Which is Green? 10 in the Pot or 180 in Farmville?


Of late, it has been a little annoying to find someone’s request for a special gift or invite to open a ‘farm’ nearby in ‘Farmville’.  But last weekend I was really amazed to learn that kids are spending something like 3 hours or more a day playing the game (with the Facebook login).  Not just 8 or 10 year old kids were spending time, but teens and tweens too were in the act.

As it happens I do own a little parcel of land where I too grow plants.  Only in my case, it is not a virtual farm.  In fact, it is not even a farm, or even a continuous parcel of land, but just a container garden - in simple terms, a dozen pots kept on the terrace of my apartment.

Here is the harvest of Flat Beans on Saturday.

saturday_harvest

Considering that
  • the seeds were not from a plant nursery or plant shop,
  • but seeds from kitchen discards and waste,
  • no fertilizers - organic or chemical - were used,
  • the plant(s) are growing in only one flower pot,
  • a half a litre of water was the only plant feed,
the yield is not bad at all.  I have been plucking almost similar quantities every week over last 4 weeks or so, for a total of about half a kilo by now.
:-D

Agreed that the meagre returns would not be able to satisfy the full vegetable needs of even a small, unit family, but would do admirably as garnishing in Dal or Sambar.

BTW this Pongal / Makara Shankaranti, the price of a pair of Sugar Canes required for the puja/prayers shot up to Rs. 45/- (US $1).  Considering that we used to pay 1/4th the price only a couple of years ago and paid only half the price last year - it was time to put the foot down.

The Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar  might blabber for all he is worth that he or his Ministry cannot be held responsible for price rise in fruits and vegetables.

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might not be able to put his foot down  vis-a-vis his Ministers.

And people may not be able to boot these worthies out (not yet).

But what I can do and have done is to cut the last 2 inches off a cane and plant it in a container.  It is about 2 weeks old now -

sugar_cane 

Isn’t it great?  Only problem is that people tell me that Sugar Cane has to be harvested in 6 to 8 months and the next Pongal is almost 11 months away.
:-P

The point is if kids, teens and tweens are willing to spend a couple of hours a day trying to grow virtual plants and vegetables and consume PC time, power and network access in the bargain, isn’t it time to find ways to channel them more productively?
Will the concerned Ministers for -
  • Agriculture, Sharad ‘Leer Face’ Pawar
  • HRD, Kapil ‘Loud Mouth’ Sibal
  • Environment, Jairam ‘Hippie Hair’ Ramesh
  • Food and Public Distribution, K.V. ‘Chemist’ Thomas
  • Youth Affairs, Ajay ‘Gimme Idea’ Maken
take heed, put their heads together and initiate a school / college overseen container garden program nationwide,  which would be a really a cool, Green initiative?

My Wicked Half whispers, ‘Maddie, you have to make up your mind.  First you want the Govt. to try and engage the kids as a virtual border police, using their PC.  Now you want the Govt. to turn them away from using the PC and become small time gardeners.   Maybe it is you who needs to knock on the head!’
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Eye chart for a worm


Of all the bloody things I’ve heard, I thought this took the cake - an eye chart for a worm.  Till I realised that they mean a computer worm and not a live biological worm.  Thank God for small mercies.

Then, on second thoughts what have eye charts, which are meant for humans have to do with computer worms?  To understand it, I had to read the article ‘Years old Conficker Worm still a threat’.  An article which should make every computer user pause a minute and check with the eye-chart.
8-)

The idea for an eye chart is brilliant - because it instantly makes it obvious whether the PC is infected or not.  BTW have a look at the ‘all-time’ infection map below.  Seems that except for the deserts of Rajasthan and a lone spot around Bangalore, the whole of India was infected at one time or another.

conficker_infection_map

You can read about the ‘Symptoms of Infection’ at http://www.confickerworkinggroup.org/.  Please also make sure to check your eye and your PC with the eye chart - You should see the following picture of a table made up of 6 individual images. 

If you don’t see any of the 3 images in the top row, your PC is in trouble.

[edit 29 Jan 11 - BTW the following image doesn’t count - it is simply an example of what you should see.  Either follow the ‘eye-chart’ link above or click on the image below to visit actual test page]

conficker_eye_chart

My Wicked Half whispers, ‘And if you can’t ‘clearly’ see all the 6 images, YOU are in trouble!’
;-E
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Long live the Republic! RIP common man


So India has celebrated her 62nd Republic Day, with the usual pomp and ceremony - one which has absolutely no meaning to anyone outside Delhi with its political and bureaucratic class.  That may not be an accurate statement as there still can be some fools lurking around in other parts of the nation, who think that it is their patriotic duty to watch the parade - like my mother for one.

As for the rest of us, ask if we care.  Two major TV News channels even managed to count the Republic Days wrong.  Here is the snapshot from my newsreader of yesterday.

61_or_62
:-P

Wonder if the I&B Ministry was watching and would pull them up?  If I was the Minister, I would order them to feed 62 orphanages for 62 days each in one of the poorest districts somewhere and telecast it live - 3 times a day.

But our present Information and Broadcasting Minister has more important priorities like enlightening the the media (incidentally one of the offending channels) that a doddering 50 or 68 year  old is ‘young’.

I remember my boss commenting once on the question of reviving (extensively repairing) an old junk of a ship and the recommendations of the Captain - ‘One foot is in the grave, and he wants to plaster his p*ick?  Tell that bugger to FO’
:-D

So, while everyone was happy and pompous, the chief attraction of the parade turned out to be the 3000% cost overrun and 27 years ‘young’ Tejas LCA Trainer version.

‘Appropriate’ quipped a wag, ‘the trainer has a drooping nose to enable unhindered visibility for trainee pilots.  And the buggers sitting in and near the dais too have developed the attitude of looking down their noses at the common man’.

‘Yeah’, was the retort, ‘in the prevailing situation, the common man too has a long face’.

‘More so!,’ was the comeback, ‘ Even the Armed Forces are hanging their heads in shame with the housing scam’.

Thus the Tejas Trainer was judged to be the most accurate reflection of today’s republic, of all the displays on the parade.
0:-)

droopy_nose_tejas

The droopy Tejas LCA trainer on display on 26th Jan 2011 and ...

normal_nose_tejas

the straight nosed Tejas LCA on display an year earlier.

(Yup!  I’ve flipped horizontally the 2010 Tejas LCA for similarity of angle)

So drive out those blues and let’s wait for the next year’s tableau
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24 Essential Utilities for Windows


There are activities which a regular user of a Windows XP machine (and of a Vista or Win 7 machine) is required to carry out from time to time.  Often people torture themselves by trying to use a software with which they are uncomfortable.  Other times they struggle since the utility is difficult to use or simply too ‘advanced’ for normal, everyday use or buggy or has security holes.

On enquiry it comes out that the user installed the utility just because
  • it came with the PC, or
  • ‘someone’ recommended it, or
  • it is supposed to be popular, or
  • they have shelled out hard earned cash for them, or
  • the other extreme - ‘pirated’ software
Often such users are ‘sheepish’ when pointed out that alternate, easy to use, functional utilities which can do a good job do exist.  So here is the list of 24 essential utilities that I regularly recommend.  All are either Open Source/Free Software or Freeware (for ‘personal’ and ‘non-commercial’ use).  Please also read the relevant post 12 Security Tools for Windows

Standard caution applies :  If you fry your PC by following these, it is your own responsibility.  Don’t blame me or the utilities - And read the ‘Note’ at the end.

