Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Moved

I have moved my blog to Wordpress. See you there.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Video Egg

VideoEgg makes publishing videos "as easy as frying an egg". I've never tried frying an egg but from this site's experience, it should be child's play. All I had to do was drag and drop a video from my desktop to the browser. There are some minor bugs though. It crashed while uploading (and transcoding) an mp4 file. It does not recognize Flash Video (flv) format. And those vertical lines at the bottom of the video are an artifact produced by the tanscoding. You should see a funny little clip below this if you are looking at this post within 30 days of publishing. It's a video by Benjamin Willis. I've forgotten where I got it from but it was a free download, so I think I'm not infringing on any Digital Rights. Update: It was easy to locate Benjamin Willis on the net. This particular video is available on his site in the animation section.
If the video does not display properly
click here

End of Palm OS ?

The latest Palm Treo runs on, no not Palm OS, but Windows Mobile. Does it signal the end of Palm OS?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Downloading Google and Youtube videos

If you want to download videos from Google Video or Youtube (rather than stream them everytime), here are the Greasemonkey scripts to do the job - For Google Video For Youtube To play the Flash video (.flv) files, you'll need a flv player. You can use this one. For Google Video, you even have an option to download the videos as common .avi files instead of .flv. Just follow the link. Update: The last link is not working anymore. The link had become redundant anyway because Google Video now gives an option to download videos. If you want to view the video offline, select the Video iPod or Sony PSP option in Download drop-down, otherwise the video will be downloaded in the .glv format that contains only the link to the video - so the video is still streamed when you play it in Google Video Player.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bhopal

I think I’d never have seen Bhopal (actually I’d never even have thought about never having seen Bhopal) if Manik had not invited me. After spending a weekend there, I’m glad that I wasn’t there just to visit Bhopal – I was there to attend Manik’s sister’s wedding and that was a lot of fun. Posting some pics. On the way in the train At Habibganj railway station the next morning Birla Mandir in Bhopal - this is the only tourist place we visited. Took us all day. After almost reaching there at 1, we came to know that it opens at 4pm. Though we utilized the time to buy shoes for Goli (that I stole later to keep as a souvenir from Bhopal) and other things, we also had to walk uphill for around half an hour to reach the place. The temple is definitely beautiful but not worth the effort we had to make to see it. You get a bird's eye view of entire Bhopal from Birla Mandir. The city is famous for its lakes - one of them is visible in this pic. Manik and I at the venue of wedding. I'd not seen a South Indian temple before this. Right detergent makes all the difference The gang

Friday, January 13, 2006

Google Pack

Google Pack is another brilliant business move by Google that must have sent another shiver down Microsoft's spine. If you haven’t been touched by the buzz yet, Google Pack is a bundle of free software that is supposed to take care of your general day-to-day dealings with your computer. The strategy is simple. And brilliant. If you are a normal home user, you just want to get your work done. You don’t want to bother about downloading the right software and keeping it updated. Now, Google would do that for you. It also provides an Updater software that keeps checking for updates of every software included in the Pack. Besides, all the software is absolutely free. The Pack has the potential of giving Microsoft a black eye in two ways. First, many offerings in this pack compete directly with Microsoft products like Firefox against IE, Real Player against Windows Media Player, Google Talk and Trillian against MSN messenger. Surprisingly, the Pack does not include Open Office though Google has been endorsing it for quite some time. Second reason is a more far-fetched one. As users start using non-Microsoft software for their daily work, the underlying OS becomes less important. And it becomes easier for users to switch to another (cheaper and maybe, open source) OS if they can use the same set of applications with the new OS also.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

iPod Shuffle

I finally got my iPod. “Got”, not “bought”. That makes it all the more special. It's the basic 1GB iPod Shuffle with no screen whatsoever. It is sleek - pretty high on cool quotient. I’m not a have-not anymore. There are roughly 3 billion reviews of iPod Shuffle on the net and I don't want to add a puny one to that number. But I suspect that the last time when I managed to leave my cozy quilt in the early morning to jog in (spite of) the Delhi winter fog, the idea of listening to my iPod added to the motivation in some way. It's not been motivating enough since then though. And yeah, if you looked at the image, the book under the iPod is One Night @ The Call Center by Chetan Bhagat. It’s not as good as his last one – Five Point Someone but still readable. I think the USP of both the books is that you relate to them very easily. I have met and am friends with the kind of people he writes about, I have been to the places he mentions (32d milestone, malls in Gurgaon, IIT etc.) and though I haven’t studied in IIT, I could relate to most of the things in Five Point Someone (except the rigorous studies part of course - NSIT is very similar in all other aspects).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Convocation

