Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Indian cricket team might be on the right track

By Sharad

Even though being an Indian one cannot stay away from cricket and being a cricket fan, of late I have tried to reason things rather than be blind about my passion. The past few years performance had only one sorry sight - Indian cricket team only going DOWN.

Of late, things have been changing and I feel for the first time, Indian CT might actually do something wonderful in the World Cup. What has changed ? Hmm first of all, the FEAR factor. For decades, it has been that case that if you perform well once (say hit a century), you can stay in the team for years without performing again. Now with so many players coming up, no one is sure about his seat. For opening slot, there is a fierce battle between Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Gambhir, Ganguly and maybe even Sachin. In the bowling department, their is a similar battle between Zaheer, Agarkar, Pathan, Sreesanth, Kumble, Harbhajan. For the middle order we have Yuvraj, Kaif, Raina battling it out. Even the charismatic Dhoni is not safe with Karthik giving him a run for his money :-)

Secondly, the approach Chappel adopted by kicking Ganguly, Zaheer, Pathan and Sehwag might just work in India's favor. Now their careers depend on their strong comeback and Ganguly has just been doing that. I hope that same happens for Sehwag and Pathan. This will make them realize the fact that they are dispensable and just to reiterate the FEAR factor :-)

More importantly the Indian team is getting into the act now. In the recent West Indies one-dayers, they started taking singles, fielding well and started to play as a team again. How long this will last and will it be strong enough to see India through the World Cup is a question that only time can tell, but it sure has got my hopes high again :-)

Go India Go !

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Creating playable DVD discs

Adam Pash has a very detailed and useful post about the software DVD Flick. It lets you write any video file to DVD discs so that you can play them on your TV. In simple words, it lets you burn those DVDRip / Divx / Xvid files that you have downloaded to a DVD disc to be enjoyed on your TV :-)

Key Features
- Free (Open source)
- Transcodes AVI, MPG, MOV and WMV files to MPEG-2 and burns your DVD in one shot.
- Lets you easily configure chapters and add sound tracks and subtitles.
- Lets you write the final project to ISO files.

Simple step guide -
1. Download and install DVD Flick
2. Configure settings - (size of media, NTSC/Pal, ISO or Burn to DVD)
3. Add the video files and configure chapter duration
4. Burn / Create.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Pandora Downloader

Few weeks back I posted about ways of saving songs from Pandora as MP3 for free. Just today, I read about another such tool- Pandora Downloader.

It is very similar to Pandora jar that we had discussed the last time, but is a little simpler to setup and and keeps a list of all the songs that you have played, so you can select any/all the songs heard in a session and save them.

The UI still needs a lot of work but the program as such is straight forward to use. Saves files to C:\Pandora and currently works only when you are hearing songs in IE.

As expected, pandora got on top and fixed the loophole even before I wrote about it :-(

Dont get disheartened, the new version is slated for a Feb first week release and use some other hack :-)

More links -

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Posts for this week

Author - Sharad

News roundup for this week. My list of must-read articles.

  • Encrypting you instant messages with GAIM
    To keep instant messages - between you and your wife/girlfriend from office or potential investor about your stealth startup - secure and away from prying eyes.

  • Hiding data in image files - easy steganography tools
    The digital equivalent of invisible ink is steganography software, apps that embed files and data inside other files, hidden from everyone who doesn't know any better.

  • International calls for local charges
    All free calls was a recent service that opened out of Iowa. You can make calls to over 30 countries just by dialing to their number. In short -
    1. Dial 712-858-8094.
    2. Listen to instructions in Mandarin, Spanish and English.
    3. Dial 011 followed by country code and number. No sign up, no fees, no hidden charges, unlimited call time. Guranteed privacy

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Friday, January 26, 2007


What is love?
These ten letters often come to me.
Is it a feeling or emotion?
Or is it just a tendency!

Love mostly deals with the matters of the heart,
sometimes mind too plays its part,
Love has no limit, nor any bound.
It comes with the greatest joy manking has found.

Love brings in fun and a little pain,
It has few losses as well as few gains
Love has no causes nor any reasons
also it never changes like the seasons.

Love needs understanding of emotion.
it's nothing to do with the laws of motion.
I dont have a true-love-definition,
words are never enough to give any explanation.

to know what is love, it needs to fall in love.
well. falling and rising is all the same in love.


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Which is the best IIT ?

Author: Sharad

A question that amazes almost everyone who either aspires to join IIT or has some contacts there. A question that runs high in debates among students. A question that might never have a definite answer. A question that is perennially debatable.

Even though this topic might not be in the best interest of me, I would surely like to give a shot at this one and see how judgemental I can be.

A quick start - Top JEE ranker's joining IIT in 2006. Source PanIIT.

IIT Bombay
IIT Delhi
IIT Guwahati
IIT Kanpur
IIT Kharagpur
IIT Madras
IIT Roorkee

Even though this might not be the best criteria to judge - it still reflects something very concrete - the choice of top 100 ranker's. Definitely there must have been something that influenced the decision of 46 students to join IIT Bombay. Was it totally a regional effect i.e. more students made it through JEE from the region in and around Bombay? My instincts tell me that cannot be the case. It still wouldn't have resulted in 0 admissions to IIT-G, Kgp and R. Geographically speaking, central position of Bombay along with the fact that is the financial capital of India indeed helps in attracting better students. This does explain why fewer students might prefer to go to Kanpur, but then should the numbers have been so different for Delhi?

So what other criterion's can one use to differentiate between the IIT's? I don't wanna digress into discussing (bashing) the rankings that sites like Rediff, Times of India or India Today publish. Some one suggested that rank them on research output. (Wikipedia's article on IIT says - IITs fall short in many parameters that are considered for educational rankings. The criteria for ranking(ranking methodology) prominently include internationally recognised research output, in which the IITs do not achieve notable success.)

