Sunday, August 28, 2011

On Indian Visas

Don't let the Embassies' websites fool you, there are a LOT of visa types one can get in India.

I got this from the "Application for Visa Extension/Return Visa/Multiple Visa Entry/Exit Permission", from FRRO Hyderabad.

The types are: Tourist, Business, Employment, Entry (x), Student, Journalist, Official, Yoga, Diplomatix [not my typo], Medical, PIO, Medical Attendant, Missionary, Research, Provisional Student, Return Visa, Stateless, Others.

You read that well, there is a 'Others' too!
One of the annoying things is that there is almost no documentation online about these visas, and how to get them.

But that begs a question: do we really need all of those? Can we merge Yoga, Medical, Medical Attendant and Entry (x) into Tourist?

Do we really need the Return Visa?
What about the Missionary Visa? After all, a lot of missionaries in India are... Indian citizens!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monsoon Blues

We had a very weak monsoon rain lately, so it was time for Nature to 'catch up', and it did so insanely this weekend.
One fine morning, at 1AM, some boys rang our bell and told me "Sir, your car is moving".

Looking at the river that replaced my street, I did not venture.

The next morning, it was time for the damage report. Have a look:
Monsoon Vs Car

So, water and mud inside, and some crazy pressure on the suspension/alignment. I got things cleaned up and inspected easily enough, but still!!!

Monsoon is an interesting season. It is when the country gets the water it will run on for the next year. A weak rainfall means that people are going to die of hunger and that prices will go up. Too much rain means floods, and that can be very destructive.

Of course, this creates other disruptions in every life. Electricity will often go down during the rains, and the phone line may take a hit too. Traffic slows down and sometimes stops.
Some people have their houses flooded, and need to spend hours during the night in damage control. This sort of stuff.

If you plan to visit India, avoid this season. Your trip may not be so enjoyable.

Young Earth Theory

One of my friends told me about Hovind's Theory and I thought I couldn't hear something worse. A chunk of ice from space splitting conveniently enough to cover both the poles? You gotta be kidding me! For extra laughs, have a look at the over-simplifications at the Creation Minute.

Anyways, I did a little searching and found what looks like The Ultimate Resource against foolish Young Earth Theory defenders: How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments? by Dave E. Matson.

Now, for my dear brothers and sisters in the faith, I have a little tidbit for you: you can, and you must, believe in evolution.
You can because the Bible doesn't mention a mechanism by which Creation has enabled God's decrees, so it doesn't rule out evolution. And the story of Adam and Even does not have to happen on the 6th day, but more reasonably happens much later, after a chunk of soulless humanity has spread.

And you must believe in evolution because that's the best model put forward by science. Any if one wishes to put aside science, then one must also put aside the benefits of science. So that means turning off that computer, removing those factory-woven garments and hunting for the next meal without a rifle (extra points for doing it with bare hands).

As a sidenote, a better understanding of Genesis is available in a book highly recommended by a (scientist) friend of mine: The Science of God, by Gerald Schroeder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BSNL: Disconnecting India

BSNL is a well-known acronym for Bharath Sanchar Nigam Limited, one of the two government phone companies. Think of it as the Bell Canada of yore.

A while back, BSNL/MTNL was the only phone company most of Indians would have access to, and the queue for having a phone connection was pretty long.
After the liberalization, things got competitive, and now BSNL has improved its service dramatically.

That being said, it remains horribly backwards compared to the rest of the industry.

I had my phone connected the same day, and my Internet (ADSL) connection came a few days later. For a while, things were OK. The internet was mostly working, and the noise on the line wasn't too bad, so we were more or less able to use it.

But then came the monsoon season. Every time it rains, the line will be dead for some time. If it is not dead, it will have a lot of noise, so that we can't use it.

The customer service is disappointing, but less than one would expect from a government agency. While you have to go to a customer service centre to get some things done, and that the staff there are less than hardworking, there are some operations you can do by phone and on their portal.

Sadly, even that takes a hit in practice. Sometimes, customer service phone number won't connect. Also, the complaints you register tend not to get resolved in the system, so that you can't register complaints again.

