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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

[Aside] Quotes from Jeff Bezos interview

Jeff Bezos is one of those CEOs I admire. He is different. Has a long term vision. So it’s always fun to read an interview of him. Here are some quotes from a recent interview of his. Stuff I believe in and agree with but put way better by him.

On Experiments

… one of my jobs is to encourage people to be bold. It’s incredibly hard.  Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure. A few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work.

What really matters is, companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. … Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail. I don’t believe in bet-the-company bets. That’s when you’re desperate. That’s the last thing you can do.

My main job today: I work hard at helping to maintain the culture. A culture of high standards of operational excellence, of inventiveness, of willingness to fail, willingness to make bold experiments. I’m the counterbalance to the institutional “no” who can say “yes.”

On Time

Where you are going to spend your time and your energy is one of the most important decisions you get to make in life. We all have a limited amount of time, and where you spend it and how you spend it is just an incredibly levered way to think about the world.

On Passion

Probably my favourite quote of all. Because I am big on passions. And my biggest passion is computers, which I don’t know why is the case but it is.

… you don’t get to choose your passions. Your passions choose you.

[Aside] Hyper-V R2 replicas

Saw this post in the Technet newsletter. Good stuff. I won’t be using it now (wish I were managing a Hyper-V environment in the first place! setting up replicas is a far away dream L:)) but thought I should point to it anyways. Maybe some day I’ll need to use Hyper-V replicas and I’ll search my blog and come across this … maybe maybe! :)

From my ESXi training I know VMware has something similar (vSphere Replication). The latter is a paid additional feature while Hyper-V replicas are free. Also, here’s a comparison by Aidan Finn.

[Aside] Understanding SSD performance

Was reading up on SSD performance degradation and came across this (old) article from AnandTech. Good one! Explains why SSD performance degrades over time and what TRIM sorta does to improve things. The unfortunate truth seems to be that SSD performance will slowly degrade over time and the only way to restore performance then is to do a secure erase (see this PCWorld article too). 

Update: I don’t want to make a new post just to mention this so I’ll update this older post of mine. Here’s a post from Scott Hanselman on why Windows defrags your SSD drives and how that’s not such a bad idea. Upshot of the matter is this: fragmentation affects SSDs too, though not as much as HDDs (because SSDs have no performance hit unlike HDDs). With SSDs fragmentation affects performance in that (1) there’s a limit to the number of fragments a file can have, and once that limit is reached it can cause errors when writing/ updating; (2) more fragments means more time spent putting these fragments together when a file is read. To avoid these performance issues Windows automatically defrags SSDs once every month.

[Aside] Quote (from Chef)

In the movie “Chef” Jon Favreau is a chef who loves cooking and quits (or was he fired?) from his restaurant due to creative differences with the owner. His ex-wife suggests he start a food truck so he has creative freedom to cook the way he wants to and connect with his customers. Replace cooking/ food with computers and this is more or less the story of my life! Of course I haven’t resigned to follow my passion, but that’s the matter for another post …

Jon’s movie son joins him in the truck. And there’s this scene where he cooks something that’s slightly burnt. Jon tells him to throw it away but the son is like why not just serve it to the customers? They won’t know the difference, so no harm done. Jon replies with the following:

I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.

I think there was a bit more to the actual dialogue but this is all I could find to copy-paste easily from the Internet. What I loved about this quote is how he knows he hasn’t been a good father, a good husband, maybe even a good person due to his single minded passion for cooking but he isn’t apologetic about it. He knows he hasn’t been good, but that’s how he is, and on this one thing that he is indeed good at he want’s to give his very best and share his pleasure with his customers and son. I found the dialogue and the feeling behind it very powerful, especially coz I feel the same way a lot of times. I am a lousy father and husband coz I am more focused on computers and gadgets than a family life, but like Jon’s character I take my work with computers and gadgets very seriously and try to do my best with it. It’s something I am proud of (or try to be proud of at least).

[Aside] Quote (on God)

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

– Albert Einstein, from “The World as I See It”

Came across the above in a book I am reading (“Ganesha on the Dashboard” by V. Raghunathan & M.A. Eswaran). The book attributes this quote to Bertrand Russell, but the Internet attributes this to Albert Einsten. I’ll go with the Internet.

Reading this quote blew my mind. That’s exactly the argument I too have about God! Each time my wife or parents insist I visit a temple or pray that’s exactly what I go through in my mind. The God I can conceive of does not punish me for my “mistakes” nor is capable of rewarding me for “good deeds” or “prayers”. A “God” who does all these is simply not a God for me. Such an entity might be a demigod or some other force, but definitely not God.

God (or Tao or the force or whatever) made us and everything around us. If we behave a certain way the onus of those decisions are on us. God gave us a brain and thought processes. Right and Wrong are relative and while there are many things that are Wrong for everyone, it is up to each one of us to discover and feel this for ourselves. Simply classifying something as Wrong and/ or not doing Wrong deeds even though we may not agree, but going along with it just coz God said so, is not the right way to do it in my opinion.

All that aside, the last line of the quote is another thing that resonates so well with me. The world is something. WE are something. There’s a beauty in it all, a mystery. The journey is the thing, not the destination. Putting up a God and chasing after what He/ She says isn’t the end goal for me; the end goal is the discovery. Of discovering the world around me and also the world within me. The “growing” I do – of my values, frames of reference, what I find to be right and wrong – that is the important thing.

Of course Einstein conveys all this much better than I do an in fewer words! Amazing!

[Aside] Indian education system

Read this a while back but didn’t get time to post this until now. An article on the Indian education system, written in the context of Satya Nadella becoming CEO of Microsoft.

