Monthly Archives: November 2003

Access denied

Ever come across this all-pervasive message on your computer screen? Well I have, coz I access the net mostly from office and of course Big Brother always has eyes on my activities. Gone are the days, when barring porno sites nothing else was ‘access denied’. Gone are the days when Yahoo, MSN, ICQ all used to be ‘accessible’ all the time to everyone. Gone are the days when all greeting card sites were a quick means for anyone to wish someone. It was perfectly fine to be downloading MP3’s, checking your web mail and surfing the net for whatever you can imagine (ok, don’t imagine too much now). It was perfectly fine to be receiving and forwarding huge attachments (at times MP3’s and MPEGs too) and everyone had infinite space in their mail account. The bandwidth of the company network was able to take all this load and still survive.

But then comes a day, in every organization’s network-congested-life, when it grows larger and as that happens, the top mgmt, finally realises that “Khulee Chhooot”..umm err.. i dont know how to spell it now..this gives it a very ‘access denied’ meaning.. ok “Full freedom” for its employees is certainly not beneficial for the organization. Moreover in this era of the post-IT-boom-gone-bust-days, one needs to cut down all kinds of unnecessary costs. Obviously all these things classify as luxury for a normal employee.. so the ‘normal’ employee is imposed with certain restrictions whereas the top mgmt, still has Khullee..ok Full freedom.

The new rules are defined in such a way, so that the employee is able to take in the shocks bit by bit.
Round 1 – the chat clients are blocked..but wait, all is not lost, only for certain hours..the working hours. Then greeting card sites are blocked, but again, they are accessible after working hours. Then MP3’s are blocked and of course the same time limitations. (How can they block them totally, after all they also listen to the same music that we download, on the intranet!). Then size limitations are put in for mail accounts. All popular sites like cricket sites, joke of the day sites are blocked.
Round 2 – Restrict the kind of attachments one can receive or send. All mp3’s, mpegs, exes, jpgs, gifs are blocked. Non office hours? Does that mean all hours out of the 24 except the working hours? No, from now on they mean only 6-9 in the evening.
Chat? Cards? oh everything is ok only from 6-9 and no not even on sunday is this timing changed.
Round 3 – No chat at all. New proxy mechanisms make sure that URLs are blocked on basis of the words entered. Now almost the whole internet gets blocked, except for good old google of course. Size of mail box reduced to an iota.
Round 4 – Impose policies of all kinds, which bar the employees from any recreation on the net. Did I mention that the top mgmt has different policies and even different internet links?

These are some of the strategies that organizations follow. Some of it is definitely needed but not to the dictatorial extent of every site being blocked without reason! Of course it’s not as drastic as having no internet connection at all at your desktop, so that the cause itself is done away with. I find it difficult to imagine how ppl in Infosys or ST Microelectronics survive! I mean block all you want, but you do need the net for official work also.

Anyhow, in situations like these, it’s always the employees vs the Big Brother. The BigB forgets that the employees are after all in the IT field and come what may, would find out alternate ways and means to access the ‘access denied’ stuff. So after some time, it really is no real saving of bandwidth or manhours coz those who have to, will do. And those who don’t, anyway won’t. But you know that the restrictions are way too wrong, when almost all employees are finding out new ways and means to access the denied.

So for all you bandwidth starved ppl out there, here are some tricks of the trade. Of course try them at your own risk coz Big B is *always* watching.
Anonymous proxies: you surf the net using these proxies. They act as a buffer between your proxy and the final site. There are various kinds. Ones which encrypt the URL, ones which dont, ones over SSL etc. Depending on the type, you can access sites without anyone (not even BigB) knowing which sites you visited. Of course you need to keep your database updated coz someday BigB is gonna realise that almost all employees seem to be visiting for some reason.
Use software which sends your data over socks proxy or SSL – You can visit or for more details. All you have to do is install the software, make some settings and voila! you can say bye to BigB’s ‘access denied’ web page. And did I mention that you can chat, download (music too) through this? But again, BigB is listening to all ports that you are using and before you know it, the ports for these softwares would be blocked.
There are a few sites which take the URL of the download you want, change its extension and give it back to you with a decent extension that the firewall won’t block. Or they offer you ways to access ftp via http, if your firewall blocks ftp.

Wonder why the corporate networks, still can’t control spam the way they impose these restrictions!

Picture this…

….a small island with beautiful, clean, pristine beaches, huge groves of Casurina trees and small convenient looking bamboo log huts for you. The huts are on a higher level than the ground on a ‘Machaan‘ of some sort (like cottages in Assam etc). Just outside your hut you have a hammock tied, to pamper your sense of lethargy and revel in that ecstasy..the lazy afternoon sun streaming through the trees while you are napping with a book (that you have been reading) on your face..aah!! bliss…of course, you have all kinds of nature sounds to keep you company.. the waves bashing against the beach, the crickets making their sounds, small little birds twittering around.. peace, quiet and could live here forever.

