Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Feds warn against Microsoft's browser

Though the warning from the Feds won't do much to the browser's popularity or Microsoft stock, I hope it creates some traction to solve the issues that plague IE. I know that XP SP2 solves mitigates and prevents the kind of attacks reported in this article but till it is out, people are at risk.

If you use IE you have 2 options.

Option 1
Increase IE's security level to High. This can be modified via the following steps:

1. Open an IE window
2. Select Tools->Internet Options->Security
3. Click the Internet Zone (with the globe)
4. Change the Security Level for the Zone to High (this is one of the default levels)

Option 2
CERT recommends that Explorer users consider other browsers that are not affected by the attack, such as Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape and Opera. Mac, Linux and other non-Windows operating systems are immune from this attack.

If you are going to use another browser, I'd recommend Firefox.

Raison de etre

I've figured it out - I know what makes me unhappy - everything. I can't seem to find happiness in what I have, always craving for that which I don't. Masochism you say - I now agree. At first I thought the unhappiness made me strive for excellence but now I've figured that it's anything but that. Perennial unhappiness implies a perennial quest and no satisfaction. This has gotta end...

Monday, June 28, 2004

WWDC: Apple Takes Potshots at Microsoft

Now if this isn't attitude, I don't know what else is :) The truth is that Apple has lifted some cool features from XP (Fast User Switching immediately comes to mind) and is adding features to its OS that have become popular third-party apps, so it's living in a glass house too. And why whine, I thought imitation was the best form of flattery...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Wired News: New Virus May Steal Data

All you Windows Users out there who use IE as their default browser should immediately fix your browser's security settings to High. The worm that is now spreading due to a flaw in IE and IIS that lets random code run on your system and log keystrokes - the purpose being recording your credit card or other sensitive information and replaying it back to a hacker in some remote location. To quote
"Users should be aware that any website, even those that may be trusted by the user, may be affected by this activity and thus contain potentially malicious code," the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team warned in an Internet alert.
Of course, it always helps to keep your computer updated with the latest security patches released by Microsoft but really, I feel IE needs to get its security act together - let's hope the change in the security model of XP SP2 is the long-awaited cure to IE's security woes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Return of the Internet Explorer - Itself?!

I initially thought what I read was just a rumour - the IE team, resurrected?! The rumour carries more weight (and credibility maybe) now that CNet News has posted a story on the same topic. Let me start with the now famous joke - A Secure IE is an oxy-moron - which isn't true anymore. I have been using IE (with Windows XP SP 2) at work and find that the Security settings are extremely stringent. ActiveX controls, active scripting, scripts accessing the local file system and pop-ups are blocked in the new IE by default. No content is downloaded to the local machine without prior user consent - this is a huge leap in the forward direction but has started drawing flak from website developers. I think is lame - Microsoft can't seem to do anything right for these whiny asses :)

Now that IE is air-tight from a security standpoint, I'd like most to see renewed standards support in IE and shorter page load times. The Mozilla Firefox evangelism website touts several advantages of Firefox over IE - Firefox is my browser of choice these days so my comments might be subjective. Though the IE team can choose to look the other way, I feel they should beat Firefox at its own game - implement all of Firefox's features and add a couple more. After this initial spate of implementation work, the team should wait for Firefox to do something new and innovative again at which time the IE team goes back to work. And pray tell me, why shouldn't IE mock Firefox? Firefox doled the exact same treatment to IE - copied every feature from IE (down to the same keyboard shortcuts) but added some of its own too, creating a strong value proposition to SWITCH to Firefox. I'm sure this question is on your mind; does IE need to do this and how much must it do to win over 4% of the community that uses Firefox? Trust me, a WHOLE LOT! :)

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Skykomish River Rafting Trip - I

It will take a while to really write up what happened at our rafting trip on Sunday but for now the fact that we survived and had a blast should suffice. I have uploaded the first set of pictures of the entire group as a slideshow :here:. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Making the case against DRM

Cory Doctorow was invited by Microsoft Research to present his thoughts on DRM (Digital Rights Management) on the 17th of June. Cory believes that DRM is a concept that benefits The Man (the record company, the film studios, the big corporations) more than the customer and that violates every tenet of the "Customer is king" philosophy. Being an opponent of the DRM story and media licensing myself, I agree whole-heartedly with the views expressed in the presentation - the complete text of which is provided to the public domain sans copyright :here:.

