Archive for October, 2007

Stellarium

October 31, 2007

Stellarium

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.

That is from the Stellarium.org home page. The way I stumbled on this software is because of an Indian festival that requires wifey to fast until she has seen the moon. A quick Google search to find the trajectory of the moon led me to this blog entry, and eerily the author of this article had also found the software for the same reason.

Now you might think why I need a software to locate the rising of the moon. After all, the moon follows the sun in its rise and set pattern, so moon should just rise in the east right? Wrong! One of the tidbits I remember from my astronomy club at school is that the lunar orbit is elliptical, which causes a daily variation in the directional orbit of the moon for an observer in the earth. Here is what Wikipedia has to say…

The orbit of the Moon is distinctly elliptical with an average eccentricity of 0.0549. The non-circular form of the lunar orbit causes variations in the Moon’s angular speed and apparent size as it moves towards and away from an observer on Earth. The mean angular daily movement relative to an imaginary observer at the barycentre is 13.176358° to the east. The orientation of the orbit is not fixed in space, but precesses over time.

Anyways, I have used a few planetarium software in my school days from being in the astronomy club. And this tool has pretty much everything you need for an amateur astronomer. The user interface is also very slick.

You basically specify your location in terms of latitude and longtitude, and can look at the object in the sky. You can pan and zoom around. It also has a neat search feature, where you type in a celestial object, and it would pan, in a Google-earth-stlye, to that object. It also has quite a few interesting layers for constellations, azimuthal grids and so on.

The only problem I have had so far is the ability to retrieve a saved location. The software always seems to start up in the last location, and I cannot seem to find a way to list and use a previously saved location.

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Ron Paul on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show

October 31, 2007

I know there is like a gazillion links to this video, but it IS a must-see. My favorite quip from Dr. Paul is ‘There’s probably a risk I could win”.

Access Google Mail through IMAP

October 28, 2007

GMail

Google enabled IMAP access for GMail this past week, and is still in the process of rolling out the service to all the users. One of my older GMail accounts got the IMAP feature enabled on Saturday, and I took it for a spin over the weekend.

I have been using POP to download email from all my accounts to the Mail application. I have set my POP account to delete the mail in the server as soon as it was downloaded, so that I don’t have to manually clean up my mail box once in a while. This, however, poses a problem if I want to use any client other than my Mail application, because my mail would have been already downloaded.

With IMAP, my account remains in sync with my Mail application, and changes I make in a web-client for instance, is sent right away to my Mail application. Pretty Sweet.

The only issue so far is that SPAM also get downloaded. This in itself might actually be a good thing, because sometimes I miss some email that gets to SPAM.

Harivarasanam

October 26, 2007

LordAyyappan

Harivarasanam is a Lord Ayyappan song and though many versions exist, the one that moves me the most is a rendition by KJ Yesudas. Harivarasanam is recited just prior to closing of the temple doors at night. As the final verses are being sung, all the assistant Santhis leave the Sanctum Sanctorum one by one.

I still get goose pimples every time I hear this song, the main reason to which I believe is my Saturday night visits to the local Ayyappan temple at Siddhapudur in Coimbatore. I used to be a regular there along with my childhood pal Jayachandran, and we would time our visit so that we could be present for this song. I used to feel so much at peace with myself by the time we left the temple. It is one of those feelings that make me home-sick to this date.

There are different theories as to how the tradition of renditioning this song at the time of closing the temple started.

Anyways, according to this site, the tradition of renditioning the song at the close of the temple began with Thirumeni Eashwaran Nampoothiri (one of older Mel Santhi’s at the Sannidhanam). Apparently, there was a disciple by the name VR Gopala Menon, who used to remain in the temple of Sabarimala during the 40’s, even after everybody else had left the temple in the evening. For some strange reason, he was asked to move out and died as an orphan in a nearby tea estate. Mohan was a close, and probably only, companion to Eashwaran during those days. When Eashwaran heard of Mohan’s demise, he was deeply moved. And after pooja that day, he had remembered Mohan yet again while closing the temple door, and recited ‘Harivarasanam’, starting a nostalgic tradition, that is still being followed to this day.

The ‘Sri Hariharathmajashtakam‘ page above, also contains the lyrics and a couple of translations to this song. You can download the song from here.

Quote of the week — Bill Watterson

October 25, 2007

Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak. Probably so we can think twice.

Bill Watterson

Ron Paul for President

October 23, 2007

RonPaulGoldFrontRonPaulGoldBack

I have finally made up my mind, thanks to Jim. Yay!

