Eclipse Plugins for Swing

Today had some free time in office and so thought of learning GUI development in Java Swing and SWT. But I got stuck for quite some time when searching for a suitable eclipse plugin for swing/swt GUI development.Quite a few forums recommended using NetBeans IDE over Eclipse for swing development. However, I did manage to find the following eclipse plugins for Swing

1. Visual Editor : It is the oldest swing plugin on the block. It’s an Eclipse project, licensed under EPL, that has been archived since June 2011 due to lack of development support. Quite a few forums had complaints about the buggy nature of VE.For more information, refer

2. Visual Swing : It is a google code project by William Chen. This free plugin is designed to ease the pain of using Visual Editor. It has been there since 2008, but is still beta. For more information, refer

3. Windows Builder Pro : It has been donated to the open source community through the Eclipse Foundation and is in the process of becoming an Eclipse Project.It is a bidirectional GUI designer that supports Sun Swing, IBM SWT, Google GWT technologies. It also supports the popular JJGoodies FormLayout that enables creation of flexible swing applications for windows eenvironment. For more information, refer

4. Swing GUI Designer : It is a commercial Swing plugin by Genuitec, LLC. It has been recently launched in 2009. It is a MyEclipse plugin and an implementation of Netbeans Matisse. For more information, refer

5. JForm Designer : It is a commercial Swing GUI designer by FormDev Software. It also has support for the popular JGoodies FormLayout,GroupLayout, TableLayout and GridBagLayout.For more information, refer

For now, I have decided to use WindowsBuilderPro plugin for eclipse as it’s both free and open source and also has support for both Swing and SWT.Let’s see how this turns out :)

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Welcome 2012

It’s once again that time when we bid adieu to one year and welcome another; a time to retrospect over the year gone by; a time to make resolutions for the next year; a time to make a fresh start on a blank slate; a yet another chance to get things right :)

So how do I summarize 2012 ? Around May timeframe I quit my old job in Novell, took a well-deserved energy boosting two month break, and finally joined Dell R &D in July, which incidentally is located in the same techpark as Novell. So much of the oldness was retained even though the workplace was new.And with the new job (having supposedly java requirements), I finally managed to shrug off the rather sticky .NET programmer tag (at least I thought so :) ).But with six months gone, the work is yet to pick up speed here; not to mention that the project which I joined has since been shutdown leaving behind a cloud of uncertainty.However the exposure to technology in the new job has been quite satisfactory; I can now claim to be educated when bombarded with hardware related jargons; And not have my confidence go tumbling down a steep slope when confronted with a Java discussion.But by far, the best part about 2012 was that I was richer by a couple of really good friends :) (don’t think I will ever manage to follow the advise of putting professionalism before friendship :) ).

Although I have never been successful in keeping any new year resolution, it doesn’t hurt to make a few; so why not indulge?? :) . So here’s my rather compact list of resolutions for 2012 in no particular order of importance

1. Renounce all forms of online chat (FB, Gtalk etc.). It has finally dawned on me that these chat engines are not only extremely addictive but also a massive waste of one’s precious time.

2. Spend more time in the kitchen. Try lots of new recipes, instead of repeating the old ones.Start experimenting with non-vegetarian cooking.

3. Join the Camlin Hobby classes. Learn at least two new things, glass painting and something else.

4. Get the elusive driver’s license.Start driving my 2-wheeler more regularly. Do something to tackle my road fright.

5. Become more disciplined and serious in life. Basically what this entails is, waking up early, cleaning the house, having breakfast, reaching office before 10:00, coming back by 6:00 and then do something useful which does not involve watching TV :) .

6. Start reading more, be it newspapers or books or technology topics.Fully utilize my Just Read membership.

And that’s it. A 6-point agenda should not be too difficult to follow (but who knows :( ). Bring it on 2012. I am not scared of you anymore :) . However if someone can put me in a time machine and transfer me back to beginning of 2011, I will be more happy than words can say :) .

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About Coding and Redemption

Mostly at this time of the year with Christmas and New Year around the corner, the mood in office is very laid back, people go away on vacations and there is very little work perse. But not this time. Luckily or unluckily(I am still trying to make up my mind :) ), I was literally swamped with work, after sitting idle almost the whole year round (serving the notice period in previous job, followed by 2 months break, followed by ramp-up in new job, followed by the rather dramatic shutdown of our 1.0 project). After a painfully long time, I finally found myself burning the midnight oil at a stretch for one whole week. And the fruit of that labour was of course sweet :)

But this post is about something else. The PoC that I had to work on required building a command-line windows console with scrolling and navigation capabilities. I made use of pdcurses library which is a port of the ncurses library for linux environment. The curses library provides an abstraction over low level graphics related system calls. The best thing about it is that it is distributed with several examples, which can be easily tweaked to fit custom scenarios and hence needless to say, comes very handy when programming under severe time constraints.The pressure point, however, was coding in C which with it’s pointer madness did a successful job of giving me countless head banging moments :) .

