Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

April 16, 2024

Creating a Tic-Tac-Toe game using a single printf statement in a loop

Filed under: Computer Software,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 12:19 PM

The printf statement in C/C++ (and other languages) is a fairly innocuous command that prints information to the screen (or any other output stream). Reading over JWZ’s blog post (The Turing Police say “X Wins”) I found that I was mistaken as it is much more powerful than that. In fact, a single printf statement in a loop can be used to create a full interactive game of tic-tac-toe and this is demo’d by Nicholas Carlini, who has implemented this and you can view the code over at their GitHub Repo: tic-tac-toe in a single call to printf.

Apparently, this was inspired by the International Obfuscated C Code Contest. The repo has an explanation on how this works and I am still going through it to wrap my head around how it works and understand it fully. Check it out if you have some time.

– Suramya

March 26, 2024

Sharpshooters bugs catapult their urine out into the world faster than expected

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Science Related — Suramya @ 11:38 PM

Nature is awesome and we are still trying to figure out how a lot of the things common in nature work and how to artificially create the same. So far most of our efforts have been poor copies of what is there in nature.

A bug called sharpshooter has the ability to catapult their urine out into the world from a special liquid-shooter in their butts. Interestingly the water being expelled is faster than the speed at which it was launched which has implications on rocket science, fluid dynamics and many other areas.

“The sharpshooter gets all its nutrition from the thin, watery liquid inside a plant, called xylem sap, which it sucks out with this tube-shaped stylet. That sap has so little nutrition that sharpshooters need to guzzle nonstop. Taking all that liquid in presents a problem – how to move it out. The sharpshooter has evolved the perfect tool for the job: an anal stylus — or butt flicker. Here’s something incredible: Each drop of pee actually travels faster than the speed at which the butt flicker launched it. Learn about this incredible creature’s super-propulsive pee in this video!”

Source: boingboing.netSharpshooters are bugs that catapult their urine out into the world

– Suramya

March 8, 2024

alphaXiv – Forum to discuss any papers posted on ArXiv

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Science Related — Suramya @ 4:40 PM

Research papers can be hard to understand and sometimes you don’t have people or a community around where you can discuss a given paper and collaborate. In Bangalore we have a community called ‘Papers we love’ which did something similar but for a single paper every week as an in-person event.

There is a site called that I found out about recently. It is an interactive forum for anyone to comment line-by-line on arXiv papers. This allows you to collaborate and discuss the paper with others who find it interesting as well. One thing to keep in mind is that ArXiv papers can be pre-published versions which are not fully peer reviewed yet.

To start using the site, you need to create an account with them. If you don’t have an educational institute email address then you will have to verify your phone no as well in the near future. As of now you don’t need to do that. I guess they are doing this to prevent automated spam. Once you have an account and are logged in using the site is quite easy. You can browse for currently trending topics or search for a specific paper. If you are reading a paper on arXiv, you can change “” to “” in your URL search bar, and you will automatically be redirected to the forum for that paper.

Check it out when you get a chance as it is quite interesting.

– Suramya

October 29, 2023

What Happens to a Werewolf if they are on the Moon?

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:15 AM

@SpeakerToManagers shared a very interesting link on Mastodon where Scientific American’s researchers talk about What Happens to a Werewolf on the Moon? assuming a reality where Werewolves are real.

On the other paw, shortly after the monthly sunrise, the entire landscape surrounding our future lycanaut will be lit by the sun, which could then trigger the change; from their view, the entire moon would be illuminated, so it would be, by some definition, full. This could mean that the danger would be hugely amplified because the transformation wouldn’t last a mere terrestrial night but an entire lunar day, which is two weeks in duration. The carnage would be literally unearthly.

The questions raised where quite fun and it is an interesting what if question.

– Suramya

October 19, 2023

How to approach a topic to make learning hard things easy?

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 7:16 PM

Talking about complicated topics is hard. I remember reading somewhere that if you can’t explain what you do in simple enough terms that a grandmother can understand it then you don’t know enough about what you are doing. Unfortunately I can’t find the original quote but if you think about it, it makes sense. People who don’t understand a given topic in depth will revert to using acronyms or jargon to explain what they do. Folks who do understand will be able to explain it using small words and concepts. The best example of this is the Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words a book by Randall Munroe from the XKCD fame. In the book, things are explained in the style of Up Goer Five, using only drawings and a vocabulary of the 1,000 (or “ten hundred”) most common words. Explore computer buildings (datacenters), the flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), the things you use to steer a plane (airliner cockpit controls), and the little bags of water you’re made of (cells). My Niece and Nephew love the book and refer to it regularly.

