Friday Linkfest #3

Welcome to the Third edition of the Friday Linkfest. Read on for the best of the web :-)

Travel

World’s top 10 trekking destinations

The adventures of Wan

Must read for anyone who likes to ride on two wheels.

Roopkund Trek

Flickr stream of a friend who just came back after completing the Roopkund trek.

Technology

10 insanely useful Django tips

Amazon Kindle 2 in the wild ?

OpenSource you can use

Install boxee or xbmc on an Apple TV

Life

Bollywood – a misleading model for contemporary cinema

Deal Sealed

The Politics of Indian Politics

Ashok Chakra - Emblem of India

One of the good things about being a blogger is that I can always pen down(keyboard down ?) my thoughts whenever I want to. I can write about a subject and give my opinion on it. Hell, I think even having an opinion is one of the greatest benefits of blogging.

Those who know me, know that I don’t really care much about Politics. Politics, for the most part, bores me. And when it doesn’t bore me, I find it too predictable.

But, the last few months have even made me take notice.

First the hulla over the Nuclear deal, then the Amarnath controversy in Srinagar, then the Amarnath controversy in Jammu, then back to Srinagar and then Back to Jammu. In between all this, Raj thakeray managed to bring badass Mumbai to its knees – More than any terrorist attack. Oh yeah, the Nuclear deal tried to rear it’s head once in between again but that didn’t provide a lot of masala, so no one bothered much

And how can I forget the Singur crisis. Mamata Bannerjee and her troupe and the excellent show they put up. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple of dozen incidents around the country but this should be the gist of it.

I’ve written about the Nuclear Deal earlier and my status quo on the deal still stands. I understand how the deal is good for the country but I still don’t understand how  is it bad. I understand that the left and the BJP are concerned that India will not be able to test any more Nuclear weapons after the deal, and there was an internal US govt. memo that was leaked which also said this, but how many Nuclear weapons is the BJP govt. planning to test anyway.

The last time (before the deal) we tested a weapon, India was virtually ostracized from the international community. All aide was more or less cut and the US put sanctions on US. Isn’t that the exact same scenario which the left/bjp is fearing will happen now (after the deal) ? So, what has changed ? We couldn’t clearly conduct tests then and we can’t conduct them now ?

International politics is dirty business, I agree, but is internal politics any cleaner ? The Amarnath board controversy is probably the ugliest political game I’ve ever witnessed in the country. The ugliest ever, although I’m assuming given my young age ( !! ), I’m missing out some even juicier political games played in the past.

The controversy basically started over a piece of land which  was being used by the Hindus during the 2 month long Amarnath yatra. Every year since the last couple of decades thousands makeshift tents are put up for pilgrims who stay here on their way to the Amarnath caves. The government this year decided that since the Amarnath shrine board is pretty rich, they’ll transfer this forest land, which was not being used for any other purpose anyway, to the shrine board and ask them to make permanent structures for the pilgrims to stay and stuff.

Now, as soon as the government spoke about permanent structures, all hell broke lose. Seperatist parties and leaders started calling this as a crime against the muslims and the people of the valley and basically started protesting that the government is transferring Kashmiri land to the Hindus. There were protests all over the valley and over this controversy the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir had to resign. The government took back the order.

Now, the Hindus in Jammu (assisted by the BJP, of course) started protesting demanding for the government to revoke the order which revoked the land transfer. The protests this time went for another couple of weeks. Well, the government now spoke to leaders of both the sides and declared that they’ve come to a solution. The solution was to give the ownership of the land for about two months each year during the yatra to the Shrine board and the rest of the time, the land is with the forest department as usual. That stopped the protests to a bit, but have the so called seperatists and the other protesting people realised that this is exactly the arrangement that was there before this whole controversy started ?

