Notes: Truth

A friend recently published a book, Truth. Here's what I shared with the author after reading the free copy that was sent to me:

I read the entire book straight through the first time I opened it. My intention was to download and read the book later, but I felt myself pulled in from the start, an intuitive attraction towards wisdom shared from one truth-seeker to another. Thought-provoking and soul-stimulating.

The various quotations you included throughout the book were perfect, along with the very reflective thoughts you added to each one. There were several occasions where I lost track of who I was reading: you or the person you just quoted!

I grew up with my dad reciting and elaborating on elucidations of mantras from the Vedas. I have felt the truth and depth that lies in ancient Sanskrit teachings and I was delighted to see you include several references to Sanskrit and Gandhi.

Here are a few of my favorites from the book:

The author who wrote the notes that were previously included here asked to have their name and all information about them removed from my site.

Frugal Travel Report for May 2010

This is the third in a series of reports detailing my travel expenses during a six-month sustainable travel trip through India, Vietnam, and Nepal, as outlined in The Plan: 6 Months, 3 Countries, and $3,000.

Frugal Travel Reports
March 2010 (includes Pre-Travel expenses)
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010

In my recent reader survey, several of you mentioned that you really enjoy these Frugal Travel Reports. This month, I have been even more meticulous with tracking my expenses and I have discovered that it really helps me see exactly where my money is going. I've been keeping a single page in my notebook dedicated to all the expenses for the current month.

The month of May has seen me travel the most since I arrived here in India more than 80 days ago. In fact, I moved around a lot more than I would have preferred. However, I was invited to a wedding in New Delhi and decided to take advantage of the journey and stop in several places along the way, including Gokarna, Mumbai, and Udaipur. Continue reading

Cooking food with positive thoughts and positive energy

While sitting at my favorite vegan cafe, Life Alive, I overheard one of the employees telling a new employee about the importance of positive energy and positive thoughts when making rice. Yes, making rice. She was explaining how even if it's been a busy day and you're frustrated, it's important not to put negative energy and negative thoughts into the rice. Whether or not that's the primary reason the food tastes so good, I'm willing to bet it plays a big role. (I would reference Masaru Emoto's Messages from Water research, but it has yet to be scientifically proven.)

Leaving Send2Fax and Switching to FaxPipe

I canceled my Send2Fax account after a visitor to this blog recommended I take a look at FaxPipe and I realized I could be saving some money. When I started using Send2Fax back in 2006 I believe I was paying around $3 a month. Since I signed up, they have increased the price to $12 a month.

I don't send or receive faxes very often (maybe once or twice a month) but it's nice to have such a service. At the same time, it's not something I depend on so if I can save money by switching then I should.

After signing up for FaxPipe I sent in a request to cancel my Send2Fax account. Within 48 hours, I got a response that included this:

Did you know that you can keep your Send2Fax number for just $2.95 per month? This is a great way for you to keep your fax number and it costs less than a cup of coffee! For just $2.95 per month you get to keep your assigned fax number AND get 20 FREE pages each month, while overage pages are just $0.25 per page*.

That's $1.00 a month less than FaxPipe and about the same amount it was costing me when I signed up 2 years ago. This pissed me off because it seemed like they intentionally increased the price over time hoping I wouldn't notice and then offered to lower price again when I was ready to cancel. I sent them a reply saying I still want to cancel and then along with the confirmation I received this:

Before you go, though, we wanted to let you know about an easy way to get an unlimited FREE online fax service through one of our partners, eFax. You can sign up for an eFax Free account and pay nothing at all to receive up to 20 fax pages a month with your own personal eFax fax number.

I looked into this "free" service and not only is it meant to be used as a trial, but the fax number they give you will be outside your local calling area.

If Send2Fax had left the monthly price low in the first place, I would have stayed with them.

The Object-Oriented Thought Process

I started reading a book called The Object-Oriented Thought Process. This book has been sitting on my shelf for at least a year or two (there's a 3rd Edition due out later this year) but with all the Java and GWT stuff I'm trying to become familiar with for work, I really feel the need to build a basic understanding of OO programming. This book is written for just that (and at only 250 pages, finishing the book quickly is not an unrealistic goal).

After finishing the first chapter earlier today, certain techniques I remember seeing used in Java (which didn't make any sense to me at the time) suddenly make perfect sense. Not only that, but terms like "Encapsulation", "Polymorphism", and "Composition" suddenly mean something that I can now understand. All this from just the first chapter!

