Sunday, December 19, 2010

Long Live Delicious!

This week, Yahoo has been in the news for all the wrong reasons - the layoffs, and from an end-user's perspective, closing the shutter on some of their services. 

Frankly, I haven't been using many of Yahoo's services for the past few years. One service, though, which has received a lot of attention in the past few days, is Delicious. I have been using this online bookmark service for the past few years (like millions of users out there), and was genuinely outraged and disappointed when Yahoo decided to "shutdown" Delicious as well - or at least that's what people believed from the leaked internal Yahoo presentation (twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/bpm140/status/15473591558602752).

Let the power of the internet prevail - shortly afterwards the internet freaked out on the news of Yahoo pulling the plug off Delicious, Yahoo backtracked - they were now not planning to terminate the Delicious service, but instead, going to explore other options (even though they think that "(it is) not a strategic fit in Yahoo"). Yahoo "believe(s) there is a home outside the company that would make more sense for the service and our users". 

There are a couple of Yahoo services I use and love - Flickr being one of them. I agree, they won't even think about closing down a paid service like Flickr, but the thought that a company does have the power to shut down any product it wants - gives me the hibbie jibbies. Anyone for a Flickr and Delicious backup application? :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Panoramas

For the past couple of months, I took the effort of shooting some panoramic views of Chicago. Now, what motivated me was a free software called Hugin, which creates such perfect stitched views. With some HDR processing, this is what the images look like. All I can say is - "Summers bring out Chicago's real beauty!!"

The Giant Eyeball at Pritzker Park, Chicago


Michigan Lake and south Loop, Chicago


View of downtown Chicago from Millennium Park - with the Cloud Gate at the center


Another view of the Cloud Gate, at downtown Chicago

Sunset and clouds, as viewed from my apartment window

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My 2 Cents - A Photoblog

A photoblog - yes, I finally decided to have a blog just for the photos I click. Now, why would I need a photoblog, when Flickr is the most popular place to share photos? Hmmm... there are a couple of reasons.

1. Flickr is an excellent site to share photographs - but may not be the best site to view them - especially if you don't have a Flickr account. 
2. Even with the new "preview" feature in Flickr, it is still open only to Flickr members. Non members still get to see the old site.

So, if I post something on Flickr, and want to share the photo with my non-Flickr friends, all they can see is a small preview of the photograph. The only way they can see an higher resolution version is via the slideshow - which is kinda ok, but for a user, not that intuitive.

Since I already had a Tumblr account (and I am too lazy to create a website all by myself, and pay a hefty fee for a host - maybe someday), and a domain name, I decided to make use of the unused place there to start my photoblog - photoblog.abhishekontheweb.com.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Driving Dilemma Part 2

Remember my driving dilemma last year? Well, here's a sequel to it - and I wouldn't call it much of a dilemma anyways.

After almost a year staying in Chicago, I decided to go for a driver's license. The first hurdle - appearing for the written test. Now, I have been thinking of giving that exam since the time I landed here, but I had been "discouraged" by people and friends, by dutifully informing me that such exams are tough and require a lot of preparation. But this sense of discouragement was finally replaced with a sense of hope, when out of curiosity, I decided to have a look at some of the questions and find out what all the fuss was about. End result - I read the traffic manual for a day, and passed the written test with flying colors. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning!

Friday, April 02, 2010

My Experiments with Macro


Water Drops 1, originally uploaded by abhishekontheweb.
Macro, or, as some may prefer - micro photography, is all about taking pictures of small objects. Full frame DSLRs have 35mm sensors (36 × 24 mm) and the less expensive ones have a cropped sensor size, so with a macro lens, ideally, an object as small as the sensor size can be captured without any reduction in size. This creates immense number of possibilities, making simple and small objects blow up on a computer screen or on a printed paper, and is ideal for taking photos of insects and flowers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Washing tomatoes


Washing tomatoes, originally uploaded by abhishekontheweb.
Another photo blog - shows how bored I get sometimes in the evening, after a busy day at work. Thats what I have been upto in the kitchen tonight - clicking photos instead of cooking. At least the tomatoes are thoroughly washed now!! :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So Why Another Blog?

You must be wondering - What? Another blog? Why? Isn't one blog enough for him?!?

Let me clear this up first. Yes, you have heard right. I am talking about another blog, which I recently started. And there is a reason behind starting this "other" blog. It's more of a technical blog, a kind of a journal about various things I am working on, various obstacles I have been perplexed by, and various things I wish to work on etc etc. You get the drift, right? In other words, I would be rambling about Java and related technologies on THAT blog - which would have seemed a bit out of place on THIS blog. And its called (drum rolls please..... wait for it....) "Technically Yours" (please don't make fun of the title :) ).

