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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why isn't Yahoo Mail Dead Yet?

I get this thought whenever someone gives me their email id and it has an “@yahoo.com” in it.
            Seriously guys, why would anyone go for the constrictive, disgraceful Yahoo Mail when they have the choice of the flawless, user-friendly Gmail? If you’re one of those who use Yahoo Mail, here are some strong reasons to rethink your choice, and a way to efficiently switch to Gmail without compromising your existing inbox/contacts.

First, a confession>> I created my first email account at the age of 7 in Yahoo, and used it well into my high school, without knowing I had a choice. I think most people create their first accounts in Yahoo, because for many, the red, stylish “Yaaa-hooo” looks cooler than the beveled and old-fashioned Google logo. And the internet newbie is caught by the misconception that the Yahoo homepage, flooded with useless and superfluous information is superior to the simple, convenient Google homepage. But at one point he realizes the deceit and makes the right choice.

Listing out all technical reasons why Gmail tops Yahoo Mail is not practical. So here are a few obvious and compelling ones:
·        A big share of the Yahoo Mail inbox screen is taken up by annoying, rotating flash/image ads. In Gmail, you barely notice the text-based ads in the corner (which, by the way, relate to the content of your mail!).
·        Once we hit “sign in” and enter our credentials, Gmail takes us straight to the inbox in seconds. In Yahoo, however, you have to go to its homepage, hit “sign in”, login and return to the homepage again, click on “inbox”, reach the Mail page, and hit on “inbox” again, to finally see your mail.
·        Gmail takes very less time to load as compared to Yahoo Mail, and once loaded it never becomes sluggish.
·        In my experience, Gmail does much more efficient spam filtering.
·        By default, Gmail records your chats and makes them available through the main menu.
·        Gmail offers 7530 MB of free space as at the time of this writing (the counter increases incessantly!).
·        You can enable a feature called “Offline Mail” in Gmail, and access your emails offline, for example when on flight. In Labs, you can find more cool stuff.
·        It’s easy to figure out how to edit your account settings in Gmail. Get ready to read a few help articles if you want to do the same in Yahoo Mail.
·        You can access a host of free, rich, other services from Google with a single Gmail account.

Well if you were aware of these all along, but continued using your Yahoo account for other reasons like preserving your inbox and contacts list, difficulty in intimating your existing contacts about your shift etc, know it indeed is possible : visit this page. Hope you’re happy!

I normally try to end anything I write with “every coin has two sides…”, “even though that is the case…” etc. But honestly, I can’t find any sense in using Yahoo Mail given you have something like Gmail at the same price (free, of course). All I have to say is, make the right choice.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My First Real Lucid Dream

I had a normal dream and I woke up.
I walked to the bathroom, washed my face looking myself at the mirror.
"I'd wasted whole days thinking of lucid-dreaming-and-stuff and my real life's at stake. Heck, my dream recall has developed a lot and I remember 2-3 dreams every day- making it all the more difficult to keep my mind off it. But thisis it. I'm going to focus entirely on my real life from now, good bye to lucid dreaming... I WON'T TRY TO LUCID DREAM-- EVER!"--I said to myself, and went back to sleep.

What I didn't know was that I was gonna have my first real, sustained lucid dream in a few minutes.

I was at back at my highschool, but all the students in the class seemed to be from my current institute. Well it didn't seem strange to me then. In fact I had this beautiful girl sitting beside me on my bench, how could I pay attention to anything else? I had a little chat with her, but she arose in the middle of it and walked to the class podium and began delivering some speech, probably part of some assignment. As she was about to complete it and return to me, I noticed something strange- I had no clothes on! I began to panic and search for my clothes.. thankfully they were at the bottom of my desk. But before I began to put them on, I thought- "Strange... things like this happen only in dreams." And then I realised that it was all just a dream.
How could I be sure? I wanted to do reality checks, but I was afraid if the dream would end too soon. So I improvised- I punched a friend who sat in the next row at his head, and his head oscillated to-and-fro. Had it been real life, the guy(pretty muscular himself) would have got up and busted me right away. He didn't... Yay!

