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July 19, 2012

Sensordrone brings us one step closer to having a real life StarTrek Tricorder

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:56 PM

Anyone who has watched Star Trek would love to get their hands on a Tricorder, but till recently Tricorders have been the stuff of Science Fiction. However slowly but steadily the technology to build them is getting there. We have the Tricorder Project which gave us the blue prints to create a basic version of the tricorder. It was cool and let you watch Magnetic field fluctuations etc (among other things) but still required you to build the thing yourself. Now comes Sensordrone, a project that pairs a sensor-heavy dongle with your smartphone and then opens them up for use using different apps. Me Want! :)

Its basically a sensor package that you pair with your phone and then run apps to visualize the various data, with no need to build the hardware yourself (I am more of the software building person.) Sensordrone is a Kickstarter project so its not really a real product yet but since people have pledged $153,655 for the project already (target was $25,000), it does seem like this is going to be an actual release pretty soon. They are aiming for an Oct 2012 release and it would cost about $200 or so. When it comes out I think I probably will end up buying it… Does that make me a Geek? Hell yeah… :)

Excerpt from their website:

If you have a Sensordrone, you can run apps on your tablet or smartphone to monitor carbon monoxide and air quality, find gas leaks, measure your child’s temperature, log the weather, and much more.

For example, apps using the capacitance sensor can work as a stud finder, a proximity monitor, or a liquid level monitor. Apps using the pressure sensor can work as a barometer, an altimeter, calculate elevation differences so you can measure the height of a building, be hooked up to a pressure cuff to work as a blood pressure monitor, and more. Humidity sensing is not just for weather, it determines comfort level for infants, finds the optimum conditions for storing foods, and could even help prevent mold from growing in your home

Sensordrone makes any sensor application as easy as running an app!

Thanks to Engadget: Sensordrone lets your smartphone monitor temperature, air quality, inebriation for the heads up.

– Suramya

July 17, 2012

Self destructing book now available for purchase.

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

In a release that sounds like a bad April fools joke or a tip off for a spy movie, Argentinian publishing house Eterna Cadencia is now selling a book written in disappearing ink. Basically 60 days after you open the sealed package the print in the book will disappear. I have no idea what the publisher was thinking, (although it would make a great gag book to gift to someone who is a slow reader) I wouldn’t want to purchase a book that I couldn’t go back and read over and over again, I have books that are over eighty years old and some books that I bought in college that I still go back and read at times.

If you want a self destructing book, why waste the paper it was printed on? Why not go for a digital copy which would be far cheaper and use a decryption program that stopped working after a particular amount of time. (I remember reading about a concept encryption routine that used the text of a couple of sites as the decryption code and once the pages changed beyond a certain threshold the encrypted data could no longer be decrypted.)

Would you purchase a book that deleted its text after a fixed time?

Source: One of the Tech Blog sites… Can’t remember which one. Will update when I do remember.
News links:
* Publishing: The book that self-destructs in 60 days – News – Books – The Independent and
* LA Times

– Suramya

July 15, 2012

Got the Jelly Bean Update on my Nexus

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:21 PM

After waiting for a day for the update to show up on my Nexus, I forced the update to download on my Nexus. It was a fairly simple process which I had used before to get the 4.0.4 update as well. The steps are as following

  • Go to Settings -> Apps -> All
  • Click on Google Services Framework
  • Click on Clear Data
  • Click on ‘Force Stop

Once you do this you need to:

  • Goto Settings -> About Phone
  • Click on ‘Check for updates’

You might have to do this a couple of times (I had to do it 3 times) before the update shows up and downloads. The overall process took about 1/2 hour including the time required for the update to download.

Have been using it for about 2+ days so far and wanted to document my reactions/findings:

* System is now extremely fast, the screen switching is about 3-4 times faster and smoother.
* The Google bar on the top is a bit distracting. It had a black background previously, now its grey so is noticeable.
* Love the voice recognition. The system can do voice recognition without being connected to the web (tested in Airplane mode) and is about 90% accurate. Seems like its a bit more accurate when connected to the web, but don’t have any hard data for that.
* Battery life is a lot improved, my phone went about 2 days with regular usage. (I was getting about 1 day+ earlier)
* Camera gives a visual feedback when a photo is taken so people don’t take a million photos thinking it wasn’t taking photos.

Some downsides/issues etc:

* I think my Wireless connects gets disabled a min or so after the screen switches off. Haven’t verified it yet but if that is the case then it will be a major issue.
* The soft buttons feel a bit less reactive on some screens, but again its a bit subjective and haven’t verified it.

Overall I like the new update. I think Google did a good job with this update.

