Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Size of 1GB

Here is a nice picture that a friend of mine sent to me:


It shows an IBM 1GB hard disk (yes, that huge, bulky thing is actually a hard disk drive) manufactured in late 80s. On top left is a hand holding the modern version of 1GB, a 1GB SD card. It gives us an idea of how much advancement the computer hardware industry has gone through the last two decades.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to Remember Passwords?

In this internet age, with people visiting new website at a rate higher than their usual visits to the restroom, remembering login details, especially passwords can be a quite daunting task. The login credentials consists of both the username like "Bigyan" and the password like "bb1024". Here I will give some guideline that might make this task a little bit easier for you.


First comes the trouble of choosing a good username, which can be difficult if you have a common name or just are not creative enough. A friend of mine tried to get a GMail account and to his horror found out that all the names from "dutan", "dutan1", "dutan12" ... upto "dutan1234" were already taken, so he took the name "dutan12345". Of course this is quite a mess and very difficult to remember.

The solution is to be creative and start using something like "dutan_42" which is something not everyone will come up with. Of course however creative one might get, there is always a possibility that that very username was already taken ... so maybe you could just add another letter or number to it. Try out "dutan__42". Use this scheme for every site that needs you to have an account. So at most you have to remember 4-5 similar usernames.


This is the huge problem. how can you choose "hard to guess" yet "easy to remember" passwords? Of course you could try using the same password everywhere, but if somebody finds out one of them, you are doomed.

The trick lies in creating a set of basic passwords for different category of sites. Like for emails, you can have a basic password, another one for news sites etc. The trick is to effectively use these basic passwords and generate the password unique to the site that you are using. Say you choose a password like "iddqd95" as your basic password for emails. So for yahoo, you could change that to "iddqd95aoo" i.e. appending it with the vowels of that site. So for gmail you have "iddqd95ai".

So even if somebody "accidentally" finds out your email password, they cannot just use it on all other sites that you use. So the chance of identity theft is reduced considerably.

You can extend this scheme to use numbers in place of letters ... maybe number the vowels from 1 to 5. Or append the consonants. Maybe use the first 2 alternate letters. Basically get creative with this. Further ideas include using complicated number replacement policies based on the site's name. Maybe even some unusual characters like ! @ # $ % etc. Corresponding them to the vowels. The possibilities are really endless.

Remember that its easy to make such a complex scheme than follow it on a day to day basis. So follow a "Keep It Simple Strategy". Do not make the scheme so complicated that you need a pencil and paper just to compute your password, that alone is enough to negate all the advantages of these scheme.


The schemes look all good, but it does have a disadvantage. They are easy to use because you are remembering only the rule and not the password. But what if somebody gets to know of it? So the trick is not to discuss your scheme with anybody else and never share your passwords. Also please do not write them down. This is often thought to be one of the safest scheme. I have a friend who keeps her list of passwords in a password protected MS Word file and carries a printed copy in her bag. This is very silly. With the advent of internet, identity theft has got a new meaning. Its quite easy for a professional to get this lists.

If you are a computer savvy person ...

Of course if you are computer savvy enough, you might have discovered that fact that most of the recent browsers come with sophisticated password management systems. You can use them easily and just remember one single master password. While this scheme is quite secure in the sense that the encryption standards used to store the passwords are almost impossible to crack, it has some glaring disadvantages.

Losing the master password can be the perfect recipe for a disaster. Then there is always the possibility of that piece of software malfunctioning. What if the HDD crashes? So even if you use this scheme, and I do agree that is is very addictive, spare few minutes to learn up and use the above strategies which make you life a little bit easier.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rapidshare adds cats to Captcha

Rapidshare, one of the most popular file sharing services in Internet has updated their Captcha system. If you are a free user, you need to enter those four letters which have this picture of cat in it :


A sample captcha looks like :


Rapidshare captcha is one of the most attacked captcha systems of the web. Thus the system is updated every few days. This novel addition does make the captcha system harder to break, but it also makes it very difficult for actual human beings. I hope in their zeal for making an uncrackable captcha, Rapidshare has forgotten the fact that it should be easy understood by users too.

As a long time user of Rapidshare I hope that they change this system with something more easily recognizable by humans. Failing to do that might result in their losing valuable traffic as there is no point uploading files, when most of the users will have a hard time to download it.


