Thursday, December 30, 2004

Donate For Relief

Amazon makes it easy for you to donate to the American Red Cross Society for the tsunami victims. (via)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Earthquake! Tsunami!

Read on for the horror in first-person.
Home was hit by Tidal wave... Practically lost everything.... Family is fine... Thank God... - Ronnietan

... and then tidal waves about 16 feet high hit the West coast of Phuket (Rawai, Patong), the Similans, Koh Lanta, Phi Phi Islands. The wave reached 300 m inland at Patong and swept hundreds of tourists into the sea. - ellie_elephant

There was a kinda big earthquake in my place this morning... It woke me up, and I ran downstairs amazingly fast... That was shocking. I thought this house will be ruined... - Meilathena

Priya and I are safe, barring a nasty shock when she was jerked out of bed early today morning by the quake... - Suresh Ramasubramanian

Thankfully my parents are okay - they have not been affected physically. However we have lost some of our closest friends... - Dhruhini

I am closer to the beach. A church by the beach is supposedly flooded, and there are reports of people being drowned, while in Church. I wonder if they got trapped or something! - notangel78

The beach is totally flooded. Chennai without a beach feels totally weird, even though its only temporary... People around the beach have been forced to evacuate. Looks sad. - Vyshnavi

We had tremors, and floods. Apparently there are dead bodies up the coastline. Fuck... We're fine. But scared. - Rulinian Wexile

I'm scared... My best friend, Alyssa is currently on holiday in Langkawi, Malaysia - Sophia

He was jet-skiing at a beach in Phang-nga province, one of the place that the wave hit hardest. They found his body about 100 metres away from the hotel. - D.M.

The water went out then came back in very, very quickly, taking everything with it. When the water came into the bungalow, we put everything on the beds... All the windows were closed, so the water kept pushing everything up towards the roof. It pushed us up to the roof, then the roof came off and we floated away - Mr Sk├Âld in Daily News

We were standing there taking pictures and the wave started coming back, faster and faster, so we started to run away, faster and faster, but my parents didn’t run fast enough. - Mrs Holmberg in Daily News

Jayanti Lakshmi, 70, had gone shopping with her daughter-in-law in Cuddalore, southern India. Ms Lakshmi returned to find her son and twin grandsons dead in their hut. - BBC

People that were snorkeling were dragged along the coral and washed up on the beach, and people that were sunbathing got washed into the sea. - Simon Clark in CNN

My mate's staying in a police station for the night and luckily she hasn't had to go through the trauma that some of the survivors of the tsunami have had to go through. - Eshin

I feel sad too to see the victim, and the tsunami is 9 mtr high, and it swept out all the living near the beach... - In a post to Meg

People are rushing out from the coastal area into town, ambulance the other way round. Bodies have been found, many still missing, millions worth of assets damage, coastline of Penang is in mess. - calmocean

It's the way of the world. There's only so much we can do against the forces of nature. - Aerna

We called up our friends in South India and Sri Lanka and they are safe. Still, they know people who have been affected and some are still missing. We are all affected. - Dina Mehta

The wave(s) that came were 4-5 m high. If they could pick up those cars and throw them over the fence, we wouldn't have had a chance. - The Command Post

There was an earthquake, after five minutes there was water all around and we ran away. When we came back, our homes had been destroyed - in NDTV

As we watched it became apparent that the sea was behaving very oddly. Waves were not breaking as normal. The sea appeared to be surging. One such surge practically emptied what we could see of the bay. This was followed by the sea moving repidly back into the bay and reaching right up to the promanade area (and possibly beyond) [...] At no time could we make out any people. - Andrew Sutton

Later on we went down to the beach and believe me, the paradise has been changed to hell. We know also for sure that the official figures underestimate the number of casualtiesa, if you think about all the fishermen. - (via)

He recounted hearing what sounded like repeated explosions coming from the coast. When he left his home to investigate, he spotted a wave towering above the tree line about a mile inland. - Yahoo! News

Since I was now sure I was fully awake, I sat on the bed. There it was again. There was a definite tremor in my bed. It went on for another two minutes. - MadMan

I heard an eerie sound that I have never heard before. It was a high pitched sound followed by a deafening roar. I told everyone to run for their life. - Chellappa in Reuters

At 10am (local time) all of a sudden, just out of nowhere, a massive wall of water came through. There are cars upturned and floating, there's debris, there are beach chairs and beach umbrellas, bits of restaurants are starting to float by. - Australian State MP John Hyde in smh.com.au

...her family lives right on the beach. Her frantic phone calls were unanswered. Her husband and teenage son, who just celebrated his birthday a month or two ago, are either homeless or dead. - David Lok

A lot of these were originally compiled by Insomnia

Monday, December 27, 2004

Tropical Snowflakes

Tropical Snowflakes

It doesn't snow much in India, not even in Kodaikanal. But that doesn't stop nature from placing beautiful white fluffs all over the place in the winters. Shot in Bryant Park, Kodaikanal.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A Very Good Year

According to the browser stats maintained at the W3Schools, this December the number of Mozilla (mostly Firefox) users was more than 20% of the Internet's crowds. That's a leap from 8.2% to 21.2% in a year. Internet Explorer crashed from a high of 84.1% to 71.7%.

Let that sink in again. One in every five users is a Firefox user.

I like the sound of that. I think that makes this a very happy year! Cheers to that!

Did you get Firefox yet?

Previously:

Link Bin

Long time no idea for a post. It's time for a link dump!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Ho Ho Ho!

From a friend over SMS, a few days before Christmas:

Merry X'mas. A bit early I know, but there's thousands of beautiful and sexy people to wish, so I thought I'd start with the ugly fuckers first.
Merry Christmas to you too! Hope you have a great time!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

What Do You Suggest?

It's no news now, but some time ago Google announced the launch of Google Suggest. Sure enough, it got slashdotted. Some talked about it, some dissected it, some others hacked it.

