John Gruber, editor of Daring Fireball – home for mac nerds – is probably one of the most successful one-man media companies around.
Intel new SSD delivers blazing fast performance.
Photos of a completely disassembled Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM lens.
Pencil Project is a free Firefox plugin for rapid sketching and GUI prototyping.
Noise is a tiny mac app that generates pink noise to (hopefully) help with concentration.
Andy Biao (Waxy.org) interviews Alan Taylor, creator of Boston Globe’s The Big Picture – which is being buzzed as the best new weblog of the year.
37 Signal’s Jason Fried on why they skip building a Photoshop mockup, while designing a UI, and go right away hacking with HTML/CSS. I couldn’t agree more. However, I strongly believe that this works only with small cohesive teams. Projects that involve a large number of engineers, will invariably require a mockup UI so that the goals are clear.
Nice collection of interface stencils from Yahoo. Available in multiple formats.

Uninstalling Adobe on Mac

Tip: To uninstall Adobe applications completely on a Mac, fire up the Adobe Installer app from Utilities folder in Applications. Pure trashing will not remove the apps completely from the system and will run into issues when you try to install them again.

Its an intoxicating rush of adrenalin that I experience every time I hear a Ferrari revving. The new Ferrai California is one hell of a machine and has the looks to get my pulse racing.

WordPress 2.5

I just upgraded my WordPress to the latest release candidate – 2.5 and boy, am I impressed! The admin interface is gorgeous, thanks to the happy folks at Happy Cog Studios. I downloaded the release candidate yesterday and tested it locally with my dev setup. Its quite stable and after playing around with it for a bit, I knew I couldn’t resist upgrading my live version. So, the first thing I did this morning was just that.

A virtual tour of the airbus 380 cockpit.
Buzzword is a web based Flash word processor from Adobe. The interface is absolutely stunning.
How Google could keep Yahoo from Microsoft.
How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry
The emerging field of connectomics could help researchers decode the brain’s approach to information processing.
Lifehacker’s top 10 quicksilver plugins.
VizThink is a conference for Visual Thinkers.

Notebook Shopping

A few months of neglect and you begin to notice the dust gathering around. Too many things in the past couple of months have given me very little time to blog which eventually led to the neglect. Back in new found vigor, I’m here to make some key changes to the content and architecture of this site, which is already under way and nearing completion. Hopefully this should materialize before the end of this month if not earlier.

To support and extend this new activity of mine, I’m looking out for a notebook. The ideal notebook would be portable (I’m not looking for those big ones which are difficult to carry around), have a powerful processor (Core 2 Duo), good RAM and a decent hard drive (preferably 7200 rpm). My primary use would be everything to do with the internet – design/code/build. The applications I increasingly use are (in no particular order) – Firefox, Illustrator, Fireworks, Photoshop, Notepad++, XAMPP and Microsoft Office. I’ve already shortlisted a few for further prodding, but would love to hear your suggestions.

So to put it short – what according to you would be the best notebook (price, performance and portability) money can buy and why?

PRADA Phone

The PRADA-LG mobile phone

Following iPhone’s recent launch, LG has announced its new completely touch-screen phone designed by PRADA. The phone features a Flash based interface and a 2 megapixel camera featuring Schneider-Kreuznachand. The phone is expected to be available in European stores by end of February.

iPhone

iPhone

Some notes and quick thoughts on the launch

  • The iPhone interface is pretty slick
  • The rich HTML Safari browser is definitely a feature to watch out for. I can already imagine a slew of mobile internet applications being developed to take advantage of this experience
  • Jason’s prediction on Apple cutting the crap (feature wise) and executing the basics beautifully is partly true. There’s loads of neat features to play with, especially watching TV shows, and interface enhancements that make you want to play with it.
  • Kottke does a visual comparison of the iPhone with some devices by making a scale model of the phone with specs from the Apple website
  • Louis compares the iPhone with other smartphones in the market
  • iphone.com does not redirect to the Apple website.
  • The iPhone with its OSX operating system will see more people switch to Mac
  • I’m concerned about how the phone can be maintained without smudging the screen now that it comes with a multi-touch screen. As Jon Hicks mentions, “touchscreens look lovely, until you touch them!
  • There’s a lot of scope for the accessory market to build an ecosystem around the iPhone. One neat add-on would be an organic fold-able keyboard complete with a dock that connects to the device using Bluetooth to aid in writing longer emails
  • Matt goes nostalgic and calls Apple, the new NASA
  • Chetan feels the iPhone is stupid as it doesn’t care for the blind
  • Khoi Vinh is head over heels in love with the typeface on the iPhone
  • Gruber suspects the iPhone being powered by ARM processor, in which Apple once had significant stake.
  • iWipe lets you keep the touch screen surface clean

