Sunday, December 20, 2009

Showdown Internet Explorer (IE) vs Firefox

I promised to post a detailed showdown of IE vs Firefox... And here it is, one of the most detailed feature comparison of Internet Explorer vs Firefox. (IE = Internet Explorer).

Being _forced_ into using IE, I have had a better opportunity to constantly compare IE with Firefox. Prior to which my usage of IE was sporadic. (if you work in the corporate world, almost everywhere chances are that at least some of local web-infrastructure will work ONLY with IE ~~sigh~~).

Views here are solely mine, and might not be agreeable to general (esp. /non-(tech|browser)/ savvy) audience. (If you can understand that regex, you most likely should consider reading ahead). Being a programmer (and an inquisitive soul) my needs & my expectations are completely orthogonal to that of a common Tom, Dick and Harry. But like many geeks out there, I'm sure there will be some intersection between us on some of the issues I discuss below.

Quick Links for easy reference:
  1. Tabs and Tabs Ordering
  2. Add-Ons/Extensibility
  3. Powerful Bookmarks Management
  4. Session Management
  5. Adding Feeds
  6. IE's Compatibility Mode
  7. Configurable/Customizable
  8. Cross-Platform Compatibility
  9. Multi-Row Tabbing
  10. Downloading
  11. Tabs History
  12. View Source Code
  13. Shortcuts
  14. Child Windows
  15. Address-bar and Nuances
  16. Zooming
  17. Right-Click Options
  18. Default Clicking Noise
  19. Download History and Progress Window
  20. Conclusion
  21. Random Fact About This Post
  22. Get Firefox!

I DO NOT intend to start browser flames war, whether I (or you) like it or not, both the browsers are there to remain through browsing eons. So I will delete all inflammatory comments. Constructive suggestions, comments (esp. highlighting incorrect or missing info and/or features) are most welcome.

I do not intend to change you into a Firefox addict (but do tell me if that happens :)). The primary purpose of this post is to answer the questions I constantly get: "So, why is it that you like Firefox so much" or "People (!@#$ who are these people!) keep claiming that the latest IE is awesome, why don't you give it a spin!" Though I initially switched to Firefox because IE6 sucked BIG BIG time, IE was darn slow, IE was buggy and IE had/has no extensibility, today I remain loyal to Firefox for a multitude of reasons. Over the period of years, browsing technology has bloomed (almost exploded, for the lack of better word).
So, here, I present this post as a formal answer to that very question:
Why I like Firefox over Internet Explorer?
Why I detest Internet Explorer so much?

I am huge fan of Firefox, but I have tried HARD not to let it bias my views against IE. That said, my browsing habits for sure are acutely attuned to Firefox-way-of-life. This will make some IE's features ridiculous for me to adopt, because I am too used to Firefox way. It might also make you feel some of the differences are artificial. I will try to keep such idiosyncrasies to a minimum.

I tend to pick habits that seem more logical for my reasoning and which tends to improve my efficiency. And the metrics of efficiency, as we know, vary from person to person. Mine are simple: Fewest possible keystorkes, and where use of mouse is absolutely necessary, I should be able to get over with the moving, positioning and clicking the mouse ASAP.

All that said, it, nonetheless, would be interesting to read my commentary about Firefox vs IE. It was a good exercise for myself to point out nuances I care for. Hope it will enlighten some of you.

My constant frustration with IE, lately, is its unintuitive tabs ordering and no way to change it. This won't bug you if you don't have more than a handful tabs open, and your browsing session doesn't span more than a hour or so. Mine spans weeks, and have 20's of tabs open at any given time, so I care. A LOT.

I like to order tabs: most used and permanently open towards left, and more volatile ones to the right. Example: dictionary and online radio sites are always on, so they bubble towards left, while one-time google searches tend to be on right.

This is only one of the places where I have added Tab Mix Plus addon to the stock installation for comparison. Because it is so insanely useful and creative, I believe it should be a part of every installations. So install Tab Mix Plus before you intend to go ahead!
Sorry, but there doesn't seem to be a comparable addon for IE!
  1. Tab Focusing (Ctrl+Tab)

  2. With Firefox, I can choose what Ctrl+Tab does.
    1. Default: Just select the next tab, tab to the right of current one
    2. Tab List Menu Popup: Instead of switching immediately, it presents me with a nice list of open tabs to switch to
    3. MRU: Most Recently Used order. This is perfect match for my usage. I didn't get used to this, I _wanted_ this, and if you think about it for a moment, maybe you will understand why. Again, don't bother with this if you don't have many tabs open at any given time.
    4. Mix of option ii and iii: The tab list is sorted in MRU order!

    IE: It only has one option 'i. Select the next tab'.

  3. Tab Closing (Ctrl+W)

  4. With Firefox, when closing a tab, I can choose to focus on:
    1. The last tab I used (MRU: My favorite!)
    2. First Tab
    3. Last Tab
    4. Left Tab
    5. Right Tab
    6. Last Opened Tab (i.e. most recently opened)
    7. Opener Tab (i.e. the tab that caused the closing tab to be opened)

    Also there is cute-n-special option: Avoid closing the window when last tab is closed.
    Frustratingly, IE does absolutely nothing other than close the tab and focus on the next tab. Pathetic!
    Firefox++, Firefox++, Firefox++

  5. Opening New Tabs (Ctrl+T)

  6. Firefox gives me:
    1. Open new tabs next to current one
    2. Open other tabs next to current one (ones opened by link, etc.)
    3. Open other tabs next to current one, but change order, i.e. put it on left instead of (intuitively) to right.
    4. Open duplicated tabs next to original
    5. Then, there is option NOT to overwrite current tab, instead open new tabs when I choose to open links from: Bookmarks, new address in address bar, search, history, etc.

