Phuton

Got a disassembled futon at my place – and it’s assembly was quite a project. Took me about two hours to get it together. Photus phollow (wife took camera away to click our daughter, so the trail is a little incomplete).

initial mess
initial mess
arm frames
nuts and bolts
nuts and bolts
futon pad
futon pad
left frame and transmission
left frame and transmission
plan on board
plan on board
frames attached to stretchers (progress 1 hr later)
frames attached to stretchers (progress 1 hr later)
transmission attached (another ½ hr later)
transmission attached (another ½ hr later)
attaching the seat/back frames and rolling out the pad - final outcome
attaching the seat/back frames and rolling out the pad – final outcome

Red Moon During Lunar Eclipse

This Moon (Lunar Eclipse)is a photograph (credits to Hemant Hariyani) taken during a lunar eclipse. Besides being a very beautiful sight, there’s a curious orange tinge on the lower left quadrant of the moon. My curiosity lead to the moonzoo (please search for the terms “blood red” on that page to see their reason) – which explains very briefly the cause of this. While discussing on a list, I realized that it’s confusing sometimes to visualize how exactly this happens – so I drew a diagram to get this straightened out.

Reason for the moon's blood red (orange) color during lunar eclipseRefraction causes light to bend – and when different colors of white light bend at different angles, that causes light to split up; the very cause of rainbows. This is enough theory, the rest is self explanatory in the diagram beside this text. As you can figure out, light from the sun, reflected refracted when passing through earth’s atmosphere – falls on the moon (and since only longer λ [red] reach out) it looks orange (or blood red).

It’s imperative to note, that the cause of this blood red color is very different from the cause of the blood red color we see when the moon rises on certain nights. That blood red is caused because the light coming from the moon gets scattered when passing through the earth’s atmosphere (more so, polluted atmosphere), which causes the red waves to fall on our eyes and make the moon look red. That is when the light from the sun gets reflected back on earth and on it’s way to our eyes, we see red (the whole thing looks red – unlike this phenomenon).

How to use a GPG key and encrypt stuff?

In the wake of increased attempts at online frauds and information stealing, I thought it only befitting to write this step by step tutorial down for people who have never heard of GPG.

Simply put, GPG keys are used to encrypt information. To “encrypt information” means to make the information secure in a way that only a particular person can see what it contains. In other words, you lock the information and only the person having the key to the lock can open it.

Use Case 1: Bank account information over emails
Never send your bank account information (your account number, the name on the account, type of account, card number etc.) by email. Don’t even send the bank/branch you hold accounts in. Nothing – just don’t send any information at all over email.

So then how do you send information if you need to? Use GPG. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Put your account information in a text file (using your favorite text editor).
  2. Save the file and call it, say, account.txt.
  3. Run these commands (on your Linux/Unix/FreeBSD box):
# curl -L 'https://fryol.net/r/rishi-public-key' | gpg --import
# gpg --output account.gpg  -r 0x0B5267B1E3662EBB --encrypt account.txt

If you try and open account.gpg in the same text editor, you would see some garbage in there, which can now only be decrypted by the person whose key you used to encrypt account.txt.
Command 1 (of step 3)  was where  you downloaded my key (hosted on the link http://fryol.net/?u=key) and imported it into your gpg keyring.
Command 2 (of step 3) was to tell gpg to use  0x0B5267B1E3662EBB (which is a public key identifier of the key you imported) to encrypt the file account.txt.

For people who use Windows, there’s an easier way out: http://gpg4win.org/. The steps above would be very similar – I am sure there would be a way to import a key into that program using a URL. So then, all you do is provide it the URL of the person whose key you want to import and it should be able to use that key.

The file  account.gpg is now ready to be sent over email (to the person whose key you imported in command 1 of step 3).

This tutorial is only about encryption – decryption is a separate topic. (..and my primary motive for this post is to let people emailing me quickly encypt stuff).

See also: [http://www.madboa.com/geek/gpg-quickstart/#tosomeone].

