Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Tech - Best App of 2011

Image
Posted by Rajan Manickavasagam
December 26th, 2011


News 360
Rating: 4 out of 5


I think, one of the habits we all have is reading news or other articles on the net. Generally people use their browser to read the news. This year has seen a lot of mobile and tablet apps launched in the market. One of the leading apps is of course, Flipboard. But it's available only in the iOS platform for now. In the other mobile platforms, we have apps like Pulse, Feedly and the latest entrant - Google Currents. For me, the one app that stands out is News360.
Depending on your platform, download the app from your respective app store. When it starts, it shows all the latest news across various categories like World, Politics, Technology etc. But here comes the interesting part, you can personalize it by connecting your online profiles like Facebook, Google Reader, Evernote and Twitter. The app analyses all your activity and other information and then personalizes the news for you. As you can see abov…

Tech - Why Siri and Search need to be different

Image
Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ever since the launch of Siri on the new iPhone 4S, there has been a lot of talk about it being a competition for search engines and therefore Google. However, I hope and wish Google and Apple treat the two differently. And, here is why.
I see Google largely as an 'information broker'. The search is brilliant and gets you to what you are looking for. And, if you are signed in, Google then makes the search experience more personalized and contextual. As a natural extension of the search capability, voice is already there but obviously not at the same level as Siri. With more information being created each day as well as the variety of devices being used to access the information, Google should continue to improve the core search. I think there is still a lot more to be done in the search algorithm, incorporating social signals and the different user experiences. For example, if I search for 'data visualization', can the sea…

Tech - NOSQL Tutorial - Part 4 (Sample)

Image
Here is a simple sample program for accessing a MongoDB database. In order to run the sample, you will need the following -
PHP server 5.x running on IIS/Apache MongoDB database MongoDB driver for PHP  You could easily write the same program using .NET program and driver too. Hopefully, the comments in the program are self-explanatory. Happy coding and exploring!

Simply Prawns

Image
Simply prawns It's been a while since I made any sea food. I thought a I will try a quick prawn curry. The ingredients are quite basic and somehow they just seem to be good enough for the prawns.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.

Published 01. Dec 2011


Ingredients4tablespoons vegetable oil3sliced green chillies1 teaspoon of ginger and garlic paste
1sliced onion
2 chopped tomatoes1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder1 teaspoon of chilli powder300 gm prawns1-2teaspoon of salt (or to taste) InstructionsHeat the oil in pan.Add green chillies, onions and saute them.Once the onions are golden brown, add the ginger garlic paste.Add the tomatoes to the pan.Add the turmeric and chilli powder to the pan.Keep frying the ingredients until they become like a paste. Add more oil if required.Add the prawns and reduce the heat.Cook the prawn in medium heat for a few minutes.
Serve with naan/chappatis/dosa/appams. Happy eating. Further details Serves 2 adults.
Preparati…

A simple vegetarian curry

Image
A simple curry Here is a simple curry recipe for the busy week days.
There are no particular vegetables or ingredients that you need for this recipe, just put together any set of vegetables or spices that you may have.

Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.

Published 27. Nov 2011


Ingredients2diced potatoes
2diced carrots1 cup of green peas1 sliced green beans2sliced green chillies1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste
1sliced onion
4tablespoon vegetable oil
1handful of coriander leaves
1 clove
1 cardamom
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder1cup of fresh single cream
1-2teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
InstructionsHeat the oil in pan.Add cumin seeds, green chillies and onions and saute them.Once the onions are golden brown, add the ginger garlic paste and the remaining spices.Add the turmeric and chilli powder to the pan.Add all the vegetables and cook until they are soft. Add a few table spoons of water, if required.Lastly, stir in the single …

Why everyday should be a Friday

Surprise, I am writing this post on a Friday. It all started post lunch in the office with someone singing as they were working. Suddenly, the question of someone's age came up. And, then someone else was nominated the 'Daddy' of the group, by virtue of being the oldest! A few quips and laughs and people were quickly back to work. It's just once of those 'Friday' moments in work places all over the world. It's certainly something you don't see on a Monday.

While I prefer a quiet work atmosphere, office banter keeps the spirits going and helps people bond. And, probably it will be good if every day were a 'Friday'. Nevertheless, happy weekend.

Tech - NOSQL Tutorial - Part 3 (Performance)

Image
​As promised, here are the results of the database shoot out between MongoDB and SQL Server. Before we get into the results, a few things worth noting. The objective of the performance test is a simple use case - search data based on some keys. I have a few self imposed principles to ensure that the test is fair and square -

Use the standard configuration for the databases so that it's a fair comparison.Exactly the same data loaded into both the databases, including creating the same kind of indexes too.Exactly the same queries and parameters used for both the databases.Exactly the same client used to execute the queries against both the databases.The same kind of OS and underlying hardware (CPU, RAM etc).

