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Monday, December 28, 2015

Geminids 2015

3 years ago I witnessed a spectacular Geminid meteor shower. This year also we set out for a view of dark sky. Its quite tough to find such place near the city. Still we referred the light pollution map and tried to find a spot in the "green zone".

Light pollution map around Hyderabad http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html
Spotted 50 odd meteors throughout the night whenever I was looking up. Most of the time I think we were busy setting up telescopes, tracker and lenses.

A meteor streak during Geminids 2015
Spotted Comet C/2013 US 10 Catalina as well in the morning sky.

 
Comet Catalina C/10 US 10

Also captured some regular objects like Jupiter, its moon, Venus, Mars etc.
Jupiter
Jupiter and its moons
Plane taking off
Plane
Regulus, Jupiter, Mars and Spica dominating the ecliptic
Mars , Jupiter and Spica
One of the arms of milky way !
Milky Way
Stars moving around Pole Star (North Star)
The north celestial pole

via GIPHY

Panorama to Movie

I take a lot of panoramic pictures either with the in camera functionality or stitching later with software like autostitch. However I did not find a good way to showcase that. I upload them to Facebook or flickr sometime but justice is not done to them as its looks a very short height image to compensate for the huge width. I posted the question in stackoverflow as well.

Finally I found a simple way to do that in Mac using iMovie.

Just import the image into a new movie in iMovie and stretch the image along the timeline for the length you want the output movie to be.

That's it. Here is a sample I generated





From the following original image.


This video format is good for Facebook and Instagram where screen with is limited and panning the across the image eventually displays the while image with proper details.

Once it is in video format it can also be converted to a GIF image using any online tool. Especially sites like giphy.com lets you post to Facebook in such a way that it animates inside timeline even in mobile app (which most of your friends use).

Here is a sample GIF made out of 3 different shots during one of my stargazing session



via GIPHY


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hampi



I recently visited Hampi in present Indian state of Karnataka. It was capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in 14th and 15th century . It was one of the richest and largest city of its time probably richest ever after Rome and largest ever after Peking-Beijing. it was finally laid siege to by the Deccan Muslim confederacy.




Thanks to Google Maps , I did mess up the route a little bit near Mahbubnagar as you can see from my location history screenshot above. First I overshot the right turn by taking the fly over by mistake. Maps did not tell me explicitly that I have to go below the fly over. It was a long one and divider cuts are not very frequent in this highway. Secondly , inside the town maps suggested me to get down from the highway (SH 20) and get into another via taking small roads inside town. It probably did not realize that these roads are shorter but definitely wide enough for car. I should have ignored the left turn and continued in the alternative route (which is actually the highway eventually joining another highway). The learning is its worth taking a little slower route (as per maps) but one should stick to the wider option when difference is not much.


This city is situated on the banks of river Tungabhadra.

The following sound  is from famous musical pillars of Vittala temple left ruins of Hampi The British wanted to check the reason behind this wonder and so they had cut two pillars to check anything was there inside the pillars that was producing the sound. They had found nothing but hollow pillars. Even today we can see those pillars cut by the British (What I read in the internet and guide told me).

Picture of inner broken pillar.


Compete video










Saturday, October 24, 2015

Goa

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Green Goa Country Side
If you ask someone outside of India what the vacation destination they know in India, there is very high chance that they will say Goa. Its in the west coast of Indian subcontinent and famous for beaches of Arabian sea. It used to be a Portuguese colony for a long time till 1961 when Indian arm force invaded it. Initially it was part of union territory Daman and Diu (Directly governed by central government ) but in 1987 it became as separate state. Which makes sense as Daman and Diu are way up north near state of Gujarat and culturally different. However all of them still have Portuguese influence. It's one of the 3 most football crazy and fish loving state of India (Others being West Bengal and Kerala even the north eastern states to some extent.).

IMG_5772

I grew up in a town pretty close to a beach in the eastern coast of India , so Goa beaches are nothing special for me. However it's highly commercial place with inflow of tourists from so many countries. Goan cuisine is also very famous among Indian dishes . One can easily hire a two wheeler vehicle and roam around the whole place independently without depending on any public transport. We had decided to drive down so we had our own car for local commute . We still hired a two wheeler to make sure we get to park it easily as weekends are full of crowd in some of the popular beaches. An average upper and middle class Indian family probably visits Goa once in every year. Its a very small state like Sikkim so the whole state can be covered in a long weekend trip.

