Ducking Google search

Google is an awesome company. I like a few things they do. I especially liked their now defunct, google code search, which was extremely helpful for looking up code, instead of having to download source.
There are a few things that i totally dislike in the newer google search interface though. As much as it has retained its simplicity, in look and feel, there is a lot that happens now. For instance, the automatic suggestions, which i am not a big fan of and in fact find it a little annoying at times. Another being, search results spread across multiple pages. In most cases, anything that is not shown in the first page is mostly ignored.

After chance encounter with duckduckgo and evaluating it for a while, i liked the way duckduckgo worked. And a couple of months ago, i moved to using it full time. It is now my default search engine in firefox (Download it here).
"duckduckgo" is surely a intriguing name for a search engine (or anything else for that matter), and thanks to wikipedia i found out why. With its simple interface, the duck with an attitude logo, the dynamically growing page displaying search results is surely worth a try. The only thing i miss though is the uncanny sense of humour.

So if you think DuckDuckGo is something that you might like, I suggest that go ahead and give it a shot.

NetworkManager with alternate desktops

I use Xmonad. Its simple, its light-weight, and it just works most of the time, i haven't seen it broken between updates. Essentially, the usual set of reasons why we all stick to some piece of software that works. And I've realised lately, that i've been using less of the Gnome Software Stack. For instance, I gave up on using Evolution for gnus,  gnome-terminal for urxvt and so on.

But there is one thing that i love to use from the Gnome stack though, and it is Network Manager. Network Manager has improved so much, and the current version works well and is quite reliable. The downside to using Network Manager though is that it is tightly integrated with the Gnome Stack(viz. ConsoleKit, PolicyKit, understandably so.

So with SLIM as my login manager and Xmonad as the window manager, there are some problems that i enounter from time to time. The latest one being not able to connect to any new wireless networks (debian/testing). Looking at /var/log/messages, i found:

         ** (nm-applet:1715): WARNING **: Failed to add/activate connection: (32) Insufficient privileges.

I figured that it must be a consolekit/policykit problem. I remember from when i was making the move to Xmonad, that i had to launch using 'ck-launch-session', so i modified the login_cmd entry  /etc/slim.conf to:

         login_cmd           exec ck-launch-session /bin/bash -login /etc/X11/Xsession %session

And in  ~/.xsession file i run:


And after i logged out and logged back in, Network Manager is back in action again.

Alternatively, one could create a file /etc/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/org.freedesktop.NetworkManager.pkla containing:

And make sure that the user you intend to provide access to is in the netdev group. The above file gives permission to everybody in the netdev group. Personally, I prefer the former, since I think it is the "right way"[TM] to achieve what i want to. But again, this is Linux, and there is no one way to do anything. So feel free to chose what you prefer doing.

Open Source and security

I came across an interesting and a very informational post by Thomas Koch while reading And I really believe that this has to be talked about a lot more, Primarily to create awareness among novice (and seasoned) users of FOSS.

It is a common practice with most of us to download source tarballs and binary packages from all over the interweb. Although few of the seasoned/experienced users among the FOSS community follow the double-check-with-signatures-and-hashes process before blindly trusting the source, I think it pays to exercise caution even if it seems like paranoia. Like the age old adage 'it is better to be safe, than sorry',  it is better to be over-cautious than to have our data lost and/or our identity stolen.

In this age of online-transactions (money and data) and ubiquitous use of wireless networks, our 'security' is only as strong as the processes we follow to ascertain the source of the software we use or the websites we visit. A few things that i tend to follow:

* Install software from authorised software channels (like official repositories, whose keys/signatures are verified and trusted)
* if building and installing from source, make sure that the source is downloaded from authorised source repository and even then double check with signatures and MD5 hashes.
* And if installing from source, test before you actually install it on your primary machine (on a virtual machine)

Bringing about process changes are always difficult, but these changes will go a long way in protecting your system and eventually your 'virtual identity' and data.


Dennis Ritchie passed away.

It is indeed a sad day.

I started using computers when in university (I was 18 then). And in the last 14 years, I have been using both C and Unix (and its variants, Linux mostly). And if I look around, most of the devices that I have, including but not limited to, my laptop, my phone, my desktop at work, use C and Unix (Linux in this case). I earn my 'daily-bread' as a C programmer, I have enjoyed being a C programmer. I just love the flexibility that it provides and its sheer simplicity. I've _always_ had a copy of The C programming language with me. And that is the book that I always keep going back to, between jobs (for interviews) and occasional reference.

