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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Establishing a sustainable model for Electrically operated transports

Bumping an old post - watch.
Shai Agassi, ex-President of SAP AG (PTG) spoke at a lecture series organized by NDN in his capacity as the founder and CEO of his company Better Place. He spoke about Project Better Place, a developmental initiative of Technologies that would make the use of Electric vehicles a viable solution for everyday transportation needs.
Highlights of his speech:

Google's unwise spam/bot verification process

Needed to create an alternate e-mail account to transfer a certain group of e-mail types from an existing account to another to try and end the insanity prevailing in that account.

Being a long time user of Google's email service [Gmail & Google Apps] & the other associated Google services that one can access with a Google account, thought no further than Gmail again to create a new account.

However, I was dismayed to discover that Google now asks me for a cell phone number for verification to ensure that the account is being created by a human & not bot or spammer.

Google asking for a cell phone number to register a new account

Now, the reason I am dismayed with this step, does not have anything to do with any privacy concerns arising out of sharing my number, but the fact that it is now necessary to possess a cell phone to create a Google account.

It is an especially unsound move for a country like India, where, despite impressive cell phone penetration, not every body possesses one, yet. Now, it may so be that Google allows the number be used for verifying multiple Gmail sign ups.

So everybody who wishes to sign up with Gmail would now need to either posses a functioning cell phone or have somebody sitting by the side who has one, so that the verification code can be received - how cumbersome, a total put-off.

The reason given for them to implement this step is to verify if the registration process is being performed by a bot or human, &, if the former, stop it. But then if that is the case, why are people made to recognise a Captcha & enter the corresponding alphabets and numbers in the previous page of the registration process.

If Gmail has not faith in its ability to detect Bots using captchas, then should they not replace with some other form of captchas, say, like the Re-Captcha, an entity it bought over not so long ago or completely do away with captchas if they find it ineffective. Cell phone verification and captchas are nothing but duplication of the same intent.

I remember, when in the second year of college, being asked by classmates to assist them in creating their first e-mail account. I, myself bought my first cell phone only when I was the second year of college. Now-a-days it is, however, not a rarity to see kids as young as in class 9 & 10 carrying one around, as they race from one tuition class to another. However for a vast majority of people in India, a cell phone is still not an indispensable device to possess and many are doing fine without it. By coupling registration to Google account with possession or access to a cell phone, it is going to turn off a significantly large number of Indians from using the extremely useful set of services Google has to offer & turn to other similar service providers.

I hope better sense prevails over the people at Google & they roll back this step.

I, on the other hand, decided to try out Microsoft's Live e-mail account & created an account with it instead.

Microsoft considers password of medium strength even if its exceeds permissible character limit

As it turns out, your password will never be too strong for Microsoft, even if it exceeds the 16-character limit imposed on password length.

Update: [2010.09.27] After I posted this, somebody tried to create an account with Google, but was not prompted for entering a cell phone number. Tried it myself - no number asked for this time around. People speculating that since my IP is dynamically assigned to me by my ISP [Tata Indicom], the IP address [or range] assigned to me during that session was probably used by someone else to to create spam accounts [or tried to run a bot to automate signing up] & hence I was prompted to enter the cell phone number when I tried to sign up.

However, the reality behind this roll-back is likely to be far more mundane, having nothing to do with any abused IP numbers or some such gobbledok - it may just so happen that my blog is the first thing Larry Page accesses after logging on to the Interweb every day. So seeing me complain about the cell phone verification process, gets his coders to roll it back - a lot more plausible an explanation I'd say.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ZERO DAY: United States Air Force website hacked [defaced site]

The screenshot should tell you all - The United States Air Force had one its website defaced.

Click the picture to view a larger-sized image

Hacked & defaced website of United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals

By the time I got to the site, they had already restored the site. But Google still has the cache of the defaced page. Will be replaced after its next crawl of the page, so took a screenshot for posterity.

The website in question belongs to the United States Air Force's Court of Criminal Appeals. Ironical that your crime targeted a website dealing in crime.

The United States Cyber Command, with its annual budgetary allocation of $2 Billion USD [2008 figure] couldn't stop the exploit. Well at least they restored the site back to its pristine glory by the time I checked their site this evening. Also their main website was not harmed [at least from a visitor's perspective].

P.S: Is there any reason why the United States Armed Forces, with their multi-billion dollar budget and generations ahead jaw-dropping, eye-popping gizmos weapon systems does not do a 301 re-direct to take me to when I type in I instead get the site not found page when I type the latter [Using OpenDNS, get re-directed to their page].Same goes for the websites of the other branches too. The United States Marine Corps website is however the exception - automatically re-directs me to - wonder why? Genuinely curious.


