Monday, November 24, 2008

Three Fun Links

1. Zubin Pastakia has a photography project capturing 'talkies' of yore in Mumbai. Very pretty, very nostalgic.

2. Anand Hingway has Monty Python humor for you. Here and here.

3. Arvind Kothari has this delightful peom about romance and shoes. (Yes, NOT romance and sex but romance and shoes. (Yes, I just throw in that word there to dupe the search engines.)) (In Hindi.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vertical Space Conservation in Firefox

Why Conserve Vertical Space
With the advent of widescreen monitors, vertical space on the desktop is at a premium. That is, we have more space in the horizontal direction than we have in the vertical direction. Thus, the conventional layout of an application GUI is not very suited for these widescreen monitors. To illustrate what I mean, let’s look at the default Firefox screen.

We see that the components of the window are laid out in a vertical stack. We have the menubar on the top, then the toolbar below it, then the bookmarks toolbar, then the webpage viewport and finally the status bar. However, when you’re surfing the web, the portion that you need to pay attention to is the webpage viewport. Especially with Web2.0 applications (like Facebook) the webpage itself will have a lot of controls which will take up a lot of vertical space. And on the other hand, a lot of horizontal space is wasted.

Would it not be nice if we can somehow shift all this controls taking up vertical space to occupy horizontal space? Unfortunately, that is not possible on Windows. (It is possible on KDE on linux but that going to be another post.)

However, in the specific case of Firefox, we can conserve some vertical space to our advantage.

The status bar has two cheif functions. One, it shows you a nifty little progressbar when a page is loading to show, well, the progress of the page load. It is good visual feedback when you’re waiting for the page to load. Second, when you hover over a link in the webpage it shows you the URL of the link so that you know what you’re getting into once you hit the link.

Now, there’s a great firefox extension knows as Fission. What Fission does is make your addressbar double up as a status bar. That is, the addressbar will show a progressbar when the page is loading and also the link URL when you hover. Voila, now you can hide the statusbar.

When using Firefox, how many times do you really use the menubar? Once you’ve made the initial settings, hardly ever. Why not hide it then. Hide Menubar lets you do just that. It hides the menubar. In case you do need it, you can show the menu bar by hitting ALT. Easy, simple.

This one is tricky and you may or may not like it. This is what it will look like.

What I did was – fireup bookmarks organizer and put all your bookmarks into a top level folder, called ‘Go’ here. Then right-click on the toolbar and customize. What many will be surprised to know is that you can now drag your bookmarks onto the toolbar. The bookmarks toolbar will appear empty after this. You can add separators around ‘Go’ to make it more distinctive. Voila, you can hide your bookmarks toolbar too now.

The reason that a lot of users will not like it is because it will now take an additional click to do anything. But again, in this Web2.0 age, you have to fireup a web application only once, don’t you?

(Alternately you can also drag the bookmarks onto the menubar. That way, you can have both the menubar and bookmarks visible and still use some horizontal space.)

That’s All Folks
Yes, we’re done. This is what firefox looks like now, with loads of extra webpage viewing space!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Was watching a video of Laughter Champions just now when I was thoroughly surprised to see a female contestant on that show. And suddenly I realised that out of the many, many performers I've seen on the show (and I must have seen at least a 100), this was the only woman I saw. And come to think of it, there have been absolutely NO women comedians in the Indian film industry. And if I'm not wrong, even in the US, there are no women who make you laugh. Why is comedy and humour such a male hegemony?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Old Man's War and Starship Troopers

I finished reading “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi. It was nominated for the Hugo in 2006. (Okay, I don’t believe that all good novels win an award but most that get nominated are good. At least with the various SFF awards. Personal opinion.) The novel is clearly a rewrite of the Heinlein classic, “Starship Troopers”. I have not read the book but have seen the movie so the comparison would be based on that. As far as I know, the movie is pretty faithful to the novel so it ought to be a valid comparison.

To me “Old Man’s War” appeared to be an opposition to “Starship Troopers” which is a pretty conservative, old school, extreme right wing work. The soldiers in Starship Troopers join the military because they want to be ‘citizens’ (at least our hero does) that is, they feel a responsibility towards the ‘nation’. In Old Man’s War, soldiers join the military for personal benefits and quite literally because they have nothing else to do. In Old Man’s War, the military takes people who have turned age 75 and gives them a new and young body to live in. The downside – you have to fight in a war where 75% of the soldiers die within 10 years of enlistment. But obviously many old people make that choice to get another shot at youth.

In Starship Troopers, it is made clear that the soldiers are fighting for their fellows back home. One of the turning points in the story is when the hero’s home town is nuked out by the bugs. That’s when he turns back on his decision to leave the military. In Old Man’s War, soldiers really have no reason for fight for ‘humanity’. Humanity itself is an ill defined term. As becomes clear at various places, the soldiers are fighting first as part of a bargain, and second for their squadmates who are the only friends they have in this new life.

In Starship Troopers, humans apparently have an upper hand in the war. They know what they’re doing. They have a clear idea of their place in the universe. In Old Man’s War, the humans think they know what they’re doing but as it turns out, they’re merely puppets in the hands of a more technologically advanced race.

Overall, I liked the novel.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Every meal is a celebration of hunger.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Love at First Sight

Do you believe in love at first sight? Neither did I, until I saw you. It was strange. I saw you, I said hi. We shook hands. Then we moved on to meet other people. And then some others and I forgot about you. But then I again caught glimpse of you in the crowd, from a distance. And I could not take my eyes off you. Your smile, your laughter trickling through the chatter. It fascinated me. Then you got lost in the crowd again. I forgot you. I met other people. Piling face upon face, name upon name, none of them really registering.

Then we all go home. Then it all ends. Tired, I sleep. I wake up.

And you're there. The first thought in the morning. That smile of yours. It's like a knife that's sliced through my heart. I spend an uneasy day, trying to recall every detail of that two minute meeting. I remember your name but nothing else. Not who you are, what you do, where you're from. All those details we show so much enthusiasm to learn when we meet a stranger. Forgotten in a whiff. But not your smile. Your smile lingers. It haunts. It hurts.

I dig the internet for your presence. I search you name. First normally, then in quotes. I search for you on every social networking website I visit. I search the college database for you. Nothing. You don't leave a trace, not on the internet, not in my head. Except for that smile. Bloody smile.

Something clicks. I find your email address out. I write to you. And I wait. And I wait some more.


You dropped by just to say hello. You didn't even talk to me much. But I wasn't listening. I wasn't thinking. I was just watching you smile that smile of yours. Drinking it in.

You made promises. Promises to come again. Promises to smile with me once more. False promises.

I know those promises are false. Knew the moment you made them. I even know why they are false.

And yet I wait. Eagerly. Desperately. With an aching heart.

Why is that?