    IE gives none of the above. It always opens a new tab at the end of all tabs, again, horrible!
    I wonder why, in spite of having a whole freaking division for developing IE, M$ fails to include at least some of these features into IE. Features that matter. I bet none of these options threaten backward compatibility. I think the reason IE is technically challenged is because the IE doesn't give a rat's a$$ what power users want (and probably for a good business reason... really???). It has worked well well so far because a vast majority of users of Windows/IE aren't so computer savvy. But the equation is changing, FAST.
    of course, Firefox++

  7. Miscellaneous

  8. In IE, I cannot close a tab without first selecting it and then hitting close. I can do right-click on tab without actually selecting it, but it defeats the whole purpose of efficiency. 2 clicks in IE vs 1 in Firefox. That matters, if it doesn't to you, your problem!
    Firefox (even without Tab Mix) has an option of putting 'X' close button on each tab.

    Also, there is no way in IE to divert links that open in new windows into a new tab (without you having to hold down Ctrl key)! (I'm talking about anchors with target="_blank").

    Some changes to tab settings requires you to restart IE. Firefox doesn't require any restarts for any tab-setting changes!

    You cannot move tabs in IE without focusing on it. One more avenue in IE to loose track of your current tab. In Firefox, you can reorder tabs without shifting focus away from your current tab.

    In Firefox you can pull a tab out and convert it into a separate window. You can also do the reverse: push a window into a tab! In IE, as you can guess, doesn't support any of this.

    There are more-more-more tabbing options. As a result, when I put just the tab and its nuances into IE vs Firefox equation, that alone is way more than enough to swing me the Firefox-way, ANY DAY. This shows that Firefox is meant for power users, users who want to have a 'say' in how the browser should behave under certain conditions.

Firefox's extensibility is what has won it the accolades from the geekdom.
Firefox has zillions of (useful) addons. To name a few of the most useful/powerful: IE: No equivalent!
Note: Don't mistake IE's pop-up blocker with more powerful and generic regex ready way to block any irritating (esp. flashing) ads. in Firefox.
Apparently, xmarks works with IE too. I didn't care to try it out.

One of the good measures of a good product is number of units sold. So, by similar argument, Most Popular or Most Downloaded add-ons are the candidates you are most likely to try out first, because they are used by most number of people.

Such a list for Firefox and Internet Explorer clearly shows the divide between the people who use these two browsers. If I were new to Firefox, I would try almost every single of Firefox's most popular add ons. As for IE, I wouldn't try even single one, I see very little value addition in IE's most popular addons.
(The lists are few weeks old, but I checked today and they aren't too different now.)
Firefox Most Popular Addons:
  • Adblock Plus
  • FlashGot
  • Video DownloadHelper
  • NoScript
  • Greasemonkey
  • DownThemAll!
  • Firebug
  • IE Tab
  • AnyColor
  • Download Statusbar
  • Cooliris
  • Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks)
  • AutoPager
  • SmarterFox: Browse Faster
  • FoxTab
  • Flagfox
  • WOT
  • Stylish
  • GooglePreview
  • FireFTP
IE Most Downloaded Addons:
  • New York Times Instant Search
  • Bing Search
  • Microsoft Silverlight
  • Delicious Bookmarks Add-on
  • Wikipedia Visual Search
  • Yahoo! Search Suggestions
  • Amazon Search Suggestions
  • Weather from Bing
  • Watch eBay Items
  • eBay Visual Search
  • Bing Maps
  • Yahoo! Local Maps

I wonder why IE remains sooooooo dumb-witted and utterly useless on this front.
  1. Search

  2. Firefox's bookmarks manager includes powerful search feature.
    I was (pleasantly) surprised to see that IE's bookmarks manager (Organize Favorites) does NOT have a search option. In this search-driven world, I cannot imagine how and WHY would that be left out! With (purported) advances in search technology by M$, I fail to understand why IE bookmarks manager does nothing more than add/delete/organize and import/export bookmarks.
    Firefox overshoots the expectation on search, it matches your string in any part of the address, it need not be the starting part of the word. It will match 'mis' in 'Submission', 'Mission' and even 'Chemistry'. For detailed explanation, read the section 'Address-bar and Nuances' below.

    IE's bookmarks manager:

    Firefox's bookmarks manager: You actually feel like you have an AK-47 in your hands!

  3. Tagging Bookmarks
  4. Firefox lets you add multiple tags to single bookmark. Allowing you to organize same bookmarks under different categories. With IE it has to be strictly hierarchical. Too bad for IE.
  5. Sorting (and Searching)
  6. Firefox has at least 10 attributes on which you can list and sort your bookmarks, including date added, date last visited, alphabetical and tags being most useful amongst them (for my usage).
    IE: No search at all!
  7. Miscellaneous
  8. Firefox will show a little star in the address bar if opened a URL that is already in your bookmark!!! IE DOESN'T! Neat attention to detail.

    Last but not the least on bookmarks:
    Consider that I bookmark with title "Atul Talesara: Welcome to my homepage". Then I open and bookmark this new address with the same title "Atul Talesara: Welcome to my homepage".

    Firefox actually understands that though the two webpages have the same title, they are two separate bookmarks, because the MORE important part of the bookmark, the URL(address), is different! IE, dumb-wittedly, will prompt if you want to overwrite the old bookmark with same title. The reason this is useful is because many of the (often fart-headedly designed) websites have same title for all their webpages, which means different URLs under that domain will have the same 'title'. With IE you will have to manually add something like "Part 1" to get it to add it to your bookmarks. Firefox... cool... no pain! It knows what you want ~~wink wink~~

    Comforting to know that THE most important part of webpage (i.e. the address) is indeed an element of your bookmarks organization!
    Firefox++, Firefox++, Firefox++
    It is such small tini-tiny attention to details that makes Firefox a superior browsing contraption. Kudos!

