Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review Blog: Two pentacles drawn, and a nice story enclosed in between!

Hello dudes and dudettes,
Time's not so good here, but tolerable. Had an eventful fortnight. Had gone to watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi on christmas, which I just didn't like. Otherwise I had caught a really annoying cold which hung over for a few days. I also wrote the FIITJEE TALENT REWARD EXAM on this twenty-eighth, where I totally flunked, the questions from outside our completed syllabus, thus brains.
Apart from that, we've been having seven-working-day weeks here at our college and things are kind of driving me insane, when a book showed up. A friend of mine recommended it and it did help me a lot, apart from my guitar lessons and regular SMSes...
The books good, the story's even better...and I liked it the most!


Name: The Amulet of Samarkand, Book 1 Bartimaeus Trilogy
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Author: Jonathon Stroud

This novel is basically the first book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
The book is an excellent piece of imagination with everything that one would look for in a fantasy novel, also sync-ing it with the present day scenario smoothly. The book starts with the summoning of a djinni(pronounced as jinni) by a twelve year old boy, Nathaniel. The purpose: To Steal the Amulet the Samarkand from Simon Lovelace.
It's a little abrupt beginning, but the subsequent few chapters answer every question as of why such an event took place at all. Thus giving a proper shape to the story, in a nice fashion that I haven't seen in other books. 
The story on the whole involves two storylines: Nathaniel's and Bartimaeus's. Nathaniel is described in third person view, while Barmiaeus himself tells the story for his part. For most part of the book Bartimaeus draws your attention toward him by his really funny, witty and sarcastic footnotes. These footnotes are the very essence of the book. They have many definitions, comments on a few events and a few jovial disclaimers regarding what Bartimaeus is doing.
Then there is Aurthur Underwood and his wife Martha who bring up Nathaniel in a master-apprentice relationship, since Nathaniel's parents sold him to the ministry during his childhood, much to his discomfort.
The "villain" of the book is Simon Lovelace. Nathaniel striked him with the simple virtue of taking a revenge for Simon had once insulted, and humiliated Nathaniel in the public. But the story takes an amazing twist and things take a bigger prespective,finally in the end, Nathaniel wins, and also saves the Government in the process.

My Rating

Well, the story of the book is spread across actually just one week, but the flash-backs and other nostalgic events take about the first hundred pages of the book, which is interesting, but gets you impatient, since nothing happens subsequent to the first chapter! Otherwise, I also noticed few really good twists, and a nice end. The story begins with Nathaniel summoning Bartimaeus, and ends with him dismissing it(him).

Not many characters are much described in this book. The main ones for most of the book are Nathaniel, Bartimaeus and Lovelace. Underwood has some role, but not much significant. While Lovelace and Nathaniel are portrayed as highly ambitious and determined people, not bothering about breaking(forget about bending) a few rules. But, on a contrary, Bartimaeus is a really genial character who seems to have opinions on almost everything, and puts in the most humorous way I've ever seen, which adds a lot of individuality to him, though he is just a djinni, a demon summoned for a purpose, and then later dismissed. As my friend pointed out, Saphira has comparitively less of an individuality, but her presence is completely different. She has a different role, though.

Well, all this takes place in present day London, where magicians have cars, live in houses, work in the Parliament, go for vacations...everything is normal. It's just like if the Harry Potter World gets filled with muggle-born people, you can say. But the author gives the whole place a different look. Alomost every street is guarded by 'search spheres' just like cameras, and there are magic-policemen who go about patroling day and night. It makes the story interesting, and the reader more curious. This is one really innovative approach of this book, because most novels of the fantasy genre tend to be old fashioned, including Harry Potter. But too much of these things also get a little boring in between...but not much of this boring stuff exists in the book.

The plot is really good, but its a little movie-like, where the protagonist seeks to satisfy his personal vengence or the like, and later ending up in a bigger conspiracy. It's how many movies are made, and books too. But the end of the book, and the way Jonathon put together different threads to make one single and a little complex plot was really good...where one could not think of alternatives for what the characters would have to do, thus giving a proper path to the whole story.