Julia Evans recently gave a talk on Making Hard Things Easy that everyone should listen to or read, since she also gave a transcript. Which was awesome else I would have missed out on this great talk. She talks about how to approach a problem/question/topic to make it easier to understand with examples from her own experience.

Julia is a wiz at making difficult topics seem easy. She publishes Webzines that explain computer topics in easy to understand comic format. I have bought all the ones she has published so far as PDF’s and would recommend you do the same. The site above has samples of her work so do check it out.

– Suramya

October 4, 2023

India’s Early Electronic Music From 1969-1972 released publicly

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 7:56 PM

Not many people are aware that Indian artists have been exploring electronic music since the late 60’s. Unfortunately a lot of that early work was not available because the records from that time were not available. However, recently a bunch of tapes were discovered in a cupboard at the National Institute of Design containing recordings from the work back in the 70’s.

Now these recordings have been publicly released and can be accessed at The NID Tapes: Electronic Music from India 1969​-​1972 .

Check it out if you are a fan of electronic music.

Source: India’s Early Electronic Music From the ’70s Is Finally Being Released

– Suramya

September 7, 2023

Youtube2Webpage: Create Websites with Text from Videos

In my last post, I had talked about preferring text content to videos and coincidentally my Hacker News feed happened to cover a tool that takes a video link and creates a webpage with a transcript generated from the video’s closed captions paired with screenshots of the video. The program is called Youtube-to-Webpage. It is a Perl script that uses yt-dlp & ffmpeg to do the processing.

I tried it out using the curl video I talked about in the previous command as the input and the software did a decent job capturing the details. The output is very plain and looks like the following:

Transcription of Curl Training video
Transcription of Curl Training video

Since the program uses the built-in YouTube captions for getting the text from the video, the transcription is only as good as how good the captions are. One enhancement, that could make it better is to use a Speech-to-Text engine and use that text in the output. The slightly tricky part would be to match the screenshots with the audio/transcription timestamps.

Check it out if you prefer to read text instead of videos. I wonder how the output would look if we feed this to a LLM and ask it to make it like an article. That can be something we can explore for the next post 🙂

– Suramya

August 18, 2023

The Judge by GoblinTools is a great tool to tell how written text comes across qualitatively

Readers of this blog (and those who know me) know that I am usually quite skeptical of tools that claim to judge the emotional content of text or tell how the text comes across qualitatively. However, this new site called The Judge – Goblin Tools is quite impressive. As per James over on Mastodon, the tool was created to help neurodivergent folks communicate better with the normals avoiding misunderstanding, bad assumptions about intent, etc.

I tested it out with content from my blog and I have to say that it summarized the tone and content quite nicely. For example below is the summary it gave for my post on Celebrating India’s 76th Independence day!

Emotionally, this text comes across as proud, patriotic, and reflective. It begins by acknowledging and celebrating India’s 76th Independence Day, recognizing the significance of gaining freedom from British rule. It highlights the sacrifices, bloodshed, and tears endured by many individuals who fought for India’s freedom, emphasizing that not all their names are known and that this is a tragic aspect. The text expresses a sense of frustration with the tendency to focus solely on iconic figures like Gandhi and Nehru, disregarding the efforts of numerous other freedom fighters.

As the text looks towards the future, there is a strong emotional undertone of remembrance and gratitude towards those who paved the way for freedom. It cites famous slogans from freedom fighters, adding a sense of inspiration and reverence for their contribution. The passage acknowledges the importance of remembering the sacrifices made by past generations for the betterment of the nation.

There is a shift in emotion when it proudly proclaims India’s progress and achievements in various fields, such as technology, space exploration, and healthcare. It displays a sense of national pride and triumph over past perceptions that diminished India’s image. The text mentions India’s relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and positions India as a nation capable of compassionate and humanitarian actions.

Moving forward, the text acknowledges areas that still require improvement, alluding to societal customs and mindsets. It expresses a desire for growth and change while also highlighting the need for self-reflection in other countries that criticize India, pointing out their own flaws and challenges.

The passage concludes with a message of unity and inclusivity, promoting the idea that humanity should transcend differences in caste, religion, nationality, sexuality, and age. It embraces the concept of a global family and emphasizes the values of humanity and national loyalty.

Overall, this text conveys a mixture of pride in India’s accomplishments, gratitude for the sacrifices made by freedom fighters, and a sense of reflection on the challenges that still exist. It aims to inspire unity, progress, and a commitment to the values that define the nation.

