Google PlusFacebookTwitter

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

By on Sep 22, 2009 in Personal | 14 comments

So ‘The Day’ is finally here. In a few hours, I will be flying cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows towards a new town which will be a home away from for me for the next few years. Yes folks, I’m leaving India today to join University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. I’m joining the four-year BEng Electronics & Computer engineering course there. (This course is a mix of both hardware as well as software related subjects.) As I do some last-minute packing at this ungodly hour, I can’t help but feel excited and nostalgic at the same time! My journey towards joining University of Surrey began many moons ago, in the beginning of 2009. UK-based universities used a centralized application system called UCAS, and that’s where I began. UCAS allows you to apply to a maximum of five universities – my choices were Surrey, Aberystwyth (Wales), Kent, Aston, and Cardiff (not necessarily in that order). To cut a long story short (I feel sleepy!), I got offer letters from all five universities by mid-May. I now needed to pick one of these. Surrey¬† is one of the best universities in UK for electronics engineering / computer science. Surrey’s faculty of electronic engineering is at the cutting-edge of research in the field, including working closely with Surrey Satellite Technology, a spin-off from the university’s Surrey Space Centre which has worked on major projects such as the European Space Agency’s rival to GPS. Surrey county is also where many electronics and software firms have their headquarters. Surrey, thus, was by far my first preference among the universities I applied to. Around the end of May, University of Surrey’s Director of Student Recruitment Dr Peter Marshall (who was a professor in the faculty of electronic engineering before taking this administrative position) visited New Delhi. (This was after I had got my offer letters from all universities.) I met up with him for a chat, and by the end of that meeting I felt that Surrey was the right choice for me. I accepted by the end of the day (via UCAS). I must thank Prannoy ‘Pony’ Sablok, a DPS VK senior and Code Warrior currently studying at Aston University for all his guidance during the application process. Then began the paperwork. I received my visa letter from Surrey towards the start of July. I applied for my visa on 17th July, and just three day later – on my birthday – I got my visa. :D That was a pleasant surprise, since visa processing generally takes around two weeks! My university is situated in the town of Guildford is approximately half an hour away from London by rail / road. I solemnly deny that the fact that Douglas Adams had a soft spot for Surrey (the county) had anything to do with my decision to join Surrey (the university). Arthur Dent stays in Leatherhead, Surrey; Woking is ‘the word for when you go to the kitchen but forget why’; Ford Prefect is (supposedly) from Guildford…and so on. More references to Surrey in popular culture can be found in Harry Potter, Lara Croft, and War of the Worlds. The past few weeks have been spent meeting relatives and school friends. Had a great time participating in the AIIMS college fest Pulse 2009 with ex-DPS VK Quiz Club members Rachit and Varun! (Came second in general trivia quiz, first on movie quiz, third in science quiz.) Making goofy faces at the Code Warriors reunion (more photos from CW Reunion 2009 here)… …total vellapunti… Stationary on an escalator gyaan.in, the associated meetup, technology (un)conferences have kept me busy too. Which reminds me, i’ve been working on the draft of a novel too. Shshshsh… No more details yet. One thing that I have realized is that writing a long-length work is tough shit. You start working on something, and then you find it doesn’t quite fit in. Maybe I’ll rework those bits, spin them off as short stories and then publish them here some day. Oh, and I’ve been doing this in Google Docs – revision control is a very handy tool. For the past few months, I have also been working with Youthpad (and to an extent, more.VoiceTAP) as a content writer. Coming up with new blog post ideas for Youthpad daily has been a fun task, although at times I’ve suffered from serious bouts of writer’s block. :) Sadly, with university starting I won’t be able to continue in this position. Anyway, it has been great fun! University of Surrey promotional video. I *heart* the catchy tune! I won’t be blogging daily from now onwards (I hear my RSS subscribers breathing a sigh of relief), but I think I’ll remain fairly regular in putting up new blog posts. I’m also introducing three new post categories on my personal blog – Surreyal, about happenings at the University of Surrey; Stiff Upper Lip, for everything else quintessentially British; Take42, which I intend to be a vodcast. I’ll try to incorporate more podcasts, videos, pictures in the future. And just FYI, I think it’d be a swell idea if someone starts a company called Take42 Interactive, as a parody of Take2 Interactive. ;) Wow. This has been one long blog post. Soon, I’ll be switching over to a new time zone. It’s 6am in the morning right now, and I still haven’t...

