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