Friday Sep 07, 2012

Logging out

After twelve years at Sun and Oracle, and running this blog for eight years, about two hundred postings, one domain name change and getting thousands of security vulnerabilities fixed I am signing off from Oracle's product security desk today.

Working for Sun and Oracle was an incredible experience! I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to know and learn from so many extraordinary people.

See for future postings. I can also be found on Linkedin

Friday Apr 29, 2011

Cross Domain Blog Migration

This blog is being migrated to domain and should be available from

Some of the media content which was previously hosted on was lost. I will try to find them from my backups and upload them elsewhere.

I have a personal blog at which should aggregate both my official and non-official postings.

Saturday Nov 15, 2008

Netbooks and the end of the Laptop Decade

If you are in the computer industry, it is not uncommon that friends or family often consult you to recommend a computer or a laptop. There are several things that make answering it difficult, especially for an average consumer who may be buying their first laptop with hard earned money:

  • A. good $1000 laptop does not offer value-for-money to someone wanting to use gmail and Internet
  • B. It will be obsolete in an year and newer software will run slower

When I first heard about the features of OLPC - (One Laptop Per Child) especially its battery life and networking features etc., my reaction was that those features should be part of any average consumer computer - trying to sell it to kids made it look like a scam. If I had 400$ to spend for a child's education, there are a dozen better ways to spend it. A computer would be near the bottom of that list.

Since then a number of commercial small low-cost, efficient and Internet oriented laptops have appeared in the market. These are also called Netbooks (v/s Notebook)

Number of companies making them suggests that these are becoming popular. While the hardware used is pretty awesome, the software stack has to catchup. The personal computer software industry has a long way to go before it is ready for the average consumer.

Especially focus has to be on making software run faster, simpler and more usable. Bloatware should be avoided and software should be able to run with limited resources. System should be able to boot in a couple of seconds and response time for any click should be strictly less than 100 milliseconds (except where the network latency comes into picture).

It seem to be a trend that the common software, (such as browsers, mail clients, games and operating systems) get bloated and slower with each revision. The Gnome desktop my OpenSolaris Indiana takes almost as much time to load up as the system takes to boot up. There is probably one drastic solution to it, that software developers should use old systems which were made 5 or 6 years ago. That way, regressions in performance become visible as soon as they are introduced.

Wednesday Sep 10, 2008

Home Theater Architecture

At the computer history museum in Mountain view, piles of old machines are displayed row by row chronologically, as if each row represents a decade of design. Computers made in 60's look like washing machines or dishwashers, while those made in 70's look like Technicolor typewriters. The machines designed in 80s are black rectangular plastic boxes that look like VHS video cassette players or audio receivers today. Or is the vice versa?

Majority of home theater equipment today seems to be stuck in the VHS era - they measure like 2 feet in length and breadth, and half a feet in height weighing at least 10 kilograms. If you are in the market for home entertainment electronics, there are hundreds and thousands of gadgets in the market. However finding something that meets my few requirements was challenging. My requirements were:

  • Small size, fewer components - home theater should not make living room like an electronic junkyard - should blend with home decor
  • Support best of technology - HD video and audio from multiple sources such blu-ray disks, cable and over the air HDTV, FM, streaming video and news from Internet.

In terms of inputs and output connections it must have the following:

Home Theater Box requirements

  1. WiFi or Ethernet for streaming Internet media
  2. USB and Firewire for connecting peripherals such as memory cards, external disks, mp3 players, keyboard, camera etc.,
  3. ATSC, DVB tuner with CableCard support to get HDTV from cable or antenna or any PAL/NTSC sources
  4. FM/AM/SW HD-radio tuner and analog audio input from mic, stereo and may be digital audio inputs like optical toslink or s/pdif
  5. Infrared remote control
  6. Should play Blu-ray, DVD and audio CDs
  7. output to HD screen
  8. output to 5.1 surround sound speakers

Surprisingly, there aren't many (or any) boxes out there in the market that do all the above. Wast majority of the systems you may find at a local electronics store meet only couple of the requirements above. You would need to stack a bunch of them in order to setup a home theater. it seems like the manufactures making these devices copy each other, even to the price tag, and yet no one ever built a modern system.

One option is called an HTPC (Home theater PC). There are a couple of systems which currently available, some made by Sony (VAIO TP series) are priced at $3000. Another recent one which caught my attention is Dell Studio Hybrid. Mac Mini could have been considered if only it came with a bluray drive and optical audio. One problem is finding a good software for these systems. Last time I evaluated opensource home theater software (such as MythTV), nothing matched the Apple's frontrow or Sony's media bar interface.