Restoring last-opened session in IE reverses the order in which you had original tabs open, WTF!
Of course it is not that big a functional hindrance, but imagine the irritation, and LACK of user-centric design. How hard is it to restore a session in !@$#ing correct order! No really! It is like you parked your vehicle in Neutral, and every time you get out of the car and enter again, it automatically switches to Reverse! Increasingly I have a feeling that their quality gates are horribly low, to the point of being non-existent! I guess unless IE sees Vista-like debacle, they won't change. Compare Windows 7 with Vista.

BTW, as a side note, I think Win7 is nicer (almost as good as XP, functionally). And, Win7 is THE only OS from M$ yet that bets to run on older hardware, that is, M$ doesn't recommend you a hardware-upgrade to experience glitch-free user experience. And I think this happened because with M$ finally cared with Win7 for what users actually want, not what THEY think users (must) want. One of the few rare times I've praised M$ OS! OOps, lets not digress.

Also, IE has ability to only restore the session you had before closing it. Firefox, again, on this front has myriad of options, right from restoring last session, previous to last one, your custom created/saved session, etc.
Creating your own sessions is really useful because you can have sessions for say all webpages related to AVL Tree, B+ Trees, Red-Black Trees, even your favorite movies, and get back to them whenever you feel like at a single click.

IE places the button to add feeds (on websites that supports them) in a non-intuitive location with other (potentially user-addable) cluttered icons: in tools-bar.
Firefox, on other hand, places it on a more intuitive (and well-designed!) place: right in the address bar. Though a matter of preference, in my view it is more user friendly to see it besides the button besides the address bar, instead of hunting for it in tool-bar below address bar. Where you generally have other user-added clutter.

WHAT exactly does it do? Isn't web a universal platform?
If you want to make forward progress, at some point you have to stop giving crap about people wanting to support exactly how IE behaved more than a decade ago. It is a double-edged sword to make IE-specific APIs/behavior so visible to web designers that it is a pain in the a$$ for them to shift anytime there is a new release.

My homepage doesn't use ANY IE-specific features, and 'Compatibility Mode On/Off' button still highlights. It would have been useful to let IE hide it when it suspects nothing needs to be backward compatible. Because if it is necessary, IE explicitly prompts that you might want to try compatibility mode. Bad design, adding clutter, wasting precious screen space.
What? Don't believe me? Ask smartphone and netbook users how precious is screen real-estate.
I personally haven't visited a single website where I needed that mode. And I do browse a lot in my free time. This post probably is good testimony to that :)

I can move lots of icons in the browser frame. I love this, so that I can place icons as per my frequency of usage and convenience of finding them.

about:config (details)
This is a BIG thing. I don't even want to talk about this one. Because I have very limited knowledge on this and more importantly people have already done amazing job elsewhere: link0, link1

There is NO equivalent in IE-world.

Not only browser works on myriad platforms, the addons too! Gives a more wholesome glitch free user experience. I personally have 2 versions of Linux and 2 of Windows (XP and Win7) running. It is nice to have same set of power-features available on each of them when I'm on net. For example, the Xmarks plugin lets me keep my bookmarks in sync, whether I'm browsing from, home, office or hotel.
I love to keep references to interesting websites, for future references. Nice to know I have just one global list to work with, and not worry about sync'ing them.

As if IE's dim-witted tab-reordering wasn't enough, having to scroll towards the edge of tabs-bar is all that was needed to irk me.
Firefox will let me choose what to do when I run out of single-row worth of tabbing space:
  1. Multi-row
  2. Scrollable without buttons
  3. Scrollable with buttons on left and right sides
  4. Scrollable with buttons on right side
Besides, there is no way to control min-max width of tabs in IE. I love to have this: my every tab is same width, irrespective of number of tabs open. Can't explain why, but I just like it that way.

I will stop incrementing Firefox points, I hope you have caught on by now that Firefox is way too good :)

When I hit any download link:
  • IE opens new tab (of course, brain-deadly) at the end of tab list (insane!)
  • Pops a window asking what to do "Open, Save or Cancel" (right, but not entirely!)
  • Asks for file name
  • By the time you are done with insane amount clicking, you lose track of which tab you opened the download link from, because IE closes that last tab it opened, and then refocuses you to new last tab! This last bit seriously pissed me off.
With Firefox, it is almost seamless, click and be done with it (if you have set the options right). No prompting, no window popups, pure work! Similar result can be achieved with IE (for certain file types) but for file types not set up, IE is hell lot of clicking than Firefox.

Default blank page in IE shows list of tabs I closed. You can reopen any of closed tabs. For an avid IE user, I guess, this might be a nice feature. Plus it is nicely synchronized dynamically opening-closing more tabs. Sadly, IE has managed to screw up this nice feature too. It kind of opens that tab, at a random location. I guess it tries to open it in the old position of the tab, it is retarded. Firefox has no equivalent.

No keyboard shortcut in IE to do that!
Well, you would ask why the hell do you want to view source code while you are browsing! There, my friend, is a difference between casual browsing and browsing with EYES-n-MINDS open. I'm not an avid web-apps programmer, so I often have to see, say, how a particular page is designed in HTML. And the best way here is to dig into the source!

Page Info
Nice little window that gives detailed information about the website. Separate "Multimedia" tab which shows details of each non-text content: images, flash, etc. And more importantly Security tab. Apart from certificate info, it lists how many times you visited this website, does it store cookies, have you saved password for this website. If it does store cookies, list them, and you can selectively delete them! Cool, isn't it.
IE is from the Stone Age on this front.

