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© Rakhesh Sasidharan


Toggl, Todoist, Trello, Workflowy, KanbanFlow, etc.

Just a quick shout out to Toggl. It’s a time tracking app that I used to use a while back and have started using again now. 

I am an IT person. So why would I need to track my time? It’s not that I have to bill it to anyone, unlike say if I were a lawyer.

Reason I decided to start keeping track of my time is because I felt it might improve my productivity. And even if it doesn’t, at least I’d have a better understanding of where my time is going and how. Currently I get to work and start doing my tasks and whatever keeps coming my way, but I feel I am not getting a hang of the big picture. There’s no overall feel to what I am doing during the day. $hit just keeps coming my way, I deal with it. There’s a lot of other (non task related) stuff I want to do, but I lose track of that. Then when I get home I try and spend time taking care of those non task related stuff, and by the end of the day I have no idea where my time went. No sense at all.

I use Todoist to keep track of my tasks. I have been a fan of Todoist for years now. I was previously on Wunderlist (way before Microsoft bought it and re-released it earlier this month) but I moved to Todoist as I felt it better fit my needs (I don’t remember now how Todoist was better). I am actually a paid subscriber. Never thought back when I signed up that I’d actually pay money for a reminder app, much less continue doing it! :o) The good thing about Todoist is that it has extensions for Chrome and Firefox, apps for iOS and Android, and even a desktop version for Windows. So I have access to Todoist pretty much wherever I am. Even during my team meetings or 1-2-1’s with my manager, when I am giving a task I quickly note it in Todoist so it’s there. In short I am a fan! I use it to keep track of both personal and work related tasks. 

For a while I experimented with Trello for my work related task management. It was good but I absolutely hate the fact that I can’t delete my boards etc. All I can do is archive, and I don’t like that. It feels very limited. That’s when I started using Todoist for my work tasks – I just made multiple projects in that for stuff in progress etc. Today I came across another tool – KanbanFlow – which is similar to Trello but doesn’t seem limited like it, so I might give it a shot. I like the idea of having my tasks as a board. I guess there’s more sense of accomplishment when you see all your tasks as “Completed” or “In Progress” as a bunch of cards, as opposed to with Todoist where completed tasks get removed of the list. Not a big deal I know, and I might just stick to Todoist for work related tasks too, but I hope to give KanbanFlow a whirl. 

I must also give a shoutout to WorkFlowy – an amazing tool for making lists and keeping track of stuff. Before there was Trello and Todoist in my life, it was WorkFlowy. :o) And yes, I was a paid subscriber to them too for a few years. The best thing about WorkFlowy is its tags system and the way you can jump across lists – it’s simply amazing! I don’t remember why I reducing using WorkFlowy. I guess the transition was that I needed something to organize my work related tasks and Trello let me do that in a more visual style; and from there I could jump to Todoist as it let me add reminders and keep both personal and work tasks together. 

Back to Toggl. Found this page with a list of productivity tools that Toggl integrates with. I don’t know most of them – must check them out sometime. Also while on Toggl, here’s two funny cartoons from them. :o) On IT jobs. And how to save the princess in various programming languages. 

Going to hit ‘Publish’. I can see from my Toggl timer that I spent 29 mins typing this post up!

More Random Thoughts…

Came across an old Bollywood song on radio today. Well not thaaaat old :) but old as in from my school/ college days. “Badi Mushkil Hai” by Abhijeet from the movie “Anjaam”. 

Whenever I think of my school/ college days I keep thinking they were much simpler and easier than now. I don’t want to sound like some old man reminiscing his past, nor am I a technology hater who wishes for the past when there were less technological advances etc; but those times just “feel” a lot better. Simpler music.  Simpler movies/ stories. Even when I was watching 11.22.63 and Maigret last weekend I had the same feeling – life just feels more complicated now. Like we are somehow out of touch with reality. 

I guess these thoughts are because of those two TV shows plus the fact that I am listening (audiobook) to a Raymond Chandler novel and before that to “Slaughter House 5” – all stuff from an older time, and especially two of them with lot of time travel references. Puts you in that frame of mind I think. 

I guess the past feels simpler because we had less choices then. Either coz there were only less choices, or we were only given less choices. The number of choices you have in school or college are less. Similarly the number of choices 20 years ago in terms of career or place or even stuff you can buy were less – so it just feels simpler that way. Plus societal ways too were limited. Relationships were more straightforward and simpler. Now we have a choice in everything. You can choose how you want your life to be, what you want to be, what you want to do, who you want to be with (not just in terms of “a person from the opposite sex” but even which sex you want to be with). There’s choices everywhere. Gives you more freedom but also gives an impression that the past was simpler. That’s what I think at least. 

