Mysterious Disappearance

Some time ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine, Midhun, who is a major Math geek, when I had to leave for some minor emergency which I no longer remember. This is the result…

Note: I have converted chat-speak to more readable normal-speak(for the lack of a better word). I have also formatted the text for better readability. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind.

Me

I’ll be back in 15 minutes.
You continue asking questions.
Answers after 15 minutes.

Midhun

Wouldn’t that be considered treason?
Why the hell aren’t they being shut down?

… after a while …

35 minutes.

Do you have any idea how fast you have to be traveling for your 15 minute to equal my 45 minutes? So, either you have managed to board a spaceship or a very powerful gravitational field has developed near you.(Oops, physics joke. I am afraid you have to suffer that!)

OK, so given that time is moving indefinitely in my region I have reached four equally improbable conclusions regarding your situation.

  1. You are an alien in human form and have decided to return to your mothership.
  2. You are secretly a physicist faking to be programmer(I wish!) and have have created a blackhole while experimenting and have been sucked into it.
  3. You are secretly a mathematician and is now stuck on the surface of a mobius strip or on infinity many such surfaces.(take your pick)
  4. You are indeed a programmer and have managed to create a matrix like reality and is now stuck in it(Like Neo at the train station).

And here are my suggestions to get out of those situations…

  1. If you are indeed an alien, please take me with you.
  2. If you are stuck in a blackhole(given that there is no singularity don’t worry), you will eventually leak out as quantum information(If Hawking is right) and I will using my future skills and manage to plug you to a computer.
  3. If you are stuck on a mobius like surface, than attach yourself to n-dimensional sphere(depending on the surface) an execute a topological cut.
  4. If you are stuck inside matrix, then can’t help you mate. At least not yet!

Me

Heh.
This is going on my blog.

The Fool’s Day

How many of you get this? Can anyone understand the significance of the cake? ANYONE?

I love April fools day. Today I can actually speak my mind without repercussions. Everybody will assume I’m joking. This gives me a lot of… opportunities. Here is an example – below is a list of ‘statements’ about myself. I won’t say how much of this is true and how much of this is false. Let me see how much you guys know me. Take a guess and leave your comments. Make sure you say which all statements are true and which all are false.

  1. I never wrote the 10th standard board exams
  2. I have been a guest lecturer for Bio-Informatics
  3. My system has three monitors. My brothers system have two monitors. In total, there are six computer monitors at my house.
  4. I can solve the Rubik’s cube.
  5. I got 33 3/4% in the maths paper in 12th standard board exam.
  6. When I was a kid, my parents had to send me to a psychologist.
  7. I have studied my native language(Malayalam) for 10 years – but a fourth std kid can read and write Malayalam better than me.
  8. I’ve been a stand-up comedian.
  9. I never went to college
  10. I’m learning Japanese.

So, what do you think? How many are true and how many are false?

PS: Answers will be published when the day is over.

The Answers

Spoiler protection in place – press Ctrl+A to see the answers…

And the answers are… *drumroll*

Everything is true!

Yes, I know there are contradictory statements. For example, 1 and 5. Or 9 and 2. But everything is true. Some statement’s correctness is a bit of wordplay – but they are still true(for example, I did not write the 10th board exam – I got someone to write it for me).

The explanations are pretty boring – so I’m not writing them here. If you really, really need it, email me and I’ll send them to you.

Two to Three

The Three Monitor Setup

Ever since I had two monitors, I wanted another. Well, it happened. I’m now a proud owner of a triple head system.

Most people out there won’t understand the necessity of having monitors all around you. Most people think one is enough. And then there are those who think that even a single monitor is one too many. Those are linux system administrators – we are not talking about them. If you think a dual head system is unnecessary, the wise people of old have some advice for you – “Two heads are better than one“.

The History

Let me tell you the story about my shift to the three monitor setup. Even though I wanted three monitors, I did not know how to make it happen. My graphics card had only two slots – and both of them where already in use. One day, when the power was down, my brother was doing some light recreational reading. In my household, light recreational reading usually means reading hardware specifications and/or manuals. That day he was reading the manual of my motherboard. Deep in the manual between long descriptions of jumper setting and onboard slots, he found the answer to my problem. He found how to enable the onboard graphics card even if there is another graphics card in the system.

