Friday, November 21, 2008

Joke of The Day !

Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup

2008-11-20 14:23:00.260 GMT

November 20 (API) -- The Somali pirates, renegade Somalis known for hijacking ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, are negotiating a purchase of Citigroup.

The pirates would buy Citigroup with new debt and their existing cash stockpiles, earned most recently from hijacking numerous ships, including most recently a $200 million Saudi Arabian oil tanker. The Somali pirates are offering up to $0.10 per share for Citigroup, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said earlier today. The negotiations have entered the final stage, Ali said. ``You may not like our price, but we are not in the business of paying for things. Be happy we are in the mood to offer the shareholders anything," said Ali.

The pirates will finance part of the purchase by selling new Pirate Ransom Backed Securities. The PRBS's are backed by the cash flows from future ransom payments from hijackings in the Gulf of Aden. Moody's and S&P have already issued their top investment grade ratings for the PRBS's.

Head pirate, Ubu Kalid Shandu, said "we need a bank so that we have a place to keep all of our ransom money. Thankfully, the dislocation in the capital markets has allowed us to purchase Citigroup at an attractive valuation and to take advantage of TARP capital to grow the business even faster." Shandu added, "We don't call ourselves pirates. We are coastguards and this will just allow us to guard our coasts better."


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Linux Sound System Mess

ALSA, OSS, Xine, Phonon, Gstreamer, PulseAudio...

All these jargons of Linux sound architecture are really confusing. Not long ago, I was running KDE applications using aRts layered on ALSA.

These days, we have PulseAudio, Phonon & Gstreamer for most of the distributions. All the three systems are horribly broken IMHO. I had to kill Pulse Audio on Ubuntu to make applications use ALSA API directly. I am using Mandriva these days and thank God it has a switch to disable PulseAudio.

Here is a pictorial proof of the mess 


This picture is taken from this presentation ( Impress file format). I hope things improve in future :-(

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Burton Malkiel's advice on current market turmoil

In all this market madness, here are some calming words from Burton Malkiel, author of A Random Walk Down The Wall Street

"A century of investing experience, as well as insights from the field of behavioral finance, suggest that investors who bail out of equities during times like these are almost always making the wrong decision."

"It is very tempting to try to time the market. We all have 20/20 hindsight. It is clear that selling stocks a year ago would have been an excellent strategy. But neither individuals nor investment professionals can consistently time the market."

"My own calculations show that in the aggregate, investors who moved money in and out of equity mutual-funds underperformed the buy-and-hold investors by almost three percentage points per year during the 1995-2007 period."

"So what should investors do? By all means, young 401(k) investors, and those in their prime earnings years, who are stashing away funds from every monthly paycheck, should stay the course."

"Well diversified investors should, at the end of each year, consider rebalancing to ensure that your portfolio composition remains consistent with the risk level appropriate for your financial circumstances and tolerance for risk."

"Don't forget that the U.S. economy is still the most flexible in the world and our "innovation machine" is alive and well."

For full article visit WSJ here

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stanford offers introductory CS courses FREE online

Following footsteps of its silicon valley peer UC Berkeley, Stanford University has also started offerening its introductory computer science courses online for FREE. A computer & internet connection is all that is required to access these lectures.

I found that video lectures can also be downloaded using iTunes. Also note that torrents don't seem to be working right now.

This is a positive step towards open learning. UC Berkeley (link to lectures) & Indian Institute of Technology (link to lectures) also offer many of their courses online. Also, don't forget to visit my bookmarks which has list of free CS video courses offered by many different universities around the world.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gone Home

I am going home for a vacation from 24th August 2008 to 15th September 2008. A much needed break....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is Linux getting bloated because ....

The effect of those high fructose corn in soda pop, pizza, beer, caffeine, cheetos, cheesy puffs, ACT II butter popcorn, late night taco bell etc is showing up on Linux geeks after 9 years.

This also begs a question that are thin geeks getting fat or are more fat people using Linux these days ? or should we just blame GNU poster boy Richard Stallman :-D

Sunday, July 27, 2008

IIT/IISc Video lectures

Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India has funded a programme called NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning). This venture enables video lectures to be available online (youtube) from IITs & IISc. This is a great resource for technical learning from India's premier institutes.

