Freed.in 2009

By Kabir Bhargava

Freed.in is an open source event that takes place every year. Various long-term users come and give talks during the event about a specific aspect of open source. People attending it are mainly newbies or college students. The venue for the event for a few years has been the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. My father is one of the managers for the event and works very hard to make it a reality. This year it took place on 20-21 February.  

One of my friends, who is an expert on python – a programming language, Senthil came to Freed.in to give a talk. He was there only for a day and just to give that talk. His topic was about designing a game using python. The idea of designing a game interested me enough to attend the first day of the two-day event. It was a Friday and I had school, and also a Physics test. But I bunked school and went to meet him to understand python since I love playing games. Before the session, he showed me various things that can be done using python. He made a worm game (snake) and also a ship game. He explained the logic of the code that was otherwise a jumble of words to me. Though it was tough for me to memorize the commands for the game, I do remember they were somewhat like this: create spaceship, to move left, left arrow, to move right…then, fire with space, if shot hits another ship, +1points. If an opponent’s bomb hits player, then loud explosion and end. This was the first time I saw and sort of understood any code.  It was also the first time that it occurred to me that action-packed games that I play so often require knowledge of programming and patient checking and rechecking of a series of words and punctuation. I was also convinced about using python!

I found the event quite helpful because if just one session could convince me to know python, then I felt that others would be learning a lot more. For this year of Freed.in, surprisingly, 15 people from my school faculty had registered. I met my computer teacher who I learnt is an expert at open source applications. Interestingly, he was earlier our guitar teacher.

At the end of the first day, the volunteers and managers partied and ate together—it was clear that Freed.in to them meant lots of fun along with some work!

Music to my Ears

By Kabir Bhargava

I have gone for three concerts so far. I have found them all quite fun. My heart vibrates a lot with the loud sound and I quite like that feeling. And the fact that one gets to see a celebrity.

The first concert I went for was Shakti 2006. That wasn’t a real concert, because one, we had to sit; two, my heartbeat remained normal through it; and three, the crowd was quiet and didn’t stand up or scream. But the players played quite well.  There was Zakir Hussain, Shankar Pandey and a few more.

 The second concert was by Akon. That was a real concert. It involved standing, screaming, dancing and singing along. Akon is a real celebrity. He is very daring because he would jump into the crowd and even tried to push the barricade down between the paid categories. But the concert was very short for what I had paid for it—Rs.2000. It was only one and a half hours. I also had to miss my school trip for it. Akon sang very well, his band members were really good, especially his DJ. I am glad I went for it.

 The last one I went for was of the “Raghu Dixit Project.” They are a South Indian Band who play Indian rock. One of my father’s friends, Gaurav Vaz is the bass guitarist for the band. Since all their performances are for invitees only, we get invited to the Delhi performances because of him. They are a really energetic band as they jump around a lot. The lead singer, Raghu will ask you to stand and sing along and join him in jumping or singing. The drummer has a lot of power and plays really well; the violinist plays in the background and does a fabulous job too. The lead guitarist, Vijay Joseph would make funny expressions and play fantastically. Although, sometimes I couldn’t tell whether the marvelous guitar sound was by the bass guitarist or the lead guitarist. Then Raghu, the lead singer and acoustic guitarist jumps and moves around a lot. The entire group is animated, and has a lot of fun while providing it to the audience. At the end of the concert we got to meet each band member too. They are all very polite and gentle. They crack jokes and make you laugh a lot. I liked this concert and the band a lot! I’m going to be looking forward to their new releases.

 My connection with music is also through my playing piano. I have just finished grade 3, can play a few familiar pieces and want to learn more. I’d like to be able to play Fur Elise and The Entertainer at the very least. I also listen to music on my mp3. My current favourites are Linkin Park, Eminem, 50 cent, Nirvana, Red Hot Chilly Peppers, Santana, Metallica, 3 doors down, Jonas Brothers and a few more.  I love music. Once, during our summer break, my friends and I formed a band and made a piece of our own but never got to playing it anywhere. I was the singer for the band. Our band was called, “The Wilderness.” Our first song was called “Where I Belong.” For now the band has been lost in the wilderness!

