Imitation – The innovation inhibitor.

We often hear people say, “Wow, he is so cool. I wanna be like him”. I’m not ruling myself out of that group. I too have thoughts on the same line. However, what does that line actually mean? To what extent are you willing to “be like him”?

When you think about it, there is a certain inborn skill associated with each and every human being. The skill of innovation. By default, this skill is there because the human mind cannot be chained. However, a lot of forces are out there that are set on manipulating our thoughts so as to fit into the ‘plan’. The availability of entertainment and pleasure at our finger tips makes it really hard to get ourselves to think for ourselves. We think for the people that we see and involuntarily, we act so as to fit into the ‘plan’ too. The books “Brave new world” by Aldous Huxley and “1984” by George Orwell might be worth mentioning here.

Now there are people among us who, even though at the mercy of technology at his fingertips, do not retire into their comfort zones and succumb to the pleasure there. Some among us actually think about the things that needs to be done instead of the things that you should be doing anyway. I’m not saying that thinking about things that you should be doing anyway is a bad thing, but just that they do not bring about a change in the world.

However, the few among us who really do think might have been motivated and inspired by certain people. This is the context in which I would like to talk about the meaning of the line I said at the beginning of this post.

When we try to imitate a certain person whom we are motivated and inspired by, we are actually cheating ourselves into inhibiting our skill of innovation. Mind you, obeying and imitating are not the same thing. So do not confuse one with the other. Now coming back to the point, the person we are imitating brought about a change in the world because he thought of things that did not fit into the ‘plan’. He thought of a new way to do things and without fear, he made his thoughts into action and those actions, as much as it might have shocked people, showed them that things could be done differently, as well as thought of differently.

Thinking about it, it was not his actions as such what brought about the change, but rather, it was the way in which he thought. Hence when we imitate that person, we are actually forgetting and disregarding the actual message that that person gave the world. Instead of being inspired and motivated by how that person could even think about doing such a thing, we talk of that person as an inspiration and do the things that he has already done. In the current world where you live, what he did might not be even in the slightest sense, do good to you or anyone around you.

The point that I am trying to make is that you do not know what sort of a situation in the life of the person that you are trying to imitate made him do the things that he did. He had reacted to certain happenings that were going on during his time and in the world around him. What we should learn and understand is how he thought of what he did in such a circumstance. Unless we do that, simply doing the things that he did might not have any relevance to who you are, the time that you live in, and where you live.

Compiling the Linux kernel for BeagleBoard-XM

First of all, this post is not about building an Angstrom distribution (Linux OS that is known to run well on embedded devices) from scratch. This about compiling a Linux kernel source which you can boot from using your Angstrom distro. I’m assuming that you already have a working Angstrom MMC with you. I used the one that came along with the BeagleBoard XM, pre-installed with Angstrom.

Before getting started, a few words regarding how the MicroSD card is structured. It has two partitions on it. A FAT partition and an ext partition. The FAT partition contains 4 files namely MLO, u-boot.bin, uEnv.txt and UIMAGE. The ext partition contains the root directory of the distribution. That means it contains ‘/‘.

The BeagleBoard boots from the Linux kernel within the /boot/ directory of the ext partition. That directory will contain a symbolic link called uImage which we will point to the kernel image we want the BB-XM to boot to.

It might be well to point out here that I tried 5 versions of the kernel from kernel.org and all of them failed to work and I was unable to debug the reason for that. However, it seems that there was a certain group of people working on patching up the kernel to make it compatible exactly for the BB-XM. We will be using their source in this post.

So let us get the tools ready. First you need to get the toolchain for doing the cross compilation. You can get it from here. Download the ones for ARM and GNU/Linux. You’ll need to register yourself to download it. Once downloaded, extract it to some convenient location and set your PATH environmental variable to point to there. Refer to the following figure:

Now we need to get the kernel source. As I said earlier, we are not going to use the source from kernel.org but instead, we are going to use the source from the following repository.

https://github.com/beagleboard/kernel

Clone that repository. At the time I was trying to compile the source, the stable branch was the 3.0 one. So I’ll be using the same for demonstrating in this post. Clone that repository and checkout the 3.0 branch. To checkout, run:

git checkout origin/beagleboard-3.0 -b beagleboard-3.0

Once you have checked out that branch, run the patch.sh file there.

