Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to change the keyboard layout in Xubuntu 8.10

Though its really easy to do so, I've had a hard time searching for it. So here's how to do it:

  1. Go to Applications > Settings > Settings Manager.



























  2. Select Keyboard from the Settings Manager and follow the instructions there.




That's it you're done.:)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AIEEE 2009 Pattern farther away from what can be called ideal

Students who took AIEEE 2009 (including me) found the question paper quite different from what they expected. The maximum marks were increased to 432 from 315 for the previous some years. The negative marking too, was one-fourth of the correct marks for questions (this instruction on the front page of question paper wasn't made quite clear though), as opposed to one-third of the correct marks in AIEEE 2008 and before. The marking scheme wasn't constant throughout. There were sets of 4 and 8 marks worth questions. Assertion-reason type questions were found in Physics, as also a comprehension passage.

What is the good thing about this format?
Since the maximum marks are increased, this gives a more accurate evaluation of candidates. The difficulty level in Mathematics was higher, putting intelligent candidates to advantage. Comprehensions tested students' understanding in short time.

And the bad thing...
There were questions worth eight marks in the question paper, meaning the student gets 8 marks for marking correct choice and -2 (negative) for the wrong one. So the difference in the total marks of a student in the two cases where he gets such a question right and where he doesn't, is 10 marks, which is a significantly large figure.

And just in case you're looking for AIEEE 2009 solutions, visit the Aakash Institute site.

Monday, April 27, 2009

last.fm: Your complete music keeper

last.fm is a website that is specialized in tracking peoples' music tracks, giving them recommendations, and accessing personal music collection from anywhere, without much efforts.



You can start with creating a last.fm account on their site, which is pretty simple. You can add some artists initially for a start.

The next step is to configure your media player for song reporting. This feature is easily present in most Linux media players. You just have to give the media player your last.fm username and password.

Here I'll show you how to configure VLC media player.

  1. Open VLC media player.
  2. From menu, Tools > Preferences.
  3. Select the Audio tab, check the box saying "Enable last.fm submission" and enter your username and password.


That's it! You're done. Now you can play tracks and see your library getting filled automatically, while your player does the job near the end of each track played. Here's my music profile.

The logic behind Mass Collaboration

What is mass collaboration?
As Wikipedia states it, mass collaboration is a form of collective action that occurs when large numbers of people work independently on a single project, often modular in its nature. Wikipedia itself, for instance, is a result of such mass collaboration.

Why is it good?
Mass collaboration is brought about by people who work voluntarily on a project. Unlike the conventional way projects are worked upon by companies on a commercial level, this is done by people at will in their free time, without being paid. This gives mass-collaborated projects an edge over conventional ones. Some of them are:
  • Free software - Mass collaborated software can be distributed for use by people free of cost, making them more attractive to the end-user.
  • Open-source - These softwares have an open source that can be edited and re-compiled by anyone without legal restrictions.
  • Everyone gets what they want - In the process of developing open source software, people who develop it do it out of enthusiasm, and the ones who use it, get it for free, creating a win-win situation. On the contrary, proprietary software marketed at a price is developed by a team of employees of a company, who may or may not have delivered the best of their skills (you don't always give your best at your place of work, do you?), leaving a lot of room for improvement.
  • Ideas - Since mass collaborated projects are handled by a large number of people, they never fall short of ideas and evolve faster.
  • Language support - The sources of programs being open , developers from various regions can contribute towards creating translated versions of applications.
Most importantly, as we are facing an economic downturn worldwide, we need a better economic mechanism, which is what the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) movement hopes to deliver.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Brain-Computer Interface : Where are we heading?


Computers that can be controlled with human brain are making headlines these days. Military organizations are reportedly conducting research on using this new technology to improve troop performance. From what I have read, the technology seems to work this way. Instead of the usual radio communication, a soldier just has to wear a special helmet that reads brain-waves, think what he wishes to communicate and to whom, and the other person perceives it as a thought.

Taking this concept to a new level, I think this technology could be more useful than just communication. Think about it this way. We know how to get the computer to read thoughts, and we know how to get the human brain to perceive those computer generated messages as thoughts. What if we use both of these things on a single human brain and add a computer processor in between? You get a system where a person has increased mental processing, since the brain is coupled with a computer, hence more intelligence.

If this technology is ever implemented, it could have serious fallouts. The intelligence of humans as species will increase very rapidly, and this will be equivalent to an artificial evolution process.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

IQ based voting system should be introduced

We are all aware of how democracy works. Though not completely flawless, it is the best system for administration as of now.

The ususal way of how it works is a group potential leaders makes some promises, and if majority of the people, irrespective of their qualities, think that one of them can make a good leader, he is elected and given related responsibilities.

But in such a system, there is a fair chance that people may not choose a good leader, mostly because they don't know or don't have the ability to think what's good for them. Such instances can be easily seen in India, where majority of the public has very low IQ, though some part of the population is very intellectual.

There is a solution to this. Instead of equal voting rights, where one person represents one vote, it should be based on IQ of the person. For example, a person with IQ 70 should represent 0.7 vote while a person with IQ 140 should represent 1.4 vote.

