Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pickup Mission 2: Package Smackage!

Today was another pickup mission! Another one of the students doing their MS in SIUE (where my bro studies) had come to Hyderabad just the other day, and guess what? My brother sent things via her! Yeah, that's pretty common anyways, people send things for their parents/relatives back in India via friends leaving to India! So what were those things? Where was the pickup point? Read on!

Oh yeah, that's "Reeft Punk" btw.. my avatar when I ride on the bike :P The helmet with no Visor gives the cool, winged helmet feel to it, and the shades block the dust completely (there is a LOT of dust in HYD, eyes get destroyed). Oh and always have my iPod on whenever riding :D

*The Destination!

The destination was also quite far away this time! (it's like a mandatory condition that the friend's house should be really far away) Luckily it was not as far away as the previous one, and this time it was on the opposite side of the city. The complete path is on the Highway!! That's the best part of it, finally got a chance to ride on the Highway (for a long distance) Enjoyed the ride a lot I must say.. but don't get too joyful! Things can get really dangerous. Good thing it was not very deep into the highway, else ultra super fast trucks would have started zooming by.

The house I had to go to was in Chanda Nagar and there were many other nagars inside ChandaNagar, it was a confusing mess! I was going on a straight path and then it split into three. Let's just say that I roamed 3Kms ("gullies" and all), for 15 minutes of every path. AND the last one was the right place :| Ofcourse, it always has to be the last place! (stupid Murphy and his law)

*The Package!

So I finally reached the house, (ofcourse with a lot of assist over the phone from Pratibha didi :P ) and there I was greeted to THIS chunk of awesomeness! Just look at towering package! I put everything into my bag, and also gave the things that I prepared for my brother.. made a complete DVD (along with labels and Covers) Took me around 3 months to edit the 3hr + Video (along with handpicked BGM etc :D ) And another DVD with all the pictures taken when he was not here. I also gave the 1 GB DDr ram that I had lying around here, with no use at all.

Then Sat there for a while talked a bit with Pratibha didi, got to know a few things about how they all saw my bro :P After talking for about an hour or so (and after eating 2 Ferrero Rochers! ) I started the return journey. It's getting dark very soon now a days, was pretty dark by 6PM itself! Reached home in under an hour and was ready to...

*Layeth the SmakethDown!

I guess I already told you all about how my brother is a deal finder and always tries to get things for... not the standard price :P Lemme write down the things with their price and how he got them for that much! Ok, without further ado, here are the things!

As you can see.. There are 4 PS3 games

  • LittleBigPlanet - $39 (Amazon Coupons)
  • Resistance 2 Collector's Edition - $59 (Offer in Amazon)
  • Heavenly Sword - $19 (Amazon again :P )
  • UT III - $19 ( $21 with tax, Walmart )

And then there are two BD Movies too!

  • Hulk Limited Edition - $16
  • TDK 2-Disc Special Edition - $10

Both from Columbia house, don't ask me HOW though :P

What? You thought that was all ? Now have a look here!

The first 3 games are from the buy 2 get 1 free GameStop offer that was up not too long ago. And remaining are form Amazon :D

  • Pikmin 1 - $24.99
  • Pikmin 2 - $39.99
  • LoZ: TP - $44.99
  • No More Heroes - $14.99
  • Wario Land : Shake it - $29.95
  • Mercury Meltdown : Revolutions - $9.95
Yeah! That's 5 Wii/GC games in there! Can't wait to start playing them all, hehe.. just need Luigi's Mansion, SMS, and Eternal Darkness now :P

Here is a panoramic shot of everything in one pic! (two pics stitched together)

Huh? It seems Mr.Ephelant seems to have found something.. what's that? AppleSeed : DuesEx Machina DVD and PURE for PC! (for JUST $5! )

So that's it for this pickup mission! Sure was exhausting! Came home, took pics and then posted the blogs, that's all what I did this day.. now off to sleep!

As a Special gift here is another nice shot of the whole of the whole package!

Check out the Full Album for more pics!

Package Smackage

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wii Music Impressions and Video!

So, I've finally got my hands on the Wii today, but I was not the first one to get their "hands on" it. I made my mom have the honour of being the first to play the game, with me and dad watching as she played.

The game started with no menu's, it had the tutor appear, and teach the basic 4 styles of operating the instruments in the game. My mom did all the tutorials and then played her first song! The rhythm of "twinkle twinkle" is well known to my mom (she is the one who taught me that afterall :P ) She did pretty good in her first ever try at playing instruments using the wii mote (she used to play real instruments back in her days). How did it go? well here is a Video :D

After and dad, went on playing for hours and ha real fun making music and seeing their music being played on the BG when they were playing the different instruments. (your previous plays add to the whole arrangement, automatically) soon they had done a whole 2x3 person band music of DoReMe (another one my mom and dad know, thanks to "The Sound of Music" ) well, it was good but not... how do I say this... video worthy :P However the amount of happiness and joy my parents had , was more than worth it to give it a 100 popularity points :P

Later I sat and experimented with a few things, wanted to see if I could do some custom changes to songs I know. I acutally wanted to play the SMB 1-1 song.. so to unlock it went on playing, soon I unlocked 47 songs but SMB song was no where to be found :(

One thing Wii Music really helped me in was, knowing the names of all those songs that I liked but never knew the names of. You know, the songs that came in Tom and jerry cartoons and some other merry melodies or Silly symphonies.

