Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Smiley Moon

For those who didn't have a look at the night sky yesterday —

(Pic Courtesy: a friend's friend)

Too bad I couldn't capture this beautiful scene with my digicam. By the time I got home from office, the clouds totally obscured the view.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Klaatu Barada Nikto

Well, to put the last three months (can't believe I've been here this long already!) in a nutshell my entire technical training was waived off thanks to the final year project I did for Wipro. I only had a week of Corporate Induction, a couple of sessions on programming and dealing with emergency situations, and by the first week of September I was allocated to a Cloud Computing project.

My present role involves developing a web-based interface to access the various services provided by our Cloud solution. For the more technically inclined, I'm developing portlets on an open source Enterprise Portal called Liferay. Work has been pretty good so far. It does get a little hectic at times, but then that's expected.

Oh and by the way, I'm staying here in Bangalore with a couple of friends from college, so it's fun. The week just passes by going to our respective offices and coming back; all the fun, the parties, the clothes-washing and random cooking experiments (experiments because we don't know how to cook) are usually reserved for the weekends.

Recent Movies

Yes, I have managed to catch a couple of movies during the past few weeks

A Wednesday — 9/10
An odd title, but definitely a must watch. The movie is short, well-paced and to the point. No songs either. A very impressive first for debutant director Neeraj Pandey.

Kung Fu Panda — 9.5/10
Po: I just ate, so I'm still digesting, so my kung fu may not be as good as later on.
Po: [breathing heavily] I know you're trying to be all mystical and Kung Fu-ey, but could you tell me where we're going?
Absolutely hilarious! Can anybody not enjoy this?

Fashion — 7.5/10
The gay/effeminate designers were annoying and the second half could have used some trimming, but overall the movie was well made. Apart from the ramp shows, the style and fashion, Madhur Bhandarkar adds realistic flavour to the movie by weaving the story around a lot of incidents that we've seen on TV or read about in the papers wardrobe malfunctions, casting couch, wild lifestyles and the like. He did over-dramatize the whole thing, but then nobody would watch the movie if he didn't.

Body of Lies — 5/10
Didn't expect it to be very good, and I was still disappointed. I wonder why they didn't title it 'World of Lies' instead — after all, the plot takes you from Iraq to Qatar to Jordon to Turkey to Syria (with a couple of places in between?), and if someone were to ask you what the story was at the end of the movie, you wouldn't have a clue. I have no idea how this movie has a 7.6 rating on IMDB.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) — 8/10
After seeing the amazing footage of the 2008 remake, I just had to see the original. Very well made for its time. The robot reminded me of the old Lost in Space episodes though — very clumsy-looking, and the least bit intimidating.

The Abhiram Websites

VarunAbhiram.com is finally back online! All the content has been re-uploaded to the new host at Answerable. Must update the site soon with the Spaces video and the new wallpapers I've posted here in the past few months.

Karthik82.com is also back, with a brand new design! The site looks much better now (the three-column layout rules) and the content is a lot more organized, with emphasis on the blog and the artwork. Most of the old, static content dating all the way back to 2000 has moved to the archives.

Assorted Links

Prince of Persia Animation Reference (1985)
Jordan Mechner, the creator of the original Prince of Persia (brings back memories, doesn't it?) has started posting old journal entries about the development of the game on his website — this journal entry I found particularly interesting. And I'm sure you will too.

Virtual Barber Shop
An excellent example of Binaural Recording. Wear headphones, turn up the volume, close your eyes and listen. I wonder how they managed to retain the audio quality while uploading it to YouTube. I found a MP3 version of the clip on Andy Coates' blog.

How to make money with free software?
Stani Michiels explains the making of his Architecture Five-Euro coin using entirely free software. I haven't gotten around to reading this article fully yet, but it seems interesting.

G-Speak Spatial Operating Environment
Funky Minority Report-ish gesture-driven computer interfaces. Came across this on Slashdot, and then in The Economic Times a few days later.

Crib It! - An Ode to Bollywood's 'Inspired' Finest!
Would be awesome if someone actually sang this.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shifting to Bangalore

Wipro Campus - Electronics City, Bangalore — that's where I'll be working at for the next couple of months (years?). I'm leaving to Bangalore today and will be reporting on 13 August for the joining formalities.

Will be a while till I settle down over there and get myself an internet connection, so there won't be much activity on this blog till that happens.

Oh and in case you noticed, VarunAbhiram.com is currently offline. Karthik and myself are shifting our websites to a different host (Net4 is absolutely pathetic), so it'll be a few weeks till they're back online.

That's about all for now, will update again when I can. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Made this yesterday. It's a collection of random footage edited together to match an untitled track, composed by Pablo. Watch away —

I'm off to watch The Dark Knight in a couple of hours. And if you haven't seen the Watchmen trailer yet, you should — it's simply amazing! If you didn't think it was amazing, you probably haven't read the book.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Browser Password Managers - Safe?

