Life off the Grid

plugIt is the afternoon on the day after my last Bar exam and I am finally awake.

This is also my first post in quite a while. A month prior to the start of my exams, I decided to stop writing to focus on my studies. On some days I even severed all my network connections completely.

My experience didn’t help me discover the meaning of life, but it was illuminating in other ways.

Writing for This Green Machine


I have been writing for Make Tech Easier for quite some time now and I have really enjoyed writing semi-professionally. It gives me the opportunity to share some great tips and tricks with the rest of the world.

However, I decided that I also wanted to write more editorial pieces and so recently I had the opportunity to write for the dedicated Android Blog This Green Machine.

Check out my first post, which I wrote a few days back entitled The Ugly Robot: Android’s image problem

Not a Tech Rant

It irks me to no end that the US with one hand will “bring” democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq (and possibly Iran and N. Korea), while supplying arms and aid to a country living under an authoritarian regime.

I have no problem with a country not being religiously secular. However, more Islamic nations should attempt to follow Indonesia’s example. With the largest Muslim population in the world (400 million) it has a Hindu minority in Bali, various Christian Chinese and a variety of other religions. There have been riots, and other “scares”, however, the government does not ban every form of media the second there is controversy.

In many respects I find the government of Indonesia even more progressive than India! India purports to be secular but unlike France it tries to harmonise the interests of all religions rather than banning all forms of religious identity. To this end major works of literature, art and film have been banned because they were deemed inappropriate to one minority or another.

The separation of Church (or synagogue, mosque, temple, gurdwara, etc) and State is an essential element of any functioning government, without which it becomes a mouthpiece for religious fanatics and fundamentalists.

The Kindle “Just Works”

There is little love lost between Apple and myself, however I can give credit where credit is due and I do not deny that the iPhone (especially the latest version) is a revelation. Simply looking at the trademarked “retina display” will make you want to trash your archaic phone. But, for the life of me I still cannot figure out the benefit of an iPad.

My mother recently purchased an iPhone. Interestingly I had a HTC Magic for about 10 months before she got the iPhone and she never once wanted to test it out. In fact she often enquired as to why I didn’t get an iPhone, instead settling on “that touch phone”. I’m no fanatic and I agree that in some circles the iPhone’s allure is apparent, especially over the HTC Magic. After purchasing the iPhone 3G and loving it my dear mother then set her sights on an iPad.

PC Gamers Wipe the Floor with Console Counterparts

An interesting discussion is taking place on Engadget between PC and console gamers. Who is better and which platform is superior?

HP exec Rahul Sood mentioned in his blog post that Microsoft pulled the plug on an innovative concept that allowed players on the Xbox 360 to compete with their PC counterparts. Apparently, the mouse-keyboard combination was far superior to the console, so much so that “l33t” gamers on the Xbox were being annihilated by mediocre PC gamers.

Posterous – Between a full blog and Twitter

Twitter posts are a great way to air a random thought or share a video. However, sometimes a musing is a little over the 140 character limit and you really don’t want to split your posts.

I’ve been having a lot of these “musings” lately, so I decided to jump on the band-wagon and start a micro-blog on Posterous.

Follow my thoughts and rants as “The Moron in a Hurry”!

Blogging for Make Tech Easier

Today my first article for Make Tech Easier was published.

The feed for my posts is on the left under the tab "Make Tech Easier".


Where Cursors Come From

Sometimes I come across an article or image on the internet that really deserves to be shared.



Instant News – The Fall of the Fourth Estate

I had an epiphany while reading the Straits Times (the biggest broadsheet in Singapore). It wasn’t so much an epiphany as it was a general realisation as to why I stopped reading newspapers and magazines completely. Rather than usability being a factor, I realised that, for the most part, what I had read in a magazine had already been covered by an infinite number of online sources. What is the point of spending money when the same content was available for free and more importantly instantaneously?

Sachin Tendulkar is on Twitter

Update: Unless NDTV is lying outright, this interview ought to conclusively prove that this is indeed Sachin's official Twitter account.

Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman in the world (pardon the grandiose statement), has just joined Twitter!

