Europe Trip – Moments to Cherish


Undoubtedly the best thing that happened last year was my trip to Europe. I felt like being teleported from work, frustration and sleepless marathons to a world of beauty, pleasure and happiness. Sometimes the sheer strength of eagerness for change makes travel time loose its true length of existence that we feel teleported. This post is a compilation of some refreshing, thrilling and brain fucking crazy moments in the trip that have managed to grab a permanent place in my heart.

#1 Tour de Eiffel

Since the Eiffel Tower was the first world wonder that I would be visiting, excitement level was sky high. It was night already and the rain clouds were beginning to loosen giving away mild sporadic drizzles. The local metro train painlessly transported the best of me to the door step of this marvellous structure. At first glance, she appeared like a giraffe neck made of a random arrangement of extra long and double thick bamboo sticks from Cambodian forests. Only when I reached right below her feet, I could appreciate her pure metal – the patterns that contribute to its beauty would make any visitor fall in love with metal. My mouth only gathered the phrase “raw beauty” after a head to toe look of her. After satisfying my initial cravings, I proceeded to get my ticket for second level which was the maximum I was allowed in that weather condition. The elevator was crowded with rumors of pickpockets which reduced the scope for enjoying the already short journey.The moment I reached the second level, I could feel the strong, cutting cold breeze. I could not take more than one snap at once removing my gloves. I took a walk at snail’s pace against the spine chilling, bone breaking winds around the second level of Eiffel to get a 360 degree view of Paris. (Later I came to know that it was that unlucky day that recorded the lowest annual temperature for Paris.) Paris city from there looked like a second sky twinkling with thousands of colourful lights in the city. The drizzles were the only mismatch to this imaginative astronomical system which kept reminding reality’s version of sky. After staying there as long as the cries of my freezing body’s agony became audible enough to interrupt my thoughts completely, I decided to leave her and head back to my place of stay.

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#2 Road trip to Pisa

What started as a funny suggestion for a work free day became a reality within 24 hours. I finished work on wednesday evening and my flight was scheduled for friday. It was evident that thursday was going to be a free day and possible one day activity suggestions started cropping from wednesday morning itself. The inviting roads in Nice and organized traffic across Europe made road trips top everything else in the suggestions chart. Pisa for a top choice because the coastal route was too scenic to miss. The idea triggered enough excitement within my system and this effect combined with my thrist for new experiences made me overlook practical difficulties like right hand drive system in Europe. We did not have a good grasp of several essentials like traffic rules practised there or how to use a GPS system (embarassing but true!). Somehow, we did manage to muster enough courage and help from friendly folks to set out on our cross country adventure trip to Pisa, Italy. To me, this trip would take me to another world wonder, the Leaning Tower of Pisa within a span of 20 days which was worth all the risk and adventure involved. As expected, I did not sleep on wednesday night. We did some driving tests that night which gave us a preliminary guarantee for the safety of ourselves and others in the road – you see driving is a collective responsibility! After enough practice, we decided to rest for few hours and planned to set out on our maiden road trip early next morning. The weather dint play pranks allowing us to thoroughly enjoy the breathtaking views in the route – through Geneva, Switzerland primarly over valleys and long tunnels dug into mountains.

Unlike Eiffel, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a modest construction. It is a petite beauty leaning over thin air and whistling at spectators who raise their eyebrows in wonder. The lawn and cathedral nearby add to the beauty of the site. The emphasis is not on the design or magnanimity of the tower (unlike other world wonders) but rather on the method followed to stop the downfall of the tower due to weak foundation. The fusion of mathematical calculations with architecture enabled the creation of this world wonder.This is clearly explained in charts displayed in the ground floor of the tower. The spiral stairs, a common find in such archeological sites, lead us to floors open for visitors for experiencing the tilt of the construction from different heights. At the top level, this effect is maximum and becomes obvious when we try to walk around the circumference of the level. The angle of tilt can be so sharply experienced that it would be difficult to walk without the support of walls. After enough experiments with the tilt of the tower, we decided to head down and take few fancy snaps.

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The return journey was not smooth – thanks to the pranks of weather god after sunset. At one point, we had to drive into a settling fog which appeared to be translucent from outside but became opaque as soon as we drove through it. For a few seconds, I drove like how pilots fly aircrafts through thick clouds with zero visibility (ofcourse we dint enjoy the luxury of a radar system in our car ;) ). It made my heart beat the crap out of me (folding hands and telling ‘See I told u so!’) and pump all adrenalin quota left for the day at one stroke. But thanks heaven… soon enough we were out of the fog and luckily there were no cars before us eliminating possible accident scenarios. There were no more tests from nature after that and so we finally reached our hotel safe after a truly adventurous outing.

#3 The Vatican visit

I never knew that a country could be enclosed inside compound walls until I visited Vatican. Moreover, it was just a metro’s reach from Rome. Coming from a border sensitive land, the butter smooth existence of a religious power center within another country itself was a piece of amusement to me. Though easily outnumbered by the tourists, the huge pillars standing around the vatican square manage to foretell the artistic flavours one is about to experience in the venue. Quickly passing the security checks, while lining up to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, nobody would fail to notice the numerous statues perfectly carved above the pillars surrounding the Square. That’s the point when even the non Catholic hearts pour respect for the venue – if not for spiritual reverence, atleast for the fine works of art. To me, some looked like angels, some like Casper and even some depicted characters I vaguely remember in Jesus movies but that simply din’t matter. It is the magnanimity of presentation of art that dominates the air around the place. I sincerely took to believe that such presentation had a great role for the deep reach and acceptance of Christian faith – suddenly realizing the strength of fine arts, sometimes over science.