– Suramya

July 11, 2012

Are kids nowadays less techie than previous generations?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:06 AM

Since I have gotten the Pi (actually even before I got it) I have been keeping an eye on articles/news about the Pi. Found some really interesting projects, idea’s etc but then found this gem on ZDNet: Is raspberry pi a mid-life crisis?. The author’s major point is that people his age (presumably in his late 30’s or 40’s) are more techie than their children. While in some cases its true, in a lot of cases its not. Its very easy to generalize and say that kids nowadays don’t do cool things like we used to… Actually I know a few people who say that a lot and guess what, it doesn’t make you look cool or techie, it just makes you sound like a old fart.

You don’t have to program in assembly to be called Techie. Personally I have programmed in assembly only once and that too for a class I was taking. To me it wasn’t fun, fun was making the computer do stuff it wasn’t supposed to in the fastest easiest way possible. In his Article Simon states: :

When my 14 year old son couldn’t get his iPod touch to work with the wifi he didn’t try very hard, he just threw it at me and said “dad fix it”. My kids and their peers have no interest in how a computer works. Oh, they love what it does, miniclip, facebook, skype. But what makes their applications work or what is inside the black box is as interesting as the washing machine or vacuum cleaner. I’ve long thought that there is a bubble of tech; people of my age are more techie than their children.

His kid might not be a techie, a lot of folks my generation (god that makes be sound old) were not techies. Remember the 12:00 flashers? Now I have juniors working under me who are experts in Perl or PHP. There is a Nine-year-old kid who has created an iPhone application that has been downloaded over 150,000 times, another 12 year old kid has published 7 applications in 2 years. Being techie is not an age thing, its about aptitude.

There are tons of people (including kids) who are still technically inclined and are developing great new stuff. A lot of the new software development is happening in minds of kids. Sure they might not read programming manuals under the sheets (Disclosure: I never did that. I was more liable to read novels under the sheets), but they are techies and will come out with new cool stuff. True that some of the kids act like retards but its not like the previous generations were any better. Every generation has folks that are retards, forks that are average and folks that are awesome. Throughout history people have thought that the kids in that age are useless and they were so much better. Socrates is quoted as saying “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders…. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their
legs, and are tyrants over their teachers.”
. My response to Simon: Grow up, stop living in the ‘good old days’.

Finally, there is nothing wrong in not being a techie. If all of us were techie’s we wouldn’t have any cool movies being produced (’cause no one would be there to act in them) or great music or artists etc.

What do you think?

– Suramya

July 10, 2012

Wireless finally working on the RaspberryPi

I finally managed to get wireless working on the RaspberryPi (Go Me!). The main problem was that when I connected the USB dongle directly to the Pi it wasn’t getting enough power, then when I connected it via a powered USB hub I kept getting error messages. If you like you can read about me previous attempts to get the wireless working here and here. Since I didn’t feel like spending more time on this (and because I thought that the problem was caused because of a problem with the USB hub) I stopped fiddling with it. Then I had to switch the SD card I was using in the Pi (the old one was the card from my camera so I replaced it with another 2GB card) so I downloaded and installed Debian Wheezy on it.

Turns out that the Wheezy doesn’t have the same problems with the USB hub as Squeeze did, so all I had to do was plug in the stuff, install the firmware and I was ready to go. To configure the wireless network I installed wicd as I have found that to be the easiest way to work with wireless networks, I also installed the wicd-curses interface so that I could configure the system from the commandline. The commands I used were as follows:

apt-get install wicd wicd-curses

Then ran wicd-curses to configure the Wifi, That’s it. Now my Pi is connected to net wirelessly and I have one less cable running across my desk, which is great.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later, its time for me to hit the sack. Have an early day tomorrow.

– Suramya

Managing comments/conversations over different systems

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:01 AM

As some of you know all new posts on my blog automatically get posted on my Facebook wall thanks to a set of scripts that I have created. Now what happens that I have people posting comments in response to the posts on Facebook, some respond using flipbook on the Ipad which sends me an email with the comment and lastly people post comments directly on the blog. So I have three potential places where separate conversations are going on about a post. I want to have one place where all the conversations/comments are logged and there is an easy way to do it technically but the people aspect is the problem. Basically I don’t know if people will be ok with me taking their comment to a post on FB (that was synced from the blog) and sync it back to the Blog. Personally I don’t see the problem but people tend to be a bit funny. I have in the past gotten flack for posting pics on my site and not on FB because its open and anyone can access them (which is one of the reasons I stopped posting pics online. More on that in a different post).

Currently the comments are broken down in the following main categories:

* People who I don’t know personally -> Post comments on the blog [for the most part]
* People with whom I am friends -> Post comments on Facebook. [For the most part]

The second option is to take comments from the Blog and post them on FB, which is not always possible as the people who post the comments might not be on FB (or on my friend list).

The last option is to post a comment on every post with the link to the post’s synced copy on FB so anyone who wants to follow the conversation of FB can do so if they have access to the post (i.e. if they are in my friend list).

