Dec 23, 2012

Kumuki - Movie review

They say breath-taking, breath-taking without really meaning it. Well, this movie does it, and I mean it. Kumuki is one of the highly anticipated movies of this year, for it stars the grand-son of the great Sivaji Ganesan in the lead role for the first time. It was quite evident from the guest list of this movie's audio release - the reputation Sivaji ganesan has in & around Tamil Cinema industry. How often or when have you actually seen Rajinikant and Kamal hasan participate in the audio release of a movie starred by debutants? Sivaji's heritage is not the primary focus of this post, and it's here if you are interested in more of him. 

Another visual treat of the year
About the movie, first impression, my favourite part. It's the cinematography that stood out. There was a beautiful place, beautifully picturized, and presented on screen. And the Music, Oh yeah! every minute, whatever was shown, appeared awesome to the eye and ear. It was a treat to watch (those hills and plains) and as well listen to the songs (which are a runaway hit since its release). I am waking up everyday listening to Shreya Goshal's voice for more than a month, because my roomie will play this album first thing in the morning. And I liked it myself. There were four relentless guys seated (they never sat actually) near me who danced and danced for every song, despite multiple expellant warnings from the security. It just showed how well the songs got into people. If there existed a people's choice award, this movie's getting it is highly likely.

The plot was so very different and screen-played so well that it makes your heart ticking, "Oh's gonna  come now" every now and then but (to my disappointment) it never did before the last 5 minutes. I anticipated it to be a thriller movie that partly portrayed love but as the move progressed I realized that it was quite the opposite. The concentration on love and thrill could've been reconsidered. Some where I lost the interest in watching it. I liked many parts of it except for the mediocre climax. Keeping the element of uncertainty, that what-will-come-next aspect alive is the key to engaging screenplay. This movie does it successfully for a major part of it. Kumuki is a fresh attempt portraying fresh faces. A different experience altogether.

Credits to the director for making an attempt as brave as this. Double credit to Vikram prabhu for taking up such a challenging role in his debut film. After his grandpa and dad, the family's legacy in the film industry is sure to continue, with Vikram looking good to do more films. Playing a character as intense as what Karthi did in paruthiveeran, Vikram will make it to the list of top 10 debut performances, if there ever was one. 

Dec 21, 2012

The name is C R I C K E T

Prologue:  An unpublished blog, written on the early morning of April 2, 2011. It has stayed in my drafts until I saw it accidentally today. More than completing the reminder of it, publishing it untouched sounded like a nice idea. It was written at that moment, capturing the emotions of a nation better. However, the state of Indian domination in world cricket somehow took a stride since then. 

Many Indian journalists who lived their life penning down press articles were left tottering today. Nobody knew what to do next or whether what just happened is real or not. Actually, what happened is, M.S Dhoni towered a SIX toward deep mid-on. That 6 not only crossed the ropes, but sealed a game for India, which eventually happened to be the final of the ICC ODI World Cup 2011.

  After winning the EPIC in 1983, India have finally done it again. 28 years of wait is over, and the hungry generation's thirst is finally quenched after all the painful, impatient wait. Blood turned to blue and started to bleed. A nightfull of celebrations was going on and on and on..The Sun did turn up 6 hours later, but the night wasn't over yet. It was a dawn of INDIAN DOMINATION in World Cricket. The Team which was already the best test team in the world, has now reached the top spot, by winning the "CUP THAT COUNTS". 
More memorable images - here

   I have never seen an entire nation cry together in extreme delight. It felt different. Very different. It wasn't the kind of formal handshake that happen all around and you go to bed after dinner. This is a night in which we forgot to have dinner, hugged and jumped, again and again, cried in overwhelming joy, and never went to bed. We continued to live that moment, flabbergasted completely, witnessing a special, many-year-memorable, re-written History, which is a World Cup Victory.  

