Sunday, November 30, 2008

So.. what's next??

Unless you live under a rock.. you know about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Here are the events that happened prior to that:
  • November 26: Mumbai terrorist attacks kill over 100, 287 injured
  • October 30: Explosions kill at least 64 in north-eastern Assam
  • September 30: Blasts in western India kill at least seven
  • September 27: Bomb blasts kill one in Delhi
  • September 13: Five bomb blasts kill 18 in Delhi
  • July 26: At least 22 small bombs kill 49 in Ahmedabad
  • July 25: Seven bombs go off in Bangalore killing two people
  • May 13: Seven bomb hit markets and crowded streets in Jaipur killing 63
Do you see a pattern? Apart from destabilizing Kashmir, terrorists have attacked the other three corners of India (North:Kashmir, East: Assam, South:Bangalore, West:Mumbai and Center:Delhi). What the hell is the Indian Intelligence Service up to? But I won't rant on the state of Indian Union and the politicians, or the eminent lack of crisis management. I want to ask why.. why on earth did the terrorists do it? Was there something they needed? When they held hostages at Taj in Mumbai, they didn't ask for money.. they didn't mention Kashmir, they didn't mention religion.. then what might they possibly want??
Now, am not an intelligence expert or a conspiracy theorists, but I do have a brain which constantly needs to connect the dots. Can't anyone see that these are not terrorist "attacks".. this is an act of war. No.. not between nations, but between India and the "terrorist" (if that's what they choose to call themselves). These are well known guerrilla tacts to overcome a bigger, more sophisticated army. The kind of war which we never have seen before. Of course.. they won't challenge us in a "real" battle. The art of war is to play according to your strengths, not weakness, which is exactly what they are doing.
Let me take off my Indian hat, and look at the situation from a perspective of a third person. (you get good at it if you play AOE/Caesar et al.). Lets call the terrorists X. Now we have to work the facts and have a strategy to understand what they do and why they do it.
Lets have some facts:
  • America is to increase its military presence in Afganistan.
  • India doesn't hate anyone. It has a neutral attitude, ergo it doesn't hate the west, so it is not on the good books of the terrorists.. I mean X.
  • India and Pakistan have a very sensitive border.
  • India and Pakistan are densely populated and diverse, plus being from the same chunk of the continent, its hard to differentiate Indians, Pakistanis and Xs from each another.
  • X is loosing its stronghold in mid-east and Afganistan and is being forced into the Indian subcontinent.
  • India is doing absolutely nothing to resist this.. and seems unaware of this incursion.
  • Pakistan appears to be doing something, but is overwhelmed by religious extremism.. for every forward step it takes, it seems to go back two steps.
  • The whole world is suffering an economic depression and doesn't want to be bothered.
  • High profile outfits remain untouched while their human-bombs, the pawns, continue to wreak havoc on the whole world, continue to get caught, continue to die. Just imagine a chess game in which you have unlimited pawns to gambit..
  • India, Pakistan and US are the most visible players in this game, and they should each verify the authenticity and innocence of the other two countries and ascertain if they are being double crossed.
Feasible actions that can be taken (if and only if none of the major players are helping X out):
  • Put India and Pakistan on a state of war with X and declare emergency in both the countries. Dispense any logistical bureaucratic crap, that has so often hampered progress in both the countries, till the issue is resolved.
  • Let India and Pakistan co-ordinate attacks with USA. Let USA push the X overlords from the west periphery while India and Pakistan do it from the east end.
  • Put the whole world on vigil in case one of the X overlords try to hole up in one of the other countries. (I wish it would be as easy as sending a text message to get some action taken)
Well.. it's all easier said than done. I hope that atleast a common enemy brings India and Pakistan closer to resolve their personal conflicts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008 Review

Couple of days back, I received the following email:

Hi Sridhar,
I'm the co-founder of a startup,
I recently went through some of your blog entries and find your blog
interesting. I would be delighted to have you review this startup
on your blog. Here is a description of how this website serves people:

You need not necessarily provide a positive review on the site,
we would like your honest, unbiased opinion. However please
do add our URL in the review, that will make it easier for the readers to
see the site for themselves.

