Monday, December 25, 2006

Indian Government network under Trojan attack

Today, Indian government is using computers everywhere so much that it has become a worthwhile target for Trojan and Virus writers. Government recently found out a virus/Trojan doing rounds in their network. It seems to be a custom virus written specifically for this network as it isn’t found anywhere else and isn’t detected by the standard anti-virus and anti-spyware software. They enter the network via an e-mail attachment called “cabnote.doc”. This particular name of the file is same as what is used by the cabinet ministers’ office to send important confidential notes of officials. So the social engineering trick here is that these officials who receive it will eagerly open these documents infecting their machines. Government hasn’t revealed the exact damage this virus causes. They have back traced the source of this virus to an IP address in California, USA. Cyber security cell headed by IB is investigating this further. They have come up with a set of guidelines to counter this type of threat in future. The challenge the government is facing now is to implement the guidelines. The guideline mainly translates to get the government officials who lack computer proficiency to be taken through a sensitization program. As of now all government departments are on high alert regarding this issue.

Although, India, a nation of billion people, majority of who are still poor and uneducated, we are a nuclear state and have quite a significant role to play in south Asian sub continent. In this age of terrorism tearing nations apart, we need to protect ourselves against any kind of external forces, physical or virtual, trying to harm us. As computer penetration in this country’s administration increases, the cyber threat becomes more real than ever. As our President put it, Open source software is the only way to help our nation of billion people. With open source software we can build the in-house expertise that will not go obsolete every time a closed source software vendor decides to change his business model. With this in-house expertise it will be possible to protect ourselves much better against all future threats as we can adapt to the changing scenarios more quickly and cost-effectively and be more proactive than reactive.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wake up India! Here's Right To Information Helpline

RTI is a very powerful and potent act, they say. Its even dubbed as the sunshine law. It can wade away the darkness and show you the way to get the information you need. And it works faster than bribing, some say. Some even call it as Anti-Bribery law. Ofcourse RTI is much more than that. Its all about participating in the governance and questioning the way you and I are governed. But how do I get the information on the Right To Information Act. Ofcourse you can read the actual act itself at But not many in India are still effluent to have Internet connection or net savvy. Here's a new way to get the critical information on the RTI itself for such masses. A helpline opened by Manjunath Shanmugam Trust, a trust formed in memory of Manjunath Shanmugam, the IIML alumnus murdered on Nov 19th, 2005 following his efforts to curb petrol adulteration. This helpline is run out of a call center in Gurgaon and the current funding is expected to last a year. So, next time you feel like you are stuck in the bureaucratic machinery you know where to call.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Modesty - Mediocrity - Excellence

Modesty is the way mediocrity impersonates genuine excellence - unknown source. A saying heard somewhere.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm buying "Light Energy" from Airtel!!

Whoa. This is the height of ... of.. whatever! I can't even put a word to it. Please educate lawyers and judges in common-sense and common science of the IT age, please!

The Commercial Tax Department has argued that the OFC broadband operators are running a business venture after investing thousands of crores to put in place a state-of-the-art set-up to artificially generate light energy and supply it to its customers for their data transmission work. The characteristics of the light energy constitute a moveable property, which has to be categorised as `goods' as per the norms laid down by the Supreme Court. "In the process of data transmission, other than light energy, no other elements are involved and the customers are paying for the same. This proves that light energy constitutes goods, which is liable for levy of tax. Therefore, the State has every legal competence and jurisdiction to tax it," the department has contended.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Microsoft way of prioritizing crash and candy look.

"A visual bug seen by all your customers might do more damage to your program's reputation than a rarely occurring crashing bug."

This is recommended by Microsoft in its "Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines: Rule 12". Internally, if they followed the same guideline for developing Windows Vista, we can easily tell what will be its quality. After all these years of delays, once its put to use in large scale, if we see the same kind of crashes and hangs that we have come to expect in any of their products, it would be no surprise. Come on guys, prioritize functionality and reliability first! Everyone wants a good looking app, but also the one that works for them.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Moved to Beta

"This blog has been successfully moved to Blogger Beta!". Now, what does that mean to me? I'ven't fully understood yet. Let's see what all improvements it really gives me!