There are 3 separate database servers that have been used here. They are -

Server 1 - Windows 2008 R2 (64 bit) physical server running MongoDB (64 bit).Server 2 - Windows 2008 R2 (64 bit) virtual server running MongoDB (64 bit).Server 3 - Windows 2008 R2 (64 bit) virtual server r…

Tech - NOSQL Tutorial - Part 2 (Overview)

I started looking at various NOSQL databases like Hbase, CouchDB and MongoDB. I finally settled on MongoDB, mainly because it was easy to setup in Windows. The name Mongo is derived from 'humongous', interesting name! For more details, you can refer - http://www.mongodb.org. As it says on the website, it is very easy to setup and highly scalable. Here are my first set of statistics - Time to download the software (64 bit edition) - 2 minutesTime to setup the database - 2 minutesTime to get the database up and running - 1 minute And, this is where I found the database to be refreshing. It is quick, even to setup, leave alone processing of data! Overall, I found these to be key features of this database -
Light foorprint. Easy to setup either single or replicated instances and to administer.Schema-free data storage. In other words, there is no need to define any data structure.Incredibly quick for reads and writes.Map Reduce (with Javascript).Very easy to scale horizontal…

Tech - NOSQL Tutorial - Part 1 (Introduction)

Several people and organizations have cited the growing size and consumption of data in the current digital age. I have deliberately used the word 'digital' instead of 'internet'. There is growing convergence of internet, media (video, audio) and devices. One can today, browse a newspaper on a Smart TV and conversely view a movie on a phone or tablet. There is of course the 'social' chatter on sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter to name a few.

The implication of all this is of course transmission and storage of data. I am going to cover the latter aspect in this series of articles.

I have worked on various RDBMS starting from databases like SQL Server, Oracle and right up to DB2 and Teradata. I have always been curious about how data and it's application. So, I have been researching on some of the technologies that power large scale data. A key component has been the rising use 'NOSQL' databases. The NO - doesn't stand for No as in Dr. N…

Tech - Colour me up!

Just read about the Google Blogger Dynamic Views. It is about changing the look and feel of a blog with new templates. I think blogging just became a whole lot more eye candy! For now the templates are simple and do not offer a lot of customizations, so a lot of my old clutter is gone.

I like all the new templates. I have enabled the 'Magazine' template as default on this site now. Of course the readers can modify the layout (on the top left menu) to what they like.

For those who are technically inclined, welcome to the world of HTML5. I think in the past few years we have seen a lot of hype around mobile apps, now looks like slowly HTML5 is gaining  momentum. The advantage of course being that you don't have to keep building separate apps for each mobile platform.

I tried this site on the iPad, but currently it looks like only the desktop browsers are supported for now. On the mobiles, this site is set for simplified a mobile experience. I have chosen dark theme for the …

Tech - What about data?

There has been a flurry of news and coverage on Amazon's new devices and services. We have Amazon entering the tablet market with Kindle Fire, as it has been speculated for quite some time now.
It's interesting to see how they are subsidizing the tablet to lock in customers to TV shows and movies from Amazon Prime. It poses a direct threat to the likes of netflix, blinkbox. I suppose watch this space as competition hots up in the online digital media segment. In the long term, going to a multiplex may be as rare as visiting the west end for theatre.
One of the features being touted on the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet is the 'Silk' browser. Silk uses the Amazon cloud to speed up the browsing, which is great. It's similar to Opera Mini and SkyFire in that sense. I suppose the key is that there are many websites hosted on Amazon cloud, making the browsing that much faster. 
However, on the down side, it raises privacy concerns for the customers. By and large, Internet …

Tech - World's first dual screen tablet

Image
This is a belated review about one of the early tablets. It is called Adam. And befitting it's name, it's the world's first tablet which can function both as a tablet and an ebook reader.

It runs on Android, no surprises there. The specs of the tablet are good - Tegra2 dual-core 1 Ghz CPU, ULP GPU, 1 GB RAM, Expandable SD and USB slots, GPS, Compass, Bluetooth, Accelerometer, Wifi (3G model available too). There is only one camera but it swivels to face both front and back!


The most interesting feature is the 10.1" Pixel Qi screen. This screen is a translfective display. You can notice the difference in the screenshots below. The screen can work in dual mode as a LCD and without backlight (like an ebook reader). Battery life currently lasts for a couple of days, should be more given the screen capabilities. One can use the screen without backlight not just in the Kindle app but even in other apps like Gmail etc.