Thanks in advance,

Amit Meckoni

So here's one for you Amit.. you owe me one :) is a novel idea. In a nutshell:
  • You enter your trip details and ask for a rate quote.
  • Travel Agents (mostly desi ones) bid for lowest price.
  • You buy tickets directly from the travel agent quoting the lowest price.
Many Indians (in America) know that travel agents are the most inexpensive way to get your tickets to India from. Travel agents even suggest you the dates when you can travel to avail certain benefits/schemes in order to get the cheapest flight home. Although being the geek that I am, I don't see why one cannot write a script to automatically query sites like Orbitz , Travelocity , Priceline etc to get the cheapest quotes.. I dont have the inclination or the energy to write one... Calling a travel agent saves a lot of time and energy. Typically I get some travel agents name from friends/google, call them and get the quotes, and settle for one which suits my needs. automates this process.
Desicow is still in its nascent stages but am sure it will grow when it sees alot of end user participation. It depends on user generated content. You can browse through the listing of requested quotes and directly contact the travel agent offering that quote.
How does it compare to other online websites? .. well it doesn't. There is no possible way a travel agent can give you cheaper tickets than that available at (, or negotiated using (reverse bidding site)... PROVIDED you buy the tickets at the right time, you will pay more if you buy the tickets a bit earlier or bit later. Travel agents block the tickets when the price is just right (the process is a bit shady) , so it's worth getting quote from one when you are buying a ticket. The best way would be to get quotes from orbitz and desicow/travel agent and then ask for a lower price at priceline.
The review process: I asked for a rate quote for a flight from SFO to Bangalore and compared it with the rates available on other websites. The turnaround time was a day and only one travel agent responded (something which would change if it gets alot of traffic).. The rate quoted was higher than that on orbitz. Both the rates and the turnaround time were abysmal (in this age of instant "getification"). However it would unfair to judge this service it its nascent stage.. its got potential but still has a long way to go.

Some features I'd like to see implemented though:
  • Searchable requested trip list: I don't want to wade through the list to get find the quote. This would make the website more scalable.
  • I would like to see existing quotes of the trips that I requested (which were requested by someone else).
  • Trip details along with price quotes: I don't want to wait 20 hours in some god forsaken airport..
  • I want prices from various sources like orbitz etc to be listed alongside the quotes.
  • Travel agent ratings: There should be a way for the user to rate a carrier and travel agent. I have burnt my fingers couple of times.
  • Faster turn around times: Do what ever you need to do to get it done fast, even if it means calling the travel agents yourself to get the quotes.
  • Add more travel agents.
  • If a user finds a cheaper deal elsewhere, then he should list his sources.
Final verdict: Any startup that depends on user generated content needs to be jump started. To start generating large amount of data, one needs to spent alot of time selling this idea to a lot of people and getting them involved. All that needs to be done is a lot of boring marketing stuff (well.. i find it boring :) .. I think for the website to be of any use, it needs more data and definitely more travel agents. Although I dont really know what the future has in store for desicow, I certainly do hope that it would be a lot more useful next year when I book my tickets to India.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How we change..

8 years back: Pack a week early to go from Kanpur to Lucknow (77 miles)
5 years back: Start shopping a month before travelling from Kanpur to Bangalore (945 miles)
2 years back: Pack a day early to go from Syracuse to Boston (261 miles)
1.3 years ago: From Bangalore to Goa(267 miles).. friends shouting: "dude pack lets go."

Now: Leaving for India tomorrow morning (8000+ miles).. and am writing this blog.. god bless me..

Thursday, October 09, 2008

US Economy crisis explained..

Found this presentation that explains the economy crisis in a clear jargonless format... enjoy:

Subprime Primer
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: subprime mortgages)

PS: View it in full screen.. better that way

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another car related stupidity..

Yes.. I know.. another car related post.. but bear with me.

This morning I stepped out only to find one of the car tires flat.. well no worries I said, I have road side assistance; called the number to change the flat ( cuz I paid for it!!).

