January 30, 2005

Some more pics

I went to take a few pics at the Maharashtra Nature Park a week ago. Took around 10-12 pictures, scanned 5 and uploaded three.

Take a look at the set. I didn't get around to digitally 'enhancing' them.

Some movies

I’ve watched a few great movies (again) recently. Among them was The Godfather (the first one). I’ve seen it many times before, but can’t remember when I last saw it complete. I don’t think that I need to add about this masterpiece — if you haven’t already seen it then you’re missing something.

I also had a chance of catching Se7en yesterday. Morgan Freeman is brilliant as always, Brad Pitt actually acts really well in this one & Kevin Spacey is superlative in what looks like the second-creepiest role ever (the honours of course go to Antony Hopkins’ Hannibal in the Silence of the Lambs).

Then there is Monty Python & The Holy Grail, the funniest movie I’ve seen. Don’t look for deep meaning in this one — and don’t be offended as nothing’s too sacred not to make fun of. If you by chance enjoy a ‘play on words’ type comedy, you need to watch this one. The stage-type acting makes it even funnier. I mean its the first movie I’ve seen where the opening credits made me laugh till I almost cried.

Maynard: It reads, ‘Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Arimathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of aaaaaagggh’.
Arthur: What?
Maynard: ‘…The Castle of aaaaaagggh’.
Bedevere: What is that?
Maynard: He must have died while carving it.
Lancelot: Oh, come on!
Maynard: Well, that’s what it says.
Arthur: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn’t bother to carve ‘aaaaaggh’. He’d just say it!
Maynard: Well, that’s what’s carved in the rock!
Galahad: Perhaps he was dictating.

Archer, Hardy & Kafka

I’ve read a few books recently — Jeffery Archer’s A Quiver Full of Arrows, Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native and Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Reading A Quiver full of Arrows was among the few times I’ve enjoyed short stories. A few stories are really good, especially the last one (Old Love). The only reason I don’t like Archer much is that he keeps writing about politics, so this book was a refreshing change. And I’ve realized that short stories are more fun when read while commuting.

Buying The Metamorphosis was a impulse decision — one that I’m regretting. A book over 150 pages, where the story barely goes on for the first 50 pages. The rest is just analysis of the story & literary essays (ugh). I knew it was a short story, but thought the whole book was the story. Should have read the book’s cover more thoroughly. And the worst thing is that the story’s not that good. I don’t get why it’s considered so important.

I really liked most parts of The Return of the Native. Hardy’s description of the location (Edgon Heath) is especially brilliant. I liked all the characters of the book, except the main character (Eustacia Vye). The book’s supposed to be about her, and at the initial stages it was really fun to read about her. But near mid-way, and especially near the end, I hated every time the action switched over to her. Enough of the melodrama already. The worst female lead I’ve read so far — and the book would have been great otherwise.

Currently listening…

Barenaked Ladies — What a Good Boy

I go to school, I write exams,
If I pass, if I fail, if I drop out,
Does anyone give a damn?
And if they do, they’ll soon forget ’cause it won’t take much for me
To show my life ain’t over yet.
I wake up scared, I wake up strange.
I wake up wondering if anything in my life is ever going to change.
I wake up scared, I wake up strange
And everything around me stays the same.

January 26, 2005

Acronyms

They say that most pieces of code are written to satisfy the programmer’s personal itch. I think that’s about right, as I spent around 30 minutes right now writing something that I wanted.

I write my posts in plain text and use Markdown & Smartypants for formatting later. But I then have to manually enter the HTML for the acronym tags required, if any. Surfing around, I found out that there’s a plugin for Wordpress that does this automatically. But its in PHP, and I don’t understand PHP (yet). So I thought, why not write a Python version?

You can download the result if you like. I copied all the default acronyms from the original plugin and put them in a text file which is included (and required) with the script. It was pretty simple really, just create a Unix-like text filter that takes whatever’s given in the input, scans for acronyms, and expands them.

And it was fun…

Next step — make the list of acronyms canonical. It’s filled with only tech acronyms right now.