In case you are wondering, what are those four letters in the above picture, the answer is that I do not know !! I tried downloading a 35 MB file from their server and had to wait around 2 minutes for each try. I tried around 5 times with different captchas each time and finally gave up. Of course if this happens for another week or so, I am sure we will see users steering clear of Rapidshare.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GTalk status bugfix with Winamp v5.5+

I do not know, how many of you have faced this problem, Google Talk's option of showing the current music track as status message simply does not work with Winamp v5.5+. Personally I love both the programs. I have been using Winamp from 2001 and GTalk is where most of my pals are. The main problem involves freezing of the GTalk program when the "Show current music track" is selected in the status drop-down.

Winamp says that it is a GTalk bug and Google does not say anything on it, leading to a lot of confusion as a lot of users seem to be using both of these popular programs. However I have found this cool workaround for this bug from a friend of mine:

  1. Close both GTalk and Winamp.

  2. Go to Winamp's program folder ... it is usually in C:\Program Files\Winamp, unless you have installed it elsewhere.

  3. Create a winamp.m3u file there. Just a blank file.

  4. Start Winamp, then GTalk

  5. Try out the "Show current music track" option

It works well. So no more of tracking down old versions of Winamp and switching back to it. This is a rather neat workaround, thanks to my friend Tania.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google Friend Connect

Yesterday, Google added yet another innovative product in their growing list of products. It is called "Friend Connect" that "allows website owners grow traffic by enabling any site on the web to easily provide social features for its visitors". In short, it integrates the Social Networks with any other site. What this will lead to is something that is hard to comprehend. But on the surface, it looks like a tighter integration between people and websites, that is, it will add a social layer on the sites.

Here are the official links :

I am a big admirer of Google and wasted no time in signing up for Friend Connect. Lets see where this leads us to. With the concepts of Web 2.0, the online experience is changing at quite a fast pace and so far for good. This might be the next big thing on Web 2.0.

If you are like me, wishing to sign up to anything new from Google, here is the Friend Connect Sign-Up for Preview Release page. So far the concept seems to be only something novel. But Google has its own way of coming up with cool new features for all its products. I am always in the lookout for that "New Features" link.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

.NET Hands-On lab, 9th May 2008

Yesterday, I conducted a .NET Hands-On lab session in the Rajabazar Campus of University of Calcutta. Students from B.Tech. year 1, attended the session. Here are some of the pictures :

The session started at 1430 with an introduction to C#, followed by Hands-on session on Visual C# 2005 Express Edition. Starting from a basic Hello World application, we moved on to DateTime and TimeSpan classes and their usages. Basic IO operations were demonstrated, laying the groundwork for further sessions.

The session was quite a success, with almost all the student of B.Tech. I attending it. Unlike my last session, this session seemed to be very interactive. Lots of question were asked, and I tried my best to answer them. Its very encouraging to see, such a high level of participation from this group.

As I promised in the session, all the materials have been made available online. Please go to http://drop.io/MS_Club_CU, and download the materials. Please note that the site requires you to log-in. So use the password that I provided you last day.

Thanks to everyone who attended this session and made it a success. Please put in some feedbacks of the session and any suggestions of improvement.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Physical Data Organization

I delivered the following presentation to our B.Tech. class on 28th April 2008 at the University College of Science and Technology. The topic for the day was "Physical Data Organization".

This is all a part of our professor KND's grand plan for improvement of public speaking amongst students. Over the years he has observed that there is a general tendency for students to falter while speaking on a public platform. The effect of this is most evident on the Grand Viva that is held in the final year. So from this year, KND has started this scheme where a number of student groups are formed. Each group gets some topic, which the members have to study themselves and teach the class.

In my case, I was the only person in the group and was allotted the above topic. I have tried my best to put it forward in a simple and easy-to-understand manner. So far, the feedback from my audience has been quite encouraging. However KND did point out the total absence of the algorithms part from the presentation was not what he had wanted.

Here are the links to download offline versions of the above presentation.

Please note that the presentation is copyrighted, and you have to take my permission if you want to use it somewhere. In case of any doubts or queries, you can contact me by posting a comment here. Improvement suggestions are always welcome.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Virtual Tech Days resources available

Recently in an innovative way to launch their 2008 suite of products Microsoft organized a two days online session called Virtual Tech Days all across India on 9th and 10th of April. The seats were quite limited, and many could not register for the same owing to the closure of the registrations around 2 days before the event. However, now MS has made all the resources for the session (presentations and live recordings) available for everybody at  http://www.microsoft.com/india/virtualtechdays/. So even if you have missed the sessions, you can download them now and view them as and when you wish.

Most of the stuff is introductory in nature and can be a good place to start if you are totally new to this suite of products. However one can be most benefited, if they have a prior experience of working with previous versions of some of the products.