Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

October 6, 2022

Why you should High-Five your child often and frequently tell them that you love them

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:46 AM

Saw this on Twitter earlier this week and I was flabbergasted to know that people have such high/strong opinions about high-fiving. This person is a strong believer in the fiction that children should be seen and not heard. Some of what he says I do agree with, such as “Children should not call parents by their first names” and “Should not be allowed to watch certain movies that their parents watch”, but the rest of it is nonsense. Before we start with the critique, you should first read the op-ed in question and then we can proceed.

The whole article is a mess but I especially love the way he explains his objections to his son when their grandkid (5 years old at the time) didn’t understand why they wouldn’t high-five them. The answer given was “I don’t expect him to understand and I am not going to explain it to him”. When the son responded saying that they don’t understand either, instead of explaining the logic the response given was “I am not going to explain myself to you either”. This is not the response you expect from someone who is sure of why they are doing something, this is the answer you get from someone who thinks they are always right and anyone not agreeing with them is wrong. Basically the typical strong/alpha man response where any sign of affection or love was a sign of weakness. The best way to get someone to understand why you are doing something is to explain it to them, decree’s like this are not the way and sure as hell don’t make you loved or liked.

Lets step back a bit to look at the meaning of High Five, according to Cambridge Dictionary it is a “greeting or an expression of admiration in which two people each raise a hand above their shoulder and bring the fronts of their hands together with force”. Every other definition that I have been able to find is similar and no where does it say that the people have to be at the same age, equality, gender, economical status. Of course practically speaking, I am not going to go high five a random grandmother or someone walking on the road. But there have been instances where this has happened and is appropriate. For example, if a big win happens or something worth celebrating (such as a rocket launch, or a sports win, or massive sales) everyone will be celebrating it and you will have random people high fiving and giving hugs to celebrate. It is normal behavior.

Another reason to high five someone is to encourage them and acknowledge their work, especially a kid. It is a way to make them know that people around them are proud of them and this doesn’t have to be for major tasks. Sometimes it is the acknowledgement from small achievements that stays with you the longest. If a five year old is taught to set the table for visitors and they do it well, a simple high five will let them know that their work was appreciated or if they managed to recite their alphabets correctly for the first time they need to be supported, celebrated and encouraged. A high five is a simple easy way of doing that…

Your relationship with your kid is not the same as the one you have with your boss. Treating both the same way is a recipe for disaster. You can celebrate the small wins , be approachable but still maintain discipline. I know I don’t have kids so there is a limit to how much I know about raising kids. However, I am the self appointed cool mama who gets to teach the kids about cool stuff I find and while the kids will come to me with any questions they have no disrespect is tolerated.

Interestingly, this view is a minority view and folks across the internet are speaking up against this. As per a 2015 study by researchers at Notre Dame, it was found that “parental soothing, constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate touch and playful interactions with caregivers are vital to a child’s wellbeing as an adult. Without parent touch, play and support, the research says children have “poorer mental health, more distress in social situations and are less able to take another’s point of view.”. Giving a high-five is a simple tactile way of showing the approval and love.

When questioned about the negative response to his op-ed, John’s response was blunt, condescending and dismissive stating:

“The reaction was also HUGELY negative, and I still stand my anti-high-five position. ”

“The majority of respondents failed miserably at countering my opinion with intelligent opinion of their own; rather, they engaged in ad hominem, which is the refuge of the inarticulate. I’m perfectly willing to engage in intelligent discourse on the subject. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any,”

The way John wants to raise their kids and grandkids is how the old British folks used to do, where any love or affection shown was a sign of weakness. Personally I think that is a miserable way to live. I much rather have folks show their love and regard honestly. I still give my parents, relatives a hug when I meet them. For some I touch their feet, for others I try to lift them up (or now more frequently they try to lift me). We all know our place and the relations are bound with love and mutual respect rather than obligation.

