Thursday, December 09, 2010

Scilab in India

Scilab is a free computation software available as an alternative to commercial software like Matlab. The Scilab India group is based at IIT Bombay and it is part of FOSSEE group. Prof Kannan Moudgalya, Prof Madhu Belur and Prof Mani Bhushan are actively promoting Scilab in India. I recently associated with this group and the association helped me to explore image processing toolboxes compatible with Scilab.

I gave a talk on image processing using Scilab at the National Workshop on Scilab held in Mumbai last week. My talk slides can be found in the webpage of this workshop. This workshop was aimed at college teachers and creating awareness among them about Scilab. There were lot of talks over a week's time on how to use Scilab for diverse areas like ODEs, Signal Processing, Chemical Engg, Electromagnetics, Neural Networks, Wavelets, Image Processing, Control Systems etc apart from some spoken tutorials.

It is indeed a nice experience working with this group. It is always better to promote free software which can be made available to any user. I wish the Scilab team good luck in their future workshops. The website '' provides complete details about activities regarding Scilab in India. Interested readers of my blog might want to check this site frequently for various events and materials regarding Scilab.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Roger Federer - The ATP World Tour Finals Champion

Roger Federer is the greatest ever player to have played Tennis in this planet. However, he is also human and mid-year slump started to become a worry. Fans and critics were equally worried if he would ever be able to beat Nadal. This doubt was partially cleared when Federer demolished Nadal with high quality Tennis at London O2 last night to lift the ATP world tour finals crown for the record equaling fifth time.

The most important feature of this achievement of Federer is that he was unbeaten in the whole event and in the process defeated 5 of the top 8 in the world. Except Nadal, no one could even steal a set from him. The manner in which he thumped quality players like Murray, Soderling and Djokovic  in straight sets was indeed a great sight. Nadal was in terrific form this season winning 3 grand slams and it took a special effort from the master to derail him in the last match of the season.

The title for Federer would surely keep him in good shape for defending his Australian open crown early next year. He was very aggressive in the whole tournament and used his backhand slice sparingly but effectively. The vintage Federer was clearly visible in the final against Nadal. Nadal, though tired, had little answer to the series of forehand and backhand winners Federer showered on him on all parts of the court.

Federer is 29 years old now and has good four to five years of top level tennis left in him. This is indeed a very good sign for Tennis and more youngsters would try to practice classic Tennis shots to succeed. I would like to see a single-handed backhand player like Federer and Sampras to rise to the top in few years. These players are a delight to watch. Federer's rise at the year end show down is a very promising sign for the future. Paul Annacone has contributed quite a bit to the renaissance of Federer.

The next year is going to be  not-so-easy for Federer as he would start the year trying to defend his crown at the Rod Laver Arena. Nadal is certainly in the form of his life. Murray has to transfer his immense skills to win key matches. Djokovic is bit inconsistent though he is a solid player on some days. Berdych, Soderling, Del Potro, and Roddick also are playing well. Australian open will be yet another challenge for Federer to sail through these guys.

Regaining No 1 crown seems to be a fair distance away as there are still more than 3000 points between Rafa and Federer. Seeing the incredible tennis played by both these guys, we are certainly going to have a treat in 2011 as the rivalry continues. Seeing the devastating form Federer displayed over the past week, I feel that he still has it in him to become the top player and rule the world for more time. 2010 clearly belongs to Rafa and Federer as they have won all the top tournaments between them. Year-end form shows that 2011 will not be much different either.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ATP World Tour Finals - Preview

ATP World Tour Finals (WTF) Tennis championship is just 3 days away at London O2. Top 8 players in the world are lined up for taking their momentum into next year. Last year's champion Nikolay Davydenko could not make it to top 8. The draws are out and there are 2 groups of 4 each. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, and Andy Roddick form the first group. Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and David Ferrer are in the second group. Top 2 from each group qualify for the semis. We shall now look at the chances of these players in this year's final tournament after which there is a 4 week break.

Nadal has had a great year with 3 grand slams to go with the world No1 crown. He is just coming off tendonitis and it would be interesting to see if he has lost any power because of this injury. Having said that, he is the favorite to win this tournament on current form. He is also placed in a relatively easy group which should see him sail easily into the semi finals. Djokovic cannot do anything right at this moment. Having lost his No 2 ranking to Federer, he is back to his No 3 days losing more finals than winning. He has the ability, but has the tendency to miss out in crucial matches. I expect Nadal and Berdych to give him tough matches. However, Nole normally screws up only on big matches.