Screen with backlight ON




Screen with backlight OFF




Goo…

A big deal and a not so big deal

In the week gone by, two events happened. One was really a big deal in a lot of different ways, and that's the Microsoft-Skype deal. The other not-so-big deal was from Google, on the launch of the Chromebook.


The big deal
I personally think more than the money Microsoft is going to pay for Skype, there are other factors in play.

1. Skype is a well established company/product in the VOIP market. It has a few hundred million customers all over the world. As smartphones continue their onslaught all over the world, it is a matter of time before Skype-like services eat into the traditional telecom operators share.
2. Microsoft earlier got into a tie-up with Nokia. With Windows Phone 7 still receiving a lukewarm response compared to the iPhone and Android hype, deals with companies like Skype and Nokia are increasing the chance of Windows succeeding in in the mobile arena. Of course it is going to take time to integrate all the various services and the hardware.
3. While smartphones can…

Tech - Getting natty indeed

Image
The latest version of Ubuntu was out in April 28, following the pattern of Canonical's 6 monthly release cycle. It's called Natty Narwhal. I have been using it for a few weeks and it's natty indeed.


The latest edition is very slick when it comes to the user interface. I wasn't too happy with the Unity desktop interface, I am using the GNOME 3 desktop. However, installing GNOME 3 breaks the Unity installation. I would recommend having another desktop manager like KDE. This is where the flexibility and architecture of Linux comes into play, one can do what one wishes!



Based on my experience, some of the key features are:
- Very simple user interface. Search is now central to the desktop experience (top right in the above screenshot). Hit the "Windows" key and the above menu appears.
- The device drivers for for the keyboard, display, bluetooth, wi-fi work out of the box seamlessly (on my Acer 5738z laptop). I am particularly impressed with the trackpad, it'…

Tech - Clone Wars

There was a time when the each of the browsers had distinctive features and quirks. Internet Explorer soon started to dominate the browser market. Mozilla Firefox came in like a breath of fresh air with new features like tabbed browsing, spell check and so on. However, Internet Explorer was quick to match these features and maintained it's hold. Along the way, Opera also came into the fray. But, it didn't have much to challenge Explorer's dominance. Safari continues to be relegated to the "apple world".


The story started to change with a new entrant - Chromium aka known as Google Chrome (Chromium is the "open source" version). According to me it received a lukewarm response, even among geeks like me. I installed it and quickly shifted back to Firefox. I wish I could say the same now!

In the course of my work and home life, I use 3 different operating systems, don't ask me why! They are - Windows 7, Mac Leopard and Ubuntu. I have Chrome in all three…

A simple dish from God's Own Country

Image
Vegetable stew The vegetable stew from Kerala, God's Own Country is a versatile dish. It can be used as a side dish for chappatis or dosa / appam. It is quite easy to make. And as all stews go, it is very filling and satisfying after a long day of work.
Other vegetables that go well in this dish are cauliflower and carrots. For those interested in meat, chicken or lamb can be substituted instead


Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.

Published 07. May 2011




Ingredients2diced potatoes
2sliced green chillies
4strips of ginger
1sliced onion
4tablespoon vegetable oil
1handful of curry leaves
1 clove
1 cardamom
1cup of peas
1cup of coconut milk
1-2teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
InstructionsDice the potatoes and cook them until they are soft. This can be done quickly in the microwave.Heat the oil in pan.Add onions, ginger, curry leaves, clove and cardamom. The clove and cardamom help flavour the oil.Saute the onions until they are golden brown.Now add the potatos and cook them until they are mashed.…

Sitcom Review - Yes Minister (1980)

Posted by Rajan
April 10th, 2011


Yes Minister
Rating: 5 out of 5
Politics, intelligent and comedy. Often there are not words you would use in the same sentence, at least not in a positive manner. Yes Minister, is a very intelligent comedy about politics. What makes Yes Minister classic is that, the episodes and circumstances are timeless which I am sure are played about in the corridors of power even today.

Yes Minister was originally written as a book by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. Later it was converted into a TV series. The TV series is true to the book in every way without any deviation or dilution. If you are an avid book reader, go for the book. For those who enjoy watching, the TV series is brilliant because of the hilarious portrayal by Paul Eddington (the bumbling and naive minister - Jim Hacker), Nigel Hawthorne (the arrogant and cunning permanent under secretary - Sir Humphrey) and Derek Fowlds (the well meaning private secretary - Bernard, caught in the crossfire between t…

Fancy lunch

Image
Pan fried sea bass This weekend I had orders from my wife to cook something different. So, off I went looking for all the ingredients we had at home. This dish is mish-mash of different items. This recipe also happens to be the first one where I have used hrecipe tags.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.
Published 20. Mar 2011





