a tale of two photos

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timehop-1

A study in contrasts

The thing that I should find most fascinating in this photo should be the technology itself.

But no. There’s so much more 1.

We need to start somewhere, so…

  • 10 years ago: 3 laptops. 4 Nokia phones (an N70, a 6670, a 6680, a 3310?). 3 portable MP3 players (my iRiver, 2 Creative Jukeboxes). A ~100 GB portable drive and (of course) a watch-with-USB-storage device.
  • Now: 3 laptops (2 Airs and a Pro). 3 iPhones (2 of the iPhone6, 1 6s). 2 tablets (1 Mini, 1 Air). A nearly invisible 32 GB USB storage. And a Nexus 4.

The 2005 smorgasboard of devices (MP3 players, phones, laptops, external storage) seemed to be the only way to complete a picture of computing. As in, each and every one of those devices had to continue being around us for years to come.

Right?

Not quite. Today,¬†storage is¬†largely¬†ignored, only remembered when you run out of¬†¬†cloud¬†storage or something has not synced to where it should be. Expanding/external storage? Not truly a “thing” anymore, again not really something people consider. Portable MP3 players of course went¬†the way of the dodo thanks to the smartphone, though in all honestly, we did see that coming. Even back then our primary cameras and music players were slowly moving to what Nokia shipped on their phones (making this experience for me all the more weird, a year or so later). Laptops do live on, but everyone seems to be in agreement that some sort of tablet-hybrid thingy¬†will replace them in the next 5-10 years (Surface Pro or iPad Pro, anyone?)

The 2005 brands. Laptops: an Alienware, an IBM, a Toshiba. But phones? All Nokia. And probably rightfully so, most of those phones represented the pinnacle of how smart you could make a featurephone-style device 2.

And now? There is 1 manufacturer behind (almost) every device on the table: Apple.

The 2005 weird device is probably¬†that watch. I could just say we were way ahead of the curve in terms of pushing the limits of what watches (or as they are termed now, ‘wearables’) could do, literally a decade before wearables went mainstream. But really. We just thought a watch from which a USB cable could be extended out so you have “wearable” storage was cool.

Now? The odd one out (but by no means the weird one) is that Nexus 4. I finally gave up midway through eking out its 3rd year, and with that started the slippery slope of Apple-ifying my technology existence. And as typically happens with current technology, the device performance itself hadn’t super suffered over 2 years of OS updates. The battery, of course, had.

The 2005 philosophy underlying all that technology seems to be storage, storage, storage. Those portable players were the shitz Рit was so important to be able to carry it all with you. And, a more subtle point, design. For us, at that point.. design was about the specs. Everything else seemed secondary, coz you could make things work as you wanted them to.

And now. Raw specs and “cool”¬†technology have been replaced by practical considerations: Does it work well? Will it last? Whats the battery like? Is it made well? Is it made in a way that ensures I will use it? 3

But very seriously..¬†the thing that most jumped out at me when I assembled those photos together?¬†The people in common between them. My erstwhile partner-in-crime, Prasanna, and of course, myself. It’s pretty widely accepted that 10 years is an eon in technology. For 2 of us,¬†this past decade has so been much¬†more. We were kids, really, back in 2005. Barely finished our Masters’ in the UK. We were months away from deciding and launching severeanomaly.org. Living it up online. The arguments and debates we used to have about technology (at least what I can remember of those conversations) seem quaint, almost naive when I think about them. I could talk about how our lives themselves have changed, but there’s too much to list in the space I’ve allotted.

Interestingly though, we still debate such things today. Guess we never learn.

Back to that study in contrasts. Have to wonder if it will be just 3 devices in another 10 years 4.

Written in collaboration with Prasanna, of course. Who does not have a blog anymore. A story for another day.