Th seperatists (led by the PDP party) took this whole controversy to stage yet another Pakistan Chalo (Walk to Pakistan) drama, but atleast they’re honest about their intentions. The BJP, on the other hand, will never claim responsibility for what they started in Jammu. They’re happy supporting the hinduists from the sidelines and waiting for the next general elections, while they all kill themselves fighting over something they don’t even fully understand.

Do you guys really blame me for not being interested in Politics ? And I haven’t even started talking about Raj Thakeray and Mamata Bannerjee yet. Oh, the bihar floods and the attacks on Christians in Orissa.

Pune di Biryani

Because of the fact that Pune has a sizeable Parsi as well as Biryani population, Pune also has a lot of really nice Biryani places. When one thinks of biryani in Pune, a couple of places pop up immediately – Dorabjee’s, Blue Nile, George just to name a few. This post is my take on them.

In the 70’s when my dad was posted at Pune, A couple of joints were his favourites. Dorabjee’s was on the top of that list for Biryani. We finally located the place after endless searching around in tiny by-lanes & twisty one-ways of Old Pune, but the food is well worth the effort.

This tiny, rundown little Iranian restaurant hasn’t changed one bit (or so it seems) in the last 20 or so years, neither in looks nor (thankfully) in taste. The menu is limited to ‘Today’s Specials’. Don’t expect top-of-the-line-extraordinaire-service, cause what you get is a no-frills service attitude – quick and simple. Almost as though everyone wants to cut to the chase, and get to the biryani asap !

They do have some other mutton and chicken dishes to choose from but unfortunately there is nothing much to eat for the vegans. We had the mutton biryani (Rs 100) which was had the typical parsi taste (not to confuse it with the Hyderabadi or Lucknawi biryani).

Although, there are 100s of variation of biryani there are 3 major types – Lucknawi (Lucknow), Hyderabadi & Iranian. What is usually passed of as Biryani in most places in India is actually Pulao. And there is a big difference between Biryani and Pulao, which most people don’t bother with.

Lucknawi Biryani is the more colourful one with the meat and rice cooked separately. Then layered as plain white rice –fried meat – masala rice – fried meat – Saffron rice. It is seasoned with dry-fruits and is not very spicy.

Hyderabadi Biryani – The meat is not fried but marinated in a paste of yogurt and spices, the layering is done with just masala rice. Neither meat nor rice is cooked prior to being layered in the Handi. This is the spiciest version of the biryani.

Iranian Biryani – Rice is separately cooked with some butter & few spices, the meat is served on top of the rice. Something like chelo kebabs, another awesome Parsi rice preparation.

In a pulao, the stock of meat forms the base and the rice is cooked with the spices so that it absorbs the flavor of the spices. There is no layering involved and the Dum technique is also not used . The Parsi Biryani is more of a pulao.

Blue Nile is another parsi place famous for biryani. I have to admit, though, I’m not a big fan of Blue Nile’s Biryani and like the other dishes more; the Iranian chicken biryani (Rs 130) is quite dry and a little bland.

They have (unfortunately) diversified into Chinese and other stuff, but the best bet are the kababs and tandoori chicken. The place smells good and the aroma of the kababs is intoxicating, and I’m sure one day I solve the mystery of what tastes as good as it smells. The one thing that you must have here is the Caramel Custard.

Both Dorabjee’s & Blue Nile are more famous because they are old, and not so much for the food. I did enjoy the experience at both the places but they didn’t come up to my expectations. After all, when you hear about the place from so may people you do expect awesome food.

George on the other hand is famous for being old & the food. I’m a bit finicky about cleanliness and only do  ‘take-away’ from here. But both my brother and husband love this place. Not only is their biryani good but the other stuff like naans and kadhai chicken are also yummy. The pan shop outside the joint is more famous than the restaurant so do indulge in a meetha pan.

