Ideas and Opinions

Monday, July 14, 2008

Moved to Wordpress

I have moved my blog to Wordpress and am writing under a new name Maduraiveeran.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Formula 1 Fan

You live F1, You breath F1, You speak F1 if :

1. You drive your car by holding/steering the steering wheel like an F1 car.

2. You pretend to shift gears using your left and right fingers on the steering wheel, even though you are driving a Toyota Camry with Automatic Transmission.

3. You call your Fiat Palio as Ferrari, Ford Ikon as Jordan Ford, Toyota Camry as Jordon Toyota or just Toyota, You long for the much talked about Renault sedan to be introduced in India.

4. You drive your car alone and you have the noise of V8s and V10s in your head.

5. You drive with your girl friend/ wife and you show off with the V8/V10 noise with your mouth.

6. You also speak like F1 commentators like Peter Windsor when you drive your car.

7. Best of all, you record the engine sound on an audio tape and drive your Hyundai Santro while you play that Tape real loud.

I do items 1 to 6 and one of my friends has seen a guy in Bangalore road do item 7.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Review : iMac Core duo 17"

So I bought an iMac core duo 17" a couple of weeks back and I thought I could write a review after playing with it a bit. First I would like to say that, it is a lot more fun with a Mac than a PC. A Mac is unique and it cannot be compared with a PC and so I don't want to make this review as a Mac Vs PC comparison any further than this and trigger a never ending flame war.

Audience: Mac/PC users looking to buy a new Mac. Anyone who wishes to get to know about the iMac. No Mac Vs PC debate please! If you really wish to do that, Please find some other place. There are a whole lot of places in the internet to do that.

First, Why a Mac ?(a little history) If you just want the review, you can skip this section.

       There are several reasons for this. I had liked Mac from the time when I saw those Lamp-style iMacs in 2002 when I was in California. It was during the time when the first iPod was released. I was one of those who said iPod was totally going to fail, liked that Lamp-style iMac but left empty handed from the store after a sticker shock. I didn't even have a Desktop/laptop PC during that time and wasn't even looking for one. So the initial reaction I had for the Macs was, it was a premium brand aimed at people who love elegance over the price. I then went back to India and owned a cheap hand assembled Athlon PC. It was good and it did its job and I didn't care a lot. The idea of buying a Mac came to me after seeing the Mac Mini in 2004, when I came back to the US ( I wouldn't have considered it if I were in India, It costs a lot more there). But for $499 it was just barebones, besides I had already bought a cheap laptop for home use, so I stalled my ideas of getting a Mac. This gave me some time to learn about Mac OS X and the iLife apps. I was pretty impressed with Mac OS X, from several visits to the Apple store and local CompUSA store. I also learnt about the iLife apps and they offered pretty nice features. Besides, Mac OS  was now Unix based so being a fan of *nix, I had one more reason to buy a Mac now. The power of *nix packaged in the elegance of a Mac was just tempting. Then came the intel transition announcement and a few months later came the iMac G5 with isight, which I really liked. I kept my hands tied with sheer will power to refrain from buying that, since Intel was just around the corner and luckily, the first intel Mac announced was the iMac. I waited for about a month to see the reviews and reactions from first buyers and then I bought one myself.

The Review:

Packaging:
It is as much important the way you present things as you would have put in efforts in developing the product. The iMac was packaged really well. The idea was to keep it clean and simple. It was easy to do the unwrapping and getting it out of the box and all the items were neatly wrapped. This was something that I loved about Apple, when I unwrapped my iPod Nano. Simple, yet beautiful.

Setup:
Is there a word that will emphasize the ease than the word "breeze" ? Well, yes it was very simple too. Just plug it in and switch it on, fill out your name, address and within minutes I was into Mac OS X. I liked the first video clip that intros Mac OS X Tiger.

Design:
This is perhaps the best and salient feature of the iMac, that has made it very popular. It is an All in one computer, meaning there is no separate tower for the CPU. It is all built right on the back of the LCD display. I think it is fantastic that one can pack so much processing power in a neat thin enclosure. It is called breaking the boundary to achieve beyond what you can. The front of the iMac has the 17 inch LCD display and at the top center is a tiny square that houses the Camera (iSight). Very close to that camera is a pin sized hole, which I originally thought was a manufacturing defect, after reading the manual I came to know that it was the Microphone. After a year of researching the Mac, I have to admit my folly of not understanding how a Mic was incorporated in an iMac. The power button is neatly placed behind the iMac on its left side and the ports are all on the right side, forming a neat line. The bottom center of portion of the iMac has the Apple logo on it and it hides in it an infrared sensor for a tiny 6 button remote that comes with this Mac. Now, all of this has to be staged and it was done by mounting it on a firm metal base. I guess the metal base is designed to be at the "Lightest heavy"ness so that it doesn't add much weight to the setup, yet acts as a firm base to the setup so that it doesn't topple. I bow to the Engineers who had worked on creating this Marvel.It was just phenomenal. To make it look good, the white polycarbonate material is coated witih a few mms of glassy finish and it just adds to the beauty. The iMac comes with a tiny 6 botton remote (of the size of a pack of chewing gum, but probably as thick as 2 or 3 sticks). You don't need to search for a place to keep your remote safely, you can just stick your remote to the right lower side of the iMac and it magnetically holds it. With the glassy finish of the iMac and the remote sticking to it magnetically, it looked as though it was magically standing in mid air without any support, when looked at from an angle. I don't know if anyone had noticed it, but I saw this on my iMac. The iMac also brings with it an Apple USB keyboard and a USB Mighty Mouse. The keyboard is again another way of showing how to shatter boundaries in design. The Mighty mouse has 4 buttons, but looks as if it has only one. It works by sensing the pressure to identify the left and right clicks. There is also a tiny scroll ball for fast scrolling on pages and it also understands clicking the scroll ball as a middle click. In addition to that, it has the sides which can be clicked and it defaults to a Mac OS option called Expose (The last e has an accent). More about Expose in software. Oh, and the bottom of the iMac has the RAM door, which you can open using a philip 2" screw driver and add RAM by yourself.

