Monthly Archives: September 2006

Blogging from Writely

By the way, I love Writely as a Blogging tool. It is way cleaner and way faster than blogging from my WordPress Dashboard (and obviously both are better than the useless Blogger Post writing Text Box – dunno about Blogger Beta though). My drafts are organised a lot better, and once I am done posting I just archive the document. Also, I can publish the document as a standalone HTML document – which I can then link to from my blog – like I did with my Foucault Pendulum excerpt.

Compare that with Windows Live Writer, which I downloaded today – after entering my WordPress account details, it has been ‘Analysing list of weblogs..’ for the past hour and a half.

I guess the minor hiccups with Writely are that images are not published (for WordPress) and the not-so-visible HTML tags (They are all ‘br’ tags in instead of ‘p’ tags). Also, I cannot assign categories as yet, but ab Chhappar-faadh-ke-maangna to unfair ho jayega.

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Let it go

This one is about this random fatta I had come up with sometime back, which I will unleash right here, right now. I have a feeling I am going to read this after some time and laugh at myself.

Diversion: Two Things
But before that, two things. First I think the content organisation on my posts is terrible. No titles or images to break the flow and make it more readable. All my posts look like a keede-makode-crawling all over. Am writing this, just to remind me of the same. I will try a few things with every post. This one for example has titles.

Second thing – a technology question. Can one blog through SMS? I was driving to Delhi, stuck in a traffic jam averaging speeds of 4kmph (as is rule these days), my mind wandering all over the place, when I decided that the fatta, which I am going to reveal shortly, is worth blogging about. But I didn’t want to wait till I got back home (yes, Blogging is that addictive). How cool would it be if I could blog right there in the middle of the traffic through my phone?

There are tools which exist which let you blog if you have GPRS enabled on your phone (Cool Bhartiya start-up called Link’n’Surf, which, by the way, lets you do a lot more than just post to blogs), and my techie-Bhaai (tB) pointed out another tool to me which he used on his (ahem ahem) O2 XDA (Obviously, I am looking for a lesser-mortal enabler tool). tB tells me it’s possible, so I will just wait for someone to make it.

The Fatta
Now the Fatta. Turn away.

No? Well okay here goes.

Whenever I am feeling sad, depressed or just plain irritated – it often seems like there are tens of reasons which are contributing to that state of mind, and I can never quite get around it sometimes. I have realised over time that, in truth every time, there is just one overriding reason. Always one. All other reasons are extraneous and have been dug up around that one reason. The first issue is often that I fail to acknowledge or accept it. It seems so trivial and inane (say a stranger making a stray comment, which really hit me at the time), or something so uncharacteristic of myself (the character which I have in my head), I keep pushing it down and try to deal with the more actionable extraneous reasons to solve the problem. The other issue is that even if I know what the reason is, it is impossible to resolve, contributing further to my chagrin.

What do I do? I let go. It doesnt work all the time, but I have been trying. Sometimes it is a lot more difficult to be honest to myself. Sometimes it just works if you make fun yourself out loud. But I have to give it a shot. Then there are the ones I can’t deal with – the real annoying ones which leave me with regret and nothing more. I file them away to worry about later – most fade away, others just become easier to deal with. Filing away sounds pretty difficult yeah? I thought so too. A long time back I had read Gone with the Wind, and Scarlett O’ Hara kept using this phrase “I shan’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow”. I always thought that it really was just a meaningless statement – after all, how can you think about thoughts another day – they will come to you as and when they want. But it’s true – you really just have to try. I Googled to get the exact phrase, and somewhere someone had used the ‘Scarlett O’ Hara syndrome’ to refer to procastination. Recognise that this is the exact opposite of that. You file away hindering thoughts for later, so that you can deal with the important task at hand now.

Aside 1
I had written the above Fatta entirely in Second Person first. I decided to rewrite some of it in First Person. Took a lot more effort. Looking within is more difficult than looking without.

Aside 2
Guess this post would have been a *bit* long for blogging over SMS.

