Sunday, 21 December 2008

Memristive systems

Before going to memrestive systems lets look at some details first.

Now lets have a look at Memristor and Memristive Systems Symposium at University of California, Berkeley.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Mozilla 2010 Goals

To move Mozilla mission, Mitchell Baker, Chairperson of Mozilla has proposed a few goals for the next few years called "Mozilla 2010 Goals". As part of my contribution to it, I have answered a few questions from a personal perspective. My answers are in a broader sense. Specific conclusions can be made after discussions in the line of my answers. Their purpose is guiding.

1. How do you feel the Mozilla community can help you with your individual development, whether it's personal, professional, or both?

Today, nearly all of us have a virtual life synced with our real life. The internet (not to be confused with the web) is an essential tool/way of communication, job control, etc. Mozilla tools like Firefox and Thunderbird (these are the ones I use) serve as basic internet usage tools. I follow internet news, check email and follows RSS feeds through Thunderbird and browse through Firefox. These two tools are used seamlessly by me. The basic nature of these two tools in my case is evident from the fact that Firefox was the first software I downloaded after more than a dozen reinstalls I have had during my four years of experience with it.

2. Do you feel Mozilla can be more involved in certain communities, whether they be geographical, technological, or within the Mozilla world?

Yes I do feel Mozilla can be more involved in many other communities. For example, currently Firefox on Linux has some GNOME bindings. KDE users (XFCE users won't have much trouble as they have some GNOME linkages.) find this problematic. I heard of Nokia developing a QT port of Firefox.

3. Where do you think innovation comes from in the Mozilla world?

Every time we use a software product, we translate our needs into tasks that the product can do. There are occassions where this is not possible and we either find a work around or leave the task. However, sometimes when direct translation of needs into tasks is not possible, we boldly go for creating the functionality to suit our needs. This is where innovation comes in. For example, plugins serve specific purposes which their authors want to have as functionalities.

4. What specific areas in the world of Internet technology and the open Web do you see Mozilla being a leader?

I see Mozilla as a leader in basic communication. I like the ease of usage of Mozilla products.

5. How can Mozilla play a bigger role in moving the Web forward?

Today many people do not feel a difference between online use and offline use. That transition phase should be minimised more and a seamless integration of browsing, mailing, document reading, writing and editing should be aimed at. The ease of usage, security and simplicity of the technology shall lead it ahead.

6. Do you feel strongly about how your information is stored and used online by the websites you visit?

Yes. I like privacy and try to minimize the information that is being stored.

7. What concerns do you have about Mozilla getting more involved with data related to Web users?

I doubt breach of privacy.

8. What benefits do you see for aggregating anonymous "usage data" and making it available to the world as a public resource?

No problems as long as the user permits it explicitly and with full knowledge of it rather than in ignorance.

9. Do you have ideas on how Firefox for mobile devices can carry on the Mozilla mission?

I want seamless integration of web services and Firefox for mobile is an essential part of it.

10. Why do you think Firefox has not captured more browser marketshare?

Ignorance about Mozilla products is a major cause. I would like to have input from people in the corporate sector on this issue.

11. What can Mozilla do in order to spread awareness about the open Web and continue our Firefox marketshare momentum?

Mozilla can make its products more versatile.

Linux distro chooser

Linux comes in various flavours called distros. Distrowatch has been keeping track of various distros. However, finding a suitable distro is usually difficult, especially for newbies. They find it difficult to link the description of distros and their criteria of choosing a distro. Distros usually describe their package management systems, desktop environments, or their particular purpose. However, users want descriptions explaining ease of usage. [Basically, the learning curve for linux is steep.] However, here is a site that tries to link user criteria with description of distros. The results are not very satisfying, yet it is worth trying. Moreover as it is available in a number of languages, non-english speakers can benefit from it.

Friday, 31 October 2008


I am back with Enlightenment. Though I have philosophical orientations, this is not philosophical (i.e. not in a direct way; you may find indirect hints and undertones though).

Let me start with installing Enlightenment desktop shell in openSUSE. Installing details on other platforms are available at their website. I used YaST to simplify the process (at least thats what I thought in the beginning). I began by adding Dmitry Serpokryl's repositories. You can find specific repositories for your version of openSUSE here. He also offers openSUSE live CD with Enlightenment desktop shell here.

As most YaST users might expect, installation should have been a simple 2 step process:
1. check the required packages; and
2. accept the changes and solve any dependency problems.

