what you can live without

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(Note: Post has become much longer than I intended it to. You’ve been warned)

I recently realized that I was relying a tad too much on a 4 year old external hard drive. I went about acquiring “stuff” so that I may reverse this worrying trend.

Yes, yes, funky tech stuff.

And.. you guessed it. Midway through backing up, the 4 year old drive decided to conk. In one fell swoop, I lost 4-odd years’ worth of photos, movies, music and comics. All of which had been carefully archived over the past 4 years, regularly updated, organized and so on.

Gone.

It took me a few weeks to get over thinking about the loss and what I could have done to avoid it.. all the time. Yes, it still twinges a bit when I remember a particular incident, the photo that I had of it.. and how I no longer have it. I’m recovering what I can from sundry sources.. but the large majority is history (I am still missing 2-odd years of photos). All of my personal collection, my random experimentation.. all of it. Poof.

Gone. Continue reading

tashi: the amazing, awesome (invisible) dog

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As I spent most of last week getting Windows 7 to work properly on my computer (which will be in a next post – it takes a while for me to get such things together) – I completely missed the chance to post about walking my dog in Brooklyn. Oh, my dog? Tashi. Was invisible. Was awesome. Was amazing. Like everyone else’s.

So, there I was doing cool cancer research in my lab when IE mailed me about a possible stunt on Sunday Sept 27th 2009. And I, like the good little jobless-but-willing-to-travel-randomly person that I am, promptly responded. And rounded up the only available suspect that I know – TH. Whose recent start in comic-dom is well worth checking out, BTW.

Having traveled a good 90-odd minutes to reach Bergen Street from NJ, we and a crap-load of people assembled in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. Whenย Charlie Todd told us about what was going to be done that afternoon, it turned out that we were indeed meeting in an abandoned warehouse. Which had once upon a time manufactured Invisible Dogs (TH is waiting for his “dog” to finish “business” alongside). Turns out IE had 2000-odd invisible dogs, and they hoped that there were 2000-odd of us around too. The prank, as Todd put it, “pretty much wrote itself”.

We picked up our leashes and headed outside to give our “dogs” a nice stroll around Brooklyn. TH and I headed up and out of the street to ensure that we spread out and gave enough people in Brooklyn a reason to stare. Initially, barely anyone seemed to notice. Once we hit the main road though, cars were constantly stopping near us to find out just what the hell we were doing. No-one seemed to buy that “it was just a nice day, and we decided to take our dog for a walk” ๐Ÿ™‚ Continue reading

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.

upgrade hell

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so, on a dreary sunday night, i decided to upgrade my wordpress. given the message on the header that i needed to do this ASAP, and that the fantastico doesn’t put it up for another 20 days, i looked in on WPAU. nice plugin install, nice step-by-step upgrading, upgrade database.. and re-login.. and boom! i cannot login. no matter what. my backups zips are apparently corrupted, and there is no mention of such an error on any page i google.

then starts hell. no login works, no login recovery works, the blog randomly kills itself and throws 401 and 402 errors, i get very very frustrated. the mySQL database decides to show me that there is no ‘users’ field (as per the error log). my provider has no clue. this keeps on until 1pm today, when i post on the wordpress forums. i await a solution. i work.

i try again.

…and it works. for no apparent reason, everything is functioning. the plugin matter-of-factly informs me that the upgrade did not complete thoroughly last time, do i want to do it again?

i create my all-important xml backup. then the database backup. i have everything, i can recover if it dies on me.

re-try.

…and it works. perfectly. i re-login. i see an updated dashboard. a little slow, but it catches up. k2 breaks, until i upgrade it too. the blog is alive, and i have no idea why it decided to kill itself for 16 hours. abs. no clue at all. somehow everything is working, i see ‘2.5.1’ in the footer in my dashboard, and i realize just how much this space means to me. hell, i pissed myself off majorly trying to make it come back to life.

i do not know the moral of this post, except that blogs should not mean so damn much. but somehow this one does. to me.

and at the end of it, i have no idea what major improvement 2.5.1 has given me over 2.5. no idea at all.

and i still don’t know why i went crazy either. ah, mystery.

