Photo!


I was digging through some photos on my computer when I found a picture of my desk I'd taken last sem. This is from my old hostel room, a room I sorely miss!


Saying Goodbye to Pocket

Pocket (formerly Read It Later) is one of the most popular services that lets you mark web content for later. It's a fantastic application, and I have no complaints - it has a really good Firefox extension, the Android / iOS apps are fantastic, and the syncing works seamlessly.

But I don't need it anymore.

Yesterday, I blogged about how I'm giving Delicious a shot at organizing and archiving all of my favourite content on the web. Delicious has very good support for tags, and it also lets you create an RSS feed of all your public links. Combine the two, and you have a very effective and elegant solution to your read-later problems!



Curating The Web


What do you do when you come across a really cool website/blog/video ? Your first reaction is probably to share it on Twitter or Facebook, but then what? It gets lost in the din of tweets and status updates, and since Twitter only archives 800 of your most recent tweets, it's probably lost forever. When you need to revisit that site, you're left hopelessly trying to nudge Google with a few keywords in that general direction.

Browser bookmarks were the answer to this problem until a few years ago, when nearly all of our web browsing took place on one device. Heck, even if most of your browsing takes place on desktop computers, you're in luck, since nearly all major web broswers are cross platform and let you synchronise your bookmarks and settings across different instances. But what do you do when your web browsing is spread across desktops and (different) mobile platforms? With the internet growing in size every single day, the ability to create a manage a list of curated or 'bookmarked' web pages, along with the ability to quickly and painlessley retrieve the exact page you're looking for is becoming really important.



Wallpapers

I'm quite extremely particular about my desktop/phone wallpaper, and I've got a large collection of wallpaper images organized by type, source, light/dark content and yes, cross referenced (using symlinks). I typically change the wallpaper every few days, even though the only time I ever look at it is immediately after I've logged in. I don't know why, but having a good desktop background is really important; having a less-than satisfactory one really irritates me.

Here are some sources of really great, high quality (and usually free) wallpapers on the internet :

1. Smashing Magazine (updated on the first of every month)
2. Lifehacker's Wallpaper Wednesday (updated every week)
3. Inkdryer (updated daily)

Lifehacker's Featured Desktop/Homescreen (which updates every Tuesday or so) also feature some really nice ones, so take a look at those if your desktop is in need of a visual overhaul.

While we're on the subject, here's my current home screen setup:







Software Spring Cleaning

This week I decided to practice some tech-austerity, which meant uninstalling programs I rarely use, apps on my phone I can do without (especially the crapware that comes bundled with the phone) and weeding out memory-hogging browser extensions. Here's what the results looked like:



Finally, A Schedule!

Ever since I've joined college and started living on my own, my daily schedule has gone for a toss. Though I'd written about what a typical Sunday is like, it was more of an attempt to show how chaotic life can be when you're living by yourself in a hostel. So I've never really had a schedule for the past 3 years, and I can never tell what I'm going to be doing tomorrow at this time. 

Except for the last month.


Getting My Feet Wet

Yesterday I finally got started with python scripting, by writing a script that gets weather data from accuweather.com. I needed to display the weather conditions and temperature on my desktop using conky, so instead of copy-pasting someone else's script, I decided to use my own.

By downloading the webpage corresponding to the required city, I got an XML file containing all the required data in plain text. Using regular expressions, I parsed the XML file to get the weather conditions (such as 'Partly Sunny or ' Overcast') and the temperature. As an added exercise, I decided to  set the wallpaper to change automatically based on the weather. So if the weather is cloudy, the wallpaper will be a cloudy one, and if the weather's sunny outside, the wallpaper will change to a bright and cheerful one.

There's probably a more elegant way to do this, but since this is my first attempting at python scripting, I'm just glad that it works!

#!/usr/bin/python
import re
import urllib2 
import os
url=raw_input("Please enter the weather url from Accuweather.com : ")
xml=urllib2.urlopen(url)
f=xml.read()
temp=re.search(r'(\"temp\">)(\w+)',f)
cond=re.search(r'(\"cond\">)(\w+\s\w+)',f)
weather=cond.group(2)
print temp.group(2)
print weather
test1=re.search(r'un',weather)
test2=re.search(r'oud',weather)
if test1:
  os.system("gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri file:///media/Media/Images/Wallpapers/sunny.jpg")
elif test2:
  os.system("gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri file:///media/Media/Images/Wallpapers/cloudy.jpg")

To show the output of a script (any script) on conky, you can use the exec command, which runs the script and displays the shell output on the screen. You can tweak it using execi (which repeats the command at a regular interval) or using execpi (which repeats and parses the output so you can apply text formatting like colours, fonts etc. to the output).

In my case, the command looked like this :

${exec /path/to/script/weather.py}

(Of course, you need to make the script executable first.)

I couldn't get it to repeat at a desired interval of 3600 seconds (1 hour) because of a bug in conky where it presents a segmentation fault for large intervals of time. An easier way to automatically run the script at a regular interval would be to use crontab. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to display unread email counts, and maybe a part of my Twitter stream on conky. Wish me luck!



Google's Services At Your Fingertips (literally)


I was trying out an add-on for Todo.txt called 'google' that allows you to push or pull your tasks to Google Tasks, but in the process I discovered this utility called googlecl. It is, as you might've guessed, a command line tool to access some of Google's services, including Picasa, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, Youtube, Blogger and Google Docs. It lets you perform a variety of actions depending on the service, but common actions include downloading content from these services, creating and uploading new files (photos to Picasa, blog posts to Blogger, calendar entries to Google Calendar and any other type of file to Google Drive). I haven't tested all the options, but the few I did test worked really well!

After installing it, check the man page for a complete list of all that you can do with googlecl. When you make a request for an action, it first asks you for your username, and then opens a browser window for authenticating the user via OAuth. After signing in from the browser, you're given a key. Copy-paste this key into the terminal, and you're good to go! You'll have to separately authenticate each service the first time you use it, but after that it's easily the fastest way to access any Google app. No frills, doesn't require any fancy dependencies or a GUI to slow you down!

Here's an example:

Using googlecl to control Google Contacts. I've already authorized it to access my account.

Pretty cool (read geeky), right?


10 must-have apps for Linux users

This is a long overdue post, and I thought I'd finally get down to writing it, inspired by my discovery of this brilliant music player - Guayadeque. All the apps can be installed from your distro's package manager. (Most of them should be available in Ubuntu's universe/multiverse repository, though you might have to manually add a ppa for some. If you're on Arch Linux, use an AUR helper like packer or yaourt, and installing them should be a breeze.)

Most of the apps use the GTK+ framework, meaning they might look slightly out of place if you're using KDE. They'll look just fine on GNOME / Xfce. Moreover, I haven't included apps that are pre-installed in most distros, such as web browsers or office suites.



From Mumbai to Thane

I don't think anyone has ever pampered me more than my grandparents. I was their only grandchild for many years, and some of my fondest memories as a child are of the times I spent at their place in Thane. Needless to say, I'd be off to Thane at the start of every school vacation. My mother and I would board a train from Kurla, a journey I disliked immensely because I hated travelling by trains. In spite of having made that journey innumerable times over the years, I never managed to learn the names of all the stations that we'd pass by. But I knew Mulund was right before Thane, and I used to get super excited knowing that Ajji and Ajoba's house was only a few minutes away.

My grandmother (or Ajji in Marathi) was a fabulous cook who'd ensure that I put on atleast a few kilos before heading back, and taught me how to read Marathi and also tried to teach me Kannada (in vain). One of her delicacies was a banana cake she knew I loved and would unfailingly have it prepared before my every visit.(Except this one time when we surprised her by showing up completely unannounced). I haven't had that cake in years; I'm guessing she never shared the recipe with my mom ;-)



One down!

I finished reading my first book of the year today! It's called 'Dork' by Sidin Vadukut, and it's about a guy who graduates from business school and joins a management consulting firm. The book is very Chetan Bhagat-ish on the surface, but the humour is more enjoyable and it's written in the form of a diary. Very light reading, and the a good way to start off.

I saw a book about the history of Middle-East in a friend's room, I think it was called The Revolution or something like that. Hopefully, that'll be my next read.


Reading and Writing

I decided to revive this blog, partly because tumblr turned out to be more of micro-blogging platform whereas I was looking for something more old-school, and also because I want to start writing more often. I was partly inspired by this blog, where the author has resolved to write one blog post per day. A very ambitious goal, but she's right on target so far!

My resolution this year is to read one book every month, so that at the end of the year I should be able to name 12 books that I've read in the past year. I prepared for this goal by issuing books from the library, borrowing them from friends and even bought a few off Flipkart. So far I've read only read about a half a book, all of which was read last evening.

I blame Twitter.

Anyway I've got enough reading material for the next couple of months, and I hope to finish at least 3 by the end of the semester. I'll catch up on my target over the summer.

Speaking of the summer, I'll be interning at Digit Magazine as a writer!  W00t! I'm really looking forward to it; it'll feed my craving for technology and I'll get to work for a magazine, which seems like a lot of fun (thanks to Wake up Sid). I really hope it is.