It was pretty much the same. I shall describe how I got over the dependency problems on my system (openSUSE 10.3 x86_64) and hope it helps you as well. I suggest you add Dmitry's metapackage repository along with his other Enlightenment repositories. He also provides a one click install option but it didn't work for me. So I decided to try to install individual packages myself and see if it works.

I found install details on the Enlightenment site for Ubuntu which suggested the following sequence of installation of packages:
1. Eina
2. Eet
3. Evas
4. Ecore
5. Efreet
6. Embryo
7. Edje
8. E_DBus
However, when I searched for Eina I did not find it. Here I decided to be bold and trust YaST. I skipped Eina and installed the rest. I am happy it worked for me and I have Enlightenement now. you can actually go for installation from source as well. I was just trying YaST. Let's see the initial looks of Enlightenment.
This is the default Bling theme. When you start the Enlightenment desktop shell the first thing that you notice different is the behaviour of mouse clicks. I shall not describe that as I want it to be an interesting experience of yours as it was for me.

Below you can see windows of different shapes placed as per my use and ease. Enlightenment remembers the size of windows. You can suit your needs with various sizes: the goal being productivity.I have read many criticisms about Enlightenment being all about eye candy. However, I think the concept of desktop shell introduced by Enlightenment can be used to provide ease of use. Another interesting feature was the drag bar. At the beginning its purpose might appear to be just eye candy or fancy desktop item. However, I have found out that it can a great tool in simplifying usage and boosting productivity. If you know any use of dragging windows from one desktop to another, then this drag bar will be of much help to you.

After getting the initial feel of Enlightenment desktop shell, I switched to the famous 23Oz theme. Its cool. Have a look.Below is a shelf with the drag bar. You can add more shelves and widgets to suit your needs.I shall speak about two other interesting featuresof Enlightenment aimed at improved productivity. One is moving to a neighbouring desktop when the mouse pointer tries to cross the edge of the screen. The other is the desktop menu behaviour. In KDE, GNOME and other traditional window managers, when there isn't ample space for a submenu on the right, the submenu opens up to the left. However, in Enlightenment the menu shifts left to make space for the submenu. You can see that below.To conclude let me tell about the concept of desktop shel. DR17 is not just an application framework like KDE or GNOME. It integrates GUI elements to manage both files and windows. I suggest you go for first-hand experience by trying Enlightenment.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


Recently, I was on a spree of trying desktop environments. My primary desktop has been KDE so far. I had used GNOME from Ubuntu live cds and on my roomie's laptop. So the two giants are out of the question and I went for other desktop environments.

I had heard that Xfce had recently shown improvements. I tried it for the following two basic reasons:
(i) speed
(ii) less resource consuming.

To quote Olivier Fourdan, the creatorof Xfce, it is a free software desktop environment based on the GIMP Toolkit (GTK+ 2.x) and aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use. "Designed for productivity, it loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources." (Olivier Fourdan, creator)Xfce is a free software desktop environment based on the GIMP Toolkit (GTK+ 2.x) and aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use. "Designed for productivity, it loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources."

Getting Xfce was easy with YaST. I just had to check the Xfce pattern and accept the selections. The rest was taken care of by YaST and SUSE. openSUSE can be considered really productive in this regard.

Xfce is said to be a CDE clone and therefore is obviously lightweight and performance oriented. I liked the availability of a button for shade mode for all windows as you can see above. There is also a Mac style dock at the bottom. By default it provided me double click environment unlike KDE's single click one. It supports XMMS as its media player. However I got Amarok playing on it as I am kind of obsessed with Amarok now. You can find the Amarok in the systray in the top right corver above.

Thunar the default file manager for Xfce, is seen above. It resembles Nautilus and is designed for speed and a low memory footprint. It is highly customizable through plugins.

My next post will be about the next trial - Enlightenment.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Compacting folders in Mozilla Thunderbird

For those who use e-mail clients but do not understand "compacting folders", let me tell you that it is essential. The reason you might never have heard of compacting is that most e-mail clients default to automatically compacting the folder whenever a certain amount of space is wasted, while we have to enable this in Thunderbird. Tom Koch speaks about it with Outlook Express background referring to it as The Other E-Mail Threat: File Corruption in Outlook Express.