Berdych is not in that great form since his heroics in French open and Wimbledon. He is a man to watch out for even though he has lost to innocuous opponents in last few months. His power hitting will be a treat to watch in hard courts. Roddick is not in good form either. He just made it to top 8 just because other contenders were worse than him. It is interesting to see how this ageing former world No 1 fares against the likes of Nadal and Djokovic. I expect Nadal and Djokovic to make it to semi finals from this group.

Federer was in good form in US open notwithstanding his unexpected loss to Djoker in the semi finals. He has won 2 crowns since then and the only blip being his loss to Monfils in BNP Paribas. He is not able to convert his match points in the recent past which has hurt him the most. We want to see the Federer of the past who used to grind the opponents down without lending any chance whatsoever. Murray is in bad form losing his No 4 ranking to Soderling. He has all the makings of next Tim Henman as his career is shaping up. He can defeat any player on his day and has the tendency to lose to any opponent as well. Lot of improvement needed in this tough group.

Soderling is the man to watch out for as the contender to lift the crown next only to Rafa. He has just won BNP Paribas Masters and is in good nick. He will certainly create problems to Federer and Murray in the round robin matches. Like Berdych, his power hitting should suit the hard courts in London. I expect him to reach the semis quite easily. David Ferrer is the dark horse in this group. I can not imagine him beating any of Federer, Murray or Soderling unless any of these players have a terrible off-day. Still he somehow scraped into top 8 and can surprise many if he gets into groove. I feel that Soderling and Federer will make it into the semis though Murray is also serious contender in this group.

Next week, it is going to be one final match-up between top players in the world with some interesting matches lined up. Also there are 1500 ATP ranking points at stake. I expected Federer and Nadal to clash in US open final. I am now eagerly waiting for another match between Federer and Nadal in the ATP WTF after more than a year. But there are other stunning players in the draw this year which can make this highly expected clash not to happen yet again. The champion will surely gain a lot of momentum into Australian open next year.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Goodbye, Vodafone!

I started using cellphone in 2003. Today I got one of the most stupid SMSes I have ever received. It was tough to make out what it meant for a while. It was written in English but the sentences were to be interpreted in Hindi. I was surprised that a professional company like Vodafone can send such an SMS to its pre-paid customer for past 7 years. I reproduce the SMS here.

"Jaruri soochna. Bharat sarkar ke naye niyamonke anusaar aapke khate ko update karne ke liye aapke recent documents ki jaroorat hai. Issliye aapke Vodafone number ki outgoing seva kal raddh ki jayegi. Iss seva ko activate karne ke liye kripya apne self attested identity proof, address proof, sim copy copy aur 1 passport size photograph, aapke nazdiki Vodafone store/Mini store mein jama kare. Saath mein original documents le jaye. Dhanyawad"

One can see how ridiculous the SMS is written. It roughly translates in plain English like this.

"Important Announcement. According to Government of India rule, your recent documents are required to update your account. For that, your outgoing call service will be barred tomorrow onwards. To activate this service, please submit your self attested identity proof, address proof, sim card copy and one passport size photograph in nearby Vodafone store/Mini store. Bring original documents along with these. Thank You."

I had already submitted all these documents while getting my pre-paid SIM. I had resubmitted them some 4 years back when they asked. This propelled me to ask many questions to the customer care executive whom I called immediately after understanding what this silly SMS meant. Here are they.

1. Recent documents are required by you again and you have lost the already submitted documents somewhere, why to cut my outgoing call service for your blunder?

2. Is it not your fault to activate my connection for 7 years without submitting proper documents to the government?

3. What did you morons do with my already submitted documents twice? Did you give connections to someone else on my documents?

4. If at all the documents are required again, is it not your duty to send your representative to my address to collect them if I agree to give?

5. If I want to terminate your connection right away, how can I get back the remaining amount in my pre-paid account?

The customer care fellow did not give proper explanation to any of these queries. It has become a routine for these mobile service providers to blackmail the customers at arbitrary times for the mess they themselves create due to their fraudulent activities.

I am fed up with such unethical behavior of Vodafone. I finally decided not to submit any of the documents to Vodafone. I will submit them to some other provider like MTNL to get a new connection. I will use this Vodafone number for incoming calls till they terminate that also. I will spend the remaining amount in this prepaid account while roaming by receiving calls.

