Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My online video channel

WorldTV has come up with this concept of creating an online channel. The basic idea is to let you bookmark all your favourite online videos hosted on sites like youtube, google videos, et al and then organize them in a sequence so that they can be watched continuously like a tv channel.

This seems like a cool idea and there are multiple ways to put it to good use:
1. bookmark all your favourite videos in one location
2. create specific subject channels on say physics, wildlife, etc
3. concatenate a multi-part online lecture series into one continuous session

Although its hard to imagine people to abandon their television sets and watch online videos instead. Also these guys do not support live streaming and they depend on other sites to actually host the videos.

Final consensus: Even though it seems like a half baked idea for now it has a lot of potential. Speaking of potential here is my modest attempt at creating a new channel. Its obviously about cricket and more so about one of the greatest batsman of all times, Sachin Tendulkar. Enjoy!!

scobleizer ... i am hooked

It all started when i bought my ipod nano over the thanksgiving weekend. To sync my ipod i had to download iTunes. Since i had iTunes i started playing around with podcasts and thats when i came across this podcast which had Robert Scoble as a guest speaker. I think it was that crazy laugh of his that got me interested at first, i mean why would you invite someone with that horrendous laugh on your show except for maybe comic relief. Anyways a few searches later i was a little wiser and even more interested. His blog scobleizer is quite interesting where he covers a lot of new tech stuff often in video format which he records with that phone of his. In short i love his stuff and more so his energy, in fact i look forward to his blogs everyday.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Firefox memory leak

I am a big fan of Firefox, in fact i use IE just for LiveMeeting, Siebel on Demand and the outlook webmail. I haven't even bothered upgrading to IE 7. As for Firefox i use it so extensively that i keep a browser window alive for days together. I have a peculiar habit, whenever i come across a good link i open it in a new tab and keep it open till i am done reading it. This overtime causes my browser to hold 10-20 tabs and i have to use the 'hibernation' feature in WinXP to preserve it.

Firefox starts quite smartly with a minimal memory consumption of 40-50 mb but as you open more tabs and persist them for a couple of days it grows at a healthy rate often, in my case, reaching levels of 1 GB. This was a big disappointment for me. Win XP if not shutdown at regular intervals gets slower and suffers distinctly noticeable performance degradation. By not shutting down my laptop for a few days i was already making my laptop slower but now i also had to deal with the growing memory consumption of Firefox. With a little investigation i came across this article which explains the reason for this memory surge.

The article does make a lot of sense and now i understand the reason for the memory surge, in fact i changed the value of browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers from -1 to 3 and the memory utilization hasn't crossed 125MB since. This feature for me falls into the bracket of 'self-destructing' features. They have a typical life-cycle, it starts of with a good idea and noble intentions but then when it actually gets in the hands of real customers it just explodes in their face. I remember this firefox plugin which came out a few years ago called 'fasterfox'. It was designed simply to improve page loading which was achieved by pre-fetching links and specific content types like html, pictures, etc. Initially it received a lot of attention from all reviewers and it featured in the "top 10 plugins for firefox" articles but soon people realized the impact of this plugin as it started bringing down servers due to aggressive prefetching beyond specifications. Eventually a year later from its introduction fasterfox was featured in the worst firefox plugin articles. (A side effect of this plugin was that it scared the hell out of all IT departments and to date many of them in large companies do not support or allow the use of firefox).

The "Back-Forward cache" feature also falls in the same bucket as fasterfox. Its a very useful feature and if used in a controlled manner can be quite effective but by setting this cache size to an unrealistic '8' and allowing firefox to consume as much as 4 GB of memory, the firefox developers have shot themselves in the foot. Now, besides the many useful and cool features of firefox the most discussed topic is its memory leak. Instead had they started off by setting the cache size to an optimal level nobody would have ever run into this issue, in fact only advanced users would have ever bothered to customize this value.

