The Boob Tube Adventure

Yesterday, I mentioned in the passing to my partner Gopi that we are pretty cut off from news and other stuff that happens on TV while we are in the office. This is fairly serious – we spend up to 12 hours a day there, and assuming that we sleep for another 8 of them, that leaves little time to catch up with the happenings of the day.

Gopi didn’t say anything, but by afternoon, a cable TV connection miraculously appeared near my desk, and by evening a TV card was in my machine. So today, I spent the day setting things up, sorting through some 60 odd channels. And, of course, getting the whole thing working with Linux.

TV cards are cheap these days – less than 3000 INR got us a PixelView TV tuner card that is fully supported by Linux. Beats buying a TV for the office any day, and has the added (dis)advantage of being on the whole day, tucked away in the corner of one of my many screens, either pumping out MTV or some news. If something interesting comes up, a press of a key brings the TV application to the foreground, and another keystroke full-screens it if I want it that way. I usually do not – sitting in front of a fullscreen TV image on a 17″ monitor can be painful. having it running in the top right corner at 384×288 on my 1600×1200 screen gives the effect of watching a 21″ TV form 6 feet, which just about right.

Added advantage – if I don’t have time to see a program at that moment, I just record it to hard disk and watch it later.

Net effect – I have been able to catch up with programs I do not normally get to see, such as StarTrek:Voyager (which really leaves me cold, except that 7of9 is something else…). Naturally, I am writing all this so that my friend Vinod in Delhi can writhe in agony, yelling “Not fair!” ;-)

Later in the day I caught up with PKR (you know him as the editor of DataQuest on Yahoo messenger, where we spent time discussing the merits and demerits of Instant Messengers. We agreed on the fact that IM’s save money for organisations by reducing long distance phone calls, but at the same time certain IMs can also hit bandwidth pretty hard. MSN Messenger, for example, seems to delight in contacting home (as in Redmond, USA) every few seconds. We decided that this is worth digging into.

Another issue is the managability of IMs. As already discussed and published in DQ, IMs tend to become stubborn beasts to manage when the numbers increase. Imagine a 100 people company, with each employee using an IM to communicate with the other 99. That means that each employee has to add all the others to his IM (a task that isn’t as trivial as it sounds), and if a new emploee joins, s/he has to be added to all the others, employees who leave need to be removed … a logistical nightmare.

Added to that the fact that most (if not all) employees could be behind a firewall, and still need to communicate with each other … including doing file transfers (which go peer to peer instead of via the servers in the USA).

That\’s where things break down. All four “big ones” (Yahoo, MSN, ICQ and AOL) are guilty of not providing options to corporates to handle something like this.

But then, necessity being the mother of invention, the OpenSource world provides a solution – in the form of Jabber, which exists both in its free form, as well as in a commercial (read – business mindset compatible) forms. And it happily talks to all the other IM systems. If you are a corporate checking out IM options – check out Jabber.

OK, tiring day. Luckily the weekend starts tomorrow. Electricians start work on my den in the garage tomorrow morning (I want to get that done first before partitions make things difficult for them). Monday the carpenters will come in to begin work on the partitioning.

Spent some time this evening uploading photos of the Phenom gig, as well as ripping the audio out of the video to turn it into an MP3. Pretty big right now, but I will clean up the audio a bit – there is some distinct phasing there, but overall the quality is pretty good, with lots of bass and treble. Amazing for a hand-held camera recording! ;-) Once I have things cleaned up, I will split it into smaller files and make it available for people.

Dropped a big hint to Mrinal that Phenom now needs a website…..

Update 11:55PM: Added some javascript to the menu on top of this page. I know you will hate me, but this is a place where I experiment, so if you have any issues with the stuff (other than hating it ;) , let me know.