Jul 102010
 

Information search and communication were the two main reasons for which a person would log on to the world wide web a few years back. Though I worked on computers since around 18 years back, I was the last person amongst my friends to get an email ID, some 10 years back. And I couldn’t hold it long enough, since I allowed the account to remain dormant for a long time, and it was deactivated. This shows how a person who is very much interested in technology can be ignorant towards its full benefits. But the advent of high speed internet has opened up lots of possibilities to a normal user which can help him change his own life. An average user, uses internet not only to communicate or search for information, but can also wander around on the net to explore it, view videos and listen to music, read eBooks, plan holidays, shop and many other activities. Community sites like orkut and facebook, really changed the dimension in which people communicated with each other, while adding a fun element to it.

But along with all this uses of the internet, people with a bit more curiosity and patience, have managed to actually earn while surfing the web. People maintaining websites generate revenue through advertisements placed on their sites. Some sell their expertise on the web. Bloggers are paid to write post in popular news columns. Many of these activities on the web, which generate revenue to an individual come under the category of freelancing, which is picking up quite fast on the web.

On a site providing freelancing jobs directory, a freelancer can find various jobs listed under numerous categories. After browsing through them and checking out which job is best suited for ones expertise, the person has to bid for the job quoting the charge for which he is ready to do the job. Once the bids are viewed, the bid which meets all the conditions and least quote gets the job. A bidder has to create profile which specifies his area of expertise. If he is proficient with more skills, more number of profiles can be created. The advertiser makes sure that the bidder is capable to carry out the job by checking out this profile. In the profile, the bidder has an option of entering experience and proof of the work he might have done in past, which gives his bid a higher weightage.

There are many websites, catering to different countries, which provide freelancing services. Some are totally free, while others have a premium members section for members who pay of the service. A premium member can bid for almost all the projects and can activate all his profiles at a time while a free member can bid for very few projects and can activate only one profile. Some of he websites are listed below. If a person is confident of making good on such sites through freelance jobs, its better to opt for paid service which has much more features. Once you get a job, and you complete it successfully, you get rating on the site, which keeps on increasing as you complete more projects. This rating improves your probability of getting more jobs.

People are already earning huge amounts by freelancing. If you use your expertise properly on he internet, this could be the dream second part-time job that you always wanted.

Freelancing Websites:

Freelance, Freelance India, Guru(the paid service which I was talking about earlier), Freelance Free(which provides completely free service), Get A Freelancer

Jun 242010
 

Never knew that could come out with something so useful as . Actually I had installed it along with windows live essentials, some time back, but didn’t know what it was used for. Only when I went out in search of a good offline publishing tool was I told about it by my good friend Jimmy. In his words, “they say, it’s awesome”. Well I don’t know about that, but it surely seems to be a useful tool.

First impression, it doesn’t require complicated setup for existing blog, so good. Just download the setup utility,install the application and run it, enter the blog url and your credentials and you are free to spill your quill. It does away with your default blog editor provided by the bloghost, wordpress in my case. All the settings of your blog like catagories are imported automatically into live writer account.

I am writing this post using this utility. Check out the screenshots to get some idea.

image Screen

The main editing page comprises of three main tabs. First being Edit- for composing the post using all the basic text edit tools or inserting media like images, videos, maps( yes maps!!) etc. The second one is for preview, where you can view a cool preview of your final product, offline. And here’s the best part. The preview comes in the theme that you have set for your blog. To ensure that you get the correct theme preview, select he “Edit Using Theme” option in he view menu and click “Refresh Theme”.

screen2

Once you have drafted the post, spell check it using the inbuilt spell checker. Now the post can be saved on local drive, saved online to your blog or even published immediately.

Screen3

This is for one single blog. You can have many blogs and all can be published through this single utility. All you need to do is add the details of other blogs through Blogs—->Add blog account…

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My friend Jimmy informed me that most of the professional bloggers use different utilities to great blogs. Well, I am on lookout for better ones. Till then…Long Live Windows Live Writer!!

Jun 232010
 

Disclaimer: Google doesn’t support gmail drive, which is a third party application, but the space available on gmail can be used for storage purpose. Google may temporarily disable the mail account if extensive use of gmail drive is found. This procedure of insallation of the application is for windows.

It’s always an issue to store files on the web, and also keep them secure. A novice on the web may endup sharing important files, which he/she has stored on the various file storage services available on the internet. So any user would like to have a solution such that the data remains secure, but easily accessible when online. The most secure place on the web, would be your email account, which is as much secure as the mails saved in it. But storing the files as an attachment is quite tiring if we have large number of files to save together. How easier would it be if, there was some way to avoid this step of attaching the files to the mail!!

