Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Observations and Suggestions using Chromium OS - Part 1

I synced my old repository and updated it to the Developer build (Mon Nov 30 4:35:10 UTC 2009). Build was successful. I copied image to a USB and booted my Acer Inspire from USB.

  1. Boottime was about 12 seconds from USB. But still great!
  2. My network did not connect at boottime so had to login using the local username and password. This happened every time i booted. Maybe the network settings will get saved once i boot from a local harddisk.
  3. Once logged in i had to manually select my network and then login to gmail etc. etc. using my google credentials.
  4. I then connected my Acer to a 19'' widescreen with 1440x900 resolution. Had to use xrandr to get the screen resolution right but was no fuss. Used the following command:

    $ xrandr --output VGA1 --mode 1440x900 --rate 60.1

  5. Tested using youtube, google docs, google reader, picasaweb, a couple of flash-heavy sites (royalsociety.org), google chat, google books, google wave. Everything seemed 'much much' faster than same accesses via firefox.
  6. Clicking on PDFs opens them up in google docs. But trying to download did NOT seem to work.
  7. For adjusting sound, had to use alsamixer from commandline to get the sound volume up. I wish there was a sound button in the GUI itself for the same.
  8. Could not figure out how to setup my network printer to print my google docs.
  9. While playing a youtube video it felt as if the browser crashed and then recovered itself. I cannot describe what exactly happened unless i debug this further.
  10. Could not play any silverlight videos. I guess the plugin will come someday.
I have started seriously using this as my preferred OS for my netbook even  though i am running it off a USB. It actually doesnt feel any different at all. It is a fresh new experience and thats what makes it exciting i guess.

  • It strikes me now after using Chromium OS that we were actually having redundant software for most needs all the while. If the browser is capable of showing photos, opening PDFs, editing documents, playing music, videos and games then when the heck have any other software. What is missing if you are a programmer, is a platform for developing and testing software in the popular languages. But maybe even that can be incorporated into the browser easily. For example, a tab of the browser could upon up as a text editor and perhaps google could host a variety of popular compiler and library stacks to compile,link and run code (think like LAMP stacks but for developing code). A user then just submits his code and gets his output. Ofcourse, such a system would require careful thought and design as there are many many issues to be tackled. But just a thought.
 On a side-note, i remember that i read somewhere a couple years ago that Blake Ross (the firefox guy) was working on an operating system called Parakey which was pretty similar in spirit to Chromium OS. Dont know what happened to that. Anybody?

  • Have a sound button in the GUI for adjusting volume.
  • Have a key accelerator (like Ctrl+/? from google reader) to display Keyboard shortcuts.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My notes, screenshots and first impressions on Google Chromium OS on VMware!

I was eagerly awaiting the release of Googles ChromeOS (Chromium OS). Google opened up the source at about 10:30AM today and i have it compiled on my Ubuntu 9.04 and working on my Vmware Workstation. Phew! The following are my notes, screenshots and first impressions of the whole experience.

Updates : A few corrections based on comments by Ethan.
Updates:  I have uploaded my VMWare  disk (.vmdk) here. Its about 350MB tar gzipped. MD5 Checksum is  8b158acfff42572dce632fdcb0707009. To use this vmdk one needs to first create a virtual machine and give the path to this vmdk file as the logical disk. Note that this is NOT .vmx but .vmdk. Thus you cannot open this file in VMWare directly. You will need to create a virtual machine.

ChromeOS Getting Started Documentation 
The documentation is pretty neat and things worked out-of-the-box for me. I did not have to hack even a line of script. Started by watching the videos and reading the documentation here.

My compile environment was a Ubuntu 9.04 ACER Aspire Netbook. I actually wanted to get ChromeOS running on the same Netbook but the documentation suggested that the Chrome install process will nuke the entire harddrive and so i opted for creating the VMWare Disk Image instead.