And his first official post confirmed his identity:
"Finally the original SRT is on twitter n the first thing I'd like to do is wish my colleagues the best in the windies"

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Windows Maintenance

Lifehacker provides a great chart (above) and summary of which maintenance tools are good, which are bad and which are pure snake oil.


Gizmodo iPhone 4G "Exclusive" is a FAKE

UPDATE: Cnet News appears to have interviewed the father of Gray Powell who confirms that his son was "devasted" and that the person who found the phone is a "thief". I guess my conclusions were all wrong :(

I wanted to apologise for my unnecessarily long hiatus. To be perfectly honest there was nothing pressing that I wanted to discuss. There is now.

A few days ago the gadget blog Engadget posted a story claiming that it had pictures of the new iPhone. Many were skeptical and there was an abundance of commentators alleging that the device was a knock of. Indeed this was hardly the first time a gadget blog had posted an exclusive on a “new” product.

The revelation by Engadget was hardly earth shattering; however, it was the next series of events that blew this story straight into Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field.

The next day another tech blog Gizmodo claimed that they had not only seen the device, but actually had it in their possession and would be coming out with a review.

Several parties were apparently offered access to the device, including Engadget. DailyFinance claimed that the editor-in-chief of Engadget, Joshua Topolsky did not believe in "checkbook (sic) journalism" and were not "in the habit of paying for scoops".

Gizmodo's editor-in-chief had no qualms in handing over cash for the device and this is where the story gets interesting. Apparently he paid $5,000 for the privilege.

What follows is the series of posts by Gizmodo.

Gmail allows refreshing POP accounts from Inbox

Till today if you wanted to grab your mail from other POP accounts, it required a journey into the settings menu to look for an obscure command and then twiddle your thumbs for a few minutes. No longer.

Today Gmail has released a Labs tool that places a simple "refresh" button in the Inbox view, next to the menus above the incoming mails. Clicking it starts the process and you can see a refresh logo and the text "Fetching mail...".

There have been a number of threads in the Google Support Forum requesting this feature from Google and they have finally delivered.

For all the anger directed towards Google, it is good to know that they do actually pay attention to the hue and cry of its users.

Official Gmail Blog: New in Labs: Refresh POP accounts

Why Digital Protection does not work

Following on from my last post I found another graphic:


The Problem is Consumers are Treated Like Pirates

Disclaimer: Nowhere in this article or anywhere in this blog do I condone piracy, these are merely my views on this topical subject.

Recently, there have been a couple of amusing diagrams portraying the purported “benefits” of piracy, its environmental friendliness and its ease of use.

The Internet Highway is Not for Everyone

A recent article on CrunchGear reports that, according to the FCC, “about 93 million Americans don’t use fast, broadband Internet, citing cost and complexity as a factor in their refusal to enter the 20th century.”

Cost and complexity are the principal factors that stymie growth and change. In essence human beings are reluctant to change methods if their current one “works”. Of course the horse and carriage is still a “workable” mode of transportation, however in the 21st century it is hardly practicable.

I find an underlying problem in the, relatively, low broadband adoption rates. Do those still using slower connections actually need the extra speed gained by using faster broadband connections?

The Futility of Global Unity

In early 2006, while I was still at the Mahindra United World College of India, a friend of mine and I were asked to be part of the press corps for an inter-college “Model United Nations”. For the uninitiated this was essentially a group of students spending a weekend arguing. I remember writing the article below as an introduction for the weekend. Although this has nothing to do with “tech” I felt nostalgic!


New RSS Feed for TechComet

For all you avid readers of my blog I have created an easier to access RSS feed for my blog. Please delete the old feed as it will no longer work.

There are two ways to add the new feed:

  1. Click on the orange RSS logo that appears on every page of this blog (top right corner), or
  2. Simply add the following into your RSS reader of your choice:

Enjoy reading!

Google Buzz works (sort of) on Android phones older than 2.0

I was trying out the website today and was pleasantly greeted with the following page:



iPhone OS 3.0 was released on 17 June 2009. Android 1.6 (Donut) was released on 15 September 2009 and 2.0 was released on 26 October 2009. Essentially, Google is perfectly content supporting a relatively “older” version of the iPhone while it fails to properly load 1.6.