I have always thought myself to be a democrat, going strictly by my ideology. After all, I am from the largest democracy in the world. And Dr. Ron Paul, even though he is contesting from the Republican party, is as liberal as it gets.

Who is Ron Paul? Well, if you didn’t know that, you ought to pay a little bit more attention to Politics. If you are stateside, that is. But Ron is gaining momentum in other countries too, so there really is no excuse. Ron Paul is more of a libertarian candidate, contesting as a Republican. His campaign has gathered a lot of steam of late, mainly because of his grassroots-level supporters. He is referred to as Dr. No, because he vehemently opposes any bill that does not abide by the constitution. (And oh, he is also a former physician, which explains the Dr. part).

Why Ron Paul? Mainly, because of his stance on the war. But even more, because of his non-interventionist ideology. United States has no business meddling with Iraq or Somalia or wherever the US military is currently spread. I also like his ideas on Income Tax and The Fed, but I must say that I do believe that his views are a little extreme here.

How Ron Paul? That question exists because I’m not a US citizen yet, and so can’t vote on this presidential election. However, I will have my voting rights for the next election, and hopefully, an opportunity to vote for Dr. Paul. But more than voting, I believe I can make a difference by campaigning for him. And making contributions for his campaign. If I can make at least 5 persons aware of Dr. Ron Paul, I would consider my deed done.

Now, go on. Catch up on his stance on other issues.

Quote of the week — Swami Vivekananda

October 19, 2007

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”

Swami Vivekananda

Mylyn for Eclipse – Distraction Free Computing

October 18, 2007

Mylyn

I am a huge fan of distraction-free working. In our current digital life, distractions are constant – the email, the mobile phone, the instant message, the text message, the rss feeds. One doesn’t have to seek information anymore, it drops down on your door step and clutters it.

The Mylyn plugin for Eclipse is a refreshing new concept, especially for people like me that are addicted to the information channels. Mylyn is primarily a task focused UI refactoring of Eclipse, although it has other great features like task repositories. IBM Developer Works has a detailed, two-part article on Mylyn.

As this InfoQ article lays out, the main features of Mylyn are:

  • Task-Focused User Interface – the interface automatically hides items which are not part of the current task, and keeps track of what items are related to a given task
  • Integration with Task Repositories – draws lists of tasks from Bugzilla, JIRA, and Trac as well as several other providers
  • Rich editing and transparent offline work – automatic caching of task changes, and automatic synchronization when back online
  • Complete Eclipse 3.3 integration – utilizes new Eclipse 3.3 facilities such as pervasive hyperlinking, editor-based content assist and Forms support

The name Mylyn kind of struck me as a strange name, and so here is the story behind the name from the author himself.

We outgrew the old name. Mylyn started out as the implementation of my PhD thesis… The new name is a tribute to the “myelin” substance, which accelerates your thoughts by making neurons much more efficient at conducting electricity. We’ve heard users claim that the Mylyn tool increases their efficiency to the point where they feel like they are coding at the speed of thought.

Speed of thought? You sure get close with this tool.

Calvin’s war games

October 17, 2007

CalvinWarGames

Shadow Company

October 15, 2007

ShadowCompany

 

Shadow Company is an amazing and powerful documentary by Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque about the “private military companies” – or “mercenaries” depending on your idealogical beliefs. But whatever your idealogy is, you will come out of this documentary much better educated about the issues surrounding such ‘private guns for hire’. The documentary takes an even-handed approach and explores a lot of issues – the historical background of mercenaries, their sudden growth, their hardships, the ethical dilemma and the need for more thought on how this industry should be handled further on.

ShadowCompanyClip

The presentation is very stlyistic and captivating – with all the video game clips, comic book style reenactments, inter-weaving of war and news footage, pop-up explanations for military terms. It will definitely keep you hooked to the end.

Before I started watching the movie, I had already come to the conclusion that these companies cannot be obliterated in one fell sweep. This documentary only bolstered my opinion, in that our government and politicians need to take a hard look at all the relevant issues and create some balanced and pragmatic regulations to guide this industry. Although there would be no place for such companies in an ideal world, we no longer live – perhaps, never have lived – in such a world. Huffington Post has a nice article from the director of this movie about what the congress ought to be doing now on the issue of PMC’s.

One quote that stands out is from an author that is interviewed – Robert Young Pelton.

“George Bush has created the ultimate entrepreneurial wild west scenario in Iraq. If you have a gun and you are in Iraq, there is plenty of job to do.”