Tuesday, March 31, 2015

OpenDaylight Lisboa Meetup Group

We had the first meetup of the OpenDaylight Lisboa meetup group in INESC-ID Lisboa. This is an introductory presentation I created for the meetup.

If you are in Lisbon area and interested in OpenDaylight and Software-Defined Networking, do join our meetup group. You may find a list of all the OpenDaylight user groups (ODLUG) here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Internet of Emotions

The world is driven  by emotions. In the Internet, the emotions are further exaggerated. Many articles, videos, and posts are created with the interest of invoking the emotions. While a politically correct and perfect title may be ideal for a school essay, even the major news providers and bloggers have chosen catchy titles, which are often unethical and misleading for their articles.

I never subscribed to any of these "influencers" in LinkedIn. Rather, I am "forced" to read them. These are two of the posts I found in LinkedIn today from the "Influencers". I clicked both of them out of curiosity.

1. If You're 30 And Don't Know This, You're In Trouble
2. How To Prevent Heartbreak From A Less Qualified Person Being Promoted

Here you may notice, the title 1 is just intended to derive your curiosity. It does not have a proper audience. In fact, the article itself lacked value. Its intent was just to get more audience, and probably it has succeeded in that. The latter title is more open, but still good enough to attract the right audience. In a world driven by clicks and revenue, it is obvious what these articles want. 

More viewers means, more visibility. More visibility means, more revenue. I have seen many existing videos in YouTube rehashed with some random content and catchy title. A sample would be, "These man/woman was asked to X. His/Her response was AWESOME". or "He did X to Y. What happened next is Incredible". Something like that to make you curious to see what happened next. Commoner examples in LinkedIn is, "Solve this, if you are a genius" followed by an elementary quiz or question which can practically be solved by anyone with a little knowledge. The more user engagement gives these stupid posts an uplifting, making the Internet "polluted".

Talking these unethical headlines to next level, I read so many blog posts writing headlines such as "Strong evidence on what happened to MH370 has been found!" while the content just provided some existing known uncertain information. Even giving a negative comment discouraging future readers will boost the popularity of these posts in the social circle, as many of the social media strive on not having a negative voting.

It is hard to get views with a politically correct and moderate values in the Internet. Shocking and extreme views easily get the attraction, just that they are capable of breaking our indifference. Recent example was a woman posted her photo visibly stained menstruating herself in her period, to Instagram in public view settings. As expected, it was removed by the Instagram, respecting the community guidelines. Her intention may be just to get some views to her blog posts. Probably she had some good intention - that is by creating a shock value, passing on the message she wanted us to listen on feminism and freedom of media.

In the very business-oriented world, this woman has successfully created a shock value and made her blog and book popular. While I am 100% supportive of freedom of speech and expression, feminism, and all that, it is hard for me not to question the motives. Sharing a photo of this nature does not prove or solve anything. While Instagram apologized mentioning that was a mistake on their side, I believe they were right in removing it from their site according to their own policies. However, it was smart of them to restore it mentioning that that was a mistake to remove the photo. It avoids further social media damage or wasting of time on this from their end. In my opinion, removal of this photo was not misogyny. Rather, just their community standards. They would have removed a boy with a visible stain suggesting he had a wet dream as well. I don't blame her for that. Just stating my opinion. However, to some extent, taking similar extreme stances such as this woman just alienates feminism from the mainstream. 

The Instagram issue was the one which made this photo popular. It was surely not a 'mistake'; rather they (Instagram) intentionally removed it and undid that when they realized the backfire. If I am not wrong, this photo was shared with public visibility, and most probably someone reported it (I don't think Instagram, Facebook, et al. go on monitoring each upload). I am not sure about the age limit of Instagram. Is it 18+ or 13+ like Facebook? How are they effective in really setting these limits? A parental filter may not filter Instagram (nor this image) and chances are high Instagram would be listed as a trusted site by the parents. This may cause shock for an underage kid, as young as 11 something (they are active users of the Internet now).

