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Mirror or a photograph?

Mirror or a photograph?

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Tamil subtitles for the “Diaspora* next online revolution” video

I saw this Diaspora* promotional video posted on Diaspora* (https://diasp.org/posts/463943) and there was a request to translate it to as many languages as possible. Myself and Bala anna thought that we could contribute. So a couple of nights back, we sat together and tried to translate the English subtitles to Tamil. As we progressed sentence by sentence, we realized that we were out of touch with proper Tamil, though we have lived most of our lives in Tamil Nadu. There were a lot of words in English that we didn’t remember or couldn’t find out the Tamil equivalent. Google Transliterate and Google Translate came to our help. The challenge with using Google Translate was that it gave us the literal translation of the words and not the actual meaning that English sentences conveyed. So we had to add our own touch to a lot of the words that showed up on Google Translate. For example, I translated ‘Social Network’ to ‘சமூக வலைப்பின்னல்’ but I have no idea if it is correct. Constructing words creatively was so much fun that hours went by without either of us noticing. We also took liberty to rename the characters Zoey and Finn to ஜோயி and பீட்டர் as they were much more Tamil-friendly 😉 There were some sentences and words that were extremely challenging – “personal profiles, groups, apps, mobile interface, mentions, ash texts, re-sharing , and on top, there is social network’s integration”. Now how would you translate that? :mrgreen: See the video to find out.

Though the subtitle used in the video does leave out some of the words and meaning from the original transcript, I did have a version that translated it fully. 🙂 The subtitle is hosted on GitHub and please help us in improving the quality of the translation. YouTube has mangled the Tamil text and spelling in some places while displaying the caption, but the GitHub repository should have the correct text.

I feel an immense sense of happiness and satisfaction in contributing to a wonderful initiative! If you have any issues in watching the embedded video, you could watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4mMSxWEnjU. Do turn on the Tamil subtitles and give me your feedback. 🙂

As a birthday gift to myself, I quit Facebook and deleted my account

I am really glad that my parting message inspired a few of my friends to join Diaspora on one of the pods (http://diasp.org). Here is the message for the benefit of those who didn’t read it before I deleted my account. It strengthens my belief that we can empower our friends with freedom.

As a birthday gift to myself, I am quitting Facebook and deleting my account.

Why? Facebook (and a lot of other websites) tracks and stalks the users (and non-users too, through shadow profiles) all over the internet and make money by selling information about you and targeting advertisements at you. The kind of evil things they do, I am too offended to even list here.

I want to be in full control of my data and privacy, which is why I wanted to quit Facebook about 6 months back. But I decided to wait till my birthday so that I can pass on the message to my Facebook friends who visit my wall to wish me on my birthday.

I already use a lot of anti-tracking measures – Using Facebook only in incognito mode, using a lot of browser extensions like Ghostery, Facebook blocker and browser settings to keep the tracking to a minimum. The all-pervasive Facebook social plugins which put “Like” buttons on all websites are pure evil. They help Facebook to track your internet activities – what websites you visit, what links you click, what your interests are and much more.

I am interested in getting to know more about people whom I have encountered in my life and also to find interesting people. But Facebook barely facilitates that. My ‘News feed’ is full of spam from an ever-growing list of Facebook applications, scam/spam/porn posts broadcast across friends by friends who are smart enough to be easily fooled by such things and Youtube videos, celebrity photos and etc. which I am totally not interested in. Previously there used to be a filter for the news feed through which only the status updates could be viewed, but Facebook has removed it.

Facebook never deletes the user data from its servers even after the user deletes own account. That doesn’t matter to me as I am more bothered about not giving Facebook any more data.

We don’t need a Yahoo! email account to be able to send emails to other Yahoo! users. All that is needed is a valid email account on the internet. But to keep in touch with friends on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ we need accounts on those websites. How sensible is that? There are a lot of other social network which value users’ privacy and also provide inter-operability, meaning you can follow a user on other social network from your current social network. This is possible through a lot of upcoming open standards. Identica (running the StatusNet software), Diaspora are a couple of social networks that provide this feature.

So how do you get in touch with me once I quit Facebook? Those who are in touch with me, already know how to reach me through other means. 🙂 If you are not one of those, but still want to get in touch with me, you will find me on Google+, Twitter, Identica (http://identi.ca/guruprasad) and Diaspora (http://diasp.org/u/guruprasad) and of course my website (http://www.lguruprasad.in/) and my blog (http://www.lguruprasad.in/blog/). If you are already thinking why I am still on Google+ and Twitter after blabbering about privacy, tracking and control over my data, just hold on. I am on my way to get out of those too pretty soon 🙂

Ghosts from her past

She stood by the moonlit window, silently looking out to the beyond, not looking anywhere in particular, but lost in thought. Sigh! She let out a slow, long-drawn breath and looked back at the little boy, sleeping peacefully on her bed. The innocence and peacefulness touched her. She has never been gifted such kind of peacefulness. The ghosts from her past always haunted her. The mistakes she did, the chances that she missed, the opportunities she let go, in front of her very eyes. All the time knowing that she will never be at peace ever again and that life will never be the same ever again.