Entrance to Goa crossing Western Ghats via Chorla



Chorla is probably the best route to enter Goa if you are travelling from central India. Its a hilly drive and very low/short visibility in the morning due to fog but roads are decent as compared to others. While entering govt charges INR 250 and while existing you will be searched for any alcohol bottles as it is illegal to carry them out of Goa. Due to low taxes alcohol is relatively cheaper in state.

Aguada_Water_Panorama (2)
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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Seattle

IMG_4490-3It has been a while now that I have written something in this blog. This post should have been here 5 months ago but I was waiting for myself to process all the pictures taken in the trip and do a final post. Recently I realized that ain't happening. Well thats what the TSA woman official said to me after seeing my T-Shirt slogan which said " Imagine all the people. Living life in peace" in her southern accent.

Anyway trip to Seattle was full of learnings. A lot of PHP, Couchbase and system administration of physically hosted servers. Key learning was how to deal with people who are technically challenged. While a little bit of technical details may make them nervous, lack of the same may make them think you have no control over the system. Management do not remember details. You can reiterate the same thing over and over without actually worrying about freshness of the update. Sometime asking direct questions or expressing direct concerns may not help, on the contrary it may just make you look like not willing to take any step towards any solution. In fact its OK to say yes to stupidest of the Ideas to begin with and take months of time and come back and say that it was stupid, which you already knew as soon as the idea was floated. Meanwhile you bought time to calm everyone down who are in an urgency of get something done as part of a solution after a catastrophic problem . The problem itself gets de-prioratized. You get to spend a lot of time on your own things and account that time for the analysis of that stupid idea. You learn a lot. The only disadvantage is that you may not feel honest about yourself. But wait ...this is business. You just see the profit.

OK above gyaan is totally fictional ...... based on real events. Now somethings about Seattle.

This was no first time for me in USA and its not a very diverse country like India that you get to see new culture. Thanks to Amazon and Microsoft , its full of Indians unlike Austin or Salt Lake City. If you look Indian, people may just ask you which of these company you work for.

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Rialto Beach - Pacific Ocean
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Blake Island


Seattle is geographically interesting. Its on the north-west corner of USA in the state of Washington (not where Obama lives, he lives in east cost , in the city of Washington DC in Virginia.). Its very close to Canada, in fact the Canadian city of Vancouver is just on the other side of the border. Technically its also closest state to Alaska. Seattle is actually part of twin city of Sea-Tac, Tacoma being the other smaller city in the south . They share the same airport which is somewhat at the midway of the two cities. Portland is another city even south of Tacoma in the state of Oregon. All these cities and states combined sometimes called pacific Noth-West (PNW) as they are in the cost of pacific ocean. IT giants Amazon and Microsoft are in Seattle and Bellevue (Redmond to be precise ) respectively , separated by a water body. Combined they are called "Greater Seattle Area".

I know its too much of geographic gyaan which you can know from Wikipedia and  Google maps, especially a lot of Indians know a lot about American states but does not even know whats the language spoken in the neighboring state. I just wanted to feed you this information in case you are not aware of never get a chance to visit.

Seattle is also not technically on the cost of Pacific ocean , its on bank of backwaters, so there are several beaches , like Alkai beach which is not actually facing and sea or ocean.

 
#Sunset
Alkai Beach
IMG_4296
Mt Rainer
There are so many  places to visit near by Seattle. Some of them I visited are Mt Rainer,  Olympic National Park, Alkai Beach, Discovery Park, Bainbridge Island, Museum of flight..


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Seattle Sounder Vs Portland Timbers

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Seattle Mariners Vs Minnesota Twins
You can also go and watch one of the local teams playing soccer or baseball.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Ashes 2015 season ends.

The Ashes season of this year ended. Glad that England re-gained it. Not because I am a Aussie hater (like most Indians because of Australian aggressiveness and domination in the past ) but because they have been playing really good lately. Youngsters like Joe Root is now # 1 batsman in ICC rankings.

Since last couple of months or so I have been enjoying the cricket broadcast on the Radio (BBC 5 live extra with Tunnel Bear VPN app for UK ) and TV (also star sports online streaming ). This is usually the most interesting series for me because of classic English commentary and playing conditions. Of course I am more alert when India tours England and Australia but there is something about these two countries' rivalry.

I will miss the commentary of Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton. (Coincidentally they were born only 3 days apart ) I think they are the most accent free and speak slow. While Cris Rogers and Pup decided to retire after this series legendary wicket keeper run machine Kumar Sangakkara is also playing his last series in Sri Lanka against India.

