Down the memory lane with Digit

My tryst with the modern PCs started in the mid 90s when the internet was almost non existent in India. At the time, software and games were not easy to come by and magazines like Chip which have away trial versions and freeware in CDs along with their copies were quite sought after. Chip later became Digit in India but the freebies continued.

Digit magazine July 2019

It was with this thought that I attended the Digit Squad Tech Day in Mumbai today and it was fun to see all the colourful assembled desktops, consoles and mobile phones placed around the venue and fellow Digit Squad members participating enthusiastically in the different contests. Felt quite nostalgic to soak in the geeky environment.

Didn’t sit around idle of course and instead captured a few videos of the front camera fall detection in action for the smartphones on display. You can catch the video here.

OnePlus and Oppo seem to be catching on quite soon and they flash a dialog on screen while Samsung seems to be partially retracting their module. The Redmi K20 pro is similar in terms of responsiveness to Oppo and OnePlus but it closes the camera app instead of showing any alert. The Asus Zenfone 6z provides an interesting experience where you can see the arc on screen as the module rotates to its resting position.

And here are a few more shots from the event

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Return of the daily links from delicious

By now you have probably noticed that I’ve reverted to posting daily links from delicious to my blog (this time with more description hopefully) even though I had thought at one point in time that they were cluttering up my blog. One of the main reasons I did this was to keep the blog active as I seem to be bookmarking & twittering a lot more nowadays, and don’t make the time to come up with lengthier blog post.

Quite a lot of water has flowed under the bridge during this period, of which the most notable change is the new delicious interface going live. The other handy feature is the ability to post to twitter and email contacts while bookmarking through the firefox extension. I also refreshed my memory for posting from delicious through this blog post on posting to wordpress from delicious and also noticed that Steve Rubel had recommended daily links post as an essential blogging hack (too bad I gave it up for over a year and a half). So, now the daily links posts are here to stay.

delicious blog posting settings

Another thing I noticed while setting up the delicious service was that they’ve tweaked the interface slightly. Now the password field is no longer plain text (whatever made them do that in the initial phase is a mystery to me), and there is a way to effectively utilize the category field to keep the bookmark posts organized. All you need to do is figure out the category id by going to the wordpress blog dashboard –> Posts –> Categories to view the list of categories in the blog. Each category is hyperlinked (something like ….wordpress.com/wp-admin/categories.php?action=edit&cat_ID=4360) and the last portion of the URL gives the category id (out_cat_id in delicious). In my case, 4360 is the id for the “bookmarks” category that I had created for such posts. The setup is pretty convenient & should help keep the blog active in some way till I finish my Management course next year.

Some origami video to start with

Over the last week, I have been thinking about doing some video content creation, specifically some kinds of do it yourself videos. I have a liking for origami, and thought this should be a good starting point. I did have a youtube account, but there were also numerous other similar services.

I was wondering which service would be a good choice, and this is when I came across Andy’s post on his choices of online video services. He has given a nice comparison of some of the services like youtube, viddler and seesmic, finally favouring viddler:

Viddler is just so easy to use. It accepts a whole range of common video formats and will transcode them for you. You can tag your videos – and even better than that, you can add comments and tags at particular points in the video. I can embed the videos on my WP.com blog (which is not possible with Seesmic). It’s easy to find and connect with friends. There are groups. There are excellent stats which show where hits on your videos are coming from, including when a video is played through an embed on your site or another one…

The viddler features seemed quite attractive. So, I signed up for it and uploaded my first video (a flapping bird origami). I also did some digging to see how the Viddler videos could be embedded into a WordPress.com blog, and it seems there is a tag to do this:

At the Viddler site, if you click on Menu in the lower right of a video screen, a row of menu selections appear at the top of the video screen. Select “embed” and then click on the “wordpress.com” button and it will give you the code that will work with [WordPress].com.

