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Friday, August 31, 2007

A wise story

The Wooden Bowl

I guarantee you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table.

But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about father," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.

Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl!

When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?"

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The four-year-old smiled and went back to work .

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless.
Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

On a positive note, I've learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.

I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.
But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Online Photo Editor

There are a number of online Photo editors that are already available, but it would be good to have a feature rich editor that can do the processing fast, and is able to take photos from your existing photo albums that are already available on the internet. Well, here's one with the following features:

- Remove blemishes
- Change skin and hair color
- Morph photos
- Change backgrounds
- Completely Free
- Integration with many of the online photo storage locations and social networking sites such as Facebook, myspace, flickr, Picasa Web, Yahoo
- Works directly in the web browser
- Uses Flash, and built in Flex, so works on all platforms where Flash runs (such as Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux)

And where is this great tool located ? Well, click on this link (

Monday, August 27, 2007

Balance sheet of life

Our Birth is our Opening Balance!

Our Death is our Closing Balance!

Our Prejudiced Views are our Liabilities

Our Creative Ideas are our Assets

Heart is our Current Asset

Soul is our Fixed Asset

Brain is our Fixed Deposit

Thinking is our Current Account

Achievements are our Capital

Character & Morals, our Stock-in-Trade

Friends are our General Reserves

Values & Behavior are our Goodwill

Patience is our Interest Earned

Love is our Dividend

Children are our Bonus Issues

Education is Brands / Patents

Knowledge is our Investment

Experience is our Premium Account

The Aim is to Tally the Balance Sheet Accurately.

The Goal is to get the Best Presented Accounts Award.

Joke about software industry capability process

Engineer to Team Leader:

"We can't do this proposed project. It will involve a major design change and no one in our team knows the design of this system. And above that, no body in our company knows the formulation in which this application has been written. So even if somebody wants to work on it, they can't. If you ask my personal opinion, the company should never take these type of projects."

Team Leader to Project Manager :

"This project will involve a design change. Currently, we don't have any staff who has experience in this type of work. Also, the language is unfamiliar to us, so we will have to arrange for some training if we take this project. In my personal opinion, we are not ready to take on a project of this nature."

Project Manager to General Manager :

"This project involves a design change in the system and we don't have much experience in that area. Also, not many people in our company are appropriately trained for it. In my personal opinion, we might be able to do the project but we would need more time than usual to complete it."

General Manager to Vice President :

"This project involves design re-engineering. We have some people who have worked in this area and others who know the implementation language. So they can train other people. In my personal opinion we should take this project,but with caution."

Vice President to CEO :

"This project will demonstrate to the industry our capabilities in remodelling the design of a complete legacy system. We have all the necessary skills and people to execute this project successfully. Some people have already given in house training in this area to other staff members. In my personal opinion, we should not let this project slip by us under any circumstances."

CEO to Client :

"This is the type of project in which our company specializes. We have executed many projects of the same nature for many large clients. Trust me when I say that we are the most competent firm in the industry for doing this kind of work. It is my personal opinion that we can execute this project successfully and well within the given time frame.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tests for color-blindness

Color blindness is a common problem, affecting a number of people. The extent of color-blindness varies, with total color blindness in some people, and inability to make out some colors in others. For example, people with partial color blindness often have a red-green deficiency that can be classified into 2 types. With partial, ability to clearly distinguish colors such as red, green, yellow and blue is low.
If you feel that you have color blindness, whether partial or total, you should go to a doctor and get a complete check done. As an additional level, you can do a quick check using this website (but this is a not a substitute for the real thing).
Read about the problems
Take the actual test

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A test of your eye-sight and concentration

Look at these puzzles, and try to see how easily you can complete these tasks. These are a good test of your eye-sight and coordination, coupled with concentration:

Can you find the "C" ??? (Good exercise for the eyes!)


Once you've found the C..........

Find the 6!


Once you've found the 6...

Find the N! (it's hard!!)


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Biofuels and weed

Plants that can be grown for fuel are often touted as a vast, clean energy source-except by those who say precious food is being diverted into gas tanks, and that biofuel crops are using up dwindling land and water. Enter willow, hemp and switchgrass. Scientists say research into a new generation of biofuel sources could yield cheap energy supplies that do not compete with food crops-or with nature-for water or space. Goran Berndes, a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, says the list of possible plants goes far beyond the established crops-such as corn, maize and sugar cane-that are already grown commercially for fuel uses. "Bioenergy is much broader," he said. "Most people working in bioenergy expect other crops to dominate in the long term."

One promising energy source is the willow, a northern plant used to make baskets and sport bats. Others include hemp, known for its rope- making and mind-altering qualities, and switchgrass-a reedy plant found in the US Midwest. A new crop that is being already used is Jatropha, a resilient, oil-rich, tropical plant that can be grown on waste land and even introduces nutrients to the soil. Its oil is already used in India to power diesel cars and turbines. Jatropha has grabbed headlines because it avoids the biggest controversy surrounding biofuels: the ethical debate over whether agricultural resources should be used for energy when millions across the planet go hungry. Also, biofuel crops themselves can carry severe risks for the environment, especially if hitherto unfarmed land is converted to agricul ture with large amounts of fertilizers and irrigation.

