Monday, February 19, 2007

Yahoo! Pipes

I'd been using feeds to get one consolidated feed for slashdot, digg and popular bookmarks, one of the main usp of feeds being direct link for digg stories instead of the landing page of digg (I'd consider digg's page to be a landing page given the very poor signal to noise ratio of the comments on digg). But since all good things must come to an end, decided to drop direct links and started using digg's landing page as RSS url. I couldn't find anything on their site which suggested this change and I hope it's something temporary. Anyway, now that feed is broken, and that I hate subscribing to digg's own feed, I searched for a feed which would provide a digg feed with direct links, a simple google search and I found a customized feed for digg with direct links to the story dugg. Using Yahoo! Pipes, combining the three feeds to get functionality was easy, all I had to use was the union and the sort operator.

The big small thing...

Last weekend on my way back from Long Island, the TSA agent asked me to throw away all the liquid that was carrying in my carry-on (quite crazy as nobody asked me anything on my way to Long Island), which included one more than half empty Adidas perfume and another small Vaseline moisturizer. I didn't care about the perfume but I felt kind of sad that I had to let go of the moisturizer bottle (not the moisturizer), it was the bottle that had been with me for more than 4 years, I'd always fill it and carry it with me on short trips and though quite silly, I'd become attached to it. I tried my best trying to convince the TSA agents so that I don't have to throw it away but then I let it go. I felt strange inside, as if the bottle meant a world to me, there are so many small things that make such a big difference in our lives, we wait for big things to happen though it's the things that we do everyday and the small but precious (at least to us) things that happen around us that make all the difference.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Piping the output to a variable in cmd

Some time back I had written that in Batch Files on XP there is no way to assign a variable to the output of some program/batch file, I was incorrect...there is a very convoluted way of doing it using FOR.
Let's say we want to get the names of all services hosted by svchost which has a memory usage of more than some MB:

FOR /F "tokens=*" %i IN ('tasklist /nh /FI "Memusage ge 10000"^|gawk "/svchost.exe/ {print $2}"') DO @echo %i| tasklist /nh /SVC /FI "PID eq %i"

The pipe needs to be escaped by ^; tokens=* means get the entire line and gawk is from unxutils. Before you start thinking how cool this particular example is or how dumb I am, you might want to know that this could have been achieved by just using one command (the example was just to show that you can pipe an output to a variable):

tasklist /SVC /FI "Memusage ge 10000"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The theory of reincarnation

Preamble: Most of this post is from the comments that I wrote on Sumit's review on the book "Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation". Since, I kind of liked the comments that I wrote, I decided to string them together as a post.

The question that I asked was how do you define reincarnation, if soul and mind are indestructible, how can they be reincarnated (be born again)? Isn’t time and our three-dimensional linear perception of time (present, past and future) an illusion? Since there is no way to differentiate "past life (lives)" and "future life" without having a reference point of time to begin with, doesn’t the theory of reincarnation itself stand moot? Classical science is all about experimentation and observation in the space-time continuum and hence it can't explain something that is not bound by that. Re-incarnation or for that matter most of meta physics operate on the ketheric plane (a.k.a. the sahasrara/crown chakra or the higher mind) which is outside the physical body. The only thing that is destroyed with our linear perception of time is the physical plane that we live in(or the chakras that operate within our body), the point of reincarnation doesn’t even arise; you can’t reincarnate something which was never destroyed to begin with.

So then what is reincarnation? Reincarnation is the manifestation of the higher mind by (re)connecting with the lower mind (physical plane). Actually, the connection always happens the other way round, the lower mind has to (re)connect with the higher mind.
Reincarnation (based on above definition) in some form or the other does happen and we all go through it (it’s just that most of us don’t experience it as we are disconnected from our higher mind). Our life learnings (we are all here to learn) can be broken into two categories: 1) Growth, 2) Evolution.
We grow by learning something new everyday or learning the same thing in a new way, this learning lasts a lifetime and is associated with lower mind. But then, there are certain pieces of puzzle that we just can’t solve no matter how much we try, dots that we just can’t connect, wounds that we just can’t heal, this is the learning process of our higher mind and this is how our higher mind evolves and since the higher mind is not bound by space-time, it can obviously span lifetimes.

