Categories
Tech and Culture

NC State webmail service compromised

One of last week’s major event was the compromise of the NCSU Webmail system by hackers. What is surprising to me is the fact that the hackers had an IRC server running on 2 webmail servers for about 5 days before the IT Department staff noticed that the attackers might have captured user passwords.

The NCSU ITD system news bulletin has more information on the event. The NCSU password change facility was bogged down due to excessive network load after emails were sent to those that might have been affected by the exploit.

It seems that the attach was based on an April 2005 advisory posted on the Internet. It is named “Cacti Remote Command Execution Vulnerability”, and basically exposes vulnerability in the Cacti graphing tool. Cacti is a an RRDtool based package that uses mySQL databases to record various statistics about the network/server.

It is amazing to find out in conversations that some people do not change their passwords regularly, or have really funny password management tactics. Some people still use their SSN as passwords. Everyone should follow the guidelines on this website to choose passwords !

Categories
Life and Personal

This Blog now uses rss2pdf

For all those who like my weblog so much that they wish to read it offline, I now have a way of getting a printout ready aggregate. Please click on this link to check it out !

The software works great, and I love it !

Addendum: Thanks for the nice comment, Tom! After I posted this, I read about Google making available RSS and Atom feeds of their Google News service. I think this coupled with Tom’s rss2pdf service makes a very interesting combination. It would now be possible to generate your own newspaper by aggregating feeds from Google News and other such services, and then using rss2pdf to print them out!

Am I the only one very impressed with the way the web is evolving ?!

Categories
Tech and Culture

Using trees to power our cars – Is it a good idea ?

Just read on Yahoo! News that a research group at the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho is working on replacing oil with wood as a primary fuel.

Now, the news report lacks substantial technical information, but my guess is that these guys are using Pyrolysis to generate bio-oil from wood. Of course, I would try to gather some more information from their webpages/publications, but for now, going by the article, pyrolysis seems to be the only way this is possible.

This makes me wonder. What is the purpose of even doing this type of research? I can understand using waste bio material to generate fuel, but cutting trees to generate oil, or as the news report puts it, quicken the natural process of crude oil formation seems a little irresponsible to me. Deforestation is a serious issue, and I doubt that using trees to power our SUVs is going to help solve anything.

I wish that more research was done from a practical viewpoint rather than just to get published.

Categories
India Life and Personal

When newspapers lose their mind …

The Times of India has been under a lot of fire from bloggers recently for making a “pseudo-mockery” of the Mumbai floods by posting sound-bytes from their star readers about not being able to read their favorite newspaper in the morning. The first blog post that I came across about this was at Indianwriting.

Marooned without Times of India, Mumbai edition

I do not expect this from a newspaper like The Times of India that takes pride in being the 24th largest newspaper in the world with a circulation of 1,680,000. Gimmicks like this do not set up a good precedent for the print media. I wonder why a reputed newspaper like TOI would sink down to such a depth when I doubt it is going to bolster their readership/circulation.

While I am at this, I would like to point out that the same blog ridicules TOI for touting DNA as a unique newspaper, when in fact it is nothing but a copy of other good dailies in Mumbai.

Seems like TOI needs to get their act straight.

Link: http://greatbong.blogspot.com/2005/07/courage-in-rains.html

Categories
India Life and Personal Tech and Culture

Mobile text messaging as a means of broadcasting information in times of disaster

Mobile cell phone usage is burgeoning in urban India. No matter how much we criticize the lack of disaster recovery systems in our expansive country, it is still noteworthy that inspite of record breaking rainfall and the accompanying destruction, communication services went down for a very limited time in Mumbai. People still had Internet access, as is evident from the “live” blog reports available on the Internet. Apparently, the following SMS message was sent at the behest of the Police Commissioner of Mumbai:

Due to heavy rains, water logging likely in city n suburbs. Pls donot travel unless absolutely essential. Police Commissioner, Mumbai

This made me wonder about the importance of a cellular communication network in times like this. It is much more easier and reliable to broadcast SMS messages than to sound warning alarms across the city. The pervasiveness of cellphones means that a lot more people are likely to read an SMS message than to watch the TV for breaking news.

