Thursday, December 13, 2007

Some customer service this's Elaine received this email from Dell's Customer Care a few years ago. The customer 'service' response is self-explanatory. Here's what Elaine says:

"A few years ago (long before meebo), I saw a strange system error on my almost-new work computer. After trying a few things, I contacted Dell's customer service and received this response,

"U just have to go ahead and remove the cover and reseat the cables which is running from the process fan to the motherboard and then if possible reseat the process and restart the system everything should work fine..." (view full email).

I'm not a hardware person so this made me laugh - definitely not the friendly response you hope for when your computer is on the fritz!"

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Friday, November 09, 2007

From Twitter Blog: Tracking Twitter

Here's a post from the Twitter Blog. Twitter has been adding new features that are so useful that it is impossible to dismiss Twitter as a useless technology.

Tracking TwitterOne of the driving philosophies behind Twitter has always been to get away from the computer, get out there and do something, and tell your friends about it in real-time.
That's why Twitter works over IM and text messaging—you can bring your phone almost anywhere to interact and share.
You can follow friends on your phone through Twitter, but what about concepts?
What if you wanted an update anytime anyone mentioned your name, your favorite band, "NYC," "earthquake," or "Steve Jobs?" In real-time?
What if you were attending an event and wanted to know who else was there?
Today we're releasing a tiny feature to do just that, and we're calling it "Track."
If you've set up your phone or IM on Twitter, you can send a command like: track NYC.
When someone (anyone who updates in public) mentions "NYC," you'll get it on your device in real-time. From there you can send "whois username" to find out more about that person, or "follow username" to follow his or her updates. Don't want to receive anymore about NYC? Toggle it off with: untrack NYC.
You can create as many of these as you want, so send "track drinking tea", "track iphone", "track walking san francisco" and you'll receive matches for all. Want to get a list of what you're currently tracking? Send "track" alone (or "stats"). Turn them all off by sending "track off".
Twitter Blog: Tracking Twitter

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Instantbird is like Firefox for chat

Windows/Mac/Linux (All platforms): There are tons of great instant messaging applications available, but one nagging problem in the IM world is that there's no great, fully cross-platform chat app (unless you count Meebo). Free, open source application Instantbird aims to do for chat what Firefox does for the browser. Based on the same tools used to create Firefox and Thunderbird, Instantbird should ultimately be just as extensible as the former—which means IM customization will be as simple as installing a Firefox extension. Right now Instantbird connects to virtually any IM network and supports a tabbed chat interface. Beyond that, the application is still very barebones, but its upcoming features are very exciting.Aside from the basics you'd expect from any chat app (like status notifications, contact management, and IM notifications), the ultimate roadmap for Instantbird includes video and voice support. What's most exciting, though, is the possibility that the chat application will be subject to the same community of creative extension developers that make Firefox such a killer browser—so that Instantbird can easily be customized to deliver exactly what you want from it. Instantbird is free, works with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's still a very young app, so this one's for the early adopters.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Microsoft Launches Drag-And-Drop App Builder Popfly

Microsoft just demoed on stage at the Web 2.0 conference a slick Silverlight application development service called Popfly, which just opened up in beta.
Popfly lets anyone, even non-coders, create web mashups without writing a single line of code.
It’s all drag-and-drop in the browser (based on Silverlight, Microsoft’s answer to Flash/Flex and Ajax).
The demo showed how to build a digital photo book of all your Facebook friends. It started with a box representing Facebook, and in a pane on the left were listed other data sets that can connect to Facebook, such as photos on another service or Technorati rankings. By simply dragging and dropping icons representing these sets of data and connecting them together with lines, a Silverlight application was built on the fly.
Of course, like any demo, this one was a bit canned. But if Popfly turns out to be half as easy as Microsoft made it look on stage, it should have lots of takers.
Microsoft Launches Drag-And-Drop App Builder Popfly: Techcrunch

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Hindu Business Line : What are ‘Participatory notes’?

There has been talk about 'banning' Participatory Notes after the unexplicable rise in the Indian stock markets in the last few days. What exactly are 'Participatory Notes' or PNs?