I don't find mistake in her photo. Not in Instagram for removing the photo either. Just could not fail to notice the potential business-motive in the photo from her end, and the smart move from Instagram's end by restoring it without causing more social media stir.
The Internet of emotions is so strong that there are so many incidents reported where a photo or post online caused much trouble beyond the online world. Employers do not want to get involved in controversies. While individuals may be happy with whatever the attention they receive, positive or negative, it may not be the case for a large organization or a country. I am not sure about the support and consequences these individuals receive from their companies, if they are affiliated to any.

Another recent example was a feminism video with a popular Indian actress portrayed. Again, it exhibited much more extreme thoughts, specially considering the fact that the video is coming from a much conservative India. While a moderate and commonly acceptable video may be well-received by a larger audience, it would not create such a hype. Negative or positive, the comments in social media add up. There should be a way of demoting the videos we dislike. But it is not available in many platforms. Even if you comment, "This video sucks", that will still increase the popularity of the content, with your engagement. This is one reason why I avoid commenting on spams, as much as I can. Interestingly, that video was an advertisement or placement video by a media. Not by the actress herself. The magazine/media was successful in getting the reach they wanted.

I was once blocked by a Sri Lankan, upon mocking a preacher on his misogynistic views. The Internet expects us to be tolerant of all kind of trolls, while not to offend anyone who has subscribed to any belief system. There is also a plenty of trolls that will always try to provoke you with their extreme views on topics such as politics, religion, or whatever, whether you align yourself with them or not.

I was going through a Facebook page, and found a comment. "Do a Google Search for XXXXX, and click the first video result. The singer has insulted the fans of this page. Go and dislike that video. Also subscribe to the channel, and dislike all the videos from the uploader". It turned out that the comments were made by the video uploader himself and his proxies. All his videos have 99% dislikes. But still they also have a million of views, and thousands of subscribers. Many of the viewers have identified his strategy. Still he has achieved what he wanted - views. Hence, the revenue from the advertisements, from Google. There are many web sites and blogs that force you to wait for a while, with an advertisement covering the page. Most of them even have a limited possibility of removing such advertisements.

In the Internet of emotions, invoking the curiosity and emotions of the viewers will produce more engagement - good or bad. Moderate views are less favoured by this environment, though I would prefer it otherwise.

Data Cleaning

This is the second presentation for the Data Quality module of my PhD. Please refer to the references indicated for a more in-depth analysis, as this presentation is entirely based on them.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Delayed baggage and my future precautions.. :P

It was cute of Delta to put this tag. :)
The flight to Phoenix was the first time my luggage was delayed, though I have travelled so many times with a checked in luggage. 

We have to take the checked in luggage out of the conveyor belt in the entry airport to the US and drop the luggage again, as a custom of the US. I could not find my checked in luggage at the belt in MSP (Minneapolis) airport, and I reported to Delta. They told me my luggage was delayed in Paris, and advised me to report to the Delta ground staff at PHX (Phoenix, my final destination). They also told me that it may take up to 2 days!

Upon reaching PHX I checked the belt again, just in case my luggage magically appeared. :P Then I reported to the Delta ground staff, as it was not there. I was told I will receive it by very late the same night to the address I indicate. I gave them the hotel address that I would be staying for the next of few days.

I was given a small complimentary package (that resembled a typical pencil case, stuffed with many stuff. :D). Actually, it was pretty helpful. It included tooth paste and brush, comb, shaving cream and shaver (which was pretty bad that it cut my face :( ), deodorant, and a vest. These were the things I immediately needed (soap and towels were provided by the hotel). So I liked their thoughtfulness, and it reduced the potential negative tone in this blog post, though I was highly irritated that time. :D

My hand luggage was my laptop bag. It had my laptop, laptop power cable, camera, phone, Nexus 7, pen (yes; both a pen drive and a writing pen), and diary, along with all the important documents. I did not have any change clothes. I had to go to the conference in the same clothes that I came flying 24 hours! If only my talk was not on the same day, I would even have avoided going to the session on the first day till I receive my luggage!

I took a long shower, and confirmed I did not stink though wearing the same clothes. :P Luckily the conference did not have a limitation on what to wear. Hence I was able to go to the conference in denim and sweatshirt. My suit was in the checked in luggage (I like to be more professional on the day I talk; after that I don't mind - and no one cares either). So I composed a list of items to take in the hand luggage, in addition to the computer (since I apparently did not have anything else to do in the hotel).