Retail RFID in Japan

Mitsukoshi is one of Japan’s oldest retail chain having branches spread across the globe including Munich, Paris and Shanghai. The company had recently implemented RFID technology in several stores in Japan witnessing a 13.3% increase in sales.

Smart Shelf at Mitsukoshi
Mitsukoshi’s “Smart Shelves” scan the contents of the shelves and alert store employees when supplies are running low or when theft is detected

The technology is being increasingly experimented with by retailers like WalMart and Tesco. One of the earliest to start experimenting with wireless inventory was Metro Group’s Future Store Initiative. As with all new technologies, RFID has its own share of shortcomings with read-range and cost being a couple of them. But with stores like Mitsukoshi who go on to experiment and optimize business processes using the technology, we can hope for more good things to come. RFID’s potential is best realized when implemented across the supply chain, making inventory and logistics simpler and more actionable.

Read The Mitsukoshi Case : interaction design for RFID Retail

Sony VAIO UX

Sony VAIO UX series

If there’s one company that can give Apple a run for its money, its got to be Sony. The Sony VAIO UX is an ultraportable PC thats fits comfortably in your palm. It features a a 4.5″ TFT LCD with a resolution of 1024 x 768, 2 cameras (one for video conferencing), Intel Core Solo processor running at 1.2GHz, 512 megs of DDR2 RAM, a fast 533MHz front side bus, an EDGE radio and all the works you’d expect on a desktop. Small wonder then Apple hired Sony VAIO engineers to work on the Intel based notebooks.

Mitchelle Thatcher of CNET does a (video) review on the device.

I’ve fallen in love. This is just the sort of device, I’d like to go to bed with ( considering I do that now with this)

The End of iPod?

A few weeks back Apple announced its new line of iPods which were basically souped up versions of the existing fifth generation ones. The launch didnt ‘wow’ me as much as it did a year ago when I decided to get myself one. Now I’ve stopped using it as much as I did back then. For the most part its in my car where I listen to it through the radio using Belkins excellent TuneCast FM transmitter. The iPod has become so ubiquitous that its no more that cool thing one could own. I despise lugging it around wherever I go – be it shopping or even walks.

The iPod’s success came from its form factor. When it was launched, no one imagined being able to carry so much of music in a device about the size of a cigarette packet. Thats what Apple got right. Later revisions saw incremental advancements in software and form factor but very little in innovation. Probably Apple is getting a little complacent because of iPod’s success. Its not about just music anymore. Its about being connected. Microsoft’s yet-to-lauch Zune (( Engadget has a nice writeup on the Zune )) is a step in this direction. With built in WiFi, it allows you to share your music/data with your friends. For all the arguments on having seperate music players from phones, the rising sales of made-for-music mobile phones should be a indication. It was just because, back then, the interface on phones used to suck when they tried to put in lot of features without a sizeable screen or useable keyboard – thats not the case anymore.

Sony MYLOSony’s MYLO is an interesting little device incorporating much of what I’ve been getting at. This little device allows you surf the web, listen to music, watch videos and even make internet phone calls. Although the design may not appeal to many, it does allow you to do a lot more than just listen to music. Apple can probably lift a cue from such devices and come up with something really innovative the way they did way back with the iPod.

