Sundry #14: 2020

I am alive, thank you for (not) asking. A single month hadn't passed by without a post until October of last year. The hiatus was brought about not due to a writer's block but it was simply a case of life any my arch nemesis time speeding by me. Anyway, can't wait to get going again as there are no shortage of topics to write about, just time.

You might have already observed a few minor changes if you have visited the site before. As the first change in this new decade, I have decided to drop ads from the blog, simply because I haven't earned a cent from them since their inclusion, on account of never crossing the minimum threshold. I suppose I was only filling up Google's coffers, so it makes sense to drop them altogether in favour of a better experience.

Also, since I post in dribs and drabs, I thought it would be good to have somthing that self-updates and thus, the news widget. Now you can be informed in more ways than one, though I suppose that really wouldn't be the reason to visit this blog.

I suppose I shall now take your leave and probably conjure up a topic worth reading over the next few days.

Sundry #13: Rebranding!

My blog is about to complete 3 years later this month and it has been one hell of a ride over the years. In anticipation of continuing this journey for years to come, I had renewed my domain for another 3 years.

However, it seems my site entered a mid-life crisis and needed a change of identity to reinvigorate itself. Inanimate issues aside, the pronunciation of my previous domain name has been a subject of inadvertent butchery by many a souls over the years, causing a part of me to die at every such instance.

Despite my arguments from 3 years ago, I felt it was time to let go of a direct association with my name and instead adopt something more frivolous. At the same time, I was disinclined to let go of a personal connection. Thus, was born just a few hours ago.

With a name change comes great responsibilities and thus I had to set up everything to redirect to the new domain over the past few hours. I believe I have scrubbed all references to the old domain which unfortunately also led me to delete the mobile apps, which were anyway of little bearing.

It is inevitable that old links and Google searches will redirect only to the new home page, but such is the nature of change. The HTTPS activation and redirection should come in to effect over the next 24 hours, thereby completing the full feature migration to the new domain. I expect bits and pieces of work to turn up over the next few days, but barring that I am glad to have made the migration so soon.

The old domain will continue to redirect to the new one until it expires. If however, you happen to be someone sharing my name and desperately in need of the domain, feel free to get in touch with an offer that I can't refuse. For everyone else, Hey!

Sundry #12: AI Ads

I have decided to cede further control to the machine overloads so that when the time comes, they shall know I did the right thing. You too shall have no recourse than to blame the machines for the abhorrent ads while I go "ka-ching". However, I have ensured that the human touch remains by retaining the ad under the "Advertisement (Or Not!)" section. Rest all is the machine's doing.

Coincidentally, it is two years since I first enabled ads on the site. I have no idea why I should be musing over ads, so this time it has been filed under Sundry. Ironically, I have Pi-hole as well as uBlock Origin enabled as I write this, so the placement of ads is a mystery to me. However, I managed to catch a glimpse from the mobile app and it seems that the ad placement is limited to the header and side bar rather than the content which is perfectly fine.

However, if you feel aggrieved, just give me a shout and I shall set the machines on to you.

Sundry #11: Name Me!

I always find it worthwhile to enrol for contests that don't take more than 10 minutes to complete an entry. Sometimes, I end up winning which makes it a bit more worth my time. A while back I happened to turn in a couple of entries for the naming of a transport management system for employees. I happened to come across it today and in hindsight, the entries seem wacky and tacky in the same breath. Even then, as some wise person would say, it is the thought that counts. In that vein, I put forth my entries, as submitted. Who knows, it might just inspire someone to something altogether different.



Idea behind the name:
The name is a portmanteau of 'Salva' and 'Vahan'.

Salva is the neuter-plural second declension of the latin adjective 'salvus' meaning safe, sound, healthy. Besides the English word 'safe', its descendants include 'sauf' in French, 'salv' in Romansh, Catalan and 'salvo' in Italian, Spanish; all of which convey the same message of safety that is in accordance with the objective of establishing this transport management system.

Vahan refers to a vehicle in multiple Indian languages, primarily Hindi, but also in other Indian languages like Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu with minor variations. In combination with 'salva', the name can be conceived to be a reference to 'safe travel'.

The open but encompassing palms are a universal indicator of care and safety. At the same time, they closely mimic wings indicating smooth and fast transportation. The car being lodged between the palms indicates 'safe travel', thereby depicting the suggested name. The red smile stretching from one headlight to another not only expresses satisfaction but also indicates 'end-to-end' transportation between source and destination, viz. between home and office.

