June 30, 2005

Google: Earth & more

I’ve got to stop writing about Google now. Every time I write something, they announce something else the next day. Maybe one post a month or something…

The day after I felt really pleased putting up a post on Google Maps, they launched Google Earth. Its an amazing piece of software that you need a fast connection to really enjoy; which I don’t have. I just poked around here & there, having way too much fun. Give it a try, its worth the 10Mb download.

Misrosoft is also gonna come up with a similar tool, and the buzz is that it’s spectacular as well. We’ll see.

And the news is that Google Video went live. You can search for videos that people have uploaded and decided to share for free on that page. You’ll have to download the client in order to play them; which is based on the excellent VLC player.

But it does not work for me—I get a Video is currently not available message.

The video player plugin seems to be quite great for a 1Mb download, but I’ve not been able to test it. The famous Jon “So Sue Me” Johansen posted a patch that enables the plugin to play videos from other sites as well. Again, not tested it yet, I’ve been reading…

June 27, 2005

Satellite view is here

Google Maps has expanded. It’s satellite view now covers most of the globe, and more importantly, India too. It won’t zoom in to street resolution (yet), but its close.

Check out some images:

  • That huge patch of green it the national park, plus those are a couple of lakes there which give us out water supply. Mumbai is the only city with a green area that size. That image is also at an ideal zoom level to explore—play around and look at the whole Mumbai from there. Zoom any more and the images are grainy for now.
  • The Mumbai airport, zoomed in as far as it would go.
  • That’s Delhi, where you can zoom into street level. Bummer.
  • And a WTF moment. How the hell can a desert look like snow?

Now I’m waiting for them to put up high-resolution images of Mumbai too.

June 26, 2005

Bloody brilliant

My connection was down since yesterday evening, I just got back online. As usual, the Bloglines account is overwhelming. But I just though I’d post these two links to today’s Dilbert and Calvin & Hobbes, today’s strips are bloody brilliant.

The Calvin & Hobbes strip is perfect. But you’d probably have to be a nut like me to like recognize it. The Dilbert strip is on the level of absurdity patent law has reached recently. Scott Adams hits the nail right on the head as usual.

Didn’t directly post the images, have no idea what kind of copyright they’d be under. Ya, this is meant to be ironic.

June 25, 2005

del.icio.us direc.tor

I really like del.icio.us, but I’m not that crazy about it’s interface. Now lets face it, no one understands what it is the first time they look at it. I’ve grown accustomed to using it, so much that I just type in the search URL’s myself. I’ve got loads of links stored on my account, and I was not too worried about the way I access them as I just knew that someone would make a great way of using the site.

Viola, there’s del.icio.us direc.tor, which makes you drool with pleasure. Instantaneous tag searching, cool looking interface, tag browsing and sorting links; its got everything I want. And its bound to get better with time. Just try out the demo page and I know you’ll love it. I vote for including this into del.icio.us directly by default.

There are of course ways I already know this could be better. Like the ability to sort tags by the number of links in the tag browser. Making the date appear more humane. Skinning the edit tag link too, or at least using the ‘experimental’ or whatever its called now edit page. Browsing other people’s bookmarks as well. I could do this all day you know. But I’ll just stop and enjoy browsing my links for now.

June 22, 2005

It’s over.

No more Hitchhiker’s guide radio episodes, the Quintessential phase just aired it’s last episode. Near the end it said:

Here’s a public information message—the large yellow Vogon ships hanging overhead are an hallucination. Do not be alarmed. There is nothing to worry about. Just pour yourselves several large drinks; and open a packet of peanuts, you’re going to need them.

I’ve been religiously listening to each new episode as it started streaming on the net, one per week. Its almost as much fun as reading the books. Now that it’s over, I can’t help but feel a little sad; even though I can read the books again any time to immerse myself in the WSOGMM again.

I feel like adding all the Douglas Adams quotes & clichés here, but I’ll just stop.

Books

First the bad news—the Fort area has become pathetic. I only found around 8-10 book sellers, all of them on one corner. You won’t be seeing hundred’s of them ever again.

