03 December 2014

Vaastu Shastra

There are certain tasks that the Indian society expects a person to fulfill - get a good job, get married at a certain age, buy a house, buy a car, have kids etc. So it would seem natural to you that after getting married I have started looking around for a house to buy. It isn't so. My hunt for a house began with a trip to the mall to buy a sofa set.

It should not come as a surprise that I like movies. I have watched hundreds of movies and now that I have means at my disposal I started to improve my movie viewing experience. With TV and audio system out of the way, a comfy couch was all that was needed. So I dragged my wife with me to the mall and started evaluating the over-priced sofas. We hopped and jumped on a lot of them and when the dust finally settled, my heart was with a sofa that was also a recliner, rocking chair, had foot support, was made of high quality dead skin... err leather - the complete package! It also came with a hefty price tag. We came back home to discuss more on whether we can afford it.

With such a hefty price tag, as Indians it is natural to consult your parents before you make such a purchase. In hindsight, it was a mistake. We were lectured as to how important it is to have one's own house before buying such costly furniture. It may get destroyed if we have to shift houses frequently. All of our effort to convince our parents that we won't be flinging sofas around fell on deaf ears. The bottom line was simple - buy a house before you buy that sofa; and I really wanted that sofa.

So we started looking for houses. The one word that you keep encountering while searching for a house is "Vaastu". This is the word that all developers will keep on buzzing in your ears. "100% Vaastu Compliant" makes me wonder if a house can be any other percent compliant.

If you don't already know about Vaastu, you won't know what that actually means. You see its a trick to make absurd house plans seem good. It is a cruel trick played by some people, much like religion, that fools the hard-working population into believing that by following vaastu guidelines their lives will somehow get better. You will be drowned by terms like energy, waves, chi till you give up and accept that it is good thing that the first room in your house is the kitchen as according to Vaastu that is the proper corner for kitchen to be in.

There is no escaping Vaastu. Even renowned builders now draw their floor plans according to Vaastu. When I asked one of them as to why they followed such absurdity instead of following the common sense and architectural guidelines, they answered that no one will buy their houses if they don't follow Vaastu. It is the kool-aid that is now forced down everyone's throat.

Finally I have a humble appeal to all the people out there reading this. If you are planning to buy/build a house, please make an effort to understand if Vaastu really improves your house before you take a decision. If not for ourselves, let's make a better world for future generations (and also a better house).

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

28 July 2013

Remote Keyboard : Wireless Keyboard for your Windows Phone

Download the Remote Keyboard service for you Windows Phone app. You will need administrator privileges on your PC to run the app.

NOTE:

1. Supported OSes are Windows 7 and Windows 8.
2. Your firewall must not be blocking connection to local IP addresses.

18 December 2011

Movie Review : Mission Impossible 4

Mission_impossible_ghost_protocolIf you are going to watch a Mission Impossible movie for emotions, story and nice little subtleties then, and I hate to break this to you, you are at the wrong party! For the past 15 years, people go to theatres to watch Ethan Hunt do stuff that’s not humanly possible. Ethan not only does it but does it in style.

As with other MI movies, Impossible Mission Force (IMF) main agent Ethan Hunt is entrusted with the task of saving the world. The only little twist in the story is the initiation of Ghost protocol, effectively ending any support to Ethan and his gang. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Ethan eventually succeeds. But don’t blame yourself if you still get the chills when Ethan cries out, “Mission Accomplished!”.

MI4 is full of action sequences, one better than the other. My favorite scene is when Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt) jumps down the Burj Khalifa with little more than a fire hose to support him. The looming sandstorm in the background, in all its IMAX glory, makes it an irresistible watch.

MI4 is also special because it features our very own Anil Kapoor. It’s good to see an Indian actor in a Mission Impossible movie but I think a three-minute long, forgettable role doesn’t do justice to his talent.

Finally to answer the big question: Should you watch this movie? Hell yeah! If you like to be amazed and experience the thrills of being an IMF agent, you should definitely watch it. It will be 133 minutes of your life that you won’t regret.

P.S.- Please watch it in IMAX.

11 December 2011

Hyderabad Reloaded

When I first came to Hyderabad, I did all the touristy things that one is supposed to do when visiting a new city. I was fascinated by the old city charm that Hyderabad exudes but never had I thought that I would ever be living in this city. Strangely enough, here I am writing this, after spending more that six months living here.

