a view into the sordid life i lead

Friday, September 22, 2006

Whatafind: Zoho and Web 2.0 may give the big boys a run for their money

I'm obviously very slow - it turns out that the guys at Zoho (located in my home town of Chennai, no less) are some pretty freaking awesome Web 2.0 psycho-coders. They have gone heads up against 37signals, google's online-office (i.e., writely, google-spreadsheets, etc.), and come out on top. These guys are fucking Gods!

I have to say that I've usually hated Java. These guys have demonstrated that Java, with the power of some pretty nifty Web 2.0 skills, can create some pretty phenomenal web-based applications. Are these guys the replacement for MSOffice? Hard call right now, and given that I actually researched quite a few online offerings before settling on Writely about 2 years back, they may still have to do a bit of catching up on the PR front. But never underestimate the power of the Indian hive-mind [that was supposed to be said with a Borg voice, right before "YOU will be assimilated"!].

Anyway, color me impressed, along with everyone else who reviewed their products in the last year. Now I may have to switch over from writely and all the other google-related madness. One thing that would be nice is for there to be a quick-convert system, where all the stuff I have on google-writely/spreadsheet can be imported, along with revision history.

What I was initially wondering is how they did all this. There's the obvious AJAX and XML stuff - there's a blog posting that indicates that zoho uses openoffice as the back-end to convert/manage the docs. so that means a relatively clean xml format (I suspect that writely does something similar, but they're running everything in aspx, which causes me a bit of confusion - why start with an open-source system, then head to dotNet. Maybe they're not really doing that?).

Anyway, I'm waiting for someone to dissect and analyze how these guys do their thing, and provide a good comparison between the different implementation strategies. One thing that would be good is to get one of their developers, or even the CEO Sridhar Vembu on the Open Views program that I'll be hosting on KRUU-FM. Lofty ideas? Fuck yeah. But hey, we gotta aim high, right?

Blogged with Flock

Monday, September 18, 2006

Which way forth?

Don Carlos may be a crackpot, or may be on to something. The beauty of living in fairfield is that i'm actually exposed to this sort of thing, and in the 7+ years that I was in Chicago I never once came across a person that involved me in anything in remotely this weird! Anyway, Victor Sanchez's book "The Teachings of Don Carlos", has some experiments that I think I'm going to start trying out (lord help me!). A recent discussion amongst some limey friends of mine got me thinking that this might not be so bad an idea.

So, the "doing" that needs to be done? Walking backwards. Doing so on a regular basis may cause you to start "seeing things" according to one of the Jameses. Don't know what the heck that means, but that's why I've got to start on the path, eh?! And it falls right in step with the Aymara article that I blogged about a few weeks back.

The book is actually not that well received on Amazon's reviewings. In fact the negative feedback may make you stop and question whether there's more crackpot than guru to this dude. But if nothing else, walking backwards for a short time each day seems like an appropriately odd activity for this community.

On a related note, watching the looney-fest on the square during a recent Flapjaw concert brought home to me just how interesting Fairfield really is. It's hard to think that a small rThen it's a whole other world of madness, coz the net-connected universe out there can start looking in on this little community of weirdos and social innovators!ural community in the middle of no-where can be as interesting as this one. Unique does not begin to describe the whacked-ness, and that's probably why I'm actually enjoying being here right now. Some of this is pie-in-the-sky, but I'm *really* excited about what will happen when our weirdness spreads out into the collective ether once KRUU starts broadcasting.

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Audio tips and tricks (recording skype)

The SkypeRecordingHowto details the procedure for recording a skype conversation in Ubuntu.

howto-record-skype-conversations-in-linux does the same for other distros.

The procedure is pretty straight-forward and appears to work just fine. I'll be using this procedure for our radio show from here on! The only problem is that it does not work too well on amd64. I'll probably have to debug the code and see why the shared library is not loading. The error I get is:

ERROR: object '' from LD_PRELOAD cannot be preloaded: ignored.

This is apparently a bug that's been logged against the skype-rec project on sourceforge, but has had no takers so far.

Blogged with Flock

Friday, September 15, 2006

Audio on Linux (and some drupal)

Ok, so we're on for becoming the most famous radio dj's of all time. No, really! So, this means that we need to get the audio part of the "radio" going on. For those of you not paying attention, radio does not yet have the video segment figured out, although we're going to do something extra special and provide visuals to our radio, a'la pretty much everyone else. I'll post more on that delicious moment when it actually happens, since this is all hope for glory and we know how that goes in this community. [Ok, I've seen the pundits already, dammit!]