I delayed going there this year for fear of finding the same. But the few that were there did have a pretty good collection.

Here’s what I bought—some at the streets and some at Strand. Book shopping has been relatively expensive this semester, will have to cut-down on my spending on other stuff for a few months.

  • Albert Camus – The Stranger
  • Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Brothers Karamazov
  • James Joyce – Dubliners
  • Joseph Heller – Good as Gold
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – An Artist of the Floating World
  • Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The complete works of Oscar Wilde
  • Umberto Eco – The Island of the Day Before
  • W. Somerset Maugham – Of Human Bondage

I’m really proud of nicking a copy of the Oscar Wilde book. It’s a hard-cover book with every play, story & poem ever written by Oscar Wilde, or at least it claims to be. And I lifted it for only 200 bucks. It’s slightly worse for wear, I’ll have to look up stuff on ‘caring’ for books on the net. The guy had loads of such hardbound books—the complete works of Shakespeare in a beautiful leather bound edition was for sale at around 350 bucks. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money left, and I can always find Shakespeare again when I want to read him.

A couple of books (Pirsig & Camus) were impulse buys, I’ve just heard of them and don’t know if they are any good. And I bought the only Umberto Eco book I found.

All in all a great trip considering I had no hopes at all. Only gripe was not finding anything by Vonnegut.

Oh, and I pre-ordered Half-blood Prince at Strand.

Batman Begins…sort of

We should put up a rule or something that says that movies should be at least as good as their trailers promise. I was high on anticipation for the latest Batman flick, and the movie was lukewarm to say the least.

The good—a few actors were really good. Morgan Freeman was impeccable as always. The newcomer Cillian Murphy was also really good—his character was the only Batman villain that makes some sense. The look of the film was great. And Nolan does as good a job as he could IMO. Gary Oldman is wonderful as ever.

The bad—this is gonna be long. First of all, at least correct all the gaping plot holes before shooting a film. Maybe the writers should read up on microwave emitters or something. Plus the bad guys don’t make any sense in this movie. Ohh, they destroyed Rome and burned down London. WTF.

Christian Bale acts like he’s still shooting for Equilibrium—showing no emotion in an attempt be the dark & broody guy. I really like what I’ve seen him do, but don’t like him in this movie. And what’s up with his voice after he puts on the suit?

And enough of the superhero/martial arts cliché’s already. To fight fear, you must become fear. Those lines sounded good in the trailers, but no one can bear the 20 minutes of the same.

Still, I’d consider this movie to be the best of the Batman series—just look at the others. But I had expected so much more.

June 20, 2005

Technorati tags revisited

You may notice that I’m adding links to Technorati tags for each of my newer posts. There are basically three reasons—the first being that I like to tag stuff. It’s a much natural way of organization.

Then the new Technorati beta looks quite good—not much functional improvement over the old site, but a lot of cosmetic improvement. The new UI is a lot better than the old one. The only real improvement I see is that now tag search results are not limited to just one page, you can look at older results as well.

The last reason being I’d always like more visitors to my page ;). My Google referred visitors have plummeted down to a negligible amount this month, and anyway people coming over here via a tag search are bound to be more inclined to read what I’ve written.

BTW, the Technorati tags for Blogger user script rocks…not perfect, but I’m making a few modifications to suit my markup.

Update: The beta’s gone live.

Ownage

Hahaha…yesterday’s race was the best. You’ll never see a Formula 1 race with only six cars starting again—remember that view. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a race where all the starters finished—weird.

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June 19, 2005

Rains!

It’s started raining since yesterday…finally. It’s rained a little before yesterday, but yesterday was what I call the ‘start’ of the monsoon for me. It was overcast since morning, and I could hear a thunder-storm coming up from around 12:00 in the afternoon. After 30 minutes of anticipation, it did start to pour. The waiting paid off, it was the first torrential downfall of the season.

Boy, it felt real good. Its been raining on & off pretty much the entire time today, and this feels good too. My bed is just stuck near a huge window, and it feels great going to sleep listening to the sound of rain falling—with a little bit of it blowing in now and then too. I’ve not slept this well since winter.