Well at least it is working now. Clicking on “Continue on an unsupported device” loads Google Buzz, however, you can tell that there is a certain lack of polish. The text inside the buttons don’t fit, the “show more comments” is hidden (instead all the comments are shown) and the options, such as location sharing, seem to be non-existent.

It is not a problem for me though for two reasons. Firstly, I barely use Buzz and my friends, after the initial use during the novelty phase wore off, have stopped commenting on my posts. Secondly, I know Google is out to make money and I am happy that by not being able to visit their page I am depriving them of whatever little income it generates.

So ended my rant.

FOSS or Proprietary?

I am ecstatic about my new PC. However, there is a catch in all of this. Would I have to give up my beloved Penguin?

While conducting my research on the best components to buy, I was informed that the HD 5870 (and ATI cards in general) are not as well supported by Linux as the nVidia family of graphics cards. This was a major annoyance. I have been a strong supporter of FOSS and specifically the Ubuntu project for more than four years and it was quite an important part of my overall computing experience. I had much introspection and evaluation to perform before settling on my choice of graphics cards. I could go for the ATI HD 5870 which was cheaper and better or go for the nVidia GTX 285 which was far more expensive, not as powerful but worked with Linux (I know I am oversimplifying the pros and cons but this is essentially the decision I had to make). In the end I decided that I could either buy a powerful computer to play games on or I could get any run of the mill laptop or desktop and use Ubuntu. I decided to opt for the former. While I respect the goals of FOSS and Ubuntu I have been unhappy with the numerous problems I face on a daily basis. This is not to say that Windows 7 does not have it’s own share of annoyances, however I decided that at this stage in my life I was better served by Windows 7.
This started a whole new adventure for me. I had to find a whole suite of new applications to replace my Linux open source ones.
The following were available in Windows:
The following required substities:
  • Pidgin – this was available for Windows, but I found that all the notification options (such as Guifications and Snarl) were not suited to the Windows 7 Aero theme. Therefore, I decided to go with Digsby which is closed source, but a great product.
  • Compiz – of course Windows comes with Aero, but I really liked Compiz’ expose style feature. So, I got the useful Switcher program which emulates this function with a number of options.
  • TransmissionuTorrent, this was hardly a choice as uTorrent is simply the best torrenting application available.
  • Amarok – Media players are the hardest to choose in my opinion. iTunes was of course the “obvious” choice as I own an iPod. However, two things put me off using it immediately after I had loaded my 10,000 songs into its library. The start up is incredibly slow (note my powerful i7 processor) and it did not grab all my album artwork which is located in the folders of each of my albums. This is an annoyance as I had spent many hours meticulously putting these together. Therefore, I decided to go for Media Monkey, which is a surprisingly good media player. I hardly miss Amarok!
  • Package Manager – without an auto-updater, such as the package manager built-into Linux, it is difficult to keep up with frequent software updates. Therefore, I downloaded’s Update Checker. Simple app that just gets the job done!
  • rSync backup – This was a CLI application that did incremental backup. I spent hours learning the commands so I could come up with a script that did the “ideal” backup for me. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any similar app for Windows and went with Genie TImeline which is a nice, simple Time Machine like backup tool.
  • Gnome-Do – Simple launcher app which has its equivalent one in Windows: Launchy.
  • Symbolic Links – this is built into Linux and it allows you to create a type of short-cut that links back to the original folder. This is mainly useful to ensure that you can copy folders into your Dropbox folder without having to duplicate all the contents of the folder itself. Link Shell Extension does the job well in Windows 7.
The following are new “finds” for Windows 7:
Am I missing anything?
Generally, speaking I miss Ubuntu. I spent months tweaking it and setting it up and changing to Windows has been drastic. There are a number of new headaches (such as viruses) to worry about and the interface is completely alien. My current headache is that even after my desktop comes out of sleep my Razer Copperhead mouse refuses to awake for at least 15-30 seconds, making my desktop unusable.
Having said that Windows 7 is a huge leap forward and the fact that I can play games (which is immensely difficult in Ubuntu) has made my experience all the more sweeter.

