30 October 2006

Valgrind and Fundamental Algorithms

It's been quite sometime since I blogged last time. I was not sure whether I'd be blogging for another week. Life's a little busy and this week it's at it's peak. I am moving from Dulferstrasse to Muenchener Freiheit. More about that later...

In one of my old posts I had mentioned that I would be giving the course Fundamental Algorithms this semester. Finally it was decided that I would be doing the exercises for the course and Jens would be doing the theory session. So far so good.

It happened to be my first class today. I was quite busy over the weekend - preparing the notes/problems-solutions for today's class. It was 10:00 at night (yesterday) when I was done with the notes and the web-page for the same.

Today morning, Jens wanted to have a small chat with me regarding the problems and other details. We were talking and he was quite happy with the stuff I had done :). While talking, I noticed the word "valgrind" written on his desk. Being the co-author of "Valgrind-Howto", Obviously, I was curious about that.

I asked him whether he uses Valgrind and he told he wants to use it and he wants me to give him a small session on "Introduction to Valgrind". I was surprised to know that, there were people around me who knew that I wrote that stuff!, at the same time I thought that "I am screwed". It was about 4 years back I wrote the 'howto' and I hardly remember anything about it. But I was sure that, it would be quite easy for me to give him an intro. And that might even help me to upgrade the 'howto' once.

Somehow, the conversation was slowly moving into programming - yes, it happened. He asked me about M$, C# and .Net. He wanted me to tell him a little about those things too. Good heavens, I only know how little I know about the last two. It's true that I have done programming in C# and .Net, but I don't consider myself as a knowledgeable person who can tell about these things to others. Anyway I assured him - I shall help him in trouble.

Later in the class, I think I did it quite okay. There were 18 students. Never in my life, I had to explain anything to someone who was having a lower degree than me. I am not comparing the importance of degree/qualification. Whenever I have done a presentation or something, I was always doing it in front of my colleagues or professors. Since they already knew whatever I talked, it was always easy.

Today the scenario was different. Those students were new to algorithms/complexity. How do I tell them and explain them "what is what"? How do I go down to their level and explain things so that they get the complete meaning? It wasn't easy, but was exciting.

I was not tensed. But was not in the normal state too. I hope, in another 6 months, i.e, by the end of this semester I would turn out to be a good teacher. Today I did make some silly mistakes, but managed to go over them without panicking :). Very happy about it. I would give 5/10 for my today's class. Next week I should improve.

I want to write many more things. Lucky you!! - I don't have time. Let me do my packing and cleaning, before I move.

Signing off, Sands.

18 October 2006

Plasma Sushi

Before I go to the subject, let me introduce some terms.

TUM - Technical University Munich (I do my PhD in Math/CS department of this University)

Garching - The place where some departments of the above mentioned university is located. Here you have Math, CS, Mechanical, Chemistry, Physics and Medical-Engg(?). This place also has GE-Global Research Centre, The Nuclear Plant (EI), Max Plank Institute (MPI) for Plasma Physics etc. This specific location of Garching is called "Garching-Forschungszentrum" - means Garching Research Centre. Now onwards abbreviated as GFZ.

U-Bahn - Underground Train or Metro

Along with the inauguration event of new UBahn to GFZ, there was an open door day for all the research institutes in the area. Every institute had to make some posters and exhibition of the things they do at present. In TUM also there was poster presentation and stuff like that. I am not planning to explain about the poster I presented along with Peter. It was some tech-stuff of mine. I want to just share the knowledge I gained from some other stalls.

In Max Plank institute, I went to the plasma physics area. There was a guided tour which was arranged by them. They took us first to the Fusion reactor. It was really amazing. I couldn’t believe it when the guide told that the temperature inside the torus of the reactor goes more than one million degree centigrade. Many of the things he explained were based on the simple things which we have learned in school - like Magnetic fields and Transformer coils etc. but in much more sophisticated way. After the long explanation from him, my doubt that physics or math is the real basic science was strengthened. I really want to write about this plasma stuff here. But it might be a little too complicated to explain without diagram and all. So I am not attempting to do that.

Later the group was taken to the power plant where they store the energy needed for the plasma/fusion reactor. They are not generating any power there. They just store it.

The idea is simple. They plug in their motor to the power-grid, the motor starts rotating. The motor rotates a steel cylinder which weighs 200 tons. The more time they run the motor, it accelerates the rotation of cylinder. Once the it is rotating at a speed of 2000 rpms, they switch off the motor. The whole energy has been transformed to the momentum of the steel cylinder. Now, using the usual AC/DC generator, they tap all the energy from the cylinder in just 10 seconds. They take about 10 minutes to come to 2000 rpms, and it is gone in 10 seconds!! :)

I was really excited by this new knowledge I gained. But there was something more to learn on that day.

As per my long time wish, I decided to try "sushi" for the first time in my life. I went to a Chinese restaurant. Along with the other stuff, I ordered sushi too. I still don’t understand why sushi is so damn famous! It was not just tasteless, it had raw meat and fish. I started eating and I felt the meat was raw. I didn’t care, actually I don’t care even now. After sometime, I was sure that it was raw. I went home and checked in the internet about sushi and realized that it is sometimes given with raw meat/fish. That's fine - but my problem is that it was tasteless!

Anyway, I was using the chopsticks quite like an expert.

So these were the things I learnt:

  1. Plasma physics / Power storage
  2. Sushi is not that great
  3. Chopsticks are not that difficult to use.

Signing off, Sands.