Within seconds inside the Basilica, I realized what was in store. On one hand, various shades of marble stones, marble sculptures, golden railings exagerrated by enormous light apparatus and paintings depicting significant Christian events feed one’s artistic taste buds. On the other hand, organ music and prayer songs suddenly make calmness and focus affordable. First, I took a tour around the vast premises of the church getting a glance of all painting works, short stories in the form notes below those paintings and marble sculptures of angels and saints. Then, the organ bgm simply drove me to the prayer area to spend couple of minutes. One must not stop with a 360 degree view inside the basilica – they must also look at the carvings, railings and paintings on the ceilings. These works take full advantage of the lighting and manage to give neck pain to any confused admirer.

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On my way back to metro station, I even managed to get a glimpse of Pope who was on the move. With amusement, respect and admiration I bid good bye to the smallest country in the world.

#4 Guided tour of Colosseum

If you go to Rome, you must enter the Colosseum. The remains of the theatre is a standing testimonial of strength, vision and architectural mastery. Not convinced with snaps alone, we decided to venture into a guided tour of this historical place. We took the main gates to enter the podium where numerous fighter slaves had fought for their lives and freedom against army fighters and wild animals. From there, I was able to appreciate the enormity of the surrounding audience stand which stretched into multiple levels. It comes very close to this day’s football or cricket stadium in terms of audience capacity. But the podium looked much smaller thereby increasing the impact of audience on fighters. The audience stand had multiple levels for different classes of people. The king, his senate and royal family members would sit on the lower levels which are close to the podium enjoying better view. On the next level,wealthy members of the society who owned a horse could reserve a seat! Further beyond them,merchants and other kinds of earning population were allowed to be seated. Just below the top level, the poor and the weak were placed to enjoy the shows. Finally, in the top most level, only at the farthest level from the podium were women allowed to sit. I was surprised when the guide informed that women were seated farthest so that they could not distract the fighters or lure them. Oh boy! Gender bias has deep and historic roots! The most striking design in the podium was not immediately visible – the drinage system constructed for draining blood and washing seperated body parts after fights. A drinage for blood – not exactly what I wanted to hear at the beginning of the tour. I just couldn’t imagine that to begin freaking out!

We proceeded to take a look at the undergroud level below the podium. It was interesting to note that while the portions above ground employed concrete based construction, the underground structures employed primitive techniques to glue construction material. In this particular case, brass rods were used to hold together heavy stones used for contruction of arches and pillars. The reason was that under ground levels were used to house fighters and animals used in fight shows. They were very modest facilities which were at times strengthened by using dead bodies of fighters. The cell for fighters is just close to that for the animals and these animals would not be feeded for weeks before their fight in order to keep them hungry. Imagine sleeping next to a chamber of hungry tigers! This feeling, I was able to fathom much easily which I realized from the shivers it sent down my spine.

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Interestingly, the Colosseum was tried to be destroyed not once but many times – its building components were broken down and used in the construction of different monuments during different periods of time. Later, during other periods, those monuments were again destroyed and the remains were brought back to fix the damages done to this amphitheater  The remains that we see today is actually the Colosseum after several rounds of destruction and dressings made to the damage.

#5 Wandering around Rome streets

Setting out on self exploration of a city with a disproportionate map and streets which constantly take a person back and forth through different periods of history could be much more than brain eating. But trust me – this is definitely a better way to trade your brain rather than your manager eating it in office meetings :) Though people advise to roam in the streets of Rome, we felt it too difficult to accommodate that in a mere 2 day schedule. But we dint know that it was meant to happen. It all started in our effort to locate the Pantheon from the city map. We ended up wandering through random streets and cluelessly exploring several Piazzas and Palazzos in our pursuit to find our way. In our day to day life, we don’t get lost often and if we happen to get lost, we don’t enjoy it. But if one gets lost in Rome, worrying would not be the first thing in mind. In fact, theoretically  taking the wrong path is a blessing in disguise :) You roam to find your way and stop at venues which interest you. There is no need to bother if it is a tourist attraction or not. All of us sudden, you get to cater only your tastes and don’t worry about your conformity with general acceptance or liking. But in practice  you are never alone in the streets of Rome. There are always tourists who lost their way around and locals helping them reach their place of interest.

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In our wandering session which lasted for not more than a couple of hours, we covered several sites including the Piazza Venezia, Palazzo del Quirinale,Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. (I later googled each of the places that we stopped at and found their names and significance ;) ) Finally, we got to see Pantheon as a bonus. Ironically, what seemed to be a goal at the beginning became reduced to a mere bonus when we reached it.

#6 Walk along Champs-Élysées

I was lucky to walk Champs-Élysées on Christmas eve because thats when it’s at its best. Numerous shops selling all kinds of things from novelties to gifts to toys are lined up on the sides targeting Christmas shoppers. A fair share of the shops also sell various snacks and food items – most of them ingenuiene to France. Unable to resist my temptation, I tried a hot, freshly prepared pack of Churros with sugar – mmm.. delicious it was! It was a pretty long walk but it dint feel so because of the crowd with lots of kids playing around. Inspite of the crowd, it doesn’t take long to realize that the street looks to be misplaced in time. The lamp posts, antique grandiose lights, wide roads, fountains, almost ubiquitous architectural beauty of ancient buildings – all made me search for chariots and horses among the cars in the busy road.The road ends at Arch de Triomphe just like Rajpath in New Delhi ending at India Gate.

