When the chickens come home to roost!

14 March 2025

Hi, I’m Gyanesh Harindra – a 36 year old investigative journalist with The Hindustan Dak. Of late, my efforts at digging for the truth are throwing up a lot of uncomfortable facts and questions. Let me take you through the journey that has left my brain think it is at the wheels of a rudderless boat.

12 January 2025

It was a chilly Sunday morning. I was getting ready to meet the mysterious caller who had called me last night. The caller had sounded very excited and worried at the same time. He had mentioned about some important piece of information he had in his possession. I thought it was odd that he wanted to meet me on the 0710 Chennai Express. In my career so far, this was the first time somebody wanted to meet me while travelling.

I quickly finished my breakfast Soylent and hopped on my bike. It was a good thing, I remembered to plug the bike for charging as the first thing when I woke up that morning. I was just in time to catch the 0645 metro to the railway station.

I was wearing my red pullover that served two purposes – to beat the cold and to identify myself to the mystery man. My next seat was occupied by a meek looking teenager, who was engrossed in watching a kannada movie on his Personal Access Display Device. As the train started to move, a short and stout bespectacled middle-aged man – with a prominent religious mark dotting his forehead and temple making him look very spiritually inclined – came and asked the boy sitting next to me if he could switch seats. The boy though taken aback, silently nodded and just as silently went and sat in the man’s seat a few rows away. My new neighbour made himself comfortable and slowly started searching through his pant pockets.

He took out his mobile phone – the model looked at least a few years old – and proceeded to check his messages. Quite suddenly, he turned to me and asked me if I had a spare memory pin. I understood that this was the mystery man who called me yesterday and had asked me to get a couple of memory pins. I handed him an empty memory pin, I was carrying. He inserted that into his mobile phone and started tapping furiously. He kept the phone in his shirt pocket, turned to me, gave back my pin and said – “Namaste, you must be Gyanesh”. I replied “Yes”. He followed:

“I’m Yethiraj Shodhan. I’m working at the UIDAI as a Project Specialist for the past six years. I know about your RTI applications seeking information about the recent Guttahalli property disputes.“

My eyes lit up expecting a stash of information about the most famous case in recent times. However he said “I’m sorry I do not have anything specific to the case, but I do however want to tell you something more sinister that is connected to that case. What you do with the information I’m about to reveal is upto you.”

“As you know for the past few years the UID as a platform gained quite a bit of steam and has established itself in an unassailable position. Every government body uses UID to authenticate and authorize, every financial institution tags every transaction with the UID, telecom companies use it to authorize their services, transport companies use it to authenticate online and book seats, toll plazas use it with their pre-paid cards to allow vehicles through their poll booths unattended, entertainment centers like multiplexes, amusement parks use it to verify access. UID is so ubiquitous, that people have long forgotten all the opposition and brouhaha it faced in its initial stages.

“UID has proved to be so effective for law enforcement that agencies have forgotten investigation techniques without using UID.”

At this point, I was a bit apprehensive about his credibility. However I asked him “Isn’t UID not supposed to track people? Wasn’t that guarantee provided when this was approved by the parliament way back in 2014?”

“You’ve been asleep at the door, my friend. Four years back parliament approved a one line amendment that allowed tracking of UID transactions, of course, to be closely monitored by an oversight committee. This was followed by the establishment of a new specialized agency called Internal Intelligence Unit. They are eponymously called just In2. Now, In2 owns a data center that has a peering arrangement with the UID data centers. Actually I’m not sure if there is only one or many, though.”

“I act as the liaison for UID and In2, and I know first hand how the UID has become a boon for law enforcement. For instance, the police identified the perpetrators of the bear run on the stock market within minutes and arrested them almost red handed at their own premises. Trailing and IDing suspects has become a no brainer now. The general law and order has improved quite a lot because of the UID, though the government doesn’t credit it publicly.”

“However, I’m not here to advocate for UID. I’m here to do just the opposite. There is a cabal of politicians, intelligence officers, businessmen, bureaucrats who are subverting the whole process and systems for their own benefits. Though there is a parliamentary oversight committee that meets once every month and goes through the summary of the logs prepared for them, they aren’t equipped to cross examine and go deep into the workings of In2.”

“The additional director and quite a few others are fixing these loopholes to their benefit. They have systems in place that ride on top of In2′s systems and obtain comprehensive information about any person who has a UID number. They also cross link the bank account numbers, PAN number, Voter number, Insurance, Licenses, business permits, Professional membership numbers, private clubs memberships, credit/debit card numbers, employee numbers and what not, to create fingerprints of private citizens and businesses. This information is then sold to whoever comes looking for it including political opponents, business competitors, stalkers, celebrity hunters, underworld goons, marketers and even foreign spies.”