Like with yours truly, you have to spend some time with this city to begin liking it. Me being a nerd, the first thing that stood out as a beacon of hope during the initial dark days here was the internet connection provided by Beam Telecom. I have lived in quite a few cities of India and believe me nowhere you will get such blazing fast internet speeds at such affordable prices. It’s a pity that Beam is just limited to Hyderabad.

Next thing that deserves a mention here is the Rajnikant-style driving practiced here. Crossing a road, travelling in an auto-rickshaw, driving a car/bike, everything here gives you an adrenaline rush! You just don’t mess with Hyderabad drivers.

Lastly my Hyderabad experience would be incomplete if I don’t mention the amazing colleagues that I work with. Its only because of them that I have learnt to play Foosball and Mafia – two amazingly addictive games, Try them at your own risk.

Finally although I hate to admit it but after some initial hesitation I have actually started liking this city. Why this Kolaveri, Hyderabad? Smile

18 November 2011

Movie Review – Rockstar

There are some movies that take themselves seriously and then there are some that make a fool of themselves (think Dabangg). Rockstar falls into neither of these categories and thus despite being a movie which could have a lot of potential finally ends up making a mess of itself.

At a running time of nearly 3 hours, I have a lot to nitpick about the movie but  to be fair let’s list down some good things first. The music by A.R. Rahman is fabulous and fresh as ever. The songs reflect the pain, anguish and rebellious nature of a true rock star. Secondly, I was glad to see Ranbir Kapoor come out of his shell and really give the performance of his acting life till date. The (supposed) pain in his eyes looked as real as it could ever be.

Now that niceties are over, lets get down to business. Despite sporting pouty lips and great body, Nargis Fakhri ended up being the biggest disappointment. Frankly, a mannequin would have acted better than her. She is such a disaster that in some scenes which are supposed to be serious and heart-breaking, the audience in the theater was laughing.

The story is convoluted to such an extent that many of the scenes seem improbable. Janardhan Jakhar, a.k.a “J.J.” which was shortened to Jordan (go figure!), is a wannabe singer who seeks advice from his college canteen owner and ends up seeking pain as apparently it is essential to become a rock star. As a rock star, J.J is supposed to do some outrageous things but his only claim to fame was stalking a married lady. Such is the hypocrisy of the movie that in the song “Sadda Haq”, which is supposed to promote freedom, the banners of “Free Tibet” were blurred. There are many bigger flaws but I don’t want to leave spoilers here.

Did I mention the running time of 3 hours? The act of hero addressing the heroine as “Jungli Jawani” can amuse for only so many times and the length of the movie ensured that it crossed that limit.

So the big question dangling before you is whether you should watch the movie? If you are a die-hard Ranbir fan or have nothing better to do then it definitely worth a watch. I am not too sure if you would want a re-run. Winking smile

22 October 2011

Coding for Kinect for Xbox 360

Kinect is an amazing piece of technology. Not only for gaming, it can be used for variety of uses ranging from Healthcare, Security, IT etc. Starting with coding for Kinect seems daunting at first, mainly due to lack of knowledge and starting material.
This article documents my first attempt at coding for Kinect. So basically it’s a beginner level article which introduces us to Kinect. Before you begin, you must ensure that the following pre-requisites have been met.
After you install the Kinect for Windows SDK, plug-in your Kinect to your PC via the USB port and some device drivers should automatically get installed. Finally you should be able to see this screen.

Capture

Now that you have all set up, fire up Visual Studio and create a new WPF project. Add a reference to “Microsoft.Research.Kinect.dll” and “Coding4Fun.Kinect.Wpf.dll”. Next we will create a very basic application which captures Kinect’s RGB Video, Depth Video and try to create a Skeleton out of it. We will basically re-use the code from “Skeletal Viewer” sample that comes with Kinect for Windows SDK.


We will add two images to our XAML window to display the video streams. We will also add a Canvas to display the skeleton that we are tracking. Pretty simple!

