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Archive for October, 2010

403 error on BSNL — changing your DNS

October 23, 2010 3 comments

I have had some severe problems recently in connecting to the internet, running into a “403 Error — Forbidden” message for several popular websites. The reason is probably a virus which redirects internet requests by my computer to some very strange sites which look like a fancy search engine interface but do not seem to do anything. It was not clear where this virus was, on my computer or on the DNS server of BSNL, which is my ISP. The last time the problem occurred, a full scan by malwarebytes (free!) did not find anything, so I reset my DNS to the google public DNS.

This I did (under Windows XP) from the Network Connections tab under Control Panel. Select your connection, open the “Change settings of the connection” tab from the left, select TCP/IP -> properties, then under DNS open “Advanced” and enter the DNS addresses 8.8.4.4 and 8.8.8.8. Then move them up to the top of the DNS list by clicking on the arrow. You may want to restart your modem after this.

It is  usually a good idea to write down (using pen and paper!)  all the settings before you change them, so that if your computer crashes and settings are lost, you can at least go back to the old settings before calling for further help.

The CWG billions

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Although I normally tend to disagree with almost anything said by Nitin Gadkari, I cannot help but agree with what he has said now. I don’t mean the thing about having `proof’ that all are indeed culpable, but the question that must have been on everyone’s mind since the announcement that the `Group of Ministers’ was going to discuss corruption in organising the commonwealth games. Kalmadi had a budget of only Rs.1600 crores (16 billion), while the total expenditure for the games, including all the construction work, was supposedly Rs.70,000 cr (700 billion). So why not probe where the rest of the money went? Why focus on only a tiny fraction? Anyone except those with unreasonable trust in the Congress party would wonder.

I also agree with Gadkari that the money siphoned out of these 700 billion went out by the Mauritius and similar routes. But I don’t agree that it is lying in Swiss banks. I expect it saw its way back to India as `Foreign Institutional Investor’ (FII) money, which flooded the stock market over last month. The figure for that is already $10 billion, i.e. about Rs.450 billion, which sounds like it could be the amount stolen from the CWG organisation kitty by the corrupt politicians and industrialists.

Corruption at this scale will probably never be fully exposed, since anyone who wants to probe this can be silenced, either by a gift of a few crores, or simply `silenced’.

Academies eat Brinjal pie!

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Found a nice article by Pushpa M. Bhargava, the former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology on bt-brinjal (eggplant), more specifically the report of the science academies, which I had mentioned earlier. (Scroll down to below the first article by Shanthu Shantharam, who represents the pro-GM crop industries.) Bhargava discusses the scientific demerits of the report much better than I have, and it is a must read for anyone interested in this debate.

I also discovered another interesting fact, that Bhargava had resigned his membership of all the three science academies in 1994, because he considered them, among other things, “intellectually sterile” and “instruments of personal gratification”. What he did not mention was that these days, IITs and various institutes pay an additional Rs.25000 per month to any faculty who is a member of two academies. Since one can become a member only by being nominated and then elected, the academies have also become `instruments’ of corruption in a more conventional sense. The members can `help’ the appropriate people to get about a 25% increase in salary.

I knew that Richard Feynman became so exasperated [at the National Academy of Sciences] that he resigned his membership, saying that he saw no point in belonging to an organization that spent most of its time deciding who to let in. I did not expect anyone to have said anything similar in the Indian environment. My respect for Puhspa Bhargava just went up a notch or two.

Awards and grants

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

“X does not have any award, is not a member of any academy, X does not deserve a grant.” — Referee’s report on a grant application to the DST. Of course, awards and memberships of science academies are given only to those who have received grants, so I guess X can stop thinking about all three.