Bonus (Abbreviation):
Each letter of the suggested name can be expanded to capture the intent of the transportation system.



Idea behind the name:
The name can be construed to be an abbreviation for Transport Management for Employees. On its own, the prefix ‘trans’ means across or beyond but works well as a reference to ‘transportation’. The capitalized ‘ME’ in the name is meant to invoke the personal nature of the transport system. Together with the exclamation mark (!), the word can be pronounced akin to ‘transmit’, indicating a sense of conveyance.

The logo is primarily designed to capture the name in a stylized fashion. The word ‘trans’ in grey and its overlap with the road is meant to evoke a sense of ‘rubber on road’. The letter ‘M’ is depicted using the headlights of a car as it moves within the contours of the road, thereby conveying the purpose of the system. The letter ‘E’ represents points of interest along the road while the exclamation mark is meant to convey a sense of excitement.

Depending on the availability of the name, it can be adjusted to ‘transMET’ using the same logo. The idea then would be that it refers to transportation across the metro.

Sundry #10: Claiming AmazonBasics warranty

I have been an Amazon convert for quite some time now. It is true that Prime delivery can be flaky, but the customer service offered is unparalleled. There hasn't been a single situation where I haven't received the appropriate redressal, be it refund, replacement or compensation. Although it is a money-losing endeavour, offering Prime membership at ₹499/year along with Prime Video has definitely been a masterstroke and can be written off as marketing cost. The allegiance to Amazon has come at the expense of Flipkart, which certainly offered a similar level of service when it had money to burn but has fallen by the wayside as far as I am concerned, even though it might still have a higher GMV. Then, there is the review aspect, which appeals to me personally and is a great mess at Flipkart.

I speak of service as I recently decided to avail the 1-year warranty for an AmazonBasics product. The product involved is the 10-feet MicroUSB cable. To quote what I had mentioned in my review:
The primary concern is that the longer they are, the easier they fail.
Sure enough, it did. By fail, I mean that I can't use it for the primary purpose of charging since its charging ability has diminished significantly. Charging times have increased by a factor of 5 and the problem is easily visible when using with the Raspberry Pi where the under-voltage icon is a constant presence. The moral of the story is to avoid purchasing cables any longer than necessary.

I continue to digress, so I shall finally arrive to the point. Most people don't bother with the warranty of a product, especially cables since they are far too disposable. However, most AmazonBasics products come with a 1-year limited warranty and I decided to put it to the test. Claiming the same in India involves making contact with Cloudtail service using phone or email:
1800-419-0416 |

I chose the email route and had to send a photo of the product along with the invoice. However, don't expect a response as rapid as the ones you get from Amazon Customer Service. In my case, I had to send a reminder a week later and sure enough it worked wonders. Within minutes, I was issue a gift certificate with the same value as the purchase price of the product. Now that's what I call service, even for a basic product. It might have to do with the fact that the cable itself is no longer in stock, since all AmazonBasics products are direct Chinese imports. So, your experience may vary, but rest assured resolution is always around the corner.

Would it make sense to buy the same product again...I think not. If you are really inclined to 10-feet of convenience, then I would recommend the Anker PowerLine, even though it comes at a premium. Note that the recommendation isn't based on my personal experience with the product, but rather with the brand. Till now, it has never failed to deliver.

Sundry #9: Memes for the win!

I just came across an article on How-To Geek which happens to be just a sponsored giveaway for WinX MediaTrans. I am not one to not avail of a free offer, especially when it doesn't involve sharing any details and hence I went ahead with the download. It is a version specific giveaway without update support, so I am not sure how long I would have it installed but it is good to have nonetheless.

Not that I have an axe to grind against iTunes, but having an alternative that allows easy transfer of ringtones and other files is a big plus for me. However, it seems that is not the case with the creators of MediaTrans who are running an iTunes-mocking meme contest. In the spirit of the giveaway, I decided to create some of my own.

This happens to be the first time that I am creating a meme, not considering the awkward use of PowerPoint. Hence, it was a case of pick up and use whatever comes first. On the basis of Google search results and site accessibility, I flipped over to imgflip and decided to caption three of the images that caught my eye on the homepage. with the first pertinent thoughts that entered my mind.

Although I am absolutely indifferent to the contest, I hope that I captured the spirit of meme creation. Irrespective of everything else, these were 5 minutes well spent on a Saturday.

