Ruminations Galore


Treating crime not age as the yardstick for punishment

The recent much publicized gang-rape/murder in New Delhi has once again emphasized the need for the law to keep pace with the tectonic shift in our social values, technology and human physiology.

The law needs to respond to these challenges not only at the level of legislation but also and equally significantly at the level of the judicial process.

In the past few decades, the steady spread of sexual imagery across all forms of media has brought about a discernible change in social values. Everything, from advertisements in the erstwhile family-friendly print media to music videos is pervaded by overtly sexual images.

Images that would have shocked our moral sensibilities even a decade ago are now considered a non-issue, so much so that children, the ones that are reaching puberty before they even turn teenagers, are subjected to such imagery right from an early age. Repeatedly.

With early onset of puberty, young children, subjected to such glaring sexual imagery are experimenting at a much younger age than before, without the traditional restraints and guidance of watchful teachers and parents. Is it then any surprise that more and more minors are turning to crimes, and violent crimes at that.

This trend was gruesomely highlighted by the recent gang-rape/murder case where reportedly the most violent of the accused is a minor.

We can not control the media, nor reset our social values to pre-90′s era, but we can bring in legislation that serves to counteract the growing belief among the youth and minors, in the eyes of the law, that they can get away with any crime against women.

To begin with legal devices can be put in place to exploit the current and future technological advancements to ensure the safety of women and other vulnerable sections of society. One possible course of action in this regard can be making it mandatory for all concerned authorities to install CCTV cameras at public places and keeping a check on public vehicles through GPS and tagging of drivers. What’s more, the feeds from such cameras must be stored for at least one year, in case law enforcement agencies need it to strengthen their case against any accused or use it for providing safety to citizenry in general.

Just to ensure that the government finds the necessary motivation to provide financial backing to such projects the judiciary can take the initiative and come up with concrete guidelines that necessitate the use of such technologies to provide security to all sections of the society.

Posting guards on the buses is at best a stop-gap measure. We have to be willing to use all the facilities available to us at any given time to provide the best possible solution to a problem, and with India’s continuing rise as a technological giant, it can’t afford to neglect the use of technology to ensure the safety of the people.

Finally, the third aspect that needs to be addressed concerns human physiology – falling age of perpetrators of heinous crimes due to early maturity (both physical and mental) of humans. In this regard the Delhi Metro offers what appears to be a perfect solution.

If you’ve ever traveled by the Delhi Metro, you’ll find that each Metro station has a board which reads that if the child is over 3 ft tall, the parent/guardian must buy the full ticket for such a child.

So here you have a situation where solely on the basis of physiological characteristics of a human being the authorities are putting him/her at par with an adult.

This can be translated into criminal justice system by doing away with the current definition of a juvenile, wherein a child under the age of 18 doesn’t have to face any consequences for heinous crimes that are at par with the adults.

In fact for a crime for which an adult can be hanged, a juvenile gets a relatively token sentence of three years.

So the justice system must make the transition from age to the severity of crime as the basis on which the punishment is meted out.

After the ghastly Khooni Darwaaza rape case, in which too juveniles were the perpetrators, the current case has once again triggered a public outcry for necessary changes in the law to bring the juveniles accused of heinous crimes to justice.

In this context it is interesting to note how archaic provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act sound at a time when most children seem to be losing their age of innocence within the first decade of their life.

According to the Juvenile Justice Act:

Juveniles and adults can not be kept together in correctional homes.
Juveniles, tried under the Juveniles Justice Act, can not be kept in prisons, once they turn adults.
If the minor turns adult during the pendency of the trial, and is then found guilty, such accused can not be placed in the correctional homes.

Now I understand the need for different sentencing for juveniles and adults. I do. But do we really need to treat all accused minors as equals? Should a 15 year old rapist be treated the same as a 10 year old who steals a loaf of bread? More importantly, why should a 15 year old rapist be treated differently from, say, a 19 year old rapist? Because, other than the difference in age, there is nothing that separates the 15 year old from the 19 year old.