The innumerable dry twigs from the casurina trees form a carpet on the soft sand. You already feel like walking barefeet. The fresh air makes you take in gulps of it. You switch to exploring mode and head straight in any direction. It’s a small island, you are bound to reach the sea. You notice that the trees suddenly stop after a point and from there starts the virginal beach..the sun is blindingly bright but thankfully the trees form a cool green canopy over you. The waves are gleamingly furious and lashing with full force. It’s high tide. The sand also gleams and gives the impression that you would be burnt alive if you step on it barefeet. You take in the expanse of the neverending Arabian Sea in your view, spot a couple of small islands and then look beyond where there’s just the water bobbing up and down and marvel at the way the ocean seems to have a life of its own..and the way it reminds you of a wild animal wanting to break free.

You promise yourself to come here the first thing when the sun weakens a bit. You notice makeshift showers erected at regular intervals, just before the beach starts. They have been put up to wash your hands/feet from any sand. (you can also do a ‘satyam shivam sundaram’ if you feel like it 😉 ).
You get a notification from your stomach in terms of a groan (mebbe a growl) that it’s time to put something in it. You head for the central bamboo log cafe but suddenly remember that you should wash your hands and also check out the bamboo log hut assigned to you. You head for the hut, climb the wooden stairs and get in the room. Whoa! The room has a comfy spic and span look about it, with all necessary basic amenities thrown in. There’s an attached bathroom which is bigger than you would expect on a small island like this. There’s arrangement for electricity (through generators at specific hours). The beds look *really* inviting and the sound of the sea is actually lulling you to sleep. Hunger wins over sleep and you wash and go to the cafe.

After a sumptous meal, you decide to go to the beach. You head for the beach and this time, the sun is almost kissing the ocean over the horizon. The waves seem to be reaching out just so to catch a bit of it. It seems to work.. the sun is sinking deeper and deeper.

The beach looks much bigger and the ocean much farther. Lot of water has receded and it is low tide now. You eagerly step on the sand and almost sink in! The dry sand is so soft it takes you in..all over the place you see small little crabs scurrying around hastily as they see a Goliath (You!) approaching. You are left to see the zillion patterns they have made on the sand while digging a home for themselves. They actually dig, collect a lot of sand, make globules out of it and deposit them on the outer surface.

You reach the wet sand and its easier to walk. It has retained a lot of water. The splash of the loud waves excites you and you discard your footwear (you could do the same with your clothes too, the beach is pretty private) and run into the water. The cool water kisses your feet and recedes back as if taking blessings…LOL:-).
You notice more crabs scurrying around for dear life and a lot of starfishes embedded in the sand. In a lot of places the starfish has just left a deep impression in the sand whereas it is actually not there..
It’s getting darker now.. and the sky has various shades of purple, orange, yellow, grey..Every passing moment gives you a newer and more amazing, picturesque sunset. The colorful hues of the sunset reflect on the wet sand and it gets on a deep orange sheen. At the same time, a nascent moon peeps out in one corner of the sky, almost going unnoticed. It’s twilight! You feel one with the nature.

The colors on the sand become deeper and deeper and finally merge into darkness. The sun has completely set and the twinkling lights on the neighbouring coastline can be seen. A lighthouse flashes its rotating light after every few moments and it vaguely reminds you of that story ‘The Foghorn’ that you had read in your english text book at school.

There! How would it be to spend a couple of days in such a place?
Add to it, adventure activities like kayaking and parasailing, nature walks and island exploring, some fun stuff like a volleyball court on the island and a carrom board in the cafe, indescribable experiences like the chance to play your flute with the waves bashing in the background and the serene solitude that the place offers you and it becomes a perfect vacation.

We also had a motorboat ride somewhere into the ocean. This was another nice experience.. the spray of the water on you when you are speeding, the boat bobbing up and down when you shut ignition in the middle of get to feel the ocean up close and’s almost as if it’s alive and breathing.. a giant amoeba, inhaling and exhaling.. you wait and watch with bated breath to see dolphins.. suddenly you see a whole group jumping in and out of water! But it’s too sudden to be clicked.. a couple of handycams are able to capture it though. A couple of gulls come down and fly very low, suddenly they swoop on the surface of water and you realise that you have seen them lunching. The dolphins play ‘aankh micholi’ a couple of times. The tour includes a close up of all small little inaccessible islands with jagged rocks as a coastline.

The place is Devbagh – a small little, relatively unknown island on the coast of Karnataka. Although the actual stay on the island was just 2 nights and 3 days, I cherish it much more than the rest of my vacation. which I spent at Bangalore (with one day in Mysore thrown in).