Were Australians as ecstatic as me? When they won it three straight times? 1999, 2003, and 2007. I am not sure. This i

Dec 7, 2012

Movie Review: Life of Pi

It was quarter to nine, as I skimmed through my emails. "Let's watch a movie", said JP, my roomie. Little did I know then that I was in for the "ride of a life time", which is witnessing Piscine Molitor Patel's breath-taking journey. A visually vibrant and an incredibly impressive one to watch and get amazed.  Out of nowhere came this outstanding movie, and blew me away. It seems it is the "much awaited" of this year, and I just didn't know! For once in my life, I don't have to read the subtitle when a foreign language is being spoken in the middle of an English movie. For this is gonna get really popular, I can just quote the name of the movie to anyone if I wanted to introduce my mother language - Tamil. 
A pic. from
If the plot of the movie is about faith, then its making has a lot to talk about. Getting rejected 5 times, before the book was accepted and published, becoming an award-winning best seller, and then a 9-year wait before the technology can evolve enough for the artistic on-screen portrayal of Pi's Life. Having survived all that and hitting the big screen is a great leap of faith in itself. Only a director with this amount of faith could've delivered a movie with such great heights of faith. One more 'faithy' fact is the debutant Suraj Sharma's selection for playing the lead role, who had overcome 2000 other nominations for the same role. Not in terms of plot but when popularity and "awards  in store" is considered, Life of Pi is the next Slumdog Millionaire.  
I am a photography lover, and this movie has master pieces all over it. Deep blue sea, a brown skinned man, orange-ish sunrise and the yellowish tiger., i thought. I just wished I was there myself (although not with that Tiger). There is some amount of titanicism in the ship wreck and some amount of avatarism in the portrayal of Nature. And I am happy the world got to see Munnar which is one of the most beautiful place in the Indian state of Kerala. Really loved watching it on 3D. And I admired the attention to detail. How pondicherry was described, how a poster of a older tamil movie is poster'ed on a wall to highlight how backdated the movie is, plus the biological changes Pi goes through, for having starved 277 odd days in extreme weather conditions. 

Although an adventure flick, Life of Pi actually attempts to define God. Not straight to the point, but has left substantial inferences from where we can figure a way on our own. Spirituality is sprayed all over this adventurous Pizza. Pi's life is as uncertain as 22/7. Pi's life redefines Hope and faith. Pi's life is waiting to "sweep you away". Don't miss this ride. 

Here are few articles that I read, before I sat to write this blog:
This is my first review of a English movie. 

Oct 6, 2012

Gangnam style

I saw a twitter hash tag today, and was wondering what it meant. It was posted right after a cricket match got over, and I was wondering whether it is even remotely related to cricket. This is that tweet: 
The tweet that I saw
startthegangnam it read. Start The What? Gangnam? The only thing our generation has done after failing to figure out something is to Google it. So I did, and the results revealed a Korean song sung by a guy named   Psy. You will not believe what I found after that. It was funny enough to blog about! Read on...

This music video was uploaded on Youtube on July 15, and has since been viewed a whopping 370 Million times. You cannot generate such a huge number from one country. It is not just the Koreans but possibly, this video trended worldwide. Gangnam is actually on the list of 10 most searched words on Google last month (Sep 2012). Surprising that I never really knew such a video became so popular. Believe it or not, as per Guinness World Records, this video holds the record for the most liked video in the history of Youtube. The song is composed solely by PSY himself from lyrics to choreography!

There was something in common between me and Psy. We both knew only one dance move, and it is very very terrible. People foound Psy's dance move "funny enough" to "like" it. I did not find it very amusing. It acutually seemed to me like a copy of LMFAO's Party rockin anthem. The beats were quite similar. Nevertheless, a hit is a hit. Here is that song!

Oct 4, 2012

Movie review: Barfi!

One of the few Bolloywood movies to have crossed the 100 Crore mark (in terms of money grossed). Sent as India's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film nomination for the 85th Academy Awards in February 2013. "Barfi! is the most deserving film to go for Oscars", said Anurag Kashyap. "It's pure plagiarism. Every scene including the music is copied from different international movies", says social networking posts. For good (or bad) Barfi! is trending nation-wide. The name Jhilmil will be a difficult one to forget. I was double-lucky this week, for I got two accidental chances to see this movie. First one, when I met my friends yesterday, and today, after I was half-way through this blog entry, when my roomies asked me, "Let's go for some movie" which ended me up in watching it one more time. Burfi! was the only available show in that theater. 

The key characters of Barfi!
The plot takes you through a lot of flashbacks, and if you are not paying close attention, you will be lost. While some found it confusing - shuttling between past and present - the screenplay actually leaves you puzzled, popping up a lot of WHYs and HOWs, and answers them one by one with a flashback. At times, you laugh out louder (LOL), and at times, you cry out louder (COL if such acronym ever existed). Barfi's unconventional mix of positive and negative emotion leaves you 'disturbed'.