BlogCamp 2006

It was more than a 100 days ago, when a bunch of us got together to spend an evening reminiscent of the BarCamp days, the idea for BlogCamp was born. BlogCamp was intended to be a forum for any Tom, Dick and Harry to learn about blogging – the who’s, why’s and how’s. Initially there was skepticism on why we should have such a forum in the first place. But considering the fact that Chennai happens to be the Indian city with the largest number of bloggers amongst other things, we thought why not.

Then on, there was no looking back. We had meetings almost every weekend to discuss the progress. Things started picking up when interest started brewing amognst some corporate biggies in sponsoring the event. People poured in from all over the country to help organize the event. BlogCamp in some sense is an open source event with people helping in every little way they can and that something truly fantastic!

Ironically, my blog went down for the 2 days that BlogCamp was held due to server maintenance, which by the way was really pathetic. Instead of having to deal with it, I decided to use that as an opportunity to meet folks who had come down from all over the country. These included Dina, Peter, Neha, Jace, Om, Ravages, etc. It was fun catching up with Abhinav, Amit, Shyam, Sathish and a few others (whose names I dont know) from the BarCamp days.

Team BlogCamp
‘How do you feeel now?’ was all that we had to ask in the end.

Analysis of the event to follow. Stay tuned.

Security? Yeah Right!

Software companies, BPO’s and other medium to big organizations across the country have adopted stringent security measures. (actually this is nothing new. They’ve been having this for quite some time but its only recently that I’ve been annoyed to the extent of me having to write this.) They’ve basically outsourced the work to various security services companies in the country. Thats good news. However, whats really annoying is the processes that these companies adopt in the name of security.

The ‘process’ begins the moment you step into the facility. Image capturing devices including camera-phones aren’t allowed in the premises. If you happen to have one, you need to surrender the phone before entering the facility and take it back on your way out. This is pathetic. For a person who’s work depends a lot on telephone, this really put me off. I’d rather ask the person I need to meet to come out instead. By asking visitors for phones, they are indeed inviting trouble. I was tempted to take some shots of the facility just for the heck of it and publish it online.

Then comes the register entries. Signing registers is a must and not doing so is almost sacrilige; before you actually get to the purpose of your visit. If your work involves moving to different floors within the same building, you need to sign-in and sign-out each time you move from one floor to another. They do this to track movement of visitors or contractors within the facility. All I see is, stack of register with pages and pages of crap. Small wonder, why forests in the country are fast depleting.

The point is, one needs to spend almost 15-20 minutes complying with these security procedures for a work/meeting that would hardly take 5 minutes. And this is repeated every time you walk into the building. A popular argument would be that this helps keeping trouble out. But does it really? Here’s the twist.

This particular organization (an MNC) that I’ve been frequenting for the past few weeks, have security personnel that work on a shift basis. I know most of them because of my frequent visits (duh!) and as such, they are quite easy with me on a few of the procedures. Now I happily carry my cameraphone, skip signing a few registers and even drink coffee whenever I feel like. Thats the level of security that we were talking about earlier. Now all I need is some RDX, a liquid that aids explosives (whatever that may be) and the media informed before setting off the bomb. The next morning, as we all can expect, the bombing will be somehow linked to Lakshar-e-Toiba/Al-Qaeda and the current peace process with Pakistan will come to an indefinite halt.

Ok, so whats the solution?

Instead of having a lot of security personnel hovering around each floor and inviting trouble from otherwise normal people (like me), they can reduce the workforce and increase the use of technology. Every visitor could be given a smartcard embedded with an RFID tag that gives them controlled access within the facility. Simply put, this means giving access rights to areas in the facility that the visitor wants to go. Other areas will be not be given access without prior approval. The access rights can be remotely programmed on to the smartcard. So all you need is a single card for entering the premises.

From the security company’s view, they can map the location of the visitor in real-time and even set alarms or activate closed circuit cameras upon intrusion into non-designated areas. The security company can maintain a movement log in a database and thus minimize use of paper. On leaving the premises, the visitor hands over the smartcard.

All this is an effecient and time-saving way of doing the same thing. It only invloves utilizing available technologies and making things work better.

BarCampChennai – Live Updates

BarCampChennai is under session and I’ll be attempting to live blog it. This is my first attempt at Live Blogging and will be updating interesting nuggets of each presentation rather than the whole thing. Watch this space for live updates on BarCampChennai.