A guy in a large trailer/truck (the kind that carry 3-4 cars on their back) came and changed the tire with a smallish spare tire.. when leaving he told me that the tire was not flat, was infact fine but looked like that because it was parked so close to the curb .. Duh!!

I was so embarrassed to ask him to change it back again and I had no idea how to change it. Asked my room mate for help again who showed me where the jack was stashed in my car ( I sound like a retard :( ), showed me how to use it and the way to screw the tire etc (for even torque distribution). After huffing and panting and sweating profusely on a windy evening.. I changed the tire back.

What a pathetic misadventure on a weekend!! On the bright side, I did discover a nail in the wheel and that I had banged my wheels on the curb so badly that I would need to get them checked... damn.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Car hack..

As all of you know (if you read the earlier post), that my car has a Bose audio system. It sounds really awesome with 7 speaker surround sound and 9 subwoofers and/or pods (the term am not sure of but my car geek friends refers to.. sort of the refers to the speaker design that moves back and forth alot, so if you are standing close to it, you get a different feedback for the beats.. these pods are fixed next to my legrest, so the whole experience is pretty rad when you are driving).. ofcourse, I'm no audiophile.. the only speakers I ever purchased were the cheap Rs300 speakers in India, so my perception of the sound quality might be skewed.
Ok.. back on track. The only thing that this audio system lacked was an auxillary input to which I could plug in my mp3 player to (which is NOT an iPod). I went to the dealer and  was told that it would cost me $700 to replace the sound system, of course he had to bear with my loud WTF sigh.. there was no way on earth I was gonna do that. Next I went to some random car-audio store and asked him for a relatively inexpensive solution, and he showed me some gizmo for about $140 that interfaced directly with iPod, but did expose an auxillary-in.. but I didn't wanna pay for an iPod interface that I would never use, so I searched around for a simpler/similar solution.
Now fm transmitters were totally out of question, I had tried them and the sound quality sucked. Using that on the bose system was like tying a gold chain to a monkey. I noticed that there were tape/MD drive buttons and slots on the dash, but no tape drive, which led me to believe that there would be way to directly hook up a mod chip to that interface and get clean unadulterated music directly from my mp3 player (which is creative zen sleek iPhoto.. i know, it's relatively unknown, but it was the only mp3 player in my budget with a fm reciever in it). I googled "tape/md drive auxillary input mazda6", and voila! found Mazda6 forums where people were discussing exactly the same issues, and I discovered AuxMod in one of the archives, which was exactly what I needed.
Needless to say, I ordered it (but was definitely vary about the shady site), got it in a week by UPS, wrapped in torn magazine pages! Well, at $60, I wasn't exactly expecting a well wrapped manual with funky CDs that I would just toss into the trash. Next roadblock was installing it, the car-audio mechanics were charging about $200 for installation (I checked at two differnt places and they both gave me similar quotes.. another classic WTF moments), so I decided to install it myself (against the advice from all my friends/roommate and the ridicule by the car-audio mechanic who gave me a "yeah right" look ). My housemate let me borrow his tool set for my little adventure.
Had to rip open the cup holder, the gear interface, the glove compartment and the whole dash to reach the damn radio. Took me 4 friggin hours to install it and route the auxillary cable inside the armrest. After battling through some unmodular interfaces, weird sockets, mind numbingly complex plugs and being almost starved, dehydrated and exhausted to the point of unconsiousness, I pulled it off. This was one hack, not for the faint hearted.
It worked like a charm and was a totally rewarding experience. Finally.. took a long cold shower, took her out for a spin and treated myself with some bhel-puri and jal-jeera at Lucky Dhaba :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

got Wheels!!

Zoom Zoom Zoom..., originally uploaded by SridharV.

So after mulling over for over 2 years, I finally got a car. Its a 2004 Mazda 6i, with TRS, ABS, sunroof, spoilers, sports suspension, 6 cd changer, bose surround sound system etc etc (these are not included in the base model).

