Monday, April 28, 2008

Admitted to Nanyang University!!

The Good news just came in right now!! I have a confirmation for a research scholarship (5 yr Ph D.) in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.. It's supposed to be rated among the top 5 in Asia.. Woooohooo..

I'll be doing a project in DSP under a Prof. Benjamin Premkumar.. Let's hope this turns out to be great !.. I'm planning to come back to India ofcourse.. am that sort of a home sick + patriotic guy anyways..

And great thanks to all my well wishers!..

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Biggest Achievement in College

Here it is ....A Bunkometer, a term common among engineering students. The name is self-explanatory.

Mind you, I'm one of the decent ones out here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The OOXML Controversy for Dummies

For Dummies to the Open source world like me, heres the issue in a nutshell..

Microsoft, the bully of the software world, brought out Microsoft Office in 95 along with the .doc format for documents, .ppt, .xls, etc. The format details and rules are known only to Microsoft and its Office developers, and no one else, as Microsoft is neither free nor open source.

If you go to the Microsoft site itself, you will see that Office is priced from $300 to $ 600 ! For a f@#$ing piece of software! I'm not devaluing Office, but its an atrocious price for a just a piece of code. So owing to its high cost (no ones talking about pirated ofcourse :-) ), the free software world developed several Open Document standards (.odf, odp etc) and softwares to use them, including Star Office, Open Office etc.

The free versions of Office, like Open Office, are

1. Totally Free
2. Open source, meaning you can go through the code of Open Office softwares, see the rules yourself, modify it if you want
3. Equal to or better than Microsoft Office from my own experience.

The odf got the ISO standard in 2006 or so, ensuring it was an accepted standard and would now gain more popularity. This ofcourse, dint stand well with Microsoft, whose very existence was being threatened by the FOSS world on all fronts. So Microsoft decides to bring out its trump card for the same game- money and influence.

Forward to the end of 2007, Microsoft gets an ISO standard for its OOXML document format. Majority of the countries voted for the OOXML standard. Surprised ?

Rewind back a few months, to where the game was played :-

1. In India, Microsoft tries to influence the NGOs to put pressure on the government to accept the standard. The alleged letter sent to NGOs is available.

2. In Sweden, the panel responsible for voting on the issue, which was supposedly against OOXML convened a meeting to vote on the issue, but this was adjourned. Then, the panel was extended from 9 members to 34 members based on payment within a space of 12 days. The bought out panel reconvened, and this time the additional 25 members voted in favour of OOML.

3. Similar game were played all over the Nordic states and in Europe in general.

The story in India is funny :-

1. All the IITs, IIMs, IISc who represent the academia in the voting panel, voted against OOXML.

2. Most of the software giants in India like IBM, Oracle, etc were against OOXML and voted against them.

3. Only Infosys, Wipro and TCS abstained in the voting.

The last 3 are now facing fire from the open source community for their decision. Read this Hindu newspaper report for details.

More about the effect of this event on us, situation in India, flaws in the OOXML standard in my next post on the topic..

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Free Vs Proprietary Debate

World War 3 is happening. Only, this time its soft-'war'e !

I have always wondered why people use stupid proprietary software when there are better substitutes available to it. (I for one, am one of those idiots, i still use windows, but that will change soon ;-)). Recently i took a list of proprietary software that have better free substitutes :-

1. Mozilla Firefox RULES over Internet Explorer.
2. Open Office is equivalent to Microsoft Office, and with the recent OOXML standards controversy (Read this Hindu article for info on this debate), Open Office is definitely the better choice.
3. Audacity (Music composing) has no comparison in the proprietary world as far as i know.
4. Linux Over Windows. Open to debate.

Then why oh why do these proprietary ones even exist? I mean, if you have this good chocolate free of cost, and a bad chocolate that you have to pay for, do you go for the good or bad one?

