Thursday, September 24, 2009

Famous Pub Crawling: Gollem, Amsterdam

Have you seen the Heineken ad where the wife is showing her friends the shoe closet and they hear the husband and his friends screaming & yelling - turns out the husband has a Heineken beer closet?

Well I felt the same joy when I stepped into Gollem in Amsterdam which I was visiting ago earlier this month for IBC... a very small pub by any standards BUT what a selection. Went their twice and second time took the trouble of taking my 20D with me.

Across the street from Gollem was a shop selling those beers to take home .... the thought did cross my mind to bring some across the pond but ...

More images on Flickr!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Outlook on Steroids - Xobni & ClearContext

The first part in this series I reflected upon on well I leverage Outlook and that I have just started using Xobni & ClearContext to make life easier handling email. Outlook supports "Profiles" - and I use that feature to keep my personal email inbox and mail separate from my work email. On startup I have setup Outlook to prompt me for profiles.

I have been successful to run both Xobni & ClearContext plug-ins simultaneously and so far they are behaving well. Although now Outlook is slower when starting up...

ClearContext is a big help in order to control the size of mailbox with the "Topic" and filing feature. As mail comes in I can assign topics, and once a Topic is assigned any future email on that thread is very easy to file. I can click on File Message or File Thread and the messages are moved to the appropriate folders that you had set up. What is really special is that I can setup the folders to be my PST files - and hence allowing me to archive emails based on the threads that I want to preserve.

The major downside I have with ClearContext is that it does not support multiple profiles. I avoid using the ClearContext features when I am running it in Personal profile and I have to undo the auto-topic assign feature that I use extensively on the work profile.

Overall the free version of ClearContext, which is free, adds tremendous value to manage my emails.

The Xobni plug-in supports multiple profiles. Xobni has a really cool feature not available in ClearContext - in its sidebar shows how is the sender of the email connected to you on social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I am not on Facebook (so far), but I have connected with several of colleagues and professional contacts on LinkedIn because of Xobni. When I receive an email it will show if the sender is on LinkedIn or not, and if on LinkedIn how is she connected to me. Within the sidebar they have a "Add" button which when clicked will launch to open LinkedIn in your web browser and allow you send an invite to connect with the sender.

Net-net it has made my Outlook experience richer and I would recommend the free versions of the plug-ins to achieve the following:

1. Keep the Inbox uncluttered and organized using "Topic" functionality in ClearContext
2. Keep track of two of the most popular Social Networks - LinkedIn & Facebook using the functionality in Xobni.

PS: One annoying thing that I have discovered about Xobni is that it keeps "modifying" the Contacts in my address book - not the content but it appears that it is 'touching' the contacts so if you sort them in using the "Modified" field you will see that the last email from any contact appears to be modified ...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Product Design: GPS & Car Mounts

Designing good products goes beyond simply introducing products in a hot category. Last couple of years GPS were high growth category initially made popular by the likes of Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan. The lure of high growth led the likes of HarmonKardon (HK) to introduce their own GPS devices.

One of our family friends traded their HK GPS for our Garmin Nuvi 270 before they headed out to Europe (the 270 has European maps built-in). I had a chance to use it - the unit is a lot fancier then the 270 but fancy does not equate to functional :-)

Here are my observations:

1. GPS add on units for cars typically comprise of a mounting device, the adaptor that is used to power the GPS unit and the GPS device itself. Add On GPS Units need to have very effective car mounts - most of them are "suction type" with a lock down lever. The lock down lever is a must because it helps create suction and hence the ability to adhere to the mount point. The picture below shows three components:

2. Once the suction mount is in place on the car windshield - a ball & socket joint is used to attach the GPS unit to the mount. A good joint that can withstand bumps and standard wear & tear is necessary. GPS units has a mechanical adapter with the "socket" - this adapter to the GPS Unit. Now you can plug in the GPS on the suction mount. Here is a how it mounts to the windshield of the car:

Having weak suction could lead to the GPS unit to fall as the mount falls off and I have seen several examples of that. The suction on the HK GPS car mount was pretty good, but take a look at the next shot:

As you may observe the GPS is drooping and I could never get it to prop up. And even though the HK GPS is loaded with features, I could not really use them. In fact the unit dropped while I was driving! It was obvious that the ball & socket joint was not solid enough to hold the unit well.

After I came back home I took a look at what was causing the problem, here is a pictures of the adaptor that connects the GPS unit to the mount, observe the cracks around the socket:

Now, in all fairness, the HK unit may have been dropped or bumped causing the damage. But the possibility remains that the design of the ball & socket joint especially on the adaptor would have not be done well - in this case may the material was not picked well (the right chemical composition?) or it was not designed to take the weight of the unit (this HK GPS is certainly heavier then the Nuvi 270). I don't know the reason but it does highlight that designing products well requires more than adding features!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Is Food Packaging Important?

I have discovered the joy of shopping for groceries and wine @ Trader's Joe - after hearing about it for so many years we finally made the trip. The first trip resulted in lot of food shopping as a discovery process. And the second trip a few weeks back to the store on Peachtree Parkway resulted in tons of wine shopping for the upcoming party we had :-)

The interesting thing about shopping at a place like Trader's Joe is that it turns the mundane, boring task of grocery shopping into an experience. Like this Chopped Basil:

I loved the packaging - each serving to be used for cooking packaged in their individual cubes!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Famous Pub Crawling: The Dove - Hammersmith

I am back from the trip to London last week and almost fully recovered from the jet lag. Over the weekend had a chance to download the pictures from my Canon 20D.

