Friday, October 30, 2009

Synergy: Cause one keyboard and mouse oughta be enough for anyone


Share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware.

This software has been around since 2005, it's a tragedy that I have known of it only now, but in case you haven't, have a go at it, by all means.

Synergy 2 is truly the best of things. It's free, open source, and is operating system agnostic. Which is to say that you can switch your keyboard and mouse across a Mac and a PC, or use your MAC's keyboard and mouse to type on your PC, and then flip back to the MAC in a quick flash.

Netbooks, laptops, desktop PCs,. Sometimes, people have one of each. It's best when all of these are working in sync, if you've got them all on your workdesk. If you ever wanted a wireless keyboard and had a laptop, this thing saves you the trouble of getting one.

In my case, I have a 12" netbook with an amazing keyboard, and when I want to do something on my desktop PC, like change the song on the playlist, or write this blog post while eased out and reclined on my couch, I can do that, thanks to Synergy.

Download link: http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/

Friday, October 23, 2009

For an untangled web, you need Mozilla Weave

The Firefox awesome bar is one of the most coolest features on the browser, you don't have to remember or bother bookmarking everything zealously anymore, Firefox remembers.

Mozilla Weave takes this a step further across multiple PCs, remembering what you browsed on your desktop PC on your netbook or laptop. This really simplifies and unifies your browsing experience.

From the web site:
It currently supports continuous synchronization of your bookmarks, browsing history, saved passwords and tabs, as well as form-field history and preferences. For example:
  • Get the same results on the Smart Location Bar on each of your Firefox browsers, so you can get to your favorite sites with just a few keystrokes
  • Continue what you were doing: have the ability to open any tab you have open on any of your Firefox browsers
  • Keep the same list of bookmarks on all of your Firefox browsers
  • If you use Personas, your currently selected Persona can be synchronized across your Firefox browsers
  • Easily sign in to all your favorite sites using your saved passwords (this is especially handy on mobile phones, where it’s hard to type in complex passwords)
  • Do it all securely: Weave Sync encrypts user data before uploading it to Mozilla’s servers, so that only you can access your data

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Please do not spit here

While travelling on Mumbai's local train metro network is a pretty depressing experience overall, it's decrepit stations just add an extra dimension of horror to it. Of the three railway lines, I recommend the tourist/urban explorer a ride through the Harbour line, which connects New Bombay to Mumbai City for an authentic Salaam Bombay/Slumdog experience. It offers an olfactory experience that includes gutters, feces, burnt plastic and garbage.

Of all the stations, Kurla station, which connects Mumbai's suburban commuters stands out as one of the most darkest, depressing, blacked out spots in the Mumbai Map. TOI's got a story in the morning paper that cites:

unmanageably massive crowds,
crowded market areas
hawkers and beggars
dirty and foul smelling toilets
limited ticket windows

This may be news to some, but it's been that way for more than the ten years that I've been travelling through it. When doing a job in Andheri, getting down at Kurla station and taking a bus to Saki-Naka was like going through a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Like all other Mumbai stations it disregards commuter health and dignity entirely, covered in asbestos roofs, and years of calcified pan and gutkha spittle.

Wikipedia says:

Asbestos can be toxic. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma (a type of malignant neoplasm dependent mostly from exposure to asbestos),[citation needed] and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis). Since the mid 1980s, the European Union and most developed countries have banned asbestos.[citation needed]. Since January 1 2005 the European Union has banned all types of utilization of asbestos Directive 1999/77/EC and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products Directive 2003/18/


New Bombay's stations were quite nice when they started out, but they're slowly being spat and shat on.
I think nothing signaled malign intent better than a toilet sign, which is at a height of around 12-15 feet, hung from the ceiling in Vashi. The board says Toilet, in Helvetica, yellow and black. Some gutkha eater had spat on this board, leaving a nice juicy thick blotch in the middle of it.

The elevator that connects Vashi station to the Infotech Park is lined with red gutkha stains on all corners, I saw half a dozen mosquitoes hovering menacingly, hitching a ride, the oil greating the overhead fan had leaked and sprayed all the walls with a sticky black oil that had embalmed several of their forefathers.

I was wondering why public property had been abused to this extent, when a friend remarked that the Income Tax collection office was on a certain floor of the Infotech park!

Related:
I saw a toll booth on the way to Lonavala with a sign that said "Please do not spit here."

I felt both sympathy and mirth for an employee who leaves a note sticking out of his booth like that, who asks in all humility and modesty, that he not be spat at.

Somebody had streaked a bulls-eye of red spittle on that sign too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Droid could be the iPhone killer

The Motorola droid looks amazing, the marketing campaign is full of geek bombast, boasting of open source software support and replaceable batteries. It's an Android 2.0 with a large capacitive touch screen keyboard AND a slide-out keyboard. No pricing details yet, but even if it's priced at the same level as the iPhone, it could make a serious dent.

I hate Apple in general for making products that are expensive, incompatible, and full of proprietary software and connectivity fuckups. iPods won't work without iTunes, which cannot buy tunes in India anyways. Sure, I concede, they've patented the zen of design, and Windows is a curse on humanity, but as design aesthetes, they have never tried to make their products affordable for the base of the pyramid, or the third world.

As my brother points out, if it weren't for Windows and IBM, we would have not been able to afford a PC when we could.

Expounded by Charlier Booker for maximum comedy here, here, and here are reasons why I don't quite buy into Apple.

