Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Monday


This day doesn't even deserve a date, a title or any marker that it was the last Monday in February. Why? Coz it sucked.

I woke up with a migraine and sore knees. My head hurt so bad that I had to take medical action to get things in order. I was all right to go to work after an extended nap but I was set up for failure. Our offices had been moved to the third floor so it took some time to set things up like I liked them. The monitors were all over the place and the damned Microwave oven - the less I say about it the better it is. It has been in my office since I moved out of 26 and somehow I can't get rid of it. Maybe sell it on Micronews ads?

I finally got down to doing something around 5pm but it didn't last too long. Karan walked in and insisted we go get dinner; we have catered dinner all week and a steady supply of lattes through the day to keep us working like bees. Before I knew it, it was 7pm and I gave up all hopes of getting any productive work in before calling it a night. I surprised myself though by sending out a bunch of emails between 7 and 9pm that gave me some sense of accomplishment as I walked to my car to head to the Pro Club.

Squash drills for an hour were the bulk of my workout. I got back home excited to watch today's episode of 24 but what do you know - it wasn't recorded because my disk had run out of space. Given the events of the day, this wasn't such an unexpected outcome. Deleted a whole bunch of South Park episodes, fired up Firefox and found the torrent for tonight's episode. It is downloading as I type this but I'll only get to watch the episode tomorrow night, if at all. The last episode of "The IT Crowd" has got to do for tonight's entertainment.

Time to shower and get ready for bed. Peace out and have a great week. Wait, before I sign out, I just had a realization. Things can only get better after having started out this bad :)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Song of the Week

:Link to Article:
Don't Hold Back - The Chemical Brothers

Great party song and the theme for Budweiser's new commercial.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Free Form Writing - Thursday night


I can't get to bed before 3am; my mind is blank, my body is tired from having worked out but I can't sleep. It's no suprise then that I can't wake up in the morning on time for a 10am meeting. This explains my terrible form on the squash court - I am sluggish and unable to focus a 100%. It will definitely help if I stopped blogging :)

That 70s show is playing on the TV but I've seen all these episodes. The audio still cracks me up though, maybe why I like the show so much. The show I really like these days is Grey's Anatomy; if you watch the show, do you feel that it has gotten steamier over the past couple of months?

Work has been very hectic these past couple of weeks but the results have been satisfying. If you've read anything about Windows Vista, you'll know that the product is entering the final few stages of development. The months leading up to August will be spent readying the product for its release to manufacturers. Needless to say, it's going to be even more hectic but hopefully, the product's release will be a rewarding milestone!

That's it from me. I'm looking forward to a great weekend of partying - Friday night is the Hobo Hodown party at Rick's and Saturday is Bhangra Bash night. Yippee...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Quote of the Week


Don't take life too seriously,
You're not going to get out of it alive.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Deny, Downplay and Hide Complex


You can run but you can never hide

Why do we deny our associations with some individuals? Maybe the individual has a questionable reputation, is a convicted felon or a social anathema. But if you are spending time with the person, whatever makes the person unpalatable to the rest of the world is invisible to you - yes? Isn't hiding the association being plain disrespectful and hypocritical?

I do know that society (our immediate connections to it in particular) is both judgemental and quick to make assumptions, draw conclusions. "What's going on with them?", is the common question the "involved' party wants to duck, especially if it is tossed over the fence by outsiders. Maybe if we all were more tolerant towards and less curious about our friends and their "associations", there would be no need to hide.

From my vantage point, I see hiding woven into the fabric of society; we're always going to have something to hide. Makes you wonder if there is any truth in the quote that started off this post...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

One Week with the Powerbook

:Link to Article:
After having used PCs exclusively for about fifteen years, I got my hands on a Powerbook G4 and embarked on the Mac Xperiment. I haven't used my Windows Laptop since but I have to admit, I can't stop using my Media Center PC to watch TV. Back to the Mac story, what does it feel like to be a novice computer user? To begin with, it sucks any which way you look at it!

On the getting tasks done front - my computer came installed only with the applications that were on the Apple OS Install DVD. I didn't know what applications exist for the Mac, and of those that I could download, I had no past history to select one over the others. And finally, the thought of paying for software made me shake in my boots. Thank God for Google, and for Freeware apps!