I won't go gaga over the specs, I know as much about cars as my grandma knows about computers. There were plenty of reasons why I waited so long to buy a car (or for some ppl out there.. too early). I never needed it in India or in NY.. but the public transport in CA sucks (for the lack of a better word). Being a geek/nerd and all, having a car was never a priority on my list.. but waiting for random ppl to reply to my car pool pleas on meetup groups was getting unbearable, plus I was missing some serious action in the Linux community as I was always too lazy to make it to the meetups using public transport... Also I was hopelessly dependent on my friends for the "mandatory" weekend outing (not that I'm complaining.. but sometimes I just used to go to get out of the house.. and do mindbogglingly boring stuff).

Now comes the question of choosing the particular car, the model etc etc. Why did I go for it? As I said earlier, I know zilch about cars, so the main things I was looking in a car were:
- Is it trendy and kewl :P
- Does it give a decent gas mileage.
- Is it sporty enough
- Its not toyota/honda
Let me explain the last point first. Toyota/Hondas are one of the best cars available in the US. Infact I came to US dreaming of getting a Honda Civic someday (just because I cleared few rounds of NFS with it :P) . Even my analysis factoring the depreciation rate, fuel efficiency, rate of fuel increase, total cost of ownership, resale value etc rated them the highest of the lot... but ever other person in US drives a friggin Toyota or Honda, and I would rather not get a car than get those cars (yeah.. call me a non-conformist if you will).

Now American cars were out (ford, chrysler, chevrolet etc).. they are supposed to be marginally better than trash cans, Italian cars were way outside my budget (ferrari, bugati etc), Korean cars were just too crappy and simple for my taste, and I was not ready for a German car yet (although I came really close to buying a BMW).. they are infamous for their maintenance cost. Indian cars in US are too expensive too (little known fact.. Jaguar is now an Indian car :)). That left only Japanese cars..

Toyota/Hondas were out of consideration (I did consider Prius for the eco-friendly factor.. but dropped it later for its shitty shape and a puny 76hp engine).. this left Acura, Lexus, Nissan and Mazda. I test drove Acura RSX and really liked it.. but was not getting a good deal on them.. and frankly the dashboard looked like an oven counter with all those gaudy knobs. Next car I considered was a 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe.. I was hell bent of buying one.. but the insurance was taking a toll on me ( who knew that new drivers with almost new black coupes are statistically predisposed to be in an accident).

I spend the better part of two days haggling/bargaining the price of that Nissan, called about 10 friends, called my dad.. and finally decided that I should not go for it.. the exasperated and frustrated dealer showed me and asked me to test drive this Mazda 6i.. and in an instant I knew that it was to be my first car. It fit snugly into my budget, had sporty looks with power to match, had decent fuel efficiency and I really felt good driving it.. finalized the deal and paper work the same day and got the car+insurance the next day.

In retrospect, I might have paid a bit more than the car was worth, but you have to understand my condition.. I had been staring at code since 8 am that day, left work at 6 pm and was haggling with the dealer for over 4 hours. At that point I had lost all the care.. yes.. I know I should have gone the next day.. but no point now.. the deed is done. And believe me, you possibly cant get a really good bargains from a person who has been trained to not give you good bargains and is in business for over 20 years.

Bottomline, I love the car.. it's everything I needed in the car.. panache, power and style (and decent fuel efficiency).. so next time you are in the Bay area and need a ride, give me a call.. (no..I'm not starting a cab service :)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

H1B issues.. the jargons and the laws surrounding it

Let me start by stating that this entry is based on my perception of H1B laws and jargons. They might not be accurate (if so, do correct me). That being said, this entry is specifically for family and friends in India, who might not exactly understand my erratic/fluctuating travel plans or my "headless chicken" rant about immigration laws which is usually high on jargon. I know they are not alone in feeling helpless halfway across the globe.. there are atleast 32,000 people with higher US degrees who might be in similar situation (Based on the tentative figures released by USCIS).

