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Wrapping up 2007 and welcoming 2008

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As we bid adieu to 2007 and look forward to a what should hopefully be a wonderful 2008, I thought I would break my silence and post an update. So, here is a not so quick wrap up of 2007.

The first three quarters

The biggest event of the first quarter was Harish marrying Vidya on 9th Feb. We (me and Preethi) had a nice time attending his wedding at Bangalore, and it also was an occasion for the Rice Bowl Avenue kids to catch up with each other. We last met during my wedding, but Apple couldn’t make it then, though Raghu was around. This time Apple was around, though Raghu couldn’t make it since he was chilling it out at the Swiss Alpine valley.

The second quarter was full of work, work and more work. I set some awful records as a workaholic during this period. I managed to work for 10 weeks straight without taking even a single day off — most of the time working for 12+ hours per day. This was for creating an Offline version of my product that would talk to Interbase instead of SQL Server. The best part of the design was that we managed to do this with minimal code change to the “data access layer” (that sits inside the UI layer) to talk to Interbase instead of SQL Server, though the existing data access components won’t/can’t talk to Interbase. Once again, the years spend honing up the OOAD skills payed off.

March-April was also the time of the Cricket World Cup, and luckily Indians put up such a pathetic show that I was free to concentrate on work rather than worrying about whether Indians would march into the Semis or the Finals.

The work was tight during the third quarter too, though mercifully not as tight as the second quarter. In May (or early June) Gazoo paid us a visit at home (on the day Shruthi, Subru’s niece turned 1). July saw Ram(kumar) becoming father and we all were happy for Uji and Ram.

August saw us taking a break from work and packing and traveling to Bombay to spend the Independence Day week. We managed to visit Reghu at Pune too during this time. August also saw Ramesh relocating to Chennai, and as a result, we had had some great moments during the rest of the year. None was more joyful than hosting Apple and watching Yuvi hitting six sixes in an over with both of them. This period also saw Indians becoming T20 champions, and that was some consolation, really, after the World Cup debacle.

The Last Quarter

The last quarter was made memorable thanks to another big event — Mahesh getting engaged to Vidya at Trivandrum on 6th Dec. This meant that we now have two Vidyas around and need to devise a way to distinguish the two when both are around :).

Harish and Vidya paid us a visit during Oct end and we had a great time at my place, though it was raining incessantly that day. Another good news during this period was Sarath becoming a father, when Manju gave birth to their daughter Veda on Dec 13th.

We traveled a bit during this period — there were multiple trips to Kerala — a pilgrimage trip to Palghat, Guruvayoor and Kadampuzha during October, and then the trip to attend Mahesh’s engagement three weeks ago. This was my first trip to Trivandrum since attending Harish’s engagement last year, and this marked the longest break between two trips to Trivandum in my life. We had a great time at Trivandrum. We stayed at Reghu’s place (as usual) and managed to pull off quite a few things that we normally couldn’t do earlier.

We managed to pay Papps a proper visit, catch up with all the relatives, roam around a bit with Sir and Mami going to places like Valiyathura Kadalpaalam (a pier; the first time I am going there), watching the sunset at Shankumugam beach and spending the late evening at the Musuem lawns. We had dinner out that night at the Aryaas, and then I manged to take Preethi out at 2100 hrs to The Archies (the best ice-cream parlor bar none in the world known to me and many others). Needless to say, we enjoyed every moment of our stay there ;).

We were privileged to see the return trip from Trivandrum getting screwed thanks to the strike by the Train Drivers in Kerala (haven’t heard about Train Drivers striking before, thought it might have happened before), and that was quite an experience. Luckily we got seats in a dubba Air bus and so managed to reach Chennai on Monday morning and avoid taking any extra leaves.

This time there was no Jiju (who is in US doing his course to become a pilot) in Trivandrum, and that made it a bit different from the normal trips. We managed to meet Sunil for a few minutes as he was in the City for some work.

Through out the year my good old Nokia 3200’s battery was giving lots of trouble (the original piece from circa 2003) and when we went enquiring for a new battery, we came to know that Nokia has stopped producing the battery model that was in 3200. The new ones don’t quite fit, and so the only option was to go in for a duplicate. So, I decided to exchange it for a new one, and finally exchanged it for a brand new Sony Ericsson k550i Cybershot. It comes with cool set of features at a good price — a good 2MP outdoor camera and an awesome audio player — for 8k.

Subru was in Chennai for about 10 days during the last two weeks, and we had a nice time roaming around in R.A.Puram and generally catching up with the events in each other’s lives. We also took some nice snaps during this period.

