Code. Program. Develop.
Computer Science is not about cryptic lines of text which brainiacs spew out on their computer screens. It’s simply about breaking down a problem and solving it one piece of magic at a time. I wish they would air this video on national television. I hope atleast a few people go ahead and take an introductory programming class to become awesome.
I have sat down to write this post a dozen times in the last few months. Pen to paper, hands to keyboard, thumbs to touchscreen – every time I try to put down the experience I have had since I arrived at UCLA, I falter. Not because I don’t have enough to write about but because I don’t know where to begin.It’s just been one quarter so far, but I already know why they say college changes people.
To keep myself from being overwhelmed and to avoid spewing out a book-length post, I am just gonna write about the most remarkable things I have experienced here.
The moment the professor of my ‘Intro to Programming’ class bounced to the podium, I knew the class was gonna be fun. When a man in his fifties talks with the boundless energy of a five-year old, it’s damn admirable. When he holds the attention of a couple hundred teenagers while explaining what a variable is for two hours, it’s worth an ovation. I have been coding for some time but I attended each lecture just for the enthusiasm that the professor injected into the class.
And it’s not just the professors, everyone I have met is incredibly passionate about their field of study. I have talked to students of music history, astrophysics and psychobiology and each one of them talks about their subjects with shining eyes and breathless eagerness. And being surrounded by such smart and motivated people, who strive for self-improvement everyday, just bolsters my desire to better myself as a person and a programmer. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better environment for my higher studies.
Indians. We are everywhere.
My dad told me that the friends I would make in college would be the ones that I would remember forever. I feel the truth of his words now. Maybe it’s the simple fact of having no one but each other as family in college, but for a nomad like me calling someone a friend forever is a huge thing. I have friends who would rush over to help me at 3 in the morning without a second thought and I would do the same for them. Of course, the midnight adventures all over UCLA’s campus have helped bring us closer but I shouldn’t write about them so publicly.
I mentioned I am a nomad. Living at the same place, staying at the same school for more than a year is an exception. You can imagine it being kinda hard for me to cultivate school spirit, but in just three months here, I have managed to lose my voice cheering for UCLA more than once. The time when we crushed USC at the Rose bowl, the game against UC Irvine where both basketball teams were neck-to-neck, I felt an exhilarating sense of belongingness. It must help that in every presentation during orientation, the speakers would congratulate us for being good enough to be a Bruin. That it was we who made UCLA what it was. The attitude of outdoing yourself to be a better person everyday is one they successfully infect everyone with everyday.
I understand that this post might seem a bit abstract to some, a stream of excited emotions to others but to detail everything that has happened since September would take far too long. Future posts will hopefully be more specific if they focus on specific events. For now, I will just finish with a simple thank you. My gratitude for this wonderful new chapter in my life and the promise of another fun-filled eleven quarters. I hope they pass a lot more slowly than this one did.
Hope you had a great year and the coming one is even better!
It’s been a while since I wrote something on my personal blog. Wait, for that it would have to exist and it didn’t have an independent identity till last week.
Welcome to my blog. I was using this domain for my book blog, Akshul, but it has moved and been rechristened as The Bookmage. I used to post a non-book post every few months at The Bookmage but I have moved all of them here now. This will be my personal blog about my life and filled with my musings.
So, personal blog revived and the book blog relocated. Any updates? Yes.
UCLA. University of California, Los Angeles. I will be moving to Los Angeles this September to enroll at UCLA as a Computer Science major. Even for a nomad like me (LA will be my 12th city), this will be a huge change in culture, cuisine and city, so I am super-excited for this. I will also be blogging about the awesome time I will undoubtedly have there but I can’t promise regular updates because I have no idea how busy/free my schedule there will be. I will try to post as frequently I can.
Until next time.
Reading an article NowGamer published, I started thinking if we have had too much of good graphics ?
Sam Bandah provides a good argument, one that I agree with. Not only in games, a visual bias does exist wherever you look. The world’s highest grossing movie if all time ‘Avatar’ was the most vitally stunning movie I have ever seen, but the story ? That was nothing new.
