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Life is good

Last week’s Barcelona trip was the perfect weekend getaway from a hectic masters programme. After a not-so-enjoyable stint with changing hostels on Thursday, I met my colleagues from UPC, Barcelona for a nice round of drinks and tapas. I left for the Melia Barcelona early next day for WNS3 2011, and I was obviously excited about meeting the rest of the ns-3 developers for the first time. It’s been more than a year of my involvement with the project, and so far it’s been an amazing experience to work with the really awesome people that comprise of the ns-3 community. So meeting the faces behind the names from the mailing list was something I was looking forward to, and I did. A lot of hand shakes and introductions later, we got started with the programme. My talk went pretty well too.

After the talks, we Β had a pre-meeting for next day’s ns-3 developers meeting in order to decide the agenda, the priorities, and the action items we planned to walk away with (note that beer is part of the schedule πŸ™‚ ). The day ended with an amazing dinner at a rather classy restaurant in the city.

The developers meeting took place at the CTTC demo center on Saturday and lasted around 7 hours in total including lunch, during which we discussed and planned ahead as far as solving a number of issues was concerned. We also came to a consensus on organising an NS-3 Summer of Code programme, for which I’ll be handling the reigns. All in all, it was an awesome experience to meet these guys, from whom I’ve been learning a lot over the past year. πŸ™‚

So in short, life is good. πŸ™‚

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Some things you might need to know when applying for a visa

I had to go through the hassle of applying for a Visa last month. While it would have been a smooth procedure for just about anyone, Murphy decided to make things otherwise in my case. What I went through is something I won’t wish upon my worst enemy (then again, I might). So here is a list of caveats you’re likely to encounter. Note that I’m an Indian citizen applying for a Portuguese Visa.

  1. Getting an Apostille/non-Apostille attestation from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA):
    This for me, was the biggest issue I’d ran into, hence, I’m listing it as the first. Different countries expect either of the Apostille or the non-Apostille attestation from the MEA. Now the catch is, before these people attest your document for you, they will expect you to get it verified from a trusted source. This usually equates to your State’s Home Department. In case of Educational documents, it is the Education Department of the State from where you got the respective degree. This implies that if you completed your Class X from state A, Class XII from state B, and your bachelor’s degree from state C, you’re fucked. You’ll need to visit the respective Education Departments of each of these states and have them ‘authenticate’ or ‘verify’ your document. What they will do is put a seal on your original document claiming that it is a valid and legitimate document.Once you do that, you’ll need to go to the MEA office at Patiala House, New Delhi, in order to get the Apostille/non-Apostille attestation. Make sure you have sufficient photocopies of your documents, and that you carry Postal Order stamps of INR 50 for each document that you want attested. You’ll need to get there a little early, lest the queue builds up. The timing for submission of documents for attestation is 9:00AM to 12:00PM. Once you submit it, they’ll hand you a receipt. You’ll need to produce this receipt after 4:00PM in the evening of the same day, which is the distribution time for attested documents.
  2. Police Clearance Certificate:
    If the country you are to visit expects you to produce a Police Clearance Certificate for your Visa application, then you have two options ahead of you. The first method, is the one I recommend. Simply apply with the Miscellaneous Services form at your respective Regional Passport Office. If you had to undergo a police verification recently (in the last 6 months), you will be given your PCC on the same day that you apply. I applied at the Malappuram (Kerala) RPO, and over there it seemed like _everyone_, was getting their PCC’s on the very day, even if their passports were a couple of years old. The other option that you have would be to approach the Police Commissioner’s Office of your locality. Getting the PCC from here is a hassle. You’ll need to run around like crazy, bribe if you have to, and once you get the PCC, do NOT, forget to get it authenticated/verified from your state’s Home Department. Otherwise, the MEA won’t attest it for you. On the other hand, the PCC that you get from the RPO can be directly taken to the MEA for attestation.
  3. Verify the documents’ checklist on the Embassy’s web site one day before you apply:
    I had to spend an extra 7 days running around for my visa because of this. The day I’d gone to the Portuguese Visa Application centre run by VFS, I was told that I need to get my educational documents attested by the MEA as per a new rule the Embassy introduced _two days before_. Yes. That sucks. So make sure you get all your documents verified beforehand so that you needn’t run back to your respective states if such a scenario arises.

