December 31, 2004

New Year’s Day

Yeah…
All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says
Say it’s true it’s true…
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I… I will begin again
I… I will begin again

Oh…
Maybe the time is right
Oh… maybe tonight…

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

And so we’re told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes
On New Year’s Day.

U2.

December 29, 2004

Keeping busy

I’ve been keeping remarkably busy the last few days. And I thought the holidays would be dull. Warning: long, dull post ahead.

First off, I finished reading Picture This almost a week ago. Spent the next two days thinking I’ll put up a review here. But for the life of me, I could not decide whether I liked to book or hated it. I’ll probably like it if I digest it a little. It’s more of a history lesson than a book, and I don’t care about history as much as other things.

So I’ll just try to describe it in a paragraph. The book begins with Rembrandt painting his famous picture (I guess, I don’t know anything about art) Aristotle contemplating a bust of Homer. As he paints, Aristotle comes alive. When Rembrandt completes an ear, he can hear; when he completes the eyes, he can see. Heller keeps jumping back & forth in time, from the Dutch glory days to ancient Greece. And most of the book is devoted to the time of Socrates & Plato.

Of course, I don’t know whether anything Heller writes is true, and don’t think I want to verify the facts anyway. We keep going to the subject of conflict/war and what not. And I can’t make up my mind about the book.

Then I’ve been getting acquainted with Python a little, again. Dive into Python is the best book to do so. I’ve also been reading Anna Karenina for the last few days. Should finish in a couple more.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to get my Ganpatipule photos scanned (no luck yet); and arranging for a few friends to watch a movie together (again no luck yet).

And the usual, trying to come up with the next big thing™, thinking about life in general… You know, the everyday stuff.

I’m forgetting listening to previous episodes of In Our Time. Available in crappy Read Media, but worth listening. Mostly listening to the science archives right now, will get to the other sections later. 40 minutes to an episode, and most of them are really good. A few episodes of note:

  • Pi — the number that doesn’t add up #
  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics — the most important thing you will ever know #
  • Schrodinger’s Cat — Quantum Mechanics #
  • The Odyssey — Homer’s epic tale of Odysseus’ return home #

Probably forgetting a few things, but that’s about it.

December 28, 2004

Download all attachments

Cool, it seems that people actually listen to suggestions. As I posted before, I was rather annoyed with downloading each attachment individually with GMail. I made a suggestion that they should add a feature like Download all attachments at one go.

Download all attachments

And presto, to opened a message today and there it was. And it even zips all the attachments into a single file. Again, cool.

December 27, 2004

Info on the Tsunamis

It’s amazing how fast these collobrative sites collect info. If you are looking for any news on yesterday’s earthquake, or the subsequent Tsunamis that hit various regions, look no further than these. Follow external links from there as you need.

Acrobat Reader 7

I like PDF’s much more than any other file format people usually use (usually Word files). And I really like the new Acrobat reader that’s out.

First things first, this will work only on Win 2000 or Win Xp machines. Acrobat Reader 7 will not work with any Older versions of Windows. There’s no Linux version as far as I can tell.

There are mainly two main improvements — firstly users can now add comments & notes to the document. Earlier this functionality was only available to users of Acrobat Professional. The caveat — the original document has to be created using Acrobat 7. As a result, I’ve not used this feature yet.

Another major improvement is the speed. Documents now open instantaneously, just like you are opening a text file. You can even see a preview in Explorer. This seemed too good to be true, until I realized that they add a background process (Acrobat Speed Launch) which seems to pre–load the application on startup. An acceptable tradeoff, I really use PDF’s a lot.

All in all, a great upgrade, even considering the large download size. There seem plenty of other feature, which I’ve not looked up yet.

Note: Users of Acrobat Reader 6 can also speed up the launch time significantly.

December 26, 2004

Amazon Cover search

I’ve been amusing myself with a little project of sorts. It only took an hour of coding, and that also because I’d forgotten all I knew of Python.

I wrote of small Python script that takes some search keyword as arguments, looks up for a matching audio cd on Amazon, and generates a HTML page with links & previews to the cd’s cover art. Quite simple really, if you use the excellent PyAmazon wrapper. And fun to do.

This is nothing of an achievement, it’s just that I’ve not been coding for a while. This is something that I can use. I’ve almost decided one thing, if I have to code my final project in Java, I’m gonna use Jython.

December 24, 2004

MusicBrainz!

From the site,

MusicBrainz is a community music metadatabase that attempts to create a comprehensive music information site. You can use the MusicBrainz data either by browsing this web site, or you can access the data from a client program — for example, a CD player program can use MusicBrainz to identify CDs and provide information about the CD, about the artist or about related information. You can also use the MusicBrainz Tagger to automatically identify and clean up the metadata tags in your MP3 collections.

I’ve not gone through the whole site yet, but I did download the Tagger. To put in simple terms, the tagger scans my MP3 files, and fills out the correct metadata (Artist, Album, Track number) for me. As you know, I am an overzealous organizer, but I never did complete filling out all the details for my MP3 collection myself. Now that’s over, I can finally make full use of the Winamp Media Library.

Oh, and the whole database is open, with a client SDK for several languages provided. Could result in some cool applications.

December 23, 2004

MMS

I have refrained myself as much as I could from writing about this fiasco. I just kept hoping that all this nonsense would end. But there seems no hope for that. I’ve even heard that the proposed topic for debate at my college fest is MMS or something on camera phones.

I think that by now every one’s heard about the case at least. Two teenagers filmed an so called “obscene act” using a camera phone. The clip somehow spread, and a student from IIT K. posted a VCD for sale on Baazee. When people became aware of the nature of the clip, the item was pulled from the auction. So far, so good.

What I don’t understand is that the police arrested the CEO of Baazee for this matter. I did some googling around, and found out that under our far-reaching IT Act (which seems to cover everything from computers to cell phones to calculators), service providers are responsible for the content their users store. That is, the auction site is responsible for what is bought or sold there, a message board is responsible for the contents of the message, a mail provider is responsible for the content’s of the user’s mails, and so on.

This is just plain stupid. You don’t hold telephone companies responsible for what people talk (at least I should think not). I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I would expect that people are held responsible on the way they use the resources provided to them.

Don’t expect me to put forth some points for consideration, or anything of a legal or technical nature. I’m only speaking from common sense here.

Anyway, here’s a news article about the way our esteemed Policemen handle technology.

December 21, 2004

Half-Blood prince complete

The manuscript’s off to the publisher, and the release date’s supposed to be out around Christmas.

Update: It’s 16th JULY, 2005.

December 20, 2004

Book review so far

I’ve read only a few books so far, and here are my thoughts on them.

Animal Farm is classic. It was so funny at times that I could not stop laughing (and ended up coughing, as I had a cold at the time). But it’s not a book for everyone — you should have a taste for political satire, or pessimism. I really like old Benjamin — “Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey.”

I didn’t like Wuthering Heights as much. The story’s too predictable (and convenient). And I could not comprehend most of the antique English used.

The Idiot is really fun to read; and it’s end is probably the most bitter ending I’ve read. I spent the first day just trying to decipher the Russian names. I was at Ganapatipule when I started reading, and so did not have anything on the net to help me.

First of all, the names are really long, and it’s hard to remember them. Also, each person is called by different names. For example, Ganya is the same person as Gavril Ardalionovitch, and same as Gavril Ivolgin, the first being a nickname. The full name of that person is Gavril Ardalionovitch Ivolgin (Name, Son of, Surname). It was really fun to piece this all together while reading the book, and this will come in handy while reading any other Russian book.

Also, I got the feeling that Russia (19th Century Russia at least) is not that much different from India, culture-wise.

RIP Suprnova

Now for some googling.

