Saturday, February 20, 2010

Anything more would be magic

Like most of the researchers around the world, I prefer to typeset all my work in LaTeX (pronounced as ˈleɪtɛx). It is a boon for all those who keep on transferring their work from one PC to another fro documentation, review, publishing, etc. And helps a lot when you are asked to re-arrange equations, figures, tables and much more.

While Donald Knuth intended TeX to be used for typesetting and Leslie Lamport made typesetting easier by developing LaTeX, enthusiastic developers didn't let it remain so. They have stretched LaTeX to limits never imagined during its development and release. You can make envious presentations in LaTeX, the natural extension to report-writing. But that is not it. LaTeX can be coaxed into doing much more. Indian language text too can be easily typeset. I have come across visiting cards made in LaTeX. You can also pre-specify formats to write newsletters. Once, we were conducting a workshop on LaTeX for beginners. And we needed to give certificates of participation to the participants. None of us knew Adobe Photoshop. And getting hold of a licensed copy too was difficult, as only one department has a licensed copy, which would have been difficult to procure. So, we hit upon an idea. We made the certificate in LaTeX, with everything placed in it. The RSF logo, IIT's logo, the text of participation, place to sign, etc. We also added colour text to enhance the look and feel of the certificate. While it was a simple certificate, making it in LaTeX actually inspired newbies to pursue their work using LaTeX. Once, for a conference, the organisers did not provide a LaTeX template. Only a word template was provided. I could immediately make a LaTeX template out of the given word template. And hence forth, typesetting for the conference was a breezing. The possibilities with LaTeX are endless. You only need to have the courage, passion and time to explore it.

That, I guess, is the power of open-source software. Anything more would be sheer magic with the software.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

It's a rage out there!

The capital city has the quality of bringing out people's desire to exhibit "I am the master" phenomenon. I was in Delhi over the weekend and was staying with Nilesh, one of my best friends during our undergraduate days. With his home as a base, I also met my school-day friends who were in Delhi. Now, Nilesh stays in Vasundhara Enclave, while my school friends are based in Gurgaon. So, I decided to take the famous Delhi Metro to commute across the city. Nilesh, who is ever-obliging, agreed to drop me to Indraprastha, a convenient station to catch a Metro to the other end of the city.

I geared up for the drive on Delhi's wide and smooth roads (of course, this is the new part of Delhi). And I was in for a shock. The mentality of drivers narrows as the width of the road increases. Changing lanes without warning, drastically reducing speeds at will, cutting through lanes to make that left turn, it is a rage out there! To top it up, the local transport buses execute heart-stopping overtaking maneuvers. Drivers always have to be on their toes, trying to out-guess all the drivers driving just ahead, besides and just behind them. It is like plotting those political moves just to retain your chair!

And through the day, I kept observing the similar pattern of Delhi's traffic. While travelling aboard a DTC bus (the new low-floor buses are too good and well-lit, compared to the regular ones) the driver was out to show "who's the greatest of them all" and managed to bully a few Maruti 800s and Indicas. It is in the best of your interests not to venture near any passenger carrying bus in Delhi. There is a saying, "Dilli, dilwaalon ki!!", but only for those with a strong heart.

Cut to Mumbai. Lane changing, lane cutting does happen. But in a civilised manner. The drivers do have some consideration for their brethren. A driver will either signal or gradually slow down before making a lane change. The change is not sudden, but a gradual, even if there is no indicator given. The rage is there, but is more considerate and moderate. That, I guess is the spirit of Mumbai city!
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