Being very unsatisfied with the service, I thought of not paying the bill. This was very easy, as they didn't send me the bill last month. I didn't think much of that, and saw on the current bill that I didn't pay. They gave me a tiny penalty for late payment and gave me a due date of the end of the month. No problem.
But then, one fine morning, I hear a robo-voice telling me that the phone is disconnected due to non-payment. It is very interesting that the bill tells me I have another 2 weeks to pay and there is no threat of disconnection on it.

The very next day, a technician finally came (after months of constant complaints) and fixed the phone line. Now it is crystal clear and it has survived some pretty nasty rains.

BSNL: seriously? You fix people's phone lines after your disconnect them? Is "sadistic" or "evil" a requirement for employment in your organization?
Anyways, thanks for helping me making the decision I should've done months ago. I am not turning back.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ala Modalaindi

Ala Modalaindi is the first Telugu movie that I saw that doesn't have the exact same story as the other ones.

The story is simple: boy meets girl, feelings start, but then it gets complicated. One is engaged, but breaks up, then the other gets a girlfriend, then breaks up, etc. etc. etc.

I laughed a lot. There is an actual story and the characters make me feel like liking them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Varudu

Another review for yet another action-oriented Telugu hero movie.
Varudu is about a nice guy who has an arranged marriage with a girl whom he doesn't know what she looks like.

She gets kidnapped right in the middle of their wedding, right after seeing her for the first time. And the rest of the movie is about getting her back from the bad guy.
The only interesting thing in this movie is learning about the over-the-top pre-marriage rituals for the very rich people around here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Fast(er) LibreOffice Build


So I have finally managed to build LibreOffice from the source. In order to cut a lot of compile time, I have set up a small build cluster. And this is how you would do the same. This is how I think I did it (but I don't guarantee anything... too many intermediary steps). If anything is missing, please let me know in the comments.

sudo yum-builddep libreoffice

sudo yum install icecream

Once you reach that point, set up your Icecream cluster properly. I won't mention steps on the other machines
sudo vim /etc/sysconfig/icecream
sudo /etc/init.d/iceccd restart
sudo chkconfig iceccd on
icecc --build-native
mkdir ~/.icecc
mv <whatever icecc generated> ~/.icecc/
sudo vim ~/.bashrc
  • export ICECC_DEBUG=debug
  • export ICECC_VERSION=/home/<your home folder>/.icecc/icecc-env.tar.gz

Now, you are ready to build
./autogen.sh --enable-icecream --with-gcc-home=/usr/lib/icecc --with-num-cpus=16 --with-max-jobs=16 --enable-symbols ; make 
Next step: I'm going to find out how to accelerate this build using even more system libraries.

Monday, August 1, 2011

CERT Basic Fuzzing Framework in VirtualBox

So CERT has released an ever-improved version of their Basic Fuzzing Framework (BFF) and you might wanna play with it.
But then, you discover that it is distributed as VMWare image. Maybe you work in a company that would like to avoid spending for a license, or you might be a free software zealot.

So here is how to use it with VirtualBox OSE. I hope I didn't mess up some of those instructions...

1. Install VirtualBox. In Fedora 15, you would enable the RPM Fusion repositories and then run
sudo yum install VirtualBox-OSE
2. After downloading the Debian image from the link above, unzip the file
3. Set up a new virtual machine with the vmdk file you installed
4. Set up a shared folder named fuzz and make it auto-mounting
5. Run the virtual machine
6. Get the VM Guest Additions as follows:
wget http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/4.0.4/VBoxGuestAdditions_4.0.4.iso
sudo cp VBoxGuestAdditions_4.0.4.iso /usr/lib/virtualbox/VBoxGuestAdditions.iso
7. Mount the additions ISO clicking on Devices > Install Guest Additions and then
sudo mount /dev/cdrom2 /cdrom
cd /cdrom ; ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run ; cd /
sudo umount /cdrom
8. Set up the user to use the Virtual Box group as the default group
sudo usermod -g vboxsf fuzz
9. Add a symlink where the framework expects the shared folder to be installed:
cd /mnt/hgfs; sudo ln -s /media/sf_fuzz fuzz
10. Restart the virtual machine, and you should be ready.