This said firefox does have some genuine memory utilization issues e.g. if you open 10 tabs the memory utilization shoots up but when you close these tabs the memory is not released completely until you restart the browser window. I guess this is some bug with their garbage collection. Firefox is no way perfect but still they could have made their life a little easier by not introducing these 'self-destructing' features.

Despite all these problems i still love Firefox and nothing in this world would make me switch to any other browser, Safari included. :)

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Harry Potter's Magical Portraits

Of all the magical things I read about in the Harry Potter series, the one which impressed me the most is the magical portrait. The characters in the portrait could interact with living observers, speak, perform magic, open doors, visit characters in other portrait. They could capture life in the true sense.

Off course we are a few centuries away from developing a technology like that but for the moment converting our still and boring 2D pictures into 3D sounds interesting enough. These guys create 3D models out of 2D pictures by inducing the perception of depth by bending the 2D images at specified angles so that the vertical and horizontal surfaces can be differentiated.

Be sure to sign up for the beta release.

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one stop API lookup :: documentation search engine is a one stop API reference and its lightening fast.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

What type are you?

Question: Have you ever got into an argument or witnessed one over how to solve a particular problem.
Answer: Yes, a million times!!!

This excellent blog tries to explain the reasons between such conflicts. It defines two distinct personalities on the basis of techniques used to devise solutions to problems viz. Incrementalists and Completionists.

In my professional career so far i have seen numerous examples of both the types and i have also experienced the conflicts between the two considering i am an incrementalist myself.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Steve Jobs

I must confess I am a big fan of Steve Jobs. Although i don't own a single product made by Apple (yes thats true no macs, no ipods and certainly no iphone) but i totally worship the man. Time and time again he has been criticized for being a salesman, a showman and for his skills of persuasion also dubbed as Reality distortion field. The question here is, which CEO/leader isn't? Look at Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, et al. All these guys are supremely confident about their products and its this confidence which has got them to where they are.

The key to his success is his fighting spirit which is substantiated by his rise despite hitting rock bottom after he was fired from Apple(his own founded company). I guess his background too has contributed to his nature, i mean being put up for adoption just a week after birth by your own blood mother is not the most pleasing thought. This itself would have broken a lot of wills.

His technical capabilities have been under the scanner too. So often i hear people say "Bill Gates at least wrote DOS what did Steve Jobs do?". The way i like to see it is, Apple as a company is still going strong and year after year they churn out quality products (they do have bad days like the safari edition for windows but everyone makes mistakes ;)) The point being, Apple has given us great products and they all have been under the leadership of Steve Jobs, so lets give him some credit for it.

There is an interesting post by Seth Godin on Jobs, look it up. I also like his concept of a 'rifter', makes a lot of sense.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dual Monitor setup

My background in electronics and lack of cash during my engineering days taught me very important lessons -- never waste hardware and always utilize hardware to the fullest. In fact i am big fan of the google strategy, use cheap and low end hardware but write intelligent software to compensate for the hardware/network deficiencies.

So when i saw this discarded 17th inch CRT monitor lying around in the office (everyone in our office has an LCD monitor along with a docking station, kbd, mouse, etc or they prefer to work on laptops directly) i just couldn't stand it.

My earlier setup comprised of a docking station connected to an LCD monitor using the VGA connector. A little investigation revealed that the LCD monitor also had a DVI-D connector. Since all my hardware is from Dell the docking station too had a supporting DVI-D connector. With the prerequisites validated i sneaked into my IT admins office and dug through heaps of cables to find the correct DVI-D cable to complete the loop. Trust me this was the only challenging task in the whole process. During my search i found all possible conversion connectors but the cable i needed was brilliantly hidden in the furtherest corner of a drawer. Now armed with the cable i connected my LCD monitor to the docking station via the DVI and the CRT monitor via the VGA and voila(!!) my dual monitor setup was ready.

