March 26, 2008

I got my site back :)

Finally, I managed to remove those embarrassing content from my site. Now it looks clean -- the way I want it to be. Let me know if you have any comments. Things that we do at one point in time suddenly looks weird and childish very soon. I don't know why. Maybe we grow up fast. Or maybe things change fast. Whatever reason it is, suddenly I stopped liking my site's content and layout and everything about it. Due to a lot of problems with the ISP hosting the domain I had hard time changing the content. Now that I have moved to a different vendor for hosting, I threw away all the junk as the very first thing. I don't know how the new vendor's ongoing support is going to be; I just have to wait and see.

March 23, 2008

FLV to MPEG conversion

Did you ever want to convert an .flv file to a more common format (.mpg, for example) but didn't find the correct tool to do that? Did you know that your friendly VLC Media Player can do this conversion?
  1. Start VLC Media Player.
  2. Select File > Open File menu option.
  3. Select the .flv file you want to convert. Select Stream/Save checkbox. Click on Settings button.
  4. Select MPEG 1 as Encapsulation Method and mp1v as Video codec[*].
  5. Select File checkbox and provide an output file name.
  6. Selecting OK will close the dialog box and start the conversion.
* You don't necessarily have to select exactly these options. Play around with different combinations. You may also want to try increasing/decreasing the bitrate.

March 22, 2008

Sequoia National Park

4 highways 13.5 hours 840 km I went for a ride today. Yeah, I was a bit concerned about driving long. But that was last week. Today morning I woke up early and by the time I headed towards highway US-101 S, it was about 7.30am. The ride was long. But I enjoyed it. It was awesome to drive on the freeways. My car never felt tired; it just kept going. I averaged around 80mph and reached up to 90mph. The roads were very scenic. I could see a lot of green fields and mountains and lakes on the roadside. Driving on the hills was a very new experience for me. With a lot of hairpin bends and sharp turns, it was very challenging. Every 10 minutes I kept thinking "maybe I can stop here and take some photos." The mountain was very beautiful. As the car climbed up, I started seeing some white things on the road side. As usual, I thought of stopping the car to see if that really was ice. But I kept driving in the interest of time. In a few minutes I started seeing ice on both the sides of the road. You never know how happy and thrilled I was -- I was seeing snow! (It rarely rains in the place where I lived the first 22 years of my life; it's a really hot place.) On the top, I saw General Sherman the largest living tree on the planet. It was completely surrounded by ice. I had to walk on the ice to see the tree. It was not very crowded, so I could get near the tree. I touched it, like a kid touching an elephant's leg. It was huge and I felt like lying on it's feet and surrendering to it. I had to return soon, since I hadn't planned to spend the night in the park. So I left the park immediately after visiting General Sherman. Driving downhill was a challenge and I loved it. Again, I thought of stopping in a few places, but didn't stop as I wanted to reach my hotel before it becomes dark. At one instance, I could imagine how Robert Frost would have felt when he wrote "miles to go before I sleep". Driving back in the night was not as hard as I had imagined. Driving a bike on the highways in India during nights is almost suicidal. With all the cars and vans and buses coming with their high beams on, driving a bike is almost impossible. But in the US, even in the freeways we are not supposed to use high beams. That alone made the ride so much easier. I got back in time. And you know what was the best part of the ride? I didn't lose my way -- not even once :-) PS: I have uploaded some photos, if you are interested.

March 21, 2008

Why three, when two is enough?