Love & Hate

I have a love/hate relationship with hardware. I love reading about kinds of hardware — but I usually can’t afford any of it, which I hate. Also, hardware for me should be transparent, that is it should just work. I can do all kinds of crazy shit customizing software, but start with hardware and I’m lost beyond the basics. Even then, I go and buy & install all my computer-related hardware myself. Every engineer (so called) I’ve tried so far has been a disappointment.

But my main gripe is that my hardware always dies on me. Take this as an example, and stuff like this happens a lot to me: the CD-RW drive that I recently bought won’t write anything any more. It barely reads stuff. Now, it was with a 1 year warranty, but I’ve lost its bill, can’t remember which shop in Lamington I bought it form, and can’t find any kind of warranty card. I asked a friend about whether I should give it to a Samsung Service Centre & try to get it repaired; and he told me about his past experiences there. It seems that there were 4 cupboards full of broken RW drives there waiting to be repaired. I’d have to wait for months for my turn to come there.

All I can say is that this sucks. Right now I’ve been in a state of inaction for almost a week. I know I’ll have to try to get it repaired, and I know it won’t be any use. I’ve also been looking for replacements to buy. I really want to get a combo drive — will finally be able to play DVD’s then.

Will just have to see how it works out… One thing’s certain though — I won’t be buying any Samsung stuff soon.

January 25, 2005

cragslist Banglored!

Now I only want a Mumbai edition to open soon…

Allright, I didn’t make any sense above. craigslist is an online network of sites, divided city-wise. It offers free classifieds and such. It is so popular that ‘real’ newspapers have complained that it costs them $50 million in revenue losses. They cannot compete with localized content like this anyway.

You see, if you are anywhere in the States, and looking for a decent gig/job/whatever, this is the best place to post stuff. Similarly, if you want to buy/sell/lease/whatever something, again check the site first. One of the truly helpful sites on the web, and it’s for free.

And now there’s a Banglore edition! I’ve not checked the site much (of course, as I didn’t need to), but now I’m gonna look into it from time to time to see if something interesting comes up. I’d like to do part-time work with all the free time I have around here.

January 24, 2005

Office space

The last time I saw Office Space (around 3 years ago), I liked it so much that I made a mental note to see it again, when I get a chance. I finally got around to seeing it yesterday, and I still like it as much.

This has become a cult movie, especially among tech workers. It was released in 1999, before the large scale tech layoffs. Its sort of a comedy, you’ll certainly laugh a lot while seeing it. But its funny in the sense Dilbert is funny — tragic and ironic. Of course, only people who have worked in such an environment as shown can say whether its an accurate enough picture of real life.

The best parts of the movie are the scenes with the ‘two Bobs’, consultants hired to decide who should be laid off. There are some unforgettable dialogues strewn throughout the movie.

Bob: Well, what would you say… you do here?
Tom: Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

Peter: And here’s something else, Bob! I have eight different bosses right now!
Bob: I beg your pardon?
Peter: Eight bosses.
Bob: Eight?
Peter: Eight, Bob!

The soundtrack of the movie is also pretty cool — hip-hop & rap put in at just the right times to cause the most effect. I’d recommend seeing this movie anyday.

32 words

Most people wont care, but this is news. Google used to allow queries of only upto 10 words. Now that limit has been raised to 32 words. More is always better…

[via]

January 23, 2005

Bookmarklets

Bookmarklets are wonderful little pieces of Javascript code. They are usually shown as a link which you are supposed to bookmark, hence the name. The most productive use is to put them in your browser’s bookmark toolbar — you can simply drag these links there if you want. Check out my Firefox layout if you want.

There are bookmarklets for all kinds of stuff. You can use them to do something as trivial as change the font size of the page you are seeing, to all kinds of CSS tweaks.

I’m gonna list some of the more useful ones here. I’m gonna try to credit wherever I got them from, if I recall it.

  • HTML Keyboard: Convert accented characters like Äñkít into their proper HTML sequences. Offsite, needs net connection. Provided by Fox Internet.

  • Ruler: Drag & draw selections & find their sizes. Really useful for web design. Works only in Firefox. [via.]

