Friday, 27 July 2012

Happy Birthday K S Chithra! (playlist)

Here's another first for me - embedding a YouTube playlist in a blog post.

Amazing playlist of K S Chitra's songs by @MusicAloud

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Going to experiment with my mobile camera

I've never agonized over this before. I'm stuck without my camera at a time when there's my cousin's wedding next week. But I am going to take this opportunity and experiment with my mobile camera [HTC WP7, 8 MP camera]. Hopefully, I'll at least get some good stuff to post on my photo blog. Or maybe even create something different and creative.

Good photography with mobile camera largely depends on whether I use the lights properly. I might have to post-process a lot. Sudden movements of subjects are going to be a problem. I'm also worried whether the phone will hold the charge for at least half a day!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

To get a life...

This happened last week.

I was not spending a lot of time on FB or playing any games. Just that it was becoming irritating and ... depressing.. I've had enough of the lolcatz, troll pictures, amazing quotes of the day, knowing whether someone resembles John Abraham and how many points they've earned on Zynga Slingo. Well, just as I expected, I'm not missing it at all.

The next thing to come under the axe might be my smartphone. Reason, I spend too much time playing Wordament. It is an interesting game, there's a grid of 16 alphabets, and you need to find as many words as possible in 2 minutes by swiping across the letters. The timing of the games is synchronized across the world, so that everyone sees the same board. After 2 minutes, there's a 45 second gap where the scores are shown.

Note that I'm a very pathetic player compared to the stats I see on the LeaderBoard. While I average 280 points and 25 words, there are players who average 800 points and 70-80 words... My maximum is 43 words in 2 minutes, that's under 3 seconds per word. I can't even imagine how people find words at 1-2 seconds per word.

Anyway, I've become addicted to this game. I see this screen (or some random letters anyway) when I close my eyes, and I start connecting them... 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Feed your brains!

I'm hooked to RSS feeds - all because of Feedly. I've 50+ article sources, out of which around 5-10 are heavy posters/websites. I mostly glance through these, or if I've not read for one or two weeks, I just mark most of them as read. The rest of them post occasionally, and I read these almost always.

I don't think there's a better way to keep track of blogs/sites which are of interest to you. Email subscription is a thing of the past - when you are checking emails, you usually don't have time to read the articles, and you are only interested in a real email. Also, unread emails is kind of irritating.

There's no such issue with RSS feeds - you can easily mark all articles from a particular source as unread. You can share and save easily, find similar articles etc.

A quick snapshot of my categories and sources in feedly:

If you are interested in reading blogs in general, and use Chrome/Firefox, do take a look at Feedly. It is available as an extension for your browser/Android/iPhone. You can sync your sources with your Google Reader, find and add new sources easily, and most importantly, have a very good user experience reading your articles.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Dreading the email.

Do you dread reading the email? I do. Not the thought of plodding through them, but opening them for the first time to find some nasty emergency/hot issue.

So I end up checking it every now and then. At midnight, if I don't get sleep. On weekends. While traveling. While eating. When I'm bored.

While it might seem pretty innocuous, it has been stressful. It's always there at the back of my mind. I haven't taken a vacation where I've completely switched off emails from start to end.

Until I fell sick last month. 3 weeks without email. It has been really "liberating".

I've now stopped syncing email on my WP7. Unpinned it from the first screen. And I don't check emails after work. Or before work.

PS: Opened my inbox today morning and there were THREE P1s. Including a follow-up from the VP. Another hour without response, and I'd have got a call. While all of the above still holds true, opening the inbox and finding High Importance! fix-or-die emails is always stressful.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


There're bookstores. Then there're other kinds of shops.

There's nothing like actually being there in a bookstore (preferably not too crowded, not too new, and definitely not one filled with apparels). I remember a time when I never used to buy books. I used to go to libraries and read them, and at the most, would buy second hand books. And of course read online ebooks, most of which were pirated. Once I got a job, I've never stopped buying new books. Said NO to pirated (e)books and pirated software*.

I used to visit one of these while in Trivandrum - British Library, Hornbill Library, Eloor Library. I especially loved finding the hidden gems, kept in the wrong shelves - an unexpected pleasant surprise.. I remember doing this deliberately in British Library (sadly, now closed). At times I would find a long sought after book, but would not have any open slots (you couldn't take more than 2 books). I'd then take the book and place it behind books of a different genre - Asimov books would go in, say, mathematics. Come back after a couple of days, return your books, and take these ones out.

Hornbill library was the best. The smallest, the one with waaay less number of books compared to the other two, but just a couple of kilometres from my house. A one room place in the basement of a line of shops, hardly 10'x10' in size. Books stacked on all three walls, and some even kept in cardboard boxes. Registration fee was a one time Rs.150, and for each book, you were charged 5% or 10% of the book price, depending on the condition of the books, and you could keep it for a week or two. Or a month or two. True, you might not have been able to find books that you specifically wanted, but there always was a book that interested you. I started with Secret Seven and Famous Five, then graduated to Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes, Michael Crichton, Mario Puzo, Arthur C Clarke. All Tintin & Asterix collections were available. I was never an Archie fan though. And oh yes, my first Harry Potter books were borrowed from here. I remember having to pre-book for Order of the Phoenix, and was fifth in line. I came to know about the series when the first movie was release in 2001. I remember the broomstick scene with Madam Hooch (Harry catching the Remembrall) being shown on a TV news channel, and immediately fell for the it. I'd have read each book over ten times by now.

Well, sadly things are changing. With Flipkart coming to the scene with an amazing collection and cheaper prices, I hardly buy books from shops. I still go the bookstores, browse around, and then come back and buy online. That said, Flipkart isn't the cheapest option anymore. IndiaPlaza, BookAdda, HomeShop18, Landmark, Oxford... Each one says they are the leading online bookstore :D. There's a website isbn.net.in that allows you to find the best prices as long as you know the ISBN of the book. You can use it to search the best prices and availability. There's also junglee.com from Amazon, but they leave out a few competitor sites like Flipkart from their results.

Then there're ebooks and ebook readers. No hassles of trying to preserve books, no storage space, light-weight, and all the advantages that come with them. But I still don't have an ebook reader. And quite possibly won't have one in the near future. There's nothing like having the book in your hand,  watching the yellowing of the paper over years with fond memories, enjoying the smell of the book... I probably read 25 books a year (that's a stretch, and there would be considerable re-reads). Even if I buy 20 books a year, it shouldn't be hard to maintain. Currently I'm using cardboard boxes plus silica gel packets to keep out moisture. Light, moisture and insects are the main reasons why paper becomes brittle and yellow in colour.

Now, a steaming cup of strong coffee, sitting by the window sill with a book in hand, a chilly wind and rain outside...

* Games != Software  :P