Possibly Related posts: Nameserver not responding Hacked !!!! (Digit's site hacked, but hacker causes no harm)

26th November 2008: Channel 4 Dispatches - Terror in Mumbai

Make site accessible without the www

Update : Make site accessible without the www

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Exercise Garuda: Indian Air Force in France [French report]

The Indian Air Force, in June, embarked on a trip to France to take part in the Grauda series of Air Exercises with the French Air Force. This time around the Singapore too sent in its Air Force flying the F-16s [Block 52 variants]. The latest issue of the Armee d'aujourd'hui has an article about the same. Can't read French - kala akshar bhains barabar :)

Click the thumbnail to view  a larger-sized image of the article

Armee d'aujourd'hui - French Ministry of Defence publication Armee d'aujourd'hui - Table of content
Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI at Exercise Garuda, France

Indian Air Force at Exercise Garuda, France

Indian Air Force in France to take part in Air Exercise Garuda

Of special interest was the participation of the French Rafale, with rumors circulating around the Internet stating that their participation was far less than what was earlier anticipated. Difficult to draw conclusions from this article, but the article says Rafales were introduced to in the exercise to "complicate matters"?. Also that the Indian Air Force flew on the aircrafts [twin-seater variants] and were mighty impressed with its performance.

More than 20 hunters can be hired on the same scenario, "says Lieutenant-Colonel Maurer. It even happens that hunters from other French bases just "complicate" the laborers, as the Rafale squadron 1 / 7 Provence of BA113 Saint-Dizier. The exercise area includes the Massif Central, a part of South-West and some sea off Corsica.

More than 20 hunters can be hired on the same scenario, "says Lieutenant-Colonel Maurer. It even happens that hunters from other French bases just "complicate" the laborers, as the Rafale squadron 1 / 7 Provence of BA113 Saint-Dizier. The exercise area includes the Massif Central, a part of South-West and some sea off Corsica.

In the middle, from left to right: A French pilot has the Rafale a "colleague" of India. Drivers and F16 Singapore. The 105th Squadron of the Air Force Singapore is set on the French base at Cazaux.

In the middle, from left to right: A French pilot has the Rafale a "colleague" of India. Drivers and F16 Singapore. The 105th Squadron of the Air Force Singapore is set on the French base at Cazaux.
As pilots, they show "a great curiosity about French tactics and procedures," as the captain concedes Amit Vij, the 8th Pursuit Squadron of India. But Garuda gave two of them the opportunity to fly on the Rafale. Although a significantly smaller size than the Sukhoi, the flagship of the French Air Force "was very impressed," said Col. India to follow suit before his crew towards the tarmac sunburned.

As pilots, they show "a great curiosity about French tactics and procedures," as the captain concedes Amit Vij, the 8th Pursuit Squadron of India. But Garuda gave two of them the opportunity to fly on the Rafale. Although a significantly smaller size than the Sukhoi, the flagship of the French Air Force "was very impressed," said Col. India to follow suit before his crew towards the tarmac sunburned.

On a side note, with UAE now showing less of an inclination to acquire the Rafales to replace their Mirage-2000 EAD/RAD/DADs & the Brazilian decision hanging in limbo & no International customer to show for the highly capable aircraft till now, the French would now be even more eager that India's MMRCA contract be won by it. Gives Indian negotiators the much needed upper hand in extracting the best deal out of them, if IAF makes its preference for the Rafale known.

I also maintain a tagging blog for noting down news of aircrafts competing the MMRCA acquisition programme [Current]  [old - now shifted to Blogger]


Possibly Related posts:

India’s Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft program : A comprehensive summary

World’s Air Forces and their Flying Machines

Pictures from Yudh Abhyas 2009 Indo-US military exercise

[not quite] Suggested Reading for the weekend – 2009.11.28

Aviation reading [suggested weekend reading]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica] [suggested weekend reading]

India, in 1983, marked its permanent presence on the snow-covered continent  of Antarctica with its first Research station - Dakshin Gangotri [meaning Southern Gangotri (source of the river Ganga)].

The team that made up the first set of residents of Dakshin Gangotri was lead by Major General [retd] Satya Swaroop Sharma, former director of India's Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment [SASE].