If you want to move your current blogger account to the new beta account, try this link.
Blogger: Switch to the new Blogger in beta

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"What makes man a man?"

“What makes man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don’t think so. It’s the choices he make. Not how he starts things but how he decides to end them.”
- From Hell Boy

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Nonsense on The Big Fight

This is about The big Fight program broadcasted today on NDTV 24x7. It was a discussion about "Internet: Is it dangerous, should it be regulated" etc.

It was full of nonsense. I wonder how literate were the people on stage about the Internet usage/technology to discuss about this topic. The focus was on a very narrow subject of what people write on blogs. Later, it diverted a little bit towards child pornography and safeguarding minors from predators on Internet. One of them kept on saying that there should be regulation at the ISPs level, they should monitor what is put on Internet and what is not and then filter them; they didn't do their job properly as required by the law.. etc. That is is so much of nonsense. ISPs deal at the level of IP protocol. On top of that there are so many protocol layers. Information can be communicated in many different ways. There is no way anyone can or should want to regulate, control the information flow. It is like saying I'm providing telephone connections to people, therefore I'm responsible for what people talk to each other over it.
They said Internet allows anyone to say whatever they want no matter how derogatory & false it is, anonymously and therefore it is not accountable. And they say that is the difference between a conventional medial like news paper and TV to Internet. I say, if something is said anonymously, then it has least credibily. People believe or accept what is said based on who said it.
Not everything that is said and shown on tv channel is also true. So much of it will be the opinion of people who come on talk shows. News itself is such an influence on people. For most of it tv channel will have a disclaimer saying it is the participents opinion and not that of the tv channel. It may be agued that all these influence people to become violent/terrorist. Does that mean the tv channel is a terrorism instigating channel? People are mis-informed and ill-informed many times everyday. If someone decides to change their lives just based on what they hear from others, then they are mostly weak minded. Internet is not the only medium that can influence such people that way.
When someone says something (on a talk show, in a blog, wherever) I decide to accept it or reject it based purely on its merits and that depends on who is saying it. To simply assume that anyone can make you believe anything is just naive.

There are bigger perils of Internet like aiding easy anonymous mass piracy of Intellectual property which is unique to this medium and very difficult in any other medium. They never even mention this topic in their discussion. Its real sad to see our news media getting diluted like this.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blogspot blocked in India??

Since sometime yesterday, I'm not able to open any Blogger blogs from Airtel Broadband. Seems like they have blocked it. Here is my analysis as of now. (I'm able to open That's how I'm posting this.)


; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>>
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 816
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 4, ADDITIONAL: 0

; IN A


;; AUTHORITY SECTION: 344614 IN NS 344614 IN NS 344614 IN NS 344614 IN NS

;; Query time: 40 msec
;; WHEN: Wed Jul 19 14:51:16 2006
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 165

Then I do a tracert to that address.


Tracing route to []
over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 46 ms 41 ms 43 ms [xxx.yyy.zzz.ccc]
2 39 ms 38 ms 41 ms []
3 38 ms 35 ms 36 ms
4 40 ms 39 ms 41 ms
5 reports: Destination host unreachable.

Trace complete.

Where as other traces complete just fine.

Tracing route to []
over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 40 ms 37 ms 36 ms [xxx.yyy.zzz.ccc]
2 38 ms 39 ms 38 ms []
3 36 ms 32 ms 34 ms
4 40 ms 40 ms 44 ms
5 40 ms 41 ms 44 ms
6 284 ms 285 ms 291 ms
7 287 ms 288 ms 281 ms
8 271 ms 277 ms 272 ms
9 275 ms 264 ms 275 ms
10 300 ms 306 ms 302 ms
11 302 ms 301 ms 303 ms
12 303 ms 307 ms 307 ms
13 305 ms 313 ms 315 ms
14 306 ms 305 ms 303 ms

Trace complete.