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#7 Food trails

During this trip, I took time to experiment and please my taste buds by tasting some exotic French cuisines. So these moments fall in the gastronomical excitation category ;). My office was situated in Nice which again is world famous for country wines. This gave me a rich collection to sample. The most amazing of all – desserts. I had some of the best ones during this trip. I take this opportunity to thank people who guided me by suggesting popular preparations.

a) Squid fry – this was the best main course that I had during my trip

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b) Couscous with chicken (african food but neatly served in France)
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c) Cotes De Provence (country [red] wine from Nice – this is the best wine I have tasted so far)

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d) Chicken & Tuna Panini
An affordable snack type of food that fills stomach when in need.

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e) Creme brulee

Please take time to go to wikipedia and read about this dessert. It is the best dessert I have tasted so far. It is an exotic preparation that has a caramel layer on top burned using a blow torch.

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f) Tiramisu

Much widely known dessert but anyways I wanted to try it that day!

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g) Gelateria (Italian ice cream)

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h) Cheese cheese and lots of cheese varieties!

We had a salad late night since few of us were hungry all of us sudden. The restaurant had already closed the kitchen but the waiter there agreed to prepare a salad with various types of cheese he had in kitchen. Few of them which I remember:
Bleu

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Chevre (goat’s cheese)

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i) Crepe with Nutella (Thanks Shmruthi, Kannan for letting me taste this one)

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j) Churros with sugar (at Champs-Élysées – I should have tried it with chocolate sauce but this itself was difficult to finish)

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#8 Last leg run at Rome International airport

This was the craziest moment in the entire trip. The consequences of underestimating the size of airports in Europe could be really really damaging :p So, after our exhausting outing at Rome for 2 days jam packed with a tight schedule, we vacated our room and left for the airport. We reached the airport around 2 hours in advance hoping that it would be enough for boarding the flight. For some wierd reason, security check for our flight never happened till it was just 1 hour for the flight’s departure. And finally when the passengers were called for security check, there was a long queue of passengers trying to hurry because of limited time. We were just hoping for an announcement that the flight’s departure is delayed but we dint hear anything close to that. Finally, when we got through the security check, we had around 30-35 mins for our flight’s departure and we had to just reach the boarding gates in that stipulated time limit. Looks simple isn’t it? But it was this last leg of the journey that fucked us up big time! We neither knew how far the boarding gates are from the security check point nor how huge Rome International airport was :) But our ignorance was shortlived since we were about to find out. We followed the direction boards and we were walking … and walking … and walking…for about 20 mins. Even if we take average human walking speed, we should have crossed 1.5 kms of walking – either planar walking time or escalating time. But the point was, we still dint reach our boarding gates.

Panic struck us as there was hardly 15 mins for our flight’s departure. Since we had to report at office tomo, if incase we missed this flight, we would be required to take the next available flight at any cost thereby ravaging our travel budget estimation. We literally began to run and crashed through the crowd carrying our bags in the middle of the vast Rome international airport loosing the little etiquette that we had learned during the trip. Finally, when there was 2 mins on the clock I was able to see the boaring gate at the far end from the point I was standing then.

As if all this was not enough, when I reached the boarding gates, there was twist waiting like the climax of tamil movie. The display showed a different flight departing to Lisbon and not to Nice. I was shocked. Did we just miss our flight? Did we fail in the last leg of the journey by sheer underestimation of airport size? Before I gave in to all “you are a loser” thoughts, we decided to check with the airport staff at the gates since the flight wouldn’t have departed in matter of minutes like trains. To my surprise, she was not rude that we were late and asked us to wait for a moment. After a minute of talking over the phone, she said that they had already initiated the passenger boarding bridge removal. For a split second I thought we lost the race. But she had something more to tell. She said that luckily the procedure had not yet started till she called to alert about the pending passenger boarding. “Gentlemen, you have a minute to get into the flight”, she said. Wow! with a wide thankful smile on my face inspite of the embarrassment, we ran into the bridge to take our seats in the flight thereby putting an end to the whole “last leg of journey” drama. We were damn tired to contemplate the reason for why it too long to reach the gates or how all the other passengers managed to get there on time. One thing was certain – we screwed up something big time while trying to find our way to the gates.

#9 Meeting College Pals

ImageIt feels so good when you are not alone in a foreign land. With my ambitious plans to explore Paris, I was lucky to have Shmruthi and Kannan studying management there. I got some very helpful information about the city and its transport connectivity from them even before reaching there. They were also kind enough to meet me at Notre Dame Cathedral. To talk tamil in French soil with college buddies – amazing feeling :) We had lunch together on the streets while waiting in the queue to go up the cathedral. We also did the usual comparisons between life in France and India. Once we reached the top of the cathedral, we got a complete view of Paris city. It was colorful and mesmerizing. If not for the biting cold winds, we would have stayed longer there. Finally, after taking a few snaps, I had to bid goodbye to them and continue with my plans to explore other tourist venues in the city which was constantly challenging time limitations. I must admit that I was embarrassed later that I dint get them anything from India. A packet of ‘muruku‘ would have been sufficient to express my gratitude in that foreign land.

 

 

 

 

#10 Audi to office

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Nothing specific to the place or trip or anything. But it was definitely a great moment in the trip. I really want to thank Praneeth for taking me to office that day in Audi! Not a big car fan but still it felt gooooood ;)

I hope to travel through Europe again in a much leisurely manner. Already a trip to Amsterdam is on the cards for 2014! Hope things fall in place for it :)

Integrating OpenMedSpel wordlist in Abiword spell checker


I started working on Abiword a few weeks back. I felt comfortable exploring the code base (some difficulty with svn – an exception) and was looking for something interesting to get started on. Browsing through abiwiki I found a suggestion asking for OpenMedSpel wordlist integration within Abiword spell checker.