The article below in The Hindu Business Line attempts to throw some light on PNs

What are ‘Participatory notes’?

D. Sampathkumar

Mumbai, Oct. 17

‘Participatory notes’ are instruments that derive their value from an underlying financial instrument such as an equity share and, hence, the word, ‘derivative instruments’.

When the Indian capital market regulator permitted, back in 1992, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to register and trade in Indian securities, every one assumed that they would make proprietary investments out of their own capital.
3rd-party investments

There was no question of their trading on anyone else’s behalf. But as it turned out, FIIs were merely acting as a conduit for third-party investments.

But some of these third-party investors had their own preferences in the matter of what Indian stocks that they would like to own with its own risk and reward characteristics. In order to ring fence, each such pool of investments they created accounts or ‘sub-accounts’ in FII parlance.
Sub-account holders

But even sub-account holders, it turned out, were not investing their own money but were in fact raising money from a multitude of high net worth individuals.

They were issued pieces of paper that derived its value from underlying equity instruments of Indian corporates.

The participatory notes were now well truly launched. International investments got a little more complicated with sub-account investment institutions raising loan funds as securitised paper, with a pool of underlying equity shares of Indian companies.

All this leveraged money got further leveraged with the investments going into not just equity shares but derivative instruments (futures and options) of shares of Indian corporates.

Thus one could have a sub account holder of a registered FII investing a combination of subscriptions by a group of investors topped up with funds borrowed by floating yet another piece of tradable instrument using a pool of participatory notes as collateral.

But the tale of leveraged investments became a little more complex with a $100 of such funds getting invested, for example, not in Reliance shares but into futures contract on Reliance shares.
Futures contract

Now, in a futures contract, one did not have to invest the full value of the contract. It is enough if put up a small margin and topped it up each depending on how the share price moved.

The potential of $100 got further magnified.

It is easy to see the super structure of heavily leveraged investments flowing into the Indian stock market. That is without even thinking of whatever private financial arrangements that each one of investors in the original pool of investments that gave rise to the participatory notes.
Global liquidity

All of this became possible when there was a global liquidity thanks to the economic policies of the West and more particularly the US.

A financial distress for one lender who participated in leveraged transaction of investments of a sub-account holder of an FII who had invested in the Indian stock market can cause him to call back his loan.

This could lead to the sub-account holder closing out his futures position in the underlying share which caused the latter’s future price to fall.
Share prices

Since future prices are in turn linked to the spot prices of the same share, there is a price correction in the spot price as well.

The fall in share price erodes not just the overseas investor’s wealth but that of domestic investors as well.

The depreciation of the rupee’s value against other currencies or wiping out huge chunk of the RBI’s currency reserves when the liquidated investments goes out of the country, are the other unintended consequences of the FII play on the Indian stock market.

The Hindu Business Line : What are ‘Participatory notes’?

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Facebook's friend grouping

Facebook is creating friend grouping last month. By specifying certain friends as professional contacts, a whole different set of content can be shown to them (sans the dating status and pictures of you getting drunk). Or as Nick O’Neil puts it, Facebook may be growing up.And now Facebook is quietly making changes to their data structure to allow for the concept of “networking.” Currently on Facebook, users can say they are looking for friendship, dating, a relationship, random play or “whatever I can get.” But networking was recently added as a desired relationship type to the API (note that it is not yet an option on Facebook itself yet).

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Google's mobile phone in 2 weeks? Not likely

According to reports out of India, Google is currently in talks with country’s first and third largest telecos, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar, concerning everyone’s favorite mobile rumor: the Google Phone. Based on information coming from Rediff’s India Abroad, an exclusive launch — happening in a highly questionable two weeks — is being discussed between the companies, and would tie into a simultaneous debut of the Gphone in both the US and Europe, coupled with announcements in India and other parts of the world. The only hurdle, they say, is approval from regulatory agencies (such as the FCC, we would assume). The report goes on to suggest that Google has plans to invest $7-8 billion in its telephony plot, though there has been practically zero confirmation from the company. When asked about the possibility of the Google mobile phone making an appearance soon, a spokesperson for the search-portal-giant said, “We don’t comment on market rumour or speculation. However, Google is committed to providing users with access to the world’s information, and mobile becomes more important to those efforts every day.” So, while you can never, truly rule out a sudden showing of the Gphone, definitely don’t go banking on it either.