Yesterday we visited Ramesh’s place in Thiruvanmiyur and went to the Thiruvanmiyur beach too, and there are some snaps of his house in there, and Preethi just loved the oonjal. It is a pretty decent house situated amidst lots of greenery, and that is good thing to have in a hot place like Chennai.

Thanks for reading thus far, and have a fantastic 2008 ahead, and please start using Mozilla Firefox and Google Reader, if you haven’t yet. It will change the way you think of and approach the web for sure.

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Written by Proto

December 31, 2007 at 18:00 hrs

Are you NOT using RSS yet?

with 7 comments

"Let the information come to you instead of [you] actively searching for it." — From the introduction to RSS by LoadAverageZero.

I have been thinking of posting about the greatness of RSS [acronym for Really Simple Syndication] and how it has completely changed the way I browse for about 4 months now (believe me!). I just couldn't motivate myself to write about this thing which might or might not be useful to everyone.

But today I got the bit of inspiration I was looking for. One of my friends who is extremely busy these days, send in this by mail today:

"…are u updating the blog? Tell me if i would get a mail after u update…"

This triggered off a train of actions that ultimately resulted in this post.

OK, having got the why this post part out of the way, let me get down to explaining what this fuss is all about. RSS is a three letter acronym that stands for Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary. Whatever, it is, all we should be worrying about is how to harness the power of RSS.

But, at least some of you might be interested in knowing a bit more about RSS. So please this post by Dan Read of DeveloperDotStar first, where he touches upon the beauty of RSS and how useful it is, and after that links you to this simple intro to RSS posted at LoadAverageZero. However, there is a much simpler and more layman-ish intro available at the BBC Feedfactory site.

So go, first read Dan's post followed by either of those two intros. Till then I will wait, I promise.

Ok, now that you know how simple RSS is — it is just an XML file — you need to know how to harness its power.

There are special (and simple) software available that can make sense of all this XML stuff being spewed out by the various sources, including BBC and DeveloperDotStar. For this, we use something called as a News-Aggregator or a News-Reader, of which there are two kinds — desktop and web-based.

The basic tasks of a feed reader will be to:

  • Keep track of the news and blogs you are interested in
  • Highlight the entries you are yet to read
  • Have a way to link to the original post for each entry

The desktop reader is a simple application that you can download and install in your PC, that will keep track of all the emerging news and blog posts. There are also special plug-ins available that can be added onto either Outlook or Firefox (Sage) to do the same thing. This avoids the use of an external application (other than your browser and/or mail client). Another cute way of achieving the same is to use the mail client Mozilla Thunderbird that has a built-in news aggregator.

The disadvantage of this approach would be that if you are using more than one PC to browse the web (say one at work and one back home as I am doing), then these two versions will not be in sync. So you won't be able to easily find out what all feeds you have already read.

This is where the web-based version comes to our rescue. Here you login to a site — just like logging into your mail account — that keeps track of your feeds for you. The best among the desktop version would be Bloglines, Rojo and Google Reader. I am using Google Reader for about 5 months now though it is still in Beta.

There is a another class of web based aggregators emerging now, that offers much more than just aggregating your feeds. These are popularly known as a web-desktop. The best among the lot would be Netvibes, closely followed by Google Personalised Home, PageFlakes, My Yahoo, MSN Live and countless others.

But of this lot, I prefer Netvibes, which I am using for about 4 months now. I use it to track the feeds, but prefer doing the actual reading in Google Reader.

Now, here comes the best part. To help you experience what I am talking about I have created one account each in Bloglines, Google Reader and Netvibes.

You can access all the three using the same eyedee, pasvord combination of "protos?_DOT_?buddy?_AT_?GeeMail?_DOT_?Com" and "welcomebuddy" respectively. Hope you got the eyedee thing right. Just ignore the question marks and underscores. Replace DOT and AT with the real thing. OK? Please do visit each of the three and see for yourself the power of RSS and web based aggregators, not to mention the extreme usability of a complete web desktop solution like NetVibes.

A few tips: When you visit Bloglines do click on the "My Feeds" link at the top left section. In Netvibes, admire the fact that you can track anything from weather to your mail to news to stock prices just by staring at that page.

So, in a nutshell, RSS is all about letting the info come to you rather than actively searching for it, as mentioned in that LoadAverageZero intro.

I really would appreciate if you can comment about the usability of this article. That will help me in improving my posts in future. Thanks for reading thus far.

Postscript: Yes, I am going to mail my friend that I have posted an entry. But I just hope this will be the last time I will be doing so :). 

Written by Proto

March 30, 2006 at 02:35 hrs

Posted in computers, internet, rss, web