Hardware:
It houses the latest generation of Intel's low power dual core processor - The Intel Core Duo. It is one chip with 2 cores (2 processors) and they are said to be the next versions of Intel's Pentium M processors. Their power consumption is very less and so they heat up very less. According to Intel, it is supposed to be the next generation Mobile processor. So why did Apple enclose it in a desktop? The main reason is power conservation, which also means it will be environment friendly by dissipating less heat and consuming less of electricity (that saves wattage needed to be generated by your local electrical company... if you know what I mean). The processor speed is 1.83 GHz, but there are 2 of them and they share 2 MB of Level 2 cache and  it just screams.  The standard model comes with 512MB memory, which is what I had and it was quite adequate for lot of tasks but upgradeable to 2GB. The graphics card is a dedicated ATI Radeon x1600 with 128 MB vRam, which is really good. Harddisk - 160GB, upgradeable to 250GB. It has a superdrive so you can burn DVDs and CDs. For all the rest of the hardware features, please visit http://www.apple.com/imac
It is incredible that such a thin enclosure can have all this , flawlessly assembled. Above all, It emanates 0 noise. Completely quite. Zen buddhist temple. Silence. Even the hard disk access is quiet, I have to get really close to hear it.

Software:
Mac OS X (read as Mac OS Ten) Tiger (version 10.4.5), hailed as the most advanced operating system is based on BSD unix kernel (Open source Darwin) and has several features. Along with iLife, it forms a neat multimedia processing platform. I am not going to list all the features here as you can find it in Apple's website - http://www.apple.com/macosx , but here are few that I liked the most, not in any order( I liked all the features but this is the list of the best).
Best OS Features:
1. Automator: This is a workflow manager application and you can use it to automate several monotonous tasks, like naming your photos in an album, importing music to iTunes from Garageband library, perform disk backup and much more. I have created simple workflows myself and they work great. I guess I will find a lot of use with this.

2. Dashboard: All the little apps on one imaginary screen. Press the centre mouse button and it zooms in. You can check weather, sun dial, use the dictionary, check currency rate. This is similar to Konfabulator (Yahoo widgets) in windows. Very handy indeed.

3. Spotlight: A lightning fast search utility, that constantly indexes your files in the background. Just start typing what you want to find and before you finish typing your results will appear. No explanation needed for how useful it will be. Just fantastic.

4. Speech Recognition: Yeah, I can walk from the kitchen towards my Mac and speak "Mac! Get my mail" and it would recognize my command and pops out my Mail application. Pretty neat, works most of the times.

5. Expose: It doesn't take long to open several windows. How do you switch between them? Well, just squeeze the mouse side buttons and ta da , you will see all the open windows and then you can pick where you want to switch to. This is a neat little feature and I use it very often.

Best of iLife:
6. iPhoto: In just under 30 seconds, you can turn your digital photo into a holiday postcard. Best of all - You can do full screen editing, Unbelievable performance.

7. iMovie: You can edit your movie Frame by Frame and add effects and transitions. It's just perfect.

8. Garageband: This is my hobby these days, I sit and compose music using Apple loops for my home movies or just create music tracks with themes like Winter evening, Dream, Magical moments.

And let me stop here, otherwise the list will go on for ever.


Minor concerns:
1. Since all the Mac app base have not yet been ported to intel, you may not be able to run your favourite Mac app yet. But for a new Mac user like me, it shouldn't matter unless one wants to run some Pro apps like Adobe photoshop.

2. When returning back from sleep, If your mouse is connected to the keyboard USB port, then either of them doesnt respond. This doesn't happen often , probably twice or thrice a day. But dont worry, it looks like a software problem that will be fixed. Apple has a discussion forum on its site and it seems a lot of them are having this trouble, so this issue is known to Apple and it will be fixed.

Overall, The iMac is a great buy for consumers looking for a new computer to do all their multimedia work. It's the ultimate consumer desktop Mac.

Updated: The lamp style iMacs were 2002 Jan, That's about the time I saw Macs in the Apple store and liked them.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Apple's iPod HiFi and the new Mac Mini: Not very interesting

iPod HiFi. Apple calls this as Home stereo reinvented. It is supposed to be a cheaper alternative to expensive high end systems that cost around $1000. This one costs $349. Verdict: Put another $100 and you can get a rocking 6.1 Home theather system from Yamaha, and then with a $6 cable you can connect your iPod to your home theater receiver. iPod HiFi is simply not appealing (to me). I am not an Audiophile (as I lack the technical knowledge), but given a choice and $350 in hand, I will spend it on a home theater than a single speaker.

Intel Mac Mini - Overall looks good with a faster processor and integrated Wireless and Bluetooth with digital audio output. It also has front row software and the remote control, so $599 price point is understandable but they should have shot for providing a $499 Mac Mini. The dual core (higher end) version costs $799, which seems to be alienating the "mini" concept of Mac from a price perspective. Both models pose an intel integrated graphics, which is not exciting at all. Of course, the older Mac Mini's had ATI Radeon 9200 that were slower but integrated Graphics share your system RAM and it usually sucks. With this price point on the Mac Mini, they should atleast try providing the Keyboard and the Mighty Mouse with it.

