Ahoy there! This is my personal blog which I use as my memory extension and a medium to share stuff that could be useful to others.

On an earlier post, I mentioned the convenience of using portable applications on a USB drive. Typically, if you require to use a portable application on your USB drive, you will require to navigate to that application’s installation directory on your USB drive and then launch the application. Creating shortcuts to the applications on your desktop is pointless and will defeat the purpose of portability (tying you to the desktop). Fortunately, some software vendors have developed application launchers or docking software (similar to Windows QuickLaunch bar) that can be completely installed on a USB drive. By using one such dock called RocketDock (similar to the early Mac dock), I have quick access to my portable applications.

 

Download RocketDock v1.3.5

In order to launch RocketDock automatically on a Windows computer as soon as a USB drive containing it is inserted, I did the following:

(1) Downloaded the RocketDock executable. You may use the download button above or click here for the latest version.

NOTE: RocketDock is licensed under a Creative Commons Public License and by downloading RocketDock using the download button above, you are agreeing to use it as per the terms of the Creative Commons Public License. Although the RocketDock website says that RocketDock isn’t supported on 64-bit versions of Windows Operating Systems, I have been using RocketDock with 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate with no issues experienced so far.

(2) Installed the RocketDock software in a directory RocketDock in the  root of my USB Drive. For example, if my USB drive letter is P:, then the location of the RocketDock directory will be P:\RocketDock.

(3) Added a file called Autorun.inf to the root of my USB drive (P:\Autorun.inf) with the following contents:

[autorun]

open = RocketDock\RocketDock.exe

icon = RocketDock\RocketDock.exe

action = Gimme RocketDock mate!

label = Mr.KIPS

 

The above steps will display a pop-up window similar to the following when the USB drive is inserted:

 

rocketdock_autoplay

 

(4) When RocketDock launched, I then dragged the executables of my most frequently accessed portable applications onto the RocketDock, resulting in a dock similar to the screenshot below:

 

rocketdock

 

So, RocketDock has enabled me access my portable applications quickly.

I have not had a perfect user experience with RocketDock. Sometimes, RocketDock just does not launch when my USB drive is inserted and rarely, it just disappears off the screen. However, both these glitches can be addressed by simply launching the RocketDock manually (RocketDock.exe).

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When I started working as an independent contractor, I looked for ways to carry my work with me with minimum fuss and break free from the office PC/laptop. I was looking to install my favourite software completely on a USB drive without being tied to a PC/laptop (eg. by using Windows registry). I had been using a SanDisk Titanium U3 USB drive for a while, but was frustrated with the slow U3 Launchpad and unavailability of U3 versions of popular software. A little research led me to PortableApps.com which provides both individual portable applications and a portable suite of applications that can be run on a variety of hardware (USB drives, iPods, portable hard drives, etc.). I opted to use individual portable applications so that I could install only what I required. So, I formatted my SanDisk U3 USB Drive and installed portable versions of some of the software I use frequently (PuTTY, Mozilla Firefox, Notepad++, etc.) from PortableApps.com. The launch screen of Portable PuTTY is shown below.

 

putty_portable_launch

Although using some portable applications on my USB drive is a bit slower than their non-portable counterparts installed on my laptop, I don’t mind trading this minor performance impact (noticeable only for certain applications like Portable Firefox) for the significant convenience that portable applications bring me. With portable applications on my USB drive, I carry all my work in my pocket and easily switch working between my office and home laptops. For example, I can use all my bookmarks and plugins in Firefox or all my saved sessions in PuTTY (Portable PuTTY can save sessions to a file, thereby removing dependency on the windows registry) on both my office and home laptops (and any other computer) by simply switching the USB drive from one to the other.

Portable Applications give you the advantages of carrying your applications (and obviously data) with you, accessing them from any computer with a USB port and leaving no data behind on the host computer.

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In the recent crucial ICC World T20 match between India and England which finally saw the defending champions India being knocked out of the T20 World Cup, Harbhajan Singh pulled out of his delivery stride a couple of times. In the final over, when bowling to Foster, Harbhajan pulled out of his delivery stride just before delivering the third ball of the over. At the moment he pulled out, it was obvious that the non-striking batsman (Mascarenhas) was a few feet outside the popping crease to backup the striking batsman for running between the wickets. Witnessing this moment made me wonder about the laws of cricket pertaining to running out a non-striking batsman while bowling. So, here goes:

Backing up a batsman: The non-striking batsman usually backs up the striking batsman by taking a few steps towards the striking batsman during the delivery to facilitate running between the wickets by having to cover less distance. This “backing up” could have a profound impact on games, given the several close run-out decisions made using TV replays.

What does the Law say?: Law 42.15 of Cricket states that “The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. The ball shall not count in the over.”  Appendix D of the Laws of Cricket defines a delivery stride as “the stride during which the delivery swing is made, whether the ball is released or not. It starts when the bowler’s back foot lands for that stride and ends when the front foot lands in the same stride

So, as per the Laws of Cricket, Harbhajan Singh could not have run out Mascarenhas even though Mascarenhas had left the popping crease as Harbhajan Singh had stopped bowling only after commencing his delivery stride.

