Friday, December 24, 2004

Thats the last time we'll be seeing the moon this year. This photo was shot by my colleague with his brand new Nikon Coolpix 4800, so all due credits to him. Looking forward to 2005. Lots of things to do and lots of hopes and wishes to be fulfilled.

For now, I'm off to Chennai - to my home. Got to do some last minute packing, so have to rush.

Take care and enjoy your holidays. Cheers!

*Gosh* It seems like I'm gonna be away for a long time.

mobile phones and usability

Everyone seems to be in a holiday mood today. There isn't much work being done and we seem to be forming the 'huddle' every second hour discussing things from politics to pepsi(?) to noise cancellation(??). Amongst all these, the topic that garnered the most interest was mobile phones.

Yes, you're right. After the recent MMS scandals (no, this is not an attempt to generate traffic), the mobile phone market is said to be booming. According to the Times Of India, there has been a lot of enquiry on MMS enabled phones and people who had the option are now activating it and learning more (I'm sure!). This has also enlightened a few souls at my workplace as some of them are contemplating on upgrading their existing phones to the 'all-wonder-camera' phones.

With multitude of phones with 'oh-so-many' features available, deciding on which one to buy can be a difficult process. If ease of use is what you're looking at primarily, Nokia used to be the only company that could get this right. This has changed a bit- partly because other companies have realized that user testing is important and partly because Nokia has been drawn towards including more and more features on underpowered processors.

Don't buy a phone that you can't personally play with if the UI matters to you. Even if the documentation (imagine that) were to show the complete UI, it wouldn't give a sense of responsiveness, etc. Sometimes I wish consumer electronics companies could realize the value of a web-based simulation of their product's interface.

"If we are all special then none of us is"

Movie : The Incredibles

I watched The Incredibles last night. In one word (and I know its cliche), it was simply, incredible. Heck, its fantastic! The best Pixar film to date, and possibly the best animated film in the past few years. It's one of those movies that is of such a high quality all around, I could probably watch it over and over.

At times, I must admit, I forgot I was watching an animated film. With the brilliant graphics, stupendous animation, great plot, believable (yes!) characters, and a captivating story, it was easy to forget that the entire movie is a digital world. The ultra-quick Dash provided the best laugh of the movie for me.

The Incredibles outdoes most big-budget live-action Hollywood action movies in the effects and action department, and what amazed me the most was the sheer quality of the sound effects that went into the film. Because of the action, the movie is geared to an older crowd than Pixar's typical audience, and the jokes are all that much funnier when you're old enough to get them.

Already a huge fan of original animated features and Pixar in general, this movie was a must see. I love the way Pixar makes movies from beginning to end, and they never cease to be creative at every step.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Brain Frame

Its interesting how the brain works. Let me explain. I got myself a new pair of spectacles today after around 4 years or so. Yes four years, or maybe more!! I never felt the need actually. Till a couple of days back. Today I went to collect it from Lawrence & Mayo at M.G. Road after having given the order the day before.

I got the frame and tried it on. It looked nice, but everything appeared different- crystal clear. The visual feedback was so sharp and clear that it gave me a headache. My right eye power had increased a bit. So after putting on the new glasses, it took sometime for me to focus on what I wanted to see. I wasn't quite happy with that. I told the salesman. He told that it would take a while for me to get used to it and that it would be fine in a weeks time. I wasn't satisfied. I told him I was happy with the one I had earlier. He got the optometrist and she explained to me why my power increased - my right eye was more dependent on the left and that its become 'lazy'. She made me read text of varied sizes and I realized that it had indeed become 'lazy'. I thanked her, took my new frame and left the place.

On the way back, I started noticing people - the kind of spectacles they wore. It was something that happened sub-conciously, I started looking at the eyewear and how it suited the person than looking at the person itself. Its like some kinda file you registered in your brain. The brain being a complex supercomputer has about 100 billion neurons in it. Amongst all those neurons, one of them registers a 'new glasses' file and that appears in your 'Recent Documents' list in your brain. So everytime you look at a person, the 'Recent Documents' folder tells the brain about the neuron that registered a 'new glasses' file. So automatically (without you even knowing it) you look at the glasses and all the associated properties before you actually look at the person. Its interesting how the brain works.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Currently Reading

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Saturday, December 18, 2004

We, The People

Movie - Swades

Just got back after watching Swades, this time at PVR Classic Cinema. It was nice - but I had a tough time trying to avoid comparing it with Lagaan, Gowariker's first film. Both films had earthy tones set in villages, a pinch of team-spirit and issues within villages. However, Swades was different in a way that it had more of a documentary feel to it.

Swades - a story about an NRI who comes to India in search of his childhood nanny and ultimately rediscovers and returns to where he belongs. A simple quest that everyone of us goes through in search of that metaphysical and elusive place called "home". Having been an NRI for a good chunk of my life, I can relate to it. There are some moments that I share with Mohan Bhargav (the protagonist, played by Shah Rukh Khan).

The film is quite long. At 3.5 hours, there were times when I felt that some of the scenes could have been done away with. For example - the Ramleela song (which appears somewhat out of context) and a few others. I also felt that they could have reduced the scenes taken at NASA and instead, shown a little more on the kind of lifestyle that Mohan had in the United States. They do show him driving around in a Jaguar and living in a swanky apartment but could have elaborated a little more on that.

Swades does not come across as a commercial film. It is not as gripping and 'edge-of-the-seat' entertainer as Lagaan (sorry, but I just can't help comparing it with Lagaan). This film is meant for a thinking audience - a message to the Indian diaspora across the globe.

SRK does a good job although there were some of his trademark acts (as expected) thrown about in the film. Geeta, played by Gayatri Joshi is actually quite impressive. Some of her emotions came across really well on screen. Good work by a first timer. A.R. Rahman's score is nothing short of brilliant. The track 'Yeh jo des hain tera' with the shehnai backing infuses a kind of modern patriotism not heard since 'Maa tujhe salaam'.
Mitti ki jo khushboo, Tu kaise bhoolayegaa
Tu chaahe kahin jaaye, Tu Laut ke Aayegaa
All in all, a feel good film.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What do you want to do with your life?

43 Things, Twinkler

Very, very cool.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ocean's Twelve


Watched Oceans' Twelve last night at PVR - Cinema Europa. I was quite excited to see what O12 would be like after the brilliant heist of the Bellagio in O11.

In Oceans' Eleven or most heist films for that matter, watching the heist itself unfold is the big payoff. Watching it switchback, double-over, reverse, tie a knot, is a pure joy and the heist in this film (although convuluated and outrageous) is quite entertaining. There are moments when you guess and it comes out right and then there are moments where you are left waiting for the solution. In the end, the crooks get away with the money and the con is played out successfully like we all hope it is.

O12 didn't appeal to me as much as O11 did. In 011, every member had his role to play in the heist. They were people with special skills and their skills were tastefully used at some point in the movie. O12 lacks that.

There are a great deal of things to like about this movie. My favorite bit has Tess joining the gang in the eleventh hour by impersonating a famous actress (can you guess who?). Along with that comes a pretty fun Bruce Willis extended cameo.

I laughed a few times, mostly at Brad Pitt. I really like his Rusty character (even if he is eating in every scene again this time). I enjoyed some of the clever camera work, and the cheesy throwback title overlays. Zeta-Jones was fine as Rusty’s love interest. Not great, but not bad, either. I just didn’t get a sense of fun like I did in the first one. If the gang decides to make an Ocean’s Thirteen, I will definitely see it because I love the characters. I just didn’t like where they went or what they did in this film.

Too often sequels are made to capitalize off the initial and perpetual success of a film. Too often said sequels are painful to endure.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Google Suggest beta

Ok, I've just changed my homepage to this. Google Suggest guesses what you are typing and offers suggestions in real time. Its like instant access to any piece of human knowledge; it now can guess what you are looking for as you type.

Most of the work happens in a condensed Javascript library (not easy reading though). It disables the autocomplete feature on the textfield and defines a hidden div for the auto-complete dropdown (variations of this for different browsers). Each time you type a character, it populates that div body with the results of a quick, tiny query back to Google. It's NOT running the search for you; it's hitting (I assume) a simple, probably totally in-memory list of the most popular searches and number of results. That's how it can be so quick a response -- the lookup on their end is super-minimal, and the data to be transferred is probably less than 1k each time.

Neat concept.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hyderabad Blues

I got back from Hyderabad early Saturday morning. The trip was good, although I didnt get to see Hyderabad much, not even the charminar. I stayed at Banjara Hills, close to Taj Residency which was the venue of the RFID summit. Its a beautiful city with wide roads, lanes and gardens - a la Bangalore. There is also another part to it - the old Hyderabad, which is chaotic, has narrow lanes and crowded junctions. I just caught a glimpse of it while passing through that way. Its like two different worlds that co-exist in perfect harmony. From what little I got to see, I must say that I was pretty impressed with the city.

Some of things that I really wanted to do but couldn't due to time constraints - visit the IMAX theater, take photos of the Charminar, eat Haleem, etc.

And some of the things I did - tried Hyderabadi Biryani at Tabla - a fine dining restaurant at Banjara Hills. Somehow it didn't feel all that great. Hyderabadi biryani should be tried at old Hyderabad with the crowd, where they prepare it in large quantities and serve in plenty. The whole fine dining experience spoiled the very essence of it. But Tabla is quite a nice restaurant. Got to see Est - Azharuddin's state-of-the-art gym. It was pretty impressive. With a membership of Rs.25K per annum inclusive of a spa and a beauty salon, it had to be!

I dont clearly remember how those 2 days zipped by so fast. But as with everything else, theres always a next time. Looking forward to that!

A few good snaps from our trip

Thunderbird 1.0 released

Just over a month after the release of the highly successful Firefox browser, the Mozilla foundation has announced the release of Thunderbird 1.0 email client. Thunderbird, similar to Firefox, was developed with the support of hundreds of volunteers and developers across the world.

I've been using Thunderbird right from version 0.8 when it was still quite buggy for general use. There were some features that I found really interesting - like labels and spam protection. It had this whole GMail feel to it. I'm sure the guys at Mozilla must have souped up the client in more ways after that. Thunderbird will surely prove to be the perfect companion for Firefox.

The startling fact about Firefox and Thunderbird is that both have been really well designed. I think the design skill here takes us well beyond the simple observation that the Mozilla team isn't working for Microsoft, or that they are consulting the users (which they clearly are). Good interfaces are very sticky.

Now that GMail supports POP3, using Thunderbird for GMail could be a really good option incase your the type who'd want to download emails onto your desktop.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Microsoft Launches Blogging Site

In yet another attempt to take over all of the Internet, MSN has launched a blog service called MSN Spaces with the new version of MSN Messenger ( public beta of MSN Messenger 7 available for download ) due out shortly. Features include comments, stats and trackbacks just like every other blog out there. Another built-in feature is also available where you can send pictures from your camera-phone directly to your Space.

Hotmail ups storage!

Hotmail has increased its storage to 250MB!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Off to Hyderabad

I'm off to Hyderabad for a few days to speak at the 'Exploiting RFID for ROI' summit, meet a couple of potential clients and enjoy the state's wonders. Hyderabad is one of the few states in India that I have not yet visited, so I'm excited to see what's it's like. I've got the RadioHead-UB (Updating Bot) switched on, so there should be some new posts for you to read while I'm gone.