Packrat of Ideas

A tasteful embellishment of technology, some stupidity and sometimes both... in everyday life.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Friday, September 01, 2006

How the heck do Google Suggest and work?

If you were like me and have had pains waiting for Orbitz to give you the flight information and fare - biting your nails in suspense to get the fares, then I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised when you use Kayak or Google Suggest.

So if you are wondering how these technologies work -- its based on a technology called AJAX.

AJAX stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML and I found this really cool article on AJAX:adaptive path » ajax: a new approach to web applications. Basically when a website is equipped with AJAX, it has an AJAX engine runing on the server. This figure, from the same article, shows how the architecture:
Ajax Overview 1
Finally ---- a better way to browse....


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Flock" from Firefox...... NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay - so I know that you dont want to hear about another browser. After all - it is just that - another browser right? In case of using Flock - you may very well be wrong. Especially if you are a blogger. This post was written directly from Flock - a firefox based browser. I know, you are saying, "Wait a minute... based on firefox? Does that mean......" - yes it means that you get all the cool functionality that you get with firefox, including the stability and the lightweightness but you get a couple of cool features including blogging directly to sites such as blogger and technorati integration. It also includes hooks to your Flickr account.

Flock browser

My coolest feature -- I can drag any picture/text from any site into the web-snippet area and use it in my blog directly. No more, "file -> save as", and "file -> open -> import" etc. It is just plain and easy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Microsoft XNA - The YouTube of Games?

I admit it - I love YouTube which is why two out of my 5 posts have YouTube in their title. Microsoft recently announced its XNA Game Studio Express Project wherein for a "MERE" $99 it will give us bedroom/couch potatoes an opportunity to create games out of our ideas and share it.....BTW - XNA stands for "Cross-Section Next-Generation Architecture" (Someone put their marketing mind to this one! :) ) A key feature is that according to this article, most of the popular games that are developed using this strategy may be available as a free download on the Xbox Live network.

Now - the question is whether the opensource community will be able to bring in somekind of "--[GNU]-- Next-Generation Architecture" or "GNA" that will compete with this technology head-on? THAT would definitely be the next YouTube of Games...

Cheers - Nomad

Monday, August 14, 2006

World's Fastest RUBIK's Cube Solver?

Okay - so M. Night Shyamalan's dream was to be a RUBIK's cube champion. As for me, never did I solve the RUBIK's cube in all of my life, until NIWeek that is. NIWeek is held every year in Austin, and is a Worldwide Virtual Instrumentation conference. This year, the show was nothing short of last year and had all the bells and whistles - including a RUBIK's cube solver. Here is an article from DesignNews covering this demo.

On YouTube, you can find this solver - that solves the "specialized" RUBIK's cube in under a minute.

This application is designed to solve any RUBIK's cube that is of standard size in under 2 minutes and 26 moves. In fact, the students and professors are so confident that they are applying to the Guiness Book of World Records for the fastest RUBIK's cube solver.

Here is a video of their solver:

Some RUBIK's Cube Facts:
  • Invented in Hungary by Sculptor Erno RUBIK
  • A Rubik's Cube can have (8! × 38−1) × (12! × 212−1)/2 = 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 original start positions (save your breath - its 43 QUINTILLION)
  • The first world championship was held in Budapest on June 5, 1982 and was won by Minh Thai, a Vietnamese student from Los Angeles, with a time of 22.95 seconds.
Cheers... Nomad

Dell's Battery Woes....

If you haven't heard already - Dell has issued a recall notice for 4.1 Million laptop batteries - YES - 4.1 Million. As a story from NY Times says it.... it could cost Dell more than 300 million - considering the fact that Dell is a Billion-dollar+ entity - this may be okay - afterall, the safety of the users is important.

Talking about safety - here is one instance from a conference in Japan that a Dell laptop burst out in flames.

Now - I can understand the high blood-pressures of the millions of users who use their laptops on their "laps" - come on folks - in the future - recall or no recall - Use the table -- Especially men --- as MSNBC warns y'all :) [No wonder I dont want to buy a laptop - I am a die-hard desktop fan and shall continue to be one! :) ]

Cheers - Nomad.

The Magic of YouTube...

YouTube may well be the leader in the path of "convergence of the TV and Internet". It is also one of those sites that entirely depends on the users contributing, rating and using Videos.

Here is a cool video of what kind of interesting/weird/funny stuff that folks do - (Btw, I think this is brilliant) Now, I have found some very interesting videos and have wondered about two things:
  1. What is the technology that allows YouTube to save and source so many videos?
  2. Can I save these videos for personal use later?
To address both these - I refer you to Jim Thompson and J. Kevin Tumlinson's Making Movies blog on movies. Very interesting read. If you do not want to navigate the whole blog and read the article - here is a gist:

How can agencies like YouTube afford the bandwidth and speed?
[From the Making Movies Blog] "When you upload a video to YouTube, it is transcoded (decoded to raw video, then re-encoded) into Flash Video (FLV) format. The video frame size is scaled to no larger than 320x240. I haven't been able to tell exactly what the rates are, but the frame rate appears to be between 25 and 30 frames per second, and the video data rate appears to be somewhere around 200 Kilobits (kbps) per second. Audio is reduced to mono and transcoded to a lower bit rate. This transcoding is what's going on in between the time you complete your upload to YouTube, and the time that the video is finally available for viewing."

Basically - this explains the quality of the videos on YouTube - if your initial quality is superior - transcoding will not affect too much of the quality - however, if the reverse is true, then the quality will be pretty poor. So watch out

What do I need to save videos from YouTube?
[From the Making Movies Blog] "I found a nice site called KeepVid that can download video files from YouTube, Google Video, and other video hosting sites. To play the FLV files you download, you can use the FLV Player from"
Please note - respect copyrights

Will YouTube be the epitome of convergence of TV and Internet? It sure looks like it - I recommend that the next monitor that you buy - make sure its HD ready. You may very well need it.



This may seem strange - but for a techy/nerd/geek kind of person that I tend to be, I haven't really gotten into the blogging community yet. However, as the age old adage goes, "There is always a first time" :) and so here I am. One thing to clarify - Packrat as the title of my blog? I tend to draw this name from my general surroundings - I do tend to hold onto stuff - age-old letters, even from those "You've been pre-approved.." kinda folks, old memoirs, old CDs, DVDs, even clothes that fit me no more; Part of the problem is laziness and part - Laziness again :)

However, from the context of a blog I think this is perfect as in my hours of surfing the web for useful tips and tricks, whether from acquiring and saving video from YouTube to whats the latest gadget or the latest marketing mantra - I will chronicle some, hopefully, useful and sometimes crazy stuff here and hence will serve as a packrat for ideas.

Cheers - Nomad