These 24 Essential Utilities for Windows have been function-wise divided into tools for: 
  • system security,
  • system cleaning,
  • accessing internet, &
  • others
System security
1.  Belarc Advisor: Belarc Advisor is a Computer Security Auditor - Audits Hardware, Software and OS patches.
2.  Colony West DigestIT2004:  DigestIT2004 is an Easy to use Windows Checksum calculator and verifier.
System cleaning
3.  CCleaner & CCEnhancer: CCleaner is the premier system optimizer, cleaner and privacy tool and CCEnhancer is the tool to add support for additional (400) programs to CCleaner.  Tip:  Get the CCleaner Slim version.
4.  Cleanup!:  Cleanup! is ‘The’ temporary files cleaner and privacy enhancer.
5.  Digeus Registry Cleaner or Wise Registry Cleaner Free:  Digeus Registry Cleaner is ‘the’ best Registry Cleaner I have ever used.  As of Jan 2011 there is also an offer of free registration codes for reviews.   Alternately use Wise Registry Cleaner Free to clean majority of errors, before using Digeus Registry Cleaner.
6.  Revo Uninstaller Free: Revo Uninstaller Free is the best Uninstaller for Windows - a faster and more powerful alternate to ‘Windows Add Remove Programs’.
7.  JavaRa:  JavaRa is a removal tool for old and redundant JRE files, removing possible slowdown or version conflicts.
8.  AcroPDF PDF Speedup: PDF Speedup is a tweak tool to speed up performance of Adobe Reader by disabling (or re-enabling) almost all Adobe Reader plug-ins.
9.  YourWare Solutions FreeRamXP Pro: FreeRam XP Pro frees and optimizes PC’s RAM, increasing system performance can be configured to tweak in auto or manual modes.
Accessing internet
10.  Firefox / Google Chrome:  If you’re still with Internet Explorer, you should read 5 reasons to dump IE.  Worse, if you are still using IE 6, you must a complete idiot.  Become smart and move to Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome  (always get the stable versions).  BTW here is a report that Chrome users get better rates shopping online - one more good reason to dump IE.
11.  Sylpheed & FreePOPs:  Sylpheed is a simple, lightweight but fully-featured, easy-to-use and highly secure email client.  FreePOPs is a POP3 access manager, mainly used to download mails from (almost) all webmail for offline use.
12.  Skype or Yahoo Messenger:  Use one or another.  If your needs are professional (meaning business standard), use Skype - it has better quality.  But if you have slower internet connection and are going to use for fun and need the many in-built features - use Yahoo Messenger.
13.  FreeDownload Manager:  A download manager that supports resumable downloads and multiple simultaneous downloads.  BTW if you Hostsman as per 12 Security tools for Windows, you might need to edit or disable it, as it blocks this site.
14.  SpeedGuide TCP Optimizer:  TCP Optimizer is a tool for tuning and optimizing your Internet connection
Others
15.  Paint.NET:  Paint.NET is the free image and photo editor, featuring intuitive and interactive interface supporting layers, unlimited undo, special effects.  The extensive plugins being actively developed is a definite plus.
16.  Picasa:  Although Picasa can edit photos and images, it is actually more of a photo organiser and sharing utility.
17.  Audacity: Audacity is an Audio editor for recording, slicing, and mixing audio.  While it is certainly not SONY Sound Forge, it should be enough for ‘normal’ audio editing needs.  BTW get the free LAME encoder to enable Audacity to export to MP3 format.
18.  NCH VideoPad:  VideoPad is a fully featured Video editor for slicing and splicing video.  While it is certainly not Adobe Premiere, it should be enough for ‘normal’ video editing needs.
19.  VLC Media Player: VLC media player is ‘the’ media player with almost all codecs built in, so no more irritation with ‘format not supported’ dialogues.
20.  ImgBurn:  ImgBurn is a fully featured, lightweight CD / DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray burning application.  The only Con is there is no ‘copy disc’ feature.
21.  Code Sector TeraCopy:  TeraCopy is a utility to copy and move files faster with pause-resume ability and error check and recovery.  
22.  Notepad++:  Notepad++ is a Notepad replacement and source code editor with tabs, syntax highlighting and advanced search and replace functions.
23.  doPDF:  doPDF is a virtual printer driver to ‘print’ any printable documents - word, excel, powerpoint or webpage - as a pdf file.  It is the also the smallest and lightest of such virtual printer driver.
24.  7-Zip:  7-Zip is the must have file archive (compression) utility for almost any type of archive formats with the highest compression ratio.  The only other utility which beats 7-Zip is IZArc, which allows conversion between CD image file formats like (NRG to ISO).
Note:  I have absolutely no connection with any of the software writers or companies listed above, except for Digeus who had offered a free registration code for a review as explained here and here.  All software listed above are copyright of respective owners.

So, go ahead and enjoy these tools for free and with ease.
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12 Security tools for Windows - updated


The original post 10+2 Security tools for Windows has been rewritten and reposted as 12 Secirity Tools for Windows yesterday. 

Tomorrow’s post will be ‘24 Essential Utilities for Windows’, on which I’ve been working (off and on) over last 2 days. 
8-0

And in next week will be the post ‘x ways to protect you online’ on which I’ll starting working after I finish the 24, and which might take a day or two (time permitting).
:-)
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Do it Arse-backwards to improve: Education Minister


Was it Shakespeare or Jefferson who said ‘A fool thinks himself as wise, while a wise man knows himself as a fool’?   Who ever it was, he should have added, ‘and the wisest man would resort to the most foolish actions’.  One such absurd act was the suggestion to do away with the Class 10 board exams in the schools.  Another was the cranky ‘percentile’ system introduced to grade school students last year.

The percentile is stupid because it doesn’t rate a student to a common standard; a standard which would stay uniform over a period of time.  The percentile is basically an exercise in finding averages of a class of students and then mark them as better or worse than their peers.  If the whole crop are uniformly stupid, an imbecile could even top the class.  The old system of marks was better - at one glance, anyone could instantly grasp how good or bad a particular student is. 

The Education Minister in one stroke made the ‘percentiles’ the order of the battle, just because the Americans and Europeans do it.  What he didn’t realise was the Indians who’ve studied without percentiles do better than Americans in GMAT!  Else, the logic seems to be that since we aim to equal Americans and Western Europeans in everything, our students should also score low in GMAT, equalling the Americans!
:-P

Even more foolish, the Minister has issued another diktat - that there would be no more Class 10 exams from this year.  What he probably forgot is that (any) foolish action has an uncanny habit of being shown up for what it is - idiotic - that too sooner than later.  Even before the wise man’s ‘ass backwards’ brainwave to abolish the exams go into effect comes the bombshell - Test taking is the best way to Really Learn [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/science/21memory.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss].

The latest study released yesterday shows that writing tests is better than repeated studying, generally accepted back home as ‘the’ sure-shot way to learn. 

It also proved to be better than concept mapping, a new craze doing the rounds in Chennai, with some fancy sounding names and cooked up training courses.

The study proved an oft stated maxim - that ‘one-study-session’ alone is not good enough - is correct; the students who studied that way scored the least.

tests_r_better

So what now Mr. Education Minister?  Would you eat your words and rescind the order or pull a fancy press conference and deny that the study ever reached such conclusions?  Or do one better and call the conclusions wrong?  Like you called the CAG report on loss to exchequer on 2G allotment as wrong?
8-0

beagle-boys

My Mischievous Half murmurs, ‘Oops!  Guys!  Minister!  It was really unintentional. I mean, I didn’t remember that the Beagle Boys have numbers on their dress and they all start with ‘176-000’.  Thank God it doesn’t say Crores!’
0;-D
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Sticky posts page created


One problem about blogging on various subjects, including on PC security and software is that over a period of time, some posts of ‘lasting interest’ keep adding up.