In the process of breaking my head over background and foreground colours and screen coordinates, I inadvertently recalled the Graphics project I had worked on in college. The project implementation and execution was itself pretty smooth, however things got screwed up big time on the final day when we were supposed to present the project to external examiners.In lawn tennis terminology, this would be called an unforced error :) . I forgot to place all the files on my pen drive, because of which the project failed to run in college lab. I then had to sit in lab and hand code the missing files with a vigorously throbbing heart and palpating pulses, not to mention that the glaring eyes of the examiners didn’t do much to calm my nerves :) .I had managed to get it up and running, but the damage was done; the examiner had made up his mind before seeing the project itself and I didn’t secure good grades. But oh I passed…what a relief!!!

So in this past week, that college nightmare has come back to haunt in bits and pieces, everytime that something was not working.But the self satisfaction that came from working on this PoC was indeed nothing short of a long awaited coding redemption :) .Well done girl!! (pat on the back)

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Middle-class Appetite for Social Activism

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; Indeed it is the only thing that ever does

Civil movements with a middle class flavour were a major highlight this year. While the Arab spring in the middle east dominated the international news, closer home we had our own anti-corruption mass movement that was expertly led by eminent social activists like Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. These movements though completely independent of each other and triggered for different reasons, had a noticeable common thread running through them. At the centrestage of these protests was a hitherto reluctant middle class directing it’s ire at an arrogant officialdom. The middle class which has mostly been an invisible entity in mass protests and demonstrations in India, was suddenly in the forefront of the movement, taking up the lost cause of battling corruption that has slowly but steadily been eating it’s way into the very moral fibre of our society.

As the movement grew in proportion, most of us belonging to the middle class strata took to the streets, holding placards, shouting slogans, waving flags and participating in group fasts. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter were pivotal to the movement participation, organization and recruitment. In fact, spontaneous protests erupting in several pockets of the country, marked a major turning point in the movement, forcing the incumbent government to sit up and take notice. The political class of the country which so far had faced pressure either from the business enterprises or the BPL community,initially wrote off this middle class unrest as a harmless protest. But when it started becoming clear that the movement won’t just die down silently and that the people on the streets meant business, the government machinery finally started churning and cabinet leaders were found on the backfoot. They soon realized that this was not the middle class with the trademark “chalta hai” attitude; this was not a scared lot; on the streets were law abiding citizens who had decided they were not going to tolerate the government’s complicity in corruption any more;this was a society finally out of it’s inertia and establishing it’s assertiveness in public and political causes with an uncharacteristic firmness.

Middle class involvement in public protests has largely been unheard of in the history of this nation. They were not a prominent force during the freedom struggle; in fact the middle class had not yet evolved at the time. The middle class was never a driving force behind the most important reforms this country has seen. The only time some feeble protests could be heard from them, was whenever there was a fuel hike or food inflation. Even on such occasions, the opposition political parties would be the ones leading the protests, and the middle class would be largely inconspicuous on the streets.Of late, officialdom excess and delayed justice as was in the case of Jessica Lal murder or Ruchika Girhotra molestation, has sparked protests from the middle class. But once again this has been mostly sustained by the growing social activism of the media and press and not by any leadership demonstrated by the middle class.Middle class hesitation in getting involved with political causes, or issues that resonate with them, or for that matter their reluctance to even stand up for each other has been only too apparent to ignore and brush aside. Fuelling this apathy has been a lack of awareness and a sadly absent public opinion. The middle class has been neutral at best, and it won’t be a far-fetched thought to say that they have even been co-conspirators with the powers at worst.

Given this background,one would instantly question the seriousness and sustainability of middle class social activism that has of late been dominating our news headlines.Has the middle class come of age? Is it drawing it’s strength from it’s growing numbers? Is the middle class ready to realign it’s interests away from the political system? Is the middle class evolving into an influential constituency and effective pressure group? Is it becoming a clout to be reckoned with?

Only time will tell us, whether what we saw this year was just a flash in the pan or was it the beginning of the demonstration of strength by the middle class. This country has so far been witness to a complex relationship between governance, political democracy and the middle class. But the Anna Hazare movement has proved that the middle class can come out of it’s shell and take part in movements that are not limited in scope by their apolitical colour but which in fact aim to reform the political system. This was not a movement driven by a mad fit of rage. This was a middle class movement that was well thought of and driven by a long term vision of change.