An excerpt: This one's really hilarious.
I'd call the new KITT an iPhone with an exhaust pipe, except if it really was like an iPhone then instead of fighting crime, its owner would spend the entire duration of each episode endlessly droning on and on about how brilliant KITT was, and how he can't believe you haven't bought one yourself yet, and every time he passed another KITT driver, they'd feel compelled to pull over and sit there Twittering each other about the latest astounding downloadable KITT "apps", like the one that makes a shoe appear on the screen, then you tilt it and the shoe rocks around a bit and plays the Star Wars theme, and it's amazing really, the things it can do. Actually, you know what I'd watch? A series about a maniac who drives around singling out iPhone owners, slapping their stupid toys out of their hands and stamping on them. That's the first three minutes of each episode; the remaining 57 consist of an unflinching close-up of said iPhone owner's sorrowful face as they scoop all the bits of shattered iPhone off the pavement, clutch it to their bosom, and stagger down the pavement.


Anyways, coming back to Apple and it's failure to make any kind of an impact in India. This article by Businessweek says it best - THREE IPHONES EQUAL ONE CAR.

If only Motorola made a techno-gandhian ad campaign that said:
One iPhone could teach provide education support for 8 poor children for over a year.

Apple's pricing strategy in India has been typical of its disdain for third world sensibilities. I don't quite get it why the iPod Touch costs so much more in India than in the US.

If only Android phones did what the PC did to the MAC in the 80s. I want a customisable touch screen pocket phone/computer surfs wirelessly and on telco networks, plays music and movies, a variety of free user generated open source apps, and I want it for 200 dollars or Rs 10,000 INR.

A device that weights around 100 grams should not cost $600. A premium netbook costs that much, some flab needs to be cut around here.

I think it will take another three years at least before we get to that.

So far all the Android phones have been in the $600 range, which totally sucks. I don't expect Motorola to shake things up, but expect more cooler phones on the Android platform. Enjoy the AD.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Terrible Pricing Disparity!

Why is it that the Apple iTouch 32 gigs costs 25 grand in India, while it costs almost half, at 13 grand on amazon.com?

IMHO: It's an amazing deal at 13k and an atrocity at 25.

Keep in mind that you could get a decent netbook for 25k, and a fairly crappy Samsung Corby for Rs 10,000 in India.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Genius of the Beast

Hello everyone.

It's funny trying to start a conversation after maintaining a rather paranoid, apathetic silence. I sincerely apologize to the 5 people who probably read my blog.

Where were we now, anyway.

Let's talk about Howard Bloom, one of my favourite thinkers, he's the Werner Herzog of evolutionary biology, most of his thoughts seem to illustrate in great detail, the phrase 'nature is bloody in tooth and claw'. In his two books, Lucifer principle and Global Brain, he draws stories from the darkest episodes of history, from the rape of sabine women and religious pogroms, alpha male tendencies of chimps, tribes and boardroom politics.

He writes entertaining, passionate stories about the nature of nature, he's coming out with a book in 45 days, it's called Genius of the Beast.

It's a book that infuses great optimism to the idea of consumerism, and I would like you all to read an excerpt from it: now that Diwali and Christmas are around the corner.
In Praise Of Consumerism - It Appeals To The Thoreau In You
In Praise Of Consumerism - Bees, Bacteria And The Value Of Wasted Time
In Praise Of Consumerism - It Was Good Enough For Marco Polo So It's Good Enough For You


He's been sending inspiring, personal emails articulating his thoughts and philosophy behind the book, counting the days to his release, I reproduce his email today for your benefit:



48
days
to the The Genius of the Beast
Two nights ago I was in front of an audience of 200 financial advisors in Boston. Their eyes were riveted to mine and I was in heaven.
Tonight I am alone in the Tea Lounge, and the attention-deprivation is fierce. When the stepson I've raised since he was ten first came into my life he and his mom--my fiancee-- were living hundreds of miles away in Plattsburgh, New York. I'd call him every day and ask how his day had been. Many a time he had nothing to say. He couldn't remember what had happened since he left school in the afternoon. On other days he had oodles to report.
What made the difference? A friend. If he'd been with one of his friends, the day came alive in his mind. If he'd been alone, the entire memory of the day melted away. That's the power of attention. With it we come to life. Without it we die inside.
I should know all this. It's written it up in my three books, including the new one, The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism. In each book a different facet of attention deprivation comes under the lens. But in each book--The Lucifer Principle, Global Brain and now the Genius of the Beast--there's an explanation. We are modules in a learning machine that uses something like a Darwinian algorithm, an evolutionary learning rule. That rule is ruthless.
When we contribute to the social groups we're part of, we are alert, vigorous, and healthy. When we don't make a contribution, we are grabbed by a process like apoptosis--pre-programmed cell death. We go from active to lethargic and from exhilarated to morose. What pushes the switch from agony to ecstasy? How do we know when we're making a contribution? Attention.
And it's not just us. Attention deprivation even slams ants and bees. For the full story see The Genius of the Beast.
But the problem is particularly harsh on rock stars. One minute they are in the spotlight, feeling the eyes of 17,000 people upon them, locked on them with emotion and intensity. A second later they are backstage walking a lonely corridor to an equally lonely dressing room. The attention deprivation is harsh. Many of the artists I've worked with come offstage looking skeletenous, with sunken shadows where their eyes should be and with expressionless faces. What's going on inside these suddenly attention-bereft musicians? Pain. Pain so bad that it drives some to drugs.
Peter Townshend was trying to get Eric Clapton off of heroin way back in the 1970s. He explained to Clapton that one minute you have the energy of 34,000 eyes pouring their attention through you, and the next moment you are an empty--and discarded--pipe. And you, Eric, said Townshend, try to fill that emptiness with heroin.
These days I am filling that emptiness with you.
May the fascinated eyes of others always be upon you--Howard
ps Bear with me while I ask a favor. If you have any friends you think would benefit from The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism, ask them to pre-order the book on Amazon.com. Then you can watch your efforts pay off on the Amazon.com sales chart. And I, seeing the rise, will perk up, energized by your attention.