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® Pentium® M 740 1.73GHz. Dual graphics cards you could switch between: an integrated Intel card and a 128MB NVidia® GeForce™ 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. 

vestigial recollections and resolutions

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Engines whir, and I watch as the plane passes the runway, the adjoining highway, then another, and another…then they blur together amongst the millions of blinking lights that make up the streets and homes of Bombay. I desperately try to retain a final picture in my mind as the coast approaches. The plane banks into the darkness as it leaves Bombay, and eventually, India.

I sit back in my seat trying to retain every lasting moment, every vestige of my trip.. to squirrel it all away amongst a host of memories that I don’t want to lose. A long family train journey and a celebration of my Dad’s life thus far – events that happen too few and far between for my liking today. Rituals, prayers, togetherness, joy and above all the type of fun I can only associate with India.

The second event happened was my own hooking the missus and ensuring I have to return in a few months to complete the “formalities”, so to speak. The kind of celebration and having a ball of a time thing that you can only do once in a while – especially when it comes to yourself. I have already spoken about the bummer that it is to miss a family wedding.. I should be able to make it for my own 😛
And hopefully somehow make up for the bummer that was.

Describing the feelings, astonishment and enjoyment of the last 21 days is hard. Really hard.  Everyone I know has grown up/old – and I still cannot come to terms with it. Cousins I have babysat now have talents and a precocity beyond their years. “Grown-ups” I cannot think of as anything but people bigger, stronger and more organized than me have.. started to show an age. I can see batons passing from one generation to the next. I miss not being able to see them grow. To see them live. To see them enjoy. To be with them. Share time and moments of joy that are eventually all that remain of a lifetime spent together.

Seeing everyone together after so long and enjoying (not just in photographs), watching a previous generation bask in the joy of a new one, realizing how your own family has changed and matured; even finding, meeting and accepting another family into your own  – these are things one really misses sitting in a foreign land. Yes, I am now convinced that the US cannot really arrest my life forever. The so-called comforts and conveniences are mere rationalizations of a need to believe that one’s own country cannot measure up. I need to take hold of this degree and accordingly plan the eventual departure. There is too much I am missing, too much I am sacrificing sitting here. India has grown and adapted to a country that can more than challenge you – it has the potential to make a real difference.

It was the kind of trip that has proved to be life-changing in more than one sense. Hopefully life will stay changed too.

parting resonance

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“Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.” – Snoopy
Brother, really gonna miss you.. have no idea.. luv.. study well and take care. save up on money.. i need to loot you when i come there in summer..hehe..

in many ways, the perfect response to what i wrote about partings. no offense to anyone else who responded there.. but the resonance is too great to merit a simple reply there. i had to make a post of it.

funny that snoopy has similar thoughts. and sad that one has to realise that life is more about parting than coming together. that sucks.

i’m guessing this is why we’re bro n sis 😉

and as far as the looting goes, we’ll see. an n70 wasn’t enough ?

love you, babe. and miss you more than you know.
and of course, mr. schulz. for that statement.

saying goodbye

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i’ve always hated saying goodbye.

most importantly, i’ve really hated saying goodbye at the airport.

funny.

there have been times when i have gone to the train station 4 days in a row to bid adieu. there were times when, regardless of everyone else, i would be there for that final wave.
but, never, never the airport.

it seems too… final.

trains are always so much more specific. departure, or arrival, happen right there, right then; most of the time. you watch them pull away waving, having ensured that they have everything that they could need for a journey. a bit of final satisfaction. airports seem to leave the statement incomplete, so to speak.

i stood at the visitors barrier today at terminal 2C. the final moments i would get to spend with people who cared enough to stay up at 4 am. just to say goodbye. the jokes, the banter, the advice. and then.. all at once it was time to leave. the final shake, the final hold, the final hug. my second goodbye in a month. to people who mean the world to me. i had to turn and walk away. pursuing my dream, i thought.. at the cost of reality that i loved.

i stood in the immigration queue when it hit me. i was leaving again. in the last 2 years i have said more farewells than ever before.. but i’m still not used to the feeling. do i really want to be ?
and this was one of those times when you don’t know when you’re going to see everyone again. a year ? two ? more ? how many people end up leaving and forgetting to come back every now and then ? would i be one of them ?
so many people completely disappear from the hemispheres of people they think they will spend the rest of their lives with. and meet once in 5 years. which has to be the worst result of them all.

for a moment then, time seemed to stand still. the last one month, the sudden arrival, the dreaded (in a way) departure… and the sheer number of moments you always treasure – it all came rushing back. life suddenly seemed based in the short intervals of india that i have had in the last few years… rather than life itself.

yet another goodbye means yet another welcome. and thats whats going to keep me going. for now.

goodbye aberdeen

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[originally written on the 22nd, posting today for various reasons.]
i sit in a plane this saturday morning, and i think back to a saturday afternoon nearly two years ago; when i tentatively poked my head out of a similar aircraft. i look out the window, across the two seats separating me from them… and see an airport that looks the same.

it seems like yesterday.

as cliched as it may sound, it was a rare bright sunny day when i landed in aberdeen all those months ago; and i remember coming out of an airport wondering what i would find. i remember being struck by the classic scottish scenery, and looking at the winding roads as i rode to a hostel that i had been told about by a guy i was yet to meet. and today, here i am, having explored nearly everything there is to see in this place.
today i don’t know when i will come back. but come back i will. someday.

so many things have happened to me here over the last two years. and all those memories come back now. the life my friends and i led as independent students. struggling together those initial weeks. none of us knowing much, but not wanting to appear clueless. finding out exactly how clueless. looking for part-time jobs. celebrating when we got them. me, actually finding out how every minute in an hour can be valuable enough to earn the five pounds.

