Sunday, November 29, 2009

Windows 7 Updates

Cool things you should try with Windows 7:

Peek, Shake and Snap :) It's really a fun way to play with your windows!
Jump Lists - find all those favourite and recent files so much faster!
Themes for your desktop - and yes, don't forget to change the pictures once in a while
Cool gadgets to liven up your desktop
Search for programs, mails, documents - everything you wanted to find, but didn't know where to start looking! And yes, being able to read "found" email without opening Outlook is so cool :)

Wear a Helmet, Please

We've all taken our chances - I remember zipping on the Panaji Ponda highway at 90 kmph, double seat, without a helmet, and on the Kundai slope, taking the entire 2 km slope, with its hair pin bends, hands off the handle bar, using only the thighs and body weight for sterring, double seat, again, without helmet.

But when I look back at those days, I realise how close I was to disaster.

It only takes one moment. One mistake, not necessarily yours, and in many cases, just a very minor indiscretion or stroke of bad luck. It doesn't need to be on the highway, it doesn't need to be in heavy traffic. It can happen outside your gate.

It can kill. Worse, it can paralyze you for the rest of your life.

I have gone through the pain of seeing a very dear friend lying in ICU with her head shaved and stitched together, not knowing if she will pull through.

Wear a helmet. It's inconvenient, but it might save your life, and your loved ones a lot of pain.

Book Review: Hitckhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams was recommended to me by someone who knew I had liked Haddon's Curious Case of the Dog. Both excel in making absolute sense of nonsense, and if you keep an open mind, can be absolutely thrilling reading.

The Earth is destroyed by the Vogons to make way for a super inter-galactic expressway, but two humans and two mice escape destruction, by hitching a ride on the Infinite Possibility Hypership Heart of Gold. Their inter galactic travels finally brings them to the custom planet-producing Magrathea, where they discover the Earth's secret - it's a super computer custom built by Magrathea, sponsored by the mice, to find the answer to the Ultimate Question. And having been destroyed by the Vogons just 5 mins away from producing the answer after ten million years of calculations, the exercise needs to be redone all over again - right from producing Earth Mark 2.

And as the Heart of Gold moves on to enable it's occupants grab a bite at the Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe, you can't help but look out for the sequel.

History Unrepeated

Dec 1992. A structure. Misguided souls. Destruction. Death. A nation scarred.

Nov 2008. A structure. Misguided souls. Destruction. Death. A nation stirred.

Similar stories, very different ends.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cars and Personalities

It is said that a car reflects a person's personality... the color, the make and the model, says a lot about who and what you are.

With malice towards one and all, without hiding under the excuse that after all, this is a generalization based on a statistical bell curve, :) here's how the theory applies to what you will see on the roads in India...

Tata Indica, and all it's variants and later upgrades - mostly indisciplined, will stubbornly stay in the fast lane, ignorning your persistent headlight flashes and honks, requiring you to forget road etiquette and overtake from the left side, if you wish to reach your destination on time. Behaviour gets more pronounced on expressways.

Maruti Swift - truly believe they have the fastest car on the road, will always get into a road race with you, until you decide enough is enough and floor the pedal.

Hyundai Accent - I am a family man, safety, security and economy is most important to me, I am happy with whatever I am up to, please ignore me and carry on!

The Skodas - we are a different class, generally disciplined. We look good, and mean, so keep your distance. No hang ups if you wanna overtake, but once in a while, we will give you a run for the money!

The Audis, the Mercs, the BMWs - you generally don't have to worry about overtaking them, they are too fast, but if you ever do get close, you'll get the space you need - after all, the driver doesn't want to risk you hitting him from behind!

And now, the Fords - will ALWAYS respect another Ford, will ALWAYS immediately give way to another Ford, will ALWAYS slow down at an intersection and let another Ford pass through first. But dare cross our paths in an Indica or an Accent or a Swift, and you have had it :) If you are a Skode, we try and conceal our admiration, and would love to take a shot at outgunning you. And if you have a Merc, an Audi, or a BMW, we will give you all the respect you thoroughly deserve, and immediately pull out of anything that seems to take on the contours of a road race :)

Security Lapse? Really?

When two commoners, with no formal (terrorist/army) training, gate crash a party thrown by the POTUS, under the nose of the Secret Service, shake hands with the President, take photos with the Vice President, and then brag about it on their Facebook, it's time for us to realise that maybe we were a little harsh on our own (poor, deprived, low-tech) security forces for having "allowed" a trawler (among the approximate other 100,000 out at sea at the same time) to "sneak in" on our few thousand km long coastline!

