Thursday, December 27, 2007

Online Photo Printing

I got a couple of albums printed online at G K Vale. At Rs. 3 for a 6" x 4" print it is a sweet deal. I haven't found any studio willing to print below 4.50. Strangely, G K Vale charges Rs. 5 per print if you visit any of their studios.

Also found a couple of nice places for books. There's Blossom Book House on Church Street near Amoeba. Three floors of new and used books at discounted prices. Premier book shop (near Night Watchman at the beginning of Church Street) sells new books at a discount. It's a tiny shop stacked haphazardly but the guys there can locate any book for you in no time. L-Space in DiscWorld must have been inspired by similar bookstores. Landmark, Crossword and Gangarams can kiss my wallet goodbye.

Monday, December 17, 2007

That Warm Feeling

Papa Kamath on fatherhood:
When I hold him, I get that warm feeling ...
and I know he has done it again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

UN Flag, Flat Earth, Discworld

What does the United Nations flag have to do with a flat Earth theory? Lots apparently. Take a look at the Flat Earth Society Forum's FAQ. Yes, there are people who hold on to that belief. The UN logo closely resembles the map of the Earth proposed by the society and it is also used as evidence of a conspiracy to cover up the truth.

I stumbled upon the site when I was looking up DiscWorld on the Net. I just finished my first Disworld novel (Thud!) and I'm hooked. Explore the portal on Wikipedia to get a taste of what the books are about.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Worst Headline Pun

The days of straightforward news headlines are over. The newsrooms seem to be where punsters congregate these days. Just when headlines that cleverly played on Sonia (so near) or Khan (can) seemed tolerable, Bangalore Mirror heralded Dhoni's team's victory over Pak screaming, "Doni-T-20". I want to nominate the reporter/editor behind this front-page atrocity for this year's Punitzer prize.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bison Wells, Off Kodai

(This writeup that has been in my drafts folder for close to two years now.)

Located about 30 km from Kodaikanal is one of the best getaways I have been to. I went there on my honeymoon in May 2005. We reached Kodai after a lovely drive from Munnar. After lunch at Kodai, we met George who owns the place. The road to Bison Wells is not motorable unless you have a 4 wheel drive with massive ground clearance. We had to leave our car at a garage that George had arranged. The drive to the cottage in George's '64 vintage Nissan truck was an experience in itself. It took a little more than an hour to reach the place. We were accompanied by our cook for the next two days, Antony. George had planned the menu after taking our preferences in advance. Bison Wells is not the place where you can get any provisions if there are last minute changes.

After we reached the cottage and settled in, George and Antony left us to ourselves till dinner. The cottage is basic, built from mud and wood. It faces a valley in front and it's surrounded by a pine forest. It can accomodate two. There's an attached bath, without running water. Water is filled up in a drum from a well nearby. There'e no television, A/C, fan or lights in the room since there's no electricity either. It's as basic as it can get. And that is the charm of the place. You will be cut off from civilization for your stay at Bison Wells. Thankfully, your cook will be a call away in another hut nearby.

On the first day we took a walk to a lake downhill. Other than a truck that passed by, there was absolutely no one in sight. There was a settlement some distance away from the lake. After spending the evening at the lake-side, we were back for dinner by seven. In a place this basic we didn't carry much expectations about the food. But here came the surprise. It was a candlelight dinner in the cottage. The fried rice and curry was heavenly and so was the red wine.

At the camp, you can sit in the lounge and catch up with your reading. You'll hear no sounds other than bird calls or squeaks of the Malabar squirrel. You can also trek around the place. George can arrange a guide if required. If you are lucky you will spot bisons on the trek. We went for a moderate trek. The views were very good. We didn't spot any bisons though despite George's efforts. The place is safe for short unguided treks as well. After 7 or so in the evening, you have to tuck yourself into bed. It was very cold when we went there in May.

For all this, you will be surprised by the tarrifs. Rs. 1500 per night inclusive of all meals for a couple. The jeep ride to the place is expensive though. A two way trip to Bison Wells from Kodai will set you back by Rs. 1600 at least.

Here's the web-site if you are planning a trip:

Some photos I clicked during our stay there:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Project/Issue Tracking with Trac

I saw Trac being used by some projects recently. Decided to give it a try today for tracking a small prototyping project that I'm working on. It didn't take more than half an hour to get it running and it does its job without getting in the way. If you are looking for a bug tracker that's easy to set up and use, give it a try. It has an integrated wiki and source browsing tools (if you are using svn). I set it up to use SQLite and to run as a standalone server, which is the simplest way to get it running for a small project.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Picture Window Pro

The post processing I do on my photos is limited to sharpening, saturation and simple contrast adjustments in Picasa. I was looking for software that gave a little more control (curves adjustments and unsharp mask for example). Photoshop is the popular choice, but the pricing (600$) is beyond reach. I used GIMP (on Linux) for a while, but its speed is frustrating. It was then I came across Picture Window Pro. Costs 90$ and the download size is a mere 5MB (300MB for the Photoshop trial). It does almost everything that Photoshop does (at least whatever you'd want for post processing photos). Head to IMAGEs by DEN to see what it's capable of. Check the before and after comparisons by moving the mouse over the images on that page. It not only convinced me about Picture Window Pro but also about the importance of post-processing.

