Scrabulous: Dead App Scrabbling

I’ve mentioned it before, but for those of you who weren’t aware, I’m addicted to Scrabulous, the Facebook application which allows me to play multiple games of Scrabble with several of you at the same time, and at our leisure.

Scrabulous is so fabulous, I ditched Friendster and MySpaz out of my desire for it; I had no need for such retrograde networks, not when Facebook was so superior– and the whole basis for its superiority is this stellar timesuck. If you read the message boards on the “official” Save Scrabulous group or under news articles about the game, I’m not the only one who has embraced Facebook out of my nerdier impulses, nor am I the only one who is twitching in a corner, rocking back-and-forth over this:

The saga of Scrabulous is nearing an end…[link]

I can’t bear to contemplate it. Better I edify you as to why this tragedy is occurring. Hasbro is not pleased that their game is suddenly so popular, not when they have no part in the fun. Never mind that they were stupid for not sensing the untapped desire of millions of word-nerds for protracted online Scrabbling, they’re using words like “licensing” and “stealing” to rain on our vocabulary-littered parade.

A flurry of behind the scenes deal-making has been going on between Hasbro, Scrabulous, and Electronic Arts, which has the license in the U.S. to the online version of the game. Hasbro is trying to get Scrabulous to sell itself for a song to Electronic Arts, or else shut down completely by the end of the day today. [link]

The Calcutta-based brothers behind the awesomeness, software developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla are trying to find a way…

Scrabulous has been trying to shop itself to other buyers as well, but its legal liability is scaring away any potential white knights. Unless it gets some sort of reprieve or agrees to sell to Electronic Arts, Scrabulous will be no more, despite the more than 46,000 Facebook members who have joined the “Save Scrabulous” group. What choice does it have, really, but to sell? [link]

Lest you think this is a tiny sort of tempest, consider these numbers:

Scrabulous was started in 2006 as a standalone site operated by a pair of 20-something Calcutta, India-based brothers, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, but the game exploded when they created a Facebook application that currently boasts 2.3 million active users and soon became the workplace productivity drain du jour. It’s currently the ninth most popular application on the site. [link]

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TimesOfIndia.com Has Advanced Adware/Malware

A web security service called ScanSafe has investigated the Times of India website (note that I’m not providing a link), and discovered that its advertising is stuffed with advanced Adware and Malware (thanks, Voiceinthehead):

Visitors to the IndiaTimes website are being bombarded by malware, some of which appear to target previously unknown vulnerabilities in Windows, a security researcher warns.

In all, the English-language Indian news site is directly or indirectly serving up at least 434 malicious files, many of which are not detected by antivirus software, according to Mary Landesman, a senior security researcher at ScanSafe. She said at least 18 different IP addresses are involved in the attack.

“The end result of the compromise is that the user, going through their normal course of activities, is subject to a really massive installation of malicious files,” she told us. “Coupled with the low detection by antivirus vendors, it does put the end user in a very vulnerable position.”

Visitors can be infected even if they have up-to-date systems and they don’t fall victim to tricks to install software or browser add-ons, she said. She urged people to avoid the site until it’s been cleaned up. (link)

A slightly more technical version of the report is at the ScanSafe website, here.

Frankly, I find it appalling that a “respectable” news agency would be using these tactics, and I won’t be linking to the TOI in any blog post unless and until I hear that this has been stopped. I also hope the report gets picked up by the general Indian news media, and TOI is called to account. This is simply not a business policy that is entered into by accident — somebody at The Times of India had to knowingly enter into agreements with these Malware vendors to begin with. (If this were a U.S. company, you can bet there would be a class-action lawsuit by users forced to waste time and money cleaning up their computers.)

One qualification: I’m a little unsure about how much of a danger this really is to people who are running Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2, or computers with good spyware protection — ScanSafe may be magnifying the danger a little to drum up business.

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Boss, you don’t have to be vellathu to be “cool”.

Longtime Mutineer Desi Dude in Austin left a tip on our news tab, which immediately got my attention:

Rajnikath don’t need no Fair and Lovely…not when he has 25 CGI artists lighten his complexion frame-by-frame for a song-and-dance sequence in his latest sambaar-mix potboiler Sivaji.

Say what?! I neither know nor care about either Sivaji the fillum or its rotund ishtar, but following the link DDiA left took me here: Rajnikant is white.jpg

If you have watched Sivaji..You have observed the fair complexion of Rajinikanth in the song Oru koodai Sunlight.Everyone thought it was make-up that made Superstar Rajinikanth look like a European in that song, but the secret is something else. [Naachgaana]

Yindeed, the secret is far more time-consuming and technologically advanced than some pancake from Max Faktor.

