Wednesday, November 25, 2009

kindle update

Amazon updated Kindle firmware for PDF support the other day (and other improvements, like enhanced battery life). It should have been installed by now on your kindle if you had the wireless switched on. You can manually install the update from here (

With this you can read PDF natively on kindle, however I found few caveats:
- You can't change the text size in a PDF document as you can do with default kindle format.
- You can change the orientation though, which is good.
- The PDF loading is slower than the native kindle format.
- The text brightness is not as good as with documents in native kindle format.

Still exploring... but the PDF support is actually very beneficial. Hope Amazon can improve it with future updates.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Missing link in ChromeOS?

Well, as the whole world tries to figure out who exactly will be using the Google ChromeOS (as is probably the case with Google Wave), this some how reminds me of Sun Microsystems days when they were releasing Jini and Jxta (which are surprisingly still highly active). There is one thing common between these two events, thinking ahead in time. While ideas of Sun were too ahead of time, Google might have got it just at right time, well may be…

There is one big missing link with Google ChromeOS; a dirt cheap (or even free) internet connection that is fast. If you do a comparison with traditional Operating Systems, this what is basically your RAM and Hard disk (they are extremely cheap to upgrade, as compared to the central processing unit) are supposed to substitute for. Google is trying to make a shift here, move the storage out, so that you need not worry about local failures (at this point I am completely neglecting all the privacy concerns). RAM still plays a crucial role, but then the OS is lean and mean, and the apps that run on that would also probably be of similar type (and possibly constrained too).

In fact, idea wise ChromeOS is bringing in nothing new. If you open up a bit this is exactly what was there in Windows 98 – IE integrated tightly into the OS, to the extent that there is not much differentiation between an OS and a browser. However, it is important to note that the design principles are totally different … and Google “assures” them to be safe.

Coming back to the “missing link”. I think this kind of model can only succeed if there is always connected device. This would probably mean this won’t be mobile. Mobile networks as of now are in no way great to provide good QoS while on move. Another issue is that the network should be absurdly fast, and cheap at the same time. Building this infrastructure from ground up for a company is simply going to take ages. However, if the experiments with providing internet access via powerlines would succeed, this would be the place where ChromeOS can win a majority market share… only time will tell where this is headed.

For me, I want complete control over all my digital content, and don’t really see myself using such a dumb device (probably ever dumb than my mobile phone!). Though, if ChromeOS catches on, I could imagine a world filled with computer (ill)literates who cannot do any thing without Google.

7 :-)



Well I finally got Win 7 upgrade disks for Dell XPS, and needless to say I immediately upgraded from Vista. And well I need not write another praise for it, as it is already good and tonnes of others have said so ;-)

But thought a few points from my perspective:

- The upgrade took about 3 hours to complete. Required me to uninstall Virtual Box and reinstall it. I also had to reinstall DisplayLink driver. But well everything went of smoothly.

- I dual-boot my Win 7 (32 bit) with Ubuntu 9.10 (64-bit), so that required me to reinstall the grub, which also worked out quite well.

- I am using Zune player as my music player, and it is simply fantastic (must test this machine now with Bose speakers). The best thing I like about it is that I can control this easily using the touch keys on XPS without actually opening the Zune player window, pretty much like a music player.


So that is with Windows 7 on my work machine, 7 :-)


On my Mac (iBookG4) I installed Fedora 12, which was not a smooth install, but then at the end I am able to get a quite workable machine. I might post a different item on this experience depending on the time I get ;-)


In the end, I am now seriously looking for a tablet with multi touch (Asus T91 MT is close, but I need better graphics, an Nvidia ION or Intel PineTrail) .. and yes it should be SSD and fan less design, reasonable batter life and of course Windows 7, Home Premium as OS :-)


Btw, I did hear (and read, and glanced through some of the code) about “that OS announcement” today. As of me, I only see myself using that on a internet access device, with absurdly huge battery life. In no way replacing my current usage patterns.

Friday, November 13, 2009

One day journey to Sydney for eResearch’09

On 10th I went to Sydney to attend and give a talk at AustralAsia eResearch’09. It was a terrific experience. Probably the first conference I really enjoyed being at. This is just the non-technical side of the experience I am posting here. I will later on post some of the technical sides particularly on the feedback I got for MeTA Studio in coming days.

Ok, so first of all this was unique travelling experience for me where I took road(cab and walk), air, rail and water(ferry) transportations [only missing in the equation was a “bail-gadi” or a tractor, but the well this is Oz :-)]. Taking all these modes of transport and still reaching well in time for the conference to start was quite an experience. The best part of course was the ferry ride.

The road and the air transport were rather standard, nothing exciting to describe about. But I was eager to experience a train travel in Oz. If any thing I came out not being really thrilled about it (may be next time I should try monorail). I do still feel though that train travel in India is a lot better experience. Next, I have travelled in ferry a lot before (in Kerala), but never so big (well this was actually a ship), and never in sea. This experience turned out to be the best of all them. The ferry ride was from Circular Quay to Manly (where the conference was being held). And on the way you see pretty much of every thing Sydney has to show on its shores. The best is the Opera House.

The beach on Manly is also pretty good, and the best part was that the conference was organized in a hotel just facing the beach :-)

The journey back was made by sitting on the ferry deck rather than inside, another wonderful experience. In short, any one coming to experience Oz, a ferry ride in Sydney is highly recommended.

IM000961 IM000964  IM000967 IM000969 IM000972 IM000985IM000982 IM000989


And well finally some pleasing experience :-)



Thursday, November 12, 2009

[Review] uCertify, certification preparation tool

Frankly, I never actually evaluate a software (until it is an consumer OS or a Linux distribution, or ultra cool stuff like Cooliris). A few weeks ago some one from uCertify contacted me to look into the usability of their certification preparation tool. I always wanted to give one certification (scjp), mostly for fun, but I had my other priorities. Though in the mean time did help some of my pals who were actually serious about giving these exams. So when this offer came, I was quite curious to know if these tools are really helpful. I do remember that I had used a similar tool for GRE preparations long ago, and to some extent these were helpful, but then the software interfaces and tracking tools were not so great.

The tool comes with a set of 10 practice tests (which quite fairly represent scjp in this case), interactive quiz etc. The idea is to start of via giving a diagnostic test that gives fair idea of your current level of capability in giving the test. There is also option to create a custom test, in case you are interested in improving only particular aspects of the test objective.

The best part the "Enhance your understanding" section which gives everything you need for preparing any kind of test including objectives, flash cards etc... but are tailored for a particular certification, in this case scjp. The "Track your progress" option is also very helpful and gives succinct information on past tests as well as test objective wise performance in all the tests taken.

There are few points to note though:
- The certification platform is really useful. However, one must note that the amount of questions available are only limited. A person practicing with the same test questions should understand at the back of his/her mind that just mastering the questions presented here will not be ultimately helpful in obtaining the certification. You really need to know your basics! This tool just enhances your grasp.

- The interface and the test suite is well done, however there is one thing that I think should be fixed: For a simple application like this, why would the installer need a UAC prompt (talking in the context to Vista and 7), this should be fixed.

- I wonder why this thing should not be made available on other platforms, people taking RH Linux certification exams would not be using Windows right?

For you to test out or get a full copy visit:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

MeTA Studio bug fix, full binary release

A bug fix release of MeTA Studio (2.0.10112009) is available as a full binary release is available from the usual place

Apart from fixing numerous issues reported, it also updates the API documentation.

There are no considerable new features in this release.


Friday, November 06, 2009

In Memoriam: DeLano

The creator of one of the most popular molecule visualizers, PyMOL passed away recently. See here for some accounts