Plane fear

Okay, I'll admit it: flying totally freaks me out.

Now given the fact that I do work for an airline company, hating planes isn't exactly helping my career. But while I'm not nervous about messing around with other peoples' flights, for some reason every time I'm at the airport I get butterflies in my stomach, my pulse starts to race, and I start to get anxious.

Airports are taunting, cold, mean places where no one can be trusted (would you rather watch over that loose bundle while that guy in the shabby jeans goes to the washroom?) and anyone can be a suspect.
The way airport security checks, rechecks and triple-checks everyone’s baggage, its as if anyone could be a possible attacker planning to blow up the next plane. 
And that’s not a comforting thought when you’re waiting in line.

And then there is more:
Since this whole Swine-fluenza started, anyone who so much as sneezes or coughs becomes the target of everyone’s attention and discreet avoidance.
In case you’re wondering – yes, it IS still a big deal, at least at airports. Back in April (when the whole thing started) I was on my way to Munich when I see a guy at the boarding terminal wearing a surgical facemask and holding a passport that boldly declared “Mexico”.
Understandably, there wasn’t a soul within 10meters of him in every direction.

It doesn’t end there. While I’m inside the plane, every time the flight attendant passes the meal tray over my head to the next passenger, I have this morbid fear of the tray slipping off her hand and falling on me.
And with good reason: it has happened to me.

Somehow, economy class food-trays are so designed that they hold stuff in exactly one arrangement: the way it is when you first get it. Any other arrangement and you know the fork’s gonna fall over the salad bowl which then tips over that piece of rehydrated chicken that lands on your lap and all of hell breaks loose as you try to retrieve the fork, causing the little cup of juice to spill over the passenger next to you!

Ah, the joys of air travel…

The Door and Devil May Cry 3

For those of you joining in late, the Devil May Cry series is a best-selling franchise developed by Capcom Ltd., Japan marketed here by Capcom Entertainment Inc, Central Europe.

The series primarily revolve around demons and other dark forces, which Dante – the series protagonist – must overcome. Gameplay is quick with plenty of adrenaline pumping slashing and gore…
…until you get to a scene in the 3rd game (available for PS2 and PC) where Dante's brother enters the Demon's domain through a rather familiar-looking door. Here is what it looks like: 


If you can’t make the connection, here’s a hint:


Above shows a picture of the Door of the Ka’bah, the single most sacred religious location on earth for over a billion people of the Islamic faith.

That this so-called “devil’s door” borrows its design from such an incredibly holy relic causes deep hurt and offence..and is completely unacceptable no matter which side of neutrality you look at it.

Understandably, a lot of people are upset and I personally know people who’ve been shouting their voices (or at any rate, their keyboards) hoarse about “boycotting Capcom” and “banning their products”.
But what I can’t really understand (or accept) is why we as a people – Asians, Muslims and Indians in particular – are so paranoid about banning and boycotting stuff all the time…
…as if its gonna do anyone any good. I mean, assuming boycotts did work, who’s going to tell the statistics guy scratching his head at Capcom that the REAL reason the sales of one particular game dipped by 3% was due to religious indifference?

I’m one guy who doesn’t believe in Online Petitions or boycotts, so I wrote to Capcom at their London headquarters address telling them exactly what I felt about the whole thing.
To be honest I didn’t really expect a reply (who answers back to criticism anyway?) but they did. And here is what they had to say (translated from German):

“Dear Mr. Noor,

Thank you for your message regarding religious artifacts in Devil May Cry 3 We regret that this injury has been caused to religious feelings. The title was developed in a production department of our Japanese parent company, which we will refer to this as soon irreverence.

We will do our best to remedy this artifact representation. Unfortunately, this would be in the form of a patch and would be available only in the PC version because for the PS2 console version it is not possible to produce any program code changes, and also not is not allowed on our part.