Yesterday, I officially became a Bachelor of Engineering, Computer Science. Now I have a degree to show those who keep doubting my educational credentials. It’s been a year and a half since I passed out. I think it’s a good idea to hold the convocation some time after the batch passes out. Everyone had a reason to take a leave and get together at one place. I met many batch mates for the first time after passing out. People flew in from places all over India (Bangalore, Hyderabad, Agartala, Ramnagar etc.). Lots of people were absent – Himani had her exams, Nishant is enjoying his swims in flooded Trichi, Hoshang had already exhausted his quota of leaves for the year. But some made a special effort to come – Girish had forgotten all about the convo and had already reached office when I called him. He made it from Noida to NSIT in 35 minutes straight. That includes the time he took to fire an “out of office” mail to his group. I think that’s a record. I’m not sure if Narayan Kartikeyan can match this. Here is a sober one for mom. The ultimate ghissu The traditional jump Relieved at last. The degree ain’t going nowhere now Group photo Thanks Manik, for all the pics

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Annotated satellite image of NSIT

Thanks to Google Earth, here is a satellite image of my alma mater, NSIT – Netaji Subhas Intitute of Technology. Some old timers still recognize it as DIT – Delhi Institute of Technology. Why did they change the name? The same reason for which they changed Madras to Chennai, Bombay to Mumbai, Town Park to Chaudhary Devi Lal Park. The college briefly suffered from an identity crisis because of this. The brand had to be rebuilt. But thankfully it didn't take too long. For the last four years, there have been rumours that Delhi College of Engineering will be renamed Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Engineering. Fortunately, these are still rumours only. What if they rename IIT to something like Babasaheb Ambedkar Institute of Technology? BAIT. Nothing is impossible when it comes to political whims.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Vodaphone owns www.airtel.com

www.airtel.com is redirected to the spanish homepage of Vodaphone. Now, Vodaphone has a stake in Airtel but I don't think that's a good enough reason for Airtel not to own this url. I recently changed my mobile number, switching from MTNL Trump to Airtel. The most important reason is that Trump does not have GPRS. With GPRS (Airtel support staff says it will be activated on my phone in 3 days), I will be able to access Internet from anywhere by connecting my Nokia 6630 to my laptop. Friends have reported speeds ranging from 26kbps to 46kbps. That's not even close to the broadband speeds - I think it's a trade-off between speed and mobility. Thick cables at home provide high bandwidth to my desktop. But I can't have the best of both worlds. Not yet. Update: According to this Wired article, the flavor of WiMax that is supposed to provide broadband connectivity to mobile phones and laptops will not be available before 2007 or 2008. But there are some competing technologies like Flash-OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) and UMTS TDD that might hit the market earlier than that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How Reliance crippled Nokia 6255

I think network operators enjoy unfair and unnecessary privileges over the equipment we use to access their networks. Operators like Vodaphone dictate what features a phone should have. I think the operator should not have much to do with the device that accesses their network. It should be like in PCs. How much does your ISP dictate the hardware or software specs of your computer? Till now I thought that this is not as much of a problem here in India as it is in Europe and Japan. But recently my views changed when Sachin bought a new Nokia 6255 from Reliance. It is a Series 40 Symbian phone and supports Java applications. But he quickly realized that Reliance has disabled the installation of Java (J2ME) applications because the only way that Reliance wants you to get new applications is through their service called R World. So he could not do it through Nokia PC Suite which said “No supported phone is connected” when it came to installing J2ME applications. Even if he copied the jar/jad installer files to the phone, the phone would not recognize the file format (other series 40 phones recognize it and I think Reliance has a hand in this too) After spending a lot of time on the forums he realized that he needs a third party application MobiMB to get going. But there were some other finer details he had to take care of before he could actually install J2ME applications. Now Sachin is a geek and he could work it out. I’m not so sure about an average user. I think the network operator does not have the right to deprive the user of the features that are available in the device. The user has paid for those features and has the right to use them effectively. In case you have a Reliance Nokia 6255 and want to get in touch with Sachin to sort all this out the easy way, drop me a mail. I don't want to add to his spam count by posting his email id here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gadget Happy