“The way the cabal have stitched these systems, it is very easy for them to monitor the movements of any person entirely remotely without the tracked person coming to know about it in anyway. In fact the case you’re pursuing has the potential to blow the lids of these operations. I actually tried to piece together as to what would have happened on the case. This is my theory.”

“The Professor who had inherited a large property had no heirs. He wanted to give away the property to some charitable organization. He in fact had registered a will to that effect. But once he died, a new will was found which was linked to the property at the registrar’s office. Of course it was authenticated using his biometrics. This ‘will’ bequeathed his property to some individual who claims he had served the Professor as his secretary. But this is hotly contested by the charitable organization who says the Professor had indeed reiterated his intent to leave his property for the organization just a few weeks back before his death.”

“There is no doubt that there is some foul play in the whole story. I recently discovered that the same cabal had hired some underground hackers to create a nano device that grabs signatures from the wire while they are being sent to the UID authentication servers, which they can reuse for various forgery purposes. They’re very discrete in using this and I believe they’re using it only for a limited number of high value frauds like this one.”

“There is no way these people can get caught as they are always a step ahead of anybody who might want to investigate them. They are constantly monitoring the airwaves and the cables for communication about this facility. Once alerted,they simply throw them off trail or eliminate their threat.”

I was stunned by this deluge of information. I realized that I was not prepared for this at all. I asked him as to how did he expect me to proceed. He said;

“The UID is doing quite a lot of good for a large number of people, while it has the potential to bring upon a great deal of suffering because of the actions of some people. In my opinion stopping UID right now might not be a great idea. It should have been stopped way back when it was being conceived or was in its nascent stages.”

“I’ve transferred whatever I had with me about these activities into that memory pin I gave you. I’ve been spiritually inclined for the past couple of years and I have quit my job. I’m taking up Sanyaasa Deeksha. I leave it entirely to your discretion, as to what to do with the information. In some ways, I just shifted my wheel of burden onto your head.”

“My stop has arrived. I’ll alight. May you be blessed with the knowledge of righteousness and may you follow that path. Goodbye.”

As soon as he left, I got a message on my mobile phone – “Congratulations! Your data plan has been upgraded to an unlimited plan. Please swipe your index finger across the UID Validator™ in the device to accept and activate”.

On predilictions of predictions

So, Princeton University researchers claimed that they found strong evidence that Facebook will be largely abandoned by 2017, like an infectious disease.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/22/facebook-princeton-researchers-infectious-disease

Engineers at Facebook were “intrigued” by the article and proceeded to find out what’s in store for Princeton …

https://www.facebook.com/notes/mike-develin/debunking-princeton/10151947421191849

… and they found out that “Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely”.

So, as they say “Correlation is not Causation” – http://www.google.com/trends/correlate/comic

:-)

The missed slingshot

Here is a sketching attempt I did out of boredom!

Missed slingshot

It depicts a scene that shows a man with a bump on his head shouting at a naughty boy. The naughty boy – whose shot at a mango from a catapult has missed and has hit the man on his head, is seen frightened.

I have uploaded it onto Open Clip Art for your usage pleasure.

http://openclipart.org/detail/189466/the-missed-slingshot-by-shashi-189466

Critique, comments welcome :-D

Migrate OpenStack Keystone to a different IP address

This hack describes how to change openstack service end-points after there is a change in the host IP address.

When you initially install and provision OpenStack, Keystone (the identity service) creates a set of end-points for all the services. You can get the list of service end-points by typing

# keystone endpoint-list

Particularly of interest are the “publicurl”s. A typical publicurl of a service end-point would look like

http://10.0.0.25:8774/v2/$(tenant_id)s


If the IP address of the host changes, the end-points aren’t migrated automatically. This may cause quite a lot of dependent services to stop working.

One such service is “Horizon” which is the web interface and dashboard for OpenStack. Once the IP address is changed, you won’t be able to login to the admin dashboard as well.

To fix this, the service end-points needs to be updated. Unfortunately, the keystone tool supports only creation of end-points at this time. You’ll have to manually update the end-point URLs in the database.

In this example, I’m using mysql as the database and I have changed the host IP from 10.0.0.25 to 10.0.0.100.

Login to mysql (probably as root), select the keystone database and query the URLs.

