Friday, November 30, 2007

Gmail web-chat introduces Group Chat and Smileys

The web interface of Gtalk, also known as Gmail Chat has introduced new features of Group Chat and an enhanced set of Smileys.

Group Chat

Group Chat allows people to talk in groups, where everybody can view what others are saying, more like having a talk with a group of friends than having a one to one chat. Anybody can start a group chat by selecting the Group Chat option from the Option menu in lower left corner of any chat window and adding the persons who would be part of the group. Simple ... isn't it? So you have a personal chat room where you can chat with your buddies.

Anybody in the group can add new people to the group, there is no specific host who takes the responsibility of this. This also has the added advantage that when the original person has left the group, others can easily continue to chat till all the members have left the group.

Leaving the group is simple, just close that group chat window and you are logged out of that chat and everybody on the group will be informed of your departure. However, you can rejoin the group only if somebody still in the group invites you.


The web chat client also provides an enhanced set of smileys, which are accessible via the smiley link at the bottom right hand corner. The smileys are divided in 3 sets,

  1. Simple text smileys
  2. Colored said-by smileys
  3. Colored box smileys

You see those smileys based on the group that you select. So if somebody sends you a :), you could see either of the 3 types of smileys based on which group you have selected. The default is the Text type, but you can always change it.

Looking forward to seeing more interesting new features from Google. I always keep a lookout for the top right hand corner of the Gmail window for new features.

Lastly, for the power users like me, the entire emotions list is available as text shortcuts. So no need to use the mouse, when we have the almighty keyboard. Here is a complete list of the Gmail chat emotions.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Installing Telnet in Vista

Windows Vista does not have Telnet client installed by default. I learnt this amazing thing today while trying to show my friend the much famed ASCII version of Star Wars. I have not begun to use Vista as my default OS, its installed in my machine more as a novelty and as a test bench than a thing that I actually work on !

However, I did manage to install Telnet client in Vista following these simple steps :

  1. Launch the "Programs and Features" link in Control Panel (Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features).
  2. Select the "Turn Windows features on or off."
  3. Select the Telnet Client option
  4. Click on OK.
  5. To confirm the installation, a dialog box appears.

What is most amazing is that the client is bundled with the OS but not installed by default !

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Visual Studio 2008 Professional Installation

I finally managed to complete the download of Visual Studio 2008 Profession Edition form my MSDN subscription. Needless to say, I have installed it too. I already had Visual Studio 2005 Professional and Visual Studio 2008 Beta installed on my system. I am a bit skeptical about all new MS products and thus I want to keep my existing VS2005 Professional Editions untouched and install VS2008 Professional besides it.

So these are the steps that I followed to get my wanted setup of both VS2005 and VS2008 :

  1. Uninstalled VS2008 Professional Beta
  2. Uninstalled MSDN Library for Visual Studio 2008 Beta
  3. Uninstalled SQL Server 2005
  4. Uninstalled SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5
  5. Uninstalled SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5 Design Tools

Then I rebooted my machine just to ensure that nothing is working in background after the uninstall. Lastly I mounted the VS2008 Professional Edition DVD ISO image to a virtual DVD drive and installed it.

I have found my ideal setup of both VS2005 and VS2008 together in my machine without any conflict. I double checked this by compiling a few programs with both of them, separately. Everything went on smoothly.

All the steps mentioned above are what I observed, the whole thing might be different for you, who might have installed another combination of VS products. So you might have a look in the complete list of all the components that need to be uninstalled prior to installation of VS2008. So far its being a nice experience working with VS2008 for both Beta and Release editions.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What if Gmail was a MS product?

I was looking for a technical comparison between Gmail and Live web mails, but the search algorithms have a tendency to throw up irrelevant results and I landed on a page that had this amusing discussion on how would Gmail look like, had it been a Microsoft product.

The writer started with a simple Gmail Inbox page and through a series of transformations, made it look like the current Hotmail Inbox page complete with Windows logo, a Hotmail style "reading pane" and banner ads.

Here is a link to the page :

I am not the anti-Microsoft type, but this was too funny to be missed out. I love Gmail and in fact all of the Google products' UIs. The no nonsense looks and highly functional UIs are in a class of their own. Even the ads are blended well with the interface and does not stand out like in Hotmail. The speed is yet another thing that Gmail performs better at. Even in my 1.5Mb connection, I can feel the difference between a Hotmail page and a Gmail page.