Categories
Economy

How to conduct an error-free shuttle launch …

NASA launch

Categories
India

Death toll reaches 696 in Maharashtra floods

The death toll is still rising and stands at 696 as of today. This is a really sad natural calamity that begun on July 26th and was unlike any other monsoon rainfall experienced in India. 944 mm of rainfall was received on the first day itself in the Mumbai metropolis!

Luckily, my family had planned to be away from Mumbai much before this rain and did not have to face any difficulties. One of my cousins did, however, have to get to Mumbai on the 26th for a medical exam/interview and was lucky enough not to be stranded at the airport as it was still functional on the first day of heavy rains.

Flickr has many photo galleries covering the floods.

I can only imagine the plight of the poor and the lower middle class in coping with this unwarranted natural disaster. I extend my prayers in support of everyone hit by these rains, and hope that everything returns to normal again.

Addendum: Wikipedia has excellent coverage of the floods.

AP is reporting that the official death toll is at 910.

Categories
Life and Personal

Why are some people the way they are ?

I have had numerous roommates during my tenure at NC State University as a grad student. They have been from all parts of India too, and after some time I am beginning to realize certain “stereotypes”, if you will, about Indians based on where they come from. Sure, I might fall under a bad stereotype too, but it is always almost impossible to deduce something negative about yourself.

I am not going to name people here. I went to India this summer with the premise that I might not come back immediately to the US. Hence, I sold all my basic stuff, like furniture, electronics etc. before going on the vacation. I had an Asian roommate and an Indian roommate, who had plans to move out at the beginning of summer, and had hence expressed interest in buying my furniture. Long story short, when I come back I realize that the apartment is in a mess, there are condiments just fallen to the floor in the kitchen, the stove is messy, and the bedroom he vacated is in a mess. And on top of it, all my stuff that I hadn’t even sold was missing ! I tried to get in touch with him a couple times, but it was futile. One of these days I am going to get all my basic stuff back from him though.

What irks me most is that I was responsible enough to transfer the utilities and take care of everything before going away, whereas this person just cancels everything even though he knew I was coming back, or that people would still be living here even if I didn’t come back immediately. This is very irresponsible in my opinion. All it takes is one email to let people know about your intentions. Luckily, I knew something like this was going to happen (stereotypes) so I got an electricity connection in my name pro-actively.

I do not really mind if a person assumes that I am not coming back and takes away even things like the $3 trashcan or the $2 mop, but it would be great to get an email about this, and possibly some sort of permission. Besides, the premise for any such transaction is the understanding that the person vacating would spruce up atleast his bedroom in lieu of all this. I do not expect a person to hide or come back to the apartment to get his remaining stuff, but not show his face.

At the same time, I really like my Asian roommate. He isn’t even in the US, but I get his rent checks before the due date. His sisters are very courteous and considerate, and make it a point to send me the checks in time. He will have been living with me for more than a year now.

I just wish people realized that small actions sometimes go a long way in life …

Categories
Life and Personal

We need a “War on Climate”

The east coast is facing a heat wave right now with temperatures soaring to triple digits. Wednesday and Thursday saw the maximum temperature exceed 101 degrees and the heat index reach 110 degrees at Raleigh. The ozone levels have been really alarming, and the heat has taken its toll on homeless people. The local Govt. has set up “heat shelters” where people could enjoy some air conditioned space. Amazingly, the heat wave has spawned an unusual crime wave too !

In India, Bombay was recently hit with one of the worst monsoons in its history. Airports, railway stations, businesses…everything was shut down due to floods and people were marooned in their homes.

Earlier this year, we had snowfall in the UAE.

Makes you wonder what’s going on …

Categories
Life and Personal

The GM Diet

One interesting experience I had on my visit to India this summer was seeing the popularity of a weight loss diet program called “The GM Diet“. Almost everyone I know had tried this diet atleast once and seen great results in a week.

I, personally, am not a fan of diets (could also have to do with my lazy lifestyle), but I did try to find more information about this scheme, and was amazed to find very little information online. In fact, the link above is the only comprehensive webpage I was able to find that explained the origins as well as procedure for adapting this diet.

On the outset, the diet looks pretty good, and is different from other low carb diets. It is more “Indian diet friendly” as it includes a lot of fruits and vegetables that Indians eat anyway. From what I have been told, the beef could be easily substitued with any other high protein substance like tofu.

Maybe it is time for me to give it a shot …