./patch.sh

It will fetch a few patches and apply them in the source. Once you are through with that, you need to setup the configuration of the kernel. Normally, we do this by using the default omap2plus_defconfig configurationgiven in the kernel source but, try as I might, it did not work for me. Hence we will use the config file created by running the patch.sh file as our kernel configuration. But first, after running the patch file, your directory will look like below:

You can see the configurations that the kernel provides. You can see omap2plus_defconfig there. Now I will explain the 4 steps of kernel compilation.

Step 1

We need to give the kernel configuration. As stated before, we are going to use the configuration created by the patch.sh file. In order to do this, copy the configuration from the /patches/ directory to the .config file under the kernel source. Assuming you are in the kernel source directory (as given in the above figure) you would do:

cp ../patches/beagleboard/defconfig .config

However, keep in mind that this is not the standard way of doing things. Usually, we do the following:

make -j2 ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-linux-gnueabi- <defconfig>

Where <defconfig> should be replaced by whichever configuration you want from the /arch/arm/configs/ directory.

Step 2

We can access the configuration file of the kernel as a menu and manipulate several options such as which all modules we want enabled as well as whether certain modules should be compiled as ‘built-in’ to the kernel or compiled as a separate module. In order to get the menu, we do:

make -j2 ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-linux-gnueabi- menuconfig

After making the necessary changes, save and quit.

Step 3

Now we actually compile and make the Linux kernel image.

make -j2 ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-linux-gnueabi- uImage

This will take a while. Once it is finished, you can get the kernel image called uImage under the /arch/arm/boot/ directory. Copy this image into the /boot/ directory of the ext partition of the MicroSD card. After copying, get the symbolic there called uImage to point to our new image. You can do this by:

sudo ln -sf <destination> <source>

Once that is done, we proceed to the next step.

Step 4

Here we compile the corresponding modules of the kernel separately. In oder to do this, you run:

make -j2 ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-linux-gnueabi- modules

This will also take a while depending on how many modules you selected to be compiled in the menuconfig interface. Once this is finished, you have to install these modules. For that, you do:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-linux-gnueabi- INSTALL_MOD_PATH=<path to where you mounted the mmc root diectory> modules_install

This will install the compiled modules under /lib in the path given. The path that I would give in my system would be /media/Narcissus-rootfs. Refer to the following figure. You can see the different directories corresponding to the different versions of the kernel I tried compiling.

Now everything is set. There are a few more points to note however. You can find the following line in the uEnv.txt file within the FAT partition.

console=”tty0 console=ttyS2,115200n8″

Change it into

console=”tty0 console=ttyO2,115200n8″

One more thing. Within the /etc/inittab file of  your MicroSD card’s root directory, you can find the following line:

S:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 ttyS2

Chang it into:

S:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 115200 ttyO2

Basically, what you did in the above two steps is to replace the places where ttyS2 is present with ttyO2. I think this is because kernel versions from 2.6 onwards use ttyO2 as their console. If you do not do the above change, you might get the following error in the middle of booting the kernel:

INIT: Id “S” respawnin too fast: disabled for 5 minutes

——————————————

You are good to go. You can now boot from the new kernel.

Happy hacking!

Family issues.

“Isn’t it beautiful dear?”, asked Anna affectionately, looking through her bedroom window, out onto the wide open fields. It was a beautiful summer evening. The fields were bathed in the golden rays of the evening sun. The birds were chirping and scurrying about for their final morsel of the day.

“Hmmm…”, said Derek, looking up from the book he was reading. He was not someone who enjoyed being interrupted while his mind was wandering over places unchartered. However, he loved his wife. “It sure is Ann, it sure is…”, he replied.

Anna knew that Derek did not like to be bothered, but some calm and irresistibly gentle feeling made her blurt out with the question. She had actually meant that as more of a statement rather than a question, and did not carry on with the conversation. The feeling was so comforting that she sat mesmerized with the sight.

Her brooding was cut short by her daughter’s voice calling from downstairs. “Mommy, little Jean is back from watering the garden and I’m hungry too!”, called out the 14 year old Rebecca, Anna’s elder daughter.

Even though a little bit irritated for having her chain of thoughts interrupted, Anna got up from the bed, brushed her hair and went down stairs. “You too come honey, I’ll fix us all a snack”, she said as she was about to leave the room.

“In a minute.”, said Derek, without looking up from his book.

Meanwhile, John and his team were standing across the field, about a mile from Derek’s home. He looked into his icara-10, 7-pod screen and frowned. “Status sir?”, asked one of his subordinates. John did not answer.

By the time Anna had finished fixing a snack, Derek was already downstairs. She brought it all and put them on the table where her daughters and Derek were already seated.