Then the fun stuff started rolling out. Some others got more serious about the fun. Some others thought the fun was news! Weird, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

An Incredible Time

My 10 day holiday has now extended into 15 days, and I still can't have enough.


Yesterday, I went for The Incredibles - an animation by the really cool guys at Pixar Studios (the guys behind such movies as Finding Nemo and Toy Story). It's a wonderful story about a family of retired super-heros who eventually get back into the "saving the world while wearing spandex" business, interspersed with very humorous takes on mid-life crises and growing up super-kids.

Needless to say, this is a can't-miss.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

GMail Invites Again

I don't know a single person who doesn't have GMail already (ok, I do, but they don't need it anyway), so when I get invites, I turn to my blog.

I've got 4 GMail invites with me. If you want an invite, leave me your first name, last name (yes, seriously - I am tired of making up first names and last names from e-mail addresses), and your e-mail address, and I'll zip you an invite within a day. I have only 4, so I'll give it off to the first 4 who write in.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Firefox NYT Ad Is Out

Sorry for one too many Firefox posts, but there's stuff happening that cannot be ignored.

The Firefox advertisement that has been in the pipeline is finally out on two pages in the New York Times.

For those who want to see a copy but cannot grab the NYT, you can download a PDF version from the Mozilla site.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Fox On Fire

Need I say more?

That was on the 12th. Right now, its beyond 11 million. That's 11 million happy users. And a lot of happy developers. As I see it, there's only one company in Redmond worried right now.

I'm Back

It has been 12 days since I hit that "New Post" button. It feels so good to be clicking it again.

In my last post, I just assumed that my site hits will plummet to a new low. However, when Dave Shea gave me a link in his Dailies, it started a chain reaction with more site linking to me, resulting in one of the highest ever hits I have got on my site in one day. That effect is still to dwindle.

Anyway, enough about when I was away. Let's get on with some more blogging, shall we?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

We'll Be Right Back

I'm off for 10 days. I will be in a dusty town with no computer access, let alone the chance of getting online and making blog posts. I know my site hits will plummet to a new low. After all, since the inception of this blog, this is going to be the longest break I'll be taking from blogging. But I have to do this. I have no way out.

Regular programming shall commence on the 16th of this month. Please don't go anywhere. We'll be right back after the break.

Link Bin

This is probably going to be my largest link dump till date.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Fatal Error

A small mistake in my previous post, a bandwidth crunch over my network, and Blogger's servers going down temporarily all happened at the same time, pulling my site down for a couple of minutes. I've fixed most of the things now, and everything should work as normal. Only my feeds would have (probably) gotten a little cluttered with titles linking to non-existant posts. I apologize for the confusion. I'll try my best to ensure that it doesn't recur.

Continuum Navigation Links

Heavily inspired by Web-log Continuums at Functioning Form, I have started adding a list of relevent links, titled "Previously", at the bottom of some of my posts.

This lays out a contextually relevant path for readers who are interested in how a particular idea has continued to evolve on this blog.
Though the idea presented there is rather complex to implement, I decided I'd rather get started with using them in my blog. Currently, I am manually adding the links and the relevent markup and style. In my "Perfect Blogging CMS", these links will be more detailed, and will be inserted automatically. But then again, perfect blogging CMSs have yet to see the light of the day.

From my site's stats, the continuum navigation looks well received. I would appreciate it if you could tell me first-hand if you like this type of navigation, or if you think it is just some clutter-stub.

Road To Ten Million

From a recent post on the SFx Site:

In just 23 days, you all have helped over 8,000,000 people discover a better Web experience. If we keep up this pace, we have a shot at hitting 10 million downloads in the first month.
Please do your bit. Get a co-worker to switch. Give it as a Christmas gift. Spread it in your school. Talk about it to your Internet Cafe guys. Do anything you can. Let's make browser history!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

World AIDS Day

Just a quick note to remind everyone that the AIDS threat is real. Please do what you can in your powers to prevent it, and help those who are suffering.

Netscape Prototype Browser Launched

Netscape has launched a prototype browser based on Firefox 0.9.3 (via). The most interesting thing about this browser is that you can switch the rendering engine from the Gecko Engine to the Trident Engine, used in Internet Explorer, by simply choosing to "Display like IE".

The Buzz says:

The geek in me says 'cool'. The web developer says 'why include the clearly inferior Trident engine at all?' The standards evangelist just says 'aaaaaaaaaaaargh!'
MozillaZine has a detailed look at the browser. You can also look at some screenshots.

The browser is available for limited download. No, I am not bothering to.

Smooth Scrolling Internal Links

I came across this Sitepoint article on Making Internal Links Scroll Smoothly with JavaScript (via) - a tutorial on making cross-browser smooth scrolling possible with unobtrusive JavaScript.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Usability Of Internal Links

I had half-written a post on Internal Links, which I never got around to completing. Here's what I had written.

Internal links (or the #-links, as some people call them) in a document are wonderful things. You can jump from one point in the document to the other without a page refresh, in a snap - literally. These links are typically used for linking from an on-page index to the relevent part of the document (on the same page). (Example - scroll down slightly to see the Table of Contents which is all made up of internal links.)

However, in some cases, this very benefit of internal links turns out to be a problem. Internal links look just like regular links for all practical purposes. When a user clicks on a link, he expects the page to refresh - afterall, thats how links are used most commonly in the browser. Instead, with internal links, the scrolling level (scroll bars) of the page gets set to a new position within the same document.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that there is no visual clue to the user to tell him where he can find the target of the link he has clicked on. Most browsers set the scroll level such that the target is right at the top of the viewing area. The user has no way of finding this out.

One way around this problem is to style internal links differently. I am sure there must be a CSS way of styling internal links differently using different selectors. But I wouldn't take the route of having differently styled links for different purposes, and then hoping that the user guesses correctly how each differently styled link would behave.