The International Water Management Institute, which led a five-year global study on water involving more than 700 researchers, found that if China and India pursued their current biofuel plans, they faced water scarcity by 2030. At least one business sector is prepared to lobby for biofuel crops that do not compete so hard with food production. Nestlé, the world's largest food company, says the subsidies being applied to current biofuel crops are distorting the market and pushing up the prices of food crops, and that second- generation biofuels could be an answer. "If it works, and if it can be made to work economically, that certainly would be-both from an environmental and from an economic point of view-a much better solution than this strong focus on the current first-generation food crop biofuels," said Claus Conzelmann, Nestlé vice-president for safety, health and the environment.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A primer about the sub-prime crisis in the stock market

First, what is sub-prime?

When banks lend money to people, they broadly classify them into prime and sub-prime debtors, where the former are people who are considered creditworthy and the latter, less so.

Normally banks don't lend to those who are not creditworthy, do they?

While it will be prudent not to lend to anyone other than the creditworthy, banks do lend to sub-prime debtors. However, since these debtors are considered less creditworthy for reasons such as low income, banks usually lend to them at higher rates of interest.

Sub-prime borrowers pay a risk premium, may we say?

Yes. And in some cases, risks were high: loans were given to NINJA borrowers (that is, No Income, Job or Assets). This is the genesis of the 'sub-prime crisis' that is playing itself out currently on global markets.

How is sub-prime crisis defined?

Firstly, one must understand that though the word 'sub-prime crisis' is being used as a generic term, it actually refers to a credit problem among sub-prime borrowers (they account for 8 per cent of total mortgages in the US) in the residential market in the US. Like borrowers anywhere in the world, the interest paid on residential mortgages in the US is linked to the central bank's benchmark and in this case, the US Federal Reserve's Fed Funds Rates.

Can we trace back the problem to find out when things began to turn messy?

Between 2004 and 2006, because of incipient inflation in the US economy, the Federal Reserve or Fed increased its Fed Funds rate (the overnight rate at which banks lend to each other) from 1 per cent all that way to 5.25 per cent and the discount rate (the rate at which the Fed lends to banks) from 2 to 6.25 per cent. Because of this, holders of residential mortgages too saw their payments on their house loans rise. This rise in rates was a disaster in the making for the banks that gave loans to subprime borrowers. (However, the Fed, in an unusual move, decreased the discount rate by 50 basis points to 5.75 per cent on August 17 to increase liquidity in markets.)

Defaults would have increased when interest rates, and therefore the repayments, rose?

True, because the first issue with subprime borrowers is that they are likely to be low-income people. When faced with higher mortgage payments, they fell behind on their payments and in cases, some also became delinquent and banks started repossessing houses.

The banks would have sold the repossessed houses to recover the dues?

In the normal course, yes. However, because of higher interest rates, people became more cautious in borrowing to buy houses and there was a general slowdown in demand in the housing market, causing these banks to hold assets that people weren't just willing to buy.

Did no one see the crisis coming?

The so-called sub-prime crisis started unfolding when people started defaulting on their housing mortgages. Initially, it was thought that the problem was only limited to a few lenders and people didn't give it much thought. A testimonial to the fact that people didn't give it much thought is best highlighted when one looks at the level of the Dow Jones Industrial Index. The news of the sub-prime defaults was highlighted earlier in the year itself but the Dow actually closed at its highest level ever of 14,000 on July 19. Then things started unravelling.

The lenders take the hit when borrowers default, but we find the crisis spreading far and wide. How so?

That is because mortgages held by banks are typically bundled and sold to other institutions. These institutions will then slice these mortgages into residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) or in other words, securities that are backed by collateral; the collateral here being the mortgages held by sub-prime borrowers.

And then?

These RMBS are then rated by rating institutions such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's based on various parameters...

Which is why the wrath has now turned on the rating agencies?

That's right. These RMBS are then divided further and sold as collateralised debt obligations or CDOs to various investors; and investors will buy these CDOs based on their appetite for debt.

Risky appetite?

Obviously. The people who hold the riskiest debt also get paid the highest when times are good, and get hit first when times are bad.

When did the issue surface?

The CDO issue first arose in June when a Bear Stearns hedge fund borrowed money from Merrill Lynch and gave their CDOs as collateral. Merrill Lynch decided to sell the collateral but soon realised that there was something wrong when they were unable to sell because their sale was driving down prices.

'Painful lesson in sub-prime', as the media reports?

And a costly one, too. Soon the market realised that there was a serious issue with the CDOs that went just beyond the Bear Stearns debacle. Essentially since these CDOs are part of RMBS, people realised that there was little or no solid collateral backing the RMBS because of the defaults by sub-prime borrowers.

An 'asset' that turned out to be hollow?

Exactly. And then two issues arose. One, no one knew how much of these CDOs banks and financial institutions were holding; and two, banks and financial institutions didn't know how much their CDOs were worth because the market for the CDOs had practically collapsed. Because of this, the markets started punishing the banks that held these CDOs and that is cause behind the volatility that one is currently seeing in global equity markets. It also emerged that there were more lenders caught in this sub-prime mess than was initially thought...

Do we know how many are affected by the problem on hand?

As of now, it has been estimated that 127 lenders have been caught in this. On August 15, the shares of Countrywide, the largest mortgage lender in the US, fell by 13 per cent after they issued warning about the potential hit on their balance sheet. One of the biggest concerns of this debacle is that instruments that were rated at AA have now started defaulting.

Have the rating agencies woken up?

Jolted from slumber, one may say. Rating agencies have now started to downgrade all RMBS backed by sub-prime mortgages and that will force banks to sell them because of capital norms and this will only cause a further plunge in prices.

Now, what are the lessons from the crisis?

This sub-prime mess raises two very important issues. One, the way banks lend money willy-nilly to people without properly checking their credentials; and two, the absolutely pathetic rating process used by the rating agencies. While both are hazardous to the system, the latter raises issues of moral hazard because the rating agencies profited massively from rating these RMBS.