Armed with this information, me and my brother soon converted my dual head system to a multi head system. Voila! There – you have it – the story of how I got to be on a multi-monitor machine.

Naming the Thingy

I have been using this setup for three months. I’m quite attached to it by now. I call it the Ravana. The only problem is that western audience will not understand what I’m talking about. So, I’m thinking about calling it Trinity. I thought that was a good name, that is, until I said to one guy that I call my multi-head system trinity. His reply was “Oh. Like in the Matrix?“.

I hate it when that happens. Plus, there are other things I call Trinity. No, not The Trinity. I’m talking about video players.

I have other options too. Currently, my favorite is fluffy. Seems to be an appropriate name for my monitors.

Wait – why the confused look? Haven’t you read Harry Potter? Of course you have – there is no one who haven’t read them. You may have heard tales of people who haven’t read harry Potter – but don’t believe them – they are nothing more than urban legands.

But I digress. I’m talking about Fluffy from Harry Potter. You know, the three headed dog who stood guard to the Philosopher’s Stone(Sorcerer’s Stone if you are from US). The vicious, terrifying three headed dog demon – the one that couldn’t stop three school kids. Yes, that’s the dog I’m talking about.

Fluffy

I believe this dog was stolen borrowed from ancient Greek mythology. They too had a three headed dog who got weak in the knees whenever it heard a few notes of music. It also was a guard dog. But it had a different name. I don’t think the ancient Greeks would name a three-headed hound who stood guard to the gates of hell, Fluffy.

In short, I have three names for my three monitor setup…

  • Ravana
  • Trinity
  • Fluffy

It feels right somehow.

The Future

I have great plans for Ravana/Trinity/Fluffy. There are many things you can do with a three head system. Currently, I’m doing something that is perhaps the best use of a multi-monitor machine. Namely, gloating.

Useless Skills Part 5: Ability to Spell, the Finale

Spell Check

So far, we have gone over the theoretical difficulties is learning to spell. That is – the problems with the languages themselves. Now lets take a look at the practical difficulties – the problems with me.

Not Interested

The main reason I don’t learn spelling is because I don’t want to. I don’t have the time or the inclination to learn spellings. In the time of text messages, instant messaging and LOLCATS, does it matter? When was the last time you saw a text message without any spelling errors? Exactly! Plus, I’m very lazy.

US Vs UK

Another problem I face is which spellings should I learn – the US spellings or the UK spellings. I’m from India and officially we follow the UK version of spellings. But I write for the web – and the rule of thumb for web writing is to use US English. My final decision is to use Binny English. Its a special version of English spellings in which all spellings I use are correct.

Dyslexic

That’s it! Who’s the wise guy who gave it that name? Really? That’s the name you choose for an affliction that makes people unable to spell correctly? Did a dyslexic kid beat you up when you where a kid or something? ADD – now that’s a mental affliction that I can spell. OCD – that’s simple as well. We Dyslexics need a simpler name.

Now that I got that rant out of my system, lets get back to the topic at hand – my spellings. I’m a dyslexic – and that makes my spellings extra interesting. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining about being a dyslexic. As a matter of fact, I consider it to be one among my many super powers. But that’s a story for another post.

Spell Checkers

As long as I have spell checkers, I don’t have to worry about learning spellings. I could be the worst speller in the world – and no one would know. Actually, scratch that – I am the worst speller in the world. And if it weren’t for these Useless Skills series, you wouldn’t have known it. Thank you spell checker!

Useless Skills Part 4: Ability to Write or Read Malayalam

Malayalam

In my last post I ranted about the futility of trying to spell English words. I said that English is a bad language created by morons. Before any one accuses me of being a lingual bigot, let me reassure you – I don’t have any discrimination toward any particular language. I hate all languages equally. To illustrate my point, let us take the case of my native language – Malayalam. I truly despise Malayalam.

