Kandukondain Kandukondain (கண்டுகொண்டேன் கண்டுகொண்டேன்)

Kandukondain Kandukondain (கண்டுகொண்டேன் கண்டுகொண்டேன்) is one those Tamil movies from the early part of Aishwarya Rai’s movie career. Directed by Rajiv Menon, it is an adaptation of the novel Sense and Sensibility, written by Jane Austen. The protagonists are two sisters who live in an idyllic village, Tabu plays the elder sister and Aishwarya the younger. Ajith, a guy who aspires to make it big as a director in the Tamil movie industry, is in love with Tabu. Vying for Aishwarya’s heart are two aspirants, Mammoootty playing a flower farmer who has retired from the army having lost his leg to a mine and Abbas who is the poetry-spouting CEO of a financial company with murky credentials. The pleasant lives of the girls turn to turmoil when they lose their ancestral property and migrate to Chennai to eke out a living.

Kandukondain is probably one of the few movies where ice-queen Aishwarya is bearable. The adaptation from Jane Austen’s novel is nicely done and fits the South Indian context. Music by A R Rahman is quite good, but this is certainly not one of my favorites. The wild choreography of the songs do not fit the flow of the movie and are just plain jarring. Kandukondain has a good story that is adequately told and hence worth watching.

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The Wire (Season 1)

If the world were fair, The Wire should have got the high praise it rightfully deserves. This police-crime series created by David Simon centers around a dedicated team of police detectives trying to bust a drug distribution gang by using wiretaps in the city of Baltimore.

I have watched countless US-made TV series for 10+ years now, but none has depicted the gritty underside of an American city as well as The Wire does. David Simon is an author and a police reporter and the potent fusion of his experiences explodes onscreen in 1-hour episodes that are intelligent, thoroughly engaging and edge-of-the-seat gripping. The Indian viewer is pleasantly surprised to witness the sickening bureaucracy, politics, rivalry and skullduggery that seems to permeate the various departments of the police. The understaffed and overworked police force is not helped by the hurdles that corrupt politicians keep throwing at their work. At the other end of this cat-and-mouse game are the drug dealers. Despite being barely educated, they are able to maintain a well oiled and efficient drug distribution network. Structured much like a terrorist cell network, they communicates using simple codes transmitted over pagers and payphones. The formation of the police detective team and their discovery of the workings of the drug network form the meat of Season 1.

You are unlikely to spot any familiar face in The Wire. David Simon has woven a tapestry of deep and complex characters by drawing from a super-talented cast of no-name actors. Backed by excellent plot and dialogue, the African-American cast which play the drug dealers are especially memorable. I found the character D’Angelo Barksdale to be my favorite. The Wire (Season 1) is easily one of the finest creations made for TV. Do not miss it for the world! 🙂

Shhh! (ಶ್!)

Shhh! (ಶ್!) is the second directorial venture of the eccentric Kannada director Upendra. Released in 1993, this is a horror movie starring Kashinath, Kumar Govind and Megha. Kashinath plays himself, a director shooting a horror movie at the desolate Onti Mane Estate in the mountainous Western Ghats. He and his film crew are spooked by strange killings and ghost sightings that start to occur at the estate. The story has a good mix of intrigue and comedy, and is never boring, credits go to Upendra. Shhh! is an entertaining watch, one of the few good horror thrillers in Kannada.

CUDA by Example

With single processor speeds having hit a wall, there is a lot of interest in heterogeneous computing today. One of the popular ways to speed up applications is to rewrite them as massively parallel applications that execute on the NVIDIA CUDA architecture. It is quite hard to think of parallel solutions to existing problems and writing CUDA programs can be a minefield. These factors have made learning to swim in the choppy waters of CUDA difficult for beginners. Despite an abundance of CUDA information on the web, there has been no introductory material that is both simple and of good quality. The new book CUDA by Example: An Introduction to General-Purpose GPU Programming written by Jason Sanders and Edward Kandrot (both NVIDIA employees) aims to be such an introductory book for CUDA programming.

The only prerequisite expected of this book’s reader is knowledge of C. Spread over 12 quick chapters, the book uses example CUDA C programs all through to introduce concepts and explain their usage. Every example program is thoroughly broken down and the authors explain every stage of the process. It is quite heartening to see this detailed hand-holding extend all the way through to the complex concepts and last chapters. Chapters 1-5 are essential reading and the reader should be able to write simple CUDA programs after this point. The rest of the chapters acquaint concepts which are useful to further optimize the CUDA solution to take advantage of the problem domain or the CUDA architecture or both.

The book is strictly introductory, thankfully, and does not explain the CUDA architecture and its inner workings. I cannot commend the authors enough for taking this hard-line and making the jump into CUDA as simple and painless as they have done here. It would be natural to read the CUDA Programming Guide after this and keep it around as a reference for CUDA programming. This book is perfect for any inquisitive programmer wanting a taste of CUDA to see if it is worth his time. The avid reader can finish this book, having worked the examples and understood the major concepts, easily over a weekend.

Example code and errata of the book can be found here.

Code Rush

Jeff Atwood mentioned Code Rush in a recent post and it seemed interesting enough to me to check it out. This PBS documentary is about the year 1998-1999 in the life of the Netscape company, one of its dying years. Code Rush follows the key people in Netscape, while they scramble to prepare to release the source code of Netscape Navigator Communicator 5.0 as the open-sourced Mozilla browser.

Netscape started off with a scorching hot IPO in 1995, but was reduced to pennies within 3 years when Microsoft shipped Internet Explorer for free with Windows. Not being able to take Microsoft head on, Netscape decided to open source their source code, in a bid to expand their programmer community. The move was heartily welcomed, but did nothing for the company’s slide. Within a year AOL bought Netscape and the folks behind it cashed out.

The documentary looks pretty tacky, and is not helped by the mood of the Netscape folk, which is all round depressing. It is nice to see Jamie Zawinski and Brendan Eich at their desks or at work. Probably the biggest takeaway in Code Rush is to see the effect of working at a startup on the employees and their families. Most Netscapers featured admit that they either do not have any life or it is screwed up by the long hours they put in at work. “Lived fast, died young, left a tired corpse” as one of them says.

Code Rush is released under a Creative Commons license and can be viewed online here.