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

– Suramya

October 5, 2022

3D Scanning was used over 160 years ago to create photosculptures

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 1:32 PM

When we talk about 3D scanning we all assume it is one of the emerging technologies and with the recent advances it has been growing more and more popular. A usecase that is becoming popular is to scan a sculpture or art installations so that the scans are published online and can be converted to VR or used to 3D print an exact replica. For example, The State Darwin Museum in Europe has been slowly digitizing / 3D scanning its collection. Other museums have been doing the same as well.

But interestingly, this is not a new technology and it was in use over 160 years ago to create what is known as photosculptures. A recent article on talks about how in the late 19th century (1861) the art of creating realistic, 3-dimensional replicas using a series of 24 photos that were combined to create a 3D image was extremely popular. This process was called photosculpture and was invented by François Willème, a French painter, photographer and sculptor.

Example of a photosculpture created using this technique. (PC: University of Virginia: Department of Art)

He perfected the art of taking photos from 24 camera’s in a circle with the subject standing in the middle, synchronizing them to create a 3D model that could be projected on a screen. Then a pantograph was used to cut the layers of the picture into thin sheets of wood. The artist would then assemble the cuttings to create a rough 3D replica of the object. Once the base was created they would fill in the details using materials such as bronze, plaster of Paris and terra cotta to create a realistic result.

A visual overview of how Photosculptures were created

This whole process was a lot cheaper than having a sculpture created via the normal process and a lot faster so it became quite popular for a while with the public. But with other competitors patenting their own versions and the demand reducing he had to shutdown the studio by late 1868. Check out the following article for more details on the process More than 100 Years before 3D Printers, We had Photosculpture which is quite fascinating.

It made me think that we have this unspoken assumption that the previous generations were not as smart/advanced as we were and only in the modern world we have these amazing breakthroughs that wouldn’t have been possible earlier and then you read about these inventions and techniques that were there hundreds of years ago that does the same thing (albeit a bit more crudely) as our modern cutting edge technologies. There was a lot of scientific advances done historically that were lost due to various reasons and sometimes I dream about how the world would have been if we had not lost the Library of Alexandria or the Nalanda University which were amongst the many institutes destroyed by invaders and their staff & students slaughtered. Imagine how many advances were lost, how much wisdom was lost over the years due to this…

– Suramya

October 3, 2022

Debian to allow non-free firmware in its default installer

Filed under: Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 10:19 AM

One of the problems preventing new users from using Debian is that if your hardware is not supported by an Open (‘free’) driver/firmware then the system doesn’t install any and then it is a painful process to download and install the driver, especially if it is for the Wireless card. In earlier laptops you could always connect via a network cable to install the drivers but the newer systems don’t come with a LAN connection (which I think sucks BTW) so installing Debian on those systems is a pain.

Debian leadership has been debating on how to fix this over the past few months and there was a vote to decide Debian would handle non-free firmware going forward. Now the voting has completed and the verdict is in, Debian has decided that the Debian Official Installer Media can include firmware that is otherwise not part of the Debian system. The non-free firmware would be automatically installed and activated when the installer determines that it is needed for the OS to function. The setup would notify the user in such cases and provide instructions on how to disable the changes if required.

The Debian Project also makes the following statement:

We will include non-free firmware packages from the “non-free-firmware” section of the Debian archive on our official media (installer images and live images). The included firmware binaries will normally be enabled by default where the system determines that they are required, but where possible we will include ways for users to disable this at boot (boot menu option, kernel command line etc.).

When the installer/live system is running we will provide information to the user about what firmware has been loaded (both free and non-free), and we will also store that information on the target system such that users will be able to find it later. Where non-free firmware is found to be necessary, the target system will also be configured to use the non-free-firmware component by default in the apt sources.list file. Our users should receive security updates and important fixes to firmware binaries just like any other installed software.

We will publish these images as official Debian media, replacing the current media sets that do not include non-free firmware packages.

This is a great choice and will allow the installer to work pretty seamlessly for most users. I know there are purists who will be shouting and screaming that this is not the ‘true way for free software‘ but they will be a minority for the most part. Installers need to be simple, while allowing power users more granular control of the process. This change removes a major barrier in the adoption of Debian and makes the lives of millions of system administrators a lot easier.