I noticed that when I right click on webpage in IE, the menus aren't shortcut'ed, As in, alphabets are NOT underlined to indicate the keyboard shortcut for that function. Nothing I press (after right clicking on a page) shows me those shortcuts! Means I have to use pesky little irritating mouse. More annoyingly, I have noticed the shortcuts are highlighted randomly! So I have memorized the ones I need often.

It would be nice be IE and/or Firefox allowed me to choose what keyboard shortcut I can assign to particular function!

Random fact: IE has got way higher percentage (20%) of 3-key combination shortcuts than Firefox's(10%). Of the 40 keyboard shortcuts IE has, 8 are 3-key combination and of the 60 Firefox has, only 7 are 3-key.

All the child windows in IE are modal, meaning when I right-click and select properties on an image on a webpage, I cannot return to main browsing window unless I close the child window! This is true for everything that pops a child window. I hate modal windows, except where they are a MUST. No issues with Firefox.

  • Substring Matches
  • With Firefox, you can type ANY part of the URL, and it will display the matches (possible completions) from your bookmarks database and browsing history. You can type any substring of the whole address or webpage title. With IE, you HAVE to know the exact starting prefix. Meaning, if you are typed 'xfer' Firefox will display 'Buxfer' as a possible completion. With IE, it HAS to be a starting part of the the word. So it won't show any of the above matches. All IE can show is 'xfer_screw_you_nothing_starts_with_xfer'.
    This is really a must-have feature for me. I'm not highlighting a feature that is of no use. Take the practical case where I know I had bookmarked some Storage Technology forum. But can't remember the exact title or the exact address. So, like any sane person, I try 'storage' and 'forum' in address bar. IE shows nothing (what else can you expect from it!). But Firefox shows me ''. Wow! Glad I don't have to remember the EXACT word how the URL starts! (And is a valid URL!) This is indeed an invaluable feature. Same functionality is available in Firefox's bookmarks manager Search.
    Here are some examples to show you the search in action:

    'logie' in 'Geeklogie'

    'forum' in 'enterprisestorageforum'

  • Refresh Button Focus
  • Hitting TAB in address bar in IE takes me to Refresh Button, and to Search Box in Firefox.
    Refresh button is never the next logical function I would want to do if I move from address bar. The only logical thing I want to do from address bar is hit ENTER and go to the webpage. In fact, if you are not surprised, hitting enter on same address has the EXACT same effect of a refresh! I would not want to go to Search Box either, when I hit tab in address bar, but at least it is useful. I, personally, often do Alt+D and then Tab to reach search box from address bar. Easier than remembering Ctrl+K on Firefox vs Ctrl+E on IE.
    The point is, focusing on refresh button on hitting tab in address bar is just useless. Well, on other hand, can't expect anything else from IE!

In IE, when I zoom the text, it applies globally to all the tabs and all the IE windows. I find that insanely useless. If I have a problem reading text on just one webpage, why the hell do you want to apply it globally?
Firefox is pretty neat (and clean) here.
First of all, it does zooming purely on per-tab basis. Well, to be more precise, it does it on per 'domain' basis. So it will apply zooming ONLY to webpages from that particular domain, and keep rest of the tabs as is! Niceties doesn't stop here, it even remembers the zooming factor across restarts. It keeps them intact even if you delete all histories.

Practical example: I often read news on Times Of India website. For some reason, the fonts render really small for my taste. So obviously I want to zoom in a little bit. But I don't want to keep zooming every time I open a new tab from the main page, or restart Firefox, or clear browsing/cookie history. This zooming nuance of Firefox really comes in handy for me. It happens with many other websites too. This is one of those nuances that 99% of people won't notice.

For the "mailto:" hyperlinks, with IE, I cannot copy just the email address. Either I have to click the address and let it open my Mail Client, or I have to copy the shortcut as ''. Since I most frequently use web-based GMail, both options are useless to me. Firefox has just the right option: Copy Email Address. It thoughtfully strips off the 'mailto:' from ''.

It bugs the hell outta me! Every click produces 2-3 click-noise.. arrgh! Once when link is opened, once when it starts rendering and one when it finishes, and few more times if it happens to detect something usual (not a typo, usual is unusual for IE!). This noise is ON by default. It really is highly irritating when you have your system hooked to decent speaker system, and you happen to browse net on freakin' IE!
Enough of a reason to avoid IE altogether. Luckily there is a way disable the annoying noise.
Firefox doesn't irritate with such useless noises. Silence is golden ;-)

  • IE has no download history, REALLY!

  • In IE, escaping/closing download popup-window just cancels the download! @!$# What is this! I hate this. I hate minimizing because it involves (precisely) positioning the mouse followed by annoying action to click. Meaning it is LESS efficient. Time consuming, annoying. Plus it is way too easy to hit escape (intentionally or unintentionally) than to click precisely on 10x10 pixel minimize dash.
    So if I have 10 downloads it means I will have 10 separate additional windows! Plus, I have to be cautious that I don't accidentally hit Esc on any one of them. Great for people who love the clutter on their taskbars, but not me.

  • Firefox's ability to show download history is great because I can revisit it, delete the files I don't need anymore, I can re-download if I suspect download failed, got corrupt, or got deleted. Plus all I have to do to get rid of the download window is 'Esc' and Ctrl-j will pop the window again, WITHOUT affecting my downloads. Smooth.