On the being productive as I get tasks done front - I am a Windows Power user and almost never use the mouse. It's all about them keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are like Robitussin, "Robitussin can cure anything." On the Mac, I didn't know any keyboard shortcuts so I had to use the mouse. Without my robitussin, I felt like a cripple; I struggled with getting tasks done, with navigating through the interface. That was till I spent time reading Mac Help; my "tussin" supply is now on the upward swing but still not at comfortable levels. Using the keyboard on the Mac is a little more complicated than on the PC though. For starters, there are 4 modifier keys - Ctrl, Shift, Alt/Option and Command. Weirdly though, most of the applications I have downloaded employ the use of very similar shortcuts to get tasks done. I'll comment on this aspect in a subsequent paragraph. For all the extra keys, they got rid of the "Del" key. Go figure...

My overall impression? I have one word for the user experience with the powerbook - sublime. First up, the hardware is top-notch: the built-in speakers deliver a rich sound, the machine wakes up from sleep within a second, the laptop is light in weight not on accessories (dvd/cd-rw drive, multiple usb and firewire ports, DVI and S-video outs, modem input, ethernet and built-in wireless) and the battery life is astounding - 4 hours on average this past week. When I first got the machine, I presumed that it was tricked out with 1GB of RAM, a huge hard disk and a super fast processor. I was wrong - this is the medium grade configuration Powerbook, not top of the line. Not for once have I perceived the machine to be sluggish; windows animate in and out of the dock, Spotlight searches through my documents, iTunes plays my music and I have 4 dashboard widgets always running. With all these applications in the background, I can browse the web and scroll documents smoothly without perceivable lag - now that's tight!

Then the applications - they are few but plain beautiful and intuitive. Application writers for the Mac have paid special attention to integrating their products with the look and feel of the OS. The following shortcuts work for all apps, without exception: Command-Q quits, Command-H hides the application's windows (all of them), Command-` cycles through an application's windows and Command-? is the universal help command; and this is just the keyboard shortcuts story. The Mac software ecosystem is very small compared to its Windows counterpart; on one side, it is frustrating at times to not have as many options and tools. On the flip side, the quality and attention to detail in the applications I have used make up for the limited choice. I'd much rather have a small set of applications that are well designed than a plethora of poorly conceived ones.

Here are the apps I am using currently and the tasks they are associated with:
Web Browsing - Camino
Music - iTunes
Video - VLC
IM - Yahoo Messenger
Sound Editing - Audacity

Here is a great list of freeware applications for the Mac: link

Time for my list of Mac annoyances. For one, I can't switch tabs using any key combination (I serendipitously discovered how a few moments ago), I have to use the mouse. The trackpad sensitivity is very high so I have had to disable its use for Clicking. My browser doesn't have built-in RSS support. I don't know where to file bugs (or whether I care to file bugs). In all honesty, the fact that I don't know enough is an annoyance - I hate feeling like a novice, especially when it comes to using a computer. That my core competency. Till next Sunday...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bollywood Actresses


... today are total hotties, in great shape and very hip. My current favourite is Priyanka Chopra. Her sultry looks, luscious lips and lilting voice make my knees buckle. (I am sitting on my couch as I write this to avoid any accidents - :))

Hindi film actresses are often credited for their appearances in a film's song and dance sequences. That's unfortunate if you ask me because these videos are formulaic, much like hip-hop videos. The MO of a superhit song is simple; a gathering of scantily clad women gyrate their hips dance (very suggestively) to a song with catchy beats. Throw some rain showers in the mix and you've got a sure hit. Don't get me wrong here, this involves a lot of camera work, post-processing and technology to get the *desired* effect. Or is it?

Many claim that the new wave in Bollywood is tragically hip. Asha Bhonsle stated most eloquently in a recent interview, "Everything these days is technically brilliant and very hip. All that is lacking is soul."

Song of the Week

:Link to Article:
Pump It - The Black Eyed Peas

The site doesn't work in Firefox though :((

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Free Form Writing - The Series


As I watch BBC World and listen to all about how the Abu Ghraib prisoners are being treated, I can't think of anything to write about from my day. A most ordinary day today was, if anything stood out it was the fact that I woke up early in the morning. Early by my standards - I was out of bed at 8:15am. I downloaded an alarm application for the Mac last night that woke me up to a lounge playlist in my iTunes folder. I must comment about the Mac platform. Though there are fewer apps for the platform, they integrate seamlessly with the OS. It's a total pleasure to use the powerbook and what makes the experience isn't the hardware, it is the software. I've been reading many reviews on the Internet about hardware specs of machines and how better hardware makes for a better user experience. Bollocks I tell you, total bollocks. Give me an inferior piece of hardware with great software that has paid attention to user's needs and I'll love it. Maybe because I'm not a hardware geek...

