Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh, for a good Sys Admin!

This afternoon, our Sys Admin (IT guy) suddenly asked me, "Kamal, do you have a spare SATA hard disk case?"

"Huh?"

"A SATA hard disk case?"

It was almost as if he asked me if I had some spare radioactive plutonium on me! Why on earth would I have a spare SATA hard disk case!

Good Sys Admins are really hard to find. And they are so critical to the functioning of any organization that uses computers for more than just word processing. They are like the oil that is needed to make machines function smoothly.

Everything is fine till everything is fine. The moment something weird happens, all hell breaks loose. Servers go down. Mail is not accessible. The intranet is down.

Most Sys Admins have a one-size-fits-all solution to ALL problems - "Try restarting your computer". Mail is not accessible - try restarting your computer. Unable to connect to the internet - try restarting your computer. A bad headache - try restarting your computer. You get the drift.

I can understand doing that on a Windows computer where you are anyway restarting your computer like every half an hour just to be able to send and receive email! But on a Mac? Gawd, the last time I restarted a Mac was even before the last time I pee'd which was like really, really long back!

Its not that the breed is extinct. But you really have to be lucky to find a good person. Which sets me thinking - why have I never, ever seen a female sys admin?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In search of the perfect Idli

Those who know me are probably quite surprised that I haven't yet written about the Idli in my series on food fetishes. I am quite surprised too!

The Idli is the ultimate in culinary delights. To describe the idli, however is to be grossly unjust to it. How does one describe an idli? Soft, fluffy pieces of rice flour? Never was anything so sublime described in so poor a fashion.

An Idli is only to be experienced to be fully understood. And note the word 'experienced' for you never 'eat' an Idli, you only 'experience' it.


It is really, really difficult to make good Idlis. It is very easy to make good dosas, wadas and the entire gamut of South Indian delicacies. But Idli making is an art in itself. Many an experienced hand has failed miserably in this attempt.

I am not even going to venture to present a complete recipe. The ingredients are boiled rice flour and urad dal (English equivalent, anyone?). These have to be soaked overnight and ground into a paste and then allowed to ferment. Flat balls of the resultant mixture are steamed and served. Idlis are eaten with a variety of chutneys, karam podi and sambar. And yes, an Idli without ghee is like the sun without light, a flower without fragrance, the sky without the stars, well, you get the picture!

There are a few places in Hyderabad where you get Idlis that are to die for. I mention two of them here.

One is Chutneys. They have three branches in the city. The Babai Hotel Idli there is out of the world. The Idlis are literally soaked in ghee and topped with dollops of white butter for good measure. Weight watchers - try it please and then make it up by starving for a week. They have a delectable array of chutneys that are served with the Idlis.

The other place which I have mentioned quite a few times (here and here, for example) in this blog is Poorna Tiffins. This place is a shabby little joint in Krishnanagar (off Srinagar Colony). But, no sir, don't go by the looks of the place. The Idlis served here are ethereal. Tiny little Idlis, topped generously with ghee served with a spicy chutney and karam podi (no sambar!). These Idlis have been my Sunday breakfast for a couple of years now. Come hell or high water, I go there every Sunday morning and eat to my heart's content.

Eventually, it all boils down to a fight between my stomach and my tongue. My stomach screams, "No more" while my tongue begs, "One more!"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Retrograde / Antegrade cannulation

One thing which Dr. Agar suggested was to have both my needles pointing towards my shoulder rather than my hand after cannulation.

Currently neither does that. Here's a pic of my cannulated fistula:

Shoulder this side
Hand this side

As you can see my arterial needle points towards my hand and the venous is at right angles to my arm. This is because during the surgery they realized that there was some kind of obstruction and they had to make it like this!

Also, I was told that the way the arterial needle is now positioned, it is in the direction of the blood flow. This means that the arterial needle which takes the blood from the artery and sends it to the machine is in the right position so that the blood flows right into the needle and out into the machine. Similarly, the venous needle is in a direction that the blood coming from the machine goes into the vein in the direction of the blood flow.