All in all, IE serves it purpose more than well for a layman (a man for whom Google is synonymous with internet, and GMail is equivalent to world wide web), and people who don't expect much from their browsers. But from a power user's perspective, IE falls a little too short. Of course, the former audience is much much larger and so there is no apparent incentive for IE to uplift itself. But wait, isn't that what we believed before Firefox was released! Something which FORCED IE to innovate too (actually read as: play catchup)! The target audiences for both the browsers are very different. But people are getting more educated, and power-hungry. It won't be long before the equation changes significantly. Till that time, IE won't be threatened to be out of market anytime soon.
But if the IE-team do care, I hope they read this post to get some good starting points.

I haven't talked a bit about standards confirmation, at which, we all know, IE's track record has been legendary (in setting new ones)!

Security is another very important aspect that I have purposely ignored, for I am not authoritative enough to blabber on that aspect. Not because of technicality, but because of economics, demographics and usage distribution that significantly affect the browser's overall vulnerability.

Random Fact about the post: I put down the first draft of this post some 4 months ago. I kept adding points as and when I encountered them in practice and in thoughts. Once that rough draft was done, I kept refining, verifying, and re-verifying all the nitty-gritties, taking screen shots and GIMP'ing them.
Then, started the most boring task of all: Presenting it. Editing a post in Blogger's WYSIWYG and HTML mode simultaneously isn't fun. It is real pain in the butt. And the small 16rows x 80columns editor on Blogger only excruciates the pain. Sometimes 5 mins and sometimes even 5 hours at a stretch! So, add another 80+ man-hours of time to the final content, that is the amount of time it took me to put this post up and finish on blogger. That kind of explains why it took so long since I last promised to put it up.

So, now and take it for a spin!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Random Thought

Another really really long silence :( ~~~sigh~~~

I'm either becoming a really really lazy a$ or too busy or too absorbed, centric, distracted, or too workaholic, lost OR worse... a dangerous potpourri of the all :-S At this point it is beyond my rational abilities to point what it is. But what I can sense is I have been lost for quite some time now. I fail to see that bright light at of the tunnel which reflects as a glimmer of hope in the heart. One feels like that when one haven't had a sense of achievement for a while, not even in smallest of things he has touched, yet wants to keep kicking harder and harder.

With that crap out of our way, I have to say that I have been working for a very long time on many things to put up on blog. My Random Thoughts, is one of them.

But before I dive into it, let me explain what I mean by my my random thought, and set some understanding of what to expect. So that you can make an informed(???) decision of whether to read the BS or not.

What is a Random Thought
From time to time, absolutely random (yet seemingly meaningful) thoughts play circus in my mind and heart. Most, if not all, cannot be systematically proven, and relies mostly on common-sense (which is VERY uncommon) personal experiences and idiosyncrasies, systematic (but, again, unprovable logical) deductions. Most of them are of the type, I think..., I wonder..., Why..., I believe..., , etc. Or opinions, if you will. I have always wanted to keep log of such eccentric bizarre thoughts, but never succeeded. That is until 3 months back when I started collecting some of them.

I will refrain from explaining why's of these thoughts. Not because it makes it any easier to shove any BS down your throats, but because the very definition of 'random thought' deems it so! If there were an easy-to-explain basis to it, it wouldn't be called random. Would it!

Besides that, even if I attempted to explain/reason/rationalize them, I could do NO justice to them in any of the languages (literary or otherwise) that I know of. Most thoughts will strike to you as plain baseless and even stupid. You will rarely understand the depth of them, unless you believe in (extra-terrestrial) means of communication other than spoken and written literals. (Then why the hell are you putting them here!!!) Yet some might surprisingly strike a chord in you. (Now you know why! Don't you!) I would definitely appreciate your views and sincere feedback, but probes into 'why' might usually mean talking to my hands for the sheer lack of appropriate knowledge (on my part).

So here is the zeroth dose of one of my many random thoughts to come....

Random Thought 18:
People (who are these people? everybody?) usually perpetrate the false impression that world indeed has become a better place compared to say a century ago. While this is true of some outwardly measurable things, the effective quality of life (aka happiness, which also presents itself in the forms of peace or satisfaction) has indeed gone down the drain. It is easy to measure the former (say zero people die of tuberculosis, we can calculate the value of pi to 100th decimal place in less than a second, the AK-47 can put a hole through 600 humans per minute, etc.). But it is nearly impossible to numerically measure the EFFECTIVE QUALITY of life. There seems to be no universal metric to measure it. (I'm not denying that there been no attempts to do it, but I'm sure if there are any, they are by no means universal).
On top of that, quality-of-life itself is something very difficult to define, let alone measure. So by classic scientific definition my argument is senseless. How can you say something is improving or deteriorating which you cannot measure! Talk of some randomness in thoughts, huh! Yet, here I am, increasingly having a sense that
world as of today (as a whole), if not worse, is not any better than a century ago.
It is not that I hate the advancements we have made, naah, far from that. It is the detrimental byproducts of the advancements (as a summation) that, in my view, outpace the advancements.
Any takers? Opponents?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Recent Escapades: Little Si, Columbia Gorge & St. Helens and Mt. Rainier Paradise Point

Of lately, life seems to have been degraded to a cat-n-mouse game, comically akin to Tom-n-Jerry, only, not comic. For a while it seems I am ahead of life (or at least have had a good grasp of it) and the very same instant it gets ahead of me! In a sense, it seems to be a meaningless and frivolous rat-race. To cloud out all the unnecessary clutter from mind, I have had a few escapades. Following are few worth sharing, just because it was so easy to digitally trap them with my camera.
  1. Little Si
  2. Gorge and St. Helens
  3. Mt. Rainier Paradise Point
0. Little Si

Dandelion From Little Si

At an elevation of 1576 feet, Little Si (pronounced sigh) does not seem to be a lofty peak, but let not the raw number fool you. Little Si gains that elevation in just 2.2 miles (each way). The first mile or so is very gentle and mild. But the next mile offers quite imposing cliffs. It surely is not meant for beginners. Be prepared with some food, ample water and some stamina.