After looking at the Mac Mini, I think the 17 inch iMac I bought a couple of weeks back is an excellent bet. I have been playing with my iMac for the past 2 weeks and it has been simply amazing. The sheer speed of the machine is just fantastic. The iMac showed me what it is like to process Multimedia. I was editing a movie, had a music creation tool (Garage band) working on mixing and creating a quicktime movie and also had MPEG stream clip converting my old MPGs to (10 Gigs) DV files and what did my iMac say? ................Silence............. There was not a bit of the fan noise, it simply worked crunching the data. I will post a proper review this weekend, but be assured that iMac is the best computer you can get for all your "Digital home lifestyle" use.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Mega Serials Parade

When I was in College, I used to fight with my Mom during my holidays over the control of the TV. This happens every night at 9PM, when usually star movies or HBO show the first run of the movies. I usually want to watch that movie, while my MOM wants to watch the infamous (among the likes of me) mega serials. It is usually a tug of war over the remote, and my Mom ends up winning the game. Sun TV rules in this game, they start this at 9PM and doesn't end till 11 PM (and now it seems it goes as much as 12 PM). Usually the primetime programmes (6 to 9PM) are supposed to be good and popular, but these days it seems the buzz starts at 9PM, when the kids go to bed and Moms have finished their household activities. What is the value add in watching these? same as any ordinary movie or popular English sitcoms - Entertainment, except that Mega serials are supposed to be emotional and sensational and they go on forever. The titles are usually a relationship figure in a family and the whole story (yes all the thousand episodes) revolves around this character. Simple titles - Kanavan, Manaivi, chithi, kulavilakku, kuthuvilakku, onnu vitta thatha, rendu vitta patti.

Theme: "I am this character as the title of the movie, and I usually am the centre of the story, every other character sucks and they plan to dismantle my popularity. There is hardly any character with good will and they are picturised as the pathetic and helpless creatures. The spot light goes to me and the villians around. Of course, the title song belongs to me and it runs for a ridiculous 5 minutes everyday between 5 minutes of commercial before and after. There is a camera trick that you should like, I stand in the centre and the camera would go around me with the wind blowing at hurricane katrina speed, playing a dramatic music. This footage alone will occur for 30 seconds every minute in the 5 minute title song that will be aired daily ".

Alright, so why am I rambling about this so much ? I am not going to try and justify that this is bad or good. It just happened. They saw the demand and they do the business and the housewives (and some exceptional husbands) are intrigued by watching it, as the story usually is more like their own lives. I have no problem in them watching that and even being addicted to watching that. My only pledge to those who watch is, Don't live by what you watch. It is just an entertainment thing and one shouldn't try to relate or adopt what they see. I have seen people behave/think dramatically just the way it happens in those serials. The worse thing is the toddlers and kids seem to be enjoying the song and the ads between the serials. They are so glued to a "Sakthi Masala" ad that they refuse to eat food if they are not allowed to watch it. So I am going to cut this post short by saying the one line:
"Watch it, but don't live by it and most of all, keep your little kids away from it."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Review: The adventures of Indiana Jones

The DVD Pack - Adventures of Indiana Jones ( 3 movies and a bonus feature) was released sometime in 2004, when I was in India. I hoped to buy it when I made this trip to US, but didn't actually buy one because I got those movies recorded in my DVR through my cable. But recently, for the love of home theater and Dolby Digital, I bought the Indiana Jones Trilogy adventure pack and also the Back to the future Trilogy pack via a deal in Amazon. I took this weekend to watch all of Indy on my hometheater and I have to say I felt as though I was watching all of those movies for the first time once again.

The movies were made in the 1980's but the DVD's were painfully restored digitally, frame by frame of picture and bit by bit of sound, to give an amazing picture and sound quality. Technically, it was fantastic and we know George Lucas is nothing short of perfection. The deal got me all of the 4 DVDs for $50 and it was totally worth it. I can watch those movies any number of times. The fun part was to watch the making of the 3 movies. Boy! some great efforts in the days when computer animation and effects were a dream. It was hilarious too, Spielberg was so young, the man was so pumped up and active around the set. In one scene, where Indy drives out the snakes with fire torch, the snakes actually didn't look to be frightened by the fire. Steve says cut and then grabs a snake and says ," You're supposed to be scared of fire, why don't you be frightened by fire ! you are ruining my movie !" Some fun the crew has had, over everything on making those great movies.

My favourite of the three is the last movie - The last crusade. Packed with so much action and history's one of the most important theme - the holy grail, it turns out to be the most amazing adventure. The last 3 challenges that Indy faces to grab the holy grail is the most interesting part. The least favourite of the movies was Temple of Doom, but even that on a home theatre, it was very enjoyable. We watched it non-stop, sitting at the end of the couch, as though we were watching it for the first time. The sound effects had us together.

Indy is a great classic!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Think Freely

Everyone has a dream,
a dream to achieve,
to achieve the goals,
the goals constrained by reality,
the reality that narrows one's view,
the view that restricts one's thinking,
the thinking that is the only free birth right,
the free birth right that can boundlessly flow,
the boundless flow that can shatter the hurdles of reality,
the hurdles of reality that can be killed by Thinking Freely.
Think Freely! Think Freely! Think Freely!

Author: Yours truly.

I,
thinking freely, came up with these lines,
the lines that can emerge by thinking freely!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A lesson on Dolby Digital Vs DTS

To all the amateur audiophiles, wannabe's and just any one who might be interested, I have a little lesson on Dolby Digital and DTS.

I used to think Dolby Digital and DTS only deferred in their brand name and encoding technique, and that the quality of sound is same from both types. It turns out DTS offers much more than Dolby Digital. DTS uses lesser compression than Dolby and hence has less information loss. Dolby uses the lossy AC3 encoding technique. It was last week and I was watching a Tamil Movie - Gillie ( I usually don't watch Vijay movie, but this one was different, he really kicked some ass!), especially for the roaring sound effects and I must say I was pretty impressed. The DVD had 2 audio options - Dolby Digital (DD) and DTS and my Home theater receiver automatically detected DD. I then chose DTS to see how it sounds, only to be left with a silent living room. Huh! I thought I had to do some setting in my home theater and spent some awful lot of time going through the manual and trying different settings. Well, I gave up after an hour and just watched the movie in DD.

