I have been discovering some wonderful music lately. Enough said, check out yourself. You will be taken to a different world.
If you have more suggestions, do keep them flowing in the comments.
I have been discovering some wonderful music lately. Enough said, check out yourself. You will be taken to a different world.
If you have more suggestions, do keep them flowing in the comments.
As a grad student you tend to work on a multitude of things. You provide assistance to master and semester projects, do courses, explore research problems, read multiple publications (concerning or not concerning your field of work) and a lot more. You stumble upon interesting articles, images, videos that explain a particular concept very well. You have numerous email conversations discussing a solution to a problem or on a project. Ideas flash across your brain in the most awkward places and situations. These ideas must be captured, else they vaporise quickly. Given the above information overload, capturing and more importantly managing them becomes an issue. You tend to run out of thoughts/ideas when they are needed most. If one can effectively capture and access these mindjots in one place, THAT makes a perfect note-taking application. Please note that I am NOT talking about GTD applications. Pencil and paper works very well for that.
The perfect feature set
Things I have tried
If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment here or on twitter.
UPDATE 1: After numerous conversations, I am on the lookout for a “Evernote” like application but one that does not mandate you to sync with their servers plus works well on Linux.
UPDATE 2: I finally settled on KeepNote. Fits in all my requirements.
There has been a lot of discussion on my twitter timeline whether Android is Free and Open Source (FOSS). I really don’t see why Android is NOT Free Software by any definition. For starters, majority of Android source code is licensed under the Apache license v2.0 which is a Free Software Foundation approved GPL compatible license. The Linux kernel, over which Android is based is itself under GPL version 2.
Secondly, I have used a Nexus One running a custom linux kernel (yes, I modified, compiled and flashed). Google ships Nexus One with an unlockable bootloader thereby encouraging not only Application development but also low level hacking. The phone can be flashed using the fastboot utility over USB. Device manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, Sony et al mostly disable “fastboot” to prevent unverified/unsigned operating system images to be flashed onto the mobile device thereby locking it down. Such device lock downs are not a new age phenonmenon. Additionally the manufacturers / service providers “spice” up the system with a proprietary stack over and above Android (which is perfectly legal and allowed by the Apache License). E.g. HTC Sense
Historically, judicial cases involving GPL violations have been with respect to making the source code available. Ref: TomTom, Freebox and DLink. The only time there was an outcry against hardware locking was for Tivo which later ended up in drafting and releasing a new GPL (v3) version itself. Note that, we are talking here about GPL not any other license like Apache or BSD.
Its like saying, “If a product runs Linux and the manufacturer locks the device down preventing user from running his/her own modified software on that product, Linux is not FOSS.” The above is precisely what Tivoization was all about and it was an attack on the hardware manufacturer and NEVER questioned the freedom and openness of Linux kernel itself.
Quoting Linus Torvalds
Tivo never did anything wrong, and the FSF even acknowledged that. The fact that they do their hardware and have some DRM issues with the content producers and thus want to protect the integrity of that hardware.
The kernel license covers the *kernel*. It does not cover boot loaders and hardware, and as far as I’m concerned, people who make their own hardware can design them any which way they want. Whether that means “booting only a specific kernel” or “sharks with lasers”, I don’t care.
Back to Android, the complete source code is available online. Yes, it might not be the latest and greatest available source code residing in the memory cells of the Android developers’ computers. But is that the point? Even with GPL’d software one does not always see the latest version until the “developers” decide to make it public. There are benevolent dictators to every open source project.
Android does have an open bug management system, accepts patches and have also put up web pages describing the “Life of a patch” and “Life of a bug”.
I still don’t see why Android is NOT Free Software. By definition, it adheres to all rules and regulations of the license. This tweet from Andy Rubin is good enough an answer for everything.
However as I mentioned here, all that matters to me is how much a system can be explored and learned. Android + Nexus One / Nexus S is one heck of a platform to get a system’s perspective right from the core operating system to the application layer.