I admit I wouldn't have thought of smooth scrolling. I saw a lovely implementation of this on this site. The links to the right of the headings, saying "About the Site/Code" and "About the Author" or the link that says "Top" are all internal links that visually guide the user to the right target in the document. Great trick to keep in handy. The code in this implementation is also extensible and unobtrusive. Great job!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Proud To Test GMail

I couldn't help laughing when I read this post (via). I know that a GMail invite is rather precious, but is really going too far.

The Future Of Mobile Phones

Here's a cold fact – People don't like to carry a lot of devices. There has been the PDA, the Walkman, the Discman, the MP3 player, stuff like that. All these devices were revolutionary in their own right. However, none of these devices were so great that people would not mind carrying them around all the time, even though that's how they were designed to be.

That was, until the mobile phone came along. Suddenly, people have started discovering that the phone is not really a luxury item, like the other gizmos they've been carrying around before, but is actually a necessity. I know that others expect me to be available at the other end of the line, so I make it a point to keep my phone turned on, available and with me all the time, even though I do not use it to make a lot of phone calls. I am sure this is the way most mobile phone users think.

So, electronics manufacturers have been able to get the common man to carry an electronic gadget with them all the time - just when manufacturers thought it would be an impossible task.

Does this mean we don't mind carrying more devices? I sure mind. I don't want to carry a separate device for say listening to music, especially considering that I'd like to travel or commute light and don't want to stuff my pockets with too many gizmos that don't do too much.

So, what happens then? The smart manufacturers have decided to pack the mobile phone with extra features – the other gizmos that people love, but will never carry. The not so smart ones have followed the smart ones. Suddenly, the mobile phone has started having Contact Managers (or Phone Books), reminder and scheduler tools, XHTML browsers, e-mail, instant messengers, still and video cameras, MP3 players, even something as analog as torch lights!

So, what's in store in the future? I repeat: The mobile phone is the only device that people are willing to carry with them. This little device is only going to get more and more powerful. It will come with more and more built-in devices that we'd need when we are mobile but would never carry separately. I cannot even begin to imagine what these devices would be, but I can tell one thing for sure – the mobile will put the desktop to shame. Very soon. Who knows, Apple might launch the iPhone!

Previously:

Link Bin

This one's going to be long!

Branding Mozilla

Through the Mozilla Firefox Wikipedia page, I came across a paper written by Steven Garrity in Oct 2002, suggesting that Mozilla should start worrying about the Branding and Visual Identity of Firefox and Thunderbird. That was when Jon Hicks came in to create a Fireworks MX version of the logo. The rest, as they say, is history.

On a side-note, you'd probably be interested to know that according to the Firefox developers, cookies are delicious delicacies.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

XMLHttpRequest Now Made Easier

I came across a post (via) in the SitePoint blog announcing JPSpan 0.4. Here's what the SourceForge.net page has to say about JPSpan:

JPSPAN provides tools to "hook up" PHP and Javascript, for the purpose of fetching data from PHP into a web page which has already loaded, without reloading the entire page. It allows you to call remote PHP objects as local Javascript objects.
Looks interesting. I always thought I'd have to write a wrapper function to use the JavaScript XMLHttpRequest functions with PHP in conjunction with say Web Services, but JPSpan should help me achieve just that. This looks like one of those tools to keep handy.

Stale News

Stale News

Stale News

I have nothing to say in particular about this pic. It was just shot on a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. Well, I think it looks good, and have been meaning to post it for a long time. Here's to a great weekend!

Previously:

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Things I Want To Do

I've compiled a list of things I want to do in my life.

I wonder what this site is about. Anyway. What do you want to do with your life?

(Yes, I agree I should stop digging up links like this. Sorry.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Understanding Users: Site Navigation

In a chat with a friend over YIM:

Me: On most sites, in fact almost all sites, you can click on their logo to go to their homepage.
She: Who will tell me this?
Me: You'd know if your mouse ever comes over the logo. It turns to the 'hand', letting you know that you can click. And if you click the logo, the only logical page to go to is the homepage.
She: Why would I take my mouse there?
Me: Good point.

Link Bin

I know this is one Link Bin too many too soon, but I guess there has just been a lot of activity lately on the Internet that I cannot get myself to dedicate whole posts to.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Browser Trends

Browser Statistics (Jan 2004 - Nov 2004)

Browser Statistics (Jan 2004 - Nov 2004)

These are from the browser stats maintained at W3Schools. In the graph, 'Standards based browsers' includes Mozilla, Firefox, Opera and Netscape 6+. Other browsers are older versions of Netscape Navigator (3, 4).

Can you see the trend?

Link Bin

I'll just list out my links this time again and clear my bookmarks.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Mobile RSS

Russel Beattie has written an interesting post titled The Mobile Web. I must say, it is a great post.

While I was reading the post though, I was wondering why mobile devices haven't already started reading RSS feeds. Now, when I think of it, RSS feeds are ideally suited for information delivery to mobile devices.

  • RSS files are small in size. This is great for mobile devices.
  • RSS doesn't enforce any presentation related rules. Rendering software/hardware can handle RSS how they feel appropriate.
  • Like most of the rest of the Internet, RSS is open and non-proprietary. It's free. No messy licenses to be obtained by mobile companies to add this to their phones.
  • Unlike some parts of the Internet, RSS is standards based (or at least, there are widely accepted and adhered-to RFCs). This is great for mobile devices too. They wouldn't have to worry about inconsistencies in the file format.
  • RSS delivers information as it happens. This is great for mobile devices. In fact, most of the information I would require on my phone are updates - news updates, mailbox updates, weather updates, traffic updates, stuff like that.
  • RSS is gaining popularity. Most modern websites that need to syndicate content are already using the technology. They won't have to change a thing to make their content available on mobile devices if mobile devices would read RSS files.
  • RSS aggregators have matured. Developers know how users like to interact with RSS feeds. Emulating such behavior on mobile devices will not be difficult.
Frankly, on my phone, I don't even have any IP ready services enabled – no GPRS. But that's because there's no application that uses GPRS that I need. However, if my phone would deliver my RSS feeds to me, I would seriously consider enabling IP over my phone.