That’s as much as I can think of now. If you’d like to add anything here, feel free to comment below.

Erotomania

I startle to the alarm of my cell phone. 7:30, the pixels read. I wake up on one side of a double bed, the window beside me. It’s a beautiful morning, I tell myself. The sunshine is convincing. I slowly roll over to my side. The other half of the bed is empty, as always. I sigh to myself while running my hand across the sheets, where I wished she would be right now. I know she’s waiting for me down the hall just like every other morning. My heart longed to see her before I did anything else.

I get off the bed, and proceed to the living room. I look around. I find her in her usual position by the table. I give her the gleam that she expects from me every morning. A smile comes to my face as I find her looking down, shy as ever. I tell myself that I love her.

Even as I walk towards her, she doesn’t stare at me in the face. I am right in front of her, barely an inch separating our bodies. I pick her up, hold her close, and lay her on the table. With two fingers, I slowly lift her face up. No matter how many times I look into those eyes, my thirst can never be quenched. I know she’s waiting for me. She knows I’m waiting for her. She expects me to take charge in such situations, and I try not to disappoint her either. I know she wants me to get her started as soon as possible. And I don’t hesitate. Engraved into my head, I don’t need to be told how to go about this. I know her inside out. I trace a finger down her face, and slowly down to that all important spot of hers. She begins to purr, and even without hearing that, I know my actions turn her on. A glow lights up in her face, with a brightness that I can stare into forever. I tingle at the thought. I merely rest my hands against her front, lightly caressing it. She breathes harder, and I can feel her heating up as well. I love this part, where she teases me, keeping me waiting, telling me that I can’t begin yet. Seconds tick by slowly, we both look into each other’s eyes.

At last, she gives me the look that says, “I’m all yours now.” I can read it from her looks. I always have been able to. We never need to speak to each other in such moments. Her breathing almost comes to a pause, indicating that I make my move that very instant.

And almost mechanically, I login with my username and password, open a browser and check my mails.

Gross

* Disclaimer: Even though I’ll try to tone things down, this article might end up disgusting most of you, to the point that you might want to turn yourself inside out in the process. Any harm caused is the reader’s fault and not mine. You have been warned. *

The MNIT hostels have always had a reputation for not being really clean; reasons being bad mess food, a poor maintenance cycle, and mostly, plain old sick people.

So having lived here in these hostels for my fourth year running, you can say I’ve been inured by the ‘exposure’ gained. The most noteworthy part of these hostels involve the bathrooms themselves, the conditions of which I’d like to enlighten you all with. Every trip to one of these common bathrooms is a new experience, as the occupants of these hostels are never out of ideas to churn your guts.

In any case, I’ll be drawing out a list of things you _don’t_ want to see when you walk into one of these bathrooms. So here goes:

  1. A rat the size of a kitten running towards the latrine, and disappearing down the toilet.
  2. A snake disappearing down the toilet. No kidding.
  3. The bathroom drains being blocked (because someone thought he’d stuff his empty can of shampoo down the hole), and the entire room being flooded with water upto ankle level. Note that the water’s connected to the toilets, the bathing area, the wash basin area and the urinal section.
  4. Someone walking bare feet through the above mentioned flooded room.
  5. The toilet with a hell lot of shit left untouched. (Abides well with Murphy’s law, as it happens only when you’ve got to take a crap, and very badly that too).
  6. Same situation as above, but you notice two different sets of shit. (Guess why?)
  7. Plastic bottles lying around inside the toilets. This might be a little hard to figure out for people who’re on the cleaner side of life, so I’ll tell you. The said people use those instead of mugs (they share a bottle which they leave in the latrine itself).
  8. Now it starts getting weird: A packet of chips lying inside the toilet. Cigarette buds too.
  9. The next one usually happens the night after every exam: the wash basin clogged and filled to the brim with puke. You know. Good ol’ booze?
  10. A variant of the above involves puke all around the toilet and absolutely none inside it. Talk about horrible aim.
  11. A guy putting his hands down the toilet to get his key which fell through it. Just kidding. πŸ˜›

Anyways, call me sick for even bothering to post this. Yeah whatever.