With kind regards from Hamburg,

name withheld>
PR Manager
(Capcom Entertainment) Central Europe”

I know we still have no confirmed dates for the rollout of this patch, but at least they acknowledged that the problem exists…and promised to do something about it.
Of course they are saying there’s nothing they could do about the PS2 version but that is understandable – after all the ten-year-old console isn't exactly cutting edge on upgradability.
But still, I guess I'll be okay even if it is just the PC version getting the patch to remove the offending door. 

Personally, for me it means there is still hope in the world and that people are willing to listen, and reaffirms my faith in the power of the Written Word.

And that “boycotts” and “bans” aren’t necessarily the best way to deal with a problem.

7 unique gifts for a geek

Have you ever been in that place where you need to get a gift for a certain someone, and you were fresh out of ideas?
Well I have, and I was so tired of people guessing socially acceptable gifts that I ended up making a wish-list of stuff that I’d appreciate if people got me. (Original post here)

That got me thinking…normal people get normal gifts – and they’re happy about it. But what about that poor geek who gets stuck with a bunch of boutique gift-vouchers and no clue what to do with them?
So for the benefit of all potential gifters and giftees, we present, seven geeky ideas that you can actually buy (online of course!):

1. USB spy-camcorder pen:


Okay, so maybe no one really needs a video camera built into a pen (with 4gigs of storage, I might add), but the idea is neat.

But somehow, this pen seems kinda creepy: Would you rather trust that guy from the next cubicle who leaves a stout pen on top of his computer screen that somehow seems pointed directly at you?

Hmm, not sure if all great ideas should really make it to manufacturing. But this one did, and this is proof.

2. Wi-fi detecting T-shirt:

Wi-Fi Detecting T-Shirt (Blue - Large)

This tee apparently comes with a built-in circuit chip that detects the presence of any wireless network and then lights up the graphics on the front accordingly.

The best thing I like about t-shirts like this (oh yes, there’s plenty more where that came from) is that it says “geek” in a very subtle way:
You probably don’t even notice anything different unless it lights up; but when it does is a head-turner!

Of course, I wouldn’t wanna wear this on a plane trip – the last thing you need is to explain to Airport Security why your tee shirt has a circuit chip inside it :)

3. Binary watch:

Binary White Sumui Moon Watch SM102W2 with LED Binary Format Display Solid Stainless Steel

Actually this was something I found on the net (or on one of those endless forwarded emails) a long time ago, but I never knew they really existed – or that people actually buy them.

To cut a long story short, the upper row indicates hours and the lower row minutes – and to tell the time all you have to do is think in binary…and if you’re wondering how to do that, then this is probably not for you :)

The perfect gift for a computer programmer I’d think.


4. TV turn-off remote keychain:


This is one of those things that’s funnier than it looks, but then that goes by what’s your definition of “funny”.

This handy little keychain has over 400 frequencies of “off” codes pre-programmed to turn off virtually any TV, DVD and electronic device that has an infra-red port in it.
I’m not sure how well it works but the makers say it works on “99% of all TVs”.

Hmm, I wonder what people would do when they catch the guy who keeps turning off the TV right in the crucial stages of a match – at the game-bar.

5. Solar powered messenger-bag:

O-Range Lounge Solar Messenger Bag

If it weren’t for the fact that it looks kinda lame (and costs over a 100 bucks!) I’d like to buy this messenger bag.

Not only does it scream Environmentally Friendly, but I guess this is one of those things that’s actually more useful than it is cool.

I’ve been stuck a few times with a dead phone and no charger (or, for that matter, a power outlet) for hours, and it seems to happen especially when you’re expecting a call.
Time to put sunshine to good use.

6. Water-powered clock

Water Powered Alarm Clock

If you’re looking to show how green you are without lugging a weird-looking bag around – here’s an easier way to do it:
An alarm clock that’s powered by water.

I didn’t really understand how this thing is supposed to work; but apparently it’s based on some electrochemical reactions between the electrodes and the water – and produces just enough electricity for it to tell time, temperature and even wake you up!

Quite impressed by that I must say!