One misconception about using dual monitors is that everyone presumes a 2x increase in productivity. Now this is highly impossible since you still have the same input devices (kbd/mouse). Realistically i would assume the increase in productivity to be in the range of 1.25x to 1.5x since you just save on the time required to analyze or sort the output (i.e. content displayed on the screen). Also we forget that the brain still processes data at the same rate, additional monitors don't influence our ability to think they just facilitate better visualization.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ingoing and Outcoming

Aren't we always on the lookout for new English words. Recently during a team meeting a member blurted out "Ingoing and Outcoming" instead of "outgoing and incoming". Of course we had a good laugh at his expense but then i wondered if we could some how incorporate this in the English language. How would its usage be? After some thought this is what i came up with:

1. Ingoing:

Imagine you are talking to someone about the changes that need to go into a product version, so you ask him, "Hey what are the ingoing changes?".

2. Outcoming:

Imaging you just missed an important meeting to decide the future of a certain feature from a product, you ask a fellow teammate, "So what were the meeting's outcomings?"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Python Presentation by Alex Martelli

I recently came across an excellent presentation on Python by Alex Martelli. This presentation was part of the Google Tech Talks series on Google Videos. Check it out!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

world's smallest countries in the world

I always knew that Vatican City was the smallest country in the world both population-wise and area-wise but never did i think of the 2nd and 3rd. Recently someone in my office raised this topic which sparked my curiosity, so here it is.

The most interesting entry there is of Monaco. I never knew it was a separate country considering i am a big F1 Grand Prix fan and the race at Monaco is the most exciting of the season. I always thought it to be part of Italy and thats why i used to wonder why Italy hosted 2 races in a season.

Nways time to explore other countries on the list.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Which Programming Lanuguage Are You?

I took this quiz which claims to determine which programming language your personality matches with. Mine turned out to be Modula-2 (strangely i had never heard of this language ever before).

You are Modula-2. You enjoy teaching others, but your rigidness tends to make them dislike you.
Which Programming Language are You?

I don't completely agree with this result nor do i agree with some of the descriptions of the other languages but what the heck.....i am killing time anyways.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Python revision - Book review

Yesterday i found the book 'Learn to Program using Python' by Alan Gauld in the office. Since i had a few hrs to kill i decide to quickly go through the book.

I have been using python for almost a year now but strangely i have never had any sort of formal training and neither have i learnt python in a structured manner. Its mostly been task based which always makes me wonder if my coding style is indeed the correct way to do things. So i was excited about the prospect of reading this book and learning to do things the right way.

So i sat down to read and within an hr i was on page 100 (which is quite significant considering the book has just 270 pages). I realized that my knowledge of "basic" python was quite good, infact what i was really yearning for was indepth understanding of concepts and good practises and the book didn't quite provide this. That said it was wrong on my part to expect such topics from a book meant to be introductory text for python. That said the book in itself i quite good, it has small chapters and simple language and is a must read for early adopters of the language. I wish i knew about this book a year back.

I did come across a few feature i didn't know about, like:

1. dealing with binary streams, esp using struct.pack(...)

2. nested try/except. I had always hated the fact that you cannot use try-except-finally in a single construct but it never occured to me that i could achieve the same by nesting these clauses,eg.


This ineffect gives me the same functionality as,


NOTE: this is now allowed in python 2.5

3. Another thing i came across (not in this book but i feel this is the right place to record it) is the technique to create a list from another list.

Earlier i used to do the following:

l = [list of objects with method 'id']
k = []
for obj in l:

I always thought this was too much code to achieve too little. So after a bit of searching i discovered the following trick:
k = [ for obj in l]

Now i create new lists in a single line instead of 3, a 3X productivity improvement :D

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back to CODE!!

    Since i have moved to US my job profile and lifestyle has taken a giant leap. I come from an engineering background where the ultimate fantasy in life is to work on some exciting piece of code. Our sense of adventure is limited to trying out a new design pattern or some new framework. We just love sitting in that dingy corner with our giant LCD screen and a powerful PC and churn out line after line of code which we are not even sure if anyone would use it.