In other areas, the Free world is yet to catch up
- Blender is still far away from 3Dsmax or Maya
- Inkscape + GIMP is yet to beat Photoshop
- Octave and Maxima (Technical computing) require more consolidation to reach upto MATLAB,
and I dont know if theres any Free Media players that are really really good. Maybe cos I'm a noob to FOSS.

One thing is that people are so complacent using pirated copies of their software that they dont find any reason to change. Is 'better software' a reason to change? (In our college, though, Firefox has fully replaced Explorer)

The day will come when there wont be any more IExplorers and Microsoft Offices or MATLABs. This ofcourse, requires a large amount of contribution from all sorts of people, especially the software consumers who know exactly what is lacking in the software they use. That is the beauty of how the Free world works. It's a pity that the movement has yet not gathered the momentum it needs. Still, Lets hope the day of freedom is not far off.

Anybody want to help me out in contributing to Maxima ? :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fare - (not so) - Well

Last week was a string of farewells for us seniors at NITC. There were 3 consecutive ones for me :
1. The Director gave all the 4th years a farewell in NLC. I went up on stage representing my branch, and gave a sentimental and emotional speech.
2. The Electrical juniors gave us 4th year Electricals a farewell in NLC. Ditto Ditto second part.

3. The IEEE Juniors from my branch who I have worked with and conducted soo many events like FOSSMeet with for long, gave us seniors a farewell. For the third time i went up and gave a senti speech.

I couldnt help being sentimental. It's how a farewell speech is supposed to be. I did crack jokes, mind you. But in the end, a farewell is a sad event. I cant crack too many jokes at an event i know will be my last at college.

Promises of 'keeping in touch' are always made. But you know what, its hard. Its hard to keep in touch. The mails and sms's and scraps and calls keep on decreasing slowly. You find it hard to relate to your friend anymore. Nothing more in common. No more bitching about teachers or asking about classes or studying together to do. Your conversation once in a while will probably be like :

Passout 1 : Hi.. how do you do.. Long time no see..

Passout 2 : Yea, hi.. long time no see either.. i was busy here..

Passout 1 : What do you do now?

Passout 2: I'm working.. Its going fine.. How about you..

Blah blah blah.. once in a while you try to find something common and ask the guy about old friends, teachers, when he visited the college last etc. But its futile. Physical distance brings mental distance. And you need a great deal of bonding to overcome that fact.
I still dont know whether to hate or like farewells. Farewells are one of the greatest and worst things in life. They give you memories. So that you can laugh your last day out. And cry the rest of your life remembering the last day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wish u a Happy Vishu !

Vishu(/Bihu/Ugadi).. The Beginning of a new Indian year!!

In Kerala, we start off the day with a beautiful 'Vishu Kani'- the beautiful opening first view on the Vishu day to signify a nice beginning. Unfortunately, we poor souls here at college have to make do with software 'kani's for our Vishu. Heres one for you below..
The funniest joke on Vishu's is always the 'Wish u' - 'Vishu' one. Ofcourse, there was this friend of mine who dint get the occassion and came and wished me 'Happy Vishnu' (thinking it had something to do with my full name Hari Vishnu). Another tradition is the 'Kaineetam'.. whereby the seniors and elders are supposed to give pocket money to the younger ones. Yum yum, a day for lots of money and food!

Crackers are waiting in store.. waiting to blast them away!..

Happy new year to all of u out there!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

How to Pass out of college?

I have found out what will be the worst day of my life. Its going to be when i pass out of college.

It is soo bloody impossible to have come together with a bunch of 300 people for 4 years, share everything from rooms to clothes to food to your closest secrets with them, open out to them like you've never done with your family even maybe, and then just walk out on them one fine day saying 'Good Bye, I'll keep in touch'

I faced this situation once when i was returning from Sharjah. I'd spent 16 years there (being born there), and i decided never to think about the reality until when i really had to leave UAE. But that last day i will never forget, for I was soo pathetically bathed in tears that day i was to return back to India that I thought I'd never return to mental stability again.