Here is a video of me doing that song which comes in that Tom and Jerry episode, you know, the one where nibbler sings the Ferero Rocher song :P

Here is another video of me playing a song that's OUT of this WORLD, and I think I heard this in another Tom and jerry episode :P I used this instrument I like very much, whose name I never knew till I played the game, and also dont know now, only remember that it starts with a "D" hehe.

You wont know the difference unless you've heard the original, tell me how it was :P I know I am no expert and it was just my first try, wanted to see how the whole thing goes.

Cant wait to sit and record some videos of me playing with some beat boxer or maybe doo wopper, but, I want my SMB 1-1 theme! Played for 5h:47m today and it was awesome, unlocked 47 songs, SMB 1-1 not included, played only 4 songs till now though :P

P.S : Btw, you have to hand it to the guys who do the Wii game musics, I mean, everyone of those Menu Musics are so soothing and relaxing, they are some of the best musics I have heard in recent times, the one that comes when you save a video is just too good, there are many in other Wii branded games too, and ofcource SMG also has some good music.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Pickup Mission and Feorgotting

Today was Eid, (Happy Eid to all! :D) Hence a holiday. So I decided I make most of this time and went to my brother's friend's house where he sent things that he bought in US. And these are just not normal purchases, everything was a special Deal...

*Point A to B

The journey was 60KM long and as usual I travelled via my lovely bike. Was happy to see that the traffic was no where near to what you see 90% of times here (and trust me, you'd never want to drive with that horrible traffic ) So I reached there and look at what I picked up!

Oooh yeah! Thats a lotta BDs and DVDs :D lemme list em.


  1. Iron Man Limited edition
  2. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  3. Kung fu Panda
  4. Batman Begins


  1. Predator
  2. Independance Day
  3. The Day After Tomorrow

And theres a PSN card and also a Fischer Price Cartoon DVD, that DVD was free. will see it... justcoz :P

As for the BDs, My brother bought it in a Buy 1 get 1 free offer from columbia house so Iron Man is the one he bought and BB is the free one, and I discovered that KungFu Panda was accidentall listed for "free" and ordered that ASAP, hehe (got a mail saying it was cancelled and then a "sorry, take it" later :P )

And Journey to the Center of the earth, just now I and my parents watched, it was a great movie.. I mean the BD comes with 4 pairs of 3D glasses and Both 3D and 2D versions on the Same disc .. AND a "digital copy" on a dvd, which I guess is a avi version or something of the whole movie. It has a CD key for it and everything, I dont know why it was give, but oh well. thats awesome, its 3 movie versions in 1!

The 3D effects did infact feel 3D-ish, and luckily it was more and better than Superman Returns (yeah, I saw that in 3D... in IMAX, lol)

As for the DVDs. I and my bro have a plan on buying almost all those old movies that we watched and loved. And with our complete Home theater set-up disaster movies with the extra blasts and eveything are top priority :P Ofcourse, its not like he bought all for direct price, my brother being the deal guy he is, always bought em in such a way that theres profits o matter whats, hehe 8)

He IMed me the other day saying he bought Ace Ventura Double Pack! and he wont send it.. that !@#!# :P

*Point B to C

Since I cae oh so far to take those things, I made sure that I made most of the milage and visited nearby shopping areas, so I went to the computer heaven of Andhra pradesh (CTC ) and first visited the Book depot there, its one of the hugest book selling place here.

First thing I saw was a "Guiness Book 2008" book and I immediately remembered this Story in GS (mine is 10th comment) I asked the guy if he had other versions and he said "I dont know" So I went deep into the shop, searching for new MAD mag issues (nope, still no issues, since 2+ years) and looking at various Amar Chitra Katah Books.

and Lo Behold What do I see?

Oh yeah! I got that thing.. I just couldnt help myself, but I just love General I put it

"I am always on a trivial pursuit for trivia"

As much as I love stories, I mostly love books that are information based, than novels and stuffs, have a ultra huge collection of magazines and stuff (8+ years of 2+ mag subscriptions :P ). Once I took a look at the book I saw so many things that I would just eat away, so many things that you wouldnt necessarily find written in articles all around the place, so it was an instant buy!

Official Price 1300 got it for 1100 :D

As for the other thing its a DK multimedia (remember, I hate I love maths?) CD on Human body which I bought for my uncle who runs a big tutorial. His methods of teaching are very homely and unique. He already had an old version of the thing which he used to show to students and teach but the disc got corrupt so I bought this new version (also compatible with Xp! :P )

*Alternate Path

Now instead of going home (Point A) from this place... I took a detour and encountered a shop which... sells games! I just tried my luck and asked them.. "left 4 dead hai kya?" (Do you have l4d?) and BAM... he said yes and got it! Woot! I was waiting to get my hands on this thing since a long time and I finally have it. So yeah.. if you are an indian and waiting for the game, just go and get it.. its out!

Just saw the opening cinematic, sure did describe what kind of experience Valve was planning for gamers to have. Now... I wonder if my first playthrough itself should be on Co-op or SP...

and Yeah my Steam ID is Reetesh. add me if you want to play along sometime :)

*To Point A, and Feorgotting

What? You never heard of Feorgotting? Well.. it could be because.. I made it up :P The thing is that, when coming back, I was wondering if I "put the CD back in after checking it" at the book shop (DK CD) And then I was thinking if put my Card back into the wallet after paying the bill. (even though at one point I remembered doing it) Soon, I started feeling that I checked for it and then removed it and didnt put it back in :lol:

Such kinds of loops went on happening as I rode back to point A, actually, this happens a LOT to me, I keep forgetting such things, JUST so that I can worry about it..its like there are two brains inside me :P

I coined this phenomenon as "fear+forgetting = feorgotting" always forgetting and getting that "fear" inside you if things were done right or not.

perfect example "Did I lock the doors while leaving or not"

*Mission Complete

So yeah, I came back took these pics, emptied around 70GB of HDD space, reorganized a lot of files, installed L4D, saw journey to the center of the earth and then.. wrote this! Thats all for this entry, oh yeah! did I forget to tell you theres a Wii Music there too!?