Now, only if mobile manufacturers would think about adding this to their phones. I could then unsubscribe myself from those messy SMS based services that crowd up my mobile inbox.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Huge Tree

Huge Tree At Vaikom Ferry

This is my second pic from the same point - the first one was shot right behind where I am standing to take this pic. This is an old one, and I was surprised that I hadn't posted it so far, so here it is.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Half Life - 2

Gordon Freeman picks up the crowbar again trying to clean the world of alien scum - something he created by mistake in his high-security high-radiation labs at the Black Mesa Facility.

For those who think this is just another computer game, move on. Don't waste my time. For the rest of us, this is the game that started it all. First person action the way it is. 3D visuals and sounds. Gore. Aliens. Mods. Counter-strike. "The bomb has been defused." Everything. This is the one game that has lasted well beyond people's expectations. It has been voted as the best game, and the most selling game ever, and not just once.

I have been waiting for this sequel for a long time now. Valve has had their share of problems too, which I can't be bothered to link to. Anyway, starting today, Half Life - 2 will be available for download/purchase (via). Just enter your buy zone, and then 'Go! Go! Go!'

PS: Are they working on Counter-Strike 2 already?

We Are Like This Only

Today, I am going to talk about security systems.

No, I am not talking about electronic security systems, or network security systems. I am talking about the security guard that stands outside most residential buildings in Mumbai.

Not too long ago, Mumbai had as many problems as we have today. Crime rates were still fluctuating and are as much of a concern today as they were then. However, in those days, going to a friend's place was still a fun exercise.

You'd go up to his building, park your car in the parking lot, and walk up to his house. Simple.

Today, however, you are stopped at the gate first. The forever-suspecting guard assumes you are a thief and asks you where you want to go. You are expected to keep your cool after you listen to a tone that screams out something like "You fucking thief! What the hell do you think you are doing here?" You have to get your host's name and his address absolutely right at this point. If you do, usually you have to fill in a "register" with columns for 'Name', 'Address', 'Whom you want to meet', stuff like that. Then you'd have to fight about where you can park your car. By the end of this ordeal, you are pissed off enough.

The real reason for this being so bothersome is that you were probably "invited" over. Do you know what that means? For us Indians, inviting a guest over is a big thing. Not because it happens once in a while, but because it is genuinely a big thing. Our culture and traditions teach us that athiti devo bhava, which is Sanskrit for "Guests are God." Guests expect to be treated well. Hosts are expected to treat their guests well. When I say 'well', I mean 'like Gods'. And stopping them at the door to ask who they are is not only a pathetically bad idea, it's insulting!

So, why do we have such a horribly insulting system in place in Mumbai, especially considering that things were just fine without it? It is in place because this process has worked elsewhere. Indeed, similar procedures have to be followed in most other countries like the US or UK. If it's so good for them, we could just ape it and it would work. Not.

We have seen this time and again. Every once in a while, a product comes along that dares to defy the Indian cultural and traditional mindset. And fails. This has happened with everything from voicemail to microwave ovens. From toilet paper to breakfast cereal. Though these products are great products by themselves, they disregard the Indian history and cultural ethos. People will never take to them in a big way. Toilet paper is too dirty for us, whatever others have to say about it. Breakfast cereal is probably good for health, but it doesn't substitute the rich and tasty breakfast that we Indians are so used to. Microwaves are probably easier to cook food in – if you never want to eat Indian food again. And if I can't talk to someone over the phone, I'll call him back – what's this voicemail thing anyway?

There are lessons to be learnt from this for businesses that are set up in India or have plans to introduce operations here. India, unlike most other countries, has a very ancient tradition and culture that has stood the test of time for millennia. It is not about to change just because of the Internet or rampant globalization and internationalization. Businesses should appreciate that, and respect it. They should come up with products that will fit into the Indian cultural mindset, not defy it.

We are like this only (as most Indian's would say, in their colloquial English). And we are not about to change.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Camera Testing

My Eye

This image was shot when I was checking out my camera's macro function while casually lying down in bed. I guess it's not such a good photograph, since you can recursively see my camera as a reflection in my eye. But I thought this one somehow looked good anyway.

Of Bombs And Balls

I don't think I can ever forget this story from our first year in engineering during Diwali time.

We were in the 4th block in our hostels. For some reason, the guys were taking some small bombs, lighting it, and throwing it inside the hostel rooms just to scare the living daylights out of the room inmates.

In one such room couple of rooms down the corridor, one guy – let's call him Scott – was sleeping comfortably in his bed. Someone lit a bomb and chucked it in his room. It landed up on his bed, right between his legs. Everyone just gawked in shock, realizing that time is very short before he loses it all. Silence took over for a quick moment.

Probably because of the comfort of the sudden silence, but Scott pulled his blanket over him! The yellow of the sparks of the bomb were still visible through the white blanket he had pulled over him.

Fortunately for him, this other guy jumped on him and put out the bomb before it went off. Very fortunately for him. If not, he would have been ball-less, as a matter of saying.

Every single time I listen to this, I roll on the floor laughing. The way the bomb had to land between his legs, and the way Scott had to pull his blanket over it was impeccable timing. Thank God nothing went wrong!

Not OT: I've heard of three stories of small fires this Diwali itself from among my neighbors and friends. It’s a fun festival, but make sure you play safe at all times. Happy Diwali again! And wish you a great New Year!

Friday, November 12, 2004

100 Posts, And Counting

Just noticed that this is the 100th post on my blog.

I would like to take a moment to remind you that I am only going to do my best to keep this blog going better. I hope you are having as much fun reading as I am having publishing this blog.

Here's to many more posts!

Update: I have really completed 100 posts, even though my profile shows only 79. Blogger's counter is currently broken. I had counted my posts manually!

Link Bin

Geek

Non-Geek

Thursday, November 11, 2004

1 Day, 1,000,000+ Downloads

Thats right, on its launch day itself Firefox has been dowloaded at least a million times, maybe more. Exact figures should come in soon.