Goodbye, Vodafone!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Swarnalatha's Hits

One of the most versatile singers of Tamil film songs, Swarnalatha expired last week. Here is few of her songs which I like the most. We will miss her for sure.

1. Maalayil Yaaro - Kshatriyan

2. Ennai Thottu - Unnai Nenaichen Paattu Padichen

3. Usilampatti Penkutti - Gentleman

4. Chinnanchiru Killiye - Neethikku Thandanai

5. Maya Machindra - Indian

6. Hai Rama - Rangeela

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

US Open 2010 - Preview

US open, the last Grand Slam of the year, starts in less than a week from now. US open courts are the fastest among the slams and suit big servers a lot. Defending champion Del Potro has officially withdrawn from the men's singles championship. Seeding were announced yesterday. Now the qualifiers are going on and the draws are scheduled to be out on 26th August. Irrespective of how the draws pan out, here we shall look at the potential contenders for the US open crown this year.

Rafael Nadal is the world No 1 and is seeded No 1 in US open as well. He is the reigning French and Wimbledon champion and he is the clear favorite for US open title. If he wins US open this year, he would be completing the career slam as only the seventh person to do so. His hard court form is not that great having been knocked out of Rogers cup and Cincinnati Masters. However there are rumours that US open court might be slowed down for reasons unknown. If that happens, one need not look beyond Nadal for this year's champion.

Roger Federer regained his world No 2 ranking last week. He has been in good form in hard court events like Rogers cup and Cincinnati masters. He seems to have come out of the shock defeats he had to endure in French Open and Wimbledon this year. He is still the Australian Open champion and fancies his chances in faster courts where his serve and volley approach works quite well. He has no pressure whatsoever entering US open, as he is neither the defending champion nor the world No 1. Federer certainly has the form and history (five time champion at US open) to see him through.

Andy Murray, the British hope, was in terrific form at Toronto where he defeated Federer to take the title. However he got beaten up by unseeded Fish at Cincinnati. Murray has a good all round game which simply suits hard courts. As always, media pressure mounts on him once he reaches the semi finals of the slams. US open also won't be that different. If he can surpass the outside pressures, Murray can not get a better opportunity to lift a Grand Slam crown which he fully deserves.

Novak Djokovic is a good player. That is all about him. I stopped having any great expectation about him as he has the habit of getting kicked out surrendering meekly to arbitrary opponents. On his day, Djokovic can defeat any player on earth. He is too inconsistent to expect him to lift the US open crown. There are quite a few valid points behind backing Djokovic to enter the semi finals atleast.

Robin Soderling is a good player with great forehand and he also lacks consistency. Andy Roddick is growing old and his game has become too predictable. Tomas Berdych is improving with every slam and he has the game to surprise a few top ranked guys. Nikolay Davydenko is a fighter and I do not expect him to go too far into the torunament. Fernando Verdasco has the game to trouble even Nadal, but on present form he stands less chance against top ranked players.There are other potentially good players on hard courts like Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic, David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt who can trouble the top seeds on their day.

I expect the top 4 ranked players to reach the semi finals of US open this year. From there on, it will be any body's title. Nadal is slightly ahead of others in the title race. I would back Federer to win this US open to add to his already five wins at the Arthur Ashe stadium. We are in for a treat during the first two weeks of September and some great matches are about to be played. I am geared up to witness another potential final between Federer and Nadal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting for the Mahatma by R K Narayan - Book Review

R K Narayan's novels, which involve various types of people from a fictitious town called Malgudi, are a delight to read. "Waiting for the Mahatma" is another realistic novel set during the freedom struggle days. I was surprised by noting R K Narayan handling a romance genre in his novel. However after reading this novel, I am amazed how well he brings out the emotions in romance as well. This novel is a stunning representation of freedom struggle movement and its impact on the lives of numerous Indian people.

The novel is about a boy of age around twenty called Sriram. He lives with his grandmother in Malgudi. Sriram tries to explore the outside world himself to figure out what interests him the most. He is drawn towards a beautiful and patriotic girl called Bharati in a local festival. He tries to woo her and comes to know that she is working under Mahatma Gandhi for the freedom struggle. He somehow manages to sneak into the freedom struggle movement even though he has no clue initially what it is for. The story unfolds as the experience of a conservative guy entering social life and his romance with a bold and beautiful girl.