Another movie, Legend Of The Guardians, had amazing CG work but if I ignored the graphical feast, it wouldn’t be as entertaining.
We, I believe, have reached the plateau of the graphics curve. Quake 1, 2 and 3, Warcraft 1,2 and 3, these games had huge differences in their graphics, but when you see today’s games, how different do you find them ?
Assassin’s Creed was a game lauded by everyone for it’s amazing visuals, but if you jump to the gameplay section of any of it’s reviews, you will find the reviewers considerably less enthusiastic. Pushing the envelope is a good thing, but compromising gameplay and story for how well a game looks is not. Plus, the way games have been getting shorter and shorter, it results in less VFM for the gamers. The video game industry relies on games looking more real (because of our inherent bias that nice looks means actually fun ?) and that kinda explains the hype that is built up around games before launch, but eventually fall short. The same phenomenon is creeping into the mobile gaming industry, Epic Games’ Infinity Blade, rightly called the best looking game on mobile devices, is among the most linear games I have ever played. Same is the case with Rage HD. Sure, my eyeballs love them, but they get boring after a while. People bought them for the hype and the artwork, which satisfies them initially but the lack of other elements gets bugging quick.
Unarguably stunning, but can you run it ?
Game Studios need to realize that while a game’s graphics are important, they are there to only augment the fun. Spending a little less on graphics and more on gameplay would surely make a difference. Games like Little Big Planet, Bioshock etc. show that it’s possible to be make a game which looks good and remains fun to play. Half life 2 and it’s episodes are excellent examples as well. The Valve devs already had the Source engine and once they knew they had graphics good enough, they spent time on the story, developing the characters, optimizing the engine and ensuring a smooth experience. The upside of using the same engine was that gamers didn’t need a new rig for every game ( Crysis anyone ?). I am not saying that graphics are killing innovation, but that a balance needs to be struck between graphics, gamplay and story for a game to achieve greatness. We have had the graphics revolution, now we need a content revolution too.
In the end, all I wanna say to the developers is that, we are happy with the level of graphics we have, give us games with better stories, gameplay and characters. Make them fun, so that we keep returning not only for the multiplayer but for the exciting single player that your game has.
Among the numerous boring and uninspired programs on the telly, its hard to find a show which excites you, entertains you and manages to keep doing it. Thankfully, I struck gold while channel surfing and found Chuck. Since then, it has gone on to become among my all time favorite shows. On IMDb, its summarized as : ‘When a twenty-something computer geek inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain, CIA and NSA assign two agents to protect him and exploit such knowledge, turning his life upside down.’ I will admit I thought it was gonna be really cheesy, but once I started watching, I was in love. Let me walk you through why :
The Fantastic Cast Of Giants : You know that feeling you get when you are watching something and think that a role could be played better by a different actor ? That doesn’t happen once in Chuck. The casting is as close to perfect as I have ever seen. Zachary Levi (He’s a point on his own) , the gorgeous Yvonne Strahovski (she can act well too!) , Adam Baldwin (no wait, thats Jayne from Firefly), Joshua Gomez (or Teddy Bear in disguise), the awesome Ryan McPartlin as , uh…. Captain Awesome and Sarah Lancaster as the caring sister everyone wants. The chemistry is so good, the acting so natural that you can’t help but adore the characters. Also, you get some really good guest actors like Scott Bakula, Linda Hamilton, Brandon Routh, Rachel Bilson etc. BTW They are called the cast of giants because most of them are over 6 feet tall.
Zachary Levi : He’s fun. He’s goofy. He’s charming. He’s vulnerable, endearing and kind. He’s actually believable. Levi does such an awesome job as the titular character, using all of the billion expressions he seems to have. Before I dedicate the full post gushing about him, let me just say that he is really talented and balances the drama, comedy and action of the show extremely well. Apparently, he’s a pretty nice guy in real life too if his tweets are anything to go by.
The Music : I am not kidding when I say this series has the best mix of quality music in any TV show I have ever watched. It perfectly fits each situation and is catchy enough that I often find myself humming ‘Cobrastyle’ by the Teddybears. The music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas is a long-time Josh Schwartz collaborator. She has a knack for discovering little-known bands and featuring their music on the show which obviously boosts their popularity and gives us more songs to fill up our iPods with. Even though there’s no official soundtrack, fans have put together an unofficial one. Also, you can see a list of all the music on the show on TVShow Music broken down episodically.
