Archive for the ‘random’ Category.

E-governance sites and bad web design, and how-to setup E-Mudhra/e2gov on windows 7

So local Indian laws requires tenders to be filed online. This required buying a 3000Rs (!!), about 60$ USB dongle that has a “Class 3 Platinum” certificate signed by the CA E-Mudhra. There’s zero documentation online on setting it up, and sites that process tenders work on “IE6 or IE7 only”. They do not work with Windows 7/IE8 by default. Below are the steps on how-to get things working on Windows 7, followed by a rant.

Setting up E-Mudhra on Windows 7/ IE 8

  • Pop in the CD that came with the dongle and install the driver. Skip the other reader and download manager crapware.
  • Once installed (and rebooted if you wish), plug in the USB. Windows will ask you if you want to add the root CA E-Mudhra. Answer yes.
  • Now to setup IE8 to behave well with the tender sites. Note this will render IE8 highly insecure. Once you make the below changes, use IE8 only for tenders. For all other internet activities use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
  • The tender sites require full ActiveX control to work correctly. Do the below to setup IE8 to behave like earlier versions.
  • Goto Internet options in IE8, and set compatibility mode to on. Next click under security, and choose the lowest level (which is Medium). Click on “Advanced”, and enable all the disabled ActiveX features. You will note that these new options are labelled “Insecure” and will turn red when you choose them.
  • Save, Reboot. You will have done all the things correctly if you are not presented with any “ActiveX popup warnings” when browsing a site, i.e, all ActiveX requires are accepted by default.

Rant

Why the hell do the Indian government website designers choose the most lax practices of the lot. They need to be strung up and given a lesson on webdesign after the year 2003. Jesus fusking christ.

And what’s behind the REQUIREMENT to use e2gov.in for digital certificates. There’s free ones, or others with a nominal fee available. One which don’t bloddy require you to add a FRIGGING ROOT CERTIFICATE to your machine.

And activeX?!!!@!!!!!! Microsoft has basically disavowed it. And I counted 2-3 different controls that are loaded. May I introduce you to much more modern alternatives, like perhaps a reasonable java applet, or even better, a native app? Or just don’t require a login process that requires a friggin digital certificate. There’s simpler way of digital identity that what’s currently setup. Like squishing out the fluid from my eyeballs and mailing it out to you.

FUCK!

Quote

Forget Jesus.. the stars died so that you could be here today.

- Lawrence Krauss, on the most poetic thing me knows, from his lecture A Universe from Nothing

The talk is an hour long an well worth the time.

New Project

Over two and a half years after joining the Nexenta project, I’ve decided to take some time off to pursue some projects I’ve had an eye on for a while.

A fun ride

Nexenta project has come  a long way over the time I’ve been a part of it. From the fledging distribution, to a mainstream storage distro, it has come a long way in features and community. From six employees to a hundred. From nothing to the fastest growing storage appliance. It’s been a fun ride.

To all the folks I’ve know via Nexenta and it’s community: thanks for all the fish :) I hope to keep an eye out on future developments.

There were some concerns raised about the activity (or the lack of it) around the NCP and NexentaStor Community Edition. While there haven’t been many new announcements, there is a team much larger than NCP2 and 3 working in the background on NCP4. The early previews for the next community edition were handed out at SCALE. I’m hoping these announcements will be made on the sites soon.

My nexenta ID is retired, so you can reach out to me via my gmail ID (in the about me).

The way ahead

I’ve chosen to spend some time on a non-tech project I’ve had in mind for a while, about which I hope to blog in the coming weeks and months. I have allocated some time to work with startups so I’m available for consulting on interesting projects.

More to come soon.

Criminals and harbingers of future

In Schneier’s latest post talking about the Johannesburg SIM card theft

These crimes are a harbinger of the future: evolutionary pressure on our society, if you will. Criminals are often referred to as social parasites, but they are an early warning system of societal changes. Unfettered by laws or moral restrictions, they can be the first to respond to changes that the rest of society will be slower to pick up on.

Very interesting thought. Turns more interesting when applied to all of the scams being uncovered locally (3G, Satyam, etc).

***

This would be a good time to recommend the Pragati Magazine. If you look at upcoming magazine startups and think-tanks locally, Pragati is perhaps the most promising one. It has a very knowledgeable editorial team, with focus on issues from a national interest viewpoint. I love the free-trade outlook that is normally taken, something I believe is needed for higher levels of local prosperity, and general happiness.

You can read articles online, download the magazine as a PDF, or subscribe for the dead-tree version. I got my first copy via mail today.