Also, unlike most other treks, the summit is NOT picturesque, another disappointment. And neither is the trail so beautiful. So if you plan to go to Little Si, make sure that your ONLY intention is exercise. Not to say that a good photographer can make beautiful pictures out of anything. I tried too, and will let you judge how I fared. And don't forget to take some warm clothing, it can be pretty windy at the top, which hits you hard when you are all sweaty.

Once at the summit, have some nice lunch, probably with a hot drink and then head down back to your car.

Drive Interstate 90 and take the main North Bend exit, heading left into town. Turn right on North Bend Way and drive a couple miles to the Mount Si Road. Turn left, cross the bridge over the Snoqualmie River and park near the bridge in the marked lot. It is difficult to miss the parking lot.

More information:

1. Columbia Gorge and St. Helens

Brothers Talesara! From Columbia Gorge

This was a very hectic 550+ miles trip in just 36 hours! Driving 550 odd miles was kind of fun, but it was also very tiring especially when it is done with other activities and that too in a short span of 36 hours. We went to almost all the points we set to visit, but I wish I had a little more time. Columbia Gorge is certainly a very very beautiful place. Worth going down to a few times, for, probably on each visit you might see something new. I say keep 2-3 days at your hands if you want to make most of your trip. But even as short the trip was, it was fun, because I got ample shooting opportunities.

Vivd Landscape from Vista House From Columbia Gorge

Just for your reference, if you have limited time and want to make most of your trip, there are few places worth visiting:
  • Vista House Scenic Byway
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Fish Hatchery at Bonneville Dam
  • Curly Creek Falls
  • Windy Ridge Viewpoint. I think adding this place to itinerary makes sense only when you are heading to Washington, because that is when it kind of comes on the way (with little to no detour).
2. Impromptu Mt. Rainier Paradise Point trip

Golden Mt. Rainier at Sunset From Mount Rainier Paradise Point

I was a little reluctant on this one for I was little tired and wanted to spend some time home (slumbering with a nice novel) and nothing was planned. If you are going as far as about 100+ miles, each way, you better have a pretty good idea of what places you can and cannot visit,. But good sunny weather and insistence did the trick and I tagged along. Since it wasn't well planned, we just hit Paradise point, trekked along some random trail and headed back home, after doing Reflection Lake on the way. Once again, I wish I had little more time on this trip, could have seen Reflection Lake before sun started going down, which I know, looks just gorgeous.

Reflection Lake From Mount Rainier Paradise Point

Myrtle Falls From Mount Rainier Paradise Point

Links to albums:
  1. Little Si
  2. Long trip to Columbia Gorge and St. Helens
  3. Mt. Rainier Paradise Point

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Insanely Long Post

At the onset of the year 2009, I knew that the 5-6 months that lie immediately in front of me are going to be extremely grueling. Guess, I was wrong! I wasn't prepared for what lie ahead of me, it seems, in retrospect.

For the lack of better word, life (on personal front) had been more than an excruciating roller-coaster ride for past 6 months. It is worth going through all the pains, only if you know there is a sweet end to it, and you can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel (which you are sure is not from an oncoming train that will run you over). I saw that light on and off, like someone was holding a blinking light and playing tricks with me. That explains sporadic/no emails, no replies, no phone calls, reduced online activity, no login on GTalk/YM IMs and increased isolation! But nothing to worry, for, if I were to assume that my unassuming assumption of 'things are under control' is a right assumption, all seems to be well :-)

Apart from work and coping up with tons of other things, I have been largely spending inordinate amounts of time (mostly with self) philosophy'ing, professing, contemplating, understanding, questioning, discovering and rediscovering the meaning, purpose and essence of life. And going beyond: the purpose of all of the beings, their actions, reactions, sins, good/bad-deeds, death, birth, karma, consciousness, subconsciousness, etc. And I have to admit that I am no closer to any answers than I was at the beginning of this journey (not to mention the additional array of questions that took birth!). Yet, I believe it is worth treading along.

So here is an insanely long post of things (in no particular perceivable order) on my mind today, that I thought I could share... This is not the final version and will probably evolve over a period of fews days after initial posting. For your convenience, here are some shortcuts that will jump to specific sections, this much for being considerate reader of this boring post :-)

Nothing beats the joy of a relaxing (and thought provoking) movie. I utterly detest the act of watching a movie that will shove garbage up a$$ and eventually into head. As long as movie is provoking positive thoughts and attitude, I can watch it.

