30 Dec 2007

Google again

Google has stepped into a domain again. This time it is the ubiquitous mobile phones/ computing. No doubt, it is all going to be an awe-inspiring innovation. The Google mobile instrument has been dubbed as gPhone. It does not seem to be the official name, either.

One can safely assume that there is going to be a lot of news around the gPhone pretty soon. The heart of the project is not the gadget itself, but what the gadget can do and how. As one might have guessed, all the Google's web and desktop applications are to be made available on the phone; thereby increasing the reliance of the user on Google for even the smallest tasks.

Mobile applications have always been there, but Google has stretched the boundaries just when the domain seemed saturated. All these applications are based on a development framework called 'Android', which uses C/ C++ APIs, which in turn, interact with a Linux kernel. All of this is packaged into an open source SDK and is available for the developers to be exploited. A hefty reward of 10 million dollars has been offered for the best development of application using Android. More information and tutorials are available at:
Homepage - http://code.google.com/android
Video resources - http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=GoogleDevelopers

There could be a direct threat to the likes of the Windows mobile and iPhone! Hopefully, the end users and the IT industry are to be the gainers.

2008 could very well be the year for mobile computing because the launch of Microsoft Visual Studio .Net 2008 is supposed to ease the development of mobile applications, as well. The launch of iPhone will definitely have opened avenues for its development of applications. Awesome, huh?

29 Dec 2007

Strange-huh!

Viewed on: 23 Dec 07 15:00
Viewed at: Home

Strangers.
Starring (in order of appearance): Jimmy Shergill, KK Menon, Nandita Sen, Sonali Kulkarni, Kitu Gidwani

Similar movie: Don't know of any

Genre: Thriller murder
Story: The story starts with two guys of seemingly opposite natures meeting in a train to London and talking about each other's lives. They share their marriage woes and conclude that their miseries could end if they kill each other's wives. They come up with the plan for the perfect murders. One of them is arrested by the police while the other one watches him. The narration alternates between the present and past events; eventually, unravelling the unexpected twist.

Unforgettable clips:
  • Most of the scenes in the film are shot in the compartment of the train with the closed glass windows. I tried hard to find the reflection of a camera or the movement in the train, but I could'nt. There must have been quite some effort to ensure that nothing gave way.
  • The change of the colour of KK's eyes when he steps out of the washroom in the train.
  • The grids, almost like powerpoint actions, that connect two scenes of different time lines.
Pros:
  • The acting is pretty decent. The choice of actors which are not mainstream and not type-casted plays an important role in building up the finale because it keeps the story unpredictable.
  • The story is not the masala movie kind.
  • The film is pacy and the dialogues are witty.
  • The location and the environment are quite unusual to Hindi movies.
  • The movie assumes that the audience is mature and smart.
Cons:
  • The climax could had been more sudden or shorter in order to make it more shocking.
  • The music is unusual, but the song(s), penned by Javed Akhtar, are not hummable. I don't even remember the song.
Recommended if:
  • You liked Johny Gaddar (although it is less stylish)
  • You liked Shaayad (a less popular serial on Zee TV that featured tales with twisted ending)

28 Dec 2007

Starry eyed

Damn it, they have come up with one more of those songs. As if the cold and the chill are not enough. Damn it.

First it was 'Yeh jo des hai tera' from 'Swades' and now, 'Maa' from 'Taare Zameen Par'. Both of them start with a slow pace almost lulling pace. Both of them have great lyrics. And both of them make me want to cry... 'cos both of them make me miss MY home and MY mom and MY family. These songs brew up into the perfect concoction for home-sickness.
Maa/ Mother
Yu toh main batlaata nahi, / I do not ever mention it,
Par Andheray se darta hu main, maa./ But, I m afraid of the dark, mom.
Yu toh main dikhlaata nahi,/ I do not ever show it,
Teri parwaah karta hu main, maa./ But, I care a lot about you, mom.
Tujhe sab hai pataa, hai naa, maa?/ You know everything, mom, don't you?
Tujhe sab hai pataa, meri maa./ You know everything... O my mom.