Telling people to look up in my blog (a blatant effort at self promotion), when they ask for some advice or clarification becomes difficult as it is impossible to remember the dates of the posts or their headings.
:-/

Apart when I want to go back and edit the post with some updated or modified information, it is frustrating to try and locate the post - the same problem outlined above.
:-(

There is no simple way to make a post ‘sticky’ or ‘pinned’, like we can do in a support or other forums, in a blogspot hosting.  BTW, monkeyshine nutworks has its own domain registration with www.madrasnow.com, but still uses the free blogspot hosting - why throw away several thousand Rupees to just ‘host’ a site, when it can be done for free, reliably with Google?  And there will not be a constant worry that the host might ‘disappear’ one fine day.
:-D

Hence this idea to create a ‘Sticky Posts’ page - now that Google is permitting up to 10 individual pages on a blog.  The page will list links to the posts which I think are of lasting interest - to me and readers - and save me some headaches (apart from hopefully fuelling more readers)

kid_pin_donkey_tail
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Web controlled guns are illegal - for shooting pigs, not Pakis


Last summer was this post Use co-eds to fight infiltration where I suggested to use the co-eds and their (boy) friends to keep watch on the Indo-Pak border, using the Internet, webcam and guns.

The idea was that since these boys and girls have caught the habit of staring at screens and playing online, violent, multi-player, role-playing  Games, they wouldn’t find anything funny or tiring about keeping watch on the border through webcams.

On spotting movement, these guys are well capable of alerting each other and if necessary, a control room within seconds - not even a NORAD response could be as fast - next time just watch their thumbs and the immediate replies.

The suggestion was to release pre-positioned automatic guns to these guys on such alerts, so that they can continue with their role playing - only this time sitting in the safety of their homes or game parlours and making grief for the Pakis.  Admittedly it was a take off on Ender’s Game, but what the Hell!  It was a sound idea!

As it would happen, no idiot in the Indian Military or Defence Ministry took note;  Not surprising since their ‘moolah-sensors’ wouldn’t start buzzing unless the Americans or Israelis develop a such a system, name it Orion (the Hunter) or Diana (the Huntress), put a price tag like $ 2mn (Rs. 10 Crores) and sell it to us.  Damn the useless buggers and their moolah-sensors.

Anyway, that was last summer (in May), and later in the year an American utility contractor actually stumbled upon web controlled guns in southern Georgia, designed by a farmer to kill wild hogs - pigs.  The American authorities have stated that such devices/systems are illegal, but I doubt whether they would bother if we start killing Paki-pigs trying to infiltrate the Indian border.

The Department of Homeland Security had been alerted and the news has broken out this week.  Want to Bet whether Orion/Diana is going to be offer when the next US President visits India?

web_controlled_shotgun

My Mischievous Half murmurs, ‘Did the farmer read my post or is he actually a mad-Georgian a la mad.madrasi?’
:-E
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Will India win the ICC World Cup or be left out on WC


All they had to do was announce the team for the ICC Cricket World Cup to start the bickering.  Reading through, there is little doubt that all comments were made on the hope that someone else’s arguments would convince that the best team was, indeed, selected. :-)

When someone criticizes selection of Piyush Chawla over Pragyan Ojha, no doubt he is asking to be assuaged about the ‘why’ and not hear more laments like his own.

Similarly, when someone laments the exclusion of Rohit Sharma or Sreesanth, they are plaintively crying out for assurance that better players have replaced them.

Now, let us set such sentiments aside and take a good, hard look at the situation.  To do that, we are going to look at the the Indian team, current forms of teams, track records of teams, and the playing conditions.

Playing conditions:

All matches are going to be played in the sub-continent and hence we can expect knee height bounce, pretty slow wickets and not shoulder high bouncers or seam & swing, like in The Ashes or in South Africa recently. 
There is also reason to suspect that the pitches would NOT be made ‘especially’ spinner friendly, since England, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have good spinners who can run through any opposition under such conditions.  The BCCI must also be vary of repeating the fiasco of 1996 World Cup semi-final.

The only help the bowlers may or may not get will be the dew factor, as most matches are Day/Night fixtures.  Whether the dew factor will help or hinder will again depend upon the situation of the match.  If spinners are operating, and the runs-to-get is small, the bowling team will rue their luck.  If the bowling team is pacer heavy at ‘that’ time with many runs-to-get, reverse swing might put the batting team in trouble - especially if there had earlier been a top order collapse.

Track record in the sub-continent:

This is the most important factor which is going to affect the finalists line-up.  The stats for the last 5 years from 18 Jan 2007 till date are :
(excluding abandoned, cancelled, no-results and between combined teams like Asian IX vs African XI).

In India: Total matches played : 42
India won 28 of 42 matches - 66% - with the opponents -
  • Australia 8 of 13 - 61%;
  • South Africa 1 of 3 - 66%;
  • Pakistan 2 of 5 - 40%;
  • Sri Lanka 2 of 7 - 28%;
  • West Indies 1 of 4 - 25%;  and
  • New Zealand 0 of 5
In Sri Lanka:  Total matches played : 40
Sri Lanka won 19 of 34 - 55% - with opponents -
  • India 10 of 17 - 58%;
  • England 3 of 5 - 60%;
  • Pakistan 2 of 6 - 33%; and
  • Bangladesh 0 of 4 and New Zealand 0 of 2
  • 6 matches involved 3rd teams;
    • Bangladesh won 0 of 2 (vs. India & Pakistan);
    • India won 2 of 3 vs. New Zealand; &
    • India won 1 of 1 vs. Pakistan
As we can see, the teams which top 50% or more wins are India, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England.  The fight is going to be in between these giants with Bangladesh and Pakistan capable of springing a surprise or two.  And whoever of these gets surprised by Bangladesh/Pakistan will not make it to the semis.

BTW the stats have been collected from cricinfo and the google docs spreadsheets are here
India-in-India - in-in-in
India-in-Sri Lanka - in-in-sl

Current Form of Teams:
The current form of these 5 teams are almost the same as reflected in the above stats.  The Aussies are still a formidable One Day International (ODI) team;  most of their test debacle is (not ?) being blamed on their emphasis on Twenty20 (T20) form in domestic cricket.  While T20 is not exactly ODI, can there be any doubt that a brilliant T20 batsman or bowler can be effective in ODIs?  Maybe they might not win matches on their own, but a couple of them combining in one ODI would pocket the game for their team.

The English can bask in their Ashes glory, but their World Cup woes are going to be exposed in their current 7 match ODI series in Australia.  There is a feeling that by the end of the series, it is going to be a battered England, which turns up for the World Cup.

The present Sri Lanka can give a run for their money, but don’t appear to be world beaters.  And whatever happens in South Africa, the Proteas can be expected to ‘stumble’- no comments by me - enough has been said by Dhoni.  The Pakitanis are at the lowest confidence level ever; but as is well known, they are the most unpredictable team ever.
;-)
which leaves us with the

Team India:

To cut to the chase without any long explanations - 

Going in with one wicket keeper is going to cost India dear - Raina or Kohli aren’t good enough behind the stumps at a World Cup.

No all-rounders (except the half-rounder Yusuf Pathan) is going to show up in a couple of games, when the top order fails; as it invariably does on occasions.  The only thing to hope is that such top order collapse occurs earlier in the tournament, in round-robin games, and not in knock-out stages.

Of all the players only Tendulkar seems solid. 
  • Sehwag’s death wish to flash-without-a-care outside the off stump;
  • Gambhir’s tendency to fall over to in-swingers;
  • Yuvraj’s poor form and fondness for run outs;
  • Raina’s weakness against short pitched deliveries;
  • Dhoni’s oft seen dilemma whether to hold or to hit out;
  • Yusuf Pathan’s batting inconsistency;
  • Harbajan's penchant to spin the ball only on ‘friendly’ wickets;
  • Nehra’s spray rather than bowl tendency - the worst since Agarkar;
  • Pravin Kumar’s lolly-pop half-volleys under some conditions;
  • Piyush Chawla, the laughing-stock, who will-not-get-a-game
are all concerns for this team. 