December 18, 2004

The Trip

Well, I’m back. Always wanted to start a post with that line.

Ganapatipule is a beautiful place. The beach is better than any beach I’ve seen in Goa. Really clean water, white sand, and only a few people about; all make the experience worthwhile. One recommendation — if you go there, stay in MTDC Konkani Huts, right in front of the beach. They would not be worth the money any place else, but there the location makes up for the cost. Just walk out of the room, sleep on the hammocks of you feel like it, or go down a few steps and you are at the beach. At night, the sound of the waves is the loudest noise you’ll hear.

A small stream of sorts meets the ocean at one end of the beach. The backwaters are fun to look around. At high tide, the seawater flows in; and at low tide, the stream flows out. As I said, the water is really clean. Clean enough that I’ve seen people fishing in the backwaters, and at the sea. At low tide, you get to see countless really small & transparent looking crabs scurrying around. Hell, you even see bits of sea weed drifting to shore.

I really don’t want more people to go there, that would ruin the place. Of course, the place is bound to keep increasing in popularity, until it becomes just another beach.

I took around two rolls worth of pictures, but it seems that the first roll is doomed to fail. It’s tough to operate the manual SLR that I have, and I’m only just learning photography (by the old fashioned trail-and-error method). The second roll should come out well, and I’ll scan and post the pictures if they are (hopefully) any good.

December 13, 2004

Beaches & Showers

I’m going off to Ganapatipule tomorrow with some friends. It’s a small beach south of Ratnagiri, and I hear that its really good. The aim of the trip being to relax and unwind. Hopefully to get some good photographs as well. And get some reading done if nothing else (I’m not much of a beach person, I personally prefer mountains).

Today’s the peak day for the Geminid Meteor Shower; which a friend of mine says is really worth watching. I should be able to see a few tomorrow night then. I’ve always been a big Astronomy buff, but its not really possible to see the stars from Mumbai.

Of course, there will be no posts until Friday/Saturday.

December 12, 2004

Trailer roundup

Some good movies seem to be coming up this time around. There’s life after LOTR, it seems.

Let’s start off with Batman Begins, which seems to be promising. I had seen the last few Batman movies when I was a kid, and loved them of course. Recently while channel surfing, I came across one on HBO. Seeing it for a few minutes, I was horrified that I actually liked that movie earlier on. Still, the Batman Begins Teaser looks really good. Directed by Christopher Nolan (of Memento fame).

Then there is the big daddy of all franchise films, Star Wars–Revenge of the Sith (Or Star Wars–ROTS as I like to call it). I’ve seen the original triology only once before, and the last two prequels on TV. I actually liked Attack of the Clones, guess you have to be a Star Wars fan “since the elder days” to hate it. And I really liked the teaser for ROTS, again most SW fans hated it. Don’t know what it is with all these manic fans, then again 20 years down the road, I’ll probably be dissing LOTR remakes, so I can’t say much about them.

There is also the Spielberg–Cruise remake of War of the Worlds. The teaser’s been out recently, and it looked good. “In Spielberg we trust.” Even if its a simple action movie, it will be worth watching.

There are a few other movies worth noting — The Hitchhikers’s Guide movie which I have repetitively mentioned. There is Sin City, which seems too bizarre to miss. Check out the really old, really good quality, really big size, Comic Con footage. Oh, and there’s one really low budget film called Primer. Looks good, but don’t think that it’ll be showed around here.

Happy viewing!

December 11, 2004

Votes

Arthur: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!

Woman: Order, eh? Who does he think he is? Heh.

Arthur: I am your king!

Woman: Well, I didn’t vote for you.

Arthur: You don’t vote for kings.

Woman: Well, how did you become King, then?

Arthur: The Lady of the Lake,… [angels sing]…her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!

Dennis: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

Arthur: Be quiet!

Dennis: Well, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ‘cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

From Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

Google Suggest

Everyone has been unanimously raving about this cool new thing by Google. I posted this to the sidebar, but this is too important to not get its own post.

As always, don’t take my word for it, try it out. First of all, this saves a lot of keystrokes while searching, which is always a good thing. Also, it helps us refine our search terms before we start searching. We can see what terms give the best results, as we type them. You’ll probably need a modern browser with decent Javascript support to use this.

Also, the technology is really cool. You’d expect this to be slow, but its not. From what I get, there is a Javascript library that does all the work. They have pretty much obfuscated the code, I can’t read any of it. Although it may be because I don’t know Javascript.

Whatever you type into the search box is queried to get the suggested results. This query is not actually carried out, it seems like Google just has an index of popular queries (probably in memory!) which is used for this purposes. The results are in, you guessed it, Javascript form. Check them out, for an example entry of “black”. Pretty cool, I think even I can write some app using that.

This is similar to the way GMail works, passing information in the form of Javascript data. Which is a lot faster then sending whole HTML pages.

Read this Slashdot thread for more info. Or read Hacking Google Suggest by Adam Stiles.

December 10, 2004

UI

Haven’t written any tech stuff lately. So here goes. Incoherent mumblings mostly.

I’ve been thinking a lot about UI design for the last two months. A good UI is really important, take it from a guy who’s spent many hours explaining people how to use some software. If it is not easy to use, people will not use it.

Linux, any Linux, is tough to use, if you are a non-techie. You need to put in efforts to learn stuff; and most of the end users have put in their efforts to learn Windows. Nobody wants to learn the basics again. Heck, even I don’t have Linux installed at home, I just pop in a Knoppix cd when I get too tired of XP.

There are two programs whose interface I love. One is Picasa, the other is iTunes. Google acquired Picasa just because of it’s wonderful interface. It’s no way near a full featured image app like ACDSee, whose interface sucks BTW. But what it does, it does simply. And looks good doing it. I’ve seen people going WOW as I use it, and that is pretty cool.

iTunes & Quicktime are the only Apple apps that I’ve used. Quicktime is good, but iTunes is where Apple’s famed interface design becomes apparent. The program is pretty much useless to me, it performs a pitiful amount of tasks compared to Winamp. But I just like looking at it, and hence it being on by system for the last couple of months. Honestly, if I used a PC/Mac for the first time today, iTunes would be the app I’d use to play music. It makes me wish I could buy a Mac.

See, this is the reason I’ve put off writing tech pieces. They all end up raving about the stuff I like. But seriously, I care so much about interface design because I know I suck at it. Not my forte, look at the only piece of interface I’ve ever created. I hated creating the interface, it’s hard work compared to the other stuff. So I’m almost certain that I’ll try a nice web app for my final year project, no messing around with graphics widgets for me.

December 09, 2004

Thunderbird 1.0

Get Thunderbird

I keep raving about Firefox usually, but Thunderbird’s also a great piece of software. I use it daily (or rather my dad uses it daily). Another milestone release.

December 07, 2004

Stuff to see

It’s time to make my recommendations on what’s good on TV right now. I pretty much have seen every show on TV. Lets do it channel-wise this time around.

Starting with HBO, there’s Carnivàle. I think only two or three episodes are left, and hope that they show the second season sometime soon.

Star World’s good, but the current selection of shows is not that great. Whenever I’m free, I try to catch The Simpsons. I sometimes see Smallville, but am getting tired of the constantly repetitive stories. Then there are of course the X-Files repeats.

Zee English has some great shows, but I have a major gripe: They keep repeating the same season over and over. Which sometimes does comes to my advantage, as I am not regular with my TV watching. There’s Six Feet Under, where I’ve seen almost all the episodes twice. So am getting a little bored with it. There’s ER, where they are showing the fourth season again over here. The show is in it’s 10th season in the States. There’s Gilmore Girls, which is a recent favourite. It’s the only family drama I can bear to see.