Building the Image
The whole process, right from reading the initial documentation to getting up the VMWare took me about 5 hours and most of it was spent creating the chroot environment, compiling the packages and the kernel. After that, the image building and the creation of the VMWare Disk was pretty quick.

Running ChromeOS on VMware

1. Bootup Time 
    Ofcourse, running it on VMWare meant that i could not test its claimed bootup speed! But the bootup definitely 'felt' faster relative to my other OS bootups on VMWare. ChromeOS creates a file called /home/chronos/chrome_startup.log which showed bootup time as 47seconds. I believe that is good on VMware.

    2. Login Prompt

      The login prompt is plain and simple blue with two boxes for username and password.I noticed two things here:
      1. The username/password could be your gmail credentials.That means that your Google account could act as a profile store.Does this mean someone can use a ChromeOS device only when online? Or only having a google account? I am not sure as of now.
      2. It also accepts the username/password that i created while i was building the code. I think this option would be disabled for regular users.

      3. Login Using Google Credentials

      To begin with, i logged in with my Google credentials and was presented the following error page saying that the security certificate for google.com was revoked. My login had succeeded.

      This seems to be like a bug to me but i will have to do some more trials before concluding that this is a real bug.

      4. Login Using regular credentials
      I tried logging in with the testuser account that i had created earlier. That seemed to work fine and i finally got presented with a functioning chrome browser.

      I could login into gmail.com, reader.google.com, docs.google.com etc. with my regular gmail credentials and could operate my account as usual. No problems. Things even seemed a tad faster in my slow VMWare.

      5. Some UI features

      From the above screenshot, its clear that all the user sees when he logs in is the chrome browser interface. There is no desktop and no icons. The only icons that i could spot are 4 on the top right: time, an inactive icon, networks and a drop-down menu. A single chrome icon exists to the top left. Clicking on it takes you to Google Shortlinks which i believe is Googles replacement for desktop icons with links to Google Products. Smell a monopoly in the making?
      Update: Ethan points out that it will be far from a monopoly because whatever is web-based would be supported. I agree but i would like to wait and watch and would be happy to be wrong.

      6. Task Manager and Resource Stats

      Clicking on the top gives an option to open the Task Manager which looks as below. This is pretty much the standard task manager except that we see a lot fewer tasks in it. Also, it hints at the multiprocess nature of the Chrome browser.

      Clicking on Stats for Nerds shows an additional memory usage view. This is equivalent to typing about:memory in the browser tab. I don't understand everything in the stats yet but will dig in later. For example, i don't understand what  Proportional Memory is.

      A minor point: the note in the above figure states that other browsers like IE and Firefox will also be shown here if they are running. This could be due to the fact that the Chrome browser code-base used is the one used for Chrome on desktops. Or maybe they really intend to do that in the future ?

      I couldn't navigate any further and could not find out additional shortcuts or additional interesting options and settings. Will need to dig more in the documentation to see if there are more interesting peeks here and there.

      7. Browsing of files

      The file browser is contained in the Chrome browser itself. Typing file:/// in the address bar shows the root file system as seen when browsing a remote directory. Not the best way to navigate a local file system i guess.

      8. Shell and command line tools

      To get to the command line, one has to press Ctrl+Alt+T. Frankly, i could not figure out how to navigate back to the GUI or to other open command-line and i had to keep doing Ctrl+Ds on the command line to get back to the GUI.
      Update: Ethan points out that typing exit takes us back to the GUI. It is essentially the shortcut Ctrl+D.

      The most irritating aspect to me was that standard utilities like ifconfig, route etc. were missing.
      Update: I missed this completely. You can access all of these commands by using sudo as Ethan pointed out correctly. Thanks for the correction. 

      I could use vi, python and the standard shell builtin commands as far as i tried. Also, I found apt-get and dpkg  installed but it would not let me install any packages using apt-get (the locks were read-only). I am not sure if this is intentional or a bug.

      Thats all i could get my hands on for today but this is the beginning and the exploration would continue.I will be digging into the documentation and source code and keep reporting nuggets of information as and when i discover it for myself.