Malayalam

In its defense, English has just 26 alphabets. Its relatively simpler than say, Malayalam – the subject at hand. Malayalam, for all you non-malayalies in the audience, has 56 letters. That’s not too bad – that’s what I thought initially. But then I found out about letter-fractions. These are not complete letters – but a fraction of a letter that can be combined with other ‘full’ alphabets to make even more new alphabets. I understand if all you mono-lingual, English-speaking people are confused. I was too – when I was five years old and the teachers started teaching me this stuff. Now I understand why they taught me all that – just to make sure that I would be as bitter and hateful as they were.

So, Malayalam has full letters, letter fragments, and letters+letter fragments. Stay with me here – this is where it gets really weird. With all the permutations and combinations, Malayalam grew to be a 500+ alphabet monster. If you think that’s bad, this is the simplified new script(puthia libi). The old script is a 1000+ alphabet monstrosity that haunts the nightmare of little children(who where taught Malayalam).

The old script was removed because it was practically impossible to make typewriters to include all the letters. So we switched to the new script and lived happly ever since – or as happily as possible with a 500+ glyph language(ie. not so happily – as a matter of fact, down right angrily). Now, with the coming of computers and Unicode, this limitation of glyph in no longer there. Consequently, there is an effort to bring back the old script(or as they call it, the ‘true script’). Apparently, torturing school kids with a 500 character Malayalam was too tame for their tastes – they wanted to bring in the big guns.

As a result of this wonderful system, I cannot read or write Malayalam well even after spending 10 years trying to learn it. But I don’t care. Me and Malayalam has parted ways a long time ago – we are no longer on speaking terms. Malayalam can do what ever it wants to do – and I’ll do what I have to do. I have learned to live with English. Its not a bad language. As long as I don’t have to spell anything.

End of Part 4

I am stopping this rant here – many of you non-Malayalam would be terrified at what we are doing to our kids – and many of you malayalies would be horrified that I was assault their precious language. Don’t worry you Malayalam fanatics – my assault is aimed at many Indic languages. Hindi also has this wired letter+letter fragment method of writing. I think Tamil has it too – considering the fact that Malayalam came from Tamil(Disclamer: I do not know Tamil – so I could be wrong).

Useless Skills Part 3: Ability to Spell, English

Spelling

Now that the Barcamp Kerala has come and gone, I can resume my Useless Skills series. Let us start a skill I truly detest – the ability to spell correctly. I honestly see no benefit to memorize countless alphabet orderings. Even if I am the best speller in the world, the simplest spell checker can still beat me. And it would be embarrassingly easy for them. If they really have to strain – you know, smoke coming from the monitor and all, I could live with it. But no – to a spell checker, finding the correct spelling is going through a text file – one of the simplest thing a computer can do.

I will never say that I am a bad speller – I would say that I am a Creative speller. If I use the same word three times in a sentence, I usually end up using a different spelling for each instance. That’s creativity! Its a Good ThingTM.

English

Since I mostly write in English, I reserve a special hate for that language’s spelling. But don’t underestimate me – my spelling mistakes are not restricted to just one language – I have made countless spelling errors in English, Malayalam and Hindi. My spelling error skills are multi-lingual. But I digress – back to the topic at hand – English spellings.

In English, what you write and how that is pronounced has little or no relation. In fact, they had to invent another language just to make sure words are pronounced correctly. Don’t believe me? Here is some simple proof…

Example 1: Read – It can be spoken as reed(present tense of read) – and as red(past tense). Exact same spelling – two different way of saying the word.

Example 2: Buy, Bye, by – Exact same pronunciations – so you would expect the spellings to be same too, right? Noooo! They had to invent different spellings. And it in by no means restricted to these three words. I choose them to make fun of NSync – they had an song called Bye, Bye, Bye. Or was it Buy, Buy, Buy? From the marketing point of view, the latter one makes more sense.

Weight – were was eye? S – same pronunciations – butt different spellings. The last too ore three sentences wood make it abundantly clear that this phenomenon is note restricted two bi, bie, bai. This not only make it hard for humans – it makes the job hard for the spell checkers as well. Don’t believe me? Here is a poem for your non-believers…

Eye halve a spelling checker,
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I'm shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

End of Part 1

OK – just writing this has made me really mad at English – and the genius who invented it. Nice going there, *censored*. Now let me take a moment to calm down. Think happy thoughts… computers … programming … javascript … linux … ahh. OK – I’m back.