So, hit the link (and it's as easy to remember as this blog - just replace the "www" part with "tech" - in case you haven't noticed that yet) and start commenting on that blog's posts (at least on the introduction post, or the "About Me" page there).

P.S. One of my friends managed to discover the blog even before I publicized it anywhere (and took me by surprise). How cool is that!!! :) I like unexpected visitors sometimes.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Apple's Patent War

From Wikipedia's definition of patents:
A patent (pronounced /ˈpætənt/ or /ˈpeɪtənt/) is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state (national government) to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for a public disclosure of an invention.
This week, Apple filed patent lawsuits against cellphone manufacturer HTC, claiming 20 U.S. patent violations. That was the talk of the town in the whole tech world. Here's what Steve Jobs had to say about it:
“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” (source: Apple.com)
As pointed out by various sources, some of the patent infringements which has pissed off Steve Jobs are really, how do I put it succinctly, eye brow raising? For example - look at this one (a snippet from engadget.com) -
Patent #7,657,849: Unlocking A Device By Performing Gestures On An Unlock Image  This one's cute 'cause it's brand new -- seriously, it was just granted on February 2. It's almost exactly what it says on the tin: it covers unlocking a touchscreen device by moving an unlock image. It's broad enough for us to say that it covers virtually every unlock behavior we've seen on phones, not just the iPhone's slide-to-unlock implementation.
This makes me wonder, is there any specific criteria you need to file U.S. patents - especially software patents such as these? I mean, come on - how can you patent an idea? In the above patent, you are creating a patent that allows, mind you, ONLY YOU, to use any implementation, to unlock a screen using a gesture on a touchscreen. How does that work out for other manufacturers? Should they just leave out the "unlock your phone" feature on their "oh-so-smart" phones, just because another company has already patented that idea? That's just plain ludicrous!! Patents should be on how you implement an idea, but not on the idea itself.


Ideas are generally abstract. One person may later come up with a better and  an even more efficient implementation of the same idea - should there be a patent or a law to discourage such innovations? Especially in a software world, its all about these abstract ideas. Most operating systems have the same set of ideas behind their UI implementation (the user clicks the minimize button, for example, and the window disappears), the only thing that differs is how each operating system is more efficient in incorporating that into the whole user experience.

Software patents are fine, as long it's used as a tool to issue counter patent lawsuits (as a defensive measure) against a company. But when someone tries to take an offensive stand by being the first to file a case against a competitor on such patents that is down right obvious (such as the example quoted above), it makes me wonder if the whole patent system is actually encouraging innovations.
"Apple has suffered irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law and will continue to suffer such irreparable injury unless the defendants' infringement" is enjoined by the court, Apple said in a complaint filed in the Delaware court. (source: informationweek.com)
I agree that Apple has its reasons to be annoyed. Many of the features in other smart phones (like the Google Android platform based devices) have been directly influenced by what Apple first introduced in its iPhone. Instead of creating a complete new UI design, they are imitating the ideas already present and successful, in their phones. But, can you file patents for every feature, fathomed by your common sense, that you have introduced in your product, and expect to kill the competition later by filing a dozen patent lawsuits, when they come up with similar ideas? Do ALL of the 20 patents mentioned require legitimate legal actions? Or is it just a waste of enormous time and money for the concerned parties and the court? Apple has been respected and loved for its innovations (remember the "Think Different" ads, Macs, iPod, iPhone etc etc?). But with Apple diligently taking steps like these to get rid of the competition, people will be forced to think differently - no one likes to see someone becoming over-competitive.

Disclaimer: I am not a master of U.S. patent laws, but as a consumer of tech gadgets, I have presented my views on the situation. (I still love Apple and Google :))

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Water Bubbles (Photo Blog)


Water Bubbles, originally uploaded by abhishekontheweb.
The bowl was filled with water, and it was made to overflow by placing it under flowing tap water. As the tap water hit the surface of the water in the bowl, I was able to shoot these random shapes of the froth generated. Shot at 1/200th second with flash on. (Looks like cells under a microscope, doesn't it?)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Translation Party - Can Translations be Fun?

Recently, I became a HUGE fan of CNET's Buzz Out Loud podcast (nothing to do with the Google Buzz launch this week, and believe me, these CNET presenters are not happy with Google stealing their show's name). Whatever, today, when I was listening to one of their latest episodes, they suggested a site to visit - it's called the "Translation Party" (oh, btw, its from Google...). 