      ChromeOS is exciting and would get even more exciting in the coming months and years. I remember my Professor telling us in class that systems should be like 'Toasters' i.e. it must not be required to read a manual to operate it. ChromeOS is definitely a step in that direction. Also, the lean philosophy adopted by ChromeOS should reduce the burden on end users as far as managing and securing systems is concerned. Ofcourse, there will be newer challenges but atleast ChromeOS reduces the surface area of problems.

      I think Google needs to watch out and not make ChromeOS a Google-Centric product. That may not be well received by consumers already struggling to break free of existing monopolies.

      Monday, November 16, 2009

      What can we learn from Craigslist?

      Ref: Why Craigslist is such a mess?

      There is lots to ponder, learn and unlearn from Craigslist in this new information age. The following are a  few simple lessons that i extracted from the following quotes in the above referenced article on Craigslist. The article is a great read.

      Lesson 1:  We may not have a single definition for doing good business but we can all agree on the fact that businesses exist to serve the public.

      But seen from another angle, craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero and where the ambiance of neglect is not a way to extract more profit but the expression of a worldview.

      Lesson 2: David(s) have, are and will always trump Goliath(s) in every age.

      It is difficult to overstate the scale of this accomplishment. Craigslist gets more traffic than either eBay or Amazon .com. eBay has more than 16,000 employees. Amazon has more than 20,000. Craigslist has 30.

      Lesson 3: People work the best when they are allowed to work.

      The long-running tech-industry war between engineers and marketers has been ended at craigslist by the simple expedient of having no marketers. Only programmers, customer service reps, and accounting staff work at craigslist. There is no business development, no human resources, no sales. As a result, there are no meetings. The staff communicates by email and IM. This is a nice environment for employees of a certain temperament. "Not that we're a Shangri-La or anything," Buckmaster says, "but no technical people have ever left the company of their own accord."

      Lesson 4:  If there are sufficient economic incentives, things will get done. Doesnt matter what side of the fence you are.

      Captchas—distorted words that can be interpreted by humans more easily than by machines—tamed spam on craigslist for a while. Then it came back full force, not because the spammers had solved the difficult problem in artificial intelligence but because they had hacked an easier problem in global economics

      Lesson 5: Simplicity and usability go hand and in hand. K.I.S.S always works.

      Without a computer science research department to work on evil-fighting algorithms, or a call center to take complaints, Buckmaster has settled on a different approach, one that involves haiku. The little poems he has written appear on the screen at times when users might expect a helpful message from the staff. They function as a gnomic clue that what you are seeing is intentional, while discouraging further conversation or inquiry.Attempt to post a message that is similar to one you've already entered, and this may appear:
      a wafer thin mint
      that's been sent before it seems
      one is enough, thanks

      The slight delays in cognitive processing that these haiku cause are valuable. They open a space for reflection, during which you can rethink your need for service.

      Wednesday, October 28, 2009

      Using Mendeley effectively on multiple systems using an external storage drive

      If you do not already know, Mendeley is soon to become the defacto standard for storing, indexing, searching, ordering and sharing all your academic research papers. Its free download and easy to setup. Check the website to get a feel for it. I will not describe Mendeley here but will get to my point.


      The solution presented below worked for me. It may NOT work for you. There is destruction of state involved so please go through the complete post and decide for yourself. I am making certain assumptions about this solution, so make sure your assumptions match mine before trying this out.

      • My environment is Mendeley Desktop v running on Ubuntu 9.04.
      • I assume good familiarity with Linux and esp. Ubuntu.
      • I assume you have 2 working Mendeley setups on both systems. Will still work if you dont have but all steps may not apply.
      • I assume that you have access to the original data that you indexed with Mendeley.
      • The solution may break with future releases of Mendeley esp. if they change some of the document paths.
      • This solution may not easily port to Windows/ MAC though i believe the line of reasoning should still apply.
      • I have used Mendeley possibly since its first release and i am quite familiar with its interface / settings etc.

