) and both Rakhi Didi and Ria tied rakhi. (Ria did it because she wanted to… usually only sisters tie Rakhi).

Rakhi Didi Tyeing Rakhi

Ria Tying Rakhi

During this time Richa had joined us so she also tied Rakhi.

Richa Tying Rakhi

Then we all had some Kheer and talked a bit before everyone left due to other commitments (They have a lot of brothers 😉 ).

At noon Padmini Buaji joined us with her family. She had just moved to Delhi and she was personally tying Rakhi after 28 years (or was it 22 years… ) Usually we were posted at different locations so she had to mail her Rakhi to dad so this was the a big event for her. She got all dressed up and she even made laddu’s and Kheer herself for us. The laddu’s were great. I got to eat three of them, Two of them at once (Courtesy of Neru and Nritia [Sorry if I misspelled the names]) and the third a little later (One each for the both of them and one for Maithili Buaji’s Daughter).

Padmini Buaji Tying Rakhi

Apparently they have a custom in the South where after the girl ties rakhi she then proceeds to touch the brothers feet for blessing. It was a surprise for us because it was the first time we heard of it. But it was also very touching to watch/have someone touch your feet.

Padmini Buaji Touching Dad’s feet

After Buaji her daughters tied rakhi on my hand then they also proceeded to touch my feet. I think I like this custom. Surabhi: The next time you tie rakhi you also have to touch my feet. 😀

Tying Rakhi

Then touching my feet.

Tying Rakhi

and touching my feet.

Was very touching and fun. Unfortunately the rest of my cousins couldn’t make it as some of them were sick, some out of town. When I was a kid I had Rakhi’s all the way up to my shoulders. I think I have a couple of photos of me with all the Rakhi’s but I will have to search for them.

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

– Suramya

PS: For those of you who don’t know what rakhi is here’s a summary: “Rakhi, commonly called “Raksha Bandhan” is one of the most popular festivals of India. The Rakhi festival is a celebration of the pure and sacred bond between brothers and sisters. ‘Raksha Bandhan’ or ‘Rakhi’ is a very special day for brothers and sisters, when the sister celebrates her emotional bonding by tying a holy thread around the wrist of her brother. This thread, which symbolizes love and care, is called the ‘Rakhi’. “Rakhi” means the bond of protection. The Raksha Bandhan festival also connotes a broad significance that the strong must protect the weak from all the evils and dangers. ” (Source:

August 23, 2007 A site worth checking out.

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:34 PM is a website that connects you to small businesses in the developing world and lets you give them loans for a short period of time. This loan can be as small as $25 and over a period of time (usually 6-12 months) your loan is repaid.

Usually giving loans requires a lot of money and contributing to charity is an iffy proposition, you don’t know how much of that money is actually being spent on the cause and how much is being pocketed. But this looks like a good compromise. For a small amount of money you are helping someone gain financial independence.

Check it out. – Loans that change lives

From their site:

Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

– Suramya

August 22, 2007

Idiots in Delhi want to continue the Ban on female bar tenders

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:54 PM

Apparently men in Delhi can’t hold their liquor and thats why a group of five idiots has petitioned the Supreme Court to overrule a ruling by the Delhi High court last year in which they stuck down a ban on female bartenders in Delhi.

Their justification is “Delhi is a “rogue city”, and not mature enough to have pubs and bars with women bartenders. “. Ok… I suppose that makes sense to them. What about the few thousand women who go to these clubs and bars? Are they not at risk from this so called threat to them? I suppose the next step will be to ban women from bars and pubs..

This is what annoy’s me. A few people who have time to waste end up making life difficult for everyone else. Guess what, your way is not the only way. Other people (like me) disagree. Who are you to decide that women are not safe working as a bartender? I am sure that women who want to be a bartender have this little thing called common sense and a little ability to do something called threat assesment. If they believe the risks are worth it then who are you to stop them?

Its not like they are becoming prostitutes. The are selling drinks to someone who wants to have a few drinks the same way a guy would.

sheesh. Get a life people.

Source: Female bar ban ‘should carry on’ (BBC)
Source: Times of India

– Suramya

August 18, 2007

’10 commandments for Linux users’ and some thoughts on them

Filed under: Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:39 PM

I was browsing the web and I found this post called “The 10 Commandments for New Linux Users” with some simple rules for new linux users that the author thought might be useful for new users. Before I start with my comments, lets just read the ‘commandments’:

1. Thou shalt not log in as root.
    Use “sudo” or “su -” for administrative tasks.

2. Thou shalt use the package manager when possible.
    Sometimes installing from source code can’t be avoided, but when you use your distro’s package manager to install software, you can also use it to update and remove it. This is one of the main strengths of Linux.

