June 30, 2004

Scripts

My net connection expired yesterday. So naturally it took till today to renew it, even though I called my provider 3 days in advance telling him that I'll be needing a refill soon. But no sweats, I knew it would take some time and had already planned the day.

I spent the whole of yesterday reading movie scripts. Check out this site for all your script needs. I read scripts of all the movies I like, if I can get them. Read the script for Pitch Black, Groundhog Day and Shawshak Redemption. All great movies, with great scripts. Check them out if you want.

[Edit]
I forgot to mention my thoughts on the movies after reading the scripts. So here goes.

Pitch Black: An excellent script, it's a truly unique movie. They could have done better than Vin Diesel, who should thank his stars for getting the role of Riddick. He's played the same character for every movie since.

Groundhog Day: It's one of the most amusing and touching scripts, ever. The original draft was slightly different from the shooting script, but it's still really good. The movie is brilliant, but the written script is better. I almost want this to have been a book to read.

The Shawshak Redemption: Morgan Freeman plays Red to perfection. No one else would be this good. The movie is based on a short story by Stephen King, which I didn't know until yesterday. I guess I'll be reading more of him soon.

June 28, 2004

Activity

Now I can truthfully say that I am not bored. Who can be bored when there is so much to do? Currently I'm engaged in 3 major activities:

Reading: I'm re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four right now. And I can honestly say that this is the scariest book I've ever read. The book is not a horror story, I laugh at the face of such books. Something about this book gets in me and makes me squirm. You see, as I read any book, I usually imagine myself as being in it, but 1984's world is too horrific to imagine. I've read lots of stuff, some Stephen King, a lot of Anne Rice, and many other horror stories that I don't remember; but I know I was never scared while reading that. Reading 1984 is a gut-wrenching experience for me, but I love it for that. It makes me want to get off my ass and do something about the world, which in itself is a miracle.

Rendering: I've been playing around with Apophysis even more lately. Check out my best render so far, I call it Growth.

I even registered on DeviantArt and uploaded some of these.

Learning: I've actually started to learn some Python. I'm at the fifth chapter of Dive into Python right now.

Along with this, there is a lot of other stuff. There are movies to watch, TV shows to keep track of, music to listen to... If I get bored of something, I can just switch the current activity. Ahh, life is fun right now.

June 27, 2004

Fractals

I've decided to play around with Apophysis for some time now. I've always wanted to be creative in some way, and this allows me to be creative and make really beautiful images quickly. Check out my first good render:

I've decided to call this one "Afterburn". Technically, this is Fractal Flame art. Fractals are images that are self-similar, you can zoom into them indefinitely and see basically the same type of structures repeating indefinitely, with some variations. And Fractal Flames are a special kind of Fractal, as far as I can tell. It's all math that I don't understand. If I understand it better, I'll post it here.

BTW: The fullscreen render here took around 30 minutes on my P4. Some images take as much as a day to render at high qualities.

June 26, 2004

Re-reading

I've read most of the new books that I've bought, so now it's time to re-read some of books that I like. The first time you read a book is good, but reading the books you like again is like clearing the fog.

I started with To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This is a great book, set in the deep South of America around 1930. It tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer and his children, Jem & Scout Finch. It deals with the racial prejudices that creep into people's lives from a child's point of view. And it deals with growing up. It shows how a man can keep his integrity without compromise. The main plot line is of Atticus defending a black man accused of rape, who's convicted even though he's innocent. There are many other minor plot lines as well, each of which seem good enough to make their own novels.

It was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer prize in 1961. It is the only novel written by Harper Lee. It's written from the point of view of a child, so it manages to get it's point across without starting to preach. It's a slow moving novel, but once gets going, it's hard to put down.

Ebay buys Baazee

I've just heard that Baazee has been acquired by Ebay. This means that Ebay will now start auctioning in India also. That's good as far as it goes, but what I want to see is the shipping fees to reduce. That will result in me actually start buying stuff online.

BTW, Baazee went for around US$ 60 million.

June 25, 2004

This is getting funny. Now Microsoft is going to boost storage of Hotmail up to 250 Mb.

This just shows the power of competition. It's great for Google to shake things up. Due to Gmail, everyone else is also forced to improve. And that's good for all of us.

June 24, 2004

Firewall intrusions


It's barely been 20 day's since I formatted my PC and I've already got 5000 intrusions on my Firewall. If you are on a large LAN, your XP can't survive without a firewall.

My current config:

A good Firewall/Antivirus combo, with the antivirus definitions updated, means that you are virtually secure. I've seen fresh XP install's connected to a network get infected within minutes of the first boot. I actually disconnected the Ethernet cable while I was getting my system up to date, configuring the firewall.