It did manage to capture the exact tone I was going for so that is quite nice. According to their About Us page, the site uses AI technologies in the backend including OpenAI’s models. They are planning to move to open source alternatives as and when they become available and reliable. Keeping that in mind, I would not recommend using this to analyze any text that has private or confidential information because it might be used to train OpenAI’s models. That being said I would be keeping an eye on this software and once they go to an opensource model and allow us to run a local instance of the tool I certainly wouldn’t mind using as part of my writing toolkit.

– Suramya

August 14, 2023

Little known HTML UI elements that work without JavaScript/CSS

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 9:24 PM

The current iteration of the Internet is extremely GUI focused and if you don’t have Javascript enabled a lot of sites just stop working even though that shouldn’t be the case because they don’t really need Javascript (JS) to be rendered. Unfortunately, thanks to the profusion of JS Frameworks more and more sites are incorporating it to the point where it is just getting silly.

A simple site that would be a few hundred KB in the old HTML/CSS world is now multi MB in size. A few days ago I encountered a site that was downloading ~95MB every time it was loaded and all the site did was display a few thousand rows in a table. I figured that out because it was taking a few mins at high load for the site to load and I was shocked to see the amount of data being transferred for no good reason.

If you ask website developers they will tell you that JS is needed because it allows them to create fancy sites with interactive controls etc, but as I recently found out, this is not the case. HTML has a bunch of UI elements that most people don’t know about that allow us to create interactive sites or generate beautiful sites. The I’m betting on HTML site has examples of many such elements that I am going to start using in my sites going forward. Some of the examples I really liked from the site:

<datalist>: The HTML Data List element

Is that a typeahead I see? 🧐 Doesn’t seem to have built in validation, but the UI is there at least. Note that Safari requires option tags to be closed, or it just gives up. 😮‍💨

<details>: The Details disclosure element

A little dropdown thing for disclosoures and stuff. Can by styled quite aggressively.


You are being watched.

There is a Dialog element as well, but it doesn’t work when embedded in a WP Blog post. Check out the site linked above to see it in action.

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

– Suramya

June 20, 2023

It is now possible to track someone using SMS Receipt Messages

Filed under: Computer Security,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 6:04 PM

With modern technology it is getting more and more easy to track someone. There are many apps, devices etc that allow a target to be tracked in near realtime by someone. This can be done using an App on your phone, find my phone functionality, family phone track etc etc. As someone who is worried about getting tracked they can disable GPS, get a new dumb phone that doesn’t support GPS etc which can mitigate the threat to a large extent. Unfortunately, now there is a new attack surface that allows an attacker to approximately locate a target with up to 96% accuracy.

Researchers have figured out how to deduce the location of an SMS recipient by analyzing timing measurements from typical receiver location. Basically they measure the time elapsed between sending a SMS and the receipt of the Delivery report and then use a ML model to predict the location area where the target could be located. The other advantage of this attack is that it doesn’t require any specialized equipment or access to restricted systems but can be executed via a simple smartphone.

Short Message Service (SMS) remains one of the most popular communication channels since its introduction in 2G cellular networks. In this paper, we demonstrate that merely receiving silent SMS messages regularly opens a stealthy side-channel that allows other regular network users to infer the whereabouts of the SMS recipient. The core idea is that receiving an SMS inevitably generates Delivery Reports whose reception bestows a timing attack vector at the sender. We conducted experiments across various countries, operators, and devices to show that an attacker can deduce the location of an SMS recipient by analyzing timing measurements from typical receiver locations. Our results show that, after training an ML model, the SMS sender can accurately determine multiple locations of the recipient. For example, our model achieves up to 96% accuracy for locations across different countries, and 86% for two locations within Belgium. Due to the way cellular networks are designed, it is difficult to prevent Delivery Reports from being returned to the originator making it challenging to thwart this covert attack without making fundamental changes to the network architecture.

The biggest problem with this method is that it doesn’t depend on any software or anything that needs to be installed on the target phone. You just need a phone that supports SMS, which is pretty much all phones in the market. There is an option to disable delivery reports which would mitigate the threat to an extent but is an opt-out setup rather than an opt-in. One way to reduce this vector would be for manufacturers to disable the delivery report by default and folks who need it can enable it from settings instead of the other way round which is the case right now.

Source: HackerNews: Freaky Leaky SMS: Extracting user locations by analyzing SMS timings
Full Paper: Freaky Leaky SMS: Extracting User Locations by Analyzing SMS Timings

– Suramya

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