Showing posts from 2012

Birla Gliding Club

The Birla Gliding Club is one of the few interesting things that Pilani has to offer to someone, who is looking for a peaceful place outside the campus to visit on a lazy Sunday morning.

Positioned just outside the south-eastern gate of the BITS Pilani campus, the Birla Gliding Club was once an impressive playground for certain elitist factions of society, which, owing to a fatal accident a decade and a half earlier was closed down. Today it serves as a place that people can go visit, look at the sun rise or set depending on the time of the day, put on a pensive expression on their face and avoid being run over by the BITS BAJA team's indigenous All Terrain Vehicle, which is often driven here for testing purposes.

You can identify the Gliding Club by the distinctive "airstrip" that you can see just south of the campus.

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And lo, that's not all, the Gliding Club is also home to a few helipads which are used, interestingly, to this day.

After three and a …

Formula 1 transfer season : bittersweet thoughts

The 2012 season of Formula 1 has been very epic, thank you very much.

Every second spent following the 16 races that have happened till now has been well spent, and has yielded good returns. The downside is, that there are only four races left, after which we shall have to bid a heartfelt good bye to what has undeniably been one of the most exciting years in Formula 1 in recent history.

However, as the season drifts into its final phase and the driver's championship still seems precariously balanced on the edge of a knife, there is something that has quite taken the icing of the cake. Yes, ladies and gents, transfer season is here, and going by how things have shaped up it sure has been a shocker of sorts.

This post doesn't intend to tell you what has happened. Because everybody knows what has happened, and who's gone where for the next season. This post seeks to scrape the surface of what has been some of the most unassuming transfers and intends to dig deep into why the…

The Dark Knight Rises : a brutally honest review

This post is what its title claims it to be. A precise, unbiased and a thoroughly honest review of what was clearly the most anticipated offering from Hollywood this year.

How am I so sure that this is? Mainly because of two reasons. One, I am definitely not a Batman fan-boy, so I did not ignore plot holes and fallacies which I clearly remember choosing to do while sitting through the last Harry Potter installment. Two, I had heard a lot of both, positive and negative reviews from a host of other people and I had them all playing in my mind during the 3 hours. I thus watched the movie from what was a rather mixed perspective - composed of skepticism and faith in equal measure, and this is the reason why I hope the review is honest and unbiased.

And oh, huge spoilers follow. So tread at your own risk

One, the story.

On an absolute scale, the story was good. Not just good, it was quite brilliant. It had all the required moments, evoked all the right feelings, had the right twists in th…

The Euro crisis

This post was originally written for Youth Ki Awaaz. You can read the originally post here.

The economic and political success of the United States of America, since the end of the second world war had prompted their cousins across the Atlantic to dream of an entity that could be called the United States of Europe. But between this vision and its implementation lies a plethora of political, linguistic, financial and nationalist borders that cut up and divide Europe into small nation states, many of which are similar in physical and economic size to the states of America. This proliferation of borders in Europe has had a crippling effect on the economic well being of Europe, especially after the European states lost the colonial hinterlands in Asia and Africa whose natural resources were the bedrock of their economic health. To compensate for the loss of the colonies, European nation states have been dreaming of an economic and political union that would rival the Russian confederatio…

The Foundation series and why it is quite simply the greatest epic trilogy ever written

And though the title of this post is long, I'm not joking even one bit. It may not have the extravaganza of The Lord of the Rings but there are few things it doesn't do as well. If not better.

Right, in all probability you aren't familiar with the Foundation series, so I should, as a good commentator,  give a brief heads-up about it. So here goes.

The Foundation series was the triumphant climax of Isaac Asimov's career as a writer. It was a career that saw the rise to glory of one the greatest science fiction authors of all time. The sort of glory that dwarfs that of Douglas Adams and possibly even Carl Sagan. And while Asimov's stories revolved around "how science fiction" rather than "what science fiction", they played a crucial role, not only in the way the genre developed, but also in how science has evolved today.

What set Asimov's stories apart? Simply put, everything. His science fiction isn't the sort of science fiction that one …

An Open World

This article was published in the June 2012 issue of Linux For You,

It reflects on how open source is the natural outcome of, and fits in so well with, theglobal software ecosystem, which includes the Internet and the World Wide Web.

I shall begin by explaining what this article is not.

This article is not something technical. It is not a tutorial. It does not have lines and lines of code. It is not a set of tips on how to get something done. While I have absolutely nothing against the aforementioned types of articles and I have immense respect for the writers for writing the same and helping newbies like me learn new stuff, I am just not experienced enough to write such things yet.

But I am, nevertheless, an open source fanatic, a lover of all things Linux, and I have, over the past few years developed a certain understanding of a certain bigger picture that the whole concept of open source implies. This understanding is what this article is about.

Before we talk about open source,…

The Presidential Elections 2012 - simplified

This post was originally written for an internship program for Youth Ki Awaaz, India's leading youth platform. You can read the original post here.

The President of India is a mere figurehead within the structure of the Indian state and has no role to play in the economic, social, and cultural policies of India. In general, he or she acts as a mere postman and transmits the decisions taken by the government and gives it the aura of a sovereign decision. Except under one unique and special circumstance, when the Government of India ceases to exist.

When does this happen? It happens when a general election to the Lok Sabha results in a fractured verdict that leaves the country with no obvious party in power or a Prime Minister, and so no Government. This is when the Indian state regresses back to what someone would say “a barbaric and ungovernable state”. Without a clear mandate, each political party tries to use all resources, legal or otherwise to cobble together a semblance of temp…

Using PHP to download a MySQL table as an Excel sheet

This is one of the arbit ones, really. This needed to be done for one of the closing modules of my summer project at Ericsson, and though I searched high and low on the Internet I couldn't arrive at any definite solution.
However this bit of code does work. So feel free to try it out and use it if you need it.
So what are we doing here? Quite simply, a MySQL table exists in your database and we need the user to be able to see it as an Excel spreadsheet. In fact, as you'll see in the code that you can download it in any format be it, csv, ods or even docx and txt. But yeah, spreadsheet formats look good for tables and hence the priority is on that.

