Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ubuntu - Upgrade to Jaunty Jackalope

I recently upgraded Ubuntu on my Dell Inspiron 13 laptop from the Ibex Intrepid (8.10) to Jaunty Jackalope (9.04). "upgrade -d" was very slow on 23rd April, the release date for Jaunty. So I downloaded the Jaunty image using bit torrent. Once I had enough number of peers the average speed was topping 10MBPS. Looks like I was behind a 100Mbps switch.

Jaunty brings in Gnome 2.26 and a number of new features to the desktop. A common notification system for all applications is one of the very useful features. Desktop is much more slick and the new compiz and xorg are super fast. Compositing windows and the 3-D desktop effects are very useful for quickly turning to the window of interest. My music player rhythmbox used to hang while downloading multiple podcast feeds. This bug has been fixed in the jaunty. Jaunty brings in very fast boot-up with the boot time averaging to just 7 seconds on my laptop. And off course all devices on the laptop including webcam, bluetooth, wireless card and sound card were automatically identified and correct drivers were loaded.

Two things that did not work out of box were the intel GM965 graphics cards and the in-built microphone. The new Xorg (an open source implementation of X window system) has been a significantly changed from the previous release. Compiz when used with the new Xorg has freezes on Intel GM965 cards. As a result ubuntu blacklisted many intel graphics cards and will not turn up compiz. So you can use the metacity package that only supports 2-d graphics, which also had some performance regression with respect to the previous release. So overall people with Intel graphics card that wanted 3-d acceleration were left in cold. This has been kind of surprising and disappointing considering that Intel has been very nice with the support of their graphics cards on Linux. That has been one of the reasons that I exclusively buy Intel hardware.

Fixing the graphics bug was definitely not easy. As you can see the bug report on Ubuntu launchpad it has been very difficult to figure out where the bug is. Figuring out whether Xorg needs fixing or the driver has got even more complicated by the possibility of multiple bugs. The new UXA support has been added in Xorg to fix possibly one of the problems and I used it according to the instructions provided here. Then I turned off the blacklist and started compiz. Since then compiz has been working great with excellent performance and no freezes.

The support for in-built microphone in snd-hda-intel driver has been hard because of the large number of laptops that have different forms of the sound cards. Currently many people have reported this problem on the alsa website and hopefully support for my microphone will be added soon.

I wish there was better support for my graphics card and the in-built microphone. But overall Jaunty brings a great desktop for the usage of normal users.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letter to Allahabad High Court - Removing restrictions to court judgments

To Allahahad High Court,

I am Sushant Sinha, a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer
Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. I am also a founder
of legal search engine called Indian Kanoon (http://indiankanoon.org)
Indian Kanoon provides state of art free search and free access to
Indian court judgments to the common people.

Indian Kanoon daily crawls different Indian court websites and adds the
set of updated judgments for Supreme court and high courts to its
database. Since court judgments do not have copyright protection,
Indian Kanoon does not violate any copyright law. However, recently the
elegalix portal used by allahabad high court has introduced image
captcha for restricting automated access to court judgment. For example,
someone needs to solve an image captcha to access the following
judgment:
http://elegalix.allahabadhighcourt.in/elegalix/WebShowJudgment.do?judgmentID=78472

Indian Kanoon provides just another portal for people to get access to
court judgments and thereby allows more widespread distribution of court
judgments. Restricting access to judgments in this particular fashion
will hinder Indian Kanoon ability to provide access to Allahabad High
Court decisions and thereby in people to have easy access to court
judgments.

Indian Kanoon fills in many voids which exist in current Indian court
websites. Restricting access to judgments also forces people to stay
with the court websites and force them to not use the law search tools
provided by other providers like Indian Kanoon. I think providing
unhindered access to court judgments is in the interest of Indian people
as they can use any research tools provided by any competitive portal.
If such restrictions are removed, people can choose whichever website
they like most.

Beside that image captchas cannot be solved by many people who are
blind, old age or do not have a perfect eye. While there are tools (like
text to speech) that allow such people to get information available on
Internet, there are no tools available for solving image captchas.
Therefore, image captchas on allahabad high court restrict access to
court judgments to an important class of Indian population.

