20 December, 2008

Buying a software CD/DVD

Pledge (for citizens) on http://www.pledgeindia.com, has one interesting point:

"Not to buy any pirated CD/DVD = as this business has its roots outside India
and for any disc I buy, a portion of money goes out of India."

I suspect that there are many people, who are not software developers, but just
software users, who might confuse "buying a pirated CD/DVD" with "buying a free
software CD/DVD". It is possible that same street side shop could be selling
both types of software CDs. Following is my attempt to explain the difference.

First let's try to understand what is meant by pirated CD/DVD in the above

When you buy any software from a software publisher, typically you accept
a software license, which are of roughly two types:

[License Type 1 : Proprietary software] : If that software license (legally)
prohibits you from making copies of the software and share/sell to others,
then such software is proprietary software. If you still make copies
of such software and sell/share, then you are selling/sharing
"pirated software". This is also a software copyright infringement.

What would anyone buy "pirated software"? People who buy such software do not
want to spend money to buy software license from the software publisher.
In most parts of the world, it is illegal to use/sell/buy "pirated software".

Possible reason behind including this point in the pledge, is because it is
likely that money involved in "pirated software" business/network could be
used for other criminal activities, therefore pledge to NOT buy/use
"pirated software".

[License Type 2 : Free software] : If that software license (legally) gives
you permission to make copies and shape/sell to others then such software
is a free software. The word free here is not to be confused "zero cost".
Moreover you also get full source code and are allowed to modify the source code.
Only restriction on you is you cannot sell/share copies of free software
(original or modified) under proprietary software license.

So it is perfectly legal business to buy/sell/share CD/DVDs containing free
software. Since software publishers themselves allow anyone to download such
software for free, it is unlikely to be a big business which forms illegal


Make an effort to understand difference between proprietary software and free
software. Do NOT buy/use illegal proprietary software from anyone. If you want
to use proprietary software, buy a license from software publisher.

It is legal to buy/copy/sell free software, provided you fully adhere to free software
license. GNU GPL is just one example of a free software license.

More information (not necessarily accurate):


22 November, 2008

Voter Registration

I tried out voter registration on http://www.jaagore.com/. I had some problems printing the form from Linux. (using Firefox browser). Later I tried from MS Windows ((using Firefox browser)) and it worked. Best thing about Jaaro Re website is that it debunks many myths about voter registration process. Specifically if you are living away from your native place (i.e. permanent address, which for most young people, parents' residential address), you could still register and vote. In other words, even if you are living in rental apartment in some city in India, you can register and vote. Overall good work Jaago Re (meaning Wake Up in English) team!

People can also fill voter registration form (Form 6 etc.) by downloading from Election commission website http://www.eci.gov.in/forms/forms_Voters.asp

I have filled the forms, now I need to find out where to submit. Jaago Re website has some information about that too.

26 September, 2008

Books On Computational Geometry

Spent afternoon looking for some good books on computational geometry algorithms. Following is the compiled list. Just ordered one book from A1 books, hope to get it by next weekend.

  • Computational Geometry and Computer Graphics in C++
by Michael J. Laszlo (Author)
Publisher: Prentice Hall; Facsimile edition (October 20, 1995)

  • Computational Geometry in C
Joseph O'Rourke
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2000 edition (February 15, 2001)
# ISBN-10: 0521649765
# ISBN-13: 978-0521649766

  • "Comptuational Geometry: Algorithms and Applications"
Mark de Berg et al
Publisher: Springer; 3rd edition (April 16, 2008)

  • Computational Geometry (Monographs in Computer Science) (Hardcover)
by Franco P. Preparata (Author), Michael Ian Shamos (Author)
Publisher: Springer-Verlag Berlin and Heidelberg GmbH & Co. K (October 1990)

23 September, 2008

Story of Internet: No. of Users

Yesterday watched TV program "Download: True Story of Internet" in Discovery channel. One of interesting statistics mentioned was number of Internet users. The sheer adoption growth rate is awesome. Today I tried to search for Internet statistics. Following is what I found:

I imported data from Wikipedia using Google spreadsheet's ImportHtml function.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_internet_users )

18 September, 2008

I felt it

Yesterday early morning, I felt it (magnitude 4.9).

Source: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2008xace.php

05 September, 2008

Damaged Currency Notes

If you live in India in first decade of twenty first century, you inevitably come across currency notes which are in bad condition, torn or lots of writing on it. In general, notes (especially 10 Rupees denomination) are is bad condition.