Now, how can I not mention ‘Khan Bhai’, while talking about Pune Biryani. ‘Khan Bhai’ is not a restaurant. To taste this wonderful stuff one has to do a bit of hard work. Start with waking up early (to ‘book’ the biryani of course), its only sold in KG’s (abt Rs 400/kg) – one Kg is enough for 7-8 ppl, by 1pm you have to drive down to Shivaji Market area to collect it and return back to deliver the empty utensils the next day. Phew!! That’s a lot of work but trust me, it is well worth it. How do i know ? Khan Bhai’s biryani excels in the 3 biryani test – 1. The aroma test 2. The separate grain of rice test and 3. The taste Test.

Contact me to get the number for the most Fantabulous Biryani in Pune ;).

Unix 101: File Attributes

So, we now know our way around the Unix filesystem now and we know how to read, move or delete files. We also know how to ask for help if we’re stuck. This post in the Unix 101 series will teach you about file permissions.

We’ve been talking about Unix being a multi-user, multiprocessing system, but we haven’t really though of security yet, have we ? I mean, if there are several users using a system at the same time, your personal data can’t be safe, right ?

Wrong !

The designers of Unix also faced this problem … and fortunately they were smart enough to devise a solution for this.

We learned earlier ( did we ? ), that everything in Unix is a file. Well, it is, and every file has certain attributes associated with it. These attributes define the permissions that the file has, or rather, the permissions that a particular user has to access that file. All this getting too complicated ? An example would be perfect here:

 

$ ls -l

total 4

drwx–x–x  13 sharninder sharninder 4096 Sep 29 02:53 ./

drwxr-xr-x   3    root           root           4096 Mar  6  2008 ../

drwxr-x—   3   sharninder mail           4096 Mar  7  2008 etc/

-rwxrw-r–  10 sharninder sharninder 4096 Apr  4 01:52 test.sh

This is the listing you get when you look at a directory with the long listing option ( -l ) to ls. This listing can be broken down into 7 sections. Each line describes one line and from left to right, the various columns give the: the permissions, the number of links, the owner, the group owner, the size in bytes, the date and time of the last modification, and the file’s name. 

The first character of the permission column tells us what kind of file this is. ‘d’ stands for directory, hyphen (-) for regular file. The next three triplets of three characters each tell us, in order, the permissions on the file that apply to the file’s owner, the file’s group and the public.

So, for example, the file test.sh is a regular file (-), the owner has the permissions, rwx, the group has the permission, rw, and the public has only the ‘r’ permission. ‘r’ stands for read-only, ‘w’ stands for writing (which implies reading) and ‘x’ stands for executable. For directories, ‘x’ means that the directory can be browsed through.

Before, we learn how to set permissions, we should know what the third and fourth columns stand for. The third column of the file listing is name of the owner of the file and the fourth column lists the group the file owner belongs to.

Now, we’ll learn how to set permissions ourselves.

To set or change the permissions on a file, we use the chmod command. For example:

$ chmod a+rw test.sh

The above command will set the read-write (+rw) permission for the public (a – all) on the file test.sh. Similarly:

$ chmod a-rw test.sh

will remove the read-write (-rw) permission for the public (a -all) from the test.sh file.

$ chmod u+x test.sh 

This will set the executable permissions on the test.sh file for the user who owns the file (u – user).

$ chmod g-rw test.sh

Will take away the read-write permissions from the test.sh file for the user who belong to the group (g -group) of the file’s owner.

With the chmod command we can only deal with the permissions imposed on the owner/group of the file. What if we need to the owner/group itself. That is taken care of by the chown command.

$ chmod sharninder.root test.sh

The above command will set the user of the test.sh file as sharninder and the group as root. Basically, the format to use is <user>.<group>

Thats all for today. With those two commands in hand, you should be able to handle almost all Unix permissions. Read the man pages for both the commands and you should be good to go.

Holiday Destination – Gulmarg

 

My favorite mountain resort in India is most definitely Gulmarg. Like Barney from HIMYM would say… Gulmarg’s beauty is LEGENDARY.

Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir is the nearest Airport and Gulmarg is about 2 hours from Srinagar.