What the hell does any of that have to do with anything. Well, thanks for asking Mr. Restless. Ubuntu (and Linux in general) is not that crazy about the whole audio thing. Unfortunately, in my perseverence of the Open Source model, I must see how far I can survive without a non-OS app to do what I need. In steps Audacity, which, as my friend Donald put it so finely "Has the audacity to call themselves an audio editor!" (to which I got quite defensive, and only later realized the very creative pun).

Audacity is very good for basic stuff, which is what we're doing so far. However, it has more than its share of problems with crashing on complex edits (cutting, splicing, cross-fading, etc.). It's not like it crashes every other second or anything, it's just that it's not perfect (the Beta state may account for that).

Now, there's also a bit of an issue with audio being routed to multiple interfaces simultaneously. For example, as the creators of Jack put it so finely "Have you ever wanted to take the audio output of one piece of software and send it to another?". To which I answer, "Of course, at least 3 times a day!". Anyway, Jack promises all this and more, so with much haste I performed the usual "sudo apt-get install jackd". NOTE: jack is a cd-ripping tool. jackd is the audio daemon that we're looking for here.

The real joy in Jack is the Documentation section over at As of this writing, the "using JACK from the command line" section returns a 404. Too bad (but then again, that's why we have man). Yet, the application seems EXTREMELY worthwhile. I'll have to try it out and see exactly what it does.

JACK is a daemon, and hence very command-line driver. The very excellent qjackctl gui to JACK makes for far easier configuration management and experimentation. At that link is another link to a document that describes how to use and play with JACK and a few other tools. [Direct link to the linux journal article is here]. [One point to note. The qjackctl app requires that the snd_seq module be loaded prior to running, otherwise you'll get a "Could not open ALSA sequencer as a client. MIDI patchbay will not be available". Just run "sudo modprobe snd_seq, and then everyone's happy]

A useful distro for doing "professional" audio work is the Planet CCRMA solution. As of this writing I have not tried it, but it does look promising given the reviews.

All this may give the lay reader the sense that Ubuntu is just a crappy ass platform for audio editing. It is. But that's not to say that it's sot possible to do stuff with it. Audacity allows
for the editing, and JACK appears to allow for all kinds of cool re-directs. For instance, sending a skype conversation to a recording interface. This would be very useful for interviews (and that's not easy to do right now). There are probably a whole bunch of other cool things that can be done with it, which i'm just now delving into.

On a tangent, drupal is pretty damn nice. There are a lot of really useful plugins, and it seems to be very well laid out and intuitive (unless you're a complete bonehead, like me sometimes, and don't realize that you need to save configuration changes in order to see them on your page!). Anyway, i've eval'ed TikiWiki, Joomla and a few others that are not worth mentioning, and Drupal stands out as the best CMS for the most part for non-techies running a website.

Blogged with Flock

Monday, September 04, 2006

picture show

Originally uploaded by cybertoast.
omg, i'm now a pseudo professional photographer. yuh, really. my show on 9/1/06 went over fabulously well, to the point where i now have a head that's about the size of a county-fair prize-winning pumpkin. in fact, i've been going out on the street and picking fights with random individuals and challenging them to a shoot-out (with cameras, that is).

ok, enough silliness. the show had, i'd say, about 100 people walk through. the fact that most of the people had no idea that the event venue even existed (since it's in the alley behind the athome store) was even more of a boon, since that means they actually saw the sign out on the sandwich board on the street. i'd like to think that there was no-one shooing them through the store to the rear-exit, but maybe there was some of that going on as well (really, i don't know).

i don't really know if it was the cheez-its talking (and maybe that makes it a great idea for people to have cheez-its at gallery openings), but i got so many compliments about the prints that i had to seriously wonder if my dog (no i don't have a dog) had died and people were making me feel good. but the icing on the cake was that i actually sold some of these puppies. yes, it's unthinkable, but there you have it - i've made the transition from amateur hack to world-famous gliterati. [now would be the time to start getting me booked for the next episode of up-and-coming stars in the entertainment industry!].

there are some interesting questions that came up tho', which i'll detail and leave the pondering for another time:
* do you tell people that the pics are for sale when doing a showing of this sort (i opted not to, unless they asked)
* do you do a slightly hard-sell if people are interested in the prints? (i opted not to, since i figured they should be left alone)
* do you actually sell the pictures off the wall if there's interest (i chose not to, and requested that the purchaser contact me the next day to pick up the prints, for a few reasons)
* do you take the money right there? (i chose not to since i was not handing over the print, and had no way to generate receipts)

given my expert-ness at this whole photo exhibition and sale gig, you'll see how experlly i managed the entire process up there. maybe there are some lessons to be learned for the next time this transpires (dja think?!)