Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Reader (not the Oscar nominated Movie)

Reading RSS News feeds daily is a habit of mine that I like. The feeds vary from BBC News & technology to gaming & blogs. But I don’t spend too much time in them coz I’ll usually feel sleepy after an hour of reading. I rarely spend more than an hour at a stretch. But today, I believe I read the longest article I’ve ever read in my life. It was 31 pages long & was about SSD technology. Computers always fascinate me & the latest in computer tech is something that I try to keep in touch with. But this article was different. Though it was a technical article, it seemed to have a soul.

The article in question here is ‘The SSD Anthology: Understanding SSDs and New Drives from OCZ’ by Anand Lal Shimpi in the famous SSD is the latest technology in Hard Disk Drives. In lay-man’s language, you could say, it is flash drive technology used to create hard disks. If you are a passionate 24x7 PC user like me, then your primary hardware related concern about your system would be your hard drive. It has all your data but it is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode, sending all your precious data to oblivion. If you are skeptical about the last statement, then ask me about my 250GB drive that stopped working a week ago with almost 240GB of data (including some files that I use on a daily basis) in it.

Fear not, as SSD technology is here to the rescue. SSD is not only more reliable, but also much faster. Not just an increase in speed to help you play the high-end computer games, but an increase in speed that you’ll notice in your daily life. It radically improves everything from the OS boot speed to application start speeds & multitasking. It doesn’t make noise, it is cooler than our normal HDD & has no moving parts inside it. The only flip side is probably that the technology is in its infant stages & so, it comes with high price. But this is one technology that I’m really looking forward to.

Now, if that last paragraph seemed interesting to you, then you definitely should go read that article. I’ve always believed in knowing the history behind things that affect our daily lives. History of the world like the World War and the discovery of America are taught in our school history books. But what isn’t taught is the history of internet. Don’t tell me that they teach about Tim and ARPANET, coz I’m talking about the actual history of how internet grew from being a geek’s world to a common man’s world, how every company tried to claim internet as their own & how the dotcom bubble actually burst. This is the history that happened in the past decade. This is what we should know to understand what is happening right now in this world.

The article by Anand is a mix of both the history behind SSD and the technical understanding of the technology for a lay-user. This is probably what gives the article, its soul. The article not only introduces you to the technology, it gives the background of the creation of the technology, it explains the current stance of the technology & explains what you can expect from the technology in the near future. I will confess that I didn’t read every word of the article coz I skipped some technical benchmarks & stuff that didn’t interest me. But I did read the most of that article which I didn’t realize until the end that it had taken me around one and a half hours.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

GTA IV - First Impressions

I tried my hands at GTA IV today. I didn’t play it for long & maybe that is why I’m not able to come to a conclusion on whether I like it or not. I loved spending hours together in the old GTA III. I even loved the top-view GTA II. But when it came to San Andreas, I simply couldn’t find it in me to finish even the first mission where they give you a cycle to outrun a car. I don’t know why, but I simply didn’t fancy that game. So, I didn’t have high hopes for this one.

A friend of mine was playing the game & I took over simply to check out the car control. Weirdly enough, I loved it. The car behaves like a real car in the sense, it simply wouldn’t turn as it used to in the earlier versions. The car control was kind of addictive, but tough at the same time. The game has the old storyline, similar missions, same cops roaming randomly & the same ambulances that come to the rescue of injured people. None of that was either new or interesting.

There was a mobile which was supposed to give us some options & then, I was asked to choose between two options at times like for example, when I was about to drop my date, I could ask her whether I could come in or I could just say goodbye. I don’t think it would alter the story, but it was good to have a pseudo feeling of being in control of the story. Besides that, the physics in the game is probably the most note-worthy part of the game.

Though driving the car is a lot tougher now, it is also a lot of fun. Sadly though, there are some catches in that too. The controls are in ‘wasd’, which for a guy like me who plays the game simply to drive the cars & bikes, is stupid. We could probably change the controls but I didn’t want to mess around with it since ‘up/down’ were used for the mobile and I wouldn’t be playing for long anyway. If this wasn’t bad enough, the camera takes a long time to get back into position when we reverse or slide. Basically, we have to move the mouse to look at where we are going during turns. I have no idea how this is supposed to be fun!

