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.