Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stay Healthy By Taking Breaks

Stay Healthy By Taking Breaks: "
Most of us lead sedentary lifestyles these days -- most of our time is spent in front of computers. This slowly is causing a lot of problems people from previous generations haven't experienced: back aches, knee problems, wrist pains, myopia, among others. And just going to a gym or putting in one hour of physical activity a day isn't enough. It doesn't help balance the inactivity over the entire day.

I recently wrote an article in the BenefIT magazine that talks about two tools: Workrave and RSIBreak. Thanks to the publishers, the article is available in pdf format under a CC license.

I've tried both the software but have been using Workrave for quite a while now and am quite happy with it. To briefly introduce them: both software prompt the user to take a break at regular intervals. They have timers that trigger at configured intervals asking the user to take a break. Workrave also has some stretching exercises suggested that can be performed in the longer breaks. The shorter (and more frequent) breaks can be used to take the eyes off the monitor and to relax them. Read the article for more details.

I've reviewed Workrave version 0.9.1 in the article, though the current version as of now is 0.9.3, which has a few differences from those mentioned in the article. The prime difference is the addition of a 'Natural Rest Break' that gets triggered when the screen-saver gets activated, which is nice since if the user walks away from the computer for a prolonged period of time, the rest break in effect has been taken, and the next one is scheduled after the configured duration once the screen-saver is unlocked.

Both software are available in the Fedora repository: Workrave is based on the GTK toolkit (and integrates nicely with the GNOME desktop), whereas RSIBreak is based on the Qt toolkit (and integrates nicely with the KDE desktop). Give these software a try for a cheap but effective way of staying healthy!


I've installed Workrave now from the fedora repos. It seems much better than the gnome-typing-break in the keyboard preferences. RSIBreak tries to install a whole lot of KDE dependencies. If anyone of you sits for long hours on a computer, please be nice to yourself and prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury) and other such problems. If you think that working out a few hours in gym will counter it, you are mistaken.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

firefox 4b9

Firefox 4 beta 9 is looking good, apart from no hw acceleration on linux.
The minizable menu-bar is a very cool feature. Now all the UI is reduced to a single line on my firefox :)

Here's a screenshot running firefox 4b9 on gnome-shell. See how the menu, back-forward buttons, awesomebar, tabs, tabs-list, panorama all fit into a single line. Now thats some use of the wide laptop screens.

Mathematics, History and worms eating manuscripts…

Mathematics, History and worms eating manuscripts…: "

This is a sad story of forgetten history, indifference towards ancient knowledge and wisdom & callous neglect…Read on.. From A search for India’s mathematical roots, some depressing excerpts (emphasis added):

K. Ramasubramanian is the head of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) research Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit (CISTS), the only one of its kind in the country, where doctoral students translate the work of ancient Indian scientists into English, study language technology in Sanskrit that will help computers to analyse a wide range of speech and text, and make the translation and interpretation of Sanskrit texts easy.

…“No country should allow the distortion of its own history,” said Murli Manohar Joshi, former Union minister for human resource development, who had directed all the IIT campuses to set up a CISTS in 2002. Following the directive, IIT-B appointed Kulkarni to spearhead research in Sanskrit language technology in 2003. A year later, the institute brought Ramasubramanian on board.

His students are now at different stages of translating primary Sanskrit texts (dating between the seventh and 15th centuries) of the Kerala School mathematics…All these texts work on the same principles, but work on different timescales. For instance, “Siddhanta texts help predict astronomical positions for a mahayuga (great age), which is about 4,320,000 years. The intermediate Tantra texts work with a yuga, one-tenth of that time—432,000 years. Finally, the Karna texts help quick calculations for as little as one month. My students are working with all three of these texts,” said Ramasubramanian.

…But not every member of the team has scientific training. One of them is a trained astrologer and delighted to read the future. Dinesh Mohan Joshi, (grandson of an astrologer) said: “I saw my grandfather look at kundalis (a graphical representation of planetary positions at birth that charts the life course of the baby) and makes predictions. I saw them come true. I was fascinated. I wanted to be able to do that too. So, I went to (Shri) Lal Bahadur (Shastri) Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth and became an acharya (teacher) there. Then a friend told me about this cell and I decided to come.” Unlike Bhatt, his was an uphill struggle to master the mathematics, “because I had no formal training in the subject”.

…And in Joshi’s struggle to learn mathematics, lies the biggest challenge that this venture faces, because “there just aren’t enough people who are skilled in both. If they know Sanskrit, they know little science. And if they are good scientists, they are not interested in Sanskrit or translation of Indian texts”, said Subramanian, explaining why, despite making an enormous effort, IIT has not been able to expand the cell.

Photograph of K. Ramasubramanian, courtesy: IIT Mumbai

Another challenge is of a different nature: Original manuscripts are either rotting or missing. “I had gone to find out some text related to my research at the Kerala University library of manuscripts when I found worms eating four of seven manuscripts. I bought lemongrass oil and gave it to the librarian who said they were too short staffed to look after the documents,” said Ramasubramanian, lamenting that it was the same story across the country. “We simply do not take our historical heritage, intellectual heritage seriously.”

The professors and students say they have to battle for respect in a country where history, especially the history of science has little value. “Only recently, the cell has started getting more visibility, people have begun asking us to come and talk about our work. Slowly, people are becoming interested…” Kulkarni said.

Reminded me of: Does no one remember the Hindu contribution to Mathematics? and this on the Kerala School