Ingredients2 potatoes
1 egg
50grammes of bread crumbs
1spoonful of oregano
1spoonful of thyme
1spoonful of basil
3 bell peppers
1cup of diced carrots
1cup of peas
7-8spoonful of olive oil
2slices of sea bass
2-3spoonful of salt
2-3spoonful of pepper
You can use some Mayonnaise or Tartar sauce as well.
InstructionsBoil and slice potatoes.Dip the potatoes in egg and then bread crumbs.Fry the potatoes in olive oil for a few minutes.Slice the bell peppers.Coat them in olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over them.Roast the bell peppers in the oven at 160C.Add water to carrots and peas.Boil the carrots and peas until they are soft.Coat the sea bass in salt and pepper.H…

Going back in time

Image
In Bangalore, there is something different now, more than just the malls and movies. Adding to this list of pedantic attractions is a refreshing new entrant - modern art. The National Gallery of Modern Art located at Palace Road, is an oasis of old world charm.

The gallery is located in a renovated old house - Manekyavelu Mansion. It was started a couple of years ago. The gallery is part of the Department of Culture, Govt. of India. The Bangalore branch joins it's older siblings in Delhi and Bombay.




NGMA, Bangalore
At my wife's prodding, we visited this place this weekend. The gallery is extremely well maintained and very sparse. They have a good range of visiting and permanent exhibitions. Hopefully, there are more such museums created. After all, there is no dearth of culture and history in India.

If you ever visit Bangalore, try and visit this gallery. There is a cafe too, if you are in the mood for some tea and snacks. It is located in the heart of the city and worth a cou…

Hell hath no fury

Nature has often been quoted as a an ally of Japan. The most famous instance being the "kamikaze" or "divine wind". When Japan was threatened by Mongol invasion in the 12th century, typhoons destroyed the invading naval armada and saved Japan.

But, yesterday Japan was a victim of a nature's fury and power. It suffered from one of the deadliest earthquakes and tsunami. This tsunami is several times bigger than the one that hit the Indian ocean in 2004.


While the exact reasons or cause for the earthquake and tsunami are being worked out, The world is already aware of the massive scale of destruction. The japanese people are one of the most prepared against such natural disasters. But, in this case, it may be too much to bear for them too. To see a 20-30 foot high wave travelling at 500 km / hr must be terrifying. As seen on TV screens around the world, it looked like a scene out of the movie - 2012.

Hopefully, much of the damage can be repaired soon and the loss…

Tech - How to protect your computer

In the past few years, our computers at home have become more and more involved in our daily lives, be it for paying the bills or keeping touch with friends. This articles explores a few basic steps to protect your computer.

Here are a set of one time and ongoing steps to help protect your computer. If you have any other ideas, please send them to me and I will add them to the list below.

One time setup
1. Ensure that you have a password for your computer login and do not set the option "to login automatically".

2. Use an anti-virus tool. There are plenty of free ones available like - AVG, Microsoft Essentials and Clam Anti Virus. I would recommend Microsoft Essentials. It's quite simple to use.

3. Ensure that you set medium or high priority security options in your browser.

4. Disable pop-ups. It saves nuisance in a lot of sites.

5. If you are using Windows, enable the Windows Firewall or use 3rd party firewall. For most purposes, the Windows Firewall is adequate for th…

Song Review - Saajnaa Saajnaa (2010)

Posted by Rajan
March 3rd, 2011

Saajnaa Saajnaa Rating: 5 out of 5
In recent times, fancy lyrics and modern music have dictated the direction of soundtrack in Indian movies, especially the songs. Every now and then, you get to hear melodious tunes. One of the most lilting songs from recent times has been Saajnaa from the movie Lamhaa. The movie is based on the the trauma faced by people of Kashmir starring Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu and Kunal Kapoor.

The song is about a love so close yet apart due to circumstances. This particular song is sung by Mika Singh and Chinmayi. Normally, Mika is associated with more boisterous pop and movie songs in Hindi and his native Punjabi. Here he sings completely out of character with a lot of melancholy. The lyrics are very elegant. Chinmayi gives a very controlled performance, a good foil to Mika's honest rendition. And finally, the music. At times, it feels as if the instruments too are singing along side the singers.

In the same movie, there is …

Movie Review - Megamind (2010)

Posted by Rajan
March 2nd, 2011

Megamind Rating: 3 out of 5
Megamind is one of the latest animated releases from Dreamworks Animation. As far animated movies go by, this is a very mature and intelligent movie. The animated movies have a come a long way from the time of Beauty & Beast, Alladin and Lion King.
The initial animated movies depended on an existing story or fable. The newer set of movies like Toy Story, Despicable Me and Incredibles have an independent plot of their own. The script and direction in these movies are as important as in the regular movies. These movies are as much for kids as they are for adults.