The epic of the movie is Priyanka Chopra. The last time I was this impressed by an actress was Rani Mukherjee in Black. How did she manage to suit so well to the Jilmil Chatterjee character, only God knows. This is possibly the most different Priyanka anyone would've ever seen on screen. She steals the entire show. Keeps you at your feet when she feebly voices, "Baarrfiiiii...Baarrrffffiiiiiii", running around the farm. That wink. That blush. That gasp. That frown. Unmatchable. Unteachable. Impeccable. This ugly looking differently abled lady still steals your heart with her facial expressions.

Ranbir's deaf & mute acting - almost as beautiful as Priyanka, having only one dialogue - that contained only one word - his name. Makes you smile whenever he introduces himself by whistling his name - "Furpphhhiiii". Throwing shoes around windows, Giving directions with signs, Flirting around trams and tea shops, Cycling around the beautiful Darjeeling, evading the cops in a chaplinesque style, hiding behind horses, riding bullock carts, venting out sheer frustrations in a sign language -  Ranbir has done a lot of hard work. 

Most of my attention was glued to the breath-taking cinematography. It's the prime skill I watch out for in any movie I go to, and I was in for a great treat of Darjeeling. The background score - irrespective of whether it is copied from a French movie or not - deserves adulation. The songs are beautifully directed, cinematographed and edited. They complement the plot. They are part of the plot. They never distract you from the main plot like how traditional Indian movie songs do. This is the 9th time I'm blogging about a movie, with Burfi! being the first non-tamil flick. Barfi! justifies its append of the exclamation character to the movie name. It leaves you surprised. It leaves behind a lasting impression of its characters. It leaves you exclaimed, from beginning to end!

Sep 26, 2012

So, What is this Twitter?!

This article is an attempt to introduce Twitter, and I must admit that it is at least 6 years late. Started as a small project in 2006 by Jack Dorsey and his friends, with an intent to create a web-based real-time status update service, Twitter went on to become one of the world's 10 most visited website by 2010. Twitter's simple concept of "exchanging short text messages with friends and strangers" was made available to the outside world with a "brilliantly simple" design. As on today, 500 Million users across the globe "tweet" actively.

So what is this all about?
Twitter is all about a short message that cannot exceed 140 characters. This short message is called as a tweet, and the activity carried out is referred to as Tweeting. A person (or organization) shares a message, and it is instantly delivered to his "followers". An user can follow (and be followed by) other users. This remarkably simple mode of communication turned out a huge success, as different people used it for different purpose. While any sort of message can be posted, Twitter is used mostly to update what is happening "right now". From that Last-Ball-Six IPL win to Aishwarya Rai's new born baby - everything was shared right after the moment it happened. Current US President Barrack Obama was spreading words across, using his Twitter page, during his presidential election campaign. News channels made right use of it, sharing "Breaking News" via their Twitter accounts. Anyone with a valid e-mail Id can create a twitter account, and it is totally FREE. The following pie chart shows the global usage of tweets. It appears that most of the content (Brown ones) are "meaning less" and "fun". (You can click on the image to see an enlarged view) 
A Graph that demonstrates Twitter usage
If you know what # and @ mean, then you know Twitter!

Tweeting can't get any more exciting, if you know the usage of two symbols: # and @. HASH is used to represent (often shortly) a topic you are tweeting about. A hash tag is simply a combination of letters (and/or) numbers. Twitter allows an user to filter tweets based on a particular hash tag. Here is a tweet I wrote an hour ago. It has a hash tag - SlowThingsIHate
A simple tweet, with a #tag on it
The concept of "Trending Topics" is Twitter's most distinct feature. More than 340 Million tweets are posted in a day, and with the help of hash tags, Twitter identifies the "most discussed topic of the day". It can be the 2012 Olympics, or the Royal Wedding or otherwise a funny one. As Wikipedia puts it, "A word, phrase or topic that is hash tagged at a greater rate than other tags is said to be a trending topic".