Now I’m kicking myself for not going out & getting books sooner, a rainy day is perfect to get some good reading done.

June 16, 2005

Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko was weird. Seeing the movie at first made me think it was brilliant—but after thinking for some time I can’t seem to figure out what’s so brilliant about it.

It’s a great story, if you like mind-numbing non-linear stories. There’s time travel thrown in, which is always fun to think about. And Donnie is another ‘troubled’ teenager—these sort of stories never grow old on ya. The acting’s reasonably good—I can’t find any flaws. The movie if full of little details that I can nit-pick at leisure later—another plus point.

The only gripe here is even though the story is unique, I found it a tad predictable near the end. Or its just that maybe I’ve seen too much SciFi…

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June 14, 2005

Tagged.

This time by Nikhil, on music. I didn’t write this sooner, being offline and all.

I have weird taste in music—weird as in I don’t like almost anything I hear at first, and I almost like everything after hearing it a couple of times. And although I love music, I don’t really listen to much. I’ll read any book I can get my hands on, but with songs it’s different. And for the last year I’ve been listening to instrumental stuff mostly.

Getting to it…

Total volumes of music files on my computer
More than a couple of Gb. Mostly got a lot of stuff from friends on LAN.

Songs playing right now
Right now it’s the Fellowship soundtrack by Howard Shore. It’s just got to the part where they get to Moria—“A Journey in the Dark” is the track currently playing. Told ya, I mostly play instrumental.

Five songs that mean a lot to me
OK, this is way too hard. I’m just writing down a few tracks that come to mind right now—my prefrences with music keep changing. I’m consulting my Audioscrobbler page for this—keeping it based on the stats.

  • Pearl Jam – Black: Depressingly great. With self-loathing thrown in, which is always fun.
  • Audioslave – Like a Stone: Love the vocals on this one.
  • Metallica – Nothing Else Matters: It’s a cliche to like this one, I know. But it’s nice.
  • Aerosmith – Dream On: Heard a live version once which almost made me hate this song.
  • Bif Naked – Lucky: Weird song this one. Can’t recommend enough.
  • Blind Melon – No Rain: “I like watching the puddles gather rain.”
  • Nirvana – You Know You’re Right: This was what got me started on Nirvana.
  • The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony: I love the video on this one too.

I’ll stop, or I’ll just keep on going. And those were in no particular order, BTW.

Five albums that mean a lot to me
I didn’t start thinking of music in ‘albums’ till very recently—I usually just pick the tracks I like. I still don’t know which albums most of my favourite songs are from. But here’s a try:

  • Howard Shore’s LotR soundtracks—listen to them while reading the book. Way too good to miss out.
  • Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York—another cliche, but many of my favourite Nirvana tracks are on this one. And they sound better.
  • Bee Gee’s One Night Only—I don’t really like this album now. But hearing it brings back memories, there was a Goa trip where this was the only piece of music we had.
  • The Almost Famous soundtrack—This got me into ‘classic’ rock, if I can call it that.

That should about do it…

Little known bands that I’d like to recommend
This depends on what you call ‘little known’ now. Most of my (offline) friends don’t listen to much English stuff, so even the relatively mainstream bands will be unknown to them. And then I also don’t really listen to a lot of new stuff.

If any of the bands on this list are well-known, that will just show you guys the extent of my musical ignorance. But do try listening to Staind, VAST, Cake, Thievery corporation (for moody instrumental goodness) and Live.

Ankit out.

Finally back.

I’ve been offline for four days. And time just keeps on flying by, it’s boring really.

I went and got a new 80 Gb HDD first. Lamington is the place to buy computer stuff in Mumbai, got it cheap. Then spent two days copying all the old stuff onto the new disk—backing up & restoring stuff, installing Windows again and so on. At least this new drive is faster than the old one—some consolation. And I can use the old 40 Gb as a ‘temp’ drive—really cool.

