Saturday, December 19, 2009

Charging & Tethering BlackBerry on Ubuntu 9.04

If you just want to charge your BlackBerry device, there is a stand-alone tool bcharge from the Barry stable. This application scans the USB bus for BlackBerry devices using libusb and sets the USB ports to which they are connected to output 500mA if they are not already doing so. This is installed alongwith Barry so no separate install or configuration is required.

For those interested in tethering their BlackBerry devices, check out the berry4all project which is a free open-source software for tethering a BlackBerry device on linux & mac. Install instructions for berry4all can be found here. The pre-requisites for this are that python, pppd, libusb and the python usb (pyusb) modules need to be installed.

Check out the specs & reviews of Blackberry Pearl 8100 on Amazon:

Sync BlackBerry on Ubuntu 9.04

One of the pitfalls of moving to Ubuntu 9.04 was that my BlackBerry Pearl stopped charging and synching with the computer. Here's how to resolve it ...

After a bit of googling, I stumbled upon the Barry Project which is an open source synchronization, backup, restore & management application for BB devices.

Install Barry
Open the Synaptics package manager & do a quick search for "barry".
Select & install the packages barrybackup-gui, opensync-plugin-barry, barry-util & libbarry0.
Now create a new launcher on the desktop and enter the command as "/usr/bin/barrybackup".

Configure Barry
Connect your BB phone to your laptop and fire up the luancher short-cut created above.
Barry will assign a unique device PIN number and ask you to configure this device.
Assign a meaningful name and configure what you want to Backup & Restore. I normally choose only the Address Book as that is the only thing that I use.
Another option it asks is to Prompt for label on every backup - use this option if you want to append a specific label to the name of the file Barry creates. Note that the file name already has the PIN, date & the time in it so I leave this unchecked.

Use Barry
Now go ahead and press the Backup button to backup whatever you had configured it to!
Also, once the data has been backed up, you can run the launcher to restore previously backed-up data or to backup data again.

Check out the specs & reviews of Blackberry Pearl 8100 on Amazon:

Sansa e250 on Jaunty Ubuntu 9.04

After installing Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope on my Dell Vostro 1000, I had never tried to connect my Rockbox -ed Sansa e250 to it. On connecting it to my laptop, the player would not get recognized and I was at a total loss as to what to do. Here's how I solved it ...

A search of the ubuntuforums quickly showed that I was not the first or the only one to face this problem. The culprit is the older version of glibphoto on Ubuntu 9.04!!!

The solution lies in removing all configuration for Sansa from the libgphoto config file:

su gedit /usr/share/hal/fdi/preprobe/10osvendor/20-libgphoto2.fdi

Feel free to substitue su with sudo/gksu/gksudo as you feel free as all them work the same in this case. You can also use vim/emacs or any other editor that you like instead of gedit.

and then restarting the hardware abstraction layer daemon - hal:

/etc/init.d/hal restart

Now if you plug-in your Sansa e250, it should work!!!
So it is working as of now - have tried it a couple of times. Lets see if this works out consistently!

Check out the specs & reviews of the Sansa e250 on Amazon:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where is a Website physically located?

We were discussing about how the physical location of a webserver impacts the access speeds for end-users.

During this discussion, I stumbled upon a very good site InfoSniper which gives a very good idea of the physical location of the website.

Here is the tool if you want to test ride it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adding Poll to a Blog Post

Was discussing about the most frequently used / favorite *nix and I thought of adding a Poll on this in a Blog post. Here's how to do this ...

I played around with the blogger menu's & settings, but there was no way I could add a poll to a blog post.

So I went the round about way of creating a Poll on the side menu and then putting that code into my post. Voila ! and it worked like a charm! Here are the steps in detail:

  1. In Blogger/Blogspot, Go to the Layout Tab
  2. Click on the "Add a Gadget" link in the right panel
  3. Click on the "Poll" gadget from the "Basic" list - this pops open a new window
  4. Enter the Poll Question and list of answers you expect people to choose from
  5. There are four options - you can remove as many as you don't want or add more too
  6. Select whether users can choose multiple answers - based on how you want your poll to be
  7. Select the end date & time for your poll
  8. Save the poll
  9. Click on the "View Blog" link at the top and then view the source
  10. Search for the question in your poll in the source - you will see an <iframe> tag near it
  11. Copy the full tag from <iframe> to </iframe>
  12. Now create the new post to which you want to add this poll to
  13. Go to the "Edit HTML" tab if not already in it
  14. Paste the copied tag inside the post in the location where you want this poll to appear
  15. Save & Publish this post
  16. Go back to Layout and remove this gadget

After this, your post & the poll inside it should still work perfectly!

Here are a few things that you can do with the iframe properties:
  • Adjust the value of the "height" property
  • Adjust the value of the "width" property of the "style" property
  • Set the value of the "scroll" property to "no" to remove scrollbar
  • Add "overflow:hidden" to the "style" property to remove the scrollbar

Your favorite *nix command

Was discussing a project related task with colleagues at one's desk and this brought out a very interesting trait of IT Professionals!

He had a terminal window open and to our surprise, he kept typing in "ls -ltr" even while discussing and talking.

This brought up an interesting characteristic of IT professionals who like to work with *nixes. Most of them have a favorite command that they just love to type on the terminal.

So, what is YOUR favorite *nix command - take the poll let me know!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Technorati Blog Claiming process

This is the code sent to me by Technorati to verify my ownership of this blog!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Edison Govt listens to Citizen Service Requests

Being a Common IT Man, many a times I have to walk to the Metropark NJTransit station through Wood Avenue between Oak Tree Road and Lincoln Highway. The side walk on this particular section of the road is (or rather was) in shambles, causing a lot of problems to pedestrians. Many people in fact had to walk on the road in some stretches which caused the vehicular traffic to slow down - this is a hazard for both the pedestrians & the auto drivers.

Frustrated at this, I had put in a request through the Edison NJ Citizen Service Request on 10/6/2009 for the heck of it and then totally forgotten all about it.

Over a month later, on last Thursday morning 11/19/2009, I was in for a pleasant surprise! The same section of side walk for which I had complained, was being repaired!!!

Well, it is quite possible that I was not the first or the only one to put in this request. Or that this repair could have already been on their list of "To-Do" items as the Metropark station is already being revamped. Whatever the case, it felt qutie good to see Edison government taking such swift action on Citizen Service Requests - especially the one that I had lodged.

On a side note, some of the newly laid concrete pavement blocks have already cracked :(

Using XSane to scan on Ubuntu

While scanning on Ubuntu using Brother MFC-240C and XSane, I was frustrated that there is no way to preview the image and play with the image size, color, gamma, contrast, brightness, etc.

After fiddling around with the options in XSane, I found out that all this is very much possible by enabling the Preview Window - shortcut key CTRL+1. If you want greater control, enable the Advanced Options window as well. Check out the details of these options on the XSane documentation website:
For Preview Window
For Advanced Options

Check out the specs & reviews of Brother MFC-240C on Amazon:

Half Century: Finally Crossed the 50 Posts Mark!!!

On a side note, it's good to just realize that I finally completed my Half Century! Took me about 7 months to reach & cross the 50 posts mark! Hope to accelerate the speed of posting next year - that's going to be my New Year Resolution for 2010 ;)

Brother MFC-240C Scanner & xsane problems on Ubuntu

I have Ubuntu 9.04 running on a Dell Vostro 1000 and some time back, had configured Brother MFC-240C to scan & print. However, when I tried to scan some pictures yesterday, I was not getting any images at all! I tried with different pictures just to be sure and sometimes I got strange blobs. As I was qorking on solving this issue, I faced a set of problems and here's how I solved them ...

