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Monday, March 21, 2005

Bangalore Python meetup

I attended the third Bangalore Python meetup. It was my first time there, having learnt about this group only recently. The meeting was great. Around 19 people attended the meetup. After the initial introductions, I started out with a talk on Beautiful Soup. Beautiful Soup is a Python module that is just perfect for screen scraping applications. The website has more on this module. After that we had a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session to discuss a Perl CPAN like module for Python. Anand has posted the minutes of the meeting, and Swaroop has another overview, along with some pictures.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

IE Shines On Broken Code

Don't know how I missed this. An article on slashdot posted on 19 Oct 2004 claims that IE Shines On Broken Code. It says,

Basically, the story is that Michael Zalewski started feeding randomly malformed HTML into Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, Lynx, and Links and watching what happened. Bottom line: All browsers but Microsoft Internet Explorer kept crashing on a regular basis due to NULL pointer references, memory corruption, buffer overflows, sometimes memory exhaustion; taking several minutes on average to encounter a tag they couldn't parse.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Jolt Award Winners

SD Magazine announced the winners of the 15th Annual Jolt Product Excellence & Productivity Awards. Winners include Subversion, Eclipse 3.0, FogBugZ and Head First Design Patterns. Joel on Software (the book) also won a Jolt Productivity award. The first link has the entire list of Jolt and Productivity award winners.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


BangPypers is a Yahoo group of Python programmers in Bangalore. It was created only recenlty, and provides a good forum for discussing Python If you are in Bangalore (or even if you aren't), and are interested in the Python programming language, then think about joining it. One warning: The group is sometimes spammed with job postings for python programmers, so you may not want to join with your favourite email address. Use a rarely used email address instead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Billionaire club

Gaurav Bhatnagar writes about a couple of interesting statistics, which covers the good and the bad. Quoting,

  1. India has 8th most number of billionaires in the world - 12 in all
  2. The average Indian billionaire's wealth is equivalent to almost 9 million times the country's per capita GDP. That is an astounding number and highlights the disparity of income in our country.

An excellent article on a related topic is this post by Dilip D'Souza. He says,

Nobody need grudge the Mittals and Premjis their riches. But while we applaud them, while we luxuriate in knowing that there may finally be a climate in India where acumen and entrepreneurship get their due, we might spare a thought for the running men around us, for the poverty that is still so evident in this country.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pi Day

Some random trivia: Yesterday was Pi Day. Quoting from the wikipedia article,

March 14, written 3/14 in the USA date format, is the official day for Pi Day derived from the common three-digit approximation for the number π: 3.14. It is usually celebrated at 1:59 PM (in recognition of the six-digit approximation: 3.14159). Some, using a twenty-four-hour clock rather than a twelve hour clock, say that 1:59 PM is actually 13:59 and celebrate it at 1:59 AM instead. Parties have been held by mathematics departments of various schools around the world.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blogs of some others who attended Agile India 2005

Here are links to blogs of people I met/saw/listened to at Agile India.

Agile India - Ravi Mohan

One of the talks I attended was given by Ravi Mohan. Ravi described his experiences in applying Agile methodologies (XP in particular) to his project.

To start with, the project is not your typical everyday project. The project is in the AI domain, and is implemented in a combination of Lisp, Erlang and C, with Ruby as the glue between the three. The whole thing runs on a cluster of around 200 unix boxes with a parallel virtual machine layer above it. The entire project had a team size of one (Ravi himself).

Given a project like this, is it possible to apply agile methodologies to it?

The conclusion was that it is possible to apply some of the practices, but some of them crashed and burned. For instance, XP says that the customer should always be available to give feedback. That was impossible here. Another problem was getting unit testing tools for code in Lisp and Erlang. Yet another problem was that some functions were probabilistic in nature (for eg. return true 90% of the time), so if it gave the wrong output, it was often unclear whether it was because of a bug or because it was in the 10% when it was supposed to give another output.

Other practices like breaking up the requirements into stories worked very well. Continuous integration was another big success.

Overall, XP kindof worked, but not without heavy modification of the process (is it still XP then?).

Friday, March 11, 2005

Who's on First?

[via Ned Batchelder]: Check out this amazingly funny dialog between a cashier and a customer at a video rental store: Who's on First?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Agile India - Bret Pettichord

First up on Day 1 was Bret Pettichord's keynote address. He spoke about Agile Testing. The question being answered was how agile methods redefine the role of QA for a project.

Traditional QA has mostly been about testing (finding bugs) and, in some companies, enforcing processes and methodologies. Agile methodologies however, view the role of QA as one of customer satisfaction. In order to fulfil this goal, the software is constantly exposed to a number of "reality checks". These checks are writing unit tests before coding, continuous integration, short release cycles to get customer feedback and continuous acceptance testing. These checks happen often during the course of the project.

The difference between agile QA is that in agile QA is a continuous process from start to end, whereas in traditional models QA is often seen as a phase at the end of the project (because of the framing of QA as testing/ process enforcing). Agile methods also say that everyone is involved in QA from developer to project manager to testing teams, while traditional models have a seperate QA team responsible for ensuring quality (does this mean that developers or managers are not responsible for ensuring quality? Is it okay if developers write sloppy code or managers rush through a project?).

To summarize, in agile teams, QA is everyones responsibility and continuous reality checks are done throughout the lifecycle to ensure that the customers are getting what they actually want.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

On Lisp

I only found out now that Paul Graham's Lisp book On Lisp is available for download from his site. What are you waiting for? Go download it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Specialization is for insects

From Henry Jacob:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

Specialization is for insects."

- Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, 1973

By the way, Henry was one of the speakers at Agile India 2005 and works as an interaction designer.

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Back from Agile India

I was out attending Agile India 2005 this weekend. In short, it was awesome. Got to attend some good sessions, and more importantly, meet lots of interesting people. I got to put out a work of thanks to the organisers who did a pretty awesome job of running everything smoothly. Usually something or the other goes wrong, but not this time.

I need a few days to collect and summarise my notes and then I'll post a more detailed account of the conference.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bill Gates to get knighted

Reuters reports that Bill Gates will be getting an honorary knighthood. Usually, only citizens of the Commonwealth get knighted, so this is a rare event. However, he won't be entitled to add the "Sir" in front of his name as that honor is reserved for citizens of the Commonwealth.

Thought Google Maps was the first to come out with interactive maps? Check out Its maps the whole of switzerland and provides dynamic zoom and resize, and apparantly was around long before Google Maps.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Yahoo! Web Services

[via Ryan Tomakyo] Yahoo! has jumped onto the web services bandwagon with Yahoo! Web Services. In another telling blow to the SOAP camp, Yahoo went ahead with a REST based architecture [In REST, you use URIs to access resources rather than complex XML messages - Click here for a good introduction]. I wouldn't be surprised to see SOAP dying a slow death over the next few years.