BarCamp Chennai – Day 1
Kiruba just gave a small informal introduction and started off the session. The room is filling up and there is a lot of energy in here. Amit Ranjan from Uzanto Delhi is giving his experiences of conducting the Delhi BarCamp

Question: Why BarCamp? Shouldn’t it be called a DhabaCamp for Indian audience??

Ganesh Padmanabhan of Voice Snap is giving a presentation on voice mail application. Sounds really interesting. Check it out at voicesnap.com
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Vinu from Emergic is presenting on MyToday.com – “Do you have Firefox?”, he asks!!! He asks again -”Why dont you have firefox here?” :) We learn that the chap from JustSamachar.com was hired for MyToday.com – nice!
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Vijay of LeadStep talks on Project Infranet (Infrastructure Networks) – he’s looking at developing a framework for streamlining citizen data. It’s a debatable issue and needs to be looked into more deeply.
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Balaji talks on a simple file tracking system that can employ small scale industries to develop it. Interesting little experiment and I’d really love to see it work especially after having worked in the RFID scene for quite some time.
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Narain “mixify” of 360 Interactive talks about Web 2.0 or “Live Web”.
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Arjun Ram of Taazza.com, a news aggregation service in the making, asks “Where are the machans?”. Arjun is working on developing a news aggregation site that will allow you to narrow down your news to lower levels like, “I want to know whats happening in Besant Nagar or Mylapore”. Arjun also demos Taazza. *Interestingness*. An iPod Shuffle is in the offing for the best review of Taazza. Write your reviews and post your link on Arjun’s blog
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Suman talks on NPL – a new programming language that he’s developing that will enable you to visualize code. While the discussion is a little too technical for me, I take a break and apply the Law of Two Feet to check out the session at Track 2.
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Track 2 has quite a packed audience. Amit Aggarwal of Digital Inspiration talks on how to make money from blogging. “Its all about writing with passion at the end of the day”. Amit says that there is a lot of money to be made by just blogging. But is blogging really about making money?
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Back on Track 1, Charles from AdventNet talks on the ZOHO Suite of Applications. ZOHO is attempting to replicate the Office Suite for the web. They’ve got a really nice logo. The applications look interesting but they need to work on the user experience to attract more customers onto their site. Well, thats my 2 cents!
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Muthu from Sun Microsystems, Bangalore is gung-ho about xDesign (User Experience Design). Muthu has been working on user heuristics and usability ever since I’ve known him and is really passionate about it, which, is great!

Day 1 : Its a wrap!

BarCamp Chennai – Day 2
By the time I got here, a session was already in progress. The new Microsoft Office 2007 was being demoed and I did catch a glimpse of exciting things that are expected soon.
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Atul Chitnis talks about Mobile Computing. “Sending an sms using one hand will not get you into trouble in a classroom.” Atul evangelizes the use of mobile devices for computing and believes that the desktop is gonna be replaced by smaller devices for infotainment purposes.

BarCampChennai photos are available here

More updates to follow..

Custom iPod HiFi

After Apple announced the HiFi sound dock for the iPod last week, I was least excited about it. Yes, it does look really good, but paying that kind of price just for a boombox is too much. Here’s a simple way to setup something similar for far less.

If you’ve got an iPod and a good audio system, here’s what you need to get to complete the setup -

Here’s my own “custom HiFi” using an old JBL Simply Cinema ESC333.

Custom iPod HiFi

There’s picture set on Flickr explaining the setup.

Still Testing

My site statistics show a recent increase in traffic after the re-design. It is quite over-whelming to note the people do check this site even though its been inactive for a long period. However, I must say that there is still quite a bit of work left before I can take this live. Incase you would like to be notified, do drop in your mail-ids in my contact form. See you soon.

Apple + Intel

Apple drop’s PowerPC in favor of Intel. Official press realease here

Well, that means I’ll have to wait till mid next year before I switch to Mac.

The End is where it all begins
If you've reached this far, I suggest you check the archives - there's a lot more to dig in there! Alternatively, if you'd like to get in touch, go here.