Monday, November 28, 2011

Google now censoring some websites





[Photo credit: http://www.toonpool.com/cartoons/Do%20no%20evil_5798]

My outspoken disgust for Apple and iPhone does not stem from personal reasons and as such it does not stop as a particular company or product. My objection, vehement and strong objection, is against limiting the users, restricting how they can live their lives. I have never been a big fan of Flash, I have never been a Flash developer and frankly I hate those annoying Flash ads that you have to watch on some websites. But I despise that Apple should decide whether users can have Flash on their devices or not. NO! It's the user's right to decide.

So when Google starts acting like a big brother and starts with censorship, no matter how small, no matter how benign in appearance, I wouldn't stand for  it. As of now, I am looking for a new search Engine. The link below is an article that'll explain why.

http://torrentfreak.com/google-now-censors-the-pirate-bay-isohunt-4shared-and-more-111123/

Copyright Industry - A Century of Deceit


A fascinating article on the copyright lobbying through the 100 or so years.
http://torrentfreak.com/the-copyright-industry-a-century-of-deceit-111127/

Just to add my own 2 bits, I remember one time I was stuck trying to fast forward the anti-piracy warning on a DVD and found that I couldn't. Try it some time, it's programmed so that the viewer has to watch the full track that contains the warning or warnings. At that time I remember musing over the fact that the punishment for the crime of copying a movie seemed unreasonably high, like 10 years of jail time. I mean, that's the kind of sentence that should be reserved for really heinous crimes. Is copying a DVD really at par with rape and murder?


Shayri: Allama's ghazal


Long, long time ago in a different continent, I bought an audio cassette titled "Qawwalis from Films". I do love Urdu Shayri and Qawwalis are a really fun, enjoyable medium of singing the ghazals. There have been many, many qawwali's in Hindi films, some of them based on real Urdu Shayri while others were written just for the film.

This cassette had several of them like "Chaandi ka badan, sone ki nazar", "Yeh mana meri jaan mohabbat saza hai" and of course the famous "Yeh ishq ishq hai" from Barsaat ki Raat.

Sandwiched between two great qawwali's was one that was so slow and boring that I would press fast forward every time it started. Not only was it slow and boring, the music was very uninteresting and the words were in tough Urdu, it just didn't mean anything to me.

But I used to listen to that cassette very often and sometimes I would be late in pressing the FF button on the player. This way I heard the first few words of it. Then a litte more. And then I got curious some time and let it play a little longer. I still didn't like the music but the words piqued my curiosity even more.

Gradually over the years, I pieced together what the words meant and also learn a bit more about the ghazal. It's Allama Iqbal's ghazal and it is indeed in very tough Urdu, but I really one of the shers from it and that made me like it.

With that much ado, here are the two sher's, the first one and my favourite one.

Kabhi ae haqiqat-e-muntzir nazar aa libaas-e-majaaz meiN
Ke hazaaroN sajde tadap rahe haiN meri zabeen-e-niyaaz meiN


कभी ऐ हक़ीक़त-ए-मुंतज़िर नज़र आ लिबास-ए-मजाज़ में,
कि हज़ारों सजदे तड़प रहे हैं मेरी ज़बीन-ए-नियाज़ में,


I'll explain the literal meaning but I am not yet smart enough to explain the real meaning. Might take me another 10 years or so.

The poet says - O much awaited reality, show yourself in the fabric of practical some time, for a thousand prostrations are eagerly waiting in my worshipful forehead.

Yes, of course it sounds a thousand times better in Urdu and I like it even without understanding it fully. But my favourite sher is this:


मैं जो सर-बसजदा कभी हुआ तो ज़मीन से आने लगी सदा,
तेरा दिल तो है सनम-आशना तुझे क्या मिलेगा नमाज़ में.


This one is easier to understand. The shayar says, whenever I prostrated in prayer, the earth started to say, "Your heart is filled with your beloved, what do you hope to get from prayer?"

This of course, has as many meanings as you can get from it. One is that prayer is not real if your mind is not in it along with your body. Another meaning is (as I see it) that when you have found love, you don't need prayer, only love.

In any case I love this sher and I am reminded of it any time someone mentions namaaz or roza or things like that.

And that's enough for a literary discussion. :)

Funny traffic signs

I thought you might be as bummed by Monday morning as I am. So here are some funny traffic signs to cheer us both up. With my comments, of course.

As long as they said please...



Hmmm, that seems like a really intelligent sign.



Gee, thanks for your support. 



Shhh....it's our little secret!


Somebody got their priorities right...:)


We can't make it easier than this for you, can we? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PSA: Be Safe On The Web



This is a public service post. Recently I have realized that there has been a flood of dodgy email messages and viruses spreading through emails and Facebook etc. With more than a decade of experience in IT I have had my share of such scam/viruses/trojans and phishing emails. I have learnt from them, having fallen for some of them and then avoiding the rest. I decided to give the benefit of my experience to anyone who might need it. Right at the outset I want to declare that I am not a security expert and not a hacker, my sole qualification is my firsthand experience with such things and my commonsense which has saved me in the past.

Disclaimer: The ideas and suggestions in this post are mine, based on my own intelligence, skill and experience. They work for me. I don't know if they will work for you or whether they will be good or bad for you. Therefore, I cannot take responsibility for anything you do with them. Read the post, consider the ideas, evaluate each suggestion with your own mind then do what you think is best for you. If you follow any suggestions from this post, you take the responsibility for all results. There, that's done!

There are so many types of such malware (things that want to do harm to you or your computer) around and so many variations on each that it would need a whole book not a blog post to cover them all. Therefore, I would just focus on the things that I think will provide the most benefit to the maximum number of people. I might do supplementary posts on the same topic later.