As an IITian who hated his educational time at IIT, I loved this paragraph:

The short point: our system is designed to keep people out, not get them in. The true value of an IIT or IIM is not the intellectual capital they produce, but their filtering expertise – which keeps all but the superlisters out of these institutions. When the people entering the institution are the best among the best, they will shine no matter what the quality of faculty or the curriculum.

Very true. All my classmates who had entered via the JEE exams performed well because they were already bright and had spent the last 3-4 years of their life preparing for the entrance exams. The rest of us, who had entered through SAT exams (during my time) or quotas, fared poorly in comparison. That’s sot of expected but what I hated was how the professors never seemed to make an effort to get the rest of us interested or slow down a bit so we too understand what’s going on. As far as they were concerned the onus was on us students to somehow make sense of what’s going on, and if we were finding it difficult to catch up that wasn’t there problem.

[Aside] Connected Standby available for 64bit Windows (since May!)

Only realised this today while I was reading about Connected Standby (because I am considering buying a Windows 8 tablet). Connected Standby is supported for 64 bit Windows too since May. Nice!

[Aside] Inside Shellshock

CloudFlare makes great technical posts and this one on how the Shellshock bug can be exploited is no exception. Go read it!

[Aside] Nokia saw the future…

… but couldn’t build it

Came across the above Verge article a few days back. Remembered it yesterday. It’s a good article on how Nokia didn’t make because it had good hardware but crappy software.

Being a Nokia user of long myself, I would also add that even though their hardware was good they didn’t put their best into it. I remember the Nokia phones of my youth – even the priciest one would have some feature or the other missing or compromised. It was as though Nokia had so many phone models that they didn’t want to put everything into one device. They spread their bets among many devices and so there was no one device a user could pick up as the best Nokia phone. Sometimes the camera was lacking, sometimes small features like FM radio or transmitters were lacking, sometimes the CPU was slower… and so on.

When the iPhone came out on the other hand, there was just one device and it was the best Apple had to offer. Sure the initial iPhone had many missing features but there was no other iPhone which had those features. Only one device, and Apple had put everything into it. When they improved the device next year there was again just one device and Apple put everything into it.

By the time Nokia changed this strategy it was too late. The world had moved on.

Even now, for instance, they have so many models it’s confusing. Sure if you go through the spec sheets and compare you can find one you want – but at first glance it’s confusing and is a chore.

Running out of time so I’ll cut short here.

[Aside] Quote

Mentioned by Dr. Lawrence Krauss in an episode of the Triangulation podcast:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

A great episode to listen to. I was reminded of Richard Feynman’s books while listening to this.

Science is all about asking questions and being in wonder. It’s the journey. It’s about fun and being enthusiastic.

Two great states to be in are 1) confused and 2) not knowing. It’s only when you think you know it all that there’s a problem! And it’s ok to be wrong. You learn when you realise you are wrong!

[Aside] What’s up with LibreSSL?

Good read: LibreSSL: More Than 30 Days Later

I loved this bit:

I could spend an hour explaining why supporting obsolete broken systems is detrimental, but if I told you all the things I have learned about VMS, it would probably violate your human rights. Instead, I think one example will suffice.

In theory, this looks like we’re going to use the good code on a posix system. But there’s just one problem. The code is testing for FIONBIO, which is only defined if you include the right header. If you forget to include the right header, the compiler falls back to the workaround. The mere existence of workarounds means they can be picked up accidentally, and you’ll never know.

[Aside] Shellshock – Stop blaming Bash!

Am sure everyone’s heard of the Bash Shellshock bug by now. Basically, Bash (like most other shells) has environment variables. When launching Bash you can set an environment variable too, and the newly launched Bash process will inherit that variable. So far so good, but what researchers discovered is that due to the bug you can also set environment variables such that you sneak in some commands into them; and the resulting Bash process will execute these commands for you. That’s wicked because you (the admin) might not want users to run such commands, or worse the Bash process might be running with additional rights in which case the sneaked in commands too will run with these additional rights.

There’s a lot of hue and cry over this and blame assigned to the GNU project and its creator Richard Stallman, but I liked this post by Andrew Auernheimer. The whole post is a must read but here’s the bit I would like to highlight (emphasis mine):

Shellshock is not a critical failure in bash. It is a critical failure in thousands of people who knew a tool so useful that they decided to deploy it far beyond its scope. A tool so resilient that it it did not fall over when everyone deployed against best practices. Everyone knew in the nineties that when you execute a UNIX command with untrusted input, you clear away the environment variables first. Anyone that has untrusted input embedded within a shell script does not know what they are doing. The fact that there is a way to get bash to execute untrusted code is unsurprising. The thing that surprises me is the sheer number of developers who thought it would be otherwise in complete contrast to UNIX parables and common sense.

Spot on!

Here’s a blog post on clearing the environmental variables. More techniques are in this StackOverflow post. (I haven’t made Bash scripts for a long time now, so I just got these via a quick DuckDuckGo search. There might be other/ better techniques around!)

ps. Since posting this I came across a post on the bad code state of Bash. It doesn’t take away the fact that Bash isn’t solely to be blamed for Shellshock but I thought to mention it because I found it an interesting read.

[Aside] Creating a Windows USB to Go drive

Starting today I plan to make posts like these which are just links to other blogs. I find myself referring to this blog nowadays just to check out my notes on a topic or to see the links I refer to. It’s more convenient than my browser bookmarks as there’s more context in a blog post and it’s quicker to search.

Initially I thought of having a separate blog to post such “asides” but that’ll just be one more blog to maintain and search and make a decision when I want to post something. So I’ll just stick to this blog, but put these posts in a separate category and mark them so in the title.