    Then i moved to the realm of professional services. Now suddenly i was out of that dark corner and talking directly to customers (i.e. people who actually use the piece of code). It was a earth shattering experience because now i was actually selling what i wrote. This tiny bit of exposure suddenly opened up a lot of doors and answered some questions that i had always wondered about but never found an answer too.

    The biggest pleasure an engineer/developer can ever get is when someone actually uses a feature he/she developed. This takes us to the next question, how does one develop something useful? The answer is customer feedback and this is possible only through customer interaction, direct customer interaction. Strangely a lot of companies do not believe in this concept. Generally the engineering team is fed inputs by a product manager who is supposed to understand customer needs and then translate them in a language engineers understand. Although this sounds promising but there are a lot of dependencies attached to it, like the ability of the PM to correctly capture requirements and then explain the same to the related engineer. Thats expecting a little too much from one person and even if it does work i don't think its a long term solution. Ideally i would like to

involve the respective developer in the requirement gathering process, this way s/he know exactly whats expected out of him/her.

    Well i had such a chance a few days back. As part of services i had to go to a client site, gather requirements , design a solution for them and implement it to. I think this is one opportunity you would kill for. So currently i am quite excited with the turn of events and looking forward to going BACK TO CODE...............

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Windows service stuck in "starting" mode

   I have come across this scenario quite a few times. When you try to start a service some how windows screws up and comes back with an error saying that the service could not be started and the reason for the failure (as expected) is useless. The worst part is that after failure the service still stays in the 'starting' mode for quite some time and there is nothing that you can do to stop it, i mean there is no option to force stop the service.

   I am still trying to figure out some way to get the service to recover faster but can't seem to find any help, google is not helping me either. So the best solution for the moment is to wait till the service recovers on its own and then restart it or you reboot the OS itself (isn't that the universal fix for any problem on windows. ;))

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Linux on Business Desktop

I have always wanted to setup linux on my Business Desktop but was always scared to do it since there were so many dependencies on Windows systems primarily Outlook Exchange, Microsoft Office, connecting to WLANs and last but not the least .. TIME!

This article talks about similar issues and how this guy got around them. In short a good article to inspire you to take the plunge.

BTW incase you are wondering why one would want to move to Linux don't even bother reading this article.

WL 9 - configure node manager

Good link on how to configure the Weblogic 9 Node Manager.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

My first football game: Patriots Vs Chargers

so i did make it to Boston without much fuss (offcourse ignoring the fact that i missed my connecting flight to Boston from NYC and had to get to LeGuardia on my own and catch the next one) but overall it was fun. Emirates is a good airline with pretty good service.

Anyways i'm not going to go ga-ga about my trip in this blog, infact this blog is gonna be about the game of American football i saw yesterday. Before we start i have a little confession to make, prior to yesterday i had never seen a football game and actually never had cared about one. Now since i am in the USA where football happens to be the most popular sport i thought i might as well get a quick tutorial on it. So we got together at a friends place and he gave me some education about the game. Now time for another confession, once you get the hang of the game it can be very interesting.

So my first game was Patriots Vs Chargers. I being in Boston was supporting New England by default and boy what a game it was. The best part of the game was the 4th quater. The patriots were down 13-21 and from that they equalled the game with the help of a touchdown and 2 bonus points (now thats quite gutsy offcourse they didn't have much choice). The game now was well poised and New England made the first move by scoring a 3, 24-21 in favour of the patriots. Now San Diego on the counter-attack, they make it to 40 yards in quick time. With just 7 secs on the clock its now or never, steps in the Kicker and takes a good looking shot at the ball, it flys high, its going in, oh boy its close and it swings in the air..... and misses by a wisker...its.....out. Oh ......god.........what for.... the...... patriots!!!!!

I would say an amazing game to start my rendezvous with football. what say??