When Firefox (or any other browser for that matter) prompts you to remember passwords, do you say 'Yes'? I used to, until yesterday, when I discovered how surprisingly easy it is for someone to get his/her hands on them.

Assume that I want to grab the passwords that Person X has saved on his computer using Firefox. This is how I would go about it —

Scenario 1: I have access to his computer

I would simply open up Firefox on his computer, go to Tools > Options > Saved Passwords > Show Passwords. Firefox shows so very neatly (in plain English), a window containing a list of sites along with the stored username and password for each of them.

Easy, no?

Scenario 2: The computer is at a remote location

You'd think getting those passwords in such a scenario is difficult, but it isn't. All you need to know is the location of the files that contain all the username/password information and then write a simple program that mails those files to you as attachments.

First the location of the files. If you have Windows installed on C: drive, then you'll find all the important files at the following location —

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\Profile Folder

Open up the file called signons3.txt. You'll see a list of websites along with the username and password saved for each of them. However, you can't read it because it's in an encrypted format. To decrypt it, you'll need the private key — this is stored in the file key3.db. And the certificates (signed public keys) are stored in the file cert8.db. The MozillaZine page has more details about these files.

I wrote a small application that locates these files on a user's computer and sends them to me as email attachments. I tried out the application on Karthik's laptop and it worked like a charm! Once I got the files, I simply replaced my copies of the files with the ones I downloaded and voila! I could now log on to all the sites that Karthik had saved passwords for!

I wrote a harmless version of the same application for you guys to try out — download it here (5KB ZIP). It does everything except the emailing. If you don't trust me, you can always disable your internet connection before you run it.

If you're saying "Whew! Thank God I use Internet Explorer and not Firefox!", you should know that a similar process can be employed to grab passwords from ANY browser that has the Remember Passwords feature.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading more about all this stuff, I suggest you have a look at this exhaustive two-part article on "Password Management Concerns with Firefox and IE"

Part 1: http://www.securityfocus.com/infocus/1882
Part 2: http://www.securityfocus.com/infocus/1883

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Palette, Sexy RPMs and 30,000+ Visitors

I had an online C Assessment Test at Wipro two days back, which went pretty well. There were 40 questions to be answered in one and a half hours. Most of the questions were the typical "What is the output of this program?" kinds that tests your understanding of the concepts and the quirks of the language, rather than your programming skills. So you probably wouldn't fare too well in the test if you thought the size of a structure containing two char members is 2 bytes or that int (*ptr)[3] was an array of integer pointers.

Anyway, with that test out of the way now, I will hopefully have a couple of weeks to myself until I officially start work.

Some days back I came up with this very crappy piece of art using Karthik's oil pastels. Now if I was as popular as Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney people would probably buy that for millions of dollars, but sadly I'm not.

I wanted to make something more presentable out of it, so I back-lit the drawing using two emergency lamps (to highlight the whites) and took photos of different sections of the drawing.

I finally selected two images I liked and overlayed them to get this final result —

Speaking of oil pastels, you should check out Karthik's latest drawing of The Incredible Hulk. It's damn good! The movie was good too, far better than the other movies I've seen at the theaters recently — Speed Racer, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Happening.

In other news, I was trying to get my printer (it's a HP LaserJet 1020) to work on Fedora 8. Apart from installing foo2zjs, I had marked the HPLIP package for update, but for some reason Yum Extender marked all packages for which updates were available and began processing the queue. While the queue was being processed, a couple of packages caught my attention. Click the thumbnail on the left to see what I mean.

Amusing. I had no idea such packages existed.

Oh and by the way, this blog has now received over 30,000 unique visitors!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Site Enhancements, New Wallpaper

Now that the Wallpaper a Day feature has ended, all the sections of VarunAbhiram.com are up-to-date! Thanks all for the views and comments.

Since there will be few updates to the site from now on, I figured it's a good idea to add a panel showing the recent comments posted on the site — that way the site won't look totally dead; assuming of course, that people take the time to comment now and then.

I've also noticed on StatCounter that the Traditional Art section receives no views at all. Probably because it's the only section of the site that's not directly accessible from the main navigation panel. The drawings aren't great, but I'd like all sections of the site to have equal visibility. So in order to facilitate that, I plan to display the Traditional and Digital art together on the Artwork page, and add a filter to allow you to look at the sections individually. This will take some time to implement, as I'll have to avoid duplication of images that belong in both categories (the Charlize Theron and Tom Cruise images, for example). The RSS code and some of the other pages would also have to be appropriately modified. And hopefully I won't introduce any bugs in the process.