I owe it to Dennis Ritchie big time.

My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace.

First week in Dublin

Its been a week exactly since we landed in Ireland. And except for those initial hiccups mentioned in my earlier post, its been a good trip so far. A lot of roaming around and seeing places plus work were the highlights of the week that went by.

Irish are fun loving people. They have fun and frolic written all over the place. They have fun doing whatever they are doing. They specially enjoy Sport and Music. This being the football season, you can see people glued to live matches on tvs at various pubs and restos. Football is religion, very close to their hearts. For that matter, any physical activity is what these people enjoy doing. This is obvious from the number of football and basketball fields that i have seen so far. Also you find a  lot of people cycle/jog/walk to work. Like we have 2-wheelers parking lots in India, its cycles here in Dublin.

[Parked cycles in the streets of Dublin]

Come rain or cold winds, these people just cycle. I love this place for that one reason, and seeing so many people cycle, is seriously tempting. But quite unfortunately nobody rents out cycles, so no cycling for me while am here. But i cant wait to come back home and get my hands on my cycle, probably cycle long distance.

Anyways, while am here, lets get back to talking about Dublin.Music is another thing that you find all over Dublin. On weekends, especially, every alley or any major shopping center will have street musicians playing various styles of music. From traditional irish music to Rock and Roll in a group and solo gigs, one can find street music to suit their taste. A few of those bands sell their cds during such performances, while others just put down their instrument cases where people drop money for their performance. Most places where such gigs happen, are streets which are strictly pedestrian only(and cycles ofcourse).

[Graftton Street – is a pedestrian and cycles only street
 And is the main high-profile shopping street in Dublin ]

[Shopping for flowers on Graftton Street]

The "Grafton street" and "Temple Bar", the former being the main shopping center and quite expensive too, the latter known as the cultural hub of Dublin are typically the places you can find such street musicians.
Of-course all this happens only when its not raining, which it most of the time, even in summers. But thankfully the last 2-3 days has had excellent weather. And i hope it will remain this way the coming week too.

[Street Gigs on Temple Bar]

[Musician at the Howth Beach Walk way]

A very important part of an irish is beer, and it has got to be Guiness. Drinking is a social activity. People have beer, just like we have water probably (am not sure if thats the perfect analogy). Everybody drinks the Guiness. These people are so much in love with this beer that there is a ‘Guiness storehouse tour’ – a paid tour (15 euros) – which will take you through the manufacturing process of the Guiness beer. You get a pint of Guiness at the end of the tour(well, i settled for a coke :p ), at the Gravity bar which is at the 7th floor of the Guiness store house and gives you a 360 degree view of Dublin city.

[Guinness Beer served chilled]

[The "waterfall" inside the Guinness Storehouse showing
the purity of water used in the beer

This place is mostly visited by tourists, quite obviously none of the local irish folk visit such places. But you ask any irish, Guiness is all they will have. Nothing else will do. The most obvious difference between a Guiness and any other beer, is its distinct dark color.  It looks more like a cola drink than beer as you might have noticed in the picture above.

[A poster saying "A Guinness a day, is good for YOU"

[Me with my coke at the Gravity Bar in the Guinness storehouse]

Although i personally have not tasted Guiness, this is what Abhijit has to say ".. stronger than regular beer and its very heavy..".  No wonder, most of the irish folks you find in pubs just drink, and dont eat much. Infact a lot of pubs around, just have stuff to drink and very very little (if any) to eat. And this is a serious problem for people like me. Well for starters drinking more than one coke – not possible – and you only get hungrier with time. I happen to have a first hand experience of such a thing when one evening we were meeting up with Brian Costello (an irish former co-worker and friend and Sun). So, lesson number one – if you are not the beer drinking types never go to a pub with an irish, you are just going to end up hungry.

[L->R: Abhijit, Brian and Dan with their Guinness]

[Its Guinness everywhere baby!!]

Our commute to work everyday, involves a 3 KM walk to the nearest train station (Tara Street Station or the Pearse Street Station) and then take a train to Clontarf road. The walk to the station is particularly interesting because, we try hard to keep pace with the locals who quite briskly (young and old alike) while we are struggling to keep pace with them. The folks in Dublin walk really fast, and after a few days in Dublin everyone gets used to that style of walking. Brian quips "..its a cold country and raining always, we need to head to some place warm and we need to get there fast…". Well Brian, if you say so. But jokes apart, they do walk really fast. Infact after a week of walking around both me and Abhijit are quite accustomed to this brisk walking style or the "Irish walk".