I’d like to end by saying Music’s In My Soul (a song by Jonas Brothers)!

 

 

Not So Bored Games

By Kabir Bhargava

I love playing board games, but I usually have trouble finding a companion to play with. I like playing long games like Monopoly and Life, and they scare off people!

Most of the games I like have been given to me as gifts. Sometimes I call a few of my friends over and we play for a few hours, or when my cousins come to spend the night at my house, we play together. The only games I can convince my parents to play with me are Word games – Boggle being a special favourite since it finishes fast.   

The word games I’ve got are Pictionary (the senior one), Boggle, Scrabble and Hangman. I like playing Pictionary even though my drawing skills aren’t great. It is a bit tough like once the word on my card was the Wembley Stadium! Hangman is actually called Countdown and is an unknown brand but even then it has given us many hours of pleasure while pouring over its letters.

My collection of games is huge but I don’t use some of them because they offer no challenge anymore. But removing them from my library is not an option. I like to build on my collection without breaking it. The ones that continue to hold my attention are: Mad, which is a really funny game; something called Go to the Head of the Class, which is a general knowledge game; Scotland Yard is a detective game; Monopoly Original and Football version, Pictionary, Life, Cluedo and more. All these games require two or more players so they get used less and less. The games that I can play on my own and I like are Kaleidoscope, Solitaire (Brain Vita), and other games mainly by Dr. Woods, a company that makes mentally stimulating games. Although not a board game, I have Mechanix Senior and something called Mechanix Motorized, which is the same thing just that there is a motor given along which you have to attach and the vehicle can move on its own! I also have the usual games like checkers, chess, snakes and ladders, ludo. Even now I do enjoy playing something like Checkers but I have played them all so much that I find them uninspiring.

Out of this really long list of games my favourite is Mad. It is really funny. For example, the person who loses all his money first is the winner of the game. If you roll the die with your right hand and you are a righty, you win a thousand dollars, so always roll it with the opposite hand. It is a game that must be owned, so put it on your shopping cart. Currently, my shopping cart contains two games by Dr. Woods that are Railroads and Kogworks. Among the old games, I still don’t own a decent Chinese Checkers and have been longing to own one.

Other than these games, I would love to own a Robot that would play any game I want without questioning me.  

Moving On

By Kabir Bhargava

I am now moving on to class 8. The last few days of school are of course the best since we party all day and play on the field. And because we know a break is around the corner. But towards the end of this 

break, we think it was nothing! And then we start our new class.

The books for class 8 weighed about 5kgs and I almost collapsed carrying them. The first few days in the class usually feel very different as there is much more work to do. Also, I always have problems writing my class correctly since I am so used to writing the previous class. Our school used to have exams from class 6. But they stopped them till the finals of class 8 and instead kept a weekly test of 40 marks every Wednesday. So this year I would have final exams. I fear that this year would be a lot tougher because of that. But then I just stop and think to myself that there is no turning back now.

The next big milestone would be to give my boards. That’s the only thing that really scares me right now. Also, every alternate year we get shuffled – our four sections get jumbled up to form four new sections with different students. In class 6 I had made a great group of friends but we got shuffled in class 7. Now there is going to be a new section ‘E’ so to absorb the new bunch of students, we will get shuffled again! I do hope that I get my friends from class 6 again. After all school can’t just be academics without making lasting friendships.

Soccer – The Beautiful Game

By Kabir Bhargava

Soccer is the world’s most popular game. Pele once called it ‘The Beautiful Game’ and now that is a known phrase for it. I have been involved with soccer for about five years, and at the moment consider it my favourite game.