As I write this blog, the following topics are listed as "trending" right now. (You can click on the image to see a bigger view). 
Trending Topics
If you observe closely, you can see a list of topics on your left that are frequently tweeted right now. It starts with Imran Nazir (An hour ago, he got the fastest half century in this year's T20 world cup) and since the match is played between Pakistan and Bangladesh, you see these countries being listed as well. There is also a funny one that reads, #SlowThingsIHate. Whoever started it, triggered a global outburst of frustration as everyone started to write their thoughts on the things they hate for being slow. This keeps bubbling up, going on and on, until someone else starts another tag. This is when #fun begins with Twitter :-)

The next symbol is @, which means, "mentions". You can tag a twitter user in your tweet, and it will be displayed in that user's Mentions section. A mention is used to attract someone's attention. While it is mostly a tweet from one friend to another, @ is often used to address a celebrity you revere. I know one young boy  who kept tweeting more than a thousand times on his birthday, mentioning Sachin Tendulkar (@Sachin_rt), hoping that he will see atleast one of them and wish him. He indeed received a wish. Well done Sachin! but you tempted more youngsters to repeat what he did. 

Here is a mention that I received few mins ago. My friend, who is (assumably) very active on Twitter, was surprised to see a tweet from a rare tweeter, which is me!
A mention, represented by the @symbol
@ is also used to represent a twitter user account in general. When you see a @ symbol followed by a name, like @VikiTweets, it is the user profile of a person. You can access his tweets by typing<username> on your browser. Mine is

Tweeting is fun and I suggest you try it. These days, many mobile devices come with a built-in Twitter client which allows you to read/write tweets right from your phone. The word tweet is voted as the most famous word that was added in Oxford Dictionary in 2009 (both as a Verb and Noun). Twitter is cutely designed. Its error page is the cutest "server busy" screen I have ever seen. Referred to as "Fail Whale" (See image here), it was designed by a girl named Yiying Lu. 

Sep 6, 2012

Shape Collage - Software Review

I was looking for Collage Creation softwares, and stumbled upon this one: Shape Collage that just blew me away. It had exactly what I was looking for - take a bunch of images as input, shape it in the way I want it, and arrange as nice as possible in such a way that all the images are 'almost visible'. All the more impressive is the size of this software: Less than a MB. Yeah, it's less than a mega byte of software code that ships in with insanely written algorithms, ending up creating a cool collection of photos within a moment. Thumps up! to this software, for the kind of possibilities it has. The options are kept as customizable as possible, and the best part is it being a FREEWARE. So many nice things in the world are free, and this had to be one of the nicest.

You can download it from here:

And here is a nicely recorded video that pretty much explains the gist of what can be done with this.

Jul 31, 2012

Sharing Android Phone's Internet

So you have a mobile phone with Internet enabled, and you wanted to access it via your computer? or your laptop? Read on..

Before that, find out the version of Android you have. If you have no idea where to find it, check this on your phone: Settings -> About Phone -> Build Number. If the number started with 2.2.x or 2.3.x, then congratulations, you can easily share the Internet. Otherwise, you have to follow some more steps. You may have to follow one of the four steps mentioned below.


If your Android Version is 2.2 or Above, and you have a Computer/Laptop with WiFI...

First check if your android version is 2.2 or above. In that case, you have an option called Tethering using which your phone can be converted into a WiFI Hotspot. On your phone, go to Wireless & networks > Tethering & portable hotspot. Here you can enable the option that says, Portable WiFI Hotspot. After enabling this, your phone has become a Wireless Internet device. You can access it by connecting from a laptop (or another phone that has WiFI). Optionally, you can enable passwords if you want to avoid anyone else connecting to your device.

If your Android Version is 2.2 or Above, and you DONT have a Computer/Laptop with WiFI (or)
If your Android Version is 2.1 or Below, and you have a Computer/Laptop with/without WiFI,
You have to instal an additional software to get it to work. PDA Net is a light-weight, free android application that helps you share your phone's internet through a USB data cable. You need to download and install this on your phone by downloading it from the Android Market (Aka Play Store). 

Post installation on phone, you have to install another software on your computer/laptop. This application is the bridge between your computer and the phone which makes the internet connection shareable. While the detailed steps to do these is not written here, you can find them on the official PDANet site. It's here:

This application is also available for iPhones. You have to download the equivalent sofware for Mac, and the steps are fairly similar.

Jun 14, 2012

Why we shout when we are angry

Read this somewhere, and I found it nice.
A saint asked his disciples, 'Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?' Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, 'Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.' 'But, why to shout when the other person is just next to you?' asked the saint. 'Isn't it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you're angry?' Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the saint. 

Finally he explained, 'When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.' Then the saint asked, 'What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small...' The saint continued, 'When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.' 

MORAL: When you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other more, else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.

