Thoughts on Rails

Riding the Train of Thought

Archive for December 2005

Almost free bare-bones GPS

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While toying with my new cellphone (yeah, had to get one… lost the previous one – and yes I’m going to try and trace the previous one – or at least block it.) anyway… where was I? yeah.. while toying with my new cellphone today, I noticed that it can store the broadcast messages like the cellular tower’s location. Example: “Market Yard”, “CBS”, “Savedi”, “Pune Road”… now if the company would transmit the GPS coordinates of the tower, I guess there should be a way to access these broadcast messages on the phone and download a map of the location.

If that is possible, it would be a lot helpful to the tourists and even new people! Else, there can be a special number say for example: “9999″ where you can send a SMS “gps”. The message is interepted (because it is sent to the special number) and the station itself replies with the GPS coordinates.

I guess for the safety of the tower (everybody in the management would like that – whether it really helps or not…) the GPS coordinates can be offset by a small random value – so that the exact location of the tower is not revealed to everyone (I dont know why I am thinking like this… because technologies like Google Earth already make this “security plan” seem like a joke.)

Anyway, there’s also this issue – sometimes when you are on the edge of two or more cells, you can be registered under any one of them – like my cellphone says that it is registered under “Kapad Bazar” cell, then after a while, “Cantonment” and then “Nr Zendi Gate” and sometmies even “Sarjepura”. People who know Ahmednagar would recognize these areas… and that they are not exactly very close. So this barebones/ rudimentary GPS system might actually be a pain too…

The only use I can see is perhaps while on the highways… you could download a map (using J2ME/MDIP application) and look for hotels, restaurants, hospitals and possibly even traffic jams.

I would love to work on this project… given the resources and time. Hey cellular companies… are ya listening? Your next killer app – location based content – the technology for which is actually embedded and ready to be exploited in almost all cellphones “as we speak”.

A similar but more easy idea is to make service providers pay for their advertisements (not your usual ads… mind you) and people will be able to choose what content they want to receive as they move through the city… maybe a person could go out shopping and choose to receive the special offers from the shops – and choose the next destination based on the fresh content!

Hmm… this crazy “thoughts on rails” thing goes on once it starts… I need to apply brakes to my imagination and put my time to something that gives more immidiate joy – like listening to music!

Good night world.

Written by hiway

December 30, 2005 at 10:54 am

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3 Days, UNIX Class and Other Stories from Pune

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It is 1:30 in the night. I reached Ahmednagar at about 1:10 AM. The 2:30 hour drive was a wonderful experience – only big vehicles on the road, an occassional motorcyclist, the wide open highway… me and my bike!

The weather is cold, but thanks to my trusted jacket, that was not an issue. My dirty jeans took the cold in stride ;-) I wonder if the jeans was all clean, would it block the cold so efficiently!

Anyway, an important note: I lost my cellphone earlier today. At about 10 AM while I was on Dhole Patil Road, Pune. (I really don’t expect that the person who found it would ever come here, but ) if by chance ‘you’ found my cell, please return it – I will be blocking the cellphone soon, so it won’t be of any use to you anyway… just that you might have the Police knocking at your door someday sooner or later ;-) The time limit for you to be a good citizen is till next Monday…

I must thank and appreciate IDEA cellular for their prompt service. It was a matter of waiting for 10 minutes in a queue… then a helpful lady asked me about the issue, got my photo-ID photocopied, inquired if I wanted to retain my cell number, the answer, obviously, was a big “YES!” and gave me a replacement SIM card, for which I had to pay INR 50 (~US $1) and I was on my way – in 2 or 3 minutes flat. Of course, it would take an hour for the new SIM to be activated, at least I was assured that my number would not be used for any wrong purposes.

