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Showing posts from 2013

My 5 favourite reads in 2013

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2013 was an insane year, in the sense that I finally got back to my reading ways, which had long deserted me, following my choice to attend BITS Pilani, over 4 years ago.

Here are my five favourite reads from 2013.

[NB: These are NOT books which were publishedin 2013, but ones which I read in 2013]

5. Flatland : A Romance of Many Dimensions - by Edwin A Abbott.

Flatland is a marvelously imaginative book, which could be classified as math-fiction. My interest in this book was piqued by some personal ideas that I had about dimensions and dimensionality, and while this book didn't further my ideas in that field, it didn't contradict them either.

Published in 1884, and written by an English schoolmaster, this novella recounts the life story of A Square (no really, that's a name). The story is set in a two dimensional universe, where the third and subsequent dimensions are unheard of. This universe - or Flatland as it's called - has some very quirky features, as Mr Square exp…

Isaac Asimov's vision about 2014, written in 1964 : a look back

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When Isaac Asimov, the great science fiction writer paid a visit to the New York World's Fair of 1964, he asked himself one simple question -

"The scenes, set in or about 1900, 1920, 1940 and 1960, show the advances of electrical appliances and the changes they are bringing to living. I enjoyed it hugely and only regretted that they had not carried the scenes into the future. What will life be like, say, in 2014 A.D., 50 years from now?

"What will the World's Fair of 2014 be like?"

In an answer to this question, Asimov wrote an essay titled "Visit to the World's Fair of 2014". In this essay (the aforementioned excerpt is taken from the same), he envisioned the evolution of technology in the fifty years leading up to 2014, and gave some stunning insights into how the world would have changed in that period.

I have always been an avid fan of Asimov's writings. His science fiction has consistently been as close to "literally mind blowing&quo…

The Dropbox Delta API

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The Dropbox Delta API is a rather interesting API. It is interesting in the way it works, and it is interesting in what it tries to achieve.



Consider a scenario, when you need to trigger an event, depending on some change in your Dropbox account - be it a file addition/creation, a file edit, or a file change. The sad way to do it, is to pole your Dropbox folder, and then check for a particular file, and then compare metadata and so on.

The Delta API takes most of the trouble out of this, by allowing you to fetch a cursor that denotes the present state of your Dropbox folder, and has information about all the changes that have happened in it, since the last fetch.

So, to trigger an event when something has changed in your Dropbox folder, all you need to do is, call the Delta API repeatedly, and check the cursor - and depending on the what the cursor contains, trigger whichever event you want.

Since Python has the easiest learning curve when it comes to using new APIs, let's take a…

NH7 Weekender Bangalore 2013

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NH7 markets Weekender as the "happiest music festival". And I daresay that I would completely vouch for them.


After all, what can be happier than chilling with some of your closest mateys from college, on a Bangalore weekend, with lots of good food, and tons of great live music?

Yes, the rain did play spoilsport throughout Saturday, resulting in the cancellation of several acts that I had been looking forward to (the F16s, TessaracT), but I won't be complaining about that even one bit. And though my sore throat would beg to differ, it's not the soaking wet sweat shirt that I had on me that I am going to complain about either; nor will I complain about the getting-stranded-in-the-rain-after-the-event-and-looking-for-a-place-to-crash.

Because these trifling incidents were to be honest, exactly that: trifling incidents. And it certainly didn't mar the madness and general awesomeness that was prevalent throughout the weekend.

There were quite a few good acts on Day …

The Borra Caves

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The Borra Caves had to be the magnum opus of our Andhra tour, as a glimpse at this Google+ album will convince you.



The natural beauty was breathtaking - and the cleverly positioned artificial lights provided the perfect ambiance, and wholly complemented the years of relentless toil that nature had gone through to produce these marvels. The stalactites and stalagmites - and the ceaseless streams of water in some places - made them as unique as as they were remarkable.

As we made our way deeper and deeper underground, we came across more and more beautiful natural sculptures - that had caught the fancies of the guides and locals - leading them to associate the same with everyday objects and Gods. There was for example, a mother carrying a child, a Sai Baba, and a Shiv Linga with a constant flow of water trickling down the stone.