  • Wayback: View older versions of your current webpage via the Internet Archive.

  • Pasta: Plain text pasting service for del.icio.us. Store arbitrary amount of text on a web page and have it bookmarked automatically into your del.icio.us account. Works better with Firefox. [via.]

  • Coralize: View your current page using it’s Coral cache. Especially useful in times of slashdotting.

  • Bugmenot: Bugmenot provides usernames/passwords for sites with compulsory registration which ought to be free. Like the NY Times for instance.

  • Technorati this: Search your current page (or a text selection) in the Technorati cosmos.

  • DURL search: Find out who has bookmarked your current page on del.icio.us. Hacked together by yours truly.

  • BlogThis! by Blogger: Made redundant due to my use of del.icio.us. Read more at the help page.

I don’t normally use bookmarklets for search, as Firefox search engines fulfil all my requirements there. My most commonly used bookmarklet is for posting stuff to del.icio.us. People who use it know what I’m talking about.

January 22, 2005

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down has been doing the rounds on HBO for some time, only recently did I see it ‘complete’; without distractions, from start to finish. Mostly, when I want watch a movie on TV, I usually tune in somewhere in the middle. Can’t have the whole schedule memorised, you know.

This movie is a masterpiece. Allright, not so much, but the actors do carry it. There’s not much in the way of a story here — I didn’t even understand what the whole battle was about. The opening few minutes give a brief overview, but that’s it until the fighting starts and all else fades. I’ll leave it up to Google & Wikipedia to tell me more about it later.

Ridley Scott has directed this perfectly — from the grim realism of war to the ways the different soldiers react. A great deal of effort was put in to make the movie look as real as possible. Some of the extras are even from the original squadrons.

The acting is superb. There are many stars in this one, I didn’t even recognize Ewan McGregor for a few scenes initially. Josh Hartnett plays his role very well, from the initial nervousness of first command to ‘getting things done’ by the end. To me, the best of the movie were the scenes with Eric Bana. He keeps impressing me with every movie I see — will have to catch the Hulk solely for his acting now.

Catch it if it still repeats. HBO kills of movies after showing ‘em a few times.

January 20, 2005

Picasa 2

I added this to the sidebar yesterday when I heard about it, and now that I’ve downloaded it & played around for a bit, I think this warrants a review (or some free advertising, as is the case). As I’ve mentioned before, I love the Picasa interface; and it’s almost the same in version 2, only more feature packed.

Starting with the updates, and it’s a long list — GMail style labelling of images, adding of captions, really quick searching, backing images, create posters & collages, view camera EXIF data, move images around on your disk, direct integration with GMail, and loads of ways to edit/enhance pictures. Especially the last one — there are some good one-click image fixes, you can tune the picture’s highlights & shadows, and there are 12 different effects built-in.

I’ve probably missed some stuff, the interface is intuitive enough that I just use it, and don’t even realize all that’s added.

For those who got lost, Picasa is an image management app that Google acquired back in July 2004. It’s considered to be iPhoto’s Windows equivalent, which I can’t say much about. What I can say is that it’s better than any app I’ve used for this, and I’ve used a few. Take the online tour, you’ll be impressed.

January 19, 2005

Dilbert’s Rules of Order

  • I can only please one person per day… Today is not your day… Tomorrow is not looking good either.
  • Tell me what you need, and I’ll tell you how to get along without it.
  • Needing someone is like needing a parachute. If he isn’t there the first time, chances are you won’t be needing him again.
  • I DON’T HAVE AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM … YOU HAVE A PERCEPTION PROBLEM.
  • Last night I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky, and I thought to myself, “where the heck is the ceiling?”
  • My reality check bounced.
  • On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key.
  • I don’t suffer from stress. I am a carrier.
  • Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, because you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.
  • Everybody is somebody else’s weirdo.
  • A pat on the back is only a few inches from a kick in the butt
  • The more crap you put up with, the more crap you are going to get.
  • You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.
  • Eat one live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
  • If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.
  • When you don’t know what to do, walk fast and look worried.
  • When everything is coming your way … you’re in the wrong lane!
  • Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
  • An optimist thinks that this is the best possible world. A pessimist fears that this is true.
  • There will always be death and taxes; however, death doesn’t get worse every year.
  • I am having an out of money experience.
  • Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.
  • I plan on living forever… So far, so good.

