Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Microsoft Techvista, New Delhi 2007

In October 2007, I had the opportunity to attend Microsoft Techvista in Intercontinental Eros, New Delhi. It was a grand event from the top research lab in the world, Microsoft Research. Techvista was organized as an one day event comprising of expert talks and a poster session. Also, there were talks by Mr. Kapil Sibal and Mr. Arun Shourie.

Some of the talks were excellent. I particularly liked the talks by Dr. Michael Kass, Prof. Manuela M. Veloso, and Prof. Krithi Ramamritham. Talk by Mr. Arun Shourie was thought-provoking and I was amazed by his courage to make strong comments on sensitive issues like reservation. Mr. Kapil Sibal's talk mostly comprised of a lot of promises from his office.

Poster session was good and the posters depicted new trends in the computer science research. IIT Madras team won the first prize. Second prize was bagged by Vinay, my labmate at Vision and Image Processing Lab, IIT Bombay. Third prize was awarded to Anirudh from CSE Dept, IIT Bombay.

Techvista is an unique technical research event organized by Microsoft Research India in order to inspire talented students to take up research after their graduation. I really enjoyed the trip and I could get exposure on various recent research areas apart from meeting many prominent researchers. I am eagerly waiting for the next edition of Microsoft Techvista.

Mood Indigo 2007

Mood Indigo, the largest cultural fest in Asia, is held every year at IIT Bombay. This year's Mood Indigo (December 26-29) is even bigger because IIT Bombay is celebrating its Golden Jubilee. There are performances from Jagjit Singh and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy apart from other attractions. I hope to attend some of the events and will post reviews in my future blogs. Mood Indigo schedule can be accessed at Moodi Site.

Monday, December 24, 2007

India Vs Australia Boxing Day Test 2007

This year's boxing day test between India and Australia is very special as it is going to be the 100th test for Sourav Ganguly. With Sourav in very good form, one can expect some special innings in this test. This expectation must not hide the fierce battle between two highly competitive teams in test cricket. Teams like England, South Africa and New Zealand talk a lot before their respective test series against Australia, but have rarely managed to match Australia. Often they get folded within 3-4 days making the series highly one sided. The same can not be said about India and to some extent Srilanka.

India always have put full effort in order to trounce Australia in every test series over the last 5-6 years. I am quite excited as to what should be expected in the boxing day test at Melbourne. My gut feeling is that first innings of the test is going to be the key factor in the test. This is because Australians rarely allow opposition to score more than 500 runs in the first innings of a test. This makes Australians devoid of any pressure and makes job much easier.

With such a strong batting line-up, I expect India to score atleast 400 runs whether they bat first or second. 400 is the bare minimum required to put any sort of mild pressure on the Australians irrespective of the pitch/weather conditions. For this to happen, top order of Indian batting must fire and play with complete freedom without ever going into a shell. Indian bowling is quite weak compared to that of Australia and I expect Australia to easily plunder 500 runs in the first innings.

As far as batting is concerned, India have top-class players like Dravid, Sachin, Sourav, Laxman and Jaffer who can all contribute towards a big first innings score. But I would back Sehwag, if selected, to have a go at the Australian bowling. Even if he falls for a quick-fire 50, it will have a lasting impact on the Australian new ball bowlers. But in Sehwag's present form, there is least possibility that he will tear apart Australian attack. This makes way for Yuvraj. Yuvraj deserves a place in the side after his breath-taking hundred against Pakistan in difficult situation. As Sehwag can just be used as a trial and error choice, Yuvraj has a strong claim for the No. 6 spot. This would mean that Dravid has to open the batting.

Australian bowling is quite superb. They have guys who can normally bowl at 150KmpH (Lee, Johnson, Tait if selected). They also have a good line and length bowler in Stuart Clark. I would prefer that Australia select Hogg instead of Tait, which will help India to get a breather while batting. Hogg has rarely picked up wickets in one-day matches due to his brilliance. Batsmen often lose their wicket only when they try to hit Hogg out of the stadium. It would be interesting to see how he fares in test cricket.

I can not quite comment on Indian bowling. I can hardly see India able to get Australia all out below 400 runs in the first innings. I reckon that Hayden, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Symonds and Gilchrist can all fire against this Indian bowling attack. This would mean that there would be extra pressure on the bowlers to keep the run-rate under check even if they are not able to take wickets which would in turn enahance possibilities of a high scoring draw. Zaheer and Kumble should lead the attack and have to put up some special effort to rattle the Australian batting.

I foresee a cracker of a contest with both teams having very strong batting line-ups. The way the sides bat in the first innings of the test could effectively decide the result. I am eagerly waiting for the boxing day to arrive soon so that I would be pretty much occupied with a grand contest over the next 5 days. However, in the hindsinght, I am not able to ignore the thought about the possibility of this boxing day test getting over within 4 days in Australia's favour which would certainly be an anti-climax after this much hype.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ubuntu - Linux for Human Beings

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, delivers a speech in the default installation of Ubuntu Linux. He aptly stresses importance of the term "Ubuntu" whose meaning is "humanity towards others". This word represents an eternal in-depth purpose for every human life on earth. This word epitomizes the thought process every human should undergo to give back to humanity whatever he/she has learned/gained over years. This exactly seems to be the objective behind the Linux Distribution "Ubuntu", which has simply revolutionized the desktop Linux business in the world.

Mark Shuttleworth, a South African businessman, started Canonical Ltd which is responsible for the development of Ubuntu Linux and its other flavors. It is a masterstroke that Canonical decided to use the stable Debian as its base for Ubuntu. Debian provides better user convenience compared to Red Hat Linux and this is obviously visible from the superb apt-get package installer. One important reason for the popularity of Ubuntu Linux is that it is being developed keeping end-user convenience as the primary goal.

Ubuntu has no virus/security threats like any other Linux Distro. I would like to mention some of the features I specifically liked about Ubuntu. Ubuntu is completely free along with an ocean of free softwares available as debian packages. Further, Ubuntu has a normal 6-month release cycle. I use Gutsy Gibbon (7.10), the next release being Hardy Heron to be released by April 2008. Gutsy Gibbon has a great look and feel with Compiz Fusion. It is quite fast under 512 MB RAM, though 1GB may be ideal. All the propriety drivers are available through restricted repository. I could find ATI Graphics driver, wireless drivers quite easily for my laptop. I could easily install softwares like Matlab, Mathematica without any pain.

There are contemporary Linux Distros like Fedora 8, OpenSUSE 10.3, CentOS 5.1, Slackware 12, Mandriva 2008, etc. I have tried many of them. But none could match Ubuntu in terms of user convenience, performance, look and feel. I would strongly recommend Gutsy Gibbon (Ubuntu 7.10) to anyone's desktop or laptop. Ubuntu certainly has the potential to rule the OS market in near future. Ubuntu CDs can be ordered for free from Ubuntu site.