Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Video Contest: I'm Linux

The Linux Foundation, a Non-Profit Organization, is sponsoring a Video Competition to create a commercial for Linux on the lines of "I'm a Mac'" and "I'm a PC" as done by Apple and Microsoft respectively. Linux is owned by its community and its only fitting that the community should participate in its promotion on Television, hence this Video contest. The winner gets no cash but a an all expense trip (airfare and hotel for 3 days) to Tokyo, Japan to participate in the Linux Foundation Japan Linux Symposium in October 2009.

There are some basic guidelines:
- Keep the video under a minute
- Comply with their ToS
- Watch your language and keep it clean
- Make it original and interesting

For more details check out their website and more importantly, get busy.


Ran into PEP 8 (Python Style Guide) written by Guido. It was nice to realize that i follow majority of his recommendations. At the same time i learned some new things which i had never thought of.

Good read!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Snip Snip Time

In the current tough economic conditions (I am kind of getting sick and tired of hearing this phrase) downsizing is preeminent. The stories of how someone had to change city, state or country to find another job have become commonplace.

During the last bubble burst a lot of first-time CEOs and Managers were entrusted with the task of guiding the companies through similar times and not all of them were successful at it. In fact in almost all cases the complete downsizing process was deemed ruthless. This was a problem not just for the first time leaders but even for seasoned campaigners.

This time good advice is more forthcoming. People who were burnt or involved in those times are giving out advice freely. One such interesting post i came across was by Guy Kawasaki. I recommend reading it even if you are not at the downsizing stage.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

iPhone Firmware 2.2

Its strange but since I have installed the 2.2 firmware the cell phone signal strength has improved slightly. Prior to this update the max i ever got was 2 bars but now its almost always 3 bars.

This is strange as i always thought that the signal strength received was a function of power transmitted by the cell phone towers and antenna design. The iPhone antenna surely hasn't changed and i haven't read/heard of ATT putting up new towers around my apartment so its got to be the firmware update.

The developers at Apple must have really messed up the 'check signal strength and then make calls' part of code or maybe they just add some artificial gain to improve the signal strength representation with each release. Either way currently i will accept anything that will improve my iPhone calling experience.

I also noticed that now apps are updated in place unlike earlier where the new version was downloaded in a different location and then moved to the current. Subtle but slick.


Oh on a side note, still no sign of my replacement USB power adapter.
Hurray to Apple support.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to send a courier Apple style

Trips to the Apple Store - 1
Calls to Apple Support - 2
Alleged couriers sent by Apple - 4
Days since first attempt - 35
Minutes spend on hold - 50
Amount of frustration - Infinite

...... still no sign of my replacement for the iPhone 3G power adapter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

iPhone App: Mocha VNC

Mocha VNC Lite is (as the name suggests) a VNC viewer for the iPhone. I installed the Lite version to try out the experience and i have to say its really cool. The performance is awesome and the clarity is just astonishing. Maybe its just me but i never expected this app to behave this well. You are required to install either TightVNC or RealVNC server on Windows based machine (I used TightVNC on my Win XP laptop) and voila you are set. They have a custom vnc server for Mac.

The need for such an application is still questionable but for now i am just having fun with it.

Note: The Lite version does not support Ctr-Alt-Del combination so i cannot lock/unlock my computer which is a smart move by the developers mainly because without this ability the application is unsafe to use say with your work computer.

TiPB claims that the Jaadu VNC app is much better than Mocha so check it out. Unfortunately it does not have a Lite version and it costs around 24 bucks, quite steep.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Snaps from India

Beautiful snaps from India. If you plan to visit India make sure you cover all these places.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My first paid iPhone Application : Subway Shuffle

I recently moved over to the Dark Side. I ditched my old trusted Palm Treo 680 for a new and shiny iPhone 3G about 2 months ago. Truth be told it was just too hard to resist the temptation. I totally love the device and don't hesitate to express my obsession openly much to the frustration of my friends and colleagues.

Listing the things i like about it would be impractical (since it will be a long list) so instead let me list the things i don't like about it:

1. The battery life sucks although its slightly better since the 2.1 update.
2. If i install a lot of applications without syncing it with iTunes the iPhone starts to hang and the UI gets really sluggish. This is quite irritating since i am on the road a lot and sometimes its weeks before i get my hands on my personal laptop.
3. The Exchange support is great but there are still some features like flagging emails, directly dialing numbers listed in calender notes, etc which i miss from the Goods Messaging service on my Palm Treo.
4. The App Store policies are too stringent. There are tons of cool applications which are not allowed by Apple for strange reasons but can be installed if you jail break the iPhone (and i don't wish to go that route).
5. Can't download new podcasts directly to the iPhone. (Apple please bring back Podcaster)
6. Cannot use my iPhone as a modem.

I guess you gotto lose some to gain some. I hope Apple addresses these issue soon.