Can we say that the worst is safely behind us?

Doubtful. It looks very likely that we are merely at the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as the sub-prime crisis is concerned and that there is much more below the surface.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fast PDF Viewer for Windows

The Adobe Reader is the most prevalent way to open PDF's, it is free, and can be easily downloaded. However, there are a number of users who crib about its slow speed, the large size of the download, and so on. As a result, there are a number of PDF viewers that are now available for free. One of the ones reputed to be the fastest is called Sumatra PDF.
It is available at this page, and can be downloaded from this link.
It has a neat advantage, it's designed for portable use: it's just one file with no external dependencies so you can easily run it from an external USB drive.

Convert documents to PDF through the internet

Now, most means of converting a document (Word / Powerpoint, etc) are through a utility installed on the system. This utility will mostly rest as a printer, so that when the user wants to convert a document to a PDF, he/she will print to PDF. But there are other ways of doing this as well. One way is to utilize a service that will allow you to upload a document, ask you for an email ID, and then will actually send you the PDF to that email ID for free. And this is done for a fair number of different formats as well.
One site that does this is called PDFOnline, and is available at this link
These are the formats that can be converted to PDF through this service.

-MS Word (DOC)
-MS Publisher (PUB)
-MS Word (RTF)
-MS Excel (XLS)
-MS PowerPoint (PPT)
-MS PowerPoint (PPS)
-Text (TXT)

Some great things you can do with PDF

Most people do plain vanilla things with PDF; they create a document in Word / Powerpoint or Excel and then convert it into PDF so that the receiving party cannot modify it, and then send it off. But there is actually a lot more that you can do with PDF, and the website Lifehacker has a post on 10 things you can actually do with PDF, so if you wanted to learn more, then you read the summary here and go onto the actual post:
1. Save any document as PDF, in the sense that if you have a document that can be printed, then it can be converted to PDF
2. Convert a whiteboard to PDF
3. Manage the PDF library in iTunes (bet you couldn't have thought of that)
4. Speed up your PDF Reader (this was something you really wanted, right?)
5. Edit PDF's
6. Merge PDF files
7. Protect PDF's with password
8. Annotate PDF's with skim
9. Convert files to PDF Online
10. Make custom PDF notepaper

CutePDF - Free PDF Writer

PDF (Portable Document Format) is a pretty important for people who want to release information, but want to ensure that it cannot be tampered with. The writer is free on the Mac and Linux platforms, but on Windows, there are several options, both free and paid. Paid options include the Office suite from Windows having this capability, as well as the Acrobat product from Adobe. There are plenty of free options, so here's one, called CutePDF (link).
CutePDF Writer (formerly CutePDF Printer) is the free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a "printer subsystem". This enables virtually any Windows applications (must be able to print) to create professional quality PDF documents - with just a push of a button!

Installation Requirements

  • Supports Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP (x64)/2003 (x64)/Vista (x64).
  • Requires PS2PDF converter such as Ghostscript (recommended).
    You can get the free GPL Ghostscript 8.15 here.

Another PDF to XPS converter

Well, now that PDF and XPS are becoming alternative formats, there is going to be great demand for tools to convert one format to the other. People who have selected XPS, a newer format, are going to be demanding a tool for converting PDF to XPS given the large number of PDF documents are already available.
Well, here is the promise of another tool for that purpose, called PDFTron PDF2XPS (link).

What is XPS?

"XPS" stands for "XML Paper Specification" and is a new document format as well as the native print spooler format in Microsoft's Windows Vista™. The XPS document format consists of XML markup that defines the layout of a document and the visual appearance of each page along with rendering rules for distributing, archiving, rendering, processing and printing the documents. Just like PDF, the XPS document format enables users to view, print, and archive any type of documents without the original program that created them and without loss of fidelity.

Key Features of PDF2XPS:

* Fast, high-quality conversion from PDF (Portable Document Format) to XPS (XML Paper Specification) that maintains the original document quality and layout and preserves hyperlinks, colors and fonts.
o Font support: Type1, TrueType, Type3 and Type0/CID Fonts, font subsetting on all supported PDF font types.
o Color: ICC, DeviceN, Separation, RGB, CMYK, Indexed, etc.
o Support for encrypted PDF documents (40 and 128 bit RC4, 128 bit AES, Crypt filters).
o Support for all kinds of patterns, functions, and compression schemes.
o Support for all annotation types.
o Support for soft, explicit, and color-key masks.
* The conversion preserves image and data compression resulting in small and efficient XPS documents while fully maintaining the original image quality.
* The conversion process preserves the original document's meta-data as well as other non-graphical information such as bookmark outline, logical structure, and articles to produce XPS documents that directly map to their PDF equivalents.
* Forms, annotations and other PDF structures without XPS equivalents can be optionally exported as private namespace XML elements for further manipulation and processing by XPS consumers.
* Thumbnail generation option for fast navigation through multi-page documents.
* Automatic repair of broken PDF documents.
* Support for all versions of the PDF Language Standard, including PDF 1.7 and Acrobat 8 documents.

Interested in converting PDF to XPS

There is a tussle going on between Adobe and Microsoft about their respective formats, PDF and XPS respectively for final document formats that can be published and made available to large sections of users. A bit of background on why this is needed ?