Karan will be particularly interested in reading this piece and will rue the fact that he wasn't a member of the audience at the presentation (which I think he wasn't). This particular thought in the presentation struck a chord with me:
the worst of all the ideas embodied by DRM: that people who make record-players should be able to spec whose records you can listen to, and that people who make records should have a veto over the design of record-players.
More power to the people I say...

Thursday, June 17, 2004

When White People cuss like this...

Still 27 says:
bhench - wordpad doesn't have redo

Still 27 says:
kaat kuddi

Still 27 says:
lund fakir

Still 27 says:

Manoj Mera Naam says:
you didn't know that?

Still 27 says:
maa chodi
Manoj Mera Naam says:
I like how ur going ballistic, in Hindi :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Check-point: 1 month

It's been exactly a month since my return to Seattle. I want to avoid being dramatic but so much has happened in the intervening period that a modicum of drama might creep in. In the spirit of summaries, let me recapitulate the chain of events that prompted this update...

Everything in the States felt bland and insipid on my return. Geni was a different girl, the food tasted funky, the sky was blue and the place was too clean - in one word, ORDERLY. I actually missed the chaos that is an India trip - the weirdness had begun. For reasons that are hard to put down on paper, Geni and I broke up a week later. We have managed to salvage a great friendship out of what could've been a train wreck. And then my squash game tanked...

I haven't won a single ladder match since my return - that's four matches lost, some without even a smidgen of resistance. I think stress at work has some part to play in my performance on the court but it has never been a factor in the past. I don't move on the court like I used to, don't anticipate enough and don't know what shot to play when I eventually make it to the ball. The aggressive, attacking Manoj has given way to a timid, conservative Manoj - and if you aren't a 100% fit, you can't win by just returning balls back - you will tire yourself out at some point. But wait, wasn't I always a 100% fit?

Not anymore I'm not. I've put on a number of pounds since my return, which totally surprises me because most people put on weight in India and lose it on their return. I guess I do defy all norms. The extra weight and the sluggishness on the court have contributed most to my downfall. I don't get to the ball on time so I can't play the correct shot so ...

I remember writing a couple days ago that there were a thousand and one reasons to be sad and only a few to be happy. Well, my cup brimmeth over with sadness right now. I am officially in a slump; mentally, physically and emotionally. Though this isn't the first time this has happened, it's never been this far reaching - maybe with age, slumps get deeper too :) The only silver lining is that I know I can snap out of it with time. How long that takes is anyone's guess...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

It is quite irritating to have to register with a website just to read some content, some interesting story, etc, etc that you received a link to in email from a friend. Trust me, most everyone is bugged by this fact so some guys went ahead and made a website with community logins for a majority of the websites that require registration - the result: :)

If you are using Mozilla (the suite) or Firefox, you can install the BugMeNot extension from the BugMeNot XPI.

It's only a matter of time before the websites in question (the ones that need the login) come around to this and block all the accounts that are in the database. Till they come around to doing that though, this is a super convenient tool :) I have the XPI installed, yea yea!!

Yahoo! Mail gets an UPGRADE

My de facto internet email service provider just got a huge upgrade. It's left the OTHER big email provider so far in the dust that I can't see it even if I squint hard - coldmail was it? :)

Here's the scoop from the source, (sic.):

<start PR...>
Thanks for using Yahoo! Mail. It's our goal to offer you an email experience that makes it easy and enjoyable to stay in touch. Periodically, we make service changes to enhance that experience for our users. As of June 15, 2004, you'll enjoy the following benefits:

* Increased storage capacity – from your current level to 100MB
* Increase in total message size to 10MB
* A streamlined interface that's even easier to use
* Increased Spam Protection
<end PR...>

I am personally extremely happy with Yahoo! Mail and would never switch to any other service - I was content with the 6MB storage they provided so a 100MB is sweettt! Besides, is now synonymous with Manoj Mehta...

Monday, June 14, 2004

The other side of a terrific workout - Exhaustion

I can barely keep my eyes open as I type this and it's not even midnight. I just went all out this evening at the club; 90 minutes of yoga, 50 minutes on the elliptical machine and 20 minutes lifting weights. This after having climbed six flights of stairs thrice during the day, a set of push-ups in the morning and two sets of bicep curls at work.