Source: Slashdot: Debian Considers Changing How It Handles Non-Free Firmware
More details at: Debian Choose A Reasonable, Common Sense Solution To Dealing With Non-Free Firmware

– Suramya

September 25, 2022

How is everyone ok that Windows is showing advertisements everywhere in the system?

Filed under: Computer Software,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 11:55 PM

Linux is an Open Source operating system that is available for free while Windows is a paid OS that costs a fair bit of money (~$200 per license). One would think that because we are getting something for free when using Linux then we are the product. Strangely this is not the case and it is Windows that is showing me advertisements like I got it for free and even more strangely people seem to be ok with it.

My Linux setup has 0 ads on it that are pushed to it by the OS, Windows on the other hand seems to be determined to put advertisements where ever it can find some space. For example, you get ads in the Start Menu, the lock screen, Windows Explorer etc etc. If I am paying money for the OS I don’t want to have ads pushed to me that I can’t get rid of. I mean the folks over at How to Geek have a 14 page document explaining how to disable all the built-in advertising in Windows 10, which shows how strongly MS is trying to push advertisements on their platform.

Which is ridiculous, I mean I would complain about this much ads on a system that I didn’t pay for but apparently it is fine for a billion dollar company to waste my screen viewing estate, bandwidth and processor power to show me advertisements on a OS that I paid money for. If a system is showing me ads then they should be making the OS free so at least they have some excuse for the behavior, similar to what Netflix is doing where the plan with the advertisements in the programing is cheaper than the one without.

What do you think?

– Suramya

September 24, 2022

Keep your disk temperatures below 40 Deg C to increase their life

Filed under: My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 12:18 PM

Over the past few decades since I got my first computer, Hard Drive failures have been a problem for me till recently as my disks would last about a max of 2 years before I started seeing errors & disk failure on them. I tried all the brands including Segate, WD and a couple of others but still had the same issue. It had gotten bad enough that I was looking at buying enterprise hard disks instead of the Desktop versions even though the enterprise versions are a lot more expensive.

Then one day I was randomly looking at the temperature sensors for the system, I noticed that the hard drive temperature for 2 of the disks was at 41 Deg C. Plus the logs on the disk showed that this was a common occurrence for the disks. Then a quick Google search told me that the drives should be kept below 40 Deg to avoid disk failures. So I opened up the case and added a couple of more fans in the casing so that I had a constant flow of air over the disks. Took me about 20 mins and I already had the extra fans lying around. With the new fans the disk temperatures dropped to an between of 33-35 Deg C and I left it as is.

This was about 5 years ago. Today I was running my quarterly SMART scan of all my disks and noticed that the disks have been running for an average of 50k hours now (one of the disks is at 2k, but all others have been running constantly for a while). The max value of lifetime hours for my system is currently at: 52381 hours -> 2182.5 days -> 5.97 hours. That is a massive improvement over the previous average of <2 years. I am sure the same would be true for laptops as well but it is difficult to add another fan to a laptop so haven’t tested it. Plus my laptop doesn’t get used as often as my desktop since I mainly only use it while traveling whereas the desktop has been running pretty much 24×7 since I got it.

This shows that having your CPU/devices at the recommended temperature is essential for a longer life of the components. This is one of the reasons that all data-centers are cooled to the degree they are and any increase in the temperature maintained needs to be carefully tested before implementation.

– Suramya

September 22, 2022

Do kids make the world better? (A: Of course they do…)

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:22 AM

There is this quote floating around from a person who should know better, asking “What has any 5th grader done to make the world better because he or she is in it?” in response to a message at a school telling kids that they are loved and the world is better because they are in it. The question has stuck in my head and made me think a lot. There are so many ways kids make things better by being in it and though I never want to have kids even I can see how they make the world a better place when they are in it. Only selfish fools that measure value by what you own and what your bank balance can’t see this and I feel sorry for them as they don’t know what it is like to be loved.