I took a little inspiration from true-it-is journal and realized it would be useful to use Google scholar to measure this. The steps I used were like this. I typed in the following queries "Indian Institute of Technology" "Madras" -Chennai and then "Indian Institute of Technology" "Chennai" -Madras and eventually "Indian Institute of Technology" "Madras" "Chennai". The same technique for "IIT" "Madras" -Chennai and so on. I added up the number of hits - so that measures just plain quantity. I scanned the first page (only) and noted down the largest number of cites that I saw on any paper. For Roorkee I included University of Roorkee in my search. Here's what I found out -

CampusNumber of hitsMax. citations

The top 4 IITs look quite similar with IIT D topping the list with 23k hits. IIT-K even though has very few hits compared to IIT-D, it still ranks first in the maximum number of citations - a whooping 2,000+ citations. More importantly, it brings forward the truth that IIT-R and IIT-G have to work real hard !

Nevertheless, there are many many other factors that need to be considered for developing a more comprehensive listing. Based on what I evaluated - Bombay is marginally ahead of Delhi, closely followed by Madras.

Disclaimer: This ranking has nothing to do with the fact that I also studied at IIT Bombay. The views are my own and should be taken with a pinch of salt, if you may so desire!

More links
Rediff 2005 list
Economic Times
CBS 60 minutes (Put Harvard, MIT and Princeton together, and you begin to get an idea of the status of IIT in India. )

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Internet TV

C'mon guys: its not a day when u're missing those lovely indian soaps all the time.

Internet Television can surely help you out for that matter. Just take a look on this website:

Register and watch channels from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh - n - lemme know wat you think of it :)

Good Going,

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Humor - More maths genius

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Online Image Editors

Smiley cat has a very comprehensive listing of the sites which offer online image editing. The online image editors that were compared were -

These tools were compared on the ease of use, range of features, functionality etc. The interesting fact was, all these tools gave a solid basic image editing functionality - crop, resize, adjust color, contrast, brightness etc.

The end verdict was Cellsea was the most preferred tool because of the wide and impressive range of features, easy, clean and simple UI and handled a range of file formats.

More discussion on the products.
The full comparison chart.
Amit A. at digital inspiration covered a smaller subset here.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Humor - Maths Genius

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Humor - Effect of market boom in India

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Crappy Websites

I must be surfing over few hundred web sites daily. A lot of them are very popular. Even though the numbers say that these websites are doing very well, their interface makes me feel YUKS! Can't these sites afford a decent designer? Here's a quick list.

  • - The famous indian portal which was considered as India's best website. Alexa rating currently ranks it at 78! The user interface for the website is crappy to say the least. On the front page, the total news worth a normal user's attention is less than 10% of the area. Remaining 90% is ads! Can you believe it? Next in line are the glossy ads. The site is so colorful that you are blinded by the sudden light from the gazillion ads (ok kidding!), but its still a very bad UI. Even though they have upgraded the email space to 1GB, but the moment you start typing in your username, a popup appears. Well what the heck is that for. Noticed right now that a pop-up appears even when you load the site (this was instantly blocked by my firefox, so didnt notice it earlier). I am not sure why people actually end up going to such annoying sites. More links - linuxreviews

  • - It suffers from the same problems. Slow interface, too many shiny ads and the bitter truth - absolutely crappy news. Well technically, they have all the "masala" news (bollywood star's liaison's, the latest innovation that happened 6 months back (yaah as if no one knows about it), political scandals etc.) but speaking of anything worthwhile is probably not on their agenda.

  • Sulekha - I am not sure if I should be writing about it. Just for the heck of it, I complained online about the site and their user-interface. Surprisingly they replied back and wanted my suggestions on how to improve the look and feel of site. Well let's see how they go about it. Their website does not work across different browsers. The ads are more shinier and glossier than those on rediff. Lot of spam ads/ messages posted on their site (I know its a tough problem) to clear out those, but for a site which has over 10k hits everyday, this should be a no-brainer.

If people know of any other famous sites that are equally crappy, please let me know :)

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Google needs to stop automating everything !

Google needs to stop automating everything. For one it needs to put some serious thought into the kind of contextual ads it displays. The sample ad in the pictures shows the problem. Dont even ask me what it means.

Given the kind of revenue they generate from text ads, I thought they would have classified and filtered all such content. Now I feel, Google should be using language specialists to figure out the good from bad and filter out such content immediately.

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Install ubuntu from windows !

The announcement of new Ubuntu installer.exe is a big step in easing the life of so many newbies. Now you can install ubuntu and its flavors without getting into the hassle of Live CDs and worrying about how to repartition your hard drive or figuring out the complexities of a dual-boot setup. 

The new Ubuntu Windows installer lets you run the Linux distro without effecting your windows setup.

From lifehacker - In other words, it's like a live CD without the CD. Just run the installer, which in turn downloads a disk image of Ubuntu (actually, your choice of four Ubuntu distros), and then reboot your PC. Choose the desired boot option from the menu that appears, and presto: You're running Linux. This is a working prototype, not a finished product, so user beware. It didn't work on my Vista box (I discovered after the fact that Vista isn't supported yet), but it ran like a gem on an XP system.

Great way to run Ubuntu without the hassles of partitioning or burning a live CD!

Ubuntu windows prototype.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Recommended guide for Open Source Software's

People often come up to me and ask for advice on software's that could help them with their daily activities (browsing, antivirus, media players etc). In all likelihood, I advice an open source software for two simple reasons - they have infinite value for money (a very good software for NO money), they have been tested by millions of user and their development is always ongoing - in simple words, any bug or feature that you think/want/desire can and will be added to the software :) Here is my recommended list -

Web Browsing
1. Firefox - (Replaces Internet Explorer)
Firefox makes it to the top of the list, so no points for guessing that its the MOST recommended software. Compared to any other browser - it is much faster, lightweight (wont consume 100% of your CPU), simpler, stops annoying popups and has tons of amazing plug-ins that can make surfing the web a real pleasure. Switch to Firefox now !