Soccer is mainly played in two forms, International and Club. I prefer Club because it is more involving and there are many more Club matches then International.

International Soccer

Soccer is not much about playing international except for the World Cup which is the most famous tournament held every four years, and countries around the world can play it if they qualify. Brazil is the best in the world cup and I support them. Other International tournaments are the Euro, Copa America, Asia Cup, and African cup. This way almost all countries play some tournament. The most famous of these is the Euro. The Euro is also held once in four years. It was held last in 2008 and Spain won. I am looking forward to the World cup in 2010 where as usual I would support Brazil. In the Euro I supported Netherlands and India in the Asia cup, who won in 2008.

Clubs

All club matches are important these days. All clubs play leagues. The most famous being the English Premiere League. At the moment, on first place is Manchester United whom I want to win. The best players of this season are Nicholas Anelka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robinho and more. Then comes the best league (according to me), The Spanish Premiere league. I like it because my favorite team plays in it — FC Barcelona. I started liking it because of my favorite player Ronaldinho. He is now in AC Milan which is my favorite Italian club. But I still consider Barcelona as my favorite. They are coming first in their league and have a 12 point lead from the team on second place. Then comes the biggest league for all, The UEFA Champions league. It is the league in which the top five teams of all leagues play together. I am looking forward to the final on 27th May.

I play soccer everyday with my friends and the days I can’t go out, I make up by playing Fifa on my PS2 . I play Midfield or Attack positions. My school has a league every year and I have been joining it for the last five years. In the league we play serious football every Sunday. Random teams are made and my past teams have had innovative names like Roaring Rapids, Dynamites, Nokia Nighthawks and Smart Gunners (the best I’ve got).

Soccer is like a religion to me. Who is going to worship it with me?

The Games I Play

By Kabir Bhargava

These days I have been playing a lot on my Play Station 2. I usually play God of War, True Crime, Fifa, Burnout Revenge/Dominator and Need for Speed Carbon. I do play a few more but these are the ones I like. I like playing all kinds of games, especially sports, fantasy and violent. The games I have mentioned here are almost one of each genre. I’ll only talk a bit about these games.

God of War: It’s a game about Greek mythology and has all the Greek gods. It is one of the most violent games in the world and is also rated like that. In the game you are this infamous warrior called Kratos, who is the most powerful person in Greece and has now got the help of the gods to remove all evil. His moves are really cool and the monsters he fights look real. The monsters are Basilisks’ (huge snakes), Hydras’ (huge water snakes), Cyclops’ (one eyed behemoths), Minotaur’s, Wraiths, Centaurs and more. The graphics of the game are amazing as I said everything looks real. I am playing God of War 1 but when I’m done I’ll go for the next 3.

Games I play

True Crime: It’s a violent game and a lot like Grand Theft Auto. Except that you are a cop. You do steal other cars, run over people and then show your badge to stop the cops from shooting you. If you get shot by a cop, you can take his job away. You can buy new clothes, change your hairstyle and even go to hotels to eat. Of course all that costs a lot in New York City and one has to save where possible to buy new guns. One thing better about this game than GTA is that you can walk into any shop or door while in GTA some places are locked. The graphics are really good, like when it’s raining, he gets totally soaked and even his shoes start squeaking.

Fifa: It’s considered the best football game in the world. All players and teams are included. Each year all transfers are also made. The graphics are quite good and with the commentary on the side the match looks real. I am now waiting for Fifa 10.

Burnout: It’s a good car game even though it’s not quite racing. It’s more about timing, destruction, running from cops etc. It’s a really fast game and that’s the best part about it.

Need for Speed Carbon: It’s the greatest racing game I’ve got. The graphics are fantastic. A wide choice of cars. Good story mode, nice places to race and fun to play. I think it’s the game with the best graphics I’ve got.

These are the games I play on the PS2. Would be great to know what you think of these games.

Cheers, Kabir.