Careless handling by people (from all walks of life) could be the is main cause. Also some bank employee and employees of other institutions which handle the large amount notes write on the notes using pen. Sometime they staple the notes. Yesterday, I actually saw Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) employee writing the total sum on the top note. I hope she listens to RBI's following policy guideline (issued in 2007) about handling notes.

"It has, therefore, been decided that hereinafter and with immediate effect :

a. banks should do away with stapling of any note packets and instead secure them with paper bands,

b. banks should sort notes into re-issuables and non-issuables, and issue only clean notes to public. Soiled notes in unstapled condition may be tendered at the Reserve Bank in inward remittances through Currency Chests; and,

c. banks should forthwith stop writing of any kind on watermark window of bank notes."

Source: http://rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_CircularIndexDisplay.aspx?Id=3259

Although policy is for banks, it would be nice if LIC being so big and pervasive thought out India, follows it, not out of compulsion, but to keep the notes clean and increase their life span.

As per this FAQ on RBI website, all banks should accept partially damaned notes, so if you have them just submit at your nearest bank.

BTW did you know about RBI's Project Financial Literacy. It is available in many regional languages, well done RBI.

15 May, 2008

Skill Gap

TV Mohandas Pai's article "Bridging the skill gap through PPPs" in Economic Times is full of interesting statistics about education and human resources in India.

Universities 450
Colleges 18000
Rate of Higher Education (Age group = 18-24 Yrs) 11%
Total No. of People In Formal Sector 60 to 65 Million
No. of People Employed In Govt. 20 Million

Some of interesting points in the article:

"While we have lower number (i.e. percentage) of youngsters in colleges ... we are creating a large number of graduates whose skill levels and capabilities are totally out of sync with what the job market requires, creating a major human resource challenge"

"There is a tremendous shortage of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mason, fitters, welders, drivers and other skilled people who form the backbone of any economy"

Later part of article mentions that Government is unable to spend budget allocate to higher education, which is surprising given the fact that I have read stories about lower salaries (compared to private sector) for teachers are Govt. run colleges.

Author then suggests spending budgeted money on scholarships for students. He did not mention anything about quality of education at primary and secondary schools. NGO Pratham has some recent statistics about students in schools for all states in India.

Last part of the article does not really elaborate on what he meant by Public-Private partnerships (PPPs). Most likely he wanted to suggest giving more autonomy to private institutes. Few months back there were news about problems with AICTE .

Some useful/relevant definitions:

Skilled Labour : Workers who have special knowledge or qualifications

Unskilled Labor: Also called common labor, -- is that which performs simple manual operations that are readily learned in a short time and that require exercise of little or no independent judgment.

17 April, 2008

Importance of good data in decision making

Following are quotes from Editorial in Economic Times :

Does the official wholesale price index (WPI) give a true picture of the extent of price rise (see ET, April 14)? Does the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) correctly capture the health of Indian industry? Is the data on agriculture or the services sector accurate? Answers to these and similar questions are important, not only because data integrity is a fundamental tenet of data collation but, more important, because policy responses would vary hugely depending on the answers.

... successive governments have failed to pay sufficient importance to upgrading the quality of our data. As a result, corrective action is often initiated when it is too late. Following the recommendations of the National Statistics Commission under the chairmanship of Dr C Rangarajan, the government has initiated some steps to rectify this situation.

Take for instance, recent efforts to construct a Producer Price Index (PPI) that will give a more accurate picture of inflation. The expert group has been unable to make any headway as it finds it cannot compel producers to supply data. It’s the same with the IIP that presently uses an out-dated base of 1993-94. The Collection of Statistics Bill, 2007, could make data collection easier but the Bill is still pending in Parliament. So for the moment we are really batting blind. Not a happy thought, but there it is!

There are many other instances where Indian government could improve quality of data (for example: air transportation, fatal road accidents etc.) Now a days there is no excuse for not having good data. Computers are cheap, hard disk is cheaper. Companies like Google a turn on with Tera bytes of data and over eager to host your data in the cloud.

I just googled for WPI and found on Ministry of Commerce & Industry website that there is some effort to revise WPI, hopefully to make it more accurate. Here is the link:

Suggestions from Industry / Trade Associations, Price Statisticians, Experts and Index users for improvements of the new series of WPI

15 April, 2008

Affirmative Action

Yesterday's Economics Times has a great article on affirmative action (in India) by Jamshed J. Irani. Following are slightly edited paragraphs from the article.

In the course of preparation of the CII report on "Concrete steps for affirmative action" - we realized that there was immediate need for two sets of interventions.