Few days later, I sat down and asked Google what am I missing. I also turned to Wikipedia to learn about Dolby Digital and DTS. Google told me to look closely at my DVD player first, it had a D followed by an inverted D and then the words Dolby Digital on it. I looked for DTS all over and it didn't seem to be there. The lesson was, I needed a DVD Player which could decode DTS signals and send them as raw output data via Digital out. I bought this player last year when I really didn't have an idea about Home theater and was not even planning to buy one, the time when I believed consumerism is luxury. So here is something to keep in mind :

1. If you have got a Home theater but don't have a DVD player which cannot decode DTS, well you have to buy one that does. When you do so, go for the one which has an optical output, it will be much clearer than Digital output.

2. If you don't have a home theater, but have a DVD player, check if it decodes DTS, otherwise mark it somewhere that when you plan to buy a home theater or when you buy a new DVD player, go for the one which has DTS and optical output.

3. If you have neither, well future proof it by buying the one that has all or perhaps future proof it by waiting for a few months to get that HD DVD player or the blu ray player that can play almost everything.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Anna University Dogma

I heard about these recent rules at Anna university, imposed on the students. As an alumni of that institution I am all pity for the students who study there. So what are those rules:
1. Students shouldn't use Cell phones and if they do so, it would be confiscated.
When I was a student there, the Economics didn't work out well for me nor for many, to actually carry a cell phone around. But things have changed, Cell phones have become an important form of communication. Its no longer just a priviledge, it is a comfort that technology has brought to mankind. Being a premier technology institution in India and well reputed, they should understand the fact that Times have changed. Here is the deal, in our times, the only way that any information reached us from outside was traditional snail-mail or a phone call to our hostel, which we can only receive if the warden/watchman (or any responsible hostel in-mate) picks it up. Then, they are left with an infuriating task of shouting in the hostel hall, "Room no 61 .. Senthil ...". You can imagine who easy things would be if you have a cell phone. If there are so many advantages with cell phones then what is the problem: General nuisance during the class when it goes off. So if that is the actual problem, then why don't they change this rule as
"Switch off your cell phones, before the class!"
The idea of devoiding the students of an important communication link all the time is complete madness.
2. Dress code - Big deal, I don't care what you dress as, Its what you think and what you are capable of. I have 2 examples - Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Did they emphasize themselves with a dress code when they started their company ? Didn't they turn out really well, to a position as to where they are now? Let me ask this question other way round, by making your students wear the dress that you specify, are they going to understand and apply the nuances of a technology, or perhaps invent the next generation computers based on Quantum Mechanics, just because you are wearing a neat Louis Phillippe formals? What you wear, really doesn't matter, it's what inside you, what you can! So cut the crap and just abolish this rule.

There are probably many other rules that students are facing right now, but I could only get to know about these. I read this post by Alaphia, who interviewed the VC at Anna university and felt the need to write something on my blog as an Anna Univ Alumni. I sincerely hope the plea gets to the president and normalcy gets restored back at Anna University.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Yamaha Home theather System : Review

After a few weeks of thought and research, I zeroed on a home theater system and bought and installed it a week back. It is a Yamaha NS-P436 6.1 Channel Speaker system and a Yamaha HTR 5840 6.1 Home theater receiver. Just before a month, my knowledge of home theater system was very limited and now I know a little. I got this desire to buy one when I experienced the home theater sound at my friends place. He had the same Yamaha NS-P436 but a HTR 5740 receiver, slightly older model. Well, as usual i set out to search and read reviews on the internet for a good home theater system. With a constrained budget, I thought it would be wise for me to simply buy a Home theatre in a Box. There were a lot of 5.1 home theater systems but I wanted a 6.1. So the options were very limited in the Box side. The ones that were there were too big, which means i can't carry it to India. Onkyo had a fine 7.1 model for $400 but it was too heavy, the whole set was 115 pounds. Even their simpler 6.1 model was heavy and the subwoofer was as big as a suitcase. I didn't even consider Bose for the price (it started from $999!). So I decided to build my home theater by buying speakers and receivers separately. The final choice I made was what I started with, my friends configuration ! I didn't get a HTR 5740 so I got the next level model HTR 5840. The speakers are neatly designed and compact enough to be carried back to India. The whole unit weighs a total of 45 pounds (about 20 Kg). It costed me a total of $450, and bought them off the internet.
Highlights:
Speakers : 2 Front Speakers - 100 W each. 1 Center main speaker - 100 W. 3 Surround rear speakers 100W each and a Powered Sub woofer - 100 W. Total output - 700 W.
Receiver - Has it all - Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic , Pro Logic II, NEO DTS ... all of it! Plus several sound settings. The unit needs a little manual reading, but once you know the basics it is really easy to use ( atleast for all your basic needs). For a detailed spec, please check the Yamaha website.

The verdict, I have only one word - Fantastic. I probably haven't experienced much home theatre before but this is really superb. I watched two great tamil movies over the weekend - Chandramukhi and Virumaandi. Chandramukhi rocked ! Superstar's stunt effects were all over my house. The first intro scene was sensational and gave me a feeling of watching it in a theatre in Chennai (Devi theatre). The sound effects were awesome. The climax song - Ra Ra was amazing. While I was watching, I really got a doubt if I was disturbing my neighbour. So during one of the songs in the middle of the movie, I walked upstairs to the apartment above mine and spoke to them politely if I was disturbing them with my movie. Guess what! they heard nothing. I have to give full credits to my apartment design folks, the acoustics is just phenomenal which enabled a superb setting of the system. I also watched a movie on my Cable and since the Set top box had a digital audio out, I was able to watch the movie "The Bourne supremacy" in Dolby Digital. The sound was simply pristine and stunning.