Starting with basics, keep these acronyms/jargon in mind as you go through the rest of this post (I have tailored this entry to my specific case, so I won't be going into anything that doesn't concern me.. life is complicated enough as it is):
  • F1 Visa: Just ignore the word Visa, and think of the word status. Having F1 visa means, having student status.
  • H1B Visa: This visa means that my primary purpose of stay in the US is to work for a US based firm.
  • OPT: (Optional practical training) You can think of it as apprenticeship or some sort of a project work that you do after graduating from a US university. After graduation, a year of OPT period is allotted to every student when he can work in a US based firm. Even though the student has graduated, he is still in F1 visa (i.e. he is still considered a student). It is during this period that he can apply for a change of Visas ( from F1 to H1 => student status to working status).
  • POE: (Point of Entry). This comes into picture when you apply for a change of visas (F1 to H1). If you apply for H1 under POE, then you'll have to leave the US and get your Visa application stamped at the US Consulate in another country for the visa to come into effect(Mainly your home country.. i.e. India, else you have high chances of getting stranded in a different country :) ... seriously!!)
  • COS: (Change of Status). This means that you don't have to leave the country to get your Visa stamped for the visa to be effective.. you can get it stamped whenever you want (when you are in India).
  • 1 April-1 October: H1B applications are accepted from 1 April each year till the quota of 65,000 for regular candidates and 20,000 for candidates with higher US degrees is reached. Once the visa application is accepted, it becomes effective from October 1(I think).
With those out of the way, until the last year, things progressed in following fashion for an International student with higher US degree:
  1. Secures a job while he is still a student(under F1) atleast two months before graduation.
  2. His prospective company applies for H1B Visa in advance in April.
  3. He graduates in May (taking the generic/my case in consideration).
  4. He joins the company which had applied for his H1 and starts working on his OPT(still on F1.. remember)
  5. Visa gets approved and his Visa status changes smoothly from F1 to H1. Note that he still has a good 6-7 months of OPT remaining.. but since he is no longer in F1(i.e. not a student), those 6-7 months doesn't matter now.
Since I have been know to have a knack of getting myself in highly complicated situations, Here's what happened with me. ( Note that parts of this will be exactly the same for those who didn't make the H1B lottery last year).
  1. Got a job in mid April. H1B Visa Quota already full :(
  2. Graduated in May.
  3. Joined Mailshell in June'07 (on OPT, still F1 status)
  4. Mailshell applied for my H1B Visa in April 1'08, but OPT only valid till June'08. So essentially June'08-October'08 without a valid status in US. Of course, H1B visa was applied under POE since I had to leave the country. (I hope you remember all the jargon I explained earlier). There were 32,000 applicants for a quota of 20,000.
  5. Mailshell agrees to have me work remotely from India for 4 months. ( and I booked the tickets, planned out my stay etc etc.. )
  6. Near about April 3'08, new bill passed allowing for the OPT to be extended for another 17 months (a total of 29 months now provided that Mailshell registers for some e-verify program).
  7. Another ammendment stating that OPT for students(like me), who have gap between OPT expiration dates and H1B start dates, will be extended automatically to cover the gap(provided that they get their H1Bs), comes into effect... This applied to me since I got a reciept for my application(meaning that I made the lottery and had chances of getting a Visa approved).
  8. Remember my application was filed under POE... well if it is POE, the ammendment I mentioned above wouldn't make much sense since I would have to leave the country anyway to get visa stamped. (Folks, you see the conundrum here.. to cancel the fligh tickets or not to cancel.. aaah!!)
  9. Lawyer applied for an ammendment in my application to change it from POE to COS which means that I wont have to leave the country before October...(only now I wanted to).
Now no matter how advanced US may seem to the rest of the world, its not (no offence here).. there's still lot of beareucracy and paperwork involved (although much much less than India :) ), the dhs(who manage immigration at the borders) might not have access to the updated USCIS records, and they would need papers to prove that I have the right visa to get through.. in other words, person leaving the country might as well get a one way tickets.

After talking to my lawyer, and friends ( some of whom have access to huge law firms specializing in immigration) , I was convinced that leaving country at this point would be really risky. So there goes my plans for a India trip.. (I intend to take the first flight to India in October.. On the bright side, I will be celebrating my birthday with them after 8 years)

If you think that I got the short end of the stick (which I did).. think about my friend who had to postphone his marriage!

Hopefully I explained this well enough without assuming too much about the reader while remaining within acceptable limits of verbosity :).

PS: To all Indian readers of this enty: It would be great if you could translate this article to Indian languages of your choice (need atleast hindi and tamil).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tweet tweet..