Let's learn to be a little less critical of everything Indian...

Chevrolet Cruze and Captiva

Checked out the latest from the Chevrolet stable today - the Cruze and the Captiva.

At 14L for the top end Diesel version, Cruze is a beautiful car, looks simply great from the outside, has a nice luxury feel inside, although a little cramped, like the Skodas, with a low roof and pretty narrow windows, especially at the back. The coupe look is fine when you have a two seater, not when you wanna fit in a family! With 18 kmpl on diesel, also looks like a great option for your wallet, although I fear it will burn a hole with the regular servicing needed (every 5000 km, with oil change every 15000 km).

The Captica looks great too, very muscular and strong, and not like a mini-bus with a snout, a la Ford Endeavour. At 21L, definitely on the higher side, and with just 12 kmpl on diesel, much less attractive. Also, the manual gears version comes only with forward wheel drive, while the "adaptive drive" version (interestingly, it doesn't say four wheel drive explicitly, wonder why?) comes only with automatic gear shift.

Didn't get to take a test drive, the salesman said he'd schedule an appointment with me with "better test cars" than the ones currently available with him. The regular Cruze test car had apparently had an accident, too, and was off duty for the day.

Anyone with any specific recommendations?

India Wins a Ton!

If I was in the Indian team, I would have had only one complaint: I didn't get to bat in the second innings! India beat Sri Lanka comprehensively in the second test at Kanpur with an innings and 140 odd runs to spare, fuelled by top notch centuries from Sehwag, Gambhir (they racked up 240 odd runs in the first 40 overs) and Dravid, and an awesome comeback from pacer Shreesanth.

This was also India's 100th test win.

Movie Review: Ninja Assassin

Ninjas movies are supposed to be about martial arts, a la Bruce Lee and Jet Li. What you expect are some graceful moves and clean, fast action. What Ninja Assassin serves instead is 2 hours of diluted ketchup splashing all over (they even make absolutely sure you make the connection right at the beginning of the movie), commandos in Kevlars and super sophisticated arms being cut into pieces by tiny "starry" knives, wavy camera work enough to give a paralysed man a serious fit, and some long periods of torturous scenes of torture.

Not worth it, unless you like ketchup on your sandwich.

Movie Review: Kurbaan

After New York, here's another movie that looks at Islamic terrorism through the prism of American excesses in Afghanistan. However, while NY succeeded to some extent in making the audience connect with John and his terrorist group, Kurbaan simply makes you angry given the complete mismatch between the "injustice" and the terror unleashed in response.

Kareena and Saif meet and fall in love while teaching at a college in Delhi, and when Kareena is called back by her parent university in the US, Saif gallantly offers to sacrifice his own career and join her there. They rent an apartment in a desi neighbourhood, and quickly befriend their orthodox muslim neighbours.

Then one day, Kareena is visited by one of the neighbour's bahus, who begs for help, saying she is going to be killed for knowing their secrets. And when Kareena discovers the body of the bahu in their basement, one thing leads to another, and with a shock she realises she's just been used as a pawn in a terrible web of death and destruction.

The movie scores high on screenplay and cinematography, with some of the best and most realistic and believable action scenes in a Bollywood movie. The songs have a distinct appeal in them, and will grow on you over time. And while Saif and Kareena, as well as Vivek (in the role of an investigative journalist who loses his girl friend, the cute Diya Mirza in an airline bomb blast) have their moments, especially in the second half of the movie, the chemistry and passion in Saif-Kareena's relationship fails to excite, and really, gets on your nerves in the first half. The movie could have definitely done without the attempt to attract audiences with Kareena's backless moves and the lip-locks.

Overall a good watch, albeit a serious one. No repeats, though!

Windows 7 Rocks

Just got Win 7 on my laptop, and it totally rocks. It's fast, looks great, and has some amazing productivity enhancing and power saving options. Nothing wrong I can see so far, Microsoft seems to have finally buried the ghost of Vista.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cat and Fish

Trust me on this, my cat actually tried to catch the fish on my blog!

No, seriously, I ain't kidding!

Pune Traffic

When it comes to driving on the city roads, here's something you can do to make life easier, for yourself and your fellow citizens...

1) Stick to the left half of the road when approaching an intersection to turn right
2) Stay out of the opposite lane when faced with a long queue of cars
3) Hold back and let others go ahead when faced with cross traffic at a busy junction
4) Stop honking, especially at traffic signals

Trust me, a few seconds of patience will make hours of difference!

