More mokkais

Exam cum Maargazhi season:

A: மச்சி, இன்னிக்கு சாயங்காலம் ஒரு கச்சேரி போறேன், கூட வாடா.
B: என்னடா ஆச்சு உனக்கு, திடீர்னு கர்நாடக சங்கீதம் மேல பற்று?
A: நாளைக்கு OS exam டா. அதனால் தான் O.S.அருண் பாட்டு கேட்டா பாஸ் ஆயிடலாம்னு..
B: அப்போ சரி, நான் மன்மதன் அம்பு பாட்டு கேக்க போறேன்..
A: ஏன் டா?
B: நாளைக்கு எனக்கு DSP exam டா!

Now this was during our training a few months back:
Someone had got a big bar of chocolate, and all of had a piece of it. Turned out, the flavour was rum raisin (Temptation) and the moment she heard of it, a girl was pretending to swoon. Everyone wanted to see the ingredients, and the chocolate wrapper was passed all over the class. I then said aloud: “Oh, is this what we call wrapper class?”. Pin drop silence. Note that our training was in Java back then.

Another one from training:
Me: Dude, none of us will be sent to MEPZ campus da.
Friend: Why do you say that?
Me: Well, we are all Java developers, aren’t we? We cannot write anything more than basic Java code there.
Friend: What do you mean?
Me: MEPZ stands for Madras Export Processing Zone. And you must import packages and classes to write most Java code. Therefore, it is illegal to develop in Java at MEPZ.
Friend: மச்சி, இங்க ஒருத்தன் சிக்கிருக்கான்..

Nandalala – Another proof of Raja’s greatness

I caught the movie this weekend and it is among the best to have come out of Kollywood. Where most movies focus on the actions of the characters, Mysskin delves into the characters themselves, analysing the psyche – their ability to love and their vulnerabilities. But the heart of the movie is in the music, which was pretty clear seeing the promos featuring Ilayaraja.
The use of music and silence to express emotions stands out in Nandalala. I’ve always preferred Raja’s music to others’, and was delighted to see a movie where his music communicates to the viewers in a fashion rarely seen in the past decade. Bala’s movies have always had soothing scores but somehow the raw emotions that signify vintage Raja’s music didn’t shine through, partly due to the themes of his movies.

Nandalala gives the maestro a theme where emotions play a major part, and he treats the viewers to an aural treat that strings at our souls. For me, music means expressing emotions, and Raja stands non-pareil here. The ability to portray raw emotions via music is his own domain. Although several of Rahman’s songs portray powerfully the emotions of the characters – En kaadhalae comes to mind immediately – his use of technology has, while giving us many peppy and memorable numbers, denied him this ability. I do not criticize him, our movie makers have become too dumb. Fast paced action, racy numbers and plotless movies are the order of the day, and that is not Rahman’s fault.

Ilayaraja’s music shines through the movie and his use of silence to emphasise it makes for pleasant listening. I wish more movies like this are made, if only to let us rejoice, fear, cry, laugh and feel the emotions of the characters.

If you have not seen the movie yet, watch it. It is a good movie on its own, but Raja’s music elevates it to its own level.

Why the Chrome OS Notebook is not a lost cause

It looks like the Chrome OS is a bad strategy for Google, if you ask the market researchers. For me, if I could tweak the OS, then it really makes for a compelling device. My mother do not use touchscreen devices, and buying a tablet for her is not a great idea. However, she is quite adept at using a desktop or a laptop and for her, Chrome OS is a great idea.

I have a home server that runs Cent OS, and most content we consume at home is stored on it. I can create separate pages for Movies, Music, Mail, Web (linking to some website), TV and News; and then add shortcuts to the homepage like below (pardon the rough edges):

Sample Home Page
Sample Home Page

Look at the implications if she uses Chrome OS, with these modified settings:

  • No need for me to configure something whenever an issue occurs.
  • No CDs to carry around for installing a new version of the distro (of course, CDs are obsolete but sometimes you do need them)
  • A much easier way for her to access content that she wants.
  • She can use a device that she is used to: No learning curve.
  • No hard drive  => Much less power.
  • I can restrict internet access as needed.

In a typical development organization, we can have a central source code repository (maybe an extension to check out and commit code), a web-based editor and separate servers(virtual or real). Separate servers can be used for research and development, production, testing and support phases.