  1. Ice Age-3,aka Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
  2. I had never seen a movie in 3D in my life before. And this was the FIRST ever 3D movie I have seen. It was an exhilarating experience. This is one of the best movies I have seen lately. After a few minutes, the fact that movie is 3D is forgotten only because the story is so gripping, funny & engaging. My favorite character is Buck; an eccentric, brave and mysteriously knowledgeable little creature in the strange land of dinos. Of all the Ice Age movies, this is THE BEST so far. No nonsense, no emotional garbage, funny quips and lots of action and affection. A perfect package to rejuvenate a otherwise languid day. It would be fair to claim that it is one of the only few movies that is suitable to and enjoyable by every age group: kids, teens and adults alike.
  3. Dispatches Mumbai 26/11
  4. Link to video Disclaimer: The programm contains graphic images and descriptions of the atrocity which may upset some viewers. I myself couldn't watch it in one go! November last year, the world stood still and watched in shock as terrorists went on a rampage in the bustling city of Mumbai in India. Came across this excellent [and] disturbing documentary by Channel 4/BBC, an untold story of 2008's terrorist attack, in the eerie words of its victims and the gunmen. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Dan Reed, Terror in Mumbai tells the story of what happened when 10 gunmen held one of the world's busiest cities at hostage; killing and wounding hundreds of people at will while holding India's top notch security at bay. The sad thing, today, is that even after all these months, it is business as usual as far as apprehending the culprits is concerned. Pakistan just released the prime suspect, and is blaming India for his release (which is kinda funny, because Pak is apparently imposing a ban on such nonsensical outfits anyways!). I cannot comprehend what is more sad, the fact that so many innocent lives were lost, our security sucks or the fact that business is back to normal as if nothing happened. Sometimes I wonder if affected people wonder whether it is worth continuing living such a life (where the a$holes eventually shall inherit the world) over total annihilation of human race with nuclear warfare and let the whole world reboot, eviscerated of all the vices. Additional Links: 0. 8 Ways India can hurt Pak 1. Mumbai massacre revisited
  5. Dispatches Pakistan's Taliban Generation
  6. Video 0, Video 1 Pakistan's Taliban Generation investigates how the war on terror is creating a generation of child terrorists - children prepared to kill both inside and outside Pakistan. Journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy reveals how the Taliban are recruiting increasingly young fighters for their campaign. She interviews a 14-year-old boy in Karachi who's desperate to become a suicide bomber. At a nearby refugee camp, Sharmeen interviews two teenage boys whose local madrassa was hit by bombardments (alleged by US drones and Pakistani armies) while children were studying (read: studying? really?) inside. In the aftermath of the attack, a local militant arrives to preach to a large crowd of local youngsters. He successfully bags (read: brainwashes) a handful of fresh recruits! For various reasons, these videos are being forced out of shared sites. So if any of the links are dead, just Google these names out and you will get at least one current active source. It would be nice if you are kind enough to share it with me, so that I can keep it current.
  7. Transformers 2, aka Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  8. I would rate it at just 5.0/10. While good, more than 2 hours of non-stop abuse of special effects is not fun to watch. This happened to be my first movie in IMAX (but non-dome) theater. Frankly, I couldn't appreciate the hyped IMAX factor. I don't know who is to be blamed: the fact that IMAX theater is indeed a hype, or the movie was sh!tty. The movie got on nerves, esp. because the movie is insanely long. Definitely worth letting it pass by unwatched (unless you want to ogle at Megan Fox, I didn't).
  9. Terminator 4, aka Terminator Salvation
  10. I don't know why am I even mentioning this. Probably just to let you know that if you haven't seen this, don't waste your precious time (and money). By any stretch, movie is just average, and falls far below expectations on every front: direction, action and story. Story, is a little too incomprehensible, if (like me) you are not an insane die-hard Terminator fan. Skip it, I would say.
  11. UP
  12. While very engaging and entertaining, it tends to get too depressing (in the memory of old man's sweet wife) very too often. This fact drains out all the fun from a otherwise very well made and directed animation movie.
  13. G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
  14. A movie so devoid of any substance, that even the starring of bombshells like VS-angel Karolina Kurkova and Sienna Miller doesn't cut it through. Except for the concept of nano-mites (and its applications, good and bad), the movie had no thought provoking substance in it for me. Major part of movie towards the end looks nothing like a movie! It looks like a poorly made VGA-era game projected on giant screen in the year 2009. Fx (if you will call that) comes nowhere close to the epic special effects of a decade old Matrix! Not even two decade old Jurassic Park! Hasbro, simply sucks. The fact that they did such a trashy job on Transformer 2, I shouldn't have craved to watch this movie. I could have done sooooooo much more in those 2 hours and with now-wasted 15 dollars ~~~sigh~~~
  15. Battle of X-Planes
  16. America has a yearly military budget of 600+ billion dollars, which is higher than the military budget of rest of the world put together! This is a technically very thought-provoking documentary. They have made a very nice film out of the quest of two of the biggest aviation companies (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) to build two prototype jets each to replace the formidable (but seemingly unaffordable) F22 Raptors. Very engaging, it has boat loads of technology, zest, energy, thrill and politics in one single package. This documentary left no doubt in my mind as to why USA's military force is so formidable. Additional Links: 0. Military Expenditure by country

  1. Long Weekend with Aurn-Suchi
  2. This deserves a post in itself, but I figured if I delay it any more, it won't happen. So, in the essence of something is better than nothing, I clubbed it along here. It had been a long time I met my old time buddy Arun (aka Anna). My plans to spend a week with him and his wife (Suchi, aka Su) before I started my new journey got cancelled, and ever since we have been itching to meet. Finally, that happened on the Independence day long weekend. Wow! It was such a rejuvenating and relaxing 4-day trip, I don't have right words to put it in perspective. We had made great plans, but Su's health didn't cooperate, so we spent lot of time unplanned at home. I bet it was far more fun than anything we had on paper to do if Su's health were better. Eating yummy food, watching movie, talking on and on, seeing photographs, etc... it was real fun. The night I landed in LA, me and Anna talked about everything there is to talk about under the sun: technology, life, computers, cars, economics, movies, philosophy, psychology, spiritualism, religion, love, hatred, books, laptops, operating systems, algorithms, stores, and what not! For a 5-6 hours talk, that was pretty dense variety of topics :) We went for La Jolla Beach, but the @#$ing traffic on I-5 consumed all the time we had (more than 2+ hrs of ride, for a usually about 50min ride) and so hit the beach only at hours past sunset. We had food at a nice Persian restaurant, though. To help recuperate Su's health, we let her stay home while we went to San Diego SeaWorld the next day. It was a great outing, but the time spent unplanned at home were the most fun filled moments! Click here for photos from my LA trip.
    Long Weekend of July with Arun and Suchi
    Essence: Nothing beats the joy of connecting to a close old timer.
  3. Green Lake Park
  4. On some odd sunny Sunday we ventured out to yet another park. We couldn't spend much time there, for some of us had to reach back home early, but I managed to click some photos. My favorite one is this:
    From Green Lake Park
    click here for whole Green Lake Park album.
  5. Snoqualmie Falls
  6. On a lazy Saturday, we longed for hitting a waterfall. Snoqualmie Falls it was this time. Picturesque place, amazing water fall.
    Magnificient Falls From Snoqualmie Falls
    Click here for more pictures Snoqualmie Falls
  7. Rattlesnake Ledge
  8. Another outing, a wonderful trek for beginner to advanced trekkers. And once you are done with the trek, you can come down and have a nice refreshing dip in the cool waters of the Rattlesnake Lake!
    From Rattlesnake Ledge Trek