Add the injury scare - it is not easy to figure out how to pull the ‘injury-stats’ from cricinfo - but if memory is right, all of the players (except Chawla, Ashwin and Kohli) have broken down during the last one year.  And all of those injuries have been described as ‘niggling’ - meaning there is a question whether they have been completely cured and can pop up anytime.

The lynchpins in the team will be Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Sachin Tendulkar who seem solid in the 15.  Ashwin and Virat Kohli are still untried in big-time-crunch situations - unlike a T20, where one single burst over 4 or 8 overs with bat or ball can win a match, to win an ODI needs sustained effort.  At least two efforts of 8 overs with the ball and bat at crucial times are necessary to win an ODI - more so in big-time arena like the World Cup.

‘Af'ter-Dhoni-who?’ factor is another major worry for this team.  If Dhoni is injured, India will be short of not only quality wicket keeper, but also the Captain Cool and can kiss the World Cup hopes goodbye!

Ooohhhh!  What a long post!
Reposted on 19th Jan, with links to spreadsheets and credit to cricinfo.
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Free Ms Office training manuals


The Mouse Training Company, UK have released all their Training manuals for MS Office (versions 2007, 2003, 2002(XP) and 2000) as freely downloadable at their website at mousetraining.co.uk.

The Manuals have been released under Wiki Commons Licence so the PDF files, once downloaded can be stored and used indefinitely; they can also be edited, printed or distributed.

The Manuals themselves are of great value.  It will enable the beginners and average users (which most of us probably are) to understand the complexity and full capability of the MS Office suite and get the most out of it.  Most users of MS Office suite still carryout the day-to-day functions like assimilation, calculation and distribution of information manually;  while reading and understanding these excellent manuals will enable such users to utilize the power of the PCs and the MS Office suite to do the routine donkey-work, giving more time to devote to Minesweeper or Pinball.

For more experienced users these manuals would serve as a handy quick reference.  So go ahead and grab a copy - learn to use the full range of functions of MS Office suite.

Disclosure: I have no business relationship of any nature with mousetraining.co.uk or to Office Watch where I read the news first.
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96 school going is Awesome, only 20 can count is Awful


The theory that the media has the ability to slant the news and influence the public mindset is nothing new.  But is startling to see two divergent take on the same report on the same day.  It concerns an NGO study on the enrolment of children in schools and their reading, writing and arithmetic ability - the Annual Survey on Education Report in India.

While one national daily chose to lead with the really Awesome headline that ‘96 out of 100 children attend school’, another national daily went with the lead that ‘one out of two class 5 student will fail class 2 test’, which is really awful.  Both the articles point out the shameful fact that 1 out of 3 class One students cannot recognize the numbers 1 to 9.

But should we be worried?  The GoI is already on the job with an Indian version of ‘No Child Left Behind’ policy called the Right to Education Act.  The American Act allows the states to set their own achievement standards; quite understandable since the US is not a unitary structure (even though they call it so), but is federal.

India on the other hand is more unitary and hence the achievement standards have been set by the Union (Central) Government under the RTE.  We have also had a singular judgement passed on the basis of the Act - No Child should be left behind till 8th standard - that is, no student can be detained till he or she is at 8th standard.
  • But if 1 out of 3 cannot count?
The Ministry of Finance has out-thought these useless surveys by abolishing all coins and numbers between 0 and 50 and 50 and 100 - did you not read my earlier post?  Seeing the numerals involved in 0, 50 and 100 are 4 zeroes and one 5 and one 1, they have learn only ZERO and the students would know 4 out of 6 numbers - pretty neat, is it not?
:-P
  • How will those children pass the high school?
They will get to attend 8th standard and pass out too - because some states have a standing directive that not more than 1 out of 6 students can be detained in school exams;  Thus the other 4 will get through (I am not forgetting the 6th kid- he is the one who can read!).  So there!
:-D
  • But if 1 out of 2 cannot read?
Why do you worry about that?  The Health Ministry just 3 days back asked the Medical Council of India not to enforce Common Entrance Test (CET) for admission to Medical Colleges.  The council has been directed to enrol students based on the school pass out marks (where, if you care to remember, only 1 out of 6 can be failed).  Problem solved.
8-O
  • But what about my health, in future?
What the hell are you worried about?  Or are you feeling so cocky that you ‘can’ read while some of those who pass out will not be able to read?  Are you trying to show off?
0:-)
Well read this prescription and tell me what they are!  What difference would it make if future professionals can’t read?  Neither can we, now!  ROFLMAO.

doc_scratch
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A Happy Pongal and Makara Sankranthi 2011


Today is the day of Pongal (Makara Sankranthi), the harvest-thanksgiving festival, in India although this festival is celebrated under different names all over South and South East Asia.
  • In Nepal - as Maghi or Maghe Sankranti,
  • In Thailand - as Songkran
  • In Laos - as Pi Ma Lao
  • In Myanmar - as Thingyan
  • In Cambodia - as Moha Sangkran
So where ever you are, here is wishing you a very happy Pongal and a great harvest.  Here is the kolam (sand painting using rice flour) at the entrance to my apartment complex - a simple, austere celebration to the Sun God.

pongal_kolam

Note the Sun on top and the flowers blooming at him.  Then are the 2 lights (Deepams), a symbolic representation of the Sun.  The pot containing Pongal (Rice cooked with jaggery) is flanked by 2 sugar canes and the flowers Lotus and the Lilly - signifying plenty.
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India's Stealth fighter MAYA - very very stealthy!


We Indians have the propensity to invent ideas and science even before existing technology can explain or sustain such.  It was no accident that we gave both the idea of ‘zero’ and ‘infinity’ to the mathematics world.  Offhand, one such breakthrough, that comes to mind, is the much vaunted indigenous ‘AWACS’ program.  Since we did not want or could not buy either the Hawkeye or Sentry or Mainstay or even the Phalcon, we went out on our own.

Only that the AWACS program, termed AEW (Airborne Early Warning) proved much more capable.

While the test aircraft took off on its last (ill fated) sortie in 1999, it crashed on take-off, killing everyone on board.  The loss of scientists was a great shock and setback and since India cherishes its scientists more than others (except for her politicians), the program was terminated and decision was later taken to go in for Israeli Phalcon.  If scientists have to die, better non-Indians than our own.

While the causes of the crash are still classified, the mad.madrasi has this speculative take - the AEW system proved to be too good.  Instead of just an Early Warning System, it started to project really EARLY on the system screens.  Thus when the aircraft took off, the AEW system actually started to project that the aircraft was in fact landing - the resultant confusing decisions, whether the plane was taking off or touching down, ended up in a stall and a crash.
;-P

In the same vein, a humorous (and imaginary) write up from a few years back in Orkut, on India’s Stealth fighter.  It is not a copy/paste, but a rewrite from memory - and no (c) problems, as the original was mine.
India develops ‘stealth’ fighter aircraft - named MAYA (Illusion)

To the many Indians who wonder and are feeling jealous of the US stealth fighter F-22A Raptor, here is the good and top secret news - no need for envy anymore.  India’s own Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) have already developed a stealth aircraft, much more superior to the Raptor in its evasive techniques - so superior, it is being termed as the 6th generation aircraft.

The MAYA which means Illusion in Sanskrit is an apt name for such an aircraft, though it is murmured with a wink and a smile that it is a coincidence. 

The MAYA is an acronym : Medium, Air-superiority, stealthY, Aircraft. 

The fighter was intended and designed to be completely invisible in the 5 aircraft detection techniques namely,
  • Radio
  • Radar
  • Infrared
  • Acoustic &
  • Visual
The design parameters also called for MAYA to be equipped with Thrust Vectoring Controls, Canards and Supercruise ability.  Reports say that these 3 were not insurmountable issues and were fixed very quickly with the experience from building the Sukhoi-30MKI and operating/servicing the Sea Harrier.