She wished from the depth of her soul that she knew better. How better life would have been if she knew that Aakash was the one for her. They both were in love and were a happy couple until Vinay came along. Blinded by a trance and urged by the separation from Aakash, she slowly lost her sanity and fell for Vinay. She could not believe how it happened. She still could not fathom how she went astray. Her love for Aakash had been so pure. Yet, how did this happen? That is one question to which no one had an answer. Aakash had tried to make sense with her, fought hard with her to make her see that she was willingly going to destroy her life. He fought with all he had. He never gave up. But, she refused and brushed him away so strongly that she broke him to pieces.

What happened after that was just a swirl. She has pushed away Aakash so hard that he could not dare to come back to her and reason with her. And in her trance, she was in temporary bliss. And then, slowly it had happened. Before she knew, the trance was over. The mist lifted and she saw the truth. She was crushed. She kept thinking that it was a bad nightmare and she would wake up soon and find herself in Aakash’s warm arms soon. But, that never happened and she realized the implications of what she had done with her life. Life had presented such a golden chance to her as to none else. She was so lucky to get Aakash. They knew each other from their childhood and so made for each other. How could she have been so blind all of a sudden and thrown all that away? That was a question that she had been searching an answer for so long, but never got one. And she knew, she never will.

After she realized the truth, she could no longer stand to live. Many things happened and all she remember now was being all alone, all of a sudden with not a single soul to care about her or for her to care about. She realized Vinay was not “The guy” for her. She should have known better or at least she should have listened to Aakash. She searched high and low for Aakash, not to get back, but to apologize. Because she knew, she does not have the worth to be his. She was that pathetic. She was sick of herself. On the outside, she just dragged herself on with her life. Inside, she was dying every day, cringing at what she had done. That was when she had met the little boy, nameless, homeless and helpless on the road. She had adopted him and named him after Aakash. Since then, she has been holding on to life only for 2 causes. One, to find Aakash and apologize and the next to bring up little Aakash to be a citizen of whom the nation would be proud of. Except that, she has no reason to live for. She sighed heavily and decided to let her tired body to rest. As sleep took over, she knew that the ghosts from her past will visit her again, tomorrow.

Until later,

Keirthana 🙂

P.S: My first guest post and that too @ The Midnight Sun! 🙂 I know I have turned a geeky, almost-technical blog to a different genre, by starting off with a story 😛 Hope you like it 🙂

Welcome Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot!

Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot is out! I have used Ubuntu on my laptop since the 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon release and every release would get me excited like a kid would on seeing new toys. I would try to do a dist-upgrade or download the ISO image to install it using my USB drive. Ubuntu repositories would be under heavy load and I would egging my package manager to download all the packages faster and faster and it would be well past midnight by the time when I go to bod after I am done with the installation and setup.

This time things are way better. I already have Ubuntu Oneiric installed on my laptop! 🙂 I am spared of the downloads and the midnight tussles that I had to go through so that my laptop will have a spanking new Ubuntu to use the next day. But all this luxury didn’t come without pain.

Oneiric Ocelot

When I installed Oneiric Ocelot beta 1 release, the Unity port to Gnome 3 was totally broken and unusable. Most actions done on the desktop would cause Unity, Compiz or some GNOME 3 component to crash. There was also a serious issue of focus change between open windows and the desktop wherein switching between windows was not possible at all.  All I could do with the desktop was to report bugs. There started a marathon of non-stop bug reports and daily updates which were often more than 50 MB in size. I cursed Ubuntu like anything on social networks and had lengthy arguments with my friends over there. I reported more than 50 bugs most of which were centered on Unity and Compiz. There was a provision to install a Classic GNOME fallback mode, but it was more of an emulation layer on top of GNOME 3.x and not a full-fledge GNOME 2.x environment. When I decided to try GNOME shell, I found that it had too many rough edges and wasn’t integrated properly with Ubuntu.

All this led to a stage where I almost decided to quit Ubuntu for good. But wait, did I have an alternative distro that I could switch to? Nope. Debian and Fedora were the only candidates that I was considering. Being used to the Debian world for so long, Fedora didn’t excite me enough. Debian? Debian would be good, but a lot of effort would be required to get it working with my nVidia graphics card by installing the proprietary drivers. Nouveau is a promising project that aims to provide libre drivers for nVidia, but isn’t fully mature yet and has its share of issues. Also with Debian stable, I would be lagging behind the latest releases of most of the software. I could install “testing” or “sid” if I wanted to live on the bleeding edge, but the experience with Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot beta left me hesitant to proceed in that direction though Debian would be way more stable. So I just decided to wait a bit for the bugs to get fixed and things to improve. Things did improve gradually with the daily updates which some times introduced new bugs. That the Ubuntu team was working in full swing towards a release free of critical and usability bugs was obviously visible while observing the bug transitions and updates. About 2-3 days back, the updates stopped as expected and Oneiric Ocelot was ready to gallop towards today’s grand release. And with today’s release, Ubuntu has succeeded in bringing a very good release that sets an exciting road-map for the upcoming LTS release aptly named “Precise Pangolin” due for release next April. My hearty congratulations to all those who made awesome release possible, contributing in myriad ways.