I then do not understand where the disconnect is. Why should the arterial needle point towards the shoulder? Have I got my blood directions wrong?

Update

Its been a while since I posted. Three and a half days! I can't believe I did not post for a whole three and a half days. A record of sorts I guess!

Anyway, it is now clear that the pain was due to my tossing and turning while sleeping. I have been sleeping like a log (literally only not figuratively!) and there has been no pain in the night. I received some excellent information from Dr. John Agar (does anybody not know him, raise your hands!) and Debbie Brouwer from Renal solutions (thanks Rich Berkowitz for suggesting that I write to her).

Debbie made a comment when I sent her an email about the problem. "Wow - a buttonhole question from India". This means that the buttonhole method has not yet been adopted by too many people in India. This is a pity. But it is quite understandable because buttonholes have been mostly used by folks on daily dialysis which, by itself, is a rarity in India. I wonder if in the US and other places, do they use the buttonhole method for regular in-center hemo? Thanks Debbie for all the links and files about fistulas, buttonholing and cannulation!

The thing that takes the cake is Dr. John Agar taking the time to prepare a detailed powerpoint presentation with pictures and annotated diagrams explaining the possible problems and recommended solutions. I was really overwhelmed by his email. How can I thank him?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Karvat badalne se dard?

Digression: There are many words in Hindi and other Indian languages that do not have English equivalents! Take karvat badalna for instance. Turning to one side while sleeping kind-of sums it up but there is no exact word that is an equivalent.

I started off this post wanting to ask if the pain I've been experiencing at night in the cannulation site could be due to turning to the side my fistula is. The title in Hindi explains it exactly!

Main topic: I find that I need to turn to a side often when I sleep. I definitely cannot turn to the right because my fistula and consequently the needles are on the left. My left arm is also tied to my bed. This is to avoid too much movement of the arm that may result in a little oozing from the cannulation sites.

This leaves only the left side to turn. My fistula is on my upper left arm. So, when I turn to the left, there is pressure on this part of the arm. This might cause the needles to move about and scrape the sides of the vein and artery and probably the tissue around the area. This may be causing the pain.

So, last night I made a conscious effort not to turn at all. There was no pain. Now, I have had a few cases of things working one night and then not the next. So, I am not concluding that this is the solution until I try it out for a few nights in a row and it works.

The next step is to get used to not turning at all at night. It is going to be a heck of a lot difficult!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Elite club memberships

On Election Day a few days back, I happened to go swimming a little late. I changed, showered and got in to the pool and swam a couple of lengths.

There was only one other person in the pool. I am really amazed by this person. He is probably on the wrong side of 80. He can barely stand. He has to be helped by attenders to walk from his car to the pool, helped to change, helped to get into the pool. Sometimes, by the time he gets into the pool, his shadow has shifted from one side to another! In spite of this condition, he swims every single day! He usually comes in late and is the lone master of the pool. That day, it was not to be.

A bunch of kids, about 12-14 years old jumped into the pool. They were generally having a good time, laughing, joking, jumping and diving into the pool again and again.

The old gentleman was quite perturbed. He was worried that one of the kids would jump right onto him. He watched from one corner of the pool for a while. Suddenly one kid jumped right next to him.

He raised his hand and shouted, "You will be disqualified!"

For a moment I wondered what exactly did the old man mean. What would the kid be disqualified from? Then it struck me. Disqualified from membership of the club! For jumping into a pool?

Membership to the club is quite difficult to get. The waiting list has so many people on it and the rate of accepting members is so low that if you applied today, your turn to be considered (you could be rejected too) will come after about 8-10 years! (Sounds so similar to a transplant list, eh?!)

Consequently, some members of the club have this air about them. They consider being a member of the club a great achievement. The old man probably belonged to this category. What could be the ultimate punishment for disturbing his mid-morning aquatic reverie? Disqualification, of course!

Its a different matter that the kids did not give a rats ass for his words and probably for the club membership too. With the increasing number of communities with great facilities including swimming pools coming up in Hyderabad, memberships to such clubs is not that big a deal any more.