It's amazing what a simple gadget can do to my mood. I can't stop drooling over my Inspiron 9300m ever since I bought it around a month ago. It is 2GHz Intel Centrino and has a huge 17" screen and a good enough 64MB ATI Graphics Card. It's a bit on the heavy side but that's a small prize to pay for all the goodies it has :) Another sexy gadget that I currently have is my Nokia 6630 phone. I bought it recently. And it rocks. It is much faster than Nokia 6670 and 7610 - it is equipped with a better processor and newer version of Symbian (8 vs 7). All I need now is a GPRS connection and then I can connect it to my laptop and be connected to the internet all the time :) The bad part is that Trump does not provide GPRS, so I'll have switch carriers and change my number. Today when I came back from coffee, I found a high def LCD monitor waiting for me in my cubicle. It's a monster. High res monitors increase programmer productivity a lot. It helps to have a lot of things (like lines of code) in the view area at the same time, so you don't have to keep scrolling or switching between windows. Man, this is fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Uncyclopedia

Uncyclopedia is the "content-free encyclopedia that anyone can edit". Yes, it's a spoof of Wikipedia. All articles are full of misinformation and some of them are really funny. Did you know that Gollum (Lord of the Rings) is a distinguished White Rapper who recorded a hit album - "Stoopid Fat Hobbitses"? Or that Gibberish is the language of Gibraltar? It's definitely a tough job to maintain humour in all the articles since they come from different authors but they have a beginner's guide with some information on HTBFANJS (How To Be Funny And Not Just Stupid)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The poet in me

Here is a poem I wrote yesterday for an email chain after Prasun posted a particularly senti piece of poetry to the entire group (If you don't know who constitutes the entire group, it won't really make a difference even if I tell you, so let's just read on) Later on, Prasun told me that he had not actually written that poem himself - he just happened to like it. But it was too late. The poet in me had already been unleashed. Her eyes were beautiful, As dark as night sky One look at her And you would wish That she should never cry I think she wanted to tell me something She wouldn’t look away But I threw my bicycle on her And killed the bitch any way No, I am not a psychopath. And I am not a murderer. But when I was 8, I had a bicycle. I used to enjoy riding a lot. But close to my place, there lived a bully, at least 2 years older. And that bully had a dog... a female dog... a huge female dog (for an 8 year old). And that bitch had all the characteristics of her master. One day she charged at me, encouraged by that bully while I was riding. I fell. I was about to be bitten by an ugly dog who had probably never been vaccinated. So I picked up my bicycle and threw it on her with a lot of force. She died. (Ok, I lied in the beginning, I really am a murderer ... but not a human murderer, I mean I am human, but I have never killed any human)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

12 weeks with geeks - the movie

Guys at Fog Creek Software hired 4 interns to design and develop a software that helps you remotely fix computer problems over the net. And then they hired a recent NYU grad to film it. The movie is called Aardvark'd: 12 Weeks With Geeks. It's supposed to give the viewers an insight into the software building process. It's not been released yet, but they are accepting advance orders. A trailer is available here. I am definitely going to watch the movie but I wonder how productive/creative you can be at work when somebody is standing at your cabin door with a huge camera.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The need of concurrent programming

