Archive for September, 2008

Photo – The Pondering Monkey – Pushkar, Rajasthan

Pushkar is small pilgrimage town in Rajasthan, with a holy lake in the centre and the town mushrooming round it. The name of the town is derived from the legend that the lake was formed when a lotus fell from the hands of Lord Brahma (in Sanskrit – ‘Pushp’ – flower + ‘Kar’ – Hand = ‘Flower that fell from the hand’). The town still retains a remarkably medieval feel to it. It is well known for the annual pushkar camel fair and has the only temple dedicated to Brahma (the creator – One of the triumvirate of gods who control the world in Hindu Mythology) in the world. This picture was taken on Savitri Temple hill. The monkey in the photo is the Gray Langur common known as ‘Hanuman Langur’ in India.

More technical details about the photo at my photoblog (click on Image Info).

The Browser Arms Race

These are exciting times for the web. The second half of 2008 has been really great for browsers in general and javascripts engines in particular. There have been a lot of excitement with the release of Mozilla Firefox 3.0 and Google Chrome. IE 8 is in beta and Opera is making their releases regularly with browsers trying to beat each other in speed for being standards-compliant using tests such as ACID3.

Also the web is slowly but surely moving from webpages and portal towards desktop-like apps with more and more applications being built using javascript and DHTML. Better and faster connectivity is making web applications accessible to all. The weak link so far were the buggy and slow javascript interpreters.

Various Javascript engines embedded in browsers are becoming faster and faster and it has led to an arms race. A short chronology of events follows:

1. Safari has really taken off after support from Apple with a great number of improvements over the past year. Safari was the first to fire a salvo with annoucement of a new Javascript engine called Squirrelfish. Squirrelfish was faster than SpiderMonkey – the default javascript engine embedded in FF 2.x and FF 3.0. Squirrelfish was faster than Tamarin. (Tamarin is a high-performance implementation of JS 2).

2. Not the one to be left behind, Firefox came up with a update to SpiderMonkey called TraceMonkey which makes use of “trace trees” to optimise and speedup Javascript code. the result was even faster Javascript execution.

3. In the midst of all this arms race, Google Chrome unleashed the V8 engine (named after the V8 engines from F1 cars), adding another dimension to this race. V8 was supposed to be faster than every other Javascript engine out there. One of the problems with V8 was that it cannot ported very easily to other platforms.

4. Mozilla then published benchmarks to disprove the claim. Brendan Eich blog post showed that Tracemonkey was faster than V8. Don’t expect the battle to stop here though. Andreas Gals nice post on Tracemonkey explains why it is faster.

5. Recently Squirrelfish-extreme was released which again raised the bar on Javascript engine performance.

What was most surprising was that many of the javascript engines were not written with optimisation in mind. They do not make use of the compiler optimisations which are fairly standard in compilers. It’s nice to see that it happening now.

Akamai – State of The Internet Report Q2 2008

Akamai has more than 36,000 servers across 70 countries serving content for various customers. This gives Akamai a bird’s eye view into systemic problems on the internet such as network outages, connectivity issues as well as end-user connectivity. Every quarter Akamai releases “State of the Internet” report which captures some of these trends. Here are some highlights from the report for Q2 2008.

Interesting Insights on India:

  • Network connectivity speeds are catching up in India as the number of connections below 256Kbps is just 26%. The bad day of dialup are slowly going away.
  • Broadband penetration is very miniscule though with 0.6% of users connecting with 5Mbps or more and 4.6% of users with 2Mbps or more.
  • The relative amount of attack traffic originating in India has dropped with ranking falling to 15th from 10th in last quarter.

Interesting Insights on Security:

  • There seem to be a lot of unpatched systems connected to the Internet with ports scanned by Sasser, Slammer and Sapphire worms being repeatedly targeted.
  • The top 3 countries (Japan, US and China) contribute more than 60% of all attack traffic. Not surprisingly these countries are also the most connected.
  • SQL Injection attacks are on the rise.

More detailed information is available in the downloadable PDF

Photo – The Unknown Musician – Rajasthan, India

During medieval times, Jaisalmer was a stop on the camel routes across the Thar desert. After independence, Jaisalmer gained strategic importance being in the middle of the Thar Desert and close to the border of Pakistan. This “unknown musician” was playing on the banks of the Gadisar Lake (‘Sar’ is lake in Marwari and is derived from ‘Sarovar’ in Sanskrit) in Jaisalmer, playing mellifluous music on his Dotaar. The Do-taar – literally “two-stringed” is a cousin of the Sarangi.

More technical details about the photo at my photoblog (click on Image Info).

Photo – Lamps at Alchi Monastery

The Alchi Monastery in Ladakh is a historically important site in Lower Ladakh. It consists of the Chos Khor (a monastic complex) and several Chorten in the surrounding area. The lamps used to pray to Buddha use yak butter. Alchi Monastery is fairly nondescript as compared to some of the other monasteries in Ladakh such as Hemis (nestled in valley surrounded by mountains on all sides and home to the snow leopard) and Thiksey (majestically crowning the top of a hill; Also the Buddha Statue from this gompa appears in Incredible India! ads.)

More technical details about the photo at my photoblog (click on Image Info).

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