Thanks engadget

Split your Windows screen with WinSplit Revolution

I havent tried this software yet, but seems to be useful.

What is WinSplit Revolution?
For what? WinSplit Revolution is a small utility which allow you to separate your screen into two, three or four…
For who? Especially suitable for high-end LCD screens with big resolutions, WinSplit Revolution helps you to manage efficiently active windows. For example WinSplit is useful for owners of Dell 2407FPW. You can see on Screenshots the advantages of this software, your screen is “splitted” so that you are able to display up to 6 no overlaping windows at the same time.

Features and options:

  • automated window handling (resize, move, reorganize, close tasks)
  • shape - process association
  • global hotkeys and clickable virtual numpad
  • automatic startup

WinSplit Revolution is a freeware.

You can find more and download the free software at:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Downloading videos from YouTube

There are literally dozens of tools for downloading videos from YouTube and/or converting those YouTube videos to some format other than .flv. It’s hard to pick the best one, as they all have pluses and minuses. Thus, we’ve chosen 23 YouTube downloader tools we’ve found to be actually working. Here they are, categorized according to the platform they work on:

Web based

1. YouTubeX doesn’t have a lot of options, but it’s simple, and it works. It also enables you to share the YouTube video with your friends via e-mail. Unfortunately, all the files are called get_video, and you have to add the .flv extension manually.

2. KeepVid is another simple site. No hassle, works not only for YouTube movies but for a number of other sites, including Google Video, MySpace Video, DailyMotion and others. Again, you have to add the .flv extension by hand.

3. VideoDownloader is very similar to KeepVid, but supports even more video sharing sites, and it’s also available as a Firefox extension. Just like with KeepVid, all downloads are in .flv format. We recommend MediaCoder for free conversion.

4. YouTube Downloads takes the cake in the longest domain name contest. It also separates itself by using a proxy for downloading videos, which means that you might be able to get videos even if YouTube access is blocked at your workplace or in the country you live. Just search Google for YouTube videos, and copy/paste the URL into YouTube Downloads.

5. Zamzar is an online file format conversion site which can do a lot more than just converting YouTube videos to another format and downloading them to your hard drive, but it’s doing a great job so we had to include it here. Thoroughly tested by us and highly recommended. See the video of it in action here.


6. YouTubia separates itself from the crowd by enabling you to search as well as download YouTube files. Options are scarce, but it works.

7. VidGrab is another simple site that works with YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and Besides the download function, the site also sports a top list of most viewed videos.

8. Vixy offers both downloading videos and converting them into DivX avi, mov, mp4, 3gp, or mp3 (for audio only) formats. The conversion works well enough, but sometimes results in slightly choppy playback.

9. Hey! Watch is an ambitious video encoding service with a large number of options, especially when it comes to converting videos to portable media player formats (it even supports my trusty iRiver H340.) Most online video converters often produce crappy results, with video and audio being out of sync, and this problem is also present on Hey! Watch, but it happens rarely.

10. Media Converter can be a little slow, but the results of the video conversion are quite good. We’ve converted some YouTube videos to avi (mpeg4 + mp3) format and it worked well. The tool is not limited to video conversion; it also supports several audio and document formats.

Media Converter

11. KcoolOnline is a web-based converter which supports 98 video sharing web sites, including YouTube. It has literally zero options, so it’s recommended for those who like to keep it simple.

12. is also a web-based converter. It allows you to download onlinne videos directly to PC, iPod or mobile.

13. also allows you to download videos. It also claims to help you to get around "those pesky mature content blocks".

Windows Applications

14. VDownloader is a desktop application that catches YouTube, Google Video, and Grinvi video links from your clipboard. Start it up, copy the video URL and click download. It automatically converts the videos to mpeg or avi formats.

15. YouTube Grabber downloads files from Youtube in .flv format. Copy and paste the URL of a video from YouTube into the program, press «grab», and the file will be downloaded into the same directory as the program.

