Some Thoughts On Internet Privacy

Once my friend claimed, Bing can identify you using 128 different parameters and can store all the searches you have done so far. Though i dont bing, i know Google has control to more parameters has more data. It is equally frustrating when Facebook asks “how far from <here> do you live ?”, and claims it will customize my experience based on that. Very rarely i think about these seriously. This post is the result of one such thought.

Back in college, i had the habit of doing egoistic searches. Will type my name or email address in Google and feel happy if i get few pages of search results. It gave a sense of false significance. I tried doing it a while ago, after so many years. Now it is a bit alarming when i see my name or information listed there. While i do pay some attention to this and try to keep things private,  with the number of websites i have account in, this was expected. What set me off was this site called “yatedo”.  Yatedo is a people search engine, but how it operates seems to be a little different. Yatedo scraps information from your public profile and creates its own Yatedo profile page, will all the information including links to blog posts. If you do not want it, you have to opt out 🙂 Pretty cool, huh ? Atleast the creators thought so.

Who gives them the information ? It is us. Google/Facebook/LinkedIn, usually change their privacy policies, give you a two page essay to read. Never have i bothered to check it out, but i do change the settings and try to avoid displaying a lot of personal details as public. What i missed, Yatedo caught. A lot of debate is already happening in the web about Yatedo, but they manage to stay safe hiding behind some French law, which once again i never bothered to check. Read this in Quora, if you are not aware – http://www.quora.com/Is-Yatedo-illegal-How-do-I-delete-my-Yatedo-profile-which-was-created-without-my-consent. For a while I was furious about being ignorant, but when i saw most of my friends do have an yatedo profile, i felt a little ok 😛 The quora link has information on how to delete the information and how to make your stuff private, if you want to. After doing the steps in the link, also try to request google to remove it from search results – https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals

This is part of a big problem. It is always scary to think about what Google/Facebook/LinkedIn do with the data. While facebook does provide a way to deactivate your profile, linkedin does not even have an option. You can only disable your public profile. I never bothered to check about Google, because i am not planning to do it anytime. It is tough to get out of the web created by Google. Google has simplified a lot of things and that has made me totally dependent on it. When i store a contact in my android phone, i choose my google account as the one where the information should go. Considering that i format, root, install a different ROM or keep testing my phone now and then, storing in google looks like a good option to make sure i don’t lose my contacts anytime.

As a last point, How far can companies  benefit from this frivolous data. I have no clue, i have less idea about Big data, what exactly are the data they are looking at, how exactly can they use the data in decision making. Recently i received a amazon gift voucher from Amazon for Rs.100, for taking up a survey and letting them know about my shopping preference. If Amazon is willing to pay Rs.100 to get views of a guy who is not a avid shopper, may be it is safe to assume that companies are looking for data seriously. What if they have the data from which they can guess. Do companies like Google possess such data. What about governments ? Will be happy if they are not. This episode of “Numb3rs” TV serial episode seems to be on related lines – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWaxF0U5y28 watch if you have 40 minutes.

“Google is Skynet” looks like a pretty valid statement.  I am not sure about that, only thing i am sure is i will not be the one that the terminators will come searching for 😀 😀 😀 As of now I am in a state of rest with incomplete data, feeding data to Google and getting few things done easily from them. As Newton said, need a external force for any change in action. Will continue to do so till acted upon by external force.

Whats up!!!!!

Long time since i blogged. The last year appraisal(blog report) from wordpress showed 2014 was pretty bad 🙂 WordPress sugar coated the report with some nice stats and encouraging words but the fact was I had a total of 3 blog posts in 2014 with the last post coming on May, 2014. Yep, it didn’t make sense to trouble everyone with the details about the mundane life.  While review of movies, treks and travels looks repetitive, others were too personal to share in this space. It is this thought process that blocks most of the blog posts from getting published.

A sense of ennui has crept in as years passed by and the childish excitement seems to be missing. It is tough to keep the child in you active for a long time. Without that everything looks quite normal and ordinary 🙂 Let us blame it on the civilization and the society 🙂 Civilization seems to have screwed up the priorities. Though our needs look no different from that of any other animal species, we seem to be following a very convoluted process. Enough of philosophy. From the way the human species has successfully multiplied and established itself eradicating the other species, probably it makes more sense to follow the process with eyes closed 😀 😀 😀

Anyway 2014 has been a very interesting year with few unforgettable moments. A lot of interesting things happened personally. Few important decisions made. Reading habit has reduced a lot. I was trying to read the tamil book Kaval Kottam, and it turns out to be a book which i may not finish. Did go on few treks with the last one being Nishanimotte @ Coorg, Karnataka, but chose not to blog about them. MullayanagiriKemmangundi full trek still remains incomplete, with one more attempt made during 2014 monsoon which ended again halfway at Bababudangiri. Lets see what 2015 has in store.