Will I try Precise Pangolin in its beta stage? Of course I will 🙂

A shallow review of ‘Revolution 2020 – Love, Corruption, Ambition’

Chetan Bhagat has tried to create his style of love story with a strong message relevant to the present and has botched up both. The novel proceeds through a fairly linear plot. While that can be good at times, it provides very little scope for the reader to get a better view from other perspectives and hence the plot is as shallow as it could be. Incidents between the protagonist and his love interest is so clichéd and would be predictable even for those who haven’t read Chetan Bhagat’s previous better books. Focus on the message part of the plot is too little and I doubt if the intensity will make the readers to feel attached to it.

Revolution 2020 - Love, Corruption, AmbitionThere isn’t much of the wit and light-hearted humour that were a key ingredient to the success of Chetan Bhagat’s books. The author has already proved that he can successfully touch the hearts of so many people and that is why a lot of people will still end up liking this book.

Indian education system needs an overhaul big time

A lot of words have been exchanged in the media recently regarding the quality of the students passing out of IITs which are deemed to be the premier engineering institutions in our country. At least 5 lakh engineers graduate every year in India and the number contributed by IITs to that is negligible. What makes it even more irrelevant is the fact that a lot of IITians go abroad for further education and career prospects. The problem is representative of the absurd education culture that has gained a strong hold in India.

Teachers do not always need to teach, evaluate or discipline their students. Most of the times, just providing the inspiration and nudging them in the right direction will do. If we try to find out why our teachers are unable to do that, it does reveal a lot of interesting things.

Engineering and Medicine are head and shoulders above the rest of educational streams in terms of capturing the imagination of the students and their parents. Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants his child to become an Engineer or a doctor. The fact that most IT companies hire engineers and pay them obscene amounts of money to do the quantity of work that would pay much less in other fields, has fueled this imbalance. As a result, most of the brilliant young minds are lost to the engineering stream and disproportionately lot of them become the clichéd ‘Indian Software Engineer’. In most of the developed countries, only such brilliant young minds pursue higher studies and research and enter the teaching field. But in India, few of the people who missed the engineering and medicine bus pursue the teaching profession for their livelihood. Is it fair to expect such people to be experts in their subject and at the same time have the skills needed to impart the knowledge and inspire the students? This starts an endless chain of mediocrity feeding on mediocrity that only a few students who are gifted or passionate enough to work hard and break-free of the limitations of the system, stand out and succeed.

Students are taught and encouraged to reproduce the text on the books, even though most books condemn verbatim unauthorized reproduction of the text with criminal implications. 😉 We should encourage people to learn and apply whatever they have learnt. Why should there be a system to rate and grade students if every student is good at different things? To change this anomaly, the thinking of people should change. Someone has to break the vicious cycle. Any stream of education and employment is as good as any other. The monetary benefits may be disparate, but so are the domains. Once the general opinion changes, there will be changes in the salaries too.

As too much undue importance is placed on engineering and medicine, IITs, NITs and IIMs, too many people want to get in and as a result some sort of mechanism is needed to pick the bright minds to get in. The industry of coaching centers has been built on this. The competition becomes even more cut-throat with reservation creeping in. My belief on reservation is that if there are downtrodden people, measures must be taken to uplift them by providing excellent education that will enable children from such families to reach high ambitions. Instead, politicians are hell-bent on providing reservation to such people to gain political mileage. In reality, reservation is enjoyed by the wrong people and the downtrodden do not get any benefit out of it and remain downtrodden for further political exploitation.

Once the measures to uplift the downtrodden at the grass-root level of education is in place, we should do away with reservation elsewhere and let merit prevail. As more people get good education, the undue craze on particular streams will vanish and there will definitely be a sense of equality. I have seen students panic when questions in the exam paper are of the same format of those in the books but with the variable names changed. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of education?

Computer Science is essentially a mathematical science, but how many computer science students are well-versed with the mathematical background that is required? A lot of such students become lecturers who in turn teach the students whatever is present in the prescribed books without ever touching upon the required background knowledge. As a result most of the modern-day engineering students hardly know mathematics that computer science is built upon. Whatever they have learned solely for the purpose getting a job starts and ends with the periphery of the subject. Worsening things is the fact that the students choose to skip a lot of the subject as the exam system allows them to do so. They don’t realize that skipping things doesn’t help learning at all. If we learn things, however small and trivial, properly and fully, the benefits of that will automatically follow. But most students are either not interested in putting the required effort to learn or too lazy and are solely focused on the benefits. This is how we have easily arrived at such a pathetic state. I am not carrying a holier than thou attitude here as even I am a product of the very same flawed system that I want to be overhauled. The fact that a lot of students survive the system and still make it big in their lives shouldn’t be an excuse to persist with the same system. Already there is very little research and innovation happening in India and we are so happy and content to ape and idolize whatever happens in the developed countries and stay unmoved. If this continues, we may lose forever a lot of great young minds who could make a huge difference to our country and humanity.

I do not claim that my thoughts and ideas are foolproof and will withstand the test of time, but I rest my case that the current education system is flawed and it requires a big overhaul along with the general thought pattern of people.