I made good headway in figuring out how to fix a few bugs at work today. How could I forget, I solved my first Sudoku puzzle today while eating lunch. I have found my lunch time companion now and will try to eat after the crowds recede in the cafeteria. That way, I can solve my puzzle in peace.

The thing with Free Form Writing is that it's not big on substance; the mundane details do well to fill screen estate but the words mean nothing. Prose doesn't need to be profound all the time; if anything, prosaic prose makes one appreciate finer writing. As do ordinary days; when a big day comes along, I'll know it and enjoy it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Squash Game Mirroring Real Life?


My squash game is sucking, big time! I'm losing to people I have beaten comprehensively in the past. The less I say about my fitness level, the better. Things haven't been rosy on the personal front too. There are a bunch of things on my mind these days; my future, where I will be a year from now, what I can do to be re-invigorated at work, ...

Growing up, I was told that the only constant in life was change. I've learnt of the existence of another - the constant passage of time. Darned thing about time is it neither waits for anyone nor does it leave anyone behind. In my case, the passage of time has resulted in change; I should feel blessed, right? Wrong! I have aged, I am a little wiser but definitely miss the youthful vigour of yore. The new found wisdom seems worthless though; my old questions remain unanswered as new ones pile up. And did I mention my squash game yet?

What the years have taught me is that my form on the squash court is an insight into my psychosomatic state. It has happened before, I've gotten through it and it is now happening again. Conventional wisdom points to life being like a sine wave in which ups and downs alternate. Clearly, I'm down but I also know how to get myself up again - baby steps, small changes, tiny increments. Did I hear someone say more workouts?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Gross Cell Phone Usage in 2006


January 2006
Minutes Used: 3001
Peak Time Minutes: 648
Extra Charges: 48 minutes, $24

January 2006
Minutes Used: 3145
Peak Time Minutes: 669
Extra Charges: 69 minutes, $31

And I have received complaints from people that I am not staying in touch with them as much as I used to. 3000+ minutes on the phone not enough apparently - demanding people I tell you. The rate at which I am going though, the microwaves are going to destroy most of my brain cells making me prosaic, so I will have less to say on the phone, which will solve my problem, no? It had to come down to this, a toss up between brain cells and yakking on my cell phone. Which one do I pick, which one do I pick?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Frontline on PBS: Sex Slaves

:Link to Article:
I spent most of today catching up on recorded TV (more on why this was a stupid move is forthcoming). Some Simpsons, some That 70s show episodes and just now, I finished watching an episode of Frontline titled, Sex Slaves. As this episode ran its course, I went from being curious to being apalled at how women are conned, coerced and humiliated into joining the sex trade. This episode follows the life of women who originate in the poorest countries of Eastern Europe (Moldova, Ukraine, and the like) and are taken to Turkey to... I can't bring myself to say it.

Some of the incidents related by the women made me wonder. What can possibly provoke a man to beat up and physically molest a woman, especially one that doesn't make any demands of him? The plight of the women and what their "pimps" and "clients" did to them disgusted me. What disgusted me even more was the fact that one of the biggest traffickers of women to Turkey was, another woman.

I'm moved to the point of saying this flat out. Even if I ever thought of paying for sex (which I haven't), I'll never do it, NEVER!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

How to protect your Windows PC from Spyware, Malware and Rootkits


This is a typical scene everytime I visit a non-techie's house.

Non-techie: Manoj, my PC is running dog slow.
Me: Have you been using a file sharing application or downloading apps from the web?
Non-techie: Yes

What ensues is a thorough scan of the person's computer to find and quash spyware, malware and adware. I have great news - there is a new star on the horizon, a type of program that can hide itself from even the administrator and wreak havoc on your system. It is called the Rootkit.

You might recall that Sony-BMG came into a lot of flak a few months ago. This was because their audio CDs installed an undetectable software on Windows machines that bore characteristics very similar to malicious rootkits. The program would track your usage of any Sony-BMG copy protected CD and would transmit your usage data to a Web service. This was their first attempt at an Active Copy Protection mechanism, designed to deter the ripping and sharing of music. I'll summarize by saying that the company is still recovering from this PR nightmare.