Force One

Just two days before the first anniversary of 26/11, Mumbai got it’s brand new anti-terror outfit, Force One. Of over 3,000 applications received from the State’s policemen, 500 were selected after a rigorous process, and after six months training, 216 commandos made the grade.

Trained on the lines of the National Security Guard (NSG), they need only three seconds to draw out a revolver, cock it and fire six bullets. Force One takes 15 minutes to get ready and respond to a terror strike. It has an array of AK-47s, MP5 and Glock pistols, apart from shotguns, underbarrel grenade launchers, breeching equipment and explosives at its disposal.

As far as the Mumbai police are concerned, there are 39 assault teams, one in each division equipped with AK-47s, which will be the first to respond to a terror attack. The QRTs will be the second line of response with their sophisticated arms. Mumbai alone has about 1,500 trained personnel. Force One will come in next. While the NSG has a regional hub in Mumbai, Force One is expected to be part of the initial response to a terror strike. Coastal security has also been upped with 12 police stations along the shore and the introduction of “Sealegs,” an amphibian vehicle.

From bulletproof jeeps and boats to state-of-the-art weapons, QRTs, an NSG hub, a refurbished bomb squad, 39 combat vehicles with 586 men, and amphibians, apart from 500 new beat marshals, an alert citizen hotline, a coastal security unit — the list is endless.

“The new Standard Operating Procedure has been tested a few times and the 43,000 officers and men of Mumbai are ready for anything,” the Mumbai Police Commissioner points out. “Our response from now will be well rehearsed and better calibrated.”

(Adapted from an article in The Hindu)

Quote For The Day

"I play for India, now more than ever"

Sachin Tendulkar, in Dec 2008, after winning the Chennai Test against England, in the shadow of 26/11.

Movie Review: Twilight

After wasting a couple of hours watching various animated versions of Jim Carrey, the team decided we couldn't just let the day slip away, and decided to catch the late night show of Twilight.

And the decision was so worth it!

Twilight, the movie adaptation of the famous novel and TV series by the same name, is a love story between a beautiful teenage girl (Kristen Stewart) and a vampire, a lover who also fights hard against his desire to drink her blood.

But there's nothing gross, nothing scary about their relationship. The emotions, the heart break, the dilemmas, are beautifully brought out as the movie progresses... The passion and the yearning is wonderfully captured through small but very significant moments. A very strong and effective script lends a lot of depth to the story and the drama.

Some of the visuals are absolutely stunning... the near miss with death and the scene in which he picks her and runs up the mountain slope come in absolutely at the top. The kitchen scene when she visits the vampire's family is superbly done. Overall, the cinematography is top notch, the "atmosphere" and locales just perfect to set the mood.

Kristen is pure eye candy, beautiful, innocent and sexy, and totally dominates the screen... The charaterization of the other key characters is also spot on, the make up of the vampires repulsive, yet unnervingly attractive, at the same time.

Overall, a superb movie, worth a couple of repeats! Don't miss it!

Movie Review: Christmas Carol

There's only so much you can appreciate good animation. After 5 mins, you start looking for something else. Unfortunately, when the movie is based on a Charles Dickens classic, let's get real... it won't be fun! It will be about misery, and poverty, and wretchedness, and yes, it might end happily, but waiting an hour and half for that final smile, is not my idea of a good time spent in the theatre!

Nothing in it for the adults, and too serious and preachy for the kids, Christmas Carol is definitely avoidable.

Even though it has Jim Carrey in 7 "animated" roles...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Remembering 26/11

Take a moment to remember the sacrifices of the 26/11 heroes, as well as those countless brave men and women who give up their lives so that we can live in safety. Use this opportunity to reaffirm your faith in our democratic institutions, and the very special motherland we call India.

Yes we have our problems, but it's up to you and I to stand up and make a difference.

Movie Review: My Cousin Vinny

A very old movie, "My Cousin Vinny" is one of the simplest and yet most exciting courtroom dramas. When two city boys get arrested for murder in a small town in rural America, one of the boys calls his cousin Vinny Gambini, a "non-starter" trial lawyer who's yet to win his first case, to represent him. With a range of witnesses and experts lined up against them, the case looks hopeless. Until Vinny, in his own unique style, starts tearing up the witnesses, one by one. The drama reaches a crescendo with the deposition of his fiancee, Lisa, an "expert" in "general automobile knowledge".