The stealth part has been reported to have given much more problems.  However, with the technology and experience gained in designing the LCA Tejas, the carbon fiber composite (CFC) was put to greater use - almost 99% of the air frame is rumoured to be of composites.  Special techniques and tools were created to achieve an almost total coating of the air frame.

The technique has been patented with the name VASTRA which means 'Cloth’ in Sanskrit. 

Again, VASTRA is an acronym: Vitriolic Application of Special composiTes for Radiation Absorption.

With assistance from the DRDO labs,  a revolutionary new technique was invented to integrate an active electromagnetic field along with and around the composite material, enveloping the full air frame.  When excited with low intensity electrons (like a mild electric current), a field was observed (to everyone’s surprise) to make the composite tiles (and the whole air frame) almost transparent.

While exact technology has been classified as top secret, with rumours that not even the Prime Minister can access the files, scientists explain that it is something of cross between Romulan Cloaking device and Plasma Stealth.  They have given a new name for it too.

It is another acronym SRUTI:  Stellar inteRaction with Unexpected True Invisibility.  (While the Sanskrit word Sruti means ‘listening’, leaks suggest that the acronym was adopted for its character - ‘Sruti’ is supposed to be of ‘divine origin’ - not to be questioned (and beyond explanation).

While SRUTI effectively made the aircraft Optically transparent and impervious to detection by Radar, the composite coating VASTRA itself was instrumental in eliminating the Infrared signature, making MAYA totally missile proof.

By using the knowledge gained on acoustic masking while building the nuclear submarine Arihant, we understand that a special noise cancellation system has also been invented.

While scientists were totally mum on VASTRA and SRUTI, they were more forthcoming on the noise cancellation system, stating that it is similar to the Bose noise cancelling Head Phones.  The system has been given, what else but, an acronym, NISHABT, meaning ‘no sound’ in Sanskrit.

NISHABT: Noise eliminatIng acousticS Housing Applying Bose Technique

Here is the only available, released photo of the MAYA

Indian_stealth_Maya

Reports say that the aircraft is never found without the tarp cover on.  At first it was thought that it was to protect its secrecy.  But slowly the news has leaked that repeated tests with SRUTI has made the composite body to measurably retain the transparency ability.

Repeatedly energizing the SRUTI field seems to have sparked the composite to maintain its invisibility even when the system has been powered down.  The effect was not noticeable during earlier stages, but as tests progressed, reached an alarming stage where if the tarp is removed, the aircraft cannot be seen anymore.

Sounds like magic, isn't it?

At first no one could make anything out of it, but studies by ISRO and BARC have confirmed that the SRUTI system has transformed into something else.

They have termed it SUSRUTI (sacred object) - SUstainable SRUTI. 

Thus it was that India became the first country to possess a totally invisible aircraft.

And the first to lose one.

WTF?

Yeah, the stealth fighter MAYA, the one and the only prototype ever built cannot be found.  No one is sure of what exactly happened, but it seems SUSRUTI became entirely self sustaining at a given point in time - like an uncontrolled nuclear reaction.

To make matters worse, during the monsoon the tarp cover was not secured properly and in a very windy storm, simply blew off, leaving the stealthy MAYA uncovered.  Those involved speculate that the tarp while being whipped away, took away the wheel chocks too.  

And the stealthy MAYA was rolled off by the unusually heavy wind onto another part of the sprawling airbase.  Extensive search has been carried out and are still being carried out, but a wistful scientist involved in VASTRA speculates that the Aircraft has just faded away!

As he termed it, ‘It is all Maya!  Everything is Maya! Nothing else!’
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China flies the stealth plane - where is India’s?


Even the Americans are concerned that the Chinese could so stealthy build a stealth aircraft (pun intended).  The Chinese had the gumption to take it out for a spin just when the SecDef was on a jaunt to China.  Even more galling was their bland statement that ‘the test flight is not connected to SecDef visit’.  That the Chinese are known to do things in an ‘in-your-face’ fashion, when their are riled, elated or sad is well known.  So, this weeks drama should be taken as one of elation - at SecDef visit - in good faith.
:-D

So while China marches on in its own ‘stealthy’ way, what was India doing all the while?  It would be totally wrong to think that We Indians have been sucking thumbs and doing nothing to better the security situation.  Indian scientists have been slogging for almost a generation, a full 27 years, to design and build the nation’s own, completely brand new, high performance Light Combat Aircraft - the Tejas (Radiant).   The foolish do laugh as only the fools can do, that:
  • With thrust-to-weight ratio of less than 1, it is indeed meant only for ‘light’ combat (Here is an excellent post on T/W ratios of most fighters [http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/fighterplanes/texts/articles/twr.html])
  • If it had been designed slightly heavier, India could have dispensed with the $9bn MRCA
  • If instead it had been downgraded to trainer, it could have entered operation sooner and India need not have signed the $2.4bn AJT-Hawk. ($1.7bn in 2003 plus $0.7bn in 2010)
  • It might even have been superior and more sale able than the Korean T-50 Golden Eagle trainer, which has the same engine and is comparable to the Tejas
  • The Tejas thus looks more like a bastard runt who cannot be disposed off, but has to be discreetly housed in the countryside - away from action
Let the fools laugh.  They who do not understand the issues will keep laughing their heads off - and possibly shoot themselves in the foot.  The facts are:
  • LCA Tejas was never meant to be a Sukhoi-30 MKI
  • Out of 35 major systems on board, only the 3 critical are foreign; rest all are indigenously developed.
  • The Tejas allowed India to master the glass cockpit and carbon fibre composites technology
  • The Tejas is far superior to the outdated MiG-21s, which it is intended to replace
And as for the question why India is not developing a stealth plane, we are already on the job in collaboration with the Russians - the PAK-FA or as we prefer to call it FGFA.  I feel that anything Pak is anathema for us, hence the re designation from PAK-FA to FGFA.

As for India’s indigenous Stealth fighter, read a humorous and imaginary take in the next post.

My Wicked half whispers,’If Tejas was to replace MiG-21 fleet, why should a new airbase be built for her?  Why not replace/augment the existing MiG fleet at their present airbases?’
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PISS code for blogs, Twitter and FaceBook - one code for all


I first released the PISS code (an Ethics code) for bloggers (under WTFPL) more than a month back, and it sank without a bubble (perhaps a Hobbit was involved) :-)   Actually a more reasonable explanation is that I didn’t blog about it.

Whatever, with today’s concerns that the UK OFT is also taking note of sponsored and paid advertisements by bloggers, tweeters and FaceBook users, here is the amended version 2.0 of the code.

The code is basically a modification of the Ethics code for Journalists, proposed by Prashant Agarwal’s on WSJ.  The principal difference is the reference to the allegiance to the Republic (of India) and serve its (the Republic’s) interests above all other interests.  While I am enamoured of the idea, vision, concept and life of the Republic of India, I do not agree that the interests of the Republic of India will always reflect the best interests of the common man.

The interests of the Republic of India (as of all nation states) are dictated by the administration and in a liberal, sovereign, democratic republic will reflect the interests of the ruling parties at that time.  If not so, there need not be an opposition party or ideology and even a Parliament as it exists.

So I was inspired to think of and write out the PISS code (PROMISE OF INTEGRITY SHORT AND SIMPLE code) which I feel takes care of all the issues that a blogger, tweeter or a FaceBook or other social networking forums can relate to.

The current amendment which basically entails introduction of clause (4) of the code would / should satisfy the recent concerns of the UK’s OFT (Office of Fair Trading) as also the earlier guidelines of the US FTC (Fair Trading Commission), even though I am not a resident or citizen of either of them.

But in fairness to all readers, I feel that the concerns expressed by those bodies are reasonable and should be addressed to.

Hence the amended PISS code.   The PISS code itself is released under Do What the Fuck You Want To Public Licence (WTFPL) and as the name suggests can be done anything with.