sev and the deathly wait

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as most of the sentient world not living under a rock knows… harry potter’s final instalment came out on saturday.
given my luck in such matters, i’m reading the book on monday.

having pre-ordered the book almost 5 months ago, i had decided to ship it to my college.. seeing as i wasn’t too sure of my address.

then, last week, amazon hooked me with an offer for $5 for receiving the book on the day. naturally, i suckered.
naturally, i missed the fact that i had shipped the book to college. on a saturday. in summer.

i wasn’t seeing the book anytime soon.

i went back to change the book – duh – but duh me, i remembered this fact on the day they finalized the order. good job, sev.

desperation dictated that on friday i attempted to track the book. it was in NJ, no details where… UPS only undertook shipping on this one. USPS was obviously sketchy about details given the 10m pounds invested in security. even in response to possibly holding the package for me. possibly if i called on saturday morning at 1030am i could know more ?

saturday, 10am. i called.
the supervisor is put on.
i check about the package headed for my department on a day that my college is closed.

matter-of-factly, i was told that my package was picked up by the rutgers postal service, which apparently functions even when rutgers is closed to the world.
oh, and it had been picked up half-an-hour ago. possibly an earlier call could have saved me the trouble of waiting until monday.

DAMNIT.

i tried desperately. to no avail. whoever the pickup was, they weren’t near any phone i could reach.

and so, monday it was. i spent the weekend playing incommunicado to the internet.
and monday, playing incommunicado to everyone.

a celebration

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every child dreams of seeing his parents ecstatic. and its even better when you’ve been instrumental in making that happen.

my biggest regret since i came to the states, was the fact that it meant missing my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. considering i couldn’t actually be there for the wedding, it would have been pretty rocking to really make it memorable.

i couldn’t be there. there was just no way. damned high pressure grad school. [trust me, this would have played out slightly differently if i had been there :)]

i tried. got people convinced. sowed germs of ideas, and watched as the occasion became what it should be – a celebration that 2 people deserved. granted, i’m biased – they are my parents. but they deserved to have a day where they could look back and say – ‘there. everyone celebrated the fact that we are together. its all been worth it.’

Continue reading

you have 10,000 spoons when all you need…

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irony has never sounded so sweet.

my alienware was on my lap, humming along merrily, having 1.25 gig of RAM felt good.. very good. charging was on, i was not against draining its battery to the very limit of its ability. eventually, the plugpoint was needed for more mundane usage, and so i yielded.

over the next few hours, i continued intermittent usage, mindful of the fact that i was using the poor thing after more than 2 days.. lab work has led me to be increasingly reliant on my desktop there. working on the alienware was a whole different story though.. this was a machine i had customized from the build up.

eventually, the battery showed signs of weakening.. i casually connected the charger and continued work. a cursory glance a little while later told me that it was not charging. damned loose connection. everything tested… still no go. yeagh. everything pulled out this time, the charger inspected very carefully.. reconnected.. and the LED on the damned thing doesn’t turn on. funny, the plugpoint seemed to be working fine a couple of minutes ago. a different plugpoint – same result. damnation.

it was now very apparent to me that the adapter was on the blink. repeated efforts didn’t have any effect, and so i whipped out the phone to call 1-800-ALIENWARE. 4th call in a year. it was a year ?! hmm.. vague remembrances of service/warranty contracts come to the mind. i should be safe, though.

eventually, self-identification done, the alienware rep confirms that the adapter, is indeed, at fault. no problem, replacements can be ordered. umm.. warranty.. has apparently expired 20 days ago. excellent. (renewal is impossible, and anyway, waaaay overpriced.) hmm.. model number: m5500. out of production. brilliant. parts aren’t as available anymore. what of a faulty part then ? an external supplier should be able to give me what i need. price check on adapter – one hundred fucking dollars. superb. you’ve got to be kidding me.

so my adapter apparently conked on me within 20 days of my not renewing the service contract, my model is out of production, and hence a simple AC adapter was going to cost me a $100 dollars.

also known as the answer to ‘define: ironic’.

[luckily, the very helpful rep found an adapter he could supply to me, which should work with my system.. and its to cost me $20.]