And the next page.. :D
1. Suit (if business attire is required) - Now I understand why many people take it with them instead of nicely packing it in their checked in luggage. Can't do a shopping for this in the foreign land due to the lack of time.

2. Chargers - I had my USB cable in the hand luggage. But my computer did not have enough power for even itself to be able to charge my phone or tab. Hotel receptionist was unable to provide this or the international convertor though she tried to help.

3. Power converter - I had my computer power supply. But the Euro to US converter was in the checked in luggage. So still I could not use my computer. I hate the fact that we have different and weird shapes of sockets everywhere.

4. Light weight clothes for the next day - most importantly, one or two pairs of socks!

5. Paper shoes - This is something I learned from the hotels in Shenzhen, China. They are so convenient to use in the hotel, specially to the toilet. I had two pairs in my checked in luggage.

6. Enough money to buy whatever needed, in case of such delays.
0. Most importantly, all the important documents such as booking confirmation and diary (if you have one) - This I never failed to keep in the had luggage.

In fact, I did not receive my luggage the next morning. When I called them using the tracking number I was assigned (using skype on my tab, using the little power it had), I was told that I will receive it before 3 p.m that day. According to the Delta site, we can reimburse as much as 50 USD per day, if the delay caused us some monetary loss (such as buying underwear), upon producing the receipts. I did not bother to claim such, as I did not have to spend anything just because of this delay. I don't think dinner expenses count as something caused by this delay. :P

I received my luggage only around 3 p.m. I was not at the hotel to receive it. I had to update the preference in the site, mentioning that the luggage do not require signature (so that they can deliver it when I was still away from the hotel), indicating them to leave at the reception, as I would be away for the conference. I got my luggage from the receptionist finally, when I came back late around 10 pm after the conference.

Though Delta ground staff had no clue on the delay, I assume it has something to do with the short connection time in Paris CDG. With just 1.5 hours between the flights and a bit even lesser than an hour to check in time, I even had to run to the gate, just to be safe. Still there was a long queue waiting to be checked in. While minimizing the layover time will shorten the overall journey, I am going to avoid such short transits.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tortilla vs Roti

I went to Peurto Penasco (also known as Rocky Point) in Mexico by shuttle, which is a few hours drive from Tempe or Phoenix, close to the US-Mexico border and stayed one night there (12th - 13th, March 2015). It was a different world in the other side of the border. Anyone with a US multi-entry visa may enter Mexico and return to the US without another Mexican visa. Though it was a short trip, I had some interesting moments there.

So I was having my dinner in the restaurant. One of the guys (one who works in the restaurant, presumably) popped up and asked, "would you like too try thotheeyaa". I said, " whaaaat?" He said, "flour". I confirmed, " flour?" He said something like, "orange apple..." I don't quite get it. After a moment, the waiter came to me and asked me (the other guy must have told him about our conversation), "you want thotheeyaa?" I said, "what is thotheeyaa? I don't understand." The waiter said, "ah, then no problem." I insisted, "No, tell me. I just don't get it." The waiter said, "one minute" and came back with a plateful of sample. I smiled, "ah.. This.. I don't want this." The waiter said, "ah ok. How to call this? Not thotheeyaa?" I said, "no no no no no.. It is roti"

Later, I got to know that tortilla was originated in Mexico. I usually try only the local restaurants (with an exception for Chinese and south Asian food as I love those food as an Asian myself). There are Mexican restaurants in Europe certainly. Just I never bothered to try. I still could not figure out what he meant by "orange apple". However, it indeed looks like roti, and ingredients and the recipe look pretty much similar.

It is "normal" in Rocky Point to scam or charge more from the foreigners in Rocky Point. For example, the restaurant had two menus - one in Spanish with prices indicated in Mexican Pesos (MXP), and the other in English with USD. One USD was equal to 15 MXP. But the price for the same item was marked as 90 MXP in Spanish, and 15 USD in English. That means 2.5 times extra for English speakers. Similarly, an entire meal costs just 120 MXP. But 18 USD (they include 10% tax in addition, though it was not mentioned in the menu. It is a regular practice in the US. Not sure about Mexico. I guess, they charge this 10% extra also only from foreigners). Again more than double the price. An English speaking lady (presumably from the US) found this and argued with the restaurant manager. She tried to get help from a Mexican girl who looked modern and educated. She asked her, "Is this a common practice here to charge the foreigners more?" The Mexican girl was reluctant to help, just smiled and said "I don't know". 