Due to the current provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, the 15 year old get off with a much lighter sentence, compared to an adult, even if the 15 year old is just or even more violent than the adult!

Therefore, keeping pace with the above mentioned irreversible changes, the law must use the nature of the crime as a yardstick and provide uniform punishment, irrespective of the age of the accused.

It has been reported in the newspapers that responding to the nation wide public outcry in the recentgang-rape/murder case, the government is formulating a plan to treat even a 17 year old accused of rape as an adult, because of his proximity to adulthood. This is a laudable step but it falls much short of addressing the current situation. It doesn’t take into account younger offenders who are just as capable of causing the same injuries as any adult.

So the only solution seems to be to do away with the archaic Juvenile Justice Act and make the nature of crime the sole criteria for award of punishment.


GNOME’s new release manager

Hearty congratulations to Frédéric Péters on his new role as the head of the GNOME Release Team!

I had the pleasure of meeting Fred during the GNOME.Asia Hackfest and Conference. We had some interesting conversations, he was always eager to share his thoughts on just about everything, from his beginnings in Free Software to his love for Debian.

Behind the colours, Fred could well be working on the next Gnome Commit Digest.

Behind the colours, Fred could well be working on the next Gnome Commit Digest.

The only time he got flustered, I remember, was when I asked him if he was finally satisfied with the look of his laptop, covered in stickers as it was. And while he didn’t say so himself, I do recall interpreting the look on his face as “Oh, why couldn’t have I gone for a bigger screen! At least then I’d have more space for some more wonderful stickers!”

Fred takes over from Vincent Untz, who helmed the evolution of the release team’s role from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3 and has seen off the release of GNOME 3.0 to wide acclaim!


Quick intro to Trademarks

Many awkward comments on recently published blogs on ComputerWorld, discussing Trademarks, have forced this post out of the drafts. Sorry post, I can only imagine how you suffered waiting in the ever growing queue.

Paul W. Frields, the untiring Fedora project leader, conducted a Fedora IRC classroom in March regarding Fedora Trademarks. While it pertains specifically to Fedora (or RedHat), the basics discussed apply universally to all trademarks, more or less.

The ever helpful Wikipedia and Google will throw all kinds of information on Trademarks at you, be it an introductory passage or the history or defending Trademarks in courts.

This IRC session was very basic; a simpleton’s introduction to Trademarks, if you will, so don’t go into it hoping to come out as a masterful legalese interpreter.

And finally, to come a full circle, the case that piqued my interest in Trademark law — Nissan Motor Co. v. Nissan Computer Corp.


Linux distributions new users should avoid

What distribution is ideal for me? This is by far the most often asked question on just about every forum board. New users are adopting Linux by the hordes everyday, and that’s a great thing, but because of the large number of distributions to choose from, they can’t help but wonder which is best for them.

To go 10 rounds with one distro only to realize you’re a different weight class is not the most effective way of learning something new or adopting a new environment. You’d be tired by the end of the second round, and while your enthusiasm and encouragement from your peers will keep you in the game for another eight rounds, what good comes from taking this beating, even if it’s from the best.

Instead of asking what distro is ideal for me, perhaps new users should be asking what distribution do I avoid, or stay away from initially?

Over the past several years, I’ve seen new users asking what distro to begin with and all through the years they’ve had people sharing their stories, talking about their fortunes and misgivings with certain distros. My response to such inquiries has always been pretty standard, and drab. I tell them to pick any of Fedora, Mandriva, Ubuntu or openSUSE, wet their teeth as it were, and when they are comfortable enough with that distro, to go distro hopping. It’s the best way to learn and get exposed to all the wonders unique to each distro, I tell them.