Bheed mein yu naa chhodo mujhe,/ Don't leave me like this in the crowd,
Ghar laut ke bhi naa aanaa paaoo, maa./ I won't be able to reach home, mom.
Bhej na itna durr mujhko tu,/ Don't send me so far,
Yaad bhi tujhko aanaa paaoo, maa./ That you won't even remember me, mom.
Kya itna bura hu main, maa?/ Am I that bad, mom?
Kya itna bura ... meri maa?/ Am I really that bad... O my mom?

Moviethon

Online movies and video streaming is advertised as one of the features by all the broadband providers; and why not? It is quite natural to opt for watching movies online for no cost when the theatres are demanding such high amounts. If there is a movie which you missed at the theatre or do not have it on CD/ DVD or just want to watch it for free, the internet offers many choices. In fact, some of the movie studios have launched online movie portals that offer films to be watched through video streaming.

There are regular requests for understanding how to watch the latest movies or shows through the internet. So here is my attempt at summarising some of the methods for using the internet for audio/ video entertainment.


You can search and watch a streaming video at one of the following sites, to name a few popular ones:
http://video.google.com
http://www.dailymotion.com
http://www.veoh.com [may require a free divx player]
http://www.stage6.com
http://www.watch-movies.net

One can also search for videos on the net using the following google query:
-inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:"index of" +"last modified" +"parent directory" +description +size +(mpeg|avi) "[name of the movie]"

Sometimes it is preferred to download and keep a movie for viewing it at leisure. Or sometimes the internet speed might not allow for a smooth streaming of video. In such cases, one might want to download the entire movie. That is where torrents comes in.

  1. Download and install a BitTorrent client. [My preference is the ultra light ĀµTorrent - http://www.utorrent.com]
  2. Go to a BitTorrent tracker site and search of the movie you wish to watch. The most popular BitTorrent trackers based on the number of torrents and users in the share are:
    • http://www.thepiratebay.org
    • http://www.demonoid.com
    • http://sumotracker.org
    • http://torrentbox.com
  3. For Indian movies, one should rather visit a forum related to Indian movies like desitorrent.com or exdesi.com. Search for more such forums through google. [keywords: torrents forum desi]. The advantage of this approach is that most of these forums provide a screenshot of the movie thereby, giving an indication of the print quality.
  4. The downloaded file is usually a file with .torrent extension.
  5. Open the BitTorrent tracker and add the .torrent file to it. This should now start the download (and the upload). Please check the help files of the BitTorrent tracker for more details.
Tips:
- Some forums restrict downloads until certain download/upload ratio is maintained. To override this, http://www.torrenteditor.com can be used to manipulate the .torrent file.
- If there is a choice of multiple torrents for the same movie, use the one with the maximum seeders count.

24 Dec 2007

Christmas Leftover

It could be some kid's savings over the year or it could be a poor mother's present to her child. Who knows? But there must be a way to know.

I was already loaded with a lot of bags on my way home. The Christmas frenzy and the cold chill and the need to visit the toilet was all adding to the sense of urgency to reach home. The bus was empty. No one other than the driver and me. When I got up for the last stop, I made sure that I picked up all the bags that were with me. I had realised that there was a bag which was different. It wasn't mine. Did not know if it should be picked up or not. Now, I feel that I should have left it for the authorities.

When I came home, I found that the mystery bag had a camera in it. The enclosed bill proved that it was quite expensive. The cash payment meant that the owner cannot be traced via the credit card information from the store. The transportation website was discouraging enough in the lost and found department. There was an instant loss of ideas of what to do next. I just made a few inquiries with friends and they suggested that the package should be considered Santa's gift or that the package is asking for a post on eBay.

It would be difficult for me to trace the owner, but it should be so easy if the transport system can help. There are CCTV cameras in all the buses. All they have to is check who was sitting on that seat before me. Then determine where that person got into the bus. Then just find out his personal details from the transport card that the person swiped at the entry. Of course, all this would fall apart if that person's details were incorrect or not available in the records at all. However, if the owner were to do the same for tracing me, he would certainly be united with his package.