Auroville Marathon

It all started with our friend Vanniaperumal asking us to join him for a trip to Pondicherry. He had plans of participating in the Auroville marathon. He has taken up running as hobby for some reason and is spending good amount of time discovering the streets in his village. It was long since we went for a trip together. With the trekking gang disintegrated escaping out of bangalore on some trip was becoming a rare phenomenon. So decided to join him for the trip and for some reason registered for the the marathon as well. We had not given too much of thought on whether it was possible to complete, what sort of training it required etc.

The training started a month before the marathon with a 10K run in lalbagh. 10KM on the first day was not a good idea, we realized it the hard way completing it mostly by walking and taking 1 hour 40 minutes. That day it dawned upon us that 21KM is going to be a daunting task and requires a lot of practice. Tried running in the morning for sometime but sleep is more precious than these stuffs. So hit the gym @ office in the evening for the first time in life. I had decided never to visit a gym but to remain healthy by doing routine activities. But i had no other option this time and started running 3 to 4 KM daily.

Running was fun. Running 21KM was self imposed punishment. Realized that when we decided to try 21KM before the marathon day and tried the same in lalbagh. It took 3 hours 20 minutes, with some running and lot of walking. End result was a lot of pain and walking style like a duck after that. But we knew it was achievable. Few more days at the gym and a week of rest, we were ready for the marathon on Feb 9. Atleast we thought we were.

Went to Pondicherry on Feb 8. Visited Auroville and collected the BIB. Liked the atmosphere in Auroville and how organized they were. After some roaming around Pondicherry and enjoying the TN cuisines in their original taste, visited auroville in the night again as Vanni had registered the pasta dinner. That dinner helps in running better next day it seems 🙂 Mani and myself assumed idly and dosa does the same and had that for dinner. Came back to room and rested. Should say, i did relish the food in pondicherry.

Auroville was bustling with activity when we reached at 5.30AM.  This time there were more than 2000 participants for the half marathon alone so it was crowded. I was supposed to start in the first wave of 600 @ 6:15AM, while vanni and mani were in the wave that started at 6.25AM. The marathon started sharply at 6:15AM and i started running without much plan, with the only intention of finishing it without injuries. Soon i was running a decent pace, overtaking the slow runners and in sight of the leaders. Thanks to the gym, was able to maintain the pace for sometime but soon settled to the speed i am comfortable with, around 8-8.5KMPH. Was excited every time i crossed every KM mark, but as time progressed 1KM looked a little elongated. Could not stop thinking the organizers are playing some cruel trick and increased the distance. Anyway, at the end of an hour, i had completed 8KM. Was able to maintain the pace and completed 10KM in 1 hour 15 minutes.

10KM was a sign of achievement, soon a signal from the cerebrum asked me to slow down. I could see a lot of people from second, third and fourth wave overtaking and disappearing. Since it was expected didn’t care much. But when girls overtook, there was a tight slap on the ego, but body and mind were in unison and made sure there was no increase in the speed. But no sign of Vanni and Mani. At the second hour i completed around 15KM and around here, Vanni crossed me, uttered few words hastily and ran ahead. Mani was nowhere in sight.

After 15KM, succumbed to the pressure of mind and started walking. Tried doing it at a reasonable pace, but dont think i achieved it. It was also turning hot, which was acting as a deterrent. Continued walking till 20KM in the next 50 or so minutes. After 20KM, not sure what motivated me, is that the crowd near the finishing line or the gal who was irritating me by overtaking me and then walking in front and doing the same once i crossed her, i suddenly got some energy to run again. When it was around 300 meters from the finishing line, found that there is a chance to complete the marathon within 3 hours. Was pumped up in seconds and started sprinting. It felt like sprinting, probably was running at a decent pace. Not sure where the energy had vanished after 15KM, and how it returned. Atlast the finish line was in sight, body ached, gasped a little for breath but completed the marathon at last in around 2 hours 59 minutes. Target achieved.

I am still not sure, how running 21KM is fun 🙂 But wont deny getting a medal and posing for a photo, though it is your own camera did give a momentary happiness. A sense of achievement and completion that is missing in this adult life. I was not comparing myself with others, nor did i find think about how will it help  in future, what i had was a childish joy of accomplishing something though it could be worthless. In that way, it was fun indeed.  Now i am running few KMs in gym daily. Looks like there is one marathon on the way, lets see if i run in that as well.