  1. Yes,¬†the photo on top is mislabeled. Not sure why. 
  2. Back then, Nokia seemed infallible (the N82¬†will probably always be one of Prasanna’s top devices ever). Today, there is literally no real¬†technology brand associated with the name Nokia. The other big brand from those times: Motorola. Per the latest, we’ll be lucky to see the name ‘Moto’ on devices made by the parent¬†company. 
  3. And, based on our choice.. it appears we believe¬†Apple is the best¬†company in all of those¬†aspects. Latent Mac-tardism, ahoy! (With special acknowledgement of¬†Prasanna, who was previously renowned for his hatred of all things Apple. But then I did say our lives have changed) 
  4. Maybe more though. Kids will want their own [insert future crazy ass technology here], and those will probably join ours on that table? 

the death of old technology, that in reality never dies

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The first gadget I ever bought turned 10 years old last year.

The first laptop I ever bought would have turned 10 years old this year.

I just got rid of them both this past week (!). Incidental to this decision was the fact that they still turn on. Whether they could be classed as working is a separate question. Most of their components appeared to be in working order. They function as well as 10-year-old gadgets are wont to. They are slow. Were they ready for “death”?

The laptop, an Alienware m5500, saw the worst of it, but was also pretty damn resilient. It could only be afforded through a whole Christmas season of part-time work. And dat config. An Intel¬ģ Pentium¬ģ M 740 1.73GHz. Dual graphics cards you could switch between: an integrated Intel card and a 128MB NVidia¬ģ GeForce‚ĄĘ Go MXM 6600. A beautiful 1680 x 1050 display. A kingly 512MB Dual Channel DDR2 RAM (eventually upgraded to 1.25 GB) and a 60GB HDD. Good times.

I used it for 3-ish years, until I broke the screen in an accident that still gives me nightmares 1. Once repaired, my sister used it for another 3 years, maybe. Since the HP I bought as a replacement turned out to be the kind of monstrosity that only HP can make, I went back to the Alienware (very happily, I must add). A temporary desktop until I eventually built my powerhouse machine (for the time). 2

All that remained of the Alienware

All that remained of the Alienware

Oh, and the Alienware worked great for most of its life 3. Over time, I removed the screen (it died again, through no fault of mine). Replaced the hard drive. Made the DVD drive into an external device. Come to think of it, I recall using that DVD writer heavily in the UK.. burning collection after collection on disc. Backups were also disc based. 4 I tried resuscitating it a couple of times in the past few years as a media server, but its aging processor and fan couldn’t really handle it 5. ‘Twas with a heavy heart that I let it go now, after all this time.

The gadget was an iriver H140. iriver was one of those niche technology companies that has disappeared today – but way back when, they had some of the most full-featured products out there. Point of pride: First gadget I literally bought with my own hard-earned money. December 2004, on Tottenham Court Road, 5 days after I got my first paycheck. For a long long time it functioned as my only music player 6. It was the also only way I could transport data around – I loved the fact that it just showed up as an external drive in Windows 7. Almost 5 years after I got it, I moved to music playback on the phone. The H140 then became the driving music collection, where it basically “lived” in my car. A gigantic shuffle of Western, classical, desi, rock, pop, what have you played from it when I drove.

Clockwise: leather cover, remote, charger, an awesome player

Clockwise: leather cover, remote, charger, an awesome player

I switched out the firmware (“OS”) on the player about 2 years in to the Rockbox project, which added a lot of functionality to it. Probably my first real device hack/root 8.

The arrival of a smartphone (and some ominous clicks from the H140 hard drive) took the player out of the car and into a drawer. Where it has resided for most of the past few years. I never tried to figure out a use for it, especially with the rise of streaming services.. but again, hard to let go given its provenance.

How many devices I have bought in the last 5 years have actually survived the way these 2 devices seemingly did? My 4-year-old Nexus S can no longer have a regular Android ROM installed on it – its internal memory is too small for such limitations 9. Seeing as apps apparently get built against next years hardware, 2015 apps are barely functional on it. A now 3-year old X230T has never had great build quality, even though it was a good buy at the time. Probably have to switch it out this year, though in theory it’s hardware is humming along fine. The Nexus 4 (which replaced the S) is limping along into its 3rd year 10.