I love my desktop

I _love_ eye candy. πŸ™‚

I know a lot of people would disagree, claiming that it doesn’t offer any increase in productivity for a developer and only uses up resources, but what the heck! I’ve got 4 Gigs of RAM to burn, and even when I’m running two OpenSolaris VMs in my Ubuntu, my Compiz doesn’t chug! This in spite of the fact that I’m using an Intel based shared memory graphics card. πŸ™‚

Anyhow, I recently installed Terminator which is a really slick x-term emulator that offers you a single terminal window which you can split into multiple ones (either horizontally or vertically). I’m used to leaving Alt+T as my key binding to start a new terminal, but the problem is, when you set this binding from the System->Preferences->Keyboard Shortcuts menu, it is set to launch gnome-terminal instead of your default x-terminal-emulator. Now since I was in one of those lazy moods where I didn’t feel like finding out the right config file (among the millions out there) to tweak, I decided to go for the not-so-graceful way of solving the issue:

$: sudo mv /usr/bin/gnome-terminal /usr/bin/gnome-terminal-old

$: sudo ln -s /usr/bin/terminator /usr/bin/gnome-terminal

Done! Here’s my Desktop with terminator running (that’s cairo-dock on the left by the way):

Peace! πŸ™‚

Software Freedom Week @ MNIT-Jaipur

This is yet another one of those long-time-no-post-buster posts. I’ve been quite bogged down by work as always, with exams not exactly helping either. The past one week flew by with the Software Freedom Week celebrations we had here in MNIT. While I still wish we’d done something like last year, where we had 5 seminars, 2 labs and a trip to BITS-Pilani to top it off, this year, SFW was held on a slightly duller note but the intention remained the same: get the juniors involved in the world of FOSS!

Unlike last year, where everyone had to put up with me through 4 out of the 5 talks, I took a backseat this year as I let my juniors showcase their work and areas of interests. On day 1, the 15th of the month, Harsh and Nitin from 3rd year kicked off with a very good presentation on developing Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) using JavaFX. I took over day 2, with a talk I’ve always wanted to give, titled “Virtualisation: The why, the what and the how”. The toughest part as far as the topic was concerned was to strip it down well enough and keep it light enough for a crowd of 2nd and 1st years who didn’t have a solid computer science background. So my talk was pretty much confined to the different kinds of Server Virtualisation and a little bit of Storage Virtualisation all of which was depicted in a newbie friendly way using pictures alone. πŸ™‚ Day 3 was launched with an introduction to SunSPOTs by Ankit and Sarguru, who gave the juniors a very good overview about the capabilities of one of the coolest gadgets ever! The demos that followed also took the students by surprise (mainly the sample demos that are freely available). Day 4 was again a talk by Harsh on PHP and other aspects of web development, especially the usage of Content Management Systems. Finally, Day 5, that is today, was the finale with me giving a talk on Parallel Programming concepts. While I had a feeling that this would go over their heads, I was quite surprised to see almost everyone scoring well on the quiz that followed the talk! I talked about the switch to the multi-core era, about the free lunch being over, what threads are, multi-threading, the devil in the form of race conditions and how to go about parallel programming with OpenMP. πŸ™‚

Perk bars were handed out freely to students who were active during the presentations and headphones were given away as prizes to the quiz winners. πŸ™‚

Being my last SFW session here in MNIT, I just can’t help but wonder how it’ll be like in my absense, next year on. Maybe the flame’s been instilled into my juniors, maybe it’s not. Bah… who cares! πŸ˜›

A little harmless theory

Finally, the guest lecturers in our department have started to arrive and all our subjects are finally ‘happening’. So here I was, in our first Artificial Intelligence lecture, being taught by a guest lecturer of course, who was pretty much an under-graduate fresher with an year of teaching experience. Sigh. Being an area that I’d already worked on for a while, I really wasn’t interested in her talk on what AI was all about, especially the part where she was trying to tell us about ‘The Matrix’ and ‘The Terminator’. So I came up with a little theory which I’ll share with you. Note that I’m not sure if this has already been discussed before, but anyways, here you go. But first a, little introduction.