Happy for Alister Cook, what a summer it has been after being left out in world cup early this year. All matches had results this year and tough all the matches were won with a big margin it has been a great contest with 3-2 result.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Configuring Mozilla Thunderbird with Office 365 Email

There is no outlook for linux users. Setting up email, calendar, contacts etc in linux with office 365 (or exchange) account could be painful.However there is a little known fact that office 365 also have SMTP feature for configuring non exchange compliant client like Mozilla Thunderbird.

Since office 365 is a cloud hosting by Microsoft which is multi-tenant, setup configuration is pretty much same unless the company decides to override anything.

For email

Incoming:
  • IMAP
  • Server hostname: outlook.office365.com
  • Port: 993
  • SSL: SSL/TLS
  • Authentication: Normal password
Outgoing:
  • Server hostname: smtp.office365.com
  • Port: 587
  • SSL: SSL/TLS
  • Authentication: Normal password
User Name: your company email

For calendar you have to install the following addon.


Installing the Add-on:

  1. Install the latest version of the Lightning add-on.
  2. Download the latest version of the Exchange Calendar and Tasks Add-on.
  3. In Thunderbird, click on Tools | Add-ons
  4. Click on the Gear icon (next to "Search all add-ons") and select Install Add-on From File...
  5. Browse to the downloaded add-on in the previous step
  6. Click Install to verify that you understand that you are trusting the add-on from a non-verified author
  7. Click Restart now to restart Thunderbird and finish installation of the add-on
Configuring to Access O365:
  1. Launch Thunderbird
  2. Click on File | New | Calendar
  3. Select On the Network and click Continue
  4. Select Microsoft Exchange 2007/2010 and click Continue
  5. Choose any name and color for the calendar. Remove the check mar from Show Reminders check box if you do not wish to receive pop-up reminders to meetings
  6. Select the email address that is associated with your calendar, then click Continue
  7. Enter the following information for settings:
    • Server URL: https://pod51011.outlook.com/ews/exchange.asmx
    • Primary email address:company username
    • Username: company username
    • Domain name: [Leave this blank]
    • Share Folder Id: [Leave this blank]
  8. Click on Check server and mailbox.
  9. You will be prompted for your password. Enter the password for the account you are configuring and click OK.
  10. Make sure Calendar folder is selected for Folder base
  11. Click Continue.
  12. Click Done.


Reference
http://www.it.cornell.edu/services/thunderbird/howto/config-exchange.cfm


 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Horizons reaches Pluto

Finally we know how Pluto looks like. Looks at this for a minute before you read further

This image of Pluto was taken on Tuesday and was downlinked just before the flyby

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft just completed 9 years journey from earth and flew past Pluto today. Pluto was discovered in 1930 but it was only visible through telescope (~magnitude 11) that to just a single point of light. It was 9th planet of solar system when this spacecraft left earth in 2006.

Even the best image of Pluto that we had  till last few month was by Hubble Space telescope. Which barely told us about the texture.


Pluto - HST - 270° Longitude
Source: Hubblesite.org

Its also worth notable that this is the fastest moving man made object ever till date, which is why it could made it to Pluto under a decade. It was also launched using the fastest rocket NASA had that time. An Atlas-V rocket was used.

My family have a little contribution towards this mission as well.  My uncle Dr. Ranbir Sinha worked primarily on the design, analysis, computer simulation of separation, and test predictions of the payload fairing. Its definitely a proud moment for all the contributors including him. This rocket is part of guinness book of word records.

New Horizons was launched with such a speed that it crossed moon in hours where the Apollo spacecraft took days. Within 6 months it could reach Jupiter where it got a massive gravity assist which propelled it in an incredible speed towards Pluto. This is the reason why it can not be kept near Pluto's orbit for long and flies past it very fast giving only few hours for capturing images and doing other analysis.

As I am writing New horizons must be taking incredible image of Pluto's surface and other data which it is supposed to sent back when it flies past it and ready to transmit back to Earth. It takes almost 4 hours to transmit data back to earth.

NASA's Eyes on Pluto is a great way to see live simulation of the spacecraft.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reliance mobile Stuff

There is a lot of useful reliance mobile codes that are obviously useful but not documented for AP circle of India pre-paid GSM


    • Check talk time balance - *367#
    • Check 2G/3G balance - SMS "MBAL" to 55333(Tollfree) or dial(only for GSM) *111*1*3#
    • Recharge 3G pack -
      • Rs.225,get 1GB 3G data,local & STD calls@1p/sec, Free FB, TW &WA for 30 days. To activate dial *777*225# OR SMS,ACT 3G225 to 53739.
      • Rs.144,get 500MB 3G data,All local & STD calls @1p/sec, valid for 30 days. To activate, dial *777*144# OR SMS ACT 3G144 to 53739.R
      • Rs.95, get 350MB 3G data, All local & STD calls @1p/sec, valid for 15 days. To activate, dial *777*95# OR SMS ACT 3G95 to 53739.