Sriram deserts his old grandmother and travels across different villages of rural India along with Bharati to spread the message of the Mahatma. His encounters with different set of people like the shopkeeper who sells foreign imported biscuits is amusing. Sriram comes in contact with a terrorist called Jagadish and the consequences of his associations with him have been realistically portrayed. At some point of time both Sriram and Bharati are destined to be shut in jail indefinitely. Whether Sriram could get the acceptance of Bharati to marry her and whether Mahatma approved their marriage are interestingly narrated.

The best aspect of this novel is the capture of the simplicity of the India and its citizen prior to gaining independence. The ongoing freedom struggle which alters the lives of different people like Sriram makes one feel about the numerous citizens who were forced to abandon their families for their country. The comedy of errors associated with the death of grandmother are thoroughly enjoyable. The novel also provides an insight into the minds of cunning people like Jagadish who manipulate and drag others into their troublesome ways. Having Mahatma and Netaji as characters in the story adds credibility to the story.

Though the backdrop of the story is freedom struggle, R K Narayan makes it relatively light through his impeccable narrative style. The caring grandmother and the shopkeeper Kanni are characters one can easily find in Indian villages even today. I enjoyed the novel as much as any other novel of R K Narayan. The manner in which he brings out the subtle emotions associated with romance is brilliant. I doubt whether any of the present Indian writers have the capacity to match Narayan. This novel is a must read for anyone who wants to delve into the lives of Indian citizen before independence.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Roger on the Move

Roger Federer regained his World No 2 ranking last week in Toronto. But he lost to Murray in a rain-interrupted final. He looked in better shape last week. Today, he enters Cincinnati Masters as the defending champion. With US open just more than a week away, there is very less time for Federer to regroup and regain his lost momentum. He was nearly unbeatable in US open for 5 years till Del Potro defeated him in the marathon final last year. Does Federer has any realistic chance of winning US open?

At the age of 29, Federer needs to be more accurate to compensate for his lost agility. The serve seems to have lost some of the sting it had during his years at the top. This was quite evident in his final loss to Murray in Toronto 2 days back. The ease with which Murray repeatedly broke Federer's serve was appalling. In a fast court like US open, the accuracy and speed of serve plays a major role as most points won with serve. Federer certainly needs to fine tune his serve. These are the areas which Federer needs to fight within himself.

There are opponents who feared once upon a time facing Federer. Same guys are increasingly confident of beating Federer nowadays. The list includes Nadal, Murray, Soderling, Berdych, Del Potro, Djokovic to name a few. These guys, except Nadal, were repeatedly beaten up by Federer in the Grandslams few years back. Federer having started using his backhand more often now gives power hitters enough fodder to pounce on his returns. Now reaching semi finals of a grand slam has not been a formality for Federer.

Rogers Masters at Toronto revealed that Murray, Djokovic and Berdych are confident of stretching Federer in even the fastest courts. The Cincinnati Masters which is presently underway will give more insight as to where Federer stands in the favorite list to lift the US open crown. Having said that, I feel all is not lost for Federer as yet. He has hired a new coach, Annacone, who has the experience of coaching champions like Pete Sampras.

I feel that self-doubt which comes with age is the only problem Federer is facing at present. If he overcomes that, he has it in him to lift few more slams and even reach World No 1 again. Federer was in similar situation in 2008. He bounced back superbly to lift 2 slams in 2009 besides reaching the finals of the other two. Further, he is the reigning Australian open champion.

These facts are enough to motivate Federer to have another go at the US open. I expect stiff fight for Federer to reach even the semi final of US open. Having watched Federer all these years, I feel that he has it in him to emerge victorious in the second week of September. The tennis fans are, nevertheless, going to have a treat yet again for a couple of weeks from August 30th. I am eager to join the fun cheering for the one and only Roger Federer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wimbledon 2010 - Preview

Wimbledon - The Grass Slam, is just 2 days away. The draws were out yesterday for the Men's singles. Barring any upsets, the draw for Quarter-final should be Roger Federer-Nikolay Davydenko, Novak Djokovic-Andy Roddick, Andy Murray-Fernando Verdasco,  and Rafael Nadal-Robin Soderling. This Wimbledon is going to be very interesting as Nadal has returned to his best and is a serious contender to challenge defending champion Federer.

Federer is not in any sort of dream run since Australian open in January which has already cost him the No 1 ranking. However, he enters Wimbledon as No 1 seed thanks to his superior performance in grass over the past two years. He suffered a shock defeat to Lleyton Hewitt last week in a match he should have won comfortably. But it is too early to write off Federer as he comes with something special in Wimbledon every year. It was evident in last year's final when he defeated Roddick even when not playing that well. Federer is not 100% certain to win this year, but he will surely try to fight his way towards the glory.