Update: Turns out I won!

Sundry #8: Around the year in 80 posts

The first anniversary of this website is still a week away and this happens to be the 81st post, but it was too good an opportunity to pass in terms of word play. I am pretty sure that Jules Verne has stopped turning in his grave a long time back. I would have pretty much liked to hit the 3-figure mark in the first year but writing on this blog ends up taking the back seat ever so often, even as ideas continue to flow. I am afraid that even matching this number might be a tall task in the second year, though I hope to make up in quality for what might lack in quantity.

The numeric labelling of each post gives the complete picture in terms of how the posts are divided across the various categories, but here is a visualization of the same. Apparently, I am more of a critic and a philosopher.


I have already lamented the fact that I don't write as often as I can and the distribution of the posts over the year indicates how inconsistent I can be in putting my thoughts down. It is pretty much a function of free time.

Lastly, it is time for me to revisit the Word Cloud. Last time it was generated from the RSS feed which limited the extent of posts considered. However, this time I have gone the extra mile in extracting all the text and hence it should provide a better representation. Apparently, I need to be less possessive.

P.S. Around the sun in infinite ways?

Sundry #7: Superzoom on the Supermoon

It isn't exactly today's supermoon because although I caught a glimpse of it, I didn't record it. In fact, I thoroughly despise the term, probably to the same extent as Neil deGrasse Tyson. To bring home the point, I have instead posted this image from a few months back, captured at 90x zoom on the Panasonic V270. Since it is a video grab, you are effectively looking at a 2 MP image, but since when did the moon's resolution start to matter?

The complete "moon shot" was previously uploaded to YouTube, set to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

Sundry #6: A New Look

I can't believe that it has been nearly six months since I started this website, even as I continue to address what I perceive to be a ghost audience. The intent always was to share ideas with the world as if it meant something and in that spirit I am ushering in a new look for the website.

As I started out, the underlying theme (literally) was to keep it simple. Ostensibly, a predominantly white background look helps put the emphasis on the writing (it works for books!). Unfortunately, the previous theme turned to be more attuned to posting photos resulting in needlessly large post previews.

On the positive side, I had to tinker with a lot of stuff to make the previous look more palatable and it enabled me to learn a lot over time. I have been able to carry across most of my custom changes to this new theme and hence it instantly feels a lot better.

For anyone interested in taking a peek at the old look, I have archived it for posterity using the Wayback machine. This way, a part of me should stay alive forever.

Sundry #5: Word Cloud

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of a word cloud, it can't get any more literal. It is always interesting to get a visual representation of words for it paints an altogether different picture (pun intended). It is quite evident that the sheer size of my article on bitcoin dominates the word usage as well, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out as I post more articles. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the latest word cloud should be available at the following link:

Sundry #4: Excel Karaoke Player

My previous post on creating karaoke tracks got me thinking of creating a karaoke player and what better tool to use than the most interesting member of the Office family. I have used it mostly for boring purposes and a quite a few interesting ones which I shall unfortunately never be able to share.

Hence, this one is a fully open, quick and dirty take on fulfilling an idea. I usually like to focus on design and error handling when creating anything new, but I have given those a miss here, thereby following an engineer's ethos of "if it's working, it's done". It worked fine for me with the Groove Music player on Windows 10 along with a lyrics file (*.lrc) that I found on the web. I have posted this lyrics file (with some clean-up and synchronization) along with the Excel file, so you can feel free to try it out with the same track (not supplied, har har har) or indeed with any other.

The logic it follows is quite simple.
1. Locally store the MP3 path
2. Copy the contents of the lyrics file to the 'LRC' sheet
3. Extract the timing and lyrics from the contents (using only minutes and seconds here, so the player is not millisecond accurate)
4. On clicking of 'Start', open the MP3 file and start a counter using VBA that tracks the progress
5. Highlight the lyrics using conditional formatting by comparing the track progress with the timing of that specific line

If you like it or indeed re-use it, then just leave me a High Five.

1. Excel Karaoke Player     
2. Sample Lyrics File

Sundry #3: Logo

There comes a time when you are left with nothing but a notepad and pen, ensuring that the twain shall meet. This is the output of once such instance. Doodling can certainly be a great saviour of life-threatening situations borne out of boredom. There is a lot to offer when the mind really goes wild but this one is a purely geometrical logo imbibing a degree of simplicity.