One of the main reasons I'm excited to gain a solid understanding of the Object-Oriented thought process is because it will allow me learn and use features of programming languages such as Python and Ruby without feeling as though I'm missing something or lacking the ability to use the features those languages are designed around.

Let's see how many chapters I can finish this Memorial Day weekend!

PowerBook G4 vs MacBook Pro

First of all, this isn't so much a review as it is a very simple comparison. My old PowerBook G4 laptop was nice -- even with only a 1.5ghz PowerPC processor it was quite snappy once it managed to get past the startup process. I'm sure the 1280MB RAM helped with the speed though, as Mac's seem to benefit a lot from extra memory.

My new MacBook Pro is blazing fast, and bumping the RAM to 4GB really made it fly. Now my laptop has 4x more memory, a much better CPU, and a much better graphics card than my desktop! I'm starting to wonder why I even have a desktop...

Despite their huge differences under the hood, these two laptops looked very similar side by side (the MacBook Pro is on the right):

Although almost everything else is smaller on the MacBook Pro, the battery and power supply are much bigger. Thankfully, the new MacBook Pro's don't seem to suffer from the annoying warped/bowed lid, as is partially visible on the picture up top (PowerBook is on the left).

I sold the PowerBook to my brothers' girlfriend and I'm writing most of this review from memory. Because of this I'm unable to honestly compare things like weight and differences between the keyboard/trackpad. But I can tell you one thing for sure: At the price you can pick up a used PowerBook for (dirt cheap), they're nice little laptops.

The PowerBook is as stable as any Mac and it's great for doing basic things. If you're a techie who needs a cheap but elegant *nix based system or if you're just wanting to explore the world of OS X, a used PowerBook is a great way to go. Keep in mind though, if it doesn't have an Intel processor (the PowerBooks have G4 PowerPC processors) you won't be able to run Microsoft Windows using VMWare or Parallels.

Logitech VX Nano Wireless Mouse

$70 @ MicroCenter

Pros: Small portable mouse with a tiny receiver that doesn't get in the way. The receiver has a storage spot underneath the battery cover of the mouse which is also really nice. It's a laser mouse, not optical, so it can be used on practically any surface. The mouse wheel can switch from smooth (faster scrolling speed) to the more common click type. To switch between the two types, you press down on the wheel (what would normally be a middle click). It has a very comfortable shape that helps fool your hand into believing you're using a bigger mouse (even if only temporarily). The two little buttons near the left mouse button didn't get in the way at all.

Cons: Due to its size, the mouse started cramping my hand after gaming with it for a few hours. Since I bought this mouse specifically for gaming with my laptop, that was a deal breaker and I had to return it. Also, the wheel doesn't have a middle click. The little button above the wheel is your middle click button, which is just annoying.

Bottom Line: Great little mouse, but too small for gaming. Lack of a middle click using the wheel, and the hefty price tag, make other mice seem more attractive.

Independent Thoughts
Trend of using pda is increasing day by day, especially if we talk about pdas come with navigation system. Now days it is very convenient to get pda accessories like pda battery, as these accessories are available online as well. A large variety of pda keyboard is also available online. If you want to protect your new pda from scratches and shocks, go ahead and look for cool pda cases.

Sony Ericsson GC89 Network Card & T-Mobile GPRS

Now that I have a new apartment in Cambridge, I obviously need Internet access. I figured I would be able to find an open wireless network, however there were only two networks accessible and both were protected with WEP encryption. I could set my laptop up, let it sniff the WEP keys, and crack the encryption, but that would be a short term solution. My friend Sarith suggested I look into a T-Mobile GRPS network card, the Sony Ericsson GC89.

The service plan costs $50 per month for unlimited data, and the card itself is $200, unless you sign a 2-year contract at which point they will drop the price to $150. I decided that it's going to cost me $50 per month for DSL or Cable Internet, so why not get a mobile solution that would allow me to take my Internet connection with me if I have to travel. Additionally, the data plan comes with unlimited use of T-Mobile WiFi hotspots, like the ones in Starbucks.

T-Mobile also offers a $30 a month plan for customers that already have a T-Mobile phone. I switched to T-Mobile a few months ago, so I figured this would work perfectly. It costs me $30 per month for a network card that gives me Internet connectivity and I can bring the Internet connection wherever I want; even outside in the middle of a field. But as usual, I knew it was too good to be true. I learned from one of the T-Mobile rep's that when you purchase the add-on Internet plan, you have to take the SIM card out of your phone and place it in the network card whenever you want to use it. This means that you cannot use your phone and the network card at the same time. What's the point of that!?

