Harshdeep 2.0

April 30, 2006

Music download on mobile phones comes to India

Filed under: Mobile — harshdeep @ 5:36 pm

This is a first in India. Hutch (brandname of Hutchison Essar) is offering full song downloads to mobile phones. The offer is starting with songs from the movie Krrish.

According to the website, charges "start" from Rs 20/song. Makes me wonder if they are going to have different charges for different songs. That sounds like anti-marketing to me. If they go with differential pricing and make more popular songs more expensive, sales of less expensive songs might go further down. By pricing them lower, the company itself will be sending out a signal that the song is not that good.

Comparing just by the currency exchange rates, the base cost is almost half of $0.99/song of iTunes. And yes, the supported phones include most of the Series 60 phones of Nokia.

April 21, 2006

Tracking expenses through Billmonk

Filed under: Uncategorized — harshdeep @ 1:00 pm

I share a rented flat with 2 friends. Generally, one of us pays the rent, the second one pays monthly appartment bills and I pay the electricity bills. But sometimes there are exceptions to this and there are other payments, like maid's salary, maintenance costs, dinner bills etc. that any one of us might make. Each of us is supposed to keep track of the expenses he makes. Every few months, we settle the dues.

Initially keeping track of the expenses was simple. Each one of us stuck a post-it note in his room on which all the expenses he made were written. But we quickly lost some post-its and decided that the method was not robust enough. We tried maintaining expense databases on our computers and later, mobiles – they served the purpose but were not convenient enough. For example, there was no quick and easy way of finding out how much I owed to others (everyone maintained his own database).

At this point we knew that we needed an online database for our shared expenses, so that we can enter the expenses from any computer or mobile phone and everyone can quickly find out how much he owes to others. 

Ayusman and I were contemplating to write a web app for this ourselves when he found Billmonk. And was I amazed! It rarely happens that you find a service delivering exactly what you want and nothing else. And on top of that, it is completely free 🙂

Billmonk solves a very simple problem – tracking shared bills and loans between friends. But it takes a lot of effort to provide a simple interface even for a simple problem. They use simple non-technical terms like "Shared Bills" and "Payments" that make sense to everyone and not just chartered accountants. Whatever you want to do – adding a shared bill or finding out how much your friend Bill owes you or looking at the latest expenses – is completely obvious – you won't ever think "Where do I click for doing this?", not for too long at least. There are no unnecessary features to bloat up or complicate the UI. Billmonk is a crash course in website usability (Along with 37 signals products).

April 19, 2006

Neemrana

Filed under: Uncategorized — harshdeep @ 7:40 pm

Went to Neemrana this Sunday. It’s around 90km from Gurgaon, on the first hills of the Aravali Range as you drive drom Delhi to Jaipur. It’s a fort turned into a hotel.

The fort is old (of course, even the latest forts are quite old now) but is well maintained. Not many people go there – most of the people I saw there were staying there in the hotel and were foreigners. I think it’s more enjoyable for foreigners – Indians have generally seen such forts by the dozen in Rajasthan.

It’s definitely beautiful though.

Rebels without a cause

Filed under: Uncategorized — harshdeep @ 6:11 pm

 

I don't understand this. Why should the death of a film actor lead to mobs rampaging an entire city, burning hundreds of vehicles and bringing the IT hub of India to a complete halt? The actor, Rajkumar, was old and died a natural death. Who are they angry at? God? And what about those 8 people who died in this mindless violence?

April 9, 2006

Creating my own Ascii art

Filed under: Uncategorized — harshdeep @ 10:33 am

I remember seeing an email with pictures of bollywood actresses as ascii text. As a completely unnecessary and useless excercise, I decided to try doing it on my own last night (I tend to do such things after a boring day). Surprisingly, I had a working program to create ascii text image from a jpeg within 15 minutes.

The algorithm, as our Maths prof would put it, is idiotically simple. Some characters are "darker" than others. For example, a hash (#) is darker than a dot (.) – it has more black pixels. So, all you need to do is replace each pixel (or set of pixels) with an ascii character depending on the luminosity of the pixel(s). The characters I used are '@', 'p', '*', 'a', '1', ':', '.' and ' ' (space) in decreasing order of darkness. This is a crude method but it gives pretty decent results. Send me a message if you want the source code.

An example (with due apologies to Ms Katrina Kaif)

Output 1- 100 characters per line, viewing in MS Word – Courier New Font (so that every character takes the same width), Font size 6

Output 2 – 200 characters per line (Higher resolution 🙂 ), Font size 4 (Click to see full-size image)

I used CxImage library for loading jpeg images. I've been using this library since college days for all image manipulation stuff. Sadly, it is not being maintained anymore – it is still available as VS 6 project, I had to make a couple of minor changes to build it on VS 2005.

April 2, 2006

Clash of Online Image Editors

Filed under: Internet — harshdeep @ 1:24 pm

Most of the day-to-day applications (word editors, calendars, personal organizers, spreadsheets and more) are becoming available on the web and they are finding users too. It's obvious for Basic Image Editing apps to follow course. I say Basic, because despite the cool AJAXy and Flashy web apps coming up these days, it's still a long way until we can expect to see professional Photoshop-like functionality delivered over the web.
Out of the available options right now, I think and are the most promising.

Both have an interactive AJAXy interface – the kind we have come to expect from web applications these days. Pixoh has a more desktop-like workspace – you can drag the image around on the screen and resize it by dragging the corners.

The feature set is pretty limited in both the applications, but PXN8's toolbox is comparatively much richer. Both of these are under continuous development, so more features should be on their way.

PXN8 toolbox

PXN8 Toolbox

 

Pixoh toolbox

Pixoh toolbox

Pixoh Toolbox

As these applications become more mature, it would be interesting to see how they are going to make money. Both are free services – I think they are gonna stay that way. PXN8 shows Google Ads, but Pixoh doesn't seem to have any business model in place yet. Maybe they are just betting on getting bought by a bigger fish.

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