The fading glory of the RAZR V3i

Oh how I coveted that thing! That object of desire dressed beautifully in black – surely it was created by some divine design. It belonged to someone else, yet I would steal glances at it from across the table.

Finally I gave in. I bought myself a brand new Motorola RAZR. I had decided that I would wait for the V3i to arrive on the scene, with its sexy gun metal finish, 1.2 mp camera and iTunes. Plus it came with a 256 mb microSD card. All that for a mere 14,500. Yeah, I know its 10,500 now, but even then it felt like more than VFM.

The headphones were nice, I could put music on to it through iTunes, not as convenient as using Windows Explorer like I did with my N-Gage, but not too bad either. The sound quality was good. It did not scratch easily, which was quite something considering the last gadget I bought before that was the iPod Nano. I could put animated .gifs as screensavers – nice. Some minor problems did surface, like it would hang up a on a few occasions, and the voice quality was not as great as my N-Gage, but that was okay – it looked so damned neat.

After a point I came up with an corny analogy – The Moto RAZR V3i is like a really hot girl friend – she is dumb, demanding and a pain to deal with, but you take it all in your stride because she is so damned hot (I am just going by what Bollywood movies has taught me).

Times have changed and somehow that analogy does ring so true any more. When every third guy (and girl) in the country start seeing the same hot babe, where’s the novelty? Now I have just have a phone – called the MotoRAZR – oh you have one too? Thought so.

Now I would give you a list of reasons why you should not buy the the MotoRAZR, starting now.

1. It’s has an MP3 player with iTunes. Great, except that putting music on that phone is the most infuriating thing on this planet. For starters it is USB 1.0 and works like USB 0.3, it takes forever to put one song on it. Plus you cannot put music on it from another computer. If you do, first it will delete all the songs you have, because you see, it can be associated with only one iTunes library. BS. Plus, even with that one iTunes library, what happens if you removed a song from your library? Plug in your phone and it gets deleted too – it needs to be ‘updated’! To prevent that you have to uncheck some minuscule check boxes next to the song. Compare that to my N-Gage – agreed it looked like an elephant ear, did not have the best sound in the world, but not only could I put music on it easily, I could put it in any damned folder and it would find it.

2. 1.2 megapixel camera. Ha! Good Luck Photoshopping what most likely are the darkest photos clicked ever, even in broad sunlight – and they all look a bit yellowish and hazy. On the bright side you can probably pass it off as a vintage snap.

3. It hangs up. All the time. Not because I do anything wrong, but because I try to answer a call when the clamshell is open. It hangs, I have to close it and wait for 2 minutes while it recuperates and then wait for the person to call me again. Nice touch.

4. The voice quality just plain sucks. It is slightly better than the sound quality I got from my N-Gage when I was holding it reverse and speaking into the speaker (I had not understood the elephant ear dynamics then).

5. It cannot search through your phone book in real time. Now is that stone age or is that stone age? I have to type a few letters and then say Search. Did you just type ‘Sa’ and you have several contacts starting with those two letters? What would you do if you were Nokia – you would add another letter. What do you do if you were the MotoRAZR? You would type S-a-whatever again and press Search. Still didn’t find it? Type away some more baby.

6. Call me finicky, but could they have picked an uglier font?

Alas, I can’t afford a new phone anytime soon. So will have to make do with it for now. Maybe when we are alone, away from this RAZR infested world, we can reminisce about the good old times.

Update : The RAZR Gods don’t like me anymore. Within four days of me writing this post, my RAZR  stopped working, just like that! The other culprit could be myself, also known as the Sweatman – this phone might have succumbed to the same fate as my earlier phones. Better check the Warranty quick.

iTunes 7 is gorgeous

I just can’t stop playing with the cover flow view. It is incredible.

I had been holding out on iTunes, sticking to my tried and tested Winamp all this while. But with iTunes 7, there is no question. Guess I am a bit of an oddball that I find album art an important component of my music. Once they allowed album art with ID3v2, I spent a fair bit of time trying to tag my albums with art. I tried Helium Music Manager, even the earlier iTunes, but it was just too much work.