When we delete or move a message, most e-mail clients simply flag the message and postpone the actual task of deletion. So a large number of flagged messages accumulate over time until the folders are compacted. Even emptying the Trash does not physically delete them. this is done by e-mail clients to improve performance by not requiring to rewrite the entire folder every time we delete a single message. In Thunderbird, the reason is even stronger as the inbox is not a folder but a single huge file. So are trash and other folders. this makes manual compaction in Thunderbird a bit complicated and unwieldy for many users.

To do it in Thunderbird, follow these simple steps:
click on Tools -> Options -> Advanced -> Network & Disk Space -> Disk Space. Then check the box for "Compact folder when it will save over 100 kB" and click OK. If you have a high message rate like me, then you may change the default 100 kb limit to 300 kb.

Sunday, 12 October 2008


In this blog, I am writing about some Firefox tweaks and add-ons that help me improve my online experience. AdBlockPlus heads the list. It is an add-on by Wladimir Palant that blocks unwanted ads. As I hate to see fancy useless flash ads on my screen, this is always the first add-on I get from Mozilla. Also, it has remained at the top of recommended add-ons for quite some time. The ABP icon usually resides right of the search bar as you can see below.

Next comes Video DownloadHelper.
At times videos are more insightful than plain text. That's why sites like youtube are so popular. I like to keep videos for offline use. So Video DownloadHelper is an essential for me. Its icon resides to the left of address bar as seen below.

It is usually deactivated; but activates when there are links that can be downloaded. There are lots of add-ons available that allow numerous customizations from splash screens to 3D cube effect.

Now let's see how easy it is to manage cookies in Firefox. Simply click on Tools->Options->Privacy. A window appears as follows.

You can manage your private data, cookies and history to suit yourself.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

With Peter Norvig as the Director of Research, Google Brain is no surprise.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Google changed the definition of beta

Google changed the definition of beta just like it has done for many other things. From the beginning it has become a centre of innovation in software. Google has shown the way to capture the market when open source software was gaining momentum. Google uses a nice business strategy with a place for open source in it. It is interesting to note that Google supports Firefox, yet launches its own Chrome browser.

I have been critical of the the incorrect use of 'beta' for about two years now, but mostly offline. However, recently I found a discussion at Slashdot supporting my ideas. That inspired me to write this blog. I like the line about getting out of jail for free.

'Beta' means it may change without warning. Well then a number of Google applications tell us at the first page that they are likely to change without warning and we are supposed to tread ahead at our own risk. However, they do it with flair: the 'beta' tags usually blend nicely with the background. Thereby, most of the users become mere beta testers for Google - a novel way to get intelligent testers at a large scale, as required for web applications.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Democracy and communism

This is my first non-technical blog. So, there might still be a technical undertone (probably my meticulous nature forces it more often than I realise).

This one is about democracy. Well first a little recap as democracy is fairly new. In the old autocratic times, there used to be kings on whose wisdom the kingdom either prospered or got doomed. With the world shrinking small, some people figured out better ways of controlling the large populations of big countries like India, America, etc. Those were democracy and communism. (Frankly speaking, there might be others but these two have been evidently the most influential. There might be other forms which the academicians might like to point out. Also, India came much later in the race of democracies. I just put it there because I am an Indian and also in keeping with India's huge population.)

We all know that there are rules and that they are broken. The difference is in the way it is done in a democracy and in a communist country. The methods of covering up are different, but that doesn't mean there is no covering up. The communist guys talk about economy clearly. The democratic fellows find better words. Well the American presidents have had a history of politeness in public speaking and George Bush Jr. made it to the news by being the first to break the unwritten law.

"People vote their wallets, even when they know the politicians are lying through the teeth." - Mark Ludwig

At first I thought I wouldn't have to explain this but the fact that I am writing this blog tells me that some people need an explanation because otherwise I wouldn't need to write this blog. People vote their wallets; all the while using words that tell them they are doing some common good or some other crap. By this they are lying to themselves, fooling themselves into an illusionary world that doesn't exist.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Quite creative.

Inspiring as well.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Few good men

Many of us today have complaints that there is much hatred and increased "negativity" in the world today. Yet the our world survives, we survive. It is because of many unsung heroes who lead the path of good, he path of "positivity". Today I found the following videos on youtube which are aimed at highlighting such unsung heroes.

The first one is called "Random acts of kindness".

The next one is called "make a difference".