      My Problem

      I have 2 Ubuntu 9.04 systems (home and work) that i use for my research and i spend equal time on both of them. So i end up storing a lot of papers (my total collection is about 5000) on both. Once i discovered Mendeley (about 5-6 months back), i would index documents on both my systems separately and then sync up the bibliographies (and corresponding metadata like notes) with Mendeley Web (which is the online component of the Mendeley system). Now, though i had access to the full bibliography on both my systems, i could not access the corresponding documents on both systems i.e. i could only access documents on the system on which they were indexed.

      Mendeley currently gives an online account with 500MB storage and allows storing documents in it. My collection is somewhere about 5GB and its not worth syncing that much anyway esp. since some of it is of proprietary nature. But i desperately needed a solution since i am so used to using Mendeley now and need it whenever i am doing my work.

      So this is what i did:

      Initial Setup
      • I got a 120GB external harddrive and formatted it with ext4 (filesystem doesnt matter).
      • Then I set the properties of the external drive to always mount as /media/extstor2. This ensures that we always have a constant path prefix whenever you attach the drive. This can be easily done by clicking properties of the drive, selecting Volume tab and fixing the mount point settings (works on Gnome).
      • Created two folders called db and papers on the new drive.
      mkdir /media/extstor2/db
      mkdir /media/extstor2/papers
      On my home system
      • I first reset my complete database. WARNING: This will completely destroy the database (i.e. your bibliography and notes but NOT your documents). I hate this step but this was necessary because mendeley stores absolute paths to all its documents (you can dig into their sqlite3 database and see for yourself) and so if you just shift the database onto a new folder all references to documents get messed up. Even using the repair option of Mendeley doesnt fix this. This should be a good feature for them to add soon. 
      mendeleydesktop --reset
        • After this i logged into my online account and deleted the entire collection from there. Note that if you have any notes attached to the document, this is the time to save them. There is no easy way to do that except cut and paste into some text editor.Note that the above step is essential because i think Mendeley has a bug where if it synchronizes again with the online account after you have created a new local database things get extremely messy and it crashes. Talking with experience here.
        • Now come the tricks:
        cd /media/extstor2/db
        mkdir Mendeley\ Ltd.
        cd ~/.local/share/data
        rm -rf Mendeley\ Ltd.

        ln -s /media/extstor2/db/Mendeley\ Ltd./ Mendeley\ Ltd.
        • What i am doing above is essentially repointing the database location to the external drive. Note that this also means that you will always require the external harddrive to use Mendeley.
        • Opened up Mendeley again. This time it should start with nothing in it and offer you to login into your online account. DO NOT LOGIN YET.
        • Opened Tools->Options and clicked on File Organizer.
        • Enabled the 'Organize My Files' tab and set the path to /media/extstor2/papers
        • Enabled other options as desired.
        • Now logged in to my online account and let it sync. Nothing should sync as nothing exists but it is good to let the desktop handshake with the web account.
        • I then added all my folders where i keep my collection. Luckily i had not deleted them.
        • After this i let Mendeley index my complete collection (takes time proportional to your collection and system speed). Took about 5-6 hours.
        • Once done, coped all the saved notes to the corresponding papers. Had to do manually :(.
        • Then i synchronized again with the online account.
        At this point we have a working database stored on the external harddrive. Now take this drive to your other system and proceed as follows:

        On the work system
        • Connected the drive to the system and mount it as /media/extstor2 to begin with.
        • Then set the properties of the external drive to always mount as /media/extstor2. This ensures that we always have a constant path prefix whenever you attach the drive. This can be easily done by clicking properties of the drive, selecting Volume tab and fixing the mount point settings.
        • Reset current database. 
        mendeleydesktop --reset
          • Tricks Again
          cd ~/.local/share/data
          rm -rf Mendeley\ Ltd.

          ln -s /media/extstor2/db/Mendeley\ Ltd./ Mendeley\ Ltd.
            • Opened up Mendeley.
            • Opened Tools->Options and click on File Organizer.
            • Enabled the 'Organize My Files' tab and set the path to /media/extstor2/papers
            • Enabled other options as desired.
            • Now logged in to my online account and let it sync. Now i saw everything just the same way as my home system.
            • Added your desired folders for watching files on my work system.