Here is the copy of the PISS code.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
PROMISE OF INTEGRITY SHORT AND SIMPLE (PISS)
Version 02 - January 2011
1.  Write on facts to the best of my ability
2.  Disclose any possible conflicts of interest
3.  Not be influenced by monies, gifts, gratuities or threats from anyone
4.  Disclose when 'material connections' exist in reviews or endorsements
5.  Remain focussed, unbiased, practice Satyagraha and take utmost care
6.  Not ask, request, endorse, demand or encourage release of any information of any nature covered by Official Secrets Act (or its national equivalent), into public domain by anyone who is not authorised to do so by competent authority, except when such information reveals illegal acts of any nature
7.  Obey all rules, laws and regulations in existence subject to (6) above 
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Any and all bouquets and brickbats are welcome.




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We love blasphemers, while Taliban and Tea-party kill them


This post concerns religion and may offend persons who are sensitive about religion & zealots.  If you are one, read no further >:-/

The last seven days has seen two actions of personal violence against prominent personalities who held liberal views and the violence has been because of their liberal, forward thinking views on religion or socio-political issues.

The first was Salman Taseer who was killed by his own bodyguard for openly talking about and working to amend the blasphemy law in Pakistan.  Now we all know that most Pakistanis  have a screw loose and are ever willing to take up violence at the drop of shalwar.  So this killing was not such a surprise.

Of mild surprise was the attack in Tucson, Arizona  on the Democratic Representative, Ms. Gabrielle Giffords.  Only a mild surprise because even Arizonans are not surprised by the violence as their state leaders have been pouring vitriol into political issues.

Even without such political animosity, the mad.madrasi take is that both the Taliban and the Tea-party are alike - fundamentalists wanting to go back to an era, which in their opinion was utopia.  Their religions are basically of the same book with a different cover; as is Judaism (no pun intended); the so called Abrahamic religions.  They  all believe in essentially the same book - the critical division being the question of ‘who-was-the-last-prophet’?

I know it is over simplifying things, but ‘which prophet one believes’ is the last of the prophets - Moses, Jesus or Muhammad determines which religion he/she belongs to.  You could be able to bridge all other differences, but this question of the last prophet is the crux of their belief.

And where the fight erupts, most of the time.

It is for allegedly raising this question  Aasiya Bibi was to be punished with death, then pardoned (??) and whose case Salman Taseer himself took up; to pay with his life.

But then, if you ask an American which religion he belongs to?; You’re likely to hear that she is a Methodist or a Lutheran or an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian or some such other - not Christian.
:-P

So let us just try and understand what this blasted blasphemy means?  It can be broadly defined as ‘a contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning a sacred entity’.  As such a law does not exist in India or in liberal democracies, citizens of these countries should breathe free.

But wait a minute.  Doesn’t my country has a law which says ‘offending religious sentiments of someone is criminal’ under which former cricketer Ravi Shastri was to be  charged for eating Beef (which is against some Hindus belief) in Johannesburg?  I mean, look at this, a man eats beef in Johannesburg and he could be charged in India?

The original law givers in India, the British themselves abolished the blasphemy laws in 2008.  But nearby Ireland enacted a blasphemy law which came into effect on 1 Jan 2010.  So much for liberal democracies.

Seriousness apart, one Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been repeatedly promising and talking of low inflation rates in 3 months or 6 months for the last year and half -

  • he promised low inflation by Dec 2010; 
  • instead we had food price inflation of 18.23%;
  • his latest is the assertion that food prices will come down by February.

My Wicked Half whispers,’Can’t his repeated abuse of common man’s patience and intelligence termed as outraging the sentiments of people and action taken against him?’

Once more, this Subhani cartoon fits the picture (originally published Nov 16, 2009) and also my earlier post.
manmohan_and_his_cuckoo_clock
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Warm smile and a forked tongue


The assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of the province of Punjab in Pakistan last week was a stark reminder of what religious extremism and bigotry can bring about.  How such bigotry can destroy the political, social fabric of a nation.  It is also a warning to anyone who still harbour and finance terrorism, thinking that the monster can be harnessed; that it will pay heed to the wishes and commands of its protectors.
 
There is a poignant and moving article by his daughter Shehrbano Taseer in Deccan Chronicle, wherein we learn that Governor Taseer studiously fought against such bigotry and dictatorship and was even imprisoned by the evil dictator Zia-ul-Haq.  There was also this write up by Farrukh Dhondy on Governor Taseer, (Deccan Chronicle on Saturday). (both links disappeared in Oct 2012)

A point of interest to us - the Indians (as also to the Americans & the British) - is that Ms. Shehrbano Taseer has mentioned the former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan as one of the few to still standing up to be counted as one of the liberals.   Those who have seen him on TV in India during Cricket discussions would tend to agree with that view.  But I am not so easily taken in, especially with his article calling on US to abandon Afghans, yesterday. 

In the article Imran Khan grinds his own axe, but twice states that jihadi groups are being supported to fight foreign occupation.  First time around he writes,

  • ‘tribal groups who had fought against the Soviets and whose idea of jihad was a war against foreign occupation...’,

a clear admission that even after Soviets left, the Pakistanis had kept up the concept of foreign occupation - meaning the ‘K’ word.

That clearly lays down the future path for India.  Even moderate Pakis cannot be trusted and in their hearts, they have a deep hatred towards us.  India has to keep fighting the state sponsored terrorism from the bloody Pakis, whether variety Musharaf, variety Zardari or variety Imran are at the helm.  So even though a strong and stable Pakistan is in our own best interest, strategy suggests that we should ardently pray for what Imran is afraid of - a shattered and fragmented Pakistan.

By which I mean not a Pakistan that is divided as
  • P(unjabi) -stan
  • A(fghani) -stan
  • K(hyberi) -stan
  • I(slamabadi) -stan
  • S(indhi) -stan
  • T(ribali) -stan
  • (Balochist)AN
or any other ‘stans’.

Just enough that the Pakistanis confidence is shattered and they are fragmented enough to keep fighting, bombing and killing each other.  At least more marches like these which will help push the country to go to the dogs
:-P

File:PAK AU T1.svg
(border of the Republic India depicted are not true or correct)

My Mischievous Half murmurs, ‘Didn’t I blog earlier that Pakistanis, even moderate ones cannot be trusted?  Reminds me of an old joke -

Q: How do you identify a Pakistani child?
A: Look for smile and a forked tongue.’
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I got my Key; Now why don’t you?


Digeus have kept true to their word and have sent me the ‘free’ key for the Digeus Registry Cleaner about which I wrote up.  As mentioned there, they are willing to distribute ‘free’ keys to anyone who reviews or writes up about the Digeus Registry Cleaner.  Here is the (edited) copy of email I received from Digeus in appreciation of the review and the ‘free’ registration code.
---------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 20:21:58 +0300
From: isabella (dot) white (at) digeus (dot) com
Organization: Digeus, Inc
X-Mailer: The Bat! (v4.0.24) Professional
Dear mad.madrasi,
Thank you for your review ! It is great.
Please mention in your blog about a giveaway for your readers if they also create
a review in any blog/forum/twitter/facebook, etc, and contact me with link to the review,
I will issue a reg code and name for them.
Here is your registration information:
Registration name: mad.madrasi
Registration code: <Click here to know about the Key>
Please enter this information in [Help]->[Registration] dialog of the program.
We recommend you to copy-paste registration code as sometimes people may confuse
characters '0' (zero) with 'O' (Orange), etc.
Please note, you don't have to download or reinstall this product again.
This license releases all restrictions.
If you have any questions about our products, don't hesitate to ask them.
Sincerely,
Isabella White,
Public Relations Manager,
Digeus, Inc
------------------------------------------
So, what are you waiting for?  Go ahead!  Write it up, email Ms. White with the URL and get a free key in your own name.  BTW, when you write up, as a favour, mention mad.madrasi as the one who tipped you!
0:-)





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Six Jokers in the pack say the brat pack


Today is the last day of the 98th Indian Science Congress at Chennai and despite every attempt to put a different spin, a cheerful picture does not emerge.  On Monday, all the newspapers carried this advertisement.