I recently received this nicely written, informative white paper that he had authored, in which he gives a very nice, sufficiently detailed account of the work & effort that went into setting up Dakshin Gangotri for catering to needs of Indian Scientists & Researchers, who have been year-round visitors to Antarctica since then, as part of Indian Antarctic Programme.

Click on the thumbnails to view a larger-sized image

  Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]

Since then India has setup up one more permanent Research base there - Maitri, with another research station, Bharati, being in the process of being set up, targeted for completion in 2012.

He has, in fact, also authored a full book sharing his experiences in Antarctica - Breaking the ice in Antarctica: The first Indian wintering in Antarctica. It is also available for reading on Google Books, as a partial preview - currently reading it - amazing stories, engaging narration.

Speaking of Google Books, started using GoogReader to them. Displays them in an easy to read book-like layout, making reading very convenient [HT Lifehacker]. I would however have liked them include a feature that remembered the last book read and also the last page read before closing the application. Probably available in the paid version, not sure - check it out, but a very nifty application even as a free app.

National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR)


Possibly Related posts:

Dr. Kota Harinarayana: Development of Complex Systems – Issues and Challenges

Suggested reading for the weekend – 2009.11.15

Space Agencies & Manned Moon missions: International Astronautical Congress 2009

The 9 Theorems of Innovation at Google – Marissa Mayers

Monday, August 09, 2010

Stumpy, Elephant mascot of 2011 Cricket World Cup - making a statement

Not much of a cricket fan, least of all the utterly dull, languorous 5-day Test match format [its connoisseurs are stuck in a time warp - there, I said it - now sue me #kidding], I was flipping through the sports channels during the 3rd Test match being played between India & Sri Lanka. Just as I was about to switch to the next channel, they happened to telecast the unveiling of the mascot of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup - Stumpy, a 10-year old Elephant. Now, being decked up in some sort of a rain coat notwithstanding, what struck me was the actual choice of the mascot - an Elephant.

2011 ICC Cricket World Cup Mascot - Stumpy, the Elephant

Though stripped of its rights to physically host any of the matches, Pakistan still remains one of the organizing members or hosts of the games, however just-on-paper it may be. The tournament is supposed to be just as much of a contributory effort of Pakistan [again, on paper] as any of the other 3 countries & it it would not be unexpected on parts of the Pakistanis to expect that their participation as hosts get highlighted in important aspects of tournament [such is that country of great expectations - they expect everything from everybody - weapons, money, trade aid....the list is endless - the inflated sense of entitlement that they posses].

In light of their continued participation as host of the World Cup, choosing an Elephant as a mascot seems to me as a way for the other 3 countries - India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, to make a statement - the World Cup is not Pakistan's baby - they're an outsider - a hanger-on, leeching off the revenue it would generate.

The message should not be very hard to get across to the Pakistanis - the Elephant is native to all the 3 countries except Pakistan. No elephant has ever roamed in the wild of, what was described by its founder itself, the moth-eaten country. The elephant has had no presence or association with Pakistan.

Quite a snub from the organizers I'd say - something that the country should've got used to by now, what with not a single IPL team owners bidding for Pakistani players, its invitation to play in the Champion League Cricket being withdrawn, countries refusing to step foot on its soil and thus having to face the ignominy of losing to those countries on some "friendly foreign soil" - the list  goes on and on. Can't say I'm not enjoying it though #evilme.


Probably related posts:

You are cordially invited to our wedding

Lets see if u can stay awake without yawning after watching this

Only in Pakistan – antonyms are synonyms

Tata Capital ad - What are you trying to imply Mr. Tata?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

MMRCA Aircrafts in flight [weekend YouTube watching]

With the results of India's MMRCA acquisition programme just about a year away from being announced, it would not be a bad time to watch each of the competing flying beauties in all their flying glory.

Mikoyan MiG-29 OVT & MiG-35 [Duration: 4 minutes 48 seconds]

Mikoyan MiG-29 OVT & Mig-35 in flight

Some more Vectored-thrust flightgasm: MiG-29OVT <--> MiG-35

On Wikipedia: MiG-35, MiG-29

Note: MiG-29 OVT is the Technology Demonstrator [TD] aircraft that validated the vectored thrust and other technologies incorporated into the  MiG-35.

Dassault Rafale - On Wikipedia

Eurofighter Typhoon - On Wikipedia

Saab JAS 39 Gripen - On Wikipedia

Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper/Fighting Falcon - On Wikipedia

Another: F-16 Cockpit tour

Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - On Wikipedia

As for which aircraft moi rooting for - purely on aircraft ability and manufacturing setup, I'd have gone for the F-18 Super Hornet - Boeing has undoubtedly one of the most evolved ERP and Supply Chain Management in place. The second M in the MMRCA is best exemplified by the Shornets, IMVHO of course [a blog topic for some day, perhaps].