Dream Computer – Take II

Why have I been conspicuously absent for the past week (minus the unnecessary xkcd links)? I was too busy playing with my new toy!

I left off with my last substantive post explaning my quest to find my “ideal” desktop gaming PC. Ivan was introduced to me on the Hardware Zone Forums. After calling him on Thursday evening I explained to him my requirements and my approximate price range. Together we came up with a set of specifications that suited my needs best and he agreed to come to my house on Saturday (13 Feb 2010) morning to build my PC. Unless I went to a shop and bought a pre-built model, I cannot imagine any other outlet that would have a built to order PC ready in such a short period. Through Friday I badgered Ivan and changed around a few specifications. As always he was eminently polite and gracefully handled my queries.

Update: My Journey to Build My Dream PC

My HP laptop is almost four years old now and every day I can hear it groaning. I don't do anything particularly intensive, such as gaming or photo/video editing, and yet things still seem to run slower than I would expect.

So, I decided it was time to put my old laptop out to pasture and buy a new one.

Facebook Chat Launches Support for Jabber Protocol

Up till today the only way to use Facebook Chat was to use the service through the site itself, similar to Google Talk. However, Google Talk also supports the Jabber (XMPP) protocol which means that virtually any instant messaging client such as, AIM, Pidgin, iChat and Pidgin, could easily integrate Google Talk. There were a few painful hacks which allowed Facebook Chat to run on IM clients, however these often led to crashes and were generally quite a problem to use.

Google Thumbs its Nose at Android Users

Google Buzz page preview

After doing a little bit of digging it is clear that Google Buzz is not supported on any Android device that is running firmware that is less than 2.0.

Currently the only Android phone's that can run Buzz are the Motorola Droid (running Android 2.0) and Google's own Nexus One (running Android 2.1). This is Google blatantly neglecting older Android users (calling Android 1.6 “old” is capricious as it was released less than six months ago). Imagine if Microsoft released a version of Office 2007 that was only compatible with Windows 7 (and not with XP or Vista) or if Apple released a version of iTunes that was only compatible Snow Leopard (and not Tiger or Leopard).

There is no doubt that tech depreciates over time and older software must for purposes of efficiency and reduction of software bloat be left by the wayside, however, the fact that Google Buzz is available to iPhone users and not to the vast majority of Android owners feels like a slap in the face.

Google Buzz Does not Work in Android 1.6

Update: Conclusive evidence that Google Buzz does not work on devices running older versions of Android.

Just noticed something very disturbing on the supported devices page for Google Buzz.

The page seems to imply that devices running any version of Android less than 2.0 will not work with Google Buzz.

If this is the case I am going out and buying an iPhone tomorrow.

Building my Dream Computer

Hoping to leverage the power of the web, I posted my requirements for a brand new desktop PC on a number of websites.

The best responses were from I then proceeded to set-up a spreadsheet on Google Docs so that the forum members could alter and amend each individual hardware component.

The Spreadsheet:

Is the internet not a thing of beauty?

The Need for Social Media Aggregators

Recently, an article on TechCrunch, entitled "Social Today Feels Like Search A Decade Ago: Lots Of Noise And Lots Of Spam", listed the various failings of social websites of today. Sites like Facebook and Twitter, while innovative and useful, are plagued by marketers who hurl useless content at the unassuming user. Mostly the content is harmless, but when younger users hand over their telephone numbers and inadvertently sign up for a monthly "service", which is nearly impossible to unsubscribe from, the social landscape turns sinister. Just as the TechCrunch article points out this is all we have today. We don't know any better and we will continue to use what everyone else is using.

TweetDeck Update Adds Youtube and Flickr Support

Last night TweetDeck, an Adobe Air application aggregating Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, updated to ver 0.33. Their blog announces major changes that include faster API calls and support for YouTube videos and Flickr images.

2010 Nobel Peace Prize goes to...the Internet?!

What do Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Barack Obama and now possibly the Internet all have in common? The Nobel Peace Prize.

The Associated Press has reported that amongst other nominations the inanimate object that is the Internet has been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Famous for the secrecy of it's selection process, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, adhering to Alfred Nobel's last will and testament, awards this prestigious accolade "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".