Check these videos out on youtube

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vanguard's Total World Stock Index Fund

Today, Vanguard announced it's new "Total World Stock Index Fund (VTWSX)". This fund will track FTSE All-world Index.

My view on this fund


1) Good fund for starters who cannot afford minium down pay of $3000 for each Total Stock Market (VTSMX) & Total All-World ex-US (VFWIX). You get instant diversification world wide. Ideal for first time Roth (with $5000 cap for 2008) with 100% equity allocation.

2) Ideal for those who don't want to fight the market with domestic (US) & international allocation. This fund will automatically drive allocations.

3) I expect less turnover (stock churn) as most of the companies in this fund are international large cap.


1) Expense Ratio of 0.45 is slightly on higher side. Combination of VTSMX & VFWIX has average expense ratio of 0.30.

2) No exposure to domestic small cap (which is provided by VTSMX).

3) Upfont purchase fee of 0.25% (though might be eliminated in future). While Vanguard just eliminated purchase fee for VFWIX.

4) This new fund only has around 2900 companies while VTSMX & VFWIX provide exposure to lot more.


I would recommend this fund to starters who want instant global equity diversification.

I am going to skip this fund and keep my allocation to VTSMX and Total International VGTSX. However, I might change from Total Interational (VGTSX) to All world ex-US (VFWIX) since there is no purchase fee for VFWIX now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Are you diehard/Boglehead ?

Take this questionnaire and find out if you are diehard/Boglehead when it comes to your personal finance. I have copied this questionnaire from this thread on

My score is 16. I lost one point on question 6 since my portfolio has small cap tilt. But I am comfortable with risks associated with small cap premiums (less volatile than REIT fund in my Roth :-D). And obviously, it meets my sleep test.


1. In these trying times, do you think it's reasonable to make tactical allocation changes?
(Y=0, N = 1)

2. Is the best strategy to simply to hold a broadly diversified portfolio and stay the course?
(Y=1, N =0)

3. Critics argue that buy and holders are simply sticking their heads in the sand as risk rises in the marketplace. Do you agree?
(Y=0, N=1)

4. Do you manage risk by diversifying among different types of securities - including bonds - and then staying the course?
(Y=1, N =0)

Do you rebalance and make necessary adjustments based on our own personal situation -- not on market forecasts?
(Y=1, N =0)

6. Do you overweight your portfolio to take advantage of the so-called value and small-cap premiums?
(Y=0, N=1)

7. Do you hold a broad market index fund and stay the course?
(Y=1, N =0)

8. Do you actively trade ETFs?
(Y=0, N=1)

Do you invest in high-cost actively managed funds?
(Y=0, N=1)

10. Do you consider yourself a market timer?
(Y=0, N=1)

11. Do you save regularly?
(Y=1, N =0)

Do you avoid mistakes?
(Y=1, N =0)

13. Do you have an asset-allocation plan?
(Y=1, N =0)

14. Do you diversify with broad market index funds?
(Y=1, N =0)

15. Do you keep costs low (including taxes)?
(Y=1, N =0)

Do you strive for simplicity?
(Y=1, N =0)

17. Do you stay the course?
(Y=1, N =0)


17 = You ARE John Bogle!

13-16 = Give that man a Bogle Bobblehead! Charter member.

10-12 = Pretty Boglish! Stay the course!

6-9 = You've heard the word, but haven't quite walked the walk.

3-5 = Eek. Good luck with that!

0-2 = Unrepentant market timing stock trader!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Firefox 3 is here

Today, Mozilla foundation released Firefox 3.0. I downloaded it on my Windows machine (waiting for Ubuntu repos to update RC to final) and thus contributed my share to world record download.

I remember blogging about Firefox 1.0 release almost 4 years ago. Firefox 1.0 was slow and bloated. Firefox 2.0 was certainly better but Firefox 3.0 is nirvana.

Now I hope all themes and extensions get updated soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Linux Mint

Today I installed Linux Mint 5 (Elyssa). Two years after using Kubuntu, this certainly feels like a breathe of fresh air. Beautiful artwork, all codecs built in with base platform of Ubuntu. Wonderful !