The Dying Democracy

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” – George Bernard Shaw

Lets say, I have 100 Rs and i want to buy something. I go to a shop pay 100 and get it. The shop owner gets the 100 rupees, but is under the assumption that the product he sold me was given to me due to his great efforts and decides to remind me about his benevolence by printing his name, family name and his photo everywhere in the product. And the cost incurred to engrave them should also be paid from my pocket. I think it is right to feel irritated.

All this comes after buying a Rs.10 water bottle at the bus station, the famous “Amma Kudineer” water bottle that is sold at the bus stations in Tamilnadu. There is a green sticker with CM’s smiling photo and the word “Amma Drinking Water”. Above the sticker is a symbol of two big leaves. Everyone in Tamilnadu knows that is the symbol of AIADMK party. They can’t have that. So on top of the two leaves there are two more smaller leaves. Now it is not a party symbol any more, but point delivered. Towards the bottom of the water bottle, once again it has the word “Amma” engraved in English on one side and in Tamil on the other side. The only mention about a government body involved was in “Processed & Packaged by State Express Transport Corporation Tamilnadu Ltd” in very small letters, which you can find only if you want to find. To me it looked a lot despotic.

The plan as such is a good move, was received with great acclaim, considering that earlier we ended up paying 15 – 20 Rs for sub-standard low quality water. Let us also assume that since India is a developing nation, all the tax money is spent in other activities and is not possible for government to give free and hygienic water at public places. Only problem is it is made to appear like a benevolent act for which I should be grateful, while it is nothing but a duty of the elected governemnt. A name and symbol related to the government might have left me satisfied something like “Rail Neer” as introduced by IRCTC which does not carry any officer’s or ruler’s photo.

No i do not support DMK, i despise the nepotism that exists in that party. I do not have high hopes on the so called secular congress that seems to be corrupt, and on Modi who has pledged to take country towards progress. I do agree, this is not an issue,  when compared to the blatant violation of democracy that we see in a lot of instances. This is just another reminder of what our rulers are. And when i see people happy about atleast something happening, it reminds that we have brought democracy to a very low level with our ignorance. As a kid, I believed a lot when leaders talked about the country becoming super power,  but it looks more like many many assumptions that vanished into thin year when i started becoming older. The current situation looks exactly similar to the story in “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, a revolution followed by a constitution that aims at equality which eventually ends in despotism and nepotism and slavery. Recommend you to read, if you haven’t done so, and you will realize that we are no different than the horses and donkeys of the “Animal Farm” 🙂

It vanished, took time to understand why but it had gone. It had deserted me completely. I felt alone. Everyday i discovered new ways to kill time.  Attempts to bring it back went in vain.  Finally it came to me few months back,  the long lost habit of reading something now and then. I was not a voracious reader who consumes several booksin a month, but i did have the habit of  completing few good books in a year.

All was fine, until i picked up “The Brief History Of Time” by Stephen Hawking. Around 190 pages of pure science written in a way that could be understood by normal people. The book was awesome without doubts. Not sure whether the concepts can be clearly explained in a very simple language any better.  I had studied Physics @ school for 7 long years, with the only intention of scoring marks. That had defeated the purpose of learning altogether.  Remembering all  the details  presented in the book will be difficult but you will understand why and how one should learn Physics. Though the explanation was simple enough, it does require a lot of concentration to grasp the concepts. I had to read through the pages again and again to understand the concepts better. And that was the difficult part. Gradually, my mind came up with ways to stop reading, found alternatives to kill time or better pushed me to sleep once i started reading. Finally completed the book sometime around Feb 2013. I had started reading on March 2012. Sigh!!!!

Then, it was back, the reading spree, the urge to read at-least few pages daily, the urge to sacrifice sleep if necessary. Started with two tamil books suggested and lent by Subramani. Visumbu (விசும்பு) and Avvulagam (அவ்வுலகம்). Visumbu is a collection of short stories, each an  attempt by Jeyamohan at science fiction. Liked a few, but was not enthralling. But Avvulagam (அவ்வுலகம்) was of different genre. It was the story of an old guy, moments before death where he gets to think about what happened in life and answers to the unanswered questions in his life. Each page had something to offer. Rightly named Avvulagam (அவ்வுலகம்), it turned out to be a different world indeed.