May 29, 2012

The best IPL, till date

The recently concluded IPL has been the best edition ever with lot of close finishes and evenly balanced teams. Once again, the league table topper lose a spot in the final. Once again, Mumbai play well in the league games and throw it out in the qualifies. Once again, Chennai struggle in the first half, come back strong and make it to the playoffs (only IPL team to make it in all editions). Never before we have seen 8 teams fighting so closely for a playoff berth. Even those two teams at the bottom of the table were not truly outclassed. They had their own moments and during last-over finishes, ended up on the losing side more times than the successful ones. Kolkata played very well throughout the tournament and they deserve to win the trophy. For the tournament, it is good to have new winners than having the same team re-gain the throne.

Being a CSK-an, what has affected me the most is people's obsession with our luck in making it to the playoff. Let me explain why this should not be called as "Just Luck". CSK equally deserved a playoff spot just as Punjab or Bangalore or Rajasthan did. To finish in the first 4, you need to be consistent throughout and not just the first 14 games. Chennai finished in 17 points from 16 games when Punjab and Rajasthan was on 14 points with two games left, and Bangalore on 15 points with 2 games left. It so happened that Punjab and Rajasthan failed to cross the 17-pointer and Bangalore was pathetic in chasing a meagre 140 odd during its last game. The IPL rules are fairly simple. The consistent ones go through. There is no luck here. This is called "Rules". Luck (or Unlucky) is when an umpire gives a wrong decision. Missed Run out or dropping a catch is not luck. It is the inability of the fielder who failed to hold the nerve in front of a packed, aroused crowd.

Why is everyone thanking Deccan? Why is everyone saying CSK is lucky, I thought. We played equal number of games like any other team did and got points more enough to finish in first-4. Rewind  back to 2 years when MSD thrashed Pathan all over Dharmasala to seal a playoff spot for Chennai after winning the last league game of that year's edition. Had Chennai played its 16th game after every other team did, the story would turn out that "Chennai made it to the playoffs by winning the last game", instead of "Chennai made it just because 3 other teams lost". If Chennai is lucky to have 3 defeats in its favor, then Delhi or Kolkata is even more lucky to have 20-30 defeats among other teams which ensured their spot. This is all relativity and the perspective changes from observer to observer. When a game is lost after giving a 6 of the last ball, everyone would blame it on the bowler who gave the last six. There might've been 10 other sixes given earlier by other bowlers. The game could've been won even by saving one of those 10 sixes but it is that last six which remains in people's heart. That last disaster is what that comes to your mind. This is the reason why Chennai is considered lucky because what followed was defeats in its favor, making it look like LUCK. It is not. Luck is when Chennai make 2-3 points less than Rajasthan or Punjab and still make it to the playoffs. Not when they are ahead of others.

The last one, but not the least one. That Chennai is fixing games. How is it that when Chennai wins - people say "fixed game" but "victory" for other teams? What money does N.Srinivasan have that Mr.Ambani or Mr.Mallaya doesn't? Fixing the outcome of an IPL game is practically impossible because there are so many people involved in the tournament. The max we can do is convince a single player to get out for cheap runs or bowl a intentional no-ball on a  particular period of the game. The possibility of convincing an entire team which is full of international and domestic players deserves laughter. Morne Morkel's absence in the 2nd Qualifier is considered as a means of fixing because Andre Russel who replaced him neither made runs or got wickets. But think about that last game when the aggressive McCullum was replaced by Bisla. Had he not played a brilliant inning and won it for KKR, his swap would also go down as a means of "Fixing". It is good for the game that KKR won, and Bisla played well. Otherwise, the jealously lot out there would consider it as "undoubtedly fixed".

The post match interview of SRK or the response from the Bengal govt (as if their state won the Ranji trophy) was real fun to watch. Hope to see more fun in the Champions league.

Apr 13, 2012

Multiple Toolkits Dependency

When you migrate a process application from Lombardi 7.2 (WLE) to Lombardi 7.5 (IBM BPM), the system toolkits will conflict. Multiple entries will be there and would throw a java.lang.NullPointerException whenever you login to the process app. If you ignore this and continue your development, you are in for some serious problems later. You cannot successfully deploy this package to a run time server. It will fail with the same error. It will not allow you either to remove the dependency or upgrade the dependency since another system toolkit is already there.

To make the system allow this removal, we need to modify database entries manually. Playing around the processDB is a tricky job but IBM has clearly documented the procedure. Follow the steps in this article and the problem can be easily resolved.