David suggested that I may be able to clone my SIM card and get both working at the same time, but after a little research on Google, I learned that T-Mobile SIM cards are very difficult to clone because they have hidden areas which are encrypted and usually not readable by standard SIM card readers. In addition, having two GRPS devices (Blackberry and Network Card) attempting to connect to the same GPRS network at the same time with the same SIM information, would simply cause neither to register on the network.

So I decided to go purchase the network card, and the $50 data plan. Last night I brought the card home and spent a few hours testing it.

The case they provide for the network card is nice, but it doesn't feel very strong. Under heavy use it would probably crush quite easily.

I first attempted to install the network card on my Mac PowerBook using the Mobile HighSpeed application for OSX. After 15 minutes I couldn't get it working. I then installed the CD on my Thinkpad T41. The software warned me that my existing WiFi software (IBM Connections and related WiFi stuff) would possibly conflict with T-Mobile Connection Manager. It gave me the option of fixing the problem or leaving it alone. I choose to leave it alone, because I still want to use the builtin WiFi on my laptop.

The software installation was a breeze. When prompted, I inserted the network card and watched as several drivers were installed. A minute later I was online. I swapped out the SIM card and put the SIM card from my Blackberry in the network card. I assumed it would work, since the Blackberry uses the same GPRS network. However, when authenticating I received this error: Error 679: The system could not detect the carrier. I googled the error, tried renaming a file as suggested on a forum, and then inserted the SIM from my Blackberry again. This time I got another error: Error 734: The PPP link control protocol was terminated. I tried a couple of other things suggested on forums, such as connecting to the T-Mobile VPN instead of just GRPS, but nothing seemed to work. I eventually gave up and concluded that T-Mobile must be tying the SIM ID and the IMEI of the network card together, and only allowing that pair to connect.

I first tried browsing without the antenna, since my GRPS Blackberry had 75% signal strength. I went straight to Heres what I got on the first run:

Download Speed: 37 kbps (4.6 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 24 kbps (3 KB/sec transfer rate)

That's bad. So I plugged in the antenna and watched the signal strength jump to about 50%. I ran the speed test again and this time got much better results:

Download Speed: 191 kbps (23.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 74 kbps (9.2 KB/sec transfer rate)

Keep in mind I was doing all this from the basement, so I never got full signal strength. Whenever the signal dropped to one or two bars, the connection seemed to slow down considerably, to 56k Dialup speeds. But when the signal hit 3 or 4 bars (50% - 70%) browsing the web felt almost like broadband. I concluded that the speed changed in direct relation to the signal strength.

However, the next morning I tried using the card from my office. I had 3 or 4 bars of signal strength, and here's what the speed test returned:

Download Speed: 30 kbps (3.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 15 kbps (2.1 KB/sec transfer rate)

So maybe it has nothing to do with the signal strength, or maybe its a combination of signal strength and current network traffic. I'm sure the GRPS network is a lot more busy in the morning on a weekday, than it is at 2am in the morning. When I plugged my laptop into the docking station at work and started browsing the web at real broadband speeds, I knew it would be very difficult to deal with the fluctuating connectivity speeds of the GRPS card on a daily basis.

Last night I found out that Aerva is going to need extra space for a big upcoming deployment, so I offered the use of my nearly empty apartment. A good Internet connection will be crucial, so I called Comcast and setup an appointment to have them install cable Internet service in the apartment. Surprisingly, its actually $2 cheaper if I bundle the cable Internet with cable TV; about $55 a month (as opposed to $57 a month with cable Internet only). Even more suprising is the fact that they were able to schedule someone to come out today. So I should have broadband Internet at home tonight.

I have 14 days to return the T-Mobile network card, and I'm almost positive that's what I'm going to do. The GPRS card is nice to have, but as my primary Internet connection it simply won't work.

Update: Be sure to check out my review of the Sprint EX720 EV-DO ExpressCard. Comparing the GPRS network to the EV-DO network is like comparing a snail to an F-14 fighter jet.

Independent Thoughts
Cell phone industry grew very rapidly with in couple of years. Due to high demand of cell phones, a large variety is available in market. In this competitive market nextel cell phones are still struggling to get position among the highly demanding brands. While on the other hand motorola mobile phone is rocking in market because of their high tech functions and variety in models.