So if you are out there searching for a Home theater with a good sound experience and easy on your pocket and want to carry it back to India, this would be a really good choice.

Caution: Prolonged exposure to high powered sound effects will cause damage to your hearing. I always keep it between -20 to -30 db, it is good enough and the overall sound experience simply depends on the acoustics of your room rather than the speaker volume.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Reality Dream Reality

I am getting conscious of my surroundings now. I can feel the heat, I can smell, I can hear voices around, I can feel the love of my parents, I can even dream. They are not pleasant, I always die at the end of the dream. It is painful. I am bewildered and I don't know where I am. My dreams are so real, it makes me wonder if this is a dream too and am I going to die in this? I don't know. I am just going to sleep. Perhaps if I sleep in my dream, I can wake up in my reality. But if this is my reality then I will start dreaming again.

"When I look in to your eyes ... I can feel the love restrained ..." Ah! now that's a beautiful song to jog for. It's a fine weather today and too bad I had to work till 7 in the evening. But I decided to do my evening Jog inspite of that and I am glad I decided so. Who wouldn't want to Jog in this perfect weather with a mild breeze and a great song on the radio. huh ... huh ... huh ...(panting is heared for a while)...great ... the light is green for me, let me quickly cross the road now before it turns red. screeechhh.... ahhhhhh...(a car runs over him)

Oh God! Another dream of death. I think I accidently kicked on the wall. Where am I now? looks like the same place. It feels like eternity. It feels like I will be here forever with dreams torturing me. I am only hoping this is not another dream. So far this has been pleasant. But all my dreams start very pleasantly and ends with me dying. I still want to hope this is not a dream. I am smelling my favourite now, it tastes great and I have had this several times. I just don't know what it is.

"Vande Mataram!" Shouts of this slogan was heard everywhere. I lead my group of men in the huge crowd with an air of freedom slogans filling the entire nation. The police charged upon the crowd. One of the police was working his way with his Baton and as I walked raising both my hands and shouting "Vande Mataram!" the baton hits across my face with full force, breaks my nose and fractures my face. Blood gushes out of my face and after that I can't hear anything. Everything was silent, as though someone had muted the entire world. I lose my balance and my eyes are pondering over the crowd, the police, the trees, the sky … until I see some familiar faces approaching him. I see them shouting something but I am unable to hear. I am weakly feeling them holding me. The light fades in front of my eyes.

And I wake up again as I let go my bladder. "When I look into your eyes ... I feel the love restrained...uuhh" Oh God! I hear this song again ..."Darling when I hold you ... Don't you know I feel ..." sounds like the same song from my dream. I am scared now!

I fall asleep in my bedroom. I still feel body pain. Ok, Let me think of Happy moments. Oh god I can't breath. This is something serious ... I can't move out of my bed. I can't open my eyes ... oh God save me!. Let me try to get the phone. Oh no, I can't move my left hand, I am feeling heavy there. Let me try again ... noooo.....ahhh...My right hand..I'll use my right hand ...I can't reach the phone ... I can't shout help! Ahhh my chest is paining now .....

And I wake up again. Wow! This is the only dream in which I didn't die. But it felt like I was dying. Hopefully I didn't die. There it goes again, I think it is time for the water to cycle. It has been dirty for a while now and I don't have much space to move around. Oh no ... The water is receeding, it is going out. Can someone tell me what's happening around here ...! Mom why are you screaming now. Oh God! Please help me, I am slipping down I am not sure what is going to happen to me. Ok, now my head has hit the wall, I hope it stops here. I am alright now Mom, don't scream. Why is she still screaming?

I throw up. I close my eyes and I see the black sky with a lonely star. The star is approaching me, closer and closer and is swirling in to form a tunnel and fills up the entire sky. Someone is pulling me into the tunnel. This is immensely painful.

And I wake up again and cry. Oh! I am born.

The above story is a sequel to my earlier story - JOE KARTHIKEYAN. If you guessed it right it is Karthikeyan narrating his experience in the womb. I hope you like it.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Home Beyond Future

From Caves of the dark jungle to Sky scrapers of the concrete jungle man has come a long way in the dwelling cult. At every stage of development man tries to accommodate the maximum possible features until he reaches a point where he cannot do without any new invention. Caves became huts, huts became houses and houses became palaces and big buildings. Even today, for a normal residential house, man’s basic thinking has not varied much in terms of home requirements - a place to live, a place to cook or store his food, a place to keep all his belongings and a comfortable place to rest. These basic necessities will in fact remain the same until human civilization exists. Millions of years have passed and man has been using all naturally available elements to create artificial things for his material needs, especially in the past millennium with rapid development in science and technology he has found ways to produce things at low cost and sell it at affordable prices to his human counterparts. The result was increased consumption of non-renewable energy sources causing a rise in greenhouse gas and hindering the carbon-silicon cycle. The greenhouse gas which has kept the world warm all these years will elevate the temperature to much hotter levels resulting in abrupt climatic changes and challenge the very existence of human. With all due considerations to preserve our environment, the house of the future will also try to accommodate various aspects of changing human lifestyle. Necessity and desire will lead to infusion of technological advances in an ordinary home.

At the dawn of 21st century, a technologically advancing world is challenged with problems to tackle from Mother Nature. The century will see an evolution of gadgets which are environment friendly. Oil driven machineries will be replaced by machines powered by Electricity or hydrogen. Electricity will only be produced from sources like Nuclear, Wind, Solar and water. The building materials will be far more advanced with better acoustics, sound proofing and well insulated which will bring down energy leakage. The property of constant temperature of Earth’s crust will be used to maintain the temperature of the home instead of using power consuming, polluting and costlier Air condition equipments/heaters. Pre-manufactured concrete along with Robotic machines will help builders complete the building work in a matter of few weeks. How will our home look like in the future?

