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 Alagaƫsia, 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.