The Story Behind 42

By on Aug 31, 2009 in Personal | 7 comments

My fascination with the number 42 is notorious, legendary, hilarious, reverential, ‘huh?’ – and a bunch of other adjectives depending on whom the person you’re discussing this ‘issue’ with is. A thread on gyaan.in made me LOL at the poor souls who still don’t ‘get’ it, so I decided to write this post to give an explanation as to how all this started. The ‘42 joke’, in the form we know it, has its origins in the DPS VK Quiz Club. You (if you’re in the Delhi school quizzing / computer symposium circuit) might be surprised to know that DPS Vasant Kunj did not have a quiz club till that year. I spoke to the then Vice Principal, Mrs Rachna Pandit, regarding this issue and she was quite enthusiastic about the idea of starting a quiz club. She had been vice principal at DPS VK a few years before that, then joined DPS Singapore as its Principal and help set-up the fledgling school, then came back and rejoined DPS Vasant Kunj; she’s currently the principal of DPS Maruti Kunj and has overseeing the task of setting it up. Anyway, point is that Mrs Rachna Pandit was a very dynamic leader and teacher who believed in encouraging extra-curricular activities in addition to academics. DPS VK Quiz Club became a reality that year. (And it’s quite satisfying to note that something which started just three years ago has already made a mark in the Delhi school quizzing circle.) When you start a society from scratch, one of the obvious hurdles you have is to identify talented people and induct them into the club. So what I decided, along with some seniors who were into quizzing, was to conduct an intra-school written quiz to find out who were the good quizzers. We, the ‘initial’ group of people, put up posters all over school and went around class-to-class urging those interested to turn up the intra. The first stage was online, following which we called around 50-odd students for the written intra. Now, the paper was a pretty long one – and at the end I put in as a joke ‘What is the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?’ It was an obvious joke for anyone who was aware of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. It wasn’t even a score question because it was put in as a joke; didn’t even expect many people to answer it. Hardly anyone got it ‘right’. Instead, there were these weird answer like ‘Buddha’s eight-fold path’ and ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Getting high on pot‘ and whatnot. I found it quite amusing, and when I announced the answers on a later date I left it as a mysterious ‘42‘ and nothing more. I eventually got around to explaining what the joke was all about to those who were inducted. (I’m glad that that year we found quite a few dedicated and talented members. DPS Vasant Kunj went from lurking around in the peripheries of the quizzing scene to a group that today is one of the strongest competitors out there. An institution of spotting new talent, conducting regular quizzes, et al which was set up when the quiz club became an official society of the school helped immensely. More than anything it provides a platform for quizzers to get to know each and help in making teams for events.) Code Warriors were better off, because there had been a few seniors in earlier batches who were Hitchhiker’s fans but by 2006 there weren’t many contemporary fans left. My ‘mission’ to continue to confuse people continued there, and the mystic ‘42‘ that is associated with the Code Warriors was born. In previous years, the Code Warriors used to shout ‘Kevin Baba ki jai’ when getting off the school bus before an event (Kevin Mitnick was our unofficial official mascot back then); soon, that changed to a battle-cry of “Forty Two!”. It was fun because hardly anyone understood, including any other participating teams, accompanying school teacher – anyone within earshot. On the rare occasions when I attended classes, I worked on spreading the ‘42 joke’ in the classroom. Put on my best poker face and told a few of the studious types that ‘42‘ was the Answer, and that a scientifically proven theory demonstrated that every complex mathematical equation could be reduced to that number. To this day, I believe there are a few FIITJEE / VMC students on this planet whom I’ve convinced – seriously – that it’s the answer. They’re probably trying to explain to an exasperated professor the same ‘fact’. The reason why it was so funny is because you can say it with a straight face and convince gullible people that it might be true, or at the very least irritate the heck out of everyone else as they try to figure out what on earth is going on. Even in the quizzing / computer symposium circuit I found that hardly anyone had read Adams or even if they had heard about the Answer somewhere, they didn’t know much about it. I was quiz club vice president in 11th, and when I became the Code Warriors president in 12th the 42 obsession kicked into high gear. It became something of an in-joke which confused our competitors and a battle-cry which we could rally around and have a good laugh about. Like Da...