One of the challenges of human settlement in the future will be space. With an increasing population, Engineering will focus on packing more number of things for the demanding lifestyle in a square foot of area. LCD and plasma TVs are less space consuming that will soon attain economies of scale and CRT Televisions will become a history. As LCD TVs become common, another interesting arrangement of a future living room could be a Holographic Projection TVs (HPTV), which can project the television broadcast from a small device from the ceiling. The arrangement can be such that the center of the living room has this HPTV which will be surrounded by furniture. Audiences seated at any corner in the room will have a 3D visual of the broadcast at the centre of the living room. Programmes and footages in the old 2D technology will be projected flat and one should still be able to watch it from any corner. The next advancement that can be thought of is the acoustics and the sound system. I recently saw a program on the Discovery science channel where a new form of speakers was demonstrated. It was a round metal disc of the size of a palm, couple of inches thick, which can be attached to the wall. The reverberations created by the device cause the solid surface of the wall to turn into a speaker. This will be an amazing technology in the future. A sound system that can produce pristine music that doesn’t need any space consideration and wiring requirements combined with a HPTV will be the height of audio visual experience in the future.

With a busy lifestyle centered on business lunches, fast foods, ready to eat, frozen pre-cooked stuff, our kitchen is more likely to attain even more sophistication to handle this lifestyle. Now unless the person has a passion and time to cook it is more likely that the food that we would eat will be one of the mentioned above. But besides all these stuff I would like to imagine a futuristic kitchen that is fully automated, operated by robots. Not the humanoid kind of Robots but just a normal industrial type robot arm (Actuator) with specific degrees of freedom. The gas stove will be surrounded by actuators which will do the job of cooking the food. The ingredients will be served to the arms from the pantry via a conveyer belt or a pipeline by another set of actuators. The only work that we will need to do is to program the recipe using a GUI application in our home computer, send it to robotic system and store the ingredients in proper places which the robotic systems can identify. This kind of arrangement will look more like the Weasley’s house in the Harry potter story. The Automatic kitchen system will also keep track of the stock of ingredients available in the pantry and when the levels diminish to threshold defined by us, it would simply place a buy order on the internet store for all the things that are needed. If technology can grow to provide us such a miniature robotic kitchen system at affordable prices, I would love to write the software which converts the recipes from the GUI application to instructions for the actuators and along with the whole inventory control system. Perhaps, a simpler and less futuristic arrangement without the robots can be thought off with a programmable microwave oven. You can put all your ingredients to cook in a vessel and place it inside the microwave; put a timer to start cooking at 7 PM for dinner, while you leave for work in the morning. The microwave will act as a refrigerator in the day time to preserve it until 7 PM and after that it will start increasing its temperature and cook the food and keep it warm till you eat it. A Robotic kitchen is more exciting and lot of work for developers than a simpler timer based microwave kitchen.

Another important development in the coming years for a future home will be communication. Man has come a long way in this from the days of arrows and pigeons to cell phones of these days. Wireless communication will be the trend and the business in wired phones will soon attain saturation and worst could be completely replaced by wireless technology in the far future. Integration of video conferencing in a cell phone will also be a noteworthy development that we can see in this area soon. But apart from communicating to other people in the most advanced way that can be thought off, is there any other use for this? Cell phone can be as well used as a remote control for your devices in your home. You will no longer need to be physically present at home to actually set off something. You can simply use your phone, access your communication menu, choose the device you want to speak to and just send commands either by typing it or by speaking words on to it. Like I said in my earlier article (Storage Evolution), this information can be transmitted to a centralized system which will parse and convert the commands to actions and send it to that relevant device. For example, you can call your vacuum cleaner and ask him (I chose to personify a non living thing for its sensory ability to listen to human’s voice and recognize the same) to clean the kitchen and he would do the same like a faithful servant. This can work for any device present in the house that can be programmed to be interfaced with the centralized communication device. The power of control will be in the palm of your hands wherever you go.

With all such advances, humans should only use them in situations of necessity and to improve the lifestyle with possibilities rather than as a daily affair. This can reduce the unnecessary evolutionary impacts on having to deviate too much from nature. Nevertheless, a new gadget at home will always make it interesting and let us hope that we are not too far in getting an advanced system setup in our future home during our lifetime.

Monday, October 17, 2005

T

Feeling a terrible pain on the back of his neck, he looks around completely perplexed. He was standing on a green lawn, which looked like one of those tennis courts at Wimbledon. His body was a little wet even though the air was dry and the evening was bright. His brain was going through a sort of nervous battle and he wasn’t able to hold on to a single thought. Remembering nothing as chaos filled his brain, he could only see a small cottage in front of him. He decided to go into the cottage, even though his brain was neither able to make that decision nor identify if he could recognize having seen it before. In spite of lot of stress and confusion he enters the cottage. He was able to sense that he has to knock the door if it was locked; it was locked and so he was forced to knock. He looked around the lawn as he was waiting for someone to open it. A familiar row of yellow rose caught his eyes and he could remember seeing it somewhere. The sight of the same array of yellow flowers stretching long alongside the cottage where at one point it gets hidden by the cottage itself and from where a distant mountain begins it slope looked as much a déjà vu for him. But he was under too much stress that he wasn’t able to think beyond the fact that it’s something familiar.