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Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Most of us would have seen olive oil in supermarket shelves but felt confused by the different grading and types of olive oil available.In this post, I will try to reduce that confusion by talking about the different varities of olive oil available in India and when to use which type of oil.

Olive oil is mostly imported in India from Spain. Spain, Italy and Greece are together responsible for nearly 75% of the worldwide production of olive oil.Olive oil generally comes in four varities namely, extra virgin, virgin, pure and refined.These differ primarily in their processing and acidic content.Olive oil is extracted from it’s fruit by pressing it. This extracted oil may sometimes have a high acidic content and unpleasant aroma and is therefore unpalatable.In this case, the oil needs to be further refined using chemicals or by other means.

Virgin olive oil comes from first pressing and is produced without refining.It has acidity less than 2% and is considered to have good flavour. It can be used in uncooked form.

Extra virgin olive oil is also obtained in same way as virgin olive oil.However it has acidity level of no more than 0.8% and is considered to be superior to virgin olive oil.It has a slightly fruity taste and is used uncooked.

Refined olive oil are ones that have been obtained by further refining virgin olive oil.Hence, they become clear, odourless and flavourless and have an acidity content below 0.3%.This gives them a long shelf life. Since they are completely flavourless, they are used only for low to mid-temperature frying. They cannot be used uncooked. Refined olive oil is rarely sold as-is and is generally blended with virgin olive oil to impart some flavour.

Pure olive oil is nothing but a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil.The virgin olive oil is used to impart flavour and this type of olive oil can have an acidity content of not more than 1.5%. Generally, oils in this category contain about 85% refined olive oil and 15% extra virgin olive oil.Pure olive oil has a high smoke point and hence can be used for high temperature frying.

So now that we know the different types of olive oil, let’s see when to use which type. Extra virgin and virgin olive oil can be used uncooked in salads, marinades or with bread. Pure and refined olive oil is generally used for frying purpose. Refined olive oil is produced in more abundance compared to virgin olive oil and hence is lot cheaper. Keeping all this in mind, it is best to stock your pantry with two types of olive oil – an extra virgin variety and pure olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil has lower shelf life and should be purchased in smaller quantities, say 250 ml at a time. For pure olive oil, keep an eye out for discount packages and festival offers, and you can purchase it in abundance.Since pure olive oil is mainly used for frying, it will get used up also very fast.Sometimes, you will even see extra virgin olive oil being sold in spray bottles. Buy this only if you are very conscious about the quantity of olive oil you use in your recipes.

This post cannot be complete without talking about the health benefits of olive oil.Olive oil is considered to be one of the most healthy oils, because of it’s high mono-saturated fat content and relatively low saturated fat content.Olive oil helps in regulating cholestrol levels and keeps the heart healthy.

Enjoy cooking with Olive Oil !!

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Zucchini and Pumpkin Flower Fritters

Today afternoon, I was watching David Rocco’s food show on Fox where he prepared fritters (equivalent for Indian Bhajji) with zucchini flowers.Later in the evening, I was seeing Chef Vineet Bhatia’s show where he was eating pumpkin flower fritters at an Oriyya restaurant.The zucchini and pumpkin flowers look very similar, but I am not sure whether they taste also similar.

In David Rocco’s italian version of zucchini flower fritters, the batter was prepared with maida, eggs and cold water.The zuchinni flowers were cleaned delicately, stuffed with mozarella cheese cut lengthwise and with chopped sardines.The flowers were then gently dipped in the batter, coated and deep fried in olive oil.The seasoning was added on top of the fried flowers.

The Oriyya version of pumpkin flower fritters was not demonstrated, but I am guessing that the recipe used besan (instead of maida) and the batter was seasoned with spices prior to the deep frying, as there was a distinct yellow-reddish colour on the fried flowers.

To make the flowers more light and crisp, little pinch of soda bicarb can also be added.

I have never seen either of these two flowers being sold in Bangalore. But, I thought of sharing the recipe as it definitely looks very appealing :)

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O’live it Up !!



In this post, I am going to talk about the olive fruit, which is a very common ingredient in Italian and Mediterranean dishes such as pastas and pizzas.Olives do not grow in India. The ones you see under the Del Monte brand in supermarkets are imported from Spain, which is the world’s largest producer of olives.

Olives are inherently bitter in taste.Hence they need to be cured so that they become more palatable.The Del Monte olives are cured in brine (which is nothing but salt water).Oil and lye can also be used for curing olives.