I tried to plug-in the MFC to different ports to check if it was a specific USB port problem but that did not help. On the contrary, I got the errors:
  • Failed to start scanner: Error during device I/O
  • Bus XXX Device XXX: Device not found
  • Failed to start scanner: Invalid Argument
These were resolved when I powered down the MFC before unplugging it and then powered it back up after plugging it in to another port.

After a while of playing around, I got the error:
Error during CMS conversion. could not open scanner ICM profile.
I realised that while playing with the scanner settings, I had inadvertantly enabled "Color Management". Unchecking "Preferences > Enable Color Management" resolved this issue but that does not end the story yet!

A search on ubuntu forums and google in general showed that many people had faced these same problems before and so I was flabbergasted when even after trying all this, the scanner was working but again I was not getting any images at all?!

After a bit of poking around, it just struck me to check whether the temp space had finished. And lo behold - I had used up almost all the available space in /tmp as well as root - the usage was 100%! Due to this, xsane was not able to save the image data sent by the scanner. Clearing up space in root and tmp finally resolved the problem and I got the scanned images perfectly now!

Check out the specs & reviews of Brother MFC-240C on Amazon:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Java EE 6 coming soon

Attended a presentation on Java EE 6 at NYJavaSIG by Alexis Roos & Eric Bruno.

JSR 316: Java EE 6 Specification is up for final approval ballot and should be finalized by end of this month. Java EE 6 looks very promising & exciting; it's main features are pruning and profiles.

Pruning will be remove APIs which are no longer relevant/supported/useful/popular. This implies that the pruned APIs need need not be supported by application server vendors. For example, EJB 2.x Entity Beans CMP have been axed in favor of the lighter and simpler POJO based JPA persistence model introduced as part of EJB 3 in Java EE 5. Similarly, the enhanced & more robust, feature-rich and popular JAX-WS API supercedes JAX-RPC for Web Services.

Profiles allow users to take only the components they want instead of being forced to take the whole stack. This reduces the footprint & the costs. Currently only two profiles are included - Web Profile & Full Profile. However, there is scope for creating custom profiles as well.

There are major changes to GlassFish - it is now lighter and comes up faster. It now also supports redeployment with session retention - this is a huge plus for testing/debugging complex applications.

A new glue layer called Web Beans 1.0 has been introduced which will intergrate the persistence & web layers. The persistance layers (EJB 3.0, JTA, JCA and JPA) and the presentation layers (Servlets, JSP and JSF) were segregated and featured no closed interaction. This gap has been filled with Web Beans 1.0 which are designed to be compatible with both the tiers. The Web Beans have been equipped with beans that could interact with multiple tiers and are influenced by the popular frameworks JBoss Seam and Google Guice.

Apart from these major changes, there are a lot of small things that I liked:
  • EJB 3.1 now supports CRON like scheduling from inside the container
  • EJB 3.1 now do not require business interfaces to be created - developers can now write session beans without business interfaces
  • War structure has been simplified and EJB components can be packaged directly in a WAR file instead of creating an intermediate JAR file
  • EJB Lite has been introduced as a lighter & simpler version of EJB - supports only Session Beans & JPA
  • Servlets 3.0 introduces annotations such as such as @WebServlet, @ServletFilter, etc. to reduce web.xml configuration
  • Servlets now support Asynchronous processing to support AJAX calls
  • JSF 2.0 has major enhancements and new features like request processing lifecycle is now AJAX-aware, bookmarkable JSF pages and a mechanism to easily access persistent store
  • Very good support for REST programming through JAX-RS
  • Better support for AJAX

Check out the Release Notes and the good Tutorial for Java EE 6.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unix - Delete last line of file

For some stuff that I was working on, I needed to remove the last line from a very large data file. At this point, Cygwin + Sed came to my rescue!

sed '$d' source_file.dat > destination_file.dat

However, there was a catch - the last line in the file had a "\n" character at the end. The above code removed the last line but kept the newline character intact!

I verified this behavior with the command "wc -l" and that too ignored this newline character.

So after a lot of struggle, I still could not get rid of the extra newline character ...
If you find a solution for this - please let me know - thanks!

BTW, here is a link to a set of very useful one-line sed scripts on the sed sourceforge site.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Find files containing a word/phrase

If you are using cygwin on Windows or using Linux/Unix, here is a simple way to find the files containing a particular word or phrase:

find . -name '*.java' -exec grep -l 'phrase to search' {} \;

Note that this will do a recursive search inside the sub-directories as well. To search only in the current folder, the grep command is sufficient.

Use rsync to backup files

Since I have moved to Ubuntu, I am able to use rsync to backup files from my laptop to my external HDD very simply. In fact I do the same at work using cygwin on WinXP Pro!

I use the following command to verify which files will be copied to the external HDD:
rsync -cnrv --exclude-from=~/sync/exclude_patterns.txt /<source_folder>/ /<dest_folder>/

And once I am ok with the list, I run the command without the "-n" option as:
rsync -crv --exclude-from=~/sync/exclude_patterns.txt /<source_folder>/ /<dest_folder>/

Explanation of Options:
  • -c: Use checksum, ot modification date & time to compare files
  • -n: Dry Run - perform a trial run without any changes
  • -r: Recurse into sub-directories
  • -v: Verbose - give detailed output
  • --exclude-from: Use the file patterns given in the file to exclude files from source
  • trailing / in paths: Do not create the current folder - copy it's contents

There are many other options - checkout the man page for other great features of rsync.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Filter rows in a file based on composite key in another file

Here is a quick, simple and easy way to filter the records in a file based on a composite key present in another file!

There are many ways to do it, this method uses ask, grep & sort to do the job

  1. Files are pipe ("|") separated
  2. File containing the key is called "accounts"
  3. Columns 2 & 4 join to form the key to be used for filtering
  4. File containing the records to be filtered is called "acdata"
  5. This file contains the "key" column apart from other data
  6. Filtered records need to be stored in the file "filtdata"

awk 'BEGIN { FS="|";} {k1=$2; k2=$4; k=k1 k2; print "grep " k  " acdata" ;}' accounts | sort -u | bash > filtdata

Sort with unique option turned on needs to be used to ensure that we get only one row from the key file in case there are more than one rows with the same composite key.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Albania wants Mother's remains

In a very strange turn of events, Albania wants India to hand over the remains of Mother Teresa stating that she was born in Skopje which was then a part of Albania. However, it is important to note that she was born to immigrant parents in Skopje which is now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. So there is a bitter dispute going on between Albania and Macedonia as well regarding the citizenship of Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa once said: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world.". So this three-sided tussle over her remains does not make much sense - she should just be left alone in peace in the land which she took as her own.

It seems that this is being done by Albania as it is on the hunt for other national icons as it struggles (since 1992) to heal the scars of four decades of communism. Albania wants to reclaim her remains before the 100th anniversary of her birth in August next year so that it can promote tourism as people will throng to visit her grave. The fact that Vatican is in the process of canonizing her, adds to the lucrativeness.

Here is a short timeline of important events in her lifetime:
  • August 26, 1910: Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, in Skopje
  • 1928: Moved to the Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, to learn English
  • 1929: Arrived in India as a novitiate in Darjeeling
  • May 24, 1931: Took religious vows as a Nun
  • May 14, 1937: Took her solemn vows while serving as a Teacher at Loreto Convent School, Calcutta
  • 1948: Left Sisters to teach slum children and care for the homeless
  • 1950: Started Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta
  • 1951: Given Indian Citizenship
  • 1952: Opens the first Home for the Dying in space made available by the City of Calcutta
  • 1962: Awarded the Padma Shri - an award given by the Government of India generally to Indian citizens to recognize their distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity
  • 1962: Awarded the Philippines-based Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, given for work in South or East Asia
  • 1971: Paul VI awarded her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, commending her for her work with the poor, display of Christian charity and efforts for peace
  • 1979: Awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding
  • 1979: Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1980: India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna for her humanitarian work
  • November 16, 1996: Proclaimed directly by Act of Congress an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
  • September 5, 1997: Died of heart attack
  • 2002: Beatified by Pope John Paul II given the title "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta"

Cash for Clunkers to impact Inflation

The Cash for Clunkers program has been hailed as the savior for the Auto Industry. However, what will be it's impact on Inflation, Economy & the Auto Industry?

