Saturday, November 21, 2009

Google Challenge1: Weekends!

I have had some time issues in updating this blog. Till I re-prioritize my activities, I have thought of starting a new filler section called Google Challenge. It's about gathering the most feasible statistical inference using Google. Here is an interesting one.

I hate my weekends. My friends ridicule me when I share this sentiment. I believe there are lots more out there who think Weekends are an absolute waste of time :). In order to prove this, I need to figure out, statistically how many good folks out of 10, think likewise. My gut feel says it should be at least 3 out 10. Now let's find out.

There are couple of ways to do it. One, I could do a survey with a sample of people. The key challenge is, it's hard to get a random sample to survey. I would prefer a geographically and culturally diverse people, including single, married, men, women, kids. And obviously, I don't have the financial means to hire Gartner or BCG to help me here, so let's try to find a simple and cheap way to do this.

Attempt1# is to use 2 keywords "I hate weekends" and "I love weekends" and look out the no. of pages google returns. Note: the double quotes ensures the exact string match.

"I love weekends": 498,000 hits
"I hate weekends": 89,100 hits
Inference: For every 100 people who really enjoy their weekends, there are 18 of us who absolute hate it.

This Definitely doesn't help my case. The percentage is too small. Conceptually there are a lot of issues with this:
1. Results included lyrics of songs that had "I love weekends", youtube videos, reviews etc. which skewed the results.
2. If you change the keywords to "I love weekend" (remove 's' in the end) , "I love sundays", etc, each results in a wide spectrum of results. So for simplicity sake, I will stick to the earlier keywords.

Attempt 2# Rather than searching all results, let's focus on blogs. Blogs are personal accounts of people.

"I love weekends": 214,000 hits
"I hate weekends": 74,100 hits
Inference: For every 100 people who really enjoy their weekends, there are 35 of us who absolute hate it. This number is a lot nicer :)

Some issues with this method are:
1. Not all blog. And those who do, have lots of time to kill, and more prone to hate weekends :) like me
2. Demography that blog tends to be a more young generation

Attempt 3# Using twitter to find a more personalized result
"I love weekends" : 27,400 hits"
"I hate weekends" 4,970 hits

Inference: For every 100 people who really enjoy their weekends, there are 18 of us who absolute hate it. Interestingly, this result is quite similar to Method1, which I think is sheer co-incidence.
Some really obvious issues with this method are:
1. Not all twitter
2. Google doesn't index all tweets
Now, in all three cases, we are forgetting the group of people who are indifferent to the concept of "weekends". Assuming that's 10% of the population and assigning 20% significance to method1, 70% to method2 and 10% to method3. Below are the results.

i.e 7 out 10 love their weekends, 2 absolutely hate and 1 is indifferent. Great! That was fun. I still stick to my 3 in 10 gut feel. But I don't know if I can ever statistically prove it. Maybe some day we can analyse human behavior better.

Do comment if you have a better, easier and faster way to deduce the above challenge. Happy googling!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Back to writing, and the long Techspiring Filler

It's been a long hiatus from blogging and a lot of things have happened around, which needs to be written about. So to start, as I ease myself back into writing, here are some of the interesting events in the past couple of months:

1. E3, the uninspiring Gaming Extravaganza:
The coveted E3 came and went past without much excitement. As expected, the theme was motion sensor controllers and Microsoft stole the show with Project Natal. Hardcore gamers may not be thrilled with the idea of using their body as the controller, but personally it creates a far more immersive and interactive experience. I was particularly fascinated by the "Milo" demo in which a virtual character (Milo) can react to human emotions, real world actions and expressions. It was a bit gimmicky but definitely the way for the future. Imagine a virtual therapist who you can talk to, right from the comforts of your home, or the perfect friend with whom you can discuss Sir Arthur Clarke's last novel and the secret recipe of Russian half-baked cupcakes while battling the evil forces of the Dark Side. Possibilities are endless. Before I drift away in my own imagination, Sony and Nintendo also had their share of "new" stuff to display. Sony's new motion sensor controller looked good but nothing out-of-the-world. The demo was a bit half-baked apart from the really cool archery show.
The message was clear. Nintendo would have to buck up and get serious soon else the big two will catch up soon.