Though a difficult task to put it into practice, such a system will compel leaders to take intelligence-driven decisions, and will curb the ill-effects of vote bank politics to a large extent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Are users' manuals really useful?

We have many types of products all around us and all of them come with users' manuals, which, though useful in learning how to use the product, hardly give a clue on how to solve any problems which arise.

What do you do then? Check out the forums on the internet, ask people, or search in existing posts. So here's my idea....

Why don't product manufacturers bundle a CD or something which contains saved pages of these forums a searchable format? Or, have a book of all these posts collected and an index at the back? That way, people can get the real help they need.

HTML can be made faster

You might have done HTML programming sometime. You have tags like <html>, <body>, <table> blah,blah,blah.

But with the presence of such tools like Frontpage or Interdev, using which you can create web pages without having any knowledge of HTML, do you think that having such 'human understandable' HTML tags are necessary any longer?

Instead, why not have a newer version of HTML, which will have character-long tags that only computer can understand and can download from the internet quickly? For example, instead of <table>, if I use something like ɛ to represent the same thing, I end up using one character instead of seven in '<table>',which results in usage of a 7th of bandwidth owing to tags.

Developers should think about this.

According to my estimates, this will make HTML downloading faster by atleast 10%-20%, considering that the number of tags can be very high on complex sites. Though a difference of milliseconds, it is significant.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What has Microsoft done with office in 10 years?

I hope you guys have used Microsoft Office 2007 and Office 97.

Do you think that there has been any significant development in terms of features?

I think that most features in the two versions are almost same. As with most Microsoft products, each new version of Office comes with a fancier and so called more user-friendly interface. As far as features are concerned, i bet you would find almost all Office 2007 features in Office 97.

The question is: What has Microsoft done in 10 years?

Switch to linux for a better experience

Do you have a PC that works well on Windows XP, want to switch to Vista, but it's configuration is a bit too low to support Vista? Well in that case, you should consider switching to Ubuntu Linux.

What is Ubuntu? It is a linux distribution based on Debian (another kind of linux distro.)

I have a PC with Intel Pentium 4, 3.06 GHz Processor, 512 mb RAM and Nvidia GeForce 6200 SE. Also, I have Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Interpid installed on it. Since my PC was pre-installed with XP, it works quite well with it. Talking about Vista, the PC just can't take it, thanks to the extremely low RAM that it has got. But yes, Ubuntu, with similar features runs quite smoothly on my system.

You can get Ubuntu from here for free. Also take a tour of Ubuntu on the same site. I've listed some of its pros and cons here.Check out this video...

Pros:
  1. Old systems - Works well even on older systems without compromising on features, and is not as memory hungry as Windows Vista or Windows 7 beta.
  2. Visuals - It has all 3D and other visually pleasing effects. Some of these effects surpass those of Vista (like desktop cube.)
  3. Stability - It is very stable and never crashes. Also, it is the fastest.
  4. Safety - Being built on the strong foundation of Debian linux, it has loads of safety features, many of which you won't find in other systems. As you guessed, you won't require to install any anti-virus softwares.
  5. User-friendliness - It is the most user friendly linux distro out there. In versions 8.04 (Hardy) and higher, a windows based installation tool is also available, whereby you don't need to boot from the CD or repartion the hard drive. Ubuntu can be installed inside the windows partition (it does not mean you can access the files from windows.)
  6. Driver availability - Drivers for most devices are available for linux, and when you connect to the internet, it detects and downloads them automatically.
  7. Automatic updates - Ubuntu provides automatic updates through software sources for all packages installed through built-in package managers. Also, you can upgrade to a new Ubuntu version online when available.
  8. Software sources - Ubuntu community provides users with most available softwares through software sources. To install any of them, you just have to open the Synaptic Package Manager, check on the desired packages and select 'apply changes'.
  9. Wine - In case you want to use some Windows .exe programs in Ubuntu, you can do so using wine. Though not very stable, you can install and run many small softwares on it. I have also seen guys installing Microsoft Office 2003 in linux this way. Beware while using it because if it becomes unstable, the program may just quit without any warning.
  10. Free - Almost all the things in this OS are free, including the OS itself.
Cons:
  1. No gaming - If you are a serious gamer, this OS is almost completely useless for you.
  2. No shockwave - You cannot probably play much games on the internet as well because they use shockwave flash, and as such there is no plugin available for that in linux for the time being.
  3. Inferior drivers - Some things go wrong sometimes with the drivers in Ubuntu. When listening to music on high volume, the sound often bursts, whereas I get much better sound at the same volume in XP or Vista. Also, sometimes video gets choppy while watching HD movies and where frame rate is high.
  4. Internet Necessary - An internet connection is necessary and it should work 'in' Ubuntu. If you don't have such a connection, then it gets really hard to install anything, including codecs and drivers, without which you cannot do many things on it. This problem can, however, be solved if you install Ubuntu from the DVD, which comes with many more packages, otherwise ignored in the CD version due to space restrictions.