The problem looked clean and attractive for a starter like me. I accomplished the task to a fair extent and I am writing this blog post to provide a generic idea on how Abiword spell checker works and the fundamental building blocks and wrapper code underneath it.

The various components involved are: (in a layered fashion)

Spell Manager

——————

Spell Checker

——————

Enchant

——————

Aspell     |    Myspell   |   Ispell

 

  • The spell manager class assists in initiating language detection and loading corresponding dictionaries in the underlying spell checking library.
  • The spell checker class is responsible for analyzing words and detecting mispelled words. In addition it initiates word suggestion from underlying spell checking library.
  • Enchant is a wrapper used for configuring and exercising spell checking libraries like Aspell, Myspell and Ispell.
  • Enchant and spell checking libraries are system programs that enable Abiword’s spell checking functionality.

In order to integrate a custom wordlist like OpenMedSpel with Abiword spell checker, it is enough if we include the list in the dictionary of one of the spell checking libraries. Going by alphabetical order and impressive documentation, I chose Aspell for this prototyping task.

I did the following changes (hacks) to get things going:

1)Downloaded OpenMedSpel wordlist from:
http://www.e-medtools.com/openmedspel100.zip

This had the following files:

vidhoon@vidhoonv:/usr/lib/aspell$ ls -l ~/Downloads/openmedspel100
total 2968
-rw-rw-r– 1 vidhoon vidhoon 607041 Feb 14 2007 OpenMedSpel 100.csv
-rw-rw-r– 1 vidhoon vidhoon 558312 Mar 14 01:38 OpenMedSpel 100.txt
-rw-rw-r– 1 vidhoon vidhoon 1169 Feb 14 2007 README_OpenMedSpel.txt

2)The txt file in the download had DOS characters in it. Hence, I had
to do this:

$dos2unix OpenMedSpel\ 100.txt OpenMedSpelunix.txt

3) Now I created a wordlist for aspell using the command below:

$aspell –lang=en create master ./openmedspel.rws < /Downloads/openmedspel100/OpenMedSpel\ 100.txt

This documentation link was really helpful:
4) After this, I did a locate to find aspell in my system:

/usr/lib/aspell

In this location I could find all “multi” dictionary files and “rws” lists included in them.

A dictionary is composed of multiple word lists. “.multi” files represent such dictionaries and they contain wordlists which make up the dictionary.

I copied the openmedspel.rws list to this location.

5) I took the en_US.multi (since OpenMedSpel wordlist is also USA english) and found it to contain “en_US-wo_accents.multi”
Then I opened en_US-wo_accents.multi and added the new wordlist created as shown below:

vidhoon@vidhoonv:/usr/lib/aspell$ cat en_US-wo_accents.multi
# Generated with Aspell Dicts “proc” script version 0.60.2
add en-common.rws
add en_US-wo_accents-only.rws
add openmedspel.rws

6) I did a locate for enchant on my local system:

/usr/share/enchant

Enchant maintains ordering of spell checking libraries for global and private users.
This ordering file determines which spell checker is chosen for a specific language.

If multiple libraries support a particular language, then the first specified spell checking library is chosen.
I learned more about this file from this link.

7) I found the “private” enchant.ordering file and hacked this file to place “aspell” ahead of
“myspell” from the ordering so that aspell gets picked for en_US and this would contain OpenMedSpel wordlist also.

vidhoon@vidhoonv:/usr/lib/aspell$ cat /usr/share/enchant/enchant.ordering
*:aspell,myspell,ispell //-> order changed in this line
fi:voikko,ispell,myspell,aspell
fi_FI:voikko,ispell,myspell,aspell
he:hspell,myspell
he_IL:hspell,myspell
yi:uspell
tr:zemberek
tr_TR:zemberek

Now I can see that abiword spell check does not underline words from OpenMedSpel list which indicates that the goal is achieved. That is, Abiword does spell check for English US – normal words and OpenSpelMed words.

I have attached screenshots of abiword illustrating spell check and suggestion.

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Soon ‘To be’ sorry saga of GMAIL


GMAIL could easily slip into the role of protagonist in the movie “MY NAME IS GMAIL” and beat the glory of SRK… Thanks to its autistic sufferings in recent times.One of the earliest and innovative products that google introduced, GMAIL  is not so interesting anymore. Once upon a time, it did engage and addict leading to kill google’s own product WAVE which never hit the visible spectrum. But are you convinced that GMAIL is giving the best user experience for an email client (which by origin it is) ? then think twice!

Yes they (google folks) do change the layout and replace tabs  with sleek icons.. But is that all they can ? Not even close !!
Some silly ideas like this could easily create Gmail’s crusader:

1. Recent conversations:

Computer memories are designed based on the concept of locality of reference. We must not forget that computer theories did suck a lot of inspiration from human model to evolve. Why did GMAIL miss that we would need to see what we just saw a moment ago! Be it a conference pin or a payment reference number or a super cool daily deal..

Why can’t they put my ten most recently opened mails to aid my amnesia or whatever?

For me, this frustrates humongous times each day .. I find a conversation buried deep inside my inbox ( GMAIL search – I will punch on its face below) and when i am between it, my boss calls, “hey did you check my mail?” Without asking me, my lips blabber “yea just began on it” while my fingers guide the mouse to go to inbox within pico-fucking-seconds !

Poof! The conversation that I had dug from the center of earth is back at it’s rightful place :( damn it!

A simple pathetic looking <div> containing the recent mails that I opened could save mins of time we waste in the hours we spend within GMAIL!