I am better – but still a bit angry. I’ll have to end the I Cannot Spell, Part 1: English here. Wait for the next part, I Cannot Spell, Part 2: The Other Languages. Did you think this was the end? No – this is just the beginning – my hate for spelling cannot be contained in just one post.

BarCamp Kerala Part 5

From the producers of

BlogCamp Kerala

and

BarCamp Kerala 1, 2, 3 and 4

comes the latest blockbuster…

BarCamp Kerala 5

“This summer, its barcamp time once again!”
BarCamp Kerala 5

The story of fifteen people(so far), with something to share, brought together by fate(or the organisers). The story of hundred and forty people(so far) who want to learn – and what they do when they where given that oppurtunity.

Coming to a Technopark near Trivandrum on May 3rdbook your seats today!

Credits

The Actors

Vishnu Gopal as the Mathamatician
Watch him achive his lifelong goal of finding the value of pi – by getting help from others.
Binny V A as the College hater
See Binny in his most contrivertial role yet. Watch him bad-mouth the college eductation – and his attempts to teach the people a better way to program
Prasand Pai as Himself
Join him in his attempt to create a compiler from scratch – using the net(aka .NET)
Kenney Jacob as the Starter
Learn the ways of a startup – from the master.
And more…
Muneef Hameed, Juwal Bose, Mark Cijo, Sultan Arun, Jayakrishnan Kurup, Shwetank Dixit, Sudhir Sreenivasan, Rajesh Venugopal, Aravind Jose and Cijo Abraham Mani

Reviews

“Best in the BarCamp Kerala series – can’t wait for the next one.”

Your’s Truly

“The biggest unconference in Kerala is happening this Summer! Will you be there?”

Nuju Mohan

B4rc4mp K3r414 R0x

l33t H4x0r

“There is NO d.o.u.b.t. about that. Biggest BarCamp ever – #BCK5″

Aravind Jose

“BarCamp Kerala 5 is going to rock this time”

Kenney Jacob

“Do they have free WiFi?”

Guy with a Laptop

Useless Skills, Part 2: Making Pretty Squiggly Lines

In my last post, I said that using the ‘pen’ is stupid. Because its an obsolete device used to make squiggly lines on thin slices of dead trees. And also because there is a better technology available – called the keyboard. There is another aspect of ‘writing’ that no longer needed – the handwriting – or specifically, a good handwriting.

Hello Handwriting

Beautiful Squiggles

Just to be clear, writing is the method of making squiggly lines using pens. The lines should not only be squiggly – but also be squiggly in a very specific ways. Many teachers insist that your squiggly lines must be good looking. They call it having a ‘good handwriting’. I have tried to explain that ‘looking good’ is very subjective and will differ from person to person – but they will have none of it.

Due to this friction between the teachers and myself, I had, what they would emphatically claim to be a bad handwriting. Even un-biased third-party judges called it a ‘horrible, un-understandable chaos’. But it was not all bad – as a matter of fact, my handwriting won an award. My handwriting got the 2nd best encryption award from the Indian navy. I thought they were being unfair – I obviously deserved the first price. But they proved that their ruling was correct. My handwriting could be decrypted by only just one person – the original author – namely, myself. The handwriting which won the best encryption prize could not be read by anymore.

The Future of the Pen – or Lack Thereof

Nowadays, good handwriting is meaningless – all that matters is your choice of font. The pressure with which you hit a key, the angle of the pressure, the hand posture of typing – they all mean nothing. As long as the character appears on the screen, you have the same handwriting as the best writer on earth. Its not how you write that matters – its what you write. Now, if only someone could make the teachers understand this simple fact.

Even though the pen is obsolete, it still has its uses. For me, that is signing checks. And other documents. And empty pieces of paper to make sure my sign looks cool. But mostly checks.

I have tried to convice banks that physical squiggly-line method of signing is unsafe. That a much better method of doing it is signing it using private keys with 4096 bit, munition grade keys generated using the DSA/Elgamal algorithm. But as of yet, I have no progress in that front. But I will keep up the fight. One day, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day – I will be able to stand up and say, “the keyboard is mightier than the sword”.