Nadal is on a dream run after returning from his injury. He regained French Open and also the No 1 ranking. The only blip being his loss to Feliciano Lopez last week. I feel that only Federer has the game to consistently challenge Nadal on grass or any surface for that matter. I expect Nadal to cruise in to the semi-finals of Wimbledon without much trouble. He would meet Soderling in Quarter finals if Soderling is able to survive till then. That match would be an interesting one. Nadal would be fully geared up to cement his No 1 ranking by winning Wimbledon this year.

It is a mystery why Murray has not yet won a Grand Slam. He has the game to win a Grand Slam in grass/hard court. Media gives too much hype to Murray whenever he reaches a semi-final and he eventually gets beaten up. I hope Murray comes up with his best and the insane British media keeps quiet this time around. If Murray plays to his potential, I will fancy chances of Murray bumping out Nadal in the semis.

Roddick should have won the Wimbledon crown last year. He really deserved it having played some wonderful tennis. His form has dipped since then and I am not sure how he would fare this year. We need to wait and see his form in the first few matches to check if he can go the distance.

Djokovic is the joker of tennis. After watching his matches of Djokovic for so many years, I am still not sure what his strengths are. He loses to insignificant opponents often from winning positions and rarely ends up troubling the top seeds. If he meets Roddick in Quarters according to the draw, I would give 70-30 chance in favour of Roddick as he is a more complete player in grass than Djokovic.

Soderling is not that effective in grass and Davydenko is pretty inconsistent. Verdasco is a fighting player rather than a dominating player. There is very little chance that these guys would trouble other top seeds. Tsonga, Berdych and Cilic are also good players who can give a fight. However, I expect Lleyton Hewitt to trouble the top seeds this time. He has just beaten Federer on grass. He would certainly believe that he can beat Djokovic in the fourth round.

Wimbledon this year would be a tough fight for the glory among these players. On past history and form, Federer and Nadal should match up in the final. If that happens, we would definitely get an amazing final to watch.

Monday, June 07, 2010

French Open 2010 - Review

As expected, Rafael Nadal has won fifth Roland Garros title by blasting away Robin Soderling in straight sets. By doing so, he has regained the No 1 position in the world. Nadal has stopped Roger Federer at 285 weeks as No 1 just 1 week lesser than Pete Sampras. This French Open had quite a few surprises, however the climax was hardly surprising. Rafa, the king of clay, is again on the top of the world. Though the way he plays tennis does not please many tennis fans, his power-hitting does the job at the end of the day.

Soderling played well throughout the tournament but could not repeat his heroics against Nadal. This kind of inconsistency is what separates great players from the mortal ones. Soderling has some more distance to go before he can consistently challenge the top players. Federer did not have a great title defense. Still, he did not play that badly either. Soderling played exceptionally went exploiting the rainy climate to defeat Federer. Federer would now gear up to defend his title at Wimbledon on his favorite grass court.

The disappointments of the tournament are obviously Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, ranked 3rd and 4th respectively. While Murray went down to Berdych in a spectacular capitulation, Djokovic made himself look stupid when he lost to Melzer after winning first 2 sets and a break up in the third. Djokovic is slowly turning out to be a real joker and  any player would fancy his chance to beat Djokovic. Murray has been relegated to more of a pedestrian player in the clay court and should have been in first round by Richard Gasquet. It would be interesting to see how these two fare in Wimbledon.

Andy Roddick also suffered a surprise loss to an unseeded player which was not an ideal way to exit a Grand Slam. Jurgen Melzer and Tomas Berdych are decent players, but may not reach a Grand Slam semi-final ever. Other clay court specialists like Fernando Gonzalez, David Ferrer, and Juan Carlos Ferrero lost without troubling any top players which was bit of a surprise. Nicolas Almagro played some good tennis and with some more effort could have defeated Nadal.

