Sunday, January 20, 2008

Best PC Utility - PC Wizard

This is one of my favorite Windows PC utilities. It's called PC Wizard. It provides very detailed and accurate information on your computer. I have used it often on Dell's and Apple computers (when running on the Windows-side using BootCamp or even under a VM like Parallels). The details it provides are amazing: CPU and hard disk temperature gauges, current processor speed, memory/RAM details... stuff that most operating systems don't provide. A nice to have feature would be the ability to log time-indexed information like processor speed, temperature and so forth. That way you can see how intensively is the machine being used.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Books I am reading (to be continuously updated)
  • Charlie Wilson's War by George Crille
  • Legacy of Ashes, the History of CIA by Tim Weiner
  • Inside the Tornado by Geoffrey Moore

TV advertising

Some thoughts on advertisements on television.

Good Ones (i.e. enjoyable for the viewer, hold their attention and get the message across)
  • Vytorin ( - Jan 5, 2008
Vytorin is a heart-condition pill. Unlike competitors who scare the hell out of you by showing clogged arteries and falling down people these guys show nice food and match it in with people dressed 'like' the food. There's too much pharmaceutical advertising on TV, especially during the evening news hour, to pay attention to anything. If TV is to be my doctor atleast make it informative and not over the top emotional. I am here to enjoy the entertainment and relax, not be reminded of all the personal problems. So anything that is pleasant enough and not loud enough to distract me from getting the real message of the ad is a plus. If I am to watch a 3 hour football game on TV I need to keep my senses in check with all the gazillion ads who drive people to hit the Tivo fast forward button.

-> I wish TV makers provided a voice command for mute (so I can yell 'mute' when the ads start) or atleast provide a really large mute button in the most obvious place on the remote (reachable by the thumb). I'll take the visuals, but no audio. That way I can watch a 3 hour game and not wind up as a hyper and tired zombie.

Bad Ones

Thursday, January 3, 2008

MacWorld 2008 Wishlist

Here's my personal wishlist on the computer side. Some of this has already been speculated in the press by analysts and reporters. But here's the wishlist of features that I, as a user, want.

1. Longer battery life
My MacBook has a decent battery life (~ 2.5-3 hours), but not enough to last a cross-country 4-5 hour plane trip. And lugging a large extra battery defeats the purpose of buying a 13" small laptop.

Now if this comes through a NAND-flash based 'permanent' storage or new battery technologies, I don't really care. If NAND-flash also decreases weight, even better! Tiger does start up fairly fast (from cold start or sleep) so I have no complaints/needs on that side.

2. Blu-Ray DVD support for Media Center for Music & Movies:
I plan to use my new Mac (iMac/mini/MacBook whatever it is) as a true media center connected to the LCD HDTV. FrontRow is outright excellent in playing movies, videos and music (and also for pictures) with its simple 6-button remote. In comparison the 50 button DVD remote gives me fits whether its dark or not. Blu-Ray support is key to ensuring the future of this vision.

3. Better multi-monitor support (I don't know the answer but there has to be a way)

At work I have a 20" LCD connected to my MacBook to increase the screen real estate available. Usually my office email or a browser window is always open there. Or sometimes a second spreadsheet or document that I am referring to while writing/editing the main one. This is incredibly useful not having to repeatedly alternate between windows - yes a real productivity booster.

Mac OS X loves Fitt's law, and I love the ability to just blindly hit/push the mouse to the top of the screen and always find the menu. (Also useful are the 4 hot corners, for setting up screensavers, all windows...). But this means that OS X sticks the menu's either to the main display or to the secondary display. Either way the applications in the 'other' window have no menu's. So if you have Excel in the 'secondary' window you have to go to the main window to click on a toolbar or menu item!

I have not seen a good solution to this problem. I am surprised that other users have not complained or solved this problem, given the large number of graphics experts who use Mac's and typically use multiple displays for their work. Also a lot of people at home are starting to use multiple displays, so pretty soon (I hope) the ratio of multi-display users tilts over 20% to get some attention.

May be a solution is to allow users to duplicate the menu & toolbar on every display on which the application has a window. Just one checkbox in the preferences window. Not sure if this is something the OS alone can do, or it requires all applications to support. If its the later, "Dear Mac Business Unit Product Manager at Microsoft, ...."

4. Hardware upgrade for the Mac mini

5. Lower prices for the wireless keyboard and mouse.

Yes, the other speculated things would be nice too...
  • Rental of movies will truly make the media center vision for Mac's a practically reality. Even though I have a Netflix-enabled computer connected to the LCD HDTV (via VGA/RGB)... you still have to browse via a web interface on the computer to select your movie and without any remote control. And ofcourse Netflix online movies do not work on Mac's (until the Silverlight version comes out - if it does).

VPN setup for Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.x)

I connect to a Microsoft Windows Server 2000 VPN and these instructions (PPTP) work.
  1. UCLA:
  2. UMass:
  • The UCLA site has instructions for both Tiger and Leopard (10.5.x).
  • Leopard VPN setup has an additional option that allows you to decide whether Internet traffic (non-VPN, like Google or Yahoo) will go through the VPN (i.e. tunneled through your organization's network) or through your local Internet connection (typically your ISP). But on a colleague's MacBook with Leopard upgrade this feature did not work. Even when the bypass option was enabled the default route was still through the VPN. Seems like a bug.
  • Most companies typically do not allow such a bypass while connected over the VPN for security reasons. The IT admins fear of a security risk: you are browsing on some Internet site that runs a malicious program on your computer while it is also connected to the company's network, exposing it to danger. They control this by installing the VPN client themselves and lockdown the options. This can be done easily on domain controlled Windows. Not sure if this restriction can be done easily on Mac's.
  • The UMass site has instructions on how to setup Tiger for doing the bypass. Ofcourse you have to follow these instructions everytime you connect via VPN. You can write a little script to automate this, assuming your default route at every location you connect from (home, coffee shop, friend's home...) are fixed. But this is a very useful feature when you are at home checking baseball scores while downloading company email. You may not want the traffic to the baseball site to go through the company's Internet connection. Hence the bypass!