Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are you Safe??

Last week I got a call from one of my school friend Kishore, with surprise I picked up his call. He said his mail account has been hacked for almost 3 times in last two months and the hacker has been sending mails to all his contacts stating that he is in a big trouble and in urgent need of £2000. I redirected him to customer care and after getting his problem resolved through customer care, he was curious to know what is happening here and how the hacker is able to get his password in spite of changing it.

Kishore: Tell me what is happening with my account? This is the 3rd time da, I don't want it to happen again.

Me: Did you try to open any spam messages and click the links in that Spam?

Kishore: Nope. I didn't.

Me: Hmm.. Did you download any software which asked for your email id & password?

Kishore: No..

Me: Were do you browse from? Personal laptop or Office computer?

Kishore: I check my mails only from a near by browsing centers. Mail clients are blocked in my office.

Me: Do you know anyone else facing similar issues?

Kishore: Hmm.. ya.. one of my friend had a similar issue, but he was using hotmail.

Me: Even he used the same browsing center?

Kishore: Yes.. Thats the only one with good connection speed and close to our house.

Me: Gotcha! Stop using that browsing center. What happened to you sounds like a Trojan horse attack.

Kishore: Ah.. What kind of horse is that?

Me: It is a type of malware, something like a virus. By mistake, someone might have downloaded a software that is infected with Trojan and installed it. That software will not have show any visual clue for running but they can keep track of what you type. There are some password trojans which steal passwords and account ids of common email providers and banks.

Kishore: Oh!!

Me: The trojan horse will mail these stolen passwords to its owner. These owners will use it to send mails or transfer money. It is a very risky one. Be safe in the future.

Kishore: But how to be safe?

Me: Try to avoid browsing centers, even if you use browsing center choose a one which has up-to-date anti virus up and running.

Kishore: Okie

Me: To be extra safe, check the list of processes in task manager before browsing. If you have some suspicion look for some other machine.

Kishore: I will try that. Any other tips for safe browsing?

Me: Hmm.. There is another common internet attack called "Phishing". It is again all about stealing username & password.

Kishore: Err.. What is that now?

Me: Phishing is a very simple way to steal passwords. You may get a email with a nice message like "Click here to upgrade your email storage limit to 500GB" or like "Click here to see your friends photo in picasa", etc. You will click on the link and it will open a google login page again. You will enter your credentials there but after that nothing will happen. You will be wondering why your email storage is still not 500GB? But your email accounts password will be changed in a day or so and you will not be able to login. Guess where did you go wrong?

Kishore: Hmm.. Not sure.. Everything sounds fine.. Are you sure this can happen?

Me: Yep, it can. When you click the link in that email it opened your login page, right?

Kishore: Yes

Me: That page is not actually the genuine login page, it is a fake login page hosted by some hackers. It will look exactly like your usual login page, you will assume it to be true and enter you password there. When you click on "Sign-in" the password will be sent to the hacker who will use it further.

Kishore: OMG.. How to avoid this now?

Me: Every time you enter any password or pin of any internet application make sure you are safe. Check the URL before entering the password. Any login to a Google account can happen only through a URL like "https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?...." and to a Yahoo account can happen only via "https://login.yahoo.com/....", for Citibank it is "https://citibank.co.in/..." etc. If you see anything else in the URL then don't enter any details there. Some phishing sites don't have any domain and it will be hosted like "" etc, don't ever think of entering details there.

Kishore: Tricky.. I have to make this has a habit from now on.

Me: Ya.. Be safe, there are lot of rogues out there.. :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life of an........

Sitting in a 5x5 foot cubicle, with a LCD screen and a sophisticated computer; being happy with the fact that coffee and snacks are for free; being enthusiastic about team-outings or star hotel dinner/lunch or office parties; feeling proud for owning a Nike/Adidas; feeling lucky for buying a T-shirt for Rs.700 that actually costs Rs.200 elsewhere; always assuming that your salary is the primary factor for happiness in life; running behind perks; planning to buy a new house that will cost your whole carrier; getting excited about performance reviews and salary hikes.

You always think these things will make you happy. But are you truly happy?

You run like a horse for bread crumbs. You are faithful to your company in spite of knowing the fact that your company might turns its back at you anytime. You burn mid-night oil for moving your project leaving behind your family and personal life.

Why do you run behind money and these silly things when you very well know that your happiness is elsewhere?

You are a Software Engineer. I am one too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is it worth the Buzz??

Had my hands on Google Buzz today. To be frank, I don't see anything innovative here that is worth the attention it has got. A simple search on twitter shows how people are crazy about this copycat. This feature is exactly the same as what Facebook calls as "Status Updates"(or Am I missing something here??) . Everyone of us use the facebook status update feature almost everyday, but still why do we see so much of excitement around the Google's version of the same??

In my opinion, Social networking concepts can never fit in a e-mail client. E-mails are mainly for one-on-one communication or one-on-few communication, whereas social networking status updates are about one-on-many communication. You cannot bring one-on-many into a one-on-few application (but the reverse is always easy, remember Chat inside GMail??).

It is not so comfortable for me to do networking over mail because of three reasons:

  1. I go to gmail, to check/send my mails, nothing else (not to do know what my friends are doing).
  2. Using e-mail client to do networking is like using screw-driver to dig a well. It doesn't do justice, I need the right tools.
  3. As long as gmail is just a email client it will be sweet and simple. Buzz is going it make it more cluttered.
Yahoo introduced the same feature in its mail a year back(it is called Yahoo Profiles), but it didn't reach even the day-to-day Yahoo mail users. Infact, the Yahoo version had much more features than Google Buzz. Personally I am not comfortable with both Google Buzz and Yahoo profiles because of the reasons I quoted above.