June 23, 2004

Check out Iraq's new flag.

Open Source Life

What happens when a bio-cracker unleashes a plant virus on all the wheat in North America, and the genetic code to "Wheat 2.0" is closed-source, patented code owned by a corporation? Should life be Open Source?

Read on from original blog.

RSS

RSS is a life saver. I'm not talking about the right-wing politicians here. I'm talking about site syndication. Now, I can guess that most of you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about. So, lets start from the beginning.

RSS is primarily used by news sites and blogs. Rediff is the only Indian news site that has it's own RSS feeds as far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong. To use RSS, you need an RSS reader. I use Firefox, and there's a nifty Firefox extensions that allows your browser to read RSS feeds. But I recommend FeedDemon for newbies, the best aggregator that I've seen. It's shareware, but give it a try. It comes pre-configured with lots of popular feeds by default.

Basically, what RSS does is give you the latest headlines of a news site or the latest posts of a blog, along with a short summary. You can than choose to view the entire story/post if you want. No more navigating through the entire site. And you can syndicate as many feeds you want, check on as many sites you want. And it's fast, plus you get updated to the latest news that you want. And, most RSS feeds are Ad-free.

Most blogs have RSS support. Check out my sidebar, I've got three kinds of feeds going on. Atom is a standard similar to RSS and most aggregators support it also. RSS 1.0 & RSS 2.0 are different versions of RSS. You can you any of those feeds to syndicate to my blog. It's simple. Most aggregators support all these standards.

I'm on the lookout for any Indian sites other than Rediff that have RSS support. Tell me if you guys find any.

Peace.

PS: Here's another article that explains about RSS, and much better than mine.

June 22, 2004

Slaughterhouse-five

Just finished reading Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut. It's an anti-war novel, the best that I've read. What makes it so effective is that the author is writing about his own experiences with the Bombing of Dresden in World War II.

Dresden was a German city renowned for it's architecture. Vonnegut was an American soldier fighting in World War II and was taken as a prisoner of war to Dresden. There he suffered for a few months, and then Dresden was fire-bombed while all the POW's were in a underground location. The bombing of Dresden is the single largest loss of human lives. 135,000 people died there, than at Hiroshima & Nagasaki combined. The entire city was in ruins. And Vonnegut took twenty-three years to write this novel. Twenty-three. In every page of the novel, you can see that the pain and suffering was still fresh in his mind for twenty-three years. I can't imagine what it must be like to emerge from a shelter and find an entire city devastated.

The novel is a strange and fractured tale. Vonnegut writes most of it in third person, while some parts are in first person. It's a mix of fact and fiction. The main character is Billy Pilgrim, a fictional character, who is taken as prisoner along with the author. Due to the stress, he becomes deranged. He thinks that he is "unstuck" in time, that he can time-travel through his entire life at will. And the novel is written in this way, you see the entire life of Billy Pilgrim at once. He also imagines that he was abducted by aliens called Tralfamadorians, who have the ability to see in four-dimensions. He needs to invent all this stuff just to deal with his own memories, while Vonnegut needs to write it down for his own sake.

The writing style is strange, but it works in this case. Humour is used in many places, but the book remains hard-hitting overall. I'll note one peculiar thing. Everytime someone dies, Vonnegut writes "So it goes." It drives home the point that war is futile. This is what he has written at the ending of the book:

"Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles
away from the home I live in all year round, was shot
two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes. Martin
Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes.

And everyday my government gives me a count of
corpses created by the military service in Vietnam. So
it goes.

My father died many years ago now--of natural
causes. So it goes. He was a sweet man. He was a gun
nut, too. He left me his guns. They rust.
They rust."

June 21, 2004

Gmail invites

Heheh, I've got 6 Gmail invites to give out. I'll give one to Jabal, as he's gonna go to the States in a few weeks, and I still haven't thought of a good going away present. The rest are up for grabs. [Comment as hell]

It seems that the invites are getting more and more common. The last estimate was that there are around a total 1.5 million invitations sent out. The beta should be over in a month or two, probably.

PS: This is a marketing ploy to get my friends to read my blog.

Theory No. 2

All right, this is not going to be anything related to physics, or for that matter, anything related to science. It's just what I think works for me, and will probably not work for you. But here goes :
"If you want something, try to get it, without actually caring too much whether you succeed or not."

What I mean is you should work for what you want, but the moment you start obsessing about it or caring too much, you are doomed to fail. The Universe will royally screw you then and there. Of course if you put in no effort, you will fail; but if you put in too much effort, you will fail as well. There are no guarantees to success, but this works best for me. You can work hard if you like, but not too hard for anything. You should be able to stop, and let the events take their own due course.

