Phun With Physics Simulations

This addictive program can easily keep you busy for rest of the weekend so be careful :). Phun is a physics simulator that even kids can use and its absolutely a delight. I watched the video and had to immediately download to give it a try. At first the interface might seem not as easy but after reading tutorial in main page and forums, you might be able to accomplish everything shown in video in less than 15 min of learning curve! Simply the easiest, powerful and most fun physics program I’ve come across.


Go Left Handed For Mouse

Recently I observed how unequally I use my right and left hands. It’s not because I don’t type with my both hands but it’s because I use only the right hand in maneuvering and clicking the mouse. Considering the number of clicks I make per day, this huge lack of load-balancing is terrible! So I switched the mouse on left hand and it’s been great (reminds me the first time I hold the mouse) except that my mouse is curved so it’s comfortable only on right hand. I guess I’m gonna get a new mouse which is left+right handed, wireless (easy to switch hands), optical and at least 5 buttons. Don’t forget to reverse the mouse buttons in control panel! This is really fun.

However, besides those sitting posture tips, I think the one factor that strongly affects your creativity at work is how far you can look from your desk.

A New NewsGator Online Convert

Any software that isn't open source AND also isn't evolving fast enough to keep up with their customers should be seen with the sign "Stay Away". These things gets in to your computer in the name of easing up your tasks and it indeed appears so for a while until you just run of out its capacity and start spending most of the time in just managing it or dealing with information overload. Sharpreader is the one. Windows is another. While my desktop will soon have Linux Mandrake distribution, I don't think it will still solve the problem because Linux is open source but it ain't fast enough to evolve, in my view. But finally I was able to take care of SharpReader. Check out the free and cool NewsGator Online Edition. I'm a convert since last two weeks and I like its not-large-but-effective featureset which includes:

  1. It allows to rate posts.
  2. It allows to clip posts.
  3. It allows to share your clips using RSS (which you can eventually save on your hard drive for archival purpose).
  4. It allows to share your OPML in real time.
  5. No need of syncing news readers on different boxes.
  6. Pretty cool non-interuptive Web UI

Features #1 and #2 are essential in dealing with information overload. I've also categorized my feeds in to just 3 categories: Peoples blogs, High interest services, Low interest services. Things have gotten pretty smooth after establishing these categories.

Google Cheatsheet And Clusty

I thought I know everything there is to know about Google searching, until... I found there is an operator to search for synonyms and two words separated by a word and so on. Check out the Google Cheetsheet!

It appears that I'm often switching to Clusty for "hard to find" things - usually when Googles first page of results is just irrelevant. I think clustering is inevitable technology for search engines and really hope Google speeds up their effort for implementation. It isn't that hard, after all.

DVD-Audio Format

In my recent quest to find new music, I bumped in to brand new DVD-A format on which many new demanding music albums are being delivered. It appears that this is definitely the next generation of music quality but there is very little or no information on many of its aspects. Here I'll try to summarize what I found so far:

This format is capable of delivering very high quality multi-channel surround sound on your home theater system. The DVD-A format is entirely different than usual Dolby Digital or DTS which is used for DVD movies. The quality that could be delivered using DVD-A is superior than Dolby Digital or DTS. If you look in to your DVD disk in Windows Explorer, you will find that there are two folders: Audio_TS and Video_TS. So far, only Video_TS folder was used to put all the movie files on DVDs because industry wasn't settled on standards for DVD-A format. Recently standards have been finalized and loads of new music albums are now being released in this format. They have content inside Audio_TS folder which contains DVD-A audio tracks in files with extension .aob. Because its brand new format, you need newer DVD players or sound cards to play it. However because most people aren't going to upgrade their DVD players soon, these audio DVDs supply same sound tracks in Video_TS folder encoded in usual Dolby Digital or DTS which all players knows how to play.

Now say you buy an audio album on DVD disc. Obviously you can't play it on car stereo or your portable MP3 players because it’s a DVD disc rather than normal audio CD. Or you might want to take backup of your DVD-A disc as WMA Pro files on your PC whcih allows 7.1 surround sound and playback. So what you do? You need to convert DVD disc in to normal Audio disc or rip tracks to MP3s. Unfortunately this isn't easy. The DVD-A format employs higher level of encryption than usual DVDs. The DVD videos (stored in .vob files) employs copy protection scheme called CSS which can be broken in to very easily using DeCSS or even more friendly DVD Decryptor. But DVD-A format which was developed later has learned lesson from this hack and currently there is no known way to decrypt .aob files which contains DVD-A audio tacks. That means you can't rip MP3s out of AOB files. Your only way out is to rip off from slightly lower quality Dolby/DTS formatted tracks. The most reliable and easy to use software to do this is DVD Audio Extractor. Fortunately many DVD-A albums also provides LPCM version of tracks along with AC3 (i.e. Dolby Digital)/DTS format. So to burn normal audio CDs or MP3s you might want to choose LPCM version. If DVD-A disc doesn't contain LPCM tracks, than you are out of luck. The down-mix/demux process employed by most software to convert surround sound from AC3/DTS to plain stereo format doesn't produce same quality as commercially available stereo tracks. Though you can try some equations to combine 5.1 channels in to stereo using SoftEncode etc and usually DTS works better than AC3.

Continual Survival Of SharpReader

I use SharpReader to read my news (opml zip). This is a small free app that has amazingly survived like an unevolving little insect in an environment where new species with more beef keeps coming. But this thing is still not extinct. I run around to look for an option with more features and end up at using SharpReader again and again. I'm though more interested that it dies away for one reason - the author isn't publishing source code and at the same time he doesn't have time to improve it by himself. It has pretty limited feature set but its designed so that its just barely enough to keep you alive. I tried to switch to RSS BandIt just to find that its fat feature list had missed some hearty points. Yesterday I looked at Omega Reader and was very excited that finally this will call for an end of SharpReader - just to find that its super-fat features comes with same numbers of bugs. So I'm still continue to live with SharpReader virus. Its an example how to design your programs so that your users wouldn't like it and at the same time can't give it up.

I Replaced My Task Manager, Have You?

This Task Manager for Windows rocks. Besides doing everything that you ever wanted from a thing called Task Manager (even showing open files for every process), it has one of the sweetest option that your application should provide: Replace Windows native [equivalent thing]! I just keep wishing if there had been free and with-source Calculators and Explorers and everything else Windows that I can just replace with a click like this and move on rather then waiting for a decade on Microsoft to improve their age old featureless apps. So when you are getting cool skinable Windows? In next 3 years? Yeah, right.