Putting Vista behind...

I guess it is safe to declare that even after two years after its initial release, Windows Vista is still the worst thing to happen to software in recorded history!

I mean seriously, what were they thinking when they rolled out an Operating System that was slower than the previous one; refused to work with almost all existing devices at the time and hogged entire system resources?

I’m not getting into all the details here; I already wrote another post a long time ago on Why I hate Vista and incredibly, most of it still holds true even today more than a year after I originally wrote it.
And I’m not the only one saying it – ask any guy with a (new) computer and he will agree that Vista should be sent to Computer Hell and put behind us as a bad dream as soon as possible.

In fact, I guess even Microsoft knows this, and this kind of explains why the beta for Windows 7 (which by the way, was already released a couple of months ago) was out in just under 2 years from their this-is-gonna-be-so-great Vista launch, which came nearly 7 years after Windows XP.

All said and done, now why am I still getting so worked up about this?

Because it puts anyone looking to buy a new computer or notebook in a tight spot. Desktop computers are one thing, but laptops normally come with an operating system pre-installed on it by default, and in most cases you need to buy the whole package (as opposed to getting a blank system or one with a free Linux distribution).

And here’s the messed up part – laptops don’t come with Windows XP anymore so like it or not, you are forced to throw away good money on Vista, just because the computer manufacturers had a deal with Microsoft.
How bad is that?

What makes this problem even bigger is the fact that most happy-go-lucky home users don’t really care much; and hence most manufacturers don’t bother to give you too many options selecting your own OS; getting one with Linux or without anything at all! There are far too few notebooks that allow you this freedom.

In fact, I know at least 4 people who bought computers with the ‘mandatory’ Vista pre-installed on it - despite them hating it - just because it was the only easy way out. I just can’t see myself doing that.

And because the only other viable option is the gorgeous-looking and terribly expensive Apple Macbook , I guess the only thing left for me to do is hang on to the ancient monster I have and wait for Windows 7 to hit the streets.

And hope they actually get it right this time!

Simple Life

A lot of people I know may not agree with me on this one; but in a weird way I guess we’re part of history in the making.
I mean, even though I'm not exactly at that age when most people would write a “back-when-I-was-young” post, when I look back at my days as a kid, I guess life was much less complicated than all the stuff what we have now.

A collection of memories of days gone by that were much, much simpler.

Back home in Jeddah, our TV managed to get two channels – one of them from eight in the morning and the other from four in the afternoon; both of which ended their broadcasts at midnight. And because one channel was in Arabic (which I just pretend to understand!) there was only one channel I really watched. But you always had something good to watch – and didn’t have to channel-surf over a hundred channels before you realize there’s nothing good on.

We had a VCR.
And we rented out video cassettes of good movies. Piracy wasn’t such a big deal because apart from the pros, only people with terribly expensive double cassette VCRs could make a copy for themselves – which wasn’t too many people.
Besides, you never had to worry about compatible disk formats, or downloading different codecs or new versions of your video players.

There was one phone in the house.
It was simply called ‘the telephone’. And there were rules for how long you could speak on it and what were appropriate times for calling other people up.
And I could still reach all my friends when I needed to.

The computer was a huge thing with a tower CPU and a 14” CRT screen that preposterously occupied most of the table real estate while cranking out a miserly 300Mhz of computing. Yet it was fast enough to get all your work done; and even play a few games on it.

1.44 MB was all the storage you ever needed to carry around.
In the rare case that your documents didn’t fit on one disk, you could zip them onto two or three disks; but that was usually not a problem because in any case, you never had more than 5MB of data to be made portable.

Music was an audio cassette you bought from real stores.
Maybe borrowed from a friend. Or in any case, could always listen to it on the radio. And you rarely, if ever, really needed to know the album, composer, genre, year and all other “mandatory” the other things that make up IDE tags.

Cars did not have GPS satellite navigators.
But people actually knew how to get where they wanted to go. And still managed to get there in time inspite of having no ‘real-time’ data on the traffic feed and weather conditions.

Written communication was a letter that you manually wrote out with a pen, on paper.
You then put it in an envelope, stuck a stamp on it, put it in the mailbox and waited for the other guy to receive it, read and then reply.
And it actually worked…I used to collect postage stamps at one time.

When the average guy first got it, all the internet was good for was Email, web-chat and search.
You did NOT have twitter, facebook, myspace and the dozens of other channels that feed you internet chatter day after day – to your mobile, desktop, gaming console and virtually every wired thing you own!
But somehow you still knew what your friends were up to.