Some great games were also announced but there is nothing I had like to play more than the new Ghostbusters game. A-ma-zing!!!
There is also a  new show on my must-watch list now. It's Revision3s - Co-op. Imagine a bunch of dudes, who play games for a living. That would be my idea of a perfect job :)

2. The Billion Dollar gamble
The big corporate news was Oracle buying off SUN. We are yet to hear about Oracle's plans for Java, MySQL and OpenSolaris but opensource pundits can relax for now. 

msM$ is all set to release Windows7 RTM this July (release to manufactures/marketing) and will be hitting shelves in October. Consumers all over the world are already pissed at Microsoft's pricing model. Sometimes one wonders if they ever learnt anything from their "Vistaic" past. This release could make or break M$, and as our Cupertino buddies with their flashy new Snow Leopard also await with baited breath, us Linux folks will wait at the sidelines, cheering neither of them. Well Ok, I still have a soft spot for Mr Gates'  legendary company and Windows 7 RC was really impressive but paying 320 bucks (USD) for the ultimate is ludicrous. Well, times like these one remembers the perks we had of being a student. Sigh, someone send me a free copy.

And yeah, did I mention Apple frickin sold a million of their 3GS over the first weekend, and Steve Jobs is back as Mac shares rise in joy.

3. Smartphones, smartphones everywhere!
June was an interesting month as both Palm and Apple launched their new handset. Pre which dazzled everyone at CES in January with it's unique card interface, was launched in US by Sprint. I think Palm and Sprint made a couple of mistakes. One, they launched it just a few days before Apple's WWDC (where iPhone 3GS was unveiled). The pre's launch buzz, fizzed out even before it could start, by the news of the new iPhone 3GS.
Either they should have done it a month earlier, thereby locking AT&T haters and tech-purists into a 2year contract with Sprint, or a few weeks after WWDC, giving them enough time to beef up their marketing campaign to combat iPhone's somewhat new features.
But their failure to grab the moment didn't really result in bad sales. Pre managed to sell 300,000 units in a month, which is not bad for Palm's latest outing. Pre will keep Palm alive and hopefully spawn more handsets which would run their revolutionary new WebOS.



Meanwhile, apple rewrote record books by selling a million iPhone units in a weekend. It's a bit hard to understand how Apple manages to sell such an overpriced device in times like these. And AT&T should really thank it's stars (and wallet) for managing to keep the Apple exclusivity for another year.
Btw, iPhone 3GS is launching in Singapore, this friday. Singtel seems to be a lot nicer than AT&T and I am going to find out, real soon.

4. The buzz in the linux World
Well nothing exciting has happened lately. After the hugely impressive Fedora 10, Red Hat's Fedora 11 (not technically the 11th version) was a bit disappointing.

On a personal front, my Jaunty Jackelope (Ubuntu 9.04) boots in 20 seconds, but freezes every time I delete big files. Can't blame the folks at canonical. It's an ext4 bug and these are perks of being a beta tester. It's lately getting a bit frustrating now, so soon I will either format my "\home" as ext3 or move on to try Fedora 11 or the new mandriva. Hopefully a new post will follow soon.

Phew! Not bad for a post, after such a long time. I have no idea how many of you would still be reading this blog. But thanks anyways for all the support. My commute to work has increased by another 30 mins, and I think I just found an interesting way to kill the 1.5 hour long journey. Happy surfing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ubuntu/Mint: Test driving Google Chrome for Linux

Google Chrome for Linux does not officially exist yet, not as "Chrome" but as a pre-alpha project called "Chromium". It's a really early build so don't go filing bug reports for it. And definitely, it won't replace your firefox or Epiphany. Atleast not that soon. So let's get started. Let me remind you one last time, Try at your own risk :)

1. Edit your apt source list.
$ sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

and append the following lines at the end
deb intrepid main
deb-src intrepid main

2. Update your sources and install Chromium
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install chromium-browser

3. Time to test drive
$ chromium-browser

Chromium Alpha will launch with a warning message. You already know it's Chromium not Chrome. It's still a pre-alpha but is fast and renders reasonably well. Other common features such as the bookmark manager, javascript console etc. are missing but hopefully should be ready soon. Till the official Chrome Linux beta, enjoy Chromium and happy surfing!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Windows Tip: Flash on Firefox and Chrome without Admin rights

We all hate it when administrators cripple your fully functional office PC by adding access controls and restrictions to it.
IE7 is the only certified browser at my workplace. It's a well known fact that the web experience on Chrome and Firefox is way better than IE but I don't have admin rights to my system and hence no 3rd party software installations are permitted.