3. Thou shalt be a part of the community.
    Freely give what you have received for free. Offer help and advice whenever you can.

4. Thou shalt read documentation and man pages.
    Always read the documentation. The people who wrote the software tried to anticipate your questions, and provided answers before you asked.

5. Thou shalt use the available support system.
    Switching to Linux can be tough. It can be frustrating, but there are a lot of people out there who want to help you. Let them.

6. Thou shalt search.
    In most cases, your question or problem has already been addressed. Try to find the answers that are already out there before asking someone to provide a new one.

7. Thou shalt explore.
    Linux opens a whole new world of options and possibilities. Try everything you can.

8. Thou shalt use the command line.
    Especially when it comes to configuration, use the GUI tools to get your system working, but get to know the command line versions as well. In many cases, the command line is the only way to use some of the more advanced features.

9. Thou shalt not try to recreate Windows.
    Linux is not meant to be a clone of Windows. It’s different. Embrace and appreciate the differences.

10. Thou shalt not give up.
    I tried several distributions before I found one I liked. I still try other distros from time to time. I also tried several different programs to serve one purpose before settling on what I use now (amarok, xmms, beep, exaile for music – azureus, ktorrent, deluge for bittorrents). If you don’t like the defaults, remember that you can change almost everything to suit you.

You won’t believe the responses he got to this post. They ranged from helpful additions to the list, some jokes and some rather rude personal comments on the author and the Linux community in general. This is one of the things I hate about the Fanboy and zealots that abound on the internet. They don’t have the knowledge to actually help someone and are retarded idiots whose sole purpose in life is to provoke a reaction from the other person. They don’t have the guts to standup to someone in real life so they hide behind their computer and make rude remarks about everyone else. I have found a couple of them on my site also and usually I either ignore them or make fun of them. What these idiots don’t realize that the person they are making fun of and calling a nerd/geek/looser is a person who probably earns 10 times more and probably has double their IQ.

Anyways, now that we have that out of the way lets talk about the Commandments themselves:

1. Thou shalt not log in as root.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t log in to root at all. It means that you should login as your normal user for everyday tasks and only login to root when required. I have worked as root for hours when it was required (I was troubleshooting an install) but once I was done I logged out immediately. The issue is that if a root account is compromised or you make a mistake as root it can have a huge impact.

Lets take an example: lets say you are trying to delete all files in your home directory and you wanted to enter the following command: rm -rf ~/* but because you were tired you entered the following instead: rm -rf ~ /* (Notice the space between the ~ and the /). Now, if you are logged in as a normal user you will get a bunch of permission denied messages and you are fine. BUT if you are logged in as root it will delete every file in the / directory (Which is the top folder on the disk and hence contains all the files on your system). In one step you have made your system scrap. You will have to restore from backups or re-install which will take time.

Think that wont happen? It does. More times than you can imagine. Think that this just happens on Linux? Sorry, wrong again. I have personal experience with it on Windows (It was Windows 3.1) and at that time I was just learning how to use computers. I had installed a bunch of fonts on the computer thinking I was installing a fonts program. When I realized that the few 100 MB’s worth of stuff I installed on my system didn’t give me any new programs I was upset. So I decided to delete the fonts from my system. Unfortunately the command I entered was: “deltree c:\Windows”. This command deleted my entire windows directory and I spent a week reinstalling. This would not have happened if I was on Linux or if DOS/Windows had any concept of multiuser access controls. They have gotten a lot better at it and XP/Vista is a whole lot more secure than the older versions.

2. Thou shalt use the package manager when possible.

Usually a good idea unless you have a specific reason for not using it. Think of the package manager as the ‘Add/Remove’ programs equivalent in the Linux world. Only its a lot more powerful and versatile than it. Basically it makes managing the system/installing new software a lot easier. Basically all you have to do is select the program you want to install (using the gui frontend or the commandline) and it does the work for you. The same goes for removing programs. Adding a program manually (by compiling it) confuses the system as the package manager doesn’t know its there so if it needs it for some other program it will just download and install the latest version which might not be compatible with the version you installed.