At its deepest accessible point, the caves led up a flight of stairs and into a dark cavern, which had been converted into a natural Shiv temple.

Net net, thi…

Visakhapatnam - another shoddy travel guide of sorts

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Visakhapatnam is one of the prettiest cities that I have seen in my travels along the length and breadth of India. One, it is of the right size - not overblown like the metros of Delhi, Calcutta etc, nor insignificantly small like the hill stations of the north or south. Second, like in Goa, it gives you stunning views of the sea, against a very picturesque backdrop of hills.

The places that we visited were
Beaches - Rishikonda, Ramakrishna and Bheemli - if you're in Vizag, visit at least one of these. They are mostly the same, but they're very beautiful, and the Bay of Bengal is quite a site to behold.Kailashgiri Hill - this place offers you a stunning view of the beach (see picture above) A must visit, just for the sheer view.The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park - a surprisingly packed-with-animals zoo - they have everything from crocs and gharials, to other exotic reptiles, and even a staggering white tiger. Submarine Museum - A rather unique site-seeing item - a battle harden…

Hyderabad - a shoddy tourist guide

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Even after being in Hyderabad for more than 3 months, I hadn't gone around the city much, owing to my sheer lethargy, which had put a cap on my otherwise insatiable enthusiasm for travel, and also owing to the fact that my parents were to be coming down sometime and I would anyway be going around with them.
This much awaited tour happened between the 9th and 14th of October.

The places that we visited were :
Golkonda Fort - which is a truly marvelous historical site. If you happen to visit this place, do ensure that you experience the awesome acoustics that the architecture of the fort so beautifully embraces.
Salar Jung Museum - while the sprawling museum could take you hours to fully explore, what you shouldn't miss is the statute of the Veiled Rebecca. See the pictures of the same in my album link below.Husain Sagar Lake - a beautiful lake, which lights up spectacularly at night, and has a tiny island in the middle which houses a mammoth Buddha statue. There are motorboat ri…

"Driving around in circles looking for normality" : Ron Howard's Rush - A film review

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I don't remember awaiting a movie more eagerly than I did for Rush.
When Ron Howard made an appearance as the special guest in an episode in the 20th series of Top Gear and gave us titillating insights into his upcoming movie, my tongue was just short of hanging out, my bottom just short of falling off the bed, and my eyes, just short of literally popping out, like they do in comic books. But then, I told myself, calm down, boy. This ain't gonna release in India. Might as well wait till you get the DVD Rip – which would be several months later.
I watched every trailer that came out in the past six months a quintillion number of times. I read every Wikipedia page even remotely related to the 1976 season of Formula 1, a gazillion number of times, and I hoped against hope that the movie would release in India, a similarillion number of times.
I did not know till less than a week before its release that it was actually releasing in India. And when I did, it seemed as if the whole…

Girish and the Chronicles : live at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad

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This post (after a few edits) was originally published in Top Five Records. You can read it here.
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“Love, peace... and rock n' roll” reads the tag line on their Facebook page; And after attending their recent gig at Hard Rock Cafe in Hyderabad, the writer is as unsure of the first two, as he is certain, of the third.
To the extent of which the words “no-nonsense” go, Girish and the Chronicles are absolutely no-nonsense when it comes to making and doing “good” rock music. They are among those fast disappearing groups of musicians in this country today, who neither scream profanities in the name of death metal while showing their fingers to all and sundry; nor do they puke sloppy emo stuff for people whose intellectual bandwidth rarely betters that of the bovine.
In other words, they are pretty much perfect for lovers of true, classic hard rock. They're perfect for people who like to get their heads banging as much as they like to bask in the glory of the golden age of music g…

AlterEgoz Pink Floyd tribute - live at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad

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This post was originally written for the fine folks at Top Five Records. To read the original, click here.

AlterEgoz call themselves a “purely classic rock band”.