      Saturday, March 28, 2015

      Installing Cyanogenmod 12 (Nightly) in Nexus 4

      Today I decided to void my Nexus 4's warranty ! Probably it was out of warranty anyway. I had used Cyanogenmod earlier phones of mine and its simply awesome. For a long time I waited for a stable release of Cyanogenmod with Android Lollipop but none of the Cyanogenmod 12 build is stable till now (as I type) for Nexus 4 (Mako). I lost my patience today and went for the recent nightly build.

      Following were the steps
      1. Download Cyanogenmod ROM zip file
      2. Download the clockwork recovery.
      3. Download the sdk tools for android.
      4. Download gaaps
      5. Make sure the sdk tools is in your PATH so that its accessible from command line.
      6. Start your phone in recovery mode
        1. Turn off the phone
        2. Hold the power and volume down button till some text appears on the screen
        3. Install clockwork recovery
          $ fastboot flash recovery recovery-clockwork-touch-6.0.4.7-mako.img
        4. Select recovery option
      7. Factory reset and wipe cache from the menu.
      8. Choose "install from zip" option 
      9. Copy ROM file to the phone's SD card (or emulated directory)
        adb push cm-12-20150327-NIGHTLY-mako.zip  /data/media/
        If you get "read only file system" error try using the following commands before copying
        sudo adb devices (to make sure device is connected)

        sudo adb root (to make sure device is running on root access )
      10. Install the ROM zip file. In case this does not work, you can side load it.
        adb sideload cm-12-20150327-NIGHTLY-mako.zip
      11. Install gapps to get the Google Play Store and all you favorite apps there after.
        adb sideload gapps-lp-20150222-signed.zip
      12. Reboot from recovery mode to boot into your fresh new Cyanogenmod.

      As usual its my duty to warn you that you must know what you are doing before rooting your phone and installing custom ROM. I or the ROM company will not be responsible for whatever sh** you do with your phone.



      So far the following stuff works for me which I was mostly worried about custom ROM
      • Bluetooth (Playing music)
      • Audio 
      • GPS
      Also the screenshot at the top is of lock screen while playing music. Notice the visualizer at the bottom. This is cool.

      Saturday, February 14, 2015

      Downloading hi-resolution images from Google Photos using picasa web API in python

      Out of 15 GB quota given by Google for combined usage of Gmail, Picasaweb (now Google Plus Photos) and Google drive I had used up almost 98% of them.

      After cleaning up old and big emails which were not required  (searched "size:10m" in gmail) I figured out there still a lot of space taken by Google Photos. I have moved on to Flickr recently for my high resolution photos because Google counts any photos which is more than 2048 pixels (either height or width) towards their storage quota. The only photo being stored in Google photos now a days are the ones which are automatically backed up from my phone. Earlier I had set it up to back up the full resolutions photos hence I ended up running out of storage quota very quickly.

      There is no straight forward way to filter Google Plus Photos by size and delete them. Also I wanted to download them before I permanently delete. I decided to do this programmatically as I did not find any tool online.

      The below script basically scans a album (in my case the "Auto Backup" album ) for photos whose dimensions are more than 2048 and downloads them on the disk.

      There are few points to be noted before you use this script.
      • Install Google Data python APIs from this site.
      • Keep increasing the "offset" variable if you think you have more than 1000 photos. This is because of the API limitation of being able to query only 1000 entries at a time. 

      Wednesday, February 4, 2015

      Sunsign or Moon sign

      For those who know me must be thinking already that I have changed my opinion about astrology. No I haven't, from the outset I want to be clear that this post is about the amount of reality actually astrology has.

      Last week I was randomly looking at sky and noticed that there is a bright star next to moon. It must have been one of the brightest star because it looked bright even in moon's glare. After I paid attention to the nearby stars I quickly realized that its actually Aldebaran (Rohini in Indian terms) in the constellation of Taurus (Vrushabhaa Rashi ). This is not an unusual sight because the whole reason, the 12 zodiac constellations are relatively famous than other 68 consternations is that the Sun, Moon and other planets appears to pass through them. You never seen Sun, Moon or planets near the north pole.

      Now as per Indian Astrology if you were born at a time when the Moon was around the consternation of Taurus your moon-sign becomes "Taurus(Vrushabhaa Rashi)". I looked up a random Horoscope generator on the web and entered the birth date and time of that moment (not that couple of hours would have made a lot of difference because it takes almost a couple of days for the Moon to jump constellations) and got the following chart.