“Anjaam” was a good movie by the way. Shah Rukh Khan had a lot of good movies in his initial days. I was a huge fan of this and his movies. I guess I am partial to the anti-hero sort of character. And nearly all these characters he portrayed had an intensity to them. His characters still have intensity – but back then (a) they weren’t just heroes like his characters now and (b) because they were quite negative the intensity gave them an edge. And many of his characters were the obsessive types. Flawed, one could say. I felt they were more in tune with reality. Real life does not have on screen hero characters. We are all flawed. Some just a lot more than others. Even the good characters he played (like in “Yes Boss”, a favorite) we different. You could relate to them. And they were flawed in their own way. 

Do the increased choices we have now reflect an increased free will? I don’t think so. I have been thinking of this too past few days. I think ever since I read “Slaughter House 5”. I liked all that was expressed there about time. They have been constantly in my head since then. I used to think of the past and choices as something I make, something I have control over. Now I think less so. Like Kurt Vonnegut wrote I feel it’s just a limitation of us now being able to see in the time dimension. Everything has already happened and will happen. To us it seems like it’s unfolding and we are making choices, but what if the choices have already been made (or rather, there is no choice to be made really) and we are just exactly where we have to be. Such a line of thinking does not make life any less worth living or exciting. We still don’t know what is going to happen – so that curiosity factor is still there. We just stop deluding ourselves that there’s some actual choosing we are doing. Yes, we make choices. Yes, we decide to do this or that. All that happens and all that will happen will continue as it always had – and it will appear that it’s a conscious decision from our side due to x, y, z reasons. None of that changes. What changes is wishful thinking that we could have made different choices or that our present could be different/ better. We are exactly where we have to be. Every one of us. It has all already happened. 

A cube is a cube to us because we can perceive three dimensions. If all we could perceive were two dimensions then it would be a square to us; and if all we could perceive were one dimension then it would be a line. But irrespective of what we can perceive the cube is always there. And it appears as a cube because three dimensions is all we can perceive. If we could perceive time too as a fourth dimension then the cube won’t appear like it does for us now. It would be something else altogether. And that object would be just as static as a cube does for us now. This structure will encapsulate the entirety of the choices the cube would have made in time – if it moved places for instance. That object is static. The cube’s journey is a tableau in that. From the cube’s point of view it made choices; but there really is nothing to choose. The 4D cube just exists and is there. 

Yeah I am taking gibberish I know. :o) Most of it doesn’t make concrete sense to me either. But I am fascinated by the alternate point of view that it’s all fixed/ pre-determined. That there really are no choices. That whatever is happening, happened, and will happen has all already happened. I am just a passenger going with the motions and making my choices. Sometimes I choose good, sometimes I screw up. Sometimes I am good. Sometimes (most times haha!) I am a screw up. But it has all already happened. 

Over and out!

Random Thoughts…

Reading about Kurt Gödel the other day. Intentionally Googled for him actually. He fascinates me ever since I (half-)read “Godel, Escher, Bach”. A genius. Especially his Incompleteness Theorem. I vaguely remember him being a severely depressed person (I think I had read a biography of his, or at least kind of read). Surprised that such a genius person would be depressed. What would depress a genius?

Generally Googling on this I got the impression it’s not uncommon for geniuses to be depressed. It shouldn’t be surprising to me yet I a kind of surprised. Am curious what would make a genius depressed. I just imagined that they would be so wrapped up in their own world that they wouldn’t have worldly things to be worried about and be depressed for. But turns out I am wrong. There seems be a lot of correlation between being a genius and being depressed. The link seems to be that such people obsess over the smallest of things and when that seeps into other areas it can have depressing effects. (Not being a genius myself, but a person obsessed with details and prone to thinking a lot on absurd things and getting disturbed by that I understand that). 

Not all geniuses are depressed though. 

Which brings me to this post. I am listening to Raymond Chandler’s books nowadays and was thinking he’s so smart. The whole noir detective genre that he introduced. His writing, the characters, the plots. So smart and creative. I don’t know if he was depressed – I didn’t Google that. Would be surprised if he were considering the wit in his writing. (But then, comedians are depressed people. I wasn’t surprised when I read Robin Williams was depressed. I get that too. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised if I Google and find Chandler to be depressed. Anyhow – I am digressing…)

Now I am listening to some music. Classical music and film scores etc. Currently listening to the Mission Impossible 3 score actually, as I write this. A great score by Michael Giacchino. I would call him a genius. Don’t think he’d be depressed though. Or other great composers. Hand Zimmer etc. 

I think there’s two sort of geniuses. Those with a bit more intensity are the ones who get depressed. In fact, the key thing is intensity I think. (All geniuses are creative but it’s the intense + creative combo that’s deadly). Geniuses with intensity are one notch above other geniuses. And this intensity is what increases their chances of being depressed. This intensity is also how I am able to explain my own thought processes. Intensity is good. But it’s a double edged sword. It’s like one of these X-Men mutant powers – and not the good kind that you can hide or somehow meld into society with. Intensity is the sort where you will be outcast for sure and you are already set up to be depressed. 

That’s all. Stopping before I ramble on. Wanted to put these thoughts somewhere and since they came out in flow thought this blog would be the best place. :)

[Aside] The Ultimate Guide To Being An Introvert – Altucher Confidential

I tweeted this link but then thought I should put it on my blog too mainly as a reference to myself. Sometimes I wander through my blog looking for wisdom and I hope to find this post then. A great read, especially if you are an introvert and view that/ have been told that it’s a bad thing.

Read the full article (it is long); here’s an excerpt I liked. 

Being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy. Or being outgoing or not outgoing. Or being socially awkward.

All it means is that some people recharge when they are by themselves (introverts).

Other people recharge when they are interacting with many other people (extraverts) and most people are in the middle.

I lose energy very quickly when in a group of people. Getting invited to a party is horrible for me.

I say “no” to almost every social situation. Because I know they will take energy away from me doing the things I love.
If I’m giving a talk it’s no problem. Because I’m by myself on the stage. It’s one to many instead of me just one in a mess of people. I recharge on the stage.

Pir Jalani

Before I get busy with my day, I wanted to quickly give a shoutout to this video – Pir Jalani, from Coke Studio (Clinton Cerejo and Mangey ‘Manga’ Khan; music by Clinton Cerejo). It’s a fusion song – a traditional composition featuring lyrics in some Indian language I don’t know as well as Hindi. That’s what I have been on listening since day-before yesterday night when I first discovered it. I love the mix of the raw singing of Mangey Khan with the softer singing of Clinton Cerejo and the music – which is are sort of opposite to the raw singing and yet complements it and the two get along together very well. The song starts off in a very traditional way but quickly develops layers and becomes something else altogether! Loved it! (I especially loved the trombones and trumpets – totally didn’t expect that!)

Coke Studio has some good songs. Here’s a few off the top of my head (note: I have updated this list since my original posting):

  • Bismillah (Kailash Kher, Munawar Masoom; music by Salim-Sulaiman) – such an amazing pious song!
  • Piya Se Naina (Sona Mohapatra; music by Ram Sampath) – a peppy number.
  • Aigiri Nandini (Padma Shri Aruna Sairam, Sona Mohapatra; music by Ram Sampath) – two contrasting styles, singers, voices – what more to say!
  • Madari (Vishal Dadlani, Sonu Kakkar; music by Clinton Cerejo) – a powerful song; both Vishal Dadlani & Sonu Kakkar shine with their voice through this song.
  • Ambwa Taley (Javed Bashir, Humera Channa) – I don’t think I can even describe what I feel about this song; the singing is so strong and touching.
  • Aao Balma (Padmabhushan Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Murtuza Mustafa, Qadir Mustafa, Rabbani Mustafa, Hasan Mustafa, Faiz Mustafa; music by A.R. Rahman) – I discovered this early morning one day when I was woken up as I was on-call at work and couldn’t go to sleep after that; listening to this just blew my mind and I think I spent the whole day and the next few listening to this on loop.
  • Saathi Salaam (Sawan Khan Manganiyar, Clinton Cerejo; music by Clinton Cerejo) – another good song.
  • Naariyan (Shalmali Kholgade, Karthik, Amit Trivedi; music by Amit Trivedi) – an upbeat number, different to the rest; less Indian sounding. One thing about Amit Trivedi is that you can expect various sounds, different instruments, and he manages to mix them all together. Fun lyrics too, this one!
  • Rabba (Amit Trivedi, Tochi Raina, Jaggi; music by Amit Trivedi) – I wasn’t so hot about this song initially but it slowly catches on to you. 

One thing I noticed (an obvious observation, but I wanted to mention anyways) is how the headphones I use seems to enhance the music. My favorite way of listening to such music is via the Sennheiser HD 558. These are probably my favorite headphones – not practical to carry around or even use with others around – but they are super comfortable and open-backed (which is why I can’t use it with others around as it lets the music out and also lets in sound from outside; but this enhances the sound quality I think) and they just add “something” to the music. It’s like it lets the music/ the instruments “free” – gives them more space, so to say, a wider feeling … difficult to describe. It adds something to the whole experience. 

Apart from this I also listen to music via the Sennheiser PXC 550 which I previously mentioned, Bragi Dash, Bose SoundSport, and SoundMagic E10 & E10S (mostly E10S). The order in which I mentioned is the order in which I rank their music quality. It is not a huge difference, but I always notice a difference between these headphones. Each has its pros and cons which is why I use them, so I don’t judge their sound quality difference against them – but until a few years ago (which is when I started noticing this and began investing in good headphones) I wouldn’t have imagined headphones to make that much of a difference (and even now, like I said, it’s not a huge difference – it’s subtle, and may not matter to all, but it matters to me and makes a difference to me in the way I enjoy and appreciate the music). 

Enjoy the music! Such amazing talent.

Update: Some more (non Coke Studio songs):

  • Neeye (Yazin Nizar, Sharanya Srinivas; music by Phani Kalyan) – amazing music, and the male singer has such a wonderful voice!
  • Poori Qaaynaat (Raj Pandit, Vishal Dadlani; music by Salim-Sulaiman) – again, amazing music! The singing is of course great, I loved the Sitar too.