2.Relevant conversations:

This not only sounds close to the previous feature, they are twin sisters may be! :) Tell me, how often you endup wanting to  check the previous meeting notes while you read the latest notes?? Again, I go searching a conversation from my galactic inbox wasting a minute or second or whatever of my limited lifetime! :( We do generously stick labels to conversations.

When I am viewing a mail, why can’t they atleast (GMAIL)  pull out few mails that are tagged with the same label + and – say five days.

I am sure you can do better with mining.

Honest advice: stop looking for new ways to suck the bullshit data we got. Can’t you see that we give it for free to Mark zuckenberg! We wont mind doing the same to you. And Try utilizing the data you have already within.

3.Refer and compose:

Is it possible by any means to refer a conversation while I am composing a new mail simultaneously? I might want send my friend different quotes for a tour trip from different agents.

Why can’t they parallelize reading and composing?

There are many times where I need to collect different details from mail chains and draft a mail. They could very well introduce multi tasking environments like tabs or windows for gmail application to which most computer users are already addicted. ( thanks to Steve jobs and bill gates!! )

4.Auto suggest for mail search:

The power house of google is web search. But the mail search seems to be a blooper :p it is high time to incorporate content based search assistance rather than depending on the persistence of user’s memory.

Why should I always remember the exact subject to pick a mail?

Can’t there be an auto suggest atleast for subject column based mail search. I am sure a lot more can be done in this space.

5.All attachments at one stop:

The development of mail system protocols have enabled almost anything to be attached to a mail message.

But why cannot there be a one stop shop to search through all my mail attachments?

An attachment explorer could be handy in listing all of them ordered / categorized by label, size,type, date, subject etc. This would also provide additional scope for attachment based search and auto suggestion.

Some silly comments on the latest GMAIL interface update:

The most irritating thing is the new chat button to toggle between chat widget / labels.

If my grandma was alive, she would definitely be grunting every single time she tried to chat with me.

Please remember that unlike Google +, gmail does have users outside google employee base. So it would be better to have buttons and dynamic flow designs suiting the needs of a common man!

The verdict is always simple. To do or die. Either you provide value to the customer adapting to the needs of time. Or kill yourself. As of today, nobody needs a jack of all trades in web services. If you are a master of one particular product/service, then there always is a loyal user base.  A GMAIL user never cares about your giant android cloak or your rugged social network suit.

Focus and differentiation will continue to be the basis of a good business whether it is Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos who controls the climate of silicon world.

                  

Why should bunking stop at College?


Breakfast at Road side dhabba

I have always wondered how my seniors or classmates managed to become overnight professionals just after getting out of college. In most situations, I struggle to get that ‘midas’ touch and since it seems so challenging, these days I just don’t care. Even in the most simulating work environments, the very routine nature of events happening in office (yes the meeting-coding-facebooking-tweeting cycle) creates a craving for some kind of adventure.

Yes, it din’t take long for me too.. With new year on the cards where few people are already fearing destruction of world, me and my NCG friends at Texas Instruments wanted to add some color to this new year celeb.  We chose to adventure in a silly way.. ‘bunk’ office on a fine Wednesday and disappear somewhere. It all started as usual at a coffee table discussion where all of us wanted to spend some sick leaves. The plot was clear from the moment of inception – to travel somewhere.

Miss Anvi with her elaborate knowledge about the outskirts of Bangalore, came up with two ‘cool’ trip plans:

  • Hokkenagal
  • Shivanasamudram

Both places are almost equally far and well known for their super natural waterfalls. After a quick research by all participants we decided to choose Shivanasamudram falls since it seemed to have less restrictions and time constraints. Then we booked a cab and packed our bags hoping for a nice adventurous trip next morning.

The schedule for the cab driver was to pick me up first and then go to all others houses, finally leaving by 8am. But the driver managed to delay the schedule by around 40 mins. We started from my place around 7 40 am and managed to pick Saurabh, Lokesh by 8 10 am. Then we proceeded to pick Anviksha near Pizza hut and managed to spot her after some initial struggle. The cab driver began to wonder if this was some kind of call center pick up trip when we said that Shivraj has to join us en-route at Koramangala.

Shivraj partly frustrated by the delay managed to get sleep off at his house and finally reached after being waked up by our calls on reaching his pick up spot. Everything except the driving seemed to be near perfect. At moments I had to stick to my seats and close eyes when he tried some weird movie type overtakes. Before the worse started, we reached a breakfast dhabba and managed to grab some dosa-vadas. After clicking few snaps we decided to continue over trip to reach as soon as possible.

Now I decided to grab back seat to prevent a cardiac arrest owing to the cab driver’s adrenaline thirst. Lokesh who was left without an option to take the front seat managed to doze off avoiding the thrill. :D Finally, after all the commotion we reached the Gaganachukki falls. Though the way was not so seemingly beautifully to lead to a waterfall, I must say we were quite impressed with the very sight of this mighty falls even from a far off view point.  Without hesitation we popped out our digi cams and started clicking each other in front of a portion of the scenery.  It dint take long for us to realize that we had in fact reached a wrong place thinking it to be the view point. We could locate the proper viewpoint to be diagonally opposite to the place were we chose to snap.

@ Gaganachukki (wrong viewpoint :p )

We could not delay further from getting drenched in the falls and hence proceeded straight to Barachukki falls where we could get into the waters. After reaching the point beyond which the cab can’t take us, we took our bags and started with high hopes of fun and excitement. The falls is situated in such a manner that in order to get to the bottom of it, we need to climb down around 200 steps that are raised higher than usual. We managed to reach the bottom soon after capturing the beauty of the falls in our digi cams.