“Yay, Burgers!” cried little Jean, hungry and somewhat excited. Rebecca looked and smiled at her handing over a piece for her. While Rebecca was helping her little sister Jean with the snack, Anna looked at the clock, nodded at Derek and stood up from her seat. “I’ll just see that the fence gate is closed and come back”, she said with a smile and went out.

Derek finished his piece and followed her out. Just when he got out, suddenly, Rebecca started feeling uneasy. She felt like something was swelling up inside her and filling her inside out. She started finding it hard to breathe and a burning sensation originated inside her head. The piece of burger fell from her hands and she held her throat, starting to choke and gasp for breath. Little Jean got frightened seeing what was happening to her sister. “Reb!”, she cried out. Just then, Rebecca started bleeding from her nose and mouth, gave a muffled cough and fell onto the table. Little Jean screamed and ran out yelling.

She got out the front door and saw her Mom and Dad standing near the big oak in front of their home. “Mommy!”, she cried and started running towards Anna. However, Anna and Derek did not seem alarmed at all and looked with a pair of cold eyes, at their daughter running towards them. When little Jean was half way, suddenly she gasped and felt something blowing inside her head. Just like Reb, she started bleeding and fell down. Clutching the grass and coughing, she wriggled for a while, and then lay still.

“Sigh… What a mess”, said Anna.

“Yeah… “, concurred Derek.

“Not bad for the new DNA”, said John, still looking at his pod screen. “Let’s relay the report to the main research HQ and go pick up the carcass”, he told his team. He then took his transponder and said, “Experiment 3k-007 completed. Results are being relayed. Material being gathered. Shut down Droids O72-Derek and Q144-Anna. Over.”

“Copy that. Over and out”, cackled a voice over the transponder.

“No more STD they say… No more risks they say and no more sex, they say…”, mumbled John and walked away.

Years later, on a lovely summer evening, Anna said affectionately, “Isn’t it beautiful dear?”, looking through her bedroom window, out onto the wide open fields.

John, sitting at a mile away, looked into his pod and said, “Rebecca’s and Jane’s DNAs’ are stable. They will live longer this time. Relay the status. Let’s come back later.”. He took his team and went on to the next site.

———————————————

This story was actually a dream that my sister had. Dream as in the dreams that you have in your sleep. She saw it like a movie and surprisingly, remembered enough of it to come and tell me. I’ve made it into a story as best I can. Do leave your comments.

A realization.

It is not a joke when they say life is a teacher. It most definitely is.

In your journey of life, you tend to step on a lot of stones. But when all the stones that you have stepped till now has been firm and ones that have taken you to heights, you naturally tend to forget that there might be some stone that is loosened. Some stone that might give way when you step on it, throwing you down if you are not careful. Always the first time that you encounter these kind of stones will be the hardest. Because you neither expected it nor know how to handle yourself when it happens.

Once the first fall happens and you somehow recover from it kicking and screaming, you pick up a whole lot of maturity and experience from down there where you fell. No matter whether you want it or not, the experience and maturity will rise up along with you while you stand up from your fall. It is inevitable.

Once you stand up, you introspect. You figure out a few things. You see the flaw in certain things and learn a few lessons. After everything, being a better man than you were yesterday, you continue with your life. This post is about a few things that I learned on my first fall, which happened quite recently.

The first and foremost would be that whenever someone else’s life becomes intertwined with something/anything that you do, then you should give care and thought to your actions. You are free to toy, experiment and play with life as much as you want, as long as it is yours. Most of the time, just because of the fact that you won’t give much thought to what you are doing, you tend to forget that your actions could affect other’s lives too. These “others” can be anyone from the low life vermin who is the saddest excuse for a human being on Earth, to someone who is the epitome of goodness and perfection of the human race. The only thing that matters is that it is the other person’s life.

I speak here from my experience. When my fall happened, it was due to me doing something I was passionate about. Me writing my blog. The damage had been done and I was slowly helping myself to stand up. However, a few thoughts popped up in my head that said what I did was right as long as I was passionately following what I did. Giving much thought to that idea, I finally came up with the conclusion that it was not so. The “Let them say what they want, I don’t give a care and I’m going to do what I love” attitude is not the way to go as long as what you do has had an effect on others.

I say so because then, you are using your passion as an excuse for not assuming responsibility for your actions. Whenever anything that you do is used as an excuse for something in the slightest sense, then the genuineness with which you do that is compromised. This applies to a wide range of activities that you do in your daily life and when you think about it, most of times you will be just making excuses, to yourself as well as to others.