Description -4.5/5
Amulet of Samarkand is excellently described. Especially the end, where the actual action takes place. The description of the Heldham Hall, where the confrontation takes place is very well described, along with the humorous footnotes from Bartimaeus! But at some places, the description gets boring, whre Jonathon tells how ornately a place is decorated, or how good or bad someone's feeling. 'Someone' excludes Bartimaeus of course! Bartimaeus is fun, really!

For the first time, I've read a fantasy book, where the parents of the protagonist are NOT dead! They actually sell him off to his new master. The master himself is very obstinate and self-made, but his wife, Martha acquires a soft corner in Nathaniel's heart. Otherwise, there are fewer spells, but more of demons and there is actually a kind of technology behind even the demon and their related stuff. For example, one has to draw a meticulously accurate pentacle, with the constraints he wants to set upon, while summoning his demon. Nathaniel is mentioned practicing these drawings. The concept of things like summoning horn, the Amulet itself and other magical objects and things are really good, especially when Bartimaeus talkes about it.

End Note:

At the bottomline, Jonathon has created an excellent piece, along with its sequels, The Golem's Eye, and Ptolemy's Gate. The entire trilogy revolves around ancient British Emperor, Gladstone, and his staff. The book clearly portrays all emotions, in the right way, at the right time. Unlike Brisingr, where the characters were stoic to some extent, the guys are full of life here and Jonathon has made them do their best. It also emphasizes the point that nothing should be done impulsively, but with a second thought of its very purpose. This is one of the most important lessons for life that one can derive, and it's what will help us during our time of real freedom, which comes all of a sudden, when we get independent.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Gaming, and Review:Philips GoGear

Hello dudes and dudettes,

This is literally an unexpected blog post for me as I had some extra free time due to a lst minute announcement of a holiday. This holiday was declared due to a 'bandh' - an informal, unofficial curfew declared by political parties in protest of something. The something may range from highly trivial to an astounding cause - and thus I got some time to say a 'hello' to my computer after a couple of days!

Well, the past days were uneventful except for my major step in my guitar lessons. I have nearly learnt all the basic chords, and if I get perfect with it, my teacher/coach has promised me that he would start with 'Hotel California' by Eagles next week. I'm kind of excited about this since I really love that song!

Seeing nothing more important to talk of, this time I stick to the true name of my blog and shall talk about a few interesting pages. I actually gain nothing by linking to them, but for spreading information to people who are ignorant of the existance of such pages. 

So, here we go,

The first one is gonna' interest some of you 'cause it's all about gaming. For guys still at the high school, or college: Now, would you like an XBox or a PS3 which a HDTV all set for gaming, installed in your office, available anytime? Well, that's what blokes out there intend to do. Here is a page regarding the pros and cons,(most are the pros, fortunately) on gaming in office, and how it seemingly increases the productivity of the employees.

Here's the link, 

There is space for comments there, but w.r.t spreading the awareness, you guys owe me a comment! :P

The next one is a little bit serious(than the previous one.)
Well, I just can't seem to find anything to write without putting up the whole matter here. So to avoid the gross deed of plagiarism, I'll just quote the first intorductive paragraph, which may probably explain a little. Anyways, its about the future about The Earth, and, indirectly, humanity.

"First there is the case put forward in 2003 by astrophysicist Donald Brownlee and palaeontologist Peter Ward in their absorbing book The Life and Death of Planet Earth, that biological existence here has only another 500 million years left - at an optimistic best. The processes which over the next 7 billion years will incrementally scorch the Earth, dry up the oceans, and finally engulf the planet within the immense advancing orb of the dying sun, will long before that have extinguished all living things..."

More here:

Do read and keep comments pouring in!


Well, I've been using a Philips GoGear since quite sometime, people who reguarly read about my music interests would know about it. Now, since I've got some extra time, I feel like reviewing it. My brother's got an iPod Nano, which is actually worth not is cost, and I got a chance to use my cousin's Creative ZEN, a few things I shall use for comparison.