1. ClamWin (Replaces Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee)
ClamWin is a smart anti-virus software that is fast, easy to manage and unobtrusive (wont eat up your CPU and make it slow) while keep your system free of viruses. So why pay for Norton or McAfee anymore?

Email Client
1. Thunderbird (Replaces Microsoft Outlook)
Thunderbird is an email client that has the main features desired in any email client or software for that matter - rich (full) feature set, lightweight, fast, a very good spam filter, and last but not the least protects you from those ridiculous phishing attacks by clearly indicating which emails send you to a bogus website. With a new plugin you can even get Gmail like UI for thunderbird.

Word Processing / Office Suites
1. OpenOffice (Replaces Microsoft Office)
Instead of paying for Microsoft Office, one should try OpenOffice. It includes very nice replacements for Excel and PowerPoint (and workable replacements for Access, Word and other Office elements).

2. Abiword (Replaces Microsoft Word)
A very effective replacement for Microsoft Word (who wants to pay for M$?). It is very fast compared to Word and includes pretty much every feature that I one desires in a word processor, plus saves and operates on lot of different file formats.

Photo Editing / Graphics
1. GIMP (Replaces Adobe Photoshop)
GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It is feature rich, solid and free ! So now why pay exorbitant amounts for Photoshop anymore !

Instant Messaging
1. Gaim (Replaces AIM, Windows Messenger, Yahoo Messenger etc.)
A very simple instant messaging program that allows you to be on AOL Instant Messenger, Windows (MSN) Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk simultaneously with one program. There are other programs that do the same work, but Gaim is simple, fast and more reliable.

Video Player
1. Mplayer (Replaces Windows Media Player, Quicktime, RealPlayer, etc.)
One player to rule them all! Plays anything under the sun. Use its keyboard shortcuts and you will never use any other player ever ! The most interesting is use of arrow keys to move within the video. The plain MPlayer has no GUI (graphical user interface) and can be a little tricky because of the command line hassle. My recommendation is to go with MPUI.

2. VLC Media Player (Replaces Windows Media Player, Quicktime, RealPlayer, etc.)
Similar to MPlayer, plays all media formats and has a clean, simple interface.

Update: The second list of MUST-try open source apps is here.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Disruptive Technolgies are here to stay

Author: Ankur

Nothing is permanent but change!
In his 1997 best-selling book, "The Innovator's Dilemma", Professor C. M. Christensen from Harvard Business School coined the term Disruptive Technology to describe a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology. Several technologies that have been percolating around the edges of mainstream software industry are expected to bubble up to the surface this year, and CEOs / CIOs and IT managers need to be prepared for the aspects and opportunities they represent-just to play safe!

The major fields to watch out for in the year 2007 are predicted to be:

  • RFID: Motorbikes on roads to billboards on skyscrapers, this is "the" thing to watch out with key players like IBM and Honda putting up their toil!
  • WEB SERVICES: After making a mark with words like blogs, social networking, RSS, web2.0, google, wiki into the lives of a common man in the past year, lets see what new software-services come up this year.
  • FREE SERVER VIRTUALIZATION: The concept behind virtual machine software is simply stated but hard to implement. The idea is to run multiple operating systems and applications in the same box, making it easier to provision a new server and make more productive use of the hardware. Interesting, ain't it?

  • ADVANCED GRAPHICS PROCESSING: This further breaks into - a) 3-D Image Arts and b) Usage of Graphic Processors. Microsoft has already aired off their new operating system, Vista: a classy example of what advanced graphics can be. I'm sure there's pretty much awaited!

Keep Watching. Good Luck!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Data protection - Full Disk Encryption

Author: Sharad

To address the issue of data leaks from stolen / missing laptops, the concept of full hard disk encryption is coming as a savior. Encryption is performed at hardware level using ASIC chips. With full hard disk encryption, every sector of the hard disk is encrypted using the most advanced encryption algorithms. Using full hard disk encryption for data security is the best and only true protection for highly confidential information that is stored on a computer hard disk. Seagate is working to create the first Full Disk Encryption enabled Hard Drive. More info about Seagate's FDE solution. Other product from Guardianedge.

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Moving To America? The Questions to Be!

Author: Ankur

With the basic desire to plunge into the land of Uncle Sam, approximately one half million students come here annually.[REFER: Here] It sure is a wise decision to gain some focus and preparedness for a better standing in the days you spend in the US of A.

To begin with, make sure you have drawn lines on the following considerations:
1) What specific aims do you have post the master's degree?
2) What field do you want to major in?
3) What funding limits do you have?

As for the Indian Engineer's, the major job option (or rather the only one) is the Software field. On an average the mass-recruiters back home (per se Infosys / HCL / TCS) hire approx. 7000-10000 engineers each year, individually. Such is not the situation in the US. Here ample decent jobs in areas like Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Core Sciences, Medical Sciences, Fine Arts, Dramatics etc are available. Moreover, hybrid areas like Mechatronics, Nanotechnology and Computational Biology are also some great options you get to work on. The diversity of options, sometimes, is all the more confusing. So, to begin with, be clear with what kind of a profile would you like to fit yourself in - or - in an interrogative manner - "How do you see yourself five years down the line?"

The available options may include:
PhD leading to some post-doctoral research.
University Teaching.
Corporate Job in the US.
Corporate Job in India.

To help yourself formulate the answers for Q(1), read! Read about the various social, economic, ethnic and medical aspects of the lifestyle, for the ultimate aim is a comfortable lifestlyle.