I, of course, give more than elephant's ass for my membership because the pool is great and is quite close to my house. And swimming is one of those things that I really, really enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Inquisitiveness

This morning, as I walked into the swimming pool area, I saw the son of my father's friend. I walked over to him to say Hi and make polite conversation. After the How are yous, things drifted to work.

He asked me if my office was still in Begumpet. I replied in the negative and said that that company had shut down and I was now working for a company called Splendid Green Technologies. "Oh!", he said, "you work for them now?". "Yes", I said.

And then he dropped the bomb.

"How much are they paying you?"

"That's none of your fucking business!", I wanted to say. But restrained myself.

I muttered a ridiculously low figure.

"Oh! that much they are paying you!"

"Yes, but about a third of it goes into tax", I offered, trying hard to reduce his shock.

"Oh, ok". Didn't work too well.

I hurriedly took leave and walked towards the changing room.

The fascination for the knowledge of everyone's income really is amazing. Many people cannot help asking these kinds of questions. They will itch and itch till they ask that question. And they will have an opinion about the figure no matter how high or how low it is.

Income is a highly personal piece of information. And I have often been embarrassed by people asking me the question. I am rarely prepared to answer this and end up saying something ridiculous when the answer should be short and simple: "None of your fucking business!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sharps pain too!

Yesterday I tried sharp needles for the second night in a row - at a different site than the day before. There was pain a couple of hours into treatment. It was a little more stinging than the pain with blunts.

So much for mocking the 'ayatollahs of buttonholing'!

I am really at a loss as to what to do next!

I cannot even talk to docs here because no one knows anything much about buttonholes.

I have posted to the home dialysis forums. Let's hope someone there offers some suggestions. This is bothering me a lot as the next treatment is causing me jitters. Its due Monday night. I really hope I have some solution before that.

Life can be so treacherous at times. For a few months, everything goes fine. I hardly even think about my health and dialysis. It is just one of those things I have to do. Then suddenly, one day, phut! Things start happening. And then the next few months are so horrible, one thing after another. I can't focus on anything except my health. I'm going through one of those phases now. One thing after another.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sharps versus blunts

I have been using blunt needles since I started daily dialysis about 3 years back. To start with I never had any pain. But as I wrote here and here, I started having problems with the buttonhole technique about a year after I started using it.

I also created another pair of buttonholes as suggested on the home dialysis forums. Again, it worked really well for a few weeks. For the last few weeks, however, the pain has returned. It usually starts a few hours into the dialysis session. I wake up due to it. I then try to press the skin around the needles, fold the area around the cannulation sites and get a little relief. Then, I go back to sleep again.

I decided yesterday to do the unthinkable! Switch back to sharps! Yes, I can hear the ayatollahs of buttonholing yell:

"No, you don't want to do that!"

"How could you, possibly?"

"Are you out of your mind?"

"How can you possibly have pain with blunts? They are blunt, remember?"

Well, I switched to blunts yesterday. And, guess what? I had NO pain. Yes, absolutely NO pain!

I has an uninterrupted night of sleep. And, I repeat, NO pain.

So, there. It goes to show that everyone is different. I am NOT insinuating that the buttonhole method is flawed in any manner. No, not at all. It worked great for me for months. There was a time when if I looked the other way when my tech cannulated me, I wouldn't even realize that the cannulation was done!

But, after a while, it did not work as well. It could also mean that I was doing it the wrong way. And that is why I had problems with it. One more theory is that while sleeping, I tend to turn to the left (the side my fistula and the needles are). This could potentially cause some movement of the needles and they might touch the walls of the artery and the vein due to which I am experiencing pain.

Whatever it is, I am planning to use sharps for a while and see how it goes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The deed is done!

I just voted!

Judging by the long line at the polling booth, it looks like the voter turnout is going to be higher than usual. I have never seen such a long line at my polling booth in previous elections. Usually, I would go, there would hardly be a couple of people, I would walk straight in, vote and leave.

This time, however, there was quite a long queue and it was a really hot day.


I took a look at the list of the candidates put up outside the booth.

The Lok Sabha list

The Assembly list

Confirmed that the folks I had decided to vote for were there. Went inside and cast my vote!

Special thanks to Kartik Reddy Thum for helping me find the polling booth address. Of course, he was not too happy helping me because he is a staunch Congress supporter and I was voting for the BJP at the center!

Yesterday, I changed my Facebook status to "Vote BJP". I was really shocked with the response I received. People tore me apart and wondered how I could side with murderers. Well, I was not aware that the BJP evoked such strong reactions. Anyway, this is a democracy and I have the right to vote for whoever I wish! And I really do not agree with the thinking of the anti-BJP brigade. Granted, they have their flaws. Who doesn't?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why I will vote for the BJP tomorrow

Tomorrow is election day! And I have been debating in mind who I should vote for. For the Andhra Pradesh assembly election, I was very clear from the beginning. It was going to be a vote for Aarogyasri, something which is very close to my heart. It would be a vote for Y S Rajasekhar Reddy and the Congress, never mind all the other allegations against him - corruption, indulging his family, whatever. Aarogyasri is a revolutionary concept introduced by him and I am going to vote for that.

The Lok Sabha is however different.

I was traditionally a Congress supporter till Sitaram Kesri took over many years back. I then switched over to the BJP and was a strong BJP supporter till the end of the NDA regime. I scoffed at the whole act of sacrifice by Sonia Gandhi ater the UPA got a majority in the 2004 election. But looking back at the Manmohan Singh government's tenure, I think overall they did quite a good job. Well, there were ups and downs. But by and large they did pretty well. The signing of the nuclear deal, of course, was the high point.

So, I had pretty much decided to go with the Congress.

However, over the last couple of weeks, things have changed. Not, on the ground. But in my mind. Nobody can deny - not even Congressmen - that the power behind the throne is the lady at 10, Janpath. Even when Manmohan Singh decided to say "Balls to the Left", it had to have a sign-off from Sonia Gandhi. It was pretty obvious that whatever he was doing, he had to first get approval from Sonia Gandhi. Advani's allegation that the office of the PM has been devalued during his tenure is not incorrect.

I had initially dismissed this thinking, "What was wrong with this as long as the government is doing a good job?"

But I was wrong.

The Prime Minister is the leader of the country. We need someone who is strong. Someone who can think for himself and take actions for himself. We cannot afford to have someone who is merely a rubber stamp for someone who is without any accountability. How different is Sonia Gandhi from Bal Thackeray in that respect?

The one thing that the Congress keeps harping on these days is the Kandahar episode. Granted, that might have been a mistake. They do not have anything else to talk about when it comes to Advani. Advani is definitely a stronger man than Manmohan. Well, if it had been Rahul Gandhi, probably things may have been different, his age and inexperience notwithstanding.

But as things are today, its clearly a choice between Advani and Manmohan. And I feel Advani is the stronger of the two.

So, that's about it then - vote BJP!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Strange symptoms

For the last couple of days I am having some really weird symptoms.

My BP has been unusually low. I generally have a slightly lower BP compared to others. My normal is around 100/60. For the past 2 days, however, my BP has been around 80/50 and once it recorded 80/40 too. To match this, I have been feeling giddy quite often. I am ok when I'm sitting or lying down. Then suddenly if I get up to answer the phone or the door, within a few seconds I feel very giddy - I almost black out! I have to hold on to something to prevent myself from falling down. I think this is called postural hypotension.

My appetite has also been a little different. I have breakfast at around 8 - 8:30. I am ALWAYS hungry by 11:30 - 12. I really need to snack on a couple of biscuits to sustain me till lunch which is around 1 p.m. For the last two days, however, I feel full till around 4 p.m.! Then I feel hungry and have lunch and feel hungry again by around 7 p.m. Really strange!

I told my tech about this. He suggested we check the electrolytes in my blood and also get a Liver Function Test done. So, I've drawn the blood and will be sending it over to the lab now. I also have an appointment scheduled with Dr. Girish Narayan, my nephrologist to make sense of this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Daily nocturnal home hemo on a roll

I just did my blood tests a couple of days back. My hemoglobin is at an all time high of 14.2. My platelet count is also normal and my WBC count is almost normal.

I had touched these kind of values around 6 months after starting daily nocturnal home hemo in 2006. However, around that time I had to start some really strong drugs for some reason. Due to the side effects of those drugs, my hemoglobin, WBC and platelets all plummeted. After about a year of this treatment, I stopped taking the drugs.

The blood counts did not bounce back for a long, long time.

But, now finally, they're back up. And this in spite of reducing my Erythropoetein, the injection that stimulates the production of blood.

Daily nocturnal home hemo really worked for me. I really don't care for any more proof like randomized controller trials etc.. This is proof enough for me that it works!

Ayurveda - what really works?

I have been having a bad case of hemorrhoids from more than a month. The docs tried a combination of different things, Nothing seemed to work. Everyone said, "Try this for another week, then we'll see."

Vinod then told me about an Ayurvedic doctor Dr. Dharmalingam from Chennai who was supposed to have a sure-shot cure for this. I decided to try this out. The doctor was consulted by Vinod and his friend Karim, the medicines were couriered to me. I started taking them. There was relief in about 5-6 days. Now, I am 90% better.

My experience with Ayurveda has been mixed over the years. I have taken some medicines for different conditions with no relief at all. Whereas this time it worked like a charm.

Ayurveda works really well provided you take it from a practitioner who is truly well-versed with it. There are a large number of quacks out there who have very superficial knowledge of the tenets and they go about prescribing medicines to everyone. These rarely work, in fact some of them have dangerous side effects and give a bad name to Ayurveda.

There are, however, a small number of highly knowledgeable and dedicated doctors who painstakingly do their homework, extensively study the stream of medicine and then carefully prescribe the right medicines. It is however very difficult to find these doctors.

This brings me to the question - how is the genuine Ayurveda so effective? Ayurveda and its medicines were documented thousands of years back. Ayurveda is a part of one of the four vedas. How did the author of the vedas know about these medicines? There were no 'double blind randomized controlled trials' back then!

How did they know that these medicines work? How did they know the dosage to be administered? There were no instruments to study the molecules.

These are baffling questions to which we have no 'scientific' answers!

At this point I am not really worried about these questions at all. Whatever works best is best!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

'What a family!'

My cousin sister Nisha and her husband Rudy (short for Anirudh) got married about a year and a half back. They stay in Hong Kong and were visiting India last week.

When they were here, we decided to play Taboo one evening. Taboo is basically a board game where you have to describe a word that you've been assigned without uttering a set of other words. The word itself and the 'taboo' words are in a card you have to pick. There are other rules too but that's the gist.

So, we divided ourselves into two teams and started off.

My family is generally quite boisterous. Most of us speak loudly, laugh loudly and well, whisper loudly! Rumor has it that one of our Parsi neighbors got a heart attack when Nisha reacted to a piece of good news one afternoon many years back!

Especially in situations like this when honor is at stake, we can get quite passionate about winning and make every point count!

Sure enough, within a few minutes we all got very excited. We started fighting (in a good way) over every point! The members of each team would distract the other team during their turn. We were all fighting, yelling and laughing at the same time (if you know what I mean!).

Now, Rudy was not used to this. Till then, he thought only Nisha was a rowdy! That evening, he realized that his wife's behavior was more genetic! "What a family!", he exclaimed repeatedly!

He kept telling us, "Guys, we are here to have fun!". All of us responded in unison, "This is our idea of fun!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cron does not work after reboot - Solved

I have been quite bewildered with the unreliable behavior of the cron jobs I set up for my project recently at work. I needed data to be imported periodically from an FTP server and then process the data and put into my application's database.

Every time I would open the file to see if there's something I have put in wrong there. I would make some 'trial and error' changes and it would work beautifully. However, next morning when I returned to office and saw the logs of my application, there wouldn't be any sign of the cron jobs having run for some time.

I googled the problem. Everyone seemed to outright reject the idea that cron can ever fail. They explained different things that might be wrong - environment variables, wrong paths etc. etc. Cron was infallible, it seemed. Then why was I having a problem.

I contacted the genius who goes by the name of Kartik Reddy Thum. He was equally bewildered. "Cron is supposed to be quite reliable", he reasoned too. He suggested I move whatever I was trying to run to a shell script, put in some logging and call the script from the cron tab. Earlier I was calling the curl command directly from inside the cron tab. I moved the curl call to a shell script and called the script from cron. After this, cron worked for some time. Next day, however, when I examined the logs, it had stopped after a while!

One thing which I realized was that due to the daily hour-long power cuts prevalent in the city these days, the server that ran my application would undergo an improper shutdown and then come back up when the power returned. Yes, I can hear you yell - "How can you not have power backup for your server?" Well, we do have power back up but its only for 10 minutes whereas the government of the day has decided we need atleast an hour long power cut. (Now, last Sunday we had a two hour cut and that too not at the usual time - but that's a topic for another post!)

So, I knew that the server was shutting down ungracefully. Was this, in some way, responsible for this strange behavior? However I did not see why that should be an issue. When the server starts up again, cron should kick in quite effortlessly.

I decided to google again but added the keyword "reboot" to the other words. Bingo! There was the problem. Cron did not kick in after a reboot. For some reason, you had to edit the cron tab file after a server reboot for it to function. Many people had a similar problem and they simulate an edit for the cron to work after a reboot.

Beware - a simple "touch " does not work. You have to do a crontab -e, make some edit and then save it for this to work.

On the way to solving this, I figured out where the cron tabs are located on a Mac. They are not in /etc/crontab as widely thought. They are in /var/at/tabs. One file for each user who has ever done crontab -e and saved something. Also, if the root user is enabled, this folder belongs to root and you cannot view its contents as non-root.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The toll dialysis takes

I read with a lot of concern what a fellow dialyzor in the US wrote recently on his blog. He started exploring ways and means of ending his life. Kidney disease and dialysis have taken a huge toll on his body and, more importantly, his mind.

I can fully understand what he is going through. Despite all of us being truly grateful for dialysis which allows people to continue to live without functioning kidneys, the treatment, in its most commonly used form, can cause you to 'lose your soul'.

Treatment after treatment, life becomes a painful struggle. The process itself saves your life. Without dialysis, people with CKD would die. So, there really is not much of a choice. Its dialysis or death.

I have been fortunate enough to have to bear with conventional in center hemodialysis for a small part of my almost twelve years with kidney disease. The rest of the time, I have been on PD and daily home hemo. My years on PD were definitely the best.

The problem with kidney disease is not only kidney disease. Its a host of other things that you have to deal with. Every part of your body gets affected in some way or the other. I have had problems with my lungs, heart, liver, spleen, nerves and bones as a result of my kidney disease. And I have never been able to get over my obsession with fluids ever since I had to quit PD. Its purely psychological. The last month has been horrendous for me with the pain hemorrhoids bring. This is not related to my kidney disease but is one more major problem to tackle along with the mix of other problems I already have.

That is why people on dialysis often flirt with the idea of death. It almost seems like a welcome relief. The end of struggle. Freedom. From a torturous life.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Please leave Aarogyasri alone

I read with horror this morning the statement of Chandrababu Naidu that he would replace the Rajiv Aarogyasri scheme with an alternative scheme called NTR Arogyapathakam if voted to power. That becomes my primary reason to not vote for him this election!

It is not for nothing that politics is called the last resort for scoundrels!

This is a classic example of the level to which our politicians have fallen. I was a huge fan of Naidu during his term as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The IT revolution he brought about changed the face of Hyderabad and put it firmly on the global IT map. He is now so desperate to get back to power that he is willing to stoop to any level to achieve this goal.

I don't want to detail the political steps he has taken like tying up with the TRS because that does really not bother me as much as the replacement of Aarogyasri.

What really is the need of replacing this scheme with another one? If you genuinely feel there are some gaps, address them. Tweak the rules a little bit. A large scale replacement of the scheme will cause a lot of misery to the real sufferers. A new scheme will mean new rules, new forms, new guidelines for hospitals. Utter confusion for a long, long time.

The Congress is not without blame either. Why call the scheme "Rajiv Aarogyasri"? Obviously when the opposition comes back to power they will cringe while implementing the scheme. And now Naidu is going to name his scheme after NTR!

Where is this going to end?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Remembering birthdays

1990. March 28th. Chittu, a very close friend and I were walking towards the water dispenser in our school, HPS.

"What kind of a friend are you, Kamal?"

"What do you mean?"

"You forgot your friend's birthday!"

"Oh shit!"

I suddenly realized that that day was Chittu's birthday and I had forgotten! I felt really guilty.

The next year, however, I had my revenge when Chittu forgot my birthday!

In those days, remembering birthdays took some effort. Apart from the one-off case like this incident, you remembered the birthdays of people you cared for. And it felt good when people remembered your birthday. That means you were important to them.

Not any more.

Now it is difficult not to wish someone on his/her birthday. Whether you care for them or not. Thanks to Orkut and Facebook!

In those days, computers were fairly rare and even though some people had them, they did not have applications like calendars that reminded you about things like birthdays!

Now, as I settle down with my cup of Darjeeling tea every morning, I absolutely have to go to my orkut and facebook home pages to see what's happening with all my friends. There, invariably, someone's birthday reminder comes up. Right next to it, is a helpful little "Leave a scrap" or "Send a Gift" link. Unless you do not like that person, it is difficult to not click on the link and leave a small Hapy Birthday note.

This, in my opinion, completely takes away the personal experience of remembering someone's birthday and wishing him or her. The entire process becomes mechanical. Even when you are the one receiving the wishes, you are almost certain that the wishes came due to a reminder from some such site!

There is a difference between the two, if you know what I mean!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Its not only about the logo, stupid!

Balmy Ballmer of Microsoft recently made a comment only he is capable of. He said not many people would pay extra money in these times of recession for a logo. He was referring to the premium you have to pay for a Mac. Is it really only the logo?

Absolutely not!

(Btw, anyone who takes anything Steve Ballmer says seriously should check this and this!)

The whole experience in a Mac borders on the ethereal. The attention to detail is amazing. Let me just give you one example. There is a dock in Mac OS X on the desktop. This is a holder for commonly accessed applications and locations apart from the place your minimized windows temporarily reside in. Apart from the 3D look of the dock, the designers made it like a mirror. So that you can see a reflection of whatever is there above it. Not only do you see a reflection of the icons that are in the dock but you also see a reflection of other windows you bring close to the dock.

Now, this could have been easily been ignored. A reflection of the icons in the dock could have been good enough. But no, not on a Mac. This great attention to details pervades all aspects of the operating system.

The ease with which you can add a printer (if its on the network, your Mac does not need anything else to be done; it simply prints!), get on to a Wi-Fi network (nothing to be done except enter the password if it is secure, the network is found and joined automagically) and backup your files (I was blown away by the UI for Time Machine) is only to be experienced to be believed. The lack of viruses on the Mac, the much better stability (no crashes and hanging) really make the experience of using a Mac, a pleasure.

I will close with one last example of the difference between the Mac and things like Linux and Windows based PCs. After the recent terrorist attacks on Mumbai where it was discovered that terrorists had used unsecured wi-fi networks to send emails, I decided to secure my home wi-fi network. I went into the wi-fi routers configuration panel and set on the secure option and gave a password. I opened my MacBook Pro. Within a few seconds, I was asked to enter the password for the wi-fi network. I entered the password. Boom! I was online! I then opened my mother's laptop which was running XP. After half an hour of struggling to try to connect to the now secure wi-fi network, I still couldn't figure the damn thing out. And I am supposed to be a software guy!

I gave up and unsecured my network back. Terrorists, please spare me!