Then my connection broke from yesterday. No matter how many calls I’ve made, they can’t seem to fix the problem. When they finally did restore the LAN, I realised my connection’s expired. I told them to renew it—it’s been two hours and the idiots have not done it. I’m typing this offline—will post as soon as I get back online.

Oh, I’m dreading what my Bloglines account will look like after 4 days of not reading anything. Probably best for me to pick and choose—read only the important stuff. I can expect reading all the feeds I’ve subscribed to becoming compulsive—the dark side of being always connected. I know at least a couple of guys who’d be lost if someone switched-off their mobiles—don’t want to become like that.

June 09, 2005

Finally done.

You know, the exams are over. Other than that, nothing’s really changed right now. I’m not going to write any “stuff I plan do do this break” post—I never complete the things I plan to do anyway. But next up—got to go for another placement thing on the 14th, it’s L&T Infotech this time. Lets see.

OK, I’ve got to go and get a new hard disk—will do that soon. And of course shopping for new books—I hear most of the hawkers have relocated to another region nearby. Have to search. Again, Strand didn’t have almost any of the books I ordered online—what’s the point of running a site if you can’t buy stuff of it I wonder.

So its book shopping, without any definite idea of what to get. If I don’t find my regular guy, I’ll have to bargain for books, and I hate bargaining. Enough said.

June 08, 2005

Times are getting tough

You know you’ve got an old PC when you can’t play video anymore.

I downloaded a preview of Quicktime 7 for Windows—I wanted to check out what all the buzz on H.264 was all about. I then downloaded the lowest quality hi-def trailer of Serenity—which was around 50Mb.

This was just 480p, not even 720p. OK, here’s the primer on high definition video:

  • 480p—480 progressively scanned lines (DVD quality). More exactly, with reference to Quicktime 7 it means a “16:9 aspect ratio, 852×480 pixels files encoded in AVC/H.264”. I know, too much lingo.
  • 720p—720 progressively scanned lines (High def). Usually the resolution is 1280×720. This is the most common format for HDTV, I think.
  • 1080i—Vertical resolution of 1080 lines, usually with a horizontal resolution of 1920 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:9, but interlaced.
  • 1080p—“True High-Definition”, 1920×1080 progressive. I can always dream.

Oh, read up on progressive scanning & interlaced scanning at Wikipedia.

My crappy five year old CRT can only show a max resolution of 1024×768. So only 480p should work—but my 1.8Ghz P4 along with a really slow HDD makes my machine too slow to even decode this. I played the file, and saw the video maybe play at 10 frames per second, stopping and starting at will. No audio.

I think I should be able to play 480p after Quicktime 7 officially released—they might have a few optimizations. The Quicktime page says that I need:

  1. 1.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or faster processor It’s exactly 1.8 GHz
  2. At least 256 MB of RAM It’s exactly 256Mb, but 32 Mb shared for video
  3. 64 MB or greater video card (Can’t play any games too, no video card)
  4. Windows 2000 or XP

And I have to use this machine for atleast a couple of years more. Crap.

June 06, 2005

Anti-social

I’ve always been a misanthrope (sort of), but lately I’ve been feeling more & more anti-social.

Anti-social as in I don’t want anything to do with (most) other people. Consider this—I’ve not signed on to any IM for nearly two weeks (sort of, I usually keep myself in invisible mode). The only people I call and talk to are (a few) college friends, and we normally bitch about the exams. Yesterday we had some sort of dinner at our apartment building—I didn’t go. Sat and watched Kill Bill instead. I go to college for the exams and just meet up with a few friends at out ‘regular’ place—don’t really talk to others. I visit only a few other blogs—can’t care about the rest.

I’ve always had trouble relating to others—I’m just not cut out to be social. I can’t empathize with what others are feeling, I see everything through my point of view alone.

It’s not that bad—I get along well with people and am usually really nice to be around. I think my current slump in social skills is just my frustration at these mind-numbingly-boring exams coming out—again.

I should probably be back to normal in three days. Hopefully.

June 05, 2005

TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki is an amazing piece of code. A whole wiki contained in a web page. Watch it in action, just look over at the site and see. Turn of the animations though, they’re annoying.’