The story is about an orphan, Megamind (Will Ferrel) from space who lands up in a jail. The company he grows up with inevitably moves him to the wrong side of the law. On the other hand, there is another orphan, Metro Man (Brad Pitt) who lands into a rich house. As they grow up, both of them becomes arch enemies fighting over Metro City. Eventually, Megamind kills M…

Tech - Have you tried Google recipes?

In my previous post, I had predicted that, search engines will try to help users with more applied / custom searches. Right on cue, Google released a food recipe search last week. This search is specific to recipes and one can filter the results based on cooking time, ingredients and calories.

For now, it looks like Google is indexing the sites which have recipes using the RDFa or Microformat attributes. We are inching closer to the "semantic web" where we have richer attributes specifying a data. The richer the data, more the application of it. With the growth of smartphones, there will be even greater use of such data.
This also means that, to start with all the food sites will now have to tag their recipes with either RDFa or Microformat so that they appear better in Google. Either someone will have to develop a tool to do this conversion or perhaps employ people to do a one time conversion. It makes me think that as things keep changing, the change itself keeps generati…

The world cup fever is on

Image
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is on. The cricket fever is now officially on. There is less traffic on the roads, everyone talking about the matches and overdose of advertisements on TV and news.

I have to confess, in a land of cricket worshippers, I am an odd man out. I somehow don't have the fascination for it like I used to earlier. But, here are some interesting statistics.

Google have a product called Insights for Search. You can look at trends for certain phrases. I tried looking up phrases like "crickets score", "world cup 2011" and compared it with other random phrases like "bollywood", "budget" and "mobile".

You can see the results below.


Source: Google Insights for Search

While there was a temporary spike when the world cup started, people seem to be more interested in knowing or buying mobile phones and about the impending central budget. There is some hope after all!

Tech - Proliferation, panels and prices!

We have been seeing a proliferation of Android versions, manufacturer and network UI over the Android and various form factors. Now add to this potent mix, different kinds of screens.
The screen in a phone or a tablet is one of the most expensive components in the device. If you read the fine print, there are differences between various models of phones. Until now, these differences were in the processor and memory. Now, with a wide of variety of consumer segments, price points and form factors, there are different options being offered for screens as well. It looks like, AMOLED screens are short in supply while there are plenty of LCD screens available to manufacturers. I am not surprised given the explosion in sales of smart phones and tablets. And, we haven't seen the sales of these devices plateau yet.

Take the case of the Samsung Galaxy S I9000. This phone was launched around 6 months ago in India at prices ranging from Rs 28,000 - 30,000 (600 USD). We have two more models b…

Tech - Cloning is a good business model

According to Wikipedia, "Cloning in biology is the process of producing similar populations of genetically identical individuals that occurs in nature when organisms such as bacteria, insects or plants reproduce asexually.".
There is a lot of debate around cloning of life, be it human, animal or plant. When it comes to cloning of business models or technologies, there seems to be no such issue.

Here is an article on one of my favourite sites about one of the many new clones emerging in the web 3.0 businesses - Techcrunch
Typically, first mover advantage is what businesses aim for. However, it is also fraught with risks. What if the customer or the market do not warm up to it? Business that follow a competitor into a new segment however do not face such risks. They may or may not capture the market or mind-share, but they can still survive or even flourish. Take the case of the deal sites, there are so many clones of the original deal sites in countries like US, UK and Ind…

Movie Review - Roman Holiday (1953)

This movie was recently show in TV. With so many (useless) programmes vying for my attention, it was not easy for me to settle down for this movie. I had originally watched it when I was a kid during the "VCR" era.
The movie is directed by William Wyler, considered to be one of the greatest American directors of all time. He has directed more than 70 movies spanning his career. Watching his various movies is like a "master class" in the art of direction and cinematography.

Roman Holiday is one of the iconic movies of all time. The star of the movie undoubtedly being Audrey Hepburn. She deservedly picked up the Oscar for this role. Gregory Peck adds the required gravitas and charm to the movie.
The story is set in post war Rome. Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) is frustrated with the restrictions placed on her by the royal courtiers. The opening scenes with her hook you in, where she plays from demure to bored to angry with equal ease and she slips from one emotion t…

A dual dish

Image
Here is a salad my wife and I made. It serves a dual purpose, as a side dish during lunch or dinner and you can use it the following day for breakfast with slices of bread.

You can use any vegetable you want. Ensure that you slice them thin or dice them small.