Via.

Comment spam

I’ve been getting some comment spam lately. Really annoying, and can’t think of doing much about it — except checking my comment feed daily and deleting the comments. Haloscan does not offer much to fight spam. I’ve got a few ideas of my own, will try them if the problem gets too annoying.

This is not the first time I wish I had a better place to keep my blog. I love Blogger, but it’s not really much for the power user. I want Wordpress, or even Movable type will do. But the only free service I trust is Blogger. Setting up a Wordpress blog on a free host is easy, but not very reliable. And as I don’t have any income, I won’t register a domain and pay for my hosting, yet.

In other news, Google has put up a great idea on it’s blog yesterday. Just make the search engines ignore all the links from comments, and most of the spammers will not have a reason to continue. Some will keep spamming just to annoy the hell out of people, but the problem will not be as large. Hope that Haloscan implements something like this…

January 18, 2005

Memories/Dreams

I have a terrible memory. And trying to remember stuff is annoying. A quick test — try to see how far back you can remember. I remember some stuff as far back as my kg days, but not any further. Even then, it’s mostly bits & pieces. I know there were trips out of Mumbai I had gone on when I was little, I have loads of pictures of these trips, but just cannot remember even going to these places.

My memory is much better from the time I was 11-12 onwards. Still not as good as I want, but can’t do much about it now. I remember concepts perfectly, just the details are lacking.

I also have difficulty remembering names & faces of people I’m not close to. I won’t recognize people whose names I remember, and can’t put a name on people I recognize. It’s really funny, but due to this I’ve mastered acting natural (for me) in all sorts of weird situations. Something like this happens really often with me — I’m just walking somewhere and out comes someone who knows me (from old school days & such). That person calls out to me, asks about life in general, or even going into specifics, we talk about the old days and such, and part ways without me even realizing who that was.

Another big problem for me is the gap between memories & dreams. I dream a lot, but most of my dreams at night are just like real life. I don’t remember most — and when I do remember something, I get confused whether it was a dream or really life. Trust me, it gets really annoying sometimes, trying to figure out whether an important conversation you had with someone actually happened. Déjà vu also annoys the hell out of me.

OK, another test — try to remember the earliest dream you had. This one’s harder.

January 17, 2005

Something I just realized

Allright, this is just a hypothesis — but I’m pretty sure I’m somewhere related to the truth here. Of course, I’m not thinking right at present, too tired but with a caffeine high. Anyway, here goes — You cannot really hate something you know.

Think about it.

Update — I officially deny having written this post ;). Pleading temporary insanity or something.

January 15, 2005

It keeps getting better

72.1%. That’s much more than anything I hoped for…

Oh, and the Huygens probe was a big success. There are a few images of Titan available online, more are expected shortly. Damn, this one looks so much like a river bed.

Titan

There are even some audio samples of the descent and such at the site.

Technorati tags

The best blog directory/aggregator (of sorts) get better. Introducing Technorati tags — exciting if you keep up with the latest news on the blogging scene.

It combines 2 of my favourite web services with blog posts. When you search for a term, you can see del.icio.us links & Flickr! images tagged with it; along with blog posts categorized under that tag, all in one page. It’s quite simple right now, you cant do tag intersections and such. Still, pretty cool, if you ask me.

These tag pages have a neat URI, REST style. For example, the page for the tag is http://technorati.com/tag/blog. Similar to del.icio.us.

Bloggers can tag posts in two ways — if you use Wordpress or such, whatever category you post under is considered as your post’s tag. You can also use a simple link syntax — look at the help page.

January 14, 2005

Updates

I’ve been a little lazy with my blog here lately. Don’t know, just can’t think of new things to post. And when I think of something, can’t get around to writing it. So, I’m going back to the basics — write what is happening. And what I find interesting.