8 October 2006

Ich bin kaputt

Yes, I am completely out of my mind. Tomorrow I have my meeting with professor and don’t have any clue about what am I going to discuss. I think I have been working quite okay, during the week. Still I feel that I don’t have anything solid to talk about. May be it’s fine, not every week I can prepare to my best.


This must be the last weekend on which I am working. Weekend break really refreshes you to be ready for work. And this is the real reason for which I am out-of-order. Next weekend I am going out somewhere. If possible, to the Fairy Tale Castle. This weekend O didn’t even go to Wal-Mart. Not because I was working – it was bad weather.


My sister is starting her engineering. She is becoming my junior at GEC. It really excites me. She would be going to IC too. I don’t know whether first year students go to IC. How will she be? Will she become a Linux evangelist? Or will she be like most of the normal girls? – Just not much into the philosophy or flame-wars about these free/non-free software. I don’t have any clue. But, for sure I WILL NOT try to influence her over these things. I am not even going to talk about these things to her – since I have quite a good influence over her thoughts. Let her learn for herself; talk with classmates, seniors and Pramode sir. Once she gets some funda[1] of her own, I should know how she thinks. I am already excited by these thoughts. If I, being her brother, have this much excitement, how much excited my parents would be about her? How much excited they would have been about me? There is only one thing which I have asked her to do – try to have an aggregate over 75% - I wanted to have it and I couldn’t !! (I was very bad at university exams!!) Is it wrong to have such a desire that let her accomplish what I couldn’t?


Nothing comes to my mind so that I can write.. Just empty!! Bryan Adams is singing … “Everything I do… I do it for you….


Signing off, Sands.


[1] Student Slang at IIT Madras [Funda (noun): Fundamental principle/concept/idea : The funda is simple] – There is even a Master Thesis done about the Lingo at IIT Madras. [LINK PDF]

4 October 2006

Growing towards maturity

I used to think, the crucial growing (mentally, philosophically) period of a male is from 16-21. It is the time at which he puts the foundation of his character, principles, basic philosophies etc. But now it seems that similar things are still happening to me. I never wanted to be a perfectionist. But I am slowly becoming one.

Lately, I am getting irritated a lot by my own mistakes. I know I have grown to a stage that no more mistakes are entertained. Others might be able to take that. But I am not able to accept that I made a mistake. Whether it is a single dialogue or a decision or a deed. I want to do the RIGHT thing. I am sure, this is not the influence of Mr. Narayanan (Courtesy: Mr. Ramakrishnan). But I am slowly developing this perfectionist feeling.

Lot of dreams.. lot of them that even telling/writing them out would make people laugh at me. And the tension/question that how will I catch my dreams? How long will it take? Am I working enough for that? The first two questions don’t have clear cut answers and will never have clear answers – since the dreams grow further when I reach near them. But the answer for the third question is “NO”. I know I have to work more. Then why not? (My favorite questions are Why and Why not?)

Yes, Why not? Is it because I am not dreaming enough to work for it? Or is there any other obstacle? Not able to figure out. Still things are not hopeless. Just that they are a little slow. I have to finish my PhD in 3 years from now – that is the maximum time I can give for it.

I know what I lack now. It happens that my friends who can give me that fire are not with me. For that matter, how many friends do I have? By friends I mean those who know me truly to the core? Very few. I always think that I am rich in the case of friends. Not really. Some got married – especially one I had admired very much as a person and that friendship is not going to be that strong anymore. Were we friends ever? I don’t know.

I don’t want to make a count of lost ones nor the ones I have now. I just know that the ones who can boost me up are not with me now. So, everything I do has to come from my own energy, enthusiasm, motivation. And that is really very difficult. Being my own PM.

Tonight seems to be a good one. The regular meetings with prof used to boost me up to a good level. Tonight something else also happened to help me gain a little more momentum.

In another 70 days I’ll be home for my first vacation. Before I go home, I should have done a good deal of my literature-survey and other stuff. Once I am back, I should be ready to have my hands on something solid. Yes, the transition from a computer scientist to a mathematician is affecting me. Actually the transition is a little slow. I believe that is always so. If it is very easy, then it’s not worth it … any one can do. If it takes time and hard work, then only a chosen few can do it and I have to be one among them…

Enough for tonight… I have started blabbering…


3 October 2006

Who should read my blog?

In Karthik's blog he says that you should give your blog-address to close friends only.

Acquaintances should not read the blog. Others can read if they come to know about it or come across it. But the advantage is that they would not come across in ur daily life or if they become ur friends, then it would be in the close friends circle ( somehow this theory of mine should be refined. Help needed....)

If you have a blog, let everyone read it. If you have something which you don't want anyone to see but you want to write, make the blog and keep it as draft forever. Or if you want to share something with a selected few, write it in a mail and send it across. His feeling comes from the thought that what someone would think while reading the blog?
Personally, I don't think what others think about what I think. I think for me. It doesn't matter what others might feel about it. If I write something, let people read it - irrespective of their relationship with me. Or if it is a secret, I don't write it in the blog. Blog is basically an open book or public white board and don't restrict anyone.
Another option you can do is to have a blog and be an unknown author. Act to be Mr. X and disclose you identity to the selected few.
I recently created a new blog (Malayalam). Before creating, I thought I'll play some Mr. Unknown - I have always wanted to be a Mr. Unknown (kind of fantasy). I even created a new blog and all setup. But finally I decided that whatever I say has to be mine and I would be proclaiming that proudly. Why should I think some person should not know that it's I who is thinking/writing? Hence I came back with my real identity - I was very uncomfortable till I came back to ME - That is my existence. So this Mr. X thing really doesn't appeal me.
My answer to the question in the title is this - I don't care as long as a few selected people DO read it. I want them to read it. Others don't matter.