After making your pick with Q(1), the job is little simpler. The major can be well decided looking upon your inherent interest in the field of study. It might be some subject you liked a lot (don't mess this with scoring high in a subject). It can also be some talk / conference / seminar / presentation that lured you to work upon it. All in all, it is an intelligent choice to pick a field yourself after giving in due thought process (it is a flexible choice - anyways you can change it later, ie if you feel like).

The tuition for grad school may range from $8000 - $40,000, depending on the choice of university/program/credits. The details can be easily figured out under the "Tuition and Fee" sections of a grad school website. Therefore, the answer to Q(3) is entirely a subject to personal conditions. It is better to consult your parents/guardians/family members/sponsors regarding the available funds. Also, it is advisable to explore the various loan schemes available - both in India as well as US. Making a wise choice in this regard is vital.

After finalizing the above the answers (or just a range), work upon the basic required examinations for admission to a grad school: GRE & TOEFL.

PS: GRE-TOEFL prep fundaes in the posts to follow.

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First Post

Hope this arbitrary activity I cherished for long turns out to be some good - though for some reason procrastination had overtaken me to write a post over a long period of time.

But here I am finally to pronounce stuff the way I do.

Way to Go!


PS: The efforts by SM & NG are highly appreciable! Good Going Guys.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

News Update

Author - Sharad

Hmm so lets see whats going around the world.

Apple's Iphone is the big news in the market. Apples stocks are soaring high ! (More links - How apple kept it a secret, Guardian - Scramble starts , NY Times- Apple waves its wand, again)

Cisco sues Apple
over Iphone name.

India successfully launched the 10th PSLV (Polar Sattelite Launching Vehicle) and fired off 4 satellites from a single rocket. Woo hoo :) Indian scientists still need to work on GSLV's (Geo-synchronous Space Launching Vehicle) to be considered at par with the Russians, Americans and EU. (Links Hindustan Times, Statesman)

Michael reports - Ebay buying StubHub.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

GNU / Linux

There are many people in world using GNU/Linux system today. But very few of them must be knowing about the true origins of GNU/Linux. As a humor most of them don't pronounce even "linux" properly. Pronunciation of "Linux" by Linus Torvalds: Youtube Video.

Wikipedia says - Linux refers to any Unix-like computer operating system which uses the Linux kernel. The GNU/ Linux is whole operating system and linux is functioning as its kernel. The goal of GNU project initially was to develop a complete operating system like Unix. According to Richard Stallman his team had the whole system like compilers, text editors, UNIX shell, applications etc except kernel with them in early 90s. They were working on kernel project called "GNU hurd". In 1991, Linus Torvalds came out with a kernel called "Freax" as a replacement for Minix. The name "Linux" was coined by Ari Lemmke, who administered an FTP server belonging to the Finnish University Network; he invented the name Linux for the directory from which Torvalds' project was first available for download. "LINUX" filled the last and no doubt major gap to complete the GNU project.

The Free Software Foundation argues for the term GNU/Linux because GNU was a longstanding project to develop a free operating system, of which they argue the kernel was only the final small piece. Proponents of the Linux term contend that users and developers have overwhelmingly chosen to keep this shorter name and, since GNU is but one of many contributors to the operating system as a whole, a name change is not justified.

Finally, a Linux-based operating system has many components, including both the Linux kernel and software developed by the GNU project, as well as substantial amounts of software such as the X Window System by other authors. The Linux kernel has been reported to be the largest single component, while it is smaller than the total amount of code developed by the GNU project in a typical Linux distribution. Determining exactly what constitutes the "operating system" per se is a matter of continuing debate, however, since there is no single authority to determine the demarcation.

Submitted by - PS

More info -
Wikipedia Linux and GNU/Linux naming controversy.

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Monday, January 8, 2007

IIT ? Duh ! - What to do after getting through JEE

How can it be that 2 IITians blog and the first post they write about does not include IIT ! 

Well to answer all those prayers - here's a post about our experience at IIT. 

Before I begin shooting some stuff from the top of my head - I would capture verbatim the wordings of Professor Dheeraj from IIT Kanpur (just in case he takes his page down

Professor Dheeray writes -

What to do after getting through JEE

Here I attempt to answer a few frequently asked questions by people who have passed JEE. Please note that these are purely my personal views, and based on my discussions with several of my friends and colleagues, I can confidently say that these are not even unofficial views of IITK.

Official view of IITK, to put it simply, is that all IITs are equal, all programs are equal, and all students are equal.

If you were to believe in the official views of the IIT, you have got only two options.

First, you got to delve deep into your heart, and see if you have any innate preference for any program. (And by the way, in my humble opinion, you should follow your heart and not your mind in these matters.) But if you are an average JEE qualifier who has spent the last two years in a coaching center in Kota, Delhi, Hyderabad, or Kanpur, and who didn't have time to develop and explore one's own interests, the result of this exercise is likely to be one of the two possibilities:

  1. I don't know enough about any program. (You are being honest.) Well, if you have to follow IITK official words of wisdom, go for Step 2.

  2. I love computers. My first toy as a baby was a computer. I am great at playing computer games, and this would make me a perfact computer scientist. Well, as I said, follow your heart. Fill up all CS and IT related programs as your first few options, and get ready for a shocking realization that Computer Science is not about ability to use google, or creating a wonderful powerpoint presentation, or playing games. But it will be too late by then. (But thankfully, less than 10 percent of JEE qualifiers are allowed this option.)

So what is Step 2. Since all programs and all IITs are equal, and you do not have any specific interest (except compooters, which you can't get based on your rank), the best way to choose is to draw lots. Write down codes for each program on a separate piece of paper. Put all such small pieces in a box. Take one slip out at a time, and write down the code in that slip on your preference sheet.

But unfortunately for us in IIT, JEE qualifiers do not trust our official wisdom. So they ask us all sorts of questions. In most cases, they know the answers, and we don't. But we pretend to provide answers, and they pretend to listen to those answers (which is good, one should respect one's potential teachers).