Here’s the embedded form of the bird origami video (there’s also a flickr photo set for the step by step photos):

I’ll be creating more origami videos along with corresponding flickr sets (also an origami collection for the sets). The only problem for me right now is the slow upload speed (64 kbps), due to which I am uploading low resolution videos (320×240) without audio. As for the video creation, I used my digicam, a Canon Powershot A630 mounted on a Gorillapod to shoot the video, and VirtualDub to re-edit the video (re-encoding to DivX and removing audio).

More dynamic playlists for the iPod

I had written about the usefulness of dynamic playlists, ratings and tagging for organizing music on my iPod last year. Since then, I have loaded more music onto my iPod, and I was looking for ways to play the recently loaded music. In addition, I also found that just relying on the genre and ratings of songs to create dynamic playlists (the option can be found under the file menu) is not sufficient.

Looking at the play count of the files in iTunes, I found that over 2500 songs have never been played. So, I went about creating some more dynamic playlists. One had to be for songs that I have not yet listened to, while another for recently loaded songs. So, now I have the following dynamic playlists on my iPod:

  1. Top rated songs – for songs with a rating of 5 stars
  2. 4 stars – for the next best songs
  3. Recently added – for songs added in the last 60 days (this filter can be set in different ways)
  4. Low play count and unrated – for songs having play count of less than 2 (unrated songs is mainly to decrease the size of the playlist as high rated songs will feature in other lists) – useful for rating songs too
  5. Top rated Hindi songs – for songs having “Hindi” in the genre tag and rating >= 4
  6. Top rated Bengali songs – for songs having “Bengali” in the genre and rating >= 4
  7. Top rated Western – songs not having “Hindi” and “Bengali” in their genre and rating >=4

Now I find that the music is fairly well organized and I can listen to the types I want quite easily. Also for those looking to backup the contents of the iPod, there are some free alternatives like iDump. Also, the new versions of Winamp (5.3 onwards) also include plugins for backing up music from the iPod.

Fractal flames for visual delight

I was having a look at some beautiful fractal flames on the Techrepulic gallery. The gallery mentioned an open source fractal flame editor – Apophysis – which I checked out. The software seems to be quite interesting and allows you to generate random fractal flames or create/edit some of your own. It also includes a scripting engine similar to Pascal which allows you to create/edit/animate the fractals among other features. It can make for quite some interesting viewings. The animations of the fractals is something similar to the visualizations available with various audio players (iTunes, Winamp etc). There is also screen saver called electric sheep which lets you generate & view fractal flames.

Tags, ratings, dynamic playlists and the iPod

It turns out that tagging and ratings are useful not only for blogs and other web content, but also for music on your iPod (the 30 GB video version), especially when you have over 4000 songs in it. Audio files were probably one of the first to support tagging which was really useful for the user. iPod/iTunes (and many other players) can also use these tags to create dynamic playlists based on given criteria. This makes the tags all the more useful.

I listen to a variety of music, and unless the music is properly tagged, it would be nearly impossible (or atleast too tedious) to locate and listen to the song(s) I want to at a given time. The basic tags like title, artist, album and genre are pretty much a necessity, and identifying songs in their absence would be impossible without actually listening to them. Ratings also serve as a useful filtering criterion.

I have also found the dynamic or smart playlists feature of iTunes/iPod to be particularly useful when it comes to listening to music of a certain variety. I create a set of smart playlists based on different moods, ratings, genres etc and when the music tags are updated, songs automatically get into the appropriate playlist(s). This saves a considerable amount of effort and also keeps my playlists up to date.

Neodymium in my headphones

Ever wondered what’s so special about speakers and headphones which proudly exhbit the fact that they have Neodymium? Well, I certainly have. First of all, what is Neodymium? It is a rare earth metal which is used for a variety of purposes like making magnets. That explains its presence in speakers & headphones. It turns out that Neodymium is used to make some of the strongest magnets. Also, looks like we have our share of Neodymium in computers too – its used in the hard drive head motors.