(Pur)² – Bharatpur and Fatehpur

By Kabir Bhargava

My parents and I decided to welcome 2009 by counting birds in Bharatpur’s Keoladeo National Park and, once back home, by barbecuing and bonding over hot coals and food.

We started our trip to Bharatpur on the foggy morning of 29th December 2008 around 7:15 am. We couldn’t see beyond one or two vehicles ahead of us, and driving his slowest best, my dad decided to stay on the traffic-prone Mehrauli Gurgaon Road instead of taking the new and infrequently used Gurgaon-Faridabad highway. The drive was slow, worrying and, in my case, still full of sleep. As soon as we left behind Haryana and entered Uttar Pradesh, we thought of great paranthas and puris the state was known for, and stopped at a dhaba for breakfast. It was around 9 am but felt very early due to the fog so it felt strange that some people should be eating channas, dal and roti. Instead we decided to celebrate the morning out by having stuffed tandoori paranthas with sweet tea in glasses. The paranthas were delicious with tons of butter on them. I surprised myself by sharing yet another with my father and he by asking for yet another glass of tea (he is a strict coffee drinker). In another hour or so, we reached the temple city Mathura from where we could either take the broken Mathura-Bharatpur road which was only 34 km long or go straight ahead till Fatehpur Sikri and take a wide road to Bharatpur. So, we decided to do the latter and went straight on. The road was reasonable but meant driving for a couple of hours till we reached a railway crossing where we were forced to wait for almost an hour for several trains to pass. The road beyond the crossing got us to Fatehpur Sikri, where about 50 young men alarmed us by crowding around us and insisting that we stopped there, took one of them for Rs100 to see the monuments. It was a sudden attack and almost scary. All of them screamed some rupee amount or other and we played it safe by keeping our doors and windows shut, and moving on to Bharatpur. We were booked at the Birders Inn for two days, and made our entrance there somewhat late in the day at 3 pm but the rest was cool as the restaurant’s club sandwiches and paneer pakodas helped forget the delay.

After about 15 minutes of eating, our guide Brijendra Singh arrived to take us for a walk to the park. We were told that he was one of the experienced guides of the Park. Quite soon we agreed that he was one of the best because he was carrying a spotting scope which he was very quickly able to focus onto birds. He took us to the part of the park we hadn’t seen before and made us understand the characteristics of various water birds. Not only that, he often tested us on the new knowledge he was giving us. Birding through the scope was very much more fun as one didn’t just see the form clearly, one also saw the shiny eyebrow of Common Teal, the colorful beak of the Spot-Billed Duck and the raised beak of Comb Duck. We wound up the evening by sitting around a bonfire with the other hotel guests, having a buffet dinner and crashing for the day.

The next day also started with a heavy fog that ended up delaying our bird watching. I was excited about the experience of birding that day because we had decided that I would bike around on a hired cycle while my parents and the guide would walk. Our guide got me a well sized atlas cycle that surprisingly ran quite smooth. I used to zoom ahead and then cycle back to join my folks. Birding this way proved to be fun. We started with some forest birds in the form of Grey Nightjar, Orange-headed Thrush and a Red-throated Flycatcher. We moved to the water birds that were many and the walk for my parents was quite long. So long that we stayed in the sanctuary for 8 hours and towards the end my Mom would just sit some place or another when she couldn’t stand it anymore (pun intended!). Although I didn’t note down the bird names, I became aware of a lot of new names and I believe our species count was 80+. We returned too late for lunch so had a snack of grilled chicken sandwiches, more pakodas and fresh lime soda at the next door Hotel Sunbird. We ended this day too by enjoying the bonfire before and after our dinner.