The Alienware and the iriver had to go: old electronics do not age well. That said, I’d like to believe they hung on as long as they did because of what they signified. Because every time I picked them up I could feel the blood, sweat, and tears that went into obtaining them.

The first possessions of a younger me, possessions I could call truly my own.

The screen simply says 'Thank you for using'


  1. It was also the subject of one of the first times irony bit me with regards to laptops. Funnily enough a very similar situation occurred with its successor HP. 
  2. Said powerhouse machine is still humming along fine as a cloud backup machine. Careful component selection, I tell you.. 
  3. Incidentally, I don’t think the Alienware ever saw anything but Windows XP. I tried Ubuntu, but was able to hack it into outputting 1080i in Windows and not any flavor of Linux. 
  4. Said collection was recently dumped too. And I still rue the day I quit on disc-based backups.. all that data I lost was partially recovered from those very discs. Funny how backups work. 
  5. In fact, I distinctly remember that I bought and took possession of this machine Dec 2005/Jan 2006. A few months into 2006, Intel announced the move to 64-bit and multi-core processors.. leaving me with completely obsoleted technology :/ 
  6. I very briefly considered an iPod. Price and iTunes conspired against it. But I have to wonder if my entire computing timeline would have taken a very different route based on that decision. 
  7. Remember, 2004/5? No Dropbox. Gmail offered a then-gigantic 1 GB of email storage. 
  8. Which translated to a crazy amount of ROMing/rooting and mucking about on the Nexus S and to some extent on the Nexus 4. 
  9. (Slimroms.net)[http://slimroms.net] zindabad. 
  10. I wrote this paragraph and thought at the end of it – man, I’m using a lot of old tech. 

its a page, its a post.. its a further update!

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Y’all thought that threat of “updates soon” was all bull, didn’tcha? How does it feel to be proven wrong?

Before I get back to my usual dose of random.. one must first pander to the need to talk about having an awesome time with the Mrs.

No, this has nothing to do with  obsessively importing blogs from one place to another.

Absolutely nothing.

****************

Its been a whole year since that monumentous monumental event. (“Monumentous” is apparently not a word, suggested alternatives include “monstrous”, “portentous”. Hm. Food for thought.)

Celebrations should have been in short order. Which we didn’t quite do on the day.

No, this has nothing to do with the Mrs wondering aloud what possessed her to marry me. And no, I absolutely do not keep congratulating myself on managing to push through the marriage before the full implications of being married to me dawned on her.

To be honest, we did do a small candlelight dinner with all the trimmings.. but nothing monumental. Mostly my fault, conferences always kill the mood around Jan-Feb. Every year. Including this one.

That said, good things come to those who wait.

I took G to Disneyworld.

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clubbing together a month’s worth of everything into one big gigantic post

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This is the 4th attempt I’m making at trying for a halfway decent beginning to a post. Have I really been reduced to saying such banalities? I can’t quite believe it. When I look at my front page, most of my recent posts are about movies. Reviews, basically. Most of my recent posts have also ended with a sign-off saying that I will have a proper update soon. This post, by virtue of being an “update”, doesn’t count as a proper post either. I have notes here, there and everywhere galore… none of which I have really expanded on. Hell, when I was going through my drafts I realized that I had a started a post last winter which I never got round to finishing.

I’m not happy with that start either, but its a start.

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why you should never buy an HP laptop of any kind ever

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Once upon a time I bought a laptop.

[I know that start is not as great as ‘Many many years ago, on a galaxy far far away..‘ but you can pretend those words appear on the line above if they mean that much to you.]

Anyway. A laptop. An HP dv2500t. Yes, the very same laptop that died on me a few days after my warranty expired.

We are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us return to the beginning of time when the laptop landed in my hands a second time. Yes, I know it is counter-intuitive to think of a ‘beginning of time’ and a ‘second time’ simultaneously, but still. In short, HP screwed up the order the first time it shipped to me. So begins the tale of them screwing up. With a screw up.