The big question …

This big question with time travel is what sort of a music player is life.

Is life the sort of music player wherein once you start a playlist in shuffle mode the music player shuffles the tracks internally and you can go back and fro among tracks and the same pre-shuffled order is maintained (i.e. the playlist appears random, but it’s not really random because the randomness is introduced just at that starting moment; so if you were to build a time machine and go back in time you can’t really change anything because you follow that set path, everything is kind of pre-determined).

Or is life the sort of music player wherein once you start a playlist in shuffle mode the music player always chooses the next track to be played only when the current track reaches an end, and while you can go back to the previously played tracks (i.e. you can build a time machine and go back to past events) but once you go back to a previously played track, the next track in the list is a new randomly chosen track (i.e. once you go back in time you can change the future; things aren’t pre-determined, there is no set path).


Hello again!

Been a while since I blogged here. Nearly 3 months … phooey!

I’ve been lazy. Plus busy at work. And doing less following around with stuff as I used to do before … all that led to a lack of posts here. Hopefully I get to posting with more regularity again.

Logged in today after a long while and update WordPress to the latest version along with all its plugins.

The Disturbances of my Mind

I like classical music. Both Western and Indian. I also like Jazz and most instrumental music. I don’t know why I like them, nor do I understand much about the performances themselves, except that I like them. For instance I hear people talk about how such and such performance was great or how a certain artist added his/ her touch to a particular piece, but none of that usually makes sense to me. I just enjoy the music and some performers, but I have no real reason behind it. Nor do I have any drive to learn a musical instrument or create music etc – I am just an audience who likes to enjoy the performance, not a creator, probably not even much of a technical admirer.

I like learning languages. I know English, Hindi, Malayalam, and can understand Tamil. I spent 4 months in a beginner course of German (but had to give up for other reasons even though I was quite good at it and the instructor was impressed with my interest). Most people in the German class had joined coz they wanted to relocate to Germany. I too had that reason in mind, but it was a secondary reason – I was more into the class coz I liked learning a new language, and I was very influenced by the process of learning a new language or how it got me thinking differently. I want to learn Arabic. I don’t know of any classes near my place, plus time is a constraint I guess, but Arabic is something I definitely want to learn. Back to English, I like it a lot and I love reading and trying to write stuff in it. But I am not very creative. Once in a while I get a spark and I write some stuff – once in a few years I mean – but that’s about it. But I like the language as such, and I love reading to get a feel of how to use the language, and I try to use what I read in whatever little bit I write. And even though I am not very creative I do try and write stuff like this blog – which isn’t very creative, I know, but is nevertheless an outlet to write.

Similarly I love computer languages. I love C, C++, Perl, Bash, PowerShell. I also know Java, HTML, and CSS. I want to learn Python, Ruby, new stuff like node.js (JavaScript). I briefly programmed in LISP and Scheme in college and I think they are amazing languages and would like to learn more about them. When I think of these languages the feeling I have is of passion, of love. I don’t just think of them as tools or as a means to an end. I think of them as an end themselves. I really love these languages, I really love the time I spent learning and programming in them – those are some of my fondest memories. But again, I am not very creative. I am not good at coming up with smart algorithms, but if I am given an algorithm I am good at expressing it. I think I write beautiful code – at least that’s what I always felt compared to my classmates in college. They’d come up with smart algorithms and generally solve the problem way better I ever could, but there was no beauty to their code. My code, on the other hand, was beautiful and I was proud of whatever I had come up with. I looked neater, more elegant, and I always felt that was because I loved the language and looked to expressing what I want beautifully in that language. Sort of like how you’d use certain words that are better suited than other words, to express the same idea. Words matter. The language matters. But the underlying point is I am not creative. I may love the language, I may love the music, but I am not creative enough to come up with my own creations – and that has always hurt. Why am I not creative enough?