With iTunes 7 you can a) download original artwork from iTunes itself (as long as you have atleast the Artist and Album name in place, and an iTunes account) , which is sexy. b) You can flip through your albums as if I was browsing through my cassette cabinet – which basically makes all that album art really worth it – and it makes browsing the iTunes library way more convenient – I could never quite get used to the Browse feature.

Apple is great that way. It is a company which believes in giving power to the people – and it does it brilliantly – it has struck a fine balance between what people want, what lawmakers and content creators want and what the economics at Apple dictate. Some things which come to mind,

1) Each generation of iPOD is an innovation in itself. It is not an incremental change but a quantum change. Yet they price their products same as the earlier generation, and even cheaper sometimes. This probably makes iPOD among the classiest and the most affordable MP3 players around.

2) I think the way they store music on the iPOD is also great. It is not easily inaccessible, so it can’t be downloaded the way you would do it from say a USB drive, but accessible nevertheless. Thus deterring most people from any illegal transfers, while letting the fighters tweak their way in.

3) They are innovative beyond redemption, and Jobs is brilliant at identifying gaps in the value chain. In a cluttered MP3 player market, they introduced the iPOD which now has more than 70% market share of mp3 players. Why did it succeed? It succeeded because of iTunes – it gave regular people a way to actually put music on to the player, taking the mp3 player from the geek domain to mainstream. Similarly the new iTV bridges the gap between taking online video to your television.

All I can say is Jai Steve Jobs. Jai Apple.

Cowardice

I have a problem – I let drafts ferment and rot in my dashboard too long. Usually, It is a good thing because you end up writing something better, but after a point you just don’t resonate with an idea as deeply as you did when you wrote it first. My new mission is to get the older drafts out faster than I create new ones. Here is one post which has been fermenting at the draft stage for long.

If you have driven on Delhi’s roads for any period of time, there is a very high probability that you have hit someone’s car or have been hit by someone else’ car. The Filmi/Raj Comics version of the usual scene following such an incident is as follows: people concerned battering each other to death till someone intervenes (in the case of Raj Comics that might be Dhruv or Nagraj). And surely we have seen several such brawls in front of our very own eyes.

The key question is what do you do, when this happens to you. Here is what goes through my mind: The damage is done now, this guy is not going to pay for my car repairs, so there is no point in fighting and wasting time. Of course, this often is a first mover question, but I usually try and talk my way out of it.

The problem with this decision is this: you feel like a coward. It bothers me a lot less now, but used to bother me a lot when I was younger.

Diversion: Sometime last year I read the book Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Though you need to have Wikipedia handy when you are reading it, it is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. Beyond being a thriller par excellence, it has incredibly brilliant insights into life, touched up with delightful humor. The story runs in flashback, the memory of past days often coming to Casaubon, the lead protagonist, through the diary entries of another one of the key characters called Jacopo Belbo. It is here that some of these insights come to life and how.

One such insight relates to cowardice of the above variety. And I think it is best discovered than stated – which means you have to read the rest of this post and the book excerpt.

The context is this (with help from Wikipedia): In 1970s Milan, Casaubon is a student writing a thesis in the midst of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activities of the students around him. During the course of his research he forms a friendship with an editor in a publishing house called Jacopo Belbo and his colleague Diotallevi. At one revolutionary march of the sort commonplace then, Casaubon bumps into Belbo and a friend of his. After a series of events, the police starts firing, and Casaubon, Belbo and his friend manage to run away. Belbo explains to Casaubon his escape strategy, and how that is something he learnt as a child. However, when he relates his childhood story and his exposure to the Resistance, he reveals how he was eleven then and thus a mere spectator, though an astute one at that. In Belbo’s words, “What else could I do? I watched. And ran. Like today.”

It is not revealed to Casaubon if Belbo’s remorse related to a specific incident in his life, until much later when he finds a diary entry about it. (The reader on the other hand learns about it immediately).

Read it here. Poetic.

Learning from the Learned

Great post by Gaurav Bhatnagar of New Delhi Times fame (almost GigaOM fame, but am sure that day shall come for New Delhi Times too). Have read it twice already. Here goes: ‘Don’t forget to smell the roses!’