What it does is simple. It asks you to enter any English sentence. It converts that sentence to Japanese (I know what you might be thinking. Japanese, huh? Do I need to impress anyone in Japanese!?!). Simple, right? But here's where the fun starts (and that's why the name has "Party" in it). It converts the translated Japanese back to English. and so forth. After about ten or so to and fro translations, even in your wildest dreams, you won't be able to imagine how come the final English sentence turn out to be so funny (and equally senseless). 

Lets, for example, enter a sentence: "I am planning to visit the auto expo in Chicago today." Plain, simple English, which even a 3 year old kid is going to understand, right. On clicking the "find equilibrium" - yes, that's what they seem to call it, this is what it displays:


 

Once more!! Once more!! Lets enter "Man, I am so tired of the cold!!!" And, here comes the response:


Try it out for yourself, and comment if you find some translations real deep and profound!!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Cloudy Evening


A Cloudy Evening, originally uploaded by abhishekontheweb.
Some times, when you look out of your window, don't you wish that the sky was redder (something which is generally shown in those science fiction movies depicting earthlings on Mars) - giving it a dramatic hue. Well, yesterday, when I had nothing better to do, I looked out and saw a cloudy sky. There was a reddish hue, as it was almost dusk. Then, I thought, wouldn't it be worth a try to make it look even more dramatic. Thanks to digital photography, a photo can be made to look so surreal, just by a couple of mouse clicks (in my case, a couple of taps on the trackpad). With the help of iPhoto, I was able to use a red filter to enhance the color of the sky. The photo was taken at a very low exposure, to bring out the shades of the cloud formation.

The next morning, I was surprised to see the sky so blue!!

















Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Day at the Movies

I remember having this conversation with a friend of mine when I was in New York during Christmas. We had booked tickets for a movie, as we had nothing else to do on a rainy day. As we were going to the screens...

Me: You remember the screen number, right? (I always ask that question, every time I go to a multiplex to watch a movie, even if I had the tickets in my pocket).

Friend: Yes, its on the ticket (duh!!). Its screen 9.

Me: Great (dunno why I said that, doesn't make the movie any better if its on screen 9, but whatever)...

We go in.

But its already playing a movie - and looks like it has already reached the climax.

Me: Didn't know that they have started showing such elaborate scenes in trailers.

Friend: Ooops... Thats "Invictus", and its not a trailer.

We walk out.

Me (Contemplating): So, it was screen # 9, right?

Friend: Yup, thats what the ticket said. May be we are a bit too early.

Me (Curious now): Let me have a look at the tickets.

And promptly, I look at the tickets.

Me (Giving that I-knew-it look): Do you remember what movie are we going to watch?
My friend thinks for a while.

Friend (now embarrassed): He he... Now don't you pull my leg. . . . .


(Psst... We were there to watch the movie "Nine")...

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year Resolutions?



Its again that time of the year when I am forced to answer questions from my office colleagues (esp. my bosses) - "So Abhishek, what resolutions do you have for this year". And I end up mumbling the same answer "I don't believe in these resolutions, as I am 101% sure, come Jan2nd, and I'll be back to my usual routine :)". And that's 1 resolution I have managed to keep for a long time.

I remember, back in my school days, writing an essay on "New Year's Resolution" was a part of the winter vacation assignment. And, talking about assignments in school, I was the laziest of the lot - I always managed to scribble something on my notebook - most of them being the usual "I will complete my assignments in time, I will not wait for the last week to study for my exam, etc etc".

So 1st of January every year is that day when you say that whatever you do today is what you are going to do for the rest of the year, right? (And now, thanks to social networking tools like Twitter, everyone knows everyones resolutions immediately - isn't that scary??). This year, I ended up spending my entire day in bed, down with a bad cold, eating pizza, and watching endless episodes of "The Office". Would I like myself to do that for the entire year? You bet!!! I DO :) :)


P.S - For those of you who might be wondering how unfortunate it is for me to be down with fever on 1st of Jan, it was actually a result of my photography enthusiasm that landed me in such a soup. I had a chance to click some photographs of fireworks at Navy Pier, Chicago, on the occasion of the new year's eve. But there was a catch. The show started at 8.15 PM in the night, and I had to stand next to the freezing Michigan Lake in the cold (it was around -20 degrees Celsius). I ended up with my hands completely numb for the next 30 min, and a BAD BAD cold by the time I went to sleep. Here are some of the pics I took, by the way....











For more pics, go to: Fireworks at Navy Pier