It’s proximity to Srinagar makes it easily accessible and visitors flock from far and near to take in its splendor. The journey to Gulmarg is half the attraction of reaching there, in any season. In the summer the sight of the rolling hills sprinkled with wild flowers makes Gulmarg look like a Van Gogh painting and in the winter it’s like a clip from Dr Zhivago with snow covered fields and houses.

My love affaire started with Gulmarg started about 20 years ago when I went there to visit my dad, who was posted there, during my summer vacation. I have the fondest childhood memories of the place. Horse-riding, picnics next to the streams and non-stop games … something I’ll remember forever. I even tried learning golf and have a scar on the left eyebrow to prove it (the golf club flew from my friend’s hands … ;).

From what I’ve heard, Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. All people living in Gulmarg are hotel employees and guests. Everyone else is required to leave the village by sunset, as per the curfew rule set in 1990.

I am probably among the lucky few to have visited Gulmarg twice in the same year :-) My most recent trips were in March & August this year.

Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 metres ASL, and is the country’s premier ski resort in the winter. Jan to March is the tourist season for skiing and June to Sept for golfing/ getting away from the heat of the plains. 

If you go to Gulmarg and don’t go for the Gondola ride you really have missed something. And make sure you go up to the second phase of the ride. You’ll get to see ultimate views of the Srinagar valley. As everywhere in the mountains, the weather changes in minutes & sunny Florida can turn into gloomy London. So, you definitely need luck on your side.

Another must do while at Gulmarg – Lunch at the Hotel Highland Park. It is a heritage Hotel overlooking the Golf Course and is one of the oldest hotels in Gulmarg. We had a mini wazawan (a full wazawan is a 36-course wedding banquet ) on our last visit.

I can still smell the roganjosh (a rich red coloured gravy with a generous doze of Kashmiri chillies), Yakhni (a curd based, cream coloured preparation) & Gushtaba (meatballs moulded from pounded mutton like large-sized Rista but cooked in thick gravy of fresh curd base) and the vegetarian delights like Dam-Aaloo and Guhchi (local mushrooms). The flavors of Kashmiri food are unlike anything else you’ll taste elsewhere in India.

Muxtape returns – relaunching in the service of bands

Muxtape, the widly popular and short lived service which that let users create virtual mixtapes, is coming back … in a different avatar.

The site was pulled down after the RIAA sent the owner, Justin Ouellette a notice, just about a month after the launch. Muxtape already had an impressive 1 millon or so page views in the short month or so that the site was online. In a lengthy blog post on the site’s homepage, founder Justin Ouellette writes about all the legal hassles he’s been having and about his fight with the record labels and the RIAA.

The gist is that Justin has given up and is launching Muxtape as a platform for budding artists to upload and share their music. Justin says that Muxtape will now be a platform where new and budding artists can establish an online presence. 

Muxtape joins the long list of fallen online music sites which have basically been brought down because of archaic laws and expensive licensing. The launch of Myspace Music only goes to show that the labels are only interested in doing business on their terms (The music labels own 40% in Myspace Music) and the RIAA is their weapon of choice against anyone that challenged their authority. Just goes to prove how archaic the RIAA laws are.

Justin’s post has been reproduced in full below:

I love music. I believe that for people who love music, the desire to share it is innate and crucial for music itself. When we find a song we love, we beckon our friends over to the turntable, we loan them the CD, we turn up the car stereo, we put it on a mixtape. We do this because music makes us feel and we want someone else to feel it, too.

The story of Muxtape began when I had a weekly show at my university’s radio station in Oregon. In addition to keeping the station’s regular log I compiled my playlists into a web page, with each show represented by a simple block that corresponded to a cassette recording for that week. At the time, mixtapes were already well into their twilight, but long after my show ended I couldn’t stop thinking about how the playlist page served a similar purpose, and in many ways served it better. Like a mixtape, each playlist was a curated group that was greater than the sum of its parts. Unlike a mixtape, it wasn’t constrained by any physical boundaries of dissemination, but… it also didn’t contain any actual music. Someone might come across the page and smile knowingly at the songs they knew, but shifting the burden of actually compiling the mix to its intended listener defeated the purpose entirely.