But luckily, Chrome and Firefox portable install beautifully without admin rights.

Now the only issue is that Flash for Chrome and Firefox cannot be installed without admin privileges. Fret not, here is a smart hack to get Flash without really installing it.

1. Download this xpi file and rename it to .zip.

2. Now Extract it with Winzip or your Windows extractor.

3. Copy the flashplayer.xpt and NPSWF32.dll files from the extracted location and paste them to
C:\Users\"your user name"\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\plugins

(Similar location for Firefox)

4. Restart Chrome and check youtube.

Voila! We beat the administrator yet again. Enjoy surfing and youtube at work ;)

And here is the rest of it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A quick and dirty guide to installing Windows7 on an old Linux laptop

Before we get started, a quick overview of what we are about to do in the next few minutes (or hours depending on your luck).

Windows7 is the exciting new OS from Microsoft, which has garnered rave reviews from everywhere. It is touted as the best windows ever, and even the Linux community is keeping a close watch on its progress. The most interesting feature for me would definitely be the more optimized and fast experience, and the jump lists; Details of which I will cover in later sections.

My current rig:
Compaq nx7010 business laptop (2003)
Pentium Centrino 1.6GHz
1.5 Gigs of RAM
OSs installed: Linux Mint and Windows XP
Graphics adapter: ATI Mobility Radeon 9200
Critical Drivers: Intel wireless ipw2100 and..Connexant AC97

Key Objective:
To install windows7 keeping my Linux and XP intact. And atleast have wifi and sound working on the new OS. Aero will not function with the depricated graphics adapter so will give it a pass.

A Word of Warning:

1. Backup all your important stuff. Be careful, It's a beta we are dealing with here.2. Keep all your old windows drivers in a place, as we may need it later.
3. This is a long article, so be patient and don't jump steps.
4. And please, don't panic :)

As with any OS installation, there is some prep work needed
1. Prepare your partitions. We will start off with resizing our existing partition.I booted with my Linux Mint live cd and used gParted to resize my Linux partition and create a NTFS partition for windows7.

2. Download Widows7 beta iso and burn it onto a dvd.
3. Write down the activation key issued from the website on paper.
Great! We are ready.


1. Pop in your Windows7 DVD and restart your pc.
2. Go slow. Click on start installation.
3. Chose Custom installation and select the newly created partition as the location where you wish to install Windows7.
4. Grab your ipod and go for a walk.
5. Come back after 45mins, select basic settings like your language and timezone. Enter your beta key and your new OS is ready

Before you start jumping in joy, there is something we overlooked. You will observe that the windows bootloader seems to have replaced GRUB. It can smartly detect our XP and add into the boot list. But where is our Linux? Let's come back to it a bit later. There are still some challenges.

Your old drivers won't work. ATI stopped supporting my old gfx card years back. Same goes for intel. No more pro wireless 2100 drivers for Vista or above. My sound card Connexant AC97 also has no compatible soundcard drivers after XP. Here are a couple of things, you could do.
1. Install your old driver packages using compatibility mode.

2. Check Windows Updates if the drivers are available.
3.Google for newer drivers or solutions from folks with similar issues.
4.Manually install your old drivers from the "Device Manager" console.
Right Click on an unknown device, select "Update Driver Software" and choose "Browse my Computer.." to browse to the location of the extracted driver.

5. If all this doesn't help, get a new rig mate, or live without the unrecognized hardware.

Getting our GRUB back:
We have all the time in the world to play with our spanking new Win7 but let us fix our grub first and come back later. For this, load your favorite live bootable cd and open the terminal. Type the following commands to fix grub.