Well, there is a way. Gmail Drive to the rescue. Gmail drive is a very small and light utility which adds a virtual drive to your computer network, which gives you direct access to the mail space. The application is developed by viksoe, and can be downloaded here. Once downloaded, unzip the file and run the setup utility. The shell extension is automatically added to your computer. A drive named “Gmail Drive” appears in my computer. On double clicking it, a login window will ask for credentials wherein we put in your gmail userid and password. The application will login and show drive space, where we can transfer files using normal windows features like drag and drop, copy, cut and paste.

This happens on the frontend. In the background however, the utility creates a mail and attaches the file to it and sends it to your gmail account. The file is seen as a standalone file in gmail drive, but as an attachment in the mail box. To segregate it from the normal mails, go to mailbox and using labels tab, create a new label using appropriate name like “Gmail Drive Mails”. Then create a new filter. In the subject field of the filter, enter “GMAILFS:” Click next step, and select “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)” and “Apply the label:” and select the label that you have created. Then click, “Create filter”. This way, you do not end up deleting the gmail drive mails during regular cleanup, and also ensure that the files are stored safely.

Do use this utility to get added benefit from the gmail space available.

Jun 192010
 

Lately, there have been lots of attempts to transfer life in to virtuality. Flight simulators are being used since ages to train commercial pilots. A gaming freak can never forget the revolution started by the games like unreal tournament and Quake, or even the flight simulator by microsoft which offers almost realistic graphics and physical feel to the user. Formula 1 racing games and formula one simulators are largely used by aspirants and rookies of the formula 1 driving world. Then stared the second life by linden labs where we could create our avatar and go about living the virtual life. The person could even buy virtual property using the linden dollars represented by L$ which has real conversion value with USD. Godrej has forayed into this environment by introducing Gojiyo, the new social networking site.

Another invention, which is poised to add a new dimension, or rather diminish the physical barrier between virtual and real world is already into commercial production. It’s called the Virtusphere. It’s basically a 10 foot hollow sphere mounted on rotating sensors which allow for its rotation in all sides. When connected with the compatible applications, and a heads up display, the user walking in this sphere gets transferred in to virtual world, literally. The possibilities to its application are vast. Gamers will have a more realistic feel of the gaming environment when playing in a sphere(just imagine an earth quake, or a exploding grenade’s vibrations being transferred to the sphere using the feedback technology. Or a robot being controlled in war zones, without the use of those tacky joysticks.

Though, at 50000-100000$, the virtuasphere is out of reach for normal user, it can be used for military and industrial application. But the price can come down. Remember how the price of the PC has come down from 20000$ for the first IBM PC to around 500-1000$ of todays powerful PC’s.

And you know what? I stumbled upon this website too!!

Jun 162010
 

Internet has grown out to be a source of information, huge in magnitude and unimaginable by human memory standards. Lots of data is available at our finger tips. Google has become a synonym to search(though google has spread its branch much wider then just search technology) and wikipedia is considered to be the boss of all the encyclopedias. But wikipedia cannot by itself help us comprehend the diversity and the vastness of the internet. Lots of websites go unseen by majority of netizens. Lots of information goes unaccessed. I personally would have been happy to access more pages with interesting contents. But its very difficult to go through the different combinations of web addresses.

So, something has comeup on the internet which excites me. Stumble upon!! I actually stumbled upon this site while going through few blogs. And I was quite surprised about the way it works.

All we need to is login to our personal account on stumble upon and choose the preferences of the websites we would like to visit. Then we start stumbling. Just on a click of a button, a random website is displayed as per our preferences set before. This website might turn out to be quite interesting or plain boring, and we can indicate that by clicking on the thumbs up or thumbs down button. The website will remember this and try to refine its choice of webpages for us. The sites that are  displayed, are actually submitted to stumble upon by various user of net under some catagory, when they find it to be of their interest.

We need not always go onto the stumble upon website for stumbling. Addons are available for different browsers which add a toolbar containing the stumble tools into the browser window. After a one time login, it becomes easier.

Whenever we are bored, or just want to be fed with some useful or unwanted information, stumbling can be a good option. For once we find it very good upon “stumbling”.

Few of the websites that I stumbled upon are listed here. I felt they were quite ineresting.