***

Anyone aware of sociology institutions in Bangalore? I’ve had a growing interest on this topic.

Glance: Better word lookup

Glance is an offline dictionary lookup utility written with the intent to make looking up words quick, and as intuitive as possible to your work on the computer or internet.

Why

When on Windows, I was a big fan of WordWeb, which is a nifty dictionary utility, that sat in the taskbar, and made it simple to lookup words by selecting, and hitting a keyboard shortcut. The closest equivalent on Ubuntu is gnome-dictionary, but it lacks the ability to lookup selected words. By default it is configured to look things up online, so you were out of a dictionary when not connected. You also can’t make anything beyond simple exact-match calls (until you figure out what the heck strategies are, and how to use them).

So I wrote glance to fill my specific needs. They weren’t many.

  • Lookup a word by simply selecting it in browser/text-editor/ebook reader and hitting a key (like F7.. who uses that anyway?)
  • Search for prefix/suffixed words with *. Ex: *arch, matri*, *morph*.
  • Provide definition of the word, etymology (along with meaning of the root words), Similar words, usage, etc (These depend on the dictionaries installed)

Setup

These instructions are for Ubuntu (and should work on Debian). Install equivalent packages on other distributions.

First install dependencies, and local dictionary via

apt-get install python-gtk2 xsel
apt-get install dictd dict dict-wn dict-gcide

This installs the Wordnet and the Comprehensive English dictionary. You can also install:

dict-moby-thesaurus – Largest and most comprehensive thesaurus
dict-jargon – Jargon definitions
dict-foldoc – FOLDOC dictionary database
dict-vera – Dictionary of computer related acronyms
dict-bouvier – John Bouvier’s Law Dictionary for the USA
dict-devil – A satirical, cynical and irreverent dictionary of common words
dict-gazetteer – Place names, population and location provided by the U.S. Census Bureau

There are multiple language A to B dictionaries available as well. To see all available dictionaries, run:

apt-cache search dict | grep ^dict

glance is a single file utility. Copy the file to /usr/local/bin

sudo cp glance /usr/local/bin

Setup keyboard shortcut F7 (or other), Add a custom shortcut for glance. Do this by running gnome-keyboard-properties.

All done. Select a word and press F7 anytime to view in all it’s defined glory.

Where

You can grab the utility from https://bitbucket.org/anilg/misc/src. Click on glance, and grab the raw file.

Screenshot

And we end with an obligatory screenshot.

Glance

Glance Screenshot

Simple, no-frills look. Just the way I like it. Hope others out there like it too.

[Update]

So looks like google-fu failed me initially, and I missed out on multiple good dictionary lookup choices, that did many of the things I was looking for. Special mentions goto Artha, Stardict and qstardict. There’s things to like about all of these, but my favorite is still Glance (biased much, eh?).

Having used Glance incessantly over the past week, I simply love the no frills look of it. It pops up, and there isnt much to do apart from scrolling up or down. No tabs separating definition, similar words, etc, no menu items. All information is presented upfront.

Also I like to to be dependent on system packages (rather than extracting pre-archived packages ala Stardict, though this makes it hard to port). Glance being tiny does help too.

A couple of updates that I’d like to implement would be syntax highlighting the definition to make it easier on the eyes (patches welcome). Glance will never have any cluster of tabs or menu items or screens. All the information will be presented in the one scrollable page. Another quick feature would be to automatically add a shortcut, and install itself into /usr/local/bin, with a confirmation from the user. Just need to figure out pygtk interface to desktop shortcuts.

Kudos Notion Ink team

For a long time I’ve bemoaned to friends the lack of any kind of product vision coming from the Indian subcontinent. The developing economy coupled with English-speaking engineering populace made for a prime target for outsourcing, which meant easy (and mundane) jobs for fresh graduates- the lifeblood of new enterprises.

Which is why it is heartening to see the frenzy around Notion Ink Adam! Go on, head over to the notionink blog, and read the comments on the posts. When was the last time you read such excited discussions, and saw folks waiting for a product. The Ipad perhaps.

Rohan’s posts on the blog are raw, from the heart.. I suspect Woznaik would have blogged like this when he built the first Apple computers. There was a short time at the beginning of the year when Notion ink seemed to have gone the way of so many exciting new products, into the hole of vaporware country, but it was simply the NI team working in the background to build something special. They seem to have discarded the default Android launcher, and built something more tablet friendly.