However, Mint comes with its own share of problems (at least on my machine)

1) My netgear wireless stick (MA111v2 with SIS chipset) still does not work. There are no native WLAN drivers.

I tried to load windows driver using ndiswrapper. I was successful in making kernel detect a wireless interface. But I could make it get valid IP address from my wireless access point. I tried all the tricks in my book (using iwconfig + dhclient + GUI network tools) and finally gave up by uninstalling ndiswrapper. Back to wired network !!

2) Pulse Audio server shipped with Mint (through Ubuntu 8.04) has serious issue of "sound stuttering". If any sound application (like Totem, VLC, Amarok etc) is playing sound, and then one tries to start any other application, sound momentarily stutters. I googled for this issue and found several users complaining. Hope they fix it soon.

Other than these two issues, it has been smooth sailing. Here are couple of screen shots of my machine for your viewing pleasure :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Temple Visit

I went to temple today morning and spent some time there (No, this visit was not because India beat Pakistan in Cricket today. I used to do that in India :-D).

I only had two hours of sleep last night and I woke up stressed & fatigued. Visiting temple always gives me strength and lightens me up. The environment was quiet and peaceful.

I am feeling fresh now and have enough energy to get through my work day. Hopefully, I will sleep well tonight.

Monday, June 09, 2008

It hurts

It has been more than 2 months since I blogged. But past two months have been pretty interesting (and has changed me a lot). I have done things I never did before and I have said things I never said before. I preferred other things over my work (which I had never done before) and didn't bowl a single ball in cricket for two months (pretty unusual considering last two years).

I stopped watching online lectures..which I used to do pretty regularly and couldn't finish a single book lying in my bedroom since last two months. But then I never stopped watching movies and having fun time with friends. Frequency to gym was certainly reduced.

I feel that all this time (during which I did not do all these things) was not at all wasted. But it was time well spent. I discovered new abilities to do things and say few words which I never knew existed in me.

Sometimes I even wondered.."What the heck has happened to me ?"...I thought it was work stress for sure. But then something inner in me says there was more to it. May be I am bored with all those things..May be I want a change....But then, I still felt like doing these things I have been doing..its just that I never actually did it.

But now, I think I should get my act together and do things I have been enjoying. And if life throws lemons on me..I will make a lemonade and cool myself. If it throws oranges..I will turn them to orange juice..

I know you don't care about "whatever crap" (in somebody's language) I wrote above. But then why the heck did you visit this blog.

Back to gym and whey protein shake...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Travelling Salesman Problem

Funny !

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Experience & Judgement

I came across this wonderful fact

Q. How does one obtain good judgement?
A. With experience.

Q. How does one obtain experience?
A. By exercizing poor judgement!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Engineers and Logical thinking

What is it with engineers that we always think in a pre-defined logical manner ? Especially with software engineers who program computers. While talking with people, we seldom empathize with others. We lack human aspect in our talk. We are so often drowned in instructing dumb computers to work for us, that we mirror similar behavior while talking with people. We are inclined to think that everything has mathmatical proof and are lost in search of that proof. People, unlike computers, do maintain context and they don't need to be explained and proved everything in detail, not atleast mathematically.

I especially miss these aspects while giving presentations. Here is what CEO of Luminous Networks rightly points out (taken from the book - Presenting to Win, The Art of telling Your Story by Jerry Weissman)

It's funny. As engineers, we tend to look at the challenge of selling our story as a lifeless, logical proposition. We forget the human factor. The message must be honed to address those human motivations. We forget that it's living people we are selling to!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Here comes the Nexus ....

Cisco says that the new data-center switch would be able to copy all the searchable data on the Internet in 7.5 seconds, download Wikipedia's database in 10 milliseconds or download 90,000 Netflix movies in less than 40 seconds. It also can run 5 million concurrent transcontinental videoconferences using the company's Telepresence Collaboration systems, a company spokeswoman said.

I am feeling fortunate to be part of engineering team of this next generation data center platform. Go Nexus...

More details on this link at Marketwatch.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hang on tight

Duh ! looks like nothing is going in my way. At least three things have certainly not worked in my favor during last 3 days.

Anyways, I will hang on tight as usual and fight it out. Just getting feelings out somewhere...

Friday, January 25, 2008