Attack type 1: Phishing
What is Phishing?
Phishing is simply an attempt to fool a person with fake data to get him to send you his(real) data. It can be done in various ways. Some of the ways are to send a fake official email or create a fake but official looking webpage.

Examples
You receive an email that claims to be sent by the bank NatWest. It tells you that your account has some issues and you should login to your account and check the account activity or something like that.

Another example could be when you by mistake type a URL incorrectly and land on another website which is reserved to trap people who mistype a well-known website, like typing 3 O's in Yahoo.com or an extra O in google.com. The resulting page would look almost exactly like the one you were going to visit but would be fake.

There are different variations of both these approaches including combining the two.

How to recognize the fake
Even though the fakes are getting better and better, it's still possible to recognize them with a few common sense precautions.

1. Check the source of the message. If you regularly receive messages from that source that'd be one thing but if this is the first time, be extra careful. When I say "source" I don't mean just the name of the sender. Dig deeper. On the internet it's ridiculously easy to make an email appear to have come from "NatWest Customer Support" when the email address it was sent from is info@natwestphishingscam.com.
So, when you check the source, look at the actual email address. There's usually a button on most email sites to expand the "To:" field and look at the email address not just the name of the sender. If you know how to check the email headers look at them as well, they tell the real story. (It's just a question of finding the button that say something like Full Headers).

2. Read the message carefully, the spelling and grammar on these emails is usually far from perfect. It used to be terrible, like an instruction manual translated from Japanese to English but it's been getting better. Still, the language would not be as letter perfect as it would be coming from a big corporate like NatWest.

3. Do NOT click on any of the links in the email. Instead, just HOVER your mouse pointer on the link. In most web browsers when you hover your mouse over the link you'd see its target address in the status bar at the bottom of the window. Just like the email address, it's extremely simple to make a link that looks like www.natwest.com/security when it actually it goes to a totally different address that has nothing at all to do with NatWest.

4. When looking at addresses pay attention to the DOMAIN name. In http://mail.yahoo.com the domain name is yahoo.com. In http://yahoo.scam.com the domain is scam.com and has nothing to do with Yahoo. Also understand that http://www.yahoomail.com may have nothing to do with yahoo.com. The address has to be literal not just similar to the correct address. It's not very hard to create a website called www.yahoosecurity.com and make it look like it belongs to Yahoo. A real address would be more like either http://security.mail.yahoo.com OR http://www.yahoo.com/accountsecurity. Get the drift?

(And please for God's sake do NOT go to any of the fake addresses I am using as an example. Not even to the yahoo ones, I am just making them up to make a point.)

What to do
1. First thing for you to remember is that you do NOT have an account at NatWest. Just delete the email. These emails are sent en masse to a huge number of people, on the assumption that some of them will have an account with NatWest. Another similar email may be sent to another million people purporting to be from HSBC.

2. If you do happen to have an account with that bank, do NOT click on any of the links in the email. Think about whether that issue could really be true or you just used your account 2 hours ago and it was fine.

3. If you are really concerned that the problem might be real (it would seem really urgent and serious in the scam email) call the bank directly and ask them about it. Call the regular number you have called before or find it from directory assitance. Do NOT call any of the numbers in the scam email.

4. If for any reason you cannot call the bank and must use the web, do NOT click the links in the email. Instead, open a new browser window and type the bank URL yourself. And still be on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour.

5. For the second type of scam where the web page is fake, remember to type the URL correctly when it's something as important as your bank's online banking URL. Save a bookmark and use it every time if you are prone to tyop's.

6. Delete the scam email, of course. Remove it from the Trash folder as well.

Just this weekend I received an email from Homebase.co.uk that annoyed me. It said "Thank you for confirming your subscription to our weekly newsletter." That, of course, would annoy me since I didn't ask for any such subscription in the first place so how could I confirm it! I knew I would have to unsubscribe. There were a couple of helpful, conveniently-placed links in the email including an Unsubscribe link. Having never asked for this subscription, I was still suspicious although I had never had such a scam tried on me before.

I hovered my mouse over the links first and noticed that the link went to something like homebaselife.co.uk etc. etc. NOT to homebase.com or homebase.co.uk. Now, I don't KNOW of my own knowledge that homebaselife.co.uk is a bad site, but since the email pretended to be something else while being something else, I would NOT click on those links!

Trojans
What are trojans?
The term Trojan comes from the old, legendary Trojan Horse, the wooden horse which was a gift from Troy but had soldiers hidden inside. Trojans are like that as well. They claim to be some workable, usable piece of software but inside is a virus that would infect your computer and cause damage.

The software coule be as simple as a freeware photo viewing tool or as big as "MS-Office - cracked and registered". Yes, I mean illegally downloaded software from the net. No, I am not saying they are all infected, I am just saying that's how trojans are spread in the market.

How to avoid them?
1. Well, one way is to always buy software from known retailers and buy them on disks. Since disks are read-only, they cannot be infected, even if you put them inside an infected computer. That's how we reinstall Windows if a system is infected.

2. Install a good, reliable anti-virus and keep it turned on. In that case, it will catch the virus in any other software. If you try to download anti-virus from any but the authorised site, remember that it can also be infected. But there are some free anti-virus software available as well (yes, legally free), AVG and Avast are two of them. These are usually free versions of the full software which can provide you basic antivirus functionality.

3. Whatever software you download from the web, any software, scan it with your antivirus before installing it.

Keylogging
Some malware comes in the form of keyloggers. A keylogger is a little piece of software that can monitor, and store, all the keys your press on the keyboard then it can forward this data to someone else who can then have access to ALL your usernames and passwords. A really, really dangerous and damaging situation.