I would like to know the reason for restricting the free access to court
judgments that was previously provided on Allahabad High Court website.
If the problem was in Allahabad server getting overload because of
Indian Kanoon crawling, I would be happy to follow any guidelines that
you would provide. Beside any additional guidelines, Indian Kanoon
crawling only starts at 12:00 am IST when there is little chance of
affecting any normal user on your website. Further, replicating court
judgments on Indian Kanoon reduces the load on Allahabad court servers
as many people can access the judgments directly on Indian Kanoon.

So having provided you all reasons for removing such restrictions and my
willingness to follow any guidelines that you provide, I would like to
know your decision in this respect.

Thank you,
Sushant.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Research Paper - One Size Does Not Fit All: 10 Years of Applying Context-Aware Security

Our new paper One Size Does Not Fit All: 10 Years of Applying Context-Aware Security is going to be published in May 2009 in International Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security 2009.

Here is the abstract:

Defenders of today's critical cyber-infrastructure (e.g., the Internet) are equipped with a wide array of security techniques including network-based intrusion detection systems (IDS), host-based anti-virus systems (AV), and decoy or reconnaissance systems such as host-based honeypots or network-based telescopes. While effective at detecting and mitigating some of the threats posed to critical infrastructure, the ubiquitous nature of malicious activity (e.g., phishing, spam, DDoS) on the Internet indicates that the current deployments of these tools do not fully live up to their promise. Over the past 10 years our research group has investigated ways of detecting and stopping cyber-attacks by using the context available in the network, host, and the environment. In this paper, we explain what exactly we mean by context, why it is difficult to measure, and what one can do with context when it is available.
We illustrate these points by examining several studies in which context was used to enable or enhance new security techniques. We conclude with some ideas about the future of context-aware security.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: India Unbound - Gurcharan Das

I had the book titled "India Unbound" (by Gurcharan Das) for a long time. Finally I got time to read this book on the flight.

Gurcharan Das discusses the economic policies of indian government since independence. Narrated in first person, the book does an extremely good job of putting the economic policies of indian government in perspective and how that impacted the indian society. Gurcharan Das, born and brought in India, went to Harvard for his bachelor's degree in Philosphy and then came back to India for work. He started working in a small team of 12 people trying to market Vicks Vaporub.

He discusses the huge investment in public sector as planned by Nehru, then the license raj and rationing perpetuated by Indira Gandhi and finally economic liberalization brought in by Narasimha Rao. He blames Nehru not for the large public sector investment but for his poor management of his own vision. He believes the delay in implementing economic liberalization and perpetuation of stricter license raj had been the worst thing that happened to India, whose blame squarely falls on Indira Gandhi.

The book argues that the economic model of controlling production, distribution and consumption of good through license raj, rationing and higher import duties have been the main reason for India's economic backwardness. It argues that the economic freedom that was obtained from Britishers was unfortunately handled to Indian bureaucrats who had no idea about business. The balance of payment crises that came in 1991 was handled much better by Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. Instead of increasing import duty and restricting money flow outside, the economy was liberalized by reducing import duties, reducing protection for domestic industries and removing the red tape of licensing raj. Definitely opening up the market turned out to be better than the bureaucratic control.

Beside an easy analysis of indian economic policies, what I found really interesting in the book is the large number of important people that Gurcharan Das met himself or read about. Understanding stories about these people, how they became successful or why they failed is one of the important contributions of this book. His experience as director of different companies and his work with venture capital firms shows more of his breadth and that makes the book more wholesome.

One common criticism of the book that I found on the Internet was that Gurcharan Das is a supporter of unfettered capitalism. However, I feel such boxing of him into a class is quite contradictory to large set of specific problems he points out in the licensing raj. I do not see why anyone should control the market in such a fashion as Indian government did till 1991. If the argument is for the protection to indian industry, I feel that 40 years is way long time for this. The government may have a role in regulating the market which the author agrees with in the book. However, the economic policies were not just regulating but also setting production, distribution and price of a large number of products.

I largely agree with his view of mis-handling of indian economy by the of politicians with very simplistic view of planned economy and little regard for human creativity for growth. However, I feel that there are some virtues of freedom and liberty which should not be sacrificed for any small term gain. Because in many situations, it is very hard to move forward once a person is stuck with a monopolistic product. Definitely most consumer goods do not fall under such category and he is right on that. I found his casual dismissing of the values of freedom and liberty quite disturbing. These values are important for future economic growth.

I would highly recommend this book and I have a copy of it if you are interested in loaning.
 
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