Note: It is a good practice to upgrade the dependency of your 7.2.0 system toolkit to the latest version soon after you import it into 7.5.

Mar 22, 2012

As You Like It

An hour before I started writing this post, Bangladesh came very close to winning the Asia Cup for the first time. Unfortunate fellows, lost the thrilling final by just 2 runs. The match report is here but you are not interested in reading it, are you? Anyway, I wanted to write about something else that spoiled the sheer fun of watching cricket these days. Match Fixing, or Spot Fixing or Whatever damn thing you might call it. Every close game & unexpected outcomes are bluntly attributed to this thing called "match fixing".

India wins? "Huh, they fixed this game. See how many drop catches". India loses? "They are playing for money. This is fixed. I know.", they say undoubtedly, as if they are from the 007 family. This increasing obsession with this phrase finally pushed one of the laziest bloggers (that is me, if you haven't realized it yet!) to write about it. Fixing was, and is there but not as blatant as how people claim it to be. My dad told me one day, when speaking about that elusive 100th Hundred, this:
"He is delaying it intentionally. This is all well planned. If he keep getting out, the odds of him getting it in the next game will keep going down. Once everyone starts believing he is not going to get there, he will eventually get there".
 So that might be 0.01% true or say, 99.9% true. Whatever you want it to be. Neither am I from the 007 Family, and I don't know either. The sheer logic of betting is playing for the impossible and win after it happens. The history dates back to 1983 when the first unexpected outcome started it all. India reached the Prudential world cup finals as underdogs against the 2-time champ West Indies. As it eventually turned out, India went on to become the first country to win the World cup after WI. Whoever put their money on India, as less as it should've been, eared lot of money out of it. Is that game fixed? Who knows, or who cares,  anyway.

Unexpected results kept coming then on but no one bothered much. It was on 7 April 2000, Delhi police revealed they had a recording of a conversation between Hansie Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate, over match-fixing allegations. Gibbs revealed that Cronje had offered him $15,000 to score less than 20 runs in the 5th ODI at Nagpur. Actually, Gibbs scored 74 off 53 balls in that game. More stories unfolded, and it eventually led to people start believing in fixing. This spoiled the love for the game. Many of those whom I met admitted that they quit following the game after such controversies surmounted. "Do they think we look like a fool to them? We watch and support with so much of passion, and they just get money and lose", is the standard  anger expression from them. 

So tell me one thing. What IF all the games you watch are fixed? To me, it doesn't matter at all. Cricket is purely an entertainment to  me. If it can thrillingly go till the last over and keep me enthralled, I am fine with every game being 'FIXED'. Didn't people like that Death Race movie in which Joan Allen (who played the role of Hennesey) fixed the outcome of every race? Or take the most watched sport on YouTube: WWE. Once called as World Wrestling Federation became World Wrestling Entertainment after they started 'directing' every match. None of those fights you see on TV is real. Still people like it, aren't they?

The world's most watched sport on YouTube
This blog will in no way change the way people see cricket. Same applies to me. As long as it is fun-filled I am fine with it being fixed. I could  recollect the first two lines of a high-school text book poem by Shakespeare. It went like this:  All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players

Mar 5, 2012

KISS: Keep it Short, and Simple

I have been following articles from user interface design communities very closely of late. Especially on what makes a great website - great. Is it about colors? or jazzy looking buttons? or speed? I could recollect a Steve Jobs quote on the word Design, which goes like this:
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
I do believe that there is more to do with design in addition to making it look good. The word 'great' comes from different people for different reasons. Here goes one reason behind why Google Search is great. Now tell me something. What can we do with a HTML text box? Type a name? mobile phone number? sounds insignificant right? Looks weird to see someone blog about it. I mean, what can one text box do at all?

Someone thought so, and did miracles with it. It is quite captivating to see that the world's most visited website - has only one text box in it's home page. It appears so but under the hood, there lies an amazing design which performs many different tasks based on the search term. We all know we can search for information on Google but many of us do not know all the features it comes with.
Two years back, I wrote a blog on How Google search works but I did not mention the features then. Here is a compiled list of many cool features.

Click on the links to see it in action.