There is some more information on the link below about keyloggers, how they work and how to avoid being trapped by them.
http://www.securelist.com/en/analysis/204791931/Keyloggers_How_they_work_and_how_to_detect_them_Part_1

Hacking
This is a more active form of malicious behaviour and usually involves someone targeting a particular system or network actively. Although these are usually targeted at big websites and servers including industrial espionage, in some cases individual systems can be used as a victim or a pass-through. I would not go into the details of things like man-in-the-middle attack and Denial of Service attacks, but I would say that it's better to have a firewall running with all unused ports blocked. And a good, up-to-date antivirus system running.


Other threats
1. Downloading movies and videos. Some of the ways people download movies and TV shows are illegal while others are perfectly legal. I am not going to judge how people should do it, but I can give you a few hints that might be handy in any case.
When you download vidoes, be careful what other files are downloaded with the video files. AVI and JPG files are safe enough (at the time of this writing) but any other files like .htm, .html, .com, .exe, .js etc. can all be used to deliver viruses to your system. Delete these.

A really good way (for scammers) to infect your system is by including a "Media Player" software with the video. The media player will actually work but it would also infect your computer.

If the video comes with a text file of instructions and it tells you to go to a certain website, or download a certain software to play the file, do NOT do it. Simply delete the video and all the files it came with.

2. Do not click on links in emails without being extremely sure that they are legit even if the email is from someone you know.
These days there are several viruses that infect your system then send email to all the contacts in your mailbox with a link. Anyone who clicks on that link will be infected as well. And then the virus will send emails to all THEIR contacts with the link. Yes, it is like the Zombie M.O.

These emails used to be very dumb. Just a link in the otherwise blank message. So easy to spot. But these days they have become smarter. Now, there can be a paragraph of text before the link, talking about the link. At once glance it might seem like written by a human, but if you read through carefully, it's easy to spot that it's a fake.

3. An important variation on the above is an email with an attachment. These used to be dumb too, like the link emails, just an attachment with the email with no or little text in the message. Now these come with a message that describes the attachment.

The one I received 2 days ago purported to be from UPS telling me that the delivery of my package had failed, and details were in the attachment. Since I wasn't expecting any UPS delivery I deleted the email. However, if you are expecting a delivery, you can still go to the UPS website directly instead of downloading the attachment and see what it says when you enter your tracking number.

Real official emails are easy to spot if you know what to look for. For one thing, they would quote your name and order number as well as other details about your order. Secondly, the email would be formatted much more differently. Third and most important, you can hover your mouse on the links and check where it leads to BEFORE clicking it.

Best Practices
Firewalls
- Either install a firewall or at least turn on the Windows built-in Firewall.
- If you know how to do it, block all unused ports on your system by creating firewall rules.

Changing passwords
Banking websites and other security experts usually advise changing your password frequently. I don't.
I have my own philosophy about it. Again, it works for me, if you use it, it's at your own risk.
Here's my rationale behind it.
- Any time you type your password it can be captured by a keylogger.
- If the password is saved in the browser, it is encrypted and harder to get at.
- The frequent change can be useful only if you do the change very frequently, like every day. Then you have a risk of forgetting your own password or creating a pattern which can then be guessed by the hacker.

But if you use this method which I do, you need to follow some other guidelines, very, very carefully in order to stay safe.

Physical security
- NEVER, EVER leave your computer unlocked. Not even in your own home if you live with other people.
- Never write down your password. Instead use a memorable password. If you are afraid you'll forget it, write down a hint to the password but not the actual password. Write that hint in a personal code if you can.
- Guard against leaking your password by social engineering. What it means is, if you are talking to a stranger in a pub about computer security don't start giving examples of your own "very secure" passwords. Not even the process you use to derive your password.
- Use passwords that are easy to remember for you, but hard to guess for a computer. For example - "Monty Python is a hoot & and a 1/2". Still guessable but harder than the "1A82$590#" type crap that password generators spew out.

All this discussion about security has reminded me of a scene from "Enemy of the State".

Will Smith is being hounded by the FBI for reasons of their own. They are using all the technology at their disposal from tracking satellites to phone taps and physical cars on the road. Will meets Gene Hackman who knows all this security stuff. Gene gets Will to lose all his sensors that the FBI planted on him. Then he takes him with him. Gene stops at a store on the way to buy some food. Will uses the time to make a phone call to explain to his wife...never mind what. But his home phone is tapped and FBI pick up his lost trail from there.

Gene doesn't about the phone call. He takes Will to his secret hideout. It's a well-hidden cabin where Gene has no outside links, he has no phone, no power lines, he makes his own power and connects to the internet via hardware firewalls only when he needs to.

While they are talking the FBI arrive on the scene. Gene sees them via his monitoring cameras and asks Will, "What did you do?"

Will: Me? Nothing!
Gene: WHAT did you DO?
Will: I called my wife...
Gene: You idiot!

Gene takes the car and both Gene and Will get out in a hurry. Behind them Gene's cabin blows up in a big explosion. Will looks at Gene.

Will: Your cabin!
Gene: I blew it up!
Will: but..but why?
Gene looks at Will and says bitterly, "Because you made a phone call!"

The moral of the story is that it takes one leak, a single leak to ruin everything. So, don't be silly, don't make that phone call!




Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Android can do


Because Android is open and available for anyone to play with, these kind of things are possible.