Compiling programs and installing them is usually only required for users with specific needs or for software that doesn’t exist in the package manager repository. (Most popular programs do exist in the repositories)

3. Thou shalt be a part of the community.

An important part. This doesn’t mean that we expect you to start handing in code patches and fixes. It just means that you share your experiences and if someone asks a question that you can answer, you reply. You can be a part of the community by reporting bugs, creating documentation, help organize a meeting or create a new logo or layout thats more efficient. Proofreading the guides and reporting the issues you found while following it is also helpful. Feedback from a new user is an important step in software development and is appreciated.

4. Thou shalt read documentation and man pages.

Also important, but it doesn’t mean that if you have read it and still don’t understand it you can’t ask questions. It just means that if you want to know what the command is to delete files, you search on google for ‘how to delete files in linux’ before asking questions. Its an important rule because it saves both your time and ours. In the time it took you to ask someone and wait for a reply you could have found the answer if you looked first.

5. Thou shalt use the available support system.

Don’t really agree with this one because sometimes the hardest part is finding the support system. I face this problem when I try to fix issues on Windows systems. If I hit an issue I sometimes have a hard time because I don’t know the correct forums/news groups to ask questions in, while I do know what forums to look in when I have a linux question. So I guess new Linux users face the same issue also.

6. Thou shalt search.

See Point 4.

7. Thou shalt explore.

This is true on both Windows and Linux. Don’t be scared of your computer, its not an evil machine plotting to make your life miserable. Its a tool. When you buy a new car don’t you want to explore all the features in it? Same with a computer.

My cousin just bought a new computer for my nephew and the first thing I told him was “don’t be afraid to experiment whatever you break in the software can be fixed.” (so can the hardware. But that might cost money. 😉 ) I have learned more by breaking down the system and then trying to fix it than just playing with it.

If in doubt ask.

8. Thou shalt use the command line.

I would rephrase this as “Thou shalt learn to use the command line”. Because if you want to (and are interested in it) you can save a lot of time by entering a command to do something instead of clicking through 10 dialog boxes.

9. Thou shalt not try to recreate Windows.

Good one. Linux is a new system. Think of it like a new language. When you are learning Spanish, would you try to enforce English vocabulary rules in it? No right… So why do the same in Linux? You can recreate the layout, etc but don’t expect it to behave exactly like Windows.

10. Thou shalt not give up.

Very important rule. For everything in life as well as computers. If you give up you will never know what you are missing. You are more than welcome to try it and decide that it isn’t for you (Thats your choice) but don’t start installing and then quit the minute you hit the first obstruction.

Finally a new addition from my side:

11. Thou are more than welcome to use whatever OS that suites your needs

The main idea is to get the computer to work for you. If you are happy with Windows and if it works for you then you are more than welcome to continue using it. After all its all a matter of choice. I won’t force you to follow mine and I expect the same from you.

Enjoy the computing world. This is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

August 16, 2007

Enchanted forest series by Patricia Wrede

Filed under: Books Related / Reviews,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 3:26 PM

So many books… So little time…

As you know I love reading and read a lot of books. So I thought that I should share my experiences with you regarding the books I have read and liked or disliked… I am starting a somewhat regular feature where I talk about some of the books that I have read recently with commentary/thoughts. I will try not to make any spoilers but no guaranties. 🙂

First off in the series are the Enchanted Forest books by Patricia Wrede. (because I just finished re-reading it). This series is a set of four novels out of which I loved the first three. The last one wasn’t up to her usual standards but is worth a read just to gain closer. Each of the novels focuses on a different character in the story and while all of them do interact the personalities of each of the characters make the books unique.

The first book is called “Dealing with Dragons” and focuses on Princess Cimorene. Princess Cimorene is not your usual princess, she finds most of the stuff ‘appropriate’ for princesses too boring and is interested more in learning about magic, politics and sword-fighting than learning embroidery or how loud its permissible to scream when being kidnapped by giants.

When her parents are completely tired of her, they decide to get her married so that she is someone else’s problem. Unfortunately she doesn’t like the guy they want her to get married to so she decides to run away and become a dragon’s princesses. So she sets off with her best crown and a set of 5 clean handkerchief’s to find a dragon. She does find a group of dragons and convinces one of them to keep her as their princess. Now that she has been ‘kidnapped’ by a dragon, heroes and knights keep coming to rescue her and she has to run them off with a lot of insults and threats. The knights think she is crazy and the dragons find her amusing. Then a group of wizards start meddling in the dragons affairs so she decides to set things right with some help from a witch, a stone prince and a couple of princesses from other dragons.