I have so far downloaded and deleted tons of applications most of which were free. The one application i really enjoyed and eventually ended up buying is the Subway Shuffle by Aubrey's Puzzles. Initially i played the Lite version which allows you to solve 6 puzzles of varing complexity but the game is so addictive that i was compelled to spend the $2.99 for the paid version.

Who took my domain name?

My attempt to register a domain based on my name (afulay) went for a toss when i discovered that it had already been taken. The site is written in Arabic and had references to Morocco. Onto another combination now.

Bummer is taken too. :(

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Trick to Problem Solving

When a problem presents a disjunction, you need to list all its possibilities (define Solution Space) and reason from each of them.

- quoted from the book How would you move Mt Fuji.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christian Invasion in India

For years the world has blamed the Islamic groups for spreading terrorism and forcing atrocities on innocent people. No doubt this is true. We all know about the Al-Qaeda, Saddam's Regime, the ISI and many more but this blog post is not about them.

For once i want to focus on the Christian Missionaries and other groups which cloaked under their message of spreading peace and education is really forcibly converting the poor and innocent villagers of India. This video i came across comes from a Scandinavian woman who investigated the immoral tactics of the various Christian Missionaries in Western India.

The alarming aspect of this video is that these conversions are taking place in one of the most economically and industrially advanced regions of the country. Such conversions are rampant in the eastern part of India, the collection of 7 states (also known as the 7 Sisters) which were very evident during my short stint in the eastern parts of the country.

The pattern is quite simple. The Missionaries would start by setting up a school in the one of the poorest regions of the state. They provide the children with free food and medical attention which attracts other people to the church. Soon they start luring more people by unfairly comparing Hindu practices and Gods with the Christian religion and if this does not work by promising them money or free facilities. The people are eventually brain washed and forced to denounce their religion and country.

Despite the amount of money and efforts invested by the Indian government in the Eastern regions the people are still largely under the influence of the Christian Missionaries. The people their refuse to call themselves Indians and detest other Indians. This was quite evident during my brief stay in the region. More than once when we stopped on streets to ask for directions the local people turned away totally ignoring us. Some times when the person did respond we were told to either speak in English or their local language and not Hindi (Our National language). This is extremely sad and disappointing as this happens to be one of the more beautiful regions of the country with a rich culture and heritage.

All these incidents make me wonder if this is a passive form of terrorism. Terrorism to me is a way of forcing an ideological change, they may be enforced with either use of violence as most Islamic militant groups do or could be a covert operation by providing false hopes and biased comparisons of cultures as done by Christian Missionaries. I guess this is for every individual to decide for himself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to connect your ipod nano to your laptop

First insert the USB connector in to the laptop and then connect the ipod jack to your ipod nano. When ever i reverse this process my ipod nano hangs and has to be reset. To reset press the center and menu key together for a few seconds.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Python Exceptions >>> raise

A neat trick i found in the python tutorial:

If you need to determine whether an exception was raised but don't intend to handle it, a simpler form of the raise statement allows you to re-raise the exception:

>>> try:
... raise NameError, 'HiThere'
... except NameError:
... print 'An exception flew by!'
... raise
An exception flew by!
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 2, in ?
NameError: HiThere

For more read the Errors and Exceptions section

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Windows Services Management via VBScript

If you have ever used any Unix/Linux based systems you know that windows does not even come close to providing as reliable service management as its counterparts. I have been burnt  by the stuck services issue so many times that it was natural for me to look for alternate mechanisms.

VB script is a scripting language developed by Microsoft and is a limited variation of Visual Basic programming language. To me its a much better and more powerful alternative to Batch Scripting.

Being new to VBScript i had to spend some time initially to grasp the basics but when i did it was quite easy. Here is a simple VBscript to manage windows services.  You just need to modify the number of services to manage and their names and the script lets you bulk start/stop, check status and individually control each service. Thankfully since i have used this script i have not experienced the stuck services issue and i am strongly inclined to believe that most services start/stop issues may be caused by bugs in the GUI based Windows Services Manager (this is just speculation and i have no conclusive evidence to prove it).

Execute the following from your command prompt to run this script:
cscript [path to script]

The script:


dim input
dim strComputer
dim svrList

rem Main Body

input = 0
    input = getInput()

loop until input=5

rem Supporting Functions

function processInput(input)

    if input = "5" then

        strComputer = "."
        ' Modify this array size to add or remove services. The length of this array should be    
        ' exactly same as the number of services.
        ' Note: If you want to initialize this array to hold 4 services, set its size to 3. The array
        ' like most has a zero based index i.e. 0 to 3.
        dim myservices(3)

        ' specify the actual service names here

        'get service object
        Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:" & "{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\" & strComputer & "\root\cimv2")
        'debug statement
        'wscript.echo cstr(ubound(myservices))
        k = 0
        svrList = ""
        for each service in myservices
            svrList = svrList & "Name='" & service & "'"
            ' do not end the services string with an 'or' this causes the query to fail
            if k < ubound(myservices) then
                svrList = svrList & " or "
            end if
            k = k+1
        'debug statement
        'wscript.echo svrList
        Set colServiceList = objWMIService.ExecQuery("Select * from Win32_Service where " & svrList)