The creak of the door was heard as an old man appeared before him. He was probably in his early 60’s wearing round spectacles, a white apron covering his shirt and jeans. His hair was completely white, long and uncombed and his face was covered with a thick beard and moustache. Before he could say anything, the old man exclaimed, “Swami! Nice to see you. What made you come 10 minutes early? Did you skip your date with Ramya?”
Confused by the old man’s statement of appropriateness of his presence in that place he asked, “Excuse me sir! I am feeling a little confused and my brain is a little chaotic, I am not able to think if I know you ..”
“Oh! Calling me sir, Looks like some heavy lightning struck your head, get in first”. The old man lets him in and asks him to follow.
“Sir! I am not sure why I am here”, he said walking behind the old man. He saw a dusty living room with a few jute chairs, an old television set in the corner and few magazines
on the desk. One of them had the old man’s face on the cover, but the words were hidden by some newspapers over it.
“Swami!”, said the old man stopping at the entrance of another room, “What happened to you, are you all right?”
“Sir! I am confused. Do I really know you? Do I really know this place?”
“God knows what struck you! You know me. I am Dr. Raman. You are my student. I had asked you to come today and that’s why you are here!”
“Strange! I remember my name and remember seeing few things around here but nothing more! Facts look unaligned, I am unable to recall a lot of things.”
“That’s Selective Amnesia. My amnikit system should make you all right. But we don’t have time for that now. Come on in, let’s get that going.” Dr. Raman hurried into a room.
Though he was bewildered by swami’s attitude, he hurried to what he wanted to do that evening.
“What!” said Swami following Raman.
“We are all set swami! My T is ready! We can do the test in few more minutes”
Swami looked puzzled. All he can see was a hazily lit room with lots of instruments and pieces of junks all around.
There was a shelf of books around the corner and a table in front had few books lying around open. Another table was set close to a small window with some setup of mirror and lenses and it was grabbing the setting sun’s light into some weird looking container, with a rotating spindle on its back. He could not picture and comprehend any more objects other than these.
Swami was looking at Raman puzzled as he asked, “Your T?”
“Yes, I had told you”.
Raman paused for a moment. As he saw outside through the window, the sun was setting fast and clouds assisting in diminishing the amount of sunlight gradually. His eyes were fixed onto the container collecting sunlight. The spindle fan on the back of the container started to slowdown rapidly. The clouds became denser and rain started to pour down in a few seconds. Raman didn’t speak for a minute. Swami was even more confused by Raman’s long silence.
“Sir!” called Swami.
Raman turned around and looked at Swami. He then moved towards a corner where there was a monitor running a lot of numbers. Looking at it for a few seconds he turned to
Swami, “We need just a few more photons”
As he finished speaking, he heard a loud knock at the door.
“Doc! Doc!” cried a voice from behind the door.
Raman went to the door and didn’t know he was about to be astonished.
“Hey Doc! I am sorry; I got caught up with Ramya’s Dad! Had to convince him about our affair. I came running. Gosh! I got drenched in the rain. Got a towel. Lets start the
Teleportation Doc! The sun is dying down” said the person. The person was none other than Swami himself. Raman was perplexed to see a second Swami.
Meanwhile, the other Swami in the laboratory came out and was shocked to see a look alike of him.
The Swami at the door, looking at Swami inside, bewildered for a moment, turned to Raman.
“What’s up Doc? What did you do with T? How did you clone me?”
“I didn’t. The experiment is done”; said Raman.
“What do you mean? I don’t understand! You made it work
without me?” said the Swami at the door.
“My T has done its job, but hasn’t teleported you. It has got you few minutes to the past and caused you a nervous breakdown”
“Let’s do it again then”
“We need more photons! With this I can only just manage to make it work. It is too risky, I may not able to capture your entire molecular structure, It can cause you nervous breakdown”.
“Nervous breakdown!!... Wait a minute … what time are we supposed to start this experiment? I mean doc, if you are thinking what I am thinking”
“Swami, I think you are thinking exactly what I am thinking!”
Raman turns towards Swami inside and says “why don’t you get into the red glass chamber in that corner!” pointing towards a 6 feet tall glass chamber which looked like an old telephone booth.
The First Swami gets into the glass booth and Raman activates the 1 minute countdown trigger.
“It was supposed to rain, but I think we braved to conduct the experiment with this risk …” said Dr. Raman
“and I was transported back a few minutes instead of being teleported to the green glass chamber” said Swami
“and the transported Swami appeared at my door at this alternate timeline, If only I send him back to his timeline, he would exists there!” said Dr. Raman.

They both watch the last few seconds tick by on the timer. The clock goes zero, the red glass chamber is illuminated powerfully and the First Swami disappears as they hoped that he would get back to his original time ...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

BACK TO THE PAST II

Continued from Part I ...

The summer holidays of the same year, I got interested in a new hobby, a chance to learn something ....

I was introduced to a cool new toy by my friend during that summer – a lens. He showed me how you can burn paper, match and all sort of stuff by focussing the sunlight on it. I was amazed by that and got my own lens from a general stores. As i was playing with it my father watched that and he asked me to come inside and he wanted to show me another cool thing. He placed a mirror on the kitchen floor where we got sunlight from the window and projected it on the wall. He then cut a piece of polythene paper from Aavin milk packet and put on the path of the light. Next, he put the lens on the path after the polythene piece and I just witnessed a phenomenon – a magnified image of the Aavin writings looking just like the slides they show in theatres. I just learnt how to project a movie and how a lens works to do that. The next thing i did was I ran to the roadside shop across the main road and bought a pack of movie films and rushed back. I did the same thing my father did but with the films that i bought and enjoyed watching my new source entertainment for a long time. I learnt how i have to position the film inverted so that i get the correct projection after the lens magnifies and focusses the image.

