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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Alert in Chennai

There is an alert all over TV about rising water levels in Chennai. It's still normal near my house which is a few kilometers from the sea.

In the papers today there is an article about how hardly any animals have been found dead in Sri Lanka.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Ritz blitz gambling trio keep their chips

Ritz blitz gambling trio keep their chips: This is really cool.
The Hungarian woman and two Serbian men used a laser scanner hidden in a mobile phone linked to a computer to gauge the speed of the ball and the roulette wheel, and hence the number most likely to come up.

They were able to do the calculations swiftly enough to place their bets as required before the roulette wheel has gone round three times.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

New Delhi Times: Forbes names richest 40 Indians

New Delhi Times: Forbes names richest 40 Indians.

Interestingly, amongst the top 40, as many as 19 didn't inherit their wealth. 11 amongst the top 40 made their wealth in the tech sector while another 9 struck it rich in pharma. Infosys alone has 6 amongst the top 40!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Life on earth is expensive, but it includes a free trip around the sun every year.
-- Wattwurm

How to Choose a Search Engine or Directory

Interesting reference: How to Choose a Search Engine or Directory. This is so useful when searching for resources that are not normally searched by Google.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The latest story arc at FoxTrot is really cool. Especially yesterday's comic:

Can you believe this ?

[The predecessor of this post is here]

Windows Update seems to have taken matters into its own hands. When I left the computer running for the night, it seems to have -- get this -- rebooted on its own! Wow. When I arrive at work today I see this nice little bubble box on the system tray which said something along the lines of "Windows has rebooted your machine and completed the update. Your computer is now protected". In the process, it took out half a weeks work.

If it wasn't bad enough having an annoying dialog box pop up much too frequently and have me click on Restart Later every single time, it now turns out that it completely ignores your choice and reboots anyway. What probably happened was that the dialog box popped up sometime during the night, and as I wansn't around it would have stayed on screen. After a while of no response, it probably decided to ignore the fact that I had clicked Restart Later no less than fifty times during the day (of course, it probably doesnt keep count of this), and went ahead and rebooted anyway. Amazing, simply amazing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Korea’s “Wired Red Devils” and citizen’s media

The latest entry on Preetam Rai's blog is a very interesting one about, a korean media website which does not employ regular journalists, but has citizens as reporters. It is similar to a community blog, but not quite the same. He has mentioned this in the past as well. Check out his post for more info.

Here is an excellent article from the site (also from Betterdays), and it shows how balanced and well written the pieces are -

When Western Media Bias Hits Home

Examples of poor user interface design

Windows XP SP2 seems to have made some changes for the worse. I was trying to use the Find... feature to search a bunch of files on my hard disk. Imagine my surprise when I got this dialog box.

I have never encountered this dialog box before, so I'm assuming its something new with SP2. First of all, I get a totally cryptic error dialog for following the exact same steps that I had followed the previous thousand times. Second, I'm not sure anybody other than a programmer can figure out what a volume means, let alone what indexing a volume means. And why does it say Indexing Service (the words pompously starting with capital letters) ? I wanted to do a find, not indexing. If you are not a programmer, you will be hard pressed to figure out what find has to do with "Indexing Service". And worst of all it doesnt tell me how to fix the problem. Ok, I'm ready to index the volume so that I can get find to work again. But where do I find out how to do that? Whoever designed this dialog should go out and read Alan Cooper's excellent book About Face 2.0.

Microsoft has also made a change to the Windows Update program that runs in the background. The old Windows Update program would download and install the updates and then ask you if you wanted to restart now or later. If you clicked Restart Later, it would just shut up and you could restart whenever you wanted. The new one annoyingly pops up this dialog every fifteen minutes (at least it feels that way; it might be longer).

Even if I click Restart Later, the dialog box comes back in fifteen minutes. I'm in the middle of some work and can't restart the computer for another three days at least. Everyone knows that programming is all about "getting in the flow". Many books have been written about this topic. And with this dialog interrupting my work four times an hour (been going on for a whole day), I'm just not able to get any work done. Can't I just make it go away and stop bothering me ? I'm seriously considering throwing away two days of work and restarting the computer just to make the goddamn dialog go away, because there is no way I can tolerate it for another three days. Another option is going into task manager and shutting down windows update. I think I'll do that.

This post is a part of the selected archive.

Windows XP SP2

I finally installed SP2 for my Windows XP computer. I had been holding off all this while after hearing bad stories of incompatibilities with SP2. Once I was done installing it, my display driver prompty died a horrible death, leaving me at 640x480 with 16 colours. After a lot of browsing around the ATI website, I finally got my hands on the latest driver and installed it. Everything works properly now. For a while I was genuinely scared because this was my work computer with tons of important material on it. I knew I could always run it at low resolution and make backups if needed, but it's still not a pretty situation.

This brings up an important lesson. I am technically proficient enough to know that when Windows dumps me into a low resolution mode with 16 colours, there is some problem with the graphics card driver. I know the exact model of the graphics card that I have. I can browse company websites and update drivers on my own.

But what about the average person who owns a PC ? All they know is that for some reason the text is huge and the colours strange. They are unlikely to know the model of every component in their PC. And downloading and updating drivers ? Forget it. All they know is that after installing a widely publicised update, their whole system stopped working. Panic!

What about a sysadmin working in a large company with thousands of installed PCs. Should he risk putting SP2 on all of them ? What if something breaks and employees are unable to work ? The company will hold the sysadmin responsible for lost productivity. On the other hand, SP2 fixes a number of widespread security vulnerabilities. What if the entire network is taken down by a virus which exploits one of the vulnarabilities fixed in SP2 ? The sysadmin is responsible for this again. A lose-lose situation for the poor sysadmin.

This is what makes writing software so damn hard. On the one hand, there are an almost infinite number of configurations to test against. According to Scoble, Microsoft made every employee run SP2 prior to release so that they could sort out problems. In spite of that, SP2 has caused widespread conflicts with installed software. On the other hand, if Microsoft held back from releasing SP2, they would have been roundly criticised for not taking action against security vulnerabilities and allowing virus writers/crackers to have a field day exploiting them. Damned if they do, and damned if they don't.