And now for a little bit of history. Running out a “backing up” batsman has been around for a while. Though within the Laws of Cricket, it is considered unsportsmanlike. This action became famous when Vinoo Mankad ran out Bill Brown during India’s tour of Australia in 1947 and in fact a new term “Mankad” was coined for running out a non-striking batsman who was backing up. So, Bill Brown was mankaded by Vinoo Mankad :). Another famous incident which has been recorded in the annals of Mankading occurred when Courtney Walsh refused to mankad Salim Jaffer in the 1987 World Cup (this probably cost West Indies the World Cup).

The unwritten code of cricket suggests that a bowler ought to warn the batsman at least once before mankading him.

Why have a Law in a Sport, which when followed to the letter, alludes to unsportsmanlike behaviour ? Why put the onus of watching the non-striking batsman on the bowler?

Yes, there are laws and there’s the “spirit of the game”, but then where do you draw the line? If non-striking batsmen are over-enthusiastic in backing up and cover a few yards before the ball is delivered, it could make a huge difference and possibly facilitate scoring the winning run! The onus of identifying whether a non-striking batsman is backing up early or not should be put on the umpires (after all they have fewer decisions to make with the advent of the 3rd umpire). Nowadays, especially in formats like T20, most games are very close and it’s simply wrong to blur the thin line between victory and defeat in the name of the spirit of the game, when there’s a clear law in place. Perhaps, Law 42.15 should be modified to indicate that the umpires will watch out for early backing up by non-strikers and give them two warnings before declaring them out (for stealing some distance on a run) so that the bowlers may concentrate on their main job – bowling. Visit this Cricinfo article for some more information on Mankading.

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Recently, when I searched for the various options for milk deliveries to my home, I became aware of the different types of milk and more research gave me a whole new perspective of milk, the dairy industry and the marketing gimmicks that get the better of consumers.

Basically, raw milk is milk which we get directly from the cow (or goat, etc. – I will stick with cow in this post). i.e. the milk that leaves the cow’s udders is raw milk. Given below are some details on the typical processes that raw milk undergoes.

 

SL# PROCESS WHAT IS IT? WHY IT EXITS?
1. Pasteurization Heating Milk to ~72C for a very brief period (~15 seconds). To kill all harmful bacteria, but not all bacteria.
2. Homogenization Passing milk through tiny holes/tubes at a very high pressure. To break up fat molecules and separate the fat/cream from water in the milk. Provides more aesthetic value.
3. Ultra High Temperature (UHT) Heat milk to very high temperatures (~ 135C) and pack into sterile containers. To kill all bacteria. Long shelf life and no refrigeration required, until opened.

 

The most common milk available in supermarkets in the UK is standardized, pasteurized, homogenized milk. When I pick up a bottle of milk in the supermarket, I see “Standardized, Pasteurized and Homogenized” milk – like it’s all good for you. Let me explain this little ad on the milk bottles.

According to an article on the Journal of Dairy Science website, Van Slyke defines standardized (or adjusted) milk as “milk in which the original fat content has been changed, and also the ratio of fat to the other milk solids, by the removal of milk-fat, or by the addition of skim-milk, or by the addition of cream.” This explains the skimmed and semi-skimmed milk. So, standardized milk means tampered milk. i.e. milk whose constituents are modified.

Pasteurization of raw milk is required as a bacteria-free dairy farm and milk handling/transportation cannot be guaranteed (that’s why the sale of raw milk is illegal in many countries – all sold milk must be at least pasteurized). Pasteurized milk is also referred to as Fresh Milk. UHT is just taking pasteurization a step further for the convenience of storage.

Homogenization is done for aesthetic purposes (and perhaps for smoother taste). There have been concerns about homogenization in medical circles. In his book “The XO factor”, Kurt Oster suggests that homogenization of milk causes an enzyme in milk called Xanthine Oxidase, to break up and pass undigested through the human intestine and into the blood stream where it can eventually destroy arteries and lead to heart disease. Oster’s theory has not been proved till date, but homogenization is not required for safety and is a redundant process that simply takes us away further from natural, raw milk.

So, in that little ad on milk bottles, the only required process is Pasteurization, which does not alter the composition of milk (apart from killing harmful bacteria). However, Standardization and Homogenization alter the fundamental composition of milk and are redundant. Arla Dairies runs a TV ad for its Cravendale milk brand, with a catchy slogan like “Cravendale tastes so good cows want it back”. Cravendale milk actually goes through another “filtration” process which Arla Dairies claims removes even more bacteria (middle ground between pasteurization and UHT). If cows actually taste Cravendale milk, they may not even recognize it, given the amount of processing it’s undergone.

Finally, I decided to consume milk in a form which is as close to raw milk in composition, but safe for consumption. So, I started consuming Pasteurized, Unhomogenized milk (Gold Top) and it takes me back to my younger days – when my Mum would boil the milk we get and we’d see a lot of cream form at the top during cooling. And my coffees and teas taste better!

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Tangible User Interfaces

How about manipulating digital information with your hands in a more natural, instinctive way like we do with other tangible things? Devices called Siftables make this possible. As per the creators David Merrill (MIT Media Lab) and Jeevan Kalanithi (Taco Lab), “Siftables are compact electronic devices with motion sensing, graphical display, and wireless communication. One or more Siftables may be physically manipulated to interact with digital information and media.” So, while gestural user interfaces allow you to manipulate digital information on surfaces by using gestures (like SixthSense and g-speak), tangible user interfaces (like Siftables) allow you to manipulate information in your hands with gestures. Watch a demo video of Siftables below:

 

 

Visit siftables.com for more details.

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