Until then, the packet stays with me safe.

23 Dec 2007

India Driving

Received an email today. Could not resist sharing it on blogger.

Driving in Bangalore/ India.

For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle is only marginally safer.

Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best, and leave the results to your insurance company. The hints are as follows: Do we drive on the left or right of the road? The answer is "both". Basically you start on the left of the road, unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that is also occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don't drive, but just aim their vehicles in the generally intended direction.

Don't you get discouraged or underestimate! e yourself lf except for a belief in reincarnation; the other drivers are not in any better position.

Don't stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back.

Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts),or just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar.

Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister's motorcade, or waiting for the rainwater to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.

Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty, often meeting with success.

Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between a rickshaw and an automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on an external combustion engine that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil and creosote. This triangular vehicle carries iron rods, gas cylinders or passengers three times its weight and dimension, at an unspecified fare. After careful geometric calculations, children are folded and packed into these auto rickshaws until some children in the periphery are not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags are pushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisions with other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course, the peripheral children are charged half the fare and also learn Newton's laws of motion enroute to school.
Auto-rickshaw drivers follow the road rules depicted in the film Ben Hur, and are licensed to irritate.

Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise like an electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol and travels at break-bottom speed. As the sides of the road are too rough for a ride, the moped drivers tend to drive in the middle of the road; they would rather drive under heavier vehicles instead of around them and are often "mopped" off the tarmac.

LeaningTower of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes and during rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengers hanging off other passengers, who in turn hang off the railings and the overloaded bus leans dangerously, defying laws of gravity but obeying laws of surface tension. As drivers get paid for overload (so many Rupees per kg of passenger), no questions are ever asked. Steer clear of these buses by a width of three passengers.

One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jest in their otherwise drab lives.
Don't stick to the literal meaning and proceed in one direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that you cannot proceed in two directions at once. So drive as you like, in reverse throughout, if you are the fussy type. Least I sound hypercritical, I must add a positive point also.

Rash and fast driving in residential areas has been prevented by providing a "speed breaker"; two for each house. This mound, incidentally, covers the water and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred for easy identification by the corporation authorities, should they want to recover the pipe for year-end accounting.

Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience for those with the mental make up of Genghis Khan. In a way, it is like playing Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst the drivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turns out to be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, just pull partly into the field adjoining the road until the phenomenon passes.

Our roads do not have shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blink your lights expecting reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truck is the driver, and with the peg of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has had at the last stop, his total cerebral functions add up to little more than a naught. Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India, and are licensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single powerful beam of light about six feet above the ground.This is not a super motorbike, but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the left one. It could be the right one, but never get too close to investigate. You may prove your point posthumously.

I think this can apply to any city in India

Bhel-kam

Viewed on: 21 Dec 07 20:30
Viewed at: Odeon, Uxbridge

Welcome.
Starring (in order of entertainment ranks): Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Feroz Khan, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Katrina Kaif, Mallika Shwerawat

Similar movie: Mickey Blue Eyes

Genre: Bollywood masala comedy

Story: Two dons want to get their sister married to a decent boy from a non-criminal family. A doctor wants to get his nephew married to a girl from a family who is not related to any crime. The boy meets girl and they get married in the after resolving the differences.

Unforgettable clips:
  • Mallaika Arora's item number and her flabby tummy with stretch marks.
  • Anil Kapoor's goggles that split at the center and his painting of an ass on a horse.
  • Nana Patekar's dialog about how he needs a decent boy for his sister. He starts with it anytime.
  • Feroz Khan entry music - remix of instrumental 'Laila main Laila' and his 'abhi hum zinda hai'.
  • Ballu's (Nana's sidekick) popat-like narration of how he was beaten up by the dons and lost his leg.
  • The wooden cabin hanging from the cliff over some logs.
Pros:
  • Absolutely superb casting.
  • Some bizarre scenarios made credible.
  • Acting stalwarts.

Cons:
  • Songs. Especially the start of song by Himesh.