John Crudele of NY Post explores this impact in his article and points out that this incentive/subsidy amount will actually be accounted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in the CPI as if the prices of cars fell by that amount. This will create an artificially low Inflation rate. This deflation is actually being paid for by the people as it is coming out of tax payers money!
Read this full article here.

The Goldman Conspiracy?!

John Crudele of NY Post points out to facts and events pointing towards a "Goldman Conspiracy"!.

Could this be just a journalist's rant!
Or a thriller plot good enough to be made into the next movie or a book to beat Dan Brown at his own game!
Or it could even be very true!

Read these articles and then decide for yourself!

Read this full article here.

And another of his article here.

  • The views presented in the articles on NYTimes are of the original publisher/author
  • This post aims to show the various differing views, people have of a set of events!
  • This post also brings to light, that in retrospect, how events can be interpreted in totally different ways to fit the author's views/biases?!

Obama fails to win Nobel for Economics

U.S. President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize but loses out on the Economics Nobel.

So writes Tom Bemis in this article on Market Watch.

Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize within a very short tenure in office and that is the target of this sarcastic but bending towards truth article.

Tom Bemis mentions that Obama loses out on the Economics Nobel to "two obscure academics -- Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson -- one noted for her work on managing collective resources, and the other for his work on transaction costs."

And this in spite of his good work in stabilizing the U.S. & world economies, the Stimulus package, Cash for Clunkers program, cap-and-trade bill, and many more real life implementations of Economics theories in such a short duration.

The strange part about all this is that the deadline for nominations for Nobel Peace prize is February 1st according to the Nobel Prize website. Since Obama took the oath on January 20th, it was only 12 days since he was in office when he must have been nominated for this prize - that's a pretty good achievement I would say!

Here's another article on Fox News which looks at the work done by Obama in the 12 days culminating to his nomination.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Deals for Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Here are some good Deals for Tuesday, October 13, 2009.
Note: These have been mined from D2B, SD, FW, etc, so all the credit for finding these deals goes to the OPs!

  • WinXDVD Platinum version download at WinXDVD for Free!
  • World of Goo at 2DBoy - the creators of this game, for Name Your Price

I tried the game World of Goo and it is absolutely awesome - very simple and engrossing - you should try it out!

New Widgets added - Tag Cloud & Related Posts

I found out and added two new widgets to this blog: Tag Cloud & Related Posts - thanks to the creators for providing these.

Here are the details of the widgets that I have added.

Tag Cloud:
I searched for and found quite a few free Blogger Tag Cloud widgets but liked this one provided by phydeaux3. It is very simple, flexible, highly configurable and suits my needs perfectly!

Related Posts:
I was looking around for cool widgets for this blog and found one which shows related posts below each post. This was awesome and quite simple to implement. You can check it out here. Check out the blog for a lot of good widgets, but some like the Search does not have proper install instructions.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

UML Tutorial Links

Learning & applying UML can sometimes be exasperating to the uninitiated. Here are a few links to useful tutorials on UML that I have used in the past.

Practical UML: A Hands-On Introduction for Developers
This is a very simple and straightforward introduction to UML and is very useful for understanding the basic concepts even though it is based on the older 1.x specification.

Wikipedia entry for UML
Wikipedia entry for UML is a bit scarce if you want to learn UML, but is very good as usual for reference and to jog your memory.

Articles on IBM Developer Works
The following articles on IBM Developer Works site are also very good at detailing the intricacies of UML:
UML basics: An introduction to the Unified Modeling Language
UML basics: The class diagram
UML basics: The component diagram
UML basics: The sequence diagram

Introduction to the Diagrams of UML 2.0
This clear introduction of the diagrams of UML 2.0 by Scott Ambler of Agile Modeling gives a very good idea of how the diagrams are organized and also provides links to details of each type of diagram.

Debugging in *nix

Debugging as it is, is a very tedious and painful job. And it becomes even more intimidating when it needs to be done on Linux/Unix. Read on for a good introduction to techniques for debugging on *nix.

This article by Guido Socher focuses on Linux and is titled Why does this not work!? How to find and fix faults in Linux applications.
This articles touches on properly setting up and using logging, using strace to trace the execution path of the program and using gdb & core files.

This article by Frank Schoep focuses on Linux and is titled GDB GNU Debugger Intro.
This article gives a very good introduction on using gdb and understanding core files.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brother MFC 240c on Ubuntu 9.04

My Dell Vostro 1000 now runs Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope). When the time came for me to print & scan a few things using my multi-function device Brother MFC 240c - I realized that I had missed to set it up. Now Google came to my rescue and here's how I did it. It required the follwing three steps:
  1. Setup the Printer,
  2. Setup the Scanner and
  3. Setup the MFC Front Panel buttons Tool - this is optional

Printer Setup
Open Synaptic Package Manager and search for & install the packages along with any dependencies that it may show:
  1. brother-cups-wrapper-bh7
  2. brother-lpr-drivers-bh7.

This should setup your printer!

Scanner Setup
Go to Brother site and follow the instructions based on the way you connect your printer to your computer. Mostly it should be through a USB connection to your laptop/desktop and for that, use this link.

Here is a list of steps to Install the Scanner:
  1. Download the appropriate scanner driver from this link. Note that you need to download the appropriate (32 or 64 bit) brcan2 deb package
  2. Connect MFC to computer and switch it on
  3. Open a terminal and cd to the folder where the drivers have been downloaded
  4. Install the driver using the command:
    sudo dpkg -i --force-all brscan2-0.2.4-4.i386.deb
  5. Grant permissions to the scanner using the command:
    sudo vi /lib/udev/rules.d/50-udev-default.rules
  6. Search for the line containing libusb device nodes
  7. Change MODE="0664" to MODE="0666"
  8. Restart your computer and the scanner should work now.
  9. Use XSane or any of your favorite scanning app to scan something & verify that everything is good

MFC front Panel buttons Tool Setup
If you want to use the buttons on the Scanner panel to scan, then you need to install the scan-key-tool as follows:
  1. Download the scanner driver from this link. Note that you need to download the appropriate (32 or 64 bit) scan-key-tool deb package
  2. Connect MFC to computer and switch it on
  3. Open a terminal and cd to the folder where the drivers have been downloaded
  4. Install the driver using the command:
    sudo dpkg -i --force-all brscan-skey-0.2.1-3.i386.deb
  5. Run the brscan-skey tool using the command:
  6. Confirm that it is running, using the command: brscan-skey -l
  7. Press the scan button, select user, select destination, press START on the MFC
  8. You should see the output on the console similar to the following:

    # scan from SCANNER(brother2:net1;dev0) to /root/brscan/brscan.sP7525
    scanimage: rounded value of br-x from 215.9 to 215.88
    scanimage: rounded value of br-y from 355.6 to 355.567

  1. Ensure that you enter the correct file names in the dpkg commands. I have given the ones that I used and currently see on the Brother website
  2. I have not installed the brscan-skey as I don't (yet) intend to use the MFC panel to scan!

Check out the specs & reviews of Brother MFC-240C on Amazon:

Ubuntu @ Home

I am finally running Jaunty Jackalope Ubuntu 9.04 at Home on my Dell Vostro 1000 laptop and am really very happy to be rid of the terrible virus / malware ;) called Windows !