However, considering that the Indian Air Force currently operates no American combat aircraft, which would then require a completely new logistics supply chain and maintenance line to be setup, adding to the overheads & with its history of imposing sanctions as and when it desires, I'd be very averse to the idea of buying them, their technology advantage notwithstanding.

Instead, moi would like the IAF to recommend and the MoD to decide on purchasing the Dassault Rafale aircraft. Having been a very satisfied operator of the Mirage-2000H aircrafts, the Indian Air Force had earlier expressed its desire to purchase additional Mirage-20005, an advanced iteration of the Mirage-2000 to bolster its rapidly declining squadron strength. However, in ways typifying our bureaucratic babooz, by the time the decision had been taken with much delays, Dassault had already shut down the production line of the aircraft, cost of restarting which for the Indian contract would've rendered the final cost of the aircrafts unviable. So started a hunt for an aircraft for the Indian Air Force through an acquisition programme labeled the biggest defence contract in the world out there.

Besides being a capable aircraft in its own rights [moi, the Armchair, brochure reading, YouTube watching Air Chief Marshal speaketh], India has also had a fairly satisfactory defense relation with the French, both in terms of user-experience and supply of spares [the latter factor marking an absolute low as far as Indo-Russian ties go]. Sharing commonality with the Mirage-2000, it would be an easier task maintaining the flight-worthiness of Mirages, to undergo a comprehensive MLU programme of its own to keep them air-worthy for the next 20 odd years [expected to fly till 2030-35] and the Rafale, owing to the commonality inherited from being products of the same company - Dassault.

Yet, the fact that it does not have an operational AESA radar may work against it, for if newspaper paper reports are anything to go by, the Indian Air Force is big on having them on its MMRCA aircraft. This condition, if strictly enforced, could leave only the F-16 Vipers and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in fray. The Vipers & the Super Hornets with their their AN/APG-80 & APG-79 radars respectively are the only competing aircrafts with operational AESA radars. Although all the competitors have assured an AESA by the time the contract is awarded, the AESAs being in the final stage of testing they claim.

A quickie comparison between specifications of the different aircrafts.

Click on the info-graphic to view larger-sized image

Quick comparison between specifications of aircrafts competing in the MMRCA acquisition programme

Whichever aircraft comes out on top is expected to serve in the Indian Air Force till around 2040, forming the workhorse of the IAF along with the Tejas, with the FGFA and the Su-30MKI forming the strike components [there is also the AMCA, which may fit in role similar to that of the MMRCA, though more advanced aircrafts that would outlast the MMRCA]. All in all, very interesting times ahead.


Possibly related posts:

Warbird in Pune: MiG-23 MF Flogger Aircraft [Updated]

World’s Air Forces and their Flying Machines

India’s Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft program : A comprehensive summary

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: An Overview 01

[not quite] Suggested Reading for the weekend – 2009.11.28

Know your Jammu & Kashmir [suggested weekend reading]

The recent eruption of riots, arson & mob violence in the Kashmir valley of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir evoked an interest in knowing more about the issue at hand. After going through the sources of information available, one belief that was reiterated was that the nature of reporting and point of view adopted by the media houses [quite contrary to the view that the media houses should only report the news without voicing an opinion - it's the job of the reader] is based more keeping in mind commercial considerations than taking the plunge and asking the real hard pertinent questions that are bound to cause discomfort to people in the place of power.

Rioting, stone-pelting arsonists running their writ in the Kashmir Valley

Sharing some links of interest - by no means exhaustive but may help gain some perspective of the issue confronting us.

Article 370

Kashmir Article 370. You may read the full book here [chapter links on the right]

Brief History - Article 370

The truth about Article 370 [URL to e-book present on that page]

Essays & Books

Converted Kashmir - Memorial of Mistakes [e-book]. Also available on Scribd. A hard copy of the book may also be purchased here. Chapters of special interest - Governor Jagmohan, Article 370

Jammu & Kashmir:  Self-Determination, Demands for a Plebiscite and Secession

The Linguistic and Cultural Diversity of Kashmir

Pakistan's role in the Kashmir insurgency

Home Minister’s Statement in Parliament on Jammu & Kashmir

The truth on Kashmir and terrorism in India - US State Department report on Terrorism

Paradise lost

Terrorist role of Pakistan

Articles & Columns:

Stone throwers killed my child: Kulsooma

Naiveté in Srinagar

The Shadows in J & K

Why giving in to Kashmir -fatigue is not a good idea

Anarchy in the valley

My thoughts on Jammu & Kashmir - B. Raman

Forgotten people of Jammu & Kashmir: Refugees from POK

Dispatch: the politics of policing Kashmir

Kashmir Deal - Solution or Surrender?