# mysql -u root -p keystone
Enter password:
Reading table information for completion of table and column names
You can turn off this feature to get a quicker startup with -A
...
Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.

mysql> select id, url from endpoint where interface='public';
+----------------------------------+--------------------------------------------+
| id | url |
+----------------------------------+--------------------------------------------+
| 384ee4e74ad19a71bc56bff55e18e25c | http://10.0.0.25:8774/v2/$(tenant_id)s |
| 675affbfacf34c0899a994d72eea7d57 | http://10.0.0.25:9292/v2 |
| 34818b5b99394e4d9894e932403696cf | http://10.0.0.25:9696/ |
| 8b363857ce294150567571dfc476a83 | http://10.0.0.25:8776/v1/$(tenant_id)s |
| b4041634dc614f8876baa119769e784e | http://10.0.0.25:5000/v2.0 |
| c6edf51290e34b84995bccacbc2a2454 | http://10.0.0.25:8773/services/Cloud |
+----------------------------------+--------------------------------------------+
6 rows in set (0.00 sec)

Now that we know what to change, update the URLs (as suggested below)

mysql> update endpoint set url='http://10.0.0.100:8773/services/Cloud' where id='c6edf51290e34b84995bccacbc2a2454';

Now doing a keystone endpoint-list should show your new URL.

To change the IP address in the configurations do the following;

# cd /etc/
# find {keystone,nova,cinder,quantum,glance} -type f -exec grep -nH 10.0.0.25 {} \;
# find {keystone,nova,cinder,quantum,glance} -type f -exec sed -i s/10.0.0.25/10.0.0.100/g {} \;

Restart apache2, memcached and try logging into Horizon.
Of course, YMMV!

“Edge” Crowd Funding Fail – Brilliant market hack by Ubuntu

Product marketing is a very tricky activity. Especially for a product that is based on free and open source software. Ubuntu Edge is a great idea that might eventually get sold.

But, in my opinion Mark Shuttleworth did a brilliant move by gauging potential market response for the idea. By asking people to put money where their mouth is, he not only got a market survey done but also got free press, a potential customer community and a significant thought leadership! All these for almost no expenditure.

Compare this to Microsoft’s big fail trying to sell their Surface RT, Ubuntu indeed did a brilliant market hack!

Probability of Certainties or The Karma Theory Redux

Life is uncertain! I had a quaint notion about certain cliches, including this one. But events in the recent past, have shown me that there are certainties even about uncertainties! This must be a good illustration of the Schrodinger’s Kitten theory.

Have you ever wondered why a seemingly simple task never gets completed? Or how does the Indian cricket team manage to lose from an highly advantageous position? Or why doesn’t the fish hook even after so many hours, at the most populated hole?  Or how did your boss appear suddenly (when he was supposed to be off for the day) when you were in the middle of ogling that new comer at your office?  Or how did the professor who evaluated your answer book miss that big block diagram that you’d drawn right in the center of the page?

Or why would a very healthy four month old baby suddenly die? of a rare condition that occurs only in a so small percentage of babies, that it is almost certain not to occur!

How do you get a statistically significant answer to these questions that could satisfy the probability of their certainties? Or would the traditional Karma theory provide a more plausible and easy to accept solution for questions about these uncertain events?

Though Karma is almost always spoken about in hindsight, its value is better realised by its futuristic application. Telling somebody that being kind, pleasant, disciplined in this life, shall ensure that you’ll be endowed with amazing things right from the beginning in the next birth — may actually result in his being all that.

Life is full of events – happy, sad, exciting, disappointing, etc. We tend to qualify each event based on our perception and training. Each qualification could be viewed through other spectrum and a different conclusion could be drawn. Again, tradition tells us to be the Stithaprajna — person with a steady mind — under all conditions.

To tackle Life’s (un)certainties, mathematical modelling does not help. It IS in-fact spirituality and tradition that does have solutions to such conundrums.

GitHub for Windows through proxies

If you’re using GitHub for Windows in a corporate, chances are high that you’re behind a big bad Corporate Firewall/Proxy. GitHub for Windows doesn’t yet have the proxy parameters in its GUI for setting Options.

To configure GitHub for Windows to use your  corporate proxy, edit the .gitconfig file typically found at C:\Users\<yourusername>\.gitconfig or C:\Documents & Settings\<yourusername>\.gitconfig

Close GitHub for Windows; In .gitconfig, just add

[http]
proxy = http://dumbproxy.yourcompany.com:8080

[https]
proxy = http://dumbproxy.yourcompany.com:8080

And speaking about dumb proxies, take a look at the category this proxy spews out as the reason for filtering it out :-)

Proxy reason for filtering

On how companies lose it to their founders’ ego!

OnLive and OnMobile are entirely different companies in different domains, different geographical spreads, different sizes. But they have quite a few similarities as well. While the  “On” in their names is an obvious similarity, the stories of their misfortunes also strike an unfortunate likeliness.

OnMobile was founded by Arvind Rao who led it to tremendous heights as its CEO, before falling to his own success. OnLive was led by Steve Perlman who had quite an awesome pedigree before he founded the company. OnLive has been having its share of bad times of late.

More about OnMobile here, and about OnLive here.

Hither, Thither …

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