Siddharth’s Blog

Today morning, it felt like its been a while since I posted. And just how long “a while” is became apparent when I saw that there has been no post for 2008 altogether! Can’t say that it was a memorable year, but all the same I am grateful for the year that was.

2009 started with travel as Vrushali and Neha left on the 1st to be in time for Bhabhi’s delivery. The baby took his time to make his appearance though and finally Bhai and Bhabhi were blessed with a boy mid last month. Neha’s terribly excited about the new arrival in the family. We celebrated her birthday at Ahmedabad and she had a nice time as she was aware of what to expect this time around. It was her favourite back forest cake too, so all the more enjoyable for her. Pics are coming up shortly on my flickr page as usual.

Been reading a lot of books of late since we joined a library just before the new year. Read a couple of novels by Agatha Christie (my obsession with Poirot continues) and also read a couple of John Grisham (Playing for Pizza, The Broker). Finally read Bill Cosby’s ‘Time Flies’. All were interesting. Did not like ‘The Broker’ so much, but it was tolerable.

We also went for a movie with the office team (‘Chandni Chowk To China’ or CC2C as it is called) and sadly Akshay Kumar disappointed us. The silver lining though was that the buffet lunch at Copper Chimney prior to the movie was awesome.

So much so for the status of affairs. Will post something more interesting (I hope) in the immediate future.

For us in India, Dussehra and Diwali are over, but the wedding bells are still ringing all over the place at this time of the year. For the folks in the US, Thanksgiving and Christmas season are coming up. So (I guess) it would be time for some peace, quiet and family reunions all over. Hence, without further ado, I wish everyone of you a very happy time with your families!

I and Vrushali were very happy to meet up with our parents and other family members for a week earlier this month. Neha got a diversion from her daily routine too and also got the ‘taste’ of her first Diwali. I mean this quite literally since there were pedas, burfis, halwa and a whole lot of sweet preparations waiting for her everywhere we went! She did not quite enjoy the noisy crackers so much but had fun watching the ones that give more light than noise (i.e. the anaars and zameen chakkars). Pics are at my flickr page (as usual). Vrushali had done a wonderful job finding Indian dresses for Neha before we went home and that added to our joy on the festival day🙂

Amongst my hobbies, I have not done much of casual reading last few months. I did manage to read a couple of Fredrick Forsyths’ though: Icon and The Afghan. I liked the former more than the latter. I also ended up buying a used hotshoe flash for my camera. It is a Vivitar 285 HV. It was pretty reasonable on the pocket, and as a friend once said (rightly) to me: ‘lighting is much better bang for the buck!’. I am enjoying clicking in RAW these days. It does take up at little time doing the post processing on the pics, but I like the output much more than clicking in jpeg and uploading ‘as-is’.

Made a quick trip to Mumbai over the last weekend. Was a lot of fun to meet family and so many friends in the short period of time that I was there. Took a few pics of Neha that are added to her album on Flickr. Binux had lent me his Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II lens for the trip and it was a lot of fun to click with something other than the kit lens. Also read Agatha Christie – The Murder on the Links (Poirot) on the trip.

I have been using Linux as my primary desktop at home for a while now. In fact, recently it has become my only desktop at home, since I uninstalled Windows completely. At work, I use Windows (for documents and MS Exchange) along with Linux running in a VMware virtual machine for all my development setup requirements. At both places (home and work), Ubuntu has been my linux distribution of choice although I do occasionally try out new releases of both Fedora and OpenSuse on VMWare (before slipping back to Ubuntu).

So it wasn’t too much of a big deal when I read first about Foresight Linux. Still I decided to try it over the weekend since it claims to package the latest Gnome before any other distro ‘officially’ picks it up and ships with its own package management called Conary. I must say I am pleasantly surprised by both the latest Gnome 2.18 and with Foresight as well. I think Foresight is still not where Ubuntu is in terms of the total ‘feel’ of the desktop, but for a linux distro it comes out higher than I (personally) would rank OpenSuse or Fedora. The base selection of packages is interesting. Also, the VMWare distribution worked out of the box, which was the most pleasing thing about it all: no mucking around trying to get the maximum screen resolution or configuring the DNS settings manually. Gnome 2.18 is up and running with a soothing theme (IMO) that I don’t want to change. I don’t have the patience to write a full review myself, but this one does good justice to the topic. I leave you guys with a recommendation to try the virtual machine or the live CD and see for yourself. Its available for download here. I personally will track where this project goes towards.

PS: Before I forget, the frustrating part of using the System Manager in the virtual machine is that the default username password is not quite easy to guess. I had to google around and figure out a way to reset the password before it would let me in.

Was looking around the net for python scripts to work with SVG and I stumbled upon SVGDraw. Its a nice module if you are looking to output SVG, but even neater (I thought) was the xmlgen module to generate valid XML output for most standard XML languages (SVG, RSS etc) whose DTDs are available online. See the code to experience it first hand🙂

Today I have added a new ‘photos page‘ to this blog for linking to my individual flickr photosets from here. But I do not want to keep updating this page manually every time I add a new set on flickr. Several developers have already written WordPress plugins to handle this issue so as to dynamically generate the flickr content on the server after querying the user’s flickr page. However, these solutions are not applicable to users of wordpress.com since we cannot run arbitrary plugins on the wordpress.com server with a free blog account.

In the absence of the server side solutions being applicable, I wondered if it would be possible to write a script to download flickr information using the flickr API and then update the blog page that I just set up using the WordPress API. If this worked out then I could potentially set up this script to run in a cron job and forget about updating this page manually. Turns out this is indeed possible using python and the associated API wrappers for Flickr and WordPress. The whole hack took me a couple of hours to get it working once I had located the API keys and appropriate python API wrappers. Its a bit rudimentary right now, but I plan to polish it a bit further to get better output and then I’ll post the script out here for others to refer, comment or use🙂

Meanwhile if you just can’t wait, please drop me a note and I’ll send you a beta copy😉

Counting days….

  • For my wife and little one to come home.
  • That my work is running delayed by.
  • Till I go and splurge some more on my camera accessories 😉

Meanwhile books that I read recently (in chronological order, latest last) are

Agatha Christie – Five little pigs (Poirot)
Agatha Christie – The A.B.C. murders (Poirot)
Agatha Christie – The mirror crack’d from side to side (Marple)
Agatha Christie – Cards on the table (Poirot)
Agatha Christie – Death on the Nile (Poirot)
Agatha Christie – Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (Poirot)
Agatha Christie – 4.50 from Paddington (Marple) 

No prizes for guessing who my favourite detective story writer is at the moment ;)  Its been a while since the Poirot series was aired on television. I had seen it as a child and the sudden discovery of some of these books in my brother’s collection gave me the joy of a faint childhood memory visited all over again.

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