I find myself agreeing with the author of the article "Good Novels Don't Have to Be Hard": a lot of "good" fiction in modern times is just too much work. It should not be too surprising to find many people giving up on it and moving on to simpler and more entertaining stuff. A struggle is not what I usually look forward to when I take up a novel during my precious free time.
Mumbai was attacked by ten terrorists a year ago in an incident that has since become known in India as "26/11". The attacks were accompanied by hysterical, and at times quite misleading, media coverage here in India. The subsequent media coverage didn't get any better and was more often than not filled with pointless analyses. This was especially noticeable on television where the news channels would feature endless rounds of debates among the usual bunch of bickering "guests", none of whom would ever get to complete a point before being interrupted by another guest or the anchor. Thankfully there is now a documentary film titled "Terror in Mumbai", made by Dan Reed, that rectifies this situation. This film is a must-watch, but we don't know if/when it will be shown here in India.
Google Chrome has been out for a while now, but only on Windows. There are pre-release Linux builds of Chrome, but they work out-of-the-box only on Ubuntu or Debian. As a Slackware 12.1 user, I couldn't therefore check out this browser and I was too lazy to build it myself. Fortunately for me, it turns out that the available builds can be made to work on Slackware with a little effort. Chrome turns out to be surprisingly usable and fast on Linux. That said, I'm not shifting from Firefox to Chrome yet, at least not right away.
I participated in the Landmark Quiz 2009 (Bangalore) yesterday on a lark along with a colleague and a remote acquaintance of his. Our team was appropriately named "Last Minute Line-up". We only managed to get 19 correct answers in the preliminaries for the 40 questions that were asked. We didn't make it to the finals, but it was fun watching the quiz.
I was looking for an application for the iPhone which could display PDF files on this device, especially those containing images, in a way better than that provided by the built-in support for PDF files on the iPhone. I stumbled upon an application imaginatively named "GoodReader" that does this job very well. It is not free, but at the current price of 99 cents (versus the usual USD 4.99), it's a bargain.
I wanted to manipulate a few PDF files recently and was on the lookout for suitable tools. More specifically, I wanted to convert a few double-page PDF files (containing two pages of text on a single page) into single-page PDF files. I also wanted to drop some of the pages in order to have the files contain just the text that I was interested in. Fortunately for me, there are several freely-available tools that do the job well.
The latest issue of Granta has an article by Rana Dasgupta titled "Capital Gains". It talks about the huge wealth and power recently accumulated by a few in Delhi, their unabashed flaunting of this new-found wealth and power, their displacement of the previous elite who are now disgusted and the resulting class divisions in the society. It is a long article, but well worth the read.
I spent this weekend participating in the ICFP contest. This year the task was a series of problems of increasing difficulty in which we had to steer a satellite orbiting the Earth in order to accomplish various objectives. Like the task last year, it depended heavily on physics, mathematics, your knowledge of a particular domain and the stability of your numerical calculations, not to mention the need for the occasional compensating manoeuvre. It was fairly tedious and I didn't quite enjoy it as much as I did the tasks from some of the previous years.
Are you better off if your investment first gains 10% of its value and then loses 10% or if it first loses 10% in value and then gains 10%? Many of us immediately tend to think that we're back to where we started in both the cases, but a little thought would reveal that we have lost money in both the cases.
I get to read a lot of articles on-line thanks to feeder web-sites like Slashdot, Reddit, Hacker News and Arts & Letters Daily. Many of these articles have web-pages that are very "noisy" in that they have advertisements, logos, unrelated links, snippets of arbitrary text, etc. In addition they often have uncomfortably small fonts and are broken into several short web-pages. These make it quite difficult to read such articles. Fortunately there is now a magic wand I can wave over them to make them more readable.
It seems silly to gush about a pen on a blog, but I can't help it: the Reynolds Liquiflo pen seems to actually live up to its claim of having an "ink that glides on paper" and it's a delight to write with this pen. At just Rs 10, it's surprisingly affordable as well. It's the kind of pen that makes you want to write on paper simply for the pleasure of writing with it. I am tempted to keep an old-fashioned diary just to have an excuse for using this pen every day.
One of the goals in creating a demo is to push hardware to its limits. With PC hardware getting more and more powerful, watching a demo on a PC is getting more and more underwhelming. Some demo coders seem to have decided to go back to minimal platforms where you can readily appreciate the effort and skills needed to produce the respective demo.
Some time back I noticed that Google Maps has now started provided driving directions for Bangalore (and some other Indian cities). This is a very useful feature if you live in Bangalore and wish to avoid its awful traffic as much as possible. It's invaluable if you are new to the city and trying to figure your way around it.
About ten years ago, I was assigned as a mentor for the "Data Structures and Algorithms" course in a boot camp for freshers who had joined the company that I was working for at the time. My task was to answer any queries that the students might have had about the concepts taught in the course and then to test their understanding by giving them a related assignment. Looking back at one of these assignments, I can understand why I was nicknamed the "tor-mentor".
As a bibliophile with a limited space to hoard dead-tree books and without an access to a well-stocked library, I would like to move on to reading electronic books on electronic book readers. However, I am holding off buying one of the many electronic book readers already available in the market since I feel that they still have some way to go. So what would I like to see in an ideal electronic book reader?
As was widely anticipated, Amazon launched the Kindle 2 yesterday at an initial price of about $360. Though the new Kindle has many improvements over its predecessor (and some surprising regressions), it still falls short of what I wish for in an electronic book reader. Despite its shortcomings, the Kindle 2 provides a great overall package compared to other electronic book readers, but only if you live in the US.
Chyetanya Kunte dared to criticise Padma Shree Barkha Dutt of NDTV for her coverage of the recent attacks by terrorists on Mumbai. He had to pay for this by having to apologise and withdraw his post. His post (copy in Google Cache - see the post at the bottom titled "Shoddy Journalism") seems to have irked NDTV into gagging him, despite their professed belief in "free speech and expression".
Priya Ganapathy, one of the best radio jockeys that Bangalore has ever had, returns to Bangalore after a hiatus. She now hosts a programme called "Playback" on Radio Indigo (91.9 FM) from 9 AM to 12 noon on Sundays. She played a lot of good music on the first programme - as one of the callers to the programme gushed: "How do you know all of our favourite songs?"
Anusha and I recently visited Hampi to take a short break. Hampi is what remains of Vijayanagara, the capital of the Vijayanagara empire. It is about 350 kms north of Bangalore and is famous for its splendid ruins. Many of these ruins are very well-preserved and are made of granite that is found in abundance in the surrounding hills.