MTNL ad insertions

November 28, 2015 Leave a comment

I have been noticing ad insertions by MTNL in Mumbai area for past few months. The ads occasionally appear in arbitrary web pages. For example, here is an MTNL inserted ad at BBC website.

bbc-insert

This is annoying and comes on the way of browsing. I wondered how are they doing this insertion. After some digging in the source code I found that their method is very sinister. They are hijacking Google’s ad generating code and placing their own code.

Various websites display ads using the ad service of Google. They place some code of Google on their website and the code generates the ads on the webpages. The code usually depends on some standard Google libraries. Therefore, the webpages also fetch the library code from Google servers. For example, the following code that manages Google publisher tagging.

http://www.googletagservices.com/tag/js/gpt.js

MTNL code insertion is interfering with this mechanism. Sometimes when MTNL insert the ads, MTNL does not deliver the original gpt.js to the browser instead it sends its own gpt.js (exact mechanism is not clear to me. Possible theories, dns manipulation or sending redirection message).

Here is the gpt.js that MTNL delivered in the above example, which has the code that inserts the ads.

I suppose google should be quite unhappy.

This sounds very unfair practice by MTNL.

I have observed that they have replaced scripts of other web services too.

Categories: Uncategorized

E2O in Mumbai

February 15, 2015 2 comments

Last week, I bought an E2O, a made in India electric car. Before getting into a user review. Let me discuss the buying process. Buying the car has two key hurdles.

First, stiff resistance from family and friends.  Many car lovers challenge the idea of electric car. They will declare that this car is not for them or anyone because electric car comes with distance limitation. Some claim the car is not green, at the end of the day it will be less green then a patrol car, and economics also does not work. Some say your car is a coal driven car, because most of the electricity in India comes from coal. Some experienced car users call it “dibba”, it does not work, and It is too expensive. Some worry if this car has enough “power” to do all the heavy lifting they need.

Second, charging facility even at your own parking space, if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated parking space in Mumbai. I live in a government colony inhabited by enlightened people. I had to make a special request for a parking spot with charging station. Initially, my request was taken with pleasant and shocking surprise. However, I received the permission with in two months. Since the parking space is in semi-open area, installing a safe and secure changing station was a problem that I had to solve it myself.

Buying the car from a dealer was also not trivial. I had to call various showrooms in order to get in touch with the sales person who deals with and knows about E2O. After then process was smooth, I liked the test drive and booked the car. After the booking, I received the car in less than 2 weeks.

User Review

Little disclaimer: This is my first car. I have no reference to compare it with. I am also a new driver.

Looks: Interior and build of the car seems to be of reasonable quality. External panels are made of plastic, due to weight saving reasons.

Drivablity: Car is automatic with power steering, it is very easy to drive. Press the on button, forward gear, and you go. 50-55Km/h is a comfortable speed to drive. Max speed is 85 as promised. Sometimes pick up feels slow. But there is a boost mode in the car, which I have not tested long enough to report my experience. After a single full charge, I have driven 80km with AC on in light traffic conditions. In the trip, I went to Navi mumbai from South mumbai and back. After 80km, the charge dropped from 100% to 37% and car was saying that it can still go for 35km. It seems car can deliver 120KM as promised. I do not feel like testing to the limit.:)

Cost: Car costs  6.2 lakhs(T2 version) + 1.8Lakhs(5 year battery insurance). The 1.8 lakhs to be paid out in 3k installments per month. In total the car costs, 8 lakhs. Why this 1.8lakhs? The company forces you to buy this “battery insurance”. This insurance says that if battery goes bad before 5 years then they will replace it. Essentially, they are forcing you to buy two batteries. I hope my battery goes bad before 5 years but not in 5 years and 1 day.:)

Running cost: I can not comment yet on maintenance. That is yet to be seen. What about millage? I am experiencing 8KM/unit, that means, I can drive 7.5KM with 1 kwh of electricity. In terms of money, Rs. 1 /km (electricity rate : Rs 7/unit). A petrol car costs 5-6 rs/km. For another comparison, a typical AC probably consumes 4-5 units over night. Probably, the car will not add a massive cost in my electric bill. It seems the electronics of the car is not well optimized. In stand by, the car loses 2-3% charge overnight. This can be a significant overhead if the car is not used regularly.

