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.

Wake up to the harsh reality

I’ve been reading, of late, the William Monk series by Anne Perry. The author’s portrayal of Victorian England is at once vivid and brutally real. The plot is also pretty good. The setting and her narrative might influence the reader to think that she’s inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dame Agatha Christie in equal measure. The protagonist is a police officer in nineteenth century England, who lost his memory after an accident. How he manages to solve one knotty case after another is the premise of the series. If Sherlock Holmes portrayed the rich and powerful of Victorian England, William Monk portrays the commoner, the layman who isn’t given much importance by the law, or rather the lawmakers.

The first book in this series that I read is Dark Assassin, which mom had bought sometime ago. I loved the book, and got most of the other books too. I am reading the second book in the series now, and a character’s words set my mind in motion, just what one needs at the fag end of a working day. Here are the words:

About aspiring actors in a public house: “They have imagination to take them out of the commonplace, to forget the defeats of reality and feed on the triumphs of dreams. They can evoke any mood they want into their faces and make themselves believe it for an hour or two. That takes courage; it takes a rare inner strength.”

This sums up the attitude of the Indian people. We have corruption everywhere, but we do believe that our country will become a beacon of honesty as in olden days. We see poverty reign our slums, streets and villages; but we take solace in Mukesh Ambani’s billion dollar home. We don’t hesitate even a moment while bribing public officials, but we debate about the ethics of politicians who swallow monstrous amounts of money. We complain about mosquitoes and the diseases that they bring, but joyfully spit on the road and pee on the walls. We admire a rhapsodizing politician on the stage, but curse when (s)he fails to turn promises into action. Indeed, we turn a blind eye to reality and live in dreams.

If we can still surmount what is natural and believe what we wish to believe, in spite of the force of evidence, then for a while at least we are masters of our own fate, and we can paint the world we want.

This is exactly what we do, attain bliss in our Utopia, while the real world stares harshly at us. Until we wake up to the reality that is engulfing our lives, we will continue to vote for the same dirty leaders and scandals will be a way of life.

Monday prank

I just sent this message to many of my friends and got hilarious replies: “Hi. Myself and my parents invite you to share the happiness of the occasion of my engagement. Due to an unavoidable situation in my family, I am being engaged on the 31 st of november at <location>. Sorry for the short notice. Couldn’t help it.”

So many people don’t realise that November has only thirty days!

Statistically, 92 of the 124 people didn’t realise this simple fact. That means around three-fourths of my friends are too busy or sleeping at work 🙂 And the rest have no work to do!

Breaking News: More Robotic freebies for next TN polls

In what is seen as a historic decision by Sun Pictures and their network of TV channels, the Tamil Nadu government today decided to throw in tickets to the movie into the brimming basket of pre-poll freebies. In an exclusive interview to be telecast when there are no other TRP-worthy programs on Sun TV, the producer will talk about this move and its repercussions. He chides Yash Chopra for saying that the government is not doing enough to promote cinema. “What more can a government do,” he asks, “more than owning the two big production houses in the state, and giving free tickets to its citizens.”

After this news leaked out, the opposition party leader in TN has resorted to the usual remarks about family politics and corruption. She demanded that robots be sent to the parliament in place of corrupt MPs from the ruling party, and – as is her wont – demanded an independent inquiry into this issue. Another leader of a political party wanted the government to implement quota for his caste, allowing them to see the movie before the elections at Escape cinemas.

Independent watchers view this move as a ploy to lengthen the screen run of the movie as well as the the current ruling party’s stay in power. In related news, Vijaya T. Rajendar says that he has been approached by Sun Pictures to do a movie Thanthiran where he portrays a scientist trying to create human emotions in a bear(that bears an uncanny resemblance to the man himself, we’re told) . They’re having difficulties finding a bear that doesn’t run away or faint at the sight of TR.

Note: In case you haven’t figured out, this is just a fragment of my (at times wicked) imagination and not real. There is no malice in this post, only

Endhiran: My opinion

I saw Endhiran today afternoon. The movie has a passable plot, awesome graphics, and did Rajni rock!

The plot, it seems, was dumbed down to cater to the masses. And whatever some people may say (out of jealousy, of course), it is a good movie. This is not a typical Rajni movie, although the fireworks come out late in the movie. There are no  punch dialogues, but many cliches. Typical Shankar.

I can’t accept the ‘Nureal schema’ spelling goofup in the initial scenes though. The ‘mutations’ of the robots towards the end more than make up for any plot issues or goof ups. Indian movie graphics have matured now, and Endhiran is the pinnacle of CGI in the Indian movie industry.