I am sure that the guys at Microsoft are surely working on bettering their Hotmail UI. I would love to see a more responsive UI with less graphical ads for all my Windows Live Id email accounts. But at the end of the day, the party to benefit most from this Webmail war is the user group. For now, Gmail leads in almost all the measures, but I hope to see Hotmail come up with some cool interface sometime soon. So lets just keep the war going on as the ultimate winners in this battle is us.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Five consecutive 'and's

This very interesting piece originated in our class today. KND was teaching Normalization and suddenly in a typical KND style asked us whether we could use five consecutive 'and's in any proper English sentence. Of course we tried, but he gave little time to think and told us this solution :

There was one shop which sold both fish and meat and so the shopkeeper put up a sign outside his shop, which read : "FishandMeat". The spaces between the words were almost negligible and this prompted one customer to point it out :

There should be a space between the 'Fish' and 'and', and 'and' and 'Meat'.

So now we have a proper English sentence with five consecutive 'and's. The next challenge was to use four consecutive 'can's. The solution to that is :

I can "can-can", can you?

Here, "can-can" refers to a dance form.

I do not know where does KND gets these from, but they are interesting for sure. I remember having seen 12 'had's in a row being used in a proper English sentence. The sentence was so proper, that it required two more paragraphs to explain it well enough for an average English speaking person.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Theory of Everything?

Garrett Lisi, a 39 year old physicist claims to have got a "Theory of Everything", which is something like the Holy Grail of physics.

The "Theory of Everything" is supposed to be an all encompassing rule of nature, which would be able to explain all the physical phenomena around us. This one single theory is supposed to unite all the four basic interactions of nature :

  1. Gravity
  2. Strong Nuclear Force
  3. Weak Nuclear Force
  4. Electromagnetic Force

A quest for this theory has been around for a long time and a number of theories have been proposed over the ages, but nothing has been able to stand up to the strict scrutiny of physicists. Even the existence of such a theory is a point of major debate.

Lisi has a PhD, but is not attached to any University. He spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii. His theory which he published under the heading of "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" in an online paper on Nov 6th 2007, is yet to convince the physicists of the world, but the initial responses from around the globe are quite encouraging. NewScientist run a cover page article on this.  It is possible that his theory could be experimentally verified as he has predicted a set of new particles.

Lisi has drawn inspiration form one of the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematicians, called E8, which is a highly complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887. E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi's equations match those describing E8.

The Litmus Test for Lisi's theory would be when he would be able to compute the actual characteristics of the 20 newly proposed particles and experimental verification of their existence would take place.

Although such a comparison is premature, one can only marvel at the similarities between the greatest scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein and Lisi. Both of whom were outside the mainstream scientific research.

If you are interested further, you could check out the original paper, the NewScientist article (subscription needed). Lisi has also given a talk on this topic in the International Loop Quantum Gravity Seminar on Nov 13th, 2007. You could listen to it (mp3;7MB), or read it (pdf;8MB). You could also check out this interesting video, though I do not know whether it is authentic or not.

Please share your comments on this and other interesting links with me by dropping a post here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photoshop Express

Adobe is thinking of releasing the a new version of Photoshop, called the Photoshop Express. Like the Microsoft's Express suite of developer tools, Photoshop Express also would be free. It would most probably be a hosted service. Users would be able to log in to the site and access the software online.

Adobe has already launched a You Tube Remixer, which is also known as Adobe Premiere Express. It is written using flex and offers a lot of basic functionality of Adobe Premiere of movie editing in You Tube.

Here is a screen shot of the beta version in action :

Photoshop Express Beta in action

Filter to put an end to Stupid Comments

I recently read an article in Fortune Magazine which claims that Gabriel Ortiz, a 27-year-old systems administrator in Albuquerque is developing a comment filter that will disallow stupid comments. Any comment would have to pass through this filter. If the filter detects that the comment does not make much sense, it would flash an alert to the poster stating that the comment is quite unintelligible and if the user would like to reword it. The user can either chose to restate it to make some sense or give up and move on to some other more lenient site. Making such a filter that disallows stupid comments is quite difficult. It is far more complex than things like spam filters which do relatively simple things like pattern matching. But this is an entirely different ball game. Simple pattern matching for abusive words would filter comments to some extent, but understanding the contextual usage of a word requires much more than simple pattern matching. Even if the algorithm can detect whether a comment makes some sense or not. It is quite impossible to detect subtleties irony and sarcasm by it. Natural Language Processing (NLP) has not yet advanced to a level where these language nuances can be detected. Ortiz claims to have solved the problem by detecting the correctness of the spellings in the comment. While intelligent people are prone to using sarcasm and irony that makes little sense to the computer, they usually spell correctly. If Ortiz's software does what it claims to do, still a certain degree of manual intervention will be required for some final decision makings. But undoubtedly the degree of intervention would decrease considerably. With the current state of detection of context by the search engines which can at best be quite bad, it remains to be seen how much Ortiz's filter will be capable of filtering out stupid comments. The project is aptly termed as Stupid Filter and you can get more information on it from its official site