To our delight there were traditional round boats taking us on a small trip around the water falls region. It was my first round boat ride and I was undoubtedly excited about it. The boat man was very kind and balanced the boat well for all of us with overflowing excitement to get in and stay put.  The water was cold and we played for sometime until we were awestruck by the intensity of the falls. It was cold and small water droplets carried by air managed to reach us and occupy notable spots in our snaps. The boat man agreed to rotate the boat and place each us in a position so that we could click snaps with the mighty falls in the background. Then he did a fast rotations continuously like they do placing heroines in round boat. Anyways it was a unique enjoyable experience.

After finishing  the boat ride, we din’t want to waste a second outside water. Immediately changing, we crossed a water stream to get close to the falls. After placing our bags in line of sight, we slowly started walking into the waters. Every step we took, the chillness of the waters cut through our skin deeper and deeper. LOL :D we decided to neutralize the feeling by drenching ourselves completely into water. Yes this did work! :D Then, we approached the bottom of the falls quickly. The rocks en route where quiet sharp and Lokesh in fact managed to get his feet cut (luckily on the surface)

Boat ride

Water was forceful enough to create a massaging effect on our body. We enjoyed standing under the falls and taking the falls intensity directly on our head and back. We din;t mind interruptions from other groups who wanted to enjoy our privileged spots for some time. Inspite of the water being shallow we saw few people jumping into it. After spending good time under the falls we decided to take a break. We all walked from one end to other end of the waters and played few games. We also tried floating on the waters. All of us started shivering in a while as it too cold outside the waters. Despite, we again rushed below the falls and continued to enjoy. It was my first close encounter with waterfall and I loved it completely. All this time, my visit to falls was surrounded by warnings every minute from my parents and restrictions all around. But this was completely different and adventurous.

After clicking few snaps colored with energy, we decided to leave. There was a pretty decent place to change and we grabbed few samosas to quench our hunger. Then, we realized that we had to climb back all the 236 high raised steps to reach the cab. We felt so tired after coming out from the waters and this was too demanding for our stamina levels. We started and slowly managed to reach the top. Immediately rushed into our cab and grabbed the snacks inside to console our tired souls.

En route to falls

We had no energy left but wanted to visit the view point that we missed. The driver found the right way to the view point and managed to take us there. We had tender coconut water and some masala pori at the place. We could also see the huge hydro electric project constructed based on this falls from the view point. Some of us even wondered the fate of doing a sky dive or bungee at this place. :D :D Finally after filling our hearts with the beauty of this mighty falls, we started our way back home. :)

Posing amidst shivers

Adieu 2011 outing from TI


I joined Texas Instruments in August and I must admit that it appeared too serious to enjoy until December :p

Then began the end of 2011 celebrations and the much hyped Team outing for our business unit. Thanks to Mohan Vamshi, our HR head who planned the venue and made reservations just in time.

We decided to celebrate 2011 achievements (though I dint contribute a dust! :p) at Xtremezone, Manchinbele. The exaggerated pics in the website only managed to create more excitement about the place.

We were instructed to be at office by 7am and it appeared only the NCGs took it serious! Finally people started arriving at around 8am and we kick started the outing in 2 buses (1 led by Vamshi and other by Satya) :)

On the way :)

Waiting for people to come outside TI :D

All NCGs got into the bus led by Satya expecting lesser damage but later found that there were quite lot of people in our bus also to create enough trouble ragging.

In bus - complaining about supervisors! :p

I had already overheard Satya and Vamshi planning for fun games during the journey since it was anticipated to take a painfully long time to reach the venue given the traffic situation in Bangalore.

Moments after the bus started, discussions began on how could NCGs possible be ragged during the travel. But seniors seemed not to be in their cruel best and they settled with some light stuff. They asked us to complain about our supervisors which went quite good credit to our dry time at office :p We all managed to blast our supervisors after getting a non disclosure agreement by word from the enthusiasts listening.

Then we started playing truth and dare. Credits to Satya & Vamshi for spending enough time selecting quite a huge number exciting truths and dares to ask.

It was weird and thrilling to play with our senior managers and business unit heads but nobody seemed to bother much as we were too much immersed into the fun and excitement.

Finally after few participants gave flying kisses to passers on the road and sang rhymes to random strangers we managed to reach the venue for outing.

The buses could not take us further near to the venue and hence we had to cover the rest of the distance by walk. The place looked dry and sunny. Given the weather situation in Bangalore it was quite amicable scenario.

After a long walk and being left behind once by the rest of the team, we managed to reach the happening place of Xtremezone with few wooden huts and chambers. They served breakfast and we dint mind since we were overwhelmed by hunger (though anviksha managed to engulf few Idlis before starting! argh!!). After, all managers starting pulling out their expensive coolers and posing for photos lightly. It was quite amusing to discover people talking about optimizing execution of activities all the time,  can indeed have fun. Finally after photoshoot and costume change, we decided to start the ‘adventure’ activities.

We were split into two groups and taken to different activities. We started with “Zapping” – wow exciting :p The activity seemed absolutely simple and I began to wonder why it is tagged “adventurous”. But after Rajesh crashed  foot first on tree it managed to jerk enough adrenaline. After the event, we discovered that our fate is completely in the hands of a person top who should pull the brake wire to stop us before we crash with the tree. :)

After zapping, we moved to Rappelling zone where we had to descend a rock (small cliff to exaggerate! :p) while we are tied to a rope. This one seemed quite adventurous inspite of the rock being small since balancing with a rope seemed to be a lot challenging. But since the first sport din’t quite manage to drain our excitement, we queued up quickly to try this one out! :D

As soon as I got ready with my gear (again exaggeration! just a helmet and hip belt! :p ) I climbed to the top of the rock using the arrangement available. It looked easier as breathing to see others doing it. Just before I took my turn, the person who started descending lost grip on his foot and ended up hanging with the support on his gear! Then he had to manage again pushing himself perpendicular to rocks in order to continue his descent down the rock.