Facebook is growing like water hyacinth, lot of internet players including Google is facing a big threat because of facebook. Google Wave was the first initiative from Google to fight back, but it didn't do justice to the company (I liked the demo of Google Wave very much tough). For an end-user, making his e-mail a part of social networking is a easier task than making his social networking as a part of e-mail. Knowing this fact, Facebook would soon bring in e-mail into their product, that would definitely bring everything under one roof for its users.

The usual "Google" factor is driving this feature as of now, it might be yet another Google Wave (or possibly orkut???). Let us wait and see.

P.S: What I have expressed above is only my personal view and I don't represent any company in anyway

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

HDR Photography

After I posted the temple picture in my previous post and flickr stream, many people came back to me asking this question "What is HDR?". In this post I am going to answer that question and explain how to create one.

HDR Photography stands for High Dynamic Range Photography, it is basically a heavy post-processing technique that allows you to take complete control over the tone of a picture which cannot be achieved by normal means.

Lets take an example, you take any normal picture (JPEG/GIF/PNG, etc..) and try to adjust the brightness or contrast of the image using Photoshop or GIMP. You will soon notice that if one part of the picture gets the desired brightness, some other part of the picture will become very bright(overexposed) or very dark(underexposed), because of this you cannot modify the tone of any image to a great extent. HDR targets this problem and tries to give you better control over the tone of your image.

The idea behind HDR photography is to combine multiple pictures of a particular scene into a single image. Each of the source pictures are supposed to have different exposure settings, most of the HDR photos use 3 source images, one underexposed, one overexposed and one with normal exposure. When you combine multiple exposures into a single image, the post-processing software now has a range of exposure to work with (unlike a normal photo which has a fixed exposure value). This will allow the software to adjust the tone in a very different manner with complete control on every part of the image.

Let me take the following images

Underexposed Image

Normal exposure

Overexposed Image
All the 3 images represents exactly the same scene.

Now you need a software like PhotoMatix (proprietary) or QtPfsGui (open-source) to chew these images and create a intermediate .HDR file. Now this HDR can be toned with various algorithms in the software and you can produce a variety of tones of the HDR which can be saved as a normal JPEG or PNG. One such tone that I achieved with the above images is

Just look at the details of the temple sculptures and at the same time observe the tone of the clouds, none of the source images can show both of them. When we combine multiple images, we merge the "best" part of every photo which yields a very pleasant image.

You can see lot of good HDR pictures here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ponniyin Selvan - A Masterpiece

Few days back when I was in my friends house in Koramangala I noticed this book "Ponniyin Selvan" lying somewhere in a table. The novel belongs to Santy which he has brought from Chennai. Since no one was reading it I decided to give a try and started read the first few pages immediately, the first impression was good as any other novel. I always have this habit of losing interest after reading few chapters of any novel but surprisingly it didn't happen to me with this novel. I don't know what magic the author (Thiru. Kalki R Krishnamoorthy) has done with this novel, I was reading it without any boredom in any of the chapters.

The novel runs around 1000 AD when the Chola dynasty started growing big everyday and how they overcome internal politics and external threat from Pandyas. All the characters in this novel are true and the high level story-line is also true. The author talks about Chola culture, their majesty, traditions, kings, people, literature and country so beautifully that no one would decide to stop reading it. As I started reading this novel, my hunger to know about Cholas and their history increased which forced me to visit this wiki page often. Last week when I visited Thanjavur Temple, I really felt the temple so close to my heart because of this novel and it made me to dedicate this photo that I took for this novel.

I am just done with one part of this novel and I have 4 more to go.

If you interested in reading it online, the full novel is available here.

You can also download the PDF version from here (for free, no piracy).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vijesh weds Abirami

It was a short and sweet trip to Tanjavur to see the wedding of Vijesh & Abirami. The wedding ceremony was very unique, all the mantras were chanted in Tamil which everyone including the marriage couple can understand. Adding to the beauty, few ancient songs were also sung (which I think is from Thiruppavai)

Wish them a very happy and prosperous married life!!

This time we also prepared a special card for the couple and here it is

More wedding snaps here.

After the wedding we made a visit to the Tanjavur Temple and I will pen about it soon.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tamizh Padam

"Tamizh Padam" is a first of its kind in Indian Cinema. An Indian version of the "Scary Movie". Mirchi Shiva is a perfect fit for a movie like this and has done justice as a hero. There is no special story-line for the movie but still entertains the viewers till the end.

Indian Cinema has a lot of things that can be very easily spoofed and the movie taken advantage of that. The movie starts with a spoof of "Karuthama" in a village and then it moves to Chennai spoofing many other common things like

1. A 10 year old boy begins to pedal a bicycle and immediately becomes a youth hero - A over used concept in many movies.
2. Hero Intro and fight scene - A must in all Indian Movies
3. Poor hero challenging a rich guy and becomes a Crorepathi in one small song.
4. Actors aged more than 35 portrayed as college students and hero's friends - Another common thing done by Vivek for a long time. In this movie Veniraadai Moorthy, Manobala are hero's friend and they call each other a "machi", "maams".. lol..
5. Songs with weird lyrics which belongs to no language. There is a must watch song for Harris Jayaraj in this movie.

and many more.

Few other spoofs that impressed me were, Shiva attempting a "Anniyan" style murder using Buffalos, "Kandaswamy" threatening Basha's Raguvaran, "Thalapathi" spoof in the beginning, "Pokkiri" and "Kakka Kakka" spoofs in second half.

Overall, it is good entertainer if you are a tamil movie freak with humor sense for spoofs. :)