1. Funny windows messages.

2. Funny conversations that travel booking staff encounters.

Jun 022010
 

Computing has come a long way since the first IBM PC ever built for a common man. From a few KBs of RAM running the primitive and complex operating systems to the fastest desktop, laptop and even handheld devices, no one had ever gauged the evolution of these electronic data cruncher. The latest form of computing being the cloud version. Many of us know what it stands for , but for those newbies to the virtual world, here it is in laymans language.

Cloud computing is nothing but virtual computing. Except that the hardware is real but minimal, and software is virtual. All you need is a basic internet capable computer, and an internet connect with respectable speed. The computer connects to the internet and the software applications and the storage is present on the cloud, ie. internet itself. Its bit hard to understand the logic behind adopting this method of computing initially, but the advantages are vast in number.

First of all, lets say you are a CADD professional working from home as a freelancer. You get individual projects from different firms, which require different softwares to complete them. You have two option in such case. Either you buy all the softwares as per the client requirement, wherein the cost shoots up, or you use pirated softwares which will either crash at crucial point or not give you complete functionality. And your client will insist on the work being carried out on legal software. Also the hardware requirement for such work is unimaginable. So what choice are you left with? Well, cloud at your help.

The modus operandi of cloud is that you subscribe for their service after paying a nominal fee, which is far less than he cost of he software and the hardware. The cloud servers for that particular software will have enough resources to execute your programs smoothly. All you need to do is login to the cloud using your credentials, on a high speed internet line which is becoming more and more accessible. Upon logging, you will be greeted by a welcome screen very similar to your home computer. One advantage is that you can access cloud from anywhere, any computer.

Cloud computing is already in place in big business houses relying on computer networks for their day-to-day activities. Very powerful servers host the application which are then accessed by hundreds of users at a time. The only difference is that it is limited to an organisation and an outsider doesn’t have an access to those applications.

The second aspect of cloud computing is storage. The size of the storage devices have bombed out, yet they seem to be lesser by day. Cloud services will give enough storage to dump all your data at one place on the net and access it from anywhere, at anytime. All you need to do is create a secure password to protect all your data, and you are free from worries. Even the backup is not your lookout, as its handled by the service provider.

Application hosting on cloud, along with data storage, security and backup will be a big boon to large companies, who spend lots of money on these infrastructure. (My wife will lose her job if all this is shifted to cloud). But cloud computing has been on the web in bits in pieces in various forms. Picassa allows storage and editing of pictures using their online utility. Thats nothing but a miniature cloud. Playing mulitplayer games online is nothing but a form of cloud computing.

Google has taken up the initative along with many other companies but giving cloud services in form of google docs, the online version of office package. Even microsoft has come up with office live workspace as a competition to google docs. But a few month back I had a raw taste of virtual, or rather cloud computing, when I downloaded chrome operating system, which when booted, into greeted me with just the logging screen for my google ID. Upon login, I was surprised to find some office applications from docs ready for my use. Though in its early stage, chromium OS is making true headway towards cloud computing.

May 262010
 

The 30th anniversary of PacMan was commemorated by google, by placing an interactive pacman doodle on its search homepage. The pacman game could be played by clicking on “Insert Coin” button in place of “I’m feeling lucky” that usually appears beside the google search button, giving it a retro feel. I had tried it on that day, and it worked well.

Now, the people have come up with the analysis saying that, 5 million man hours were lost due to people at workplace indulging in the game on that day. An estimated $ 120 million was the worth of the lost productivity. The analysis goes further to calculate the number of people from google that could be hired to form a team of work force, including Larry Page and Serger Brin for six weeks.

Oh these analysts!  How many man hours have they wasted in researching on such useless figures and facts!! Never once in the news report was there a mention of all the man hours gained by using google all this while.

Majority of the people using computers rely on google for all the answers to their questions. Developers search codes on google, so as to make a short work of their projects. Historians search up facts on google to give a miss to that detour to the library. Foodaholics google for recipes, tech freaks google for gadgets. Almost every computer googles for data half the time. I know a person who visits any website only after searching it on google, even though he has the entire web address. A common belief goes that, if all the google servers are down for a single day, industry will be brought to standstill for the lack of information. Such is the influence of google in our life. It truely has added hours into our days.

If I were to analyse a blackout of google, I would dare say that the industry stands to loose many times the figure reported in above news.

All said, Pacman has found a permanent place on google.

BTW, I think that, Tony Wright, the founder of Rescue Time, the “analyst”, mentioned above, must have used google to come to the reported figures.