Having realized that, the next thing that occurred to me is that whenever you see something that is not right, something that needs to be rectified, diplomacy is the key to making it correct. If the best strategy that you can come up with is to just gripe about it, then that makes you no less different than the others who are doing nothing in trying to rectify that wrong. Although a bit too ideal, the words “Be the change that you want to see in the world” makes sense. If you see something wrong and that something being wrong is actually bothering you, consider it your problem and hack at it real slow instead of griping about no one doing anything about fixing it.

In case you haven’t noticed, everyone is good at griping about no one correcting the wrongs and everyone is a master when it comes to putting the blame on others. If that is basically what you have done too, no matter what approach you took in doing it, then in the end, you’re no different from the rest.

It is rarely the case that you have to approach the problem in an extreme manner. Only the impatient and weak willed adopt that approach as it is expected to bring about sudden changes. I do not know how effective such changes are or how long they would last, but if you really have a strong character as well as a strong will, you slowly, patiently and diplomatically approach it. It will never be easy, but then again, who said life is going to be easy?

Having stepped on the first loose stone in my Journey, I’m still not experienced enough to identify such stones by looking at them. Nor am I experienced in raising myself from the fall. But now I know to expect not all stones that lay my path are firm. Treachery and disguise hides in between. I learn to be more careful.

It is all about attention, and addiction!

As humans, when we are asked why we do something, we have an arsenal of answers ready at our command. We come forth with the “It makes me happy”, “because I think it is right”, “passion”, “this is what needs to be done”, and numerous other answers as well. Basically, what we are all trying to do is to find a reason to justify our actions. The answer to the question, “why?”.

There is another basic instinct that is at work here, which is actually the one thing that we crave for while doing all our actions and yet, the one thing that we are ashamed of admitting that we are after. It is so because admitting to that reason makes you “not cool” or something else of the sort.

What is that basic instinct? Have you ever wondered why criminals are given Jail sentences as punishments? More importantly, do you know what the worst punishment is that can be given to a criminal while in Jail? Apart from all the hard work, bad food and punishing, the most scariest of them all is solitary confinement.

To be in a cell, alone, away from humans, without even being paid the slightest of attention. Prolonged stay in solitary confinement breaks a person down emotionally.

Lack of attention is what channels people’s minds in different directions. When I say people, that includes everyone from a little baby to a kid, boy, a youth, middle-aged and old ones. All of them require attention for their lives to go on.

I have experienced this scenario first hand with a cousin brother of mine, who was entrusted in the care of one of my uncle’s family, because his Mom had to undergo certain treatment and his Dad had to be in another country for work.

This kid was a modest and silent child, sweet and gentle. He was 9 years of age or so. However, his stay at his uncle’s slowly started changing him. He started causing silly troubles, engaging in constant fights, and also started having constant mood outs. He wanted to do something to gain attention. It did not matter what he did nor what kind of attention he gained. Whether it be good or bad did not matter, as long as it provided him with a little of someone’s time.

Almost all of us have other’s attention all the time and thus, as is our nature, we take that for granted and build up huge philosophical mountains on our ego to cover up this basic instinct of ours. If you talk to doctors, you can see that a huge number of patients are coming there to consult him without any real diseases. Especially old people, when they are cast aside without being heard and attended to (attended as in, talked with and heard by), the way that they see to get attention is by conjuring up diseases which do no actually exist so that they can at least visit the doctor. This is true even in the case of young people and not just old ones.

People have connections with people whom they receive attention from. I believe this is the fundamental factor behind love. For when two people are in love, they both give each other their ‘time’ more than anything else in the world. Your time is the greatest gift that you can give one person and time means attention. Also just look at your friend’s circle. Are you friends with anyone who does not pay you attention no matter how much good that guy is? Of course not! You are happy with your circle because they give you attention. No matter whatever greatness and goodness that other fellow has.

I believe that is the reason why certain students get into “bad company” too. Because most of the studious and enlightened students in the class might not have time to tolerate and hear what certain weak students have to say. This basically puts that weak kid in a situation where, in order to gain attention, he tries all sorts of students in his class, and figures out that there is a bunch from whom he can get attention easily. All you have to know are gossips about celebrities and movies. You need not learn math nor do hard work. And since the society nowadays encourages you watching movies and knowing gossips, that weak kid finds that he has an easy way to gain attention and thus, gets into that company.

