Saturday, September 29, 2007

EGO Fall 2007 PIcnic at CMU

After 2 gruelling months, finally we got a small opportunity to unwind a bit, the EGO Fall 2007 Picnic, at Scheneley Park. After a LONG LONG time me and Vish set out of apartment with a relaxed mind, despite loads of work and assigments to do.

Taming the Lion. photo credits: Vish, concept: Atul

We had vouched to enjoy at the picnic to the fullest... and guess what... we DID! We Just Did It! Strolling along the park, clicking loads of photos on the way, we reached the spot: satisfied our taste buds with Indian food silenced the bubbling juices in our grumbling stomaches ~~~tears of happiness in eyes~~~ played with flying-dish, soccer, the swing, relaxed a bit and then headed back to our den.

Here you go, check out the albums:
[1] Prince's album
[2] Vish's album

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Choosing a Laptop/Notebook

As promised earlier, here you go with this post...
I have spent endless hours reading posts after posts, reviews after reviews for more than 3 months before deciding the exact config and model. Like me, if you don't have unlimited money resource to buy a laptop, you would want to be maximize your value for money! Thought this small guide might help you a bit towards that end. Feel free to add and seek advice :D

0. Processor
Most of tasks we do are not CPU-bound, they are IO-bound. So invest wisely
Anything more than 1.86 GHz is just a feel-good-factor! If you are not into too much of graphics (which is the case for most of us), trust me, processor is NEVER the deciding factor in the over all feel of speed you get. So don't waste your $$$s on this, no matter what GHz shit Intel promotes. In fact, if you are observant, Intel just stopped pushing GHzs these days, in fact from P-4, they started NOT advertising speed much and even reduced their core clock speeds!!! And if you missed that, take a note NOW!

But yes, don't go for the outdated Celeron processors. Dual core, in my view is NO better either. You are better off with single core Pentium-M, and if you saving some bucks, go for single core. Ask the sales rep explicitly if they offer discounts on single cores. And don't even think of Quad-cores for your notebook! Whoever tells you need one, is full of sh!t!

1. RAM
1GB is great, but 512MB is not bad either. Get 533 MHz DDR2, that's the standard these days anyway. If you gonna run vmware, or any other virtualization stuff, 512MB might be a tad too little. And anything above 1.5GB, again, is a WASTE! It like 1 person living in Palatial house! You definitely feel good, but don't need and never gonna use that much space!
(update: I don't use M$ OS much, so thanks for update from my colleague, Vinay. He says you need 2GB for Vista! God! My Linux runs pretty darn well on 512!)

2. HDD
Hitachi is really good. Never made it's presence felt by emitting unnecessary decibels. What is VERY important is that buy the fastest you can in your budget. Even if it means cutting down on few GBs of space and compromising RAM!!! Being a mechanical device, it's the slowest element introducing the maximum latency. That's the reason I opted for 512MB RAM and 80GB 7200 rpm HDD. I could have very well gotten 1GB RAM and 120GB 5400 rpm HDD n the same cost. But just increasing RAM doesn't increase the speed. I can bet my config will kick a$$ of the later config! So, invest wisely. Remember what I told above, most of your tasks will be IO-bound and NOT CPU-bound.

3. Display & Resolution
That's purely a matter of choice. Too small a display (12") means cramped kbd, lesser screen real estate and limited resolution. Too big a display (17") and you are better off leaving your baby on the desk. For me 14" worked the best. Small enough to carry her around. And still full sized keyboard. Read the spec for pitch and keystroke. Highest in the class resolution of 1400 x 1050 gives me more than sufficient screen real estate.
There's another thing, depending on your taste, you might want a glossy vs matte finished display. I personally like matte, it reduces the glare and looks more professional. I don't know of any maker giving you matte finished screens other than TP.

4. Weight
You don't have much of a choice here, because this is dominated largely by the size of your lappy. Your call, what takes the precedence: weight or size.

5. Built
TPs are notoriously famous for lasting years immemorable! Nothing beats it! But I tell you, Sony Vaio looks more sexier. It's Classy vs Sexy. Vaio will get you more stares from babes than TP! But hey, TP also has a legend, which goes like: If you enter a boardroom, and don't know who's heading it, look for ThinkPad! I tell you, it's classy jet-black looks are superlatively beautiful.

