Saturday, June 26, 2004

A long way from Walden

I am reading Thoreau's Walden these days. Appropriately, as a test, I got locked out of my apartment for just over two hours today morning. As I sat outside my apartment, waiting for my roommate (Alex) to return and let me in, I wondered how dependent we have become on a shelter - something our ancestors used to stand under only when it rained or stormed. I can see some sense in the concept in places with extremes of climate. But does a man living off the coast of the Mediterranean need to ever stay within the confines of four walls? I then recalled these lines of Thoreau:
Most men never seem to have considered what is a house, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they must have a house such as the neighbor's.

As I reflected upon these lines and more, I privately laughed at the huge and garish mansions people built and still build for themselves. Soon I was galvanized enough to even consider starting a new life away from civilization, one with nature. But then my stomach started rumbling, and I remembered that there was some good chicken soup in the refrigerator. I was thankful when Alex returned after what seemed like an eternity. I didn't even come back to Thoreau until after I had gotten into my apartment, eaten well and was beginning to relax on my new mattress with my copy of Walden.

Friday, June 25, 2004

I told you so!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Web browser flaw prompts warning

BEGIN rant:

What'd I say? Internet Explorer sucks ass! Please stop using Microsoft's IE. If a website is ``designed for IE'', boycott that website. Microsoft is the bane of all computer users. Disguised as a blessing, Microsoft is a curse. The great Devil.

END rant.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

gmail: A new etiquette for email

I finally got my gmail account! So hit me at shashank dot ramaprasad at Now, I am all in awe of gmail's conversation/thread view. Its so intuitive and simple, I wonder why none of the other major players offered it. Maybe some one did, and I missed it? Let me know...

For those of you unaware, gmail groups a post and all subsequent replies to it. It offers this entire thread in one view as a conversation. As a user, you no longer have to look at redundant information. The subject line itself is an example: The entire conversation is simply named with the subject line of the first post in the conversation. gmail also intelligently hides quoted or included text in replies to any post, making it easier to scroll through the entire conversation.

Now, it is convention to include or ``quote'' the entire conversation history when adding to a post. Among parties using gmail this convention becomes un-necessary owing to the conversation view. So, individual posts are shorter. One simply has to take care to not alter the subject line. But I do see people often replying to a thread and changing the subject line while doing so. That, to me is very irritating. It interrrupts the flow of the conversation and puts the persons following the thread off-track.

Here's to gmail! I hope others take notice too, and make the world of email a better place.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pretty woman

The most beautiful girl I ever saw in a picture. She was apparently one of thousands watching the Euro match-up between Portugal and Russia. From the BBC website (without permission). I wonder what my chances of this meeting this lady are???  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

MS to Offer AV Software: How twisted is THAT?

Microsoft on Track to Offer Anti-Virus Software (

Microsoft is planning to offer its own AV solution, which will compete against the likes of Symantec, McAfee etc. Knowing Microsoft, this latest offering will probably be so bug-ridden itself, that third party software might spring up to patch the holes. But I have a larger, more fundamental grouse with Microsoft.

Why, in the first place, does Microsoft charge exorbitant sums of money when its software is riddled with defects? Even allowing for defects, doesn't it become Microsoft's ethical, moral and maybe even legal responsibility to at least try and offer fixes without additionally charging users already burdened with its low-quality software?

Anti-virus software is a case in point. As everyone knows, today's proliferation of viruses and other worms that seriously affect the integrity of computer systems big and small, can be directly attributed to loopholes in Microsoft's operating system design in large part. Although Microsoft might have caused this `security issue' unintentionally, it resulted in the growth of a multi-million dollar anti-virus industry. Now, incredibly, Microsoft is aiming at earning revenue off its earlier incompetence! Those poor parasitic outgrowths face competition from the greedy host. Microsoft can probably buy out all these antivirus companies, and simply issue a small belch afterwards, being the huge cash cow it is.

A sorry state of affairs indeed. Is there any way out? Of course there is. Migrate to other operating systems. Although easier said than done, organizations should seriously consider moving out of the clutches of the Redmond gaint, at least gradually, if not at one go. Linux offers proven productivity, and at much more reasonable rates. And for those with the money to spend, there are always those Macintoshes.

Is Google too good?

Inappropriate matching with Google ads

Check this out! Some wuss put this up on a site whining about Google's gmail service. A story about unregulated online pharmacies is sponsored by an ad by a bunch of... yes! By unregulated online pharmacies! How is that for accurate context-sensitiveness? Way to go, Google.

Kerry needs a serious makeover

The Onion | Kerry Names 1969 Version Of Himself As Running Mate

These days, the Democrat nominee looks like he has a sour lemon wedged between his legs. No wonder the Onion reminded him of his more youthful days. He needs to lighten up.

On a totally unrelated note, some currents...
mood: Anticipation.
music: Funk/Soul: "Let's get it on". Barry White.
books: Propaganda/dystopia: Brave New World (Huxley), Walden (Thoreau), 1984 (Orwell).
movie: The Insider (1999?).

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Is the matrix in you?

After a long break, I took up my pen, nee mouse, and pointed it to Just when I thought I had seen it all, I came across this group of sites, the matrix sites, of which is one. This entirely legal, clever and resourceful venture offers quick get-rich schemes, electronics items at unbelievably cheap prices, and the like. But of course, there is a catch, and a good one at that. You have to wait in a queue for every item. The queue policy is that for every N persons joining the queue for item x, the person at the head of the queue wins item x. For the next person to win x, N more have to join the queue, and so on.

The interesting part is to see how this system behaves. Its easy to see that the tail of the queue grows much faster than the head shrinks. In the limiting case, the queue size is unbounded. But what does this translate to in terms of average queue length, waiting times etc? While I won't go into a rigorous analysis, here's a simple scenario. One product on sale on is the 40 GB Apple iPod, for ONLY $115. For this product, N=7. So, for every 7 customers joining the queue, the person at the head of the queue gets an iPod, for $115. Now, 7 more people have to join for the next person to get his iPod, and so on.

When I checked, the queue was 500 persons long. So, if I joined now, I would get my iPod only after these 500 got theirs. But this would require that 500 * 7 = 3500 more customers join the queue after me. But when I checked, I saw that 20 new customers join the queue every month. At this rate, I would have to wait 3500 / 20 = 175 months = 175 / 12 = 16 years! Not exactly a breeze, this queue... Even doubling / tripling the joining rate doesn't help too much. Seems like I have to look elsewhere for my iPod.