If you are reading this blog and are !(family||friend) then chances are that you would have heard of the microblogging platform known as twitter. It was released about 2 years ago. I had previously rejected the idea as a ludicrous waste of time and unnecessary invasion of privacy.. but digg and slashdot have rammed the idea down my throat and I have finally given in to the idea of using twitter.

The main reason I have joined the twitter bandwagon is because I don't have enough time to update this blog, be visible on social networking websites like orkut and facebook or even keep in touch with enough friends. Twitter solves the problem by letting me broadcast a one liner to all these places with just a single IM message to nifty.

Twitter provides a javascript/json based script to update the status badge on blogger. This badge occupies a rectangular area and if I was forced to use it, I would have put it in the sidebar. Not only does it messes with the Feng-shui but also eats a chunk of my screen estate. People hardly even notice the sidebar (according to the stats by various analytics).

After messing about 30 minutes with the badge code, I came up with the following fully functional twitter status line(not badge) which has all the functional elements of the badge. The title links to twitter's follow me and a mouseover action would display the update time as a tool tip.

Here's the code:

<script type="text/javascript">
function twitterCallback2(obj) {
var twitters = obj;
var statusHTML = "";
var username = "";
username = twitters[0].user.screen_name
statusHTML = '<span title="'+relative_time(twitters[0].created_at)+'"><b>
<a href="">Twitter Update:</a></b>&nbsp;'+
document.getElementById('twitter_update_list').innerHTML = statusHTML;

function relative_time(time_value) {
var values = time_value.split(" ");
time_value = values[1] + " " + values[2] + ", " + values[5] + " " + values[3];
var parsed_date = Date.parse(time_value);
var relative_to = (arguments.length > 1) ? arguments[1] : new Date();
var delta = parseInt((relative_to.getTime() - parsed_date) / 1000);
delta = delta + (relative_to.getTimezoneOffset() * 60);

if (delta < 60) {
return 'Updated less than a minute ago';
} else if(delta < 120) {
return 'Updated about a minute ago';
} else if(delta < (60*60)) {
return 'Updated '+(parseInt(delta / 60)).toString() + ' minutes ago';
} else if(delta < (120*60)) {
return 'Updated about an hour ago';
} else if(delta < (24*60*60)) {
return 'Updated about ' + (parseInt(delta / 3600)).toString() + ' hours ago';
} else if(delta < (48*60*60)) {
return 'Updated 1 day ago';
} else {
return 'Updated '+(parseInt(delta / 86400)).toString() + ' days ago';

<div id="twitter_div">
<div id="twitter_update_list" align="left"></div>
<script type="text/javascript"

Of course, since I am not a web developer by a mile, I agree that this code might still be ugly and can still be optimized, but hey.. its smaller than the older code, doesn't do any lookups for external javascripts.

If any web dev out there could optimize it even further.. do let me know.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

vim sorcery: read/write pdf files

I hate switching windows to refer some manual while coding.. completely breaks the flow. I was browsing through some vim tips, which had an entry for reading MS Word docs in vim and wanted to do the same with pdf files... and then decided to take it a notch higher. By adding the following entries to your .vimrc, you can read/write pdf files transparently, as if they were just regular files. Of course, you can also open these pdf files in regular pdf viewers.

Here's how to do it:
  1. Get xpdf and cups-pdf. On Ubuntu this should do the trick:
    sudo apt-get install xpdf cups-pdf
  2. cups-pdf prints the pdf files and saves them in ~/PDF/ by default. I am assuming that these settings wont be changed.
  3. Add the following lines to ~/.vimrc
    autocmd BufReadPre *.pdf set ro nowrap
    autocmd BufReadPost *.pdf silent %!pdftotext "%" -layout -q -eol unix -
    autocmd BufWritePost *.pdf silent !rm -rf ~/PDF/%
    autocmd BufWritePost *.pdf silent !lp -s -d "%"
    autocmd BufWritePost *.pdf silent !until [ -e ~/PDF/% ]; do sleep 1; done
    autocmd BufWritePost *.pdf silent !mv ~/PDF/% %:p:h
BTW, I have also added this tip to vim Tips. Once setup properly, you can open, save, write pdf files in vim as if they were regular text files.(I guess I already said that earlier.. but what the heck)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Changing times...