So here are some Frequently Asked Questions and their unofficial answers. (And another disclaimer: I know more about IIT Kanpur than any other IIT. I did my BTech in CSE from here, and now I am teaching here for more than a decade. Don't expect me to be fair and impartial.)

1. Should I be selecting an IIT or a Program

Depends mostly on whether your inner voice has an opinion on this. If you are passionate about a particular career (because, for example, your role model in family or neighbourhood is in that career), then give the program a higher preference over an IIT. If you are not passionate about any program, then perhaps selecting an IIT is alright.

Most programs in most IITs are good. I am already deviating from the official line. But frankly, I don't see how a four year undergraduate program in one IIT be run as effectively by a core faculty of five as is run in another IIT by a core faculty of ten or more. A much larger faculty does not mean a much better program, but a faculty size in single digits should ring an alarm bell.

So your first home work after qualifying JEE. Go to the website of each IIT. Visit the websites of the departments that you are considering, and find the faculty strength. If it is less than 10 for a program, then try to get more information. (Like it may be a new program, and faculty is being hired now.) If in doubt, drop the priority of this particular IIT-program pair.

2. Which IIT should I chose

I can't say which IIT to chose, but what I can suggest is that you shouldn't be afraid or ashamed of chossing an IIT for non-academic reasons.

Some of you may select an IIT because it is closer to home (and you want to be able to meet family every weekend). Some of you may select an IIT because you want to go far off from your home so that your parents can't visit you frequently, and certainly not without a warning. Both are valid ways of selecting an IIT. And I recommend former for those whose hometown is Kanpur, Lucknow, Allahabad, Jhansi, etc., and latter for everyone else :-)

By the way, metro IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Madras) are slowly becoming regional IITs. There are so many selections from their respective zones that most persons studying there would come from their own respective zones. But non-metro IITs have fewer selections in their resepctive zones, hence they attract students from all over the country. As a result you find more cosmopolitan environment in IITs in smaller cities, and more regional environment in IITs in bigger cities.

If you love city life don't even think of IIT Kanpur. (Though one always wonders whether any IIT in a metro city would leave you with enough time to explore that city.) If you choose IIT Kanpur, you will love the campus so much that you will start hating the city life. In fact, you will become a misfit in the society, and will have difficult time when you go back home in vacation. The only career option for you will then be to be the leader and bring about change (or meekly accept a job in IIT Kanpur, as I have done).

And if you are still confused about which IIT to chose, then chose the one which is closest to Ganges :-) You will be able to at least wash your sins frequently.

3. I have decided on IIT-K. How do I rank its various programs.

A more direct question that I get asked every year is what are the job prospects of various programs. And it is a sad question to answer, because it reflects complete lack of self-confidence even amongst people who have qualified in one of the toughest exams in the world. If they won't have jobs, then who else will.

If you look at those students who are in the top 75% of their class, there is no problems at all in terms of finding a job. Most graduates in the lowest 25% will also find jobs, but there could be cases, who could not manage a job through the campus placement, but had to apply on one's own.

Frankly speaking, there can only be two reasons to prefer one program over the other: One, your own personal inclination and aptitude. If you knew that then obviously there is no problem in ranking the programs. The second reason is placement. But if placement is close to 100% for all programs, then what does one do. (And on top of that, most IITians end up doing things completely different from what they studied at IITK anyway, 10 years after their graduation. So why worry about placement.)

Since placement is no different, and one does not have special personal preference for a particular program, the only ranking that makes sense for most people is based on last years' closing rank. But what this means is that a new and exciting program will be missed by a large number of bright students. Do pay a close attention to programs that have been started in the last couple of years, and are being started this year. Most people will go by last years' closing ranks, and you may have an easy time getting admission into that program, even if you do not have a rank in 3 digits or less.

Since most people end up using last years' closing rank as a guide to fill up their preferences this year, it puts a lot of pressure on others who may actually have a personal preference for something else. The old illogic continues. For example, why don't people select Civil Engineering. Many people still believe that the only job that a civil engineer can have is that of supervising in hot summer afternoon the road construction work in the hinterland. Nothing could be far from truth. While one should not demean the job of constructing a highway, there are so many exciting things happening in civil engineering, but people continue to join civil only if they don't get any other engineering program. They are disinclined towards civil engineering from day one, and they fail to notice the excitement in it.

Same thing happens in other programs. In Chemistry, for example, IIT Kanpur has such a strong faculty, that few departments even come close. There are Bhatnagar awardees, Silver Jubilee awardees, Fellows of various societies, and so on. It would be a wonderful experience to study Chemistry from such an illustrious faculty. But sadly, people follow last years' closing ranks for filling up this years' choices, and there is no way Chemistry can break this vicious cycle and start attracting a lot more good students.

The Bio-science and Bio-engineering program is another example, where the future is very bright. Four years from now, it is expected that Bio-related industries will be better placed in the market than even IT. But most people only look at what is considered hot today (which no doubt is IT and Electronics), and not think about what may be hot 4-5 years hence.

The five year MSc program in Economics is another wonderful program (though faculty size is an issue, which IITK is working on). I wish it was there in 1982, when I passed JEE. A combination of engineering basics and economics is just too exciting for me. In fact, if you want to decide your future by looking at placement figures for the previous year (soemthing that I do not recommend, but I am sure many of you want to do this), then Economics should be very high up there on your list. The largest salaries this year were for jobs in financial sector, investment banks, and so on. And these were not even Economists. Just think of a combination of Engineering (analytical skills is what they are looking for) and Economics. It will be really potent. I hope some of you will opt for this program.

