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

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.