It also made me think about all the times a kid has made things better for me so am sharing some random thoughts and examples from my life where a kid definitely made things better:

  • Kids will show unconditional love to those who love them, will come and cuddle with you and tell you stories about their day and what they learned that will make you forget your troubles for a bit
  • The hug you get when they see you after a while will make you forget a bad day at work…
  • Make you laugh so hard that your sides hurt with their explanations on why & how things work or why they did a certain thing.
  • Give you that look that tells you that you are the most important person in their world right now
  • Come up with really corny nicknames for you that you grow to love, Mine is ‘shu mama’ or shoe-mama as per my niece and nephew…
  • Watching kids play will show that not everything in the world is about money or being selfish. A little while ago I was playing with Vir and I jokingly told him that I was going to eat his nose. He told me no so I responded saying that I was really hungry. He looked at me for a few seconds and then looked at his hands; thought for a bit and then told me that I only have one nose but you can eat a finger as I have 10 of them.

There are so many examples but I don’t think any of them will make this person change their mind because they only look at the world with a mindset that values people only based on their bank balance, things they have accumulated and how useful the person is going to be for them personally. There is more to the world than how it can be used and how to make money from it. If you can’t see that then I feel sorry for you.

Well this is all for now. More later.

– Suramya

September 15, 2022

Thoughts on the Bangalore flood and how its citizens banded together to help each other

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:51 PM

The past few weeks have been pretty bad publicity for Bangalore with the flooding and the ineptitude of the BBMP and other govt services on full display, however I am going to talk about another aspect of the situation that I feel didn’t get enough coverage: The human factor and how people from various aspects of life banded together to deal with the situation together.

I was traveling during the floods so I managed to miss the major part of the flooding, but last year I wasn’t that lucky. I was visiting a friend back in Dec 2021 and didn’t realize that the water in the underpass was rising quickly and my car stalled as soon as I was half way through. I tried a few times to restart and with the water rising quickly I immediately got out of the car and tried pushing it out of the water. I wasn’t very successful because the car was heavy and not moving much. While I was trying this 3 guys passed by on scooters/bikes and they saw that I was struggling so they immediately parked their bikes and waded into the hip deep water with sewage mixed in it without me even asking them for help. They pushed the car out of the water and up to the main road through the water and the torrential rain. They only spoke Kannada and we both (Jani and me) don’t speak it so we just communicated with gestures and sign language. But none of that mattered these folks didn’t stop to ask if I was a northie or a proper kannadiga before they helped me in the middle of the night. Once the car was out and they were certain that we were ok they started to walk away and when I tried to give them some money but they refused. I insisted and forced them to take it because I wanted to show my gratitude and it was the least I could do. I wish I had asked for their names so that I could thank them and name them but I was a bit too frazzled to think of that at the time and by the time I remembered they were long gone.

This is what I will remember when people talk about Bangaloreans or people from the south being rude. It is just not true these guys didn’t have to help us, but they did it without us even asking for it. All they saw was that someone was in trouble and immediately helped.

The same scene played out in the recent floods as well where random people helped to push stranded vehicles to safety, farmers in tractors were helping people get to safety and boats rescued people from flooded areas etc etc. This was not the government coming in to help but people helping their neighbors and even random people who just needed help. There are so many stories that played out during this time that should have been captured but most people who helped were just being good humans and that is what we need more of in these times; people helping each other. This does help shore up my faith in humanity. After the floods folks in Diamond District have been donating money and essential supplies to help the people in slums (and other impacted areas) and the same is the scene at a few other apartment complexes as well. Companies are also looking at using their CSR budgets to help.

We need to celebrate these small acts of kindness and humanity. Trust me that these will be remembered for longer than random idiots on Twitter calling for all ‘northies’ to get out. I commented on a tweet by a friend whose apartment complex was flooded and even I had an idiot telling me to get out of Bangalore, but they are a vocal minority. Most people want to help and were/are helping as much as they can and I was happy to see the city where I have been living for over 2 decades come together to face this disaster together.