The book is extremely funny and best of all its a light read. If you are tired and don’t really want to concentrate on a book to keep track of plot lines and characters then this book fits the bill.

The second book “Searching for Dragons”, sort of picks up where the first one ends but focuses on Mendanbar who is the king of the enchanted forest instead. He is a twenty something man who thinks princesses are silly things with nothing between their ears but air. But then he runs into Cimorene when he goes to meet the dragons about a wizard problem and has to change his mind. They both decide to go look for Kazul (her dragon) who has gone missing. On the way they meet giants, ride a flying carpet, meet a few interesting people and melt some wizards.

The third book “Calling On Dragons” focuses on Morwen the witch who is a minor character in the first book and a major one in the second. In this book the wizards are back and are causing trouble again and the first indication Morwen has of all this is a 7 feet high rabbit named killer who turns up in her backyard. Over the course of the book the rabbit turns into a donkey and grows wings because he just couldn’t stop himself of taking a bite of anything that looked tasty no matter how many times others told him not to. The book is somewhat slower than the first two but is still fun.

In the end of the book there’s a stalemate and that leads into the last book of the series called “Talking To Dragons”. Can’t tell you much about this book without spoiling it. The books reads completely different than the other three and if I didn’t know better I would say that it was written by a different writer. Didn’t like it as much as the others.

Try it out. You just might like it.

– Suramya

August 13, 2007

Mumbai cops try to gather a listing of all IP address on CD’s

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:37 PM

Here’s more proof that the Mumbai police has no clue about computers and computer networks. In this latest insanity they have decided to speed up cyber crime investigations by creating a database of all the internet protocol (IP) addresses across the cosmopolitan which will supposedly help in detecting the details of an Internet user in a few minutes. So far 6 ISP’s have ‘cooperated’ by giving them a CD of IP addresses mapped to physical addresses of all their subscribers.

This shows that they have never heard of a little thing called DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) that most ISP’s use to dynamically allocate IP addresses to their subscribers everytime they logon.

I know for a fact that BSNL (a big Indian ISP) gives out a new IP address every 24 hours regardless of weather you have restarted your modem or not. Airtel allocates a new IP address everytime the DSL modem is restarted and I am sure the same is the case with all other ISP’s.

This would only work if they cops have a direct live access to all records at all the ISP’s (Which has huge privacy implications) or the ISP’s have to start handing out static IP’s. Otherwise any information no matter how frequently updated will be outdated. All a person has to do to avoid identification is to use a proxy, or use one of the open wireless access points or just reboot the DSL router and they have a new IP address that is not mapped to their address. The IP might even be mapped to another subscriber’s address.

This is a step in the wrong direction. If this is not stopped then the next step will be direct access to the ISP DB’s and monitoring of what everyone does online and soon we just might have the “great firewall of India” in addition to the “great firewall of China”. Already idiots are clamoring for banning of various sites that ‘offended’ them.

Source: Mumbai police tightens noose on cyber culprits

– Suramya

August 12, 2007

The weekend update

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

This weekend was a lot of fun. Piyush had come over to Delhi for a day and he stopped by at my place on Saturday. It was great fun meeting with him and we had a lot to catch up on. The last time we met was during Surabhi’s reception in Bangalore and as you can guess we didn’t get a lot of time to talk. Juhi is in NJ right now, so Piyush has to eat his own cooking. Having eaten his cooking, I feel slightly sorry for him ;).

Once Piyush left for Bangalore I came back home and crashed. And I do mean crashed… I hadn’t slept all night on Friday night/Sat morning because his train was arriving at 7 am so had to go receive him and then couldn’t sleep all day because he was here and I preferred talking to him. The day before (on Thursday) I had only have ~4 hours of sleep. So once I got back from the airport I was barely awake and went straight to bed. (This was at ~8 pm) and slept till sunday evening about 8 pm. (Yes thats almost 24 hours). I had needed it.

Then spent the Sunday night reading and watching old TV shows. Well that was it for my weekend, will post more later.

– Suramya

PS: All timings in this post are in IST.