AXN basically has no good shows except CSI right now, and I don’t even like CSI that much.

That’s it for now, have fun.

December 05, 2004

Getting high

I went a little crazy yesterday. And found out something new: Shopping can sometimes be fun. You’ll get what I mean when you read this list of books I bought yesterday. It’s huge, it’s ambitious, and somewhat scary.

  • Orwell’s Animal Farm
  • Kafka’s Metamorphosis
  • Tolstoy’s Anna Anna Karenina
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  • Machiavelli’s The Prince
  • Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, and Crime & Punishment
  • Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
  • Heller’s Picture This
  • Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones

11 books! Don’t know what got into me, I just thought it was time to read some classics and kept buying stuff. I’ve not even heard the names of some of these books, while I wanted to buy some for a very long time.

I was saving up some money to buy more books than I usually do this time around, so it was not all crazy impulsive stuff. But if I get through reading these books by the end of this semester, which I doubt, then it’s time to start looking for a library.

Almost forgot, also bought a new printer yesterday. The Lexmark Z615, for 2100 only. Got the cheapest one I could find, but had no idea that printers are getting this cheap nowadays.

December 03, 2004

Now for some more

My exams are over, so I’ll probably be posting more often now. The last month was lean, too few posts & too few visits. I do keep track of that stuff.

Maths sucked beyond belief, hope I just clear it. This is the last time I need to study Maths as a subject, the next three semesters are mostly computer related. So: “Goodbye, and good riddance.”

Now it’s time for my end-of-semester book shopping. I’ve not decided what to buy this time around, will simply start browsing and pick up anything that seems interesting. Anytime I try to pick up specific books, I can never locate them. Strand is a great store, being the cheapest place to buy original books in Mumbai. So I ordered three books online, a few days back:

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for Rs. 196, original price was Rs. 262.
  • Picture This [Hardback] by Joseph Heller for Rs. 250, original price was Rs. 962. The best deal.
  • Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco for Rs. 193, original price was Rs. 386.

The total cost being Rs. 639 to me, and I was happy. Until I got a mail saying that only Picture This was in stock at the moment, they didn’t have the other two. I really like that shop, but this has happened each time I’ve ordered something from there. I’ve come to expect this, and I would have been surprised if I got all those three books anyway. I usually order stuff from Strand at the end of every semester, fully expecting to not get all of it. Then I go pick up whatever is in stock, and roam the streets of Churchgate for cheap second-hand books.

I’ll probably go tomorrow or on Saturday, I need to go to Lamington road anyway to search for a cheap printer. Mine died.

November 30, 2004

6 minutes EE footage

Just a quick post, and it’s back to Maths.

This trailer was released yesterday, and it’s great. Download as you may.

Peter Jackson: “Lets face it, Return of the King has always been a little short. I mean, so, we did have to compensate. So we now put an extra fifty minutes, I think, back in it.”

I love that guy. Only an LOTR fan like me would call ROTK a short movie.

November 25, 2004

Ego

A couple of ways to cut your ego down to size that I’ve come across recently.

The first: Play Chess online on Yahoo! Games. Most people with higher rating will murder you. I thought I played pretty well, but not anymore.

The second: Get your hands on a Rubik’s cube. I have a cousin visiting from Canada, and my dad picked up some toys for him. I was just looking around, I saw that he had bought this famous puzzle, and picked it up to kill some time. I was sure of solving it easily, I remember doing it sometime in my childhood. An hour later, I “wanted to tear my head out”, speaking literally.

Any other ideas?

November 21, 2004

DUD: Delay, Uncertainty & Doubt

Just when I thought I could not dislike “the Board”, something like this happens. Today morning I was woken up from my usual slumber by a friend and told that tomorrow’s exam is probably postponed. It’s because some “holy man” was arrested and VHP has called a national strike or something.

I came to know that MSBTE has declared that all of tomorrow’s exams are postponed to 7th December. I checked it online, it’s true. Now there is a big issue of whether MSBTE has jurisdiction over Engineering exams, I know that they control the Diploma exams. The site for DTE does not say anything on this matter. And today being a Sunday, all the colleges have shut shop.

It’s a fact that both Diploma exams and Medical exams have been postponed. But we poor engineering folk have no idea what’s going to happen, and thus are left in a state of doubt. Of course, it does not help that I loafed around the whole of yesterday, and so I have to study today if there is any chance of there being a exam. But here I am, unable to concentrate, and hence typing this.

Update: It was today, and ironies of ironies, this was my best exam yet. When life gives you lemonade…

November 20, 2004

Flash

I’ve been quiet for some time now. What can I say, I’ve been studying. It’s the “last minute panic” that brings it out of me.

The first one, DCOM went as well it could have gone. Actually better than expected, considering I hate the subject and can’t start to solve Maths. But only my fellow IT students got lucky, the Computer Engineering people got butchered (they have a slightly different syllabus, and hence a different paper). The second, Computer Networks, was also good. I like that subject, so studying it was no big deal.

I had decided to not post anything for some time, as I would only have posted another engineering rant. Everyone has had enough of that, even I’m tired of singing the same tune over and over again.

So the subject of today’s post is flash animations. I never liked them before. Most of those them were too irritating to be allowed. But I’ve come to realize that there are people that can use any medium they have and create brilliant stuff.

The first place you go to check out Flash movies is VidLit. It’s amazing. The my favourite VidLit so far is Craziest. A word of caution, these are large files. Craziest is around 8Mb, and will take a long time to load.

Then there are a few other movies that I’ve discovered. Paperwars is a wonderful movie that needs to be watched. Just imagine sitting in your classroom and doodling. Then there’s Ze Frank’s introduction to “alternate” email punctuation.

Enjoy.

Update: Zoomquilt is groovy!

November 13, 2004

Plans

Now that I’m getting a little serious about studies, all other thoughts come screaming into my head. Plans of what to do, small ideas that I’d like to implement. So I’m thinking that it’s time to make my famous predictions about what I’m going to do after the exams are over. Famous in the sense they are famously wrong, just look at a previous one. But hey, whatever keeps me going. I’m mostly putting down the technical stuff, as I never know which books I might get to read. Here it goes:

  • Hack Foxylicious to support “/” sub-directories. It is a bookmark synchronizer, that adds all my del.icio.us links to my Firefox bookmarks. I’m rethinking the whole hierarchy thing. Flat hierarchies look promising.
  • Learn at least one of this properly: Javascript, Perl, Python.
  • Play around with XUL, and maybe build something like the MAB. Use Firefox for that link only, won’t work in IE.

It will be a miracle if I even get one of those done, but that’s never stopped me before.

By the way, I’ve finally got around to finding a great way to write my posts. I use Markdown syntax to write them in plain text, and Smartypants to get all the stylised & typologically correct quotes. Writing them in plain text, I convert them into XHTML using a couple of Perl scripts, all of which is provided by John Gruber. This is a much easier and natural form of writing then my earlier, writing in raw HTML style. I never got around to trusting the Blogger editor to do it properly.

Here’s the original Markdown document that I typed, courtesy Pasta.

November 11, 2004

DCOM

My first exam is on the 17th, and the subject is DCOM [Digital Communication Systems]. I have no way to describe how this subject sucks, so lets just replay a conversation I had with my college's DCOM teach one day while waiting for a bus.

The characters here are my teacher and me. Trying to maintain some anonymity. This is as accurate as my memory is.

“Did [insert bus number here] pass by recently?”

Me [didn't notice her at first]: “Huh?”

“Did [insert bus number here] pass by recently?”

Me: “Uh, I don't know. wasn't looking.”

“Ok. Did you complete the assignment?”

Me [I was thinking ‘Oh shit, haven't even started it’]: “No... A few questions are remaining.”