The game is probably good enough to at least finish it once, but then again, I’m not completely convinced yet. The Rs.500/- price tag in India is very impressive, but the rumours I’ve heard about the problems of installing this game, have kept me away from it. I believe we need XP SP3 or Vista to install this game. I’m not sure about it, but I have neither of those. For the gamers who love the free-roam games, this is a must try coz the map is definitely huge & the various objects on the road are very real.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Loda joins MYM

Sometime back, DotA team Rush3D was disbanded. Now, it is the turn of SK-Gaming’s DotA team. It is probably the recession or something, but why the DotA teams when their CS teams are still there! That is a discussion for another time though, coz we have more news to share. Since SK is no more, what happens to their top-class players? I don’t know about the entire team, but their captain Loda is heading to MYM. That’s right, MYM isn’t looking for a leader but they are looking for someone to tilt the scales in their favour against KS.Int. Can Loda be the change they were looking for?

Maelk has superbly explained why they took in Loda. Here is what he had to say “Recently our western female fanbase has decreased due to the departure of Fear. Needless to say, Merlini draws alot of attention from the girls, but mostly Asians. So we have been desperately looking for someone to fill the gap and get us groupies when we're at events. We tried it once before, but back then Loda was ten times as immature as he is now, so as long as there is an ignore-function on Ventrilo and he can have a lane of his own ingame, we'll make it work. Everyone knows how obnoxious he is, and he isn't really that good at DotA either, but he increases our fanbase by 1500% which we simply can't say no to! Good luck Loda, may I bench every game you play in!”

Now that, is how a gaming team should explain things, haha! To find more, check out their site

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More is Less!

Less than a year ago, I decided to buy a new computer. For some strange reason (which was not so strange back then), I decided to keep my old computer. Since me & my friends spend most of our time in front of computers, I thought this would be a great way to spend more time together. Not everything goes according to plan and this is a good example. My friends didn’t fancy coming over regularly & so, the only time the computer was used was when my mom or dad decided to play cards & thus eventually getting my dinner delayed. That aside, I still managed to find some rare use for my old computer. But that can barely be called a reason considering the troubles I’ve had with it.

Time and again, either the motherboard has problems or the processor overheats or the hard disk has trouble or the network won’t work. I don’t even use that computer much and I’ve spent more time repairing it than using it. The past month has been the worst with the HDD failing & motherboard giving me all sorts of troubles. Three days back, I made the routine trip to Rashi Peripherals which is the customer care for Asus in Chennai. Their shop was closed since they were on a company trip. So, I made another trip today.

When I was waiting at the main desk, I was gazing at the numerous awards & certificates they had bolted onto the wall to show their excellence in service. I was mildly surprised as I couldn’t understand what was so special about a service center. I mean, you just come here, they’ll check the device & if it isn’t working, they’ll replace it. It seemed like a simple procedure to me. They did the same with my motherboard & I got it replaced in less than half an hour. When I reached home, I started to realize why it was special.

I spent hours if not days trying to find out what the problem was when my computer wouldn’t boot. After taking it apart, changing parts and assembling it back & repeating it a couple of times with different parts, I came to the conclusion that it is probably the motherboard. After all that trouble, they replaced it with a completely different board in just half an hour which was nothing at all compared to the hours I spent juggling with different parts.

Unfortunately, as I said in the first paragraph, not everything goes according to the plan. I assembled everything back without sparing even a single bolt & with full of confidence, I pressed the magic button. The magic stopped at the booting screen & it didn’t go any further. Without losing hope, I said to myself that the processor might not have been mounted properly & so, I took it apart & assembled it again. That didn’t change anything & so, I’m back to square one. The obvious reason here is probably that the people in Rashi Peripherals replaced my faulty board with their faulty board. The lesson in the end is, don’t bite on something that you can’t swallow. Meaning, there is no point in buying something (or in my case, not selling something) which we don’t really need. If we do, we’ll end up having to waste more time & energy in maintaining it, for which our return is just the thought that we have more (of what we don’t need).

Update: I made another trip to Rashi the following day, only to find out that the board is indeed working. The engineer there suggested that I check my HDD & he was right. So, next stop, Seagate Service Center. As a result of all this confusion, we decided to get an UPS for the old computer. Though technically I've learned more, the moral remains the same.