  1. Long Weekend with Arun-Su, Hollywood, SeaWorld, La Jhola Beach
  2. Long Weekend of July with Arun and Suchi
  3. Woodland Park Zoo
  4. This is my most prized photo from this trip:
    Emerald Tree Boa From Woodland Park Zoo
    And here's the link to whole album:
    Woodland Park Zoo
  5. Green Lake Park
  6. Green Lake Park
  7. Snoqualmie Falls
  8. Snoqualmie Falls
  9. Gasworks Park
  10. Gasworks Park
  11. Seattle Downtown
  12. This is a beautiful panorama of Seattle Downtown across Lake Union. You must zoom in 100% to enjoy it.

My original first tank had some major issues a month back, and all the plants suddenly died :( I suspect it was the attack of hair-algae. But I'm not sure. I had setup new tank some time back. Two days back I saw 2-3 baby ghost shrimps emerge out from dense plantation, today, I can't see them. They usually make good snack for fishes, I fear they must have gotten devoured. Quite a few of the baby fries that sunburst platy gave birth to, have grown in size, I moved about 7 of them into larger tank. Waiting for the rest to grow up. I haven't gotten around shooting it, but here is one photo of my second 30gallon planted tank.

From New Fishtank

End of July, we experienced the hottest sun that has never been experienced in over a century here in Seattle, it soared around 105F (~41C). Intense sun extreme along with humidity made the weather unbearable for about a week. So much so, that even the cooling systems at my office failed to function, and many worked from home for 2-3 days. Fans were only as useful as a AA-sized battery operated hand-held fan is useful in scorching Sahara dessert!

Don't compare yourself to other people. It won't help. You will only find what you expect to find. If you think you are weak, everyone else will seem stronger. If you think you are strong, everyone else will seem weaker. It is futile to compare like that. Simply look at where you are now, and aim to get better as you go forward, that is the way to go. That is the only way to not be a part of the crazy rat-race. (inspired by Self-Discipline and seems to be inline with my theory of Types of Successes)

Only a few people know about my craving for serene soothing music. I am always on a lookout for one. Recently I stumbled upon this soothing performance. I don't know the language it is spoken in, or if the lyrics have any meaning in some spoken language, but it indeed is very soothing Dona Ceri'Tun by Gary Stadler & Stephanne.

  1. KenKen (it is like advanced Sudoku, you must try it, it is addictive!)
  2. GIMP and Layers
  3. Green Tea (link2)
  4. LOST
  5. (revived)

I haven't been reading much lately...
The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman
I didn't find the book as engaging, except for few pages. This book was on my to-read list of a very long time now, glad I can now strike it out from the list.
You guessed it right, the name of my blog is kind of derived from the title of this book :)

Things I intend to take on going ahead, preferably through the end of this year (not necessarily in that order).

  1. Diving deeper into photography
    • contemplating buying a CPL filter
    • creating panoramic images (you already saw the sample above)
    • learn layers in GIMP (see an example below of what could be done with it)
    Playing with layers in GIMP From Photography
  2. Sports
    • Volleyball: just re-started playing volleyball after almost 5yrs, best stress buster I have found (this Thursday I played non-stop for 3 hours, and I felt I was in heaven and wished that the night would never end!)
    • Nutrition
  3. Movies I Want to see
    • Public Enemies
    • G-Force (yes, I'm a big animation movie fan! plus I love watching cartoon films!)
    • Harry Potter-6 (only for Fx)
    • Ninja Assassin (to be released: Nov 25, 2009. I like a good movie based on martial arts, even if it has outlandish stunts, as long as they are well executed)
    • Drag Me to Hell (has been a while I have seen horror flick)
    • District 9
  4. Books I want to read
  5. Haven't done much reading lately, books on my mind:
    • Windows Internals
    • Brave New World
    • Acupressure, mainly interested in points on palm and foot
    • The Digital Photography, Scott Kelby, vols. 1-3
  6. Geekdom
    • Mastering vi, complete the tutorial (typeset in TeX/LaTeX) that I abruptly stopped working on
    • My resume using TeX/LaTeX (yes, I'm still hung on it!)
    • Move to [K]Ubuntu
    • Upgrade my homepage to be managed via new infrastructure (suggestions welcome)
  7. Outings
    • Mount Si, 4mile trek, each way
    • Mt. Rainier, I want to catch the glimpse of how gentle rays of rising sun alchemies the majestic snow-clad peaks of the Mt. Rainier
  8. Posts to expect
  9. And, if, after all these, I still have some time, I would like it to save for myself :)