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One less place to eat in

En route to work this morning I was passing through Dickenson road and noticed that one of my long time favourite eating places, "Latita's Paratha Palace" had disappeared..and of all things has been replaced by a "Burger and Fries" joint. Ugh !
What a tragedy !

E-banking hell

Come a new month and a lot of it's first week is spent clearing bills. Last night I paid my ICICI credit card bill via their NetBanking interface. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I have been bombarded with SMS confirmations of this payment since. It's 13 hours and 22 minutes since this went down, and the SMS's continue to pour in. One every 3 minutes or so.

I am so tired off the constant "beep beep" that my phone has been on silent for the last few hours.

The Helpdesk off course is completely clueless about what to do...and over the last 30 minutes is not reachable at all.

I wonder what happened here ?

Thellicherri timebomb

Shef and I were looking up  interesting recipes for cocktails and I suddenly remembered a drink I'd had at the Coconut Grove almost a decade ago... "Thellicherri Timebomb"...served in a tender coconut shell.

Off we go to the browser default Google search. We found bombs, timebombs, Thellicherri black pepper but no "Thellicherri timebomb". A switch of search engines to Yahoo actually yielded 4 recipes.

Turns out it is white rum and tender coconut water. So much for all that searching and head scratching.

Identity crisis

A couple of days ago I was sitting at home twiddling with the new Nokia N810. Along comes my 2 year old nephew :

Mihir : What that ?
Me : My new Computer.
Mihir : Looks like Dhruv's (his elder sibling) Gameboy.
Me : Dumbstruck !

The new laptop

In comes another new laptop...the third I've switched in the last 3 months. This time it is a Dell Latitude D630. The decision to go Dell took a fair amount of market research. I was looking for a laptop that could tick of the most boxes on my requirement list :

- Business class laptop
- 14" 1440x900 screen
- Good build quality, especially the hinges, which have been a total pain in the past
- Card reader
- Serial port
- PCMCIA slot for my Tata Indicom data card
- Works with Linux
- Large capacity battery (8 - 9 cell)
- I am not too fussy about the weight. 2 kg'ish will do.

The obvious choices were :
- Lenovo Thinkpad T61. Did not get bought because it only sells with a 1280x800 display in India. No options.
- Toshiba Tecra M9. This one met all my requirements. It is really expensive and the Support sucks. Really bad !
- Dell's Latitude D630 came close..except that it does not have a card reader.

I had to choose from the lot and decided in favour of the Dell. Support is great and I can make do with a USB card reader. I wonder why it it still so hard to find a laptop that does it all (discounting the home use segment laptops which do do it all...but for the build quality and PCMCIA card slot).

Taking the hard decision

After deliberating for the better part of 3 years I decided to take the plunge and moved Shef's HP nx9040 laptop , from it's now terribly slowed down install of Win XP, to Ubuntu. This went down three weeks ago.

Shef's laptop use covers her scientific writing work, music and DVD playback, IM (both chat and Video) and some basic games.

Available at hand was a CD of Ubuntu 7.04. Popped in the CD and the deed was done in a few minutes. Add ons to make the transition smoother included various Firefox plugins, Mplayer and it's accomplices, Pybliographer,  Acrobat reader and a few more odds and ends.

The laptop has had a dodgy on board microphone right from it's Windows days. It simply never worked...and since the laptop was gifted to me, sans warranty, I was in no position to crib at anyone to get it fixed. So, we have used a MVOX mv100 USB speaker/mic combo as a substitute.

Cut back to the nx9040 running Ubuntu. A few days after the big move in comes a demand for Skype to be loaded on the machine. Ubuntu 7.04 does not like the MVOX mv100, and the on board microphone does not work. At this point I am not even contemplating the lack of webcam support. Fine mess I've landed in !

Much cursing ensues at both me and Ubuntu and finally the demand to roll back to Win XP. Ugh !

Two days later Ubuntu 8.04 is released and I scurry to get the latest version in hope of finding a solution to the laptop (and my domestic) problems. Everything installs cleanly in a few minutes and heart beating I plug in the MVOX and webcam...and Viola! it works.

Phew..saved ! Many thanks to the folks at Ubuntu.

Being a long time Redhat user, I just wish Fedora would become as smooth to use.

PS : I tried all of the above on a fully updated Fedora 8 install before opting for Ubuntu...no dice.