Recommended if:
  • You enjoy movies like 'No Entry' (by the same director)
  • You do not crib about the lack of logic in bollywood comedies
  • You are not ashamed of laughing out loud at the silliness of the hero

20 Dec 2007

Hair care

When I first visited the land of hard water, it did not take me long to realise that everytime I wash my head, I lose a lot of hair. It did not take me long to realise either that it was not snow fall in winter; it was just the dandruff from my hair. So, I tried a few things that almost worked.


Some of things that worked for dandruff were:
1. Applying coconut oil on a Friday night and then washing it off in the morning. Almost no dandruff till Tuesday.
2. Elvive anti-dandruff shampoo. (I got this one as a set of 2 complimentary sachets from the local gym. It lasted for 4 washes, during which I missed the snowfall for 4 days)

However, both these only worsened hairfall. Until recently (my recent is about a month and half old now and there is still hair on my scalp), my wife suggested this:
  • Applying warm coconut oil to the scalp.
  • Combing out the hair.
  • Washing the hair with Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo in lukewarm water first.
  • followed by rinsing it in cold water. (I have not tried this with the ice cold water for fear of the obvious).
The dandruff and the hairfall has reduced significantly. The hair remains dandruff free for almost a week. I will continue this for a few more months and update this blog.

Of course, the above just worked for me and might not be applicable for everyone. Besides, I do not have a quantitative proof of the weight of dandruff or hairfall before and after each of the tries. (As if I would do it for even a 1000 pounds). (Maybe I would for 10000 pounds :P)

19 Dec 2007

Whisky

If it is a weekend, the entire group of friends and their wives meet at someone's house for food and games. Of course, kids join in, too. And there the fun starts. The naughtiest, and perhaps, the most active of them kids was there, too, when my pad was the chosen location for the evening. The usual round of interviewing the kid started.


"Beta, what is your full name?"
With utmost discipline he promptly gave his name.

"Where do you stay, beta?"
After a few gulps of juice, he told his entire address. And everyone was intently listening to his stammering replies.

"Do you go to school?"
With all the patience, he could muster, he said loudly - "Yes"

"What is the name of your school?"
Still patient, he said - "Whisskee nursery school"

"What? What nursery school?"
"Whiskeee. Whissskeee." Almost spitting on the interviewers face at that long 's'.

"Whisky?"
Just then his papa intervened to clarify that his child is normal and goes to a institution named 'Whiz Kid nursery school'

Blog

It all started when Arvind came to my desk during his coffee break. That does not mean that I sit in the canteen or my desk is a coffee table! He mentioned that all the possible names have already been taken up on blogspot.com. So, I tried a few names right away and indeed almost all my tries on blogspot ended up with the blog name already existing. And I was trying names like fireexit, CtrlAltDel, Logout, Password, banjo, masalachai, gandu, HakunaMatata! Is the whole world blogging? There must be so much of recorded digital data out there – personal diaries, cooking recipes, amateur poetry, show of arts, family photos, innovative tutorials, technical articles, cribbing outbursts, political bashing, ugly confessions and what not. Just think about it and there is a blog for it! There must quite a detailed description about blog on sites like wikipedia, so I need not re-invent the wheel here.

Ketan joined in saying that blogs are a source of earning money if it is really famous. There were suggestions to have the first article something like interview with Osama bin Laden in the crowded train compartment of Indian railways. Whose father what goes? (literal translation of ‘kiske baap ka kya jaata hai?’) The suggestion had to be turned down due to risk to life. A better way to attract eye balls would be an interview with a celebrity like Shilpa Shetty. But, why would she (for that matter, why would any known celebrity) give an interview to a first time blogger? In that case, why not just publish a fictional interview with Shilpa Shetty. Who is going to check whether everything that is printed was actually said by her? By the way, Shilpa Shetty’s biography is available in Poundland!

So coming back to the topic for a blog… there is no specific topic in mind. But there is so much happening around… so much humour and so much random unrelated stupidity… lets have a blog, I say. Why not? One more drop to the existing sea of blog bytes being. Like the Big B would have said – Hum Kahaan chalo hamau blog likh aaaye