Drops of Joy in Ocean of Tears

By on Jul 26, 2009 in Personal, Reviews | 5 comments

Originally posted at Youthpad. Drops of Joy in Ocean of Tears is a collection of poems and essays written by Saurabh Chaudhary, a student from DPS Vasant Kunj. He is currently in class 12th and a frontrunner for the post of head boy of the school this year. :) (Last year he was the school vice head boy.) He is the de-facto leader of the DPS VK Quiz Club and is the best quizzer that Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunj currently has. (In the recently held Mod Quiz, Saurabh Chaudhary won the position of ‘best quizzer’.) He is also one of the best group discussion members that the school computer club Code Warriors has right now. Published by Unicorn Books, a sister concern of Pustak Mahal, this book is a quick read. You could wrap up reading this within 30-60 minutes. The quality of writing is good. I’m not a big fan of poetry and I rarely find any sort of verse to be readable. With a few exceptions, I detested studying poems as a part of my English literature syllabus in school. However, I found Saurabh’s work very readable. (Most of the content in the book is poems.) The theme is unvarying throughout, which can make your attention waver a bit, but the quality of writing is – undoubtedly – great. The theme of poems in the book is of how he felt rejected / neglected by peers in school because of some decisions that he took. It’s a contentious topic so I won’t go into that – instead, I judge the book on its own merit. Towards the end there are also a few essays on a few miscellaneous topics. These sort of tie into the preceding poems and sort of don’t. I also felt that the essays were a bit short and could’ve been a little longer. It won’t take you long to read the book. I suggest that if you come across this in a bookstore (I couldn’t find it on Flipkart) then do browse through it, but it if you like...

Me on NDTV ‘Cell Guru’

By on May 25, 2009 in Personal, Tech Takes | 4 comments

On Saturday 23rd May 2009, I was on the NDTV show Cell Guru as That Guy In The Audience – a role I’ve played sometimes on other shows like We The People. You can easily identify me as the guy wearing a shockingly blue T-shirt spouting some trivia towards the end of the show. Also met some batchmates from school – B Nithin Kumar (who was the Head Boy in school, currently studying mechanical engineering at DCE) and Tanmay Varma (currently at IIIT Delhi – thank you, Facebook!) Watch the embedded version of the show here, or head over to the NDTV website if you prefer to see it there. This show was about e-waste management of cellphone and the steps that companies like Nokia and Motorola are taking in this regard. The show had its usual share of fear-mongering and exaggeration that environment-related shows have. I’m specifically referring to crap like “If even 10% people recycled phones we’ll have enough raw material to not mine the Earth for two years”; you know, the kind of ‘facts’ which regularly make it to school assembly did-you-know lists with alarming frequency. Recycling cellphones is in itself a good thing, please don’t try to assault are intellect with such stupid ‘facts’. Rajiv Makhani turned out to be a snob who kept even the panelists on the show waiting for a long time, forget about bothering with the audience. I heard a producer cursing “Rajiv Makhani always takes hours to turn up for shooting”. Also, he seems kinda…gay. So was the cameraman – I was hidden in the audience shots most time by Rajiv Makhani’s butt cheeks, which came in the field of each time the show cuts to the audience. But he’s a good anchor – I’ve never seen anyone be able to get everything right on the first take itself for every segment which was shot. What’s the fun in being We The People if we can’t make fun of our news anchors, eh? :D PS – Happy Towel...

Ubuntu ShipIt is down!

By on Apr 25, 2009 in Personal | 25 comments

Ubuntu’s hugely popular free media program ShipIt has been ‘taken down temporarily due to excessive traffic’, thus buttressing the idiom ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. (I’ve already ordered my CD long ago. I wanted to check if it had been shipped. No, r-tard, I don’t order multiple CDs and hoard them. I order just one – as a keepsake with its official cover. And to get more Ubuntu stickers.) The ShipIt notice instead encourages visitors to download via BitTorrent. I’m sure the normal ISO file mirrors around the globe are getting pummelled right now. I plan to upgrade using an alternate install CD I ordered from this place (damn you, Linux Bazar, for not being quick enough). Why am I not downloading myself? My Internet connection has this terrible habit of logging me off randomly at times. I did download OpenSuse 11.1 when it came out but babysitting my download to ensure I didn’t get logged off and it completed was a harrowing experience. So I’ll be a nice guy and instead of DDoSing Ubuntu servers I’ll support the open source ecosystem by buying my CD. I’d have ordered from Canonical’s Amazon shop if the shipping prices weren’t outrageous. DPS Vasant Kunj is showing interest now in migrating the Internet Lab computers from Windows 98 to Linux. I’d started this on a small scale when I was in school but as soon as I passed out from high school some people (ref: Code Warriors) brought everything back to Windows status-quo. School isn’t likely to upgrade the Internet Lab and users are clamouring for a better experience than Windows 98 (newer browsers, better word processing software which can handle new formats), so I suggested a shift to Linux. I can’t decide between Xubuntu 9.04 and Linux Mint 6 Felicia Xfce Edition. I’ll be installing it on a few systems initially. Based on the feedback it will be expanded to all the systems in the...