That English speaking lady left without eating there. However, I did not mind. As I noticed, it was common. I cannot ruin my entire night seeking a restaurant that does not try to cheat the foreigners. After all, I just stayed one night and had one dinner. So no need to bother much. My suggestion is, next time change some USD to MXP if you are staying longer there. 

I was there for the spring break. So the town was full of teenagers from the US. The legal age for alcohol consumption in the US is 21 or above. It is 18 in Mexico, and that also is not strictly enforced in Rocky Point. Hence students from Arizona come to Rocky Point to have some drinks all night. The town surrounding the old fish market looked like a party location. However, it had just a rocky beach, which makes it impossible to have some sun bath. To have a sunny beach, we should stay in the other side, which I heard lacks the bars and restaurants, unlike this side.

I was able to locate so many fake pharmacies selling cheap Viagra. Also many dentists. Try them at your own risk. :P Interestingly, there is a blooming real estate business, encouraging visitors to buy the properties and resell when the price goes high. As I learned, if you really want to do, you better have a very trusted Mexican friend to help you. Otherwise, you will end up paying 5 times the real price for a land or property in a no-man-zone.

When I planned this trip, I was warned by many that this used to be the heaven of the drug lords. But what I found was, just a party location! I encountered another scammer though. We just walked together, while he was trying to scam me for a boat ride that did not exist. I was careful; so I lost nothing. I won this time. :).

It was a different experience to visit the Latin America by land. Though probably I would not visit Rocky Point again alone, it was worth the try.

Introduction to Data Quality

I have a course on Data Quality for my PhD. Given below is a presentation I prepared for the course, that gives an introduction to data quality, based on a selected set of papers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SDS/IC2E 2015 - An Expressive Simulator for Dynamic Network Flows

2nd IEEE International Workshop on Software Defined Systems (SDS -2015) was held at the Arizona State University Tempe Campus, USA in conjunction with 2015 IEEE International Conference on Cloud Engineering (IC2E 2015) from 09-12 March 2015. I presented my paper titled, "An Expressive Simulator for Dynamic Network Flows". The presentation slides and abstract are given below.

Abstract -
Software-defined networking (SDN) increases the network programmability, promoting an effective development of networked systems of cloud scale. As the scale of the networks and systems is growing larger and larger with time, programmability of the systems and networks is researched intensively. Many emulators are proposed and implemented to emulate large and complex networks inside a single computer, or a cluster of computers in the research lab. However, the emulators lack the ability to represent large systems such as data center networks or content delivery networks. Many of the network algorithms and design choices can also be tested for their functionality and efficiency in a simulator environment. While network emulators and simulators exist, a generic network flow simulator that is easy to program a variety of highly distributed and gigantic systems is still lacking. This paper presents xSDN , an expressive simulator for dynnamic network flows. Adhering to the principles of software-defined networking paradigm from the design, xSDN focuses to be lean, light-weight, easy to learn and configure, and efficient, that can simulate networks of a scale of million nodes within a few seconds.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dropbox Love and heart break.. :D

Yesterday was supposed to be the day that we will be losing the free storage space we got from the Dropbox Space Race Promotion for the last two years. I even noticed some other cloud storage providers targeted the users migrating from Dropbox, probably connected with the end of this promotion. I received the below email last night from Dropbox.

Hi Kathiravelu,
The 25 GB of additional Dropbox space you received as part of Space Race has now expired. Your Dropbox limit has automatically been adjusted to 10 GB.
You’re currently using 5.0 GB of Dropbox space. If you’re over your 10 GB limit, you’ll no longer be able to save new photos, videos, and docs to Dropbox — see our Help Center for more information.
Need more space? Dropbox Pro gives you 1 TB of space to keep everything safe, plus advanced sharing controls, remote wipe for lost devices, and priority support.
Upgrade your Dropbox
Interested in Dropbox for teams? Check out Dropbox for Business!
Thanks for participating in Space Race!
- The Dropbox Team

I was expecting my storage quota to drop to 10 GB. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had already moved majority of my files away from Dropbox, and was ready for this downgrade. Last night, Dropbox started to reduce the storage quota, in steps. It did not reduce it at one shot to 10 GB.