[Then this took me completely by surprise. All almost in a single breath. The best teacher rant I've ever heard.] “I don't even know why the board has given a subject such as DCOM to you guys. It is a very specialized and advanced subject. I didn't even have the subject when I was doing my engineering. And I did my Masters in computers. So it is very difficult for me to teach this subject also.”

Me [WTF? How do I respond to that...]: “Ya ma'am, I agree. The subject is difficult to understand. Especially the mathematical parts... And my maths is especially weak being a Diploma student. Most of us don't even understand what all those derivations are...”

[Don't remember this line exactly] “But maths is the base of electronics. Studying electronics is more about all learning all the derivations and stuff than the circuits.”

Me [boldly going on]: “But ma'am, we are computer students. Most of us are not that interested in electronics. Especially the few diploma students. We don't even know what Fourier Transform is!”

“You didn't study Fourier Transform! You can't learn this subject without it! All the proofs and derivations I gave you guys in class are based on it.” [She tried to explain it to me for a few minutes then....]

Me [this is the first time that I've given a suggestion to a teacher]: “We can try to learn that stuff... But it probably is too difficult for us. If I could give a suggestion, you should spend more time explaining the concepts in class instead of the maths. We will copy that from the text books anyway.”

[Bureaucracy at it's best. I had no answer to this.] “But I have to teach that stuff! [Insert name of Head of Department here] wants daily reports from me about what I teach.”

Thankfully, my bus came at that point and I left.

November 09, 2004

The fox is out!

Get the browser, now that it's out of beta and we've got a version 1.0 release. There are some improvements over the preview release, and over the two release candidates. But the main point of a 1.0 release is that most of the bugs have been fixed. I'm off to nuke my profile and do a clean install...

Damn I use a lot of extensions. These are just the most important ones that I've got to install [no time for linking].

  • Adblock
  • All in one gestures
  • ConQuery
  • Flashgot
  • Foxylicious
  • Googlebar
  • LiveHTTPHeaders
  • Openbook
  • Sage
  • User Agent Switcher
  • Weatherfox
  • Web Developer

This reminds me of a line from some song: "Excess ain't rebellion"

Carnivàle

Carnivale poster

HBO's done it again. Carnivàle is bloody brilliant. It's a 12-episode mini-series set in 1930's America, and I'm kicking myself for missing the first four episodes. I watched half of the fifth episode last week, and loved the look and feel of the show, even though I didn't understand anything. I made a mental note to see the next episode, and almost forgot about it. But I remembered yesterday night around 2300 hours, much to my relief today.

It looks really great for one, unlike any show I've seen. The acting is terrific. I understood some of the story yesterday, and then went online and read the plot of the earlier episodes today. I just hope that the series repeats, so I get a chance to see it completely.

November 07, 2004

The Box Set

The box set for the LOTR trilogy extended edition DVD's is also going to be released on the 14th.

LOTR Triology

12 DVD's, atleast 70 hours of footage [could be more]. The price is $120, but it's available at $78 on Amazon. That's around 3500 Rupees, and I'm being severely tempted.

I don't remember if I've linked to this before, the trailer to ROTK's extended edition.

November 06, 2004

Jargon

Being a geek means knowing your jargon. Almost all geeks have these things in common [as far as I know].

  • They like naming stuff
  • They hate explaining stuff

Let me be more clear. Here are just a few terms that are fashionable at this moment, off the top of my head. Lets see how much you can recognize. Of course, I can only list the ones that I've heard of. All links lead to Wikipedia.

I know [basically] what each of those terms mean. But don't ask me to explain them.

November 03, 2004

When it rains, it pours

Today is a bad day. It started out bad, and has progressively worsened [is this even a word?]. Lets start from the beginning.

I should begin by saying I've studied a little [Computer Networks] for the past 2 days. I was hoping that today will be the day day when I really kick off with my work.

Yesterday night [tonight, from 0:00 hours, but I always get confused about which tense to use] was too damn hot. So hot that I could not sleep till around 4 am. And I spent most of the night tossing and turning around. When I woke at 8 am, it was a cool 23°, because of some unexpected rainfall. Most of my pent-up frustration melted away at this, I love cool weather.

I had a dentist appointment at 10:30, so I reached there on time. But it happened that the dentist was delayed in traffic due to the rains, and I had to wait a hour without anything to do. Waiting is like hell to me, I should have taken some book to read. The appointment went all right, and I reached home around 1:00 PM.

As I sat on my comp, I noticed a burning smell. After 5 minutes of poking around, I realised that my computer power cable was burning through, and it was a miracle my PC was still working. After a quick shut down, I removed the spike guard and the cord.

After lunch, I slept some and then at 4:00 PM, went to get a new spike guard and power cord. Came home, and the spike guard was faulty. It did not start, and me being the imbecile I am, I did not test it at the shop. Again went out, replaced it, and came back. This time it worked, but it had a slightly different design that did not fit with my hardware arrangement.

So it was time to play around with all those wires, re-arranging them as much as I could. I'm not helpless with hardware, but I hate tinkering with it. And my organizational skills only go as far as files on my PC. These wires are a mess. And as my mom noticed that I've disconnected most of the stuff, and it's around time for Diwali, she asked me to clean the general area around the PC. After a half hour of doing this stuff, I finally booted the comp.

And to top it all off, it seems that Bush will almost certainly win. Just hope that there are no more incidents till tonight, I might lose it.

October 30, 2004

Eddies

This cracks me up every time.

“Eddies,” said Ford, “in the space-time continuum.”
“Ah,” nodded Arthur, “is he? Is he?” He pushed his hands into the pocket of his dressing gown and looked knowledgeably into the distance.
“What?” said Ford.
“Er, who,” said Arthur, “is Eddy, then, exactly?”

Eragon

Just read Eragon yesterday. It is a fantasy book, in the same class as the Harry Potter books IMO. And what makes it so much fun to read is that Christopher Paolini wrote it when he was 15.

The story is predictable, but still a good read. From the cover itself, read:

In Alagaësia, a fifteen-year-old boy of unknown lineage called Eragon finds a mysterious stone that weaves his life into an intricate tapestry of destiny, magic, and power, peopled with dragons, elves, and monsters.

It is inspired by Tolkien, a lot. I haven't read enough fantasy to point out other authors. But still fun to read.

I'm not in a mood to do much of a review; so lets just say that I liked the book enough to have great expectation from the next of the series [Eldest, due out somewhere in 2005, so I should read it together with HP6]. It is generally considered that writers get better with age [or at least with experience], so I can't wait for what's to come from one.

Note: I really like fantasy, should get my hands on more books.

October 28, 2004

Vonnegut, In These Times

I've been browsing through the In These Times site, and collecting links to all the articles by Mr. Vonnegut. I've still read his one book only, and plan to remediy that situation as soon as possible. Anyway, here's the list, in reverse chronological, blog-like order:

I've not read all these articles yet, only a few. My favourite bit so far is from Requiem for a Dreamer. It goes like this:

“An artist says, ‘I can't do anything about the chaos in the universe or my country, or even in my own miserable life, but I can at least make this piece of paper or canvas, or blob of clay or chunk of marble, exactly what it should be.’”

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut!

Friends don't let Friends use IE

Friends dont let friends use ie

Speaks for itself. Via something or another.

October 27, 2004

Organization

I'm a sorting geek, at least on my PC. I organize all the information I save. I tag all my mp3's, sort them into folders artist wise, add extra meta-data as required and create various views in the Winamp Media Library. I sort all the different images [sort of] I've collected using Picasa. My desktop is always clean, just the few programs I regularly use plus a few text files. I obsessively use filters & labels on my GMail account. And right now I'm perfecting a tagging system for my del.icio.us links.