The next step, I needed some improvements to do to my new toy. First thing was the lens was not so clear since it was of low quality and small focal length. The picture size had to be small for getting a clear magnification, So i asked my father if he can get me a better lens and guess what i got a fine quality magnifying lens with steel rim and handle. I ran a trial with that and the picture came out amazing. The magnification was as big as HDTV and picture was clear and sharp. I then started assembling everything so it would look like a still projector. I took off some notebook covers and cut a rectangular hole on two of them. I made one with a slot to hold the film and on the other I stuck the lens using a tape so i don't have to hold it by hand. I closed the door and shut the windows and put a blanket on top and darkened the entire room. I got a clean white veshti from the godrej bero and hung it on the wall to form a screen. Then finally i projected the film on the clean white screen and voila it was my first still projector at work. It was a great feeling to do something like this and after that i kept improvising my new devices. I had a box to hold all the films and i had to simply place the films in front of the lens to get the picture. I was enjoying it to my fullest. I run my own show to my dad and mom and i would just keep projecting the films one by one. I was also improving my film collection by getting the ones which has titles(which i show first) and then i have a good mix of films with song, action sequences etc.

I loved to do this and showed it to all my friends. But something was still not right because, i can only do this in the afternoons when i get the sunlight in our kitchen. Well, I got curious if movies are projected the same way where do they get the light from if it is an evening show or a night show. My Father answered this question and he said i would need atleast a thousand watts white bulb for this. I hesitated to ask because it would be too costly in those days to get such a bulb, so i just restricted myself to that particular time everyday. I had so much fun with this i didn't want to do anything else. I thought of more improvements to my toy. I wanted to project an actual movie, atleast a piece from a scene. So i learnt from my uncle about how a movie projector works and then i tried to create a roll film holder using a spindle. It didn't come out very well because i was only able to get a small roll of the film and my frames per second was not very controlled so i was getting only a clip for few seconds which flickered ununiformly. I tried it several times and my toy was technically not very strong to handle it. The summer vacation was almost getting over and i started realising that i cannot do this everyday. I will have a lot of school stuff to do and i will only get to do this on weekends when i am at home and when i get enough sunlight in my kitchen. I just reluctantly asked my father if he can buy me a buld which can be bright enough to project a movie. He told me that there are actually mini projectors which you can use at home. I was so thrilled at that and i never knew my father would be willing to buy me one. He said he could buy me one on the next saturday when he comes back from work. I eagerly waited for that saturday evening ... but my father came empty handed. He actually came with my uncle and explained that the shop only had the last item and it was kind of broken so he didnt want to buy me that. I agreed and let it go. The next few weeks i kept asking my father and he only said there was no new stock of those items yet. I just lost interest and gave myself away to other forms of entertainment and that was about the time I learnt to play cricket from my cousin. All my projector stuff vanished in few weeks, my lens, films everything went to the attic and I completely forgot about that.
It was cricket from then on ...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

BACK TO THE PAST I

I remember the first time I started watching movies was with my father. He used to take me to all those old Black and white movies of MGR and Sivaji. I used to like the movies which had lots of action, especially the one with Sword fights. So I kind of liked those MGR, Sivaji movies which were based on ancient historic subjects. The best ones were Nadodi mannan, Mannathi mannan, Alibabavum narpathu thirudargalum, Malai kallan, Uthama puthiran. I usually watch them very interestingly during the first half hour when you can expect some fast paced story, action and after a while when all the romances and songs start I fall asleep. Intervals are the best part when I get to have Popcorn and Icecream (If I am awake!) and back again for some sleep…action…sleep until finally it is the last 30 minutes of the movie. The climaxes are usually lengthy but that's when you get to see hell lot of action. I used to be fascinated when MGR escapes from Jail by bending the Jail Kambi and when he easily kills enemies in sword fight. The stunts are usually amazing, MGR runs around the palace during sword fight. He climbs the table, swings from the chandelier and jumps from the stairs. During this time I guess I was in primary school (I std or II std) so I didn't care much about the story – the only thing I knew was MGR was the good guy and all other Guys – Nambiar, Veerapa were villains. MGR's aim – Help poor people, Kill Bad Guys, romance a girl. Moral: Sword fight movies are interesting and don't fall asleep during interval.

As years passed, my interest in movies changed. Rajinikanth was becoming popular in those days and I was totally amazed by the movie – Murattu Kalai. Even now, when I hear the song "Pothuvaga em manasu thangam…" I get goose bumps. I used to like it so much that me and my cousin sometime sneak and go to the theatre to watch it. I guess we were in 3rd std and the ticket price was usually 90 Paise or less. I don't remember how many times we did this, but my Mother used to say that we used to go to that movie a lot and she usually had to send our uncles for a search and rescue mission. Payum puli was another amazing movie, that was the time I was introduced to Bruce lee movies and when I saw a similar styled movie in Tamil it was simply superb. I don't remember all the Bruce lee movie names but liked them all. My favorite was of course Enter the Dragon. I still remember when I was in 3rd std I guess and it was the final day of the Exams. We all completed our exams a little early and our class teacher asked us to perform something impromptu in front of the class. Some told stories, songs, Aruvai jokes but I told my teacher I liked Bruce lee and I wanted to show some stunts. I did not know where that came from, but that was the only thing which came to my mind because I was not a singer, didn't remember a story off hand and not good at jokes (remembering jokes). The Teacher asked me to come and stand in front of the class and show my stunts. I just stood up on the desk (not the chair) made a shrieking noise and was punching and kicking air – uuh aahh uhhh ahhh ! and after a few seconds I just shouted at my highest pitch, made the angriest face in the world, jumped from the desk with my legs stretched (exactly like Enter the dragon Climax fight) and landed on the pavement in front of the Teacher's desk. Applause everywhere! I still can't believe I actually did that, and I don't think I even told my parents then.

The summer holidays of the same year, I got interested in a new hobby, a chance to learn something.

To be continued ...