Thursday, 22 April 2010

Google recomends Bing for 'search'

Today, out of whim, I searched for 'search' in google. To my surprise, first in the list was 'bing'.

In a way, I was disappointed to see 'bing' coming up above 'google' in the search results. But considering the fact that 'google' itself has become a verb, was this bound to happen sometime or other?

In a way I was happy about it. It is a testimony to Google's integrity when it comes to search engine. It is totally algorithmic and organic.

Interestingly,Bing recommends Yahoo.

And Yahoo recommends Search.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Embed signature (or any image) in a PDF

Today I had to embed my signature in a PDF document (a form) it. Typically, I would have printed the document, filled in the form with my signature, and scanned it back. But, I didn't have a printer or a scanner handy. I was not happy with the quality of scan available at nearby Internet cafe. So, I decided to use my digital cam to create the document.

Following is the step by step process describing the method I used to insert the signature into PDF. Hope someone else would also find it useful.

Step 1: import PDF into GIMP. Just drag and drop the PDF, the import dialog will appear. My default resolution was 100 pixels/inch. I increased it to 300 pixels/inch.

Step 2: Fill in the text using regular text tool from toolbox.

Step 3: Sign on a clear piece of white paper. Use your camera to take a picture of your signature. Open the picture in Gimp.

Step 4: In this step, we are going to remove the white background in your signature.
  • Add Alpha channel to the background layer. This enables transparency.
  • Use the "Select by color" tool (shortcut key - Shift+O). Ensure "Feathered edges" option is selected.
  • Click on the background colour to select it. Ensure all background areas are selected. You can press down shift key and add to selection.
  • Use Ctrl-X to remove the selected area. Press Ctrl-I to invert the selection. Now you should see only your signature selected.
  • To enhance my signature, I used the airbrush tool to darken the signature. This is optional.
  • Resize your image to required dimension. You could find out the required dimension by just selecting area where signature would go in and reading the dimension from status bar.
Step 5:  Copy your signature and paste it on the document.

Step 6. You are all done. Just ensure all the layers are positioned as you want. Merge and save.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Single Indian Cook

I am a single guy living in London at the moment of the writing. Due to unforseen circumstances, I've been forced to cook to feed myself. Since I could literally eat anything kept on my plate combined with the fact that I'd rather run a mile than wash a dish, I'd managed with sandwitches, salads and burgers.

Now that I have some time in my hand, I'm experimenting with cooking. Handling the spices reminds me of my chemistry lab expriments. Only this time, I got to eat the end product.

I found this good website with lots of recipes.

I'm going to blog my expriments here.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Back pain?! Could be Spinal TB

Are you suffering from chronic back pain? It could be spinal TB, also known as Pott's disease.

I was recently diagnosed with Spinal TB. I had a very severe case of infection and it had progressed to such a level that I began to have neurological side-effects. This is my experience.

The beginning: I'm an Indian in his early 30s. I started experiencing back pain when I had to relocate to a newer city for work. The company I worked for had arranged for my accommodation in the new place. I was using the bed available at the accommodation provided. I suspected that the bed I was using to be the cause of pain (it was a very soft foam bed). I started sleeping on the carpet which seemed to help. This went on for about 6 months.

The Progression: I had slowly turned lethargic and weak. I had to go out for some physical excerise to keep the back pain away. The physical exercise could be as simple as taking a 15 minute walk. I would feel good immediately after the walk.
I started using carpet instead of bed for sleeping all the time. In general, I started preferring harder surface for lying down compared to any softer ones. This went on for about 5 months.

The Final phase: It has been about 11 months since I started having back pains. I started experiencing occupational back spasm. As it was winter and the city was filled with snow, I couldn't go out for walks often.
One day, at home, I tripped over the carpet and fell. I experienced excruciating pain on my lower back. I had difficulty getting up and walking. I had to call emergency. At A&E, the doctor believed I have some kind of muscle problem. She gave me some pain killers and helped me get up and walk. I still had difficulty walking. I felt weak. But, I hoped it would get alright in couple of days time.
Two days later, when I woke-up early in the morning, I noticed that both my legs had gone numb. When I tried to extend my arm and reach for a switch I experienced a sharp pain in my chest. I had to call the emergency again.

The diagnosis: The doctor who was at A&E, ordered for an X-Ray of my lower back. They found a compression fracture at L4 and I was immediately admitted. The doctors (orthopaedics) had ordered for complete bed rest till neurosurgeons could review my case. By this time, I started loosing sensation on my right leg. The right leg had become very week compared to my left leg. I couldn't pull my feet up (I later learnt that this was called foot-drop). The doctors couldn't identify any reason why I should be experiencing chest pain. They believed I had some muscle problem which should fix itself with rest.

The neurosurgeon recommended that I undergo decompression laminectomy to relieve my spinal cord and nerves connecting legs (Sciatic nerves). He also recommended a bone biopsy as he suspected TB of spine.

Post surgery: Immediately after laminectomy, most of the sensations on my right leg returned. I slowly started regaining strength. But, it took me about 5 days to just get out of the bed and sit in a chair. My legs were so weak, I was unable to walk. It took me another ten days before I could walk with a zimmer frame.

Histology reports from biopsy suggested TB. As the culture of TB from biopsy would take more than 4 weeks, the doctors suggested I start on anti-TB medication. A month later, fully sensitive TB was cultured from my biopsy sample.

After 12 days, I was given a body brace to keep my spine straight. I was ordered to keep the brace on all the time, unless I'm on bed lying down. I was discharged.

The return to hospital: When I left hospital, I was barely walking crutches. I had another fall on the day I left hospital. This time I started experiencing extreme chest pain. I had to call emergency again. The doctor at A&E took x-ray of my thoracic spine and found a compression fracture in T4. During the fall, the body brace broke. I was ordered bed rest till the brace could be fixed.