Even though I was the founder member of the Calcutta LUG ILUG-Cal, I had been very reluctant to move fully to Linux. My dear friend, ILUG-Cal co-founder and current Coordinator Indra prodded me relentlessly to move towards using more linux, but to no avail.

WinXp started to drag on my laptop even though it was provided with 2 gigs of RAM and an AMD Athlon x2 64 processor. Apart from this, viruses kept coming (and going courtesy of AVG / CA). So I decided to format the HDD and do a fresh install of Windows in the hope that my machine would become fast & responsive. But God had something else planned for me as I was unable to install WinXp even after multiple attempts on sleep deprived nights. This is not the first time I was applying this strategy to speed up my machine so I was baffled on my inability to get it up & running with WinXp.

It was during this frustration that I looked towards Ubuntu as my saviour and have not looked back since! I asked my friend to download the latest installable desktop version of Ubuntu and give it to me on a flash drive. Made the USB a boot option and booted through the Ubuntu on the flash drive and installation was a breeze.

Everything worked out of the box and I did not need to struggle with anything at all - at the least not yet! Synaptics Package Manager is very good and I was able to install all the utilities I required through this. The Update Manager does a good job of keeping my installation up-to-date.

Recently I needed to use Remote Desktop to log-on to a Windows server and the included Terminal Server Client did a decent job of solving that. Included and pre-installed OpenOffice is also very good and can open up all Windows Office files. I was easily able to download, install & use Firefox, Picasa, FileZilla & VLC. Found an app called Barry for backing up the data from my BlackBerry. Was also able to get my Brother MFC to work perfectly - more on that in another post later.

Some of the things that I did not like are the unavailability of my favorite text editor EditPlus on Ubuntu. Ubuntu version of Picasa has also some quirks and is not as good as expected. A good application manager for BlackBerry is something that is needed urgently. Also, OpenOffice was not able to play some of the macros / animated GIFs embedded in one of the Word Docs that I had recevied. But hey, only very few small complaints compared to the huge list of positives - thats quite impressive for software that is free & open source!

I think everyone should check it out and make it their OS of choice!

Breakfast for a buck in NYC!

Oldbridge Gourmet Deli on 373 Lexington Ave at E 41st St (very close to the Grand Central Terminal & the Grand Hyatt of NY) has a great dollar deal for breakfast.
Update: This deal is dead as the price is now $1.75 - still not bad ...

In the morning till about 10.30 am, they have a buttered bagel and a small coffee for only a Dollar !
The good part is that you can choose from a variety of bagels and flavored coffees instead of the regular ones for the same price. I saw exotic coffee flavors like Banana Cream, Chocolate Raspberry, French Vanilla, etc.
And just because the prices are so low, it doesn't mean that they skimp on the quality. The bagels are of very good quality and had a proper amount of butter. The coffees are very good too and the best part is that you make your own coffee according to your taste. So you can as well mix multiple flavors and add the amount & type of sugar & milk to suit your specific taste.
You can take out if in a hurry, but if you have time, then you eat it in the spacious dining area on the second floor - so no skimping there either!
Two thumbs up to this place for providing such a good quality breakfast for so cheap.
Update: The deli was closed for some time and now has reopened under a new management who have stopped the great deal.
This deal is now dead as the price is now $1.75 - which is still not bad. They now also have an option for a large coffee instead of a small one for $2.25. However, the options for flavored coffees are lesser compared to before, but still present!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Convert Fixed width file to Delimited in Unix

Needed to convert a Convert Fixed width file to Delimited recently. There are many solutions, but the simplest & best solutions involved using the tools available in Unix / Linux. Here are a few possible ways to do it on Unix / Linux.

Input File: fixed.txt
The column widths are 2, 4, 6 & 3


Output File: delim.csv


Using GAWK on Linux

gawk < fixed.txt 'BEGIN{ FIELDWIDTHS = "2 4 6 3"; OFS=",";}{print $1,$2,$3,$4}' > delim.csv

This solution defines field widths & field separator and then uses gawk to split each line. The only down side is that GAWK is available only on Linux or GNU based systems.

Using SED on *nix

sed -e 's/./&,/2' -e 's/./&,/7' -e 's/./&,/14' fixed.txt > delim.csv

This solution uses sed - a stream editor to substitute commas inline.
The -e is to tell sed to execute the next command line argument as a sed program and you can have multiple such commands.
The s/./ looks to substitute any character.
The &, denotes the matched string followed by a comma that we need.
The /2 tells sed to do this substitution for only the first 2 such occurrences.
So in effect, a comma is put in after the first 2 characters are matched. Note that since this is substituting inline, the insertion point for the next comma is at position 2 + 1 + 4 = 7!

Here is a link to a very good list of handy sed one-liners on

Using AWK on Unix

1. Create a file conversion_rules
 a[1] = 2;
 a[2] = 4;
 a[3] = 6;
 a[4] = 3;
        o = "";
        r = 1;
        for (i=1;i<length(a);i++)
        { o = o  substr($0,r,a[i]) ","; r = r + a[i]; }
        o = o  substr($0,r,a[length(a)])
        print o;

2. Run the command:
awk -f conversion_rules fixed.txt > delim.csv

This solution uses plain awk to loop through each line and add comma after the defined column length. An awk program file is created to define the column lengths and the looping & comma insertion logic. This is fed to an awk instance along with the input file and the output is redirected to the required file.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NY Hop-On Hop-Off Tour 15% Discount at GrayLine

A great way to see New York is by taking the famous Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. And if you can get a good discount on the ticket prices, that is like icing on the cake!

New York Gray Line Hop-On Hop-Off Tours has an automatic 15% discount off most (most probably ALL) of their tours - I did not see this advertised anywhere. I checked all their Best Value Tours and all the tours listed on their home page and the discount is automatically applied to these tours.

This is a very good value for money and it is 15% off of their already reduced prices if you buy online.

Personally I have taken their tours twice in as many years and have thoroughly enjoyed it always. I prefer to take their Best Value All Loops Tour (48 hours) which includes 4 separate double decker tour loops that allow you to enjoy the best of Manhattan and Brooklyn with 48 HOURS of unlimited hop-on, hop-off opportunities at over 50 stops! The best part is that the tickets are valid for 48 hours by the clock.

Thanks to my friend Dipankar for pointing out this great deal!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Walkthrough of Market Caps during Crisis

NYTimes came up with a very interesting & unique way to show how the Finance giants fared in terms of Market Cap during the financial crisis. The auto-running chart shows the market caps of the 29 biggest financial firms starting from October 2007 when the market was at it's peak, and moving up to Sept 11, 2009.

It points out a very interesting fact:
JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are the only two firms to be slightly bigger than what they were during the market's peak in October 2007!

Check out this unique chart on the NYTimes website here.

New Risk Models for Wall Street

The race is on to make newer and better Quant models that factor in the human behavior and psychology.

The existing risk models factored in the default risk of counterparties and the financial instruments. They surely did not factor in the market hysteria / panic and the human behavioral aspect into the models. Generally at the time of such panic, the markets as people may be madly rushing in to sell off the stock or even just freeze and hold back on all transactions. This leads to the newly coined type of risk - "Liquidity Risk".

Financial Markets are being looked at as being similar to Online Communities or Social Networks in terms of a group or collective behavior. So the Risk models are being opened up to allow for more variables and factors affecting it. Researchers at Cornell, MIT, etc., are working on newer risk models using these ideas.

Read the full article on the NYTimes website here.

Google FastFlip launched in labs

Google Labs has launched FastFlip - it's a very good concept.

In this web application, Google combines the good qualities from both Print & Net and provides the user with the ability to quickly "flip" through
online pages just like one would do with a newspaper or a magazine.