I dont know about you, but the game sold itself to me the instant I saw that demo by .. no not ravi, but this guy, J.C.Rodrigo Well, to be honest, I bought the game even before I saw the video, I just love psuedo music making games or what ever you want to call it (Passive Reactive Rhythm game etc etc) and I know that my mom will also like it, so why not buy it, and hey it has SMB 1-1 Music in it!!

See you soon then, lets hope theres more coming.. I heard TDK BD has come out today :twisted:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Organizing a Lan Gaming event

Pragnya is the name of my college's "Tech Fest" The story of how this thing started itself is some 100 pages story, so lets not get to it :P At the end, it indeed "started off" and was its 3rd and final day. I am one of the 4 organizers of the "Lan Gaming" event for the fest. Its a 3 day event, being held all day long and that too in a lab of our college.

The games included in the Lan Gaming event are CounterStrike 1.6 (obviously :P ) , NFS MW, FIFA 08, Warcraft III (DotA) , and Quake III. The QIII in there, was there because of my request. I never see UT or QIII in any of the events of other college's, so I just put it there for players like me :) We planned to have Tournaments for CS and NFS, everything else was planned to be a regular "friendly" match which means that we basically set up all the systems in lan and the people visiting could play on Lan connected systems for cheap and have fun (generating income for the prizes)

Out of the 4, I and another person were like the main people handling the games and systems etc etc. I was there helping with all the hardware and networking things, being a college computer lab, we faced bazillions of problems, I was so happy that everyone of those problems we faced was easily fixable for me (not that the problems themselves were not too big :P ) All 4 of us spent the first 3 days of the week assembling, installing all games and stuffs on the systems. When the event actually started one of us was the registrations handler, the other was seeing all formalities and coordinating things, I was the NFS referee the other was the CS referee.

We organizers have "black t-shirts" and the simple volunteers who came in during the events were the "white shirts" once again showing that "Black is 1337 choice" :P So yeah, the white shirts were there to help us monitor the tournament matches, noting down timings etc etc. Really helpful bunch I must say, made new friends too!

On the first day I and another one of the organizers had to run up and down the college building for almost an hour to get the permissions letter signed by 4 different people out of which one was not available for 45 minutes. In The end however, we got signatures of one Associate professor, two Head of Departments and our principal to formally "get permission" for doing the thing and take responsibility for it.

I am trying to start "cut-short"-ing my blogs now, so that I can write things faster.. so lets just skip the majillion points of trivial details (in the inside, I don't think of them as trivial :P ) and skip to the main points!

One small point is that we allowed only the playing people inside the room, so there were 2 CS Clans and 4 NFS players in the room at any point and all others waiting outside in the waiting room, because all responsibility for the things in the lab was on us and we dont want nothing to be getting lost now, dont we?


For the first time in our college's 10 year history a Lan Gaming tournament was conducted and I was very happy to be a part of it, and most of all, I was happy that I was a "big guy" in the whole thing, as I now had a part in making the thing as fair as possible. With no "college partiality", etc etc. I am happy to say that the whole thing went smoothly. Every match was under my observation and I didn't find anything objectionable being done, Its not like I had to go there and tell them to not do something wrong, everything was being done in a very fair manner. I was just making sure everything was going right or not by double checking everyone's stats. (self satisfaction)


I was actually thinking that I would come across a lot of un-sportsman people who would... you know do "un-sportsman" things and complain a lot at the end of the matches, but NO. They understood that we were on college systems, which are not built for total gaming, understood that there was lag and EVERYONE was under the same condition. Also they were very cool about going according to the rules that I set. They were not bothered by the delays and were patient enough to wait till everything was fixed! Its great to see people like that participating. One of the participants is in top 10 of the state, a very good national level player too. He was there helping us , after finishing his matches by setting up some systems and giving bits of info on how other colleges organized things.

*Collision Detection

The only thing that I found wrong in the whole event was that almost every participant in the NFS event went :O after hearing that there would be collision detection in the races. I've read the whole WCG rules and know that its "off" in their games. But I don't see any point in having a "LAN" game and turning collision detection off.

I was telling them "Why not just play on any non lan system without traffic or bots and we will note down your times" it's the same thing as not having collision detection. They were worried about the race start mainly, as NFS puts 4 players in a 2x2 order (hence back people hitting front people etc) but I told that "that's the way it rolls" you can't come all the way and say it's a LAN event and have a sissy "no collision detection" event. I told them its an "underground" event, so forget about world standards.

We had one volunteer observing each of the 4 simultaneous participants and made sure that no one did any intentional crashes.


The whole event was as fair as possible, Out of the qualified Semi-finalists we divided people accordingly, so that we don't see a final in the semis itself, and also such that the least tier people don't play with all the first tier people.

There was no HUGE a gap between people and no one had any complaints :) Due to some technical difficulties we had to make some changes and the competitors accepted without raising a fuss about it.

*The Moneh!