You will fall out of your chair : Unless you have weak bones which might crack when you fall from your chair or tend to choke on your saliva (I have seen it happen), you will find the show’s witty dialogs and general hilarity infectious. There is humor for every kind of person, from sarcasm to slapstick, one thing you won’t fall short when watching this show is laughs. It manages to infuse humor in the most serious situations and even in the action. Come on, after all the serious Bourne and Bond spying, you deserve to see how spying can be fun. Watch the video below for a sample.
The Storyline Just Gets Better
For part of the first season, the story is the usual ‘taking out criminals and assassins’ and is kept up by the humor and acting. Later on, it starts to kick ass. The story gets better, we get to explore the back stories of the characters, have some great villains, criminal organisations and get proper season long arcs. One of the things, the show has been praised for is how well it balances Chuck the Nerd Herder and Chuck the Spy, every episode has a sub-plot at the Buy More which sometimes blends with the spy missions. The quirky but well-defined characters only help increase the awesomeness of the show. For instance, Vik Sahay’s role as Lester has often been commended for breaking out of the Indian stereotype. The romances, bromances and the mission are all well-written, kudos to the writers. Plus, the underdog story of how an $11 an hour tech support guy turns into the government’s most valuable asset never turns out to be a boring.
Action as good as the Movies
I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the quality of the fights and action sequences of Chuck. You get exotic locations, cool sets and proper combat. The fights and stunts are so nicely choreographed and well done that they even got a couple of Emmys for them. Casey with big guns, Sarah with her high kicks and Chuck…getting in trouble. Thanks to the variety of guest stars, there is always the pleasure of watching beautiful women sort things out the old-fashioned way. A lot of the stunts are done by the actors themselves, so its a lot more fun.
Apart from all the stuff I have said above, don’t you have that little spy inside you who wants all the cool gadgets, travels and the action ? You know you want the supercomputer which teaches you how to perform martial arts moves ? You know, satisfy your inner geek ? Its available online, on DVD, and on TV. No reason not to watch it. I have heard this show called ‘Joyous’ and its the best description. Tell me if I convinced to check out the show in the comments.
You have probably heard something about all the IPv4 addresses getting used up and the upcoming switch to IPv6. June 8, 2011 has also been declared as IPv6 day, when Google, Facebook and Yahoo! will switch to IPv6 for a test run and motivate other organisations to prepare for the switch to IPv6. Amid all the news about v4 and v6, what happened to v5 ? What was the fate of IPv5 ? Upon a quick google search, I found a helpful article by Raffi Krikorian. The summary of that article is that in 1979, engineers made the Internet Stream Protocol (ST). Its purpose was to transmit audio, video etc over the internet. Its adoption was started at NeXT, Apple , Sun, IBM but it never went mainstream. This was given the name IPv5, so the next iteration of Internet Protocol was given the next version : IPv6.
You can read the original article by Krikorian here. For a slightly enriched, history filled version, look here.
Last week, I received my brother’s essay, who asked me to proofread it. Problem was, it was in the .docx format. Now, I mainly use Google Docs for any papers I have to write or presentations to make. Its ultra-accessible and collaborating with others is really easy, but it doesn’t support editing of Microsoft’s new docx, pptx and xlsx formats. To solve my dilemna, I ran a google search and found Zamzar. In their own words:
Zamzar is dedicated to helping you transform your songs, videos, images and documents into different formats. Our mission is:
“To provide high quality file conversion for as many file formats as possible”
We are intent on bringing order to your filesystem by offering you a one stop solution for all your file conversion needs. Like others we were fed up with having files in all sorts of formats, and no easy way of converting between them – the quest to find a better way led to the birth of Zamzar.