By the way, IIT Madras also has a program in Economics, but they conduct a separate entrance exam called, HSEE. They wish to open the program to everyone who has completed 12th class, not just those who have a science background. I think the Engineering based Economics program of Kanpur and Kharagpur are better, than a pure humanities based Economics program, but of course, you have to clear JEE for that. Anyway, since IIT Madras program is outside the JEE system, I do not wish to write too much about it here.

One program which excites me a lot is the dual-degree program in IIT Kharagpur, where you get a BTech and an MBA in five years. This program started last year. Of course, the selection for MBA is not now. Right now, you just choose BTech program, and if you perform well in their aptitude test, groupd discussion and personal interview, you might be given admission to this dual-degree program at the end of 1st year. If you are thinking of doing an MBA anyway, and you are confident of doing well in their admission process, this program may be a reason to prefer Kharagpur over other IITs.

4. Should I prefer a Dual-degree or a BTech program

Well the answer depends on whether you are talking about the two programs in the same department, or different departments. Let us take the two possibilities seperately.

If you are comparing Dual and BTech in the same department, say Dual (CSE) versus BTech (CSE), then the answer is very simple. Go for BTech. I think the dual-degree programs are fantastic, but the way IIT Kanpur policies have been designed, it is much easier to change one's program from BTech to Dual, and it is much more difficult to change the program from Dual to BTech. So why should one decide on Dual now. Take up BTech program now, and if you get excited about the Dual degree program after you join IIT, you can try to move to Dual-degree at that time.

What I am suggesting above may not hold for other IITs. Another view I have on dual-degree program is that it is little too early to decide what your specialization should be in the MTech program. Hence I personally prefer only those dual-degree program where MTech is in a broad discipline (allowing you to choose your specialisation in the fourth year typically), and not like those dual-degree programs where you have to decide now a narrow area of specialization, for which you know even less at this time.

Now coming to the more interesting question. I have a JEE rank of 200. I want to follow last years' closing ranks for choosing major departments, and hence I prefer CSE over EE. But I am not likely to get admission in BTech (CSE). Should I prefer Dual (CSE) or BTech (EE).

You could replace EE and CSE with any two departments, and the answer will be same. It depends on how strongly you prefer one department over the other (CSE over EE in this example). And to test how strongly you prefer one department over the other, I will ask a theoretical question. Be honest in answering it.

Your BTech (EE) program will finish in May 2010. Suppose I were to offer you admission in BTech (CSE) on the condition that your program will be delayed by three months, and you will actually graduate in August 2010. Would you then prefer BTech (CSE) or would you still prefer BTech (EE).

Basically, if you prefer EE in this hypothetical scenario, then it is clear that your preference for CSE is very minor, and you are not willing to pay even a small cost of three extra months to undertake a CSE program. Then you should prefer BTech (EE) over Dual (CSE).

But if you preferred CSE in this hypothetical situation, then we can continue this game a bit further. Now, I further suggest that you invest 9 more months in the discipline for which you have indicated a reasonably strong preference. In these nine months, we will most probably give you Rs. 60,000 in cash, we will give you a degree that normally takes two years to complete, and a degree that opens a lot more doors for you in industry. At least in CSE, several multinationals have setup advanced R&D labs in India, and they hire MTechs and PhDs only, giving a very good work environment as well as an excellent financial package. I am sure there are such labs in other disciplines as well.

To me the decision is a no-brainer (though your mileage may vary). The future certainly belongs to more specialisation, and having an MTech degree will be an asset for everyone. Spending a few extra months now in the same environment where you have spent four years is the easiest way to get an MTech degree. (Again talking about CSE, for getting a BTech degree, you will need to do 40 courses and a project. For Dual-degree the requirement is only 42 courses and a thesis. So it is really very small incremental work that gives you an additional degree.)

The financial assistance in the final year is based on your good performance in the first four years, and is based on current Institute assistantship rates. These may be enhanced in the next four years. You could also be working on sponsored projects for your thesis, and get much higher assistanship. (For example, MTech students working with me next semester will be getting Rs. 10,000 per month.)

And, if you are one of those who always want to look at placement figures before taking a decision, well, the first batch of dual-degree students in IIT Kanpur graduated this year. And the salary package offered to them was much better than the corresponding package offered to the BTech students in the same branch, by the same company. So you do get compensation for that one extra year (besides, as I said, opening more doors in research labs, and other such places, where BTechs are not even considered).

5. If Dual-degree programs are so good, why is it that many people are not opting for it.

Nothing is perfact in life, and there are shortcomings with Dual-degree programs as well. But more importantly it does not fit into the career plans of many students.

First, many students think that they might like to get a US degree after IIT. (This used to be the only ticket to US a decade or more ago. Most people who go to US today, go with business visa, but still old thinking die hard.) And the easiest US degree to get is a Masters degree. People feel shy of joining another master's degree after completing one.

I can only say to such students that the number of people going to US for MS degree is reducing rapidly as other avenues to go abroad have opened, and also opportunities within India have become enormous. So the chances are that you won't find yourself in a situation where you would have to do another Master's degree after a Master's degree from IITs.

Second, if the student has already decided that one is not going to be in the area of undergraduate discipline. For example, one may be interested in MBA after BTech. Then spending an extra year is wasteful.

My response is that unless you are absolutely sure of your career plans, a few extra months in an IIT are not going to hurt you too much, and in all likelihood it will help your career significantly.

A clear shortcoming of Dual-degree program is the way it is implemented at IITK. (Other IITs may or may not have this problem. Or they may have other problems.) If you happen to be a weak student, who has failed a couple of courses, and is getting D grades in some more, then there are problems in dual-degree. If you are a BTech student, then a few failures may mean that you spend an extra semester to graduate. But if you are a dual-degree student, and cannot cope up with even the marginally higher requirements of an MTech degree, you will get a BTech degree after two extra semesters (a total of 5 years or 10 semesters). And if you are a weak student, you may not get financial assistanship.