Ingredients:

1. Chopped lettuce - 5-6 leaves

2. Diced baby tomatoes - 6

3. Sliced avocado - 1

4. Diced broccoli - 1

5. Sliced cheddar cheese - 5-6

7. Mustard sauce - 1 teaspoon

8. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

9. Pepper - 1 tablespoon (or to taste)

10. Mayonnaise - 1-2 tablespoon

Recipe:

1. Steam or roast all the vegetables until they are cooked.

2. Mix the mayonnaise and mustard sauces.

3. In a bowl, add all the vegetables and add the salt and pepper. Toss in the vegetables together.

4. Mix the sauces with the vegetables.

Tip: As a variation, feel free to add some other vegetable like - baby corn, mushrooms or carrots. For meat lovers, instead of vegetables, try adding boiled egg, chicken, lamb or prawn. You can add other se…

How to create a big picture

Image
Typically, you need wide view or fisheye lenses to capture a panoramic picture. An alternate method (though may not give the same quality) is to use software to create a panoramic image.

There are several software available which you can use to create a panoramic image. The concept is called - "stitching". Some of the software available are - PTGui, Panavue, PAX-it, AutoStitch and so on. I sometimes use AutoStitch to create the panoramas since I have a 50mm lens for now.

Each of these software vary in price and features. The added advantage is that you can take the pictures using any kind of camera - digital, phone or SLR.

Steps:
1. Visualize the picture you want to take.

2. Use your camera and "divide" your image into rows and columns. An example being - 2 rows and 5 columns.

3. Take 10 pictures to cover your entire image.

4. Use any of the software to "stitch" them together.

Here is an example of a panorama created using AutoStitch. I took 8 (2 rows x …

It can't get any greener than this

Image
Spinach belongs to the class of vegetables that is not so liked by everyone, like broccoli. Made as it is, it makes for somewhat bitter taste. Change it's form, it is loved by everyone

A famous Indian dish is Palak panneer (spinach and indian cotage cheese). This dish is again a staple dish in Indian restaurants all over the world. I am making a variation here with potatoes instead of the Indian cottage cheese.




Ingredients:

1. Cumin seeds - 1 tablespoon

2. Fenugreek seeds - 1 tablespoon

3. Sliced green chillies - 2

4. Vegetable oil - 3-4 tablespoon

5. Chopped onion - 1

7. Diced potatoes - 2

8. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

9. Ginger garlic paste - 1 tablespoon

10. Chopped spinach / palak - 2 bunches

11. Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon

12. Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon

13. Chilli powder - 1/4 teaspoon

14. Coriander leaves - 1 bunch

15. Chopped tomatoes - 1

16. Cold milk / fresh cream - 1/2 cup

Recipe:

1. Heat oil in a pan.

2. Add the cumin and fenugreek seeds, chopped onion and gre…

Movie Review - Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)

Posted by Rajan
February 18th, 2011


Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recently, we visited a friend of our's for dinner. They happen to have a very energetic dalmatian. During the course of the evening they were narrating the story of this movie - Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009). Being pet owners, they were naturally very moved by this movie.

It is based on the true story of a dog in Japan, which does not give up looking for it's master even after his death. It is the true story of undying loyalty of a dog. Often people say that man is superior to all other animals in this world. Sometimes, an animal can humble or inspire the best in us. The original is a Japanese movie called Hachi-ko (1987). The same story was remade in English as Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009).
This is one of the movies where the story is central. Irrespective of whether it is true or not, it tugs at your heart. Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) is a professor who comes across a puppy. He brings i…

Movie Review - Love and Other Drugs (2010)

Anne Hathaway has for long been seen as a promising star and actress. In my opinion, till date, her career has been a bit insipid. The most notable of her movies being films like - Princess Diaries and Devil Wears Prada.

In Love and Other Drugs, she gears up to play her first major path breaking role. She plays a strong, free spirited, foul mouthed and impulsive woman suffering from Parkinson's disease.


The movie is about a young woman Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) suffering from early stages of Parkinson's. She gets to know Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), an ambitious medical salesman. Maggie is a woman who knows that her healthy days are numbered and Jamie thinks only about his sales numbers. This is where the script takes you on a journey and shows how two unlikely people come together and start caring for each other. As the movie progresses, there are plenty of hilarious moments but tempered with reality. The story draws a fine line between portraying the seriousness of…

Movie Review - Nine (2009)

Nine was a recent movie (musical) aired on Sony Pix. It is about the creative and personal journey of a movie director.
The movie is set in Italy with a once successful director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) now struggling to make his next movie. As he tries to overcome his issues, he looks back at his life through the various women he has come across.