What is PDF?
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. As the name implies, it is a data format that can be used to describe documents. Adobe, the developers of PDF, market software to create, edit and visualize PDF files. Because the specifications of the file format are publicly available, a lot of other companies develop software for PDF as well. In prepress, PDF is used more and more as a format to exchange data between applications.
Adobe Systems invented PDF technology in the early 1990s to smooth the process of moving text and graphics from publishers to printing-presses. At the time, expectations were modest, but no longer. PDF turned out to be the very essence of paper, brought to life in a computer. In creating PDF, Adobe had almost unwittingly invented nothing less than a bridge between the paper and computer worlds. Adobe's business -- and yours -- will never be the same again.

XML Paper Specification (XPS)
The XML Paper Specification (XPS) makes modern documents possible for all. Simply put, XPS describes electronic paper in a way that can be read by hardware, read by software, and read by humans. With XPS, documents print better, can be shared easier, be archived with confidence, and are more secure.
Microsoft has integrated XPS-based technologies into the 2007 Microsoft Office system and the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system, but XPS itself is platform independent, openly published, and available royalty-free. Microsoft is using XPS to bring additional document value to its customers, its partners, and the computing industry.

What can this particular converter, PDF to Vector Converter do (refer link) ?

PDF to XPS Converter (PDF2XPS) can be used to batch convert from Acrobat PDF files to other scalable vector graphics formats, such as EMF, WMF, SVG, Postscript (PS), EPS, SWF (Flash), XPS, HPGL, PCL etc. The software can be run using the handy interface or in batch mode to convert large volumes of PDF files in real-time. PDF to Vector Converter is available via an easily integrated COM object (or DLL Library, or Command Line), enabling developers to access the converter via any programming or scripting languages, such as Visual Basic, C/C++, Delphi, ASP, PHP, C#, .NET, etc. Using the COM object (or DLL Library, or Command Line), file conversions can be done consecutively or simultaneously.

Kids and their truth

Son: "Daddy, may I ask you a question"

Daddy: "Yeah sure, what it is?"

Son: "Dad, how much do you make an hour"

Daddy: "That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?"

Son: "I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an
Daddy: "I make $ 100 an hour"

"Oh", the little boy replied, with his head down.
Looking up, he said,
"Dad, may I please borrow $ 50?"
The father was furious, "if the only reason you asked that is so you
can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or other nonsense, then march
yourself to your room and go to bed. Think why you are being so selfish.
I work hard everyday for this money"

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.

The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy's
How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to
"May be there was something he really needed to buy with that
$ 50 and he really didn't ask for money very often!"

The man went to the door of little boy's room and opened the door.

"Are you asleep, son?" He asked.

"No daddy, I'm awake," replied the boy.

"I've been thinking, may be I was too hard on you earlier", said the
man, "It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you.
Here's the $50 you asked for"

The little boy sat straight up, smiling "oh thank you dad!" He yelled.

Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled some crippled up notes.

The man, seeing that the boy already had money, started to get angry
The little boy slowly counted out his money, then looked up at his
"Why do you want money if you already had some?" the father grumbled.

"Because I didn't have enough, but now I do," the little boy replied.

"Daddy I have $ 100 now.
Can I buy an hour of your time?
Please come home early tomorrow.
I would like to have dinner with you"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A spiral of sentences to make you crazy

3) D0NT GET MAD (L0OK AT #15)
5) FIRST (L0OK AT #2)
12) S0RRY (L0OK AT #8)

Free PDF creator

Given the large scale presence of PDF on the internet and in the computing world, there is always a need to be able to generate PDF's. Adobe's Acrobat is one way of doing that, but there is a small problem in the sense that it needs to be purchased and is not free. There are many free solutions available, and doPDF is one among them.

doPDF works on a variety of Windows platforms, on Windows 2000, Windows XP (32 and 64-bit), Windows 2003 Server (32 and 64-bit) and Windows Vista (32 and 64-bit). doPDF works on the 64-bits version of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 2003 Server. It doesn't work on Mac (Mac computers have a built-in feature to create PDF files) or Linux.

doPDF is a free PDF converter that installs itself as a virtual printer driver and its easy-to-use interface helps you generate the PDF files by simply selecting the "print" command from any application (you can convert your Word documents, Excel sheets, Power Point presentations, emails or web pages). When receiving the print command, doPDF will transform the content of the document you wanted printed from its original format into PDF.
Download doPDF from this link.

Base set of features:

- No Ghostscript - doesn’t require 3rd party programs to create PDF files (like Ghostscript)

- Customizable resolution - choose any resolution from 72 dpi to 2400 dpi

- Predefined/custom page sizes - choose a default page size (like Letter, Legal, A4, A5, A6, ...) or enter your own custom page size

- Searchable PDFs - you can search for text within the generated PDF file (and search engines will also index the text from the PDF)

- Multilanguage support - choose a language for the user interface

Virtual Drive for your machine

If you are a software developer, then there are chances that you will want the ability to be able to use programs that assume a CD/DVD exists on the system, and you don't have one. So, here is this useful software called Virtual CloneDrive available at this link. It also enables you to mount image files and use them, something that can be extremely useful.

Some of the things that it can do and where all it can be used:
- Supports all common image formats such as ISO, BIN, CCD
- Supports up to 8 virtual drives at the same time
- Easy to use - just double-click an image file to mount as a drive
- Virtual CloneDrive is freeware, you may use it at no cost.

It works on Windows versions from Win98 onwards.