Sorry for talking so much about Firefox here, but I just can't seem to contain my excitement. After all, this is nothing short of revolutionary.

Happy Diwali

The Hindu God Rama was on a 14 year exile into the woods with his wife Sita and his brother Laxman, according to The Ramayana. While on exile, Sita was abducted by the Lankan demon Ravana. Then started the war between Rama and his monkey army on one side and the ten-headed Ravana and his demon army on the other, to get Sita back.

Sita was finally rescued by Rama and his army. Around this time, the exile was over too, and Rama came back to his kingdom of Ayodhya. The people of Ayodhya celebrated his return with music, food, colors and a lot of fireworks.

To this day, this day is celebrated as Diwali - the Hindu festival of fireworks.

Hope you have a good time. Please do. And don't do anything stupid. Fireworks can be dangerous. Play safe.

Rediscovering The Web

This couldn’t have been timed better. I have been thinking of inviting some guest author on my site, so that we can have other perspectives on topics of common interests. As though timed perfectly, a regular reader volunteered to write in about her experiences on switching to Firefox. And just two days ago, the Firefox community launched version 1.0 of the browser. Perfect timing.

Without further ado, let’s hear it for Shilpa – a regular home-computer user, not a geek – on her experiences on switching to Firefox.

Rediscovering The Web

I started using the computer exactly fourteen months ago. Up until then, to me, computers were gadgets used by crazy people who didn't want to read books or use a piece of paper and a pen like God surely intended us all to do. I struggled manfully with seemingly simple, so called 'user friendly' operations, and gave up asking people questions. Computer terms baffled me more and I usually ended up feeling more confused and foolish than I did before. My entire experience of using computers to do research, download information or even communicate with other people was strictly a trial and error affair - a major trial and endless errors.

The early days

At that point of time all I knew was that when you need to "browse" for information you click on the little blue 'e' logo. Then, you keep your fingers crossed and hope that your computer doesn't hang, or crash, especially after you wasted an hour finding the pages you were looking for. Surfing necessarily involved the frustrating routine of dealing with annoying pop-ups that seemed to have a will of their own. I remember waiting endlessly for pages to load up while I cleaned cupboards or filed nails (now that's a very slight exaggeration, but you get the drift).

Sometimes I even got conned by some very genuine sounding pop-ups that declared me to be the lucky 100th browser (yeah, I fell for it), endangering my computer to the omnipresent threat of viruses and ad-ware invasions. I began to assume, mostly from painful mistakes and serious consequences, that one should not click on unknown links when browsing the web. The Internet now seemed like a dark and dangerous world of creepy crawly insects that would munch on something inside the machine and gnaw away at my computer piece by piece. Hence browsing was something I did when I could not collect the information I wanted from books in the local library or when circumstances left me with little or no choice but to knock on the proverbial door of disaster or in this particular case 'window to hell'. This went on for almost a year!

I never even dreamt that there might be alternatives to the browser I was currently using or that my browsing experience could be any different. None of my so called computer savvy friends ever told me that I had other choices or that I was suffering from the "bad browser syndrome". I was sailing in the same boat of ignorant bliss about the choices available to people about browsers.

Shifting to Firefox

Two months ago, I learnt about Firefox from a friend, who had patiently been initiating me to the world of computers. In one of our "geek-is-not-completely-Greek" sessions he found out that I was using Internet Explorer as my browser. He helpfully suggested that I should download Firefox, after unsuccessfully disguising his horror when I told him how I still juggled so many windows and then even more windows (read that as pop-ups) every time I surfed. "Haven't you heard of tabbed browsing, woman!” he exclaimed. I miserably wondered WTF 'tabbed' was. Rather than further embarrassing myself by displaying my ignorance I decided to download Firefox, install and configure it as my default browser. I was ready to try anything at this point of time to make my browsing life easier.

If you are expecting a sudden revolution with angels playing harps in the background then you couldn't be more wrong. Initially I didn't even notice any change as I didn't really bother to read information about Firefox as any good novice should (I hate reading instruction manuals too!). Yes, I couldn't help but notice that the download was quick and painless, the instructions to install it were easy and even a simpleton like me managed to import all my bookmarks with gleeful ease. Even so, I didn't really shout with joy.

I was already so used to tuning out the irritating pop-ups while I was using Internet Explorer for a year that I failed to notice their sudden disappearance. I was still blank about tabbed browsing. Only much later did I realize that I could open multiple sites on the same window, minimizing the chaos in my mind and reducing the crazy confusion on my screen.

The only thing that first impressed me was the tool bar. Instead of a multitude of confusing bars, which seemed to take unnecessary space on my screen and confuse my mind, I now had to operate a simpler tool bar with very useful tools. Tools which I could relate to and actually use - for example, the Google search built into the tool bar and dictionary.com – were just a simple click away.

But like all good things usually are taken for granted I just took all these features at face value and didn't really gush about Firefox or its cool features. As for the frequent crashes (which had now minimized without me noticing it much), I had already managed to blame it on the guy who sold me the computer anyway. So, though life seemed vaguely easier, I had no particular fondness for Firefox, nor did I give it any credit. As for Internet Explorer, I conveniently dismissed it from my mind like a less than impressive boyfriend with bad breath one dates and forgets.

Then, after that...

One fine day (yeah, here's the twist I have been hinting at all the while) my computer conked off due to some problem with the memory chip, and I was given a substitute computer till my own one was out recovering fast. Getting used to the new PC was a pain. I automatically reached out for the little red icon to browse with and I realized with slight surprise and shock (but no particular dismay) that the only option I had was the blue Internet Explorer logo. Feeling too lazy to download a new browser on a temporary PC, I went ahead and used Internet Explorer to browse.

