• Papers papers everywhere

    Last month, I officially began my PhD research. Not surprisingly, the difference from any prior research I've ever done is quite evident. Primarily because there is really no horizon at all when you embark on a PhD.

    The difficulty here essentially boils down to finding an answer to the following question: What problem is worth spending the next five years of your life trying to solve?

    I already have an idea of the broad area that I'd like to look into. Digging deeper and deciding which boundary to push at, however, is the tricky part.

    The workflow here is as follows:

    1) Read a paper. Creativity and optimism will immediately kick in, pointing you to potential opportunities and gaps, causing a rainbow of ideas to explode out of your brain. You shiver with excitement.

    2) Read another paper only to realise someone else has already done all of that and a little more.

    3) Repeat.

    Let's see how long it takes before I finally break from step 1.

    I'm not sure how I should end this post, so here's a picture of my desk.

    Many trees have died for the greater good here

     

  • Skyfall

    When you watch Skyfall with three fellow networking researchers, comments such as the following ensue:

    "Why is the list of all agents on a single file, on a single laptop hard drive, and encrypted so weakly that it's crackable in less than a week?"

    "Wait. How can you even trace someone after you strip the headers off the packet?"

    "That's a CISCO switch in that data center! ... Huh? What terrible wiring. Where's the cooling system? Is that a data center built with raspberry pies?"

    "I can see assembly code on that terminal."

    "Who the hell plugs-in a terrorist's laptop to your security sensitive internal network?"

    "From where does that little radio transmitter's antenna get that much power to transmit such a signal in the first place?"

    I love being around fellow nerds.

  • A note on education

    This talk from Seth Godin deeply resonates with my thoughts about education.

  • Mosquito love. Not.

    My two least favourite things about my hometown are mosquitoes and mosquitoes.

    A close third, would be load shedding. For those of you unfamiliar with the jargon, it's basically a daily state-wide planned powercut for saving unicorns. Or energy. Or something. I can't remember the details except that it's annoying. Especially that time it was scheduled to go off right in the middle of a Kung Fu Panda 2 airing on HBO. **Especially** when they seem to introduce the practice only when I'm home for vacations.

    So, let's say you're suffering from acute internetaddictionitis and the load-shedding kicks-in, leaving you hanging half-way through the Gangam Style video on Youtube, and also leaving you in the not-so-pleasant company of a squadron of mosquitoes. What do you do? Since there's no such thing as negotiation when it comes to these miniature vampires, the only option is battle.

    Now these aren't ordinary mosquitoes. These are mosquitoes that have been hardened in their craft through generations of exposure to mosquito repellents. I'm pretty sure that evolutionary processes have gifted them a gland that harvests these repellents and converts them into energy or some arthropod-adrenaline-equivalent.

    That said, mankind has had to resort to modern science in order to forge a weapon capable of taking on Satan's pets. Behold! The constant-voltage-electro-plasma-weave-scepter-3000. Or, for the less scientifically inclined, the mosquito bat.

    This is what Thor's hammer probably looked like

    Those of you who're from less threatened corners of the known universe might find this piece of technology rather overwhelmingly difficult to understand. But here's how it functions. The device works with the wielder holding the charge button, and swinging the device at a mosquito-monster, which upon successful contact, will deliver a very satisfyingly awesome spark thingy to the target. Sometimes, the target ends up stuck in the metal mesh, causing the mosquito to burn with the rather unpleasant odour of a burning mosquito.

    Whoever came up with this idea actually brought some fun into the endless and futile battle that routinely happens in most Indian households every evening.

    Anyhow, my entrepreneurial instincts tell me that there is room here for improvements.

    Enter gamification:

    • Turn these bats into Internet capable devices that can connect over WiFi, 3G, 4G, Parle-G, anything.
    • Users register their device(s) through an online account.
    • The device keeps track of the number of mosquitoes you pwn, and updates a score on a central server.
    • The more you kill, the more you gain experience.
    • As you gain experience, you level up. All users start at Lvl 1: Militia, and progress their way through to Lvl 100: Zeussian Mosquito Centurion Overlord. With each experience level, unlock features on your bat, like the anti-anthropod-plasma-cannon, and the zappa-mosquito-fragmentation-grenade-launcher.
    • Compete with friends, family, neighbours, or fellow countrymen to slay as many of these buggers as you can in mosquito zapping tournaments. Win exciting prizes!
    • Profit.

    See? No "???" in between.

    Unlike other capitalistic endeavours, this one is purely driven by a social angle which can be summed up by three words, "Kill. All. Mosquitoes." At the end of the day, we empower people with this device, and get rid of mosquitoes at the same time. Problem solved.

    Now to figure out how to solve the load-shedding problem.

  • Command history

    Here's the command history on my laptop's Ubuntu 10.04 installation (it's been running for a year and a half now):

    $: history|awk '{a[$2]++ } END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}'|sort -rn|head -n 20

    1030 cd

    833 v

    747 git

    653 sudo

    564 gc

    537 vim

    531 hdfs

    357 ls

    343 grep

    265 rm

    204 tshark

    186 cp

    182 ack-grep

    143 cat

    126 ping

    114 hg

    102 mv

    95 find

    94 ssh

    93 ./waf

    "v" is my alias for vim, and "gc" is my alias for "git commit". So here's the somewhat corrected list (I say somewhat because I have even more aliases which I use for git, which I'm not taking into account).

    1370 vim

    1311 git

    1030 cd

    653 sudo

    531 hdfs

    357 ls

    343 grep

    265 rm

    204 tshark

    186 cp

    182 ack-grep

    143 cat

    126 ping

    114 hg

    102 mv

    95 find

    94 ssh

    93 ./waf

    I find it surprising that over the 4 months I hacked on KTHFS, the "hdfs" command made it to my top 10 list! Mercurial (hg) and waf are in there thanks to my ns-3 duties.

    Oh well, now back to work.