Tech Talks by Google

Google is fancied as a very high-profile company in the area of technology, with a lot of research happening in newer areas. Won't it be nice to be able to get some ideas about the Tech Talks that happen. Well, it is possible, since Google Videos makes available many of the Google Tech Talks videos at the following link:

Topics included:
- Web Development for Perfectionists with Deadlines
- Performance Tuning Best Practices for MySQL
- Building Large Systems at Google
- How To Break Web Software - A look at security vulnerabilities in web software
- Human Computation
- Beyond Test Driven Development: Behaviour Driven Development
- The Graphing Calculator Story

and numerous others. Should be a nice link to peruse and read more.

Lots of concert music

Concert Vault is a site from where you can purchase and download lots of concerts. The Vault features live concert recordings and live music downloads from the archives of Bill Graham, King Biscuit, and others. This is Internet radio that brings the concert hall into your home.
The list of artists for which the concerts can be bought is available at this web page, and includes artists such as AC/DC, Aerosmith, Air Supply, Joan Baez, Blackfoot, Bon Jovi, Tracy Chapman, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Crosby, Duran Duran, and many others. There are a total of 582 concerts available at the site.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tool for reading and writing Exif Information

If you are interested in digital photography, there is a good chance that you will be interested in the Exif information for the photograph. It would be nice to get a tool that allows you the facility of reading, writing and editing meta-information in various files, whether they be image files, audio files or video files.
One tool that can do just that is ExifTool (click to visit site). It has the following features:
ExifTool supports many different types of metadata including EXIF, GPS, IPTC, XMP, JFIF, GeoTIFF, ICC Profile, Photoshop IRB, FlashPix, AFCP and ID3, as well as the maker notes of many digital cameras by Canon, Casio, FujiFilm, HP, JVC/Victor, Kodak, Leaf, Minolta/Konica-Minolta, Nikon, Olympus/Epson, Panasonic/Leica, Pentax/Asahi, Ricoh, Sanyo, Sigma/Foveon and Sony.
It works on both Windows and Mac. Essentially, ExifTool is a Perl library along with a command line application. Other features are:

  • Shifts date/time values to fix timestamps in images
  • Renames files and organizes in directories (by date or by any other meta information)
  • Extracts thumbnail images, preview images, and large JPEG images from RAW files
  • Copies meta information between files (even different-format files)
  • Deletes meta information individually, in groups, or altogether
  • Sets the file modification date from EXIF information
  • Processes entire directory trees
  • Creates text output file for each image file
  • Automatically backs up original image when writing
  • Organizes output into groups
  • Conditionally processes files based on value of any meta information
  • Ability to add user-defined tags
  • Recognizes thousands of different tags
  • Tested with images from thousands of different camera models
  • Advanced verbose and HTML-based hex dump outputs

Tool to find video codecs installed on system

Suppose you are playing a video file on your system, and want to know what the codec used for this file is. Why would you want to know the codec file? In case you are having some problem in playing the video file and are somewhat tech savvy, you would want to get the codec name so that you can find it and load it on your machine. Now, how do you find the codec name ?

The location where you can download a tool for this purpose:

Some features:
● Establishes what video codecs (audio and video) are required to play an AVI file.
● Determines whether these codecs are installed on your system.
● Isolates problems associated with these codecs.
● Win95/98/ME/NT/2K/XP
● No Install (optional), No spyware, No advertising, No registration
● Free

Hard Disk Visualizer - Sequoia Viewer

If you have a hard disk that seems to be forever full, then maybe this free tool can help you. It is a hard disk visualizer that represents the hard disk in visual form, giving a good representation of the size of individual sections of the hard disk, with the capacity utilization by different files and folders represented in graphical form. The bigger the size of the file, the bigger is the space shown in the hard disk. (Called the Sequoia Viewer)

Sequoia Viewer

Couple of tips:

1. You can see how sometimes temp folders can be huge

2. If you don't turn off hibernation option in XP, it has an unused file the size of your installed RAM (I never use hibernation, so turing off the option in Control Panel > Power Options > Hibernate > Enable hibernation saved me 1.5GB)