My current home theater setup (built more than a year ago) looks like this:

Home theater setup

  • Playstation3 caters for requirements 1, 2, and 6.
  • Pioneer HTS surround sound system does 4.
  • Samsung HDTV tuner does some of 3, Cable settop box does others.
  • A Sony programmable remote control takes care of 5

PS3 is a good and fast blu-ray player, has great potential as an Internet media device. I am eager to see PS3 Life software. Beware of players which take more than a couple of minutes to load a blu-ray disk, players which cant be upgraded.

Pioneer HTS series audio system when I bought it was the only few its kind in the US, where a compact audio receiver is built into the subwoofer and hardly noticeable compared to 2ftx2ft beasts. The speakers are off white and blend with my wall and floor and aren't conspicuous. These days Sony also makes such compact audio systems. Beware of or avoid systems often called as HTIB which are DVD players with 5 speakers, but cant receive surround sound audio from other devices such as Cable TV STB.

A Sony programmable universal remote switches devices/functions can learn signals from various remotes. You can packup all the original remotes to reduce clutter. It operates all the devices transparently except Playstation. Beware of or avoid remotes that don't have "programmable" or "learning" feature.

All the devices and a Mitsubishi HD projector are hidden in a ventilated side table next to sofa in the living room. The projector projects a screen 9ft in diagonal on the opposite wall. A subscription to netflix provides a supply of high quality blu-ray movies to watch in the evenings. We see life size news anchors and weather experts walking across our living room. This setup caters to most of the requirements, however getting streaming video from Internet like Reuters news or Hulu or youtube requires a DLNA server. Watch this space for future posts discussing HTPC architecture.

Monday Aug 25, 2008

Doing the same thing again and expecting different results

I was shooting a herd of Wapiti which were jumping into freezing white waters of Athabasca river near the Ice Fields parkway in Canada. My Canon SLR stopped working and gave the dreaded Err 99.

Later Canon service folks diagnosed and asked me to parcel the dead camera to their factory service center in Irvine, California along with a copy of original receipt.

Not having preserved the original receipt, I went to the electronics supermarket chain I bought the camera. The customer service specialist there took my creditcard and worked for about five minutes on the LCD screen and said "Sorry! you will have to try at the shop you bought your camera... We cant print your receipt here". Then I drove ten miles to the shop where I had purchased it.

Customer service specialist there took more time, couldn't figure out how to print a duplicate receipt. The boss in that store came down. He gave his experienced gaze at the terminal and he suggested something. The service specialist then went inside and came out with a printout of an excel sheet containing all the purchases I had ever made with that company.

Then I called Canon, to check if that spreadsheet is acceptable, but they insisted on giving the original proof of purchase. I went to the nearest store again, but this time the customer service person there swiped my credit card, and my duplicate receipt came out the printer in matter of seconds!!

Someone defined insanity to be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, but might work for you when you call for customer service help.

By the way, Canon replaced my SLR camera's shutter assembly and sent it back in a week.

Photos from Canada are here

Wednesday Jun 04, 2008

In the heart of Europe

I was in Praha (or Prague) a couple of weeks ago. Praha is a neat little capitol of a beautiful state in the middle of Europe.

Old city is full of buildings with great design, each is different from the others. City's old buildings - unscathed in the world war - and neatly dressed old ladies and gentlemen make the whole place a surreal theme park. An old Czech lady was telling me that she has seen her country occupied by three regimes: Germans, Soviets and now tourists :-) While Praha is a clean city, the most unpleasant experience was its cigarette smoke. Restaurants and most souvenir shops had an ambiance of tobacco haze.

In the city I marveled at the architecture and design of Obecní Dům (or the Municipal House) where every door knob and hinge seems to have been crafted with the same care and attention to detail as rest of the ornate building.

Czech countryside is full of castles that dwarf any western mockups in both in size and grandeur. Spring weather was brilliant with full bloom of yellow flowers on lush green grazing grounds and bright red roofs.
The thing I enjoyed most was an evening walk in the hilly Village of Large Bungalows (sorry I don't recall the name of the Village). It was a small village with large houses with beautiful gates, gardens, statues, fountains and luxury cars. Dates on the houses ranged from 1800 to 1950s and styles reflecting the era they were built in. There were rows and rows of such bungalows. There seemed to be only one restaurant in town which was closed.

Saturday Mar 29, 2008

Goodthings: The Greatest Invention since Bell's Telephone..

No, its not the iPhone, nor VoIP and forget the cordless phones..[Read More]

sayings of an hearer


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