1. Employability: We realized that in spite of having the basic qualifications, many members of the scheduling tribes and scheduled castes were unable to find suitable jobs since they lacked the opportunity to learn good communication skills, ..., how to speak in public, how to conduct themselves in an interview, etc. These are soft skills, but very critical nevertheless.

2. Quality Education: The second was the universally accepted shortcoming which afflicts a large part of out young population irrespective of their caste status - quality education. In the long run, universal access to quality education would be the only solution to problems of social discrimination. Now this is an action, which lies largely in the government's domain. ... CII decided to provide scholarship support to students, who wish to pursue higher education, but would not be able to do so owning to severe economic limitations.

One other point made in the article is about gap between number of people joining the workforce and number of jobs available and helping/training entrepreneurs to create more jobs.
CII website has more information here.

03 April, 2008

Brand Equity Quiz 2008

Yesterday evening I attended Brand Equity Quiz 2008. It was hilarious. Quiz master Derek O'Brien has great energy and sense of humor. He looked so funny in 60's costumes. Good Pune crowd (around 500) and really great teams (total 30 I think). First round eliminated all but 7 teams. What followed was great rounds of quizzing (the theme was how quizzing was done in 60's, 70's ...till 2008). Finally TCS team won.

In first round, there was a question "So and so is called an ___". Fill the blank. One guy from audience raised his hands and said pension. Bad English !.

Here are some funny one-lines from Derek.
"Right answer. The team looks surprised at that."
"Everything I say today, just take it personally."
"I was going to give 5 points to that team for talking about figures and things of that sort".

One guy won whopping 3000 Rs for knowing that umbrellas are sometimes called "gamps", mainly in Britain and another one won big amount for recognizing a clip from recent 3rd class Bollywood movie (who said bad movies are bad for you).

Good to see Jug Suraiya (he writes in Times Of India and has a comic strip called Dubyaman) and his wife Bunny come on stage.

I was more than happy to see lots of sponsorship. I think spending advertising budget by sponsoring quizzing event is just a fabulous idea. You can already see me talking good things about sponsors like Kingfisher (who sent air-hostesses so beautiful that I almost fell in love) and Nokia on my blog (you get an Idea). Given the extraordinary content of my blog, I estimate trillions of people read my blog :).

I think right now companies are spending (wasting?) their advertising budget on TV (those crap channels who broadcast pictures of bus hitting a donkey as national breaking news) and Cricket. Online advertising and budget optimization will take some time to catch up in India. My point is there are lots of venues/possibilities for effective use of advertising budget. This is even true because India is distinctly different from west when it comes to buying habits and influencing factors.

"You are just 100 meters away from this. Get down at next stop."

For example, imagine I am going from Powai to Brandra by BEST bus (in Mumbai) and when bus reaches near Hiranandani gardens, wouldn't it be nice to display advertisement of newly opened shop in Hiranandani. Just in case Olive Garden decides to open in India. Do not forget me when you use this idea :). Point is think about targeted advertising, agreed it is tough and challenging, but isn't that a good thing.

My mouth is watery. BTW appetizer in the picture is Bruschetta (Olive Garden) . I had it one Italian restaurant in, surprise T.Nagar, Chennai.

24 February, 2008

Small Cycle Tour

Yesterday I completed a small tour (13.24 miles i.e. 21.18 Kms) on cycle. In case you cannot see map embedded below, please try this url.

View Larger Map

10 February, 2008

Gnunify 2008: Enlightening Talks

I attended GNUnify 2008 at SICSR. It was really good, thanks to Organizers, sponsors (Intel) and speakers. Following are my notes of of talks I attended.

Day 1 (Friday, 8 Feb 2008)

Workshop on shell scripting by Gaurav Pant

Basic shell scripting concepts were discussed. I wrote couple of simple bash scripts, things like comparing 2 numbers. I think scripting will be useful to make multiples runs (in different directories) of a program on different data sets.

Visual design by Niyam Bhushan

The talk was mainly to motivate developers to pay attention to user interface design, aesthetics and end user. I plan to learn Gimp and Inkscape and see how far I can go.

OLPC by Sayamindu

Introduction to OLPC project, hardware, software (Sugar interface) and localization effort. Since laptop is for school children Sugar interface has concepts/metaphors like neighborhood, friends, home, and activities (which are basically software programs). Interesting project for people passionate about educations and teachers too. Will this project benefit millions of children in villages of Asia?

Is localization really needed? Children are quick learners, they should be able learn basic English very quickly.

Day 2 (Saturday, 9 Feb 2008)

Open source by Brian Behlendorf

Really good advice from a open source veteran. Open source projects need commercial companies around it. Companies can then represent customers and their needs to developers.
Each company typically should offer something extra to differentiate itself from others.