May 262010
 

In april 2010, apple launched their mobile computing device, IPad, which satisfies many of the computing needs on the go. The device went on sale soon after worldwide, and has been welcomed by the on-the-go community and technology freaks alike. The device packs enough applications( more than 2,00,000) developed and available to be used.

But as with all the tech devices, there will always be some shortcomings, some of which are pointed out on labnol along with its best features. But I would like to put emphasis on the point that, it being heavy and a bit big, its not a real on-the-go device, except for desperates. Secondly, non accessible file system can limit the memory usage to few specific file types which are recognised and supported by its applications.

And finally, I would like to keep my cellphone at home. Why would I like to load myself with gadgets, if just one is available, which suffices all my needs?

Here’s where the Dell Streak comes into picture. As showcased on their site, dell seems to have included lots of features in their new device, one of them being the smaller form and the second, most important, being introduced is the ability to make calls. The smaller size may hinder the functionality for office applications, but it seems to be a true portable computing device, with all the connectivity features being incorporated at the first launch. On the soft side, dell has announced 38,000 application for this device. Should be enough for everyday work.

If smartly priced, streak can compete with ipad very well for its value addition.

I, in India, would prefer a smaller device in the already crammed space, for my mobile computing and communication.

What would you prefer? Lets wait for its launch in June.

May 182010
 

One of the experiences that every sea fearer has during his sea life is, being duped at some foreign port. No one has been spared of it, some for a small amount, some to a large extent. But a sea fearer always forgets the loss, comparing it with the very high salary he earns, and taking it as a part and parcel of his life.

I was duped once, off 50$.

It so happened that our ship had reached the port of longkou in the northern province china, and in the evening me along with few members of our ship went out for a round of the city. The very first store that we were taken to by the agent stocked electronics, and my eyes lit up seeing the display. I got particularly interested in a pen drive of capacity 32 GB(it was the year 2007, and 32 GB was unheard of)which was on sale for 85$. I tried to haggle the price but couldn’t get it below 80$. Now, I was in china, so wasn’t sure of it’s authenticity, so didn’t want to buy it unless I got it for cheap. By the time more of my fellow crew came besides me and showed interest in the pen drive. After a bit of haggle, the shopkeeper finally agreed to sell it to us for 50$ if we bought 5 pieces. We were four of us and we knew we could convince someone to buy one more on the ship. But we had a condition that we would check all the drives first and if all found ok we would buy. The shopkeeper was ok with that but informed us that he didn’t have those many pieces right at that time and would deliver it on our ship and we could pay at that time. Better for us!!

Or so we thought….

As we informed our other officers and crew on board, our captain became interested, and since it seemed to be a good deal, he called up his son in India, who immediately asked him to get two pieces. Our chief officer informed that he was duped by such seller on his previous ship, but when we informed him that we would check the drives before paying, he himself wanted one. So now we needed 7 pieces and we informed the seller through ships agent to bring 8 pieces so that we had a buffer of 1 piece if any found to be not working.

The seller came onboard and handed us the pendrives which we started testing one by one. We transferred about 18 GB data in to each one and checked that the properties showed 18 GB used and about 12-13 GB free, which it showed and we were satisfied. We handed over the cash and I went for sleep. By that time the seller had left the ship and we sailed out.

I woke up with plans to transfer my entire music collection to the pendrive to relieve me of th DVDs. And I did so in the officer’s lounge computer. As I entered the engine control room for my duty, I saw the duty motorman, Gerry Delrio, worried. After handing over the watch(handing over the duty is called as handing over the watch, in watchkeeping terms), the fourth engineer left, and the first sentence that I heard form the motorman’s mouth was,”Third!! We are F@#&%d!!!”

I didn’t understand what he was saying. He explained that the data was not going into the pen drive that he had. I told him that I had successfully stored just a few minutes back, and he asked me to verify it. I inserted the drive into the engine room computer, and saw that the folder were there on the drive. I browsed to one of the folder. and Oops!! No file in it. Thinking that the folder might be empty from the beginning, I browsed to another folder. Empty!! I checked the properties of the pendrive and found that it had occupied 18 GB with lots of folders, but it showed 0 files. Thinking that formatting it would solve the “error”, I formatted it. Only to find later that the capacity had come down from 32 GB to 20 GB. My heart sank. But all was not lost, since 20 GB was a good deal for 50$. Again I moved some data to the drive. Again I could see only folders, no files. My heart sank.