My response is to think positive, and not consider a situation where you will be failing courses. If you get into those situations, then you will have a lot more to think about than spending an extra semester.

6. I have got a 2500+ rank in JEE, but a better rank in AIEEE, Should I prefer a science program in IITs or an engineering program in another college.

If you have personal preference/aptitude/inclination towards a particular discipline, and you are getting admission into a decent quality college for that discipline, then go for it. But in most cases, I would prefer an IIT.

As I have said above, everyone in an IIT will get a job, and most persons would not be in their discipline a decade after their graduation. So in a sense the discipline does not matter. What IITs give you is not just learning in a particular discipline, but train you for life-long learning. As we proudly say, we don't train you for your first job, we train you for your last job. The kind of learning environment you will find in IITs is difficult to replicate elsewhere.

You will progress in your career primarily based on your capabilities, but you will require help from others at times. IITs have a HUGE brand equity, and anywhere you go, doors will open for you on the basis of this brand-equity. There is a very concious program running in US (and to a smaller extent in India) to promote IIT as a common brand of all IITs. And the old boys' network of IITs is very strong, and has a lot of attachment for other fellow IITians. These things help a lot in career.

7. Can you name a few good colleges, in case I don't get admission to any program in an IIT

Author - Sharad


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Sunday, January 7, 2007

2007 - Will it be the year of bubble 2.0?

Earlier I discussed my doubts about how long the web 2.0 bubble was gonna last. Now everyoone is catching up on it and posting about it. You can read postings about this by Michael Arrignton, Joseph etc etc.

This week saw three companies go dead (Raw Sugar, FilmLoop and Browster). Even Google got into act when they pulled the plug on Google Answers at the end of the year.

The definition on Tech Encyclopedia is very apt about the dot-com bubble - It refers to the late 1990s during which countless Internet companies were riding an enormous wave of enthusiasm that pushed their stock valuations into the stratosphere even though they never made a penny. Billions in venture capital were given to entrepreneurs with little or no experience to fund ideas that were ludicrous. It was a crazy time, and people were very excited. With all of the nonsense, many dot-coms did survive, and countless concepts and techniques were developed that continue today. One must never forget that the Internet, for all intents and purposes, is still in its infancy!

In his post, Arrington says that IPO door for new startup companies is shut and acquisition is the only viable liquidity option left in the market. He further tries to argue that there is lot of promise left in the companies by arguing about Digg which is successful because of the social community aspect. The problem still is the mushroming of such social networking sites. In hsi own words - Too much money is chasing very few good ideas ! Leave apart social networking and online video sharing, what else were the major startups of 2006 centered on?

Author - Sharad

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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Best free video editing tools

There are lot of video editing tools available in the market. Choosing one which suits your needs can be a tough task. Your problems become more complex when you consider the features vs price comparison. However, before buying a software have a look at these free video editing tools. You never know if you might like some of them and might be saved from buying one :)

  • VirtualDub - Totally free (licensed under GPL) and a very neat utility for all your video capturing / editing needs. It helps you decompress and recompress both audio and video. You can even remove and edit audio tracks without touching the video. More virtualdub features here.
  • Mencoder - Targeted for the geeky - mencoder is a free command line video decoding, encoding and filtering tool (licensed under GPL). Its a close sibling of MPlayer and hence can process almost anything under the sun.
  • Avid FreeDV - A stripped down version of the Avid Xpress pro software but packed with a punch nevertheless. Interface is counter intuitive and might not suit everyone.
  • Microsoft Movie Maker - Windows Movie Maker comes included with windows operating system (starting from Windows ME). It contains features such as effects, transitions, titles/credits, audio track, timeline narration, and Auto Movie.

For professional video editing Cinelerra would be my suggestion. Its a very high end non-linear video editing system (Wikipedia says - A non-linear editing system (NLE) is a video editing (NLVE) or audio editing (NLAE) system that can perform random access on the source material.)

Further Reading -
Comparison of video editing softwares.

A snipped list from wikipedia about other free video editing softwares is -

Closed-source freeware
Non-linear video editing software
Avid Free DV (Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X)
AVIedit (Microsoft Windows)
AviTricks classic
Clesh (Java on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
Zwei Stein
Windows Movie Maker (Microsoft Windows)

Video encoding and conversion tools
CleshLoad (Java on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
TMPGEnc (Microsoft Windows)
Windows Media Encoder (Microsoft Windows)
MPEG Stream (Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X)

Open software
Non-linear video editing software
Blender (software) (cross-platform)
HyperEngine-AV (Macintosh)
Jahshaka (Cross platform)
LiVES (Linux)

Video encoding and conversion tools
Avidemux (cross-platform)
AviSynth (Microsoft Windows)
VirtualDubMod (Microsoft Windows) (based on VirtualDub, but with additional input/output formats)

Author - Sharad

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Friday, January 5, 2007

Free Online Storage

How often have you run out of storage on your local machines and wondered about having a new / bigger harddrive? How often you feel that you forgot your data on your home machine or your work machine and have to do without it?

There are plenty of sites which can assist you in carrying your files from one place to other for free. Some of the common ones are -

  • Yousendit - Free account, no ads, file available for 14 days, upto 1 Gb.
  • Rapidshare - Free account, ads, file deleted after 30 days of inactivity, upto 100 MB.
  • Megaupload - Free account, ads, deleted after 90 days of inactivity, upto 500 MB.

Recently I have heard of few sites which give you unlimited (almost) space online. How can these companies sustain is still doubtful to me.