What Google does is that it takes images of the websites and shows it to the users in a magazine-like format where the users can scan through the articles and click to go to the actual website if they are interested in reading the full article. For more details on the exact methodology that Google uses to show the articles can be seen here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The "Right" way to Code

In the days before Google, I had formulated the CTP theory which I proposed as the "Right" or better way to Code for Junior Developers. With the advent of Google, this theory transformed to the GCTP theory.

Before Google came up, junior programmers often used to copy & reuse existing code which was written either by them or someone else they knew or they had somehow got hold of the relevant code.
This caused a lot of problem when I was managing a team of such developers, so I formulated the CTP Theory.

The first thing I did was to encourage them to use their imagination & creativity to solve the problem themselves. If required, they could look-up the code base that most of the consulting companies already have to gain insight into ways the problem could be solved, and then come up with their own solution.
However, if there was a time crunch and/or it was felt that reinventing the wheel provided no benefit, then CTP should be applied.

C : Copy - find & copy the portion of code / routine you want
T : Transform - transform/change the code to suit your needs - this step was missed most often
P : Paste - paste the changed code in the right place

If CTP was used diligently, it provided greater success to the project

However, with the arrival of Google, everyone started to just google the solution and so I had to come up with the next version of the theory which I named GCTP.

Again, the first thing I did was to encourage them to use their imagination & creativity to solve the problem themselves.
However, if there was a time crunch and/or it was felt that reinventing the wheel was of no benefit, then GCTP should be applied.

G : Google the problem - google the problem
C : Copy - find & copy the portion of code / routine you want from the google results
T : Transform - transform/change the code to suit your needs - this step was missed most often
P : Paste - paste the changed code in the right place

If GCTP is used diligently, it will provide greater success to the project and quicker coding maturity to the junior developers with the least amount of hand-holding/supervision.

Note that the emphasis on both these methods is first to try to use your own brain. But in case these need to be used, then the emphasis in on T - Transform as that is where I found the junior developers making most of the mistakes most probably because either they did not understand the real problem or the way the solution had been coded.

Another Economic Indicator for Modern Times

Inspired by the few interesting and totally different Economic Indicators for Modern Times that I found on the web, I propose one more: Public Transport Standees Indicator in two versions - one applicable for U.S. and another applicable for India.

More formally, I propose the Public Transport Standees Indicator as:

U.S. Version:

Public Transport Trains/Buses are more crowded and have more number of Standees when the economy is strong and going good.
If the economy is very weak and people are out of work, they don't commute and so the Buses/Trains are emptier and have less or no standees.
This is especially applicable for U.S. where the difference between the cost of public transport and driving personal vehicle is not so significant. Also note that this applies more to big cities like New York, Chicago, etc. where the public transport facilities are very good.

India Version:

Public Transport Trains/Buses are more crowded and have more number of Standees when the economy is weak and going poor as people try to save every possible penny.
If the economy is very strong and people have good paying jobs, they use personal transport and so public transport has less or no standees.
This is especially applicable for India where the difference between the cost of public transport and driving personal vehicle is significant and the people are very price conscious. Also note that this applies more to big cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata etc. where the public transport facilities are very good.

So, India version is the exact opposite of the US version!

Economic Indicators for Modern Times

Here are few (not so serious) Economic Indicators for Modern Times trawled from the web, more specifically from the great site for finance terms - Investopedia

Skirt Length Theory:
Skirt lenghts are predictors of stock market direction. If the skirts are short, the markets are going up and the general confidence is high. If the skirt lengths are bigger, markets are sad & gloomy and confidence is low.

Hot Waitress Economic Index:
Index to measure the state of the economy by measuring the number of attractive people working as waiters. If there are higher number of good looking waiters, then the economy is weak as attractive people generally do not have problems getting higher paying jobs in a good economy.

Leading Lipstick Indicator:
Indicator based on theory that in tough economic times, sales of less expensive indulgences like lipsticks shoots up. This chairman of Estee Lauder consistently noted that during difficult economic times, the sales of his lipsticks went up remarkably.

Aspirin Count Theory:
Market theory that stock prices and aspirin production are inversely related and is a lagging indicator that actually hasn't been formally tested. If the markets are good and prices are higher, fewer people will need to take pain/stress relievers like aspirin.

sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Indicator:
Indicator that provides insight on the stock market return for that year based on the nationality of the model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The indicator suggests that when the cover model is from outside the U.S., S&P 500 underperforms that year. When the coer model is from U.S., S&P 500 will generate a better return that year.

Boston Snow Indicator:
Market theory that snow on Christmas in Boston will result in rising stock prices for the following year. Clearly there is no logical correlation between a white Christmas in Boston and the performance of the stock market the next year. Most probably that's why this indicator is also referred to as the "BS indicator" ;)

Shadman $7 Lunch Buffet very good

Had been to Shadman Indian/Pakistani restaurant on Grove Street in Jersey City and here's the review.
Ambience: 5/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Verdict: Go there for a cheap but very good Lunch Buffet.

The best part is that the All-You-Can-Eat Lunch Buffet costs only $7 and includes veg & non-veg items!

The Buffet menu had 4 veg curries, 4 non-veg curries, choice of Indian breads, salad, raita, chutney, one veg appetizer, fried peas pulao and a sweet.

Ambience & decor is pretty average & minimalistic - similar to that of Chandni, nothing very great to be specially written about.

Prices are very economical by NJ/NYC standards, especially given the proximity to Exchange Place - an all you can eat non-veg buffet cost only $7.

On that particular day, palak pakoras were served for appetizer - quite average and not very great. However the raita & the chutney were quite tasty and very good.

The buffet had four veg curries: Aloo Gobi, Aloo Palak, Beans, and Chhole without the usual layer of oil. The taste was quite good and the Chhole tasted much closer to the taste one would get in Delhi or most of Northern India. Note that this taste is quite different from that made in the remaining parts of the country.

I had Naan & Roti - both were excellent; very soft & fluffy - aboslutely delicious!

The fried peas pulao was very oily and not as good as expected. So was the kheer - not worthy of a mention.

So, next time when you are in Jersey City and feel the urge for an economical Desi Buffet, make Shadman your target!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kutchi gets new Script

Recently saw the news that Kutchi language is all set to get a new script of it's own! Till date, Kutchi has been a language without any script, so this was some news to me. The topic for discussion is what is being tried to be achieved by creating a script for Kutchi? Is this going to be detrimental to Kutchi language instead of increasing it's use?

Dr. Rajul Shah took the onus of creating the script for Kutchi after much research - the script seems to be quite symbolic in the current form.

For Kutchis, all current education is imparted mostly in English or at the least in Gujarati / Hindi. All the Kutchi literature has traditionally been written in Gujarati too. Since ages, Kutchi has been a language passed down orally.

In the light of above, has a study been done to ascertain whether we even require the script? Who is going to adopt this new script and how? Is there a plan in place for it's adoption and propogation?

Kutchis are multi-lingual already, having to learn, English, Hindi, Gujarati and few more languages depending on which region they live / work in. Introducing one more alphabet to learn and use would increase the burden on the people. The new generation is on the verge of moving away from the language as they already have at least 4 languages to handle. Adding more burden could be detrimental to the popularity of the language and could drive people away from it instead of making it more popular.

Read the full article here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Baluchis good for small groups

Had been to Baluchis on East 53rd Street, between 2nd & 3rd Avenue, NYC and here's my review.
Ambience: 8/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Verdict: Good Indian food, poor service / management for large groups.

Ambience & decor is very nice and tastefully done with beautiful Belgian glass chandeliers, large mirrors, etc.

Prices are at par with the NYC standards, maybe slightly on the higher side - the curries cost between $10 - $15.