Design : 

The Philips GoGear looks great. It is nice and slim, not of course as slim as the nano, but sufficiently slim to fit into any pocket you care to name. The front is made of a piano black finish black which is not as scratch-prone as you may think. It doesn't even attract nearly as many fingerprints as say, the PSP, but you will need to keep wiping it if you hate fingerprints. The back, is irritatingly made of the same chrome-y material of the current ipod nanos. This has surprised me as it is one of the most scratch prone surfaces ever made. But one screen guard and one back-guard [?] later, you are good to go. 
The buttons, to be honest feel kind of cheap. There is a 4-way pad with a centre click button, a "menu" button [that according to me should have been named the "back" button] to the left, and a handy [but rarely used playlist button that adds the currently playing song to a playlist] which is located to the right. Nice to see a dedicated +/- volume rocker which is on the right of the player. To the left you will find the hold switch as well as a mic for recording. The bottom sports a reset switch, 3.5mm jack and the mini-USB port. I found the placement of the hold switch rather uncomfortable. It would have been much better on the right of the player.
The face buttons are nowhere near as responsive as i would like them to be. But there is a nice satisfying click. 
The screen is a nice bright 1.8" screen that does 65k colors at 320x240. While it is nowhere near as bright as say, the nano's screen, it is sufficiently sharp and clear for most. 

Features :

The player has quite a bit of features to boast of. It supports photos. They look great on the screen. Again only very basic functionality. 
Moving on to videos, the player leaves you sorely disappointed here. It only supports videos upto 20fps! And at a max bitrate of 384 kbps....That makes all videos boringly slow to watch. All but the shortest of videos are completely unwatchable. Forget about even watching a 15 minute cartoon. It is un-doable. 
The Radio, on the other hand was really good. The reception was stellar, better than anything I have ever used. Again, very basic usage here too. All you can do is auto tune and set presets. 
The Voice recorder did it's job really well. The recording was very audible. But i wouldn't recommend it for recording soft or far-off voices. I used it a few times to record my tries on Master of Puppets, and Battery riffs, to see what they sound like. I got an acoustic though..duh!
Even format support is very disappointing. It only supports MP3 and WMA..... nope, no AAC.


During the past one year, the time I've spent with this little PMP, I've listened to a variety of songs ranging from Pop, Bollywood, Rock, Thrash, nu Metal, Ballads and Electronic and Rap...no Im not bragginn'!

So this is what I'd like to say,
Overall, the Player offers just middle of the road quality. It was really lacking in Bass and Treble, leading to what i will describe as flat sound. It really takes the spark out of a lot of songs. But clarity was nice and surprisingly, detail loss was minimum.
Thus, if you are even slightly a Bass Freak, or consider yourself a music lover, then stay away. If you are a strictly casual listener, then it should satisfy you. 

On the whole:
Philips GoGear SA-3115 is a decent player, true in its features considering its price and good for casual listeners. Im casual to some extent, at least now(I got to study!)...otherwise, you wouldn't really find something great in it. Anyway, the best sound quality comes from an iPod, and otherwise, I'd recommend you to visit concerts when they take place in your city. They are the best. (I visited the Boney M concert recently, my first and really good one!)


Okay then, it's time I Disappear to my bed 'cause this lovely day is nearly over here, and I got to gear up for the next week. A couple of really fat books await at my table, to be solved. 

So until my next blog,
Templar AKA Sumanth

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Week to remember

Hello dudes and dudettes,

This is a time we need to remember, for it is what has allowed you to read the very post! 

On December 9, 1968, Stanford Research Institute scientist Douglas Engelbart demonstrated his unique invention--the computer mouse--for the first time in public. It took another decade and a half for it to catch on, but once it did, computing was never the same. And today, it's hard to imagine using a desktop or laptop computer without a mouse (or one of its latter-day substitutes such as the touchpad).

The first known publication of the term "mouse" as a pointing device is in Bill English's 1965 publication "Computer-Aided Display Control"

Above is Engelbart's first prototype mouse (held by its inventor). Note the square shape, hand-crafted wood case, and giant wheel inside. The part of this little beast that most resembles a modern mouse is the tail-like cord that gave it its name–though many mice do away with that today, of course.

Mouse Patent Drawings

Two mouse patent drawings: On the left is one from Engelbart's original patent, and on the right is one showing a ball-and-wheel design from a 1974 patent.

Early Logitech Mouse

Early on, it wasn't clear what size or shape a mouse should be, or how many buttons it should have. Some, such as this early Logitech model (circa 1982), looked more like lab instruments than computing devices. (Logitech has gone on to sell more than a billion of the little critters, most of which were a lot more consumer-friendly than this one.)