If the revolt is against hardware lockup of Android devices, I re-iterate: Its got NOTHING to do with openness of Android. I see only two ways of fixing this. First option – change Android’s license to GPLv3 (which has got additional clauses to prevent such Tivoisation). This would lead to a whole bunch of recursive license compatibility issues a.k.a heavily affect Android’s growth and adoption. Second option would be to force all manufacturers to “open” up their devices running Android. This I have no clue how it can be done without changing the licensing of Android. Plus, put yourself in the manufacturer’s shoes for a moment — Way too much headache in supporting all the “rooted” but “bricked” devices coming into their service centres. No one is here for charity and each of us have to feed some stomachs in the end.
Bottom line : Android is free and open enough for me as an end user of Nexus One / S devices.
PS: I am NOT an Android fanbhoi. JFYI, I own an iPhone 4.
Little did I know a week back that I was to give the closing keynote at the last FOSS.IN ever. FOSS.IN 2005 was my gateway to the open source community and hence has been special to me. Since then, except 2007 when I was in Germany, I have managed to attend FOSS.IN every year. In the closing keynote, I shared my experiences and learnings from being part of the open source community for about half a decade now. Below is a short transcript of what I spoke. Slides are on slideshare and here.
As kids we question anything and everything. Kids ask questions that we, as adults don’t bother to. Something somewhere definitely went wrong. Curiosity and the urge to explore seems to be inversely related to age. What we forget is that there is pleasure in exploring and finding things out. Check this short 10 minute teaser “Pleasure of finding things out” by Richard Feynman [youtube video]. The book is a highly recommended read too. Curiosity is the fuel for all inventions and development. Open source encourages one to explore the details and cultivates self-learning capabilities – a trait which the world’s “education” system fails to induce in individuals.
Computing and computers have evolved from Pascal’s Adder to today where we are constantly on the look out for power sockets. Over these years the term “Hacker” emerged. Hacker is any person who likes to explore details of a system and extend their functionality as opposed to most people who prefer to learn the bare minimum. Hackers love to share and collaborate. Not the type of collaboration with an evil back-door plan. There is nothing unethical about hacking. A simple example are the Bulletin Board Systems that existed in the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, where “hackers” usually restricted by geographical boundaries or within universities logged in, shared information and collaborated on ideas. Very much similar to today’s globalised user forums and mailing lists. A typical example in today’s setup is github. One feature that stands out is the “fork” feature. It allows you to share and collaborate in a true global sense. This is the true spirit of open source. Thanks to Claudio who pointed me to this example. Bottom line – “Sharing and Collaboration is the key”.
Over the last 5 years, since FOSS.IN 2005 I have participated in various conferences like Freed.in, GNUnify, FOSSMeet@NITC, Barcamp Bangalore and many more. I have made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun. Its such a good feeling to know the availability of a couch to sleep in most parts of the world. This by far remains my top take away. Bottom line is to have fun in whatever you do. I quote Randy Pausch – ” Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they almost always will impress you.” I recommend seeing “The Last Lecture” video followed by reading this book.
Preach CULTURE of Free software.
NOT the politics / philosophy
Before you go bonkers over my statement, hold your fire until the end of this post. In 2006, I had been to many colleges preaching the GNU philosophy, the 4 freedoms and all the “correct” terminologies like “open source” , “Free software” etc. I would have talked to atleast 1000+ students creating awareness. I do respect the freedoms and the philosophy of GNU/Free Software. But this is not what you go around preaching when you are talking to students. After many workshops, I started to feel something was wrong. Change of strategy was needed. I started talking to students about specific projects and making them curious about specific technologies, introduced them to opportunities in Google Summer of Code, encouraged them to explore, share and in general have a lot of fun. This completely changed the game. As examples, two students Madhusudhan and Santosh, who in 2007 were doubtful about their abilities, today are rockstars in their own way. I can name a whole bunch of folks like this who deserve more than a “Great going folks! Keep it up.”