We've had over 100 Participants, with ~65 for NFS and 11 Clans for CS. The participation number was quite good! Not only was this our first Lan Gaming event, but due to some mistake the event was not even mentioned in our event's website or the poster. In other colleges its around 250 or something, so relatively we did pretty good! All registration money was in the hands of the person who handled the registration. I always worry when it comes to money matters. The main thing being the doubt if the person who is collecting is a honest person or not. In almost every event I've seen till now, there were people who kept eating some of the money. I was having my doubts if there would be one now too.

But all these days working with them and seeing how they behaved, I was assured that they are good people and not someone who would eat away the earnings of the event. Not only that, but also the organizers of all the other events and the main co-ordinators are cool people with no intention of cheating out any of the money into their own pockets.

Maybe its because this is the "Tech fest" and not the college's "cultural fest". Why does it matter? Because every event is something related to things like paper presentations, programming competitions Robotics etc. so that means that only geeks and nerds are the organizers :P Not those meat heads, who somehow just by seeing you can say that will do something like that.

*What to DO with the Monnies.

Once everything was collected and registrations were closed, all the money was given to the appropriate authorities. The college decided that they keep 30% of the earnings and we use the remaining for the prize money... we had to reduce the NFS and CS prize a bit because of this (we were giving 1st and 2nd prize ) but the participants were cool with that.

*NFS Rules

The NFS Finals was won by the person in blue sitting on the far left. It sure was a great match, I planned the finals' scores in such a way that any mistake can lead to a total turnover of points and make the one in lead, loose the game. We faced a lot of problems during the finals as one of the connected system was always closing automatically as soon as the match started. We tried several combinations of 4 computers and after a lot of trials somehow got everything working smoothly.

The first Circuit race was 20 minutes long and tested the stamina of everyone, next one was a curvaceous sprint testing the players control and handling, then the third was a traffic filled collision having drag race. Drag is something everyone has trouble finishing, and it felt awesome seeing them play like that, going under the truck and all :P


The CS winners had to leave because they had another tournament, after trying a lot to try and get them the certificate and prize before hand, and not succeeding I gave them the prize money out my pocket and asked them to leave for their tournament (for which they paid a lot to register and were getting late ) I took their prize money for myself :P

The certificates could not be given to the winners as the tournament ended at 2 PM and certificates were written and locked by 1PM. They will however get it on Monday :)

*Other things!

Well, I first of all used one of my designs to make a poster for the Lan Gaming event. Made this in under 20 minutes, and it sure caught everyone's attention :D Other than that, took print outs of tables that I made to note down all the preliminary rounds' timings. Helped in framing questions for the "Tech Quiz" and some general help here and there too. All organizers got free lunch everyday too! The lunch was excellent in our canteen. And it felt great that we all organizers were being rewarded like that.

We spent 3 days installting various games in all the systems, and today when it ended, we spent around an hour deleting every game from every system in a synchronised and quick manner, the work was done leaving now trace of it ever happening, just so that people dont sit and play those games during normal lab sessions, hehe.

Well, I think I am missing some details but I guess this is more than enough, will keep making shorter posts if possible, hehe. All in all, the event was awesome and it had a great surprise in the end which I will save for later. It was the first time our tech fest was so huge (only the cultural fest was a big thing, till now) it did go pretty well, but will surely be better next time! There were many things wrong with the timing and promotion and (lack of) sponsorship for this event.

Any doubts or anything, feel free to ask :P

Heres the poster I made

Check out the full gallery here!

Pragnya '08

Monday, December 1, 2008

New-Gen Polaroid

Before I start off writing about the my 3 day trip to Srikakulam, its various Temples, Araku Valley and Borra Caves, lemme show you something interesting that I found during the trip.

I was here at the APTDC View point in GaliKonda, the highest viewpoint in Eastern Ghats. And obviously everyone (me included) were getting their pictures taken.. Some with their cell phones and others with their cameras.

Here I saw a person roaming around saying "On the spot photo Rs. 30" in the general black ticket seller rhythm. I didn't even look at the person telling myself "Who needs Polaroid pictures now"

So after getting on the Bus and when it was leaving, I saw someone else's picture, it was normal photo size and printed on the regular Glossy paper.. I was wondering what kind of camera it was, then as the bus moved I saw something really unique.

These guys put up a special Laser Printer, powered it via some car battery or some electric line (it was not clear as the bus was moving) and took "on the spot" printouts. I was really surprised after seeing this because we were in a highly remote location with almost no electric towers/lines near us.

Now that's some "new gen" methodology! Bringing a laser printer and then printing on the spot, very economic and profitable!

Later I found people taking power form the electric box of the lights in Borra Caves doing the same thing! This time I got a closer look and everything was clarified!

The printer even had a LCD Screen! Don know, since when they are doing this, but man, no matter what, its really something worth mentioning.

Have a look.

Now thats what I call Resourceful Engineering!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

..Once you dig in..

First of all, watch this video

This is a video I watched around 6-7 years back, on TV. Back then I found the song funny because i used to translate what he was saying

"Once you dig in, you find it coming out the other side"

as something related to what happens when you "dig in" your nose :P because well, let me put it this way, I saw people who dig their nose, "very frequently" when I was young and after hearing this song I used to think of "It (the finger) coming out the other side" and used to laugh (on the inside)

And it also made me understand why one would actually pick their nose.. because.

"Once you dig in, you find yourself having a good time"

So yeah, that's what I basically thought after hearing the song... when I was a kid.

For some reason the song was brought back in my head and because of that.. I started singing it again.. (in my mind, of course ) but this time when I said part that again.. it was like this..

