May 1, 2009

The mindbogglingly low shutdown time of Windows 7

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 10:10 am

This is it. Windows 7 has hit the nail right on its head. While going through BBC’s utterly crap article hyping the new Release Candidate, I spotted this absolute gold of a quote:

Many beta testers of Windows 7 have reported that it is faster than Vista, especially in terms of start-up and shutdown sequence of the computer.

Mr Curran said that the Microsoft Windows team had been poring over every aspect of the operating system to make improvements.

“We were able to shave 400 milliseconds off the shutdown time by slightly trimming the WAV file shutdown music.”

“It’s indicative of really the level and detail and scrutiny on Windows 7.”

No other operating system in the world can have claims over this ground-breaking innovation for reducing shutdown times. I mean, it took more than a decade of research and real-world feedback for Microsoft to finally declare that chopping shutdown music will reduce the — gasp! — shutdown time as well. Who knows, maybe Windows 8 will blow everyone out of the water by discarding each and every sound found in the previous versions. We’re living in a wonderful age of technological revolution.

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July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Grown-Up Fan with Dung for Brains

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 9:31 am

The year was 2002 and I had only been 13 at the moment when I picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone off the shelf. The hype was prodigious and I had started to feel kind of left behind as conversations like these cropped up consistently:

“Dude how many parts of Harry Potter have you read?”
“Er.. none?”
“Are you like kidding or what? I’ve read all four of ’em”

Reading Harry Potter wasn’t a choice for kids back then and it isn’t even a choice for kids even today. Honestly speaking, this might actually be a good thing if one assumes that the Harry Potter novels are actually increasing children’s interest in book-reading. Realistically speaking, however, Harry Potter novels don’t contribute that much towards the reading habits of children. The attention span of most of the teenagers who read Harry Potter as their first book is usually depraved by the media-hype surrounding He-Who-Must-Be-Bought. After being done with the wizarding-world, most of them won’t even trouble themselves with reading books that aren’t mundane/controversial enough to get everyone buzzing with ballyhoo a la Da Vinci Code. Consequently, their mental-growth is indentured with that of Harry. Few years later, you’ll see them in the role of adolescents “confessing” their pedophilia love for the Hogwarts’ lot.

Harry Potter novels are good — for kids — period. Nevertheless, I had this irresistible urge to compile a list of seven paramount reasons why the Boy-Who-Lived can suck it for good and why grown-up people who think Harry Potter is thoughtful have dung for brains. Just because Rowling’s publishers crunched out the same kids’ stories in a jacket with real life photos calling them “adult versions” doesn’t mean that the novels don’t retain their puerile themes and narration (sour disappointment for anyone who was wishing for threesomes between Harry, Ron and Hermione while opting for these versions). I limited the number of reasons to seven for obviously pertinent reasons. Without further ado, here they are:

  1. Every Tom and Dicky Harry: Have you ever wondered why the Harry Potter universe is so riddled with stereotypes? You have an antagonist who loves none, cares for none, is uber-1337 when considering power and has a name feared by almost everyone except the protagonist. The protagonist quite facetiously is someone who doesn’t really like all the attention but has a fame of mythic proportions in his own world; who beats the most-powerful-of-them-all wizard despite being a n00b himself time and time again and who, in any possible stretch of imagination, can’t act evil or exhibit characteristics such as narcissism, vanity or megalomania. Moreover, the protagonist isn’t money-conscious either but is somehow left with a crap-load of fortune by his parents. If you have spotted all this, pat yourself on the back. If you haven’t, try contacting Dr. Jack Kevorkian as he might be able to rid this Earth of your ignorant presence and do us all a favor.
  2. Potter Mania: Millions of teenagers spent billions of hours reading and re-reading Harry Potter novels for “clues” about the future happenings during the past decade. Whether it was about Harry’s penis scar feeling itchy after seeing a Voldemort-possessed-Ginny or about a gleam of triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes after hearing Harry recall events of his encounter with Voldemort, you always had a few dozen actively-participated discussions about the future novels in any of the fan forums at a given moment. At the release of final novel, my BBC news feeds started showing quotes from the “waiting fans” and typical examples would include: “I had thought and contemplated about Harry Potter ever since I started reading the book a decade ago. What am I gonna do with my life now?” Speaking of life, Miss Harry-Pooper-Makes-Me-Wet-Junkie, how about getting one, like for real? If you do have any worthy analytical skills at all, aren’t they better honed while studying something boring like History or Political Science for example? But then, if you did have the acute quality of introspective reading, you would have realized anyway that wasting many years of your life speculating about a fictional wizard is well … quite moronic.
  3. The Emo Jo: Ever since the Order of the Phoenix hype started to build up, Rowling would find reasons to mourn for “killing a very-important character which was close to her heart” and sell the story to BBC. Ironically, the story would always top the clicks everywhere and fans would start telling each other: “OMG, did you hear? JKR was crying for the death of one of the important characters. I wonder who will it be?” And then they would go an a reread-the-previous-novels spree to find clues about the one who’s going to die. Her last emo bewailing was a masterstroke, no doubt. All the news sources in the world suddenly deemed that mothers grieving the loss of their children’s lives to war and famine are somewhat less important than Rowling shedding tears over ending of the “saga”. If it wasn’t already disgusting enough, Rowling then made a comment about Charles Dickens. Explicating the fact that the latter was feeling dejected after the two-years’ authoring of the novel David Copperfield had finished; Rowling said: “To which I can only sigh, try seventeen years, Charles.” Excuse me? It just so happens that there are writers (read: Tolkien) in history who had been authoring the same story for about half-a-century but didn’t whine about cessation of the writing process at its end. It doesn’t even appear to be deliberate. Perhaps being emo is a natural outgrowth of her being a woman. Who knows?
  4. Movies: Anything which was remotely appreciable about Harry Potter’s cult following was completely overshadowed by the film adoptions. The virtually inane motion pictures with crammed story-lines and acting deserving of the Golden Raspberry Awards actually managed to sell BIG with a capital B (and I and G). Not only that, but the movies also opened up a whole new dimension for hippies who preferred to waste their time by ruminating about what’s going to be included in the next movies and what’s not. I’m sorry, but my suck-o-scope has just started spinning uncontrollably.
  5. Lord of the Rings comparisons: Anyone who seriously compares the two is decidedly juvenile; and I’m being empathetic enough by not calling him a retard.
  6. Out of proportions universe: I don’t know about you, but I prefer fantasies that at least regard matter and mass as balanced entities. On the other hand, in the Harry Potter world, we have rooms that enlarge themselves at their inhibitors’ wishes, small pouches that can accommodate libraries and methods of traveling which allow you to disappear and appear instantly at anywhere within the country. All this made me feel really uneasy; to an extent where I expected Hermione to conjure a Disneyland anytime, Cartman style. Alright, that last point was intentionally hyperbolic, but it ain’t as far-fetched as it seems either. With the endless supply of Dei Ex Machinis that Rowling seemed to have, I couldn’t convince myself to rule out the possibility of something like that happening.
  7. The Ending [Spoilers! Highlight to read]: As I was progressing through the last book, the darker tone and the implication of Harry’s submissive death really started to sound impressive. My hopes of a cogitative ending emphasizing the nature of sacrifice and anonymity real-life heroes die in were crushed as soon as Harry returned from the King Cross station. The epilogue became Rowling’s waterloo; as she transmuted her storyline into a soap opera where you see all the characters happily playing with their kids after 2 decades. And yeah, it was absolutely despicable.

That’s all, folks!

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June 20, 2007

KSA: The Kindom of Sacrilegious Authority

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 4:37 am

At about 8:50 PM, I was heading towards the last custom clearance queue. A chubby guy in his late 30’s was scanning the passengers’ baggages and showed the usual signs of aggressiveness which I’ve grown quite accustomed to over the years. As soon as my suit-case went into the scanner, I started praying but I knew that it was just too much to ask for as I heard the dreaded call (which, if possible, was made even more dreadful because of the atrocious accent): “You there, open this suitcase”!

If you’re wondering who I am, let me first clear up some facts. I’m not a drug-dealer and I haven’t ever tried to smuggle anything of that sort either. What bothered me however was the fact that I had about 80 DVDs with me. If you’ve ever traveled to KSA, odds are high that you’ve also experienced the phenomenon which virtually equates n DVDs with n grams of Cocaine. If you’re thinking of bringing DVD movies which contain even the most trivial amount of on-screen romance, think again. It won’t be a walk in the park. Downloading those movies on 56k dial-up connections would be a relatively easier and painless process, and I’m not joking either!

Anyways, as soon as I opened up the suitcase, his eyes spotted the DVD case. He opened it up, and immediately threw a questioning glance at my face. What amused me about his behavior was the vibrant sense of accomplishment that he was radiating. After a moment’s pause, the following conversation ensued:

“What is this?”
“What CDs?”
“Playstation 2 games” (Experience has taught me that these are the most acceptable form of optical media in the kingdom)
“All of them?”
“Most of them” (Quite hesitantly)

At this point, he started flicking through the DVDs. The ones with covers that looked like cartoons were spared any unforeseen trouble, but as soon as he saw a DVD without a cover, he stopped his hands and started staring at me inquisitively for a second time.

