21 Dec 2011

You cannot upgrade Toshiba Z830’s SSD (yet)

When I saw the Toshiba Z830 in a shop near my house, my jaw dropped.  Because that thing weighs just 1.1kg!  The only thing that felt inadequate was storage: it comes with only an 128GB SSD.  Being the clever thing I am, I thought I can easily replace the SSD with the 240GB one I had.  Except, I wasn’t that clever in this case.

Z830 uses an mSATA SSD (to save space), and the largest available mSATA SSD in the market is 128GB (source).  So, if you’d need more than 128GB storage, don’t buy the Z830 (or anything that uses mSATA) yet.

Your thoughts betray you

I have been hating Java since morning.  Because I have been reading Java code since morning, and the code is all dumb.  Dumb because it’s reams of code for doing trivial things.  (This being Google Nonsense Toolkit code doesn’t help either; I keep thinking that GWT manifests everything wrong with the Java culture.)

I know all this negative feeling is because I am just tired and sleepy.  Nevertheless it makes me hate Java uncontrollably!

18 Dec 2011

Life has to go on

Holding a grudge against someone is being stuck in the past.  When you hold a grudge against a person, you lose them in your life, as well as losing some of your own happiness/peace of mind.  It’s never a good thing.

Rest in peace

I see people — mostly westerners — that are religiously scientific.  The kind that wants to say aloud that religions are all bullshit and science is the only thing that’s worth believing in.

When someone dies, everyone — people who follow “conventional” religions (e.g. Christianity) as well as those that follow the “science religion” — uses the phrase “rest in peace”.  Isn’t that “incorrect” for a science believer to use that phrase?  I mean, what’s left of the dead person to rest in peace?

12 Dec 2011

Reading code

Good code is so simple, reading it often makes you think “I could’ve written this”.

10 Dec 2011

Blissful ignorance

“Ignorance is bliss” must have been said by someone who can’t quite figure out how to find happiness and wanted to blame it on their “intelligence”.

4 Dec 2011

Wavy waters

I was thinking about the dreams I had of living with IS and my dreams of travelling all over India when Janaki interrupted me to ask what I was thinking.  We were sitting in Thanjavoor Periya Kovil, a temple I had fancied ever since I learned about it as a child.  Periyal Kovil in Tamil means Big Temple.  The name itself was intriguing and made me wonder how big the temple actually was.  I didn’t even know which god the temple was for — it didn’t matter — I just liked the temple for its name.

I had married Janaki the previous week.  I wasn’t very excited about the marriage itself, and even less excited about my new wife.  My mind was preoccupied with lost dreams.  I had always thought IS and I would be living like the young couples they show in movies... the couples that are so happy that you want to be like them.  I’d dream that I would be driving my car in a highway with IS sitting next to me and we’ll be talking, singing aloud, stopping to take pictures, staying in random hotels, and having fun travelling around.  For two days after the wedding I didn’t feel anything, but as relatives left and the reality set in, I felt more and more miserable.

I don’t even remember what I told Janaki then at the temple.  Probably it didn’t matter what I said; maybe she was just making an attempt to start a conversation.  When two people new to each other are sitting together, silence can be intimidating.  Once they have remained silent for a while, breaking that silence can be even more intimidating.  But Janaki was willing to break the silence; she took the first step to make our relationship work, when I was actively resisting every minute of my new life.

Once we started living by ourselves in Madurai, I had to face the reality, and being resigned to everything was not a practical option anymore.  Slowly we defined our relationship and defined our own unwritten protocols.  I learned to ask her to help me with things.  If I felt like coffee, I’d ask her to make one.  I’d have preferred to make it myself, but she’d feel bad for reasons I couldn’t comprehend.  After a while, asking her to make coffee was not only convenient, but it even started feeling natural.

