Ten years ago

animal_farm_2

I wanted to go to some unrelated site starting with blog and hit enter once those 4 letters were typed, and was pleasantly surprised to see it go to a blog I’d set up for about a year between 2006 and 2007.  Forgive the cringe-worthy name. I’m all grown up and traditional now. I’m happy to see I was as obsessed with RSS readers, Alan Moore, Emacs , bookmark hoarding and Linux back then as I am now.

The only difference is that I was a loyal Slackware user back then despite distro-hopping constantly, but I prefer Fedora these days.

The picture above is something I made in Gimp back then.

Change is in the air

I’ve decided not to renew my old domain (indeliblestamp.com). So I’ve got a new one, less imaginative but certainly simpler: arunsr.in.

arunsrin‘ is my handle at work and seemed to fit well with the .in domain.

I’ve now migrated indeliblestamp.wordpress.com to arunsrin.wordpress.com, and may in the future point my main domain to it.

Spring cleaning: cancelling my online subscriptions

Having two kids can be hard on the wallet sometimes. And I’m never happy unless I’m switching browsers, servers, services or distros every few months. So my current effort has been to track all my online expenses and terminate them with extreme prejudice.

Here is a list of all the things I’ve been using, and what I decided to do with them. First, the ones I didn’t cancel:

  • The Browser – Still my favourite source for curated long reads.
  • LWN – And my favourite source of linux news.
  • Saavn – This is only Rs. 100 a month so I’m not saving much cancelling it. My favourite source for music streaming/download.
  • Google Drive – I pay $2 a month for 100GB, and this is too important to cancel. All my kids’ pics are here.
  • Gandi – They’re my registrar for this website. The site is hosted in blogger so that part is already free.
  • Lastpass – The next service I cancel will probably be this. But its not too expensive, and integrates pretty well with my lifestyle (multiple machines and phone), so I’ve become rather tied to it.

And here are the ones I have sadly had to cancel:

  • Fastmail – I moved back to gandi’s email service. The webmail is not that great but I can always use a dedicated client. I’ve also moved several newsletter subscriptions to my gmail account to reduce the traffic here.
  • ACM – I initially got this only for the safari account that came with it. But my best study time is during my commute, when I never have any connectivity. Cancelled.
  • Linux Journal – A decent magazine that I’ve been a member of for the past couple years.
  • Marvel Unlimited – A great service. But apart from the initial couple months, I’ve started using the service less and less.
  • rsync – I didn’t know I was still paying for this until I came across the recurring payment page in PayPal. Cancelled. Good service, but it didn’t fit in my workflow.
  • Newsblur – Another good service. I switched to a free alternative (Digg)
  • Magzter – Got a year’s worth cheap, but never really used to it. Magazines don’t look good on the phone screen. So many things to read, so little time!
  • HotStar – I got this only for Game of Thrones. They do have the Wire and a few other good HBO shows.
  • Netflix – No time.
  • FSF – This one felt bad, because this is the only non-profit I donate to. But the $10 a month did add up to a lot more than many of the smaller ones in this list.
  • Digital Ocean – I had a VPS here for playing around with new tools. My web-to-email tools were also hosted here. A toy VPS is the hardest to part with 😦
  • AWS – My free tier expired so I got rid of this asap.

Not bad for a few days’ worth of digging around and moving stuff, I guess. I think I’ve saved around Rs 15000 30000 annually with this. But knowing my nature, it won’t be long before I slowly start resubscribing to some of these. A low end VPS is going to be high in that list.

Update: added netflix and the fsf.

On meat and ethics

As a vegetarian, I am often interested in arguments both for and against eating meat. A recent link I read started a chain of fascinating resources arguing in either direction. Spoiler: my opinion hasn’t changed, yay.

It started with this post in 3quarksdaily in defense of eating meat that got me annoyed. It is fairly obvious that animals feel pain, and are intelligent to varying degrees. Saying that the pain of an animal is of a different degree that we cannot fully comprehend is a pretty weak argument. Another gaping hole is in arguing that the non-existence of a cow is somehow worse than the horror it goes through in a farm or slaughterhouse.

I also ended up reading the utilitarian Peter Singer’s ‘All Animals Are Equal‘ paper, and loved it for its clarity. The entire piece is well worth a read for the problems it anticipates, and the thought experiments it proposes.

The truth is that the appeal to the intrinsic dignity of human beings appears to solve the egalitarian’s problems only as long as it goes unchallenged. Once we ask why it should be that all humans—including infants, mental defectives, psychopaths, Hitler, Stalin, and the rest—have some kind of dignity or worth that no elephant, pig, or chimpanzee can ever achieve, we see that this question is as difficult to answer as our original request for some relevant fact that justifies the inequality of humans and other animals.

In another few decades, I won’t be surprised if animal rights acquire the same level of seriousness in public discourse as race, caste and gender equality have in the past few generations.

P.S. This also lead me on an unrelated but interesting overview of Singer’s utilitarian ideas.

Hello Firefox OS

My wife’s phone broke, so this was the best possible time to get the dirt cheap Intex Cloud FX phone running Firefox OS.

image source
image source

My experience with so far has been unfortunately mediocre. The phone runs on only 256MB, so all expectations with the software must be tempered to account for the limited hardware it runs on. One shouldn’t expect much from a phone that is priced so low, so if you accept it for it is, the experience becomes bearable.

Importing contacts was my only major worry, and was thankfully smooth (I did a Google import). It takes quite a bit of time to open the Contacts App and navigate through it though. Again, this phone teaches you the virtue of patience.

The UI is fairly intuitive, and anyone who has used a touch-based phone before will have no problems settling in.Some apps work pretty nicely, like Notes and Twitter.

I’ve turned off the wifi, I don’t run too many apps that need it. I’m using the phone less and my laptop (and books) more.

If a Firefox OS phone with better hardware was available in India, that would be the one I’d recommend. As it stands, I’ll become a hermit for some time, for a chance to support Mozilla in a small way. I don’t expect phones to last long in my house, with a naughty one year old terrorizing the poor things.