  • Divshare - Currently the site has no ads, no pop-ups, no spam, and lets you create galleries if you're uploading pictures. It also enables you to upload unlimited files of any type, the files will stay there forever, and the company will somehow serve unlimited downloads, too !!
  • Xdrive - 5GB of free online secure storage. You can even share the files with your friends.
  • Dropboks - Web-based file cabinet which gives you 1Gb of free space. The interface is very simple. The only catch is that individual file size cannot exceed 50MB and you can retrieve only one file at a time.
  • Localhostr - Currently in beta, but a fairly simply 3 way step to upload file (size restricted to 50 MB currently). Select the file, upload it and then copy one of the three resulting links - a standard URL, HTML-formatted link, or BBcode.

Few of my friends requested me to post tricks and tips to download files from rapidshare / megaupload and how to bypass their IP / Country restriction. If you are also looking for a similar solution/ have a solution post a comment.

Author - Sharad

A report about many other online storage services - Lifehack

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Pandora: How to save songs as MP3's for free

One of the few music related websites that has been able to perform exceptionally well in all the DRM/RIAA crap is Pandora.

Disclaimer: We do not encourage music piracy. You should use these steps only to figure out if the song is actually worth buying. More appropriately, you should use this ONLY if you own the music you are getting off Pandora. Otherwise it is illegal and we are not responsible for your actions.

Essentially there are two ways of storing pandora songs on your local machine.

I. For the less tech savy
Pre-requisites - Firefox, Java, Windows

1. Create a account on
2. Download and run pandora's jar. All the detailed instructions can be found on this forum.
3. Extract and install the files to a folder of your choice (C:\My downloads\pandora)
4. Run the pandora.jar file (stored in C:\My downloads\pandora)
5. Visit http://localhost/ in firefox and you will see the "pandora jar" version of pandora.
6. As you listen, songs will be saved in a directory called mp3 in your original installation directory (C:\My downloads\pandora\mp3).

Follow instructions at Hak.5 for more directions and problems.

II. For the more tech-savy
Pre-requisites - Windows (should be do-able in linux also), Flash8, WMP
1. Play a song at Pause the song after a couple of seconds, and open your temp files (in the Run dialog, type %TEMP%).
2. Find the folders labeled “plugtmp-n”, “n” being a number. Open the last folder of the series. If there is no number or dash, just open the folder.
3. Every file except the tuner file is media file. Right click and play in Windows Media Player. To enjoy the music - Save the file as mp3 (with .mp3 as extension)
(Just read that this does not work with Flash9. You might wanna try downgrading to flash8 and then trying)

In the process of writing this blog - I discovered two more ways of downloading music from Pandora. 3 tunes and Pyrcast. Currently, both the sites are down :(

Author - Sharad

Related Sites -
Open source alternative to 3 tunes.

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Hackers of 2006

2006 was a buzy year for security experts. Even though we can not restrain ourselves to say that '06 went in talks about zero-day attacks, vulnerabilities, exploits, bugs etc., some interesting security holes to make headlines were - attacks on MS-Windows Vista, exploits in google, bugs in Apple's Mac OS etc. You can get more updated information if you see the securityfocus / securitywatch, specifically of the last few months.

We can not refuse to accept the adroitness of some hackers. They left significant impact in 2006 and some of the exploits are still not fully resolved. For detailed information about five hackers who left their mark in 2006, and about their exploits - check this.

Submitted by - PS

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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hacking - 2006 / 2007

Someone just forwarded this to me. Interesting facts. 

Indian Websites hacked-2006 and Resolution for 2007
Number of indian websites (including gov and non-gov) those came under attack by the hackers in '06 is around 4,000. And that definitely shows the holes in cyber security. For more detail see this: Infotech-Indiatimes.

According to some people, there are six key steps a users should follow to ensure computer and n/w security. People are taking it as Cyber Security new year Resolution-2007. Read about the six steps here - Vnunet

Submitted by - PS


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Google's problem... continues

There is a lot of noise regarding a security flaw in gmail. In case you still dont know, Gmail had a major security flaw which allowed anonymous sites to steal your contact list. CSRF (Cross Site Request Forgery as it is called) attacks are very similar to XSS. Read more on ajaxian.

A few of the other previous problems with Google that have been discussed briefly on techcrunch are -
Google Notebook: Use the Privacy Option
Gmail Disaster: Reports Of Mass Email Deletions
Google Top Searches: Based on Everything and Nothing
Google’s Orkut Down For 13+ Hours
Google’s Tipping PointAnother Gmail Problem

Author - Sharad

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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

My favorite sites of 2006

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Monday, January 1, 2007

2006 - The road travelled. 2007 - The road ahead.

In the IT world, 2006 was undoubtedly the year of online video and social networks. The acquisition of YouTube by Google for an amount of $1.65 billion was the major headline. Several hundred sites came up with ideas similar to youtube for enabling users to share videos online. The recent ones also enpower the users to tag specific parts of video and edit / cut / copy /paste multiple videos together. Few of the famous ones are Gotuit, Metacafe, Motionbox, Revver,, iFilm, Eyespot etc.

Social networks mushroomed phenomenally in 2006. There are social networks for video sharing, playing games, meeting friends, sharing cabs etc. In other words, there is a social network for any and every thing today. Robert young wrote an interesting article on - "Social networks are the new media." Mashable has good reviews on all the latest social networks and their award list for 2006 can be found here.

2006 also saw the battle between PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. Right now, Wii seems to be high on the popularity charts because of its unique and innovative technology. The Wii Sports makes you excercise and you actually feel part of the game. Cnet was a little biased for Microsoft Xbox, but what the heck - they usually favor the big names anyway. I am yet to find an unbiased comparison of the three.

How can one forget the camera battle between Canon Digital Rebel XTi(400D), Nikon D80 and Sony Alpha A100. Its the first time in many years I have seen Nikon come up with a really good product (only if they can reduce the price and make it more comparable to XTi). Some good reading material on this can be found here, here and here.

So the big question still is - What will 2007 have in store for us. Keep me posted about your views.

Author - Sharad

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