The first thing that rankled me were the pop-ups that seemed to, well, pop up at every nook and corner. I was so used to not seeing any pop ups at all while using Firefox that I became increasingly impatient with these annoying offers to fix my computer clock. Things started getting progressively more difficult as the evening wore on. I noticed that pages were taking longer to load. Browsing seemed to be taking on the now long forgotten, but once helplessly accepted touch of "nightmare on Browse Street" mode. I struggled with multiple windows alternately swatting pop ups. I found myself restarting my computer more often. The complex tool bar with no Google or dictionary.com dismayed my lazy soul, as did the not-so-efficient or easy-to-use bookmark manager.

Realization finally dawned on me, albeit belatedly, about what I had been missing out for one full year because of a less than efficient browser before I first experienced Firefox. I realize how foolish I had been not to download it immediately on my temporary PC. This disastrous date with Internet Explorer made me realize why the Firefox logo came with a "Rediscover the web" promise.

This time I downloaded Firefox not because a friend had shamed me into it, but because I realized from my very own experience how Firefox is a boon for the less than savvy computer users like me. Again, I experienced the smooth and quick download, almost automatic transfer of bookmarks as Firefox took over my browsing world in its now familiar competent and confident hand.

Ever since then I have started experimenting with all the additional features which I never bothered to notice earlier (I still don't read instruction manuals though!). Everyday I stumble upon features like a much more customizable tool bar, better text zooming, better looking web pages, live bookmarks, etc.

I am now a complete Firefox convert and I try to pass my experiences to as many friends and acquaintances as I can so that, like me, they achieve browsing nirvana by using a much smarter and secure browser like Firefox.

Which browser do you use? Did I tell you about Firefox already?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Firefox and Google?

Why is the Firefox 1.0 start page hosted by Google? I am sure the web will be abuzz about this in no time. I'll be watching patiently as the theories flow. Bring 'em on!

Firefox 1.0 is here!

Firefox 1.0 is here!


The wait is over. Today's day marks the end of the single browser Internet. The web is now free. It's back as it should be.

I am downloading my copy as I am posting this. I urge you to download your's too. Discover a whole new world of surfing comfort. Discover Firefox.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Election Fever

Election Fever

Again from my archives, this pic was shot during the elections somewhere in Tamil Nadu, India.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

It's Coming

Rediscover the web. Discover Firefox.

Link Bin

Some interesting things I came across this week.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

AV Treat

I had been to the Times AV Revolution 2004 at the Grand Hyatt here in Mumbai yesterday to a help a friend decide on his home theater system. It reminded me of the times when I used to work in an audio equipment manufacturing company.

Anyway, the point I really wanted to make (and I am not getting paid for this), is that every time I listen to Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) speakers, I always get blown away. I have been told that there are better speakers than theirs, but I've yet to hear one with such clarity, purity, clean sound, and flat response.

I'm going to buy myself a set as soon as I am rich enough to justify spending so much for the slight but significant quality difference they have to offer. But I'm definitely owning one of those! Definitely!

What are your favourite brands of speakers, amplifiers, players and other audio electronics? I'd like to know.

I'll start with mine: B&W speakers, Yamaha amplifiers, Onkyo players, NAD electronics.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Now Look What You've Done!

You have re-elected Bush? You actually did that? Out of your own choice? What were you thinking?

Have fun, America! Don't say you weren't warned. The world is watching as the stupidest leader (and the most dangerous one, at that) of the world's most powerful democracy gets re-elected. Let the sequel to the show begin!

The End Of Days

The Arctic is getting warmer (via). This means we are slowly finishing ourselves.

I remember this one year when Mumbai was hit by a thunderstorm.

Mom: Rakesh, look outside! Today is doom's day! Go, rush to the shop. Get some ice-cream.
Me: Ice-cream?
Mom: Yes! I want to eat one more ice-cream before the whole world goes up in flames.

Interesting way to prepare for the end of days, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Sunday Nerdy Sunday

Some of my old college friends were catching up this weekend. While we were driving around, talking about the days gone by, cracking jokes about people's RAMs and their video card memories, a friend turned on his 15 GB iPod, connected it to our car audio system using some cassette adapter, and we listened to Bush all along the way.

I couldn't help but realize that I haven't felt nerdier in a long time.

Yahoo! Messenger IM Command

I was chatting up with a friend over Yahoo! Messenger, and accidentally, she typed "s: something" and a couple of seconds later, to our surprise, the IM window displayed the first search result for the "something" keyword from Yahoo! Search.

For example, in your Yahoo! IM window, just type in "s: pieces of rakesh" and you'll get a link to this site in a couple of seconds.

I don't know how useful this is. However, this got me wondering about other similar commands that the IM window might be supporting. I tried Googling (and yes, Yahooing too), but I couldn't find anything that documented these kinds of commands.

Maybe some of you have come across such commands? Please share your experiences or leave URLs that describes this in detail.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Vaikom Ferry

Vaikom Ferry

This was shot at Vaikom Ferry, Kerala. I know its too much water for one photograph, but this was actually part of a 5 photograph panorama I was trying to create. However, I was never able to stitch them together perfectly. I'll probably compose the entire image someday and post it here. But for now, this single photograph looked really appealing

More On The Firefox NYT Ad Campaign

The NYT campaign is now closed. Great job, Rob Davis! The ad should run in the papers anytime between November and December.

An average of $22 was contributed by each individual - mostly students. More than 10,000 people contributed about $250,000 for the $50,000 ad. The rest of the money goes to the Mozilla Foundation, which will hopefully be pumped into making Firefox even better for us.

Red Herring has the complete story.

Firefox Does It Again

You wanted it be good, and it turned out to be the best. You wanted it to be cheap, and it turned out to be free. You wanted it be easy to use, and it turned out to challenge the biggest players in the market. It has defied all the traditional opinions held of open source software. And how!

Then came the Firefox NY Ad Campaign. They targetted collections from about 2,500 individuals and businesses to support a first-ever full-page advertisement in a major daily newspaper created and paid for by the open-source community. At the moment, they have received 9,613 names in that list of contributors.

It seems like everything Firefox does is now historic! I'm waiting for the official Firefox 1.0 Final Release launch. I might even go for one of their launch parties here in Mumbai.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Happy Birthday, Internet!

