Notebooks getting leaner and meaner!

Apple can still claim the MacBook Air is the skinniest laptop currently available – for the moment. The machine that beats it, VoodooPC’s Envy 133, is just 1.75cm thick. The Air is 1.90cm thick.

Voodo Envy has lots of innovations and it’s carbon casing makes it light and beautiful. Backlit keyboard is a useful feature too. Since ethernet port has been moved to laptop’s AC adaptor, the adaptor looks bulky an aberration to otherwise sleek design of the entire package. A missing feature is Apple style optical drive.

Voodo Envy enables the user to use browser, skype or IM client without booting into the full fledged OS (Vista in this case). Probably this is provided by “Instant-On Linux” integrated in the BIOS flash chip.

In my opinion, this is the way to go; you don’t have to stare at “Please wait…” screens just to catch up with your emails, on the laptop, between the flights.

All these goodie features come at a price. $2000 is pricey price point for getting bewitched!


online remittance

For those of you who want to transfer funds from US/UK to India, the following information might be useful:

My preliminary research suggests that HDFC QuickRemit offers best rates for remittance from US to India.

The exchange rates are as of 16 Jun, 2008.

HDFC QuickRemit

11 – 1000 42.50 50 – 700 82.69 50 – 1000 65.72
1001 – 3500 42.59 701 – 3500 82.79 1001 – 3500 65.83
3501 – 5000 42.64 3501 – 5000 82.84 3501 – 5000 65.89

MSN India 

50 – 1000 42.34 50 – 700 82.69 50 – 1000 65.38
1001 – 5000 42.46 701 – 3500 82.84 1001 – 5000 65.5
5001 – 10000 42.55 3501 – 5000 82.91 5001 – 7500 65.58
10001 – 25000 42.55 5001 – 10000 82.91 7501 – 200000 65.73
25001 – 200000 42.64 10001 – 200000 83.13    
    10001 – 400001 83.13    


50 – 1000 42.34 50 – 700 82.69 50 – 1000 65.38
1001 – 5000 42.46 701 – 3500 82.84 1001 – 5000 65.5
5001 – 10000 42.55 3501 – 5000 82.91 5001 – 7500 65.58
10001 – 25000 42.55 5001 – 10000 82.91 7501 & Above 65.73
25001 & Above 42.64 10001 & Above 83.13    


Currency INR GBP INR
50 – 1000 42.47 £50 – £900 Rs.82.91 
1001 – 2000 42.52 £901 – £2000 Rs.83.01 
2001 – 4000 42.57 £2001 – £3500 Rs.83.06 
4001 – 5000 42.62 £3501 – £5000 Rs.83.16 
5001 – 10000      42.62*  £5001 – £10000 Rs.83.16 * 


On July 01, 2008, I found that
ICICI provides an exchange rate of Rs.42.79339/USD  as against Rs.42.55 of HDFC Quick Remit, for $1000. However ICICI imposes additional $2 service charges. However for $2000, ICICI doesn’t impose the service charges.

Following table should clarify the picture.

Service USD Forex Rate Service Charge INR Remittance Fees INR INR
hdfc 1000 42.55 0.00 25.00 42,525.00
icici 1000 42.79 85.59 25.00 42,682.80
hdfc 2000 42.64 0.00 25.00 85,255.00
icici 2000 42.88865 0.00 25.00 85,752.30

 Sources: and




Mystery Spot – demystified

I visited Mystery Spot in Santa Cruza, CA a couple of weeks ago. The operators of this site claim that it is a place where the laws of physics and gravity do not apply. They provide a number of demonstrations in support of these claims.

Mystery Spot is a visual illusion. Similar illusions can be found elsewhere, including the identically named Mystery Spot near St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California; the Oregon Vortex in Gold Hill, Oregon; and Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida.
There are many videos on youtube which have demonstrations from Mystery Spot.

After this visit, I was reassured of one thing: US is very good at packaging and branding .. be it Pepsi, be it iPhone or be it Mystery Spot(s).

There are hundreds of known gravity hill locations around the world. Does any one know of Mystery Spot in Ladakh, India?

IIT/IISc – National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning

On the lines of MIT’s OpenCourseWare, top Indian institutes (IIT, IISc) have launched National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL).

The main objective of NPTEL program is to enhance the quality of engineering education in the country by developing curriculum based video and web courses.(Videos on YouTube)

Eklavya is similar effort by IITs and HRD Ministry.

Both are commendable effort and will benefit many people who are unable to make it to these highly competitive institutes. Opening up courseware has many other benefits too.

Open cousewares allow aspiring studens to study the subjects online before they can decide whether they actually like the courses, helping them make educated choices about their specialization and cirriculum.

21 – The movie

I went to watch the movie “21” yesterday. I wanted to watch this movie since it was related to MIT.

I had AMC screen all for myself… well almost 😉 There were less than 10 people to watch this movie show.

The movie was entertaining, but not really mind blowing. Towards the end the story became predictable.

In short, the movie could have been better, much better.

In this movie, Ben Campbell wins Black Jack money twice! But he still has to rely upon conventional ways to pay his Harvard Med tuition.

This thing particularly intrigued me… Even for a movie like this one, they didn’t consider using gambling money  (sorry Prof. Micky Rosa) to pay for the tuition. Ben had to resort to scholarship to pay 300K fees.

So there are certain things which are considered wrong even in a movie 🙂

Huh! thats something….

Dynamic programming using closures in Ruby

I was playing around with ruby and proc blocks caught my fancy. Here’s the code snippet (not a perfect algorithm, but shows the use of closures)

def get_angle_checker(start_angle, end_angle)
  return { |angle| (start_angle <= angle  && angle < end_angle) }

acute_angle_checker = get_angle_checker(0, 90)
right_angle_checker = get_angle_checker(90, 91)
obtuse_angle_checker = get_angle_checker(91, 180)

puts      #true
puts      #false
puts      #true
puts    #true

For some one looking for more info on closures, following resources may be useful:

How to boot Linux using Windows bootloader (XP)

You want to setup dual boot on your computer but do not want to install Grub or Lilo (You still are use LILO?), then read on….

Otherwise, if you are tired of Windows over writing Grub or LILO every time you setup Windows, then you can sacrifice the powers of Grub and shift to Windows Boot Loader to boot you into Linux.

Here are the steps: (Ideal case)

Windows XP Loader (NT Loader) needs Linux Master Boot Record (MBR) to boot into Linux.

If you can boot into Linux, grab the first 512 bytes of boot sector from the root partition of Linux  where Grub is installed (/dev/sdaN) to an external drive.

 dd if=/dev/sdaN of=grub.bin bs=512 count=1

Here is the twist!

In my case, I had an existing Linux installation but I could not boot into Linux and I didn’t have a rescue disk. I installed Ext2 IFS For Windows and copied MBR which I had extracted previously before I wiped out Grub  /boot/grub/stage1 and named it grub.bin (Your MBR is nothing but stage1 boot-loader used by GRUB).

To setup Windows bootloader to load Linux, we need to add an entry corresponding to Linux.

Boot into Windows. Set appropriate attributes for boot.ini so that it is editable.

attrib -r -w -s c:\boot.ini

Add the following entry to the file boot.ini

 c:\grub.bin="Ubuntu Linux 7.10"

Restart the machine and Windows XP boot loader shows Ubuntu Linux 7.10 as one of the options.

Select this option and viola! you should see Linux booting 🙂

For more detailed instructions follow this : provides a specialized rescue disk to restore Windows/Linux. I haven’t used it anytime though.