So just like almost every other class I was in (note the stress on almost), I was bored and I was lost in my own chain of thought. And well, it had something to do with artificial intelligence itself (surprise, surprise!). The thought that particularly intrigued me was one of the biggest differences between a human (or any other entity considered ‘intelligent’) versus a machine (which could possibly be artificially intelligent), which I’d once read about, and that is the presence of the mind. According to the article, the brain is just a complicated computer which, by theory, can be replicated in the form of a machine (neural networks were inspired by neurons themselves). But one of the things that make us different from a machine is merely the mind, in the form of thoughts, dreams, common sense and much much more. To all those of you who’ve played Starsiege, Prometheus was a machine who had a mind, and that made him turn against his creator (by creating the Cybrids, or rather, his army of machines). But he was unique, and when you actually beat him in the human campaign, he says, β€œThree times have we fought, and three times have I lost, only because of your will to survive. The will I could not program into my children.”

Now that I’ve told you about the mind-brain separation, I’ll get to my theory. There will be seven assumptions I’m making. Here are the first six:

  • Assume, we are able to create a species (which I’ll arbitrarily name Ems) which by size, is very negligible to that of a human. The order of the difference in size I’m talking about is that between maybe the combined size of a billion T-Rexes and that of a billionth of the AIDS virus perhaps. Maybe more. But anyways, get your imagination going.

  • Assume, that we’re able to develop a container, which is unimaginably large in comparison to the said species (Ems), but smaller than a human, possibly the size of your everyday aquarium.

  • Assume, that we are able to monitor anything inside this container, but nothing inside it will know of the world beyond.

  • Assume, that the conditions inside the container are favourable for life to grow, and is fully self sustainable.

  • Assume, that we’ve laid the seeds for life in this said container, and as a result of which, the Ems (you can throw in others too if you want), are born.

  • And lastly, assume that the Ems are intelligent.

I’m quite sure some of you might have guessed where I’m heading, but here comes the main part. The Ems would begin their life and would survive in a complete world. They would go about whatever they do to get food, to find fellow Ems, to form communities and so on. They would discover other species, hunt them, be hunted themselves, but they’d have the will to survive. They would protect their enclaves from others and they would discover ways to defend themselves. Thoughts and ideas will emerge, and will give birth to cultures in their universe. They’d probably discover the equivalent of fire, and would take the baby steps into invention, like humans did with the wheel. They’ll move on to build shelters, villages, towns and empires and they’d fight amongst themselves. But their curiosity thrusts them slowly into the wonders of the sciences that govern their universe, and as time progresses, they discover more and more of the wonders around them, but all the while, they have no clue of just how tiny a dot they are in their universe. Now assume that enough time has passed such that they are in an era equivalent to the 21st century for us, humans. Note that I’m talking about equivalence of knowledge here. Now here comes the last assumption:

  • Assume, that they’ve developed machines that are artificially intelligent.

The Ems, have begun to make machines that they hope, would someday be equivalent to them, that is, would have a mind and a brain. While they’re intrigued by their own complexity and intelligence, they are totally unaware of the fact that we are out there watching them, and that it is we, who created them, that it is possible to achieve natural intelligence, and they are the fruits of that achievement.

Now here’s my question. If that is the case with the Ems, is it possible that we, ourselves, could be in one big such shoe box? That we were the result of an achievement to design an entity that could be naturally intelligent? That we’re some sort of alien experiment? Creepy little thought eh? I guess I’ll stop here and leave this question untouched. And please do note, I’m not hinting at the existence of any God here. I’m not hinting at anything as a matter of fact.

Damn, I do get carried away with my thoughts at times. πŸ™‚