You should be able to get distracted in life. Concentrating on a single thing never works for me. And I feel that my whole theory can be nicely understood if you understand the following, written by the great Douglas Adams:
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying. There is an art, it says, or, rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, it suggests, and try it."
“The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it’s going to hurt. That is, it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground."
“Most people fail to miss the ground and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard. Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties."
“One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It’s no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won’t. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you’re halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground or about how much it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss it."
“It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people’s failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport."
“If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner."


1. From Douglas Adams: Life, the Universe and Everything, Chapter 9.
2. And I know I've been obsessing about Adams for a while, but his writing is so damn good. I swear, no more Adams posts for a while.

June 19, 2004

Hitchhiker's update

Statutory Warning: This is going to be a slightly long post.
I've finished reading the four books of the Hitchhiker's triology. Yes, you got that right, the four books of a triology. And I have to say that they are without a doubt the funniest books that I've read, and probably the funniest books ever written. Now, I've only to read the last book of the entire series, Mostly Harmless. I'll have to read the entire series again, of course. The only thing better than reading a good book is reading it twice. And these books are in the LOTR fashion, I could read 'em again & again.

Douglas Adams is a comedic genius, a man like no other. It's just the way he writes, the way he forms his sentences. And he seems to contradict himself every other line, write something ironical every third line, and make us laugh every fourth line. There's no way I can describe his work, so I'll give you just a short snipped. Hope this does not violate any copyright laws. This is taken from the first page of the first book:

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost for ever.

This is not her story.

June 17, 2004

The email wars continue

First of all, Gmail kicked of with their 1st April announcement of Gmail. Them, Spymac started offering 1 Gb space as well. Then it was Yahoo!. Finally, Rediff has entered the fray by offering, guess what, 1 Gb space for emails. This is getting hilarious.

And Gmail is still in beta. All these guys are so scared of something that is still atleast a couple of months away. Nice, isn't it, what competition can do? Lets hope more people have some sense and start using Linux, so Microsoft will try to improve Windows...

Why you should use Firefox

This article is a pretty good reason. It's just that IE sucks at so many things that Firefox which is still in development and not entirely stable is a much better choice. So I end up trying to get people to use it. This should do the job for me though.

Cable blues

Last night I could not watch the Euro matches as my cable wallah did not show ESPN or Star Sports. Kinda sucked, but I got over it. I called him today and told him to keep the matches on today. And to my surprise, he turned on the channel, only for me to find that the match commentary was in both English and Hindi simultaneously... A couple of my friends also have the same problem, so it does not seem a local fault. Can't understand how a major channel can make such a huge mistake.

June 16, 2004

Blog setting update

It's been kinda a busy day. I registered at Haloscan and updated my template a bit. Now my blog supports trackback as well, if that could do any good. The default blogger commenting system was a pain, anonymous users had to click 3 times to comment. This is much better, only disadvantage being that comments are not going to be archived on blogger.

Got Gmail!!

Check out the screenshot:

Blogger rules! No more Hotmail, heheh

June 15, 2004

Hitchhiker's Guide

I've finally bought the entire Hitchhiker's Guide series from the cheapest store in India, Strand. To be exact as always, I've bought this book. So I'll be off reading for a few days...

Firefox 0.9 out

The latest version of Firefox, version 0.9 has been released today. Firefox is one step closer to it's first completely stable release [version 1.0], which is scheduled for late September. The new release has many new features, the main being a new method of managing extensions. And due to this, most of the old extensions you have installed will not work. I recommend having a clean re-install of Firefox, remove version 0.8 and install the new one. Download Firefox from here.

On the downside, the new default theme is horrible. You should get Qute, the default theme for version 0.8. And anyone who is not anxious to update should wait for a few days atleast. The servers are already overloaded.

Yahoo! vs. GMail

Yahoo! vs. GMail It seems that Yahoo! Mail is going to compete with GMail. Yahoo has offered 1 Gb storage space to it's free email accounts and 2 Gb storage to it's paid accounts. Curiously, it has offered this only to US Residents, people that have a @yahoo.com email address. If you have a @yahoo.co.in address, then you have to make do with a measly 6 Mb. Stupid move.

Potter mania

Went & saw the Prisoner of Azkaban today. It was a great movie, Alfonso Cuaron is a superb director. Finally we get to the real stuff, the first 2 books are fillers anyway. The movie is the best I've seen after Return of the King, and my only complaint was that it was rushed a little. An additional 20 minutes would have done it good. I've read the books, so I had no problem following it, but for those who are not familiar with the story, it could turn out to be slightly confusing.