The next day we found ourselves at Fatehpur Sikri but this time we were prepared for the guides. We took on a guide who was less aggressive than the rest and didn’t appear to fleece us. After a 10 minute uphill walk he took us inside that part of Fatehpur Sikri that had Saint Salim Chishti’s tomb and a few impressive gates. This whole area was full of people and looked very dirty. I was glad I had kept my socks on. Soon I was glad to be out of it and into the nicer part of Sikri that was controlled by ASI and had the known monuments that I had read about just this year. There were Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Panch Mahal and other well kept buildings on a wide stretch of sandstone platform. There were also well maintained gardens that came as a surprise.

We left for Delhi around 1:30pm, took a shorter route, tried the Faridabad road for the first time and made it to Gurgaon by 5 pm. We quickly did our shopping for the New Year eve barbeque, and I even managed to play soccer with my friends for an hour before settling down to light the fire and celebrate the beginning of 2009 over juicy kebabs and Snapple. It was a tiring but satisfying way to invite the New Year.

Here are some pictures I took to record these two days.

For more pictures click Here

Old

After nearly 55 years, I managed to contact an ex-RAF officer Henry Chambers. He was with me on the same Pilot Attack Instructor Course in Leconfield, Yorkshire, UK from September to November 1953. Two years ago, he saw a letter of mine in the Daily Telegraph in UK and sent me a letter simply addressed to Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava (Retd), Bangalore India. The letter found me with only a slight local delay.

We had got quite friendly as we were two of the very few attending the course who were not out chasing skirt every evening. We discussed many things including Hindustani Classical Music and calligraphy. At his request, I had given him, a sample of my calligraphy on a sheet of a notebook, which had guide lines printed in light blue on the pages.

We never met or corresponded after November 1953 but are now in contact though email and phone calls. We found that we still had much in common to talk over.

Henry suddenly located the calligraphed piece and sent me a scan of it. The paper was yellowed and frayed at the edges and had some smudges in places. I cleaned it up to produce a neat image on completely white background which looks quite new. I then made an old age version of it.

This is attached for your examination. As I see it, it was fairly good calligraphy, though not perfect. But it was a pleasure to see it after all of 55 years.

Minus Y2K

By Kapil Bhargava

The Y2K (Year 2000 AD) came in with a bang and went out with a whimper. If you were using computers at that time, you would remember the fear and panic Y2K caused all over the world. It was believed that the end of civilisation would occur at the stroke of midnight after 31 December 1999 the moment the date switched to 2000. Everything was so dependent on computers that nothing would work after that instant. A suggested solution to call up any old pre-Y2K data was to fool the computer by telling it that it was still 1999. Educational authorities in the UK should have thought of this simple solution. They told their computers that 00 meant 2000 AD. Result: they invited a 102-year-old woman to come and attend nursery classes. Suddenly their computers did not recognise 00 as 1900. In reality, Y2K proved to be a big yawn. But wait, Minus Y2K is something else.

Lord Rama came back to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana and taking possession of his aeroplane called the Pushpak Vimana as a war trophy. If we had the technology of flying more than 5,000 years ago and Mahabharata was fought with fantastic weapons, Egyptians must have developed even more advanced technologies some years later. Modern scientists can’t explain how the pyramids were built. The Great Pyramid of Cheops is aligned with true North within one fifth of a degree. No magnetic compass can do this for you The Ancient Egyptians obviously had very powerful computers and other technological marvels. The Minus Y2K theory, propounded by a freethinking American, Jeff Lindsay, can explain why their civilisation perished.

Minus Y2K means 2000 years earlier.than any date of importance. One such date occurred when the Prophet had to shift to Medina. It is from the emigration to Medina that the Muslim Hegira calendar began. Minus Y2K from this epochal event becomes 1378 BC. The plagues mentioned in the Bible were brought upon Egypt by Moses in that year. He was obviously the greatest computer hacker of all time. He brought the ten plagues on Ancient Egypt as terrible viruses and ruined all their hardware and software. Today’s hackers are no match to his abilities.