"Once you dig in, you find it coming out the other side"

hey, wait.. that's the same thing right? So whats the bid deal? Well, lets just say that a certain word has a certain homonym that one would have learnt after "growing up".. you know the thing that implies

"Once you dig in, you find yourself having a good time"

Very peculiar to see how perception of things change as time passes by! You see and hear things different after "growing up" thats for sure :P Well, just to be sure I was not singing a mis-heard lyrics, I went you youtube and saw the video.. and this time.. I heard it as..

"Once you dig in, you find it coming on the other side"

*ahem* OK.. so now I was totally confused and didn't understand if it was the old me or the new me that mis-heard it.. So I type "Dig in Lenny kravitz lyrics" in my address bar (FF) and came here.

This is the starting lyrics..

It's time to face it,
Come on in and
Join the party,
Life has been waiting
For you to care,
Don't try to fake it
Jump on in and,
Get it started
There's so much lovin',
For you to share
There is nowhere to run,
There is no way to hide
Don't let it beat you,
Say "Nice to meet you"
And "Bye"

Once you dig in
You'll find it coming
Out the other side
And once you dig in
You'll find
You'll have yourself
A good time

Let me phrase it...

"Don't try to fake it" "Jump on in and get it started"

Ok.. now I was totally convinced that he was singing about something else..something that I thought it was talking about when I recently heard it, especially NOT about picking nose! Something ,you know.. for which "Life has been waiting"

The whole lyrics can be translated as to something that is telling a "first timer" to "do it"... with saying "Nice to meet you" and "bye"

This really makes me think, what the singers actually think when they write these songs.. and what the fans think of it.. I mean look at the youtube comments

"'So rockin' inspirational for me'...thanks Lenny :)"

I have nothing to say to this because.. well, maybe he meant something else and my brain is thinking in a very unintended manner and spoiling the whole "inspirational" song.. I mean, the video at least, is not this bad, so I guess its just me.. or is it?

All I can say is that something are just good to "listen" but once you start hearing to the lyrics and dig in to it... heads will be rolling!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The GNU Cake.

Today is GNU's 25th Birthday and the FSF Student Chapter (of which I am a member too) at GRIET, my college, celebrated the event with great enthusiasm.

It was a two day event where we organised technical Quiz and C Programming Competitions on 26th September, and then Seminars from Special Guests and Prize Distributions (for the previous day's Events) on 27th (Today)

But yeah, the main part was the cake Cutting at the end where all us FSF members and Staff of CSE Department ate a GNU!..... Cake :P

I and my Senior (Raam) went and ordered the Cake yesterday and out of all the 3 bakeries visited, only one guaranteed us that it would be ready before 10 AM (and its ALWAYS the last place we try :P )

It took a whole hour to get the Cake! It was this less only because I left to the Bakery on my Bike, else it would have taken way longer on a car! How far was the bakery you ask? well.. it was a whopping... 4Kms :P Well, yeah, thats the amount of traffic we have here in Hyderabad (even in one of its remote areas) The amount of Holes, and craters on the road proved a huge challenge to cross without damaging the cake.. It was like traveling through a Mine Field!

But in the End everything came home fine and all had a blast! More on that later.. now, the Star of the Show!

The GNU Cake!

Visit the Whole Gallery for our Celebration Pics.

GNU Celebrations

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All-Nighter : Chrome Chronicles

Ever Since I saw that episode of spongebob SqurePants where he time-travels to the future and finds the whole world coloured in "Chrome" (as its the colour of "Future") , It was implanted in my head that.. Chrome infact, is the colour of future :P Even in my university's "Soft Skills" Class when they asked me what my favourite colour was (2 years ago) I replied it was "Chrome" :P Why all the chrome talk you ask? well, Just yesterday, Google released its own browser which is named, you guessed it.."Chrome" So lets find out if it really is "The future"...

What follows is a log of things I did and noticed yesterday when I spent an all night playing around with Chrome.

After a long day of playing Resistance Co-op with friends and then playing some GTA4 myself, I logged in and checked what my friends were tweeting. The whole place was abuzz with Google Chrome Talk. It was only yesterday that I realised that google was actually making a browser of its own and that too, it was going to release tomorrow itself! I am the kind of person whose pc life is more "browser dependant" than "OS dependant" , hence, as soon as I found out about Chrome, I knew that I HAVE to download it and have a look at it no matter what, and see if it will let me stay in Vista always (I mainly use linux because it works oh so nicely with me opening bazillion tabs with all kinds of MM things running) So I cancelled my plans of watching a movie (4 brothers) and waited for the download.

As soon as I downloaded the thing I started Tweeting about all the things I felt about it, now that thing proved pretty useful, as all along this post I will refer to one of those and expand on what I was saying :D

Remember that I will only be posting about how things that I frequently use, work in Chrome. And yes,I do understand that this is a beta. To know how Chrome is Completely different and awesome.. Check out the Chrome Comic here

It Begins!

First Impressions

After installing chrome, right before clicking the icon, I was wondering if the browser would have an awesome splash screen like "Picasa" has.. but then again, the browser is made to load fast, so a Splash screen would prove the opposite :P I.E. no Flash Splash screen. Then I saw that opening and Closing Tabs, had Slick animations, which were just as good as the way the splash screen in picasa appears. Its so nice that it makes you want to open and close tabs again and again. It smoothly animates also when you move tabs from one place to another, which is also a welcomed addition.

First Things First.

