1. Bonus Screencast - HTML5 makeover for the Django blog

    Thank you for the great feedback on my first screencast about building a blog in Django 1.3. A lot of people told me that they found the video helpful in understanding what Django is capable of.

    As promised earlier, I have recorded a short video (7 mins) that explains how you can use an HTML5 template to improve the appearance of your blog. You can use any free template or create your own.

    Django’s (version 1.3) static files app is being used here. Unlike prior versions, there are no changes to urls.py required here. Linking to the admin site is also demonstrated.

    Bonus Tip: An HTML5 Makeover for your blog (Screencast)

    It is best to watch it directly at Youtube in HD.

    UPDATE: The blog with the updated template has been uploaded to github

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  2. Building a blog in 30 mins with Django (Screencast)

    Just uploaded a quick screencast showing how to build a blog in Django in just 30 minutes (plus a couple of seconds :) ). It shows off a lot of new features that we have in Django since 1.2.

    It basically covers:

    • Using django.contrib.admin to create fully-featured admin pages
    • Adding tags to posts easily using taggit app
    • Class-based generic views for rapidly building pages (New in Django 1.3)
    • Using template inheritance and filters
    • Leveraging django.contrib.syndication for a simple feed

    Building a blog in 30 mins with Django (Screencast)

    It is best to watch it directly at Youtube in HD. This was my first screencast so I apologize if something is not properly done.

    I plan to add a short bonus video soon demonstrating how this bare-bones blog can be restyled into a modern-looking HTML5 site (UPDATE: Bonus video is up now).

    UPDATE: The source code for the created project has been uploaded to github

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  3. Sports Day

    This is a short story that was written in three small installments

    It was a blazing summer afternoon. The dusty maidaan seemed rippling under the intense summer sun. Yet, at the northern end there was a wide white stall decorated with multi-coloured festoons and balloons. Hanging from the front of the roof was a cloth banner that read ‘Annual Sports Day, Vilvattam Senior Secondary School’.

    Uniformed children were sitting in big groups outside the oval perimeter drawn with chalk powder. When they were not cheering for their favourites, they talked, sang songs and picked fights over sharing the precious glucose powder given by the teachers. They were having a hell of a good time. The static on the loudspeaker indicated that the microphone was turned on. Nobody paid attention to the announcer, who was in fact Malathi teacher seated behind a covered metal table inside the stall. Her naturally loud voice ensured that she was the announcer by choice, every year.

    … and ask Mary teacher to come soon”, a broken piece of an earlier conversation inadvertently screamed through the loudspeakers. “Sorry. Next, we have the boys’ 100 meters dash”. Suddenly, silence prevailed among the noisy crowd. This was one event ...

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  4. Atari and Gaming History

    Imagine your 8 year old cousin, who is learning to use computers, asking you about the Save icon on Microsoft Word. The image of a floppy disk is almost universally used to denote ‘saving a file’. But with floppy disks gone, would the coming generation understand the symbolism?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I had the same problem with the joystick icon commonly used to denote Games. Typically it is drawn as a stick pointing up, protruding from a box. Most of the consoles that I was familiar with had much more elaborate game controllers or gamepads. However this simple black-coloured gaming device remained a mystery to me.

    Until I read the book ‘Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System’ that is. I started reading this book out of curiosity and due to a certain interest in gaming history. But soon realised that it is a must-read for anyone interested in Game design or even the roots of Gaming culture. It covers not just the historical context of the Atari VCS and its popular games but some of its nearly impossible technical constraints.

    One of the most amazing thing about Atari games were that they could use only 128 bytes of RAM. Yes you ...

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  5. This is a Game. There are rules

    I have been recently reading a book on game design that primarily focuses on non-digital games. It is called Challenges for Game Designers. It distills the art of game design to using easily available materials like paper, dice or playing cards. They call it a non-digital approach.

    We have all played such games at some point in time. Before video games, as kids, we used to play snakes and ladders or chess. In Kerala, we have several indoor games using easily available materials like pebbles, cowries (kavadi in Malayalam), circassian seeds (manjaadi in Malayalam) and irkili sticks (stiff mid-ribs of coconut leaves). The rules were simple - say, remove the smallest stick without disturbing others or align the seeds in a row. These ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘low-cost’ games used to provide hours of fun to children and adults.

    Nav Bara - board game played in India

    Compared to modern video games these games lack high production values marked by hundreds of detailed 3d modelled characters and unfolding of several hours worth of intricate plots and storylines. These traditional games don’t have any stories, they are mostly tests of skill or chance. They were fun interactive experiences fuelled by imagination.

    What’s wrong with my digital game?

    The biggest advantage ...