A Norwegian company FXI Technologies has invented a dual-core 1.2GHz Android-based computer that is the size of a USB stick and can be plugged into a USB port on an HDTV, a PC, a Mac, or even a tablet. When plugged into a computer, you can run both your PC's OS and Android in windowed mode. Amazing, isn't it?

Full story here:
http://blog.laptopmag.com/usb-stick-contains-dual-core-computer-turns-any-screen-into-an-android-station

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rahim Cyber Remix




I don't know what got into me, so don't ask. But I felt like writing some dohe of Rahim in the modern context. So here they are. They are absolutely silly and have no purpose other than to entertain (if that). See if you can remember the originals these are based on.

Bandwidth itna deejiye jaa mein kutumb samaay
Torrent bhi chalte rahein, YouTube bhi na rukaay

Aisi email bhejiye man kaa aapa khoye,
Receiver bhi hans hans padhe, sender bhi khush hoye

Server niyare raakhiye, firewall lagaay,
Aisa waisa hacker bhi panga na le paay.

Rahiman yeh ghar chat ka khaala ka ghar naahin,
Naam badal side kare tab paithe ghar maahin

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Children's Day!



This is the risk in reading other people's blogs. Bikram has done a great post on the Indian youth who took part in India's struggle for freedom and it inspired me to write something as well on the occasion of Children's day.

Not that I can talk from a grown up's point of view, never having grown up myself. I have grown older but still a child at heart.

Since I have lived in the western world for a few years, and I am quite immersed in the western culture by way of movies and books, I have wondered more than once how my life would have turned out had I grown up in the US or UK. It would have been different!

For example, I would not turn pink every time I talk to a pretty girl since social life even in school days is quite mixed in this culture! But alas, I went to a boys-only high school. There are a lot of other things too, like Indian schools have hardly any extra-curricular programs. Or so it was when I was in school. These days with the sprouting of private schools everywhere and the evolving curriculum things are changing a little.

Then there are other things like learning to drive before you are 18, learning to dance, learning to throw a party etc. etc.

But then there is the flip side. There is no doubt that we had a hard life living in India and in a middle-class family. But that same condition taught me so much that I cannot begin to describe how much it contributed to the development of my character. The adverse conditions and hard life made me stronger physically and mentally. And even at that I cannot use the words "hard life" for my life without feeling a bit ashamed. My life was a patch of clover compared to what my dad started with and what a lot of Indian children didn't have and don't, even today.

Plus, I don't forget the things that I didn't learn not growing up in US. I didn't learn to drink beer, I never learnt to smoke, weed to me is still a form of vegetation that you need to root out, MJ for me was only Madan Jain. Those are some mighty important things never to learn.

So, on Children's Day I just wants to wish all the children in India a happy, healthy life and help them realize that they are really lucky to be growing up in one of the best, probably THE best culture in the world.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Casette and pencil



My nephew recently shared this picture with me which sent me back to the past in a flash. Indeed there was a wondeful world of cassettes and cassette players. Unlike most people I didn't use the cassettes just to listen to music, I loved to record. No, I didn't play any music myself back then (yeah, like I do now!) but I loved to record from the radio, or record conversations, chit-chat anything that took my fancy.

In the name of progress we have moved away from the progress and adopted the CDs into our lifestyles. But is it the same thing? I won't go all nostalgic on you and cry about the "good old days" but as a software professional and a man with experience of dealing cassettes, VHS, CDs, DVDs, DVD-R's, DVD-RW's, hard drives, flash memories and the like, I would argue that cassettes were better. Let's examine the evidence without emotion.

Cassette's were fragile, a spool of reel in a platic casing. But CDs are worse. Not only are they bigger and flimiser but they have to be protected even against stains and dirt. Do you know that the label side of the CD is much more fragile then the shiny side the data is read from? Yes, if you wrote on the label side with a normal pen you could damage the data. On the other hand, a little inkblot on the shiny side can ruin your CD. Compared to that cassettes were much sturdier.

Then, talk about recording. Now there was a question that both I and my brother Anil had to face frequently in our respective cities. Whenever we tried to buy a device to record audio, or tried to buy supplies for it, people would say, "Who does recording these days!" and we both had the same answer - "*I* do!" So before you say the same thing to my objection, keep that in mind, I still record a lot of audio, all kinds of stuff.

But CDs cannot record without special hardware. When was the last time you saw a CD-recorder outside of a computer context? Me? Never. But it was so easy to find a cassette recorder in the same size as as a cassette player. I had one that was very easy to pocket. And I have done all kind of recordings using in-line cable and even speakers-to-mic. Yes, bad quality but oh, what fun.

We weren't rich enough afford VCR and tapes but I had my portable little tape recorder so I used to record movies and TV shows from the TV. I particularly remember recording Raj Kapoor's "Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai". I, my brother Anil and his wife, we were watching it together late at night. My recorder was propped up next to the speaker against our  big, black-and-white TV. (yes, we had only one TV for the whole family, imagine that!)

I listened to that recording many times in the following years. It recorded not only the movie's sounds but also our own comments and laughter in context. That was such an imperfect recording, but it made the recording something special.

I also recorded the Doordarshan serial "Phir Wohi Talaash". I had an almost complete collection of it. I hope it's still there in my room in Delhi where the rest of my cassettes are lying collecting dust as I can't find the video of that show anywhere no matter how hard I look.

The point is nowadays you can't record because you can't record on the CDs that easily and recording on mobile phones is not the same, the quality is not that good.

Then, the question of repairs. When a cassette had problems, you could fix it with the help of a small Philips screwdriver, a pair of scissors and a bit of cellotape. And of course, the pencil. I have taken complete cassettes apart and put them back together when one of my precious recordings was endangered by a bit of problem. I have spliced over a lot of audio jumps like that.

That's where the pencil comes in by the way. When a cassette developed a problem and the reel started to get sucked into the player head, or if it was wrapped the wrong way around by some mechanical issue you took the cassette out and found a pencil. Then, carefully pulling out as much of the tape as you had to, you straighted it out and then used the pencil to wind it back into the cassette by hand.

With CDs, it either works or you throw it away. But, I guess that's the kind of disposable culture we live in these days. Anything that doesn't work is on a direct trajectory to the trash bin.

Anyway, that's the story of the cassette and pencil. As usual, I took way too much space to tell it. :)

Movie Review - Rum Diary - More like crap diary



[The image is not from the movie. I just like Amber Heard.]

Oh my god, what a shitload of crap! 

Okay, let me be clear here first, any time I spend doing a review for this pile of garbage is a waste of my life just as the two hours of watching it were.

But I am still doing it, as a public service, so I can save some other innocent, unsuspecting people from wasting 2 hours of their life on this bilge.

(Hmmm, if I insist on writing this as a full review I will need some more synonyms for crap.)


First step - motivation. Here's a fact list based on the trailers.

I don't Johnny Depp at all.

I didn't think the story had any promise.

I didn't like the backdrop of the story.

I saw a very hot looking Amber Heard in the trailer.

I love Amber heard.



Clear enough? Even on that score the movie disappointed me hugely, and I do mean that..hugely, like in a big way...like I wanted to put a chair through that screen when it finished! And I am not a violent man outside of martial arts classes.


When we entered the theatre, it was almost full to the capacity. So full indeed that I and my friend couldn't find two seats together, the only seats available were across the aisle frome each other.

That wasn't a big deal. Since it was not a girlfriend I went with but a male friend. It was okay. Only it became a big deal, later, when he wanted to ask me if I wanted to leave, but couldn't because we were sitting apart.

Looking back at it, that should have been my first clue. I don't know what it is about this town, but the audience here seems to be stupid. With the exception of Real Steel, the last few times whenever we have found the theatre full, the movie has turned out to be a colossal bore, a huge waste of time, a crapfest. Every time!

Next time I see the theatre full when I walk in, I am gonna walk right out!

So, because of the seats situation and my overall low-expection from the film (and the fact that I would have to watch Johnny Depp) put me in a foul mood and I started watching it with a "Okay-try-and-make-me-laugh" attutide.

And would you believe that in 1 hours 59 minutes of movie it could not make me laugh even ONE time?? The best it got was a half-smile on one dialogue by Aaron Eckhart but that's it. And before you say nobody can make you laugh unless you want to, I'll say you are wrong. I have watched movies and TV shows in worse moods before and a good show can not only make you laugh, it can make you forget what you were upset about. This movie actually put me in a worse mood than I had started in.

Let's get into detail now. And I will discuss the story in detail including climax because I don't WANT anyone else to go see it.

So, the story? Is very simple. A plan by a few poweful people to despoil and dominate an uninhibited island in Puerto Rico.

The plot is unfolded quickly and simply. No surprises.

The acting? Hmm, let's see. I don't know what Johnny Depp thinks he is but he couldn't make me like him. Thoroughly unimpressed by his performance. I really like Aaron Eckhart, but his role was so straightforward and boring that he had no way to do anything special in it. The only performance I liked was the guy who plays sidekick to Depp in the whole film. I am not gonna bother to look up his name.

Amber Heard is a really beautiful girl, but she has like 5 or 6 small scenes in the whole film. Based on the movie's synopsis, I was expecting her to have a role that dominated the film alongwith Depp but here she seems like window-dressing, an afterthought. You can cut her whole role out of the movie and not miss anything. She looks pretty, but I hated her character.

To be fair, audience did laugh in about 4-5 places in the movie but they had come to laugh, and maybe they liked Depp for some perverse reason. The strangers sitting in my row on my right didn't laugh either. The situatiosn that could have been funny had either been used up in the trailer or were so cliched that you needed 5 drinks in you to actually smile at them.

The climax was the clincher. The climax has some good (good as in long) build-up, one lone man against the authorities and all that, but it lets the audience down horribly when the hero just gives up.

No, I am not kidding you. That's exactly what happens. Depp wants to print the paper one last time with help from disgruntled employees, to expose Aaron's plot. The people do not come to support Depp. Aaron comes and takes away the machines of the newspaper before Depp gets there. So, Depp steals Aaron's boat and goes to New York. Credits roll.

What the hell makes a good hero? It's not good looks, it's not physical strength, it's not his charm with the ladies..it's his character. A hero is a hero because he pokes trouble, he fights the good fight.

In Die Hard 4 Bruce Willis explains to the nerdy young guy that he doesn't want to do this but if doesn't nobody else will. "And that makes me that guy!"

Later in a climax scene, when bullets are flying and the villain has the upper hand that nerdy guys saves the life of Bruce's daughter at his own peril.

Later still, when Bruce thanks the nerd for that, he replies, "Hey, what was I gonna do, let her die?"

And Bruce says, "And that makes you THAT guy!"

But this guy is not that guy, he just tucks his tail between his legs and leaves town. That's when I felt like I wanted to pick up a chair and hurl it at the screen. Fortunately for me, they were all bolted down.

If I didn't have an unlimited movie card, I'd have gone to the counter and asked for my money back!

In conclusion, it's a piece of shit, a pile of garbage and a load of crap. Don't go see it. Don't even buy a pirated copy. Tell your friends, not to go see it and to tell their friends not to go see it...

This review will have lots of grammar and spelling problems because I am not going to re-read it before posting. I refuse to waste any more time on this crap of a movie.

'Nuff said.








Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sindoor - A symbol of suhaag or slow poison

I feel like I must write this post. I just read Pooja's post this morning on the Jain religion. Most of it was okay, those are the normal kind of questions that would come into the head of any thinking adult once they grew up past the mass hypnosis of religion. But there was one part of it that horrified and disgusted me as I read it. 

Here is the link and an excerpt:
http://lotus-n-peacocks.blogspot.com/2011/11/rational-religion.html

"Recently I was reading a book on Hinduism and vedas, ya sometimes I pick up these books by mistake too, in which I was shocked to read about the tradition of applying sindoor. The main component of traditional sindoor is usually vermilion. A component considered to be toxic by nature.

As most of you must be aware that Hindu wives are expected to fill sindoor (for me it always looked like a stamp of being taken/sold/unavailable!) along the parting of their hair, thus applying it on the scalp (where the pores are most open), so as to let it seep inside slowly. It is a sacred and most prominent symbol of a Hindu married woman. Like I’ve said earlier, Vermilion is a toxic substance, you might now wonder why a Hindu married lady is made to apply if it is a known toxic, and well that’s the precise reason for making her do it. 
A female’s life span is comparatively longer than her male counterparts, as we all know, and that’s exactly why this practice was incorporated, to slowly poison the wife so that both the partners can die with each other, and for the ones who dint die a natural death, they were made out to be satis. (An abolished tradition of Hindu wives burning themselves alive on their husbands’ pyre).

Doesn't it sound like that applying sindoor is more like killing someone slowly and painlessly? Most of us are not even aware of the meaning of some traditional rituals that we are made to follow. We just do as we are told, as again asking for logic or questioning our age-old praths (religious ceremonies) is considered to be a taboo in most Hindu homes."

I did some research on the net and it was easy to find that she had her facts right. 
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia: 

"Modern sindoor mainly uses vermilion, which is an orange-red pigment. Vermilion is the purified and powdered form of cinnabar, which is the chief form in which mercury sulfide naturally occurs. As with other compounds of mercury, sindoor is toxic and must be handled carefully. Sometimes, red lead (lead tetroxide, also known as minium) is also added to sindoor.[8] Red lead is also toxic and a known carcinogen for laboratory animals, though its carcinogenicity to humans has not been established. Traditional sindoor was made with turmeric andalum or lime, or from other herbal ingredients.[9] Unlike red lead and vermilion, these are not poisonous.[9][10] In early 2008, allegations of high lead content led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recall batches of Sindoor from several manufacturers.[11]"

And here is one from a site that sells vermilion: 

"Some authorities consider natural cinnabar to be non-toxic. Anita Albus writes that the deadly poison of mercury becomes harmless when it is stably bound with sulfur. However, we consider cinnabar and vermilion to be toxic and urge caution in handling the dry powder pigment, as well as the pigment dispersed in medium."

Once I had grown up and understood the nature of religion, I have never been a fan of religion, but this makes me positively disgusted. This is one of the reasons I don't like organized religion. Most people are reasonable and reasonably smart, but when it comes to religion they turn into sheep. They stop thinking for themselves and they stop being their reasonable, sensible, kind self. How else would you justify the justified killing of innocent people in the name of religion by kind-hearted, good people who wouldn't even hurt a fly otherwise? 

Even if you publicise this fact and take a survey on how many loving husbands are willing to buck the tradition and stop their wives from using sindoor I think you would find that the number is not more than 2%. And 2% is just the exception you can find for any rule. 

Sometimes I wonder if Man was God's best creation or his folly!




Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11



So, this is a unique day. It's not going to come again for a 1000 years as pointed out by Blogfriend Bikram. Since this is unique day I am thinking of doing something unique and new to me. Any ideas?

There is a movie also called 11-11-11. But I have seen the trailer and I don't fancy wasting 2 hours of my life on this unique day.

I was thinking of doing something crazy, but then I just remembered. Next year it'll be 12-12-12! And that will also be a unique which won't repeat for a 1000 years.

Moral of the story is that each day in your life is a unique day as it gives you an opportunity to do something new, to start over, to make a fresh start, to create new dreams, to build on old dreams and to let go of the past and create a wondeful future!

It's going to be Legen-wait for it-dary!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Movember Day 2 - 8th Nov 2011 - Update Fun Fact

In most cultures in India a moustache is considered a sign of honour. Most men grow a moustache when they are first old enough to shave and never shave it off. Legend has it that in the olden days a man could secure a loan from a moneylender keeping nothing but a few hairs of his moustache as the collateral. 

Even in the contemporary society, it is not uncommon for a man to bet his moustache on a matter or pride or just debate. An example can be seen in the recent Bollywood hit "Dil Bole Hadippa". The movie is centred around a girl who plays great cricket. In her mind, she's as good as any male player. A professional cricket player (male) bets her his moustache against money that she can't hit six sixers on six balls. She does! :) 

A video of that clip below. Sorry, the sound is in Hindi, I couldn't manage to burn the subtitles on it. I'll try that for the next video. 



And head on to my Movember page to see the photo from today. ;)
http://mobro.co/sunnygoswami

Monday, November 07, 2011

Grow a MO -Save a Bro





This is how it happened. I was in the kitchen in our office and the drinks machine wasn't working. So, I ended up standing there and listening to one colleague telling the other what he could or could not do with his moustache. That was weird and me being the curious creature I am, I asked what they were going on about! Turns out that there is this charity, called Movember, which organises a campaign around men's moustaches every November.