Valencia to Valley, money passes - With Kashmir on the boil, trail from Spain blips on security radar

Kashmir survey finds no majority for independence

Hair cut fuels Sikh protest

Abrogate Article 370

The Ugly world of Kashmir's online rebels

Afghan heroin used to lure youths for stone pelting

Af-Pak Behind the Lines: Kashmir

Blogs, websites & News outlets:

Kashmir Information Network. Please take a look at its Book section - available for reading online

Panun Kashmir: A Homeland for Kashmiri Pandits

Roots in Kashmir

Rising Kashmir

Jammu & Kashmir Newspoint

Indo-American Kashmir Forum

Terror unleashed - An exhibition on Kashmir

The Kashmir [Please do check its Blogroll]

Kashmir Herald


Possibly related posts:

Suggested reading for the weekend 2010.06.19

How to make any Website a reader-friendly page

Suggested reading for the weekend

UCAV: How to wage a war from your living room

Reclaim ‘Bombay’ and ‘Bangalore’

Thursday, August 05, 2010

1945-1998: 53 Years, 2053 Nuclear detonations, 14 minutes

Came across an interesting work of animation prepared by a Japanese named Isao Hashimoto. Starting from the first Nuclear test detonation in 1945 at New Mexico by the Americans, it animates all the 2053 confirmed Nuclear test explosions till 1998, that culminates with India's Shakti-series of tests [that was preceded by the Smiling Buddha] and Pakistan's copycat Chagan-Chaman-whatever-it-is-they-called-theirs test. Since this animation was prepared in 2003, North Korea's 2 Nuclear tests remain undocumented here.

Set to a scale of 1 second denoting 1 month, & mapping the test locations on a map of the world, it gives us a sense of perspective of the mindset & prevailing threat perceptions during the Cold War era. Built primarily as a weapon of deterrence [thanks to MAD] & make policy statements*, one can see the mind-boggling frequency with which the power centers of the time tested their devices at the height of the Cold War - the animation goes bezerk with the light & sound display of Nuclear explosions during that period depicted.

Duration: 14 minutes 24 seconds


The video denotes only those Nuclear explosions that were backed by confirmatory data, the data having been sourced from the compendium Nuclear Explosions 1945-1998 published by the respected Stockholm-based organization SIPRI. Thus India is shown to have conducted a total 4 Nuclear tests, while Pakistan 2 and the Vela incident finds no mention.

* except in case of a certain nation that has been termed an "International migraine", who uses it to threaten the world with suicide


Possibly related posts:

Establishing a sustainable model for Electrically operated transports

The boy who built his own Nuclear Reactor

Russian Surface to Air Missile (SAM) Simulators

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Easy and hassle-free downloading from file-sharing sites [software]

As an Internet user, downloading a file from one of the innumerable file-sharing websites like Rapidshare, Megaupload etc is quite unavoidable given their convenience & resulting popularity. From personal experience, I'd say that I am more likely to find files I am looking for on one such file host rather than, say, the Bit Torrent network.

However, if you are a non-paying user, then downloading files from such a site can be a very inconvenient & frustrating experience - CAPTCHA, multiple mouse clicks, countdown timers, limit on number & size of files downloaded ityadi. Limitations put in place to encourage [rather, force] you to become a paid user, after which all such restrictions are removed. With every one having their own preferred file host & thus sharing them on a different site from the other, becoming a paid downloader on each of these sites may not be a very VFM idea [understatement].

In the last couple of days I've had to download large number of files from such file-sharing websites. Being a non-paying user, the prospect of going thorough the whole cycle each time I had to download a file [93 files in all] had to be avoided.

easy & convenient downloading from Rapidshare and other file sharing sites

FreeRapid is a useful download manager that does just that. All you have to do is add the URL of the file in Free Rapid and specify where you wish to save the file and FreeRapid will do the rest for you. No more mouse clicks or countdown timers to deal with - gives a convenient & hassle-free download experience. Best of all it is a Freeware.