16. Orbit Downloader is a desktop application which can download videos from a wide variety of sites. The download process is very simple, just hover your mouse over the video and you’ll get a button that says «Get It». The developers of the program claim that it’s very fast (up to 500% faster, they say) due to its P2P download technology.

17. My Video Downloader. With all these free tools, it’s actually funny to see a commercial one. It’s called My Video Downloader, and while it does look solid and offers a lot of conversion options (a free trial which enables you to download 10 videos is available), we’re not sure it offers enough to warrant a price tag.

18. KeepV is a desktop downloader as well as a converter, which can convert the downloaded videos from flv to avi, mov, mp4, or 3gp formats.

19. VideoGet boasts being able to download video clips from more than 100 video sharing websites. We haven’t tested all of them, so we’re just going to take their word for it. It’s a deskop application with a nice, simple interface, and a solid number of options.


20. TubeSucker is a desktop YouTube video downloader with some interesting options, including batch downloading large amounts of videos from a certain user. See the video tour on the site.


21. Get Tube is an OS X application which lets you download video or audio files from YouTube, DailyMotion and Kewego.


22. Youtube-dl. Here’s some love for Linux users. Youtube-dl is a program that lets you download YouTube clips in flv format, which both mplayer and VLC can easily chew up.

23. YouTube Ripper is not actually an application; it’s a simple script that rips all videos that match a keyword, uploaded by a specific YouTube user. We don’t really have ideas on what to use this for, but maybe you do! PHP port is also available.


24. Vidtaker is a Firefox-only plugin that can download videos from most streaming websites: Google Video, YouTube, MySpace, as well as a number of nasty adult SomethingTube spinoffs (Pornotube, YouPorn etc). It automatically converts the video to a DivX avi.

25. Ook? Video Ook! Yes, that’s the full name of this Firefox plugin, which enables you to download videos from YouTube and several other video sharing web sites. It features one click downloading and integration with the popular DownThemAll Firefox plugin.

Thanks to

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to quickly test remote controls

If you’re like me, you have 5 or 6 remote controls that wander all around your living room. We’re even seeing them used in major appliances, air conditioners being the most common so far.

When one of them stops working, here’s a simple way to tell whether it’s sending any infrared light to your TV, VCR, DVD, or cable box (or air conditioner).

Just point it at a digital camera or camcorder, and if it’s working, the light will show up in the camera's LCD viewfinder! Fast, easy, and COOL!

I purchased a small sensor many years ago for this very purpose, but if I’d thought of this first, we could’ve saved some money. Try it - it works great!

The CCD’s used in digicams are sensitive to IR, even though our eyes aren’t.

Wish I could remember where I originally found this trick. To whomever first discovered it - thanks!

Copyright 2003
This article may be reprinted and distributed freely
only in its entirety, including this message.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Google News needs tweaking?

A “news” site called Axcess News reported that President Bush was undergoing a colonoscopy, leaving Vice President Cheney in charge of the United States for the duration of the procedure.

The article, which was the top story on Google news briefly yesterday, had the unfortunate title “Bush butt probed, Cheney in charge” and began with “A shudder could be felt across Capitol Hill Friday after news came out that President Bush would be having his butt checked out…”

Perhaps Google will now be rethinking whether Axcess News should remain in the Google News index?

Axcess News, by the way, is a member of the esteemed Online News Association, which purports to be a serious group of online news sites. The president of the ONA is Kinsey Wilson, the Executive Editor of
From Techcrunch

Sunday, July 22, 2007

'Bundles of joy'

A building was coming up near house. A construction worker with two kids - one barely a year old - made them sleep in the morning inside our compound. No creches for them.  No beds. Just plain floor in the open. The kids get food only when the mother comes back for lunch. The 'elder' sister has to look after her brother till the mother comes back. You can find the two 'bundles of joy' next to the bags.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter hits BitTorrent

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, the latest and last of the wildly popular Harry Potter books that is due to go on sale this weekend, has hit BitTorrent. Various torrents of the novel consist of photographed pages (as above) with reading quality that isn’t perfect, but for desperate fans readable enough. Whilst the validity of the hype surrounding Harry Potter may be subject to debate, what the leaking of the book does demonstrate is that the days of the mainstream media and publishers strictly controlling the dissemination of information has well and truly past; simply where there is a fan with a will, there is a way.