Still not excited? The Adam will have the following words engraved: “Created with Love by Notion Ink”. When was the last time you saw anything say that.

Well done, NI team!

The Cabbage Fraudster

Conman and his tools

As I was following

So a friend of mine, who’d read my earlier post, was right. The cabbage seller turned out to be a scammer.

I’m pissed. As I opened up my office today, he wandered in with his cycle of vegetable, asking for help with his daughters education. Long story short, I told him off, confronted him, and asked for the paper with the fake list of books. He refused, and started started walking away, pleading me to let it be. I tagged along to wherever he went for the next few minutes. He finally succumbed, and tore the sheet of paper. I told him to never come on this street again.

I’m not sure what to think. He clearly could be making a decent wage given his grasp of english. On the other hand who knows what lead him to this.

:/

World Cup notes

WC

Messi at WC 2010

Not being a particular fan of football or the FIFA world cup, I’m now a convert. My reasons are voiced lucidly by tbray’s take on it:

..The sense of occasion, and the widespread joy it brings to so many around the world. Something that causes this much intense shared feeling just can’t be a bad thing. On balance, I’d say the World Cup is one of the good things about being a member of Homo sapiens.

Wavin’ Flag

I love the song. It is uplifting, and the choice of the song is courageous. These times are well known for political correctness, so the choice of a song on “Freedom” at the world stage is good.

However, the spirits came down a bit when I looked in the history of the song. Wavin’ Flag was originally released in March ’09. The song is powerful, and the lyrics hard hitting. Excerpts :

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
But Violent prone, poor people zone
But it’s my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam

So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we’ll be free

Read it in it’s entirety here. I was saddened to learn Coca-Cola, who selected the song as the WC anthem got rid of the “darker lyrics”. The PR blurb is :

It’s about the one time that we all get together and the world forgets its conflict and its problems and we focus on this unity and celebration. That moment is connected now to ‘Wavin’ Flag.

I thought Coca-Cola missed the mark here. Selecting the original song for all of it’s power would’ve been a better choice. Acknowledging, rather than setting aside, these “dark” issues would’ve been the bolder thing to do. Hear the actual song, and compare it with the “Celebration Mix”.

Of course Fifa and K’Naan are all happy with this. Who am I to complain!? I do wonder what N.Korea, China, etc think of the song.

The Games

  • The refereeing has been silly in many games. Not sure if this is the norm.
  • Messi is sublime with his tackling. Deservedly the best player in the world right now. The Sachin of football right now (or Federer.. take your pick).
  • Spain looks in very good form. They get a lot of hits on goal, but fail to convert. If this improves, they are at the top of my list to win the cup.
  • Argentina at the top of that list as well.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be the only one in Portugal with some flair. Their match against Brazil dragged.
  • USA/Slovakia/Ivory Coast showed guts. Bravo.

Other Notes

  • Shakira’s moves! Waka Waka is one hell of a catchy tune!
  • Is the reason to not use TV cameras to help referee decisions idealistic? I hate watching bad actors getting fouls their way, and blatant offenses go unnoticed.
  • I also hate the delaying tactics by the winning team during the last minutes of the match. Are you that scared?
  • Nice to see Italy go! Their sportsmanship from last WC still has a bad taste.
  • Give more red cards to intentional tripping of attackers. Encourage good football.

India?

Which brings me to the end of the post. When will this country with 1/6th the population of the world produce a dozen good footballers?! I like all the hype behind football right now. It gets pages of newsprint, compared to cricket’s quarter page. I hope this is not a passing fancy with the game, but rather reflects the birth of interest in a non-cricket game. We sorely need it.

An important milestone in space travel

Falcon 9 Maiden launch

Falcon 9 Maiden launch

About a couple years ago, in an argument on space and science, I took the position that the government should invest more in science, and space travel. I lost the debate.. the government has no business using public funds for endeavours like these, and that it’s only true calling should be maintaining liberty. Everything else would follow.

I’ve since watched the evolution of SpaceX, through it’s many failures, rallied on by  it’s gritty founder and chief Elon Musk.

“We’re not going to cut and run if we have a few issues. We’re not going to cut and run if we have a lot of issues. We’re going to see this through.”

Elon’s been called “a Renaissance man in an era that needs them.”. Read a very-well written profile of him at GQ.

Yesterday, SpaceX successfully launched it’s indigenously built Falcon 9 into orbit.

Congratulations, Elon Musk. Many more successes to you.

Seen on Craigslist

Unnecessary Detail?

Are special keyboards made for “naughty” kids? Is there a discount?