me: Hey am getting a new computer.. 8.1 G hard disk, 64 MB ram for about $1000
friend: What!! are you gonna live inside it?? Why would you need that much storage??

me: Hey am getting a new computer.. P4, 40 G hard disk, 512 MB RAM for about $1000
friend: neat man.. NFS will rock on that.

me: Hey dude... I got a new laptop.. P4, 80 G HDD, 1 GB RAM for $1000
friend: I guess that should be enough for a student.

me: Hey I got a laptop for my uncle: Dual core Pentium centrino 2 GHz, 4 GB RAM, 160 GB 7200 RPM with collision sensors for about $1000
friend: Good deal... will that be enough though?

Based on above conversations, my corollary to moore's law: Human expectation and dependence on technology is directly proportional to the rate of growth of technology.

And on a totally unrelated note.. I have already decided on my next desktop that I will be purchasing next year: a dual quad core Intel Xeon with atleast 4G of RAM. This is the sweetest machine at my workplace and should be inexpensive this time next year... but based on my proposed corollary above, my friend might declare me a retard.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lens Fetish

I think its time I introduced you to my new love.. Canon Rebel XT. I had iffy affairs with couple of point and shoots and one really prehistoric film camera but there was something always missing in our relationship. I purchased this camera at a black friday sale last year and have never looked back since. I know I know.. she is not as good looking as Nikon D200 or as smart as Canon 5D.. but she gets me and I know that we are meant for each other. We had couple of lenses, filters, a tripod and a remote control together.. we are really settled now for some time.

Jokes aside.. I am still an amateur photographer.. infact I can safely say that I know most of the theory that goes into photography (after reading few books, manuals, articles and watching some videos)... but still suck at executing them. Exceptional photographs take a lot of patience, skill and time. If I take a 100 pictures in a day.. only 5 to 10 of them are worth keeping (which eventually make it to my flickr page). I have the most inexpensive gear that one can get and all individual items are less than $200 (thats dirt cheap if you ask any photographer)... This does mean that I have compromised alot on the build and optical quality of the lenses, but come on.. you don't learn drifting on a BMW with traction control :P .. and hey thats just my way of looking at things. Am showcasing two of my favorite pics to add credibility to my self proclaimed "amateur" photographer status.. the mistakes in these will be obvious to a seasoned professional.

A lot of my friends are into photography at some level and often ask me about it. Since SLRs are not cheap and the hobby isn't really meant for casual photographers who just buy cams and toss them aside for "occasions", they are wary about getting into it. Here are my two cents to those who are just planning on purchasing an SLR (from a point of view of a hobbyist.. not a professional):
  • If you never owned a camera before, DONT buy an SLR. Get a point and shoot.. experiment for atleast an year before getting into it.
  • Decide on the brand: Canon, Nikon, Kodak, Olympus, Sony etc etc.. its really important that you do your research before choosing a brand. Lenses are more expensive than the camera itself, so even if you go for a low end camera, you will eventually buy some decent lenses and quite obviously lenses meant for one brand are not compatible with others. (There are convertors, but you dont want to go down that road).
  • Dont buy a high end professional camera.. go for the inexpensive one first. I say this for two reason: Firstly, higher end SLRs are heavy and huge.. you dont want one strapped around your neck all the time.. unless you are making money off your pics. Lower end SLRs like Canon Rebel XT are lighter.. though it still takes some time to get used to the fact that you cant shove it in your jeans pocket; Secondly you might not wanna go all the way.. believe me, photography gets to the point where you have to get into science and physics involved to get a good effect. It takes more effort than you think. Be kinder to your pocket and start with a cheaper camera.. if you are not able to take good pictures with a cheaper SLR, an expensive one wont do you any good.
  • Buy a good tripod, but don't go overboard. Bogen Manfrotto 728B is perfect for beginners.
  • Be a flickr group regular.. atleast be a passive listener there. The information and help you can get from people in these groups is phenomenal.. Find out a group that gels with your needs. You can find many experienced professional to help you with your problems.
  • Read, read, read.. Read manuals, articles, tutorials on anything related to photography.
  • Learn to use a photo manipulation software like Gimp or Photoshop.. and no, picassa wont do.
  • Keep clicking.. I cant belabor the point enough.. probably the first few hundred, even thousand photos you click from your SLR will be worse than those clicked using a point and shoot.. don't give up hope.
  • Explore pictures on Flickr, look around for photographs.. see their EXIF information. Set those values on your camera and try reproducing the shot. I find this the best way to learn.
Also accept the fact that a decent picture of you will never be taken once you get good behind the camera :)