[Abhijit , Dan and Me (behind the camera) travelling to work by DART]

Sun has quite a small footprint here in Ireland, around 250-300 people most of whom work from home. Consequently, the office perennially has a deserted look. And people who we actually had meetings with used to turn up only those days when we had to meet them. Our office building is right beside the Oracle building, making it easier for Oracle during the integration process.

[Me, pretending to be involved with work]

Sunny days are quite hard to come by here, but when there is such a day, the whole of Dublin is out on the beach or in the parks. Dublin being a coastal city has many beautiful beaches, and many beautiful people on these beaches. The last weekend happened to be one such time. The Saturday we spent on this small beach town called Howth to the North of Dublin city, although sunny, it was very very windy. The Sunday though, was not disappointing. Dublin is the home of Europes biggest city park called "The phoenix park".

[Wellington Monumnet, Phoenix Park]

The park apart from housing a few historical buildings and playing areas, also houses the Dublin zoo. It had been a long long time since either of us had been to a zoo, so Dublin zoo it was to start off our Sunday. After spending 4 long hours among small kids and families we were famished and tired. It was a wonderful experience though reminding me of my life as a kid – oh! those small things in life that gave so much of joy, happiness and memories. … what have you become…sigh!!

[People, queuing up to enter the Zoo. It was swarming with kids and families]

Anyways, getting back to the task at hand. After the tiring walk through the zoo, we decided to lie down in the park, with scores of people who were lying there. And there lying on those beautiful gardens of Phoneix, i came up with this brilliant proportionality theory. Although not brilliant, its quite insightful. In Dublin, the sunnier the days  the deeper the necklines plunge and higher the hemlines. Again, interesting, but not *always* a treat to watch.

Dublin is a beautiful city. A perfect holiday city, a place to have fun. Theres something here for everyone. And this first week here has been quite an experience. A few more pictures before i sign off.

[Liffey River by night]

[Angel Gaurding at the beginning of O’Connely Street]

With one more week to go, we have much more to discover. And hopefully it will be as interesting as it has been this past week.


Dublin – First Post (written earlier, posted late)

(originally written on May 17th)
It’s been 2 long days since i left India. And it has been ok so far. Work starts from tomorrow. All i have been doing until now is go around Dublin.
This trip was off to a bad start since the beginning. We (me and  abhijit, my team-mate at work) – had to wait in the Bengaluru Airport for more than a couple of hours, because the flight got delayed. And obviously, waiting at the airport is not such a great idea, specially when one is totally tired and sleepy. Thankfully the new airport is much better than the old one. I shudder at the thought of spending times at the old Bengaluru airport. But thankfully that nightmare is over for bengaluru. Actually  the new airport is much better, small in comparison with other international airports, but good. Actually one gets to see a lot of sparrows in the BIAL. And that is quite good. I feel happy to see those birds, since i don’t get to see them in bangalore, like earlier.

So finally the Lufthansa flight which had to leave at 1.50 AM left at 4.30 AM. My international travel experience in flights has been with Singapore airlines so far. And trust me, Lufthansa comes no where close in service or comfort, if you are taller than 5 feet and/or weight a little more than 40 kgs say goodbye to comfortably being seated on the Lufthansa seats. The people in the economy class are treated like chicken being shipped or something. And they even did not have any inflight entertainment-system. We reached Frankfurt airport at 10.00 AM local time on Saturday, and our connecting flight to Dublin was at 10.25 Am around 5 gates away – and despute trying our best – running, like we are being chased for our lives – we missed our flight. And the next flight out of frankfurt to dublin was around 5 hours later. So we were stuck in the Frankfurt airport for a while, tired, hungry and sleepless and definitely irritated. I was actually cursing myself not to have got a schengen visa. If i had – i would not have been stuck at the airport.

