Monday, May 22, 2006

The grand old railways website

I regularly visit the Indian railways site to schedule journeys, track waitlisted tickets and do other trains related stuff. There was a time when visiting this site had sort of become my hobby. It started with ‘Trains at a glance’, a book that contains train schedules of all the major trains. As a kid, I used to follow the book keenly trying to create perfect travel plans for the next family vacation. I can’t explain why I liked this; I simply did. That was the time when the site was manageable because of its decent response time & because it didn’t have any ads. My memory is bad, but I guess this was not more than four years ago.

But then the “massacre” started. No, there is no other word to describe the pounding that the huge number of ads gave you when you dared to visit the website. I guess popup blockers were not very popular then. At least I didn’t know of them. I was forced to give up on my hobby. Soon I lost interest and just let it be.

There of course used to be times when I urgently needed to get information, and visiting the website was the only option. And boy, did I dread those times? There was a thorough ritual to be followed before opening the website. I would close all programs, windows etc. that I was working on. I used to open a single browser window that would innocently occupy one corner in my taskbar. No sooner had I entered the address followed by the enter key, the whole place would go ballistic. One after one, the popups would crowd the desktop. The taskbar would have around ten to twenty different buttons with just one of any importance to me. The game would then start. Would the popups appear faster or would I be able to close them faster? My experience in FPS games like Quake and Unreal definitely came handy here. Unfortunately there was a new problem now. If I closed all the popup windows, the parent website, would refuse to process any of my requests. I don’t know how they managed that, but I would get a timeout response if all the popups were mercilessly killed. Soon I learnt how to manage with one or two popups open.

But now I have got good news to share. And nothing could be better. Yesterday I was trying to sneak my way inside without causing the commotion that is usually associated with visiting the website. And the most pleasant thing happened. I did not encounter any popups. Zilch, zero, null, naught, nil, absolutely none! And I was not even using Firefox. Now that is a rare something good happening in this unfortunate atmosphere of reservations, crashing stock markets, and general gloominess.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gadget Frenzy

I wrote this a while ago. At that time I didnt think it was worth blogging. But now I am posting it anyway.

BN quietly remarked one day, “The net asset value of our house has suddenly increased in the past one week”. He was referring to the number of electronic gadgets that have entered our house within a few days.

It all began when our very own AK lost his ancient Nokia. Before the incident, he had been visiting mobile shops regularly but was hesitating in actually buying a phone. Ostensibly he was doing some “research” or so he wanted us to believe. Anyway, it must be a case of split personalities or of the subconscious taking over control, but just when I thought he had stopped his research and was calling off the mobile purchase, he lost his mobile. How else can you justify that a guy having able to maintain the same mobile for over 4 years, suddenly looses it just after contemplating a new mobile? Nevertheless, it didn’t take him long to buy his new one once the old one was gone. In a matter of hours this new baby was comfortable cuddled in his palms. An outcome of what ought to be Samsung’s efforts in response to the Moto RAZR, this phone features a 1.3 MP camera, a media player with mp3 & video playback, expandable memory, bluetooth and I could go on with this mobile’s unending feature list. All this is done in an enviable form factor with Samsungs now legendary slider function. You can connect it to a TV and watch videos, photos or even open ppt, doc, or pdf files as this phone can open many of the present day document types.

Then there was this Sony mp3 player that I got. This biggest feature going for it is its amazing battery life. The Lithium Ion battery takes about 3 hrs to charge and is rated to last around 50 hrs of playback. I found this claim reasonably close as I get around 42 to 46 hrs of playback time depending on what “power save” setting I put it on. The next best part of the player is the of course the looks and the really cool display. Unlike in other players and electronic gadgets there is no clear demarcation of the display area. The player just has this metallic shining exterior. But when you switch it on, a delicious looking aquamarine OLED display comes on right in the middle of its shining metallic exterior, something you least expect. Then there are the very innovative controls- something that you’ll either love or hate because they are so unique. Fortunately for me, I like them, and by now have sort of internalised them.

We also have my new camera, the Olympus SP 320. There is not much to say about this one but a short summary would include 7 MP, image stabilization, good low light performance, small design, large 2.5” display, and most of all a host of manual controls that I could learn to grow into. The only glitch seems to be its incompatibility with ordinary AA size cells, which I believe would be solved with a firmware upgrade.

Any mention of gadgets is incomplete without the mention of a new member in our home, AL. So when he joined the chaotic environs of the enclosure we call home, suddenly there were a host of new things to be seen all around. I will not be able to describe much, but till date I’ve seen a camera Kodak P 850, a Philishave, a IBM lenovo laptop, his Sony Ericsson K700i. There definitely will be more things hiding in his immense loads of baggage.

Anyway the point is that even though they may not seem much, but all these entered our home within a span of 3 days. The point also is that I guess I have talked a lot about gadgets. I should stop now. Time to go check out some real stuff in Think Geek.