The secret of actor Rajinikanth’s ‘white’ tan in the song sequence “Style” in the ‘Sivaji’ was not the result of any fairness cream or cosmetic touch-up but an entire year of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) work by city-based firm Indian Arts.
The colour tone of one of the U.K.-based dancers in the background of the song was used to turn up the tone of the actor, frame by frame. The post-production for the 6,000 plus frames took a year to complete, as computer graphics artists from Indian Arts toiled to make Rajinikanth the “Vellai Tamizhan”. [The Hindu]

According to the article from our new tab, a total of 6,700 frames were painstakingly altered, to give the second-highest paid actor in Asia skin as pale as the complexion of one of his Gori backup dancers. Okay, that sentence was awkward as kundi. I’ll just quote something, instead, yes? Continue reading

A Potpourri of NPR

moraygan.jpg Not that you care, but I almost named this post A Salmagundi of NPR. However, I’m smitten with the way some Desis say “potpourri”, so I couldn’t resist the allure of that word. Oh, how do they say it? Like so: pottu-puri

None of these stories feels substantial enough to merit their own post; what does feel significant is perking up FOUR times during Morning Edition, because there are four different sepia-colored stories! That’s almost a fifth of the program! Here is what I (and undoubtedly fellow NPR-phile-Abhi, as well) heard:

1) Moray Eels are toothy!

Scientists in California have reported that Moray eels have a set of teeth within a second set of jaws, called the pharyngeal jaws, that help them capture their prey.
Once the Moray eel secures its prey with its first set of jaws, the pharyngeal jaws reach up from its throat, grabbing and pulling the prey down through its esophagus.

One of you already has an itchy-trigger-comment finger, I know it, so stop it– the brown angle is a-comin’…

Rita Mehta is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California Davis who studies the evolution of diversity in eel feeding behavior.

Like, whoa. Not only is there a female scientist to celebrate, this has to do with my alma mater as well! w00t Davis! We study Moray Eels!

“What we discovered is that the pharyngeal jaws of Moray’s have the greatest mobility of any pharyngeal jaws ever documented,” Mehta says.

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Do you know the importance of a skypager?

Hurry up and get yours cuz I got mine.jpg

I know I should probably save this for either Sunday or Monday, when you are all hung over, exhausted, grumpy or all of the above, but I am in a playful mood and can’t resist.

According to an Anonymous Tipster on our news tab, picture number four in Fortune magazine‘s online exhibit of photographs which starred in an offline exhibit in Manhattan entitled, “Fortune Celebrates India” is “awesome”. I wholeheartedly concur with that sentiment; I couldn’t stop smiling after seeing the image to the left. What a fantastic capture!

These pictures got some well-deserved (especially in this case) attention in preparation for the 10th Fortune Global Forum, which will be held in New Delhi later this fall. But none of this matters, because you are all well aware of why I have posted this picture. Wot? You have no idea? Of course you do! That’s right ladkas and ladkis…it’s time to play the “caption” game.

While the two desis in this photo aren’t as glamorous as Karan Johar and Preity Zinta, the stars of our last episode, I find them infinitely more interesting. :)

How ’bout you? Leave your impressions of what’s going on in the comments below. If you’d rather see the rest of the photographs in the exhibit– I believe there are almost two dozen– click here. And if you want to suggest pictures for future editions of the caption game, then click here. And if you want further relief from ennui, deadlines or constipation…well, I have nothing for you to click (thanggawd!). Continue reading

Salt on wounds

I know I know that right now is the worst possible time for this story. I know we’re supposed to be all “ABCD-FOB Bhai Bhai!” but this is just too funny to pass up.

He said it, I just blogged it.

A mobile phone game … will be used to help international students cope with ‘culture shock’ and university life in Britain … The game – called C-Shock – is the brainchild of University of Portsmouth academic and games technology expert Nipan Maniar who, himself, arrived in the UK from India five years ago as an international student…
Nipan said the game would act as an ‘e-mother’ or ‘mobile mummy’ for new students. [Link]

When you hear e-mother you imagine a sort of Tamagotchi in reverse right? Something that nags you to eat enough, sleep enough, and call home? [Actually, you don't need a mobile game for that, just a mobile]

“E-mother” could be expanded with modules to help explain how you do your own laundry, something my white American roommate could have used freshman year. (When asked how he had survived in summer camp he said he just looked clueless until a girl took pity on him and did his laundry, so he had never done a single load on his own. We mocked him mercilessly).

But no, Maniar means something else. He means the culture shock that comes from seeing people kiss in public and from seeing students (especially girls) drink:

The game’s opening scenario is a student’s first day at university in the UK. The student is shown a map of the campus and is given tasks to find specific locations. Clicking on images along the way warns the student about what to expect in terms of culture shock – for example, it is acceptable for students to drink alcohol and it is okay for people to display affection in public. [Link]

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Mega Malakar Mania– yours for $9.95

Since a few of you mutineers adore the artfully tressed, usually well-dressed, remarkably unstressed SANJAYA, perhaps one of you would like to create an online shrine in his honor? The perfect domain is still available (but act soon!). Via UberDesi and eBay:

Do you love Sanjaya Malakar from American Idol?? In almost every broadcast Ryan say’s “Malakar Mania” and NOW YOU CAN OWN IT on the WEB!
This URL / Domain name is guaranteed to get 1000′s of hits!
This Domain name / URL has been appraised at over $2,500 due to the popularity of Sanjaya, thanks to Howard Stern and the craze called American Idol!
Bidding starts at ONLY $9.95

Have at it– and don’t say we didn’t get you anything for Christmas/Channukah/Diwali/Eid/Nowruz/Onam. ;) Continue reading

This will never sell in Thirunelveli

In an earlier thread, reader Sadaiyappan reminds us of the reverence with which many cultures in India regard paper and books:

Ok, I’m a tamil. Tamils were raised to respect paper because you get education through paper and all legal documents are of paper, if my foot accidentally touches a paper, I must touch the paper with my hands and then touch my eyes much like I am praying / being blessed. So we are not supposed to use paper to wipe our ass because it is disrespectfull to the paper… [Link]

Sheep poo paper, complete with flecks!