Useless Skills, Part 1: Using the Pen

When we were kids our parents, our elders and teachers lie to us about a lot of things. When we grow up the situation becomes better – only the government and the media lie to us. The lies told to us by our parents/elders/teachers are very funny – now that we have grown up and know that they where fibs. Unfortunately, not everyone finds it funny – many people become bitter and revengeful when they find their PETs(Parents/Elders/Teachers) where lying to them. Afterward they take their revenge on their own kids – by repeating the lies that where taught to them. One of my favorite lies in this category is about schooling. Somehow they managed to convince me(at least the 8 year old version of myself) that learning to write was important. You might find this hard to believe this – but there was a time when I believed that – but not anymore.

The Pen

Just to be clear, by writing I mean the ‘making of squiggly lines on paper‘. This is usually done using an instrument called a pen. I know, this is ancient history in these days when writing is all done by pressing small buttons on things like a computer keyboard or a mobile keypad or a PDA input device. The pen is not used a lot these days – it is one of those old, obsolete devices – like triangle wheels(also known as wheel 0.2) and square wheels(wheel 0.3).

A decent amount of people visit this blog – so it is statistically possible that a few members of a particularly sad portion of society sees this post. I am talking about people who know what a pen is and, God forbid, use it in a daily or a semi-daily basis. If you fall into that section, well, I have some bad news for you. I do not want to tell you this, but, your parents/teachers belong to the bitter, hateful, out-for-vengeance category. And they are taking out their frustration on you. Sorry.

Back to the regular people – so, in short, pen = very old device. My PETs actually had me convinced that my future, my career and my worth as a human being depends on how well I can use it. Funny, right?

Fascination With Pens

Pen as a Combat Weapon

Many of you have heard about the adage ‘Pen is mightier than the sword’. Apparently, in the old days, pen were often used as a melee weapon. I must admit, I am not sure how they can compete against much bigger and sharper objects – like swords. If it’s a fountain pen, you can squirt ink into the eye of your opponent, making pen a ‘slightly-long-range’ weapon. But I cannot be sure – I am not much of a pen warrior.

My Vision and Mutant Healing Powers

People who know me(and by know me, I mean know me in real life. Not know me as just another guy among the millions of semi-physcotic people in the blogsphere) know that my vision has some problems – or to be more specific, I wear glasses. Glasses has been a part of my personality for as long as I can remember – it gives off a studious/bookworm/computer geek vibe. Its mostly correct(2 out of 3 at least – I have never been considered studious by anyone. As a matter of fact, I am the most anti-school, anti-college guy I know. But that’s a post for another time.)

Anyway, why bring up the subject of glasses? Because I lost them. No, I didn’t misplace them – I don’t have to wear them anymore. I know what you are thinking – you think I got contacts, don’t you? You are wrong – no contacts for me. Lasik surgery? Wrong again. My body auto corrected my eyesight – my eyes healed themselves. If you want to put that in another way, I have Wolverine like healing powers.

If you have not seen X-Men, you probably will not understand the last sentence. Let me rephrase that for all the Heroes fans out there – I have cheerleader like powers. No – wait. That did not come out right. I have Wolverine like powers – nothing else – if you have not seen X-Men yet, well, see it.

Admittedly, it took my eyes around 14 years to heal itself – so my mutant abilities are a little different from Wolverine. He would have done the self-correcting in half a second – while I would take a little longer(14 years). So my abilities are slightly less powerful than that of Wolverine – but only slightly.

Anyway, if any of my readers are of the ‘pics or it didn’t happen‘ persuasion, I have photographic evidence. Here are the before/after pictures…

Binny's before/after Glasses

Not everyone agrees with my I-have-Wolverine-like-mutant-healing-power theory. My auntie who is a opticologist opticologer ophtalmologist optition opti eye-doctor says that it is normal. She says that if any one has Hyperopia or positive power glasses(like I did) as a child(as I was), they tend to fix themselves as the person got older. But that’s nowhere near as cool as the Wolverine theory. So, I am sticking with my ‘I am a mutant’ theory. Doctors – what do they know?