To admit shamelessly,many of my college-mates know me better than my own mother and father even know me. So much that i sometimes feel weird when i'm at home. It's just not normal there sometimes- not without the hostel noise and all the bad words and bottles and smelly toilets and assignment deadlines. Some of my buddies never even go home saying 'It's Boring at home, college is better'..

I really dont know how to face this situation this time. I'm probably going to cry it out. Shamelessly in front of my 300 batchmates (who will probably be in the same state), hundreds of juniors who I've got to know through 4 years, all the faculty and all the people who've made my life at College the best i'll probably have in life.

On second hand, maybe it's not so shameless to cry at all. Not at all. Not for such great memories. But I'll always remember this orkut profile comment of my friend's that is really popular among us now :

"Dont Cry cos it's over, Smile cos it happened..."

How I wish..

Friday, April 4, 2008

EEE Class of 2004-08 (sniff)

This is a pic of my Electrical Class of 2004-2008.. Pretty united bunch of 70 we were..
Its pics like these that bring back the memories later on in life

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Female Factor

An attempt to define a relationship...

Today, 50 of us S8 Electrical students, for the 3rd time in our engineering life went for a class trip to Kaapad beach. The trip was beautiful, the sea was really rough but great. There were around 40 guys and 10 girls. Manu almost drowned and was saved by a combined effort from lots of people, and vowed never to touch water in his life again !

Then we went to The Hyson Heritage, where we had a fine dinner, and then a Hot-seat to kill the time. For those who dont know, hot-seat is where you sit on a chair on the stage with a mike, and the audience gets to shoot any question at you, anything at all, personal or sensitive. And you're 'expected' to answer them (although finally its up to you ofcourse :-) ). In general most of the people hot-seated today, as i expected, were people with, shall we say, 'relationships'. My hot seat was not in the least bit comfortable, with some of my closest secret-keepers asking the juiciest ones. But it really made me wonder.. and define well.. something about my attitude to relationships.

Eternal question : "Why do guys go behind girls?" (and vice versa). Is it just the hormones? Is it just some pleasure they seek? Bodily? Well there may be some like that, but believe me, that's not what every guy out there is thinking about. If i wanted just that, I might as well go for other options. No, theres something else about a girl that gets to a guy.

I hit on a girl in my second year. Valentine's Day Eve. She did'nt agree [:-)] cos she gave reasons, perfectly good reasons which even I appreciated later on. But the more I went on, the more I felt a sort of void. Female Company. There were friends in life, good ones, and stuff to do, and enjoyment, and studies[:-)] and family and everything in necessary amount, but still it was there. Like theres this Yang part of me in full flow, but I still needed this Yin part to complete my life (Man, Taoist philosophy rocks).

Yes, theres something about female company thats satisfying to a guy. I dont know what, I may not be able to point at it- it could be their plain simplicity, or playfulness, or stupidity or how they act it(look, I'm not trying to be male chauvinist ok), or just their way of flirting around all the while knowing you enjoy it. It's different from being with a guy. Being with a guy is cool sometimes. But being with a girl is different.And it's definitely the other half of the Yang part that guys are. No matter how many friends I had who were guys,this part still remained to be filled.And no amount of work (I sometimes enjoy work) or guy friends or movies or timepasses can take that necessity away.

I think this is what makes the guy go behind the girl.I have seen people who have been in several relationships,and who have been fully dedicated and sincere in all of them, and when he loses his girl that look on a guys face is like a half-empty juice bottle. We see it all around us. Everywhere. Its just human, and theres nothing cool in admitting you dont want to have a girl [I tried the cool-bachelor-doesnt-like-girl attitude, dint work :-) ].

I wonder if this is how girls think too. Something amiss in their lives? Need a guy to fill up?

Anways,I never tried again. I was not brave enough to take another no.I decided to brave it as a single,desperate-for-a-girlfriend bachelor until other things were done.Maybe I'll try again, but after reading the manual once more :-).