It’s a great tool and lets you convert almost any file type into another. There is a 100 MB limit for unregistered users, but that’s enough for almost everyone. They do offer paid options as well which give you an inbox, a file manager, concurrent file conversion and even encryption. The conversion process is a breeze. You select the file from your computer, choose the desired output filetype, enter the email id where you want the converted file to be sent, and you are done. With everything shifting to the cloud these days, this service is no surprise but very nice to have.
Since I am doing the Post A Week challenge by wordpress, I have 7 blogging topics to choose from every week. So after, Some Go Softly and my buddy Isabelle’s posts, here’s my piece on the 3 countries I wanna visit.
United Kingdom: I am making the game a bit easier for me, but England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, all of them have so much to offer that it would be a huge shame to miss any of them. London, which has so many awesome sights is top on the UK list. The place, I and any other Sherlockian, would wanna go to ASAP is of course, the iconic 221B Baker Street. Then I would visit the various castles and Lochs of this kingdom, because I am extremely fascinated by European architecture. I used to (and still do sometimes) dream of living in a castle when I was a kid, and that led to my addiction to the fantasy genre, be it TV, films or books.
The Beauty of Stonehenge
France : Who doesn’t want to visit France ? Go and enjoy Paris ? Except the people who actually live there, its everyone’s dream to go and experience the world’s most romantic city. When I go there, the visit to Louvre is an obvious, so is the Notre Dame and Arc De Triomphe. Dan Brown’s works did nothing but enhance the enchantment that this country holds. Oh, and did I forget the Eiffel Tower ?
The definition of Enchanting.
Germany : I will admit that its not just the country and its wonders(even though they are amazing) which cause me to want to visit this country, but friends. They visited me here, saw my life and I wanna do the same. Of course, there’s so much to see in their absolutely beautiful country. Visit the Neuschwanstein castle, traverse the Romantic Road, go camping in the Black Forest and the Cannstatter Volksfest . The chances are high, that I will be of legal age before I visit Germany, so there’s Oktoberfest too
Can I live there, pretty please ?
Obviously, these aren’t the only places on my travelling list, but these are the top 3. Of course, I am just in high school now and who knows how long it will be before I visit all these fantastic places but I think I will set myself a comfortable deadline to go to all these countries within the decade. I have set my goal. Seems a Europe tour should be on the cards sometime in the future. Did I make you wanna visit any of these ? What are you favorite places ? When do you see yourself travelling to those locations ? Tell me in the comments below!
If you have been visiting my blog or posterous for some time, then you might have noticed that I tend to change my blog’s design more often than other people do. I seem to find a new design everytime that looks better, seems better or has better functionalitry than what I have right now. Sometimes, this is set off by seeing another site’s design or a post about new design treds or a newly released theme that crosses my path. This starts an itch, a gnawing feeling that the design, the look of the blog could be even better. Its not necessarily a drastically different design, it might be a better use of colors, a slight tweak in the layout or a font thats more readable. Then after a week or so of deliberation and internal struggle (Am I changing the theme again? So soon ?), I usually end up switching to the new design. A month or so passes, and I start noticing slight niggles and bits of the new design that I don’t like.
For example in my previous theme, I loved the jQuery effects on the homepage, the posts resizing themselves according to the browser window’s size, even the date in the avatars of the people who commented. Later I found that when I wanted to enable the Disqus comment system, it would not display properly due to the auto-resizing posts. The search bar felt a little mis-aligned, a couple of plugins didn’t work properly and the homepage while cool at first, started feeling a bit empty. In my current theme, a custom comment system starts causing problems in the slider. No doubt, all these minor niggles could be fixed by someone who knows PHP and/or about web design, but I don’t have proper knowledge of either ( I plan to learn the language though). So, my options are either to find a better alternative or live with these flaws. I know its better to stick to your theme for as long as possible because switching to a new one leads to the headache of ensuring that all posts are displayed properly, none of the links are broke, the images, the thumbnails yada, yada. I admire all those people who can resist the temptation of not jumping onto the latest awesome design that they see, keeping their old comfortable design. Maybe, I am a classic case of ‘The grass is greener on the other side (or the code is better on the other site ?). Still, I seem to be too restless to live with the flaws even though I know I will never find anything perfect. And my search continues…
BTW the itch seems to have started early with this theme. Expect a design change soon.