The basic idea is that you grow your moustache for 30 days and raise funds for the charity. Both my colleagues were growing their 'tashes for that and I decide that that was the kind of thing I should try too. I used to have a moustache long time ago. Had it for about a decade or so and then one day shaved it off. After the initial ridicule died, my friends admitted that the look suited me and made me look younger.

I still have an old US driving licence that has my old photo with that hideous moustache. I show that to people only to scare them or make them laugh. To be honest, I am quite proud of my current look sans the unseemly growth. So, you see, growing a moustache again is something that's slightly out of my comfort zone. But I am always looking to shake things up and increase my comfort zone.

So that's story in brief. The charity is about increasing awareness about prostate cancer in men. Here's my pitch from my Movember page.
======================================================
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
Each year in the UK about 36,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
It accounts for 25% of all newly diagnosed cases of cancer in men.
Approximately 10,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in the UK.

I have decided to donate my upper lip in order to raise awareness about prostate cancer. In simple words, I am pariticipating in the Movember UK campaign and as part of the campaign, I would be growing my moustache for the month of November.

To make this campaign interesting I will be keeping a regular log of my growing moustache with a daily picture. And before you say anything, I do know that my face doesn't look good with a moustache, that's the reason I had shaved it off in the first place, but that's my sacrifice for the cause.

What can you do? I don't want to be one of those whiney, needy friends who are always asking you to please, please, please do something for them. But take a look at the page and if the spirit moves you and you want to make a donation, you can use the link on the page or talk to me about making other arrangements. And of course, any amount, no matter how small, is welcome. It's not really the money but the thought that counts!

I will also post a moustache related fact, joke, anecdote, image or video every day.
Here's the link: http://mobro.co/sunnygoswami

Whether you feel like donating or not, I hope you check back daily for the fun facts and enjoy the campaign with me!

Cheers!
======================================================
Here's my starting photo - Day 1


If you are interested in helping in other ways or joining the campaign yourself as a Mo Bro or Mo Sista, you can also use the same link to join my team. I hope you do! Let's make this fun!


Thursday, November 03, 2011

I miss Charlie!


I just finished watching the first episode of the new season of Two and a Half Men and ....meh! I still have more material to watch, I watched just to see how it looks without Charlie Sheen. Like everybody else I knew that he was replaced with Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher is one of those actors who I am neutral too. I don't love him like I do Jason Statham nor do I hate him like I do Leonardo diCaprio. So, I had an open mind towards him, but not towards the show to be honest. I checked it now instead of keeping it till later because I didn't expect it to be very good.

My verdict? I was right! The writing and direction is the same and I suppose if someone just started watching it from here they might like it. I don't. I am seriously considering deleting the rest of the new episodes I have.

What's wrong you ask? On the surface, nothing! But people who have seen the original seasons would know that Charlie Sheen was the life of the show. It was his sheer presence that created the humour. He played that character so well that it felt like that he was Charlie Harper.

Charlie Sheen did some stupid things with substance abuse and made some really bad public statements about the show's producers and studio a few months ago that made it impossible for him to stay part of the show. On the other hand, a conspiracy theorist did tell me that actually Charlie said something politically bad on some topic which resulted in him being railroaded in an attempt to destroy his credibility. I don't know which one is true, but I do know the power of the media, esp. when it comes to show business.

In this season, they have tried to keep things going and made a big effort that shows that they are desperate. They killed Charlie off so that makes it kind of permanent though artistic licence can always take care of those things if things ever work out between Charlie Sheen and the producers.

The episode opens with Alan giving a eulogy for Charlie. This is interrupted by Charlie's ex-girlfriends and ex-lovers and here is where I started feeling that they were desperate to create humour anyway they could. Didn't really work for me. Throughout the show some of the gags were predictable while some were weak. There were a couple of smiles in the whole episode but on the whole I felt like I wasted 21 minutes of life.

It might be just my bias but I felt like they used canned laughter in addition to studio audience or in place of. I don't know. They used ALL the characters, all main characters plus some from the past, again that desperation to make it work somehow.

The rest of the cast did okay. Kutcher did okay in his role too. But let's face it, he's no Charlie Sheen and he won't be in 10 more lifetimes! He's a stand-in, an understudy, and Charlie left some pretty big shoes to fill. The writers apparently knew this and tried to compensate for it. They made Kutcher larger than life, he's a billionaire while Charlie Harper was always spending more money than he made. Kutcher is also mentioned to be well-endowed, a fact that was never mentioned in Charlie's case either way. Kutcher's character  is also committed to one girl, while Charlie was mostly commitment-phobic (mostly). But all these subtle tricks, didn't do the job!

You know when they say, "Let's make magic!"? (Who says it? Well, I do!). That's because it is magic. There's no formula for a successful show or movie. Huge multi-billion projects fail, and simple, small-budget things, films shot on a mobile camera..make an impact. It's just magic. And in this show, the magic is gone!

So, ultimately I just want to say, I miss Charlie Sheen on the show and I am really sorry that one of my most favourite shows has gone to seed! :(

Here's a video from the original series to remember and enjoy the old times!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVkWONQeYcY

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

New Android Kid on the Block - Samsung Galaxy Note





I have already posted my experience on Samsung Galaxy S II but now here is another great contender for the first place in the smartphone world. It's called Galaxy Note.

When I bought the Galaxy S2 I decided that while a 4.3 inch screen is good, there must come a time when I would have to draw a line in the sand to not upgrade to a bigger screen. I decided that point will be a 5" screen. But the Galaxy Note has a 5.27 inch screen and I am thinking, hmmm, it's not ALL that more than 5!