I use custom shortcut key-combos for all the favourite apps. And global hotkeys for Winamp. My start menu is unique as far as I know... Just look at a screenshot.

Organization

I use a trick that saves me at least 5 minutes everyday [which is huge]. I organize all programs in different categories. Then rename each menu item so that each entry had a different first character. Then just type what I want. Example: WinKey + P [for programs] + N [For Net] + F [for Flashget] + F launches Flashget. Or WinKey + U + N + N for Nero. Anyone who comes at my house never understands what I'm doing for the first 5 minutes.

I do this because when I want something, I want it quick. I hate wasting a few minutes trying to find something I know I've saved somewhere. It's like a quick "information fix" or something. My organizational skills are not perfect, I only sort the stuff I actually use. But I can tell you, I positively cringe when I sit on someone's computer and see a vast array of disorganized icons. It's just too disorienting.

Update: My background, as much as you can see from the screenshot is ChchchchChanges by rain1man.

October 26, 2004

Slack

The more time you have, the lesser is the work that you get done. At least that's the case with me. Two weeks I've spent doing nothing at all. I had planned on maybe starting to study, which I didn't. I had planned to write 3-4 posts which are spinning around in my head for quite a while, but could not get them out. I had planned to learn the basic of Javascript, but only got as far as printing out a tutorial. I had planned to change the template of my blog [I actually enjoy this kind of stuff], but could decide on a particular design to implement.

The only thing I did do is read some [Monte Cristo and Catch-22 again]. I started with Ulysses, and could not make it past the first 5 pages. Just could not get Joyce's style in my head. This makes two books [along with Midnight's Children] that I just could not even start.

The funny thing once I decide to start studying, I won't get any studying done until the last moment [panic]. I'll probably do all this stuff instead.

October 23, 2004

Lyrics

Like songs but can't get all the lyrics right? EvilLyrics to the rescue. This program is brilliant because there's no need for you to do anything. Just play any song, it automatically searched the net for the lyrics and displays them. The lyrics are stored on your drive, so the next time you play the song.

What's great is that it does not use a single source for the lyrics, instead it does a Google search and scrapes the results, looking for the appropriate site. And the interface is pretty neat too, there's a compact mode that's great. I never liked the Karaoke functionality though, seems like overkill.

Works great with Winamp. Other player are supported, but I've never tested it.

October 20, 2004

The Extended editions

I've finally seen both the LOTR extended editions now. They are just too good. As I see it, the original movies are for film buffs, and the extended versions are for LOTR buffs. They shot a massive amount of footage for all the films, and he charter building moments are usually the ones that get cut out.

There are many nice moments that only die hard LOTR fans will enjoy. I really loved the new opening of FOTR, with Bilbo giving an introduction of Hobbits. It was just too sweet. And the Lorien footage is beefed up, much to my liking. Two Towers is a much better movie now with all the extra scenes. Most fans will never forgive Peter Jackson for changing Faramir, but at least now we can see his motives.

There are few scenes where Jackson shows his cinematic brilliance. There's a shot in TTT; in the Fangorn forest, with Merry and Pippin just waking up. It's one of the most cinematically beautiful scenes, I just paused to look at it for a few minutes. And the humour of some scenes leaves an impression.

I'm not going to start listing all the changes made, that's already been done over and over again. Any fool can use Google and look it up. Actually, this is not much of a review anyway. It's just my way of saying I love these movies even more now.

October 18, 2004

Schindler's List

Haven't posted for a while now. Just been watching a lot of movies. And TV. Finally got around to seeing Schindler's List a few days ago. It's not a movie you see to enjoy, it's designed to disturb. Three hours of cold reality are enough to make anyone uncomfortable. It's black and white format give it the appearance of a documentary of that period, and thus make the movie even more realistic. Trust me when I say that some scenes from the movie will make anyone cringe.

"Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." a quote from the Talmud

The movie is based on a true story, and as far as I can tell, follows the historical facts accurately. It is about Oskar Schindler, a failed German entrepreneur who is unscrupulous enough to come to exploit the war. He comes to Poland after it's been occupied and as the Jews there are being relocated into ghettos. He finally has a business plan that works, letting the Jews work for him in exchange for the goods produced at his factory. He is good at working the system, and gets permits for the Jews to work for him after bribing the necessary officers.

The movie is about his transformation into a caring person who risks his life and spends all his money to save the people who work for him. He ends up saving a thousand people. We get to see the condition of the Jews getting worse gradually; there are random killings everywhere, but not in Schindler's factory. He's at first reluctant to help anyone, but can't stand and watch as "his people" get killed.

There are a few scenes that haunt; one being Amon Goeth shooting a boy in the back [trust me, you have to see this one to understand]. In another scene, we see Jews packed inside trains like animals, and all of them are starving. Schindler sees that these people are hungry and thirsty, so he hoses the train. And makes it look like sport, so as to not arouse much suspicion.

Spielberg clearly deserved the accolades he got for this one. Few movies will make you think as much as this.

October 16, 2004

Bugs

Due to a bug in the template, comments were not working for a couple of days. I didn't even notice it till today. Fixed that, it's kinda embarrassing.

October 15, 2004

Google Desktop - usability

Allright, I've actually played around with it for some time now. And I've got to say, it works great. Just let me give a run down of its features one by one.

First of all, it is very polite while indexing. It only starts to index my files once the PC has been idle for a while. It's not a comprehensive index yet, only around 15,000 of the files have been indexed.

It integrates seamlessly with your normal Google web search. The idea is kinda nifty, the Google Desktop server here intercepts all traffic from Google, adds whatever data it finds relevant to the results, and displays it to you.

It also scans all the files on your PC, but as I mentioned, only delves into Office documents, AIM transcripts, Outlook Mail and IE history. Having Office documents indexed is great; don't care about AIM, most of my transcripts are in text format so they are displayed anyway; don't care about Outlook; and IE history is a contentious issue. You see, it remembers your IE history, and shows you locally cached versions of these pages in your results. No support for Firefox history yet, but I've turned off this feature anyway. Four people use this computer, and knowing each other's browsing history is not cool. Also, no support for PDF's and other file formats yet.

The cache is one its strong points. Older versions of your documents are stored in its local cache, and you can view any version you want. But as a result, it should use around 1Gb of my disk after it has finished it's indexing. 1Gb is a small price to pay for the added usability though.

Again, privacy is one of the main concerns here. If many people use the same PC, it could lead to some, ahem, problems. There is an option to specify directories which you want to "ignore", got to think about that. But something tells me this is gonna stick around on my PC for a long time, I find to too useful.

October 14, 2004

Count of Monte Cristo

Allright, I've read this book now. And it's great. I almost wish I had not seen the movie before, but then I would not have read the book. As it's almost always the case, the book is way better than the movie.

For those who came in late, this is a story of revenge. It's about a man, Edmond Dantès, who's got everything he wants, but has it all taken away. He's sent to prison, wrongly accused and does not even know his crime. He spends years there alone, being tortured and torturing himself. He meets his mentor there, the person who teaches him everything a man can learn. He somehow manages to escape, and uncovers a great treasure.

Then he goes for vengeance. Vengeance is almost like a character in the book itself. You can feel the gears turning; it's almost frightening when Dantès turns into the Count of Monte Cristo and starts manipulating others. He's not heartless, he feels justified in what he does. There are momentary doubts that enter his mind, he almost comes to regret what he has done.

It's magnificent the way Dumas has written this book. You get the feel for 19th Century France, it's culture and the men that lived at that time. Dumas is the master of romance [Must. Read. More.], there's not a single page where the story gets dull. This is another must-read, if only for the sense of adventure you get while reading it.