Through this blog, I am doing my part of spreading the "positivity". Hope you do your part too and pass the message on. Lets make the world a better place.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Commandos Strike force

This is the fifth in the Commandos series from Eidos. However, this is a first person shooter game (fps) unlike others in the series which were third person strategic games.

One of the major drawbacks of the game is the dumb enemy artificial intelligence(AI), especially while working with the spy. However, the AI was fine when the enemy dodge bullets. Despite that the game is worth playing for its unique gaming experience provided by some features pretty new in the industry. These features make the game very realistic.

The game features dynamic switching between the commandos during the game play. In the following screenshot, I am shooting with the Green Beret (a character in the Strike force team).

While I am using the Green Beret, who is positioned in the heart of action, I am also using the sniper to provide cover to the Beret.

It was really wonderful to be able to see the course of action and be involved in it from two different perspectives at the same time. Such dynamic switching between characters of a game is unprecedented and is appreciable. It makes the game worth playing just for the experience of a new style of gameplay. You can see for yourself in the following video. I am not the player here though.

Earlier we have had games with multiple characters involved in action. However, dynamic switching was not there. One of the early examples of this is the famous game Max Payne 2. There is a level in the game where Mona Sax saves Max Payne by providing sniper cover while Max's response is simulated. In the next level, Max Payne plays in the same scenario with Mona's cover simulated. The developers of Strike Force have take a step towards next generation gaming by introducing dynamic switching.

To add to the realism in the game, there is a fist-fight between a Russian soldier (below) and a Nazi soldier(above) in the following screenshot.

It helps paint the image of world war 2 times in the mind of the gamer. The following screenshot was taken after a couple of Nazi soldiers were killed while they were basking in the warmth of the fire. The rifle of a Nazi soldier fell on the drum when his body fell down.

In the next screenshot the Green Beret is feeling the sharpness of the edge of the knife.

These elements add realism to the gameplay. Its nice to see a Nazi officer, out in cold, yawning. Another interesting feature is the ability of the sniper to hold his breath during shooting to be accurate.

Friday, 30 May 2008


Recently I was working on my brother's computer, when I found the following popup from the antivirus. Evidently the real time protection worked as it came when I was working online.

The malware (I choose to refer in a generic fashion as different vendors differ on whether it is a trojan or a virus) Trojan.Clicker.CM comes from Now, I was working in a different site and I tried a download. The download was supposed to be initiated from another window and along with that new window came the popup which was blocked by the antivirus.

Some googling yielded that is the website of a company that lives on ads. However, it also hints at the grim prospect that malware are used by companies to make money, that cybercrime secretly thrives on companies like this one.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Basic electronics tells us that there are three passive components :
1. Resistor
2. Capacitor
3. Inductor.
Now the trinity has been joined by a new member - the memristor.

In 1971, an IEEE fellow and pioneer of non-linear circuit theory, Leon Chua, working as an engineer in the University of California, Berkeley, predicted that there should be a fourth element: a memory resistor, or memristor. But no one knew how to build one. Now, 37 years Hewlett-Packard researchers have finally designed one.

Earlier it was conceived only from a mathematical perspective and no real manifestation was existent. According to Chua, memristor provides a similar relationship between magnetic flux and charge that a resistor gives between voltage and current. That it acts like a resistor whose value varies according to the current passing through it and which remembers that value even after the current has disappeared. This hints at using the device as a memory resistor.

The team was lead by R. Stanley Williams. They were working on molecular electronics. The memristor is fundamental circuit element as no combination of other fundamental passive elements can make a device remember the current flowing through it earlier. The effect can be produced using transistors and capacitors but a large number of them is needed to produce the effect of a single memristor. The symbol for memristor is as follows.

Looking into the practical applications, we see that with the use of memristors we might never need to boot up again; everything that was in memory while we turned off would be in memory when we turn the system back on. Moreover, memristors are likely to help hardware based implementations of neural networks and fuzzy logic. According to Williams, computations may no more be in Boolean fashion only. Also there can be designs of non-volatile memory based on memristors that could be 1000 times faster than traditional magnetic disks yet consume quite less power.

This is an achievement of nanoscience. For those who could not welcome nanoscience due to prejudices of privacy breach by nanorobots, here is a view of how much easy nanoscience can make your lives.