Picture Window Pro runs smoothly in Linux with Wine. I ran the installer with the default Wine settings. I only had to copy gdiplus.dll from my windows partition to my fake windows directory to run it. It's much faster than GIMP and more stable than the Linux version of Picasa. I'll be trying it for a month before deciding whether it's worth buying.

Oh, and do checkout some stunning night photography at Cambridge in Colour.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I didn't realize until Preethi pointed it out that The Pursuit of Happyness was based on a true story. Beautiful film. Don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't watched the film already, but if you already have, here's the Wikipedia page on Chris Gardner.. The real Chris Gardner makes a cameo appearance at the end of the movie.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

340N - BMTC Volvo Service to HSR and Koramangala - (Route Withdrawn)

Latest information on bus routes connecting HSR Layout is available here:

Jan 22, 2008: This route has been withdrawn by BMTC. There were not enough users. Sad.

Apr 16, 2007: Some updates: The BMTC website now lists the timings and route information for 340N:
The buses on this route still run nearly empty most of the time. Fares have been reduced yesterday. Do give it a try before BMTC re-deploys these buses on more lucrative routes (335E often has standing passengers) to cut losses.

BMTC has started a new Volvo bus route from Majestic to HSR Layout (Sector 1 and 2) via Koramangala. That means hassle-free, comfortable rides in air-conditioned comfort if your office falls on this route. BMTC has a web-page that lists all Volvo bus routes, timings and fares at Route 340 N isn't listed yet. But for a brief report in the papers on the day of the launch, there's no information on the exact route or the timings. Consequently, there aren't many users of this service yet. I wish BMTC did better by putting up the details at the bus-stops on this route. Here are the details I've gathered so far from using this service over the last two weeks.

The Route
New: I got a Google Maps API key. Here's my first try at the API. View 340N route on Google Maps. I wonder why Google hasn't come up with simpler ways of marking points and paths on their maps without using an API/javascript.
From HSR Layout: Parangipalya (2nd sector), CDWD Quarters/FoodDays, Agara, Jakkasandra (Koramangala 1st block), Sony World Junction, National Games Village, Koramangala Police Station, Raheja Arcade/Forum, Adugodi, Elgin Prestige, Richmond Road, Corporation, Mysore Bank, Majestic.

From Majestic: It's nearly the same route in reverse except that it comes via Subbiah cirle (beginning of Lalbagh road), crosses Double Road under the flyover, DivyaSree Chambers, Nanjappa circle, Langford Road, Elgin Prestige, Adugodi.

There are two buses on this route. Officially the frequency is one every 45 minutes, but due to the traffic on the route, it's lower than that. This timings aren't stable yet. (Schedule is now available on the BMTC site.) The first bus from HSR starts between 7:45 and 8:00 am on most days. This is the one I use. It drops me at Richmond road by 8:40 am latest. If I'm lucky, I get the return bus in the evening at around 6 pm from the Double Road junction. Check the official schedule. There are changes in the evening schedules.

Minimum fare is Rs. 15 (Rs. 12 during non peak hours). If you have a Pushpak pass, you can get a concessional fare of Rs. 20 for the full trip. Wait for the fare chart and schedule on The fares have been reduced from April 15th and the pass holder concessions are gone. That doesn't affect me since the revised fare from HSR to Corporation is Rs. 20 (30 earlier), the same as the concessional fare for Pushpak pass holders. Costs Rs. 15 to Koramangala, 20 to Corporation and 25 to Majestic from HSR now.

Bus Location by SMS
There's an interesting SMS service being tried out with the Volvo buses. These buses have GPS on them and you can get the current location of buses on any route by sending an SMS. The details are available here: The project is in pilot stages now and available on two routes. (Available on almost all Volvo routes.) Simple services like these can go a long way in keeping cars off the roads. Apparently most of the regular BMTC buses too have GPS trackers on them.
Update (23 March 07):The SMS service works for 340 N too. Send "Yi V340N U" to 99456 34666 to know where the bus heading to HSR is. Change the U to D to get the location of the bus towards Majestic. It works fine most of the time. Yesterday, I used it to track the bus in the evening and left office at just the right time.