Bookmark Sync and Sort

I often bookmark websites when I come across something I think I might want to come back to later. Usually I'm searching for something and I'll come across another, unrelated, page that I also find interesting. Then there are common pages, such as banking sites, credit card login pages, domain control panel login pages, and others, that I bookmark just to have a quick way to access them. As you can imagine, my bookmark list has grown quite large. I found it very inconvenient when I use one of my other computers, or my laptop, and I don't have access to all my bookmarks.

This is where Bookmark Sync and Sort comes in. It's a Firefox extension that allows you to upload your bookmarks to an FTP server, and then download the bookmarks from another computer that also has the extension installed. This way you can keep your bookmarks synced. It has lots of options, including a very useful one that allows you to merge bookmarks, so your existing bookmarks don't get overwritten. I setup a free shell account (thanks to which also includes FTP access, and I simply configured the Bookmark Sync extension to use that FTP server. Now whenever I add a bookmark, or several bookmarks, I choose "Synchronize Bookmarks" from the Bookmarks menu and the data is uploaded to the FTP server!

When I realized how many bookmarks I have, I thought it would be nice to share all those links with everyone. I'm going to setup an area where you can view my bookmarks, but first, I need to figure out a way to hide the bookmarks I don't want to make public, such as certain login pages.

Review: Belkin Wireless PDA Keyboard

I wrote this review awhile ago, when I was trying several differnet PDA's and attempting to choose between a PDA and a smart phone. I finally decided on a smart phone (a Blackberry 7520 from Nextel (now Sprint)). The Blackberry is awesome. Now that I think of it, maybe I'll get around to writing a review for it. Anyway, enjoy the review. Continue reading

GMail Review

I was lucky enough to obtain a GMail account to beta test, and damn, I love it!

Ever since I started using Google, Ive always loved how clean and simple it was. The idea of Google Text ADs is awesome too. I never mind browsing a site that has Google text ADs. They dont slow down the speed of the page when its loading, and they dont distract your attention away from the content of the page.

Oh, back to GMail; its awesome! As soon as GMail goes public, I highly recommend you get an account! Thats my mini-review of GMail. =)

Avant Browser Review

Well I decided to give Avant Browser a review on I use Avant browser on all my Windows PCs and I wish there was a way to use it on Linux. Anyway, I'm not sure if my review will be approved and posted, (probably not becuase it's so long, lol) but here it is anyway:


Avant browser is a must have for any Microsoft Windows user. In my opinion, Avant browser should be included with Windows!! There are so many excellent features to Avant browser I wouldn’t even be able to list them all here.

All of the toolbars can be customized. You can choose which buttons to show, where to show them, and even change the position of the toolbar. You can even customize the menu bar! The default layout for the toolbar's, when you first download and install Avant, is not pretty at all, so I would highly recommend spending some time making it just the way you like it.

Here is my setup: I have all my Tabs at the bottom, and just one single row at the top that contains the following buttons: Back, Forward, Stop, Refresh, and then the address bar, then the search bar (Google), then most used menu items: File, Favorites, and Tools. Lastly, there is the Close button that closes the current page. All those on just one single line at the top!

Avant browser's Popup Blocker is very effective. When it accidentally blocks a popup window that I want to pop up, I simply turn off the feature with 2 clicks of the mouse.

I have been using Avant browser for the past 8 months and I love it. I've installed it on all the computers in my workplace, and several of my friend’s computers. Once they understand the concept of tabs, everything else is the same as using IE to them.

Avant browser can be configured to remain open when you close the main window. An Avant icon appears in your system tray. Once you click a link somewhere (in an instant message for example) Avant browser will open the link in a new tab without having to load a whole new instance of the web browser. This feature also keeps your task bar clean. I tend to have several websites open at any given time, so this is a must for me.

I have tried several other browsers that support tabbed browsing, but you just cannot beat the compatibility with IE that most sites have. Avant browser simply uses the existing Internet Explorer that comes with Windows, but it decorates and manages IE’s windows so they are more useful.

If you haven’t tried Avant browser yet, download it now! After spending some time configuring it just the way you like, you can copy your settings from one computer to another by copying the abrowser.ini file.

I would rate Avant browser 10 out of 10 points, and I plan to donate some money just because I love using it so much.