We tried Malai Kofta, Veg Jalfrazie, Saag Paneer & Dal with Aloo Paratha & Naan and it was excellent. Food was awesome, however since we had been there in a very large group (over 35 people), they had a very hard time managing & serving us.

Go to Baluchis only if you are in a small group and was excellent Indian food.

Deals for Friday, August 21, 2009

Here are some good Deals for Friday, August 21, 2009.
Note: These have been mined from D2B, SD, FW, etc, so all the credit for finding these deals goes to the OPs!

  • Nintendo Wii at Dell for $225
  • 8X10 Scrap Book Page at Walgreens for FREE using the coupon code SCRAPIT
  • Unlimited Calling to 60 Countries from Vonage for $24.99/mo

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Galway Hooker Pub NYC

Had been to Galway Hooker Pub on East 36th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues, NYC, and here's my review.
Ambience: 6/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Verdict: Good ambience and appetizers, poor service.

This place is very conveniently located and its two level setup is very good. There are a few private party rooms in the rear on both floors. The ambience is quite good, but the sofa/seats are not very comfortable.

Good feature of this place is that they have Happy Hours every day between 3 and 7 p.m. - draught beers were half off and cost $4!

We tried Quesadilla and Pita Bread with Hummus for Vegetarians - both cost under $10 and were very good. The Quesadilla was really very good and we re-ordered it several times as the quantity was very less - it had only 4 small pieces.
Others tried Buffalo Wings and mentioned that they were quite average, nothing very good to deserve special mention.

Juices were quite good and pretty cheap at $3 each, but had too much ice.
Long Island Ice Tea was very good and tasted excellent but this too had too much ice.
Blue Moon Wheat Beer (Draught) was very good, but would have been better had it been served colder.

Service was quite average, at times below par. The order was forgotten several times and we had to remind them to get it. Drinks were served in batches of 2-3 glasses with a good 5-10 minutes gap between each batch. So the group got their drinks in parts and had to wait for the toast!

Note that for tables with more than 6 people, a gratuity of 18% is charged automatically to the bill.

Good if going during Happy Hour and interested in good appetizers & Draught Blue Moon Beer and ready to tolerate average service.

Desi style Pizza

Had been to Singas Famous Pizza on Oaktree Road next to Mithaas & Moghul, and here's my review along with a comparison of Guallpa's Famous Pizza.
Ambience: 6/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Verdict: Very good & economical Desi style Pizzas.

Had been to Singas Famous Pizza for Desi style Pizzas last night. Have tried Guallpa's Famous Pizza too, but Singas has been my favorite.

Singas Famous Pizza is located on Oaktree Road next to Mithaas & Moghul and is not visible from the street. Guallpa's Famous Pizza is located in the complex next to Subzi Mandi, opposite to Sukhadia's on Oaktree Road.

Good feature of both these places is that they offer a Cheese Pizza free if you order two pizzas with toppings. Generally the bill comes to $12 as most pizzas with 1 topping cost $5.50 and and extra topping on the "free" pizza costs $1. Till date, I or most people I know have never seen or even heard anyone buying only 1 pizza at these places!

I have tried the Cheese pizza and pizza with the Jalapeno, Pineapple or Green Pepper & Onion toppings. All of them are awesome, however my favorite has always been Jalapeno.

Very good value for money desi style Pizzas

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chandni good value for money

Had been to Chandni on 29th Street, Between 5th Ave & Broadway, NYC and here's my review.
Ambience: 5/10
Food: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Verdict: Very good (Pakistani) Punjabi food; not much choice for Vegetarians.

This place is located next to the Masjid on 29th Street and can easily be missed due to the street vendors taking up sidewalk space outside it's doors.

Ambience & decor of the place reminded me of Shadman in Grove St in Jersey City, NJ. In fact the food & prices were pretty similar too! However, it is a bit bigger compared to Shadman. The ambience too did not feel conducive for Vegetarians.

Prices are very economical by NYC standards - cup of good Masala Chai costs a buck, as does a Naan! Curries cost $6 for a good quantity medium box and come with 1 Naan free. We tried Bhindi masala and Chhole - complete with the layer of red colored oil floating on top! The taste was quite good and the Chhole tasted much closer to the taste one would get in Delhi or most of Northern India. Note that this taste is quite different from that made in the remaining parts of the country.

Another notable similarity (which is also a very remarkable feature) between Chandni & Shadman was the huge size, softness and freshness of the Naan. For most people with average diet, 1-1.5 naan should be more than enough. I have not seen such soft & inviting naan even in best of the desi restaurants.

However, this place is known more for its $2 stuffed parathas which they make in the morning from 8-11 am only. It is advisable to call them on 212.686.4456 as soon as you come out of Penn Station so that by the time you reach there, fresh Parathas are awaiting you!

Good value for money Punjabi food.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's a Perfect Mis-Match!

Saw the American Desi movie "It's a Perfect Mis-Match" starring Nandana Sen, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani & deutante Anubhav Anand.

It was a pretty good movie with good performances by the stalwarts Anupam Kher & Boman Irani holding the stage.

Rating: 7/10 - Watchable

Correlation of Small Nations becoming Tax Havens

Is there a Correlation of Small Nations becoming Tax Havens & involved in Money Laundering?
Do most small nations become tax-havens and get involved in money laundering schemes?

Was reading about two small nations - Nauru near Australia and San Marino near Italy.

Nauru on one hand is close to Australia and depends on it totally for existence after its Phosphate reserves were mined out.

San Marino is a micro-country land-locked by Italy and has expertise in managing money mostly for the wealthy people of Italy.

Both of them, even though being on the extreme ends geographically, financially as well as in the kind of environment & history, were well-known tax havens and involved in money laundering. Is it the karma of all or most small nations to be these at least once in their life time?!

Geo-Locate your Server!

Found a very good website which allows you to lookup where your web server is really located geographically.

Check out infosniper - it provides a good API, XML interface, lots of related free scripts, and lots of simple to use features!

This is a very good tool if you want to verify whether the server is actually located where the hosting company claims it to be!

Or it can be a fun tool just to put up on your website/blog just for the heck of it!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Nirvana NYC very average

Had been to Nirvana on Lexington Ave, NYC and here's my review.
Ambience: 7/10 (8/10 for the lounge)
Food: 6/10
Service: 7/10
Verdict: Very average Indian Buffet without veg starters/appetizers.

This place has a very nice bar & lounge on the lower level and a buffet hall with private party room on the upper level.

Ambience & decor of the Bar & Lounge on the lower level is very good. Buffet hall on the upper level are also good with the Private Party room have a skylight - albeit a very dirty one filled with pigeon-do & other dirt ;) When the number of people increases, a few tables placed in the Party room near the entrance are also used to seat other customers. The location of the buffet table is such that queues have to jostle for space & snake around other tables.

Prices are reasonable by NYC standards, but slightly on the higher side. The quality & taste of the food, and the number of items leaves a lot to be desired though. Strangely, there were no vegetarian starters/appetizers in the buffet - they did have some chicken tikka preparation though. Buffet consisted of dahi-vada, three non-veg curries (fish, lamb & chicken), three veg curries (mix veg, palak paneer), daal, peas pulao, kheer, gulab jamun, salad, pickle & chutneys.

The vegetarian items were just about average tasting, the mix veg curry was way below par, but the Sweets were quite good. BEWARE: bowl for desserts is very deceiving - it looks as if it can fit a lot but actually overflows just on the second scoop ;)

Go to Nirvana only if you are close-by, have nothing better to choose from and want to have Indian Lunch Buffet.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Veg Biryani

We were returning from work and wanted to have biryani, so thought of checking out Abhiruchi off Green Street on Green Hollow Drive. We ordered Veg Biryani, Idly, Plain Dosa & Buttermilk and requested the Biryani to be made spicy. On this request, we just got an approval nod with a subtle smile.