Olives are available in two colours, green and black.The green ones are picked when still unripe, whereas the black olives are fully ripe.The green olives will therefore be firmer to bite and more bitter and tangy compared to the black olives.The black olives are generally more smooth and bland in taste.However, as a general rule, the taste of olives does not depend on it’s colour but on the extent of curing and the nature of curing it has undergone.

Both the black and green olives are sometimes sold in the pitted form.This means that they have been de-seeded.They can also be sliced into smaller pieces before being packaged.The Del Monte brand of olives also consists of green olives that are stuffed with pimiento which is a type of sweet red pepper.Since, I am not aware of many dishes that require whole olives, I generally go for the sliced olives.The stuffed olives also pack in a lot of flavour, but I have not used them yet in any of my dishes.For most other purposes, the green and black olives can be used interchangeably.

Olives are rich in Vitamin E. The Del Monte olives have a shelf life of 36 months.Apart from being used in pastas and pizzas, olives can also be used in salads, sandwiches and burgers.It is really a must-have ingredient for any avid cook :)

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Having Fun with Pasta

Although there are more than a hundred different varities of pasta, most of us living in India would be familiar only with Macaroni pasta.That’s because Macaroni is the cheapest form of pasta available here and is manufactured within India.Most of the other forms of pasta such as Spaghetti,Fusilli,Penne,Lasagne etc. are imported and hence are more costly and available only in selective supermarkets.(However I have not yet managed to spot Lasagne sheets in any of supermarkets I’ve been to in Bangalore)

Pasta is generally made of wheat flour,water and sometimes eggs.If the pasta contains eggs , it remains fresh for only a few days, whereas pasta that does not contain eggs can remain edible for at least a year.The ingredients that go into making the pasta determine it’s taste and colour e.g if a herb paste is added to the pasta dough, then the pasta colour would be green.The tricolour pastas that you see in the market have been flavoured with tomato and spinach powders. The shape of the pasta does not influence it’s taste, however it does have a bearing on the pasta cooking time.Different kinds of machines are used to make different pasta shapes.Some of the most basic pasta machines can even be ordered online.They are extremely useful if one wants to make fresh pasta.

Pasta is cooked by using the boiling technique.Once the pasta has been immersed in the boiling water, the water should be allowed to just simmer.Also don’t forget to add salt to the water, else the pasta will taste absolutely bland.If during the process of cooking, the pasta starts to get sticky, it’s advisable to put a few drops of oil in the water.The common guideline for cooking pasta perfectly is that it should be cooked till it’s al dente.This means that the pasta should not be too soft and should be firm to bite.The cooking time of pasta depends on it’s shape and thickness.The cooking instructions can generally be found on the plastic cover.

The most common way of cooking pasta is to serve it with some kind of sauce with a sprinkling of cheese on top.There are a huge variety of sauces that can be served with pasta.Most of these are simple to make, and some are even available pre-packaged in supermarkets.However, the pasta sauces available in supermarkets are not only expensive, but they also have a certain marked taste due to preservatives.Using fresh sauce is recommendable as it mostly just involves pushing in few ingredients into a blender to form a paste and later cooking that paste in a saucepan with some milk or cream and cheese.Apart from this, pasta can also be served cold as some form of salad.

Pasta dishes are traditionally prepared in olive oil.However, olive oil is expensive and if you don’t wish to purchase it, you can still use the usual refined oil for cooking pasta.

Most pasta dishes require microwave baking towards the end.This is needed to melt the cheese and to bind together the different components of the dish.But since I don’t own a microwave yet, I usually skip this step and the results are not at all disastrous :) .

In my later posts I will be sharing some pasta recipes.As pasta is one of my favourite dishes, it is only fit to have started this blog with a post on the mighty pasta.Bon Apetite!!

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Classroom Teaching in India

Every truth has four corners; As a teacher I give you one corner and it is for you to find the other three” – Confucius

The teaching profession is widely considered to lay the foundation stone for nation building.Teachers have the immense responsibility to nurture students who are capable of thinking out of the box and taking independent decisions so that they can face the toughest of life’s challenges and become leaders of tomorrow.With teachers having such an immensely important role to play, it is only fit to introspect on whether our education system and specifically our classroom teaching techniques live up to expectations of the 21st century.Are traditional modes of imparting learning to students within a classroom worthy enough to be continued in the near future or do we need an urgent course correction? Has the time come to adopt a different set of tools to prepare students for the ever burgeoning competitiveness that is becoming so ingrained in our social fabric ?