3. Lots of old stuff lying around that never got deleted

What if the cell phone drops into water

Did you ever drop your cellphone in a puddle or even the toilet? I did. (Don't ask how that happened…). It usually means you have to replace your phone, which obviously sucks. But now we learn that sometimes, if you're fast enough, you can still save your baby in time.
Remove the Battery. This is one of the most important steps. Don't take time to think about it, electricity and water do not mix. Cutting power to your phone is a crucial first step in saving it.
  • Dry your Phone. Obviously you need to remove as much of the water as soon as you can to prevent it from getting into the phone. Use a towel or a paper towel to remove as much of the water as possible.
  • Soak in Alcohol. Alcohol is hygroscopic (attracts water), it will dissolve all the water in the phone, which will then pour out of the phone with the alcohol. Any remaining alcohol will evaporate. Alcohol will not harm your phone but may mess up glue (from stickers and the like). Use 95% alcohol, not the regular 70% rubbing type. Do it outside!. If you use alcohol, do not follow the rest of the advice here, instead leave your phone outside for a day or two to dry.
  • Allow the phone to dry. Since you do not want to ruin your phone or lose all the numbers in your phone book, you need to allow the phone to dry. Don't try putting the battery back on to see if it works as this would risk damaging the phone with a short circuit. Leaving your phone in a bowl of dry rice will help to expedite moisture evaporation.
  • Heat your Phone (do not do this if you have applied alcohol). Apply enough heat to your phone to cause the water to evaporate without waterlogging your digital screen. One of the best things you can do to save a cell phone is to set it on the back of your computer monitor or TV screen over the heat vents. This is usually the perfect amount of heat to fix your phone. The convection action of the heat vents will help carry away the moisture in your phone. Leave the phone on the heat for at least 2-3 days. Another option is to leave it overnight in the oven on warm (make sure to take off the battery first).
  • Test your Phone. After you have waited 3 days, make sure everything is clean and dry looking and re-attach the battery to the phone and see if it works. If your phone does not work repeat step 4. If it still won't work, try taking your cell phone to an authorized dealer. Sometimes they can fix it.
  1. Don't put the battery on for at least 3 days or longer if your digital screen is foggy.
  2. Place a piece of satin finish scotch tape over your water damage sticker before you drop your cell phone in the water to prevent the water damage sticker from voiding your warranty. This sticker can usually be found under your battery. It's a small round white sticker, possibly with dots on it. If this sticker gets wet it changes color and your phone is marked for water damage.
  3. Remove the tape if you ever have to return your phone for repairs or warranty. (See the note in the 'Warnings' section about doing this!)
  4. The best way to dry out your phone is to place it in front of an air conditioner or air conditioning vent. Cold air won't damage your phone (hot air can warp or in extreme cases even melt plastic), and air from an air conditioner is dry, and so will evaporate water faster than you might think (which is why a car air conditioner will de-mist the windshield so effectively, even if the engine hasn't warmed up yet). Warm air from a reverse-cycle air conditioner works even better, of course. If you dry your phone in this way overnight it should be fine by the morning.
  5. Use a hairdryer set on warm; it won't melt your head so your phone should be safe.
  6. Use a food dehydrator.
  7. Use the oven on the warm setting (make sure to take out the battery)
  1. Don't heat the battery or it could leak acid. If you use an oven or hairdryer, make sure to remove the battery first.
  2. If you use alcohol make sure to do so outside, and do not apply heat in any form, not even the gentle heat of a monitor. Do not hook up the battery till the alcohol smell dissipates.
  3. Do not apply heat to your phone other than mentioned above. You don't want to melt or burn your phone.
  4. Warranty fraud is naughty! If you dropped your phone in the can with your other 'droppings'–are you really going to send it in for a warranty tech to have to open? Yuck!
  5. FYI, Most modern phones have more than one liquid damage indicator on them, only one visible to you (and sales/technician agents), and chances are, if the sticker under the battery is triggered (or would be, with the scotch tape trick), then the odds are that the internal stickers you can't access are tripped as well. This will still result in you paying a voided-warranty fee in the long run, and it may be best to just learn from your mistake (and not make it more financially severe!).
  6. Even if all these steps are followed, minerals dissolved in the water can precipitate on solder and component pins, causing corrosion or shorting. Components pins are packed so closely together in a modern cell phone that even a small encrustation can create a short, rendering the phone inoperable.

Some new laws

1. Lorenz's Law of Mechanical Repair:
After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch.

2. Anthony's Law of the Workshop:
Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

3. Kovac's Conundrum:
When you dial a wrong number, you never get an engaged one.

4. Cannon's Karmic Law:
If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tyre, the next morning you will have a flat tyre.

5. O'brien's Variation Law:
If you change queues, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now.

6. Bell's Theorem:
When the body is immersed in water, the te lephone rings.

7.. Ruby's Principle of Close Encounters:
The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

8. Willoughby's Law:
When yo u try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

9. Zadra's Law of Biomechanics:
The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

10. Breda's Rule:
At any event, the pe ople whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.

11. Owen's Law:
As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

12. Howden's Law:
You remember you have to mail a letter only when you're near the mailbox.

And the last and best :

13. Murphy's Law
What has to go wrong will go wrong.

China building new Great Wall against rats

China is building a new Great Wall-a relative miniature at 1 meter high-to guard against hordes of pillaging mice. Lujiao, a town in central Hunan province that was overrun by field mice last month, is erecting a 40 km barrier around Dongting Lake to keep the rodents away. About 2 billion mice nesting on the shores of China's second largest freshwater lake gnawed their way through 5,20,000 hectares of crop land when rising water drove them from their burrows. Such plagues underline China's growing struggle to maintain a stable environment, said Yang Hualin, director of the Chinese Pest Control Association in Beijing.

"These are alarm bells amid China's economic development," Yang said. "Ultimately, the original ecological balance needs to be restored, but at the moment that's going to be hard." The country must build up the population of predators, such as owls, snakes and weasels, which have dwindled because of farming and the use of poison to contain pests, he said. "At the moment, this is the only thing that can be done," Yang said of the wall.

However, walls won't shield farmers from the next mouse plague, said Wen Bo, director of the China programme at Pacific Environment, a conservation group in San Francisco. Mice will find holes in the cement-and-rock fortification and resume their assault, he said. "The wall is a symbolic gesture to quiet public concern," Wen said. "It's not going to work in the long run." In Binhu, a hamlet administered by Lujiao, Zhang Shouliang said she and her neighbours used bamboo sticks to kill thousands of mice that invaded their homes and crops.

Her extended family of 13 lost its entire harvest of corn, peanuts and watermelon, worth 10,000 yuan ($1,300). Climatic conditions aggravated this year's plague, said Zhang Meiwen, a Hunanbased researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dongting's waters receded to lower- than-usual levels after a dry winter, giving mice more room to breed. After authorities at the Three Gorges Dam opened sluices to alleviate flooding upstream in the Yangtze River in mid-June, the lake began rising by as much as half a meter a day, driving mice into 22 surrounding communities, Zhang said.