And when you sum it up all together, it was kind of nice not knowing who was calling when the phone rang, or opening the mailbox and finding a letter from an old friend. I really wonder how things changed so quickly and made things so different...within maybe 10years.

Ah yes; life really was much simpler, and much, much happier back then!

Rich guy, Poor guy

I don’t do this a lot, and I’m guessing its maybe because of the financial crisis thingy, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about money. And the way I see it, you have at least three kinds of rich people in India; though this is probably true all over the world.

1. The illegally rich
As in filthy rich. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. We all know who they are; dirty politicians, the shady guys up in government, the underworld, the over-paid who don’t do their taxes, all the guys who in fact have our money and we don’t do anything about because in a way, we almost expect politicans to be corrupt.

2. The legally rich
These guys are real rich too – except that they get their dough through legal means (which unfortunately includes movie stars, but then that is legal), pay their taxes and sometimes even set up institutes of social welfare. This is a minority; but hey, as long as they have money and know what to do with it, I don’t really mind.

3. The pseudo-rich
This is the part that bothers me. And this is also where most okay-to-do families in our traditional society fit in, because these people don’t have the money for their extravagant quests but they pretend as if they do.
If you’re still wondering, these are the idiots who spend around a million rupees on a wedding; pathetic losers who spend over 4 million on a stupid 2 bedroom apartment on a marshy swampland at an hour’s drive from the city; and throw away unspeakable amounts into medical school admissions.

Now, this maybe fine if you have the money; but I call these guys idiots because they don’t – and do all this just so they “fit in” with society.

I recently met someone whose family had to come up with a 100 sovereign of gold jewelry for a wedding. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term; a sovereign is 8grams, so this works out to nearly a KILO OF GOLD!).
I mean come on, who does she think she is; Paris Hilton?

And why does this happen? Because people believe in the equally brainless justification of it:
“That’s how marriages are arranged, you need that much gold”

I simply believe they are idiots.
After all, when you think about it - you can’t really have a need to spend money you don’t have.

Its time to start rethinking all this.
And the current financial crisis is the perfect place to start.

The coolest thing in another country

This is a meme I picked up from ManiaRavings, my old buddy Jaffer’s blog quite a while ago. Now I don’t usually do memes because most of them kinda seem too clichéd…talking about a single color or animal or whatever; but unlike most other blog memes I’ve seen lately, this is something which asks you to write on (yup, you guessed it!) the coolest thing you’ve seen in another country.

(By the way if you’re wondering, a meme is a kind of a tag thing that goes around the blogosphere – people write on certain topics, and then someone else picks it up and puts their side of the story on it and so on.)

I’m not too sure if this qualifies to fit the description of the ‘coolest’ thing (I don’t believe in coolness); but I’d like to put forth my contribution – this picture – and explain the most awesome thing I’ve seen recently.

The picture above was taken me from an escalator that leads down to “line B” of the city metro in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

The photo in itself may not explain much or look too impressive, but at a steady drop of nearly four floors, this is the most deepest…and not to mention scariest escalator I’ve ever set foot on.

The official depth of the deepest station, Náměstí míru, is 52 meters (that’s over 170 feet for you North Americans!) and for some reason, whoever designed the metro decided that it takes you from ground level to the sub terrarium metro station in one single flight of steps.

This monster escalator runs at nearly twice the speed of a regular one, and still takes over 30seconds to reach the bottom, so you can appreciate how dizzying this is.
Again, I don’t know why but all the escalators in the Prague Metro seem a lot faster than usual.
In fact, they were so fast that just after one weekend, the ones back in Frankfurt almost seemed slow!

And here’s the weird thing:
For some reason, the posters on the sides are tilted to the angle of the descent (instead of being straight up like you’d expect them to be), what this means is that you’d have to tilt your head in order to properly look at them; adding to the already dizzying experience of being hurtled down nearly four floors at twice the regular speed in a claustrophobic tube.

All said and done, it was quite an experience because Prague in itself is a quiet little city with all the charms of an old European town – cobblestone roads, beautiful arch bridges and medieval castles.
It really is worth it to pay a visit if you can.

But in case you do go there…don’t forget to get on the metro!

(p.s. Do feel free to take up the meme and write your experiences. The topic: The coolest/weirdest thing you've ever seen in another country. If you've never been to another country, write on the most fascinating thing you've seen in your country. Looking forward to reading what you have to say on the subject!)