I don't think I'm going to make it past midnight the way things are looking right now - this definitely is a first. Early to bed - nice; Early to rise - that we'll see. Now if only I had an alarm that could ring like a cell phone :)

Saturday, June 12, 2004 Technology | Safe and insecure

I had a discussion once with Wes and Mithun about how they went to great lengths to secure their Wireless Network - a network they set up using one of the best selling and most reasonably priced Wireless routers on the market - a Linksys. A flaw in all Linksys routers was made public a couple of days ago that was remotely exploitable. This flaw allowed a hacker to become the admin on the router without much effort - the default password to administer the box was ironically, admin. Once hacked, the router could be used for unauthorized access to the Internet by the hacker (and anyone of his/her choosing). Linksys released a (lame-ass) patch a few days later to fix the hole - it changed the default password for remote access to some obscure value; the new password was published a couple of hours after the patch was released. So much for the much touted secure Wireless network...

This brings up the age-old question - Must I believe that something is true when it actually isn't or believe nothing at all? To make it more topical; should I never give up on securing my home network or is securing my network futile? The author takes the latter approach and states:
It feels strange to be opening up my network after years of vigorously protecting it, and it's not without a tinge of anxiety that I do so. But there's also a sense of liberation, of sticking it to the Man, that's undeniable, as well as an odd sense of community. It seems there's safety in numbers after all, even among strangers.
What is my take on this whole issue? I feel that too many things are out of my control when it comes to securing my computer. Not to stick it to anyone but the latest virus exploited a vulnerability in the Security Subsystem of an OS - ironic but true. I am aware of the oft quoted aphorism - A chain is only as strong as its weakest link - which makes me wonder how much I can do - I can fix my ignorance and setup everything correctly but what can I do if the vulnerability lies in the OS running on my computer or as the example I stated, in the hardware. And my take on an insecure wireless network? I have benefitted time and again from the largesse of people who share their wireless bandwidth. Is it then hard to figure why the day I have a Wireless Router, anyone with a Wireless-enabled machine in my vicinity will have access to the Internet?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Map of Fucking, Austria

I couldn't resist this... What do you think could possibly be going on in Fucking, Oberosterreich Austria :)

So what are they gonna charge for next...

It's around 1am and Manoj is driving through the streets of Redmond trying to check and fix the air pressure in his car's tyres. I go from gas station to gas station trying to find a machine he can use to accomplish my mission. I stop at the first and balk at the price of a gallon of gasoline - $2.54 the signboards read. I walk up to the air machine, fills air in one tyre - pressure checked, 30psi. As I drag the air cable to the next tyre, I find that the cable is too short. Turns out in the new world order, the cable doesn't move to the wheels, the wheels instead move to the cable. I would have to move my car back, forth and around to ensure that all tyres got adequate attention. I left thinking to myself, "There's gotta be another gas station with an air machine that I can use!"

NOT - I'm writing this to inform you that air for tyres is no longer free at 76 and Shell gas stations in America. And they insist on quarters - 50c for 3 minutes. No quarters, no air - so what if you get into an accident, so what if you get a flat - they don't care! So what's next on their charging list - using the restroom at a gas station or better still, a parking charge if you want to buy something at the convenience store - sheeshhh!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

What a great day!!!

I worked for 8 hours straight today except for the half hour break I took to eat lunch. I've finished writing a spec and have been super excited to get it done with all day. I've been invigorated all day, right from the time I woke up at 7am. It might have something to do with the fact that I'm working out everyday but the only thing that has changed is that I practice yoga now - my joints hurt less and I am more focussed - but I could be deluded too ;)

Time to go play my first match of the in-house squash tounament at the Pro Club. More about my escapades this past week when I return back to a computer terminal...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Posting Comments on my blog

You can post anonymously to my blog, you don't need to create an account with Blogger if you don't want to. Here's how:

1. Click on the Post a Comment link
2. The browser view changes and presents a text area to enter your comment
3. After you've entered your comment, select Posting As - Anonymous as indicated in the picture:

You should now be all set. You can be pleasant, nasty, petty or just your vanilla self. If I know you well, I'll know who you are Anonymous or not...

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

To all managers of Software Products

Ben Goodger, the chief firefox developer, manager, decision-maker writes in his blog, Inside Firefox
"Good software development is not done by committee, it requires strong leadership and tough decisions."
I was having a conversation with a colleague at work the other day and we came to the conclusion that sometimes, the only way to get a project moving is to make tough decisions and stand by them. And then, I read this article... Divine intervention eh ;) Democracy is good up to a point after which someone with authority needs to grab the reins and take a stand - regardless of what the "minions" think.

I have really liked the way the Firefox/Firebird/Phoenix project has been managed since its inception. The project was started by a bunch of developers who were tired of the excessively process-centric and bureaucratic development style of the Mozilla project. This haloed bunch (3 to begin with) were given the free hand to make tough decisions, exclude uber-geek features from Mozilla and add completely ground-breaking user-friendly new features designed to make Firefox resemble IE. Being a user of Mozilla since early college days but frustrated by the lack of traction on the many features I thought the browser needed, Firefox became the must checkout browser for me. I found its development model so radically different from the other open source projects I had tracked - a quasi-closed open-source project - that I considered the project a rebel. This rebel status, the frantic pace of development and a stready stream of innovative ideas keep me tuned into the project. Developers often don't engage in huge discussions over what is right and correct and don't try to make all the geeks happy - they have a charter; to make the world's most user-friendly browser and to beat IE at its game - and they have stuck to it without regard for people's philosophical, religious or pedantic "this is how it should be" bickerings. A great development model for other "Open Source" projects to emulate, IMO...

Monday, June 07, 2004

Weekend notes...

Watching a movie on Friday night was a ritual until six months ago. Karan, Karan, Darwin and I usually checked out the latest release of the week on Friday after the gym and some dinner. This past week marked the resumption of that ritual for me, the only variation in the theme being dinner at home for me - personally I've stopped liking eating out. The food's boring and insipid and I leave with the feeling that I ate too much, enjoyed too little and definitely can do better than the chef. Time to cook at home now...

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was what we decided to see this past Friday. The actual venue of the movie changed time and again with the boys deciding against driving to the West Side. I've realized that very few people I know actually like driving over to the West Side. I'm sure it's not just the drive that deters people from venturing out into the city - what it exactly is, I have no clue... We walked into a packed house, by East-side standards atleast. I hadn't seen the cinema at Crossroads this full since I saw Return of the King so I was anticipating a fun movie. And then, the picture rolled...

The movie lacked consistency; interesting in patches and boring through the rest of the reel. The story trudged along at a snail's pace with there being coarse continuity between events. There would be action-packed scenes that would build the momentum but then all would be wasted over ten minutes of pointless story-telling. The guy who killed Harry's parents has escaped from the prison at Azkaban and is now purportedly out to get Harry. Harry is attacked on his way to school by the Dementa, he finds a map, learns new incantations and Harmoine is everywhere. Some hocus-pocus, quiddich, lessons, an over-grown chicken and credits later, the movie was over. But the ordeal lasted near damn two hours and then some. The last of the Harry Potter adventures I'm going to pay to watch...

Saturday was supposed to be rained out and it did rain, for all of 1 hour all day. The "weathermen" in the US simply suck - they can't tell weather to save their life. I wonder what the requirements for being a weatherman are - "Umm, if you can't find any other job, have no qualifications but can talk with poise in front of a camera, the job is yours! You never need to predict anything correctly because the nature of weather is such that it's dynamic." Oh well, spent most of the day shopping in Costco, Trader Joe's and Target because I hadn't made plans to go out. This was a much needed shopping trip though; I had gone without any substantial groceries for near three weeks.

Sunday was a pretty chill day - I shaved, watched some TV, lost my ladder match to Khaled and tucked in early. Enough with the complaining; honestly, I couldn't ask for more from a weekend. I got a lot of down-time, shopping done, work done, reading done and best of all, I felt recharged. I can't wait for the next weekend and do some of the stuff again. Ummm, except maybe losing the squash match but oh well, I can only get better!