On to computers themselves. My biggest and sort of only passion. (I have other passions like reading about evolution, psychology, history, etc. but none of them come near my passion for computers). Again, I have no clue why I love computers so much. I don’t even do much with computers – at work I am a glorified helpdesk person though I know I am much more capable than that. Again, I see others who are doing more work than me – implementing stuff, designing solutions – but here I am. Most of these people don’t even love computers the way I do, I feel. To them computers are a means to an end – of implementing whatever they are doing, of getting paid – but not to me. I really love this stuff, and it really hurts me that I can’t spend as much time doing the stuff I want to do. For instance, I love the BSDs. (I am not much into Linux – they are fine, and I like Debian and Slackware – but I find Linux too superficial, too confused, too much about just doing things for some random reason. BSDs have more “soul” as far as I am concerned). I wish I were doing more stuff with BSDs. Maybe maintaining webservers, email servers, DNS servers etc with them. Not in isolation, but along with Windows – which too I love, and which I feel has really jumped in leaps and bounds since Server 2008. At a previous job I met someone who had implemented a Samba Active Directory environment using Fedora, with Windows XP clients. I wish I were doing that! The closest I have ever come to doing something like that was implementing a Samba Active Directory environment for my Dad’s office, using Debian Squeeze with Windows 7 clients. It was a good experience but I didn’t get to doing much. I learnt a lot of Samba and realized how cumbersome it was to do the simplest of things with it, but I also feel it probably felt cumbersome coz I never used it much. I mean, looking after my Dad’s office wasn’t really my full time work so I’d only do this now and then – which meant the workflow wasn’t ingrained into me and most of the time I’d forget how to do things when I needed to do it again. Plus there were issues which I couldn’t sort out the way I wanted to coz I wasn’t full time there. If it were my full time job I could have experimented with a test PC, got things right, then rolled it out to everyone. But I didn’t have that luxury there so it was a matter of me picking up things as I went along without much time to test or experiment. That was very lousy and eventually when someone else was going to take care of their IT stuff (coz his office had merged with another office) I was happy to let go.

Still, the point remains that I love these things and I wish I were more creative and/ or had more opportunities. I tack these together because sometimes I feel creativity is probably also related to opportunities. You have to put coal through fire (pressure) to get a diamond. Similarly maybe if I had enough opportunities (pressure) I might pick stuff up and get better and better at it and start being creative. It amazes me how some people are able to solve problems wonderfully in PowerShell, or implement superb solutions with the BSDs – just blows my mind! Compared to such people I am just a kid. My gripe isn’t that I am a kid, mind you – that’s OK, I am a kid because of the kind of opportunities presented to me which have only offered me limited growth – my gripe is that I wish I had more learning opportunities so I had a chance to grow, to do things, to learn, to develop myself, to just do stuff I love. Ideally I am doing a bit of server stuff – Windows, BSDs – plus dabbling a bit in coding. Not a full time programmer mind you, but someone who dabbles in it, and knows enough coding to quickly put together stuff and/ or tweak existing stuff. I do a bit of the latter now and then – especially in PowerShell at work – but my output (and the quality of output) has been dwindling because there aren’t enough opportunities and so I slowly forget what I know and because of this the output suffers. A year ago, for instance, most of my PowerShell scripts were much better written – with plenty of switches and some good coding – but over time, due to disuse, I forget most of it, so now when I am have to write some code I know it isn’t as excellent as my previous effort. If I had more opportunities I would be more in touch with the concepts – which I can easily pick up, after which it’s only a matter of retaining them by regular use – so opportunities are what I want. Plus a creative spark to make use of these opportunities and really do amazing stuff with the things I love.

This rant has been all over the place, I know. Off late I have been listening to too many podcasts on things I love – like the BSDs – and today I was listening to a podcast on Perl and that just overwhelmed me. I love Perl, and I still remember picking it up from Larry Wall’s book (and what an amazing book that was! he was someone with passion for languages and that showed itself in the book and Perl) and using it in one of our programming assignments. I was able to solve it way easily than my classmates coz Perl made it easy, and I just loved coding in Perl and writing stuff in it. The podcast brought back all those memories, along with all the regrets, so I finally quit listening to it midway … but by then my mind was already disturbed and I had to let it out somewhere, which is what this blog post is for. The Disturbances of my Mind. 

Crazy day!

Today has been a crazy day! For one I have been up till 2 AM today and yesterday morning because I am attending the Azure Iaas sessions and they run from 21:00 to 01:00 my time! I sleep by 02:00, then wake up around 06:45, and two days of doing that has taken a toll on my I think. Today after waking up I went back to bed and tried to sleep till around 09:00 but didn’t make much progress. So my head feels a bit woozy and I have been living on loads of coffee. :)

None of that matters too much really but today has been a crazy day. There’s so many things I want to do but I seem to keep getting distracted. My laptop went a bit crazy today (my fault, updating drivers! never do that when u have other stuff to do) and I am torn between playing with Azure or continuing my AD posts. Eventually I ended up playing a bit with Azure and am now on to the AD posts. I don’t want to lose steam of writing the AD posts, but at the same time I want to explore Azure too so it make sense to me and is fresh in the moment. Yesterday’s sessions were great, for instance, and I was helped by the fact that I had spent the morning reading about storage blobs and such and created a VM on Azure just for the heck of it. So in the evening, during the sessions, it made more sense to me and I could try and do stuff in the Azure portal as the speakers were explaining. The sessions too were superb! Except the last one, which was superb of course, but I couldn’t relate much to it as it was about Disaster Recovery (DR) and I haven’t used SCVMM (System Centre Virtual Machine Manager) which is what you use for DR and Azure. Moreover that session had a lot more demo bits and my Internet link isn’t that great so I get a very fuzzy demo which means I can barely make out what’s being shown!