An ensemble cast plays the various women starting from his mother (Sophia Loren), friend (Judi Dench), wife (Marion Cotillard), admirer (Kate Hudson), mistress (Penelope Cruz), muse (Nicole Kidman) and childhood crush (Fergie).
Daniel Day-Lewis plays a stellar role as he fluctuates from frustrated to charming. He in fact came out of his retirement to act in this role. Each of the actresses too essays their roles brilliantly as per the script. The other highlight of the movie is the musical pieces set for each of the women. Each musical piece is a song and dance and it explores the relationship that Daniel Day-Lewis has with them. Th…

Birds of prey

Image
There is a wide variety of birds of prey in nature. These are ranging from the eagle to the kite to the condors. Each a specialist in their own way.

It is only natural that the man's birds of prey - military aircraft should be named after nature's birds. Thanks to my father, I was able to get a vantage view at the recent air show in Bangalore - Aero 2011. It is a bi-annual event attracting more aircraft and crowds as each edition goes by.


This year too, the F-18 Super Hornet, F-16 Falcon, Eurofighter Typhoon, Tejas, Saab Grippen, Mirage Rafael, Sukhoi-30 and many other aircraft enthralled the crowds. Just as in nature's birds, each of this had it's own speciality.

The added attraction were the Red Bulls acrobatic team from Czech republic. It's nice to see that the air show is increasing in stature and largely well managed too. Except for the traffic snarls!

Bring your pictures to life

Animoto is a new service which lets you import pictures from anywhere and lets you create videos out of them. I created a sample video using Animoto. You can import pictures from your computer, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, Facebook and so on.


Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Lunch for the lasses

Image
Last weekend, one of my wife's friends came over visiting. Needless to say I had to endure a weekend of gossiping and giggling. While they went about gallivanting around town, the task of cooking lunch was left to me.

So, I had the house to myself, which is not a bad thing. I have two recipes to write about. One is a very easy ghee rice and the other is a basic egg curry.



Ingredients:

1. Cumin seeds - 1 tablespoon

2. Cloves - 4

3. Sliced green chillies - 1

4. Vegetable oil - 3-4 tablespoon

5. Ghee / clarified butter - 3-4 tablespoons!

6. Cinnamon sticks - 1-2 teaspoon

7. Green peas - 1 cup

8. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

9. Ginger strips - 4

10. Sliced carrot (juliennes) - 1

11. Pepper - 2

12. Basmati rice - 4 cups

13. Water - 8 cups

14. Coriander leaves - 1 bunch

15. Mace - 1

Recipe:

1. I used an electric cooker to make this dish.

2. Except the rice and coriander, add all the ingredients into the cooker. Saute for a few minutes.

3. Add the rice and water.

4. Cook until the rice…

Mother of all dishes

Image
Perhaps, this should have been my first recipe in this blog - Maa ki dal. That's what the dish is called in some places, honest! It happens to be the first dish I learnt from my mom. And it is also my favourite dish of all times. I can eat it 3 times a day, 7 days a week, for all the weeks of my life! So, it is really the mother of all dishes (pun intended!).

It is an quite easy dish to make and a perfect side dish for chappatis. Some probably find it a bit bland.



Ingredients:

1. Cumin seeds - 1 tablespoon

2. Chopped onion - 1

3. Sliced green chillies - 1

4. Vegetable oil - 3-4 tablespoon

5. Diced tomato - 1

6. Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon

7. Toor / Moong daal (Yellow lentils) - 1 cup

8. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

9. Garlic cloves - 4

Recipe:

1. In a pan, heat the vegetable oil.

2. Add the cumin seeds, green chillies, garlic and onions. Saute for a few minutes.

3. Add the diced tomatoes. Continue sauteing until all vegetables are mashed together.

4. Add the turmeric powder.

5.…

Tech - A new search on the web

In a space dominated by Google, Bing, Yahoo and the other search engines, there is a new one - Blekko.

Blekko seems to be specialising in search with a "social" twist to it. You can login to Blekko with you Facebook ID. Once you start searching, it shows you the results like other search engines. In addition, it shows if any of your friends have "Liked" the results. I would call it "social ranking or relevance". You can also filter the sites by Flickr or Youtube videos.

Somehow, I didn't find it to be an intuitive user interface. Also, how difficult is it for existing search engines to provide a similar features (like social relevance, custom search engine, filters) albeit in a different manner. One thing which I hope Bing and Google are toying over is allowing users to "share" their search. It can be done even today but in a manual sort of way, by sending someone the address from the browser.

My wife and I are not happy

There is a new gadget in the house. No, it's not a XBox Kinect or Apple iPad that's causing fights. It is a simple yet humbling gadget - a weighing scale.


It is only been in the house for a day and is already the the reason for much consternation, heartburn, depression and trauma. I hope we both soon get into the right side of the scale!

Ever noticed how a simple thing like a mirror or a weighing scale can be the bane or boon of our lives.