Other attractive features of the Note which are like the siren's song for me are - a 1.4 GHz processor in the world of 1.2 GHz smartphones! Super AMOLED screen, it's not Super AMOLED PLUS like the Galaxy SII but still very good. A whopping 1280X800 pixel resolution! And a unique stylus called S Pen. I don't know how you feel about stylii in this world of touchscreen phones but I love them. Since I retain the option to use my fingers as well, I like the idea very much. Sometimes an stylus can give you the fine edge you need.

While I love the sleek 8.4 mm thick body of my Galaxy S2 I think I could rough it with a 9.65mm phone as well if I had to. The same thing goes for the 178 grams weight as opposed to my 116gram lightweight Galaxy S2. Needless to say, it has all the connectivity options bluetooth, wifi, 3G, 4G, HSPA+ etc. etc. and since it's Android and not Apple, nothing will be crippled or disabled.

The camera is a 8MP rear and 2MP front, same as S2. It also has NFC built-in which I was hoping to get in the S2.

So, am I going to get it when they launch it tomorrow? No, not yet. My Galaxy S2 is very new and I am extremely happy with it. It has everything I need plus the sleek size, so I'll stick with it a while longer. Also, there are some other great Android phones/devices in the offing. By the time it's time for my regular mobile grade (every 6 months) there will be something super-awesome in the market that I'd be able to get.

But I do like the Galaxy Note despite it's huge size!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A rational discussion on Apple's claims


I found this article that I think is a really good, objective, informative write-up on the subject of Apple  vs. Android.

http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/comment/jobs-was-wrong-to-call-android-a-stolen-product-43374#comment-190599

WHO are these people!?



I read these two articles on this site called "good.is", and basing my opinion entirely only on these two articles I think the name is a misnomer.

In the first one a guy is talking about how he decided to dump his iphone because it was too distracting and taking up too much of his life. In the second one, another guy talks about Facebook in a similar vein.

And to both of them I want to say - "What a crock of shit!"

Since the first one is talking about iphone in a generic sense, let's substitute "smartphone" in place of "iphone". Any smartphone is a tool, it's up to you how you use it. If someone gave you a sharp knife for a gift, would you cut your throat? You'd use it in a sensible way in the kitchen. At least, I hope you would. Same thing applies to any tool, you use it properly, it's a great asset, you misuse it, it's a dangerous possession.

He says since he dumped his iphone for an old non-smartphone Nokia, he is reading more. I ask you, does a smartphone stop you from reading? I have a smartphone, have had one or the other smartphone for several years, and I do read when I can. My phone actually helps me read more because I can buy electronic books and read them on the phone. When I was working in Central London in a big company, I used to read going up and down in the elevator! Even now I use my phone to read audiobooks while walking to and back from work, while cooking, while doing the dishes etc. etc. I can't do that without technology of some sort, smartphones just make it so convenient that I have no excuse for not reading!

Then he blames internet for being a time-waster. Well, isn't that up to you? You can spend 3 hours POKING people on Facebook or you can read up on something really interesting on Wikipedia. I didn't even know how to fry an egg, I googled it and found a video tutorial. Since then I have come up with my own recipes around eggs, leading to a better diet and a better quality of life. All thanks to internet.

Ironically, this idiot was reading Theareau's Walden on his phone which lead to this epiphony! Funny, isn't it?

He says he used to have arguments with his wife because he used to check his phone for blog comments and such during dinner. Well, some men watch sports on TV during dinner, some follow news on radio, some read newspaper on breakfast table...all leading to the same kind of argument. To paraphrase the great Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men - "Devices don't piss off wives, idiots do!"

The same thing applies to the Facebook basher. It's a social network, dummy. Network! Like you have a network of real people around you. Do you go around calling every number in your phone diary every day just because they are in your network? If not, then why do you go around wasting several hours on Facebook when you should be working?

He talks about Facebook's terms around IP content without knowing what it means. He claims that Facebook owns your content, when the link that he himself has posted to the Facebook terms page says clearly that you own the content. Facebook takes a non-exclusive licence when you post any IP content like photos and videos. Without that Facebook cannot display them and cannot make them searchable. I am not going to argue the fairness of Facebook's T&C agreement, I would just say if you don't agree with it, just don't upload any IP content to FB. Who's twisting your arm to upload your girlfriend's bathtub photos to share with the world?

Funny thing is the moron starts the article with "I gave up on Facebook the day it kicked me off for using a fake name." I mean talk about not having a case.

I have a Facebook account and my average time spent on it is an hour a week. (No, I am not a super-disciplined person, I waste the rest of my time in Second Life, but I don't blame Linden Labs for it!)

Anyway, that's all my rant. I just hate it when people don't take responsibility for their actions and blame everybody but themselves. If you don't have the discipline to manage your time and your life in a sensible manner don't go blaming Apple and Facebook for it. Yes, evil as Apple might be, even they don't MAKE you use the phone 24 hours a day.

So, my question is who are these people?! Were they born in a cave or raised in a household where they never had to take responsibility for anything they did?

If you are curious, below are the links to the original articles I am ranting about.

http://www.good.is/post/why-i-dumped-my-iphone-and-why-i-m-not-going-back

http://www.good.is/post/the-new-dinosaur-why-i-m-not-on-facebook-and-why-you-shouldn-t-be-either/

Apple Product Lifecycle


Apple's marketing


Apple sues Samsung

Dilbert burns Apple


Android Vs. Apple


Android for happening people


This is how the enlightened people take control of their life with Android's help.

One of my favourite bloggers posted this slice of life type post about Android and Google calendar.
Unlike my one-track posts on the topic, hers is funny and cute. You should take a look. I am sure women will especially identify with this.
http://itsaneetasblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/mobile-appointments.html

Google Web Search

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