They started off in 2001 in Hyderabad - citing an all-encompassing list of influences ranging from the Beatles, through to the Police via Rush and in their decade long career, they’ve played hither and thither around the country; at times sharing the stage with biggies like Parikrama and Mrigya.

Not surprisingly, they’ve done quite a few gigs at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hyderabad, and August 29th was probably just another one in their list. For the writer however, it was his first taste of the famous HRC, and when he left the place after the gig was over, he was - to put it bluntly - far from satisfied.

The gig was dubbed “a tribute to Pink Floyd”, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with the band’s performance, or their execution of the songs. They had the energy, the talent and the required eye candy to keep ever…

WebRTC and the open web

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The why, the how, and its pressing need today.

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Almost all of us have used video and voice chatting services on the Internet. Right since the days of Google Talk - on to Skype and now Google Hangouts - voice and video chat have become a cornerstone of a user's web experience. With big firms moving to massive video conferencing solutions involving telepresence to ease the burden of globe-trotting; and more and more families and friends using social networking sites to keep in touch across the world, there never has been a more pronounced need for a universal standard that will make video chatting even more streamlined and efficient.

Enter HTML 5.

HTML 5, for the ones who have been keeping to the dungeons of technological ignorance for the past few years, is essentially the latest buzzword when we're talking web technologies. It builds upon the quintessential mark-up language, HTML and adds more features that can, in a word, make a sufficiently advanced web-browser, only slight…

Four years at BITS Pilani

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Just.
Just when I thought I couldn't be psenti.


What is the point?

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I ponder upon a question of existentialism. Of sedans. -

I went to Pune last week, to pay a visit to my uncle. It was a good four days, with good food, good relaxation and good movies. I was pampered no less by my aunt, taken on awesome drives around the hills of Pune by my uncle and well, was the subject of the greatest curiosity of my adorable albeit capricious cousin.

My cousin is this complete car-freak - and at the age of 6, he is able to identify even the rarest supercar by looking at pictures. He ogles out of the window whenever in a car, and the whole drive is riddled with his exclamations of “Audi!” and “Porsche!” and the like. Family legend has it that I was something of a similar nature when I was such an age, but I digress.

As with all little boys who love cars, my cousin loves to draw them as well - something that I have myself been into, for more than half my conscious life on this planet. And when I did see him draw a car, my mind went wandering into one of those automo…

Music graphics from Last.fm based on your listening history

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I know only a few friends of mine who use it, but I use Last.fm a lot. Well, to be honest there's not much to "use" there - because once you've connected your music players with your account, it all happens automatically.

In case you're not aware, here's how it works: any song you play on your music player, gets "scrobbled" to your Last.fm account. Scrobbling is just another fancy word which Last.fm uses to mean that your listening history is tracked, and recorded.

I, for one, have a mammoth music library on Rhythmbox, the default Ubuntu music player, and I have a handful songs on my Android too - and both, Rhythmbox and the HTC music player have plugins to connect to my Last.fm account, so that whatever song I'm listening to - be it on my laptop, or on my phone gets listed on my account - as you can see here.

So after more than a year of using last.fm, and having scrobbled more than 7000 songs - I logged on to the Last.fm site to see what they…

Dialogue in the Dark - Inorbit Mall

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I went for the famous Dialogue in the Dark yesterday. Apparently the only city to have it in India is this – Hyderabad, and I must say, I was quite impressed.

 The experience is rather unique. We were asked to deposit all our belongings – glasses, mobile phones and bags at the counter near the entrance and asked to enter through a door, beyond which there was total and absolute darkness. Like, pitch darkness. The sort of darkness that you experience when you shut your eyes tightly.
We were given canes, and were asked by this cheerful guide to move forward, while feeling the wall with our left hands. Very soon, he asked us to break away from the wall, and follow his voice as he led us over a bridge over a gushing spring – which swayed perilously as we filed over it. Of course, it wasn't a real bridge over a real spring, but the very realistic sound of the rippling water, and the hush of tree leaves, and the cry of birds made it all very difficult to distinguish from reality. It mi…