Anyhoo, so there’s Azure and AD on one hand. And laptop troubles on the other. Added to that Xmarks on my browsers is playing up so my bookmarks aren’t being kept in sync and I am having to spend time manually syncing them. All of this is in the context of a sleepy brain. Oh, and I tried to use VPN to Private Internet Access on my new phone (so I could listen to Songza) and that doesn’t work coz my ISP is blocking UDP access to the Private Internet Access server names. TCP is working fine and streaming isn’t affected thankfully, but now I have this itch to update my OpenVPN config files for Private Internet Access with IP address versions and import that into the phone. Gotta do that but I don’t want to go off on a tangent with that now! Ideally I should be working on the AD post – which I did for a bit – but here I am writing a post about my crazy day. See, distractions all around! :)

Year Three:

Today marks 2 years since I booked the domain (, no longer active) where this blog began life. I began posting 10 days later, on 21st November 2012. But that was just an introductory post I think, as the current oldest post on this blog is from 2nd December 2012. When I changed blog URLs I moved that introductory post to the Changelog section. Coincidentally, this post you are reading now also marks the 200th post. :)

This blog has moved on from its original goal of blogging about Exchange to now blogging about movies, thoughts, and whatever techie thing I am currently working on. It began as a outlet I could (hopefully) use to explain things to others. But it has moved to being a personal notebook and bookmarks store – most of my posts are like notes to future self, posts I can refer to to refresh myself on something I may have forgotten or just look up some command or code snippet that I used to solve a particular task. Added to that most of my posts have links to other blogs and articles – links that do a much better job of explaining the concepts – so I can refer to these links too rather than search through my bookmarks. In that sense both the topics and style/ purpose of this blog has evolved from its beginnings. Not that I am complaining – I like where it’s heading to!

Anyways, just thought I must put up a post marking this day. And write a paragraph or two in case it helps anyone else who is on the fence regarding starting a blog. My suggestion would be to just get something started. It’s a good way for the world and yourself to know what you have been up to. Sure there’s tons of excellent blogs out there so it might seem like you have nothing new to add to the pool – and while you may be correct in thinking that, I’d say it’s still a good idea to put your thoughts too out there. Maybe your way of explaining will make better sense to people. Maybe in the process of blogging about what you are learning/ doing you will get a better understanding yourself. Who knows! Give it a shot, and then back off if you have to. This blog too for instance has many weeks when I barely post anything – because I am not doing anything or I am not in the mood to write – and then I think of shutting it down for good. But usually I hold off, and that works out well because when I am back to doing something or I am in the mood to write I have a place to put it down. And then on a day like today when I look back at the posts I made over the past two years I get a kick out of it – wow I have actually worked on and done a lot of things! Who knew!

I guess I Blog, therefore I Am and that’s one good reason to keep blogging. For yourself.

Down the rabbit hole

Ever had this feeling that when you want to do one particular thing, a whole lot of other things keep coming into the picture leading you to other distracting paths?

For about a week now I’ve been meaning to write some posts about my Active Directory workshop. In a typical me fashion, I thought I’d set up some VMs and stuff on my laptop. This being a different laptop to my usual one, I thought of using Hyper-V. And then I thought why not use differencing VHDs to save space. And then I thought why not use a Gen 2 VM. Which doesn’t work so I went on a tangent reading about UEFI’s boot process and writing a blog post on that. Then I went into making an answer file to use while installing, went into refreshing myself on the PowerShell cmdlets I can use to do the initial configuring of Server Core 2012, made a little script to take care of that for multiple servers, and so on …

Finally I got around to installing a member server yesterday. Thought this would be easy – I know all the steps from before, just that I have to use a Server 2012 GUI WIM instead of a Core WIM. But nope! Now the ReAgentC.exe command on my computer doesn’t work! It worked till about 3 days ago but has now suddenly stopped working – so irriting! Of course, I could skip the WinRE partition – not that I use it anyways! – or just use a Gen 1 VM, but that just isn’t me. I don’t like to give up or backtrack from a problem. Every one of these is a learning opportunity, because now I am reading about Component Based Servicing, the Windows Recovery Environment, and learning about new DISM cleanup options that I wasn’t even aware of. But the problem is one of balance. I can’t afford to lose myself too much in learning new things because I’ll soon lose sight of the original goal of making Active Directory related posts.

It’s exciting though! And this is what I like and dislike about embarking on a project like this (writing Active Directory related posts). I like stumbling upon new issues and learning new things and working through them; but I dislike having to be on guard so I don’t go too deep down the hole and lose sight of what I had set out to do.

Here’s a snapshot of where I am now:


It’s from WorkFlowy, a tool that I use to keep track of such stuff. I could write a blog post raving about it but I’ll just point you to this excellent review by Farhad Manjoo instead.