Has anyone else seen this problem? on other service providers.?

Update: 21/07/2006
Seems like they have unblocked it now. It seems to be working.!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"What's so pure about Pure Virtual Functions in C++?!"

I was asked this by someone.

Scene is somewhat like this. I'm explaining some class hierarchy and while doing so I explain
"....can be a abstract base class. It has virtual functions that define the interface and one of the functions as pure virtual. Even the pure virtual function can have implementation in the base class...."

At this point, the person listening to me shows surprise and asks, " Can a pure virtual function have implementation in the base class.. if so what is so pure about it??! ". And then, goes on and says, " no you are wrong, it can't have implementation".

Later, I checked Lippman, which is the book from which I learnt C++ initially, and there is very little about pure virtual functions(p 926 - 927). There is nothing about providing a implementation to a pure virtual function. Infact he only says,
"..The language provides us with a syntactic construct by which to signify that a virtual function is providing a interface for subsequent subtypes to override but not itself be invoked through virtual mechanism: a pure virtual function. ..."

Then he explains further to say that a object of such a class can't be created('cuz you would end up invoking that function directly from that object).

The things that got missed out of this explanation and many people don't know is this:
even though you are restricted from invoking a pure virtual function from an object of that class, and hence, you are restricted from creating an object of that class, you can invoke a pure virtual function from within; ie., from its constructor, destructor, or any other function and from functions within the derived types!! Now, armed with this knowledge, think about the original question. Does the body for a pure virtual function make sense? Answer is yes, depends!.

To dwell deeper, here is a piece of code.

// Filename PureVirtualDemo.cpp
// Demo code to demostrate pure virtual functions having definition.

// A typical use for this feature would be to provide default implementation or
// the common part that will be used by all concrete instances

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

class AbstractType
virtual void test() = 0;

void AbstractType::test()
// Put the {common stuff}/{minimal thing} here.

// This may be doing the minimal thing or it may
// be doing the common stuff. Depends.
cout << " Inside AbstractType::test() " << endl;

class ConcreteType : public AbstractType
void test()
cout << " Inside ConcreteType::test() " << endl;
// Call the common part
// Now do the specific stuff if you have any.
// Or if its the minimal thing that you have, you are done.

int main()
AbstractType *obj = new ConcreteType;
return 0;
Output after compiling in g++ and running on a GNU/Linux machine.

[vinay@technicolor_sounds ~]$ g++ PureVirtualDemo.cpp -o pvd
[vinay@technicolor_sounds ~]$ ./pvd
Inside ConcreteType::test()
Inside AbstractType::test()

// vim: ts=4:sw=4:expandtab:ai:cindent

So, this code clearly proves the point. And sometimes, pure virtual
functions can get called accidentally from within the object and it becomes a very hard bug to find. So, even if you don't have requirements as described above, its best to provide body for pure virtual functions with proper comments and doing an assert(false) inside it would gets the debugger's attention in such case.

Hope you have enjoyed this piece!:-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pussy Cat Dolls feat Snoop Dogg: Buttons

I was watching this video on VH1. The dance choreography reminded me so much of Hinid movie songs. Only the clothing was more skimpy. But that difference will also go away, if you watch the remix of any hindi song!.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kodak Helps With Healthcare Digitization

Kodak India (P) Ltd has announced that its KODAK DIRECTVIEW Computed Radiography Systems and KODAK DRYVIEW Laser Imaging Systems have been chosen for implementation by prominent healthcare facilities in the country.

An important corporate healthcare provider, Max Healthcare has ordered CR 850 system for its Delhi hospital. Also, the Government of Gujarat has chosen Kodak's 18 CR 500 systems to be installed at six government/ teaching institutions located in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Surat, as part of an effort to digitize their radiology workflow.

"Customers are choosing Kodak to help them transition to an all-digital workflow. These wins are evidence that our innovative solutions are delivering results and helping our customers to improve both the quality and cost of patient care," said Kevin J. Hobert, President, Kodak's Health Group.