We talk about ‘passion’ as a reason for doing things. Have you ever thought what would happen if no one notices you when you do the ‘things’ that you claim you are passionate about? In my case, I claim ‘writing’ to be one of my passions. Would I still write if I had 0 hits day and night on my blog after having over 130 posts? Nope. I would have given up way before. Free software, open source, programming being the other things, would you stick to any of those if people did not pay you any attention? Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying people do things without any other reason. I’m just saying that the fundamental reason why people do things is for attention.

People are blessed with interests and likes. That is why they pay attention when they see or hear things that they like. That is how attention is passed around.

I had stated in one of my earlier posts that people did not have passion these days because they were not getting bored. However, a more valid argument would be that people do not have a passion these days because they do not have any lack of attention. Because they have the Internet and especially because they have the social networking sites, they get as much attention as they want. They need not do anything creative in order to get attention. They just need an e-mail account and a few clicks on these sites.

When people do not have attention, they do creative things. Things that others are not capable of doing, in order to bring attention to themselves. I believe that is how passion is born. These days, people who do not entirely succumb to the attention from Social Networking, or for that matter from any other communication media, get to be creative. The lesser the attention that you get, the more creative that you become. This creativity can be for good purposes or bad ones. It does not matter.

You know how people crave for power. How people like to be in the ruling committee no matter how much risk they have to take. What is power if not but attention magnified a thousand times? Attention is more or less like money. You can live decently if you have enough. But you never stop trying to get more. Inspiration, motivation, everything has the fundamental factor of attention attached to it.

So basically what I’m saying here is that everything you do is for attention. Well, everything? Nope. Not everything. You do things for one more reason, and that is addiction!

This is scary. Really scary if you know what I mean. Even if you do not get an ounce of attention, you will go about doing this. Just to mention a few of the common ones – drugs, porn and gaming. You succumb to these even if you do not get any external attention. These are things to watch out for because you would be a lot better if you give your time to almost anything else.

So, don’t be afraid to admit that you need attention. It is something that we all need. Something without which we cannot live. On this, you may create as many pillars of philosophical reasons for the things that you do. It is upto you.

Multitasking? Bah!

In the course of life, I have seen many people get into situations where they need to pay attention to a million things. In order for their loved ones to have a good life, these people, no matter how many things that they have to take care of at the same time, somehow manages through it by staying sane, and finally when the day is at an end, the feeling of soulfulness that they experience is something that words cannot do justice to.

It might be the case that a person is working in a firm where he is under payed and his boss is making him work extra hours with no additional benefits. He cannot quit the job because he won’t be able to find another one fast enough in order to feed his family. So with this tension and pressure, he somehow manages through, and returns home to his kids, who are happily waiting for their daddy to play with.

Sometimes in the midst of such a life, his wife might be pregnant and is admitted at the hospital expecting delivery soon. He cannot be with her all the time because of his job and his first kid is at school. Now he needs to concentrate on his work where, if his response lacks quality, he will be fired. In the middle of that, he needs to find time to go and visit his wife and attend to emergency calls coming from the hospital now and then. Plus, he has to go and pick his elder child from school and take care of his daily activities of washing clothes and making food for him.

In such a state, a man multitasks. That father, just out of love and the feeling of responsibility, performs all his tasks, one interleaved with the other, and pulls through without causing hazard to any of the things that demands his attention. This is where he multitasks. He cannot tell his boss to get lost for the fear of losing the job. He cannot tell his wife to shut up and let him work for he loves her. He cannot let his elder child be, for he means the world to him.

Finally this man accomplishes it. He is a true hero. This is where we say that a person multitasks.

Nowadays we see many among us, including ourselves too, who proudly say that we are good at multitasking. When asked what we are so skillfully multitasking about, it is amazing to hear the answer.

Chatting with some stranger through the computer while answering the phone from his friend who wants to go out for a movie, at the same time watching a youtube video while having one earphone from his ipod plugged into one of his ears plus studying Math with his other free hand!

Goodness me! We seriously know how to rape multitasking. You are voluntarily killing your skill of being able to concentrate! I’m not saying I am free of all this, but when you see a kid or someone younger than you committing the same action, just tell him! Stop him from doing it for it is NOT something to be proud of. And as for us ourselves, let us not voluntarily do this, shall we?  I know it sounds cool and all but I hope you get the idea.

You need to multitask when the situation calls for it. But you need not rape your brain with it when it is not needed at all.