I must say again, the way the Count manipulates people, plots their downfall; setting up situations where he simply has to give a little prod, it's all good. And so is his resolve to help the ones he loves. His determinism is what sets him apart from others, that and his confidence. There are many quotes I like from the book, but this one which occurs somewhere around one-third of the book, sets the tone for the rest that follows:

"And now, farewell to kindness, humanity and gratitude... I have substituted myself for Providence in rewarding the good; may the God of vengeance now yield me His place to punish the wicked."

For those who like to read on the computer, here's the full text of the book, courtesy Project Gutenburg.

Google Desktop

Much that I hate it, this is turning out to almost be a Google centric blog for the last few days. It's just that Google's been busy.

They've introduced a new app, Google Desktop to search for files on your computer. Just download and install, let it spend a few hours indexing your PC, and you've got Google working. From the site:

# Find your email, files, web history and chats instantly
# View web pages you've seen, even when you're not online
# Search as easily as you do on Google

The good news is that it seems to really work. I don't know about others, but I've spent many many hours searching for particular files which I've misplaced and can't find. And the privacy policy specifically tells that unless you agree to it, no private information will be sent out.

But the bad news is it searches your filesystem, and treats everything as files except your Outlook or Outlook Express inbox, MS Office files, AIM instant message transcripts, and Internet Explorer cache. These are the only things that it indexes properly, you know, with metadata. And works on Windows 2000 and Windows Xp only.

Which makes me want to wait some time before adopting it big time. Will see, haven't actually used it yet. Just collecting information about it right, I've installed it and should give it a try once it finished the whole indexing process. But it's intriguing so far, so check back in a few days.

Check out a good review from O'Reilly Network.

October 11, 2004

Big update

My prelims went as well as can be expected. Passed most of the important subjects [the ones with term work], I think. Not sure about a couple; but no sweats. The only reason to try clearing the prelims at my college is not writing the paper again before submitting. And maybe get a couple of extra marks in term work.

Been planing to update the template a bit. I had disabled trackbacks, too much cluttering on the main page. Now, they are working at the individual item pages.

And no more posts just to share a link. I've found del.icio.us now. It's a "social bookmark" system. You have to use it a couple of times to get it, but it basically means that you store your bookmarks online, categorize them, and access them via RSS feeds. You can integrate these feeds in your blog in various ways. Look at the sidebar, a brand new link blog.

And finally, I really want to totally revamp my template. Getting tired of looking at the same old thing. Expect that in a week or two, but no promises. The next few days, I'll just be reading and watching movies, a lot.

October 10, 2004

GMail Atom Feed

Even if you don't see the Atom feed link in your GMail inbox, you can directly access this address: https://gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom

You need a reader that supports authentication. Works great with Sage. Via d00dism.

Also, still got a couple of invites left.

October 07, 2004

Google Print

I notice it two days ago and it starts working today. Google Print has been released. It's homepage is just a FAQ, you can't simply search for books. Just do a web search for a book name, and the result should come on the top of your page.

You can preview the books, reading a few pages [images, not text]. Copying and printing it is disabled, through what looks like some nifty CSS or Javascript. But that's easy to avoid, look at the source. I think that only publicly available books are indexed right now, but the more the better.

Just check a few results:

Search for Crime and Punishment resulted in:

And this is the link given.

Search for Beyond Good and Evil, and viola.

This is the summary for it.

October 06, 2004

New GMail features

GMail is getting better all the time. Instead of giving minor tweaks, Google rolled out a whole bunch of features together this time.

The contacts are managed in a much better way now. You can add a *lot* of additional info for your contacts. And as usual, Google does it a lot better than most. I mean, you can add almost anything you want. Alternate email addresses, home address, phone numbers, the whole lot. And everything is searchable. So, I can now search for all the people that stay in Mumbai for example, or all the people that have a mobile number. But on the downside, it will take some time to add all the relevant info, I'm just experimenting with a few contacts.

And finally, after much laughter about it, you can save your drafts. The "More Actions" drop-down menu is much better now. It's optimized, and gives you only the options you need.

Another big feature is mail forwarding. If you don't like using GMail, you can set your account to forward all your mails to another email account. You can forward selective mails automatically, using custom filters. Here's a question: If you have two GMail accounts, each set to automatically forward everything they receive to each other, how long before your 1Gb is utilized? This situation leads to perpetual fun. This feature is advertised as "free for now", so Google may start charging for it. You can't have everything, you know.

Some users seem to have Atom feeds for their mails. I still have not got this, but this is definitely a cool feature. Atom does the same thing as RSS, but without all the version incompatibilities. Google loves Atom, they were one of the early adopters with Blogger. Ah, the possibilities of getting your email with feeds. You can now possibly publish a blog with all the mails you receive. Or do anything else you can imagine.

And Google's GMail notifier has been upgraded. I won't know how it is though, I don't use it.

There are just a few things missing now. You should be able to download all attachments with a message at one go. This should not be that difficult to implement. I've even sent this request to the folks there. Also, HTML formatting of mails is a must have. You can't be sending plain-text messages every time. Google could probably just embed Blogger's great editor with GMail, I think that's the simple and possible solution.

But you won't be hearing predictions on what Google is going to do next from me now. They are unpredictable enough for me keep my mouth shut. I'll just be repeating the standard buzz.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Repetition

Look at this [Republican convention, Quicktime], it's worth the 5Mb download.

The summary: September 11th, Saddam, terror terror terror!

October 05, 2004

Hitchhiker's Radio Series

BBC has a new radio production of the Hitchhiker's Guide. It's 25 years since the original radio productions [the primary & secondary phases]; now the tertiary phase is airing, and it will be followed by two more phases. Each phase has 6 half-hour episodes, giving a total of 18 new episodes. The new series is based on the last three books.

Listen to the latest episode [Real Media] or download a preview [MP3].

October 04, 2004

Google Print

About Google Print (BETA): Seems like google is branching out even more. No wonder some people are starting to get paranoid...

October 02, 2004

Books!

I had deceided to not buy any books until my exams get over [December]. And then buy a whole bunch of 'em together. So much for plans.

My sister is on a book shopping crusade lately. She told me yesterday that she's going to Churchgate to get some books off the street and asked me whether I wanted some. I promply gave her a list, a much reduced version of the list I had made myself. No way I can buy all those books at one time.

As a result, I now have my very own copy of Catch-22. I need to keep the books I love, can't live off borrowed stuff. And after around a year of wanting it, I finally have Joyce's Ulysses. Really want to read that. Also, The Count of Monte Cristo, which I now have after adding it to my list just a week ago. Which is breaking a record in itself, most of the books on my list have been there for a long time.

My sister has started her MMS, and wants to get "serious" with life from now on. She asked her professors for advice on which books to read; most of them are dumb management books. I think the only book I'll read from those she bought yesterday will be Future Shock. The tiny Who Moved My Cheese? does not even count, I'll read that some night when I can't sleep.

This is atleast some motivation for me to start studying for my prelims, I can't touch these books until next Monday when my prelims get over.

October 01, 2004

The Weather

I've found a great Firefox extension today, one that tells me the current weather using data from weather.com. This is just one of the examples of what a great web service can do.

Weather

I've tried many ways to get weather data easily, I'm too lazy to look it up in the newspaper. One way I tried earlier was trying some RSS feeds. But this has a cleaner interface, and is much more customisable. It just sits in your statusbar or any toolbar, and most of the info is from the tooltips.

There are options to get forecasts, but forecasts are never accurate. I just want the current hard data, without a lot of fuss. The screenshot you see is highly customized, the default information displayed is much simpler.