That all being said, the government and the agencies that allowed the situation to deteriorate this badly should be held accountable and action must be taken against them. This didn’t need to happen and the loss of life and property damage is their fault.

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

– Suramya

August 31, 2022

Thoughts around Coding with help and why that is not a bad thing

Filed under: Computer Software,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 11:40 PM

It is fairly common for the people who have been in the industry to complain about how the youngsters don’t know what they are doing and without all the fancy helpful gadgets/IDE’s they wouldn’t be able to do anything and how things were better the way the person doing the complaining does it because that is how they learnt how to do things! The rant below was posted to Hacker News a little while ago in response to an question about coPilot and I wanted to share some of my thoughts around it. But first, lets read the rant:

After decades of professional software development, it should be clear that code is a liability. The more you have, the worse things get. A tool that makes it easy to crank out a ton of it, is exactly the opposite of what we need.

If a coworker uses it, I will consider it an admission of incompetence. Simple as that.

I don’t use autoformat, because it gets things wrong constantly. E.g. taking two similar lines and wrapping one but not the other, because of 1 character length difference. Instead I explicitly line my code out by hand to emphasize structure.

I also hate 90% of default linter rules because they are pointless busywork designed to catch noob mistakes.

These tools keep devs stuck in local maxima of mediocrity. It’s like writing prose with a thesaurus on, and accepting every single suggestion blindly.

I coded for 20 years without them, why would I need them now? If you can’t even fathom coding without these crutches, and think this is somehow equivalent to coding in a bare notepad, you are proving my point.

Let’s break this gem down and take it line by line.

After decades of professional software development, it should be clear that code is a liability. The more you have, the worse things get. A tool that makes it easy to crank out a ton of it, is exactly the opposite of what we need.

If a coworker uses it, I will consider it an admission of incompetence. Simple as that.

This is a false premise. There are times where extra code is a liability but most of times the boiler-plate and error-checking etc is required. The languages today are more complex than what was there 20 years ago. I know because I have been coding for over 25 years now. It is easy to write Basic/C/C++ code in a notepad and run it, in fact even for C++ I used TurboC++ IDE to write code over 25 years ago… We didn’t have distributed micro-services 20 years ago and most applications were a simple server-client model. Now we have applications connecting in peer-to-peer model etc. Why would I spend time retyping code that a decent IDE would auto-populate when I could use that time to actually solve more interesting problems.

This is the kind of developer who would spend days reformating the code manually to look just right instead of coding the application to perform as per specifications.

I don’t use autoformat, because it gets things wrong constantly. E.g. taking two similar lines and wrapping one but not the other, because of 1 character length difference. Instead I explicitly line my code out by hand to emphasize structure.

This is a waste of time that could have been spent working on other projects. I honestly don’t care how the structure is as long as it is consistent and reasonably logical. I personally wouldn’t brag about spending time formatting each line just so but that is just me.

I also hate 90% of default linter rules because they are pointless busywork designed to catch noob mistakes.These tools keep devs stuck in local maxima of mediocrity. It’s like writing prose with a thesaurus on, and accepting every single suggestion blindly.

I am not a huge fan of linter but it is a good practice use this to catch basic mistakes. Why would I spend manual effort to find basic issues when a system can do it for me automatically?

I coded for 20 years without them, why would I need them now? If you can’t even fathom coding without these crutches, and think this is somehow equivalent to coding in a bare notepad, you are proving my point.

20 years ago we used dialup modem and didn’t have giga-bit network connections. We didn’t have mobile-phone/internet coverage all over the world. Things are changing. We need to change with them.

Why stop at coding with notepad/vi/emacs? You should move back to assembly because it allows you full control over the code and write it more elegantly without any ‘fluff’ or extra wasted code. Or even better start coding directly in binary. That will ensure really elegant and tight code. (/s)

I had to work with someone who felt similarly and it was a painful experience. They were used to of writing commands/code in Hex to make changes to the system which worked for the most part but wasn’t scalable because they didn’t have others who could do it as well as him and he didn’t want to teach others in too much detail because I guess it gave them job security. I was asked to come in and create a system that allowed users to make the same changes using a WebUI that was translated to Hex in the backend. It saved a ton of hours for the users because it was a lot faster and intutive. But this person fought it tooth and nail and did their best to get the project cancelled.