As all of them will require some work on my side, I am leaving it as is for now… But would love to hear your thoughts/opinions about this.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

July 9, 2012

Watched the Amazing Spider-man

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 12:37 AM

Watched the Amazing Spider-man this weekend after a week of trying. Verdict after watching the movie: ‘meh…’, The movie was decent, not great. Although this review could have been affected by the fact that the 3D in the theater we watched it in (Fame Lido) was screwed up completely. Not sure what the problem was but most of the 3d scenes were really off, not sure how to explain it but at times the foreground was overlapping with the background kind of like the two were merging together. Made me queasy after a while, the effect lasted about 2 hours after I had finished the movie.

I think I liked the first 2 spider-man movies better (the less said about the 3rd one the better). This one was a bit more gritty and they did try to show the conflicting emotions that spider-man always deals with in the comics, but once he puts on his mask he is a wisecracking fast talking character which was kind of missing in this movie. There were a couple of scenes where he wisecracks but not a lot. The character is a bit more true to the comic books but over all the experience wasn’t that great. It didn’t put me to sleep but neither was it a ‘wow!!’ movie.

Now the next movie I am waiting to watch is Batman. It should be a lot of fun, and I don’t think its in 3d which is good. Although I only have problems with 3D movies in Bangalore, I didn’t have any similar issues when I watched 3D movies in Delhi.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

July 4, 2012

Interesting Troubleshooting step

Filed under: Humor,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:49 PM

This is a question that has been bugging me for a while and I see most tech support people do this; both here in India and in the US and I can’t figure out how it helps, maybe one of you guys can help me figure this out. Basically if you someone from tech support is working on your computer, lets say installing a driver, or troubleshooting why your net connection is not working, they will minimize all the windows, right click on the desktop and then click refresh. They usually do it a couple of times before continuing with the troubleshooting. Supposedly this helps resolve issues, I did ask them why they do it but didn’t really get a clear answer and it bugs the hell out of me… Any idea what that is supposed to accomplish, other than refresh my desktop icons? I have only one icon on my desktop right now: Trash, which really confuses people and its fun to watch them.

Some of the troubleshooting questions I have heard and the statements people make when I call to complaint about issues are just hilarious. For example I was once told that you can only connect to the internet using a DSL connection if you have windows installed. No other OS’s are supported. I asked the guy to just give me the settings I needed to have and the password to the modem but he kept telling me that since I didn’t have windows it would never work (the conversation started when he asked me to install a software to configure the modem).

It would be interesting to know if others have seen similar behavior when they talk to helpdesk?

– Suramya

July 1, 2012

Had a fun weekend

Filed under: My Life,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:08 PM

This weekend was fun, parents are in town so they came over. I originally wanted to go watch the new Spiderman movie but couldn’t do so because something came up, but other than that the weekend was great. Mom and dad spent most of the weekend here before Surabhi called them back. Having parents over is both a positive and negative thing. Positive in the sense that your house gets cleaned and stuff gets arranged/organized, the downside is that stuff gets arranged/organized. Simple example, for the past year the switches in my kitchen were wired in a certain way, 1st switch was for the exhaust fan and the second was for the lights. Now dad rewired them so that the 1st switch is for the light, now it makes perfect logical sense but for the past few days every single time I go to the kitchen I switch on the fan when I want to turn on the lights… and its annoying…

As some of you know I use a hard-drive platter as a coaster and over the past year the platter I was using got a lot of scratches and it seemed to be ready to be replaced. I had a 200GB drive that had died a while ago sitting in my drawer so after I made sure it didn’t have any important data (stuck in it the freezer and then was able to read the drive. Yes you read that correctly, sticking drives in the freezer actually helps recover data) I dismantled the drive. Surprisingly it was a pain to dismantle the drive, there were 6 screws in the spindle that took me almost 1/2 hour to unscrew because everytime I tried to unscrew the entire platter would rotate. Finally had to stick another screwdriver in there and got the platters out. Now I have a brand new coaster. :)

The drive had three platters so if anyone wants a coaster, let me know. BTW its also reflective enough to be used as a mirror.

Other than that I finished some work and upgraded the OS on the RaspberyPi. Initially I had installed the Debian Squeeze (Ver 6) standard install but today I upgraded to Debian wheezy public beta build. It installed without issues and I like the new build, it seems a bit snappier than the old install, also they have included a new configuration tool that comes up the first time the system boots up that allows you to configure various options using a menu based system (sort of like the Debian installer used to work). Haven’t really played with it yet, but looking forward to it. Maybe the stupid wifi card will work on the new build. If not I am going to go steal a powered USB hub from someone.

Going to connect the Pi to my TV and try playing a movie on it to see how it works… lets see… Hopefully it will play without issues. If not, then its an excuse to fiddle with it till it does work.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

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