I will extend this post after more experience with the car. Please post comments if you want me to report on some specific aspects of the car.

Is E2O green?

I have no idea. It depends on two factors. How green is the battery? And, how green is the electricity of India? I will write more as I will gather more information.

Economics of E2O

I think economics of the car does not work. In the long run, the car will be more expensive than a petrol car.  Probably there is no second hand market. I hope one day it will be cheaper.

Categories: mumbai, Science Tags: , ,

Sad times

November 28, 2013 1 comment
  1. Anand lost his reign
  2. Sachin retired
  3. Tehelka blew into pieces

Sad times indeed!

Categories: Uncategorized

Why publishers?

This year I participated in organization of a computer science conference. To my surprise, I found that conferences hire publishers instead of publishers own the conferences. Here is how organization of a usual CS conference works.

A conference is defined by its steering committee, which is a small group of top academics from the field of the conference. The steering committee appoints program chairs every year. The program chairs of a year sign a contract with a publisher to publish the conference proceedings. These contracts are signed every year. The program chairs organize the conference independently of the publishers.  They appoint the program committee with the approval of steering committee. The program committee reviews the submitted papers and accepts a subset of the papers. The program chairs send these accepted papers to the publisher for final printing. The copyright of the papers are held by the publisher in return of providing the publishing service for free.  They also give some free copies of published books to the program chairs. The copyright allows them to charge exuberant amount of money to the academic institutions to access the publications.

The natural question comes to mind: “Why publishers exist?”.

One may argue the following three contributions of the publishers.

  1. Quality Publishing: The publishers proof read the papers. Sometimes they  move around figures to pretty-up the paper. This task is usually done by some third party company located in some third-world country. They assign ISBN number etc to give the proceedings a unique identifier. And finally, they publish the physical books. Publishers do not make any editorial decisions.
  2. Reliable Dissemination: These proceedings are usually available at the publishers website for rest of the eternity. For Academic libraries, it is easy to follow these publishers to find most of the scientific literature. Publishers make dissemination of scientific works easy.
  3. Legacy Reputation: If publisher signs publishing contracts  only with high quality conferences then they build a reputation over time. There are no lack of conferences in academia. Academics keep inventing conferences to promote themselves. But if the proceedings of a conference is published by a publisher then the conference inherits the reputation of the publisher.

The first two contribution are already obsolete. The proof-reading service can be provided without the publisher. Usually, the cost of doing research is very high and hiring a proof-reader should only be marginal. An institution can easily pay for proof-reading of its papers by those third world companies. The printing of physical books and hosting the papers on internet are fast becoming inexpensive technology.  The cost of running a scientific publication website can easily be covered by scientific funding agencies. Anyway, they are paying for producing the content. Why not they also pay for dissemination?

The reputation of a publisher is the only reason, I think, that keeps them in business. While evaluating a published work, funding agencies factor in reputation of the publisher. This makes life of evaluators easy. Therefore, the steering committees of the  conferences do not want to move away from reputed publishers. This is hardly a compelling reason to have publishers. This is a classic legacy systems problem.

The underlying technology for publishing scientific works has shifted sufficiently that makes “the publishers” irrelevant and unnecessary overhead. All the scientists I have spoken to also say that they do not see any value of having publishers. However, it is very hard to chart a path from current system to a publisher-free system, without breaking scientific reputation system. Here is a great opportunity for innovations. I am very sure soon scientists will start experimenting with different publishing models for important conferences.