I am really tired of all these folks complaining about the new way of doing things, just because that is not how they did things. If things didn’t change and evolve over the years and new things didn’t come in then we would still be using punch cards or abacus for computing. 22 years ago, we had a T3 connection at my university and that was considered state of the art and gave us a blazing speed of up to 44.736 Mbps that was shared with the entire dorm. Right now, I have a 400Mbps dedicated connection that is just for my personal home use. Things improve over the years and we need to keep up-skilling ourselves as well. There are so many examples I can give about things that are possible now which weren’t possible back then… This sort of gatekeeping doesn’t serve any productive purpose and is just a way for people to control access to the ‘elite’ group and make them feel better about themselves even though they are not as skilled as the newer folks.

The caveat is that not all new things are good, we need to evaluate and decide. There are a bunch of things that I don’t like about the new systems because I prefer the old ways of doing things. It doesn’t mean that anyone using the new tools is not a good developer. For example, I still prefer using SVN instead of GIT because that is what I am comfortable with, GIT has its advantages and SVN has its advantages. It doesn’t mean that I get to tell people who are using GIT that they are not ‘worthy’ of being called a good developer.

I dare this person to write a chat-bot without any external library/IDE or create a peer-to-peer protocol to share data amongst multiple nodes simultaneously or any of the new protocols/applications in use today that didn’t exist 20 years ago

Just because you can’t learn new things doesn’t mean that others are inferior. That is your problem, not ours.

– Suramya

August 26, 2022

Using MultiNerf for AI based Image noise reduction

Filed under: Computer Software,Emerging Tech,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 2:58 PM

Proponents of AI constantly come up with claims that frequently don’t hold up to extensive testing, however the new release from Google Research called MultiNerf which runs on RAW image data to generate what the photos would have looked like without the video noise generated by imaging sensors seems to be the exception. Looking at the video it almost looks like magic, and appears to work great. Best of all, the code is open source and already released on GIT Hub under the Apache License. The repository contains the code release for three CVPR 2022 papers: Mip-NeRF 360, Ref-NeRF, and RawNeRF.

TechCrunch has a great writeup on the process. DIYPhotography has created a video demo of the process (embedded below) that showcases the process:

Video Credits: DIYPhotography

I like the new tools to make the photographs come out better, but I still prefer to take unaltered photos whenever I can. The most alteration/post-processing that I do on the photos is cropping and resizing. That also is something I do infrequently. But this would be of great use to professional photographers in conditions that are less than optimal.

– Suramya

August 16, 2022

Debian: My Favorite Linux Distro turns 29!

Filed under: Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:23 PM

Debian, one of the most popular Linux Distributions that has served as the base for over 100 derivative distributions (See here for the partial list) is celebrating it’s 29th Birthday! I have been using it since 2003, so it’s been 19 years since I started using it and I have to say the OS has been improving constantly over the years while keeping the core values/stability.

I have tried other distro’s in the middle: Ubuntu, Mint, Knoppix but keep coming back to Debian because of the stability and functionality. I do use Kali as the primary OS on my laptop as I use that for my security research/testing but all other systems run Debian. I even managed to get it to work on my Tablet. 🙂

One note of caution/advice is to always look at the packages being changed/removed when you are upgrading esp if you are on the Unstable branch as things can break in that branch. Usually if I see that packages are being removed that I want to keep I just have to wait for a few days and the issue gets resolved. It is not the best distribution if you are looking for ‘newbie friendly’ but is one that will let you learn Linux the fastest. (Linux from Scratch will get you to learn more about Linux internals than you ever wanted if you can manage to get it to work and have the time required to install/configure it. For me the effort spent for the gain wasn’t worth it, but your mileage may vary.

In any case, I think I will be sticking with Debian for the foreseeable future. Here’s to another 30 years!

– Suramya

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