Amazon’s new Kindle


The new Kindle from Amazon is just Rs. 5999 now! Sure, it doesn’t have the paper-white display of the Paperwhite (duh!) or the in-built light, but this is superb value for an eBook reader. Combined with Amazon’s eBook library, this should be an awesome device for those who love to read.

One of the dangers of the Kindle is how you start binge-reading (like binge-viewing). Equally bad, I must say. I lost a month and a half to The Game of Thrones book series. Honestly, what I’m more worried about is whether I will end up reading the whole series again when the last book in the saga is released. Umm, looks like there’s gonna be one more book after the last one. Yup, I’m definitely losing another 2 months of my life, but surely not within the next 5 years going by that article!

Product wish: A dumber life logger

Jan 11, 2014 – Exciting update! – My wish has been answered! A product called meMINI does exactly what I’ve outlined below and has met it’s funding goal on Kickstarter!

Lifelogging┬áis all the rage nowadays. Computing power and components have shrunk enough to be packaged in a comfortably wearable form that enables recording of the exciting everyday life of the average Joe. As an amateur travel photographer, capturing the ‘right’ moment has always been the holy grail for me since so much of photography is about the moment. Here’s one such example from one of my motorcycle rides.

Horses near the Drang Drung glacier, Zanskar

Horses near the Drang Drung glacier, Zanskar. Click for more pics from the ride.

The huge Drang Drung glacier was an amazing backdrop for a couple of grazing horses and I started walking towards them to get a better shot. As I was walking, one of the horses took a nibble at the other. The trusty old Nikon D70s was ready to fire before I had it up to my eye and I shot without a glance at the settings and without adjusting the polarizer. Turns out that it was a smart thing to do since the next moment, the horse was back to grazing. That simple gesture of the horse made the photograph so much more powerful! The unadjusted polarizer lent a surreal look to the photo, making it look more like a painting.

Anyways, coming back to the original point of capturing the moment, it happens so very often that we don’t see the moment for what it is until it has passed us by!

And it’s not just with moments but also with events. Like some fun thing shared between friends which, when taken out of context, loses all of its appeal. But seen in context, it’s super funny.

So here’s the thing – why can’t a lifelogger log a moment or an event that is in the past?

As someone who’s living the moment or the event, I am in a position to decide whether it really is something worth storing. Today we make do with memories or by recording using a camera. But people act all different when they see a camera in front of them – things are never the same. They are contrived.

The Memoto Lifelogger

The Memoto Lifelogger

So when I saw Memoto on Kickstarter, I was super excited. Maybe my wish had finally come true! But turns out that all it does is capture a photograph every 30 seconds. And that (plus some neat things) was enough for people to throw their money at it. No thanks.

I don’t want my lifelogger to keep capturing everything that’s happening in my whole day. That’s just a huge waste. I don’t want to spend another lifetime sifting through the life I’ve already had. I want my lifelogger to stop acting like it understands my life and be dumb instead. I want it to log whatever I tell it to log, because I know what I’d like to save.

Here’s what I wanted –

  • A device with the same form factor as the Memoto
  • Stabilized 720p camera, continuously recording video.
  • Bluetooth for communicating with a smartphone
  • Accelerometer for input commands
  • Battery that lasts a couple of days at least
  • 16 GB storage (or whatever it takes to store an hour of video)
  • App on the smartphone for communicating with the lifelogger

The device would work like so –

It’s an always-on, always-recording device, writing continuously to a looped filesystem. In other words, once it fills up the storage, it starts over-writing the oldest content. The idea is that it always has the last hour of recording available.

Now when I experience an event that’s worth saving, I just tap on the device to tell it to save it permanently by sending it to the smartphone. One tap saves the last 5 minutes, two saves the last 10 minutes and so on. This can obviously be configured (like one tap saving only the last minute while two saves the last 5 and so on). The smartphone app is smart enough to figure out overlaps and stitches the event together properly.

The data can be uploaded to the cloud or retained in the smartphone. Instead of the device writing to the smartphone since the file transfer would take considerable time, there could be on-board MicroSD storage that does the same job. The smartphone app can do the fetching work later at leisure.

So the next time I experience something awesome, I just tap and a dumb thing does something really smart.

Pics from the Nagaland ride

One of the few good shots that survived

Had a great ride to Nagaland with Gudds (Sanjay Kumar Sharma). Visited a lot of places, met some amazing people. Here are the pics –

Facebook : from social networking to social fabric

With the launch of the new Open Graph APIs + the Social plugins and their ferocious adoption by websites, Facebook has moved from being a social networking site to being the social fabric of the web.

Experiments with photography

I scored a few nice buys on a visit to the camera market in Fort. I bought myself an old Fed 3 35mm rangefinder camera – better known as a poor man’s Leica, a Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 Macro and a Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6.

I’m most excited about the Fed 3 and the 105mm Macro. The Fed 3 had a crazy light leak that (I hope) has been corrected now, but the Lester A. Dine is nothing short of extraordinary.

Pics from the Fed 3 –

Macro shots of a Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine replica through the Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 –

Forever and ever

Gia

Enfields are usually loud motorcycles. Made in an age when drive-by noise regulations were inconceivable, they are now quieted by pollution critics. To me, most of the machine’s charm lies in the sound and I made Gia, my 500cc Enfield, a loud mouth before I took delivery of her.

Though remarkably similar, the 500 doesn’t have the sweet thump of the 350. Different final drive ratios mean that they sound quite different and distinctive. The 500 is more powerful, obviously, and can hit decent speeds very quickly. Older 350s have a more relaxed, lazy demeanor.