Of late, I’ve changed my response a little, like just about everyone else. While everyone now deliberates between Fedora, Ubuntu and Mepis (yes, this is just as often recommended to newbies as Fedora and Ubuntu), I’ve started telling newbies what distro they should stay away from. Slackware, Debian and Gentoo are on my list of distros they should avoid when starting with Linux along with all the other ideal-for-servers distros.

This isn’t because I find these distros particularly challenging. In fact, my first distribution over a decade ago was Slackware. It’s just that people are far more used to the experience as offered by more, for lack of a better word, user-friendly distros. I believe user-friendly is quite a misnomer if there ever was one. Doesn’t user-friendly just mean that you get an interface similar to what you’ve been using all along. When they say user-friendly, don’t they mean less of a learning curve?

And that’s what makes Debian, Slackware and Gentoo different from other distros. Not because they are difficult to use. Not because they have an ugly interface. Not because they are broken. Just that in some matters, they require a bit more from the users than other distros. Most newbies aren’t willing to do that extra bit, and those that are, don’t understand the first thing about what they’re doing.

So there it is. I tell newbies to stay away from some distros. Do you too have a list of distros that you would recommend new users to keep away from, until they’ve had some experience with Linux?


DVDisaster cover story in Linux Format 116

I wrote the cover story on DVDisaster for the latest issue of Linux Format magazine. This is my first article for LXF and it was a wonderful experience.

It’s quite different from writing for in many ways. While pressed for a more to-the-point structure, LXF insists on entertaining readers and not being a straight arrow. Consequently, didn’t allow for much humor but LXF won’t accept write-ups any other way.

Can’t wait to see my mug on the glossy pages. Would you believe I’ve bee singing Klingon drinking songs for a few days now:

‘ej HumtaH ‘ej DechtaH ‘Iw
‘ej Doq SoDtaH ghoSpa’ Sqral bIQtIq
‘e’ pa’ jaj law’ mo’ jaj puS
jaj qeylIS molar mIgh HoHchu’qu’

It just isn’t the same in English.

And finally, do try DVDisaster if you’ve ever lost one of your backup discs. With DVDisaster you can create Error Correction files for your discs. You can then use these ECC files to rescue data off of discs with scratched surfaces and missing sectors.


Who’s Who at APPLE

Ever pondered the origin of the phrase: “The XYZ we/you/everyone loves to hate“? It’s been used a gazillion times — for people, places, cars, companies, and just about everything under the sun. Under the sun, heh, this phrase too deserves some ponderin’. But we can do that later.

For now, click on this link right here if you’re curious about the people that work at Apple, well they are actually just a bunch of guys who belong to the “powers that be” group of their own division. It’s an article that attempts to answer who would run Apple after Steve Jobs. Maybe that’s a question that you want answered, maybe that’s a question you already know the answer to. In any case, here you’ll find a list of 11 men who might take on that responsibility, some day.

If for no other reason, read the piece for a quick intro to these eleven.


The LQ Blogs

Just a quick head’s up in case you weren’t aware of this., the ever-lovin’ forum boards that’s now so much more also allows members to run their blogs. If you ever run out of interesting stuff to read, or are never tired of reading people’s experiences with all things Linux, head on over to HERE.


O’ ye beard trimmer

I’m sure you know of all kinds of people who write all kinds of blogs. Well, add me to that list too. After all these years, I’m going to break the silent promise I made to myself, when I said, “lala, I’m never going to blog about my personal preference, likes/dislikes, and the latest shopping”. It’s time I break that vow of secrecy and reveal everything to the world.

The first in this long list of revelations is my beloved Phillips QG3080 beard trimmer. This handy little 7-in-one is an absolute must if you’re not too keen on making conversation with the ever-friendly barber. It’s been months since I last visited the barber for haircut or getting my beard trimmed.