After about 10 days, I was mobilised again by physiotherapists. The neurosurgeons recommended that conservative treatment for the chest pain I was experiencing. The 10 day rest had made me so weak, I had difficulty even getting out of bed. I started experiencing pain in my left leg and knees. The next couple of weeks were the most difficult period of my life. I had to take a cocktail of painkillers regularly to fight the pain. I was on regular doses of paracetamol, tramadol, amitriptyline and oramorph. I had to fight the pain to get out the bed and move around. But, slowly I gained strength. The more I mobilised, the better I felt the next day.

I was finally discharged from the hospital eventually. I had spent about four weeks in the hospital this time. I was still on crutches. But, I was confident I would be able to handle basic mobility.

I'm at home now, undergoing rehabilitation. The strength and sensation in my legs are slowly returning.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Venture into blogging for money

Having heard people talk a lot about earning tons of money doing nothing (blogging!), I decided to give this a try. Let me share my experience in my new venture.

1. Create a home in web

You need a place to start, a place you can call your home in web. There are plenty of free blog hosting services on the web. Blogger is just one of the places to start. Wordpress is a very popular alternative.

I've had this blogger site for quite some time. But I never took the initiative to write any content. I also had created my own google site. I've decided to use these two websites as my test/launching platform.

2. Create an adsense account

Create an adsense account. Google requires you to provide them your address and phone-number and a website that you are going to use to place your ads. Click on sign-up button on the website and provide your details. Ensure you have some content, at-least a single webpage, in your blog/website before you apply for the account. If the site is empty or under-construction, your application could be rejected.

The adsense site says it could take up to 7 days (1-2 days typically) for your application to get approved. My application got approved under a day.

3. Link your websites/blogs with adsense account

Linking blogger to google adsense account is pretty easy. Just click on "Monetise" link from your blogger home.

If you decided to create your own website/blogging system, logon to your adsense account. "Adsense setup" tab contains information about setting up customised ads for your website.

4. Just start blogging

Do I really have to explain this?

Additional references
I tried to do some research on how much people earn and how they earn blogging. I found following pages useful.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Jesus camp

I just watched the documentary "Jesus camp". I intend to share my opinion on the documentary. It was a huge eye opener for me. I consider myself to be someone who is neutral with liberal bias. Before watching the movie and during the movie I tried to clear my mind of any prejudices I have and watch it with a neutral eye.

The movie shows events as it happens in a summer camp for children ('Jesus camp') run by Becky Fischer. Fischer is a steadfast believer in Jesus Christ. She can be seen saying "how could I enjoy heaven with the knowledge that I never told people that meant so much to me about Jesus Christ". She believes she's doing God's work by showing the children what God wants them to do, that is be the warrior of God.

We get to hear some of the parents' rational for sending their children to such camps. They believe that God has given them these children and expects them to bring up the children with the belief in Jesus. They teach their children how the evil-minded liberal's could pollute their mind with false information (evolution, global warming etc) and prepare the children to defend their faith and believes.

As a child in the camp, the viewer can see that the child has plenty of things to like about the camp. He or she gets to play with other kids in the camp (we get to see kids go-karting). Participate in social events like singing and dancing. Being told that each one of them is unique created by God with some unique purpose in mind. The documentary focuses on three kids Levi, Rachael and Tory. Levi, who has ambitions of becoming a pastor, is one of the favourite students in the camp. He can be seen preaching to the kids in the camp that their generation is key to Jesus' return. Rachael believes god wants her to spread the his word, can be seen going and talking to strangers telling them that Jesus loves them. Tory loves to heavy metal music and loves to dance. But Britney Spears' and Lindsy Lohan's songs are not among the songs she likes because they are about "boys and girls".

Although I am against what they preach, I could bring myself to hate these kids. I especially liked Rachael. She genuinely believes she would helps people by talking to them about Jesus. When I look back at these kids, I could only see highly opinionated and motivated kids. It is very difficult to dislike these kids how-much ever one may hate the message conveyed by them.

I found few things Fischer said disturbing. Fischer wants these kids to grow into adults who would be ready to give up their life for their religion as some Muslims do. During an assembly the speaker asks "How many of you would give up your life for Jesus?". All the kids raise up their hands happily. I'm sad to see someone telling children that it is acceptable to give up life for any cause before the kids even know what life is. I'm also disturbed by the usage of words "war" and "soldier" in their preachings. Accepted, Fisher could just be referring to ideological war, but assuming that kids would all see that as purely ideological war is far fetched.

I found few things ironic. In one of the scenes, we could see that the children break ceramic cups with "Government" written on them, symbolically destroying the government that opposes their beliefs. In another, we get to see the same kids blessing Gorge W Bush who was head of the government at that time. In another scene, Fisher requests kids to come forward and wash their "sins" in holy water. I wonder what "sins" these kids of age 10 could have committed and to top it all the water was from a distilled water bottle (Nestle I guess) which is a product of science. In one of the scenes you get to see Ted Haggerd using a palm phone, what could arguably called a poster child for innovation in science.

To summarise, I liked the movie. The directors have been very careful not to support or ridicule the subjects in the film. An evangelical Christian could watch the movie and be inspired by the dedicated kids. A liberal could watch the movie and get horrified by the way children are groomed. The movie is just a time-capsule that gives the viewer an unbiased look into life of few Christians and lets the viewer form his own opinion.

I'd give it 9 stars out of 10.

Friday, 24 July 2009

My latest Ubuntu desktop screenshot

This is my latest screen shot of my desktop.

Doesn't it look great?

Also prepared a Youtube video of screen capture.