The First thing I tried after starting chrome was to see if the address bar is as useful as FFs. In FF (even in FF2) I always type my destinations as words and the address bar does a "I'm feeling lucky" whenever there is an exact match or takes me to the google search result if there is none. For Instance, If I type "Four brothers IMDB" in FF's address bar, it directly takes me to the imdb page for the movie, it removes an extra click from the burden and is very useful in many other ways too. This works by default in any fresh FF2/3 install.

So what About Chrome?

Well, in Chrome.. eventhough its by google, the address bar is not as intuitive as FFs, when I type that in, it takes me to the google search result page rather than doing a "I'm feeling lucky" . So thats one disappointment right there :(

The Start Page

Now you might be wondering how I didnt notice this before doing the address bar thing, well.. the thing is that , I like that address bar feature that my basic instincts didnt allow me to notice anything else :P So yeah, what about it? How does the start page look? Well, its pretty good :D It looks a bit like Opera's but is somewhat different.

Instead of allowing you to manually assign what is to be shown in those boxes at the start page (like in Opera) it automatically puts small snaps of your "most visited websites" which is pretty nifty, but I always prefer a keypress over a click. (look at bookmarks impressions below to know more). Not of much use to me, other than to have a good looking start page :P In the Same page you have a list of recently bookmarked pages and recently Closed tabs, which I feel will prove useful to many.

Bookmark Woes

Bookmarks are something that I see as very near and dead to me, however, I am ok with the fact that there is no default syncing option available. There was Google browser sync back in the FF2 days, I was thinking they will have that in this, but , No, they dont have it here.

A Very important feature that I use for my bookmarks is the "keywording" feature where in I just put a single letter keyword for my most visited/important bookmarks and use them to visit those pages. For example, I just put the keyword "p" for my Gamespot posting History page and whenever I feel like seeing if there is a new post in any of the topics I have posted I "CTRL+T -> P -> Enter" and the page loads. It gets the work done, quick and easy :D

So what about Chrome?

I right clicked a bookmark and then edited it.. to my surprise , only "Name" , "Address" and "Where to Store" options were available. I was disappointed as it was one of my most frequently used features from FF. However, I saw that , my imported bookmarks with the "P" keyword was infact, working in Chrome.. How did that happen? I dont know.. maybe there is a possibility to give keywords somewhere hidden, if that is to be true, one thing is for sure, it isnt accessibly placed :|

BookMark Management

I dont know how many of you spend time organising the way your bookmarks are placed, in which order and down to the separators that separately different types of bookmarks, but I sure do that. I also try to get related things in a single folder , as much as possible. There is a easy option in FF/IE where y0u can manage bookmarks (it opens up a window and lets you manage things just like any file manager/explorer does)

So what about Chrome?

Its not that I am only mentioning those things which are absent in Chrome, but these are the things I use very much, and once again, I was surprised that this simple feature was absent from Chrome. Only way now is to drag and drop things here and there, which can get really tedious if you have 60+ things to move around in. I Hope this feature gets added later on.

Tabs and Performance

The Most demanding feature of any browser is its performance quotient. There are many factors which decide the overall performance quotient, i.e even the OS. I dont want to go all Benchmarky, the basic thing I need is, I want it to work with no performance drop or delays in tab changes when atleast 10 MM Intensive pages are open.
I wonder... what all these add up to... seems to be pretty hi... on TwitPic
FF On Vista gives me a LOT of problems with mem fragmentation and leakage. And many times, when I load many tabs, Embedded videos get this strange problem (only on Windows, not on Linux) where they play only for 3 secs and there is no Audio. The performace stays the same if you close all the open tabs , only choice left is to restart the browser, which is a very big pain.

What about Chrome?

Well, after reading all about how awesomely the google labs people had made the memory management and stuff for the browser, I felt like directly giving it the ultimate test of opening "All bookmarks" now we are talking about more than 60 tabs here.

I was totally surprised to see that the pages did load and all tabs were open.. the SYSTEM didn't slow down, like it doesn't when using FF but the browser sure did. The main problem was that there were many pages which had embedded videos in them. Because of which I got many errors asking me to disable the "Flash" and "DivX player" Plugins.

This was a very nifty feature as I didnt have to restart the browser. Also.. when all these tabs opened, after a long gap of no response, a small window opened asking me if I wanted to close those tabs that were not responding. This was the first time I got to see the famed, "task manager" in action. It feel like it the best thing to happen to browsers since .... tabs? One can manually popup the task manager whenever they want and use it just like the task manager in any Windows OS. but for Tabs ofcourse :P

Accessing multiple tabs will prove to be a burden here :( no ... on TwitPic

One thing I found very disappointing was the fact that there was NO way to understand which tab was which when you have many tabs open so as to not make the favicon visible (which happens to me many times when reading Feeds after a huge gap) in FF you have a DropDown menu that shows you a list of all the tabs open so that you can atleat select and pick the one you want to watch. you can hover over a tab and know its Title but thats is not as good an alternative for the drop down menu.

On a Side Note.. some nerd Stats :P

29 tabs = No Favicon Display
60/61 Tabs = No way to hover over new tabs.. only CTRL+Tab

How did I close all those Tabs?

I was wondering how I would close all those tabs, I didnt want to restart the browser as I was testing how long I can make it work without crashing. after a bit of looking around, I found that right clicking on any tab gives you two nice options "Close other Tabs" and "Close Tabs to the Right". I used the latter option and it did the job.