$ sudo grub

grub> find /boot/grub/stage1

grub> root (hd0,0)

grub> setup (hd0,0)
Checking if "/boot/grub/stage1" exists... yes
Checking if "/boot/grub/stage2" exists... yes
Checking if "/boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5" exists... yes
Running "embed /boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5 (hd0,0)"... failed (this is not fatal)
Running "embed /boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5 (hd0,0)"... failed (this is not fatal)
Running "install /boot/grub/stage1 (hd0,0) /boot/grub/stage2 p /boot/grub/menu
.lst "... succeeded

grub> quit

Now restart your pc and wait for grub to load. You would see your old grub boot screen with a line for WinXP. Select it and voila, you are taken to the familiar Windows7 boot manager. This was a big surprise to me as well :). If this doesn't work, edit grub and add an entry pointing to Windows7.

Boot into your installed linux instance and edit grub.lst
$ sudo gedit boot/grub/menu.lst

Add the following lines at the end

# on /dev/sda4
title windows 7 beta (Loader)
root (hd0,3)
chainloader +1

My windows 7 resides on /dev/sda4 hence it's (hd0, 3). Confirm this via fdisk or gparted.

Closing Remarks:
Yeah, we are done now. We now have 3  different OSs  co-existing beautifully on our old laptop.  It wasn't a smooth ride but we made it :) . Enjoy, experiment, benchmark and review the three great OSs and drop me comments on your experience. Thanks.

Connexant AC97 help

“How to” Dual boot Ubuntu and Windows 7 (Ubuntu installed first)

Living with Linux, Windows7 and XP: The complete experience

It was high time, I wrote something interesting on this blog. The upcoming articles will be more focussed on my experiences with Windows7. Here are some of them in the pipeline:

1. A quick Windows7 installation guide (when a Linux distro is already installed)
2. A multi-boot guide for Windows7 and Linux to co-exist together
3. A painful guide to installing some old drivers on your Windows7 box
4. The comparative experience: Linux (KDE/Gnome) vs Windows 7

Great! Let me get started in writing these, and check back soon later.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Microsoft announces Windows 7 SKUs (updated)

Just when you thought nothing could go wrong with Windows 7, Microsoft shoots at it's own feet by preparing to launch 6 different versions of their next major release. It's officially confirmed that it's one more than the following screenshot leaked out last week :)

  • Windows 7 Starter (limited to three apps concurrently)
  • Windows 7 Home Basic (for emerging markets)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (adds Aero, Touch, Media Center)
  • Windows 7 Professional (Remote Desktop host, Mobility Center, Presentation mode)
  • Windows 7 Enterprise (volume license only, boot from virtual drive, BitLocker)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate (limited availability, includes everything)

As an end-user, I am bemused at the fact that how does M$ expect us to pick the right one. It's going to be more complex for Business users and enterprises. I just wish they rethink on the SKUs before it's too late.

My take
  • Starter (Free non-commercial edition for students and developing nations)
  • Home (Aero, media center etc.)
  • Business ( Remote Desktop host, VM etc.)
Now, how hard can this be?

Update: ZDNet's Ed Bott reports that Windows 7 has trimmed down to only 3 different versions for everyone in developed countries: Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise. Windows 7 Home Basic and Starter editions are actually available in emerging markets, but they "will not legally be available for sale in the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and other developed countries."

[image courtesy of Engadget]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is Tuxmachines down ... not really is a great place for FOSS and Linux news. Sadly it seems their ISP messed up their DNS enteries. Till they fix it, here is an alternate way to access it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tip of the week: Accessing Twitter and Gmail behind office firewall

This is something everyone wants to do right. In most of the offices personal email, social networking sites, chat clients and alternative browsers, are all banned. Here is a nice little trick to access gmail and post tweets, right from your office firewall.

1. Just go to Pageflakes, a nice web application which I covered a year back.

2. Create a new account and browse for the email, twitter and facebook flakes from the flakes gallery.
Note: "Pop Download" must be enabled in your GMail settings, so configure this from your home before you try this at your workplace

3. Now go to your pageflakes home page and configure your new flakes and be surprised!