The full definition of all these viruses is not possible here. Simple explanations will have to suffice. Egypt’s waters ran red, as the ketchup factories’ computers could not recognise Minus 1999. They figured that the tomatoes were 100 years old and refused to process them. These were dumped into the Nile turning it blood red, just like in Bollywood movies.

The organic wastes dumped into the Nile killed the predators of the tadpoles causing the plague of the frogs. The dead fish on the banks of the river were food for the beetles to follow. The flies came from similar causes. Milk production stopped because of the Minus 1999 errors in the dairy computers. Instead of a positive flow of milk the pumps tried to put it back into the cows. Due to Minus Y2K, Egyptian computers could not predict the weather correctly and announced a huge swing in temperatures. The evening TV newsreaders said it sounded like “hail and fire”. The locusts emerged from mutations after the dumping of nuclear wastewater into the fields. Millions of giant locusts ate up all the Egyptian crops. The “darkness’ resulted from a shutdown of power stations which were not compliant with Minus Y2K. The final plague symbolised by the imprint of a hand in blood was to show who had paid their income tax and who had not.

The Pharaoh asked Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, if only he would please stop the viruses on Egypt’s PCs. But, the damage was done. Ancient Egypt never regained its technological excellence.

Managing Your New CP

By Kapil Bhargava

No, the title is not a typo. I do not mean PC but in fact a CP.
Some tips follow for handling your recently acquired CP (Child Person:
your new Baby). Similarities between your Personal Computer and the CP
may make your task easier.

The CP comes in soft packing. The stork stopped delivering these
systems long ago. Only qualified technicians (doctors and nurses)
should do the unpacking in a repair and maintenance unit (hospital or
nursing home). Amateur handling should be avoided. The packaging may be
required for future use, even though it may seem immobile for the time
being. CPs come in only two versions – M or F.

Immediately on unpacking, a CP requires drying with soft towels. This
is also a job for the technicians. They will ensure that peripherals
are connected and functioning before delivering the CP to its owners.
At this stage, the CP needs to be stored at a comfortable temperature
by being wrapped in a blanket or other suitable material. Variations in
temperatures can cause the CP to issue loud error warnings. The CP must
also be provided with receptacles for any efflux from it.

An early maintenance requirement of the CP is to be supplied energy.
Electrical sources like power cords and batteries are to be strictly
avoided. Energy is to be input as a white liquid. This is available
with the packaging itself for up to two or three years, though the
packaging itself requires careful maintenance during this period.

On the PC you face “Garbage In – Garbage Out”, known as GIGO.
Unfortunately, with a CP system, the situation is worse. You input
goodies and you still get garbage out. The output from a CP comes in
both solid and liquid forms and many grades in between. Its arrival is
informed to you via error messages, often at high volume. These can
persist till the error has been corrected and perhaps for some time
afterwards.

Receptacles for a CP’s efflux are disposable or re-usable. The
re-usable variety has to be thoroughly cleaned and dried before further
installation. Changing receptacles is not very complicated. A little
practice will enable you to handle the job as if you have been doing it
all your life. And, it will feel like it. A sensitive nose for solid
efflux detection can be of great help. Similarly a dipstick may help
determine if the receptacles are full of liquid matter.The need to
frequently replace receptacles has the further advantage that you will
not waste away your nights by sleeping, oblivious to your
responsibilities. Before changing receptacles, the CP itself must be
cleaned and dried thoroughly. Failure to do this can lead to damage to
the outer covering of the CP

The CP’s inputs have to be controlled carefully. Any opportunity for
viruses or other system hackers should be prevented by clean
procedures. If a nasty organism causes a problem, the CP should be
examined by suitably qualified technicians.

One year after receiving your new CP and each year thereafter you must
undertake special servicing. Other CPs of like vintage with their
owners are networked together for producing high volume processing.
Candles are lit to signify the number of years of ownership. Your first
CP should be networked with another, preferably of the second variety.
This helps in better operation of both CPs.

Government policies discourage owning more than two CPs.