Then he talked about how IT consultancy companies are offering open source technology to their customers. Many IT companies are going for joint IP rights on the software developed for a customer. This allows them to reuse the software for other clients. Example could be an IT company having many banks as their customers. Because some operations are very similar across banks, software can be reused. This phenomenon blurs line between offering services and products.

Building open source company Chander Kant

Chander Kant founded Zmanda which offers database backup related software products. He shared some excellent advice on starting open source companies. Following are my notes.
  • [ Open source company ]
Apart from free software philosophy, following are plus points of a open source company, in the
order of increasing benefit.
  1. Save development cost. Benefit here is 0 in most cases. Do not count on developers in community working for free.
  2. Testing and QA. Since products can be downloaded for zero cost, many people in the
    community will download the product and provide valuable feedback. Make sure that
    it is easy to provide feedback and communicate.
  3. Marketing and Adverting. Open source products benefit from word-of-mouth publicity. You need not spend large amount of money/effort on marketing campaigns.
  • [ Business Model ]
How do does a company plan generate revenue? Business model should be designed to tap potential customers and revenue.
  1. Support/documentation for a open source product/technology.
  2. IT Consultancy, integration and custom software development business.
  3. Yearly subscription (updates, supports). How to decide on subscription fees?
  4. Appliances (integrate with hardware and sell the hardware).
  5. Software as service (paid?)
  • [ Where do I start ]
  1. Develop a software program to solve a interesting problem. Do not underestimate your program. There might be people we want to save effort and want to use your program.
  2. Identify existing project which solves your problem. Start contributing.
  3. Sometimes you will have to decide on starting from scratch vs reusing existing project.
  4. Develop significant user community.
  5. Make sure that project has a good leader who can motivate team and give direction.
  • [ Funding ]
  1. Initially start on your own.
  2. Find a "patient VC".
  3. Avoid temptation to spend money on Marketing.
  • [ Watch Out ]
  1. Watch out for competition and differentiate your offering.

After presentation, I clarified my doubt related to use GPL licensed library for custom software development. Overall it was really good presentation with practical advice from someone who have been successful in building a open source company.

Later in the afternoon I attended talk on "Multicore Threading" by Vasanth Tovinkere from Intel. I will probably publish my notes in a separate post.

Alu parathas in the SICSR canteen were really tasty. It was good to see young students successfully organizing a technical conference.

08 January, 2008

First Day: OpenOffice.Org Writer 2.3.0

On Thursday, I installed OpenOffice.org 2.3.0. Thanks to Sun Microsystems for providing installer DVD at conference FOSS.IN 2007. Before that I removed old version (1.1.0?) of OpenOffice.org. With good software tools make writing documents is a enjoyable task. This post describes my experience on first day of using OpenOffice Writer.

First impression was “Wow, GUI looks better than 1.1”. Since I extensively use styles while creating design documents, I tried to define/modify styles (actually modify existing one) and keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Choose Format >> Styles and Formatting >> Paragraph Styles >> Header x >> Modify

  2. Style modification form pops up (Shown in figure below, I will refer to this form many times). A style has many properties (like font, alignment, position etc.) which can be set to desired values in the form.

  3. In the same form, I was hoping to define numbering and keyboard shortcut for each style, but could not do it successfully.

  4. After spending few minutes, I figured out how to define keyboard shortcuts for styles. Choose Tools >> Customize >> Keyboard. It turns out that OpenOffice.org by default assigns shortcuts to Header x styles (Control-x to Header x), which is fine. However style modification form does not seem to have a way to link styles with keyboard shortcuts.

  5. However, for numbering it took me whole afternoon (3-4 hours) and still could not define numbering for each styles.

  6. Eventually I found that style modification form is not the correct place to associate outline numbering with styles, even though form contains tab called numbering.

  7. The correct place is Tools >> Outline Numbering as shown in the figure.

So important question is why can't style modification form have some way of specifying style numbering? There seems to be some issue with this, interesting details are in issue database issue number 5038. I wonder if I can take a look at relevant part of source code and make sense of it.

The outline numbering is also used to generate table of contents (choose Insert >> Indexes and Tables).

Now I wanted to save modified styles and use it for all other documents. This can be done by defining templates. Choose File >> Templates >> Save under suitable template name. To set the new template as default template choose File >> Templates >> Organize.


On my first day of using OpenOffice.org 2.3.0 writer, I managed to define styles as I want and get started and play around with other features. Although it took me some time to figure out style numbering and found some related issues (unless I am missing something).