Wimbledon starts in just 2 weeks from now and in faster courts, one would expect players like Murray, Roddick, Djokovic and Tsonga to play aggressive tennis. The king of grass, Federer, will also try to regain his No 1 ranking in Wimbledon. Nadal will again challenge him. Wimbledon will definitely provide some power-packed tennis and I expect some surprises there as well. I just hope that Federer comes back to his own and treats his fans to some great tennis.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Books from Simon Singh

Here are the books which I read/have been reading over the past few weeks. All the books are written by Simon Singh. Simon Singh is a great writer with deep insight on scientific history.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Airtel Super Singer Junior 2

Airtel Super Singer Junior 2 (ASSJ2) is a singing competition (reality show) telecast in Star Vijay 9-10PM from Monday till Thursday. This competition is entering finals the winner of which will get a home worth Rs 25 Lakhs. The judges of this competition are Chitra, Mano and Malgudi Subha.  There are also a few part time judges. Apart from prize money, this competition features some of the best child singers. I used to watch this one when I was at home for few days. Courtesy another blogger, I am able to watch ASSJ2 regularly over Internet.

ASSJ2 has already 3 finalists - Alka, Roshan and Shravan, all of them are amazing singers. One wildcard finalist will be announced tomorrow to make it four finalists. In my opinion, Priyanka deserves to join as the fourth finalist. Anyway, it will be decided based on public voting. Other worthy singers to become fourth finalist are Srinisha and Nithyashree. I think they keep bringing Srikanth every now and then just to increase ASSJ2's TRP using his comic antics.

Though ASSJ2 is well received and features some of the best child singers in Tamil Nadu, I was not very happy with some of the decisions made by the judges. There is another singing competition conducted by SPB in Kalaignar TV called Vanambadi which is of the highest quality. These competitions have made many young people take up singing. ASSJ2 is more fun and I am eagerly waiting to watch the finals of ASSJ2.

Shravan is a very good singer with strong voice and carnatic background. Roshan has a melodious voice and it is always very pleasant to hear his songs. Priyanka (if she qualifies) has also a great voice and she excels in melodies than anyone else. However, I believe that Alka will become the Super Singer because of her versatility and flawless singing ability.  It will surely be a treat to watch these four compete to win the grand prize. I am expecting few more great performances by the best child singers of Tamil Nadu over the next few weeks.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Crossword Vs Flipkart

Reading general books had never been my passion till 2007. I have a huge collection of technical books, many of which I use as reference and rarely read them sequentially.  I had no clue then why people were so crazy about reading fiction and non-fiction books. As a part of my syllabus for Hindi exams I had read quite a few novels by the likes of Premchand. Those books did not interest me so much to make reading these novels a habit.

I did not know what to do with my huge collection of technical books due to lack of motivation and mindset to read. Many of the books I own, I could not understand much and did not have that much patience to hang on with them. I shifted my focus towards reading fiction and non-fiction books. I initially used to go to Crossword book stores to look into the books and buy a few. Though I could view the books inside for a longer period of time before buying, Crossword never used to give any discount on the books. Their membership program also was not that worth monetarily to join. Odyssey is one such shop located in many malls.

Then I came across some online bookstores like Fabmall which were not that established before 2006 and the discounts were less. We have a campus bookstore called Book World enterprises which provides 15% discount on any book. I used to check if a particular book is available there before proceeding to Crossword. However in the last few years, the growth of online bookstores has been phenomenal. Fabmall became Indiaplaza. Flipkart and Infibeam also joined the race. Slowly Flipkart has overtaken others and is now pioneering the online book trade in India.

The only drawback with bookstores like Crossword is that they do not give any discount for the books. For a low paid person like me, it hurts a lot to buy books at MRP. After much speculation, I have decided look inside the books using Amazon or Google books and based on the user ratings/comments in Amazon I would judge the book. Mostly this approach has worked for me rather than going to Crossword where I would be oblivious to what other readers feel about a particular book. I have been able to land on very nice books on varied subjects by proper researching on the online user comments.

I nowadays order books from Flipkart whose service is amazing. They deliver most of the books in 3 days with upto 30% discount on any book. There is Cash On Delivery option as well which is quite helpful at a nominal fee of Rs 10 per book. Further I do not like the book I would be buying to be turned over by hundreds of customers which is the case in retail bookstores like Crossword, Odyssey etc. On the other hand, online bookstores supply a fresh copy with nice packaging at my doorsteps.

I think there would surely be a time in future when the retail bookstores have to come up with new tricks like discount  in order to stay in touch with the online bookstores. It is a healthy competition for voracious readers who would get very good discounts on the books of their interest. When the original prints of a particular book itself is available in discounted price, people would slowly move away from the pirated copies which would certainly be a welcome change.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh - Book Review

Fermat's Last Theorem - The story of a riddle that confounded the world's greatest minds for 358 years is a science history book written by Simon Singh. Being a PhD graduate from Cambridge himself, Simon Singh has written this book with so much simplicity that even a person without any mathematical background can appreciate the content. This book is one of its kind as it addresses only one theorem from the start to end. It narrates the struggles Andrew Wiles had to undergo before proving the theorem completely in 1995. This book also gives an account of other mathematicians who were involved.