"Our comprehensive product family illustrates the fulfillment of our commitment to providing the industry with cost-effective and highly productive digital medical image capture," said Mohan Nadkarni, VP, Kodak's Health Group for India cluster.

KODAK DIRECTVIEW CR systems offer image capture, processing, quality assurance and image handling features, and help providers transition to a digital environment for efficient acquisition, display and storage of medical images.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reservation, Strike, and Rumours

Today I got an e-mail saying this:
Sorry for giving you all a very bad news, it may be one of the worst news after the Independence. All of u know that strike is going on all cities of India protesting reservation. Subhash Srivastav an AIIMS student died at 6:44 pm on 20/05/2006, because of hunger strike protesting against reservation. Media is not allowed to cover it. Please pass this to all and help not to let down his sacrifice
The truth of the matter is something else.

According the AIMS, no one has died. This particular rumour was spread by SMS.

It is 9th day of hunger strike and 19 students are still on strike. Initially 139 students started and 120 of them have fainted and have recovered in hospital in last 8 days. "First three days were tought", says sachin, on of the students on strike.

Media is busy covering the share market crash in the past week. But they sure wouldn't miss a person dying on strike. Even the people on strike wouldn't keep such a thing secret. The whole idea of hunger strike would be defeated otherwise.

Interestingly, the students on strike aren't the ones directly affected by the quota. They already have their seats in colleges secure. But they say they are fighting for a greater cause. It is indeed great resolve of these students that deserves applause and support from all of us.

Meanwhile 2 people have resigned from knowledge commision which was supposed to come with some plan for next 10 years.

Incidentally, a poll on NDTV says that 60% people support reservation. (Lies, damn lies & statistics!!). But this is democracy. Majority wins!

All in all, Manmohan Singh(or is it Sonia's??) govt is having a hard time in these tough times.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Distribution Lists and Mail Archive: Communication at Work

Significant amount of my time in office is spent reading thru e-mails in my inbox. And most of them weren't meant for me and/or don't require any action from me. This must be the problem with anyone working on a product development involving multiple teams in different poles of the earth and having various different activities going on at the same time. Also, what we follow is "extreme" Agile development model. Communication is the key for this to work successfully.

I'm thinking about suggesting some changes to the way we operate such that it will result in lesser communication overhead and greater productivity.

Today, we have multiple distribution lists catering to the communication requirements of each teams and each life-cycle product we are working on. These are not mailing lists. These are just a bunch of e-mail ids tied together by an alias in MS Exchange. Sender sends the e-mail and all the recipients get it in their inbox. Everyday morning I have atleast 30 e-mails just from these distribution lists. On any given day, there will be atleast 10 - 20 threads active. I might be interested in just a few of them. Rest of the threads I may need them in future. Some I may never need. Who knows? So, I keep them all in my inbox. After a while the pst file grows so big in size, the outlook software becomes very slow in retreiving e-mails. Also, it takes quite a big chunk of my e-mail time in organizing, classifying these e-mails into different pst folders.

The solution I'll propose should remedy all of the above shortcomings of the existing system.

We would eventually like to move to a setup that is combination of wiki and blog. For any kind of communication that requires immediate action or becomes irrelevant after sometime, a blog with threaded comments system with RSS/Atom syndication would be the best. It will change the push model of communication which is e-mail to pull model of communication. It also gets archived automatically. This historical data collection will help do post-mortem better at the end of the program. Wiki can be used to capture knowledge that has better shelf life and also evolves over time. Like design discussions and spec'ing a new feature. All the meeting minutes can be captured in a blog with a link to the updated page on a wiki. Ofcourse, we have standard design discussion/meeting minutes capturing templates used to capture these artifacts in our quality system which is very formal. The wiki and blog will enable the day-to-day informal communication.

But like I said earlier, we would "eventually" move to this system. For now, we need a transitional setup, a web archive for the existing distribution lists. People will stop archiving it in their PST files. If they want to access older mails, search for them, they will access this web archive. So, the question is, what is the best setup for a web archive that supports MIME and looks good and has search integrated and can show threaded converations?

One that comes to mind immediately is MHonArc. But the default setting didn't look good.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's your employee profile?

Aries employees make excellent troubleshooters. They will usually want to be out in the field at a variety of different work sites fixing things. They certainly will not be happy for very long behind a desk in a 9 to 5 schedule. The bored Aries employee who has been forced into a square hole will typically be restless, angry, and careless with details. No amount of money would compensate for being stuck in a routine job. Money in fact is not why they are working at all. They do want to be paid fairly and need a status position to satisfy their competitive tendencies-- but even more importantly, they will want challenging new projects. They typically like to have a sense of responsibility and need to feel needed. In return, they will give their all and provide detailed, consistent work. They will literally work themselves to exhaustion to prove themselves. If you want to keep your Aries co-worker productive and happy, you will want to give them the opportunity to work independently or let them help and lead less experienced workers.

My sun sign is Aries!

Amazing Amazon!

This interview with the CTO of amazon has some interesting elements. I'm trying to look at it in perspective of things at work place. First interesting piece that grabs attention is this.

"There were many complex pieces of software combined into a single system. It couldn't evolve anymore. The parts that needed to scale independently were tied into sharing resources with other unknown code paths. There was no isolation and, as a result, no clear ownership."

Sounds familiar?

It seems to happen with any software that starts small & simple and starts to grow rapidly. We have examples of the two extremes in our systems. One that was started with all high funda architecture that promised to scale to any levels of complexity in requirements and the other where everything was done in a minimalistic fashion, just satisfying the requirements at the moment and evolving over time. Both approaches have ended up in complex mammoth frameworks and platforms.

"It's not only the technology side that was improved by using services. The development and operational process has greatly benefited from it as well. The services model has been a key enabler in creating teams that can innovate quickly with a strong customer focus. Each service has a team associated with it, and that team is completely responsible for the service—from scoping out the functionality, to architecting it, to building it, and operating it."

It might be possible to do this with a purely service oriented business model like Amazon's. How will you do this with a product oriented business model where the development life cycle is quite big?

Jack Welch, in one of his books, says that he pushed for a fundamental change the mindset of people in GE. They were used to thinking in silos of their own verticals like marketing, engineering, sales and services. He put the barriers of different verticals down and hoped that there will be more cross functional synergy and result in better products. But even today, at the grass root level, we still feel significant gap between the actual developers and the end user. A huge layer of managers and leaders with all kinds of keywords prefixed to their designation who add almost little value in the sense that they are bogged down by the system they created, always spending time in solving problems that are purely due the system itself. Why should the software development process be so complex that it requires so many people to manage it?

Read the full interview here

Ajax Framework in Java by Google

Write code in Java and compile it to Ajax style Javascript+HTML and deploy it over web server. Sounds too good to be true?!
Check out
Most importantly check out the RPC part

Extend a class on client side(gets translated to appropriate javascript code) and extend a class on server side(its a servlet!). Then deploy the same code in hosted mode for local access and Web mode for the remote access over webserver! All the coding done in Java. So debugging is easy.

Can it get any easier than this!?? Check out their examples.
Download the SDk and have fun! Its Apache license

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Setup Adsense on this blog

This blog is now powered by Adsense! Ads are seen at the top and in the right sidebar.

The setup was a breeze. (Although a bit confusing in the begining!). And the ads are appearing based on the relevant text in my blog. If you find any inappropriate ads do let me know and I'll take it up with Google.

Let's see what happens next. This is just trial! I'm no publisher who hopes to make a living out of this! Although, I don't mind some big multinational company funding my broadband connection and electricity bill:-)

Happy blogging!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Credit Cards!

PVR Cinemas online booking system is ruined. I can't use it anymore. Stupidly they ask for all credit card details like card number, expiry date and CVV as part of their booking details. No person with an understanding of credit cards and sensibility would give out that information on any website. Another of this kind is the cashier in shops copying your credit card number and expiry date by swiping it on their billing machine. Atleast, the CVV number isn't copied. Yet another case is the opportunity for the guy in petrol pumps and hotels to copy all the information including CVV, when you hand him the card for billing and he takes it away from you.