September 29, 2004

The Emblem

You may or may not notice it. I've just added a icon for the blog. It's way up in your address bar, and if you use Firefox, on your tab also. It's the Hacker's emblem, it was either this or the cool Yin-Yang icon over at this blog.

hacker emblem

If you don't recognize the image, don't worry. It's from an obscure little thing called the Game of Life, which isn't actually a game at all. I was as surprised as anyone when I actually recognized the emblem to be from it.

I don't even think that anyone who looks at this blog will recognize this, but it's still cool.

September 27, 2004

Finally.

Engineering is about writing. Nobody cares whether you actually learned anything, as long as your file is complete. And as this is the only thing expected of us, they overload us with it. The whole pointless crap gets to me sometimes, but I'm pretty much used to dealing with it.

Finally did some writing work today. Sat down for a long time & completed most of my assignments. Tomorrow, off to college to submit 'em, with Wednesday as a backup day for any remaining work. Then on it's the prelims next Monday to Saturday. And then finally I'll start studying for this Semester, during a month-long leave before the University exams somewhere from mid-November onwards.

I've ranted a lot about not having enough time, but actually my life right now if pretty free. All I do everyday is basically sit around. I can do anything I want, as soon as I finish some writing the "expected" assignments. And that is precisely what gets me; doing something that I have to do, but am not interested in, is the worst for me. Hell, I can't even do stuff I like while I'm procrastination the boring stuff.

But that's almost past now. Finally.

September 26, 2004

Encyclopedia Mythica

When looking up some mythological information in Wikipedia comes up short, I turn to Encyclopedia Mythica. It's an online encyclopedia for all things related to mythology, folklore, and religion. Kinda weak on Indian stuff, but great for European stuff. And the site is really well designed.

Found it while looking for some info about the Odyssey.

ROTK EE specs

Look at this and drool.

September 25, 2004

The Count of Monte Cristo

Saw the movie some last Friday [the 17th] and been wanting to write a review ever since. Don't have much time, so here's just a short pseudo-review.

I really want to read this book soon. It's been on my list for far too long. But I got a chance to see the movie first. It's really good, with a great cast [Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, and a lot of other good actors that I don't recognize]. I really like the story, which I hear is different from the book. This books seems to be the inspiration for The Shawshank Redemption. A lot more unorganized thoughts moving around in my head right now, so all I can say is I better get a copy of the book soon.

September 22, 2004

GMail spooler

I've sent most of my remaining invites to the Gmail Spooler. Kept a couple, just in case someone I know needs them.

September 21, 2004

Linky stuff

First of all, check out some more weird Google stuff.

Wikipedia has a million articles now.

Bushwhacking, by the Almighty this time.

All right, here's the official FAQ on God. Sets things right.

Firefox 1.0 Preview Release [Firefox 0.10]

For those of you who use Firefox, there's reason to be a little excited. The final version 1.0 release date is drawing near. Those who can't wait [like me], should check out the Preview Release. There are several improvements. First of all, Find as you Type has been revamped, and now has a nifty toolbar. There's built in RSS support [Live Bookmarks]. Oh, and the software updates actually work this time around.

All right, there's no guarantee for stability in this version, but it works pretty well for me. The only problem for me was you need to reinstall your extensions. But still, it's all in all a pretty neat update.

September 19, 2004

The filler post

Uh... No posts till after Tuesday. Been to damn busy working on a presentation. And as I work, wonderful post ideas keep appearing in my head. Ideas for long posts. Posts that I can't write now. Ideas that I probably won't be able to write about later on... Too bad.

September 14, 2004

Springfield map

Just check this huge map of Sprinfield out if you are a fan of The Simpsons. Neat!

The latest

I've been busy the last few days. Finished my Java project. And I've been reading a lot, read Slaughterhouse-5 again. And I've been playing KoL for an hour or two for the last week. And listening to music a lot.

With all this, I've ignored my writing. Both here on the blog, and the assignments. This is a condition I know; before every exam I feel completely jaded about college work. I still have another project + presentation to complete. Haven't even started that yet.

I usually snap out of this phase after a week or so; I get up one morning and just start finishing the remaining work. Hope that comes soon, because I've got a shitload of work to complete.

September 11, 2004

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand: "I trust that no one will tell me that men such as I write about don't exist. That this book has been written - and published - is my proof that they do."

Atlas Shrugged is a book about heroes. But it is different in the sense that the heroes present in this book are not the people you think of first, when thinking of heroes. It is a huge book, as big as LOTR. I think that the book was written for the sole purpose of explaining Objectivism, Ayn Rand's life philosophy. And you can't read this book without getting an understanding of what Objectivism is.

Disclaimer: This is going to be full of spoilers. [Keep reading]

Atlas Shrugged deals mainly with the mind; rational thought and it's importance in life. The "men of the mind" are the heroes on this book. They make the world go round. And we get to see what happens when they finally let go. In the beginning, it portrays them struggling, trying to live in a world that seems out to get them. Then you see them give up one by one, and disappear...

All right, the above paragraph sucked. Let's try a different approach. I love this book. And I knew I loved it after reading the following [about Dagny Taggart, one of the main characters in the book]:

"She could not descend to an existence where her brain would explode under the pressure of forcing itself not to outdistance incompetence. She could not function to the rule of: Pipe down - keep down - slow down - don't do your best, it's not wanted!"

I always get the feeling in engineering that my best in not wanted. Every assignment that I work on gets me less credit than the ones I copy. So, reading this was enough for me to like the book, even if it had nothing else.

I really like the characters of the book. The good guys, not the bad guys. They are self-confident, independent, smart and selfish. I agree with Rand, there's nothing wrong with being selfish. Every man should live for his own sake. I also believe that individual effort matters, that it can make a difference. Not enough to stick my neck out though.

The book is divided into three sections, Non-Contradiction, Either-Or and A Is A [I guess as tribute to Aristotle]. Throughout the first section, we keep hearing the question, "Who is John Galt?". Now this John Galt whom you get to know later on is an incredible character. He is the one who decides to stop the motor of the world, and does so. Read the book, and you'll understand.

There are only two things I don't like about this book. It's a showcase for Objectivism, so the characters are in Black & White. There is no middle ground according to Rand, you are either one of the producers, or one of the looters. There can be no compromises. Which is all good for a book, or for a philosophy for that matter. But real people like us can't live that way. We can try though.

And the other problem I have is the speeches. There is one particular instance where John Galt gives a 3 hour long speech, where Rand basically repeats all the points we have realised already through the book. It's overkill.

Apart from that, this is a great book. I can't explain much of it well, so instead read another quote:

"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater the effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - what would you tell him to do?"
"I...don't know. What... could he do? What would you tell him?"
"To shrug."

September 08, 2004

A nice brain teaser

I've read this or something like it before, but I suddenly remembered it today. Read carefully.

Everything following this sentence is true.
The above sentence is false.

These two sentence can leave you thinking for hours.

September 07, 2004

Some quotes

I can't come up with anything original right now, so read some quotes instead. Enjoyment guaranteed.

  • life, n.: A whim of several billion cells to be you for a while. [Unknown]
  • If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing. [Bertrand Russell]
  • There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them [Heisenberg]
  • There are two kinds of fool. One says, "This is old, and therefore good." And one says, "This is new, and therefore better" [John Brunner]
  • Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. [Dale Carnegie]
  • Fourth Law of Thermodynamics: If the probability of success is not almost one, it is damn near zero. [David Ellis]
  • Well, isn't it comforting to know that being miserable is still better than being an idiot? [from Six Feet Under]

You can also read an earlier post with more good quotes.

I like to think that a good quote as a meme. From as little as I understand what a meme is, it seems to be an idea/thought/whatever that spreads through peoples minds like a virus. Hearing a meme makes you want to spread it further. And in today's world of blogs, memes spread really fast. I have often come across a link that I like, which I would never have reached myself. Of course, the study of memes is a whole science in itself, one that I found boring after a few minutes of trying to read. But still it's a fascinating concept. And I'm not making much sense, so I'll stop.