A list of Indian grocery stores in Vienna, Austria

October 29, 2012 30 comments

[UPDATE: the info on this post is getting old. address of some shops have changed. Look at comment section for corrections]

In last 1+ year, I have discovered the following Indian stores in Vienna. When I came to live in Vienna, I had a hard time in locating them. I wished that someone had posted such a list.

Shop Address Last verified
Josco Asian Supermarkt Einkauf-spitz
Pius-Parsch platz 5,1210 Wien
Sep 2013
Prosi Exotic Supermarket Wimbergergasse 5,1070 Wien
Tel : +43 1 974 44 44
April 2013
Asian Basar Neubaugrütel 23A, A-1160 Wien
Ph. +43-1-9838414
Nov 2012
Maxitech Handelsges mbH
MAX ASIA
Kleine Stadtgutgasse 12/1, A-1020 Wien
Ph. +43-1-2147887
Nov 2012
Dhaliwal
Cash & Carry & DVD-POINT
Lerchenfelder Gürtel 33, 1160 Wien
Ph: +43 9249662
May 2012
Deshi Anton Extosishe
Lebensmittel
Schönbrunner Str. 223A, 1120 Wien
Ph: +43 1 8100593
May 2012
Purewal KG Indische
Lebensmittel
Stumpergasse 62, 1060 Wien
Ph: +43 1 5975150 ‎
June 2011
Pride of India Nussdorfer Str. 90, 1090 Wien
Ph: 0676/35 62 615
June 2011
Indian shop Naschmarkt 974, 1040 Wien
Ph: 01 581 15 66
May 2011

I hope search engines will find this list and it will be useful to some people.

Sandeep (of the comment section) has kindly mapped some of the above addresses at google maps.

Amerika ist wunderbar!

July 23, 2012 2 comments

Last week I visited the US. This is my third visit to the country. Since people are so friendly there, it is hard to feel foreign in the US but I still cannot stop myself from finding the following things strange about the country.

  • They first write the month in a date.
  • On US$ coins, they don’t write the values in large numerals.
  • Flights at the airports are listed in the alphabetical order of destinations
  • At the airports, they still use am/pm for time.
  • On a whim, they can drive 100s of kms in some direction and come back.
  • After every 30min, waitresses ask if everything is ok.
  • Their smallest coffee cup is thrice the size of my expectation of a small coffee.
  • They have huge parking lots.
  • There are not as many MacDs in the US as I imagined.

Otherwise, the US is fun to visit.

Categories: culture Tags: ,

Book: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

A fantastic book! A sort of autobiography of Richard Feynman. I wish I had read this book during my undergraduate studies. Feynman’s worldview would have helped me a lot to understand the world of science. But, I may not have understood many of his comments on American society and the circumstances of his time.

He was mostly interested in doing science, discovering culture(s), and having good time with blond beauties. His attitude towards the world is full of curiosity with an element of bravado (assuming all is true in the book).  I truly identify with Some of his following discussions.

  • Once he visited Brazil for a year.  After his teaching experience there, he realized that his students were only memorizing physics but not really understanding. He said that it was a very serious problem. This comment was very true with my education(including IITK) and I found most people around me had no interest in the subject and they were studying only to get better grades.
  • He tried to learn Art and see if there is any sense in doing it. He learned music and painting. His initial skepticism about the art eventually turns into respect. And, he also becomes amateur artist. I am still in the realm of skepticism.
  • Once he participated in a interdisciplinary conference about ethical problems in education related to equality. He was totally confused in the conversation and failed to follow the ideas of people from the other disciplines. He thought they talk in a very ill-defined manner. Definitions are rarely explicated. Sooner or later the conversation was lost in the jungle of jargon. I still feel that way in my own field of  research. Let alone talking to the people of the other fields.
  • This book hardly comments on politics of his time except the WWII. During that period, he built the bomb. And, he wasn’t much bothered by the consequences of building the bomb. He only wanted to solve a difficult problem. Military applications of science and technology are always challenging. A highly skilled technical person may easily find the challenge very seductive and forget the consequences of his actions.
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