Most conferences in India are often pounded with negativities and politics. In the end all that matters is what the participants take away from a conference. If a conference has managed to stir up a little amount of curiosity on a certain technology, helped you share information, discover something new or meet like minded people and network, it is a good sign. FOSS.IN has done that to me over the years. When I requested the audience to stand up if they have explored a piece of code that they have never looked at before, shared some knowledge with others or met atleast one new friend this year or at any of the previous editions of FOSS.IN, there was not a single soul in my vicinity sitting down. Hats off to Team FOSS.IN to have made this happen. Thank you and bye bye FOSS.IN. You will be missed…
* Apology – a formal written defense of something you believe in strongly
** Pictures were taken from a few presentations I attended over the years, CC licensed – flickr. Links will be updated soon in the slides on slideshare.
I have been reading the book - “Don’t you have time to think” (a collection of letters to/from Richard Feynman) for quite some time now. Yesterday I came across a letter written by Feynman to one of his former students - Koichi. Koichi writes to Feynman congratulating him for his Nobel prize. Feynman, curious to know what Koichi is currently doing asks a few details about his work. Koichi responds with a “not so happy” tone letter stating that he is “studying a humble and down to earth type of problem”. Feynman replies:
I was very happy to hear from you, and that you have such a position in the Research Laboratories. Unfortunately your letter made me unhappy for you seem to be truly sad. It seems that the influence of your teacher has been to give you a false idea of what are worthwhile problems. The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. A problem is grand in science if it lies before us unsolved and we see some way for us to make some headway into it. I would advise you to take even simpler, or as you say, humbler, problems until you find some you can really solve easily, no matter how trivial. You will get the pleasure of success, and of helping your fellow man, even if it is only to answer a question in the mind of a colleague less able than you. You must not take away from yourself these pleasures because you have some erroneous idea of what is worthwhile.
You met me at the peak of my career when I seemed to you to be concerned with problems close to the gods. But at the same time I had another Ph.D. Student (Albert Hibbs) was on how it is that the winds build up waves blowing over water in the sea. I accepted him as a student because he came to me with the problem he wanted to solve. With you I made a mistake, I gave you the problem instead of letting you find your own; and left you with a wrong idea of what is interesting or pleasant or important to work on (namely those problems you see you may do something about). I am sorry, excuse me. I hope by this letter to correct it a little.
I have worked on innumerable problems that you would call humble, but which I enjoyed and felt very good about because I sometimes could partially succeed. For example, experiments on the coefficient of friction on highly polished surfaces, to try to learn something about how friction worked (failure). Or, how elastic properties of crystals depends on the forces between the atoms in them, or how to make electroplated metal stick to plastic objects (like radio knobs). Or, how neutrons diffuse out of Uranium. Or, the reflection of electromagnetic waves from films coating glass. The development of shock waves in explosions. The design of a neutron counter. Why some elements capture electrons from the L-orbits, but not the K-orbits. General theory of how to fold paper to make a certain type of child’s toy (called flexagons). The energy levels in the light nuclei. The theory of turbulence (I have spent several years on it without success). Plus all the “grander” problems of quantum theory.
No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.
You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself – it is too sad a way to be. now your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of your naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher’s ideals are.
Best of luck and happiness.
Richard P. Feynman.
The timing was right. Especially when you are going through the emotions of a first year grad student.
For quite sometime I have been working to get a not-so-complicated work flow going for my photography experiments. Following are the tools/hardware I use
Below is my work flow in order.
After Shotwell’s 0.7 release, things are much better and I have ditched F-Spot for good. If you have any further suggestions do leave a comment.
After waiting long, FOSS.IN folks have announced the preliminary list of talks. Though the chances of me attending this year are slim because of date-clashes, following are some talks that interests me or I would recommend out of first-hand experience. Go ahead and mark your favourites.
[No specific order]
If you are interested in the topics which Philip Tellis, Mahendra are talking, do attend. They are pretty good speakers and you can be assured of an increase in your knowledge level. Of-course the above mentioned talks are not yet scheduled but thats my pick as of now.