Not all is lost for Windows users though. Here is how you can protect your computer from these malicious tools:

1. Disable Autorun
Low tech but very useful nonetheless. If you have a Windows PC, a feature called Autorun provides CD vendors with the opportunity to run a program everytime you insert the CD into the computer. This feature was exploited by the Sony CDs to install their copy-protection program on machines and you should disable it.

Hopefully, you trust me and will download this file to your computer to disable autorun: noauto.reg. Double click on the file once it has download and reboot the machine to disable Autorun. For the curious and paranoid, the contents of noauto.reg are:

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CdRom]
"Autorun"="0"

2. Install an anti-spyware program on your machine
In the Anti-spyware release, Microsoft's Windows Security team has a winner. You can install it from here: Anti-Spyware Beta

Good luck with protecting your PC. As always, if you can't figure something out about your PC, feel free to contact me.

The 4 Week Beard


Is no more. I shaved this morning after more than four weeks of resisting the urge to pick up my razor. And it feels so good that I'm going to get a friend to take a picture of me today. I have a picture from last week's festivities during the Super Bowl and I'm going to put the 2 pictures up just as a comparison.

Many people asked me why I grew my beard out. There is only so long I have till my beard is all black. Once gray sets in (which, to be honest, has already), a new phase in my life will have begun. I don't want to be quoted on this but I'll resist the temptation to use dye on my gray. There you have it - vanity gets the better of all of us.

The Mac Xperiment


Thanks to a colleague at work, I am currently in possession of the best selling and most versatile Apple notebook ever, the Titanium Powerbook G4. I started with a clean slate - when I received the machine, I wiped it clean and installed the OS afresh. Within 40 minutes, I was up and running with the latest updates (OS 10.4.4) and this is my first blog post from Safari - woohoo!

I am going to use this machine as my gateway to the internet at home. This might be a life changing experience, a make-or-break so to speak. Since I've never had a Mac before, I have always wondered what using one for day to day activities would be like. To summarize, I have coveted one for such a long time that if this doesn't rise to my inflated expectations, I'll be turned off the platform for good. The real test would be after I have overcome the initial teething troubles and transition hurdles. If I grow to like the machine and get accustomed to the quirks of the platform, I'll make the switch in toto. Already I sense a discomfort with the Mac platform because I hate using the mouse and there are some actions on a Mac that mandate mouse usage. I'll write some scripts to automate the tasks I really care about so I don't need the mouse no more. Can't think of anything else immediately but trust me, my experiences will definitely be chronicled. For the sake of research and the betterment of mankind, I must take the plunge...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Browser Statistics for this site


Eye in the Sky

:Link to Article:
No better way to start a week than by listening to an old favourite. I walked into Karan's office a little while ago and heard a song by APP that took me back to the days when I first heard Eye in the Sky. I wish I could remember it like it was yesterday, but I can't. No wait, it was my 3rd year in Engineering School and my life was upheaval personified. While discovering who I am, I realized that I might not meet the expectations of the people who mattered. This sent me into a tailspin of sorts, I stopped caring about grades and my performance naturally flagged. As is the norm, when you are down and out, everything around you seems to work against you, pulling you further down.

I'm not without scars from those times - the insecurities that rise to the surface are to some extent, a consequence of those years in Pilani. I had lost direction and didn't know how to find my way back. I'm not completely out of the woods now but I now know that there is more than one way out; try I must to find at least one.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Working Out - the Fringe Benefits


Let me tell you a little something about myself, something very few people know. I am an extremely passionate and emotional person with a very short temper. I didn't realize this but working out keeps me under control, helps me release any bottled up anger, emotion and frustration.

I saw Rang De Basanti this evening and the movie infused in me a strong sense of nationalism. I'm not a very vocally patriotic person unless my feelings are either questioned or provoked. I can't tell you which of the two reasons stirred up my feelings (maybe both did) but I was sure as hell riled up after the movie. And then, I saw an episode of Smallville, the first after Clark lost his father. And now I'm in an emotional tizzy. And, I can't work out because the gym is closed! Go see RDB; the colourful imagery, the youthful story and the throwback to the revolution will definitely stir something up inside of you.

Back to my emotional state. What does experiencing these varied and pent-up emotions add up to? A severe headache. And knowing me, I won't take any medicines to make myself any better. Hopefully, the painful times will pass...