The best thing was that the performance returned to being good after closing the many tabs (unlike in FF where restarting the browser is the only option)

Now the Small Stuff
(click heading for tweet)

All those "no Image Found" and other page errors, have nice icons with personified versions of folders, processes etc etc, which is a neat touch and makes the experience better

It would have been better if the CTRl+Tab feature of Chrome would be like it is in Opera where it works more like the OSes Alt Tab Feature (i.e you get to choose to which tab you want to change by keep pressing "tab" Button)

In FF when you do a "View image" It opens the image in the same tab, leaving you with two options, to either copy the location and paste it, or drag and drop the image in an empty tab space. But In this you have the nice feature to directly right click an image and open it In a new tab :D

The Browser has the same shortcuts found in ther major browsers, which is obviously a good thing.

Ctrl+Tab -> Change Tab
Ctrl+T -> New Tab
Ctrl+W -> Close Tab
Ctrl+Shft+T -> Re-open previously Closed Tab
Ctrl+J -> Open Download Manager

And many more..

At first sight I thought that it has a hidden Menu bar like in IE7 but pressing Alt didn't bring it up.. i.e it has No menu bar! was surprised by seeing that. you have two buttons beside the address bar which have the Basic functions.

There is NO Title bar either, and there is no status bar.. I was wondering how I would know where to a link is linking wihtout visiting it.. But once you hover over a link it pops up a small bar at the bottom left showing the address in the link. Which is quite good :D its of fixed size though, sometimes doesnt display the whole linke (cutting the end)

My whole day revolves around reading and checking many RSS feeds, and I was expecting the browser would have something in the lines of opera with its own Feed Reader, but it doesn't and neither does it have any addon support till now.. so thats a very big nono for the browser.

New Tabs in Chrome Open just like in IE i.e right beside the one from where you opened the new tab (unlike in FF where it opens always at the last)

But one thing it lacked was that, reopening a closed tab, places the tab at the end, instead of in the same place where it was when it was closed (it happens in FF)

Chrome Shows, that its not only the guys at Apple that are great making things look good and feel good, everything in Chrome feels good and neat, The animations for things like "Download started" and other things are really good to look at too.

I did the Acid test that many talk about.. for the browser, and it Chrome was able to create a perfect recreation of the face, just like FF3, unlike IE7, which is waay off from the reference picture.

One would expect a plethora of options for modifications in Chrome, as it is an open source program, but to my surprise the thing had less options than any browser seen, it lacks very much in this department. Hope it improves in the next versions!

When you search in a webpage, for some reason the search is not jumping to the location of a match if it is in the Text area of a WYSIWYG editor, which is a real pain if you are trying to manually insert HTML Codes in a blog.

Finally, What do Me thinks?

Well, The broswer with its "No title bar", "Good performance", "Great on Slow System"-ness and the very "Closed" options.. feels very perfect for computers where people will just do a little bit of working and then leave. I.E perfect for places like Cyber Cafes and Schools, where the systems are usually of very low config (something FF would kill in minutes) and places where you wouldnt want to make it look like some home computer

I however dont see myself using this as my primary browser anywhere in the near future. I have many addons in FF which completely define my daily life, and I dont see even one of those being implemented here. neither do I see anything like "Addon Support" for the browser..

I Might use it everynow and then to see if there are some developements, and to log into my other accounts for same portals (different blog Ids, different Gmail Ids, etc etc)

All in All, the browser is a great breakthrough in how it works and deals with things, but in terms of functinality lacks a lot of things, but this being still beta, I hope has all those things soon so that it makes more people use it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Uniting Everything, Harmoniously

As most of my friends will know, I have a dedicated "Home Theater" Room in my house where I spend most of my holidays, playing games and watching movies for complete enjoyment. But only some of those friends, who actually paid a visit to my HT, know that, I have to use a plethora of remotes to get things up and running. My bro knows that too, (being one of the founding fathers of the HT :P ) and he recently bought the "Logitech : Harmony 880" Universal Remote control, which would be the answer to all our remote woes. I already knew that the thing would have IR Reading feature, but never imagined that the end product would so customizable and good. So lets have a step by step look at the thing.

The Total Package.

The Remote comes packages in a nice box, which contains the remote, a "Base Station" (fancy word for a charger-cum-holder),a Battery(similar to that of cell phones), charger (110-220V), USB cable(normal to Mini), and Installation Disc. Everything was safe and intact even after its bumpy ride to India

The Slender Body and Sleek Interface

The Remote itself is pretty ergonomic, which feels very comfortable to hold. Standard buttons like the number pad, menu, guide, Volume change, channel change are all arranged accessibly on the remote, and then on the top you will find a LCD screen with 8 buttons bordering it (4 on each side). The buttons are positioned in such a way that they merge very well with the body.

The LCD Screen is a Low Res one, It shows you a list of activities that can be selected. When a certain device is selected, it shows the additional buttons from that specific device's remote. You can have pages and pages of buttons for a single device all of which can be arranged in any order,

There is a tilt sensor in the remote using which the remote's backlight lights up when the remote is held in the hand and raised. There is a manual button to explicitly turn the light on or off. The LCD screen is not the only one with a backlight, when the lights turn on, the whole remote is illuminated in a way that you can pin point the smallest of buttons in pitch black darkness.

Easy to Setup and Use

After the initial impressions, the thing that made the most happy was the fact that this thing had a rechargeable battery, the kind that I like. So no more AA or AAA batteries to run around for! and the Fact that surprised me the most was that there was an "Installation Disc" for the thing. Up until now, the Universal Remotes I was familiar with, had a simple paper with list of makes and models which had their codes which when input would lead to the assigning of functions to the remote. But this thing had a complete CD for it. Soon, I connected the remote to my PC via the provided USB cable (with the remote getting charged on the charger) and inserted the installation disc.