Here’s a question though – how would traditional desis deal with paper made from animal dung?
The Elephant Poo Poo Paper company makes stationery and related goods out of dried, odorless elephant shit:

We can make about 25 large sheets of paper from a single piece (or turd) of elephant poo poo!!! That translates into about 10 standard sized journals including the front and back covers! Neat, huh!?!?!?… [Link]

There is also paper made from Moose Droppings (site in Swedish), Sheep Droppings, and even Panda droppings. Yeah, I can’t see this going over in India at all …

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That’s no way to make a geek

It’s no secret that Indian parents tend to meddle play more of an active role in their children’s lives than do American ones. Nor does this end when kids go away to University. Still, I was surprised to see how seriously even the IIT schools take their role “in loco parents” (which is Latin for “as crazy overbearing parents”).

The authorities in India’s premier engineering institute, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay (Mumbai), have cut off internet access to students in hostels at night. They feel that 24-hour internet access is hampering students’ academic performance and overall personality development… “they preferred to sit in their rooms and surf the net rather than interact with their mates. Academics are of primary importance for us but we also want our students to have a well-rounded personality…” [Link]

Helloooo? Who are they kidding – it’s a geek factory and proud of it. If students wanted a well rounded personality, they wouldn’t be at IIT, they’d be out partying and enjoying the Bombay nightlife. Amazingly, they’re not even the first IIT to do this either, IIT Madras cuts off net access for a shorter period of time, from 1 AM to 5AM.

What’s it really about? Well, in part I think it’s about pr0n:

The dean of students affairs, Prakash Gopalan, said one only had to look at the hard drive of any of the students’ computers to see that bad content dominated over good. “In the end, this is the Indian taxpayers’ money as well as the IIT’s network and we have an obligation to ensure that it is not misused,” he said. [Link]

And in part it’s about exerting authority and making students show up to lecture:

… they were beginning to see a drop in attendance during morning lectures … “In the morning the students would not be fresh and attentive” … “It is working well for us now,” he said, “From personal experience I can tell you that I have two morning lectures beginning at 0800 and attendance is always 95%…” [Link]

Quite frankly, it’s absurd. If you’re training engineers, you want them to be able to work all night on their projects, and they need the internet to do so. This is like saying that you’re turning off electricity at night so that students don’t stay up all night studying, or worse yet, reading trashy novels. If you want students to show up for morning lectures, make them worth attending, and make the exams depend on in-class material. Otherwise trust your students to act like adults.

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A Cyber Farewell

It is with great relief and extreme sadness that I leave the mutiny today ending the sequel to my Mutiny-Wallah gig. I think there may have been a way to bribe the head macacas to hang around the bunker blogging some more, but my lawyer and I have decided against it. I came back on board to Sepia Mutiny months ago with the expectation of blogging on the 2006 elections and am leaving today having spent more time researching cyber law than should be legal (bad pun, I know). You didn’t think I was going to leave without sharing some of the research I dug up, now would you?

1) It is a misdemeanor in the state of California to be sent multiple e-mails after you sent one that said stop contacting me, even if the perpetrator is in another state (check to see what your state’s laws are). My advice: never block or delete e-mails until you’ve accumulated enough evidence, never respond to the e-mails except for a one liner that says ‘stop contacting me’ and file a report with the police immediately.

2) Those IP addresses are a tricky thing — they are often anonymous to protect the bloggers and commenters. But IP addresses can be tracked with a court order, and sites like MySpace, Friendster, or Blogspot have a wealth of IP information that they have to give to the police if given a court order, especially if the perpetrator used those sites to contact you. Also, if you do blog, get a sitemeter, and monitor those IP addresses religiously.

3) If you Flickr, photolog, whatever — copyright your pictures. According to blog laws, sites such as Brown People can post your pictures up legally as long as they link to the source. If you copyright your pictures, they are not allowed to take your image. The laws around image copyright infringement are pretty harsh (known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and the Google law team is standing by to make sure Blogspot users don’t infringe this aspect of the law. You should copyright your blog too.

4) Save everything, take screenshots (go to File, Save page as…) of everything. In a world where the Internet can be so easily manipulated and deleted, it is important that you save things immediately. Not just saving e-mails in your inbox, but take screen shots of profiles, blogs, websites and accumulating your data. Both your lawyers and law enforcement will be pleased to see that you have evidence to back your claim.

The rest of the list continued after the jump…

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