I didn't know what to do, so I began walking accross the class to meet people... until things began to fade. Rubbing my hands came like reflex to me(although I had not tried it before), but the dream was prolonged to just a few seconds. Finally I decided to spin my dream body. Amidst all the spinning, I felt a sharp knife-like object thrust into my belly and it really hurt. But soon I landed at some other place. The 'landing' was how the hero would teleport in the movie Jumper-- me like it!

I was in my old bedroom. Back in another 'building', restricting me from doing things like flying. But with all the confidence in the world I prepared to leap skyward, and for a moment it seemed I could really do it... but I closed my eyes then, and woke up, stayed paralyzed for a few secs, and then the whole of me woke up.

I learnt a few things from this experience- if I close my eyes in a dream, chances are I would wake up. And the Placebo effect is legit. And if I'm naked when people are around, it's dream :-)

Best of all, I understood what it's like to be in a lucid dream- you could be free of those chains and do whatever you want with no consequence whatsoever. It's a highly exhilarating and wonderful experience. You got to try it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Lucid Dreaming/ Sleep Paralysis Nightmare

I had my first sleep paralysis episode a few days back and I was terrorized. Thankfully, I had heard about the phenomenon earlier, was convinced there was nothing supernatural going on, and all it took was a little googling afterwords to have more understanding of it. When I found it's association to Lucid dreaming, I grew more interested and went into more research. It is perhaps I delved more into the topic and I'm a fan of LD(Lucid Dreaming) movies like Inception that the occurrence of SP(Sleep Paralysis) didn't stop there. In fact today, I had 3 SPs and 3 LDs a night!

In the first dream, I'm at my school, inside the building, chatting with my friends(I'm leaving the specifics). I felt the need to step out of the building, when a group of students buzzed in through the door and I was blocked. At that moment, from somewhere came a huge spurt of confidence and I knew I could fly. I leaped slowly from the floor, flew past the students out of the door, into the assembly hall of the school. Everyone was watching me, while I tried to control my flight. As I ascended up to a level from the ground, I got suspicious- Everything was vivid and surreal, but it was impossible. I must be dreaming. As soon as I got aware, a large bed came out of nowhere and I opened my eyes. I was sleeping head down, was awake, but I was paralyzed. After a few seconds(during which all I could do was make a groaning noise), everything came back to normal and I dashed out of my bedroom. It was 2:00 in the morning, but I didn't want to sleep so I took a few books and tried to study. But after a few minutes I got sleepy again, so I kept the alarm on my phone and went back to sleep.

Later I woke up and went upstairs to my computer and was about to log in to Gmail, when my father yelled from his room to shut it down and get ready for class. I went downstairs, my legs collapsed at the sight of the bed, and I closed my eyes slightly. It was at that moment a very silly idea came into my mind "OK, I had a dream and an SP. What if I'm still in it? What if I'm still dreaming?"
Boom
I was back at my bed, paralyzed and terrified. Apparently I HAD NOT WOKEN UP for the second time- I dreamt I did. I had my second SP for the day which lasted for a few seconds, after which I again went out and tried to study something.

Would you believe that I got sleepy and dreamt for a third time, got lucid and then paralyzed? Well it happened(It includes a lot of personal content, so can't write it here).
I never slept again- I made myself tea and forced myself to study.

So in my experience, whenever I realized or even got suspicious I was in a dream, I ended up paralyzed in my bed. If I can't stop dreaming and SP, I definitely want to try lucid dreaming. I've heard SP is a launchpad to LDs, so I'm looking forward to it. Along with that note, I wish I remain sane throughout my life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ubuntu? Nope- it's a Mac.


Though I'm against the evil, proprietary culture promoted by Apple, I've always wanted to work on a Mac since I new it existed and, since I saw a few screen-casts in it. I've been using Ubuntu for most of my tasks- from basic word-processing to browsing, hand-coding web pages(wish there was a WYSIWYG in Ubuntu!) and stuff like that.

And one day I began thinking- " Ubuntu is based on Linux. Way back, Linux Torvalds based  it on Unix.... Great. Wait, wasn't Mac based on Unix too?.. Would that explain similarity in rendering of the screen in both of them? Rendering of fonts?..."

The first reason I wanted a Mac was, of course to use the array of famed software available exclusively for Macs.
And the second, perhaps the more overpowering reason was the way it looked.

".. What if I could make my Ubuntu look like Mac?"


My hands rushed by instinct to Google and found the EXACT THING I WANTED. Within minutes after the download of required files, I had my Mac look-alike set up, up and running. The traffic light buttons of the window, the legendary OSx background, menu styles, icon sets...

If you don't have Ubuntu get it first. If you have an Ubuntu installation and/or fantasized about using a Mac, try it quick!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Unending Blytonmania!

Below is an Article I wrote, published in YoungWorld, The Hindu, June 23, 2006.
Note: printing errors have been preserved for authenticity.
I am very sure that there is no child in the world who would have never wished to solve a mystery, or to get caught in an adventure! And there wouldn’t be a child who hasn't thought of forming secret societies, have top secret passwords, and make exciting plans, investigate, have an adventure, and at last, solve the case by handing over the rogues and burglars over to the police.

Oh, you too have dreamt about these things too? Then you surely must have read at least one of Enid Blyton's smashing mystery books. May be a awesome Secret Seven adventure, or it's likely to be a Famous Five mystery or Adventurous Four for sure. If none of these, it would be one of 'The Mystery' series, 'Noddy', or else, 'The Wishing Chair'.

How does Enid Blyton books force us to read and make us anxious and curious to know about the end? How do we feel that we are one of the 'Secret Seven' or 'Famous Five' when we read them? And how does our heartbeat increase and we become tense, if any of her characters are in trouble? Enid Blyton's magic is a mystery in itself!

While reading her mystery-stories and adventure-books, we never realise how sad and desperate her childhood was. Her beloved father who told her interesting stories on their long walks, told her good-by forever when she was just 15.

She was very lonely at home, and therefore, as she says in one of her pieces, "let her tongue go loose", and created outstanding poems and rhymes. Her first novel for children was probably "The Wishing Chair" and then came "The Secret Island".

Blyton was born in 1897 to Thomas Blyton and Theresa. She joined St. Christopher's high School for higher education. Enid Blyton's books became so popular and loved by children all over the world, that they were once banned, as children read nothing else! Many of her characters were true to life. There existed a true secret society, called 'The Secret Seven'.

I like her books very much and keep on reading them, mostly from a nearby library. I am a great fan of 'The Secret Seven', and I have almost finished the series.

All her fans felt sorry for her death, in November 1968, due to Alzheimer’s, at the age of 71.

I recommend children of all ages to read her books, and go on solving exciting mysterious around.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading books on the go

If you're like me, you spend countless hours every day waiting in a queue, staring at stuff outside from a bus, running in the treadmill and so on. While I agree these activities are useful in consequence, wouldn't it be nice if you could engage in some productive activity at the same time? I'm talking about reading some book, or rather hearing one. I'll tell you exactly how you can get an edge over your peers via listening to books while apparently engaged in some mundane business.


Requisites: All you need at your disposal is a mobile phone(which I presume you already have, click HERE if you don't). If it can read play music and read .txt files, you're all set(can't read .txt files? Click HERE).

Steps
  • First off, head to librivox. You can download recorded versions of your favorite book from the catalogue( If your favorite book is no longer under copyright, i.e, published before 1923). Download all its chapters. Most classics are available, so you got choice!
  • Your next stop is Project Gutenberg, where you can download .txt, html, pdf versions of the same book(Link to it can be found in your book's Librivox download page). For now, download the .txt file to your harddisk.
  • Transfer these files to your phone and you're done(it's desirable to transfer only few ongoing chapters, lest you'll consume space on your phone).
  • Plug in your headset and start listening. In case you find any part of it difficult or insist on reading a portion yourself, you can always check the .txt version!

Do not have a mobile phone?
It's ok if you can get hold of an mp3 player too, the only disadvantage being the inability to refer to the text. The idea is to pretend you're listening to music!

Can't read .txt files on your phone?
At least if there's java on your phone, you can download midlets/ midlet-creators that will allow you to open .txt files. Here are a few I think might help : ReadManiac, Bookshelf, Mobipocket.

Concluding remarks
There's nothing like reading a real book, so this is not a substitute for actual reading. This is in fact just another way to make productive use of your otherwise futile time. Enjoy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Street art

There are artists/designers who are employed at companies, some prefer to freelance at the comfort of their home and be their own boss, and there are others who are left with no choice but to draw on the street to earn a livelihood. I happened to see one of the latter recently. 
If you're thinking 'not exactly Picasso', know this- all his limbs are disabled, and chalks are his only tool. Yet he drew such perfect curves and proportionate body,  that  most of the able-bodied of us might find difficult to achieve.
I wish I had waited till the end and captured the finished work, but I was in a hurry. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Unpacking the Texts


We've all seen them since first grade- initially they used to bear beautiful illustrations and colorful content at which we could glare all day, such were their appeal. As we grew older, they grew bigger, and the pictures vanished, making room for uninterrupted lines of text and more text. I'm talking about our text books, our old pals who'd stay up late on days before exams during all-nighters, yet at the year end look brand new and untouched by human hands.

I've been issued my set of material for the IPCC (shown above) yesterday. To say the least, I was stunned on seeing its sheer volume, as were my friends. The very thought of covering them all within nine months was depressing. And then to cool me down, I thought of viewing them from a designer perspective, and arrived at the following goofy yet interesting observations:

  • Each subject follows a color code when it comes to the cover, enabling us to pick out our choice easily.
  • The covers have a sleek and modern look, which is good.
  • The covers might be a little confusing with "Paper-1, Volume-II, Part-3…" on every one of them.
  • The entire design and layout is minimalist, appropriate for text-books.
  • Headings, paragraphs and tables stick to a solid hierarchy.
  • Numbering of pages is convincingly done in a "Chapter-no. Page-no" format.
  • Tables are in plenty, and pretty consistent in style. Graphs and charts are a rarity.
  • The whole set of books is set in a sans-serif font, which in my opinion is quite unsuitable for print, especially for text books. While sans-serifs may suit the screen media, serifs are less straining to the eyes and more pleasant to stare at in the print media. Most standard texts and other books follow this practice in their typography, sadly not these.
  • Even in theory-based books like that of Law, the whole text runs from left to right of the page and are not split into columns like in a newspaper. Another let-downer for me.
  • They all smell really good (think I mentioned goofy on top!).

So these were nothing you never really knew, but I did you good by listing them out. To those of you who question the very purpose of 'viewing from a designer perspective': I agree content is king, but let's accept that the way it is presented is important too. Design matters. Hence this post :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ChiselScript : my brand new font!

After a day long painstaking work, here I am with a (possibly) cool font, that is actually usable. I've named it "ChiselScript", it is supposed to look like it's written with a chisel tip. All my fonts including ChiselScript are available for download here :
http://www.acidfonts.com/font-authors/ajithrindia.html 
and the license information is available here : http://www.ajith.tk/fonts. I'd like to here what you think of it- please post your comment here or at the download page.
I have'nt uploaded them separately elsewhere because most people find them through acidfonts and I want to know the statistics.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stop Motion (Test)


Ok, but it was shot with a 3.2 mp phone camera and edited in linux :)