Microsoft's First Mouse

Apple's introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 may have done more than any other single act to raise the mouse in the public consciousness. But Apple had shipped its first mouse-equipped computer, the ill-fated Lisa, a year earlier. And 1983 was also the year that Microsoft released its first mouse, which cost $195 and required an internal PC card. (Ad image from VintageComputing.com.)

Early Apple Mice

These Mac Plus-era Apple Mice from the mid-1980s are primitive compared with today's models. But it seems quite possible that if computer users had been confronted with a modern, multiple-button, cordless, optical, "ergonomic" mouse back then, they would have had no clue what to do with it. Mice had to be simple before they became complex.

Sun Optical Mouse 

Optical mice have pretty much driven the old-style ball mouse into extinction today, but back in the 1980s they were exotic and expensive, and required the use of a weird, shiny mousepad. I bought one similar to this Sun model for myself for about $100 circa 1988 for use with my beloved Amiga 500, and was awfully proud of it at the time. (Photo by Hugo Villeneuve.)

Microsoft Mouse 2.0

The 1993 "Microsoft Mouse 2.0" must have been one of the best-selling pointing devices of all time--I still see them faithfully in service 15 years later. But for southpaws such as me, its "ergonomic" design was a curse: It was artfully sculpted to fit...your right hand. (I once read about a Microsoft product manager mention that it was a good fit for lefties, too–-as long as they switched hands to use it.) It started a trend toward nonambidextrous design that continues, I'm sorry to say, to this day. (Image from GUIdebook.) 

An Early Trackball

Call the trackball the recumbent bicycle of pointing devices: arguably superior (no mouse pad required!), beloved by a few weirdos, but never a mainstream hit (except, of course, when mounted inside a Missile Command console). I count myself among the weirdos--I used a wonderfully ambidextrous, sturdy Kensington Expert Mouse like this one for a while during my childhood. It's a testament to the universal acceptance of Engelbart's invention that Kensington calls this device a mouse even though it isn't one. (Kensington makes a modern version to this day.) 

First Apple iMac Mouse

I never actually used the infamous hockey-puck mouse included with Apple's first iMac, so I refuse to trash it here: It's just barely possible that it wasn't as hideous as its reputation would suggest. But let the record show that an online friend of mine, Dan Tynan named it as a (dis)honorable mention when he wrote about the 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time.

Logitech Concept Mouse

This skinny Logitech concept mouse had dual sensors, allowing it to zoom and rotate simultaneously. It was way too complicated to sell well–-a fact that Logitech realized before it ever got out of the labs, thank goodness.

Apple MacBook Pro Touch Pad

If you've been using laptops since the early 1990s or so, you remember when they didn't have pointing devices--because many folks didn't need 'em. Odd clip-on trackballs followed, and then laptop manufacturers started building trackballs into their machines.
But manufacturers eventually settled on the touchpad (nearly pervasive today and highly evolved, as in the Apple MacBook Pro above) and the ThinkPad-style Trackpoint (less common, but still around). I'm fine with either option, but an awful lot of people shun both in favor of traveling with an undersized mouse that's far closer to the one that Douglas Engelbart designed decades ago.

Logitech MX Revolution Mouse

Many of today's mice--such as this Logitech MX Revolution--bear about as much resemblance to Engelbart's 1968 model as a 2009 Lexus sedan does to a Model T. They sport myriad "ergonomic" designs, scroll wheels of multiple sorts, optical or laser tracking at absurd resolutions, and fancy materials and textures, and they've shed their tails in favor of wireless technology.

But you know what? In the end, they do exactly what Engelbart's first mouse did: allow you to move a cursor around the screen and press buttons to initiate actions. Engelbart's patent ran out before mice became big business, so his invention didn't make him a zillionaire. All it did was make computing a lot more personal and intuitive--and it shows every sign of continuing to do so for a long time to come.

Templar AKA Sumanth

P.S. Almost all the images are taken from Wikipedia, unless and until I have mentioned their sources. Also a couple of them was obtained by googling, as always!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back to some tech now...

Hello dudes and dudettes,
I am fairly better now, and here are a few things from the web, and the world of technology. 
Otherwise, college is going on well, and so are my guitar lessons, am looking forward to reach the jamming stage, which I suppose shall take another few months, or probably a year!