The Double-check Locking Idiom is broken

After reading Raymond Chen's very insightful blog a couple of nights ago, I couldn't resist investigating the Double Check lock idiom on the Internet. There is a whole bunch of literature on the topic but here is a quick introduction. In today's world of multi-processor machines, synchronization has become one of the biggest headaches for systems programmers. There is also the added need to make code run as fast as possible, therefore, reducing the size of critical sections and number of acquisitions of mutexes/locks/semaphores (since acquiring a lock is an expensive operation in terms of time, the cache and the pipeline). Sometime in 1996, Doug Lea came up with this idea for creating a Singleton (refer the GoF book on Design Patterns) but making the code acquire the lock only once and return the instance in the most commonly encountered codepath. Here is a code sample in Java:
class Foo { 

private Helper helper = null;
public Helper getHelper() {
if (helper == null)
synchronized(this) {
if (helper == null)
helper = new Helper();
return helper;

It was later determined that this code breaks in the case where the compiler optimizes instructions within the synchronized block such that a consumer of the helper instance might see non-initialized members in the object.

The "Double-Checked Locking is Broken" Declaration paper provides insight into why the algorithm is broken and a possible way of fixing it. The way to solve this in Windows will be the topic of another blog post. In the interim, feel free to post any solutions that you think will solve the problem.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Countdown to 160lbs begins today

My trip to India this time around was an eye-opener for more reasons than one. I saw pictures of my college days and the one striking difference between me then and me now (outside of me being hairier where it matters) is the fact that I was lean and fighting fit - 12 lbs is a lot to put on in 5 years. My medical records indicate no increase in body weight till the last year in which I put on the aforementioned evil 12 lbs. Some of the weight can be attributed to an increase in muscle mass (no boasting, but my body fat % is a low 11.8%) but there is definitely fat where there wasn't any earlier...

So what can I attribute this sudden gain in weight to - squarely on wanton eating. There used to be a time when I was very careful about what I ate and when I ate it - not anymore. I've eaten meals after midnight twice in a row and that's only the story this past week. Add to that shorter and more sporadic workouts and there you have it - a fatter Manoj. So today, I've decided to take a stand. Better eating, more regular workouts and I should hit my target. I'll update this space every week with my progress...

BBC NEWS | Technology | Microsoft bars Windows pirates

I'll post an update with the exact number of hours hackers will take to crack this check...

Friday, June 04, 2004

Sun: No decision on open-source Java

Contrary to the reports published on News websites and prominently linked to by Slashdot, Sun hasn't made any decision on whether it wants to Open Source Java.
On Friday, Gosling confirmed that Sun had still not made a decision on whether or not to open-source Java. "Despite any of the articles, the debate is still going on, fast and furious," he said via e-mail.
There was a time when I was an avid Java programmer but not being in touch with the language for 2 years has made my knowledge archaic. I owe a lot to my years programming in Java though, the depth of Object Oriented programming skills I acquired by learning, reading and experimenting in Java is immeasurable. I for one am not in favour of the language being open sourced because from my experience with Open Source, more is said and less is done. And with a few exceptions, customer focus is nearly non-existent. What Java needs is direction right now in its fight for survival against the C# and .Net juggernaut, not randomization and anarchy...

Wired News: Windows XP Bedevils Wi-Fi Users

This article might explain why your Wireless connection suddenly seems to not "work" even though the Network Icon in the System Tray indicates that everything is fine and dandy :) It's easy to point fingers and pin the blame on Windows and the Wireless Zero Config service but this isn't conclusive. The article, for once, helps users disable the service even though it suggests that users rely on the software provided by the Hardware manufacturer - nice try!! I have friends on the Wireless Networking team so I'm going to investigate this further but as someone who has been bitten by this in the past, I'm going to try the solution proposed and see what happens to my Wireless connection...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Yoga and I

My first experience with yoga was with Nikhil during my last vacation in Bombay. Having seen people do the various poses, in utter disbelief I might add, on the television and reading numerous articles about the huge following yoga commands in the Western World, I decided to take the plunge too. And let me tell you this, it's not for weenies...

There was more than one occassion during today's class when I felt over-whelmed by the endurance required by a pose. Even though the poses took so much effort, I surprisingly felt very relaxed at the end of the hour long session. The combination of the teacher's soothing voice and the mellow music has proved to be the undoing for many but I resisted the temptation to nod off ;) And there was no role call taken, something I liked because the teacher had the implicit faith that a person wouldn't be at peace if they crashed the class - misguided you think? All said and done, I'm going to try to be a regular at the sessions...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Is the PDA Dead - Sony Exits U.S. Handheld Market

I've wanted to own a PDA for a year now but can't seem to justify the utility of the device, therefore can't overcome the inertia to go buy one. This article might actually be impetus enough because right now, Sony's PDAs will be going CHEAPppp :)