Anyway, while I ponder over what has to be done, have a look at this new wallpaper I made yesterday called "Corrosion"

Before I wind up this post, a couple of articles/links that might be worth your time —

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wallpaper a Day

For the next 20 days, VarunAbhiram.com will feature a new wallpaper every day!

The wallpapers only get better with each update.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Great Below

As promised in my previous post, here are those photos I took at the Hyderabad International Airport and the widescreen wallpapers I made from photos I took from the plane —

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad


And yeah, the video I posted of the airport isn't great, but it sure is popular!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad

Karthik and myself were at Chennai last weekend, and our return flight landed at the newly opened Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, Hyderabad.

I filmed a couple of clips on arrival at the airport, and yesterday I edited them together into this short video —

The background music is a track from NIN's latest album, Ghosts; I don't know if it really suits the video, but I couldn't find anything better to use. All clips were filmed with my digicam (hence the crappy video quality), between 2:30am - 3:00am. I also took some photos at the airport and made some wallpapers out images I took from the plane, but all that reserved for another post.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ciencia '08 and other Assortedness

It's been one and a half months since the last update! I haven't had the time to make any new wallpapers or videos to post here, and I didn't really feel like making a random post about nothing. Anyway so what's been keeping me busy all this while? Read on —

The Final Year Project

First, the final year project that I'm doing for Wipro, titled "Trend Analysis of the Xen Hypervisor for the Optimized Management of a Business Service in a SLO Framework". Sounds like Greek and Latin, doesn't it? Sounded that way to me too, until Shashank and myself spent a couple of weeks reading about all this unheard-of stuff and making sense of what we're actually supposed to do. We've been working on this project for over two months now, and so far it's been an amazing experience (damn challenging too!). I don't think I would have ever forced myself to learn so many new things in such a short time otherwise.

This was never a tech blog, but if you guys are interested, I could put up a series of technical articles about Xen and the other things I'm working on sometime later. Post a comment or drop me an email and let me know.


I hardly read books. The last book I read was Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner many years ago. The first few chapters were really interesting, after that it seemed like the authors ran out of points to make. I don't know, maybe they just wanted to increase the page count so they could charge a few extra bucks.

Anyway, unlike Freakonomics, the book I'm reading now just keeps getting more and more interesting with every chapter I finish. The book is called "Watchmen" — it's a 12-chapter graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Karthik considers this one of the finest graphic novels of all time, and I can see why. I'm extremely curious to see how they adapt such a complex story into a movie next year, although the first look at the characters and screens from the movie seem quite promising.

Ciencia '08

Hard to believe a whole year has passed! It's like as if it was just a few days ago that I made that post about Ciencia '07.

This year it was conducted on 15 and 16 March. I wasn't much into organising the event this time — hard to do when you only attend college twice a week. Anyway, Aasritha and myself hosted the inaugural function on day 1, so that was fun. Never hosted a formal function like that before. Never wore a suit before either.

Coincidently, Karthik's big boss, Mr. Srikanth Surampudi (Head - HR for TCS Hyderabad) was the Guest of Honor for the function. Here's a small snippet of his talk (which was really good BTW) towards the end of the Inaugural function —

Other News

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Apophysis Wallpapers, 20000+ Visitors

Few days ago, I made a couple of wallpapers out of images I rendered using Apophysis. The fractal flames it generates are usually pretty messy, and not of very high quality, so I had to do quite a bit of post processing in Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro to make them look good. Anyway, these are the two wallpapers I liked out of the bunch —

Oh, and Statcounter now shows that the number of unique visitors to this blog has crossed 20,000! And it was only in May last year that the counter crossed the 10,000 mark. Not bad, eh?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tom Cruise - Mission: Impossible 3

Yes, I finally get around to doing another drawing! My last drawing, if you remember, was of Charlize Theron (from Æon Flux) way back in 2006.

It was really hard drawing after such a long time. I tried drawing this picture of Avril Lavigne first, but I just couldn't get her eyes right. All that eye shadow and under-eye detail combined with my rusty drawing skills made it impossible to draw. And when the eyes aren't drawn properly, the whole face looks weird. And that's exactly what happened.

Anyway, so after a lot of searching for easy images to draw, I ended up with this poster of Tom Cruise from Mission: Impossible 3. Wasn't as easy to draw as I thought it would be, but at least the end result bears some resemblance to the original.

And I wasn't done with just the drawing. I decided to load it up in Paint Shop Pro and add some CG effects to it. Coincidently, I happened to stumble across this open source fractal flame editor called Apophysis, so I used that to render the blue smoke background. I then colorized the drawing to a grayish-brown and added the text and M:I 3 logo. This is the final result —

By the way, I now use a 19" Samsung 932NW monitor, so expect more widescreen images from now on. After all, what's the point of making these when I can't use them as wallpaper?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008