Installation of the Software is as simple as it gets, it supports both Windows and Mac OS. After installation is complete and when you first run the software. If your remote is connected it will not only check for a S/W update but also see if your remote's firmware has an update. After this process is complete, you will be asked to create an ID at the logitech portal. Why an ID you ask? Well, the software works in such a way that all the customizations and settings you have done to your remote will be stored on the Logitech servers, which will allow you to modify your remote using any computer, anywhere you take it! This feature is very useful, as I found for it on the first day itself, when I took the remote to my HT and used the laptop to the changes, at a later stage.

the Remote

Once you've finished creating the ID. You will be asked to enter the model numbers of the devices that you want to control using the device. After listing out all the model numbers it searches the Logitech database for a matching remote. Incase there is no match found, it will ask you if you have the original remote with you.

In this stage what you do is, hold the two remotes atleast 5Cms apart and press the buttons that are asked on the screen. after a few keys are read. it will analyze the data based on the sample and using some kind of internal formula it will automagically select the closes match.

The surprising thing is that, When I input the signals from the "Weston DVDR" It returned the remote as the remote for a certain "Onn DVD R" which after a bit of googling, I found to be an exact replica of the DVDr at home. I had another big surprise moment, when my Videocon X-Lent TV was detected as some Australian brand tv, which also looked the same! Its a big world out there, and many companies share their ideas for nationally localised brands. This ordeal made me realize that.

In the Rare case when you Remote is so obscure as to not exist in the database in any way, it has the nice step-by-step wizard using which you can enter the basic ways your remote works (1 or 2 buttons for power, TV/AV selection type etc) and then you can manually "Learn" any button from your remote. Which comes in handy in many ways. Let us now take a look at the ways the thing can be customized.

is the Key to success

Most of you with well know models of famous brands may not have to go any further entering the model numbers in the first step. But if you are like me and my bro, who like to survey for months and find the best models with a better price, you might have ended up with a collection of devices(from famous brands) which are either discontinued by now (because of features/price being very hard on the company or many other reasons) or were from some obscure company. There is also another trend where same devices have different model numbers in different countries. All these things lead to a bit of problems during the installation of the remote.

Every device in my HT other than TataSky,PS2, and 360 didnt have an exact match in the database. However, they did have approximate matches. Because of this, there were either too many or too few pre assigned buttons for the remotes.

To solve such kinds of problems, the Remote's Software allows you to completely customize the buttons and button layout in the remote. Missing buttons from a remote can be manually added to remote's database along with an associating label. Any of these buttons from the database can be assigned to ANY button on the universal remote.

There are only limited buttons in the remote, you have the 0-9 buttons, volume, menu and the other stuff, so what about all those extra buttons that you see in many of the devices? All such buttons can be added and neatly arranged to be displayed in the Remotes LCD screen, all using the software it comes with. You can have many pages (10+) filled with all these buttons for each device. This is a real Plus as it gives you the freedom to experiment with as many combination as possible.

As the software allows the user to assign any button from the database to any of the buttons on the remote control, it gives rise to possibilities where we can assign frequently used functions to any of the non LCD buttons , for faster usage. We can even assign functions to the number buttons, which is helpful as some devices dont have any use of the number buttons.

There might be some cases where the remote is sending singals at a higher rate making the device react differently, like pushing channel one time would result in making it skip channel 3 times. To adjust this, the software allows you to manually set the delay time (in Ms) individually for all the devices that are set in the remote.

Activating Activities

Setting up activities is another nifty feature which allows for one to start a sequence of events with the push of button. The user has the freedom to select any event from any device and arrange them in any order they want. So how will a activity be useful? for example, whenever you watch the TV, you turn on the TV, your Set Top Box, and maybe your A/V Receiver that channels all the sound and video. So what you can do is, assign functions to the Activity which will do just that. You can also select which channel the TV should be on when the activity starts and all such things. everything at the push of button. This is a very useful feature!

Not only that, users can also choose to create or use any of the custom themes for the remote, and you can put up your own custom slideshow to be shown when the remote is idle. You can name Devices and Activities in anyway you want. You can arrange the order in which the devices and activities are shown in the LCD. And it also shows you the time in one corner of the LCD.

All Such customization options allow gives great freedom to the user to make it as personal as possible. Look at me for example, I spent more than 12 hours sitting and modifying and adding things to the remote, just so that everything would be exactly like I wanted.

Ease Of Use

Something this customizable might make people think "its not user friendly" or something on that lines. But the fact of the matter is, Its VERY user friendly.. I mean its a remote, how much simpler can it get? its looks and works just like the age old device that everyone has held for HOURS of their life and the software it comes with has a very simple point and click interface that will get the work done in no time.

Nothings Perfect

As good as it may seem and be, there are still somethings that could have been made better in the remote and its software. For example, the sorting of buttons for LCD screen can get tedious if you are using the "Move up/down" buttons, which makes you want to just delete a button and enter it on the place where you want to move. There are a few other things which could be made better, but mentioning those would seem like I am nitpicking, well because, they arent necessarily a huge problem to the overall experience.

Hows it be?

All in all its a pretty useful device that will make your HT experience far better allowing for more use with less stress and ofcourse.. less Remotes ;)

Check out the SlideShow for a nice Short story and more pics of the Device :D