Rappelling at Snail pace! :p

I managed to clarify and suck out enough details on how I should descend from the guys helping us out. Then, I started out slowly and within few steps I  understood the physics on how this thing works. Then I even managed to take few peeps below to see how much I have descended by then. It was a thrilling experience to balance our weight perpendicular to the rocks partially cheating gravity and descending down! Smooth as cream it was and we moved on to the more familiar next activity! “Paint ball”

Paintball - Gearing up!

Paintball was very familiar but the place seemed to neither have proper space or gear for playing ! The idea of playing paintball in open space was inviting until we started testing it. Again NCGs managed to group in one team against few seniors in other team. We had few rocks to provide cover but clearly not enough. I was forced to take a tree as my cover as the referee blew the whistle. The opposition was clearly strong as they managed to attack while we din’t get to move from our positions. I got shot once since my cover was not really doing its job. Then I few people from the opposition before I exhausted my bullets. I hate those helmets used for paintball. They literally blind us.. How do they expect us to aim and shoot! :(

After all the dry activities we had a nice lunch (chicken!! :p ) and rested for sometime. Then we could not resist the water in the lake beside the venue. So, within minutes we were all swimming in water with jackets on. The water so cold and it was wonderful to swim after nearly a year. But not for long. I began getting cramp in one leg. When I tried swimming back, I managed to cramp my other leg too. I understood that I have not swam for a long time and this fact is taking toll in the middle of the water now.

After resting for sometime with Shivraj’s support I managed to reach the shallow portions and walk some distance. Then when the situation improved I swam back. It was shit ridiculous when few guys got struck in the currents and we had to take rescue boats (its just a kayak boat) to pull them back :p As soon as we came out of water, we started to shiver. Followed by a costume change, we climbed up to volleyball court and played for sometime until everyone were ready.

Then we played some serious team building activities and used some revolutionary team communication skills (patented by Gokul and Penda :p can;t reveal details here) to emerge as winner in that activity! thanks to Gokul and Penda :D :D ‘n Vamshi!!

With not much energy left we headed back to our buses thinking that the day was done. But soon as our return journey started, we understood that Vamshi and Satya ended up in the same bus, Hence making it impossible to rest now. :) Vamshi started imitating people around in the bus to a very good extent. And Satya, Sarthak started Dumb C ‘n Guess who. We had some fine personalities thought by Naren which was literally impossible to find.

In the end, we finally reached back at around 8 pm tired and lazy filled with happiness and satisfaction. :D People generally cherished their achievements in 2011. Though we did not having anything to celebrate, we NCGs thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our managers and seniors better. Thanks for such a memorable outing !! :D

Top 10 myths about Placements @ Anna University


Disclaimer: This post is out of my experience as a Bachelor’s student at CEG campus, Anna university. It may or may not apply to other people.

#10 I wont get a job if I don’t know JAVA.

The companies require candidates to know an object oriented programming language in most cases. In equal number of cases, they test you in the language you are comfortable and you will be introduced to a new language after you join the company. So, any OOP based language can help.

#9 I can use same preparation method for all companies.

Wrong! That is a baseless assumption that most candidates realise after a couple of interviews. Some companies ask only linked lists and trees. Some ask DP also. Some ask for networks. It depends. Search the web for previous interview experiences. Bug the seniors who got placed on campus in the companies you dream to be at. Use their experience to your advantage. Else you would end up on the loosing side.

#8 I did not do any internship. Only bulk companies will pick me.

When it comes to placements, you need good projects. They would help showing your exposure to the interviewer. If you have done intern, then good but if you did not it does not matter much. Just forget it. Just because a person has an intern nobody would give him a job. And just because another guy does not have an intern, he wont be regarded with any inequality.

#7 I hate coding but took CS/IT by mistake. Now to hell with it! I can get placed only in a software company.

No! You still can end up in a heaven. There are lots of companies that do business analysis.  That would be the best place to be for guys who belong to “anti-coding” force. But watch your prep strategy. Those companies care a lot about communication skills and personality.

#6 I might end up without a job inspite of having no arrears.

This fear exists within every candidate every year. But statistics say that except the year of recession, there had been companies every year to end up without eligible candidates to interview. One important factor to make note of from 2012 batch is the increase in strength for various courses. The effect of this might not be obvious. But my logic is that, bulk companies like TCS, Wipro, CTS, Infosys won’t mind taking 50-75 students more than usual recruitement since it is CEG. Hence much of extra intake students will be consumed by bulk companies and make things even.

#5 It is a sin to skip a company

Not at all. It is mostly a call of one’s confidence in preparation. It is OK to skip companies not in your interests in the initial stages of placements.

#4 I do Contest coding. I will get the best job.

Sadly no! Most of the questions will be from theoretical data structures, OOPS, OOP Design and Algorithms. One should have a good idea of everything related to these subjects. Contest coding might help for a few companies. But in most cases contest coders will end up loosing to some guy who prepared specific for placements.

#3 I am an 8 pointer. CGPA toppers can only make it big.

Everyone having 8 or 8.5 above will have equal opportunity for all companies. From there, the challenge is to clear written round and convert the interview to an offer. So no CGPA advantage above the baseline.