"This is the prelude of a battle between mice and men," the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture said about Hunan's plague. The Lujiao government is raising 6 million yuan for its wall, the state-run Xinhua news service reported. China's Great Wall, built from about 220 B.C. to fend off pillaging tribes from the north, extends more than 6,400 km. The wall, which stands 8 m tall in some parts, didn't halt Genghis Khan, who sacked what is now Beijing in the early 13th century. But optimistic Zhang said: "Once they get the wall built, we'll be better off.

Meaning of terms BC and AD in years

We use these terms a lot, say like the current year, 2007 AD, and the year 50 BC. But what do they mean ?

A.D.--abbreviation for Anno Domini (Latin), "the Year of Our Lord;" in reference to the count of years measured from the birth of Christ, arbitrarily fixed as A.D. 1. Dating by the Annus Domini system was first proposed in 525 and adopted in A.D. 644.

B.C.--abbreviation for "Before Christ," as in 44 B.C. The notation of counting backwards from the birth of Christ was first proposed by Jacques Bossuet in 1681.

It is commonly thought that BC stands for "before Christ" and AD stands for "after death." BC does stand for "before Christ.", but AD actually stands for the Latin phrase "anno domini" which means "in the year of our Lord." The B.C. / A.D. dating system is not taught in the Bible. It actually was not fully implemented and accepted until several centuries after Jesus' death.

It is interesting to note that the purpose of the BC / AD dating system was to make the birth of Jesus Christ the dividing point of world history. However, when the B.C. / A.D. system was being calculated, they actually made a mistake in pinpointing the year of Jesus' birth. Scholars later discovered that Jesus was actually born in around 4-6 BC, not 0 AD.

Any reference to the "Year 0" is also a misnomer. The first year before an occasion (such as the birth of a historical Jesus) would be the year 1 BC. The event would occupy no time (or maybe just one day, depending on your definitions) and the first year after that event would be the year 1 AD. Since the terms were unknown at the occasion itself, there was no problem. ( An archeologist once tried to claim he found a Roman coin dated 3 BC. Think about it.) The confusion over the actual date of the millenium was based on this. Since the first year of the first millenium was the year "0001", the first year of the third millenium was therefore the year "2001". The thousands digit is always one less than the number of the "millenium"; this is the same confusion about the hundreds digit being one less than the "century". 1901 was the first year of the twentieth century, 2001 the first year of the twenty-first century.

Anno domini was invented 525 years after the alleged birth of Jesus; The Anno Domini system was developed by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (born in Scythia Minor) in Rome in 525, as an outcome of his work on calculating the date of Easter....

Origin of term Good-Bye

Seems a very straight-forward term, rolls easily off the tongue. Very convenient. But the term has a bigger meaning. It is derived from the ancient wish: God be with you. Seems feasible, right ? Well, read on:

Sometimes we are so familiar with a word that we forget what we are saying. We might imagine that good-bye might be related to bye-ways and bye-laws but that is not the case. The good of good-bye is identical to the good of Good Friday. That it is, it is not "good" at all but "God". Good-bye is a shortened form of "God be with ye/you" which dates from Shakespeare's time. Godspeed, a 15th century way of saying "good-bye", comes from God speed, meaning "may God prosper one".

"In the Spanish adios and French adieu 'farewell, good-bye', we see an explicit wish that the person addressed should be in the care of God (dios, dieu). The same sentiment lies at the origin of good-bye, which comes from the phrase God be with you. The phrase gradually eroded over time, appearing in such versions as God be wy you (in the sixteenth century), God b'y you (in the seventeenth), and numerous other versions before settling on good-bye in the nineteenth century, the final form buttressed by the example of good night and good day. In time good-bye was further shortened simply to bye, at which point reduction could scarcely proceed further. To some speakers, indeed, this meager monosyllable seemed in need of fattening, so they produced the reduplicaton bye-bye.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Story of boy who cried Wolf once too often

Once there was a shepherd boy who had to look after a flock of sheep. One day, he felt bored and decided to play a trick on the villagers. He shouted," Help! Wolf! Wolf!"

The villagers heard his cries and rushed out of the village to help the shepherd boy. When they reached him, they asked, " Where is the wolf?"The shepherd boy laughed loudly, "Ha, ha, ha! I fooled all of you. I was only playing a trick on you."

A few days later, the shepherd boy played this trick again.

Again he cried," Help! Help! Wolf! Wolf!" Again, the villagers rushed up the hill to help him and again they found that boy had tricked them. They were very angry with him for being so naughty.

Then, some time later, a wolf went into the field. The wolf attacked one sheep, and then another and another. The shepherd boy ran towards the village shouting," Help! Help! Wolf! Help!, somebody!"

The villagers heard his cries but they laughed because they thought it was another trick. The boy ran to the nearest villager and said, " A wolf is attacking the sheep. I lied before, but this time it is true!"

Finally, the villagers went to look. It was true. They could see the wolf running away and many dead sheep lying on the grass.

Moral of the story: If you lie often, people will not believe you when are telling the truth.

Modern twisted moral: If you must lie, do it in a way that people do not find out.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What are sub-prime mortgages ?

In the US subprime Lending is primarily advanced to cusomter who
typically have low credit scores and histories of payment defaults or
bankruptcies. According to S&P subprime originations totaled $421
billion in 2006. Due to a big plunge in the housing market from the
last 18 months subprime lenders felt the heat as most of the customers
failed to meet the payments ending in foreclosures.

How is subprime connected to Financial Companies,Hedge Funds and
Investment Bankers?