September 06, 2004

Productivity

I spent a lot of time yesterday coding my project. I actually got a lot of work done, the project is almost 70% finished. And I read a lot, finished half of the book. I had planned on writing a lot yesterday, had a few assignments to complete. Never got around to doing that though. Still, it was one of my most productive days for some time. Here's a screenshot:

I'm bunking college today. I just don't feel like going.

September 04, 2004

6 more invites

Google is just giving away these invites now. I've actually run out of people to invite. Which is kinda sad...

September 03, 2004

The Kingdom of Loathing

I've been a bit pre-occupied lately. First I have a project & an presentation to complete. The assignments are still not relenting. And on top of that, I've found the Kingdom of Loathing [KoL for short].

KoL is an online RPG, but it is an RPG with an difference. It's damn funny to play, some sarcastic remarks leave me laughing for hours. It's not based on graphics, it just has some nifty hand-drawn figures. Starting with the character classes [like Seal Clubber or Accordion Thief], everything about this game is witty in some way. I cannot describe it, but I recommend anyone who likes RPG's to give it a try.

It's a good thing that I only get to play a limited number of adventures every day, or I'd not get anything else done.

September 01, 2004

The Interpreter of Maladies

I finished reading Interpreter of Maladies today morning. It's an o.k. book, nothing I'd get excited over.

It's made up of 9 short stories, which are totally unrelated. The only common thing they have is that they each have some Indian characters, and the protagonist(s) of each story are going through some crisis. I really liked the first [A Temporary Matter] and last [The Third Continent] stories. The seven in the middle were not that good. Some stories did have a lot of promise, but it felt like the plot was left hanging at the end. But that's probably what Lahiri intended.

I've read few books by Indian authors. The last I read was The God of Small Things. I actually can't remember reading any other Indian books... But it seems that Indians writing in English write in a distinct style. And I'm not sure whether I like it.

In other news, I just got Atlas Shrugged from a friend. This is a large book, and should take a week for me to finish.

More invites

I got another 5 invites today. Now it seems that Google is virtually giving these invites away, and GMail should soon come out of beta. Or they have just upgraded their capacity, and will not give out more invites for some time.

August 31, 2004

Currently reading...

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's a Pulitzer prize winning collection of short stories [9 stories in total]. I've reached till the 7th one.

In other news, I've finally upgraded to a higher bandwidth connection. I just got too tired of the long delays...

August 30, 2004

Gmail invites

"Thanks for using Gmail and helping us improve the service. We're ready to expand our test to a few more users, and because you've been a trusted early tester of Gmail, we're looking for your help. Please invite a few more people who you think would like Gmail and could help us make it even better."

After a month-long dry spell, finally some more invites, . I got 6 invites total today. I've promised three of them to people on my college's Yahoo! Group. The remaining three are up for grabs. I don't expect them to remain with me for long though.

August 29, 2004

Another project update

I've finally done some serious coding today. Finished a module of the project [the RSS parser], the most difficult part. The rest of the modules are not that tough, but they are going to be time consuming.

I don't dislike Java anymore. I appreciate that it is a good enough tool to develop software. It's important that I know how to use it, especially in team-oriented projects. But it's still not fun. I'd use Python for my personal projects [if I have any].

The main reason I don't hate Java anymore is because of Eclipse. It's an open source development platform [read IDE] for Java, and everybody who's coding in Java should use it. It takes care of the more mundane tasks which I hate.

Currently listening...

Howard Shore's The Fields of the Pelennor. It's from the excellent Return of the King soundtrack. Read a review here. I could not find an audio clip online, which is too bad. I've already got a couple of friends hooked on this music, after playing it for them at my home.

Google logos

Check out the Google logos for the Athens Olympics.

August 27, 2004

Asinine

This article is stupid. I thought it was a satire site at first. But it actually seems to be a serious paper.

Update: It is a prank. It is usually difficult to tell, considering the general stupidity of people.

Tricks of Trade

The things you need to know. Every profession has it's own unique ones. Read the original story.

August 26, 2004

Firefox

I've written about this before. Many times. But I gotta do more Firefox advocacy. I hate watching people using IE and thinking that it's the only browser around. Especially when there is such a great alternative present.

What's so great about Firefox? It's fast and simple. It's standards compliant. Has a simple interface that does not try to pack too much features in like Opera. It has tabbed browsing, no need to keep many windows open. It blocks popups by default.

But these are just the starters. The great thing about Firefox is the open architecture it's built on. The philosophy is to build a great browser, with minimal features, and to enable people to customize what else they many with the use of Extensions. The Extensions are the life-blood of Firefox.

I have so many Extensions working away right now that I are indispensable. I cannot browser without them. Just consider these:

  • Adblock - Blocks any image ads you see.
  • All-in-One Gestures - Mouse gestures [you'll take some time to learn them, but they are really useful].
  • Web Developer - The best, especially when I'm fine-tuning my template.
  • Googlebar - A Google toolbar [better than the IE version].
  • Conquery - Query various websites [Amzon, IMDb, Wikipedia, etc.]
  • Sage - A lite-weight RSS & Atom reader
  • GMail Notifier - Integrates my GMail a/c with Firefox.

And that's just listing the most useful ones. You can customize Firefox to "fit like a glove".

Google recommends it, if that makes any difference to people who have not yet been convinced. See this, & this, & this. Also, there's speculation that Google is considering releasing a "Google Browser" based on Firefox.

Of course this is just all pro-Firefox stuff. I can write tons more anti-IE. But I'd rather not. Instead just read this if you care.

Whoa, this was supposed to be a short post. Guess I got carried away. And I've probably already posted most of this earlier. No more promotional posts for some time now.

Best Laid Plans

I got The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon from a friend. I've never read anything by Sheldon and nor was I planning to. But as I had nothing else to read, i took it.

I can honestly say that I'm not really impressed with this book. It was a fun read, but it's not something that I want to re-read. The book is predictable; it's about a woman who vows to get revenge on the man who hurt her, with political/power games thrown in. The story has promise, but fails to deliver. I could see the end coming from a mile away, too predictable. And the plot moves along too easily, people fall in love easily, they get manipulated easily.

Actually, I'm being way too harsh here. The book is fun to read. Just not good enough to warrant a purchase. Well, it seems that I am growing as a reader. A couple of years ago, I liked everything I read. But my taste has improved now. I can even point out an odd literary mistake here and there. Just hope that I don't end up a miserable critic.

August 24, 2004

Some Psychoanalyzing

The last few days have been busy. But I still had enough time to keep analysing myself. This is what I do for fun, or when I don't get sleep.

I think that I think in a different way from most people. That's because everyone else seems to be thinking the exact opposite of what I think. But I guess that's what everyone feels like, except the shallowest of people.

Also nearly everyone seems to agree that rational thought is important. I believe that I don't think rationally. To think rationally, you have to... I don't know, think of the facts or something. Use logic. But I don't do that, at least for most cases. I usually arrive at conclusions instantaneously, but take a long time to express them. It's as if I already know the answer, but can't remember it. It takes some time for it to sink in.

I need to use an example for this. Consider chess. I've seen people think over an move for 15-20 minutes. They go over all possible things they can think of. Some formulate different strategies, analysing the risk of each move. Most of them have a plan. But I usually just stare at a chess board, and think of individual moves. I keep looking at the board till I can almost see what I want to do. If there's some thought involved here, it's subconscious. Playing WEBoggle is also the same thing.

Of course I'm not making much sense here. If I read over this post, it will somewhat seem like something I feel like sometimes. But not exactly.