A bystander is usually the one to get the best aural experience of an Enfield. The rider has to contend with the clatter of the tappets and various other sounds that each engine uniquely makes. But at times like this, when one’s riding next to a tall gardened median as on Marine Drive, the rider gets an even better experience.

As I edged closer to the tall median, the exhaust beat reflected off it; the sound of the long stroke single properly loud now. What I like most about the 500 is the way it sounds when riding around 80 kph. It’s this fast beat – like someone doing a drumroll on a big bass drum. I opened the throttle to enjoy the orchestra more and Gia didn’t disappoint. Badly in need of tuning (as she usually is after a long ride), she still charged on, the power evidently there.

Marine drive was quite bumpy – I think they never get time to maintain it due to the constant traffic – and the dead suspension was letting me know the exact condition of the road. As Gia jumped the bumps, my wrist ended up opening the throttle more, for a fraction of a second. That was sufficient to make the volume levels jump, reminding me that there was more power in reserve. I peeked at the speedo. The broken needle was bouncing around in its cage, but the base of the needle was still working fine. Hard to accurately tell the speed without a needle, but it was around 80. Open the throttle just a bit more, a few more jumps in the volume and I was almost doing 100. What a glorious sound!

Enfields are like elephants. Expensive to buy and even more expensive to maintain. They can carry large loads and can travel great distances. But each one is unique and temperamental – not quite ideal when doing a 30 day ride in the middle of nowhere. Gia though, been enormously reliable – never letting me down on any of the many rides we’ve been on. Other Enfields are far more notorious. There’s always this doubt – even after spending thousands on maintenance – that something might go wrong.

It’s this nagging feeling that draws me to other motorcycles. The KLR 650 is a great option. Getting it in India is a different story altogether. Like other Enfield owners, I’ve already spent much more than the cost of the motorcycle in maintenance over the past 7 years of ownership. There’s a redeeming fact though – I can actually sell Gia for more than what she cost me new.

But then I remember experiences like these and know that I have to keep her. Forever.

iPad – the computing (r)evolution?

Human evolution

This time, I did not stay awake to follow the keynote live. In the morning, I was glad. The rumours of the Apple tablet had resulted in a flurry of tablet launches from various companies. I had summarily dismissed all of them being ‘just’ another tablet.

On the face of things, the iPad seems like just another tablet. Well, a closed, flash-less, camera-less, non-multitasking, keyboard-less, non-widescreen tablet. But it’s easy to be dismissive and disappointed.

When the iPhone was launched, Steve Jobs said that it is 5 years ahead of any other similar device in the market. He was wrong. I think no other phone manufacturer in the world has the balls to put just a single button on the main screen. Think about it for a moment. How hard it would have been for Apple to decide to have just ONE button? It’s easy to make concessions and compromise – but it takes an amazing amount of confidence and courage to keep things simple.

I had drooled over the iPhone when it was announced, but decided not to jump for it when it was launched. I had just got myself a new Sony Ericsson W810i (which I think is the last good phone they made) and the initial reviews of the iPhone were not extremely encouraging.

But when I held one in my hands a few weeks after its launch and saw a YouTube video on it for the first time, I decided to get one. It was something special, something that felt so right. It was the first Apple product I bought. Needless to say, I didn’t stop there.

I’m pretty anal when it comes to user experience and Apple’s got me spoilt. When an Apple VP talks about the “coefficient of friction” on the trackpad, I completely understand – and am eternally grateful that they take the trouble.

So, until I experience one for myself, I shall withhold judgment. If it’s anything like the iPhone, the human race of the future will be as tall as monkeys.

Image credit – Pritesh Rane

Rann of Kutch

Our tracks in the Rann

On the second day of 2010, my friends and I were on our motorcycles, riding to the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Some friends were with me, others were riding from different places in the country towards the same destination. We were gathering to celebrate 60kph’s 8th anniversary with a ride to the Little Rann of Kutch.

It was here that we had celebrated our first anniversary ride. Not the first anniversary, but the first time we had a ride with members gathering from all over the country. It was an extremely memorable ride because it was the first time we were attaching faces to online identities.

Vishu has written a great piece on the events that transpired in 2004. This time it was like a homecoming for those who had been to the Rann the last time.

This was my third visit to the Rann and the last time I witnessed a total lunar eclipse at 3 am in the night It was quite an experience, to say the least. In the Rann, one can see the sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset. All of them are magical.

This time, Meeta and Arnav were along. This was Arnav’s first ride and he had a blast. We camped on all three days and Arnav returned to playschool with toasted cheeks. Didn’t click many pictures, but here are some.

Some macro photos

Was making a lantern for my son Arnav using some festive LEDs and couldn’t miss up the opportunity to click some macros. Here’s the photo set on flickr.

macro

One Crazy Ride and Riding Solo US screenings

ocr-posterPosting after a long gap, but will be more active now (expect some big news soon). Our films from Dirt Track Productions, One Crazy Ride and Riding Solo… will be screened all over the US in the coming days.

Mill Valley Film Festival

Isn't that one of the most beautiful logos ever?

Among other places One Crazy Ride will be screened at two prestigious film festivals, the Mill Valley Film Festival in Mill Valley, CA and the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival in Flagstaff AZ.

Currently there are about 10 screenings planned in different locations. Here’s the full and constantly updated list.

Work commitments prevent me from traveling for the screenings, but the director of both films, Gaurav Jani and another rider from OCR – Sobby will be attending all the screenings in the US.