GMail Gadget for Windows

Google has unveiled a new gadget that allows Google Desktop for Windows users to check their Gmail accounts without having to leave leaving the vendor's desktop search application.

The new gadget will allow users to read, search and send Gmail messages while in Google Desktop, Google noted. Users can also star messages and use keyboard shortcuts.

"It doesn't take up much space in your sidebar or desktop, and you can also resize it to show as few or as many messages as you'd like," noted James Yum, developer programs engineer for Google Desktop, in a blog post Monday. "When I'm at work, I keep two instances of the gadget open: one logged into my personal Gmail account and the other set to my Google Apps account for work related stuff. Instead of getting lost in a sea of tabs or browser windows, I can bring up the gadgets in an instant."

Google released Google Desktop in 2004. The application promises to make searching a PC as easy as searching the Web. It provides full-text search over email, files, music, photos, chats, Gmail and Web pages viewed, according to Google. The application includes other gadgets that allows users to be shown new email, weather updates, photos and personalized news.

Yum noted that Google's gadgets team has received countless requests for a Gmail gadget for Google Desktop, and users posting comments to the page for downloading the new gadget had mostly positive comments.

News Feed on Mumbai Attack, from AFP.

US intelligence chief implicates Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai attacks

December 3, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell late Tuesday implicated Lashkar-e-Taiba in the deadly attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 188 people.
Speaking at Harvard University, the top US intelligence official left little doubt that he believed the group was responsible for the bloody attacks.

"The same group that we believe is responsible for Mumbai had a similar attack in 2006 on a train and killed a similar number of people," said McConnell. "Go back to 2001 and it was an attack on the parliament," he added.

The July 2006 bombings of Mumbai commuter trains killed at least 186 people and injured some 700 others. Indian police at the time blamed Pakistan's intelligence service and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which fought Indian rule in divided Kashmir, for the attacks.

Indian officials also blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for the deadly assault on the Indian parliament in 2001. That attack killed 12 people and pushed New Delhi and Islamabad to the brink of war.
The radical Islamic group, whose name means "Army of the Pious," has past links to both Pakistani intelligence and Al-Qaeda.
McConnell, who did not mention Lashkar-e-Taiba by name, said he did not see the Mumbai attack as a new form of terrorism.

"If you examine the groups we think are responsible, the philosophical underpinnings are very similar to what Al-Qaeda puts out as their view of how the world should be. It is a continuation," he said.
About 10 gunmen landed in rubber dinghies in Mumbai Wednesday and wreaked havoc with automatic weapons and hand grenades, in a 60-hour assault that killed at least 188 people and injured more than 300. The dead included 22 foreign nationals.
Pakistan outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba after the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, though Indian officials allege the ban has not been enforced.
In his speech, McConnell emphasized the difficulty in fighting shadowy Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba...

More over here:


Some sites now, after a while!

Two tricks that work with almost any photo-editing software.
Useful for circuit repairing, circuit bending, circuit understanding. 

This is a really useful trick for those who like dissecting electronic objects and try fiddling around with them.

Joongel is a simple web application for searching and navigating through the most popular sources on the Internet in different categories. Our search method is based on the geographic location of the user and traffic ranking analysis from Google, Hitwise, Compete, Comscore, Nielsen//Netratings, Quantcast and more.

The Joongel websites are currently running on a beta version.


Well, since I've started learning my guitar, I've become crazy about it, and concentrae only on guitar riffs while listening to Rock. Here are the top 5 guitar solos that really got me!

5. Zehreelay-Rock On!!
4.Victim of Love-Eagles
3.In Pieces-Linkin Park

Now in the second place....

2. Battery - Metallica

The guitar solo in this is awesome and has the real attitude and modd of the song...it highlights the song more than Hetfield's voice!

The best guitar solo is....


With 16 different riffs and 2 solos, the song is nearly NINE MINUTES LONG, and about two minutes of it is pure guitar solo with excellent use of pedal, and the transition from clean tone to the distortion...takes you into it...also the intro, verse and chorus riffs are too good in this song. I've got crazy that this has become my tagline in my Orkut profile..!!!

Well, I ought to be off now, so see you people soon with more tech, news and quips from my life.
Till then,

Templar AKA Sumanth