I have lost my whole contact list (except for a little subset which I had backed up on an old SIM card… maybe) so if you read this, and if you were on my contact list, please SMS your name and city to me. The number has not changed since one year… and thanks to IDEA’s quick service, not even today – (985-88—1) you should know the missing parts, or maybe you can try to guess them :D

The UNIX class is really good. I’m finally enjoying learning with people who enjoy similar things (read, UNIX) and from a teacher who actually knows what he is speaking about!!! (yes, you guessed it right, but the previous experiences are not worth mentioning.)

Hrmph… my back hurts a bit after this ride… need some sleep. Good night world.

Thanks to God Almighty for bringing me home in one piece. Thanks to my Angel for putting up with my stunts :-)

Written by hiway

December 29, 2005 at 1:54 am

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Finally Some Action!

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I’m preparing for my trip to Pune. Not my usual trip, this time to attend UNIX classes :)

Finally, I have convinced my parents that travelling isnt that bad ;) and they convinced me that travelling too much is bad. So… I’ll be staying in Pune for the first 3 days of the week (Mon, Tue, Wed) and the rest in Ahmednagar. Nothing like enjoying the best of both cities!

I should be packing my bags. 2 hours till my motorcycle fires up.

Cya’ll in a while!

Written by hiway

December 26, 2005 at 1:05 pm

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Friends Getting Married… (and other stories)

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Rahul B. got engaged a few weeks ago… now it’s Nazir’s turn :)

Hehehe… poor guys! I’m glad to be a freebird :P Gotta keep it that way for the next few years!!!

Anyway, today’s trip to Pune was great. Got a few nice photos of Nazir – a memory of the friend as we know him… dunnot what all changes marriage will bring in! (kidding)

Anyway, good luck to both of them!

Ashutosh and Sumukh met today, Ashutosh is after me to join him at a class on UNIX, in Pune. The only issue is that the class it from 8 PM to 10 PM – my house from Pune is at about 3 hours of highway driving. If I join, I will have to drive 6 hours a day – 3 days each week for the next 4 months. I’m willing to do that for the love of UNIX! Let’s see if I can convince my parents that it is safe enough (while in Wipro, I used to travel at similar times, but without actually telling them beforehand, and also, it was not a routine!)

Hmm… today I saw a lot more accidents on the Ahmednagar-Pune highway… was there some festival recently? I have noticed that people get drunk during festive time… then drive around – all over the road – till gravity has the better of them, physics takes over biology and forces of nature (like, trees, earth, raging metals…) prove ‘nothing is permanent’… *sigh* a sad fact.

MUST. NOT. THINK. LIKE. THIS.

I don’t drink, smoke or even chew the yucky stuff called ‘gutkha’. I’m allergic to all kinds of smoke – never felt curious about trying a cig, the smell of gutkha and supari makes me vomit… tasted wine once, liked the taste, never tried again. Hmm… so I’m pretty safe for the road I guess :P Ha! Aha! There’s my reason #1; why its okay for me to ride my bike on the highways at midnight!

Why am I rambling on here? Well, because this is my place :) You bored? Read something else! Hehe, thank ya for your time, buh bye.

Me gone.

Written by hiway

December 22, 2005 at 12:32 am

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Electronic Pendant

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So what did we (as in Amit and me) cook up today?

How about a geeky pendant hanging down your neck? A elegant yet cool idea – have an electronic component embedded in amber or glass.

I am sure it would look nice enough, but on close inspection would tell about the ‘geek inside’ :)

That’s all for today.

Written by hiway

December 19, 2005 at 9:30 am

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Fun With Ultra Violet

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I found a handy toy today. An ultra-violet LED! This toy opens up new avenues for crazy photography. Yay! Will post the experiments soon :)

P.S. I found an old envelope that I had received from SDF back in June 2003. :)

Written by hiway

December 19, 2005 at 9:29 am

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Why Does The Moon Appear Larger Near The Horizon?

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We have learnt that the green-house gases trap heat. And we have learnt that things expand when heated. So… when the moon is near the horizon, we see it through hot gases, hence it appears large. When it rises up, it is seen through colder layers of air, which make the image contract in size.