In document-intensive work environments, a local server (or a pool) can be used to store documents – something similar to Zoho but stored locally. Of course, the data can also be stored on a web-based provider such as Zoho, Google or Microsoft if necessary.

I believe that the Chrome OS is not a lost cause, or a poor strategy as many would have us believe. It is not, as of now, a closed and big brother controlled platform as Apple’s iOS. And it truly abstracts all the hardware and software from the user, providing a single interface – the browser. I can’t wait to see this concept in action.

Android Apps for my Galaxy 3

I bought a Galaxy 3 over a month back. It is a really good phone for its price and fun to use too. I have quite a few apps installed and found some really nice ones.

Productivity:

The phone comes with a pre-installed copy of  ThinkFree Office, which is fine for editing and viewing office documents. It also lets you view PDF files.

The Daily Briefing app is useful, showing your calendar tasks and weather updates, apart from Yahoo Finance and AP News (both of which I don’t use).

I use Daily Expense Manager to keep a tab on my spendings, it’s a really useful app apart from the fact that you can only enter expenses, not income.

The Evernote and Dropbox apps are pretty usable and are actually useful, even on the slightly cramped screen.

Internet and Social:

Opera Mini is the browser of my choice, for I can get Indic fonts to work with it. Dolphin Browser is good for viewing full websites (not mobile-optimized) if you are on 3G, but Opera Mini is far more useful for those stuck with GPRS and EDGE.

There are apps for Twitter, Facebook, etc but I prefer to use TweetDeck.

The GMail app is good, and there is an app for Yahoo! Mail too. But the default mail client doesn’t work with my work mail which uses Exchange.

There is a Google Talk client, but I prefer Meebo as it lets me connect to multiple IM services.

I have the WordPress app installed, which I am using to publish this post. The Youtube app is the only place where Flash works, and the app is good enough to view a short video. The small screen doesn’t actually let you enjoy longer videos, such as movies.

Games and Entertainment:

I am not much of a gamer, but I tend to play a few games when I feel like it. I particularly love Slice It, which is a lovely game that tests your touchscreen skills and also  a bit of geometry.

I have quite a few Sudoku games installed, however I’ll be uninstalling almost all of them soon. This is a situation where I might as well create an apk for my own use.

Jewels is similar to Gweled ( a.k.a Bejeweled) and I like it enough to let it stay on my phone.

I use FBReader to read books. I tried out Aldiko and a few other apps, but not fit the bill apart from FBReader.

The Google Scoreboard app is fine, but seriously seeing cricket scores like Australia 245 – 620 England is not what I wanted, so I use ESPN ScoreCenter.

The default media player works fine, but it doesn’t remember the last played song, so I use Winamp. It lacks an equaliser, but it is a decent audio player with a touch of nostalgia.

Miscellaneous/Utilities:

Lookout is a security app that scans applications when you install them. You can also back up your contacts online using a free account. AppBrain is useful for installing apps, and is a good replacement for the default Market app.  AppMonster lets you manage your installed apps effectively and also back up the APKs to SD card. APNDroid lets you switch off and on data services easily. Google Reader, Sky Map and Maps work well too. NetCounter lets you keep track of data usage for different networks (EDGE, Wi-fi). NeoReader is the best barcode reader app I’ve seen for this phone. RealCalc is an advanced calculator and I love it.

If you have any apps that you love, do share it in the comments. Cheers!

When maamis rocked – An evening of music

Post concert: Myself with Rajesh Vaidhya
Post concert: Myself with Rajesh Vaidhya

I went to my first kutcheri of this December season this Sunday night with Ramanathan (@kriznaz). The performers were Rajesh Vaidhya and his troupe. Being a n00b at Carnatic music, I had no inkling of what to expect, although I had listened to him often on TV. I know a few popular songs, and songs that are favourites of my parents and other close relatives. I have never been trained in music, and I regret it to this day. We went an hour early to the venue at Mylapore and were quite happy (albeit disappointed) that there was not a soul who had arrived before us. We thought we were too early and expected a crowd to build soon. The rain  was pouring relentlessly, and that could have dampened the spirit of many rasikas.