The Internet turns 35 this month (via). I jumped on the Internet bandwagon the year it started in India which must have been about 15 years ago. As I see it now, it will be the way I earn my daily bread for years to come - web design or otherwise. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say this is probably the most significant invention of man since the wheel. Happy birthday, Internet!

Link Bin

It's time again to clear my bookmarks. This time I'll just list it all out.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Little Not-So-Green Men

Oh my God, the Hobbits are here! And ABC, CBS, BBC, even NatGeo is talking about it. (via)

P.S.: Parts of Blogger were down today, and my site was affected big time! I hope everything is back to normal now. Sorry for the interruption.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Two Small Changes

Two small changes in the sidebar of my site.

  1. I've added a "Subscribe with Bloglines" link under my 'Syndicate' sub-heading.
  2. I've added a "Take back the web" banner at the bottom of my sidebar to do my bit to promote Firefox.
Hope you like the changes. Hope you find them useful.

Update (29th Oct): Added a "Add to My Yahoo!" link too to the sidebar.

Why The Future Is In The Browser

Why I think web applications are the future of application development. Read the full post.
Consider the current problems with application software, like say popular word processing software or spreadsheet software. Here’s what you’ll have to do to churn out a file.
  • Buy the software from your vendor. Get it in the form of a CD or a download. Ensure compatibility with your operating system and hardware.
  • Install the software. Pray that everything goes well.
  • Create your document.

Maybe you will want to now send this file to a printer. Or you want to e-mail it to someone. Or you want to upload it on the Internet for someone to view. Or maybe you just want to keep a copy on a CD or a floppy (do people still use those?) so that you can carry it around. That only complicates the problem. Here are more issues you have to worry about.
  • Will the guy you are sending the file to have the same software you would need to read that file?
  • Will his version be the same as yours? We know that sometimes versioning problems downgrade certain document features. Will that affect your document in case of a version conflict?
  • How will you actually send the file? E-Mail? So, you’ll have to upload the entire file? What if it is a huge file?
  • Is it really necessary to carry a CD or a floppy just so that you can access your file anywhere, especially when we have the Internet almost everywhere?
  • Now that multiple copies are created of the document, what if I make a change to one copy? How do I update the other people’s copies of the document? By going through this process again? Gosh!

Applications that run on networks have their own set of problems:
  • Every computer runs its own copy of the software. Ask any network administrator, and he’ll tell you what a maintenance nightmare that is.
  • Every computer needs its own copy, which you’ll have to buy from the vendor. Why pay so much? Is it really necessary?
  • When more documents have to be exchanged, as is the case is most networks, versioning, synchronizing and managing space and bandwidth consumed by multiples copies of the documents start becoming problems.

Almost all these problems are subverted in web applications. If your favorite application was a web application, all you had to do was fire up your browser and create your document. No installation. No problems about compatibility with your operating system or your hardware. Just your browser. And any good application will support at least the most popular modern browsers.

Imagine you have created your document in such a web application and saved it online. You can just send people a link to your document, much like you would send them a link to your briefcase from where they can download your document. On clicking on the link, instead of the user downloading the file to see it in his software, the document directly loads in his browser. He doesn’t need any software installed. So there’s no question of compatibility problems. The web application itself could display the document through its "reader" so that it can parse and render the document as required on the browser window itself using regular markup.

There’s in fact, at any given time, only one active version of the application – the one that runs on the web server. Since there’s really only one application that’s running, maintenance is a breeze. Also, there is only one necessary copy of the document you create, so versioning of the document is not necessary, and changes made can be instantly available to everyone who sees your document. What’s better, your file lies on the Internet (or on the network) and is hence totally portable between computers, as long there is a connection.

I agree a lot of applications cannot be converted to web applications. Examples include multimedia applications, or system applications which depend a lot on hardware and system resources to render their files or otherwise carry out processing. However, almost all other applications don’t really need local system resources that much, and can be run off a browser instead.

This wasn’t really possible up until now, because the browser simply wasn’t good enough an environment to run complex applications in. However, this is fast changing. Applications like GMail are just the first few of these applications to be rolled out. I only see more and more of these kinds of applications running off the network and the Internet web servers, letting us do our word processing, spreadsheets, accounting and various kinds of business logic based processing, while letting us exchange our work seamlessly without worrying about versioning, file transfer, compatibility and faulty or incompatible installations.

In the future, you won’t have to install software at all. You will just have to go to your browser, type in the URL and start using the application right off your browser. It’s where we are headed, like it or not. And I think I am going to love it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Highway Lights

Highway Lights

This is from my archives, again. Shot with a 2 second exposure at night with a speeding truck going past on the National Highway while I was standing by my uncle's house in Mahe, Kerala.

All The Lumber

"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

- Sherlock Holmes to John Watson
A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I don't know why I am posting this, but it is one of the most memorable lines I have ever read in a book, so I thought I'd share.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Let's Change The Topic

I'm sick and tired too of the Markup Wars. Someone, please change the topic!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Shake That Booty

I was randomly flicking my television remote today, and stopped longer than my usual 2 seconds on some vague channel that was airing Blue Streak, and I thought that while we are still on the topic of movies on my blog, I’d make a post of the best dances I’ve seen in the movies. Here’s a list of my personal favorites, in no particular order.

  • John Travolta and Olivia Newton - John in Grease
  • John Travolta again, with Uma Thurman dancing at the Jack Rabbit Slim’s Twist Contest in Pulp Fiction
  • Martin Lawrence doing the jig outside the cop station in Blue Streak
  • Richard Gere doing the Tap Dance in Chicago
  • Chairman Carr and Dan Truhitte dancing in the gazebo on “I am sixteen, going on seventeen” in The Sound Of Music
These are the ones I can think of off the top. What are your favorites? I’d like to know.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Heat About Fahrenheit 9/11


I definitely recommend Fahrenheit 9/11 for those who have no idea whatsoever about the story behind Prez. Bush, the Saudi oil companies and the economics of war. But most of us know the story already. So, basically, the target audience for this movie is, well, no one!

