Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 - time to vote

Wikiepedia defines "Earth Hour" as an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Earth hour 2009 is scheduled for 28th MArch 2009 from 8:30 PM t0 9:30 PM local time. The earth hour website hopes to raise awareness by switching of the lights for one hour. However, earth hour might end up leading to higher energy consumption than on normal days. Since, electrical appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, heaters etc. will also be switched of for just one hour.

These electrical appliances have to spend more energy in reheating or recooling the surface or room after the end of the hour. As reported in earth hour 2008, New Zealand's power consumption during Earth Hour was 335 megawatts, higher than the 328 megawatt average of the previous two Saturdays. Similarly in Calgary, Canada power consumption actually went up 3.6% at the hour's peak electricity demand.

Is earth hour a great idea, implemented without thinking of the science behind it? Hopefully the organisers will make sure such wastage of power does not occur.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A grease monkey script to view tab and new line characters in a browser

In certain cases its necessary to recognize tab and newline characters in a document. Microsoft word comes with an option to hide or show such punctuation marks like newline and tab characters. The short cut for enabling the display of punctuation marks is “Ctrl + *”. It can be very beneficial I differentiating space characters from tab characters.

Internet explorer or any other browser such as firefox, safari, opera or chrome does not come with such a option to view newline and tab characters. Simple one line greasemonkey script can do the job for firefox.

As can be seen in above screen, the newline characters in wikipedia home page been replaced by “q|” and tab characters have been replaced by “-->”.

The code for the oneline greasemonkey script is given below:


Hopefully future versions of Internet browsers will provide this facility to view tab and newline characters when required.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The elusive program bug

Some bugs can drive a programmer crazy by its unpredictability and complexity. These bugs have been named after famous scientists who discovered laws that seem to be false, but are actually true.

Heisenbug named after the famous German theoretical physicist who discovered the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The Heisenbug is a type of computer bug that alters its behavior when it’s tried to be analyzed.

Ex: An example of Heisenbug is a bug that behaves differently in debug mode and compile mode.

Bohrbug named after Neils Bohr, the Danish physicist who made fundamental contributions to understanding the atomic structure. The Bohrbug is a type of computer bug that manifests itself consistently under well-defined set of conditions. Although a Bohrbug can be easily caught, it might be elusive when its present in rarely executed parts of the code.

Ex: A rare condition that is executed only in an exceptional condition may have a very simple logical bug, which does not manifest itself until the exceptional case is encountered.

Mandelbug named after Benoit B. Mandelbrot, a French mathematician famous for his work in fractal geometry. Mandelbugs are computer bugs that are so complex, that they appear to be chaotic.

Ex: A bug that is occurring due to some variable component like the hardware, Operating system, other applications etc, but appears to be a simple logical bug.

Schroedinbug named after Erwin Schrodinger an Austrian theoretical physicist famous for his contributions to Quantum physics. An Schroedinbug manifests itself when the program is analysed to realise that the program is not working as it was designed to. However, the program might have been used effectively due to some other error committed by the user or environment.

Ex: A program that’s actually designed to accept capital alphabets, which has a bug that accepts small letter alphabets. The program stops to work after the users realise that the program is not supposed to accept small letter alphabets. (Note: The program was working while accepting small letter alphabets as all the users were using small letter alphabets leading to the program to work as if all alphabets had been entered in capitals.)

Bosebug named after Satyendra Nath Bose, an Indian physicist famous for his work in Bose-Einstein statistics. A Bosebug commonly known as a statistical bug is a type of bug that manifests itself only when analyzed from a statistical point of view over a considerable duration of time.

Ex: A program that’s supposed to generate random numbers may not actually be producing random numbers from a statistical point of view. Although such bugs may not affect the program in a single run, can create major problems in the long run.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Novelty software distribution terms

Software has been distributed with different rules governing it use. The"Postcardware", requires the user to send an actual postcard to the author of the program to use the software. The postcardware is not enforced strictly and can be considered a type of freeware. Emailware is similar to postcardware but instead of an actual physical postcard, an email is sufficient.

Beerware a term coined by John Bristor in 1987 asks the users of the software to buy the author a beer if they meet some day. The license is a very simplified version of the GPL. Probably Bill Gates dint release Windows under beerware for the fear of being killed by over dose of beer or fear of people avoid meeting him.So it did do him a lot of good by releasing it as payware.

Shareware (also called demoware or trialware) refers to software thats distributed without payment on a trial basis and is limited by any combination of functionality, availability, or convenience.Crippleware is a type of trialware which requires payment for access to advanced features of the program. Nagware (also known as begware or annoyware) is type of shareware that reminds(or nags) the user to register by paying a fee.

Careware (also called charityware,helpware, or goodware) is software distributed in a way that benefits a charity.The term "careware" is a variant on shareware and freeware. Similar to careware is Donationware is a licensing model that supplies fully operational software to the user and requests a donation be paid to the programmer or a third-party beneficiary(usually a non-profit).

Freeware is software given away for free(without any cost) use without any limitations.A donation might be requested by few authors.

Adware is advertising supported software that automatically shows advertisements to the users.Most adware are considered a security threat and are not popular.Firefox distributed with Google search bar can be considered a type of adware as google ends up earning from the ads displayed to users using the google search bar.Ransomware, spyware are other softwares that dont have any explicit distribution terms, but make use of illegal methods to delete/obtain sensitive data.

The author of the holy rosary program went a step further and declared his software as Prayware.The software is free for use,the users can however pray for the author as payment. Do let me know if you know of any other more novel software distribution terms.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Software program to make a Quiz - multiple choice

If you want to create a quiz with multiple choice questions, the Quiz program by Luzius Schneider seems to do the job. The program is free to use as long as we are OK to share the questionnaires we create using the software. The program makes use of the Borland Database engine to easily store and retrieve the questions. There are options to set time limits, provide hints about the answer and even further explanations for an answer if you are interested.

Quiz also has few shareware upgradations which run on the network, a intranet or even the internet.

Tipu Sultan's Tomb - Gumbaz Srirangapatna

Gumbaz is the tomb and mosque built by Tipu Sultan as a tribute to his illustrious father, Hyder Ali (1722-1784 A.D.), after his death.
Gumbaz srirangapatna
The Gumbaz is situated at the eastern extreme of Srirangapatna. It enshrines the cenotaphs of Hyder Ali,his wife Fakr-Un_Nisa and Tipu Sultan, after his death in 1799 A.D. It is built on a stone plinth, with polished black granite pillars that run along the corridor around the inner chamber.A magnificent dome crowns the building. The chamber is painted with the tiger stripes that were associated with Tipu.

The structure, laid out amidst a garden, typical of Islamic architecture, also houses the Masjid-E-Aksa.

At the eastern entrance of the Mausoleum is a tablet in Persian script that speaks of the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan in 1799 A.D.

There are numerous other cenotaphs of the relatives of Tipu's family.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

When the English language runs out of words

The English language is reported to have as many as 500,000 words based on major publicised dictionaries. If various technical words are included the number grows to 1,500,000 words. With the growth of the Internet the number of words that are being coined and used is growing everyday. So the day when we literally run out words to describe things will arrive.

Although the debate over the longest English word still continues, we could probably say that words longer 20 letters are difficult to use in normal speech. Considering the words to be maximum of 20 characters long a total of 26 to the power of 20 words can be made. (26 to the power of 20 = 1.99281489 × 10 to the power of 28. So we have more than enough words in English Language to last a few centuries?? Or will we out grow this number by discovering or inventing those many new things to describe? Time will tell if we Will have to add more characters to the English Language.

Probably we will resort to using numbers along with the alphabets before actually going on to create new alphabets. So a word like "10potato" might mean an actual word that has no connection whatsoever to a potato as we know it today.

Linguists may argue that humans would rather add few more alphabets to a language than use such long words. However, based on the way the lanuage is going to be used in the future, we may not add more alphabets but actually use long words which are cross-referenced in huge online dictionaries.