Had a chance to have drinks at a pub called as the The Dove in Hammersmith. The two primary "claim to fame" for this pub:

  • Ernest Hemingway is to frequent the pub
  • Smallest Bar in Britain

The rest of the pictures of Hammersmith can be found here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Globetrotting : London

This week I am in London on a business trip and this has been a great trip on the personal front simply because I have made time for the hectic schedule of meeting customers to actually meet with friends and see London!

Last night I met with a very good friend of mine - Vishal Rajani and he drove down from Cambridge. And as usual Vishal did not disappoint ...

In summary we started with drinking Belgian beers and Irish Ciders in Hammersmith, dinner at a great Iranian restaurant called Mahdi and followed by midnight picture taking of the London Eye and Big Ben.

Pictures to be posted when I return home from the trip (I have not downloaded them and keeping fingers crossed - I did not have a tripod, was resting the 20D wherever I could!)....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Simple Twist to the Pav Bhaji

I am sort of a foodie, actually all of us in my family are! My wife 
pulled a new simple but elegant twist on the Pav Bhaji. We have not 
been able to find the right "Pav" - bread that goes with Bhaji. Recently we discovered breads at Walmart and ended up starting to have what I would say is the Desi Sub - BhajiSub. I will call it the JiSub!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Do I word for Cisco OR Holder?

We have a new building almost finished @ the Cisco SPVTG (what was called Scientific Atlanta, Inc.) campus in Lawrenceville - Building #6. Holder, I think, is the construction company. There is a huge sign posted by Holder in a few places.

The new Cisco sign is also up replacing the Scientific Atlanta signposts - as you can see drivers passing by must be wondering if this Holder Construction or Cisco?

BTW This is a very beautiful campus and I am one of the people who has moved to this building and guess what my cubicle/office has a enviable view compared to others... (company policy forbids camera's and I will respect that else I would have posted how it looks from my office)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tech Tools That I Use Part 1: Email, Calendar & Contacts

While I am relatively new to the whole world of blogging and social-networking I consider that I am pretty good at using technology to increase my effectiveness. Here are a few things that I do:

1. I simply love Microsoft Outlook - it is one of the reasons of marital bliss. I ensure that all Birthdates, Anniversaries (not mine but the in-Laws) are setup, and reminders for a day before the events. The Calendaring & Contact function is phenomenal - yes I would want more features but I haven't seen anything that works so well and does not need an internet connection.

(And Yes I have tried Apple's email client, Thunderbird, Outlook Express, all kinds of web email - Gmail, Hotmail etc. - nothing in my opinion comes close to Outlook at least for what I use it for other than email!)

2. Having them on your Outlook is of course not enough - so whenever I have used any cellphone I have made sure that I can "sync" (using Cables or Bluetooth etc.) the calendars & contacts with the PC/Outlook. That, of course, allows you to be reminded when the laptop is NOT ON or at the office.

3. Another thing that I did (I say - "I did" because now I have automated the process) when using Outlook file messages. I rarely use an excuse that I have tons of email, I can dispatch and/or categorize emails very effectively. Of course it also helps that I am a BlackBerry addict since 2003!

4. I started using ClearContext a couple of months back and it has certainly helped me automate the task of keeping corporate email box limits. ClearContext allows me to setup "Topics" and any emails that are in the same thread get classified automatically. I can then file them away in separate folders as a single message or entire thread. (I must admit that the Apple MAC OS email client has this feature where it will show emails as "Threads" or "Conversations").

5. I am going to attempt to use Xobni (Inbox spelled in reverse) which boasts many features plus ability to connect to the social networks.

I will continue this post to follow up on Browsing and RSS tools to keep me updated on everything that is going on...

So far I like Blogger over WordPress!

I have tried blogging on WordPress, and for various different reasons found it difficult. I will keep trying/using to understand what are the advantages of using WordPress.

My take is simple - I don't want to go for their paid service till I know for sure that I will be blogging frequently. I googled and tried to go through their settings but I was unable to figure out how to get my Twitter updates to show up - something that we very, very simple with Blogger!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Holi Celebration

Like all Indian/Desi festival celebrations in the US, Holi is celebrated on weekends. This year chose to participate in the Holi organized by Sewa USA (a charitable organization)

I always wonder why end up attending, make no mistake I love Holi, but it takes second-seat to celebrating Diwali...

This time though I ended up taking a lot of pictures, going to sift through them and post them soon.

BTW before I headed out I had to take care to protect my Canon 20D and the lens using makeshift technique from the "gulal" (color, read more about Holi here), here is the picture of how I did it...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cisco CRS-1 & the Pure Digital Flip Video

It is really interesting to note that I may have the distinction of working for a company (Cisco Systems) - the distinction of some of the most massive (size-wise), high-end technical equipment to entry level camcorders if the intent acquiring Pure Digital go through!

So I tried doing some math to show the equivalence of CRS-1 to the Flip Video has a fun exercise...

Interesting stats to note: A Fully Loaded Cisco CRS-1 is 84 x 23.6 x 39.71 inches and wieghs 1595 lbs (723 kg). And the entry level Flip Video is 4.12 x 1.25" x 2.25" and weighs 5.2 oz (0.325 lbs) !

Volume: 1 CRS-1 ~ 6793 Flip Videos (78721.104/11.5875)
Weight: 1 CRS-1 ~ 4907 Flip Videos

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Twitter Changes ...

Changed my Twitter name my email/net moniker/handle that I usually use - TechTsunami to AshuJoshi. I think they kind of munged together, I wanted to have both of them and have the point back to AshuJoshi as the new follower name...

Not to worry, I have limited followers and nothing important that may get lost in the name change!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More than an year gone by...

More than an year has gone by without any blog post - not that I don't want to write or express, but it is next to impossible to post frequently. Y2009 has to be different. Between this blog and a new one that I will setup on Wordpress, I should be able to cover what I want to express. Plus I don't have to choose between WordPress and BlogSpot!