Onion talks: worthwhile replacement of TED

I’ve been having this feeling that watching TED talks is mostly just a big waste of time. I personally don’t get anything out of most of the talks. Now, Onion has released Onion talks. Though tongue in cheek, I think there is a bigger truth in this. Does watching someone talk about their own achievement really help in anything? I better watch Coursera lectures.

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Alan Turing: Indian Connection

I was surprised to find that Alan Turing, whose birthday we just celebrated on June 23rd, had Indian connections. This Wikipedia article claims he was “conceived” in Orissa! Keeping this controversial statement aside, we surely know that his father Julius Turing was a civil services officer in British India, and knew the Telugu language. His mother,Ethel Sara was the daughter of the chief engineer of the Madras Railways.  This information is a revelation for me, like when I found  Tipu Sultan’s connection to American independence.

You’re not special

Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough delivered his speech “You’re not special”. But his talk was. Here is the transcript.

Update (6/23/2012): I just found out that he is the son of the famous David McCullough.

I have seen the ICE age

The student looks up from the VT100 terminal that he has been working on the whole night. The green letters on the screen turning blurry. He rubs his neck, shrugs his shoulder to get rid of the annoying pain that’s been building up on his neck for slouching over the terminal. He suddenly noticed the sweat on his forehead. It has not been very hot this summer so far. The night was quite cool. He curses the ritual of switching off air conditioner at night. Tough India is a poor country, but there is no excuse of switching off air conditioner on the  fourth floor, particularly when there are so many computers in this bioinformatics lab. Those mammoth Silicon Graphics machines spewing hot air like plumes out of jets. He shakes his head, but he has no option but to work late at night. This is the only terminal that’s connected to to the Internet, and it’s free only late at night. He damns Lynx and slow Internet. It’s 1996, for  God’s sake. Where’s the Netscape?  He smiles though, thinking about the  information that he could gather about the software. Dangerous, because the software is illegal to run without an explicit license from the vendor. It is like searching information about how to use explosives. He shivers. Is it really a software?  The name, SoftICE.

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Smartphones, Memex and the soul of Vannevar Bush

“A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility”.

That’s a quote from the prophetic article of Vannevar Bush, “As you may think”.

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GoodReader, the most undervalued commercial software

The people who know me understand my philosophy of using open-source software whenever possible. And when the software comes free (as in beer), there’s nothing like it. But coming out of the philosophical “holier than thou” attitude, the real reason I am so opposed to commercial software is that I find them overpriced and find that they provide very little functionality for the money. In short, “pirate if you want, but do not pay for any software”, that has been my attitude for all my life, till this time.

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Dependency hell or heaven?

People like us who have to deal with software know a nuisance that comes along with the job called dependency hell. It’s a condition is which a piece of software depends on another software to run, which again depends on another and ad infinitum. So if you want to just run a piece of software, you need to waste an enormous amount time in installing a chain of software. Sometimes, literally, the chain never ends, and you give up.

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Nigel Marsh’s advice on taking stock of your miserable existence

Quite interesting TED talk by Nigel Marsh, author of “Fat Forty and Fired” and “Overworked and Underpaid”. I agreed with him when he said this:

“certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible to meaningful engagement with a young family.”

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Snippets: last words ‘fore goodbye

Today’s snippet is from the greatest. Rabindranath Tagore’s famous “Mritunjoy (Immortal)”:

Jokhon uddhoto chilo tomar oshoni
Tomake amar cheye boro bole niyechinu goni
Tomar aghat sathe neme ele tumi
Jetha mor aponar bhumi
Choto hoye gacho aaj
Aamar chuteche sob laaj
Joto boro hyo,
Tumi to mrityur cheye boro nyo
Ami mrityu cheye boro
Ei shesh kotha bole
Jabo ami chole

The above passage was typed entirely from memory. I apologize for any mistake in advance. But I am going to do one more bold and somewhat stupid thing: I will try to translate it in English. Please pardon my audacity. But what the heck, no one reads this blog anyway.  With that apology to Tagore in place, here is my folksy take on it:

Till you kept aimed your thunder,
I bowed, I knelt under.
Your bolt brought you down,
In my turf, in my town.
Today you lost your fame,
And I am free off my shame.
Powerful you are-
But death is mightier.
“I am mighty–eager to die”,
last words ‘fore goodbye!

Rollback, hey Sybase

Some of you probably wondering why even if you set AutoCommit to 0, the data is still committed when you use DBD::Sybase in perl to access Sybase. Looks like the solution is to add syb_chained_txn to 1 like this:


use DBI;
my $dbh = DBI->connect("dbi::Sybase::server=$server", $username, $password,
{'RaiseError' =>1, 'AutoCommit' =>0}) or
die ("Database connection no made ". DBI::errstr);
$dbh->{syb_chained_txn} = 1;

Now Sybase will rollback at your command!