The reason was not obvious till we got the food - the veg biryani was quite plain & white instead of the spicy yellow-orange color I had expected like the ones available in home of Biryani - Paradise Biryani, Hyderabad. Only then I realized why the waiter was smiling when requested to get "spicy biryani"! I walked up to the manager to ask him if he could do something about this and he asked the same thing to someone who was in the kitchen. After a lot of discussion, he finally informed me that veg biryani is ready made and so its taste cannot be changed at all! The quantity was quite good, easily enough for two people, but it was not at all spicy.

Idly, Dosa & Buttermilk were good as were the accompanying sambhar & chutney. However reputable sources informed me that the Chicken Biryani was quite good. The restaurant itself is quite good, not very crowded as there were many people waiting for take-out orders and it is quite reasonably priced.
Verdict: You can check it out if interested in reasonably priced non-veg biryani in a peaceful dining atmosphere.

We were very hungry after a long 4 hour drive from Washington D.C. so thought of checking out Paradise Biryani Pointe next to Jhupdi/HillTop Apartments on OakTree Road. Due to it's name, the expectations were quite high and more so as it had recently opened up in the former Sukhadia's location.
The Veg Biryani was spicy and yellow-orange color as expected and was really very tasty. The quantity was good, but not as much as that of Abhiruchi. However the service is not as good as the food and places tends to be crowded & noisy. One strange thing was that the waiter gave only one bowl each of salan & raita between all the people on the table! However, he did get us each a separate bowl of both when requested, albeit after quite some waiting time. The prices are slightly towards the higher range, but the taste more than makes up for it! I was informed by my reputable source that the Chicken Biryani here was awesome and one of the best!
Verdict: After a hard day of shopping at Patel & Apna Bazaar, you can have this hyderabadi biryani as the reward!

A couple of weeks later a similar situation arose during our return from a trip to Boston. We were hungry and the taste in our mouth spoiled badly by a coffee we had at Cinnabon in a service area. I am sure that the stalls selling coffee in streets of NYC make much much better coffee. So we decided to check out Dakshin Express on OakTree Road, next to Cittone Institute.
Again I ordered Veg Biryani with a request to make it spicy. The waiter was totally zapped on hearing this and did not respond for a few seconds, then nodded and went away. I started to feel as if this was going to be a re-run of my experience at Abhiruchi, but ho lo behold, this was a bit different! I got the same plain white biryani with a good sprinkling of grated green chillies on it! Now it was my turn to get zapped & freeze for a few seconds!
The place looks quite shabby and not well maintained; the prices are quite low and the food was average. My reputable source informed me that the Chicken Biryani here was quite good too so it is advisable for take-out instead of dine-in.
Verdict: Good for reasonably priced non-veg take-out

This completes (for now ...) my Veg Biryani adventure with Paradise winning it hands-down with a huge margin!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Good stuffed Parathas!

Had been to Khasiyat on OakTree Road in the Sardar Patel Plaza behind Dimples and here's my review. Location is such that it is very easy to miss out as it is on the side facing Middlesex Ave off Oaktree Road.
Ambience: 7/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Verdict: Go there for awesome Stuffed Parathas served on styrofoam plates, 12% flat service charge.

This is a very conveniently located purely vegetarian restaurant, but uses plastic cutlery & styrofoam plates.

The place is known for it's stuffed parathas so we decided to give it a shot - and it was well worth it. We tried the Khasiyat Special Thali with huge Chilly Cheese Parathas and it was awesome. It came with two hot, stuffed parathas right off the tava, one bowl each of special achari paneer, tava veg, kadhi pakora & rice, a small serving of raita and a little pickle & onions. Parathas were quite big and well stuffed - no cost cutting there! We also tried plain Dosa which was also quite good as was the sambhar & green chutney served with it.

Ambience is pretty good but tends to get very noisy as the desi crowds start to fill in as is typical of almost all desi restaurants. The location is also very good but tends to get crowded.

Prices are slightly on the higher side with $6 for a single stuffed paratha, $11 for regular thali (regular parathas) or $13 for special thali (stuffed parathas). However the quality & taste of the food, the service & the ambience more than make up for it. However, at that price, I would expect regular cutlery, not plastic cutlery and styrofoam plates. Also, note that they charge a 12% flat service charge on all dine-in orders.

Go to Khasiyat if you are looking for good stuffed parathas and are ok with eating them in styrofoam plates using plastic cutlery.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mithaas is good for a change

Had been to Mithaas on OakTree Road next to Singas/Mings/Moghul and here's the review.
Ambience: 7/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Verdict: Go there for a change from typical South & North Indian fare.

This is a very conveniently located purely vegetarian restaurant!

This place never ceases to amaze me - it has such a good variety of food available to suit almost all possible tastes! Almost everything we have tried here is very good - Stuffed Parathas, Paneer Kathi Roll, Pav Bhaji, Makke ki Roti Sarson ka Saag, Lassi, etc and my favorite Vegetable Burger which comes with fries & a tasty dip! The couple of things that I did not like were the Thalis which were not up to the mark (most probably because after eating other stuff, my expectations had become quite high) and Rasgollas (most probably my being born & brought up in Calcutta made me have a higher than normal benchmark)! Their chaats are also very good.

Ambience is pretty good but tends to get very noisy as the desi crowds start to fill in. The location is also very good but tends to get crowded, but thankfully there is ample free parking.

Prices are quite reasonable, but slightly on the higher side. However the quality & taste of the food, the service & the ambience more than make up for it. Service is pretty good though some stuff you need to take from the counter and some items are served at your table. They also have a couple of sofas for lounge like seating which is very good for large groups. One gripe I had earlier was that they do not serve water and one had to buy bottled water. But recently they have started to serve water on request only! Another gripe that they have not resolved till now is the minimum $20 charge for accepting Credit Cards.

Go to Mithaas if you are looking for a change from the typical South or North Indian vegetarian food.

Chand Palace good for Buffet only

Had been to Chand Palace on Centennial Ave in the Shop Rite complex (opposite to Walmart) last night and here's the review.
Ambience: 7/10
Food: 8/10
Service: 4/10
Verdict: Go there only if interested in a very good upscale Vegetarian Buffet as they have it for both Lunch & Dinner, 15% flat service charge.

The best part is that this is a very conveniently located purely vegetarian restaurant!

The Buffet menu had a lot of variety of items but we were more interested in a few of the other items that they make but are not a part of the Buffet, so we went in for "a la carte".
The food is absolutely awesome - we have tried Sheekh Kabab, Chilli Paneer, Paneer Vindaloo, Veg Vindaloo, various Kulchas, etc. Only gripe was that this is the first time I saw Veg Kadai being made in a sweet sauce!

Ambience is pretty good but tends to get very noisy as the desi crowds start to fill in. The location is also very good but tends to get crowded due to the adjoining Shop Rite, however there is ample free parking.

The staff generally encourages patrons to go in for the Buffet as they have buffet for Lunch as well as Dinner. Patrons wishing to go for "a la carte" are frowned upon and the resistance / displeasure is clearly visible.

Seating was very fast but the rest of the service was non-existent as the waiters were busing tending to the Buffet related tasks. I had to ask for the complimentary starter "Roasted Papads"; it took well over 15 minutes to get the starters. Even though I had requested a Roti & Raita first so that my child was feeling hungry, it came just a minute before the starters - how long does it take to get this almost ready item???
The waiter kept spilling water, spoon, serving spoon, etc. and I had to ask for a new serving spoon - but no apologies were offered! One waiter took the order and another fulfilled it & was unaware of what he was getting for us. When asked the names of the items he asked us what we had ordered and then pointed them out! He also missed a few items & when we reminded him after a reasonable amount of time, he just shrugged and then got it!