The atmosphere of the movie is just great. There are little touches here and there which stand out, and even Chris Columbus would have not done a better job for this movie. He was great in the first 2, but this one needed Cuaron. And the acting is definitely better this time. The kids have grown up, and are getting better. Also, the new cast members are great, even though most don't have much screen time. Gary Oldman is really good as Sirius Black.

I give it 4.5/5, and would have given it 5/5 if it had been a little longer. I heard that they are thinking of splitting the next movie into 2 parts, Kill Bill fashion. That's good, 'coz the fourth book is much bigger than the third.

June 14, 2004

Abridged scripts

There are scripts, and then there are abridged scripts, scripts that are spoofed to be funny. Reading abridged scripts of movies you like is fun, but it's even funnier to read abridged scripts of movies you hate. Try it, this site is the best source of abridged scripts on the net.

Zizou Magic

I promised myself that I'll not write about each match during this Euro cup. I didn't want this to turn into a sports blog. Well, I'm still writing about the England - France game as that was one of the most exciting finishes ever.

I'm sorry for all the football fans that missed it, you should have been watching. Imagine that 90 minutes are up, and the last 3 minutes of extra time are on. Zidane gets a penalty in the 91st minute, which he promptly converts. Imagine getting a draw after 91 minutes of play. Then imagine the English goalkeeper fouling Henry to give France a penalty kick at the 93rd minute. Imagine Zidane coming again, and scoring. Imagine the dreams & hopes of all the English fans being crushed in 3 minutes. Of course, I'll never be able to describe this as it should have been described. Any football buffs out there should make sure that they catch the replay.

June 13, 2004

The weather lately has been great. There's the monsoon atmosphere that makes you want to sleep the whole day, the winds that break a window or two every year, and the cool temperatures at night that result in my insomnia becoming less severe. I must say that I live in front of a large open ground, due to which the wind is incredible.

I think that the best thing that has come out of engineering so far is the fact that I get to have the whole June & most of July off.

June 12, 2004

Python

I've finally installed Python and am gonna start reading some tutorial right now. Finally something productive...

Euro update

It's starting tonight, Portugal vs. Greece @ 9:30 PM. Then from tomorrow, 2 matches per night. Ahh, my nights got even better.

Another thing a lot of people are wondering is what effect the new Roteiro ball will have on the game. It's almost seamless, and early reports were great. But lately, people have been complaining about it's design. We'll just have to see how it fares.

Blogs!

I've finally started reading some other people's blogs, especially on Rediff. Some are really good, some are great, and some just plain suck. Well, that's the way life is anyway.

Note to self: Add a list of favourite blogs to the sidebar.

June 11, 2004

The Linux soap opera

This is really funny. Some guy named Ken Brown went around interviewing people and is going to publish a book on why open source is bad for business and his claim that Linus Torvalds did not write the original Linux kernel! It's actually got the whole open source community outraged.

One of the people he interviewed was Professor Andy Tanenbaum, the one who wrote the Computer Organization & Computer Networking books. Brown claimed that Tanenbaum supports his claim, with which the professor promptly disagreed. Read his original rebuttal here. It's a most entertaining read.

It gets even more interesting. Brown reacted to Tanenbaum's response, and again put up a document at his site, a really boring document. I could not get myself to read it till the end. Now, Tanenbaum has again responded, and this response is as entertaining as the first one. Worth spending some time to read.

After another insomniac night of waking up till 3am, I woke up early today. Don't know why, but today's going to be a long day. Where's my coffee?

June 10, 2004

The Alchemist

Read The Alchemist yesterday. It seemed like a cute book, but I don't get what the hype is about. It's good, but not that good. To be honest, I think that it's too short.

These motivational type books are not for me. Sure, it's fun to read a book like this once in a while, but I can't keep reading this. A lot of people disagree with me on this one.

CD Archiving

If you are like me, then you probably have lots of CD's lying around. And you probably don't know which CD you have to search to find a particular file. This is when CD archiving come in, and I've found a perfect software to do it.

Download Cathy from this page. It's one of those tools that are so small and do their tasks so well that you wonder why everything else can't be like them. It's only 43Kb!! You can catalog all the files on your different CD's, and then browse them or search. Searching is lightning fast, you just have to see once. It's like Google for you local files, but even faster. And you are not restricted to CD's alone, you can archive even your hard-disk folders.

June 09, 2004

The Odyssey

I've never read this Homeric epic, but I plan to soon. I actually tried reading the electronic version from Gutenberg, but couldn't stomach all that verse. I'm looking for a good prose translation. I like Greek mythology, which you would have guessed by now as my screen name is Ulysses.