<Window x:Class="MyFirstKinectApp.MainWindow"
xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
Title="MainWindow" WindowState="Maximized" Loaded="Window_Loaded">
<Grid>
<Image x:Name="VideoFrameImage"
Height="500" Width="500" HorizontalAlignment="Left"
VerticalAlignment="Top"/>
<Canvas x:Name="SkeletalFrameImage"
Height="500" Width="500" HorizontalAlignment="Right"
VerticalAlignment="Top"/>
<Image x:Name="DepthFrameImage"
Height="500" Width="500" HorizontalAlignment="Left"
VerticalAlignment="Bottom"/>
</Grid>
</Window>

Coding4Fun dll helpfully add few extension methods which makes displaying the video streams a breeze. All we have to do is write:


VideoFrameImage.Source = e.ImageFrame.ToBitmapSource();

Next comes calculating and displaying the skeleton in the Canvas. You can follow the source code to see how it is actually being done.


Finally we end up with the following output:

vlcsnap-2011-10-22-19h33m10s33

That’s it! This is our sample sample application. As you move, the skeleton will mirror your movements. All we have to do now is to detect those movements and have some fun!

10 July 2011

Movie Review - Delhi Belly

Some experiences mark the end of one phase of your life and beginning of another. The signals for this change might be approaching for quite sometime but either you didn’t understand them or chose to ignore them. Like I did when MTV Roadies slipped through my important to-do things on a weekend. Or when Channel V Dare to Date stopped being hilarious and started being cruel and mean. Or when Love Kiya Toh Darna Kya seemed like a stupid show where ignorant kids ruin not only their reputation but also that of their families. I guess I was going through “Being a cynical asshole” phase.


These signals turned into a full-blown experience when I saw Delhi Belly yesterday. I know that we are supposed to rave about how hilarious and awesome the movie is but I didn't find it so. There are only a finite number of times when visuals of ass-cracks or loud noises of farting tickle your funny bone. The movie not only crosses that number but goes so far that the entire plot seems like mish-mash of swear words. The only people who would still find the entire fart-swear-ass-crack sequence hilarious are college kids and people having serious identity issues.

The movie suffers from a lack of serious plot. The director does an amazing job of making the perennially old story look refreshing but still there are serious loopholes and some plain stupid moves. Some would romanticise this as being essence of the movie or “creative liberty” of the director but then RGV’s Aag would also have been very creative. Winking smile The acting is also not something to boast of and can be classified as average.

The only good thing in the movie is its brevity and its music. Ram Sampath doles out fabulous music which is fresh and also quite innovative. With a running time of 102 minutes, the movie gets out of your way before it starts getting on your nerves. Kudos to Aamir Khan for that!

03 January 2011

Bonne Année

Boy, what an year 2010 was! It was an year riddled with scams; so many of them that we have to invent a new search engine to just wade through them. Then there was Obama’s visit, Sarkozy’s visit, Hu Jintao’s visit. But that’s not all to the past year. It was also the year when I decided that I have had enough of the comfortable environs of Pune and that it was now time to brave the icy winds of Delhi. Delhi hasn’t let me down. Every morning it sends a chill down my bones when I get out of my warm and cosy bed.

It is said that some people in Delhi don’t feel any cold. I had heard and read about them in magazines and movies but never quite believed it. But its true! Delhi girls don’t feel any cold. They have waxed off their goose bumps and apparently live and die by the tagline “Jitna kam pehnoge, utna hot dikhoge”. They are a burning topic (no pun intended) for scientific study to find out what kind of heat insulating/generating system they have which helps them wade through chilly winds while we lesser folks remain trapped behind layers of clothing looking like Eskimos on North Pole.

There are many ways to fight off the Delhi cold though. The easiest way is to go to your neighbourhood vegetable store and ask for price of onions. You needn’t even buy it; just asking for its price would make you feel the heat. If you are of adventurous kind, you may also ask for tomato and milk but do so at your own risk.

In case you are feeling particularly cold, you may try crossing the road and more often than not a Tata Sumo with “Gujjar Boy” written behind it will zoom past you. It is sure to get your adrenaline pumping and is a perfect way to fight off the cold. And hey, don’t curse the poor and downtrodden gujjar boy! He probably would have been in a hurry to block rail and road tracks for getting 5% reservation in jobs.

If crossing the road still doesn’t warm you up then try getting on to any DTC bus. The behaviour of driver, conductor and fellow passengers would surely leave your blood boiling. But always remember, they too are just trying to stay warm in the harsh winter.

If you have any more suggestions to fight off the Delhi cold, then please do share them. In the hindsight, looking at the hots and colds which 2010 brought, it would surely figure in my top ten years of last decade! Winking smile