6. DVD
Due to her size and built, my TP could only take 9mm drives. To my knowledge there's only one maker of DVD-writer of that spec: Matshita. I WANTED a DVD-writer and had to spend a fortune getting it! Probably you won't have to take that pain. Go for the best you can here. And yes, if you are in a habit of backing up your movie DVDs a lot, you might wanna consider buying a DVD drive which has a firmware update to ... you know what!

7. WiFi
Get the built-in one, don't buy external card, it's cumbersome. I trust most of then have built-in, but if you go for 12" (or lower) sized notebooks, you will mostly probably be left with no choice but carry that additional card with antenna sticking out of it. This does give your notebook a robotic look, but don't forget that it gets tangled in wires VERY easily if you move around a lot.

8. Mobo
Unlike PCs, you don't have much say here, you gotta take what the maker gives you.

9. Heat
You don't want to boil eggs on your notebook, you are better off with your traditional stove. So another most important factor that you wanna consider is how good is your notebook's thermodynamics. Because more the heat means faster fan. And yes, the faster your CPU higher is your core clock and more is the heat generated. This is another good reason to not reach for the fastest processor. And faster fan implies more noise and shorter battery life. Only way to figure this info is to dive in LOTS of mailing lists.

Same config on Dell, HP or Acer will definitely cost you 30%-40% less! But I tell you, if you are looking at notebook for longer run, it's worth investing in ThinkPad. DON'T buy TP from India, it's hellishly expensive there! Plus, you won't get all the options to configure. If you can, buy it from US or Canada.

What I've never tried with my TP is the S-video port, PCMCIA slot. Things that she doesn't have are FireWire port & card reader. I don't need'em.

If you are serious on buying a TP, I strongly recommend that you spend some time on ThinkPad Forum. It's moderated by some GREAT moderators who are freaking knowledgeable about TPs and have ripped many of them apart and put'em back, SUCCESSFULLY!

Acronyms used:
TP: ThinkPad
kbd: KeyBoarD
mobo: MOtherBOard

P.S.: These specs and tips are not of much use to you if you are one of these species: Gamer, heavy video-editing, number-cruncher, etc. where CPU power becomes too critical a factor. But the general guideline will still help you. And neither have I taken Apple Macs into consideration.

A clarification...

After the post: My love, finally she's out! many people actually thought I bought a new lappy. No, she same old flame of mine! Just that I happened to blog on that soooo freaking late!

Monday, September 24, 2007

C is my mother tongue too!

Quite frankly, even if the choice of C were to do *nothing* but keep the C++ programmers out, that in itself would be a huge reason to use C.
-Linus Torvalds
For the curious souls:

I love this guy, and his view, but not everything that he says in that post. C is my mother tongue, anyway! And there's very little doubt about it after the fact that I've taken the much dreaded but highly revered course from CMU's CS dept: 15-213: Introduction to Computer Systems, the course that gives CMU it's ZIP!

P.S. No offense intended to my C++ programmer buddies! This was just an interesting thread I thought of sharing. Views in that post are definitely too strong, or even arrogant I would say.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My love, finally she's out!