#2 I am a book worm. Obviously I am the most eligible guy for the companies.

Ha Ha! Book worms do end up at good places. But not so always. Placements require problem solving skills. One should expose oneself to as many problems as possible and get familiar to the kind of questions that might be asking in the interview. Simply learning codes from text book wont take a candidate anywhere!

#1 I am a techie. Why do quants? They are for MBA enthusiasts.

Yea Y quants!!??? :( But that’s how the companies test candidates in written round. There will be good amount of quants’ questions that will provide big advantage for CAT students if techies neglected preparing for them.

And one last thing to remember! :D

#0 I have the best profile. Fuck placements. I will do MS no matter what.

Never use this strategy. On campus Placements are the biggest lottery (gamble also! :) ) out of CEG. So, never under estimate the value of it. Anything can happen! Going to US is a thing that will happen after 1 year from the time people get placed on campus. So, things might change within that time duration due to situations. Hence, make full use of campus placements no matter you have an idea to do MS or not. (Make sure you lie to the interviewer! :D )

Hope this post is useful for all placement aspirants and alerts few hard core MS aspirants. Feel free to contact me for any resources reg. placements.

UPDATES:

  1. Please take a look at the Placement Info doc by our batch to CS&IT juniors. I had tried to spread this among all juniors. Still many are not aware of its existence. Please post this in your class groups and forward it to all. Make sure you ppl also document your experiences for juniors!

  2. I recommend people to follow CSIT CEG in google groups. It has useful pointers regarding placements.

regards,

Vidhoon V

The new Documentation awareness


Certainly, this should have happened earlier!

Yes, there are no excuses for not recording my past research and extra academic (mostly useless :p ) work! But before a week it finally struck my dumb head to do this as soon as possible.

I have created a few blogs to record what I am working on. Feel free to take a look:

My research work at IITM

My Final year project work at CEG

It’s actually a good thing to record daily updates on such pages because they naturally monitor our progress and reflect our work style. So things become visible for correction. :D In addition it becomes a documentation of various sources used which is indeed a time saving resource for our future work.

Happy blogging!

regards,

Vidhoon V

 

 

Virtual Participation – The Next Big thing @ K! 2011


If Think Kurukshetra, Then think BIG!

For the past five years, Kurukshetra – the tech fest of College of Engineering,Guindy (Anna University) under the patronage of UNESCO has been growing strong. This time in 2011, we are trying to incorporate the best possible technical innovations as part of the blockbuster event. With the strong support of our generous sponsors, we are able to satisfy brains from almost all areas of science and technology.

Why should distance be a barrier to share knowledge when we are amidst the cutting edge of technology?

Virtual Participation is a humble way to answer this question at Kurukshetra 2011, the cradle of innovation. The Tech team of Kurukshetra 2011, empowered with powerful tools from CISCO, brings together bright minds across the world together to benefit from our tech fest.

Distance can’t be a barrier anymore! You can be a part of this no-match first time thrilling experience with minimal efforts and relish the lectures, conferences from your seats. If your hands itch for more things, you can do more than that. If you are thinking:

How can I contribute to Virtual participation?

Here is what you can do! Go to Virtual participation page and register as a volunteer for your Institution by answering some simple questions. That’s it. The Virtual participation team will contact you and provide every possible thing needed to organize this at your venue.

What are you waiting for!!!??? Gear up to be a part of tech innovation! Witness is not fun when u can experience the miracle! :D

Contact Virtual Participation team @ +91 9789128780 and techteam@kurukshetra.org.in

Cheers
Vidhoon V

How to get transcript in Anna University


It is a common procedure for all to get transcript copies for applying to higher studies.

The rate per transcript copy is Rs 500/- (Year 2011)

Here are the steps to that at Anna University, Chennai.

1) Take a DD from bank for Amount=(Number of transcript copies required*rate per transcript) in favor of Additional Controller of Examinations, Anna University, Chennai

2) Take copies of your original transcripts. Number of marksheet copies=Number of transcript copies required

3) Put all these in a A4 paper size cover

4) Go to the office of Additional Controller of Examinations. It is to the left of DOTE building when you are facing Anna University in Sardar Patel Road. Ask the security for Transcript office and he ll direct you to the place.

5) The place is pretty well organized compared to lazy assholes present at other offices in Anna university. Now get a form from the person in charge stating your transcript requirement.

6) Make an entry in the register there. Then fill the form and give it to lady alone with the A4 cover and DD. Make sure to note down Application number and DD number beforehand.

Now she ll place all contents in the cover and ask you to get back after 7 days

Simple and easy!! :)

Regards,
Vidhoon

Kurukshetra – the technical side


The international level techno management festival, Kurukshetra which the entire college boasts of is in turn a humble attempt to showcase the technical talents of Anna university. With such a motive, with big players gambling on such a huge level it becomes a hardcore requirement to present strong technical cover for all happenings pertaining to the kurukshetra fever !

With kurukshetra growing older and stronger every year, the needs from it’s technical side have grown too. We the tech team provide our hands and shoulders in making kurukshetra easier than before. We incubate ideas that make K bigger and better ! We create and design tools that help teams coordinate and communicate better.

We have completed a few projects this year including kdiary, a documentation tool for recording all the work and a contact management system called kcontacts. Plans are open to set up a technical repository this year in order to encourage reusability.

The tech team of kurukshetra has lot of scope for learning and shaping one’s creative skills.The objective is to simplify a solution, not only to solve a problem. We always welcome challenging projects and ideas from fellow juniors who aspire to be one among us! By doing so we in turn welcome the future tech side of kurukshetra!

Ignite the engines:) we are ready to fuel it :)

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