PayPal Blocks WikiLeaks – Hundreds Closing Accounts

It’s small wonder that the Internet is running rampant – in support of WikiLeaks. PayPal released this statement on their blog – and closed the comments section. It’s called – the freedom to shut others up. To look at how many people are joining hands and shutting their accounts down with PayPal/Amazon see this news report which has frequent one line comments against both PayPal and Amazon. PayPal’s community links are running threads on and off about account closures and threats  (since there are reports of threads being killed).

People are using alternate payment portals to continue on – Neteller.com and MoneyBroker.com. It’s not clear though that how long all banks and credit card companies can keep their funds flowing to WikiLeaks.

The Hero from Madurai

It’s unfortunate that people sleep hungry and even more that I (and possibly you) know that. Few change the aforesaid statement – and only fewer succeed. Narayanan Krishnan is one of the fewest people alive that put other people’s misfortunes to shame. Please vote for him on CNN Heroes and read about his extraordinary feat here.

Update: Anuradha Koirala was finally called out as the CNN Hero of the year; she indeed deserved it though there’s no belittling of the efforts of every one else. Koirala fights sex trafficking in third world countries, something that requires a brave heart and tremendous efforts (you won’t ever find out what she’s going through).

Sem Mozhiyaan Tamizh…

Exceptionally done by Rahman; the Tamil anthem (which has nothing to do with the Tamil state, but the Tamil language). I remember dismissing the anthem earlier without understanding that it was for the promotion of the language alone. Very glad to hear and understand it today, I decided to do my bit of promotion.

Lyrics with translation appear here. By the way, Ms. Hassan picks up at the 5th minute in the song very beautifully.

Cleartrip – Shady Refunds On A Public Complaint System

Update: This post here is the extreme of LOLz we’re talking about here. Doesn’t cleartrip get it that they have to stop using a public forum as a ticketing system?

It is extremely painful to see that one of the top railway booking sites in India has so many problems refunding people’s ticket money.

It’s really funny to see their forum which has people complaining about tickets not refunded, trains canceled, debit cards charged twice etc. We’re almost there into the third decade of Internet revolution, and does Cleartrip need a lesson on how to deal with a ticketed complaint system? Like come on guys, it shouldn’t be an open forum where I come and tell you my name, trip#, debit card# etc. Absolutely ridiculous.

After months of my trip booking+cancellation, I logged in today to re-check my accounts and voila; the money has still not reached my account. It should be a really easy problem to fix. As soon as you get a ticket cancellation, record it in a database which gets replicated to a backup. At the end of every 24 hours, select all transactions that were cancellations from that database and check if an accounts database has any record of money going back to customers. Additionally, if the railways or airlines are involved, join the query to check on another table that records transactions incoming from them. This is an absolutely no-brainer situation for the likes of a web company like this.

Instead, cleartrip relies on their forum for people to come, post and get refunds. Indeed, this makes perfect business sense. If people care, they’ll come, else why the hell should Cleartrip care going refunding money. India is all about numbers, a thousand may go, but a thousand shall come.

PoliceWale

This interview on policewala.in is the harsh gust of reality and fate of Indian police personnel. Since this interview is in Hindi, here is a short summary (all credits due to the interviewers at policewala.in and Amitabh Thakur, IPS).

  • Mr. Thakur is of the opinion that the long standing convention of “thinking like criminals” has affected the police adversely, turning some of these men to be more dangerous than the criminals themselves
  • He observes that there are two corruption situations to be dealt with separately, one that are of the grievous and serious kind with deep rooted problems – and the other that are notorious and on the street
  • He observes how the police personnel are deprived of family life, living in harsh and mentally frustrating situations – and how all police men and women come to appreciate each other and develop a bond since they are victims of the same injury
  • Another very important thing brought up was the fact that lower ranks don’t have a career path towards higher positions – the sepoy to  inspector ranks are basically stagnant. This is the most serious issue with the system right now since it cuts off the most basic form of self-motivation.