I carried out the formating number of times in a hope to rectify the situation, but each time the capacity reduced to 16GB, 10GB, 4GB, 1GB,128MB!! And finally, the computer gave up and stopped detecting the drive.

Same thing happened to all the people who bought it. Now I was worried two folds. I had paid for the captain’s pen drives and he was yet to return back the 100$. But within a couple of days he gave me back my money. A week later, the chief officer checked his drive, and came to know that he too was duped. He was a happy man till then, since no one had told him about this comedy. Or tragedy if you call it.

We had been duped by professionalism of the chinese sales person, and a shiny casing announcing a Sony Vaio Pendrive!! We were “Made” in China.

May 132010
 

How mad can an engineer be? It remains an unanswered question. But how crazy can an engineer be in his childhood? Analyse yourself after reading these incidents of my life.

(FYI : All the incidents in these stories are real, and any coincidence of the incidents with any other individual, is purely incidental. I reserve the rights to narrate my own stories.)

1. The very first fascination of my life, related to engineering, was electric motor. In my case, it the fan in our room, that went round and round, on a flick of a switch. I was too much interested in it.  And it had a regulator, which had to be rotated to increase or reduce the speed. I was really interested in knowing what went inside to make the fan rotate. And my interest inspired me to build up a crude theory that there was a smaller motor inside the regulator, which turned upon the rotation of the regulator knob, and it somehow made the fan to rotate.

Why I thought this, I still cant figure out. I was too small to understand the meaning of most of the words I have typed above. I never knew the word theory, or that fan, as it was called, which was actually a motor, or why a regulator was called so. But I had a desire to get the imaginary “small motor”, out of the regulator.

Once there was no one at home, and I decided to fulfill my desire. The regulator was housed in a casing which had charred of from the top, due to the heat generated in it. I inserted my tiny fingers in through the top.

It was my lucky day, as I was standing on a wooden bed and only few fingers of my hand were touching the wall. I was thrown away by the electric shock on to the mattress and escaped shaken, but without injuries. My desire for the motor vanished, and during engineering, I found it to be my weakest subject.

2. Then after a few years my maternal uncle bought a scooter. And I was very much interested in its working. By that time I had read some of the volumes of ‘Young Scientist’ in our school library. And somewhere in those volumes, was the theory of thermocouples which became a point of interest for me. Now, I knew that scooter burned petrol for its power, but I was unaware of a machine called as internal combustion engine, residing inside the scooter.

On analysing deeper, the problem at hand(how scooter works?), and the limited data I had acquired(working of thermocouples), my somewhat adult mind put two and two together. I later found out that by putting two and two together, the answer that I had got was zero. Because I had made up a theory that the petrol burnt up to give out enough heat for one electrode of the thermocouple and the other electrode was placed somewhere far at the front of the scooter to allow proper cold temperature at that point. Armed with this theory, I completed my junior years in the college, and even educated my younger brother about it.

My theory was ultimately negated by the subject IC engines in the fourth semester of engineering.

3. The third incident also involved IC engine and my brother. My brother, luckily had an appetite for all the information and explainations I conjured about anything, with even doubting once….Not so now, after so many years of foolery.

I was in the second year of engineering, the first engineer to be in my family, and after completion of the third semester, our family went to Goa for a picnic. Once while crossing a river, we used the roll-on roll-off ferry boat service, and me, the ‘to be engineer’ of the family, choose to seat near the engine room, which offered a good view of the loud, smoky, oily engine.(I had no idea, that I would go ahead and become a marine engineer. But thats how fate works.) So as I was sitting there, admiring the oily, ugly thing, my brother approached me and asked what that black noisy thing was? And I informed that it was an engine. I had read somewhere about the different types of engines like 2-stroke and 4-stroke. And upon seeing the engine structure, I immediately “recognised” it to be a 3-stroke engine.

Any mechanical or automobile engineer will laugh at me at this point. There is no such thing as a 3-stroke engine. There are just 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, depending upon the number of power strokes for every rotation of the engine. What I had seen were the three cylinders of the boat engine, and assumed that they were 3-stroke. I even informed my brother that 3-stroke were more powerful as compared to 2-stroke, but less powerful than 4-stroke. My brother swallowed all the information and basked in the glory that his elder brother was so well informed.

My this theory was again negated by IC engines in the semester that followed immediately. As I reached home from the college home that day, the first thing I did was to tell my brother the truth. I didn’t want him to be laughed at.

He stopped believing in my theories from then on….

So, can’t you gauge how crazy an engineer can be in his childhood?

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