            That's it!!! Problem solved. Enjoy. Let me know if this solution solves somebody else's pain.

            Tuesday, October 13, 2009

            A possible Twitter Worm or Scam!

            I got 4 email messages today saying that 4 people (whom i do not know) are following me on Twitter. Seems to me to be a possible twitter scam with a possibility that it might be a new worm.

            These are my observations for now:
            1. All four accounts belong extremely good looking girls
            2. All seem to be from Mumbai, India.
            3. All have the same Bio line which says "I am smart and simple girl, wanting to make some good friends"
            4. All have about 800 followers and are following about 400 people.
            5. All have almost the same tweets which are a combination of marketing website links and some mundane tweets albeit in different order.
            6. All accounts were created on Oct 6th.
            7. The tweets are posted using a combination of API and Web with lots of them being from the web.API alludes to a script doing the posting.

            Questions i have:
            1. How did they get so many people to follow their accounts in such a short time? Seems to me like some bug is being exploited. Or maybe people really fell into the beauty trap?

            If anyone is interested these are the four twitter accounts
            • http://twitter.com/mariya_gonzales
            • http://twitter.com/pari_choudhary
            • http://twitter.com/mansi_joshi
            • http://twitter.com/janhavi_agarwal

            More updates as i debug this further!

            Monday, October 12, 2009

            Simple way to show India's Diversity

            Westeners who have never been to India or have never heard about it do not seem to get the fact the there is no language called "Indian" or food called "Indian Food" or music called "Indian Music". They just dont get the fact that India is NOT "yet another country with a language, food, culture and tradition". There is so much diversity in the country that the only way to think of India is as a country of countries (I am purposely not saying of 28 countries because there is so much diversity even within states).

            A simple way to show India's diversity would be to take a currency note of any denomination and count the number of languages in which the denomination is translated. There are 17 in total. See for yourself

            To know what those languages are check this link from Reserve Bank of India website. http://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/ic_languagepanel.aspx.