The style in which Michael Moore handled the subject isn't very graceful. I think he had NO point to make in the movie. He starts by talking about the Bush Administration, then about Saudi funds, then about the Iraq war and in the second half of the movie, he trails off into a boring Oprah Winfrey style personal account of a (yes, fat) woman (with a lot of make-up) who lost her son in the war. Don't get me wrong - I have the deepest sympathies for the martyrs of the war. But I was really in the mood for catching up on the director's view of the 9/11 attacks - you know, the World trade center, NYC, what it must have been like for the people there, about the planes, the hijackers, stuff like that (of which, there was surprisingly little), and not seeing a fat woman with her equally oversized husband and her entire family sitting on their living room couch and crying away for half an hour in the movie. Really!

The only action in the movie was the argument with the lady sitting in front of me, complaining that my legs were digging into her ass. When she started getting REALLY vocal about it, I kindly suggested she should have told me earlier, and I'd have stopped.

She: Why do you think I was looking at you?

Oh! I should have spotted her looking at me. What was I doing in a movie hall watching the movie anyway!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Road To Nowhere


Road To Nowhere

Shot on a ride with a friend at Peacock Point, close to Manipal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Monument Of Love

India is gearing up for celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Taj Mahal – one of the wonders of the modern world, and a beautiful architectural symbol of love of the Persian emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Or is it?

Doing its rounds over e-mail, I got this mail the other day that explored the idea that the Taj Mahal was not built by Shah Jahan at all, let alone as a symbol of love. It was on the contrary, a Hindu temple for the Lord Shiva (Tejo Mahalaya, as he was called then, from which the name for the monument is derived). The Taj was built allegedly by the Maharajah of Jaipur, Jai Singh, from whom Shah Jahan usurped it to house the tomb for the queen – which is apparently a fact that Shah Jahan himself has documented.

This has been explored in detail in Taj Mahal: The True Story
by Prof. P. N. Oak. In the book, he finds evidence that the Taj has existed long before Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. I admit I haven’t read this book, but I’d think it’s an interesting read. Try to get your hands on it.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Winds Of Change

Sitting around with a couple of friends:

Friend #1: You know, I've read somewhere that the amount of development we've had in the last 50 years in any industry is far higher than all the development we've had before that, put together.
Friend #2: Dude! This time is going to go down in history as the period when man advanced from the "Industrial Age" to the "Information Age"! And it's happening right now. All around us.
Friend #3: Faak, dude! We are witness to this!
Long silence, as everyone stares thoughtfully into oblivion.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Zen of CSS Design

By Dave Shea and Molly Holzchlag, The Zen of CSS Design takes designs from The CSS Zen Garden and uses them to explain how to harness the power of CSS based design.

I have read what Dave has written on his site a lot of times, and I know that Molly is good with her stuff too. This might be a good book after all. You can pre-order a copy from Amazon.com.

Humble Abode


Shack near Palani Temple

This was just a begger's shack near the Palani Temple off Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, but was really good looking, so I had to capture it.

For those who noticed, the formatting of this pic is very different from my usual pic posts. This is because I am trying out my new Flickr account. I've got more pics there, though most of them should not be new for someone who has been following my blog for some time now. Flickr just makes it a great deal easier to share my pics as compared to Imagestation, which I've been using for some time now.

This style of layout is easier, mostly because Flickr manages most of the hard work. But if you like the previous layout, let me know in the comments, and I'll revert to that from the next pic onwards.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Better Contacts

Just yesterday a friend was complaining that GMail has one of the worst way of building a "To:" list in your mail from your contact list.

Well, his prayers have been answered with impeccable timing by the guys at Google. The new features in GMail include a link to the contacts book from the left navigation itself, with the most frequently used contacts, and an easy way to compose a mail to be sent to multiple contacts.

It is still difficult to build a "To:" list after you have written out your mail. I hope this will improve next.

GMail was also experimenting with Atom feeds for their mail notifications. I had a link to my feeds yesterday, but today it's gone. I don't think I'd use this feature, though - I prefer my GMail Notifier in my Firefox browser. However, it's easy to see why this is a useful feature. Only, I might never get around to using it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Ig Nobel Awards

The Ig Nobel awards for this year were given out on the 30th of last month at Harward's Sanders Theatre. Listed below are some of the award winning entries.

Search Added

I've added a very simple search facility to my site now, by popular demand (from at least one person). The search box is available on every page of my site, in the side-bar on the right. The search is powered by Google. That means, the search might not be comprehensive and depends on which pages of my site Google has indexed. Also, when you do a search, you are redirected to the familiar Google search results page. I hate this too, but Blogger really doesn't allow me to do much more.

I started with the Google SearchSite code, and hacked my way through to get rid of the radio buttons and the Google logo. I also got rid of their tables and ugly font tags and instead used CSS to style the form, and generally made the code more XHTML compliant. Just so that the guys at Google don't get pissed, I added a "Powered by" link to them. I would have used their logo, but it was not looking good on my site at all. Sorry, Google.

At least I have some sort of search mechanism now! Let me know if you dislike it in its current avatar, and I'll see what I can do.

Understanding Users: Hardware

At a friend’s tech support job in the Dell back office:

Caller: My computer isn’t working. The screen refuses to turn on.
My friend: Sir, I’d have to ask you first, is that a Dell computer you have?
Caller: I think so. The logo looks familiar.
My friend: Sir, the logo reads “DELL”. You can’t miss it.
Caller: Yeah, it looks kinda like the logo.
My friend: Sir, if you can’t read the logo, can you please describe the computer to me, so that I know what you have?
Caller: I have this satellite receiver on top of my screen. It came with the computer.
My friend: Satellite receiver???

Turns out, the caller did have a Dell computer. The caller had placed his monitor upside down, and wasn’t able to read “Dell” off the logo. The “satellite receiver” was the monitor’s inverted swivel stand.

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