Trivia: astrologically, the evolution process is associated with the Moon’s Node (Rahu and Ketu). Looking at the moon’s node placement (by house and by sign) one can find the lessons that we need to learn in this life-time...more on that later.

Monday, February 12, 2007

as the hair fell down...

You know that you've long hair when strangers start looking at your not-so-old pictures and comment that you don't look the same, this has happened to me twice recently: once I was told by my old Apartment manager when I'd managed to lock myself out and then by a TSA agent. I indeed have quite long hair these days, it's been more than a year since I got them chopped; I don't know why I have been growing them though, perhaps one more of the silly things that I do so often.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Vista Experience - II

[Contd from here...]The first thing that I noticed after installing Vista on my laptop was that it was hot (no, not Vista but the laptop), the hard disk seemed to always spin and a quick temperature check with SpeedFan showed my hard disk was running at around 55o C (generally hdds are rated to operate between 40-55 C). I checked with someone who has been running Vista on a "high-end" laptop and found out that his disk's temperature was around 43, so it was definitely something to do with my system, first I felt it was maybe due to the Search indexer trying to index the existing data (I had around 20 GB worth) or because the disk itself was brand new, anyway, since I had no inclination to either fry eggs on my laptop or fry my hard disk, I got myself a cooling pad and since then the temperature hovers around 43-47, which I guess is acceptable. Anyway, back to my impression of Vista, the UI is really polished even without the Aero interface, the new icons are a welcome change and quite a few small niceties thrown in here and there, looks like the attention was indeed on getting the small things right. Two big features touted in Vista (apart from the eye candy) are the Instant Search and the Side bar gadgets, honestly, I've never found any use for gadgets on desktops, how many times do you look at the desktop while you're at your system?
During XP days the only Konfabulator gadget (widget) that I would run was the "Calendar", since on Limited User Account the date time widget on XP doesn't even display the calendar, since, that's been done away with in Vista, the first thing that I did was turn off side bar and gadgets. Search is definitely good and quite responsive, though again I don't have much use for it, I tend to remember where I file stuff and generally find them without much hassle. Other things that have improved quite a bit are task manager, the ActiveSync (a.k.a. Mobile Sync center).

All hasn't been that rosy though with Vista for me, firstly the external hard disk enclosure that I got for my internal hard disk doesn't seem to work with Vista, it's detected but well no drive letters show up in explorer for the drive (it does work with XP still, I tried on some other system just to make sure that I didn't get the connector wrong again!). The other thing was after getting the cooling pad, I wanted to see how my hard disk behaves under process intensive applications, so I popped in a DVD of The Moody Blues, CyberLink PowerDVD auto-started and well, crashed with a very helpful OK button and no error message, tried playing the DVD in Win Media Player, and it refused to play the DVD suggesting that I reduce my system resolution and/or Color Depth, changing either of them didn't have any effect whatsoever: Media Player kept on refusing and PowerDVD kept on insisting that I decipher the error with just a OK button and no message (to be just to PowerDVD, the version that I was using was one which came with XP and was retained during the upgrade). Couple of google searches later, I figured out that Vista Business along with Home Basic don't come with DVD codecs (neither did any versions of XP for that matter), so that's my Media Player wasn't able to play the DVD (again the different error would have helped a lot) and CyberLink had released a Vista version of PowerDVD for which you are supposed to contact customer support, anyway, one good thing about Vista (and for that matter even XP) is they allow you to run misbehaving applications by running them under compatibility mode; just right click on the app, select compatibility tab and choose Run Under XP (SP 2) to run in compatibility mode, at least that fixed my PowerDVD and DVD played without any jitters after that.

