Manas Tungare

My Blog

.Net Wrapper for Google Desktop Search

I've been reading the Google Desktop Developer Forums pretty often, partly to see what people have to say about my Spindle Search plugin, and partly to help whenever I can.

I realized that a lot of C# / .Net developers are reinventing the wheel when writing code for interoperating with the Google COM object. So I thought, why not separate that into a library (I already had the code written as part of Spindle Search.)

So there's now a new project, .Net Wrapper for Google Desktop Search, on my site.

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Parkway to Paradise

I like to call the Blue Ridge Parkway, the road to paradise. Not because it leads to a veritable destination, but because, if there were ever such a thing as a road to paradise, it would be very much like the Parkway. 470 miles of asphalted pretzel, no exits from any interstates, and totally left to nature (so much that it's not even maintained in the winter, simply declared closed.)

Tonight was one of the first warm nights this winter. I was bored anyway, and longed for a drive -- it'd been months since our last long drive (to Orlando, no less!) Coke for the man, gas for the machine, songs for the iPod -- and off we went, the three of us.

A very Tim-Burton-esque landscape shone in the moonlight and headlights; white and pale, just escaped from the icy hands of winter. The moon, as red as in a Vidhu Vinod Chopra backdrop, setting on the western horizon. And the stars like I'd seen them only in a planetarium before. Sounds and noises that you'd expect just before the skeleton jumps up from the grave.

I was in the middle of nowhere. Well, I always knew that, (duh!) but having your suspicion confirmed by a GPS system -- it showed a little red dot in the middle of a vast blank expanse -- was double-plus-ungood. I narrowly avoided trading a radiator for venison. And at one point, had this been a horror spoof movie, I almost drove into a spot with the headstone bearing my name.

About a 100-mile-roundtrip, and it took me 3 hours ... and now I'm trying to get myself to sleep, at 4:45am! The road beckoned, I followed. I don't know why.

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CD / DVD Spindle Search

I've been a huge fan of Google Desktop Search, especially seeing how fast it is over the traditional file system search in Windows. But what I noticed it lacked, was the ability to index removable drives such as CDs, DVDs and external hard-disks. Even if it did index them, there is always the problem that the file might be unavailable when trying to retrieve it, simply because the CD is in a spindle, not in the drive.

But Google had a solution: they made their API accessible, so I wrote a plugin for it. Spindle Search now lets you add CDs, DVDs and other media to your Google Index, and then comes up with a dialog when you search for them, telling you where to locate the file and disk.

Go take a look, tell me what you think.

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Jurassic Park ... what the movie left out

I utilized a day from Spring Break to catch up on some reading. Jurassic Park, the novel I'd wanted to read for a long time now, finally came up on my radar. I knew Crichton, I knew how the scenes would be described, I knew the subtle theoretical underpinnings to be expected from any Crichton creation, but his treatment of Ian Malcolm's character was absolutely fantastic.

Malcolm was the mathematician that John Hammond had recruited to analyse his Park, but wasn't happy at his skepticity since Day 1. Malcolm's character was underplayed in the movie in the interest of, I presume, keeping it simple. But his application of Chaos Theory to Jurassic Park made the best reading.

An excerpt, a pretty long one: (fair use, of course, as permitted by copyright law.)

"You know what's wrong with scientific power? It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails. [...] Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants that power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you've attained it, it is your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline."</p>

"Now what is interesting about this process is, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won't abuse it."

"But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. There is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick, make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy. Cheat, lie, falsify -- it doesn't matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast."

"And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. You don't even know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it, patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn't even conceive that any discipline might be necessary."

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Data Backup for Home Users

<rant>Why isn't there a decent piece of software that lets home users backup their hard drives every once in a while? Or if there's one, why can't I find it anywhere? I can't hire an IT department, so anything more than 3 or 4 clicks is not worth it.</rant>

So I finally gave up and wrote a homegrown tool - the bit about programs scratching a developer's personal itch is so true! It's trivial enough to not call it a piece of "software" or even a "utility". I had the following objectives in mind for my backup strategy:

  • The backup should reside on DVDs. When my machine goes six feet under, I cannot fiddle with peripherals nobody else has. I want a disk I can carry in my jacket pocket, walk over to school, and have my files with me.
  • Restoring should only involve copying the files back: no extracting from archives (Corollary to Murphy's Law: In any archive copied to optical media, exactly one bit gets toggled by an invisible evil force, thus rendering said archive unusable.)
  • Incremental backups for intermediate days: copy only those files that changed since the last backup.
  • I can't afford to pay for a program for such a simple task.
  • Nice-to-have: have it automatically do this for me every X days.

Unfortunately, I found none that satisfied the given criteria. It didn't help that my primary platform is still Windows. I found Mike Rubel's article on Incremental Backups with rsync nice and informative, but useless on Windows because NTFS won't support hard links.

So I ended up writing this tool that looks at the last-modified date and copies over everything modified after a given date X to a temporary backup directory. Then, I just burn that to a DVD. Who said good solutions are complicated?

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