      Birth Chart or Kundali of a person born on 29th Jan 2015

      If you notice there are 12 sections in this chart numbered in sequence starting from right bottom (adjacent to the right edge ) anti-clock wise. Each section in astrology denotes one zodiac sign (Yeah ! I know basics of Astrology as well because growing up these were the only charts I had for locating planets ). Section 1 is for Aries and section 2 is for Taurus and so on all the way till Pieces which is section 12. The two letter symbols in some of the sections are planets and Sun and the Moon. You can see the section 2 has "Mo" that says the Moon is in Taurus. BINGO ! That's what I just saw in sky. Indian astrology seems to make sense ? Well not really ! Its all "Indian Astronomy". Astrologers just added some predictions on top of it. Probably astrologers haven't even ever seen the sky or can't even recognize which one is what planet or star. They took all the knowledge from ancient astronomers and scared the shit out of people. Can you really believe someone who bets on the planets which he can't even identify but any random person with a little knowledge of astronomy can ?


      The left side of the photo is from a computer simulation software "Stellarium" and the right side is the actual photo that I took. The Moon is clearly in Taurus isn't it ?

      Let's come to the western world. Most of the daily newspaper and online astrology column gives you 12 sun-sign and their date ranges. E.g Aries (21st March to 19th April), Taurus is (20th April to 20th May) , Sagittarius (22nd November to 21st December), Capricorn (22nd December to 19th January) and Aquarius (21st Jan to 18th Feb). Western astrology claims these are your sun-signs if you were born on respective dates because the Sun is in the respective constellation as seen from earth.

      Let's pull the Simulation software again and see where the Sun been these days. Since I can't see the Sun directly and blind my eyes and stars are not visible in the day time, following is the simulated chart of the Sky of 29th January 2015.

      Position of Sun on 29th Jan 2015 is in Capricornus.

      Wait ! What ? The Sun is in Capricornus ? But it was Jan 29 and it should be in the middle of Aquarius as per western Astrology.
      This is clearly wrong. At least the birth chart (Kundali) above shows the Sun (Su) is in 10th section i.e. Capricorn. Aquarius is the 11th section.

      Probably we know the reason why western astrology's positions are off by 1 constellation. Tidal forces from the sun cause the earth’s axis to wobble over a 26,000 year period. So the Sun drifts a very small amount every year and in 2000 years it actually goes and sits in a different constellation (Zodiac). When western astrology borrowed the star charts and calculations from Astronomers 2000 years ago the Sun used be in Aquarius on every Jan 29. This can be validated by the simulation software setting the time to year 0000 Jan 29. None of the astrologers  bothered to look back and validate it after that but kept on saying random predictions about someone life. This is really silly. At least they should have got the facts right for the sun-signs. So remember to subtract one month from your birthday when you see the daily horoscope next time. I am joking, just read any of the 12 horoscope , you will find something believable and true exclusively to you. Those are written in such a generic way.

      So the point is the terms like planets , stars and calculations of their position that the astrologers use are real (well almost :) we have exposed the flaw ) and people start to believe them at that point but it has no correlation with your life's past/present or future. Well enough of astrology bashing. I don't even take it seriously, the only problem I have is when people take decisions based on that, like fixing marriage date and travel plans etc. Rather take such decisions by rolling a dice or local weather or just based on dates when its convenient for others. I am sure you will get more "blessings" in later case.

      Some would argue that there may be hidden science behind astrology that human mind is yet to comprehend. Well I agree there may be a lot of forces and facts to be discovered but its not science if it can not be explained logically and I refuse to believe till there is any evidence.


      Sunday, January 25, 2015

      Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2

      Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 is one of the brightest of recent times. It was bright enough to be seen in naked eye in early January 2015. While it was fairly easy to spot with the charts, it looked bit different than traditional naked eye comets which has a prominent tails. This one looked like a greenish ball of cotton from binoculars and small telescope like the ones that I have. A really dark sky was only be found almost an hour drive from the city outskirts.

      In fact this outing of ours was featured in the local news paper Deccan Chronicle  also.




       These kind of stargazing outings keep happening in the city these days. Join AHAA - Amateur Astronomers in Hyderabad for such activities. 

      Friday, January 2, 2015

      Panoramas in Manali

      Following are couple of panoramas created by multiple DSLR shots taken and stitched together using Dermandar. This online tool not only joins the images flawlessly without any distortion but also provides an excellent viewer which can be embedded anywhere. To my surprise it also displayed the moving panorama in-line in the Facebook and could be displayed in mobile Facebook browser itself.