Final words: Vista is a positive move forward by Microsoft and has some nice stuff; would I recommend buying a Vista off the shelf? no, I guess the best time to get Vista is when you're planning to buy a new system (or maybe if you have a relatively new system with good horse-power, you might want to wait for sometime and get a Vista upgrade after Vista SP1 is released), XP, even though not as polished as Vista gets the job done and I don't think it makes much sense to shell out some hard earned cash just to get bleeding/cutting edge technology, well that is, unless you're a hard core tech who loves playing with technology.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vista Experience

I recently participated in the Microsoft's Viral Marketing campaign: Power Together, which got me a free DVD of Vista Business Edition. Honestly, I wouldn't have bought Vista and installed it on my system as I was quite happy with XP but given that I got the free DVD made me feel a lot more tempted, so I finally decided to install Vista as a weekend project. Unfortunately, my laptop was bought about 1.5 years back and came shipped with a 40 GB hard-disk and a built in (*gasp*) 32 MB ATI Radeon Graphic card (along with a 1 GB RAM and 1.8 Intel Dothan M Processor), given that Vista requires at least 128 MB of dedicated VRAM for its Aero interface, I had no choice but to live without it. The other issue that my laptop had was; I have a tri-partitioned (actually 4) hard disk with a dual boot between XP and Linux, with a 27 GB (about 6 GB free space) NTFS partition, a 6 GB EX3 partition and a 3 GB Fat32 Dell System Restore partition. Since Vista requires a minimum of 40 GB hard disk and 15 GB of free space for installation, I figured out I can't install Vista without upgrading my hard disk.
I searched around the net for some decent and *cheap* hard disks and finally settled on a 40 GB, 5400 RPM Samsung, since the biggest pain with upgrading your hard disks is having to re-install every program again on the new hard disk (and in my case even Linux), I felt the easiest that I could do would be to ghost my existing hard disk onto the new one and then do a upgrade on XP to Vista (even though every one whom I talked to suggested that a clean install is recommended, I just didn't have that much patience). I searched for some ghosting/cloning tools, I even created a wiki for changing the hard disk and cloning (update: links removed to the wiki; unfortunately the free wiki that I was using seems to have been deleted & the links were redirecting to a parked page), so that I don't miss any of the steps involved (different story I still missed one of the steps, more on that later). With the new hard disk and a USB enclosure in my hand, I started with the cloning business using Partition Magic, and after about 3 hours of frustration, I gave up on Partition Magic which for some reason would crash while trying to copy my ex3 partition with a very helpful error message: "#21, Invalid Handle or out of handles" (which is kinda ironic given that I'd created the ex3 partition using the same tool)! So, I only could copy my NTFS partition and expand it to 44 GB. Then, I used GParted's live CD to copy over my other 2 partitions and that went like a charm. I also, deleted my Dell's hidden partition and created a fresh 4 GB Fat32 partition so that I can use that to access files from both Vista and Linux. After the cloning was over, I swapped my hard disks, just took me around 5 minutes and I booted up my system, which gave me a message saying no bootable devices found. I thought that maybe copying over the hard disk doesn't copy the MBR, so I inserted the GParted to see whether that detects my new hard disk and well, neither did it...I take out the hard disk again, check the screws and put it back in bay and power it on again and well still no luck! Just then a thought struck me as to how dumb I'd been, I didn't remove the connector from my older hard disk and put it on the newer one (even though I've that step bolded!), put the connector on the new hard disk and booted again and viola it booted right into XP (which makes me believe that Partition Magic does some kinda jugglery and writes to the MBR if you're trying to clone a bootable partition).

Next step: I uninstalled the applications on my XP that are not compatible with Vista (Norton AV, Private Folder), pop in the Vista Install DVD and couple of hassle-less hours and reboots later I have the shiny new Vista (well again, without the Aero) installed. So definitely a plus point to Vista for having a near flawless install, I'll sum up my experience with the new OS in some other post but at least till date I've found Vista to be more responsive and faster on my laptop than XP.