Oh, from the Wikipedia page

TiddlyWiki is an open-source Wiki software for personal use. The whole system usually is contained in one web page (unless it is a server-side adaptation), making it easy to download and move around. It is made up of notes that you can edit directly and organize however you wish. It is programmed in HTML, Javascript and CSS, and does not have complete Internet Explorer compatibility.

Not played around with it a lot—right now what I need is collaboration which Backpack handles really well. I’ll try building a personal wiki next semester onwards. The neat thing is I can create as much stuff I want here—and just mail myself a copy of the page to use it anywhere.

A lot of people have also hacked around with it, check out some of the adaptations.

Oh, and also do check out pbWiki, which allows you to create your own free, password-protected wikis easily. Not really tried it yet.

June 04, 2005

Book tagged!

OK, another one of them memes. (via Shweta).

Starting with my addition —
The book that makes me feel like a piece of shit:
The only contender here is Ulysses. Seriously, this is the only book I gave up on after a few pages, and it’s bruised my ego like no other. I look back to that day with shame, me who’s never felt shame for anything. I won’t even read any other stuff by Joyce till I “resolve” this.

Total number of books I have:
This is embarrassing. I only have 40 books. Ya, only forty.

Now before I lose my bibliophile rep, I’ll tell you that I’ve gone and bought all these books (except a couple) myself. And that too in the last three years—didn’t read much before that. And no hereditary stash of books for me :(

OK, I do return the books I don’t like that much. On the plus side, I guess I’ve read at least 80 books in the last year—on and off.

Just wait till I start earning…And ya, my folks here think I have too many books. My friends too. Kinda shows you the difference in opinions, don’t it?

Last book I bought:
Hocus Pocus. Bought a whole bunch of stuff a little before that too. Planning the next bunch :)

Five books that have meant a lot to me:
Honourable Mentions:
This is tricky stuff (I cheated). I can never list out anything like this. So I’m combining these sections.

OK, the collections first —

  • Hobbit | LotR | The Silmarrilion
  • All the Hitchhiker’s Guide books
  • The Potter stuff too—what got me “back” to reading.

Among the others, I’m still doing the mainstream stuff only. Gotta read the famous people before you abandon them and read the obscure. Books I own which are really up there on my list —

  • Catch-22— Every time I read it again, it twists my mind again.
  • 1984—the only book that gave me the creeps.
  • Slaughter-house 5—I’ll have to re-read Hocus Pocus a couple of time to really compare.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird—“What would Atticus do?” ;)
  • The Fountainhead—Atlas Shrugged is so blah compared to this wonderful book.
  • The Calvin & Hobbes 10th Anniversary book—the only book I have which was gifted to me and I really love. I can’t thank my luck enough, I’d never have got into Bill Watterson’s world without this.

Worst book ever:
In all fairness, I can’t say. I’m either indifferent to some book, or I love it. And give me any book, I’ll find some way to justify my reading it…

Grossest character ever written:
Toohey from the Fountainhead. Ughh…going for a bath.

And I’m not going to spread this meme at all. No one I really know is book-crazy enough, nor do most of them have blogs. And the few people I do know have already posted this.

Igby goes down

I woke up early today to study for today’s exam. That’s not going too well…

I need at least 30 minutes of just sitting around in the morning before I can do any actual work. I usually surf around the net, but today I turned on the TV. And in compensation, I got to see a really good movie.

I missed the first half-hour or so of Igby Goes Down, and even after starting to watch it I guess I missed some time—early morning my mind is totally blank. But then as I started to wake up, I realized the this was a really good movie.

It’s about a dysfunctional family, and I guess it reminded me a of Garden State. Everyone’s acting was great for a change—and I really liked the dark-toned humour in this one. Anyways, it kept me riveted for an hour, which was nice.

Can’t do much of a review now, gotta be back to studies.

June 03, 2005

The craziness goes on

OK, there are two crazy things going on right now that I’m gonna talk about. Everything else is equally crazy, but these two are more fun.