August 10, 2007

Gender Equality, is it?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:43 AM

A couple of days ago I was driving back home and I saw this big advertisement at the side of the road that said “Meow Radio, xxx Mhz (Can’t remember the frequency) A radio station just for Women”. and everyone is ok with this. But, If there had been a radio station that said “Just for men” there would be a lot of females complaining how the men are discriminating against women by having an exclusive channel for themselves and blah blah blah.

My question to all the ladies out there is, “Why do you want to have your cake and eat it too?” On one side you want equal treatment with men (and I am fine with) and on the other you want special privileges because you are a woman. Equal means equal. It doesn’t mean that you claim to be equal on one side and then demand special privileges on the other.

One big example that I saw a couple of years ago while traveling in a bus. First a brief bit of information for those of you who haven’t traveled in India via buses. (Yes its relevant to the story) In Indian buses there are a couple of seats that are marked “Ladies” which are meant for use by women only. The idea was that women should be allowed to sit even when there are no seats available. So on with the story. I was coming back from classes and it was standing room only in the bus. Now a few college age girls got on the bus at one of the stops and seeing that the bus was full walked up to the ladies seat and told the guys over there to get up because it was a “ladies seat”. The best part was that the guys they took the seats from were old enough to be their father.

Now I have a problem with that. On one side these same girls ask for equal treatment but when its to their advantage they want special treatment. If it had been an old lady or even an old man I wouldn’t hesitate to vacate a seat for them and have done so on many occasions but for college age girls, sorry. You want equal treatment then you get equal treatment, if there are no seats available then stand just like the guys do. It will be good for you.

The other extreme is the girls who react very badly to any courtesy action, like holding a door open for them. If I am opening a door and there is someone with me or directly behind me, I will hold the door open for them instead of letting it close on their face. It doesn’t matter if they are a guy or a girl. For me thats basic courtesy. I wouldn’t like the door to slam shut on my face so I avoid doing it to others. But some girls don’t like that.

In college I had attended a weekend trip for all Student club leaders (I was the president of ACM @NJIT at the time) where we talked about equality (both gender and ethnic) and over there I got into an argument with this one girl about the issue of holding doors open. She was really upset that people hold doors open for her because she was a girl and it had to stop because boys and girls are equal and so on. We ended the argument by me telling her that I wouldn’t hold the door open for her from now on. So when we were walking out of the place she was right behind me and I slammed the door shut on her face as soon as I went through. She was very upset that I did that and asked me why I slammed the door on her face. My reply was simple, “You only asked me never to hold the door for you, so I slammed it shut”. That was the end of the argument.

You see; when a guy opens a door for you it doesn’t mean that he is doing it because you can’t do it yourself, its because he is just being polite (At least in my case). I will open a door for you if I am in the front but if you are in the front I expect you to open the door yourself and keep it open for me also.

But the one thing I never do is pull out a chair to seat a girl. I expect you you pull out a chair yourself as its not that heavy. I am sure that sometime in your lives a girl it taught how to pull out a chair and sit on it. If not… are you sure you are allowed to be out in public alone?

Bottom line. I will treat you as I would treat any guy so don’t get on a high horse and start lecturing me. You can’t expect equal treatment one minute and then special treatment another.

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

– Suramya

PS: I love to have a good debate on this topic or any other for that matter as long as you keep the matter civil. So if you have any opinions that are contrary to mine (or agreeing with me) do post a comment and I will respond as long as you make a constructive argument. Name calling and being rude will get you nowhere, any posts to the effect that I am an idiot or a chauvinistic pig or just plain rude will be ignored or made fun of (depending on my mood). You have been warned.

August 8, 2007

Secure Websites Using SSL And Certificates

The following website has a good How-To on how you can Secure Websites Using SSL And Certificates on a system running Apache, Bind and OpenSSL.

– Suramya

OpenProj: An alternative to Microsoft Project

Filed under: Computer Software,Knowledgebase,Tech Related — Suramya @ 10:51 AM

Do you use MS Project to schedule your projects but dislike the costs? Or perhaps you would like to use it but are discouraged by the >$1,000 price tag. Well, the open source community has just gotten a great replacement to MS Project called OpenProj from Projity.

OpenProj is a free, open source project management solution that is a complete replacement of Microsoft Project, and other commercial project solutions. OpenProj is ideal for desktop project management and is available on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows even opening existing Microsoft or Primavera files.

Check it out if you are interested in saving some money.

– Suramya

PS: I haven’t tried it because I don’t need a project management solution yet. But when I do I know what to look for.

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