Just read two very well written articles by Herb Sutter 1. The Free Lunch is Over 2. Software and the Concurrency Revolution (with James Larus, Microsoft research) Herb very lucidly describes why most of the existing software applications need to be redesigned significantly to make use of the speed gains offered by new processors. Till now, as the clock speeds of processors would increase, the software would get faster without any special effort. But clock speeds are reaching physical limits. In the near future, processor performance will increase because of - Hyperthreading - Multicore architecture - More cache A single threaded application will be benefited only by the third factor. To utilize the first two growth drivers, it would need to be redesigned so that independent parts can be executed concurrently. The free lunch, as he says, is over. Don’t expect your applications to be significantly faster on new processors without making conscious efforts to parallelize them. But concurrent programming is hard. And so is finding parallelizable parts of the code. He also describes how programming languages and tools need to evolve to better support concurrent programming. Nice read.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Desktop on the web

Protopage is a nifty AJAXy web application that tries to be your desktop on the web. It helps you keep your favorites and reminder notes easily accessible from any computer. The UI is impressive. The small red-white button on the top right of the page adds my blog to your favorites on your protopage. They are coming up with RSS support among other things in the next version. On a related note, Microsoft launched Windows Live today. Nothing new there, we have already seen all this in Google's customized home page and though I can not log in to Google Base yet, it is supposed to do a similar thing.

Auctions for entering game shows

How much would you pay up to get into KBC2? To participate in the show, you are supposed to call them up “only from an Airtel phone” and answer pre-recorded questions. Each answer fetches you some points. If your score is amongst the highest at the end of the week, you’ll be called in. But the catch is that the call costs Rs 6/min. The questions are all no brainers. So it all comes down to how much you are willing to pay. It’s a neat business idea – why restrict the revenue to one call per user per week? The concept is lucrative enough to catch on. On DD Fourth Umpire, they ask you to guess the outcome of the match. And ofcourse you can sms them as many times as you want, you get extra points for every sms. But the thing that really caught my attention was that they actually have a category “Enthusiastic Winners” where, I think, they give gift hampers to people who sent maximum SMSs. I like their honesty. One for the telecom sector. PS: KBC2, if you do not follow Indian television, is the highly successful Indian version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. ('Who Wants to be a Millionaire', if you do not follow satellite television, is a successful game show (a game show, if you are unaware of the concept of TV, ... ))

Cross platform mobile applications

Writing a cross platform application for mobile phones is so much work that 99 out of 100 developers talk themselves out of the torture by asking themselves whether it’s really required. 98 out of those 99 reply no and they get some time to spend with their families. The source of these statistics is confidential. Unlike desktops, mobile phones vary widely in form factor, screen size, user input (keypad/stylus) and system resources available. There are different operating systems – Symbian, Windows, Palm and some proprietary ones of the manufacturers. Each platform has its own SDKs and tools (provided, of course, that it supports third party software) But that’s not all. There is fragmentation of SDKs at the OS level too. Symbian, for example, has Series 60, Series 80, Series 90 and UIQ flavors which have different UIs and the UI part of the application generally needs to be rewritten for each flavor. Windows Pocket PC is SDK is different from the Smartphone SDK. Then there is J2ME and BREW – cross platform but they have their own limitations. BREW, from Qualcomm is supported only on CDMA phones yet. Maybe it makes sense for Qualcomm - they are more interested in making CDMA win over GSM but it has severely reduced the market for BREW. With J2ME, there isn’t much that you can actually accomplish in a cross platform way. As John Carmack (the Quake/Doom guy) mentions on his blog, most of the professional J2ME applications are rewritten in large parts for different devices. Even access to local file system is not supported by default in J2ME implementations. An optional package – JSR 75, has to be supported by the manufacturer to allow you to use file system. Only a few phones support this JSR now and you lose the cross-platform edge that J2ME is supposed to give you by depending on a module that may or may not be present on the target device. However, there are some products available that let you forget all this and write cross platform applications for mobile devices. Crossfire (earlier known as MobileVB) from Appforge, for example, works within the coziness of Visual Studio, hence minimizing the learning required. You write code once and then you can build for different platforms by clicking a few buttons. Of course you trade flexibility for comfort. You can not do all the things with Crossfire that you can do with platform specific SDKs. Some of these limitations are mentioned in Crossfire documentation and some in Appforge forums. There is another product GoDB that seems to serve the same purpose but I haven’t been able to try it out yet. I think these products are very useful when you are developing a simple dialog based application. But for more complex applications the only option is to use platform specific SDKs and tools. And then, you are back to square one :( I recently watched a video of Macromedia’s MAX 2005 convention (select Video 2 and go to the Mobile UI part). Macromedia has put a subset of Flash called FlashLite on millions of mobile devices. And they have further plans to make it a complete application development platform. The demo is impressive. And I think that if they can pull it off quickly, they have the potential to bring uniformity in mobile application development world (and loads of free time for the developers)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Let the network be the computer