            Tuesday, March 17, 2009

            My critique of the article "Religion, Marxism and Slumdog

            My comments on this article
            "Religion Marxism and Slumdog" by Francois Gautier.
            1. I disagree with the notion that "Slumdog Millionaire" conveys an utterly negative image of India and should be protested by the Indian Government (like the Chinese would have done). I dont understand why? The film shows the real life of people living under those conditions. Slums, poverty, corruption are an unfortunate part of our society today and we cannot run away from it. By not showing it we would not be getting rid of it. And in todays connected world (in the age of google and youtube), i am not sure information can be controlled anyways.
            2. Why should we be like China? Comparison between a Communist and a Democratic government is an apple and orange case. If China would have responded, its because they want to maintain a controlled global image irrespective of what happens inside their country. India cannot do it because we are a democracy and rightly so.
            3. Leaving aside the missionary part, which of the following : caste, poverty, child marriage, superstition, widows, sati, are a virtue of Hinduism? They may have served a purpose centuries back when the society was different but they have no purpose now. The mere fact that these are still used by upper caste people as exploitation tools is infact a huge shame on us. There is no doubt that missionaries have capitalized on this. But, what will the lower castes who become the victims of these vices do? For many of these people, escaping into another religion was probably the only answer.
            4. Author says, "Today, billions of dollars that innocent Westerners give to charity are used to convert the poorest of India with the help of enticements such as free medical aid, schooling and loans." But, who is responsible for this? It is we ourselves. Everyone dreams of a good life and so do the poor. If the Government cannot fulfill its promises for the poor, the poor are going to find some other means of fulfilling their needs. I think instead of blaming the missionaries (whose work can be viewed as both good and bad in different contexts), we (the people of India along with the Government) have to solve our problems of poverty and caste. If that is done, there wont be any incentive for anyone to either get converted or convert others.
            5. Author says that western authors portray detrimental images of India and especially talk of 'Hindu fundamentalism'. I personally believe that fundamentalism of any kind is wrong be it Hindu, Islamic, German etc.. What i would defend is "Hinduism" and its core principles and not fundamentalism. What RSS,Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena do in the name of Hindutva is precisely what Osama Bin Laden does in the name of Islam. This is what Hitler did half a century ago. Do you agree with them?
            6. The immediate paragraph says "Hinduism has given refuge throughout the ages to those who were persecuted at home: the Christians of Syria, the Parsees, Armenians, the Jews of Jerusalem, and today the Tibetans, allowing them all to practice their religion freely." The author is now talking of Hinduism here and not of any extremist philosophies and he is absolutely right now.
            7. The notion that India only belongs to Hindus is complete bullcrap and Hinduism does not say anything like that. "Hindu Fundamentalists" say that.The central idea should be for people to unite and live in harmony irrespective of their religion, caste and color.
            8. Finally, author asks, When will the West learn to look with less prejudice at India, a country that will supplant China in this century as the main Asian power? My question is why do we need an approval from the west. If we eradicate our own vices and solve our problems, everything will fall in line automatically. I believe that asking this question is what makes us subservient to the west more than anything else.
            I found this article completely off. The line of reasoning did not appeal to me at all and the conclusions drawn do not follow from the arguments.

            Friday, January 30, 2009

            Gold Farming in the digital age

            Ever heard of 'Chinese Gold Farmers'? Read on.

            Check out the following documentaries which investigate gaming workshops in China that hire people to play online games like World of Warcraft. The workers, called 'Gold Farmers' by Westerners, sweat it out in front of their consoles to collect virtual currency, equipments and produce whole characters, which are then sold for nifty amount to other players over ebay or trade portals.

            Why does this industry exist? Well, because not everyone who wants to enjoy the game can spend insane amounts of time collecting virtual money and building their armory. Thus, many prefer to just buy characters and virtual currency from people who have already done the hard work.

            Check out this link to get a taste of the amount of money involved in gold trade. To quote a price from the site, 30000G (i.e. in-game currency) is valued at 494USD. That is almost 60G per dollar.

            People also trade characters. Some websites which i found out are
            • http://www.wowtrades.com/
            • http://www.buymmoaccounts.com/
            • http://mmotp.com/trade/

            BBC News Coverage of this phenomenon

            Thursday, January 22, 2009

            My favorite moments of Obama's Presidential Inaugaral Speech

            The following two lines from Obama's speech were my favorite moments

            Moment 1:
            To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

            Moment 2:
            We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

            I believe that both these lines symbolize his philosophy of change and hope. They show his commitment to shedding worn-out dogmas and notions which have traditionally influenced US foreign policy decisions. The start has been great and one has to see how it all plays out over the next 4 years.

            Friday, January 16, 2009

            Interesting reads for the weekend

            1. 30th Anniversary of the Spreadsheet (Very interesting and sarcastic perspective on how the spreadsheet has shaped our society)

            2009 marks the 30-year anniversary of the now-ubiquitous spreadsheet program. And society as a whole has deteriorated ever since its invention. It was the spreadsheet that triggered the PC revolution, with VisiCalc the original culprit. Can anyone say that we've actually benefited from its invention? Look around: I think we've suffered.

            2. How undersea cables get repaired

            Videos of how the repair process works.

            [Update] This Alcatel page explains the process with text and a cool flash animation. It also has a section on how cables are laid in the first place.

            3. Interview with an adware author

            Very interesting business and technical insights into the dark part of the cyber-world.

            4. 10-power saving myths debunked

            5. Saving power in datacenters with DC power

            Interesting article on how converting from AC to DC in datacenters may help save power.