[Aside] Quote (from Chef)

In the movie “Chef” Jon Favreau is a chef who loves cooking and quits (or was he fired?) from his restaurant due to creative differences with the owner. His ex-wife suggests he start a food truck so he has creative freedom to cook the way he wants to and connect with his customers. Replace cooking/ food with computers and this is more or less the story of my life! Of course I haven’t resigned to follow my passion, but that’s the matter for another post …

Jon’s movie son joins him in the truck. And there’s this scene where he cooks something that’s slightly burnt. Jon tells him to throw it away but the son is like why not just serve it to the customers? They won’t know the difference, so no harm done. Jon replies with the following:

I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.

I think there was a bit more to the actual dialogue but this is all I could find to copy-paste easily from the Internet. What I loved about this quote is how he knows he hasn’t been a good father, a good husband, maybe even a good person due to his single minded passion for cooking but he isn’t apologetic about it. He knows he hasn’t been good, but that’s how he is, and on this one thing that he is indeed good at he want’s to give his very best and share his pleasure with his customers and son. I found the dialogue and the feeling behind it very powerful, especially coz I feel the same way a lot of times. I am a lousy father and husband coz I am more focused on computers and gadgets than a family life, but like Jon’s character I take my work with computers and gadgets very seriously and try to do my best with it. It’s something I am proud of (or try to be proud of at least).

[Aside] Quote (on God)

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

– Albert Einstein, from “The World as I See It”

Came across the above in a book I am reading (“Ganesha on the Dashboard” by V. Raghunathan & M.A. Eswaran). The book attributes this quote to Bertrand Russell, but the Internet attributes this to Albert Einsten. I’ll go with the Internet.

Reading this quote blew my mind. That’s exactly the argument I too have about God! Each time my wife or parents insist I visit a temple or pray that’s exactly what I go through in my mind. The God I can conceive of does not punish me for my “mistakes” nor is capable of rewarding me for “good deeds” or “prayers”. A “God” who does all these is simply not a God for me. Such an entity might be a demigod or some other force, but definitely not God.

God (or Tao or the force or whatever) made us and everything around us. If we behave a certain way the onus of those decisions are on us. God gave us a brain and thought processes. Right and Wrong are relative and while there are many things that are Wrong for everyone, it is up to each one of us to discover and feel this for ourselves. Simply classifying something as Wrong and/ or not doing Wrong deeds even though we may not agree, but going along with it just coz God said so, is not the right way to do it in my opinion.

All that aside, the last line of the quote is another thing that resonates so well with me. The world is something. WE are something. There’s a beauty in it all, a mystery. The journey is the thing, not the destination. Putting up a God and chasing after what He/ She says isn’t the end goal for me; the end goal is the discovery. Of discovering the world around me and also the world within me. The “growing” I do – of my values, frames of reference, what I find to be right and wrong – that is the important thing.

Of course Einstein conveys all this much better than I do an in fewer words! Amazing!

Whizzing through airport security checks

Pleased with something today. Thought I’d blog about it.

Everything I know I learnt from the movies. One fine example of that is my approach with airport security checks thanks to the movie “Up In the Air“. An excellent movie (based on a novel of the same name and with an excellent score), it has George Clooney and Vera Farmiga as globe trotting business people, and it has great scenes on how they whiz past security by being prepared and efficient about it. I adapted those techniques in my life and now I too whiz past.

For starters I got a nice little hand bag where I put everything I need during travel. That bag has my spare glasses, headphones, music player, phones, wallets, books – everything! I think most people do this already but where I go a step ahead is that I empty everything most people usually carry in their pockets too into this bag. So once I am in the airport my phone is in this bag, any keys and loose change, my wallet, watch – everything! The only thing on me is my clothing. Further, if it’s a casual trip I either skip the trouser belt or I use a pyjama drawstring as the belt – since this is made of cloth it won’t trigger the sensors, nor do I have to remove and scan separately. If it’s a business trip then I put my belt in the handbag and only wear it once I am done with check-in and security.

Ever since I began doing this I can clear security checks easily. Not only do I have the hassle of taking everything out of my pockets and putting in the tray for security (and then put all these back when done!) I can also walk past the rest of the crowd as they slowly empty pockets or wait for a free tray. It’s amazing when you get to do that while all the others are just hanging in there!

Oh, and I never carry my laptop in the handbag. Some airports ask you to turn on the laptop and show – waste of time! So laptop’s in the main luggage, only tablets & Kindle are in handbag.

Hope this helps.

New gadgets

The Internet is full of people praising the new iPhone 6 Plus and how it’s larger size is great and how they are much more productive with it. I am tempted to buy it, and my wife has very sweetly offered to gift me one as she knows I love iPhones (thank you Sari!) – but I am holding off so far.

Couple of reasons really:

1) I am happy with the iPhone 5S. It’s barely 8 months old with me and I feel bad giving it up just because a new device is around the corner. A silly notion probably – these are just devices after all – but I love them and I feel heartless leaving behind the 5S so soon.

2) The iPhone 5S is still performing well. I haven’t moved to iOS 8 yet (due to lack of space for an OTA update) and maybe the upgrade will slow things, but as of now I am happy with it. Mind you, I was in a similar state with the 4S too when I switched to the 5S last year, but then I had used the 4S for two years and the 5S had many newer features. After switching the 5S I realised what I had been with the 4S and how slow the latter is, so keeping that in mind I wouldn’t give too much importance to the current point.

