Good ebooks on just about any topic are widely available today. The Project Gutenberg itself contains about 21000 books, including the classics, and other books whose copyright has expired. The only problem is reading them, from the computer screen. With the new monitors it’s not too much strain on the eyes, but you get a stiff back and neck, if you sit continuously staring at it. If only there was some device roughly the shape and size of a book, which can display the ebook page by page, which you can read lying on your back, sitting, or any way you want, it would be easier. Sure, it can never match a real book, but it would be almost good enough. And when you finish reading a book, all you’ve got to do is upload the next one! A lot of paper can be saved.
July 29, 2007
I’ve written a small article for new and would-be users of GNU/Linux. You can read it at-
(not complete- work in progress)
July 27, 2007
One week of classes over. These are the courses- Network Theory, Solid State Devices-1, Mathematics-3, Logic Design, Random Signal Theory and Signals and Systems. The courses have suddenly become advanced compared to the last couple of semesters and involve a lot of abstract maths. I simply can’t understand why they emphasize so much on adavanced theoretical courses ignoring the practical aspects. Without exaggerating, we are being introduced to multimeters, resistors, colour codes and verifying with multimeters, while we learn random signals and networks and flip flops in theory. It’s pathetic. And whatever lab work we have consist of second-hand experiments which are repeated over and over again every year. Well, it’s just the continuation of what school labs used to be. That’s where I think Phoenix can make a difference. What sense is there in learning science from books, if you can’t feel the joy and excitement of watching the circuit you made work perfectly? For me, ideally, labs shouldn’t have fixed time slots(all our labs are in afternoons when the eyes of half of the class are drooping) or fixed experiments. They should give guidelines such as- you should complete so many hours of lab per week or these are the types of experiments you can do, and leave the rest to the students.
July 22, 2007
After long months of eager anticipation and waiting, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final part of the history-making Harry Potter series is in the hands of the fans. People even spent the night before the release in front of bookstores, to get their hands on a copy. Undoubtedly many would have had to go home disappointed. Others ensured that they would get an early copy, by reserving one weeks before. It’s nothing short of “Potter Mania”.
But is the Potter phenomenon anything more than an incredible marketing stunt? I’ve read the first six books of the series, and I’d agree that they’re a pleasant read- most of all it’s the little details that are charming. The storyline goes just as any fantasy does. But I wouldn’t call the series a literary marvel or anything of the sort. There have been arguments that the Potter series awakened a dying habit of reading in children, but the fact is that children started reading more of Potter, not more of everything.
Read this article which appeared in the Hindu Magazine today…
July 22, 2007
After a mammoth 100 day long vacation, I’m back at NIT. Tomorrow’s registration for the next semester, and classes start on Tuesday. It’s going to be a busy day. It’s really just a formality- there are no choices in the courses being offered, but got to run around and get no-due certificates from everywhere.
July 19, 2007
Floods and heavy rainfall have unleashed terror and suffering in all parts of Kerala over the last couple of days. It’s made me think whether man is making himself a victim of nature. Such heavy rainfall used to occur every year, but I don’t think monsoon was always associated with such widespread suffering. The floods are mainly because of the environmental imbalance created by the unscientific construction of buildings and expansion of cities. Open fields got filled to give way to buildings, rivers got obstructed by dams, and the water has nowhere to flow. The situation is only going to worsen over the next few years.
Until a few decades back, man used to be a part of nature. He used to eat food that grew in his surroundings, used to build his house with materials that he found around him, cured himself with herbs that were in plenty around him(I know, because my Ammamma makes incredibly effective medicines from little plants you’d have dismissed for a weed), when he fell sick. His occupation would change depending on the season. In every way, man was a part of nature, just like every other living thing on earth. What’s man doing today? I almost feel as if man is behaving like an alien creature that landed on this wonderful planet, realized that it’s a treasure trove, and started exploiting it for its shortsighted whims and fancies. After a while, the creature established its authority over the earth, and started devising laws for regulating and legitimising its plundering activity, under the fond name of “progress”. What man has done over the last couple of centuries can be compared to what a set of aliens, intelligent but lacking wisdom, would have done. I feel that Mother Nature could wipe out humanity in one single sweep, but is extremely tolerant like a mother towards her child gone astray, because ultimately we are her children, not aliens. Still people all over the world blame Mother Nature for not giving them sunshine when it rains, and not giving them rain during the hot summers.
How ungrateful and ignorant man is… Albert Einstein once said, “Only two things are infinite- one is the Universe, and the other is man’s stupidity. And I’m not so sure about the former…”
July 16, 2007
Here are some cool tux wallpapers…
One that I liked particularly well-
July 16, 2007
Microsoft is ready to set up its own university in Bangalore… read more
It seems like they are getting desperate. Why did they choose India to set up such a university? They don’t have any others anywhere else in the world.