The developers state that it can download from more than 150 such file-hosting websites. I've tried downloading from a couple of sites, including YouTube and was able to download with ease & without issues. It also claims to be able to resolve some types of CAPTCHAS. If it fails to do so, you shall be prompted to do it manually after which download begins

Gripe: Free Rapid can't seem to prevent the computer from going into standby if the computer is not being used for anything else & left unattended - currently using Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. Its a big problem if the file-sharing site does not support download resuming - downloading will re-start from 0% no matter what. I had to run some other program alongside to prevent standby. Also the option to shutdown the computer after download was completed seems not to be working.

Small gripes aside, I'd say FreeRapid is a must-have tool to download from the the online file-hosts as a free user with ease and convenience.

While looking for a suitable software, I also came across some other such freeware download mangers that are said to do just the same - Mipony, MDownloader & Skipscreen [Firefox add-on].

Haven't felt the need to try them out yet, but a quick Google tells me that they are just as easy & effective.


Possibly related posts:

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How to create, edit and remix audio files without installing any software?

Keep your installed software updated using Personal Software Inspector [PSI]

Make site accessible without the www

Google Email Uploader : Transfer/copy/import all your emails to your Google Apps email account

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Carbon Dioxide powered Engine for Space travel [India connection]

Scientists and Engineers are working to develop a propulsion system utilizing Carbon Dioxide, CO2,  as an oxidizer to generate energy. A departure from conventional combustion of Hydrocarbons that produces CO2 as by-product of combustion.

One such attempt is underway at the University of Hertfordshire where they are working to develop a prototype Engine to demonstrate the feasibility of using such an Engine to power future missions to Mars. If successfully developed, it would essentially halve the required amount of fuel needed to be carried by these Spacecraft, as the Carbon Dioxide needed for the return flight could be captured from the Martian atmosphere itself - a major breakthrough since this would greatly reduce the total weight of the spacecraft, economizing the use of fuel needed to generate required thrust to propel such a craft.

Can watch the concept being explained in this video [Duration: approximately 6 minutes]

Carbon Dioxide-powered Rocket propulsion system

Solution essentially proposes igniting finely divided Aluminum, supported  by CO2 as an oxidizer to generate heat. Here, the choice of the oxidizer borne solely out of its easy availability in the Martian atmosphere.

4Al + 3CO2 -> 2Al2O3 + 3C + Heat [exothermic]

Nothing new about the reaction - known since ages, but the challenge lies in putting it to practical use. Some issues, I foresee, that need to be addressed before such a propulsion system can be put to practical application - amount of specific energy generated which would determine the size of the system, ability to effectively control the process of generating energy & just as important, IMO, the cost-effectiveness of such a solution.

The use of such engines on Earth, however, need not necessarily be a solution to current problems. CO2 is a much-needed greenhouse gas needed to maintain optimum temperature on the Earth's surface sustaining life. Even though its increasing levels in the atmosphere is a cause of concern now-a-days, removing it from the atmosphere that could lead to a situation where you remove more than you produce, if it were to ever reach that stage, could prove to be quite catastrophic. Its more of a specific solution for a specific application type scenario.

Not to anybody's surprise I guess, the research at the University of Herefordshire involves an Indian [or at least a person of Indian origin] Sathyakumar Sharma who had previously worked with the Indian Space Research Organization [ISRO]. With so many Indian sounding names popping up in almost every other eye-popping experiment or research being carried out around the world, I cannot help but feel that India must find a suitable way to leverage this to gain from their expertise, and, more importantly, their experience to aid & fuel its own programs. Crowdsourcing, short-term focused project groups, mentorship could be some of the ways to achieve this. Been reading news of a reverse brain drain happening in India - need to incentivize/accelerate this through the implementation of smart policies.


Possibly related posts:

Nukes in Space: Rainbow bombs [Documentary]

Space Agencies & Manned Moon missions: International Astronautical Congress 2009

Design Engineers, I.T. and Crowdsourcing

Pranav Mistry talking about Sixth Sense at TED India 2009

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sardar and his tenacity

Sardar Vallabhai PatelMy respect & admiration for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel gets reinforced every time I read about India's struggle for independence, especially the enormity of challenges faced by a post-independence India & the situation prevailing at that time.

Faced with the prospect of inheriting an India pockmarked with more than 500 independent princely states within its national boundary, it fell upon Sardar Patel, independent India's first Home Minister to ensure that rulers of these kingdoms see light & integrate with the Indian Republic.