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hello World from Live Writer

This is just a sample post in this blog to check whether Windows Live Writer works well with or not. If it is working fully, and I sincerely hope that it will, I will be switching to this cool software from now on :)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Diwali

Wishing you all,
A Very Happy Diwali

Fedora 8 (Werewolf) released

Yesterday (Nov 8th, 2007), Fedora 8 (Werewolf) was released. You can download it via direct mirrors or by BitTorrent. All information about obtaining Fedora 8 can be accessed in the Get Fedora webpage. Fedora 8 like its predecessor Fedora 7 also includes variations of Fedora built from a specific set of software packages called "Spins". Each spin has a combination of software to meet the requirements of a specific kind of end user. The available spins are :
  1. GNOME Live Image
  2. KDE Live Image
  3. Fedora Developer Spin
  4. Fedora Games Spin
  5. Fedora Electronic Lab
Among these the first 2 are official and the rest are developed by special interest groups within Fedora. There are a couple of tentative spins : Art Studio Spin and Xfce Spin. For all sorts of information on Spins, have a look at Custom Spins page. To promote the use of Linux, Fedora also builds Live images, which are CDs or DVDs that allow the user to try out Fedora without any installation. These are safe options for people who would like to switch over to Linux, but would like to have a feel of it before they jump into it. These are also useful in situations where there needs to be a job done with Linux, but installation of a new OS is not preferred; like using these images along with a flash-drive on a external machine. I personally use them for trouble shooting PCs and surfing the internet from an external machine. They literally let you carry your own OS around!! You can get all the information about the Live Images from here. Fedora 8 has a plethora of new features, but I have not been able to get hands on them, so no point discussing them. I am interested about KDE v3.5.8. I had a taste of GNOME v2.20 with Ubuntu 7.10, so it will be great to compare them. The completely free and open source Java environment called IcedTea will also be there. Eclipse v3.3 would also be a new thing to try on. The new kernel based on v2.6.23 will also be something new. Xfce v4.4.1 is also included; I am not a big fan of it, but lately I have seen some interesting things on it. Infinity, the new Fedora look and feel would be an eyeful along with Nokoda, a new GNOME theme meant for Fedora 8. Infinity is said to support wallpapers which change colors based on the time of the day !! I have got the link for direct ISO download of Fedora 8. I will be downloading that along with the developer spin. I wanted the "Everything" spin that they had for Fedora 7, but still there's no sign of it for Fedora 8. The downloads will be done at night 0200 to 0800 as internet is free then. I will give it a try on this weekend and write about the new features.

Thursday, November 08, 2007 Emails and

Microsoft has opened the domain for email accounts. This means that now whenever you try to sign up for a Microsoft Passport Network or Windows Live Id, you will be able to get a "" email now, instead of the old "". I am personally in favour of this decision as
  • "" is obviously smaller than "". So some less typing and smaller things to remember.
  • Getting a suitable name in Hotmail is an impossibility these days as it is one of the oldest email services and all the short names have already been taken. So most often people end up with something like "" which is very long and difficult to remember. One of these days I got frustrated enough with Hotmail to try a set of random characters of length 8. To my surprize even that was taken !!
So people, grab before all the short names are taken. I personally found my first name and am quite happy about it. Microsoft has added one more step towards customization of email and has bought a number of domains for providing emails in those domain names. They can be accessed at Coolhotmail site. You can get customized domain names on the basis of :
  • where you live .... for example ""
  • who you like .... for example ""
  • what you are .... for example ""
  • what you like .... for example ""
  • if you don't fit in the above categories, there's still hope in the "I don't fit" category, with emails like ""
Here is a list of all the domains available that I have compiled. The domain names are mostly ".in" types, but there are some ".com"s and some with "" and a couple of ".mobi" names too. These are supported under Microsoft Passport Network and Windows Live Id too. So you could also grab these cool alternative ones which provide a personal touch to your email address.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Google Phone