            In a typical datacenter environment, power conversions abound along the path from the outside utility pad to the servers. With each conversion, some power is lost. The power starts at the utility pad at 16,000 VAC (volts alternating current), then converted to 440 VAC, to 220 VAC, then to 110 VAC before it reaches the UPSes feeding each server rack. Each UPS converts the incoming AC power to DC power, then back to AC. The UPSes then distribute that AC power to their respective servers -- where it's converted back to DC. As much as 50 to 70 percent of the electricity that comes into the datacenter is wasted throughout this long and winding conversion process.

            There's a more efficient approach, one promoted by Validus DC Systems: taking the utility-supplied 13,000 VAC and converting it directly to 575 VDC (volts direct current) using an outdoor-rated conversion unit, then running power into the datacenter over 1.5-inch cabling. Each rack in the datacenter then has a 575-to-48-VDC converter that is 95 percent efficient. The direct DC approach can save users 50 percent or more between cooling savings and elimination of conversion losses, according to Ron Croce, COO of Validus

            The worlds first flying car : Terrafugia Transition

            OMG ! Check this out. The future of travel is here. Has the Jetsons era begun?

            Terrafugia, a Massachusets based company is purportedly test driving its road-cum-air vehicle, the Terrafugia Transition, next month. Check out the animation of this vehicle in action here. The animation shows the vehicle as a two-seater with ability to fold its wings. Its currently priced at $200,000 :-) .

            It will be interesting to see how this concept picks up. For one, it will require a host of changes in current laws and infrastructure. Simple problems like, how would one take-off and land and license issues (will a pilot license be required or a driving license will suffice?) will hinder the concepts adoption. It will be interesting to see if it solves any energy related issues or adds to existing problem.

            Whether it takes off or not in the immediate future, it may well be the pioneer of things to come. I am certainly excited and would have even bought one if not for the current economic crisis :)))).

            Monday, January 12, 2009

            A dose of my photography

            Please visit my website to get an (over)dose of my photography. Pretty amateurish stuff but i am learning.

            Also, i hacked up a simple perl script for generating web albums called geekalbumz. The idea behind this was to display the photograph metadata (or EXIF information) along with the photographs. This helps newbies like me to compare various photographs and learn the nuances.

            Monday, January 5, 2009

            Frank W. Abagnale and the irony of security industry

            If you remember that name then most probably you have seen the epic movie Catch me if you Can starring Leonardo DeCaprio and Tom Hanks. In short, the movie is about this guy Frank Abagnale, (played by DeCaprio) who figures out novel ways to commit check fraud and embezzle money posing as various people (as a pilot, as a doctor and as a lawyer). The movie is all about how the hacker mindset works and is a must watch if you are in the information security field. The movie is replete with examples of social engineering tricks that determined hackers so often use. Its a good way to train ones thinking in the ways of the hacker.

            This movie not a work of fiction but is based upon a real guy who did these things in real life. This is the website of the real Frank Abagnale, who is now, not surprisingly, one of the world's most respected authorities on the subjects of forgery, embezzlement and secure documents. Check out his website for more details on his lifes work in the last 30 years. Ironically, the guy who literally started check-fraud has been at the helm of defending against it for the better part of his life.

            This irony presents itself in the security industry again and again with the guys who now defend the world were the ones who were once defended against. There is nothing wrong with it and maybe thats the way it should be but i just found the thought very interesting.

            Friday, January 2, 2009

            Art of Elevator Pitching

            Elevator Pitching is the art of getting your point across to an executive in less than 60 seconds, i.e. about the time you have with an executive in an elevator.

            This website is a place where enterpreneurs have to pitch their products to the audience in less than 60 seconds. Some of the pitches are really great. Check it out !

            I remember my mentor once telling me the importance of "back-of-envelope" or "back-of-napkin" presentations to executives and this seems to be the same concept but on steroids. It makes a lot of sense, especially for IT Security guys where the investments don't always translate to a predictable ROI.