The network card of my work computer blew up last night. The motherboard has to be replaced and that will happen on Wednesday because of Diwali holidays. Till then, that machine is a black box. Of course, I am still able to use offline applications like Visual Studio, Visio etc. but other very important applications like Email and Perforce (CVS client) need network access. Thankfully Microsoft Exchange server also provides a web interface for email. So I can right now access my email from another machine. The web interface is surprisingly similar to the normal desktop Outlook interface. However, it is slower than gmail or yahoo mail in spite of the fact that I access it through company intranet. I wish that like email, all other applications that I use were web based. And all my data was also on the network. So no matter which computer I am sitting on, I could still access those apps and data. Though Google has denied the rumours about Google Office, I think more and more applications will go the web service way in near future. There is no software piracy in this paradigm. You can pay per use basis. And you won’t feel stranded if your network card blew up. Last but not the least, you get a fighting chance to challenge the monopoly of certain OS makers from Redmond.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Quake 4 Released

Quake 4 released on October 18 without much hype on the blogosphere. The bad part is that no trial download is available. So I'll have to wait for some time to get my hands on it. The gameplay videos posted on the net look promising though. It's based on Doom 3 engine. So you get all those zombies lurking behind the doors, along with excellent graphics. I hope they have maintained the high speed gameplay of Quake 3 Arena that has pretty much defined the first person shooter genre. Even after four years of playing, I am still addicted to it. Though improvement in technology should mean that games get better in new versions, Age of Empires 3 is a big let down. The graphics are better or shall we just say more elaborate. But that's it. The gameplay is pathetic. I can't even distinguish between most of military units, so I generally select them all without bothering. AOE2 is much better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Manali wallpaper

Created a collage from Manali pics to create a 1440x900 wallpaper for my laptop screen. Looks good, I think.

37Signals

Software should be simple to use. Period. Guys at 37signals seem to understand this pretty well.
37signals' products are beautifully simple, elegant and intuitive tools that make an Outlook screen look like the software equivalent of a torture chamber.
Many bigger companies have something to learn from this 5 member company. Instead of adding arcane, seldom used features, the focus must shift to simplicity.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Microsuck

On Sunday, when Nishant went to Microsoft's website to download Microsoft Reader, he was in for a surprise. Somebody had changed 'Microsoft' to 'Microsuck' everywhere on the page. Attaching screenshots from Nishant's computer :)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Another Photoshop creation. The original self-portrait by MC Escher is here (my apologies for vandalising his work for my Photoshop pleasures)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Charcoal effect. Photoshop zindabad

Monday, March 28, 2005

In sync
Hoshi
It's a ditch on the other side. And yes, he's just faking it.
Striking a pose (will be used for matrimonials)
Lokesh getting creative with the camera
Pretty snow building made by a Gujarati couple. Never lose a chance for a nice pic
Hoshi talking on phone, unaware
Getting comfy
Hoshang ready to slay Lokesh
Nice throw!
Borrowed coats, borrowed shoes, borrowed gloves, borrowed sticks, ...
Glad to be taking the picture than standing there
Don't look back !!!
That was sorta risky if you see the rapids behind him
Water was cold. Jeetu lost in thoughts.
Somebody push him
Ready to go
You can touch the clouds
beas
First waterfall on the way
Waterfall

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Nishant's new car
Front view
"Reunion" at Palika 1