“And what is this?”
“A movie”
“What movie?”
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition”

Not surprisingly, he was completely oblivious to my last answer so he just pulled out the DVD from the bag and threw it on his desk. At 9:00 PM, he had about 40 more DVDs stacked haphazardly on each other along with my passport. Most of them were declared to be suspicious because they didn’t have any covers on them, but that wasn’t the only ingenious criteria that they had come up. They also short-listed the DVDs which had obscene scenes such as hugging on their respective covers. In other words, anything which doesn’t have cartoon characters on its cover is considered as contraband until thoroughly checked.

After a few minutes of apprehensive waiting, he started shouting around for some Abdul Kareem. A porter suddenly came running from the other end of the hall. The custom guy handed him over my DVDs and told me to close my suitcase. After I locked it and turned around to spot the Abdul Kareem guy, a horrible realization dawned upon me: he had disappeared into the blues. Discerning the hopelessness on my face, the custom guy started shouting again for the porter and in a few minutes I was standing in the “testing room” of the airport. For a newcomer, this can be quite an intimidating experience as you’re surrounded with about 8 PCs (running Windows XP in Arabic) and 12 TVs with a DVD player connected to each of them. For the veteran, this is one of the funniest places on earth. If you don’t belong to the latter category, keep on reading and you’ll find out the reason for this facetiousness.

One by one, the DVDs were inserted into the DVD-ROM drives of different PCs. As most of them were PS2 games, they contained strange binary files which weren’t remotely recognizable by Windows Media Player (half of the benchmark for digital-contraband). Looking quite frustrated, he tried all of them in the DVD players. On about the 18th DVD, he hit the jackpot. The DVD started playing ‘The Massage’ episode of Seinfeld. I started feeling a tingling sensation in my spinal cord. Luckily, the massage scene on George passed by without any sexual involvement. The on/off tingling sensation continued for another half hour, at the end of which both of us were left equally embittered. He couldn’t spot anything more sexual than a physiotherapist’s massage while I was constantly checking at the clock. At last, he resorted to figurative questioning once again, which resulted in me explaining for the umpteenth time that I don’t have any “sexy videos” with me. Finally, my passport was handed over back to me at half-past nine. I picked up my suitcase, and the packed CPU that I had brought with me and started walking towards the exit lounge. Apparently, the Saudi custom clearance guys don’t give a damn if any of the following is found in your baggage while entering the kingdom:

  • A 250Gb hard-disk
  • DVDs with cartoon-ish covers
  • DVDs with the Playstation 2 logo

However, the following things can set all the customs personnel on fire:

  • DVDs without proper covers
  • DVDs with females on their covers

If you don’t want to get caught while trying to sneak porn into the kingdom, do not write them as WMV files on DVD-Rs or as standard playable DVDs. You’ve been warned, these guys have an acute observation for spotting suspicious “sexy videos”.

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April 6, 2007

Customer sues Microsoft for misleading Vista labels

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 9:41 pm

I’ve just spotted this amusing story about a woman who is suing Microsoft for misleading ‘Windows Vista Capable’ labels on new PCs. According to Dianne Kelley, Microsoft has been promoting Vista as an easy-to-migrate option but the premium (see 1337) versions of the OS don’t exactly turn out to be as light on machines as they’re marketed to be.

An excerpt from what Microsoft had to say:

“We have different versions, and they do offer different features. … The Windows (Vista) core experience is a huge advance over Windows XP, we believe, and provides some great features, particularly in the area of security and reliability, and just general ease of use.”

They’re mostly right, with the slight inaccuracy in their statement being the fact that the ‘core experience’ of Vista has more to do with incompatible drivers/applications and slow file handling than security and reliability.

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‘Proof of concept’ virus for iPods running Linux

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 2:19 pm

Kaspersky Labs has ‘discovered’ that it is theoretically possible to infect Linux iPods with a virus. The amusing fact about the discovery is:

Podlosco cannot be launched without user involvement.

Once launched, the Podlosco virus scans the device’s hard disk and infects all executable .elf format files. Any attempt to launch these files will result in the virus to display a message on the screen, which reads “You are infected with Oslo the first iPodLinux Virus”.

What I fail to fathom is how on earth does creating an executable which infects other executable to display a message classify as a ‘discovery’? If that can be called a virus, here’s a much simpler one:

echo "You're being infected with the Idiotisco, the second most stupid Linux virus"
rm -rf ~

The Idiotisco virus is a ‘proof of concept’ that any moron running Linux can set executable bit on a file and run it to damage his system.

Disclaimer: The source code of Idiotisco virus is disclosed only for educational purposes. I will not be held responsible if it makes your system bleed or gets you fired from your job.

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January 30, 2007

Comparison: Windows Vista vs. Linux

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 9:02 pm

It’s finally here, and everyone is talking about it. Microsoft’s new operating system promises a revolution in computing, and a safer experience for its users. (more…)

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