On the other hand, the patrons taking Buffet were being served almost instantaneously and being taken very good care of.

The prices are quite on the higher side in spite of the high quality & tasty food. A gratuity of "15%" is automatically added to the bill whether you want to pay that or not. Also there is a minimum of $7.50 charge per person in case of "a la carte" orders.

For "a la carte", service was absolutley not present and not worthy of even 5% but for the Buffet it was more than worth the 15% they charge automatically.

So, next time when you plan to go to Chand Palace, ensure that you are really very hungry & then go for their Vegetarian Buffet for Lunch or Dinner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reasonably priced Web Hosting

Recently I discovered two very good, but very reasonably priced Paid webhosting services BlueHost and HostMonster that both provides all the following features (and a lot more):

* Unlimited Data transfer
* Unlimited Disk Space
* PHP5, Perl, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Cron
* cPanel Control Panel
* POP3 & IMAP Email with Webmail access
* Free Domain or Host your own Domain
* FTP Access and Web Based File Manager
* Secure Shell Access
* Unlimited Add-on Domains
* Unlimited Sub-domains
* Unlimited Email Addresses
* 100 MySQL, PostgreSQL Databases
* 24X7 Telephonic Support
* Loads of readily available tools & software
* And a lot lot more ...

I have personally used them to host the websites for my friends and found their support to be absolutely fantastic and really very helpful.

So check out BlueHost - their reviews have been very good and they have also been ranked quite good by many websites that review hosts!

Similar to them is HostMonster - they have also received good reviews and rankings as well.

Best of all, these hosting services are very reasonably priced, especially given the fact that they have a very good in-house 24X7 telephonic support!

"Free" WebHosting!

Recently I discovered a very good FREE webhosting service that provides all the following features:

  • 100 GB/Month data transfer
  • 1500 MB Disk Space
  • PHP5, MySQL, Cron
  • Zend & Curl Enabled
  • cPanel Control Panel
  • POP3 Email with Webmail access
  • Free Subdomain or Host your own Domain
  • FTP Access and Web Based File Manager
  • Instant Setup
  • Absolutely No Ads at all
  • Easy to use Website Builder with over 500 free website templates
  • 5 Add-on Domains
  • 5 Sub-domains
  • 5 Email Addresses
  • 2 MySQL Databases
You can check out the details at 000WebHost

I seriously wonder how they manage to do it without taking any fees or any advertising, but what the heck! It's a darn good service with loads of features and that too for Free!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

JSF2.0 Coming soon

Had been to the NYJavaSig meeting at Sun' office recently where Kito D. Mann (author of the book "JSF in Action") presented the new features of the upcoming JSF2.0 release.
JSF had been long overdue for a rewrite/overhaul and so this is a welcome change with very good features, AJAX support, very easy process for creating widgets/components, very less configuration, etc.
Lets wait & see how the final product turns out to be!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Using Decode in Hibernate

I needed to decode the values from a couple of columns in a row and compute a new value as a formula property for that row.
I found this to be very simple to do, I added the following as the formula for the required column:

decode(forecast_end_month, null, 0, forecast_end_year, null, 0, end_month, null, 0, end_year, null, 0, months_between(to_date(forecast_end_month || '/' || forecast_end_year, 'mm/yyyy'), to_date(end_month || '/' || end_year, 'mm/yyyy')))

So simple !

Just to give you an idea, the computed value of the new column is 0 if either of the columns forecast_end_month, forecast_end_year, end_month or end_year are null. Otherwise it finds the number of months in between the two set of dates and returns that number.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Good article on Frameworks

While browsing for a good discussion on the pros and cons of the various frameworks available these days, found this good blog post which talks about all the latest frameworks and provides a lot of real inputs from Architects & Developers as well as quite a few good links !

It talks a bit about Spring-MVC, GWT, Tapestry, Wicket, Seam, Struts, JSF, Portlets, etc!

Check out the post at Ha's Blog.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Got the Orange belt at JavaBlackBelt

While browsing through Java related sites, stumbled upon It's a pretty good site for refreshing your basic (and advanced) Java knowledge and to challenge yourself to a set of quality quizzes on Java & related topics. Quite a few of the questions were eye-openers - will post those observations with sample code soon.

So had been taking the quizzes in free time and today made it to Orange Belt and my name is being displayed on their home page for the next 24 hours starting at 14:30 hrs on Wednesday March 11, 2009 !

Here is a snapshot of the hallowed moment in time, recorded & stored here for posterity!

They have organized the topics & quizzes into "Belts" and the levels in the increasing order of difficulty are:
Yellow < Orange < Green < Blue < Brown < Black
I liked the concept very much - check out the JavaBlackBelt website for more info.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Palak Paneer & Sangria in 15 minutes !

I made mouth-watering Palak Paneer in 15 minutes and had Sangria while cooking it ! It was darn simple to make and came up pretty tasty. I did not know that Palak Paneer could be so spicy & tasty! Here are pics of the tasty stuff I made:
Palak Paneer: (Sadly the paneer crumbled instead of retaining consistency as cubes)

Sangria made with Lambrusco Riunite, Apples & Oranges: (Sadly we had only these two fruits)

Source Code Encoding tool for posting to a Blog

I faced a strange dilemma while trying to publish a piece of code to my blog post. The JavaScript code that I was trying to post was getting truncated and not showing up properly due to the embedded DHTML code in it. I found out a good tool to encode the markup to make it suitable for publishing in a Blog post:

SimpleBits Converter

Instructions from the website:
Enter normal (X)HTML in the markup box below.
Press "Process" and it will spit out entity-encoded markup suitable for <code> examples.
Use spaces in increments of two for nesting indents.

Now looking for a converter / tool that can beautifully format, color & print out Java Code for publishing in a post !

Neat JavaScript snippet !

  1. Open any website.....which contains images (u can use ur company home page/intranet)
  2. Copy below given code and paste in the Address bar of the same browser window and press enter
  3. All images will start to float on the page !

javascript:R=0; x1=.1; y1=.05; x2=.25; y2=.24; x3=1.6; y3=.24; x4=300; y4=200; x5=300; y5=200; DI=document.images; DIL=DI.length; function A(){for(i=0; i<DIL; i++){DIS=DI[ i ].style; DIS.position='absolute'; DIS.left=Math.sin(R*x1+i*x2+x3)*x4+x5;*y1+i*y2+y3)*y4+y5}R++}setInterval('A()',5); void(0)

Note: Ensure that you have copied all of the above code in only 1 line.

Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street

Recently read a very good article on explaining the fall of Wall Street with a detail of the convoluted Maths involved:

A year ago, it was hardly unthinkable that a math wizard like David X. Li might someday earn a Nobel Prize. After all, financial economists—even Wall Street quants—have received the Nobel in economics before, and Li's work on measuring risk has had more impact, more quickly, than previous Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the field. Today, though, as dazed bankers, politicians, regulators, and investors survey the wreckage of the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, Li is probably thankful he still has a job in finance at all. Not that his achievement should be dismissed. He took a notoriously tough nut—determining correlation, or how seemingly disparate events are related—and cracked it wide open with a simple and elegant mathematical formula, one that would become ubiquitous in finance worldwide.

To read the full article, please go to the source:
Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street

Happy Reading !

Finally started blogging...

After what seems like ages of procrastination, I finally got around to creating a blog!
This will be a journal of my rants, views, reviews, comments, experiences, experiments with Technology, cooking and life in general.
I coined "Common IT Man" as a class that extends RK Laxman's "Common Man" class and adds features specific to IT professionals of today's world!


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