Also, Doc. Amit added… “Everyone starts the race in a big way… but later the steam wears off.” Which also proves that the moon appears smaller due to loss of heat.

Smart, isn’t it?

Disclaimer: This post is a joke. Please use your common-sense or if you lack that, then use google-sense to find out the right answers.

Written by hiway

December 18, 2005 at 12:03 pm

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[software] Neural Networks / Project: Ana / Musings.

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This is a sort of jumbo post, that talks about many things, so be warned. You might run into answers to questions you never asked.

Okay. I admit it. Even though I love Photography and I have taken the decision to build my career in it, I still cannot leave programming!

Yesterday(actually, the day before), I was looking for more information while working on the ‘Emotion Engine’ for Project: Ana. I must have mentioned it a few times before, but here’s for the record. I have been working on this concept since last 3/4 years, on and off. I almost gave up last year when I flunked in mathematics and then dropped out of college. Anyway, the idea is to make a software that talks to human beings in a way that we prefer – in English, while understanding the mood and emotions of our words. The former part is already achieved to a large extent by A.L.I.C.E. The latter part is where I would love to contribute.

The idea is simple, to have a software representation of the individual feelings that we have and to select responses based on these moods and combinations of them via programming.

But like every time I near the part where I would start building the prototype, I get a bunch of more crazy ideas and I stagger off the path. This time it was thanks to Neural Networks. The concept of artificial neural networks is simply brilliant. Especially for a person like me, who loves programming and logic but can hardly cope with mathematics, a programming approach that takes algorithms and formulas out of the scenario (in part at least) is most welcome!

I found bpnn.py, a fantastic implementation of back propogation neural networks in Python. Since I love Python and Pyton loves all its users, I learnt a lot in just one session of tweaking with the program.

So, now I have a simple neural net, that is nicely trained to recognize patterns in a 7-segment LED display and tells what number is being displayed. It is possible using regular programming methods, but then, why all this trouble?

1. It is fun.
2. I need to give it the possible inputs and outputs, the neural network figures out the other stuff.
3. I need to change the output/test function slightly to change the generated BCD code to Integers.

The neural network handles the process from [0,1,1,0,0,0,0] (which, I say is code for digit “1″) to [0,0,0,1] which is binary coded decimal for digit “1″ . And the test function simply converts the BCD to decimal for me to marvel at. :-)

This freedom in programing is lovely. I will be putting a little more time into NNs and taking a shot at making some use of it in my original project if needed/possible.

Otherwise, on a personal note, life is good. It has always been. My studies in the new University are going alright. I’m glad about choosing this correspondence course as I don’t have to deal with teachers and professors anymore. Most of my previous experiences have left me with a bad opinion about these people.

Anyway, I’d like to conclude this small note with a message to those who taught me ‘Computer Science’ in my previous college.

“I am not proud or boasting when I say that I learnt all this [software and technology] myself. I feel sorry that I had to. My only expectation from a teacher was to encourage my ideas, what I got was sarcasm; worse, sometimes a cold reception or even worse, no reception at all.

I created small pieces of software, people as far as from the other side of the planet appreciated me, but you could not. Because you were preoccupied with nourishing your ego. Having a student who dreams big is an advantage to a teacher, not a threat. Realize this. Don’t try to curb another student’s ideas just because you fear that your ignorance and indifference will be found out.

Dare to challenge the student’s mind, and dare to lose… because it is they, who are going to change the world – and you can be the launchpad for their work or the obstacle in world’s progress.

Teachers, you brought me to a point where I think ten times before I say ‘Dear Teacher’. Please, don’t do this to more of your students. Don’t let their enthusiasm and talent go waste for the sake of your ego. I beg you to change your ways. Please, don’t let your ego come between your student and knowledge.”

Written by hiway

December 18, 2005 at 1:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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