The source of most of my knowledge about this book is a movie screenplay someone wrote based on it, but it was never produced. It's accurately follows the story as far as I can tell, and I really enjoyed reading it. You should check it out here. If this had been written a few years later, during the present craze for fantasy movies, then it surely would have been produced, IMO.

June 07, 2004

Theory No. 1

I'm no scientist. I don't analyse data in a scientific way, or form a hypothesis based on facts. But I like to dabble with the abstract. I like to make up concepts sometimes that try to explain stuff, even when I know that this is pointless. A lot of things fascinate me, but nothing holds my attention for a long period of time. Only when you try to be pointless can you explain your point of view...

Lets talk about time travel, the famous Grandfather Paradox. You know, if someone creates a time machine to go back to the past, and kills their grandfather, or by some seemingly random action causes his parents to never meet and ultimately this leads to his never being born. How can he alter time if he never exists? This leads to a theory I have, where there can be no paradox.

As I see it, there are two possibilities. The Universe is pre-determined, everything occurs at it's time, the future is definite, we only don't know it yet. Or there are infinite parallel universes, every choice you make leads you to a new Universe. Now, if the Universe was predetermined, there can be no paradox. Even if you develop a time machine and go back to the past, you cannot change everything as you already have changed it before, if this makes any sense. So you cannot affect your past, because it has already been affected. So, there is no paradox. Or if there are multiple universes, which is simpler to imagine, then travelling through time leads you to a parallel Universe, and what you affect there does not change the future you.

I know it's a load of crap, but this is something to fill the long hours of insomnia...

BTW, Nandish should enjoy this post
Robert Heinlein in his classic short story "All You Zombies" wrote something that is even more mind-numbing than the Grandfather Paradox. Read about it here.

June 06, 2004

Monsoons

I'm desperately waiting for the rains to start. It has rained a couple of times, but there has not been a heavy downpour yet. There's nothing like sitting down to read a book peacefully while it's pouring outside. There was quite a lot of wind yesterday night while I was trying to sleep, and I was hoping that it would rain then. But rains can sometimes be irritating, especially when I have to go out.

Here are some useful links:

Quiz

I'm geting bored, so bored that I've started doing quizzes for fun. I did this quiz on quizilla.com and this was the result:
Morpheus

June 04, 2004

Dune 2

I've finished the second Dune book today, Dune Messiah. It's also good, though not as great as the first one. Now I know where the Wachowski Brothers got some of their inspiration from. The part where Neo is blinded in the 3rd movie [The Blind Prophet] seems to be clearly lifted from this book.

Not everyone can like this book though. For the most part, it's about someone with great power who still knows he his human. This book is a lot more philosophical than the first, and sometimes it gets a bit heavy. I've still not figured out the entire plot, it's just too massive. "Wheels within wheels, plans within plans"

PC Format

WinXp has a half-life of around 1 year. After that, it becomes unusable. It was time now to go for a clean install again, so I formatted my PC this morning. And spent the whole day yesterday backing up all my important data & program settings. And now my PC is working like it's on hyper-drive, everything's faster than I could remember. Sure, it took me the whole day today, but it was surely worth the effort.

I'd love to give you guys the details, but I'm just not up to it right now. Visit this page, that guy gives a pretty neat impression of the Microsoft setup hell.

June 03, 2004

Google's secret

We finally know how Google works. The secret behind their technology. Click here.

GMail Bashing

Ever since Google announced GMail, they have been the target for privacy advocates. A lot of people think that Google scanning their mails to insert ads is an invasion to their privacy. Big deal. First of all, every mail provider scans your mails. How did those Junk mail filters work in your opinion? Your mail can be intercepted at every hop that it takes before reaching the receiver's provider. Just try a trace route command once to see what I mean. Most providers like Hotmail & Yahoo! insert their ads in the body of your message. That is one thing that makes me sick of Yahoo! in particular. You want privacy, don't send plain messages. Use PGP, its free and secure. Encryption is the only way your mails will be safe. And I'd rather trust Google than some other company with my private information anyway.

June 01, 2004

Cd-Writer

Yes! I finally bought a writer. Samsung SW-252F 52/32/52 CD-RW to be exact.

Dune

Read my first book for the summer, Dune. I knew it was going to be good, but didn't know that it would be so good. It's just filled with so much imagination, no author since Tolkien has created an entire world like this singe-handedly. It took a while for me to get interested, but I was fascinated as the story developed. Frank Herbert twists different genres into together; Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mythology & Politics all rolled into one.

A recommended read to everyone. It's really a classic.