The real change happened on our first vacation after I had just bought my car.  We took the car and visited my father and her parents, and went to Periya Kovil.  That was the first temple Janaki and I had gone to by ourselves, so she was sentimentally attached to it.  Her face when we were sitting in the temple — content with the life she was living — is still in my eyes.  While walking back to our car she held my hand tightly and walked along like a kid with her father... entirely positive about life... or maybe thinking nothing about life and just happy to be holding my hand.  I didn’t feel as happy as she did, but I was at peace nonetheless.

Next year I wanted to drive down to Visakhapatnam, which Janaki wasn’t very keen of.  She didn’t really enjoy sitting in a car all day and staring at roads.  I had always loved roads, and I was always dreaming of being on the road driving my own car with someone I really, really like.  Neither of us wanted to compromise on our plans for the vacation, so we had no vacation that year.  Janaki was disappointed, but she truly believed that it was all my fault.  That was the first blow our marriage sustained.  What was lost in that bitterness was lost forever... like a fallen tooth that never grew again.

Next year I planned the vacation entirely based on Janaki’s preferences.  The places we went to and the things we did were sure fun, but I couldn’t be genuinely happy about being there and doing them.  When you’re faking a smile, when you’re pretending to be happy, it shows, and it hardly ever makes the people around you happy.  My dissatisfaction ruined Janaki’s happiness, and that year’s vacation ended up even more bitter than the one that didn’t happen the previous year.

Life went on like a vessel on wavy water.  Eventually I realised life is so volatile that judging your future based on your present is always wrong.  But I learned that way too late, after our relationship was irreparably broken and we had to separate.  Janaki had become too adamant and unyielding and all my attempts to reconnect failed.

I haven’t taken a vacation this year, but I don’t want to travel alone anymore.  I sometimes want to start my life all over again... but I don’t have the energy or courage for that.  Marriage has turned my life upside down.  But certain things never change.  Not a day goes by without me thinking that life would have been joyous if only I had married IS.

Thanks to Sumitra for inspiration.  Thanks to Nags for inspiration as well as for proofreading the draft of this post.

Android’s “sticky row” of icons

Have you seen Android home screen?  Android’s home screen has a number of “pages”, usually 5 or 7.  You can keep different icons and widgets on each page.  There’s also a “sticky row” at the bottom; icons in that row are present in all pages of the home screen.  In this screenshot, Phone, People, Messaging, and Browser are all sticky, so they are present on all pages of the home screen.

Screenshot of Android home screen

Sticky row sure sounds useful in theory—because “important” apps can be accessed from all pages of the home screen, but I have never found it useful myself.  Once I am familiar with the icon layout, I hardly ever look for an icon in the home screen—I simply navigate to it instead.

Let’s say I am on 2nd page of the home screen of my phone and I want to open the browser.  Although the browser icon is present on the second page as well, I’d swipe over to the center page (which is the “main” page where I am mostly on) and then launch the browser from there1.  My brain has associated the main page with browser so it’s faster to launch it from there vs. looking for it on the 2nd page.

I believe this how it is for many people: this is why programs in Start menu are easier to find when they are in alphabetic order, but the icons on the desktop when in a familiar order.  Only this spatial familiarity makes us walk towards the kitchen without thinking when we are thirsty.  Walking to the kitchen first and then figuring out what we want from there is more efficient than doing it the other way around.

Most people won’t look so deep into this, and they don’t have to; it’s the job of UX/interaction designers to evaluate these ideas.  Which means, even if the Android team knows by now that the sticky row is useless, they cannot take it away lest upsetting users who think it’s a useful feature.  If I were to control whether the bottom row of my Android is sticky or not, I’d make it non-sticky2.

1. If memory serves right, Android 2.0 (Eclair) was the first version of Android to have a sticky row.  I have been using Android from version 1.5 (Cupcake).  I got the sticky row feature when I upgraded to a Nexus One a year later.  I don’t know how much of an influence this has over my usage patterns.  Also, I am still using Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), so I cannot customise the icons in the sticky row.  My usage pattern may change when I upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

2. I know Android is open source, so I can control if the bottom row on my phone is sticky or not.  But this annoyance is not reason enough for me to hack the home screen app.  Not yet.