Joe Pesci is fantastic as Vinny. Marisa Tomie is just so cute, especially during her deposition, you will want to watch her over and over again.

A wonderful movie, it's playing on Star Movies these days, do catch it if you can!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Why does Manmohan Singh go for walks only in the evening?

Because he is PM :)

Movie Review: Definitely, Maybe

Another of those beautiful soft romantic movies that will leave a wierd feeling in your heart, "Definitely, Maybe" features a dad narrating a story (the story of his life and loves) to his 11 year old daughter. As the story progresses, his daughter begins to understand who really matters to her dad...

A beautiful scene in the movie is when she is going away with her mom, now separated from her dad, and asks, "but where's the happy ending to this story dad?", and he replies, "it's you".

Very nice movie, comes often on Star/HBO, do catch it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

Yet another movie I missed in the theatres, but thankfully, caught up with on DVD last night.

Burn After Reading is a comedy, and a shocking tragedy, with an amazing script and some brilliant characterization. A decommissioned CIA agent is writing his memoirs, which his wife, under advice from her divorce attorney, copies along with other financial records from his computer. When the attorney's secretary loses the disk in the gym, it is picked up by two employees, who believe they have stumbled upon classified information that the Russians will die for, kicking off a sequence of events that quickly snowballs into an out of control crisis. In a world where everyone seems to be sleeping with someone else's spouse, things quickly get really complicated, finally leading to one killing, then another, then another...

The movie starts off slowly, but then really picks up towards the end leaving you stunned, and hungry for more... stay with the dialogues and the script, and you will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Oh, and yes, George Clooney fans, prepare for a bit of a disappointment, you hardly get to see his beautiful eyes and his naughty smile...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movie Review: 2012

The Mayans apparently skipped 2012 in their calendar - because that's when the planets will align with the sun in such a way that their combined gravitational pull will melt the core of the earth, as a result, letting the crust loose, which will result in terrible earthquakes, giant tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and a near-complete annihilation of the human race.

They were apparently right.

It's 2012, and the unthinkable has happened. Will the human race survive?

The movie has some of the most amazing special effects ever seen in a disaster movie, the visuals of the giant cracks gobbling up cities will leave you stunned with the detailing and the realism.

Interestingly, the person who first figures out what is happening is a young, smart astro-physicist from India, and gets his moment of glory and praise by the Americans too! And the place where the construction of the "Arks" happen is obviously, China! :)

However, the movie loses its sheen in the second half, stretching the story far beyond the tolerable, bringing in the typical American-with-a-sudden-attack-of-ethics-and-care-for-the-human-race, the countdown to disaster, and the last second save by the hero, the clapping and cheering, and there you go - the Americans have saved the world, one more time.

At almost 3 hours, the movie could have easily been a good target for the editor's scissors.

Go watch it for the first half... once the story moves to China, you can choose to leave and get some other work done, you wouldn't have missed much!

Movie Review: The Ugly Truth

Saw this movie quite some time back, but somehow, didn't really get down to writing a review. You'll not find it in the theatres now, of course, but you'll definitely get a DVD at the rental! And it's worth it...

An adult comedy, the movie is about a talk show host (a cute looking Gerard Butler) and his beliefs that sex is all that brings together a man and a woman, and his colleague and friend (a not only cute but also pretty sexy looking Katherine Hiegl) who believes in true love and romance, which she thinks she has found in her new neighbour.

The story line is predictable, and really, immaterial, but the movie is fun, great entertainment, unless your parents and/or your kids are watching with you! :)

Spoilt Brats...?

IT has undoubtedly led a revolution in India's middle-class, enabling millions to aspire far beyond what their parents could imagine, and in turn, enabling electronic & consumer goods, construction, automobile and entertainment industries to bloom. Truly, IT has pushed India from just another third world country to the top league in the comity of nations.

However, is this a social bubble waiting to burst?

As the years have gone by, IT professionals have begun to believe that we were born special. Not that we got high salaries because of the demand supply gap, but because we were born special. We forgot we worked in air-conditioned offices, had free coffee and lunches, and got fat pay checks and bigger bonuses, while our smarter, more hard working peers in other "non-glamorous" industries slogged out for much less.

We forgot that we have a lot to learn in life. We forgot that 4 years in the industry, covered and cushioned by our managers and seniors, isn't all that life has to throw at us. We forgot that our sweet sounding American customers, who lavish praise on us today, are just being nice to us, and one mistake from our side is going to get us an equally harsh counter-reaction!