Tech - These will help you cook

For all you foodies out there, here are a couple of great ways to find recipes you are looking for. There is a beta site - Foodily.


It's a great a new approach. You can use this site to search various food sites. So, when you search for apple, it shows you all the apple related recipes from all the sites. You can then filter the recipes based on ingredients or sites etc.

Having said that, it looks like Foodily is stepping into "search engine" territory. All the indexing and searching that Foodily is doing, someone like a Google can do better. If you want, you can try the Food Recipe search engine that I created using Google custom search here. The user interface will not be as great as Foodily, but I suspect a Google would give more accurate or relevant results.

In the "general" search engine space, it is pretty much competition between Google and Bing. It will be interesting to see if either of them ventures into what I call "applied" search. Searc…

Winds of change

Sekhmet, the daughter of the powerful Egyptian god Ra is known as the protector of good and destroyer of evil. According to mythology, blazing desert winds are supposed to radiate from her body.

A sudden gust of wind seems to be sweeping across the middle east.


First was the swift "jasmine revolution" which caused a change of the ruling government in Tunisia. Political commentators were quick to note that there was a potential for the change to sweep across the middle east. Looks like change is imminent in Egypt (at the time of writing the blog). It now remains to be seen, what will be the effect on the remaining countries. So sudden has the change been that some of the major countries have not had a chance to respond.

There are some people who have attributed these changes to the latest avatar of the internet namely, social networking and all. But, I think at the most, the internet and increased communication has a marginal impact.

The real reason seems to be that the peo…

A rustic pizza

Image
This recipe is a bit of a cheat. I don't make all the ingredients, especially the pizza base and the sauce. But, it's good for a quick week day dinner or weekend too if you are feeling lazy.


It's also a great way to make kids eat vegetables they don't like, like spinach, broccoli etc.





Ingredients:

1. Sliced Red and yellow bell peppers - 1 each

2. Cut onion rings - 1

3. Crushed black pepper - 1 tablespoon

4. Basil - 1 teaspoon

5. Oregano - 1 teaspoon

6. Rosemary - 1 teaspoon

7. Pasta / pizza sauce - 2-3 tablespoon

8. Olive oil - 2-3 tablespoon

9. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

10. Pizza bread - 2

11. Mozarella cheese - 10 slices

12. Corn - 1 cup

13. Cut spinach - 1

Recipe:

1. In a pan, heat the olive oil.

2. Add the bell peppers, corn, spinach and onion. Saute for a few minutes.

3. Add the rosemary, oregano, basil and black pepper and saute for a few more minutes.

4. Add the pasta/pizza sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

5. Lay the vegetables in top of …

Fish as you like

Image
Here is a simple recipe for fish.

I just seems to have fallen in love with fennel seeds. They taste and smell great. They are great for preventing flu!




Ingredients:

1. Cumin seeds - 1 tablespoon

2. Fennel seeds - 1 tablespoon

3. Pepper corns - 1 tablespoon

4. Chilli powder - 1 teaspoon

5. Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon

6. Water - 1/4 cup

7. Seer fish (Indo-pacific Mackerel) - 2 fillets

8. Vegetable oil - 3-4 tablespoon

9. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

Recipe:

1. Grind the pepper corns, cumin and fennel seeds in a food processor.

2. Mix the above powder with turmeric, chilli powder and salt with some water.

3. Coat the fish fillets on both sides and let it marinate for 15-20 minutes.

4. Add the oil in a pan and heat it.

5. Shallow fry the fish until they are brown on both sides. It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.

6. You can have the fish with mint or mayonnaise dip.

Tip: If not Mackerel, try this recipe with salmon.

Happy cooking and eating.

A staple chutney

Image
This is a chutney which goes well with any south indian dish like idli, dosa, upma etc. It has been a life savior on many weekdays when I need to make a quick dinner. I think my fastest time was around 10 minutes!




Ingredients:

1. Chopped onions - 1

2. Chopped green chillies - 1

3. Chopped garlic - 4

4. Chopped tomatoes - 1

5. Mustard seeds - 1 tablespoon

6. Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon

7. Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon

8. Vegetable oil - 3 teaspoon

9. Salt - 1 teaspoon (or to taste)

10. Chopped coriander / curry leaves

11. Asafoetida powder - a pinch

12. Broken urad dal - 1 teaspoon

Recipe:

1. Heat the oil in a kadai.

2. Add the chopped onions, mustard seeds, broken urad daal and green chillies and fry for a few minutes until the onions are golden brown.

3. Add the chopped garlic and asafoetida powder.

4. Add tomatoes and fry until everything is mashed.

5. Add turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt.

6. Let the dish cool and grind into a thick paste in the food processor. Add some water…