Fermat's last theorem is nothing but an extension of the Pythogoras theorem. Fermat claimed that there are no whole number (non-zero) solution (x,y,z) for the equation
for n>2 upto n=infinity. Fermat was a mischievous mathematician who rarely gave complete proof for his theorems. He, therefore, claimed that he had a complete proof for this theorem and died before disclosing the solution. The race for proving this theorem started soon after.

This book starts from around 500BC when Pythogorean brotherhood headed by Pythogoras were the front runners in the mathematics. They formed a close community and did not let any of their inventions to the society. Singh has nicely illustrated the incident where Pythogoras executed his own student for proving that there were irrational numbers. Pythogorean brotherhood got eventually destroyed by another student who had been ignored citing his incompetence.

This book has a few more very interesting events like how Taniyama committed suicide before proving his own conjecture which would have eventually proved Fermat's last theorem. Also, there is an interesting account of Wolfskehl whose life was saved by Fermat's last theorem and about the award instituted by him for the person who would solve Fermat's last theorem. Further, the book lucidly explains the complexity of the theorem itself and the various failure attempts in proving it.

The most stunning part of the book is related to Andrew Wiles, the Princeton Professor, who secluded himself from the research community and conferences to focus on achieving his childhood dream, i.e. to prove Fermat's last theorem. The logical reasoning as explained in the book which Wiles took in order to prove the theorem would appeal even to people who have limited exposure to rigorous mathematics. 

The turmoils and pressures he faced after 1993 when it was found by the reviewers that there was a small gap in his initial proof are really well narrated. All the key persons involved in the proof apart from Wiles like Nick Katz, Shimura, Ken Ribet, Richard Taylor and others explain the steps taken by Wiles in their own words. This makes the book even more accessible and credible. The book concludes by giving an account of how Wiles finally releases his paper with the complete proof of Fermat's last theorem in 1995.

On the whole, I loved reading every page of this book. I just completed reading this amazing book on a classical theorem. Simon Singh is an amazing writer and keeps the reader engrossed throughout. This book is highly recommended and is a must read for anyone interested in learning about a great mathematical theorem and its proof. Even people with just high school mathematics knowledge would love this book. I am already into reading Simon Singh's other books: The Code Book and Big Bang. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications

Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications

By Richard Szeliski

The final draft of the big book on Computer Vision by Richard Szeliski is finally out. It contains enormous number of applications and algorithms. It is great that the ebook is available free of cost. This book should really be a delightful read for any Computer Vision researcher or practitioner.

French Open 2010 - Preview

I found this preview in Mint.  Please have a look.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ICC T20 WC Disaster

As expected, India has been blown away from the ICC T20 World cup for the second year in a row. Here are some of the reasons why India got kicked out in rather embarrasing manner.

1. IPL - It played havoc in Indian players' fitness and skills. The team was picked mainly based on IPL performances and all the flat track bullies made it to the squad. It didn't help that the players played against each other in IPL.

2. Reluctance to Learn - India made the same mistake last year and got hammered. One has to learn from mistakes.

3. Bounce - Indian players have pathetic technique while playing fast short pitched deliveries. Players dont try to learn how to play such balls. Even players like Raina are content with thrashing sixes on flat tracks.

4. Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj - All these 3 players should not have been in the squad based on form or skill.

5. Lack of Pace - India left out fast men like Ishant and picked military medium guys on pacy, bouncy tracks.

6. Commitment to National Team - Players were worried rather very much during losses in IPL matches. I didn't see any emotion on losing for the nation. Money matters more than national pride.

7. Crowd support - Except the final super eight where west indian crowd wanted India to win, they hardly got any support. But the players didn't realize that  entire nation is supporting them watching TV.

On the whole, it was a shame to exit a global tournament without putting up any fight. I hope that here onwards Indian players are more committed to National team than some crap event like IPL which hardly tests true skill of any player.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Australian Open Final - Preview

After 10 days of tennis, the big match everyone awaits is scheduled on Sunday. The best players of Australian open this year, Federer and Murray, will clash to get the grand slam crown. Federer has already achieved a lot and is incomparable in tennis open era. Though not in his prime, he is still able to produce some of his gems every now and then. Murray is a British tennis hope. He has to somehow win one grand slam title for the British and he would be glorified as the greatest ever to have played tennis immediately.