Five years later, internet technology had advanced significantly. I was working on experimental user interfaces for web sites when I started thinking about that playlist page again, and ultimately set out to bring it to life. My desire to share music (in the mixtape sense) hadn’t gone anywhere, but the channels to do so were becoming extinct. Popular blogging services allow you to post audio files in an ephemeral sort of way, but it wasn’t the context I was looking for. A physical cassette tape in your hands has such a insistent aesthetic; just holding one makes you want to find a tape player to fulfill its destiny. My goal with Muxtape’s design was to translate some of that tactility into the digital world, to build a context around the music that gave it a little extra spark of life and made the holder anxious to listen.

The first version was a one-page supplement to my tumblr, and was more or less identical to what it would become later. The feedback was great, and the number one question rapidly became “can you make one for me, too?” At first I started thinking about ways I could package the source code, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like massively wasted potential. Distributing the source would mean limiting access to the small niche of people who operate their own web server, whereas I wanted to make something that was accessible to anyone who loves music. The natural conclusion was a centralized service, which suddenly unfolded whole other dimensions of possibility for serendipitous music discovery. What seemed before like the hollow shell of a mixtape now seemed like its evolution. I knew I had to try building it. Three weeks of long nights later, I launched Muxtape.

It was successful very quickly. 8,685 users registered in the first 24 hours, 97,748 in the first month with 1.2 million unique visitors and a healthy growth rate. Lots of press. Rampant speculation. Tech rags either lauded it or declared it an instant failure. Everyone was excited. I was thrilled.

There was a popular misconception that Muxtape only survived because it was “flying under the radar,” and the moment the major labels found out about it it’d be shut down. In actuality, the labels and the RIAA read web sites like everyone else, and I heard from them both within a week or so. An RIAA notice arrived in triplicate, via email, registered mail, and FedEx overnight (with print and CD versions). They demanded that I take down six specific muxtapes they felt were infringing, so I did.

Around the same time I got a call from the VP of anti-piracy at one of the majors. After I picked up the phone his first words were, “Justin, I just have one question for you: where do I send the summons and complaint?” The conversation picked up from there. There was no summons, it was an intimidation tactic setting the tone for the business development meeting he was proposing, the true reason for the call. Around the same time another one of the big four’s business developers reached out to me, too.

I spent the next month listening. I talked to a lot of very smart lawyers and other people whose opinions on the matter I respected, trying to gain a consensus for Muxtape’s legality. The only consensus seemed to be that there was no consensus. I had two dozen slightly different opinions that ran the gamut from “Muxtape is 100% legal and you’re on solid ground,” to “Muxtape is a cesspool of piracy and I hope you’re ready for a hundred million dollar lawsuit and a stint at Riker’s.”

In the end, Muxtape’s legality was moot. I didn’t have any money to defend against a lawsuit, just or not, so the major labels had an ax over my head either way. I always told myself I’d remove any artist or label that contacted me and objected, no questions asked. Not a single one ever did. On the contrary, every artist I heard from was a fan of the site and excited about its possibilities. I got calls from the marketing departments of big labels whose corporate parents were supposed to be outraged, wanting to know how they get could their latest acts on the home page. Smaller labels wanted to feature their content in other creative ways. It seemed obvious Muxtape had value for listeners and artists alike.

In May I had my first meeting with a major label, Universal Music Group. I went alone and prepared myself for the worst, having spent the last decade toeing the indie party line that the big labels were hopelessly obstinate luddites with no idea what was good for them. I’m here to tell you now that the labels understand their business a lot better than most people suspect, although they each have their own surprisingly distinct personality when it comes to how they approach the future. The gentlemen I met at Universal were incredibly receptive and tactful; I didn’t have to sell them on why Muxtape was good for them, they knew it was cool and just wanted to get paid. I sympathized with that. I told them I needed some time to get a proposal together and we left things in limbo.

A few weeks later I had a meeting with EMI, the character of which was much different. I walked into a conference room and shook eight or nine hands, sitting down at a conference table with a phonebook-thick file labeled “Muxtape” laying on it. The people I met formed a semi-circle around me like a split brain, legal on one side and business development on the other. The meeting alternated between an intense grilling from the legal side (“you are a willful infringer and we are mere hours from shutting you down”) and an awkward discussion with the business side (“assuming we don’t shut you down, how do you see us working together?”). I asked for two weeks to make a proposal, they gave me two days.

I had to make a decision. As I saw it I had three options. The first was to just shut everything down, which I never really considered. The second was to ban major label content entirely, which might have solved the immediate crisis, but had two strong points against it. The first, most visibly, was that it would prevent people from using the majority of available music in their mixes. The second was that it did nothing to address the deeper questions surrounding ownership and usage for everyone else who wasn’t a major label: mid-size labels and independent artists who have just as fundamental a right to address how their content is used as a large corporation, even if they don’t carry quite as big a stick.

The third option was to approach a fully licensed model, which I had been edging toward since I met with Universal. I knew other licensed services so far had met with mixed success, but I also knew Muxtape was different and that it was at least worth exploring. The question about whether or not the labels saw value in it had been answered, the new question was how much it was going to cost.

It was June. I approached a Fifth Ave law firm about representing me in licensing negotiations with the major labels, and they took me on. Two weeks later I met with all four, flanked by lawyers this time, and started the slow process of working out a deal. The first round of terms were stiff and complex, but not nearly as bad as I’d imagined, and I managed to convince them that allowing Muxtape to continue to operate was in everyone’s best interest. Things were going well. I spent the next two months talking with investors, designing the next phases of the site itself, and supervising the negotiations. A big concern was getting a deal that took into consideration the fact that Muxtape wasn’t a straightforward on-demand service, and should pay accordingly less than a service that was. Another reason I liked the licensing option from the outset was that it seemed like a uncommon win-win; I didn’t want the ability to search and stream any song at any given notice, and they were reluctant to offer it (for the price, anyway). Muxtape’s unusual limitations were its strength in more ways than one.

The first red flag came in August. Up until then all the discussion had been about numbers, but as we closed in on an agreement the talk shifted to things like guaranteed placement and “marketing opportunities.” I was denied the possibility of releasing a mobile version of Muxtape. My flexibility was being constricted. I had been worried about Muxtape getting a fair deal, but my biggest concern all along was maintaing the integrity and experience of the site (one of the reasons I wanted to license in the first place). Now it wasn’t so simple; I had agreed to a variety of encroachments into Muxtape’s financials because I wanted to play ball, but giving up any kind of editorial or creative control was something I had a much harder time swallowing.

I was wrestling with this when, on August 15th, I received notice from Amazon Web Services (the platform that hosts Muxtape’s servers and files) that they had received a complaint from the RIAA. Per Amazon’s terms, I had one business day to remove an incredibly long list of songs or face having my servers shut down and data deleted. This came as a big surprise to me, as I’d been thinking that I hadn’t heard from the RIAA in a long time because I had an understanding with the labels. I had a panicked exchange of emails with Amazon, trying to explain that I was in the middle of a licensing deal, that I suspected it was a clerical error, and that I was doing everything I could to get someone to vouch for me on a summer Friday afternoon. My one business day extended over the weekend, and on Monday when I wasn’t able to produce the documentation Amazon wanted (or even get someone from the RIAA on the phone), the servers were shut down and I was locked out of the account. I moved the domain name to a new server with a short message and the very real expectation that I could get it sorted out. I still thought it was all just a big mistake. I was wrong.

Over the next week I learned a little more, mainly that the RIAA moves quite autonomously from their label parents and that the understanding I had with them didn’t necessarily carry over. I also learned that none of the labels were especially interested in helping me out, and from their perspective it had no bearing on the negotiations. I disagreed. The deals were still weeks or months away (an eternity on the internet) meaning that at best, Muxtape was going to be down until the end of year. There was also still the matter of how to pay for it; getting investment is hard enough in this volatile space even with a wildly successful and growing web site, it became an entirely different proposition with no web site at all.

And so I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever faced: I walked away from the licensing deals. They had become too complex for a site founded on simplicity, too restrictive and hostile to continue to innovate the way I wanted to. They’d already taken so much attention away from development that I started to question my own motivations. I didn’t get into this to build a big company as fast as I could no matter what the cost, I got into this to make something simple and beautiful for people who love music, and I plan to continue doing that. As promised, the site is coming back, but not as you’ve known. I’m taking a feature that was in development in the early stages and making it the new central focus.

Muxtape is relaunching as a service exclusively for bands, offering an extremely powerful platform with unheard-of simplicity for artists to thrive on the internet. Musicians in 2008 without access to a full time web developer have few options when it comes to establishing themselves online, but their needs often revolve around a common set of problems. The new Muxtape will allow bands to upload their own music and offer an embeddable player that works anywhere on the web, in addition to the original muxtape format. Bands will be able to assemble an attractive profile with simple modules that enable optional functionality such as a calendar, photos, comments, downloads and sales, or anything else they need. The system has been built from the ground up to be extended infinitely and is wrapped in a template system that will be open to CSS designers. There will be more details soon. The beta is still private at the moment, but that will change in the coming weeks.

I realize this is a somewhat radical shift in functionality, but Muxtape’s core goals haven’t changed. I still want to challenge the way we experience music online, and I still want to work to enable what I think is the most interesting aspect of interconnected music: discovering new stuff.

Thank to you everyone who made Muxtape the incredible place it was in its first phase, it couldn’t have happened without your mixes. The industry will catch up some day, it pretty much has to.

GNOME 2.24 released

The GNOME foundation has released the new version of the GNOME Desktop environment, version 2.24

This release features a lot of bug fixes, performance improvements and new software.

This is also the first release of the GNOME mobile platform which is already a part of the various Linux based mobile device platforms such as Ubuntu Mobile, MoblinMaemo and others.

The GNOME desktop focusses on ease of use, stability, internationalisation and good accessibility support and the new release only goes to prove the commitment of the developers behind this awesome piece of software. 

Version 2.24 includes a new instant messaging client based on the Telepathy Framework. The client called Empathy Instant Manager is clean, fast and simple to use. 

There is also a time tracker application which can be added to the GNOME Panel to make tracking your time easier.

GNOME 2.24 also features the new release of the Ekiga audio/video conferencing client, version 3.0.

All said, this is still an incremental release, fixes a lot of bugs while bringing about some performance improvements. The developers have already started planning for GNOME 3.0 and that is something I’m definitely waiting for.

Friday Linkfest #2

Welcome to the second edition of the Friday Linkfest. A week sure passes by quickly ! This post is to share with you guys some of the cool stuff that we’ve been reading here at NomadicRider. 

Open Source

16 Free tutorials for top open source applications

OStatic’s firefox superguide

Old and evergreen posts from OStatic. Lots of good stuff there.

GNOME 2.24 released 

The latest and greatest release of the Open Source GNOME Desktop. Read the release notes for a glimpse of all the cool stuff the GNOME people have lined up for us.

The browser arms race/

Nice collection of links and thoughts on the (renewed) browser wars.

building a custom Lifestream website with Sweetcron

Build your own lifestreaming website with this awesome Open Source software.

Iron browser – A port of Google Chrome

A port of the Google Chrome browser for the privacy junkies. Iron removes all code which makes Chrome go back to Google with information about you, your machine or browsing habits. The srware.net site is in german but the folks at Incomplete News Project have a translation up. So, in short, Iron is Google Chrome without all the snooping and that should please a lot of folks.

Humour

The aam sutra

Best geek quotes

Hilarious

Travel

London loses worlds most expensive title to Monaco/

Monaco is now officially the world’s most expensive property market. As if we didn’t know that already !

http://www.gadling.com/2008/09/25/air-conditioning-coming-soon-to-londons-underground/

Finally !

London’s best indie bookstores

If you’re in London, make sure to check out these.

Technology

Alternatives to apple spaces

The Apple blog lists some really nice alternatives to Mac OS X’s Spaces feature.

Kosmix eschews the needle delivers the haystack

A nice review of the Latest search engine to hit the Internet. This one (like all others) promises to be different. Well, atleast in theory it is.

T-Mobile G1 – World’s first Android based Phone Launched

Finally !! The world’s first Android based phone has been launched by T-Mobile. Called the G1, the phone has apparently been made in collaboration with HTC.

Why am I so excited about it ?

Well, apart from being a pretty decent phone, this is also the first phone in the world to be based on an open platform, Google’s Android project. That has to be a big deal, right ?

The last bit about being based on an open platform might not be relevant to the vast majority of people using any phone, but for a techie like me and for the millions of other people who value their rights, it is a big deal. And I’ve realised it only after using the iPhone.

Let me make one thing clear. I LOVE my iPhone. But, I should also make clear the fact that I am not a big phone user. I am on the phone about 20 mins a day and the rest of the time, I use the iPhone more as a mobile internet and music device. And the iPhone doesn’t disappoint me in that capacity. I use it to read/reply to emails, catch up on my RSS feeds, browse and have even used it to remotely setup my brother’s Linux box.

I have jailbroken my iPhone and use it that way to install third-part applications which Apple would have never allowed otherwise. I hate the fact that the phone is so closely bound with iTunes. That I cannot use the application of my choice to control my data that is on the device.

I hate the fact that I have to go throught the Apple AppStore to get any applications I want to install on it. And the applications in the AppStore are also controlled by Apple, of course.

I still love the iPhone, the device. It’s the artificial iTunes ecosystem that Apple has created around the device, is what I don’t like. Because, it takes away from me the freedom to do what I want with a gadget I’ve paid money for.

And for that reason alone, I think Android is a big deal.

Android is an open source operating system for mobile devices. Sure, the carriers will be restricting the software when they sell the phone, but that’s ok. As long as the underlying OS is free, as long as the ability to put applications on it is free, as long as I can use it the way I want, I’m willing to put my money on it.

Google is not going to control the Android marketplace, which is the equivalent of the iTunes AppStore for Android devices. Any developer will be able to offer his/her applications for the Android platform without the fear of them being rejected on flimsy grounds.

The iPhone has managed to bring the focus on the mobile web and it is for platforms like the Android to take it further.

Raaga family restaurant – CMH Road, Bangalore

The restaurant seems a little confused as to how it wants to position itself.

It has an ethnic Rajasthani ambience, Jagjit Singh ghazals as background score (yeah yeah, I know its not a movie) & Rasam as part of their Thali !! But if the food is good, who’s complaining ?

The restaurant spans 3 floors, the second floor is a bit too dark for my liking but the seating and service is decent.

I have had lunch at Raaga once or twice ( cause its close from office) and took the thali both times. The vegetarian thali (Rs 75) & the non vegetarian thali (Rs 95) are both quiet good with unlimited portions of everything except the non-veg dish of the day, curd & sweet.

Although I haven’t tried anything else, the menu does look extensive with  Indian, Mughlai, Chinese and Tandoori dishes on offer.

Like most places in Bangalore, parking is a problem & the Metro (which is coming up on CMH road), just adds to the misery.