Capes and Superheroes.

A lot of superheroes have capes. Long, drooping capes usually matching the color of their costume. But do they have a purpose? After a discussion with my ‘web’ peers, here’s the verdict.

Apparently, the creators of both Batman (Bob Kane) and Superman (Siegel & Shuster) were inspired by the swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks from the 1920 film “Mask of Zorro”. So, they gave birth to the cape-culture that was previously confined to Spaniards. Also, capes added a new dimension and a dynamism to the superheroes they were about to create.

Batman’s cape is designed to perfection and is primarily utilitarian. Made of bullet-resistant and fire-retardant material, Batman’s cape can mitigate or even negate the potential threats posed by gunfire and flames. It can also help minimize the potential of lacerations and impact injuries. The voluminous material of cape can help him in better navigation when he is air borne and also reduces the speed of descent. It also helps him camouflage his presence in the dark and scary nights of the legendary Gotham. Finally, it gives an insanely dramatic effect. Think of all the pictures where you find Batman partly covering himself in his huge cape. By the way, Robin has a cape just because Batman does!

Unfortunately, there isn’t any purpose or a story behind Superman wearing a cape. Apparently, the Kryponites had capes etched into their dress code.

And finally, capes have downsides too…I’ll let “The Incredibles” do the talking.

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Kindle tweaks and utilities.

If you own a Kindle, it is obvious that you look for ways to get the most out of it. As Kindle uses e-ink, it is easy on the eye unlike an LCD, staring at which for longer duration or during the early hours may strain your eye (On a completely unrelated note, f.lux is a software that adjusts the color temperature based on the time in your time zone to battle the eerie blue glows during the crepuscular or early times) . E-ink is ideal for reading in direct sunlight or during travel. And most importantly, Kindle is distraction free. If you have an iPad, chances are that you start reading, feel like playing Angry Birds in the middle and bookmark your book to complete it later. Kindle, being only an e-book reader(and with a relatively slower processor) is distraction free. Even if you have wi-fi, the surfing experience on e-ink doesn’t compare to your traditional web-browser or iPad.

So, here are a few tweaks and some sources to get the most out of your kindle.

Project Gutenberg and Feedbooks are two sources which offer you a wide range of books to choose from. Here’s how you download books onto your Kindle from Project Gutenberg:

If you want to download any book, say, you have a sudden urge to read Ulysses by James Joyce , all you have to do is go to Gutenberg, select a suitable format for your eReader (ePub for iPad, mobi for Kindle with or without images or HTML for Nook) and voila! you’re done! Now you can transfer the .mobi file to your Kindle either by using a USB cable (either via Calibre or direct copy-paste) or by using Send to Kindle (which is an insanely handy utility that sends you the files to your Kindle id wirelessly). Send to Kindle lets you specify the author name and send PDFs, DOCs and other formats and is shown as an option when you right click on the file you want to send.

Other freewares that come in handy are Kindle Collections Manager and Kindlean. They have an intuitive interface and let you organize and edit your Kindle files in an iTunes-esque way. Or for a simpler interface, you can use Collection Manager.

If you’re searching for content, there is Kindle Feeder. It lets you follow all your favorite blogs and delivers them wirelessly in a kindle friendly format. Free users can select up to 12 feeds. So Techcrunch,Huff Post, Engadget etc.., you’re all in! Not forget Instapaper which lets you save interesting web content for reading later.

And finally, there is Readlists which is a group of articles bundled into an ebook for reading whenever you are free. The best part? You can download articles, recipes, course materials, and a lot of other things and have them sent to your kindle wirelessly. So, if you feel like books are not for you, Readlists are of great help. There are several articles from “design professionalism” to articles on macroeconomics by Paul Krugman. So, search and send em’ all!!

Design, Firefox and Chrome.

What’s the difference between Firefox and Chrome?

The main difference is the streamlined and intuitive interface. Chrome is fast and fluid. Firefox is relatively sluggish. Whenever you type a URL and press ‘Enter’ or ‘Return’ in the omnibar, Chrome (and even Safari) clearly show you that they are busy fetching the page. You can find a circle rotating rapidly beside your tab telling you that they are working furiously to load your site. Firefox previously didn’t have this. They had a dotted circle that rotated at a snail’s pace which didn’t quite signify that urgency and dedication a user needed.

Ever since Mozilla realized that Chrome is taking a chunk off their pie, they started taking things seriously. Mozilla decided to revamp the browser design to prevent the existing user base from shifting to Chrome. Not only that, it began increasing the iteration number rapidly- openly telling the world that its ready for competition. (Here’s how the Firefox’s iterations go…Firefox 0.1 to Firefox 4 took 9 years. Firefox 4 to Firefox 13 took 1 year. 8 iterations in a single year!). They removed all the unnecessary buttons (forward button), shifted the home button to the right and made the interface a lot simpler. They also replaced the rotating dots with a rotating circle just like Chrome and Safari.

The other thing is, you don’t find the menu bar in Chrome. The design is minimal and the interface is pretty straight forward with small refresh, forward and backward buttons with a large address bar spreading all the way from left to right. The new tab button doesn’t have any indication unlike Firefox which displays a significant ‘+’ beside every tab. Seasoned users may not care about Chrome not having a ‘+’ sign but Google should also keep the grannies and the not-so-tech-savvy people in mind. Maybe they thought “Grannies don’t multi-task.” Despite the fact that Mozilla combined the search and address bar, they still have the search bar to the right. This is for quick access to Wikipedia, Ask and other websites.

Field Highlight feature is another thing that Firefox added in the recent iterations. Previously, Chrome and Safari had this interesting feature where the field you are currently working-on is highlighted. (If you’re typing your username, that field gets highlighted and when you move to password, that field is highlighted). Firefox didn’t have this feature previously. But they tweaked the browser interface and making all the small-but-significant improvements. Still, Firefox uses huge amounts of RAM and takes a lot of time for startup. Fix this and I will become a Firefox evangelist. I am already one, but give me more reasons to be a better one!

Cameras for Left handers.

“Why aren’t cameras made for left handers?”

If you observe the existing trend, you’ll realize that the handy cams, point-and-shoots and SLRs are made for right handers. The handy cams have the holding strap towards their right, the point and shoots and DSLRs have the shutter button to their right.

Most of the left handers don’t find this uncomfortable. In fact, most of them don’t even think that it’s an issue until you point this out. But being a left hander myself, I disagree. It is obviously advantageous to have a camera designed solely for you. You’ll not be able to tell which one is convenient unless you use one!

But here’s the problem. Taking the widely accepted 9:1 right to left handers ratio into consideration, it is economically not feasible to design a camera for a single person among a group of 10 who doesn’t even think of the possibility of a left handed camera. This will drastically increase the production and assembly costs because of which (probably) companies don’t mention this.

So, you should probably stop thinking about this unless you can really afford a left-handed Leica made exclusively for you.

Reddit raises $24000 in just over 24 hours for OceanSkys-a terminally ill cancer patient.

I ❤ Reddit. That’s all I can say after yesterday’s AMA.

Reddit has never been short of AMA’s. For beginners, AMA is “Ask Me Anything”. It’s the place where the people with challenging jobs and bizarre experiences in life answer the questions put forth by the reddit community. There have been many AMA’s by Celebrities, Nobel Prize winning economists (Read Paul Krugman) and also ordinary people with challenging jobs.

But one AMA yesterday has struck the chord with the community like no other. That was the AMA by OceanSkys (his reddit username), a 23 year old with Stage IV Kidney cancer who said that he won’t be able to see 24. Oceanskys, a resident of Vancouver never foresaw what was going to happen next. Redditors, who are fun loving people with immense love to all things cute (there’s a subreddit called rawrr where people post cute pictures of cats and other animals and they are the ones which usually make it to the front page) were immensely touched. SO touched in fact, that they actually broke into tears.

Here’s a post by a member.

That was one of the several posts that expressed deep concern. He himself stated that people who he thought were mere acquaintances expressed more concern than many so-called close friends. And an internet community filled with strangers worldwide took it more seriously than anyone. People all over the world invited him to stay at their place and a person promised redditors that he would name his restaurant “OceanSkys”. Impressive Huh?

Finally, the catch? A female redditor with username z3phyr13 started a fundraiser to send OceanSkys on a vacation. All the redditors began chipping-in and the amount far surpassed the target- $2500 and now stands at a whopping $23000 (and counting).

So the next time someone argues that people online are unconcerned and inconsiderate, show this AMA and tell them on their FACE that humanity is still at its best. That AMA really makes me believe that the world is still a great place to live in.

You can find the entire conversation at the Reddit AMA page here

And here is the Fundraiser page

There’s always a relevant xkcd

xkcd. A perfect blend of Romance, Sarcasm, Math and Language. Randall Munroe, a former roboticist at NASA and now a mathematician who makes webcomics, captures many of the life’s musings in a very hilarious tone. Some of them may seem subtle and there are also separate webpages to explain an xkcd.

There are a lot of theories as to why the comic was named “XKCD.” Some people say that if you add the numeric values (X+K+C+D i.e 24+11+3+4) you will get the number 42 — the answer to life the universe and everything! But it’s just a coincidence. Randall Munroe said “It’s not actually an acronym. It’s just a word with no phonetic pronunciation — a treasured and carefully-guarded point in the space of four-character strings.”

Here’s a blog that explains xkcd: http://xkcdexplained.com/

And here’s another: http://www.explainxkcd.com/

And here’s a website that tells you if XKCD is ‘bad’ on a particular day: http://www.isxkcdshittytoday.com/

FOR XKCD!!!

The Future of Ads

Now, imagine this. You go to a shopping mall to get yourself some vegetables and other groceries and there’s a person following you. A stalker? Nope. He is actually a paid professional monitoring your purchases. If you go to the same shopping mall for say, 1 year, by the end of 1 year, that person knows everything from the Pajamas you prefer to your favorite Chocolate. Too bad you didn’t read the terms of service which clearly stated that you’ll be stalked every time you visit their mall for “improvising” the user experience. So, the next time you go to the store, this stalker will be ready with all the items you wanted to buy. All you have to do is give your credit card and bingo! – you’re out of the mall in 5 minutes.

I don’t know how many of you like this, but is it a problem when someone monitors your activity and uses the same for the growth of his/her business?

If NO is your answer, then its well and good. No probs, your work will be done in 5 minutes and that “stalker” just helped you save a hell lot of your valuable time.

But if YES is your answer, it needs an explanation. Why do you find it annoying to be followed by a stalker who is not going to hurt you in anyway except helping you do things that you always do- but without extra effort AND without charging anything? Well. That’s where something called “privacy” comes into play. We don’t want our private lives to be peeped-into by people we don’t know or the ones we don’t believe. We prefer going through the tedious process of walking by the aisle and searching for products we want. So why is this happening? Maybe we don’t like being stalked by humans. So…how about robots! Great idea isn’t it? Nope. It’s not a great idea. People don’t like being stalked by robots either and that’s because the data is again parsed by humans (?) to improvise the user experience. Moral of the day? You don’t like being stalked and you don’t want anyone/anything behind you constantly bugging you to buy a product that you like.

These days, a lot of web-based companies and social networks cash-in on this very fact. They target the not-so-tech-savvy people by making them accept the terms of service and using this information to develop their business.

Is this morally right? Yes it is. That’s because the Terms Of Service(TOS) is usually a sheet full of legalese that a layman isn’t really bothered about and that’s what makes the “innocent layman” a potential target for the ones with business acumen. You’ll soon find firms doing this job (stalking people- which is already common AND easy in cyberspace) in real life (i.e the mere-mortal form). Stay tuned!!!

From Ivy league to Wow-ey league

Yao Ming, the 7 foot 6 Chinese giant is probably the only Asian to have a fan following this big. Recently, a new talent has popped up and that too, an Asian one, and that too, from Ivy League! How rare is that! This new talent…this new sensation…this new would-be (most probably) MVP is the Taiwanese Jeremy Lin. True talent never hides. It shows up in one form or the other. This person who has been a bench-warmer all this time suddenly became the strongest contender for the Most Valuable Player award this year. He has been a target of racism before, but as he said, “he got used to it”. Persevering through all that and suddenly amassing such a huge fan following is really a very appreciable feat. He is unique in a lot of ways- for even the biggies (read Kobe Bryant) appreciated this wonder kid from Ivy league.

Jeremy Lin shows that true talent never hides no matter what comes in its path. So, he deserves a big round of applause,praise and  the MVP award. So, we should just wait and see what’s in store for Jeremy…the ring? We’ll wait.