Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Plagiarism Hurts?

I recently attended a so called "online programming contest" of one of the premier institutions in the state (not mentioning the name to not stir any arguments over it - I tweeted it here and here though). I have been attending this contest since the past 3 years and was highly disappointed about this year's event.

The reason is, as the title suggests, it was nothing but a blatant ramp of plagiarism. There were totally 8 questions to be solved out of which 4 questions were mere "copy-paste" jobs from spoj. Such events need not be perfect, but when you conduct an event of such stature you are atleast expected to make sure that google doesn’t give an exact match for the questions you give. As i mentioned in the tweet, the other 4 questions were very poorly worded and more or less dumb. Anyways, i am not going to ramble about the contest in this post. But it got me thinking, plagiarism can really hurt. It can hurt both the ends of users badly.

First things first, what is plagiarism? Sounding like a fancy GRE word, it has a simple meaning: Copying someone else’s content without their consent. I know spoj doesn’t mind if their questions are being copied, but it should either be altered so that it doesn’t look like the original question or (even and) spoj should have been properly cited.

When someone writes something on the internet these days, it has become like they have lost complete ownership over it. Plagiarism is a very big problem these days. It exists on all levels. Starting from a simple online programming contest to industry definers like Microsoft. Google even launched an algorithm change to their core search engine algorithm this week that ranks plagiarised pages lower than pages with original content.

My point is, when you plagiarise something without consent and citations, its not just a matter of two keystrokes in your computer. You hurt people’s feelings. And you will never understand those feelings unless you start writing something on your own and someone else copies and pastes it without your consent. It takes very little effort to cite the original source of any content you use, but that gesture will make your users respect you more than they did before.

There are even licensing policies that helps you prevent plagiarism and at the same time lets you use others content (one such license is Creative Commons License).Always place appropriate citations. If an author is writing content on the internet, then he’d sure respond to you via email/twitter if you want to use pieces from his article. Be gentle and place the credit to the work where the credit actually belongs to rather than stealing it. You will definitely be insulted when the plagiarism is spotted. So why not place credit and not screw up your reputation? You may have loads of original content. But even a small piece of plagiarised content is capable of bringing you under the spotlight (the recent Ankit Fadia scam for example - Fadia may have saved a war or billions of rupees for the indian government, but now he’s been registered in my mind as the guy who copied a book in the name of authoring it).

To sum up things, The world has evolved, Internet has become commonplace but what will always remain is the human values that we possess. If you copy content without consent, you are violating the human values that morally governs the internet.

Take a stand, Say no to plagiarism, Innovate the planet together!

-Vignesh

Friday, February 4, 2011

IPv4 is dead!

IPv4 is dead.

What this means is that, no more IPv4 addresses are remaining to be alotted to systems that will be connected to the internet. This marks the end of the protocol that has been running the internet since 1981. This is similar to how IRCTC recently moved to a 5 digit train number, as there have been too many trains to be numbered with 4 digits and the existing conventions (2 prefix for superfast and such). So IRCTC moved to a 5 digit train numbers (mostly adding 1 prefix in front of all major trains).

The same story holds on when they say "IPv4 has been exhausted". All the computers in the internet are uniquely identified by so-called IP Addresses (Internet Protocol addresses). When you want to communicate with other systems on the internet, you make use of IP Addresses to accomplish that. Now that the internet has had too many systems, the IPv4 scheme of numbering is no more sufficient. IPv4 used 32-bit addresses (yeah computers talk in bits). So, a typical IPv4 address would look something like 208.43.209.220 (with each number between the dots represented as an 8 bit integer).

Ok, now what? How do new systems get added to the internet if there are no more addresses left? In comes one of the major changes that is going to be incorporated into the internet in the near future, IPv6. It might sound as simple as adding a 1 prefix like IRCTC did. But it runs the entire internet, so its a bit more complicated than that. Of course IPv6 addresses are longer than the v4 counterparts in that they consist of 128-bits (an example of an IPv6 address is fe03:ff34:ab34:1235:2932:6bdf:22af:23aa). As you can see, these are hexadecimal represented numbers. Each part consists of 4 hexadecimal digits amounting to 16 bits and there are 8 such parts, totalling to 128 bits.

IPv6 is not just IPv4 where you have longer addresses. Since this is going to be a major change that requires modifications in working of almost all the devices connected to the internet, the developers of IPv6 decided to do try and clean up all the drawbacks that were incurred by IPv4 (mandation of IpSec, elimination of need for NAT to name a few). Things would be much simpler if IPv6 had just been interoperable with IPv4. Unfortunately, it is not so and hence the transition phase is not going to be very easy.

However, there have been software level solutions to make it look as if IPv6 is interoperable with IPv4. Yeah, you guessed it right, Tunneling! Imagine you have a shipping company that allows only red colored boxes to be shipped. What will you do if you need to ship a blue color box? Simple isn't it? Just wrap the blue colored box into another red colored box and ship it and make sure that the recipient throws away the red box when he receives it. This is called tunneling. Our shipping company is nothing but the backbone network of the internet (majority of which consists of IPv4 only devices), red box is analogous to IPv4 and the blue box is analogous to IPv6. So the internet is going to rely on tunnelling for majority of its functioning until IPv6 gets well established among the devices in the internet.

So, lets all take a second to thank IPv4 that has been making our lives easier for almost the past three decades. Also, major software giants are joining hands to celebrate World IPv6 Day on June 8, 2011.

P.S.: I conclude with the hope that the IPv4 to IPv6 transition among Indian ISP's will not be as un-smooth and scandal-driven as the 2G to 3G transition.

P.P.S.: This post was drafted during my college lab hour and posted using lynx. :-)

-Vignesh

You'll never walk alone!

Whenever i was in a distress or my mind was away from being normal, there's been one song that would always revive me whilst running on a continuous loop. I always loved each and every word of the lyric and it amazes me how a bunch of words can change your whole mindset to a very great extent.

I just felt like sharing the lyrics of the song. Try listening to it and it may help you too like it did to me.

When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high..
And don't be afraid of the dark..

At the end of the storm,
Is a golden sky..
And the sweet silver song of the lark..

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown..

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone..
You'll never walk alone..

You'll never walk alone..
You'll never walk alone..



-Vignesh