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I have always made a conscious effort to stay away/above from the crowd.. yes I know I sound snobby.. but thats the way it is. I am not questioning my morality or my intellect but the fact that I like the idea of being unique... thats 1 in 6 billion people.

While skimming through my blogroll yesterday I had an epiphany: How different is my life if all of my academic life can be generalized by the PHDComics, my work life by Dilbert and my thought process by XKCD?.. My reaction: D'oh.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Tiddly oooo...

First of all let me introduce you to my foray into the world of javascript : .

I was never too much of a web enthusiast (from a developer's perspective).. the reasons being that presentation is a big part of a web application and I hate spending hours on a wysiwyg editor to get the right look. Also there does not seem to be any consistency in the way the pages are rendered on various browsers.

This website began as an exploratory project into the tiddly world when Paul Reiber introduced me to it at an SVLUG installfest. The prospect of an all javascript website sounded alot more interesting than spending hours on dreamweaver/quanta/bluefish/frontpage etc etc. Tweaking a few if and for statements was all I needed to get the right look (and some occasional div tweaks).

There were a lot of different technologies that went into this website that I had no or little experience with:
  1. TiddlyWiki: This is a microcontent wiki created by Jeremy Ruston. Here's an extract from
    TiddlyWiki is fundamentally different from a conventional Wiki because it is not based on separate, entire pages of content, but rather items of MicroContent referred to as Tiddlers that live together on the same page.
  2. Tiddlers can not only be used to edit and publish new content but also to edit and modify the source of the webpage itself. This enables a highly modular plugin architecture. All you have to do is write a small plugin to do your bidding or better yet.. import one from someone who has already done it. Check this tiddler out. This small plugin was written by me to fix some rss rendering inconsistencies on IE... simple enough. Websites like tiddlytools provide tons of cool plugins that make adding any snazzy formatting/functionality a breeze on tiddlywiki.
  3. DNS Management: Although this is pretty easy and does not take more than 20 minutes; setting up sub domains, CNAME records, forwarding etc is interesting in many respects (not fun though). It was sort of an educational experience for me. Apparently if you use meta tag information on a page for redirection, Google considers the page as a duplicate and penalizes the page which will reduce its page rank and thats as bad as it can get... who knew.
  4. RSS management: Ok.. I cheated here. I used yahoo pipes to join couple of feeds, imposed limits on the number or elements, made a few cosmetic changes via feedburner and plugged it into the website. Yahoo pipes is one great tool that you have to check out.
One thing that was quite evident while testing the websites on different browsers was that they still have to go a long way towards standard compliance. I developed this website on firefox, IE put quite a fight, Opera was the official loser and Safari turned out to be a ringer. There was a big difference in the way iframes were rendered.

Anyhoo.. do check out my website and let me know if you stumble upon some bug or irritating feature.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy new year!!

Happy New Year to all you folks.. lets welcome the "Age of Sridhar". I think if I market the phrase enough, people might actually start referring to 2008 as "Age of Sridhar" (Something like Conan O'Brian's JabJab) .. Leaving the weird, obscure humor aside.. Happy new year..

Last year was full of twists and turmoils.. I completed my MS, got a job, moved to CA, skydived (in that order) and took my photography to the next level(which is still very amateurish ). Hopefully this year will be more exciting and dynamic.

Here's my New Year's card to you all.. (esp since social networking websites disabled mass messaging).

Happy New Year!!

PS: This was clicked by me and edited using GIMP. FOSS ftw...