At this point, with all books that i had exhausted started the search for something to read at leisure. Heard a lot about “A Song of Ice and Fire” and it was in the queue and ordered “A Game Of Thrones”. Aim was to complete the books and before starting with first episode of the HBO TV series which i heard is also fantastic. Did not take much time to get involved and from then on quite a few sleepless nights have passed by.  Continued with the “A Clash of King” and now in “A Strom of Swords: Steel and Snow”. The plot thickens with every chapter and unanswered questions continue to pile, my own theories of what will happen continue to be built, this is turning out to be a great great read. A fantasy series after a long time and it is turning out to be worth every penny spent.

There was a gap when i had completed “A Game Of Thrones” and was waiting for “A Clash of Kings”. Got “The Motorcycle Diaries” to read during a day time train travel. Removing the hype around Che Guevara, it was a travelogue through unknown places in South America. Their unflinching desire to explore their continent on a 500cc bike did inspire a lot. The book also captures plight of mine workers, the native incan, the sorry state of the hospitals etc etc and how it transforms Che through out the journey. But to me it was more of a travelogue of two relentless travelers which urges you to explore the world.

As of now and for few more months from now, it will be “A Song Of  Ice And Fire”.

Bus Diaries #1 – KPN

Subramani arrived at 9.55PM as usual 5 minutes before the departure and went ahead to check the ticket. As expected, there was a change. The Thisaiyanvillai Bus supposed to pick us up at 10PM broke down on the way and they had to arrange an alternate. This is the second time, i heard the same story for the same bus from K.P.N. Few months before, they had called me up at 8.30PM and asked me to come at 9.00PM to the boarding point. This time, they offered seats on a sleeper that was scheduled to leave at 10.00 PM. Improvement!!! Can’t complain i guess 🙂 Boarded the bus wondering, why the Thisaiyanvillai bus breaks down every now and then or is there something fishy happening. After a few confusions with seat allocations, we were given upper berths. Sleeper bus gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs and get into sleeping position, but keeps the mind in panic state since every sharp turn gives a feeling of falling from somewhere (Thookam varum aana varathu).

Three hours later @ 1.30AM, reached Salem. 220KMs in 3 hours. Decided to set the alarm to wake up early as it looked like it may not take more than 3hrs to reach the destination. So far so good. 2hrs later, heard the driver calling for 4 passengers to shift to a new bus, 5 minutes after that learnt that bus has developed a mechanical problem. At this point, KPN one of the biggest transport corporation in South India gave its passengers only one option, shift to a different KPN bus which might pass through that route and where seats might be available. One by one passengers got down, and waited in the highway, bearing the cold weather and hoping for some KPN bus to arrive and pick them up. Amidst all the chaos, a snoring sound reverberated inside the bus. Somebody was in sound sleep. Blessed should be the one who can sleep amidst all the sound, unmindful of what was happening and not worried about the next step. Who could it be ? Vera yaaru namma Subramani thaan.

Around 5 to 10 passengers had found an alternative and around half of the crowd was still waiting. No alternative arrangements made. Spent the next one hour waiting in the cold, and hoping we would find some KPN bus with free seats. Unfortunately all that crossed were full. Few passengers could not digest the fact that they had paid exorbitant money but and left stranded in the middle of the road with no alternative arrangements and took it up with the driver and had a talk with the KPN head quarters. The only result was increase in passenger’s blood pressure as both the driver and people at the head quarters remained unresponsive (pimpilika pilapi thaan). KPN transport which boasts best service and customer satisfaction neither had a spare bus nor a mechanic and no way to track which bus could accommodate us. After around 90 minutes of wait, a bus from Sharma travels had some seats left and we had to pay Rs. 250 for the remaining 1.5hrs of journey.

My roommate came in the 9.15PM KPN bus the next day and looks like his bus too broke down around the same place and the same solution was offered it seems. Seriously wonder, is this some kind of trick ? What haunts more is that the unresponsive staff.

So what next ? Though IRCTC sucks big time, and tatkal booking is near to impossible task, try to stick to train as much as possible and keep KPN as the last option.

54, 55, 56… Beautiful Girl… Pause..  The costume suited her perfectly.  Her command over the language was excellent. If you don,t pay attention to the subject being discussed, you can just keep seeing her jaws go up and down accompanied by beautiful reactions.  Soon a guy joined the discussion. Even to someone who would not understand the language, their tone will set the context that they are discussing about something that they consider as the burning problem. I waited, for i knew soon they would soon be joined by another five other guys who claim to be experts  on the subject being discussed. As expected they joined and discussions ensued and the guy and  gal worked hard to make sure the discussion continued without reaching any consensus. Looked like a nice job to me, let two people talk, keep adding fuel to the fire on both ends, make them make mistakes, focus on the mistakes for the  next hour and conclude something stupid at the end.