When we entered the hall, the crowd was thin and people were starting to come in after the concert began. The first piece was a sloka in Vaachaspathi that was followed by Vaathapi Ganapathim. The next piece was Ganamurthi. They proceeded to perform one of their own compositions in five ragas – Bandhuvaraali, Gowri Manohari, Sindhu Bhairavi, Rasikapriya and Marubehak. This piece sent most of the audience into a trance, and I could see many in the audience swating their heads. I forgot for a moment I was in BVB auditorium and thought I was in Unwind Center, with the audience being dressed in traditional attire. Such was the effect as the performers raised the tempo and we were sent into a state of bliss.

The next pieces were Dhwani, their own composition; Chinnanjiru Kiliye; Kaatrinile Varum Geetham and Jagadhodhaarana. The next piece was Kanda Naal Mudhalaai, a popular movie number that was followed by Wedding Bells, composed by RV’s guru Chitti Babu. The performance culminated with a scintillating rendition of Chandrasekhara Kripanidhey in Sindhu Bhairavi.

Our ears were subjected to divine music for a hundred minutes that evening, and I still can feel the strains of the Veena as I sit in silence. My December season has kicked off with a most interesting concert, and I hope to learn more about the wide ocean that is Carnatic music during this season.

Note: Thanks to Ramanathan for accompanying me, answering my dumb questions and providing me with the song list.

Samsung Galaxy 3 – i5801

I finally upgraded from my dated Nokia 3110c to a new phone last month. And yes, it had to run Android. I chose to go with the Samsung Galaxy 3 for two reasons: Reliable service, and I have a newfound affection for Samsung of late. Their products have never given me any problems – except when my PC display went dead for a night. Even then the display was up by the time I got back from work, thanks to the friendly service person who came to check it long past his work hours (I assume they too work 9-6 like the rest of us.)

Having used this phone for over a month now, I can clearly see myself using my desktop and laptop less and less. Of course, I do use a desktop at work. But for personal mail, social networking, music, surfing blogs and other activities I use my phone nowadays. I have to get to my desktop for some purposes like programming, drafting long mails, seeing movies and the like. But for viewing music videos, sending a quick response to mail, this phone is more than handy.

It comes with Android 2.1 Eclair, and I’ve heard that an update to Froyo is on the anvil. I have rooted the phone, found it too buggy, and reverted to the Samsung 2.1 ROM that it came with.

The phone has a very decent display, but I thought the resolution (240 x 400) might be tricky. I have had no problems with most apps I have used so far. Using the on screen keyboard in portrait mode takes a bit of practice, mainly because the screen is narrow. But Swype saves users  the pain of tapping every key to type a word. (In fact, I typed this blog post and the two prior to it on my phone.)

Text messages are organised as conversations – which is useful if you are like me, forgetting what you had asked the person who just replied Yes or No. You cannot send a message to more than 20 contacts at a time though.

The default music player has the options normally expected, but it doesn’t remember which song you were listening to. The surround sound mode is not great, given the tendency of the bundled earphones to fall out of my ear. I recommend using a better pair earphones, like the Sennheiser MX series. The video player handled movies upto 720p fairly easily, but given the low number of pixels it was not great watching them. The YouTube app works pretty well, streaming videos without any lag over a 3G connection. But on EDGE and GPRS, you’ll need to be patient enough for the video to buffer.

The Wi-fi works well enough at home, where I use it ten metres and two walls away from my wireless router. The signal strength was as good as my laptop. I could transfer files from my home server without any difficulty and at speeds I did not expect. The camera has a basic 3.1 megapixels, with no flash. I wouldn’t use this camera unless I had nothing else on hand with which to capture a still. Especially indoors, the camera is not at all usable. Outdoors however, it is usable and the quality is comparable to most 2MP cameras on Sony Ericcson phones.

The battery didn’t last me the whole day when I first used it. However, letting it drain and then charging it to 100% did the trick, and it lasts just under two days for a single charge. That’s commendable, considering I use GPS for an hour or so, Wi-fi for two odd hours and play music for two hours a day.

The GPS didn’t work properly at the first try, but a simple trick set it right. Dial *#*#1472365*#*# and you’ll be presented with the GPS settings menu. Press back, and it starts working fine.

That’s my review of the Galaxy 3, after a month of regular use. I have many apps installed too, I’ll tell about them at a later time.