Below is a list of different methods of teaching and the retention rates they produce,

  1. Lecture = 5%
  2. Reading  = 10%
  3. Audiovisual  = 20%
  4. Demonstration = 30%
  5. Discussion Groups = 50%
  6. Practise by doing = 75%
  7. Teach others = 90%

Traditional modes of classroom teaching in India have primarily revolved around lecturing and reading with limited focus on practicals.The driving intent behind teaching has largely been to complete the ever growing curriculum instead of fostering comprehension of the subject matter.Reading out the chapters from the book line by line interspersed with answers to queries from a few inquisitive students and ultimately rounding up everything by discussing answers to the questions in the Exercise section at the end of the chapter has largely been the modus operandi of teaching in any average classroom in the country.This is finally followed up by testing the student’s learning through internals,tests,exams etc. where questions are mostly formulated in straightforward and predictable ways and in fact, sometimes are just copied from the Exercise section. Answers are evaluated on the basis of whether all the points from the text have been covered or not.Sometimes even this is sacrificed due to the huge backlog of papers to be corrected, and random marks are rewarded based on superficial things such as handwriting,presentation,direct quotations from the book, quality of introduction and conclusion etc.All this leaves little room to guess that our prevalent education system lays more emphasis on raw memorization of facts and figures than on strengthening student’s analytical skills,creativity and ingenuity in approaching a problem.

As most of us would have already experienced that text and lecture based teaching encourages only rote-based learning , besides offering little stimuli to capture the student’s attention in the classroom.By easily falling into the trap of monologue, this style of teaching is almost unavoidably characterised by minimum student participation.In fact, our archaic modes of classroom teaching suffer from so many loopholes and drawbacks that having a detailed discussion on the topic would easily run into several pages.So leaving that aside, the question we should be asking ourselves is “Are traditional teaching styles sustainable in the long run? What are the other alternatives? And how urgently do we need to change our education system?”

With passing years, school and college curriculum is only bound to increase and entrance exams will become more competitive.If we were to continue down the existing path, teachers will find it increasingly difficult to complete the curriculum within deadline and students will be simply swamped and over-burdened with study material.There’s only an extent to which memorization can work without the assistance of comprehension.The pace of study will become so fast that all the joys associated with learning will be nipped from the bud and students will become more exam-oriented as opposed to learning-oriented.

So there’s enough evidence on the table to suggest that we need to start looking at other alternatives.As per the tabular data cited above, teaching others, practicals and discussions are the most effective teaching methodologies.Encompassing all these three is a newly emerging teaching strategy called Cased-based teaching  that has currently been adopted, albeit in a smaller way,  in the premier management institutions in the country.The principal hallmarks of this style are,

  1. Students are divided into small groups of 5-10 people. Each of these forms a study group.
  2. Students are apprised of the study material prior to the classroom session.
  3. After individually going through the study material, the study group meets to further discuss the topic so that as many points can be laid on the table as possible.
  4. During the classroom session, each study group puts forth their viewpoints.
  5. The teacher is responsible for guiding the discussion towards a logical conclusion, while prodding students for a 360 degree analysis.
  6. Most of the time discussions are open-ended and more often than not there is more than one possible solution to the problem.

Since case-based teaching is very student-centric as opposed to lecture-centric, it successfully creates a breeding ground for student participation.Under this, spoon feeding and a passive flow of information from the instructor to the student is replaced by an environment that is conducive to letting the students construct their own knowledge, challenge assumptions, expose contradictions and ultimately leading to new knowledge.During the classroom session, students are actively processing the information,instead of just absorbing the information.The results of this collaborative learning model is that we nurture quality students with a strong understanding of fundamentals and having the ability to critically appreciate a problem and it’s solutions.

While case-based teaching is a good fit for social science based courses, science and maths related subjects require a blend of case-based teaching and lectures. This is so, as in the case of the latter, significant work needs to be done by the teacher on the classroom board by way of demonstrating theorems, formulae etc.Nevertheless, case-based teaching seems to be a more valuable way of utilizing time within the classroom as the focus is more on fostering comprehension and analysing the topic from all possible perspectives. Once students understand the topic, memorising becomes so much easier, probably even fun !

The fact that a paradigm shift is needed in our classroom teaching styles is more than evident.Teaching methodologies that encourage students to think independently, enables them to handle pressure and nurtures their confidence are the need of the hour.As we get surrounded by more competitive times, it’s become necessary that we stem the rot in our education system that currently seems all but poised to becoming a breeding ground for mediocrity.Because, Thinkers and not Nerds is what we need from our future generations !

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