We reached Ireland late in the evening, around 5.30 local time Dublin. Its a pleasant country. A lot like Bangalore actually, just a little less traffic and people – and a little more organized. Makes a lot of difference obviously.
The Irish accents are difficult to understand. But so far its been good. We have figured our way around the important places in the city and we have been walking around everywhere – and sometimes taking the bus. There are enough local buses and they are usually on time too. But everything in Ireland is very expensive. Everything. If you want a decent meal – it costs nothing less than 15 €. Taxi minimum fare is 4€, although the taxis are good – skodas, lancers, toyotas are the most common taxis. So in general its pretty expensive. I called up one of shilpas friend, and spoke for a couple of minutes and it costed me 1€. So you get the idea. Its expensive.
If you can eat junk food – getting veg food is not a problem. Although eating french fries is a no no. They openly admit that they are fried in beef oil or share the same oil to fry meat. So french fries are a big no, and i think its true for most of the fried stuff. I ask for veg burger – no meet, no egg, no cheese and i get is 2 burger buns and some lettuce, no sauces too – since most of them are meat based. But actually have been eating a lot. Feeling way to hungry; Abhijit tells  me that, “.. its because of the weather, its too cold and one tends to feel hungry when its cold…..” Am not sure about that. I need to look that up somewhere.
Its daylight until 10.30-11.00 PM here. Feels a little weird. But i guess in the next couple of weeks i would get used to that.

The service apartment we are staying in, is a two bedroom and has a kitchen, living area and entertainment systems and stuff. A balcony with view of the rest of the apartment  block. There are pigeons  aplenty, and they are perched on the balcony ledge all the time and fly away when we get any close.

Will be getting to work tomorrow. Need to figure out the way to Sun office, which is in a Tech-park a little distance away from the Dublin City. Hopefully can make it in time. 🙂

Thats about it for now. Until my next post, cheers.

Opensolaris (snv 111)

The next scheduled release of Opensolaris is 2009.06. This will be based on snv111. I just recently upgraded to dev snapshot of Opensolaris. And i should say, this release is indeed great. A lot of nitty-gritties have been taken care of.
* The boot-up time has considerably improved. On my Dell Precsion M4400(intel centrino 2.5Ghz, 4 Gig RAM) – it takes 40-50 seconds to boot to the GDM login screen.
* The shutdown is an amazing improvement since the last releases – it just takes 8-9 seconds on an average.
* Comes with gnome 2.24 and firefox 3.1 beta 3
* Lot more packages in the IPS respository (last count 33987).

Heres a screenshot of the Device Driver Utility (ddu) on my machine.
Click to Enlarge picture

More updates to come soon.

And the Oscar goes to…

By now, all of us already know about ‘Slumdog Millionaires‘ success at the Oscars. This was a culmination of sorts after all the awards the movie received at the BAFTA and Golden Globe. With all the attention Slumdog was receiving, it was not surprising that the movie won 8 oscars. And our own A R Rahman, has got the much deserved international recognition.

I have been a fan of Rahmans music since Roja. And quite recently listening to the sound-track of Dilli 6 has been a pleasure. Most of the songs that come from Rahman are indeed catchy and at times truly enchanting. The songs “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai” from Roja his first, to “Rehna Tu” from Dilli 6, his latest, never fail to thrill me. There is a clear signature in his music, of an artist that is A R Rahman.  And again, there are some tracks that really surprise me and make me wonder what might have gone wrong with this mostly flawless composer. And if you are wondering what I’m referring to,  you should listen to some compositions from movies like Yuvraaj (and a few more that i really don’t want to mention). Clearly everybody has bad days, and i guess Rahman is no exception. And for me, the soundtrack and songs of Slumdog, have failed to pull the right chord in my heart.  Well, agreed he has got an Oscar for that. But i really don’t think that his best work. And IMHO, i would put it into one of his very average compositions.
If people from all over think that those are his best compositions, they sure are missing a lot. I think the folks in the “Academy” need to listen to tracks from “Thiruda Thiruda”, “Roja”, “Dil Se”  and ofcourse the latest “Dilli 6” just to name a few. Anyways, I’m not the one to decide what he gets the award for. So i will just let it be.

Although, what upsets me most is how we as a nation look for approval from the west for whatever we do. Like our fascination with the Oscars( i have no faith, whatsoever, in the Academy). When will we realize our worth? And that it really does not matter what the west thinks of us, What matters most is what we think of ourselves. And what do we think our ourselves? Well, we have people like Pramod Muthalik from the now ‘most-talked-about’ “Sri Rama Sene”,  who thinks that “women in our country are not respecting our culture. And by not going to pubs, and not wearing *western-attire* we will be a nation with a rich culture”.  We have money-laundering politicians who think “we need to let the poor remain poor, and never educate the illiterate. If we do,  we have nowhere to go. The people would not need us anymore”.  Finally, we have a Chief Minister who thinks “We need to please all the gods in all the temples of our state so that good things happen to our state so we can reign supreme”, and goes ahead and allots 100 crores for that purpose in the state budget.
The Oscar (for the best act and direction) should actually go to all such people for doing such crap and making us, the people of this nation, believe that it is for own good.