With dogged determination & perseverance, he set about the unenviable task of trying to persuade the rulers of these kingdoms, often whimsical & illogical characters, pampered into subservience by the British Raj - none of which would be possible in the Indian Republic, to merge with India for the greater good of all. When all else failed, he was, on occasions, forced to send in the Armed Forces to effect an integration. His use of force as the last resort did make him unpopular amongst certain sections within the Congress party, but thanks to his lack of interest in winning any popularity contest, we in India enjoy a contiguous India, free of any of such aberrant independent states within our midst.

His immense powers of persuasion, however, would alone suffice in getting most of these princely states within the Indian fold. While reading an amazing book written by J.N. Dixit India - Pakistan in War and Peace, I came across one such example of Sardar Patel's power of persuasion [Page 101],

"The maharaja of Indore decided briefly to declare his state independent and not to accede to India or Pakistan. The story goes that Sardar Patel invited him to come to Delhi to finalise the decision. His Highness Maharaja Malhar-Rao Holker got into his special train at Indore to travel to Delhi. The moment it entered the territory of the Indian Dominion, it was stopped at Ratlam, neither allowed to proceed to Delhi nor to go back to Indore. Then a message went to him that if he could not even move out of the limits of his state without the Government of India’s cooperation, how was he going to manage a viable independent status? He came to his senses. Indore acceded to India."

If only the Iron Man had put his foot down, disregarding Chacha Nehru's fascination for the newly created United Nations [UN], and carried on with the task of driving the Pakistani Army & the marauding tribal Lashkars back into their moth-eaten territory [as Pakistan was described by its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself], the situation in India could have been so much different, in a positive manner. Instead, the first Prime Minister of independent India, in all his wisdom, decided to place this matter in the UN, who ordered an immediate ceasefire. As a result, instead of a properly authenticated International Border in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, we ended up with a notion called the Line of Control [LoC], for the control of which India has been enduring the needless blood letting of the brave Indian soldier at the hand of Pakistan. 63 years after Pandit Nehru placed a problem, that was on the verge of being resolved, in front of the UN, the UN has failed to deliver a verdict & the matter continue to be contested by both countries.

I, admittedly, have the benefit of hindsight while criticising Panditji's decision, something he did not - there was no way then to predict how toothless a tiger UN would turn out to be. Also Sardar Patel, pursuing with driving the Pakistani invaders out of India against Chachaji's wishes would have amounted to insubordination - clearly unlike anything Sardar stood for. He gave up his rightful & strongly-backed claim to become the Prime Minister of independent India on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi - such was his devotion to the Motherland.

Shath Shath Naman to the Iron Man for his gift we call India.

P.S: India - Pakistan in War and Peace is an absolutely unputdownable book. Started reading the 500+ page book in the evening & finished 101 pages. Doing an all-nighter today and stop only after I finish reading it - awesome stuff.


Possibly Related posts:

Space Agencies & Manned Moon missions: International Astronautical Congress 2009

Dr. Homi J. Bhabha – Scientist in action [suggested YouTube viewing]

Britain needs to show tough love to India

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's Letter to Every Indian

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nukes in Space: Rainbow bombs [Documentary]

Nukes in Space: the Rainbow bombs - www.shubhspace.comJust finished watching an interesting documentary. Nukes in Space: the Rainbow bombs chronicles America's race to develop a working Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM] and the Nuclear Arms race that had ensued between the Soviets and the Americans post-World War II.

The most interesting aspect in this battle for supremacy was the series of high-altitude Nuclear tests conducted by them to gauge the effect of injecting high energy particles into the ionosphere and the Van Allen radiation belt, after its existence was proven by the Explorer-1. Knocking out radio communications, destroying orbiting satellites and producing a surreal kaleidoscope of multi-spectral Aurora visible across the sky were some of the resulting consequences, besides the extremely high levels of radiation released after such test detonations.

In fact, the 9th of July marked the 43rd anniversary of the Starfish Prime test, considered to be a very significant test as it is said to have yielded far more data than any previous tests conducted and had succeed in extending the Van Allen radiation belt temporarily.

A very well-made documentary, containing some amazing footages of American & Soviet missile launches and assembly, besides the the artificially created Aurora resulting from these high-altitude Nuclear test - would highly recommend watching it.

While watching, do keep an eye out for the series of test launch failures faced by the Americans in their attempt to build up their Nuclear deterrence - spectacular footage of missiles and launch vehicles blowing up on launch pad or veering off course mid-flight, breaking up into spectacular balls of flames - all expected part of any genuine R&D programme.

Should put things in perspective as far as India's own development efforts go, operating at the fraction of the budget enjoyed by the US and Soviets, yet being able to build up a credible deterrence force in place. Unsubstantiated criticism, based on ignorance is so very unwarranted, people.