When you're driving a car, how would you call the car driver riding before you and ask him to stop so that you can have a chat with him? Maybe you could call him on his cellphone. But what if he is a stranger? Waving your hands, shouting, praying to god are not practically useful ways. That's why police cars have siren with those cool (or intimidating, if you like it that way) blue and red lights. When they want to stop you, they follow you with those lights on. You are supposed to move to the right edge of the road and park it safely. Don't get off the vehicle; wait for the cop to come to you. "When we ask you to stop, you should go to the right side of the road and stop there. You should not stay on left, take a U turn and stop," the cop explained me. (OK, don't laugh :-). I was driving my car with high beams on. I didn't really know if the head light was on high beams. This cop told me I should not do that (for obvious reasons). He also reminded me that I am lucky that I didn't get a ticket for that. ("Oh no, I am lucky that I could get to drive a car," I thought of telling him ;-) My mother doesn't yet know about this (yet). She might be a little worried, and will ask me to be more cautious if she knows about it. If I get a car in India, I am not sure if I will readily take it out like I do here. For several reasons. Driving in the US is easy. You just keep going on your lane. You can expect other cars to also go in their own lanes. When the road turns right, one is not allowed to keep driving straight and somehow end up in the left-most lane. In India too, you are supposed to stay in your own lane; but most people don't care. In Hyderabad especially, if you stick to your lane, either you will be in an accident or people will turn back and abuse you with some nasty words. The cars themselves are much easier to drive. Almost all the cars have only two controls -- an accelerator and a brake. Yes, there's no clutch. Having to use a clutch is not such a big deal, I know. But a beginner like me don't have to go through the learning curve of using a clutch. Also, there is no need to shift gears. The car does everything for me. Wherever I want to go, I start with the complete map and directions got from Google Maps and follow the map religiously. If I miss a turn, I take a U turn and get back to the old place and continue to follow the map. All these comforts are not in India; so don't ask me if I will drive a car after I return to India. I won't. (I like bikes much better than cars, if you ask me. I may switch to a monster bike; but not a car. But that's a different story.)

March 16, 2008

Me, Mountain View, and a Honda Civic

Suddenly, I started writing more (in Jan and Feb 2008 I wrote unusually large number of posts). Suddenly I stopped writing (this is the first post in March). I got a little busy with work, so I couldn't spare enough time on writing, although I had things to say. Now it's 2.35am. I want to finish this post before I sleep. I am right now in Mountain View, where the famous Googleplex is. Although this is not my first visit to Mountain View, this visit is special for me. This is the first time I am traveling alone (to a foreign country). This is the first time I am flying by Lufthansa. This is the first time I am driving in the US. Since I have so much to say, this post will be long and maybe boring. Ok, I have warned you :P During my last trips, I felt constrained since I didn't know driving. I had to depend on my friends to go out. They are good; they took me to wherever I wanted to go. But dependency is a dependency, and I don't generally like to depend on others. I decided to learn driving and get a license. When I went home for Diwali last year, I joined a driving school and practiced driving for a week. Then I went for the "test" and got a license. Like everyone who has got a driving license can guess, driving school classes did not make me a good or at least an average driver. I arrived at Mountain View on March 8th. Since I have a driving license now, I went to Hertz to rent a car. The guy in Hertz explained the options and the procedure. He said the 2-door Honda Civic that he had was the cheapest I could get. I loved the car at the first sight. Gladly I took the key and drove to my hotel. The car was awesome. I got good control in the first ride itself. I think the car has to do more with this than my ability to drive. I took driving directions from Google Maps and went to our office. On the way, I was lost. I didn't know which left turn the map was talking about. I drove back, took a U turn, and tried a different left. I was lost again. Frustrated, I went back to the hotel. Saw the map in the computer again and found the mistake I was making. I drove back again and boy, I reached the office :-) Once I drove to Saravna Bhavan in Sunnyvale for dinner. In three days I became so comfortable and confident driving it. Yesterday (Saturday) morning I woke up. I didn't have much to do. And my new kid was inviting me for a ride. I felt like driving on the freeway is the only way to save my soul. After looking at a few destinations, I decided to drive to Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. I chose Oakland mainly for the distance. 40 miles was a reasonable goal. I can leave after 11am and return before it's night. Also, I can spend reasonable amout of time on the freeways. Driving on the freeway was the most important reason for this trip. I was lost in the freeway two times. I missed an exit. In the process of getting back to the same freeway, I was lost again. I would have spent about 1 to 1.5 hours roaming around here and there trying to figure out how to get to the missed exit. Somehow I figured out the trick and soon I was back on the right freeway! The park was good; but it was not great. I lost an accessory of my new camera. Since there was no shop or anything in the park I starved till 4.30pm. On the way back, I stopped in a village called Montclair for lunch. Riding back was very easy. With my newly learned Freeway Skills, I reached the hotel without getting lost anywhere. I took some photos too, with my new camera. I am thinking of driving to Yosemite next week (which is about 190 miles away) . I know, it's quite far; I might change the plans. I want to spend some time in the destination, although riding is the most important part. With 380 miles to cover in a day, I don't think I will have time to spend there. Driving on nights in freeways is kinda scary. Who knows, I might get courageous next week. I will add another post if I do something interesting enough to be shared. In any case I will upload the photos. If you are interested, get it from my shared items or Picasa. Bye now!