Here's the whole code.
<?php mysql_connect("localhost", "YOUR_MYSQL_USERNAME", "YOUR_MY_SQL_PASSWORD") or die(mysql_error()); mysql_select_db("DATABASE_NAME") or die(mysql_error()); $count = 0; $sqlquery = "select * from TABLE_NAME" ; $result = mysql_query($sqlquery) or d…

Lorem Ipsum 1 - after Kashmir and all that.

This isn't technically a post of any worthwhile content. Rather, it serves to plug the lacuna that this blog has been suffering for more than a month now. Hence the name.
Indeed, I've returned from Kashmir. Have been interning at Ericsson, at Calcutta for the summer. And yes, besides dabbling in PHP and JavaScript for most of the time at work, I've been trying my hand at Formula 1 writing now and then - doing race previews and reviews for the 2012 season.
You might want to hop onto this, this or this page to see what I'm talking about, if you are sufficiently jobless.
That asides, I have had a gazillion ideas bubbling in my mind about my next "proper" blog post, which I shall pen down, or rather, key in, when I get the time to.
Oh and one more thing. If you happen to be in India, the US, Malaysia or Singapore this month (it's almost over now, still), do consider picking up a copy of the Linux For You magazine, and turning to page 23. Yours truly would be…

Hey Oh, Kashmir and all that.

The Kashmir skyline looks too beautiful to be natural. So much, that it’s eerie. It’s like one of those default wallpapers you get with your operating system. The green expansive meadows; clumps of conifers scattered hither and thither; the occasional spring of icy cold water cutting its course through the greenery, and providing the only bit of dynamism to the otherwise ever-static scenery. And of course, the lofty snow capped peaks yonder.
The Kashmir skyline is exactly like that. It’s as if God spent a good couple of hours tweaking this bit of earth with Photoshop before He declared it done. And my, does it show.  One look at those snow capped peaks is much like a Mike Tyson undercut into your belly. It literally takes your breath away.

Living in a subtropical region all my life, I have had very few experiences with snow and snow capped mountains. The earliest was in Darjeeling, back in 1992, when I was but an 18 month old little organism, trying hard to keep my eyes open, and even h…

Saffron land!

Kashmir is known for several reasons. The "Switzerland of India" as many people call it; the rare Pashmina wool; the Dal lake. Also, the the incessant borderline dispute between India and Pakistan. There are however certain other things about this beautiful state that not many people are aware of. One is its cuisine, and the other is its spice. Overlapping as these two things might seem to be, this post is particularly about the latter.
The main spice that is grown in Kashmir is the saffron. There are several extremely interesting properties about this spice that are worthy of mention. One is its cultivation, the details of which follow :
Saffron is essentially the dried stigma of the flowers of the saffron crocus (scientific name Crocus sativus). The sativus is a small plant that grows to maximum height of 30 cm and bears up to four flowers. The plant flowers for a very short period every autumn - say for a couple of weeks only, when the cultivation is done quickly. That i…

The Importance of Knowledge : Measuring human progress

What is the one thing that measures human progress?

Is it possible, if at all, to isolate one such feature from millions and billions, that would with sufficient extrapolation, and with reasonably justified inaccuracies, be used directly or indirectly, to gauge the progress of mankind?
To answer this question let us look back in history. The earliest known practices of mankind have been in  attempts to answer things which people saw around them. And to do that, they conceptualised. They speculated; yes, man back then was an eclectic animal - easily inspired. Some people looked up at the heavens and sought inspiration from the sun, the moon and the stars. While yet others looked to the trees, to the wild boar and to the elephant. People worshiped these things, which gave them inspiration. And they explained natural phenomena by deriving ideas from these sources of inspiration. Of course, some of these early thinkers were wrong. But most of them were correct, or at least, they were hea…

Google Prediction APIs

Whatever the millions of Google Plus detractors might be saying around the world, Google Plus still is an incredible social platform for anyone with a flair for anything techie. To be more generic, it's incredible for any person who wants to know something new. Simply put, you come to know of newer and awesomer things happening around the world, on G+, which you otherwise wouldn't. You circle the right people, get into the right conversations, and before you know it, you're wiser than all the fools who are guffawing at you for doing the same.
But relax, this isn't another of those "Google Plus is awesome" posts of mine. This is something far more interesting.
Enter, Google Prediction APIs.
I came to know of this barely an hour or so back, on (no points for guessing) Google Plus. It pretty much turned the horrible day that I had been having till then into one that was worth living through.
So what are Google Prediction APIs? They are a handy set of cloud base…

The two ends of reason

I do not write such posts. I do not know who wrote this post. I think it's me, but I'm not sure how I wrote this post. But when I do write such posts, I feel happy that somewhere deep within, there is this little bearded smiling philosopher sitting inside me, and telling me what to write.

Imagine him sitting. Yeah. Like that. -
I have always been intrigued by a couple of things that have, since the dawn of history helped shape human cultures and sculpted the way forward for civilizations. Not surprisingly, these have also been some of the most glaring epicenters of human conflict - to the point that even today, they require careful treading in public forums.
What do I refer to?
Quite simply, the two pillars of human existence - faith and reason.
Faith - or belief - that one-half of the human psychology that isn't based on logic or proof. That one half that scorns at reason and turns a blind eye to what the brain tries to work out.
And, reason. The exact opposite of faith - the ha…