Too slow ??

boo 15:mplayer -vo xv /home/movies/The.Matrix.Reloaded.2003.720p.nHD.x264.AAC.NhaNc31.mkv
MPlayer 1.0rc2-4.1.2 (C) 2000-2007 MPlayer Team
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU     T7300  @ 2.00GHz (Family: 6, Model: 15, Stepping: 10)
CPUflags:  MMX: 1 MMX2: 1 3DNow: 0 3DNow2: 0 SSE: 1 SSE2: 1
Compiled with runtime CPU detection.
115 audio & 237 video codecs
Can't open joystick device /dev/input/js0: No such file or directory
Can't init input joystick
mplayer: could not connect to socket
mplayer: No such file or directory
Failed to open LIRC support. You will not be able to use your remote control.

Playing /home/movies/The.Matrix.Reloaded.2003.720p.nHD.x264.AAC.NhaNc31.mkv.
[mkv] Track ID 1: video (V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC) "The.Matrix.Reloaded.2003.720p.nHD.x264.AAC.NhaNc3", -vid 0
[mkv] Track ID 2: audio (A_AAC/MPEG4/LC/SBR) "The.Matrix.Reloaded.2003.720p.nHD.x264.AAC.NhaNc3", -aid 0, -alang eng
[mkv] Track ID 3: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS) "The.Matrix.Reloaded.2003.720p.nHD.x264.AAC.NhaNc3", -sid 0, -slang eng
[mkv] Track ID 4: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS) "The.Matrix.Reloaded.2003.720p.nHD.x264.AAC.NhaNc3", -sid 1, -slang rum
[mkv] Track ID 5: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 2, -slang und
[mkv] Will play video track 1.
Matroska file format detected.
VIDEO:  [avc1]  852x720  24bpp  23.976 fps    0.0 kbps ( 0.0 kbyte/s)
Opening video decoder: [ffmpeg] FFmpeg's libavcodec codec family
Selected video codec: [ffh264] vfm: ffmpeg (FFmpeg H.264)
Opening audio decoder: [faad] AAC (MPEG2/4 Advanced Audio Coding)
FAAD: compressed input bitrate missing, assuming 128kbit/s!
AUDIO: 48000 Hz, 2 ch, s16le, 128.0 kbit/8.33% (ratio: 16000->192000)
Selected audio codec: [faad] afm: faad (FAAD AAC (MPEG-2/MPEG-4 Audio) decoder)
AO: [alsa] 48000Hz 2ch s16le (2 bytes per sample)
Starting playback...
VDec: vo config request - 852 x 720 (preferred colorspace: Planar YV12)
VDec: using Planar YV12 as output csp (no 0)
Movie-Aspect is 1.78:1 - prescaling to correct movie aspect.
VO: [xv] 852x720 => 1280x720 Planar YV12
A:  62.7 V:  62.0 A-V:  0.680 ct: -0.202 708/708 85%  4%  8.7% 50 0

           **** Your system is too SLOW to play this!  ****
What the hell do I need to play a Matroska next ?

Life moves to 16:9

It started with a new camera late last year. The Lumix FZ8k prompted change in aspect ratio for all photos from 4:3 to 16:9. The move did not go down well with the family...especially since we did not have anything that could display a 16:9 photo full screen. My laptop was a much older machine. The home TV was a vintage CRT. All 4:3 displays.

Last month my laptop changed. Off course, it is office issue, but has a 16:9 display.

The day before yesterday we upgraded the home TV to a Sharp Aquos LC-32BX6M. And it rocks !

We're now full circle with all displays at home 16:9 capable.

Highway chronicles

The last 2 months have been hectic. Not least of which is due to the sudden spurt in highway driving that's come about.

December saw the family Shenoy drive down to Goa across the Christmas weekend. Many thanks to shankerbalan for the last minute accommodation arrangements.

Goa was lovely in December.
Goa was horrendously expensive in December.

The nicest part of the trip for me was the drive. Especially the section from Haveri to Karwar (via Sirsi). The roads are narrow, winding and in decent shape. The scenery is stunning. Dense forest sections that I am yet to see in other parts of the state I've driven through. All in all a very enjoyable week long stay  Distance covered - 1500 kms round trip.

Come end January  and a trip to Hubli beckoned to attend a family function.  We ran into really thick fog on the way out of Hubli this morning...so thick that I could not see more than 10 -15 feet in front of me with headlights and fog lamps on. To and fro in a span of 3 days. Distance covered - 900 kms.

The new car just cracked 10000 kms this morning...and it's not quite 6 months since it joined the family.  Maybe it's time to go the American way and rent a car for future outings. I wonder how much a rental sedan in good condition will cost.

There will be at least two more road trips this calendar year...one during Abhinav's summer holidays to Yeracaud and the annual family vacation towards November - December. Let's see where we end up this year.


Shef's Gmail account got IMAP enabled 48 hours ago. Mine is still not.

What gives guys ?

Grr !