Feature description preview link
Localization is one key feature of Google. When you search for weather, it returns weather detail for the given location. weather bangalore
The word MOVIES followed by City name will return showtimes for the present day. movies chennai
The word sunrise or sunset followed by city name will get the timings! Best thing to know if you are visiting Kanyakumari! sunrise kanyakumari
The word time will give current time along with Timezone. Helps avoid scaring out people at midnight while making an overseas phone call! time georgia
Starting search with site: followed by a website name will return results only from that website. I use it to find posts in my own blog! google
Giving Stock Quotes will return latest trend of that share. MSFT
Live Sports score will come when you enter the team names. Since all the sport website are blocked by the proxy server @ work, I use to check scores for the ongoing India-Australia test series with this! ind vs aus
There is a lovely calculator inside. Just type an expression, and off you go! 5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=
Unit conversions can’t get any easier! If your kid is in high school, don’t show this. s/he will become google-dependent for homeworks! 30.48 cm in feet

100 USD in INR
Thanks to organizations that expose public data. Population, Unemployment rate – it’s all available. population india

unemployment rate america
Looking for something specific? Type it along with place name and pincode. gym chennai 600041
To learn more about a disease/problem, put the name of it, and you could see it’s symptom/treatment/test/Complications etc., Mitral valve prolapse
Travel planning has become very easy now. You can check flight status, and timings just by keying in the name! american airlines 18

flights from chennai to bangalore
using related: along with a website will give you list of sites that are relevant to it.
Sydney Morning Herald is a famous Australian News paper. To get all such newspapers, use this!
A new addition to search is the Best Guess feature. Ask a question and it will try it’s best. This simplifies searching! who is apple ceo
billa2 release
All these things happen after you click the Search button. The engine running inside somehow works out what you wanted to do, and invokes that particular piece of software code to get you the results!
Think about a Google search homepage with 20 different text boxes – one each for features such as weather, time, flight schedule, and population! The page will look cluttered, and every time we have to think where to type. We all know how many buttons calculators have, but this one is absolutely simple. We must appreciate the people who does all this under-the-hood stuff! This is what I will call Great Design.
Some more design concepts from this blog post:
It actually took me 5 hours to finish writing this post. I was looking for the best way to present this content. I thought about bulleted points, screen shots of various search results but finally decided to have a simple table which will have a short description along with a link to show you how it works. Clicking all these links would not take more than 5 minutes whereas the reader trying it out himself would take a longer time. In fact he would not even try all of it since there is some amount of laziness in every human being. Having screenshots here would lead to a longer post and the reader has to scroll a lot. No one likes reading longer posts. Table is short, and solves the purpose well. This is the first time I am using a TABLE in my blog, and wrote some CSS for a decent looking table layout! If 1000 people read this post, then I have saved the world – 10,000 minutes. That tells something about design. It's not about developer's comfort but the end user's!

Feb 2, 2012

Tuning your website

There are certain small small things that can together make bigger differences. One scenario that holds good for this theory is Optimizing a web page for performance. The Exceptional performance team from Yahoo! has identified certain best practices to achieve this.
  • Some of them are simple & easy-to-do. Stuffs such as keeping CSS files and Java scripts as external files rather than embedding inline code, using CSS Sprites.
  • Some of them are common-sense stuff such as reducing the number of HTTP Requests made by the page, Reducing the number of DOM Elements, Splitting your resources across domains, avoiding empty tags, and removing broken URL hyperlinks.
  • Some other hi-fi stuff are also there, such as using CDNs. 

An article that is very worth reading if you are interested in things that speed up the performance of a website.
Read on:

Feb 1, 2012

Microsoft Office Labs vision 2019

  • Year 1970: There was something called computer which some people used to have. Keyboard, and Character User Interface is what it was all about, and all that it actually had.
  • Year 1980: The days when Apple stole Xerox's GUI technology and Launched Apple III, the first ever Personal computer that came along with a 3-button pointing device called "Mouse".
  • Year 1990-2005: Nothing changed apart from the number of keys & buttons a keyboard/mouse consisted of. Wireless/Optical devices were introduced but never made any significant improvement in the way people interacted with a computer.
  • Year 2010: The usage of mouse slowly started to diminish as the Touch technology revolutionized human-computer interaction. Instead of moving a mouse which in turn will move a cursor inside the monitor, man threw away that thing and directly started pointing his fingers right at the screen.
  • Year 2020: This is what I actually wanted to talk about, or rather, to be precise, show you a glimpse of how we will possibly interact with computers in 2020. Microsoft Labs has prepared a beautiful video of its vision for the year 2019. Check it out and see if you like it. 2019 would be too early a time to witness this but a dream is dream. Let's hope it will materialize.

Jan 15, 2012

Nokia Lumia 800 - Review

Got a chance today to check out my friend's new Nokia Lumia 800. The design is spectacularly sleek. Weighing just over 140 grams, it fits perfectly in your palms and the out-of-the-box experience was just so lovely. The sliding happens very seamlessly, thanks to the 1.4 GHz Scorpion processor powered by Qualcomm. Such processors have the circuitry to decode High-Definition video (HD) resolution at 720p (or 1080p depending on the chipset). You can read the complete specifications of the phone here.

The New Nokia Lumia 800
The beauty of this phone must be the combination of simplicity and stability. It's Microsoft & Nokia I meant. I never read a book to learn using Windows XP, and I never saw a Nokia phone causing any problems within an year after the purchase. The name Nokia has a lot of respect in India, and till date it is also the most sold phone here. Same goes with the case of Windows which leads the OS space. I know many people who synonymously use the words Computer and Windows XP, and would ask me, "What is it?" whenever I talk about Linux and Ubuntu.

The Menu navigation is pretty simple and superb. There is no flashy backgrounds such as a picture of a mountain or waterfall or sunset. It is very plain, but looked professional expressing Microsoft's very own elegance. With two backgrounds modes: Light  & Dark, and 11 color themes: Blue, Green, Red, Orange, Nokia Blue, Magenta, Brown, Teal, Purple, Lime, Pink, Mango, you have 22 different combinations to style your menus.  

Absence of a Front-camera is a big minus in this phone. If it comes to affording 30,000 Rupees, one would expect almost everything in it. Nokia has overcome this limitation in Lumia 900, which is yet to release in India. By the time it comes, this Lumia 800 price will go down between 20,000 - 24,000k. And there is no support for Micro SD cards. You will have to live with the internal memory of 16GB which I feel is more than enough. Like Apple, only the Micro SIM card is supported which means you either need to break your normal sized SIM card or ask your service provider for a new micro one. Another Apple emulation is the limitation of Bluetooth connectivity. You cannot connect to every available device! The only mode of data transfer then is by installing Zune (a software like Quick time) and synchronizing your phone with your desktop. I heard Airtel sells Micro SIM cards for 49 Rupees to its existing customers.

With Samsung leading the Indian smartphone market with its Android-powered Galaxy phones, Nokia has finally come back with a strong statement. As this review is only from my first-hand experience, I am eager to see the public response for this phone. With Apple looking formidable, and Android catching up at a rapid pace, it will be interesting to see what revolution would Microsoft make, with its Windows Mobile OS.

Jan 12, 2012

Out of The Box - The Inside Story

"Is it an out-of-the-box feature or does it comes with the product?", my colleague remarked. "What?", I puzzled back. He repeated the same thing again: "Is it an out-of-the-box feature or comes along with the product?". The catch here is the usage of the phrase out-of-the-box. He was thinking that it meant something which does not come by default with the product. Though the name indicates that way, my understanding o that phrase is the exact opposite. Many techies I have interacted with used this phrase to indicate a customization/modification of an actual software component. I used to think they are all wrong, and I am only right. Today, after a long debate with my colleague, I started reading about it on the internet. Such phrases come from nowhere, without any context, and their usage might vary.

As Wikipedia remarks,
Out of the box is the term used to denote items, functionalities, or features that do not require any additional installation. In addition to being used for tangible products, the phrase is often used in a less literal sense for software, which may not be distributed in an actual box but offer certain functions "out of the box," i.e. without modification.
Since we hear such phrases from people, it is quite easy to get convinced that it is what we think it is. I forgot from whom I learnt it and I really wonder why I was so firm about its actual meaning. We are convinced mainly because of a similar phrase: "Thinking Outside the Box", which would refer to creative thinking. So it also sounds correct to give a similar meaning to it.

To generalize the problem, let's take a horn in a vehicle. With my current understanding, I will say, A Horn is an out-of-the-box feature of a Car.

My friend added relativity to the usage. He feels that it can be used only in places where a product X has feature A, which product Y or Z does not have. In that case, he would say, A is an out-of-the-box feature of X.

It looks more like we are on the same understanding but looking at it with different perspective. The question still remains unanswered: "Does out-of-the-box feature mean something that comes by default with a product or something that does not?"

Any thoughts on this? 

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