98th_indian-science-congress

The cribbers started almost as soon they had the paper in hand.  From fetch-the-milk time (5:15 AM) in the morning till the after-dinner-smoke time (9:30 PM), at least 2 score and half a people were commenting on the piece.

The foolish were sniggering that the photo strips have been reversed; that the picture strip of the Nobel Laureates should have been on top while the images of the Ministers should have hugged the ground.  No amount of reasonable explanation seemed to assuage the spite reserved for the ad.  I mean it is not as if every advertisement, every invitation where the Ministers appear is scrutinized and approved by the Ministry or the PMO.

Surprisingly, the idiocy developed a virus like infectious property and like the common cold, started to spread - from
  • the labourers who appear in the early mornings,
  • to the middle class office goers rushing around at mid morning,
  • to the yuppie professionals out for power lunch at noon time,
  • to the ‘already-there-business-honchos’ relaxing in the evening.
The same time at least a score and half of the brat pack, from
  • teens just into their freshman years,
  • to the all knowing sophomores,
  • to the quick as silver Gamers,
  • to just-out professionals with great jobs & couldn’t care attitudes,
  • to post-grad types working at F500 multinationals, home for holidays
too seemed to have caught the ignorance virus; the brat pack infection was widespread - from Mumbai to Madurai, from Hyderabad to Coimbatore and from Bengaluru to Tuticorin. The Hyderabad brats were the worst, almost ROFL pointing at the MoS for HRD vis-a-vis 2009 Chemistry Laureate.

The Mumbai brats appeared equally amused that the Nobel Laureates were put up in the 2nd row of the dais, while the politicians hogged the 1st row.

By mid morning the smart brats had counted the number of images on the ad and started calling it ‘Six Jokers in the pack’
8-O

By noon, almost choking at the disparaging comments, I pointed out that a pack of cards has 13 and this ‘pack’ lacks the 13th card.  By now, I should have learned that the contemporary brat pack is the smartest, brightest yet.  Without hesitation the retort came out that the lacking 13th card is the ‘King’ - the spectrum ‘Raja’ - keeping his head down.  Me and my big mouth!

Further arguments that it is still an ‘alleged’ scam, either at the common people or the brats were met with a knowing sneer and a wink.

Going further with the pack of cards allegory, it is clear that the formerly discarded Queen of Hearts is the toast of these citizens.  Also clear that the current UPA partners are likely to face disaster in the forth coming TN Assembly Elections.  Unless the alliance partners (at least one of them) pulls out an Ace in the hole.

During the early morning pow-wow, happened to eavesdrop on a couple of house maids off to work - the morning sweep and clean of house/apartment entrances.   And surprised to hear them chatting about the merits of ECE versus EEE including the subjects and topics covered.  My shock trebled when the staid, solid codger chatting with me began to stare at one

He took one look at me, laughed and confessed.  That particular maid was indeed engaged to clean up his apartment complex.  A couple of years back she had brought around her daughter for his advice.  On whether the daughter should concentrate on getting though to Engineering or opt for a Commerce Degree.

It seemed that both the daughter and her mom - the house maid - were ignorant of how to go about it at that time; weren’t even able to comprehend what exactly a science or a commerce degree was for.  Today, the daughter either must be readying to get into college or in her freshman year and the same woman seems capable of enlightening us about the merits of ECE and EEE.

Which brought out the facts of life!  The brat pack once it learns to use technology, mainly the internet, is far more smarter and wiser.  Moreover the brats wise up their near and dear ones too.

If the brat pack decides on the political situation, hereafter, the situation is that they will take their family along.  There is no way even today, that I can convince my father or mother to alter their political thinking.  But the present day brat pack, by showing their parents that they can make a giant intellectual leap (and by making much more moolah than their parents ever did), would be able to do that.

rat_pack
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Blog rank 92 but comments went AWOL


An oft repeated mantra is that most SEO tools, suggestions and offers are ‘trial and error’ attempts and there are a very few genuine content out there.  I forgot or chose to forget that mantra in my haste to jump mad.madrasi to the top of the charts.

Instead of relying on my instincts, I agreed to a trial (no result - no pay) offer to tune the blog site. The result was the abysmal drop first to 16 and then a slight jump to 54, where it remained for last 10 days or so.  So no review for that (undisclosed) SEO.

Finally yesterday, I decided to ‘rework’ (an euphemism for ‘junking’) the SEO suggestions  and go out on my own instincts.  Viola!  The Blog ranking has shot up to 92.  Unbelievable!  My best ranking yet.

In the excitement, I forgot to check whether the comment form was working or not.  That the comment section has disappeared and has been so for sometime was gently pointed out to me yesterday.  Not that my posts are inundated with comments.
 :-)

That error has been corrected.  So keep on (not) commenting
<:-D

see_hear_ speak_no_evil
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Tune PC, write review and get a Licence


Digeus Inc. have offered 10 free licences for (1st ten) reviews of their Registry Cleaner to the readers of mad.madrasi monkeyshines.  Be one of the first to grab a licence by reviewing it in 100 words or more in any blog/forum.  If you do, please send me the review link to forward to Digeus for follow up.

A little background:
A Windows PC over a period of time, even within a month of use, accumulates a lot of junk files - temporary files, left over files from software that have been uninstalled and unwanted files, user MRU lists (Most Recently Used file lists) and others.  However use and claimed performance of a registry cleaner is a controversial subject; but personally I believe in them.

The two reliable ones till now have been the versatile CCleaner (CC) and Wise Registry Cleaner Free (WRC).   But CCleaner is primarily not a registry cleaner and its registry cleaning function is minimal.  Wise Registry Cleaner is far more tuned as a registry cleaner, but being a Chinese product, have to be taken with a pinch of salt.  Thus the Digeus (a NY based company) offer is too good to resist, though delayed a couple of weeks due to the holidays.

To the review:
Getting and installing the Digeus Registry Cleaner  is easy; At just 1.51 MB it is small enough for a quick download and installation is a breeze.  No nag screens, newsletter, alter-home-page requests or additional toolbar installation is involved.  The Defense+ component of the Comodo Internet Security free only protested once - saying that ‘reg_cleaner_5-5.exe is safe, but digeous registry cleaner.msi is unknown’. 

(update: The file has been submitted to Comodo for analysis and hopefully this warning should disappear soon) :-D 

Even better, the Digeus Registry Cleaner (DRC) didn’t run to DNS/RPC to try and connect to internet once fired up - a definite plus.

Next action was to fire up CCleaner (CC) and install Wise Registry Cleaner (WRC).  The purpose was to check whether all the three cover all the registry sections.  CC has the registry divided into 13 sections while the WRC has 4 more in addition.  The Digeus Registry Cleaner doesn’t show 3 of the WRC extras - IE Url History, Image File Exe Opt and Empty Keys.  However, it has 3 other - Codec Driver, Windows Themes and Mouse Appearance. 

(update:  on scanning DRC does catch empty keys - only it calls it Null Values ?!?)

Now the UI (User Interface).  CC’s buttons by tradition, are not intuitively placed on the top (ribbon) but down at the bottom.  With WRC it is below the menu bar (ribbon) and prominent.  In Digeus, they are at the right place and the UI is ‘functional’.

When scanned with all the three, simultaneously, the CC finished first with WRC in second place while the Digeus Registry Cleaner took more time;  But scan speed or time taken were not the criteria when the results came up. 