Flashback to last year. A year of heating problems and over-heating…and my graphics card is shot. I am in the middle of a conference. I need it fixed ASAP. HP charges me $300 (which I now realize I could have invested in a nice efficient little netbook), and ships it back to me pretty quickly. Everything seems fine. A month later, the edge of the panel facing me comes loose from its fastening. Repeat call to HP. They blame it on me. I think it may be possible. I don’t want to spend on it. I live with it. Over-heating still exists. Oh well. Jinxed laptop and all that.

On this trip to India, I find another good laptop engineer. Who is cheap. Amazing how everything in the US costs 10 times as much compared to India. Said engineer tries his best to open the laptop, because I think a cleaning of my laptop is overdue due to the overheating problem yada yada yada. Eventually he decides to try it in his lab. Back at the lab, and an hour later, I get a call.

[E] “Boss, they’ve applied super-glue.”

[Me] “What? HP Support? No..no..not possible. International organization, quality standards, etc etc.”

[E] “Boss, these panels are welded shut to the base. Super-glue. I’ve put in a solvent. Its coming unstuck. I’m telling you. Super-glue.”

[Me] “Ok.. great.. whatever. Open it up, clean and get it back to me. I’ll take care of it.”

So, let me get this straight. HP did not respond to my complaints (apparently, “high-end graphics cards can get pretty hot, sir”) when I said my laptop was over-heating until… my warranty expired and my video card blew. Then they replaced the entire f*cking motherboard (‘coz of their god-awesome architecture), couldn’t fix the panels back on correctly, and so used SUPERGLUE to fix it? (My engineer managed to do it just fine without superglue, btw). When it went back to overheating and the panel came loose.. somehow I am to blame. Now, why did the panel really come loose? Well, sometimes superglue doesn’t hold everything in place. Why does it still overheat? Lets see:

  1. One tiny laptop fan.
  2. One Core 2 Due CPU.
  3. One NVidia 8400M GS graphics card.
  4. One tiny f*ckin’ air vent on one corner.

Putting (2) & (3) results in a crapload of heat. Adding (1) to the mix means very little is being cooled down. Adding (4) to the mix means the heat goes nowhere. Bravo for neglecting every single rule about computer architecture and heat dissipation, HP. Now for the rhetoric. Why does HP suck so? Don’t get me started.

Never buy an HP laptop ever again. That’s what I tell everyone. Even the random guy in the store who I see taking a slight interest in HP products. Every salesman I meet at an electronics store in any country. Please don’t buy HP. For the love of manufacturers that make products that actually work.

Please.

Sample crappy HP laptops: Link 1.Link 2

Update (11 Dec 2009): The damn thing has pretty much died. Information gleaned from various sources tells me (1) this nVidia chipset sucks ass, (2) HP does not know shit about heat design for high-end laptops. Having ripped mine apart, I can tell you that the GPU has some kind of rubber between it and the heatsink – instead of thermal paste. I’m just shocked it didn’t die on me earlier. Since this post is hit up a lot:

I will attempt to find out more about the copper-mod, and see what I can do. Keep updating as and when I know more.

the laptop gods hate me

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a year and 60 days after my warranty expires, the nvidia 8400GM graphics card on my hp laptop has fried. no matter that i have pointed out to HP more than once that the laptop does get pretty warm, and i have been using a¬† cooling pad/table since. no matter that graphics cards should only get fried if i really abuse them. no matter that hp’s solution to all problems is to have me send it to them, so that they can do nothing at all. maybe i should have done it earlier. maybe i should have lived without a computer for 15 days while finally tell me i need to use a cooling pad. the support team was pretty nice though, and very helpful. i am just pissed at the quality of the laptop build. $1250 for this ?

what does matter is that this laptop has been pretty jinxed from the word ‘go’. i wonder if this is a hint to move to a super-powered desktop. maybe this one. or, even better, this one.

i sad ūüė¶