starting this space as recreation, and finding the outlet that i may have been looking for. finding people who can relate to it all. finding how weird daylight timings can really be so funny. or so depressing. celebrating that first diwali. marvelling at our first white christmas. a chaotic new year. realising why poets go into raptures over spring. summer, and the real aberdeen finally coming into view. road-tripping for the first time, and discovering one of the most beautiful countries in the world at our doorstep. finally attending rahman’s live concert.
and suddenly my course was over. we were all, technically, “done”.

heading back home for the first time in year since i came to the UK. realising just how much i missed it all. graduation. discovering london. experiencing the coldest winter in 50 years in scotland. and the hottest summer. both seasons the longest possible. road-tripping again, this time trying to see everything. applying for a US visa, to go the next step.
and i’ve finally got it. i’ve spent 2 long weeks winding up. and i’m going home. before i go away again.

all these months later, i think of the things we did. we worried. we looked. we applied. we lived it up. we lived it down. we wondered what would happen to all of us next. we watched movies. celebrating everything under the sun. discussed why that porn star did “it” that way. as well as about the principles of economics. and theology. relating all three topics. i remember going from hopeful and focussed to frustrated and cynical… and finding i was never alone.

we were like a family. we said it jestingly, but thats what we were. there for each other. all the fucking time. and once you’ve seen a guy in his underpants, there’s not much left to hide. and i know we guys will probably always be there together, all the fucking time. docboy, with his gentle smile and that nod of understanding. probably completely corrupted the poor chap’s vocab. richybaba and his practical attitude.. love it or hate it: you have to accept it. i’ve never wanted to throttle someone more. and get away with it. dhiru showing his drive, and mostly irrefutable logic. and one person who cusses even worse than me. i learnt :). toro, or “william”, getting things done, cooking up a storm. one of the guys you’ll be lucky to meet, luckier to be friends with. all of them. i could just go on about the times spent together; the parties, the craziness, the joy, the frustration… life.

and yet there were so many more. ashwin, a gentle giant of a man. bijay and the widest smile i’ve ever seen. lakshmi, her cherubic face. rajiv, a fellow movie addict. mithun, a dude who just hits it off with everyone. the list continues. subrato, a crazy depth of so much.. and crazier about so much more. kunal, ashay, neha, bharat, rajesh(s), harsh… and others – all of us coming together in our little highland city of aberdeen.

i know i’m going to miss it all. a lot. its become like another hometown. the beauty of granite. westburn park; one of those places you never get enough of. the beach: two degress colder than the coldest water you can expect. union street, the VSA charity bookshop (the cheapest books ever !), ASDA, Morrisons, the sprawling campus of my uni, my homes at urquhart road and seaforth road, our “own” merc showroom… and so much much more. its finally sinking in now. its finally over.

its finally goodbye aberdeen.
i’m going to miss you.

my first job

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today was the my last day at my first job.

i have done work before, it was mostly in college. not all of that can be said not to be “work”, but it involved my working voluntarily to accomplish various things. placement secretary, organizer and volunteer at festivals, magazine editor.. but i never considered any of these a “job”. even if that does sound cheesy.
it was college, and just some of the things one does.

then i came to aberdeen for my masters, and for the first time in my life, was self-sufficient. friends, totally there. parents, always. but when you’re alone, you’re alone. and so, learn to take up your own expenses. yep, i got a part-time job. sales assistant, safeway – soon to become morrisons.
i still remember when i started work – it was a december evening in 2004. absolutely no idea what was to be done. some dude was assigned to coach me (on-the-job training, i believe the official term). 4 hours later, i walked out of the store. i’d lifted bread, arranged yoghurts, had a 15 minute break, and earned 20 pounds.

i remember the zing i got when i saw the pay in my account 2 weeks later. i’d made rent, barely. but i had earned it. lifted bread, arranged it, “faced-up”, “closed-down”; everything.

its been nearly 18 months since then. i’ve learnt how both stores operated. i’ve done everything from lifting bread to finishing the night load, reductions, cleaning, promos.. everything. i worked my ass off last december (on 2 jobs) and finally got myself a laptop. i managed to cover most of my expenses since december 2004.
and now its over. i have to move on, i will talk about ‘why’ soon.

it wasn’t the greatest job. but it was my first.
i called it ‘menial labour’, but going to that store 2-3 days a week at least helped me keep track of the week. i learnt to get up at 5 am, to go to work. and not sleepwalk; actually be wide-awake. or something like it. i learnt every song that played in the store by rote. thus, i can never listen to the ‘notting hill’ soundtrack again. i learnt of store management, and realised that education does indeed help; something my managers showed they were lacking. i found how to truly appreciate summer, and the fact that everyone will come to the store to pick up supplies in summer “dresses” 🙂 i don’t think i can ever look at bread and cakes in the same way again. i think this will be the root for some paranoic hate for them. i found friends in “misery”, and we found that misery in company becomes fun. or something like it. i learnt of scottish cuisine, and have decided that vegetarians in scotland have no sense of taste. i know my store inside out, and am pretty sure i can locate anything there blindfolded. i got my family gifts, and found the joy of being able to see that smile when you earn for something and manage to give it. i learnt to switch off my brain and work there, so that i don’t lose my brain in the mind-numbing nature of the job. i learnt to think about 3 million other things, while doing monotonous habituated work with your hands. i was amazed at the number of little things that no-one else notices in such places. i realised how nice people can be, and how well-mannered. how ill-mannered too, but that is another story. how people do appreciate us store-boys.
most of all, i learnt of the back-breaking nature of such work. i’ll never forget that little guy who gets everything on the shelf everyday.

after all, i was that guy.