As you can see from the screenshot, it decided to reduce in an eventual manner. However, it still remains at 19.88 GB (not 10 GB, which should be the limit, according to the previous mail notifications). Probably Dropbox decided to be a bit nicer. I did not fail to notice the heart-broken symbol

Let me know, if you have stories to share on this migration hell.. :D

Later update: Interestingly, when I checked a few days after, Dropbox has removed all the event notifications and heart break symbols and left the account with only the original space (9.9 GB). It displayed this message in a header, "Your Dropbox Space Race promotion has expired. Get more space with Dropbox Pro!" This seems more professional and less personal. :D

Is Triptogether.com a Scam?

Short answer: Mostly scam.

I have previously reviewed Freelancer.com, which is not really a complete scam. However, Triptogether.com, which positions itself as a service for finding travel mates is a complete scam.

You can chat to someone for a very short period of time for free. After that, you will have to pay for each messages entered. It is actually a lot of money, if you continue to chat. Worse, the profiles, most of them that would contact you, are fake! There may be a few genuine unsuspecting users. But the majority (say 99%) of the profiles (at least the female profiles that are used to attract paying customers) are fake!

I found the link for this site from a Facebook travel group. Probably one of their employees advertising. Assuming it is genuinely related to travel and is similar to couchsurfing or airbnb, I gave it a try. Little did I know. The moment I created the profile, even with lack of any interesting information (except the somewhat boring profile picture, name, location, and job title), I started receiving chat messages. Most of them showed extreme interest, not just travelling, rather romantic (it was of course interesting and entertaining to hear those pick up lines from those 'females'). My profile had an open preference (18 or more, anyone - men or women). Regardless of this, I literally got requests from only young females with attractive profiles.

Most of them claim to be from China or Colombia. But a quick chat with them would reveal that they are fake. Some of them were just bots. A few of them indeed appeared to be real humans. Most of them appeared to be hired employees (chat professionals!) who are dedicated to talk longer and longer with the unsuspecting victims to absorb as much as they can to the site. They are just not the person they claim who they are. You may notice repetitions or same messages such as "do you like go to beach with me?" from "different" users.

Despite their extreme level of interest in you, the moment you ask to continue the chat in another free platform such as Facebook or Skype, they would just ignore and stick to this site. Sometimes you may hear "smart" responses such as, "best talk on this site is more secure dear". Interestingly, as much as I researched, the site was surely not more secure. Who would be willing to lose money paying for each message, in that site with a crappy chat system? Their intention is to make the victims stay longer and chat beyond the free 3 minutes of conversation to make them pay. However, as the site gets desperate to get money, eventually it does not even wait for you to send your first reply. Rather, it displays the below message, "Top up your balance and you will never miss the trip of your dream."

Any legitimate user that you may luckily encounter (I suspect that they exist in this site) would be delighted to continue the chat elsewhere, if they are really interested in travelling with you. Of course, there is another set of scammers in this site, the typical "Nigerian Scammers" (they are not really from Nigeria. This has become a metaphor), who attempts to collect your email address.

As they realize, you are not that stupid to pay, the chat frequency from the users will reduce. Since they are not individuals, but a group of scammers, it is possible for them to collaborate and coordinate on this. Also the chat requests come in bulk. Probably since the employees (those who are paid to chat, pretending to be young girls) go out for lunch and return together.

Further red flags are bugs in photo removal and profile picture changer. After changing and removing a profile picture, it magically came back. I suspect that even after deleting a photo, triptogether.com never removes them from their servers permanently. Deleting the profile or disabling it seems equally impossible as well. They just want to collect as many as real people, to their pool of fakes and bots.

I wonder why these scam sites continue to operate. Why can't someone come up with something real and legitimate and continue to earn revenue? Now why did I spend time writing a review for an unknown website that I found from a Facebook comment? The reason is, this site is not alone. There is a series of similar scam sites. I just wanted to warn the subscribers and readers of my blog to be aware of this and any similar site.

My suggestion is, avoid this and many other similar sites, to save your time and money. :) See you next time probably, with another review. :P Let me know your thoughts in the mean time. :D