Seeing Rajni in a non-protagonist role after a long time was amazing. I was reminded of his early movies with Kamal as the protagonist. He’d have been the most stylish villain had he not become a hero.

As for the music director, Rahman, what a man. Awesome BGM as always. Suited the theme very well. I thought that Aishwarya looked a lot like Fergie from Black Eyed Peas in the Irumbile oru idhayam number. I liked the way Kilimanjaro  was rendered, but the song was unwarranted in the movie and dampened the flow of the movie. Santhanam and Karunas try to evoke laughter, but end up looking like clowns, and are probably baby sitters for Chitti, the robot. Rajni as the robot also has several mokkai dialogues up his sleeve (sounded a lot like my mokkais).

I’d give this movie 3 on 5, purely for Rajni’s acting and Shankar’s imagination. But please, I’d like to see a movie without unnecessary songs and drag-along scenes.

Taking my ethnicity for a run: Am I Indian, Tamil or even human?

At least once during my daily commute to work, I find someone staring at me like I was an alien. Alien on the bus, no sir.  I’m just another human being. I’m certainly not responsible for the way I look. Last week, my trainer asked me if I knew Tamil and where I was from. I went, Oh God, not again! I told her I was from place xyz and she was surprised that I was actually from near her native place. And that very evening, one fellow was asking me for directions in a funny language that vaguely resembled English. When I replied in Tamil, he was surprised and asked “Tamil theriyuma!?”.

This is not the first time people have posed that query to me, and it certainly won’t be the last. At least these people think I am human! People almost always view me as an outsider. When I strike up a conversation with someone the first think they ask me is if I know Tamil. I’m lost for words. How can I converse freely in Tamil with you, sir, if I don’t know Tamil? Something is wrong with me, or the world around me.

I realise it is not my mistake that my ethnicity is often being questioned this way. In my first year at college, the chemistry teacher pointed to me and asked (yes, once again) “Do you know Tamil?” while she was beginning  to demonstrate the experiment. This happened even when I got into another school. It’s got nothing to do with my colour or countenance. It is, I think, the images of Tamils in the minds of people that I do not fit.

In restaurants or shops, waiters and salesmen address me often in Hindi or English and rarely in Tamil. I’ve been asked if I’m Keralite, Kashmiri, a Sethji (you know, those people who lend money to poor blokes) and even if I am Canadian or Australian. Is it because I fit the stereotypes of people from these regions in their minds? I might never know.

Raja and KJY – Awesome song: பூவே செம்பூவே

I’m listening to this song from Solla Thudikudhu Manasu in a loop right now. I can never ever get over it, listen a million times I may. I generally like K.J.Y’s song, but this song has something that keeps me hooked. Maybe the feel or the lyrics, I’ll never know.

Another of my eternal Raja favorites. Here are the lyrics:

பூவே செம்பூவே உன் வாசம் வரும்
வாசல் என் வாசல் உன் பூங்காவனம்
வாய் பேசிடும் புல்லாங்குழல்
நீதானொரு பூவின்  மடல்

(பூவே)

நிழல் போல நானும் நடை போட நீயும்
தொடர்கின்ற சொந்தம் நெடுங்கால பந்தம்
கடல் வானம் கூட நிறம் மாறக் கூடும்
மனம் கொண்ட பாசம் தடம் மாறிடாது
நான் வாழும் வாழ்வே உனக்காகத்தானே
நாள் தோறும் நெஞ்சில் நான் ஏந்தும் தேனே
எந்நாளும் சங்கீதம் சந்தோஷமே
வாய் பேசிடும் புல்லாங்குழல்
நீதானொரு பூவின் மடல்

(பூவே)

உனைப்போல நானும் ஒரு பிள்ளை தானே
பலர் வந்து கொஞ்சும் கிளிப் பிள்ளை நானே
உனைப்போல நாளும் மலர் சூடும் பெண்மை
விதி என்னும் நூலில் விளையாடும் பொம்மை
நான் செய்த பாவம் என்னோடு போகும்
நீ வாழ்ந்து நான்தான் பார்த்தாலே போதும்
எந்நாளும் எந்நாளும் உல்லாசமே
வாய் பேசிடும் புல்லாங்குழல்
நீதானொரு பூவின் மடல்

(பூவே)

Phew. My Tamil is still alright. Haven’t typed any mistakes 🙂