3) I like the small size of the 5S. Sure a bigger device has it’s conveniences and maybe I will love the 6 Plus once I begin using it, but why change if I am already happy? I was one of those people who preferred the smaller size of the iPhones. And I appreciated the fact that iPhone 5 only added an addition row of icons while keeping the width same.

4) I like to skip Apple’s first iteration devices. Like the first iPhone, first iPod Touch, first iPad, and am pretty sure the first Apple Watch. I feel (and this was mentioned by John Gruber I think) that the first iterations are where Apple releases it with some features missing or not optimised and by the second iteration they fix all that. Anyone who’s used the first iPhones and iPads will attest to it too – how they had many limitations and how the second versions were way better.

As a corollary to this I skip the odd iPhone releases too as that’s why Apple makes new changes. Examples: iPhone 4 (Retina and other changes such as the body and internals), iPhone 5 (size and other changes), iPhone 6 (size and a whole lot of software changes). The S versions of all these improved upon the previous version. So I always associate the S with “subtle”. To me they are subtle improvements of their predecessors. That’s one more reason why I would prefer waiting for the iPhone 6S Plus (what a mouthful! I think Apple might just make the Plus the main device by then depending on sales).

5) For the money spent on the new iPhone – which I have no real craving for – I can buy a Nexus 6 when it’s released. Or the new Sony Xperia Z3 or the soon-to-be-released HTC M8 variant with the better camera. This way I get to use an Android phone too for a while. Hopefully the Nexus 6 is also cheaper than the other two. I have an eye on Nokia Windows phones too but the good ones are very pricey – same level as the iPhones and high end Android, and while that’s justified I find it unreasonable considering those phones don’t have much market share or apps. Microsoft should reduce the price so more people adopt it for that reason at least.

Speaking of Windows though I placed an order for a new device today. A tablet laptop called Cain by an Indian manufacturer called Notion Ink. This is one of those convertible devices and the price seems reasonable (a bit on the higher side though). I love Windows 8 but haven’t used it as a tablet yet so this would be a good opportunity to do so. Moreover being a convertible I can use this as a laptop too when I am travelling. No need to carry my usual laptop along. (Me thinks in the future laptops will be what people use instead of Desktops nowadays. The device they use at home and maybe longer travel. Tablets and convertibles will be used for travelling and on the go. And Desktops would be for advanced people who want to upgrade the hardware or custom specs etc. Plus a second hand market where the Desktops can be upgraded or faulty parts replaced and resold. Of course this is probably the near future. Much later Desktops will be obsolete as Laptops too become upgradeable and/ or cheap so that no one cares about upgrading or repairing).

The Cain uses Intel Bay Trail SoCs which supposedly combine the performance of Haswell and such with mobile device features. The Cain also comes with one USB 3.0 slot and a microSD slot. Since it only has 32GB free space I ordered a small 64GB USB 3.0 flash drive as well as a 64GB microSD card to beef up the storage. Useful for storing movies when travelling.

I ordered all these today so am excitedly looking forward to them now! This is the period when you order a new toy and keep refreshing your tracking page to see if they have shipped it and where the heck it has reached. This is followed by a few weeks/ months when you are always playing with this new toy and constantly gushing over it. And that is followed by a phase when you finally get used to it and it becomes a part of your life like everything else. :)

Update: There are some reasons why I might buy the iPhone 6 Plus. Maybe in Jan.

1) I use the iPhone 4S as my travel phone and with the latest iOS 8 update the phone sucks. Sometimes the keyboard is slow, sometimes Safari slows and hangs, the phone in general feels so lethargic. I’ve got angry at it numerous times this past month as I am traveling and use it exclusively, and I hate having to do that. Apple should have just left this device at iOS 6. Heck, I should have just left this device at iOS 6 jail broken, which is what I was at before upgrading to iOS 7 last year. Upgrading was a bad idea! iOS 6 plus custom themes were giving me a near identical look anyways; the only reason I upgraded was because many apps started asking for iOS 7 as a minimum requirement (as they are now with iOS 8).

2) If I buy a 6 Plus I will be going for the 64GB version and that’s useful. When I bought the 5S I was cheap and went with the 16GB version (in fairness the larger versions weren’t available in Oman either). A 16GB version has limitations in that I can’t keep too many songs on the phone, I have to constantly keep copying away photos and videos, I can’t keep too many apps around, and so on.

3) It’s unlikely I will be buying an Android device. They are great, but I use many iPhone specific apps such as Fantastical (and the iPhone reminders), Prismatic, Byword, Litely, etc so I don’t want to go through that hassle.

One advantage the iPhone 4S has is it’s micro SIM. Much easier to get a micro SIM (or chop a regular SIM to micro) when travelling. Nano SIMs are harder to come by.