Majority of the Top notch Investment Bankers, Hedge funds and
Financial Companies in the US, Austrailia, Europe and even Chinese
Banks(unconfirmed reports say Bank of China might take the hit) as
part of their diversification strategies invest in subprime mortgage
based companies either directly or indirectly. The extent of
investments are completely left to the individual companies. The
downturn has indeed affected every one in the industry. While the
biggies are likely to absorb the hit the small and medium sized
companies with greater exposure to subprime are likely to collapse.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Joke: Student vs, Professor

Good Joke!!!! Student Vs Professor

After having failed his exam in "Logistics and Organization", a student goes and confronts his lecturer about it.

Student: "Sir, do you really understand anything about the subject?"

Professor: "Surely I must. Otherwise I would not be a professor!"

Student: "Great, well then I would like to ask you a question.

If you can give me the correct answer, I will accept my mark as is and go. If you however do not know the answer, I want you give me an "A" for the exam. "

Professor: "Okay, it's a deal. So what is the question?"

Student: "What is legal, but not logical, logical, but not legal, and neither logical, nor legal?"

Even after some long and hard consideration, the professor cannot give the student an answer, and therefore changes his exam mark into an "A", as agreed.

Afterwards, the professor calls on his best student and asks him the same question.

He immediately answers: "Sir, you are 63 years old and married to a 35 year old woman, which is legal, but not logical. Your wife has a 25 year old lover, which is logical, but not legal. The fact that you have given your wife's lover an "A", although he really should have failed, is neither legal, nor logical."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A story about doing for other vs thinking of self

A turtle family went on a picnic. The turtles, being naturally slow about things, took seven years to prepare for their outings. Finally the Turtle family left home looking for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey they found it. For about six months they cleaned up the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements.

Then they discovered they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed. After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt from home. Although he was the fastest of the slow moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell.

He agreed to go on one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left. Three years passed and the little turtle had not returned. Five years â Six years... Then in the seventh year of his absence, the oldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and began to unwrap a sandwich. At that point the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, "SEE I knew you wouldn't wait. Now I am not going to go get the salt."

Moral of the Story

Some of us waste our time waiting for people to live up to our expectations. We are so concerned about what others are doing that we don't do anything ourselves .

Firefox memory consumption

If you are using Firefox on a regular basis on Windows, and leave Firefox open all the time, then you might find that Firefox is using up a lot of RAM, occupying a tremendous amount of memory (gone upto 500 MB in some cases). A lot of people consider this a big memory bug in Firefox, but it is actually a feature to help you browse quicker.
This €˜feature€™ is how the pages are cached in a tabbed environment. To improve performance when navigating (studies show that 40% of all page navigations are renavigations to pages visited less than 10 pages ago, usually using the back button), Firefox implements a Back-Forward cache that retains the rendered document for the last five session history entries for each tab. This is a lot of data. If you have a lot of tabs, Firefox's memory usage can climb dramatically. It'€™s a trade-off. What you get out of it is faster performance as you navigate the web. This is good when you are navigating, but this memory remains used as long as Firefox remains open, which can cause a degradation of performance of the machine. It's does not matter even if you have closed all tabs except for 1, the cache is retained, only going when Firefox is closed.
If you want to improve the performance and change this setting so a lower amount of memory is consumed, it is possible to change the configuration:
1. Type about:config in an empty Firefox window
2. Find the variable 'browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewer'
3. Set the value to 0
4. Once you restart, memory consumption will be way reduced

Some humour - jokes

The IRS decides to audit Ralph, and summons him to the tax office. The auditor is not surprised when Ralph shows up with his attorney.

The auditor says, "Well, sir, you have an extravagant lifestyle and no full-time employment, which you explain by saying that you win money gambling. I'm not sure the IRS finds that believable."

"I'm a great gambler, and I can prove it," says Ralph. "How about a demonstration?" The auditor thinks for a moment and said, "Okay. Go ahead."

Ralph says, "I'll bet you a thousand dollars that I can bite my own eye."

The auditor thinks a moment and says, "No way! It's a bet."

Ralph removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor's jaw drops.
Ralph says, "Now, I'll bet you two thousand dollars that I can bite my other eye."

The auditor can tell Ralph isn't blind, so he takes the bet.

Ralph removes his dentures and bites his good eye. The stunned auditor now realizes he has wagered and lost three grand, with Ralph's attorney as a witness. He starts to get nervous.

"Want to go double or nothing?" Ralph asks. "I'll bet you six thousand dollars that I can stand on one side of your desk, and pee into that wastebasket on the other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between."

The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now, but he looks carefully and decides there's no way this guy can manage that stunt, so he agrees again.

Ralph stands beside the desk and unzips his pants, but although he strains mightily, he can't make the stream reach the wastebasket on the other side, so he pretty much urinates all over the desk.

The auditor leaps with joy, realizing that he has just turned a major loss into a huge win. But Ralph's attorney moans and puts his head in his hands.

"Are you okay?" the auditor asks.

"Not really," says the attorney. "This morning, when Ralph told me he'd been summoned for an audit, he bet me twenty thousand dollars that he could come in here and piss all over your desk and that you'd be happy about it!"

There's a little fellow named Junior who hangs out at Tim's Grocery Store.

The owner Tim doesn't know what Junior's problem is, but the boys like to tease him. They say he is two bricks shy of a load, or two pickles shy of a barrel.

To prove it, sometimes they offer Junior his choice between a nickel and a dime. He always takes the nickel, they say, because it's bigger.

One day after Junior grabbed the nickel, Tim got him off to one side and said, "Junior, those boys are making fun of you. They think you don't know the dime is worth more than the nickel. Are you grabbing the nickel because it's bigger, or what?"

Junior said, "Well, if I took the dime, they'd quit doing it!