7. Electronic Rubik’s cube:

Rubik's TouchCube

To be quite honest, I was never much of a puzzle freak and to this day I could never solve a rubik’s cube.
But I think part of the problem was that the traditional cube doesn’t really help once you’re stuck…that’s where this idea comes in handy:

A touch-sensitive Rubik’s Cube with colors that light up when you slide your fingers across it, allowing you to actually ‘solve’ it.
Best thing is, when you’re stuck or something, apparently it even offers hints for solving the current combination!

But I wonder if it could actually substitute for the real thing?

p.s. In case you were wondering, yes, these really are things you can actually buy – not that you’d want to buy them – but I just happened to stumble upon them one bored afternoon and realized there’s so many weird things out there…and this list is by no means even an remotely complete.

Lemme know what you think!

Windows 7 reviewed

Okay, here it is – The full review of Windows 7: Home Premium, 64bit edition brought to you by yours truly :)
It has been nearly two weeks since I first installed it, and so far its been good.
p.s. if you don’t like computers or couldn’t care less for new operating systems, please bear with me on this one. Thanks.

First reaction: I love it.
To be honest here, I guess this is starting out almost the same way as the Bush vs. Obama analogy: Windows 7 is amazing, simply because it is not Vista. It does right a lot of things that Vista messed up.
For instance, the power button doesn't directly put your computer to sleep (which was a major annoyance – how many people actually use “Sleep mode”?!); now you can choose which action you want to do...and the default is "Shutdown" which is quite the way it should be.

Actually customizability is the key here:
Almost every aspect of Vista that drove everyone up the wall can be customized to make it more bearable and even useful.
Like taskbar notifications, Windows defender (yes, its still here), UAC, instant one-click wallpaper changes (‘themes’ is a whole new feature in Windows7), Aero Peek options…it goes on!
But to make this more organized, here’s a list of stuff that makes this a winner:

  1. The taskbar is revamped, quite nice and takes a while getting used to, but I appreciate the fact that you can now "pin" programs to it just like you would on a dock. And the best thing is, a right-click gives you contextual options.
    Like for instance right-clicking Chrome shows new window, new incognito window and even some of your recently visited pages, while a right click on say, a media player shows recently played and so on.

  2. I'm happy it DOES NOT come with Windows Mail, Windows Calendar or Windows Gallery. Actually in Vista I was quite confused why they were there because the EXACT same thing is also available on WindowsLive! (as Live Calendar, Live Mail and Live Gallery.
    So now you don't have twice as many preinstalled software...only one set of them and I have to admit that Live Writer is pretty good.

  3. When installing say a program or something, the installation progress actually shows on the taskbar icon when minimized. Nifty!

  4. ‘Libraries’ is a cool new feature that allows you to collate different folders from all over your computer onto a single location to easily look through it.
    Like say you have your downloads from each of your browsers in different locations. You can now add all these locations to your ‘Downloads Library’ so that you can find all your downloads in one place – even as the folder content changes.

  5. Windows Media Player 12 does not automatically steal file extensions from your existing (already default) video players. Instead, it asks you politely if you do want it to take them. And of course, you only have yourself to blame if you click on 'yes'.

  6. Those gadgets are now on their own on the desktop, without that horrible sidebar. Unfortunately the changes here are only skin deep and it still runs as a single process called (what else?) "sidebar.exe".

  7. The drag-to-resize-windows is a simple yet ingenious new feature in Windows7:
    Drag to the top of the screen to maximize, or drag to either side to snap to it taking up exactly half the screen on any side (previously the only way to do this was to select "Show windows side by side" from the taskbar context menu.
    The best part is that when you drag it away, it automatically shrinks back to the original size when you drag it away. And because most people these days use widescreens, it really makes comparing two windows a ton easier.
    A tip of the hat to whoever at Microsoft though of this!

And I’m sure there’s a lot more to come – just as I am sure there’s gonna be bugs as well, but for now things look good.
Oh and btw, in case you are looking to buy, here’s a link: