Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Showing Solidarity with 26/11

[update: Image now based on official Indian Flag Pantone colors]

A year has passed since the terrible events of 26/11/2008, when Mumbai was attacked by terrorists, and a billion people held hostage next to their TV sets for days.

And I still ask myself this question:

"What did _I_ do in this past year to help prevent the recurrence of such tragedies?"

Sadly, I don't have a satisfactory answer. Will need to introspect more.

and of course, there is the corollary:

"What will I do in the _next year_ towards that goal?"

While I seek answers to the questions above, here is what I have done for today. I have updated my profile pictures everywhere to the image below (thanks a lot to Raj for making the image)

So go ahead, feel free to right click -> save as, and use as your own profile pic.

/not sure what else to say.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Play with My Version of Google Chrome OS

[This post is dedicated to MP on his birthday today, one of the coolest hackers I have known :)]

As some of you might know, Google released Chrome OS on Thursday (I saw the video on my ride to work on Friday morning, thanks to Rachid). Khanna (and Gmail RSS Feeds) pointed me to this techcrunch post on how to use it with VirtualBox, but they also had this nasty warning (bold emphasis mine).

First, a few caveats: we didn’t create the Chrome OS build ourselves — it was downloaded from BitTorrent. In theory it could possibly have been tweaked by some malicious hacker to steal your Google account information (this is unlikely, but who knows). There’s an easy fix if you’re worried though: just go make a throwaway Gmail account, and use that to play around with the OS. Also note that because this is running in a virtual machine, you’re probably not going to be seeing great performance (like that 7 second boot time). But it’s more than good enough to get a feel for the OS for yourself.

So, I set out to build my own copy of the image, since I do have a AMD 64-bit PC with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic and 4GB of RAM :). All that was needed was to follow the instructions at the get and build page at Google's Chromium project, and it will all be done :).

Needless to say, there were some hiccups :). [read the Tech Notes below this post if you are interested]

How YOU can start playing with it

Anyways, if you are in a hurry, point your favorite bittorrent software to download this torrent file [certified legal and malice-free by me, Animesh :) ]. A detailed description of the torrent is at this page.
[don't know how to use bittorrent? Post a comment or email me for a direct link for this 800MB file]

After that, follow the instructions to use VirtualBox from this Techcrunch post.

Here are some Screenshots from my run (you should see something similar):

Initial Login Screen

Using Facebook

The Program Pane (or whatever they call it)

The detailed demo video from Google is reproduced below, in case you want to see the experience.

My Impressions

Here are some initial thoughts:

  • The goals are pretty lofty - provide an uber-secure OS for the netbook, which starts in under 7 seconds, and resumes from hibernation in 3. On top of that, make it so secure that anti-virus software is not needed.

  • As another requirement, they need to provide "richer" features to the users who are used to desktop apps [local storage, audio/video capabilities come to mind].

  • Using it on the VirtualBox will not be able to demonstrate the speed part, but one should be able to test the offline-storage and a/v aspects, and to a lesser extent. the security.

  • I like what I see so far, and maybe my happiness is amplified by the fact that I was able to build it myself from source. Who here can say the same about Apple Snow Leopard or Windows 7? :)

  • I did not test out all the features yet, but it was a bit slow, and froze sometimes. Will post more after I have done some experiments :)

  • This was also my first experience of creating and posting a torrent. I am seeding it, so please feel free to take it for a spin. Also, please try to seed (leave it running) once you finish downloading. Thanks.

So, what do you guys/gals think?

Tech Notes

  1. The backup user is and the shared pwd is googlechrome.

  2. If you try to build it yourself, and choose to NOT download the source for the Chrome browser part, you will note that the path to the zip file that you should download in lieu of the source of the browser is broken. The one that worked for me was

  3. If you try to build it yourself, after running , the image will give errors if you try the steps under "Check the contents of the image". Don't worry. Just proceed to build the vmware image and use it. That's what I did.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who uses more Internet?

Firstly, sorry for the long absence. Didn't realize how quickly the weeks went. I will be off to Sweden (Uppsala University) tomorrow for 4 days.

Anyways, here is the reason for the post. I just read on the Google Blog today that the World Bank has opened up its data APIs, and since you know how I love debate based on facts rather than guesses, I figured I'll give it a spin.

And here is some interesting data for you all to see
[Internet accessibility per capita, USA, World, Pakistan, and India]

You can play with this data yourself here.

So, what say?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

When Gabbar met Draupadi

4 years ago, in the fall of 2005, a band of theatre-lovers at USC got together and created "dibs", a skit about three desi students at USC who wake up after an open-bar party, and find a girl sleeping on their couch. Not being able to remember who got her home, each of them tried to tell the story of last night, and how she was charmed by him.

It had three song-and-dance sequences, loads of jokes, and a surprise ending (I wonder if a video was made).

The audience at the AIS Diwali show loved it, and we loved the high - and Vidushak was born - USC's own Indian comedy theatre troupe. Given that producing skits needed more long-term preps for one script, and "the hero's mom has a midterm" was not a valid excuse on performance day, we soon diversified into year-round improv comedy, while still doing one skit a year at the Diwali show.

I left USC in June last year, but have been extremely happy to see that the team has only improved - with more talent coming in, and leading the troupe to bigger successes.

The 5th and latest installment in that series is the skit "Piya Basanti", which does what B.R.Chopra and Ramesh Sippy could not - bring Gabbar and Draupadi together!

watch on!

You can watch all the recent videos (including improv) at the official Vidushak Blog.

Oh, how I wish I was able to be a part of it all again. Good times!