Some time ago I had read a Linux kernel developer saying that we are not having enough development in hardware. Well here is one.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Cheating at Counter strike

In Counter Strike: Condition Zero, various levels are to be completed and each level has its challenges. The screenshot below shows the challenges for the map "Stadium" in "Hard" level. The names of the enemy bots are clearly mentioned and are actually well chosen so that the challenges are effective.The cheat is actually a loophole. The essence of the cheat is that if we change the bots that make the challenge effective, then the challenge becomes easier. The challenge counter, e.g. the number of enemies to be killed, remains the same however.

Let me take the help of an example to explain how the cheat works. Suppose in the above game I found that Razor being a sniper is causing me more problems than the other bots. So I went to the command line using '~' button. The Console appeared as shown below. I typed in the command
kick Razor
and the outcome was leaving of Razor and joining of Floyd.
Another time, in the next round when I did it Cooper joined the CT forces, as shown in the following screenshot. Each time a random bot was added to the CT forces and the match became 6 on 6 rather than 5 on 7.
The challenge counters that counted the number of kills by me were intact but the challenge lost meaning to some extent.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Spread of malware

Many people use pirated software and use cracks and serials. The temptation of saving money opens gateways for unsolicited malware. The links provided to download cracks are often fake and even the cracks contain malware themselves.
The download link above downloads a virus file.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1

Before installation of IE8 Beta 1, the installer checks for malicious software on the system as can be seen below - something to be appreciate. It bears testimony of Microsoft's growing focus on security to its popularity and compete *nix systems.There is website filter that acts much like McAfee's SiteAdvisor. It says some sites shall be sent to Microsoft for verification of not being malicious. It is supposed to provide "real-time" protection.

After the first start, a few customizations are available. A wizard asks you about your default search engine. You can add online from a list of popular ones as I added Google (below).You can also build your custom search bar plugins as follows. Moreover, this is actually simpler than building search bar plugins for Firefox. If
Below is another feature of IE8 which is available in Firefox as a separate plugin.

Firefox has grown so popular that while talking of IE a comparision spontaneously comes to the mind. In Firefox, there is an option of checking for forged sites by checking from a list of downloaded sites or by checking with Google.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Problem with IE and "always on connection"

I have been having problems with Internet Explorer with my "always on " internet connection. Whenever i tried to use it, it would display the common error message saying "Cannot find server". Then I notied that each time I open up Internet Explorer it connects to as shown below.
Now my previous connection required the modem to be configured to this address. So the problem lay in some remnant of my previous configuration which had creeped into IE. I deleted my previous connection from "Network Connections". Yet the problem persisted. IE was still trying to connect to "". Now I had to look up a setting which was not changed even after deleting my previous connection. After some search, I found that my LAN settings were set to use "" as proxy. I unchecked that option and tried to connect again. The problem was solved now.

Yahoo messenger used IE internally. So it was also not working on my system. But now I can happily use Yahoo Messenger again.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Kaspersky failed

Recently i had to deal with a system affected with the following few viruses.
1. Virus.win32.autorun.abt
2. w32.Autorun.FM.worm

The system had Kaspersky which showed only the first virus. Moreover, Kaspersky was unable to clean the virus.

So i removed the virus from the system by manual cleaning. The job of one click was now a long process. After doing away with the virus the system functioned normally and my first thought was to get rid of Kaspersky. Then i installed a free trial of Panda Antivirus and firewall. I saw that i had finally done away with my virus but there was another one too. During the course of installation only Panda antivirus scanned the memory to eliminate 6 spyware.

After the installation i ran a full system virus scan to confirm that the system is cleaned. I was surprised at how badly Kaspersky had failed when i found that there was another virus that it had not even detected.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft's futuristic computer is called Microsoft Surface. Earlier we used to install computers as desktops but they plan to turn desktops into computers. There are no keyboards or mice. It uses IR cameras to detect touch.
This is going to change the whole experience of desktops.

The implications vary wonderfully for common public and developers. Computer programmers will need to develop more complex algorithms. The hardware will also be more sophisticated. The input and output options will increase and thus their respective modes will diversify. This diversification will make the computermore interactive for the user. It will be easier, simpler and friendlier. Computer games will be a much more multimedia-rich experience.
No swiping of would be required for systems running Surface. You just need to throw your card on the surface and the system takes care of the rest. You just move your hands to signal the system.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Beyond intuition

Intuition guides many of our decisions and often we make use of it subconsciously. Sometimes a strong sense of intuition is also referred emphatically as "sixth sense". However, nature isn't always intuitive. Prof. Walter Lewin demonstrates the same in the following video.