For educational purposes only, the Harry Potter book can be found by searching The Pirate Bay.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Govt's (official) Strike

Governments are supposed to rule. But what if they decide to strike?
The Tamil Nadu Government seemed to have decided that it had done enough administrative work and needed a break. And called for a strike.
Tamil Nadu came to a standstill on March 31 and the Government called it a 'great success'.
What made the strike worse was it was called on March 31 - the last day of the financial year. Business establishments were caught off-guard. Usually, despatches from manufacturing units are more on the last day of the fiscal. Business houses could not do anything about it as the strike call did not give them any time to plan or advance the despatches. For some companies, the dilemma was that the old stocks would get reflected in the books meant for April 1 - the new financial year!
Apart from this, there are more points to ponder:
1. The protest was against an interim order by the highest court of the land - the Supreme Court. The bandh shows the respect our netas have for the Supreme Court - and they are called 'law-makers'.
2. Why bandh? Is there not other way to show protests? Why disrupt day-to-day activities?
3. Why should a Government call for a bandh? This shows there is something seriously wrong with the system.
4. This was only an interim order by the Supreme Court - not the final judgment. Isn't paralysing the entire State for an interim order too much?
5. People had just a day's time to prepare for the 'effects' of the bandh. The worst affected were those coming to Tamil Nadu from other States (and countries). They were stranded in trains and buses for a whole day! And the State 'Government' was least bothered.
6. And the bandh was called by the ruling party in the State and also sharing the spoils at the Centre! The DMK has a lot to answer.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Force against defaulters

Banks resorting to brute force to recover loans from defaulters is not news. But last week, the Supreme Court pulled up a bank for using force to recover a vehicle. This is the report:
The Supreme Court has upheld the right of banks financing the purchase of a car to take it back when the owner defaults on loan repayment, even as it expressed strong reservation to the practice of using muscle power for this end.

The observation came during the hearing of the case pertaining to ICICI's bid to take back the car it had financed because of loan default.

ICICI moved the SC after Allahabad High Court which directed registration of criminal cases against the managing director of ICICI Bank and several other top officials based on the complaint from the car owner that the bank had sent musclemen to recover the vehicle.

"We are governed by rule of law. How can someone forcibly take possession of the vehicle," observed a Bench comprising Justices K G Balakrishnan and D K Jain when a petition seeking stay of arrest of top officials of ICICI Bank came up for hearing before it.

Challenging the order of the high court, ICICI counsel Mukul Rohtagi said there were several judgments of the apex court which ruled that if a bank repossesses a vehicle financed by it on default of repayment of loan, it is not a criminal offence. If that is so, then the high court was clearly wrong in directing registration of FIR against the bank officials, he argued.

The court stayed the arrest, saying that it was bound by earlier orders. Though it questioned banks using force to take back cars from defaulters, Rohatgi argued that banks are left with little option. "Repossession by what means? Does it mean use of force? By employing goondas ?" the Bench asked. Rohtagi replied that there was not a single person on earth who would give back a vehicle just like that and the banks were bound to use "some sort of force".

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Saddam video footage

A video filmed by someone watching the execution of Saddam Hussein has spread like wildfire on the Net and has embarassed the US and the authorities in Baghdad.

In the grainy video, Saddam is taunted by one of those present at the execution by shouting, "Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!" for Shia militia leader Moqtada-al-Sadr.

Saddam by contrast looks dignified on the gallows and replies, "Is this what you call manhood?"

The footage ends with Saddam falling through the trap-door and dying amid shouts from the crowd.

This has angered Sunnis and embarassed moderate Shias and Turks. Iraq has launched a probe into the video.

The British Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Prescott, has condemed the manner of execution and called for action against whoever was responsible for it. He told the BBC, "I think the manner was quite deplorable relly." Asked if he held the Iraqi Government responsible, Mr Prescott said whoever was behind it should be "ashamed". "I don't think anyone can endorse it whatever your view on capital punishment," he said.

Here is the footage of the video: