Why is RSS good for you!

This is the first of a two-part article in which I will explain basic terms related to RSS subscriptions and syndications. The second part will tell how this technology can prove to be useful to you as a reader.

Target readers: People who have a lot of online content to read but are always short of time.

The problem: I have a whole list of blogs, news and other technical sites which I like to check out regularly for new content. But while I’m online, I don’t know where to start and usually end up checking out a regular list of sites. They may not have anything interesting at that time and I have to go through my bookmarks again to choose another site. This process is looped n number of times to decide on something I really want to read. Some days I don’t find anything and just goof around. End result: waste of time and energy.

The ideal solution: Now, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was some way that I found out automatically if there was something interesting on any of my favorite sites! Some thing like a ‘Title and a Summary’ of articles from different sources and I can instantly decide which article I wish to read. Of course I can subscribe to email newsletters but you can imagine how difficult it becomes to identify your personal mail out of those 157 promotional mails… and I’m not even mentioning the spam mails yet! Having multiple email ids just adds to the complexity.

The implementation of the solution: The ideal solution as mentioned above has been around for some time and people over the world have been using Common feed iconsit while we have been looking the other way. You must have come across some mysterious sounding words like RSS, XML, RDF, Feed, Syndicate etc. at numerous websites or seen these image links (mostly orange in color). But just like me, you never gave a second thought to them because didn’t understand what it was all about at the first thought! Never mind. We are going to unwrap the mystery and discover that they can actually prove to be one of the most productive words as far as spending time on your online reading-list is concerned.

The whole idea is enveloped around the word feed and this New RSS feed icon is the most common icon for a feed these days. We know that computers are good at repetitive tasks. Instead of visiting each site our self, we can tell the computer to go to the list of our sites and pick up the titles and a few lines of all the new articles from there and then present the information to us. But the computer needs a marker or a flag on that site so that it knows where to look for the title and the content. So the author of that site needs to put some markers to pin point the location of the title and the rest of the article.

How does some one put those markers which our computers will find easy to look for? Well, they do by putting their articles in XML format. The orange New RSS feed icon RSS/XML icon signifies that the site provides a computer friendly version besides the normal HTML version for humans. This kind of format makes the marker-stuff a bit standardized across the sites or various platforms. But why would the author go to the length of putting markers? To maintain or even increase his readership. It’s a win/win situation, especially when the process of putting the markers is also automatic. So don’t pity or thank the author! By the way, ever tried clicking on the orange RSS/XML icon? You will see very complex looking scripts. Hence point proved that they are meant only for computers.

This complex looking XML version is actually called a ‘Feed’. (Now you know :-)) And the orange RSS/XML icon is to tell you that you can tell a computer program (a.k.a Aggregator, Feed Reader) to fetch the content-feed from this site automatically. This method of publishing content by providing feeds is called Syndication. Now the question remains how do you tell the aggregator about this? I will answer this question in a while, but before that I want to tell something more about the aggregators.

Aggregators are the computer programs which do the repetitive task of actually getting the content from the multiple XML feeds you will specify and ‘aggregating’ the content into a format you like. There are so many good aggregators which you may have to install on your computer or there are other online ones too, like My Yahoo! or Google Reader which do not need to be installed. I use My Yahoo! and Bloglines.

I will now come back to adding the feeds to your feed reader. Hover your mouse over the orange RSS/XML icon and you will see a link in the status bar. Right-click on the orange button and click on Copy Shortcut on the popup menu. Now go to your feed-reader and paste the link into a place specified for this. That’s the end of it. Collect the feeds of your favorite sites/blogs in your feed-reader and whenever you open your feed reader you will find the headlines and first few lines of the post there, which might also include the time when the article was posted. Makes looking for interseting articles a lot easier and faster.

Further reading:
1-A really good start-to-finish 12-part tutorial by Amy.
2-Article with a bit history and technical bent – Fagan Finder.
3-Bit more gyan on this technology. Simple and elegant.
4-Excellent article with examples and screenshots of many feed-readers and their options.
5-Making a RSS feed – Step by Step.

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View this emotional and motivational video

The father and son duo of Dick Hoyt and Rick Hoyt participate in Triathlons as ‘Team Hoyt‘. What makes the team special is that Rick is physically challenged and his father Dick pushes him in a wheelchair as they run. See this wonderful video about the never-say-die attitude of Hoyt’s. The soundtrack is I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me.

More info at:

Posted in Music, Video. 1 Comment »

FridayNight-GoodBeer-PlayStation2-NeedForSpeed

Let the Good Times Never End

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house were born
Into this world were thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm

Theres a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm

“Riders on the storm” – Snoop Dog featuting The Doors

Eureka: found a bug in K750i !!

Ever recieved a call on your K750i while the camera is on? Well, try it ! he he he *evil Tom grin with arched eyebrows and hunched shoulders*

Do you like what you see? Hmmmm? 😉

Nau Baj Gaye Kya?

Well, everyone makes mistakes. Mine was that I sat in front of the TV to have my dinner while one of my Mom’s favourite serials, viz ‘Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand‘, was on. Now as it happens, I find these ‘GHARELU’ serials utterly idiotic. I can’t understand how can anyone with even an iota of intelligence and common sense can stand these. This doesn’t means that I doubt my mom’s common sense or intelligence, who is quite worldly wise. (If she finds out that I wrote all this about HER serial, my blogging career will meet the same fate as that of my F1 career i.e. Shuru hone se pehle hi khatam) I once had one of my friends telling me to drive fast in Chandigarh because he was going to miss his favourite serial!! Which one, do you ask? Well, ‘Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand‘ of course!!! I couldn’t believe that the guy sitting behind me on a Bullet ACTUALLY LIKED one of those weepy soaps. But people are strange, you know ….

In this particular episode which I had to tolerate, a guy is shown asking Pammi to come and see him “… bas ek aakhri baar…” (How many times have we heard this line? Itni ginti to mujhe school mein bhi nahi sikhayee thi!) Pammi addresses the guy by the name of ‘Raj’. I, being as confused as ever, am asking questions and my mom trying to convince me in vain that all this isn’t as crap as I might be thinking due to my limited exposure to ‘GHARELU’ soaps. The conversation, originally in Panjabi but translated for masses, went like this …

Me:– Who is this guy?
Mom: Yeh Dev hai.
Me:– Par yeh Dev thode hi hai. Yeh to Raj hai. Dev to vo doosra wala nahi tha?
Mom: Yehi Dev hai. Usne iski shakal badal di.
Me:– Usne??? Kisne?
Mom: Rohan ne.
Me:– Kyu? Rohan ne kaise badal di? (Shakal hai ke shirt?! ... ke jisne chaahe, jab chaahe badal di!)
Mom: Vo ilaaj ke liye aaya tha aur isne iski shakal hi badal di.
Me:– Ooooohhh … Achcha, achcha. (Like that explained everything. But I'm none the wiser.)

By now, Pammi has come to meet Raj (Dev?!) in a garden … and it is night time. (Ab koi mujhe bataye ke kaunse ‘sharif’ gharane ki bahu-betiyan raat to kisi ko bhi milne bagichon mein ghoomti firti hain?)

Me:– Par agar iski shakal badal di hai to yeh bol ke to bata hi sakta hai ke ye Raj nahi Dev hai. Yeh Raj ban ke kyu ghoom raha hai?
Mom: Arrre iski yaadasht chali gayi hai. (OoooKaaay. To kahani mein twist hai. Aise twist to purani hindi filmon mein hote the. Par baat ab samajh mein aa rahi hai thodi-thodi)
Me:– Achcha, achcha. To yeh Dev hai jiski yaadasht chali gayi hai aur yeh Raj ban gaya hai.
(... there is silence for a while .... par mere dimaag ke ghode abhi bhi daud rahe hain)
Me:– Par agar iski yaadasht chali gayi hai aur ise khud hi nahi pata ke ye Dev hai to fir Pammi ise kaise Dev samajh rahi hai? (Bolo Bolo Tell Tell)
Mom: Offf Oooh. (a bit irritated) Pammi ne Rohan ke computer mein Dev ki photo dekh li thi par Rohan baat ko taal gaya. Isliye Pammi ko shaq hai. Changa, hun mainnu serial dekh lain de.

Till then, the mid-night garden tete-a-tete between Pammi and Raj (Dev?!) is over and Pammi returns home fully convinced that Raj actually IS Dev. Later she asks for a divorce from Rohan. (Yes, yes, she had married Rohan thinking Dev to be dead! But now that she knows the Sachchai, how can she remain married to Rohan.) Parivaar par pahaar toot para. Everyone is dumbstruck. High volume background music and compulsary close-up shot of entire star-cast is in order. Lo and Behold, it happens! Eyes wide open, some filled with tears, mouths agape, quivering lips and all that. I’ll never know whether these close-up shot sequences are in alphabetical order or according to the seniority of the star-cast, … or according to the height of the actors to minimise the adjustment of the camera position! Anyway, Rohan rushes out of the room, all fuming.

Next scene : Raj (Dev?? … whoever) is shown sitting on a garden-bench, playing a mouth-organ. (!!!) (I mean, c’mon. A mouth-organ!! … in the mid of night … and in a garden!! How can anybody make a whole family sleepless and then go to a garden to play a tune on mouth organ??!!)

Mom:O vekh. ‘Tune’ vi ohi vajaa reha hai jehdi Dev vajaounda hunda si! See? He IS Dev.

I’m rolling my eyes and shaking my head. If he doesn’t even remembers himself or his past then how come he remembers a ‘tune’? And if he doesn’t remembers anybody else then how does he ‘remembers’ Pammi? And why is he pestering Pammi?! I needed immense will-power to stop myself from banging my head on a wall!!

But my attention turns back to the TV screen when the camera, from a low angle, shows a shadow approaching Raj (Dev?!) from behind. A baseball bat flashes through and Raj (Dev?!) slumps to the ground holding his head. The assailant brings out a gun from his pocket and shoots rapidly on Raj/Dev. (Arre bhai, agar bandook jeb mein hai to yeh baseball kit saath lekar kyun ghoom raha hai? ... ab main apne baal na nochun to aur kya karun?!!) And predictably, the assailant turns out to be Rohan. Thank you very much.

Now the thing worrying me is that the kids, in our very homes, are taking their life-lessons from such serials. Serials where extra-marital affairs, divorces, murderous plans, ‘Barbaad karne ki kasmein‘ etc are staple fare. Revenge is the motto of life. Where the only kind of love is ‘Obsessive love’. Children born out of wedlock resurface after 20-25 years to claim ‘Baap ka pyaar‘ and ‘Maa ka adhikaar‘. Where there is politics between Saas – Bahu or Choti Bahu – Bari Bahu to let each other down. Where all that the male characters seem to be doing is to play in the hands of their ever-scheming wives and show anguish over ‘Ghar ke haalaat‘. Despite the lavish lifestyles, nobody seems to be doing anything except plotting. Male members go to office, only for some more politics. I’m not sure what kind of businesses are they running but I’ll sure love to have one of my own where you get huge bunglows and big cars by doing NOTHING!! Only the naiveness and stupidity of the characters moves the story forward, if there is any story at all, that is.

Ask any school going kid who wrote any of their text-books and they will dig their left toe in ground, grin and say “Pata nahi.” But ask them who made these ‘GHARELU’ serials and they are all excited when they say “Ekta Kapoor”. They even know, “She is Jitendra’s daughter”. I mean, I’m not talking about any leading star but a PRODUCER!! They even know who the producer is! They can tell you all about what is happenning in Parvati’s or Tulsi’s house, but might not be able to tell their own grandfather’s name! They think that speaking out aloud and making evil facial expressions while thinking is perfectly normal.

Another thing that bugs me to the hilt is the overuse of the theme songs as the background music. On the slightest pretext, the music comes to the foreground in full blast while the actors display their range of melodramatic expressions. It doesn’t matters what the situation is – happy, sad or anything, the same record is played everywhere as in Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Is the music director underpayed or what? Or is that the best he can do? There are better ways to cut costs, if thats the intention. Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki finished 3 years of its “successful” run that day (I know because my folks went on to see that ‘Congratulatory episode’ too!!), and I realised that they have been playing the same music every night for the LAST 3 YEARS!! I have this feeling that the ‘die hard loyalists’ of these soaps are now chanting even their morning Aartis in the tunes of their favourite soap theme songs!! Just imagine for a second, ‘Om Jai Jagdish Hare‘ set on the tune of ‘Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi‘!!

Post Edit : I’m sure these guys are also proving to be a nightmare for the General Insurance companies with one car accident a week on an average. Anybody who is a bit ‘upset’, chaabi ghumata hai aur gaadi lekar nikal padta hai! After that they pretend to drive at light speed while the car is actually moving only at 23.5 kmph (Bachcha samajh rakha hai kya??)They look like those kids who are sitting on their ‘Tobu’ cycle and pretending to be driving the Bat-car!! Then they choose a sturdy looking tree and try performing the ‘monkey climb’. But of course the car refuses to do so and stays at the bottom. And quite predictably, nobody is wearing a seat-belt (and air-bags are only a distant dream yet). A good smaritan deposits them at a hospital and their “Main kaun hoon? Main kahaan hoon?” drama starts. Yaadasht ko to ECE ka bulb samajh rakha hai. Apni marzi se ON - OFF karte rehte hain.

Btw, one thing i’ll never be able to guess is how did Rohan KNOW that Raj/Dev is playing his fovourite tune, sitting on his favourite bench in his favourite garden ??!!!

Posted in Humor. 1 Comment »

[Aug 23, 2006] New home for my blog at WordPress

Hi guys,

Well, I’ve decided to have a NEW home for my blog

https://eyesofcalvin.wordpress.com 

Looking forward to your visit there.

Luv …

New technology for Human Computer Interface (HCI)

The things which seemed a fantasy just yesterday have become a reality today. If you have seen the Tom Cruise starrer Minority Report, then you will certainly remember the scenes where Tom manipulates screens using his hand gestures in air. Well, the implementation of something similar is just around the corner. Inventors are using Artificial Inteligence in computers to sense the environment and making the computer respond accordingly. See the video below for a wonderful example of new HCI breakthroughs.