The recession and me

I hate to admit it, but the effects of the world-wide economic disaster are slowly starting to show up in our everyday lives…in places we least expect to find.

To start with, I’ve never bothered much about this whole financial fiasco because,
a) I don’t own any stocks, shares or other ridiculous make-lots-of-money-by-simply-waiting products, and
b) because let’s face it… It’s not like it’s the end of the world or anything; I mean statistically speaking, so far more people have died in car accidents last year than because of this ‘crisis’. Heck, I think global warming is a bigger deal than this, and you don’t hear a lot of noise about that!

Now don’t get me wrong. Almost every person I know, knows at least someone who’s either lost their job or on forced-sabbatical. And just for the record, I work for less pay than I did last year too, so there.

And another part of these drastic measures every business, financial organization, and academic institutes use is the introduction of ‘cost-cutting’ measures. In plain English, it means they try to find places where money is wasted and try to minimize it….such as free-coffee-after-seven schemes, or that free bus ride from your office to the nearest public transport, and even those complimentary vouchers you’re entitled to.

And here, in the picture below, is the lousiest example of cost-cutting I’ve seen so far:

Shown above are billing invoices from a popular online store (I’ve deliberately blurred it and masked the name for obvious reasons; if you can still read it – good for you – but please don’t tell them. The last thing I need right now is legal trouble)

The one on the left is the regular A4 sized invoice everyone knows and what we used to get until a few months ago.
The little scrap on the right, at less than half the regular size (even the width has been trimmed) and written in such tiny fonts that your eyes hurt, is the new invoice I got with my stuff this evening.

Now I’m not too sure if there’s another logical explanation behind this, but given the current scenario I’m willing to bet that some genius at the billing department there decided they’re wasting too much paper on the invoices – so what if customers get tiny, hard-to-read invoices – all that matters is that there’s now 60% less paper they need to send customers. Besides, customers probably just throw them away anyway.

Which gets interesting when you think about it. When Greenpeace shouted their voice hoarse over deforestation and saving paper; I don’t know how many people thought about it. And yet when the cash register starts ringing trouble, every means possible become perfectly acceptable.

Hmm, wonder how much did they save on the rest of my invoice?

"This only is our English!"

Let’s face it…we as Indians, live all over the world, with vast majorities in the United States, UK, the Middle East and Australia, and in smaller minorities in the rest of Europe and Asia.
We belong to multiple religions and share diverse cultures. We indulge in diverse cuisines and speak different languages; but one thing unites us all, and that is, how we speak our beloved English language.

A collection of the most common sentences we hear from our comrades living all over the world…and the sheer confusion it causes.

“Back home, I had a two-wheeler”
(Exactly what kind of wheelie is that?)

“I think it is over costly”
(Firstly, what’s expensive isn’t ‘costly’…and two, what’s over it?)

“Is it veg or non-veg?”
(I’ve never failed to have fun with this typical yes-I-am-from-India dialog)

“It was on that street, na?”
(Na…I don’t think so)

“Who and all went there, I don’t know”
(The “and all” adds a desi touch to any statement don’t you think?)

“So only you told him, but he will not listen, isn’t it?”
(If you understood this, congratulations!)

“No, not vacation; I’m going to my native.”
(Another classic that leaves heads spinning)

“I used to go to office by auto, sometimes share-auto”
(To be honest, I’m not sure if anyone outside India will ever understand this one)

“I’m sure he can able to do this one”
(No comments on this, please)

“Tastes very good; especially with brinjal fry”
(I don’t know why, but most Asian vegetables aren’t known in the western world. And our “brinjal” has at least two other names.)

“Sorry, but she is out of station”
(She's out of where?)

“So, where are you put up?”
(Bad enough that I have to put up with this statement, he means to ask where you live)

“Binesh sir is not here – can you call later?”
(Okay, so he’s respected, but surely this guy Binesh is not knighted?)

"Right now I'm taking food"

(...and where are you taking it?)

"What is your good name?"

(Er...you mean like I also have a bad one?)

"Since extra work came up, my evening plans went for a toss"

(Cricket-inspired jargon. Another reason I hate that game)

…and there’s probably a ton more - I just can't think of any more for the fear my head might explode. And to all you non-Indians reading this and smirking at us…yes, English is our language too.

And we will speak it like this only.