There is a wicked cool animation over at NASA’s ESA’s site (don’t I feel dumb) about the Cassini–Huygens probes. It’s got a live clock with Huygens’ time to descent on Titan. As I write, there’s about an hour and half to go. Of course, it should take a few more hours for us to hear whether it’s successful or not, ‘coz of the lightspeed delay. The animation also shows the current & future orbit of Cassini. Takes some time to load, but it’s worth it.

There’s college coming up — the Sixth semester starts Monday. No results yet. And this upcoming semester is a killer one — 6 subjects, most of which could be vast enough to devote a whole year to. I had decided to finish studying DBMS before the semester starts, I’ve not even started it. Funny how things work out.

As far as reading goes, I’m killing my eyes reading books on my PC. Time for reading real books now.

Oh, and saw The Last Samurai yesterday. It’s good, very picturesque. I would have liked it even if it was a silent movie — some locations are just too good. Both the lead actors also give great performances. Just to find something to complain about, I thought that the story was a tad predictable.

Can’t think of anything else right now. So, later.

January 11, 2005

Took me long enough

Lonely log

Here are some pictures from my Ganapatipule trip which I finally managed to scan.

January 09, 2005

The good things in life… Part 1

In no particular order.

  1. Early morning cold.
  2. Coffee.
  3. Tolkien.
  4. Computers.
  5. Good headphones (this one’s a little strange).
  6. Mountains.
  7. Info.

To be continued…

January 05, 2005

The Fountainhead

“You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are. If there’s any kind of fiction better than that, I don’t know what it is.” Joss Whedon

Those are my favourite lines on fiction. That’s just the type of books I enjoy most. The Fountainhead is nothing like that, but I still loved it. It’s like a trial version of Atlas Shrugged; the story’s different enough, but the author’s saying the same thing.

The best way to describe the Fountainhead’s protagonist, Howard Roark, is to simple call him the book’s hero. I liked this much more than Atlas Shrugged, can’t really say why. Of course, there are fewer über-men in this book. And no 40 page monologues.

Lets get down to the specifics: Roark is an architect like no other. He’s the perfect individualist, he designs buildings his way, the world be damned. People are always free to not hire him, of course. He’s a rock: you don’t see him changing in any way the entire length of the book. He never changes a single conviction of his, other than one specific exception he makes near the end. He’s the man that does not need any other, that’s what makes him so appealing. He does not give others power over him.

“Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Only down to a certain point. Not after that.”

Of course I’ve made him look bad here, I’m nowhere near as eloquent or as clear as Ayn Rand. The point is: that’s what I think every one should be like too. If I were an idealist, I’d embrace her philosophy wholeheartedly, but the cynic in me holds me back. There just seems to be something missing.

Most other characters are also excellent. I’ll never complete this if I start describing them. I wondered for some time what the book would be like if there was no Roark, no philosophical agenda, and all the other characters the same as before. Those who’ve read Atlas Shrugged will find this book strangely familiar. Those who have not read either should pick one up right away. I don’t expect most people to agree with them at all though…

I finished this book in two days at a relative’s place. Two days where I would have been mind-numbingly bored if I did not have this book. So I’m really thankful for it.

Oh, and I have to say that I am really annoyed when I know I like something, but come up blank when I ask myself why I like it. That’s the most frustrating question ever, one that I can never solve. Dishing out these half-assed reviews is one way of trying to answer it.

January 03, 2005

Just wishing.

I was surfing around yesterday, and read up a lot of stuff on OpenVPN & OpenSSL. For those who came in late, SSL is used for secure (encrypted) links between two computers. A VPN is a virtual network or sorts; I experimented yesterday with a friend. It’s really easy to set up, and we could access each other’s machines over the internet.

All this got me thinking about what I’d have at my home if I could just afford it. All right, here goes. One computer dedicated for audio/video storage & playback (a media server if you may). A computer with a leased line, for all my net connection needs. All this internetworked, of course. WiFi at home, audio & video streams. A web interface thrown together to boot. And I should be able to access all this from anyway using my own VPN.

Huh, got carried away. Anyways, I’m gonna be gone for a couple of days. C’ya.