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  6. The Jobs Biography

    After I finished reading the last page of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography yesterday, I heaved a sigh of relief. The experience of reading was like getting intimate with an extraordinary genius who had a highly abrasive personality. We get to meet a young billionaire who either insulted people on their face or highly praised them. This arrogance has less to do with his wealth and more with the rebellious and artistic side of his personality.

    Steve Jobs Bio

    The extraordinary thing about his life is that despite several close calls with death, he never mellowed down and accepted status quo. Wherever he saw imperfections, be it badly designed products or inefficiently run businesses, he tried to change them, often radically. When most people would try to shrug off saying ‘Well, nobody seems to have a better way of doing this’, Jobs turned the question around and reduced it to simplistic solution, making you wonder, ‘That is so obvious. Why didn’t I think of it first?’.

    Though we don’t get much insight into Job’s process of simplification, it certainly took several rounds of iterations and rework till he was satisfied. He would rather abandon months of effort than ship ...

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  7. Sony Bravia CX 420 and a Guide to Flat-panel TVs

    It is Diwali time and the retail shopping excitement in India is comparable to Christmas season in the West. Everyone seems to be praying for their old and fat CRT TV to stop working, so that they have an excuse to buy a brand new flat screen TV.

    We were on the lookout for a flat screen LCD TV sometime back and deliberated various brands for a while. Actually, for me every gadget purchase takes ‘a while’ due to the amount of research I generally do. Since, I do not watch TV regularly, I had to practically learn all the TV jargon from scratch to understand the sales-speak.

    Sony Bravia CX 420

    After a month of ‘superficial research’, some of the elementary findings were:

    • The old CRT TV is completely out of the market. You might be able to find, at best, a 21” CRT TV.
    • There are no plasma TVs in the 32” category. They only come in bigger sizes and guzzle a lot of power.
    • The market leader in Indian TV market is Samsung followed by LG. The Koreans also dominate the world market this way with low cost yet high quality TV sets.
    • LED screens today are a gimmick. It’s ...
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  8. Rockstar Soundtrack - First Impressions

    Warning: May contain traces of satire and humour

    This is, unfortunately, an unpaid review. Hence, most of what’s written here is not made up. This can be very disappointing to some of you who read mainstream media, so please take it slowly. Media is after all a business and a source of bread and butter for many people. And bread and butter is definitely expensive, especially in India.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not the unbiased vigilante blogger. In fact, I tried my best to get paid for this music review. Apparently, Rockstar’s PR was not in a mood to humor a small-time blogger like me. Completely unfair, since being fond of Rehman’s music I would have written a pretty nice review anyways!

    Rockstar

    So, this review wouldn’t be too nice. Because it is written for free. So Mr. Cheapstakes, you can wipe that mocking smirk off your face. Let’s have a look at Rockstar’s playlist:

    Jo Bhi Mein - Mohit Chauhan

    Oh yeah, yeah, yeah… I can this one sing too. Have to appreciate the sense of humour of the lyricist Irshad Kamil (even better than me in this regard). The album starts ...

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  9. Growing up as a programmer

    Whether to build or to reuse is a classic dilemma for most programmers. If you choose build, then you would have to spend a lot of effort designing, coding, testing and debugging your creation. If you choose to reuse, then you would have to pour over all the documentation which would be typically outdated or inadequate in many places.

    Coffee Cup

    Initially, most programmers start out as cowboys. They are fearless and fiercely independent. They believe that they can build anything and need not waste time struggling to understand somebody else’s horrible piece of code. It works for a while because they have the skill of programming and we all can program our way out of anything, right? Wrong.

    There are many things a beginner programmer cannot do because of the sheer lack of understanding of the domain. Notice that I did not use the word ‘Experience’. You might be able to write a search engine from scratch but it would takes years to return even remotely relevant results for all use-cases (say, something like Google does). You might be able to create a Sudoku solver but a Chess solver is out of the league even for the most experienced programmers ...

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  10. Lured to Bengaluru

    As of last week, I have completed my move to the technology mecca of India - Bangalore. I have had a lovely 3 year stint in Mangalore. Have so many wonderful memories with the place that the decision to move seemed impossible. But finally we took the plunge.

    Shift key

    My waking hours have been shifted to ensure that I experience less peak time traffic. So this means early mornings and early evenings. Not sure how this would impact my Blogging. Hopefully for the best.

    First Impressions

    I have worked in Bangalore in 2004 and have visited the city several times before and after that. An easy observation to make would be the explosion in population of people/vehicles and the deteriorating weather. Certain areas which were considered “outskirts” like Bannerghatta Road are now prime locations with every major retail outlet you can think of. I am currently staying in Bannerghatta Road.

    The traffic jams have somewhat reduced thanks to projects like the Silk Board Elevated Tollway and NICE road. The commuting time at around 8 in the morning is just thirty minutes by office bus via NICE. This is quite reasonable compared to many horror stories of two to three hours of ...

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