This is the scene in any private news channel in the country. They seem to be spending more time in playing with the people emotions than reporting news. Every news is a breaking news. While they talk in length about the victory of Indian cricket team in some match, praising the captain and players, they discuss in depth about the incapability of the players and the captain if India loses the next day. It is undeniable fact that they work hard to report few problems that we have never noticed, and make sure it gets the due attention. But most of the time, it looks like a carefully scripted drama enacted by high skilled actors.

Enough. 57, 58,59 .. 89. There it was, DD National. Gives me what i wanted,  just the NEWS.  News readers are old, monotonous and read without reaction. But they just report what happened. Nothing else. Also noticed a program for 30 minutes about astronomy, with neat pictures and graphics and clear explanation.

Super User of Android

Not out of interest, but out of compulsion, ended up rooting my android mobile. The 180MB of internal memory in my galaxy ace was too less and it took very little time to run out of space. Decided to root my phone and move the apps to the SD card. Rooting of galaxy ace was simple. The internet is full of step-by-step tutorials for the same. The only problem i faced was the universal rooting package for samsung galaxy ace failed to root my phone. Few sites mention about AceGingerRoot.zip, and it did the trick. Check this link – http://rootzwiki.com/topic/23138-how-to-root-your-galaxy-ace-gingerbread/

After rooting the phone, wanted to move the applications to the SD card. The best possible way is to the link2sd app. For this to work properly, you need to create a secondary partition in the SD card. Looks like Android unmounts the first partition of the sdcard, when you try to access the sd card connecting your phone to the computer. By creating a second partition, we make sure we can access the apps all time. There are tools to create the partition in windows like minitool. I used fdisk in GNU/Linux and partitioned the sdcard. Installed link2sd and moved most of the apps to the sdcard. Check these out – http://tutorialfor-android.blogspot.in/2012/06/link2sd-complete-tutorial.html & http://www.xperiablog.net/2011/12/12/link2sd-guide-never-worry-about-internal-memory-limits-again/

Now all i have to think about is the next app to download!!!

Alive, in memories

ImageHad sneaked this Indian Mongrel 14 years back into our home where we had strict “No Pets” policy. All policies were broken in few days as he carved a niche for himself in the house. Was supposed to be a guard dog, but ended up being treated like a kid. Adapted well in the house and became a member of the family. Playful as a kid, dominating and attacking during his prime time, and very matured towards the end. Too many pleasant memories to pen down. Anyway he left his last breath on October 30, at a time when nobody was there at home. Had shown signs of sickness that morning, and died before afternoon.It does feel difficult to recover from the loss, but they say time is powerful. Life moves on. The sweet memories will linger for lifetime.

The Lapwing Incident

I approached after a tiring 10 hours journey, listening to the sound of the newly arrived visitors to our area. This time it was a pair of birds with light brown feathers, with patches of black and white on other parts of the body. Spent some time in google to find that the name of the bird is red-wattled lapwing. Reaching home, took the binoculars and started observing them for a while. Soon forgot them, and returned to the most important work of changing channels in the television from 0 to end.

After few hours, the sound of the lapwings increased. It was more like a sound of distress. Apart from me, looked like it has also attracted the attention of a old shepherd and she was doing something peculiar. She started going near the birds and kept checking the bushes. Pieces began to fall in place, and i realized that the egg or the chick is in danger. Looks like the lapwings lay eggs on the ground or depressions in ground. The eggs have very little chance of survival and the chicks little better.  I kept watching, hoping she does not get what she was searching. The birds continued to fly around making wild noises. Soon it was all over, She found the chick and its desperate attempt to escape was foiled with the long stick she had in hand. I watched!!!

She wrapped the chick carefully and left, the birds left with nothing to guard and i stood there thinking hard. The birds look better adapted than men. For the old lady it is a chance to taste meat which she may not get often. But still could not accept it. it felt cruel. Funny in a way, considering that i have no trouble in eating chicken every week 🙂 It is just like how vegetarians convince themselves that they are not killing anything. Civilization, most of times makes us forget what we really are. Most of the time the rules are twisted. Anyway, my affection towards my area grows exponentially with every incident like this. Looks like when i feel bored with Nat Geo all i have to do is come out of my house and look around 🙂