So, there is no anonymity in using credit card anymore. And there is no security either. People who keep cards with huge spending limits must be more alert and careful with their card usage.

Simplest of all solutions is to make a PIN part of credit card purchase authentication. It should be very easy and would allow using of credit and debit cards exactly same way.

I've written a mail to PVR about this. Let's see what they will do about it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Story of Airtel Broadband Connection

5 months back, I got Airtel Internet connection unlimited 128kbps at Rs.600/mo. I really enjoyed it. The bandwidth used to be double, 256kbps, during night time.

Impressed by it, I switched to the better plan; unlimited 256kbps at Rs.900/mo. Sadly, the double bandwidth at night is no more working. Actual motivation to make this switch was that I can get 512kbps at night.

Now, I don't know what to do. If I go back to my 128kbps plan, I might not get the 256kbps at night either. I'll wait for another two days and give that a shot. Sad part is that this double bandwidth business is not on paper anywhere. So its unofficial and thereby I can't demand it.

To be fair, their service has been best, by far. I wish they had unlimited 512kbps plan.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Heh!! wow!

find your element
wow! heh!

Your Birthdate: March 30

You have the type of personality that people either love or hate.
You're opinionated, dramatic, intense, and very outspoken.
And some people can't get enough of you - they're totally addicted.
Others, well, they wish you were a little more reserved.

Your strength: Your flair

Your weakness: If you think it, you say it

Your power color: Scarlet red

Your power symbol: Inverted triangle

Your power month: March

Saturday, March 11, 2006

First Race of the season

The first qualifying race of the season was such an exciting affair. The new format is really brilliant. It puts to test nearly every aspect of the whole team. TV channels were not prepared adequately to telecast it properly. They just didn't know how to handle all 22 cars on the track at the same time in a qualifying. But I had no problems enjoying the race fully with the help of Live Timing from the F1 website.

Sadly at the begining of the race, my favorite Raikkonen lost it at turn 10 due to a suspension failure. (It looked like the tail broke off first). He drove on just two wheels to the pits as though he was going to start over again. Ofcourse, they didn't have a spare car!.
Only 10 drivers had set lap times, and since 6 are knocked out at the end of first session, when it resumed it was a huge traffic jam at the starting of the pit lane.!!

The final 20 minutes session was brilliant. It was Ferraris all the time on top. Since drivers were starting with fuel amount same as what they would be starting their races, I expected this final session timings to be slower than the first two sessions. But amazingly, it was the fastest for all drivers. Ofcourse all of them changed tires just before they got their best timings.

Overall, this new format is kickass. And with the tire changes allowed and lesser powerful V8 engines, it seems Ferraris are going to rule this season.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Airtel Broadband Review

Recently I switched to Airtel Broadband connection from Tata Indicom. Here is a quick review of Airtel Broadband. Enjoy!

First, a word about my experience with Airtel. Airtel has been my favorite mobile service provider. Two years back, I switched to Airtel from Hutch because Airtel offered bill plan where Airtel to Airtel mobile calls were completely free. In the begining they messed up the billing by charging the CLIP charges multiple times. After a few phone calls to their customer care number it got rectified.(I think they still have one or the other problem associated with CLIP). But overall their service has been satisfactory.

Coming to the Airtel broadband connection, taking the connection was a breeze.
Their people will do all the installation very efficiently in maximum three days.

The Airtel broadband connection is actually a fixed landline connection AND a broadband connection. You get a fixed line telephone number(like 080 41611234). Incoming calls are free and voice pulse rate charges depending on your voice plan are applicable to outgoing calls. They have various tariff plans for voice pulses too. I have taken Silver 499 voice plan along with my broadband connection. This plan gives you 525 pulses for Rs. 300. (the plan is actually Rs.499. They give Rs.200 discount if you take this plan while taking the connection).