Quitting a secure, well paying job and heading back to school is something that is not easy. There is a whole bunch of variables that needs to converge at the right time plus a kick to throw you out of your comfort zone. It happened to me 2.5 yrs ago. I quit my job and headed over to EPFL for a Masters. From September 2008 to Feb 2010, it was an awesome experience to be back at school after 3 years. Meeting people from different cultures, exploring various research topics of interest, sharing ideas with the best brains combined with a lot of traveling and partying got me addicted to the university lifestyle. After presenting my thesis this February, one thing I knew for sure was what I didn’t want to do next.
A bit of self-contemplation resulted in a list of interesting points. Ever since my school days I had been part of a few innovative tech products and concepts but none my own. This disturbed me immensely rising doubts about my capability to innovate; to come out with something new a.k.a to invent. Plus, I enjoy teaching and mentoring. All these directed me towards an academic career path and off I went in search of academic research positions while interning/consulting for startups, so that I could survive financially in one of the world’s most expensive countries.
Finding a suitable research area/lab was not easy. Good things don’t come easy. Plus, I wanted to work in an area that keeps me amidst gadgets and a workplace where my brains are not chained (read as having freedom). Difficult as it sounds right? During one of my casual “web crawling sessions”, I came across this MIT Technology Review article on “Keeping Pacemakers safe from Hackers” and immediately browsed through the research work of the lab, pinged the Professor, attended a day long interview, met up fellow researchers and gladly accepted the offer to do my PhD at the System Security Lab in ETH Zurich. The bonus is I get to fiddle around with biometrics as well. All that I needed in one package. I could not have asked for anything better.
Now the CHALLENGE IS ON. Whether I am successful or not is a different question (could take a couple of years or even more for the judgement) with a lot of variables, but am sure the take away from this experience is going to be valuable. From what it looks like I will be playing around with a lot of wireless devices (sensor nodes, RFIDs etc), USRPs, mobile gadgets, crypto protocols, mathematics (yay!!) and more. So this blog sees an addition of the category “System Security” starting now.
A quote from Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech -
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
I have always been able to connect my dots looking backwards and with the hope that the dots will get connected in the future, I commence by search for the road less traveled and then proceed to explore it thereafter.
Life in the first 6 months of 2010 was abuzz with work. Completed my MSc thesis, interned in a lab working on hardware platforms performing Side Channel Attacks, consulted for a couple of startups on FPGA based system designs and was contemplating/deciding on my next career move. Of-course there were these never ending bureaucratic issues that needed fixing. Finally I decided to stay back at school and pursue a PhD (a separate blog post coming up). Before the start of this phase of my career, I had decided to do a mini north EuroTrip and spend some time with family/ friends back in India. So here I was in India for the past 1 month meeting a whole bunch of people and having pleasant exchanges. I am scribbling down a few memorable moments of August 2010.
The BIGGEST thing I will be missing back in Switzerland is the casual chit-chat with family and friends over a whole lot of issues – basically the feeling of connection at the emotional level and of-course the HOME comfort. Strangely enough, I DONT seem to miss Indian food. @sidcarter put it very well in this tweet earlier today. There were of-course some disappointments/frustrations; but I am in a very light mood as of now to even think about them.
Tonight I head back to work in Zurich, Switzerland. See you later, India.
I am again all set to shift house/cities and the amount of books I am giving off, have to put in boxes is way too much and a pain to manage. Additionally, I have had an eye on eReaders for over 2 months constantly reviewing all models. I chose Amazon Kindle 2 over Nook or any other eReader for various reasons. Major one being, its from Amazon and it synonyms with books. I trusted them to get things right and they REALLY have. Below I am summarising the pros and cons of the Kindle 2. I have been using this device for over 3 weeks and traveled about 5000 Kms with it. This is what I have to say on the device. Read on and if it helped you feel free to leave a comment.
Cons/Could have been better if:
In short, I would highly recommend Kindle to people who read a lot and travel/move around. Its also worth it for people who want to revoke their reading habits (had friends get back their reading hunger).
Leave a comment if you have any questions or your own personal views on Kindle.
PS: Amazon lowered its Kindle prices recently. Also the Kindle DX is getting a new look soon.