Additional info:

High-altitude nuclear explosion


Possibly Related posts:

Understanding Nuclear Energy and Technology [suggested weekend reading]

India’s Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor Core being transported & lowered into place

Rolls-Royce & Larsen & Toubro to collaborate on global #Nuclear opportunities

"India has a flourishing, & largely indigenous, #Nuclear power program"

Friday, July 02, 2010

Install & run Unigraphics NX4 (or older) in Windows 7 and Vista

Warning/Disclaimer ityadi: Assuming that you, the person facing this problem, owns a licensed, legitimate copy of the software. You got no business taking my name when the aunty-piracy overlords throw you in ze gulag for using warez – Comprende?

The problem lies not with the Software [Unigraphics NX], but with its license manager that is supposed to run as a service in the computer. It enables you to run Unigraphics NX on workstations that access the license manager before running. However, the license mangers of Unigraphics NX4 and Unigraphics NX3 [and possibly other older versions] fails to run as a service in Windows 7 [and also Windows Vista], thereby terminating the installation. As a result Unigraphics NX will refuse to work even if installed on your workstation.

There is a workaround though. Installation of the License Manager terminates when it tries to start the file – meaning the file has already been transferred to the Hard Disk – and when it fails to start, it informs you so, after which you cancel the installation process.

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 [or older] on Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  • After you receive the message saying that installation failed to start the service, do not click Cancel immediately.
  • Instead, go to the following location [or the path you had selected for installing the license manager – this one is the default location]:

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 [or older] on Windows 7 and Windows Vista

C:\Program Files\UGS\License Servers\UGNXFLEXlm

  • Copy all the files that you find inside the folder UGNXFLEXlm.

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 [or older] on Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  • Create a new folder somewhere else, say the root of your c: drive, and name it suitably – say UGNXlm, and transfer the files you had copied into the newly created folder.
  • Now you may click on the Cancel button, I had asked you not to click on earlier.
  • Open Notepad and copy-paste the following into it [uncheck Word Wrap (Format>Word Wrap) to be safe]:

echo @C:\UGNXlm\lmgrd -c c:\UGNXlm\ugnx3.lic -l C:\UGNXlm\log.txt >c:\UGNXlm\nx3_server.cmd

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 or NX3 in Windows 7 or Windows Vista

where, ugnx3.lic should be replaced by the .lic file name of your license file. You may also replace nx3_server with a name of your choice.

  • Save that notepad file, giving it a name “nx3_server.cmd” including the double-inverted commas as shown. The file name [here, nx3_server.cmd] should be same as the name you had used inside the Notepad file [.cmd].

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 or NX3 in Windows 7 or Windows Vista

  • Once done, it will create a new file nx3_server.cmd [in my case].
  • Before starting Unigraphics, run this .cmd file. After this, Unigraphics NX should run without issues.
  • If, unlike me, you happen to use Unigraphics frequently, then you may copy a shortcut of the .cmd file [nx3_server.cmd] to the startup folder. License manager will start the moment you log into Windows.

If you also happen to own a licensed copy of Unigraphics NX5 or beyond, then you could copy the lmgrd.exe file from there and use it to replace the file having the same name in NX4.

Hat tip NXway


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Warbird in Pune: MiG-23 MF Flogger Aircraft [Updated]

MiG-23 in Pune [Google Earth]

Had nothing to do this morning. So we decided to pay the bird another visit. More so, as I found that the other memory card which had some more pictures had been used, and the pictures got erased in a firmware update Sad smile.

Good thing we went, as this time we climbed up this contraption used to climb up the Coconut tree and took a couple of snaps.

Some more pictures of the MiG-23.

Click on the images for a larger-sized photograph

Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4] Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4]
Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4] Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4]
Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4] Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4]

Tried creating a kludge panorama image [4697 x 1277 pixels].

Warbird: Mig-23 in Pune [Mumbai-Pune highway NH4]

Information at a Glance:

Aircraft: Mig-23 MF. Also on Bharat Rakshak

Serial Number: SK 423

Origin: USSR [roughly, present day Russia]

NATO name: Flogger

IAF designation: Vijay [no longer in service]

Function: Air Defense mission

Warbird Location: Kamalnayan Bajaj Park [Wikimapia], Mumbai-Pune Highway NH4

Reference Landmark: 2 km from the College of Engineering, Pune passing by Shopper's Stop.

Have uploaded the whole bunch on to my Picasa Web Album – Warbirds: MiG-23 in Pune