The CC showed up 8 inconsistencies, 6 of them in the MRU list. 
cclnr_3_02_1343

The WRC showed up 57 of them with 53 on the MRU list.
wrc5_89_332

With DRC, there were a total of 453 inconsistencies and unfortunately it doesn’t give out an individual count - counting them by hand is something left for next Xmas holidays :-D
digeus_registry_cleaner_5_5

Then to evaluate whether everyone caught each other.  The WRC didn’t catch the ‘file type’ .php error reported by CC.  But it caught the ‘file type’ .cav reported by CC, another ‘file type’ blank.htm and 2 new ‘empty keys’ - TrendMicro and Windows 3.1 Migration Status.

The Digeus Registry Cleaner caught .cav and the blank.htm, but didn’t get either the ,php reported by CC or the 2 empty keys by WRC.

The next step is to clean/fix the inconsistencies; not by CC or WRC but by the Digeus Registry Cleaner.  Unfortunately, DRC is a trial version and since Digeus didn’t offer a trial key or some such, the DRC refused to clean any more than 5 inconsistencies at one go.  Grr >:/

When attempted any more, it required a purchase of a key or else to restart the program again.  Fortunately, the DRC does clean up further errors (5 at a time) once restarted and rescanned. 

Lo and behold!  After some 90 or so restarting the DRC and cleaning, the DRC declared the PC as without any errors. 

A further scan by CC showed up only the .php error mentioned above, which the DRC didn’t catch the first or other times around the block. 

The WRC continued to show the 2 inconsistencies and some more in the MRU list - guess the DRC isn’t so much oriented towards cleaning MRU lists. 

(update: By running the CC on cleaner mode the MRU lists (which showed up on WRC & not on Digeus) were removed;  they didn’t show up the next time around in WRC, while Digeus remained blank about them the whole time)

That said, DRC doesn’t auto backup the registry or offer to do so before attempting to clean it; although the registry for safety was repeatedly backed up (not 90 times, but 10 times).  Which posed a problem of its own - since Digeus doesn’t backup registry with time, but only with date -
  • like ‘RegistryBackup (04_01_2011).reg’, it involves modifying the name
  • like RegistryBackup (04_01_2011)a.reg, etc. - a real pain.
A little aside:
Why bother going the whole way by using DRC for 90 times?  Going the whole way is the mad.madrasi way!  No way that a just-for-fun-run of program is done and a review stating that it is good will be put out.  It has to pass the mad.madrasi due diligence.  Either that way or no way!

Back to Topic:
Thus reassured, it was time to take the bold step to reboot.  It is a ‘bold’ step because often enough a tool (during a requested review/trial), after a ‘thorough’ cleaning or optimising has crashed the system and the only option was to reinstall Windows.  Major Grr time >:/

The DRC was uninstalled (with Revo Uninstaller Free).  The purpose was to check whether DRC would again show up with some 400 odd errors, in which case this review would never have been written.

The bold step was taken and the PC was rebooted - not just restarted - but rebooted after cutting off power for a couple of minutes.  The first boot was into the Linux partition, not that DRC or any other Win-tool should have disturbed that.  Then onto Windows - and all the installed programmes were tried out, which, thankfully worked without a hitch.  Good work Digeus! 

(update:  Google Chrome refused once to display the google.com home page (only once), perhaps it was a connection error at that time)

Even though there are doubts whether such tools actually speed up the PC, a definite quickening the boot time and application up-time was ‘sensed’ - especially in FeedDemon Lite, where response time when clicking on individual subscriptions was instantaneous vis-a-vis a second or so earlier.   :-D

It was time to fire up all the 3 tools once again to check whether the DRC has actually cleaned errors as claimed and whether the DRC would again scream about 400 odd errors.  The CC and WRC reported only those 3 inconsistencies (& MRU lists in WRC as stated above) and nothing more.  The Digeus Registry Cleaner also kept true and did not report any errors.

Once again hats off Digeus!  It really has performed as stated, proving that DRC is NOT a Scareware.

The conclusion:

Wish list: (separated from ‘cons’ 05 Dec, 2011)
  • The UI of DRC itself might be made more pleasant - a more WRC type prominent ribbon, or lacking that, more prominent buttons.
  • At the end of a scan, a count of errors for each individual sections of the registry (like WRC) would be welcome
  • A filter setting to view the errors on each section (when clicked on) would also be welcome
  • Modification to add time element to registry back up is a top requirement.
Pros:
  • Digeus Registry Cleaner goes into the must-have tools pack - even if it cleans only 5 inconsistencies at a time.
  • It sure trumps CC and WRC.
  • Doesn’t mess up the registry or creates unnecessary additions to Win OS.  Both HiJackThis and AutoRuns scan after installation and a few runs of the Digeus Registry Cleaner detect no anomalies, which is a big plus. (added 05 Dec, 2011)
Cons: (wish list separated on 05 Dec, 2011)
  • It has removed all extra/additional/modified ‘themes’ from Desktop (Desktop -> Properties -> Themes), leaving only ‘windows classic’ (which of course is this PC’s default theme).  If you use eye-candy themes, be warned (update: you can always leave this option unchecked
  • Not much difference could be spotted  in Mouse Appearance, but this PC is configured as a work-horse without any eye candy; be warned again (update: you can always leave this option unchecked
  • An auto-backup of registry before every cleaning (not that it would be of much use if the system crashes) would be essential.
Henceforth, Digeus Registry Cleaner would be a permanent fixture in my PC and all the PCs I am called in to advice for.

Disclosure:  As stated in 1st paragraph, this review if picked up further would earn me and 9 other reviewers (1st come 1st served basis) a chance to own a free licence from Digeus Inc.  Apart from it, there is no relationship between Digeus and me.

Warning:  As enumerated here, a true test of the software has been done.  However,I is not liable for any damage or anything else that happens to your PC or to you, if you follow (or not follow) the advice, suggestions or recommendations herein - please read the Licence page.
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Birth of a Tree


It was sometime in May 2004 that I planted in front of my apartment complex the tree featured in the Easter Sunday post, (an Indian Soap Nut tree) which the good friend who got me the sapling from the ‘tree-planting-drive’ informed was about 5 months old.

Which makes the 1st of January the adopted date of birth for ‘my’ tree.  This new year’s eve, since all the brats decided to celebrate it elsewhere, I decided to celebrate, decorate the tree for its New Year ‘birthday’.

Incidentally some friends helped to string up the balloons, the paper streams and the serial lights.  The serial light sets are almost 9 or 10 years old, the ‘brand’ new product of that time - the Chinese Rice Bulb sets.  Low on power consumption, but bright all the same.  Thus commenced this New Year’s eve. 
Incidentally, I found that all of those friends and colleagues had drifted away at the approach of the bewitching hour.

So,
At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world partied, mad.madrasi stood still and alone.  That moment came, which comes but once in an year, when I move from the old to the new, when an year ends, and when the hope of a person, long wished for, is striven again.
(no pun intended - definitely, absolutely, sincerely, truly not)

And found myself alone with the stray - Red, written about earlier.  Comfortable in each others company, she kept munching on a titbit lying at my feet, while I had a quiet smoke. 

I guess we were both contemplating the state of the universe, global warming, peak oil, water management, species extinction and food security.
O:-)

Thus we parted company - me to a simple dinner and a cosy bed and she to her night haunts, wishing each other a Fine New Year, under the ‘birthday’ tree. 

All photos taken with my Nokia 3500 classic mobile phone.  The 1st image is in normal mode, while the other two are with night mode on.  Notice how the serial lights resemble the sub-continent (with Af-Pak) at a particular angle - purely unintentional. 

Have a nice year India and all who reach and read here.
       tree_india_normal  
                       India at midnight                                 
       tree_india_night  
                     India ‘Shining’
        tree_view_night
        the hanging gardens of mad.madrasi
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