Over the last few days (ok, months for some) there has been quite a hype over something called Google Phone and some people have even dubbed it as "G-Phone"! However yesterday the official announcement was made and it was quite a disappoint for people who were actually expecting something like the Apple iPhone; i.e. an actual new handset. However the announcement is quite important as this time Google has partnered with mobile giants like HTC, Motorola, T-Mobile and Qualcomm and has formed what they call the "Open Handset Alliance". The alliance aims to "to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience". Together they have developed "Android™, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform". A preview of the Android SDK will be available on Nov 12th, 2007. So what about an actual handset? Here's what the site says, "We are committed to commercially deploy handsets and services using the Android Platform in the second half of 2008". So there goes our hope for a GPhone out of the window for now. Here is the official story. This Times Online article which explains this announcement is simpler terms. Also have a look at the Android overview.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

DARPA's Grand Challenge

This year's DARPA Urban Challenge winners have been announced. They are :
  1. Tartan Racing, Pittsburgh
  2. Stanford Racing Team, Stanford
  3. Victor Tango, Blacksburg
For decades, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been funding scientific developments. For the last couple of years they are encouraging the development of automated automobiles by organizing a series of Grand Challenges. The first two editions needed the vehicles to navigate through desert terrain. This year's Challenge raised the bar by changing the environment. The 2007 Grand Challenge was called the Urban Challenge. DARPA required the automobiles to "obey traffic laws while merging into traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding obstacles". DARPA noted that "The urban setting adds considerable complexity to the challenge faced by the robotic vehicles, and replicates the environment in which many of today’s battlefield missions are conducted".

This time three teams finished within the alloted time. The first team Tartan Racing driving a Chevy Tahoe bagged the $2 million. The second placed Stanford Racing Team which also won the second Desert Challenge, drove a Volkswagon Passat and pocketed $1 million. The third team, Victor Tango drove a Ford Escape Hybrid named Odin to win the $500,000 prize.

As expected, all the participating automobiles were filled to the brim with sophisticated laser sensors and state of the art radars to detect their surroundings. The AIs were powered using a lot of hardware and very high precision GPS systems. The 2nd placed Stanford Racing Team reportedly used 64 laser sensors to create a 3D map of its surroundings and was capable of tracking 32 individual obstacles.

With so many new technologies being put to use, it seems that DARPA plans to apply these technologies in the development of next generation combat vehicles and aircrafts.

Catch more about the challenge at the official Grand Challenge website. Catch some cool pictures of the cars in the Gallery.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Poets of Fall

Yesterday was the last day of the month and my monthly quota of 2.5GB of data transfer was falling short by around 500MBs, so I decided to indulge myself into a treat of some good videos. While searching up Youtube, I came up with the band Poets of Fall. It is a Finnish rock band starting out in 2003, comprising of singer Marko, guitarist Olli and keyboardist Captain. I had first heard of them in the game Max Payne 2; the name of the song was "Late Goodbye". Till date they have 2 albums to their name :
  1. Signs of Life (2005)
  2. Carnival of Rust (2006)
Here are the 2 videos that I liked. I confess not watching all their videos, but these 2 I liked from the lot that I saw. Carnival of Rust - Carnival of Rust (2006)
D' you breath the name of your saviour in your hour of need, n' taste the blame if the flavor should remind you of greed, Of implication, insinuation and ill will, till' you cannot lie still, In all this turmoil, before red cape and foil come closing in for a kill Come feed the rain Cos I'm thirsty for your love dancing underneath the skies of lust Yeah feed the rain Cos without your love my life ain't nothing but this carnival of rust It's all a game, avoiding failure, when true colors will bleed All in the name of misbehavior and the things we don't need I lust for after no disaster can touch us anymore And more than ever, I hope to never fall, where enough is not the same it was before Come feed the rain... Don't walk away, don't walk away, oh, when the world is burning Don't walk away, don't walk away, oh, when the heart is yearning
Lift - Signs of Life (2005)
Times when I just can't Bring myself to say it loud 'Fraid that what I'll say comes out somehow awry That is when it seems We move in circles day to day Twist the drama of the play to get us by And it feels like fear Like I'll disappear Gets so hard to steer Yet I go on Do we need debate When it seems too late Like I bleed but wait Like nothing's wrong You lift my spirit, take me higher, make me fly, Touch the moon up in the sky, when you are mine You lift me higher, take my spirit, make it fly, Where all new wonders will appear Like the other day I thought you won't be coming back I came to realize my lackluster dreams And among the schemes And all the tricks we try to play Only dreams will hold their sway and defy When it feels like fear...
If you happen to come across some interesting video of this band, just drop a post. Also tell me what you felt after listening to them for the first time.