It's not uncommon for me, as a manager, to have my team members drop by asking for a change in project because "I have already spent six months on this project, and I do not see any more challenges"!! Really??!!

We want to get rich, and get rich fast! Come on, by the time I am 25, I want a BMW parked outside my bungalow by the river! No, not an apartment in a "society", I am an IT professional remember? And I have achieved so much in my professional life, a full 5 years!

What happens tomorrow if I get fired from because some other more hard working, dedicated and sincere fellow takes my job? What happens if the IT industry collapses from the heights it's enjoying today because the Chinese, or the Brazilians or the Vietnamese break the code and learn what it takes to do IT?

Who will pay my loans? Who will teach me what life is all about?

For our parents, the first 20 years of a career probably meant a lot of hardships and pain, fighting to survive, fighting to live a good life, and planning for their kids' education, a home, a car, and a good retirement where they wouldn't be dependent on their kids.

For the IT pros today, the first 5 years is about buying a coupe and a condo. Learning? What's that? I was born special!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Movie Review: Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani

Raj Kumar Santoshi made a brilliant movie called Andaz Apna Apna. While it was mostly slapstick comedy, Aamir and Salman were just so adorable and the movie was so hilarious, just the name brings a smile to my face even today, almost a decade and half later.

APKGK doesn't quite recreate the magic of AAA. It doesn't even get close. However, as a weekend option, with some good songs, the very lovable Ranbir Kapoor, and the as-always sweet and sexy Katrina, a cameo by Salman, and some good moments (the party, for one, the fight at the end, for another), the movie is not too bad.

A one time see, definitely not unavoidable, but no harm trying it.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Movie Review: The Informant!

Mark Whitacre (another brilliant role by Matt Damn) works at ADB, a food chemicals company. And he has a problem - virus attacks are bringing down his production, and his boss wants an immediate end to the 7M USD/month loss they are facing. It was then that he reports a call from an informant - someone is sabotaging the production lines, and the informant wants 10M USD to reveal the name and help the company get back on track.

But when the FBI is brought in by the management, the calls from the mole stop. Instead, Mark tells the FBI there's a much bigger problem at ADB - an international price fixing scam.

Mark becomes a mole for the FBI, collecting key evidence to expose the scam and stop the exploitation of food consumers all over the world.

But is this really the trust? As the FBI and the lawyers unravell the scam, they come across some interesting details... is Mark telling the whole truth?

The movie is brilliantly scripted, and will keep your attention rivetted till the end. One of those movies you absolutely want to see with no distractions... and yes, enjoy the dialogues!

Factory Format :)

My Nokia E75 suddenly stopped messaging the other day. While resetting to factory settings worked, the problem occured again a few days later. Again, I reset to the factory settings, but this time, the messages refused to go.

Finally, I found this solution on the net: a factory format.

Remove your memory card.
Backup all your stuff.

1) Switch off the phone for 10 seconds
2) Push at the same time the following keys: Green answer button, * (star) and 3.
3) Turn on the phone while keep pressing the 3 keys in step 2. (I didn't have anyone to press the power button while my other 3 fingers were pressed so I put the phone down on a table)

The handset will show you the Nokia screen (keep the buttons pressed) and then will prompt you to select the current country for the phone, the date and the time. It's been reset.

Once done, turn you're phone off. Put your memory card back in and turn the phone on. You can then go through the tedious steps customising your phone the way it was.

Now, I have spent a lot of time doing this today, and the messaging works (!), but I just hope this is the end of the saga. Keep tuned.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Australia 3 India 2

Was a smashing game last night, chasing 351, India came oh so close but lost by 3 runs, for the second time in the in series :(

Tendlya smashed one of his career best innings of 175, but departed when India was within striking distance, attempting a Misbah shot...

2 more to go, India will find it tough to pick up their morale from here...

Hyderabad Blues

Am in Hyderabad right now, here for a client visit. A 30 min meeting at 215, which made me wake up at 400 am to catch a 550 am flight, and my return flight is only at 10 pm, which will hopefully get me home by 1230.


So, my first impressions of this city... (I was last here maybe 20 years back!)

Amazing airport at Shamshabad, a shining example of why greenfield development is so good. Spacious, clean, airy, green foyers. Luxurious AC coaches and AC radio taxis. 6-8 lane highway connecting to the city. Lots of construction, roads, bridges and buildings... gives you a feel of Dubai.

And the rocks. The city landscape is strewn with large rocks, precariously placed on top of each other by nature. Beautiful, different, interesting!

This is definitely a city of growth.