1. The Free Software Movement in India is gaining strength day by day.
2. The corruption in the higher education sector in India will make it a perfect abode for Microsoft.
Seems like they are likely to be successful in setting up this university. But we should make sure that it’s not successful in achieving its foul motives. And the only way is spreading awareness about free software.
Say NO to University of Microsoft.
July 12, 2007
In undeveloped social groups, we find very little formal teaching and training. Savage groups mainly rely for instilling needed dispositions into the young upon the same sort of association which keeps adults loyal to their group. They have no special devices, material, or institutions for teaching save in connection with initiation ceremonies by which the youth are inducted into full social membership. For the most part, they depend upon children learning the customs of the adults, acquiring their emotional set and stock of ideas, by sharing in what the elders are doing. In part, this sharing is direct, taking part in the occupations of adults and thus serving an apprenticeship; in part, it is indirect, through the dramatic plays in which children reproduce the actions of grown-ups and thus learn to know what they are like. To savages it would seem preposterous to seek out a place where nothing but learning was going on in order that one might learn.
But as civilization advances, the gap between the capacities of the young and the concerns of adults widens. Learning by direct sharing in the pursuits of grown-ups becomes increasingly difficult except in the case of the less advanced occupations. Much of what adults do is so remote in space and in meaning that playful imitation is less and less adequate to reproduce its spirit. Ability to share effectively in adult activities thus depends upon a prior training given with this end in view. Intentional agencies — schools–and explicit material — studies — are devised. The task of teaching certain things is delegated to a special group of persons.
Without such formal education, it is not possible to transmit all the resources and achievements of a complex society. It also opens a way to a kind of experience which would not be accessible to the young, if they were left to pick up their training in informal association with others, since books and the symbols of knowledge are mastered.
But there are conspicuous dangers attendant upon the transition from indirect to formal education. Sharing in actual pursuit, whether directly or vicariously in play, is at least personal and vital. These qualities compensate, in some measure, for the narrowness of available opportunities. Formal instruction, on the contrary, easily becomes remote and dead — abstract and bookish, to use the ordinary words of depreciation. What accumulated knowledge exists in low grade societies is at least put into practice; it is transmuted into character; it exists with the depth of meaning that attaches to its coming within urgent daily interests.
But in an advanced culture much which has to be learned is stored in symbols. It is far from translation into familiar acts and objects. Such material is relatively technical and superficial. Taking the ordinary standard of reality as a measure, it is artificial. For this measure is connection with practical concerns. Such material exists in a world by itself, unassimilated to ordinary customs of thought and expression. There is the standing danger that the material of formal instruction will be merely the subject matter of the schools, isolated from the subject matter of life- experience. The permanent social interests are likely to be lost from view. Those which have not been carried over into the structure of social life, but which remain largely matters of technical information expressed in symbols, are made conspicuous in schools. Thus we reach the ordinary notion of education: the notion which ignores its social necessity and its identity with all human association that affects conscious life, and which identifies it with imparting information about remote matters a
nd the conveying of learning through verbal signs: the acquisition of literacy.
It is indeed true that the present day formal education is defeating its own purpose. How prophetic Mark Twain was when he said, “I never let schooling interfere with my education…“. This is the only way for a child to become a free, thinking, responsible adult- not to let schooling interefere with one’s education. In his book, John Dewey talks about the need for *real* education for the continuation of mankind. I’m reading it slowly, taking my time to think about each sentence…
July 11, 2007
How would you like to carry your favourite operating system(with your favourite settings, of course) in your pocket, wherever you go? And use it on any computer anywhere, by just inserting the CD or USB stick? That’s what a live OS is all about! It has a huge potential to revolutionize the world of operating systems for PC’s.
The main advantage of using a live OS is that you needn’t install it. Just insert the storage media into the drive, and start using it. This is nothing short of a boon. Slax, my favourite live system, gives you a number of boot options with which you can have your PC boot in a myriad of ways. You can even copy the contents of the CD to your hard disk and make the computer boot from it, without any external disk, as if it were an installed operating system! So, if a new version is released and you want to update your machine, you don’t have to go through the tedious process of backing up your data, formatting the hard disk and installing the new version. Just delete the folder containing the older version and replace it with the new one- the new version is ready to use!
Though the live OS creates an image of the filesystem on the RAM, it uses very little primary memory as such. It’s like mounting the filesystem onto a small part of RAM, so you can safely run as many processes as you want, without the system crashing.
So, start using GNU/Linux, because only it provides you with such flexibility and freedom- get rid of that dull old boring Windows. “Why use Windows when you have open doors to walk through?”