First, the idiots in the (central) government here have banned smoking in films. New Bollywood movies now won’t have anyone smoking, and older ones are going to be shown with warning signs or something. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Hollywood stuff shown—maybe that will just get away with warning signs too. I hope they don’t start cutting whole scenes just because someone is smoking…

OK, repeat after me—the government is a bunch of morons. Again. The government is a bunch of morons.

Now that we’ve got this straight, tell me if you’re banning cigarettes on screen, why not ban them everywhere? Oh, you like the tax money don’t ya…

Oh, I laughed a lot reading this asinine thing, but now I guess the laugh is on us.

Next up, it’s the plan to introduce .xxx domain names. OK, lets get this straight—online “adult” content deserves it’s own domain. I don’t care. But you do know what is going to happen next don’t ya, countries like India will filter off any .xxx site. Not just porn, any adult material some guy thought to post on a site. The whole frikkin domain will be off limits.

Which I think was kinda the plan all along or something. Fanatics and all everywhere will try to pressure sites that have even a trace on “the stuff” to this domain—which will promptly be blocked. They are trying to categorize the net, which of course will never work. This is just gonna lead to a whole lot of shouting around, I tell ya.

“Frustration”

You think I was too frustrated with Software Engineering, then read what a friend posted on a shared Backpack page:

Pressman Assassinated
Dr. Pressman, a renowned specialist in helping companies establish effective software engineering practices, passed away today in a bizarre incident where in a student who read his book (the old 5th edition) stabbed him to death. Sources close to the FBI tell us that the boy was an Indian. On further probing it was revealed that this boy had read the whole book and attempted his 3rd year examination in Engineering and the paper being tough he could not answer all the questions. This motive led to the performance of the brutal act.

This has stirred the teaching community and professors in India have sweared to set easy papers from now on. Who knows they may be next in the line ?

As per the identity of the boy who committed the crime, its still unknown.

This is Anonymous, reporting for Engg. news, India.

And anyone who takes this seriously will answer to me ;)

June 02, 2005

The Bastards…how dare they!

OK, I don’t normally care about current issues and news as such, but this one hurts. Hell, even Yahoo! picked it up.

The idiots we have over here in the Maharashtra government, when the state’s in the middle of a huge power crisis, have banned people selling books on streets.

OK, around Chruchgate there is a huge collection of hawkers selling every book under the sun you can find, and cheap. After every semester, I go around there and pick up as many good books I can find. Heck, there are so many books there that I’m lost most of the times, I just stare. I even have a regular guy I go to, who gives me the best deals as he knows I always come back. He even goes around looking for books I want if he does not have them.

Now all gone…

Ya, they had banned hawkers years ago, but they never acted on it. They’re evicting anyone who’s selling books there now. I’m not too worried, they will set up shop somewhere else. But I don’t think that it will again be at the same scale. OK, exams get over in a week, I’ll have to go the next day and check. Can’t stand the thought of losing all those books…

June 01, 2005

OK so far…

With the risk of being really boring, I’m going to write about how my exams are going so far.

The first, ITA went as well as possible. I had long sworn that I’d not learn anything related to programming just because it’s in the syllabus—I’ll learn some language only if I want to. And I don’t want to learn ASP right now, so I didn’t. That cost me 10 marks out of the hundred, but it’s OK with me.

The next was DBMS, which was actually an easy paper for a change. But I’m somewhat pissed at making some really stupid mistakes. It seems all my mistakes are stupid, and I only make mistakes when I know the subject. If I’m just bluffing, I almost always come up with the right answer, which is really weird.

And I’m typing this because tomorrow’s Software Engineering, the worst of the lot. Not difficult at all, if you consider reading something that’s so boring that it makes you wish you’d never learned to read difficult. It’s the most meaningless crap I’ve read.

The whole subject is about the “process” of software engineering—if I wanted to learn management I’d not have done engineering. What really bugs me is that 90% of management is BS, and I’ve got a natural talent at BS-ing my way through life. I’d be really good at it—it’s just that I don’t want to be.