Both the players are in top form. One should expect an electrifying final. Murray leads head-to-head 6-4 with Federer. As everyone is aware, Federer always tends to raise his game on big matches. Federer disposed Murray in straight sets to win the US open 2008 title. Murray is very young and manages to take out some top ranked players in the grand slams. This year also he eliminated Rafa from the Australian open.

The major weakness for Murray is the ridiculously high media hype. As Federer told after defeating Tsonga today, "I know [Murray] would like to win the first for British tennis in... what is it? Like 150,000 years?", British media is crazy about Murray. This sort of hype has already ruined the career of a good player called Tim Henman. One has to wait and watch how Murray is going to handle all this. Murray has the game and tactics to defeat Federer consistently, execution is the major problem on big events.

Federer does not have anything to lose in the Final. Just by being  positive and keeping Murray under constant pressure, he can sail through it. His touch was evident in the way he defeated Tsonga today. Murray also expects a tight match with Federer. Murray is not a left hander like Nadal to trouble Federer on his backhand.  An advantage Murray has is that he has 2 days rest before the final while Federer has only one. Given that Federer hardly sweat today, it should not be a major concern.

All these facts make the Sunday's Final very special. Murray has to play for the pride of his country and Federer has nothing to lose. I expect a very tight finish to the final and somehow get a feeling that Federer will have to fight using all his experience and skill to defeat Murray. As a die-hard Federer fan, I would love to see Federer getting his 16th grand slam title at the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday. Murray might come with other plans though.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Google Crawler - Please find me!

Google crawler crawls through the web and helps the Google search to index the web pages. My site was up on a different url till few months back, it was visible in Google search. When the url got changed, my site vanished from Google search, though it appeared in Rediff search.

Thanks to Swanand and Nikhil, I used some script in my index.html page and also verified the site with Google webmasters few days back. These activities also did not propel the Google web crawler to visit my site till now. I read in help that my site has to be linked from some other sites in order to be visited by the crawler. Here is my silly request to the Google crawler.

Hey Google crawler!

Here is my complete information. Please visit and index my site as soon as possible. :)

Shanmuganathan Raman 
Research Scholar, Indian Institute of Technology IIT Bombay

I hope this works and my website appears in Google search soon. Any other suggestions to make my site appear in Google search are most welcome.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Plans for 2010

New Year 2010 has arrived and I also turned one year older a couple of days back. I wonder what is in store for me in 2010. The year 2009 had been a mixed year for me. Lot of achievements and struggles to keep up with the not so pleasant march towards another three letters near my name (or two letters before my name). Following the plans for 2009 did not help the matters much, although it helped me endure some of the critical situations. Here are the new set of plans for 2010.

  1. I started reading a couple of technical books and papers. I usually get quite a bit of doubts/queries when reading some of the great technical books I own which get answered over time. I hope to dig more into some technical things to keep myself busy and rejuvenated.
  2. Lot of fiction/non-fiction books I had bought remain unread still. I have to read them one by one and complete atleast by the end of this year. These include some of the novels by RK Narayan.
  3. I plan to release myself completely from the prison I presently reside and get a new lease of life outside sometime this year. Need to put some effort on that front as well ignoring some crap issues which turn up every now and then.
  4. I am totally turned off with the academic research based on the motto of Publish or Perish. I feel that I need to stay away from this stuff for a while after I complete formalities here. I plan to put attempts towards improving my general creativity skills. That should make my life really blissful!
  5. Started listening to a lot of old hindi film songs especially by Rafi. His voice is divine. I plan to build a collection of his memorable hits and dump in my Tsonic player.
  6. I need to have fun as usual with the rapidly increasing number of friends. Trouble PD, Shwaana a little more. Learn some spiritual fundamentals from Harsha. Apart from having plans to add more people of the other gender as friends, I plan to roam more.
  7. Having already become quite adept at cooking, I want to explore more on that front with new vegetarian recipes. I have even aspirations to become a cook at home in future.
  8. Providing moral support to Federer The King in his 2010 expeditions. I am sure Federer would deliver some more memorable matches in 2010.
  9. Slowly stop following T20 and one day cricket and restrict myself to only test cricket.
  10. I hope to continue my table tennis assignments with RamP. I plan to improve my Table Tennis game by adding different new shots in my repertoire.

Wish you a Happy New Year!