While I was only interested in a beard trimmer, to keep me from going RMS’s way, the QG3080 has enough extensions to truly justify it being called a complete grooming kit. Having used it for a few months now, I can safely conclude the barber didn’t do half as good a job as the QG3080. And it takes less than 10 min to trim my beard. Compare that with the 20 minute drive to the barber, add the discomfort of spending twice that many minutes in an uncomfortable chair listening to bad music or watching bad movies on the tee-vee and you can just about imagine how happy the little gizmo makes me.

Admittedly, the thing requires to be charged for hours before you get a 45min battery time, but that’s a very welcome tradeoff to the agony as described in the ‘graph above.

Keep trimmin’!


Suit against CISCO, about damn time

That’s right. It’s been years in the making but better late than never. Long time offender Cisco, who the FSF had hoped to talk some sense into since establishing the compliance process in 2003, seems to be either a slow learner, or just plain cheat.

As others have pointed out since this story broke out, FSF would rather sit and talk compliance with offenders than file lawsuits. I believe it’s high time we saw some more proactive enforcement measures on the FSF’s behalf.

As per Brett Smith, licensing compliance engineer at the FSF, which is a fancy way of identifying someone who deals with license-related issues at the FSF, “Unfortunately, they never put in the effort that was necessary to finish the process, and now five years later we have still not seen a plan for compliance. As a result, we believe that legal action is the best way to restore the rights we grant to all users of our software.”

That really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? An outright rejection I can understand. Had Cisco refused to listen to the FSF at all, at least we’d have had a clear case on our hands, one of misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the license. To drag the communication process for this long, only for it to end up in courts, is sad.

While many of you might already have read the press release by now, here are some more details about the case and the bludgeoning bundle of blunder.


I firmly believe

That blog posts that begin as an extension of the post title make for quite an interesting read. Not surprisingly, I’m the only one who does this sort of a thing. I’ve done this quite often in the past, mostly in posts announcing one of my articles on For all the English teachers in the world, for all the books, guides, tutorials, howtos, documentation and help on grammar and syntax of any language, there seems to be no coherent writing-style for blogs.

The blogosphere, truly allows people to be unique. Some may argue that the speech patterns for each individual are unique as well. I, however disagree. If you focus your attention on random conversations, and at some point attempt to make some sense from it all, you’ll discover that you can always, with unnerving accuracy, group people into categories based on their speech pattern, their choice of connecting-words, the words they use most frequently and how they blend their native language into the sentences they are speaking in some foreign language.

The most common example of this, perhaps, is ‘yaar’, the desi word for friend. It’s also used as a connect-word and as something you use in a sentence to refer to friends or to finish off your expression of shock and/or surprise (come on yaar, what’re you saying yaar, stop this yaar).

So, if you are attentive enough, you can fairly accurately place people into various groups. And these groups can be age, work, education (where they studied), marital status, etc. Needless to say, you don’t need to hear a person to be able to place her in one of the two predominant groups: male and female. (OK, I apologize for this sorry-a$$ joke interrupting the interesting observation and breaking your concentration.)

Because of this lack of grammar or writing style for the blogosphere, people have absolute freedom to write whatever however. Yes, you read that right. People have the freedom to write whatever they want, and they can write it however they want. It’s not so simple with speech, since people learn to ape popular phrases and begin using catchwords just because everyone around them is. That’s why it’s so easy to tell what group a person belongs to. For instance, having never been to a college, I’ve always called a Samosa a Samosa. But, college kids in Delhi, don’t call it that. They have some other excuse of a name for it, which makes perfect sense to them and their group/peers, but is as alien for people like me to understand as the Vulcan salute.

Of course, you can group people into various sections based on their choice of clothes, music that they like, celebs they think are fashionable, their political orientation, etc. but there’s no fun in that. But, to be able to judge someone solely on their speech pattern is quite a talent.

So, at the end of the day, what’s the purpose of this post? Isn’t it obvious? I’m simply asking you to be more attentive!

Begin Disclaimer — I’m a Trek fan. I use vi. — End Disclaimer

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