More than a year back, when I wrote about her, some of you guessed it, but many didn't have a clue as to what's coming. After failed attempts, they stopped inquiring.
Finally, time has come to introduce her! This relationship has been a little older than a year, and I know it's very late to introduce her, but better late than never!!!
I fell in love the first day I saw her, at IBM, probably. Mesmerized by her beauty I was wondering if I'll ever get her! Finally, now, I HAVE her! Albeit wasn't easy doing so! With sleek body, amazing features, rugged yet beautiful, unbeatable built, sexy... Oh GOD, I can't stop appreciating her! I have been wanting to write about her, but haven't the peace of mind and time to do so, until today. This is my best attempt do justice to her beauty...
Presenting before you none other than my IBM ThinkPad T43!
~~~claps and applauds~~~
come on guys, show some respect! The only real competitor to her was Sony Vaio! Making the call between them wasn't easy! In retrospect, T43 still won hands down!

Originally designed in Japan, ThinkPads have had a legacy that's been difficult to break. I'm not sure how well Lenovo will keep the name up, but fortunately, I have the T43 originally designed and assembled by IBM (Japan, I guess).

So? What makes me love this machine so dearly! Before that, I'll tell you what's my configuration:
0. 512 MB blazing fast 533 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
(That was the fastest available, but today it's succeeded by 666 MHz I guess)
1. UltraSlim Matshita UJ-822S DVD-RW (this costed me a fortune!)
(There apparently is only 1 maker of DVD-RW of 9mm thickness)
2. Breathkaing SXGA+ (1400 x 1050) resolution
3. HDD: 80GB Hitachi Travelstar 7K100, 7200 rpm
4. ATI Mobility Radeon X300 Graphics Card
5. Mobo: Intel 915GM
6. Display Size: 14.1"
7. Wight: 5 lbs
8. Keyboard: Full size Thia NMB (the BEST kbd out there!)
9. 1.86 GHz Pentium M
A. WiFi: Intel PRO/wireless 2915 ABG
B. Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
C. Fingerprint Reader

So what makes me LOVE this beauty!
Don't know where to start...
Ok! Simplicity of her design scores highest on the charts! Extremely simple, superlatively no-nonsense design is what took my heart away! I believe I have a thing for Japanese designs (ref. Head over heels). No unnecessary bells-n-whistles. It immediately projects an impression that I mean business! Titanium body gives it all the sturdiness a laptop can acquire. 1+ year of usage and it's steel hinges still don't show a sign of any play. If you have handled some poorly built plasticy Dell lappies, you will understand what I mean. The steel hinges doubles up as heat dissipating element. Genius, isn't it!

Keyboard is one of THE BEST: NBM Thai made keyboard. There are many varieties of kbds on TP, and thank GOD that I'll not bore you guys about it. But, of course, if you planning on buying one, do email me back. And NMB is THE BEST! Of course you don't have a choice of getting your first kbd, but I was lucky to get the best one. You might even get a cheaper Chicony or some other poor kbd. This beauty has spoilt me now, I have never liked any other kdb after I used this one! Kbd has all the keys in RIGHT place, no brain-dead rearranging of home-del-pgup-pgdwn & cursor keys. And trust me, really really trust me when I say it's frustrating to find key on kbd when you are dying to meet your deadlines! Only the Fn key in place of Ctrl requires a little adjustment. But hey, anything for this beauty.
It's trackpoint is amazing! I hate the touch pad, its darn tooooooo slow to be used. And if you happen to press the touch pad a little too hard while navigating, you might end up dragging a whole lotta shit!!! Not to mention, if you have selected a zillion photos to be moved and while you are dragging, your tap gets registered as double click! BTW, you gotta be stupid enough to move files on GUI, but still! Once you get used to this trackpoint, you won't ever want to come back to touchpads! Ask any TP user and you will understand what I mean. Besides, using the trackpoint (that revered small red dot at the center of my kbd) gives me enormous speed in moving the pointer, enough to impress anyone around! You gotta believe me on this. I have had a couple of friends gasping in frustration: "What the !@$# are you doing, I didn't get a thing! That was too fast!" Kbd has absolutely no unwanted Play/Rwd/Fwd and other absolutely frustratingly brain-dead and useless multimedia keys.

Screen: The SXGA+ give whooping 1400 x 1050 of screen resolution. Once you see a movie/picture on this, only Sony Bravia can spoil you! It's crisp and 1400 x 1050 is a LOT of screen real estate. Some ppl find it irritating working on high res, but I find it amazingly cool.

I bet I did miss a lot, maybe I'll keep updating this!

All in all, ThinkPads are is THE pinnacle of notebook designs! Touch Wood!
Special Thanks to:
ThinkPad forums where I kept reading posts, queries, problem reports, solutions, etc. It's moderators and users for replying promptly, Chris in particular. To my Uncle, to be kind enough to buy it on my behalf from US. A similarly spec'ed TP here would have costed my twice as much and still wouldn't get everything I got! And special thanks to my bro for letting me keep this beauty, while originally intended for him!

Choosing a Laptop.
I have spent endless hours reading posts after posts, reviews after reviews for more than 3 months before deciding the exact config and model. Like me, if you don't have unlimited money resource to buy a laptop, you would want to be maximize your value for money!
So, I'm going to make another post to address that concern. And also on after-sales-service. I've had a horror story there.

--- edit---
Here you go: Choosing a Laptop/Notebook