        ' debug statement
        'for each s in colServiceList
        '    WScript.Echo
        select case input

            case "1"
            case "2"
            case "3"
            case "4"
            case else
                Wscript.echo "Invalid Input!"
        end select

    end if
end function

rem Quit Script
function s_quit()
    WScript.Echo "bye!"
end function

rem Fetch script option
function getInput()
    WScript.echo "Select one of the options below:"
    WScript.echo "1 - Staggard Start"
    WScript.echo "2 - Start services"
    WScript.echo "3 - Stop service"
    WScript.echo "4 - Service status"
    WScript.echo "5 - Exit"
    getInput = textInput("Input = > ")
end function

rem Fetch user input
function textInput(prompt)
    WScript.StdOut.Write prompt
    textInput = WScript.StdIn.ReadLine
    rem WScript.StdOut.WriteLine username
end function

rem Staggard Start services
function staggard_start(serviceObjs)

    WScript.Echo "staggard start :: 1 - start; 2 - stop; 3 - ignore; q - quit"
    flag = "0"
        For each serviceObj in serviceObjs

            flag = textInput( & " -> ")

            select case flag

                case "1"
                    errReturn = serviceObj.StartService()
                    'WScript.Echo errReturn
                    WScript.Sleep 15000

                    if errReturn=0 then
                        WScript.Echo " ...started service"
                        WScript.Echo " ...failed to start service/running already"
                    end if

                case "2"
                    errReturn = serviceObj.StopService()
                    'WScript.Echo errReturn
                    WScript.Sleep 15000

                    if errReturn=0 then
                        WScript.Echo " ...stopped service"
                        WScript.Echo " ...failed to stop/not-running service"
                    end if

                case "q"
                    exit do

                case else
                   WScript.Echo " ...ignored"

            end select
end function

rem Start services
function startSrv(serviceObjs)

dim tempObj
WScript.Echo "starting services ..."
    For each serviceObj in serviceObjs
        errReturn = serviceObj.StartService()
        'WScript.Echo errReturn
        WScript.Sleep 15000

        if errReturn=0 then
            WScript.Echo "started service - " &
            WScript.Echo "failed to start/running already service - " &
        end if
end function

rem Stop services
function stopSrv(serviceObjs)

WScript.Echo "stopping services ..."
    For each serviceObj in serviceObjs
        errReturn = serviceObj.StopService()
        'WScript.Echo errReturn
        WScript.Sleep 15000

        if errReturn=0 then
            WScript.Echo "stopped service - " &
            WScript.Echo "failed to stop/not-running service - " &
        end if

end function

rem Service status
function statusSrv(serviceObjs)

WScript.Echo "Service Status"
    For each serviceObj in serviceObjs
        WScript.Echo "Name: " &
        WScript.Echo "State:" & serviceObj.State
end function


Hope this script helps you alleviate some of your windows services woes.

Disclaimer: I am not a VBScript developer. If you find any bad coding practices please do let me know and i will be more than happy to fix my script. Also the exception handling could be done in a much better fashion.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Border Gavaskar Trophy fiasco

If you are not a cricket fan or haven't been following the Australia-India Series in Australia you have missed a lot of action, both on the field and off the field. It all started when the umpires started giving out incorrect decisions (not just the field umpires but the 3rd umpire too) then the Australians decided not to walk even when they were clearly out and then on the field started appealing for non-existent catches. As the test progressed it just got worse as they accused Harbhajan of being racist and finally on the last day they bowled india out thanks to another set of bad umpiring decisions. Eventually they did equal that record of 16 unbeaten test winning streak.

This is an overtly dramatic video but the only which covered most of the incorrect umpiring decisions.

This not just created an outrage in India but also Australia where some of the prominent critics slammed Ponting for his unsportsmanlike behaviour. After the BCCI and the Indian Officials complained about bad umpiring standards, the ICC finally relented and decided to replace Bucknor.

The question to ask here is what is the point of winning if no one is enjoying it and that to at who's expense. Australia's victory today was Cricket's loss. Cricket has been called as a Gentleman's game but what the Australians did (along with the umpires) puts a big blemish on game and its history. It destroys the spirit in which the game has been played all these years.

Anyways I hope everything goes back to normal and ICC implements some stern rules to avoid such scenarios in future. As a cricket fan my only wish is to see some really good quality games.

Bitter sweet revenge: India beat Australia in the 3rd test thus setting up an interesting contest at Adelaide.

up up and away!!

Troy Widgery, a champion sky diver, survivor of a plane crash and now the founder of the 'Go Fast' sports and beverage company is taking his Jetsons fantasy quite seriously. His company has been working on building prototypes of Jetpacks. They currently have prototypes that last 32 and 45 sec which is truly quite impressive. Check out this report on cnn money.