Category Archives: Experiences

The Experience of Blogging – the Story So Far

Everybody was blogging. It was the new fad. Is that why I started blogging? Probably not.

I had a thing for writing since I was 14. Or at least that’s the age when I first got published in a ‘magazine for the young’ (Us). I got published multiple times after that with reviews and some funny stuff in the same magazine. But then computers and Internet happened, and I got hooked, leaving the writer in me with no option but to take a backseat. But as the Internet evolved, we saw the emergence of blogging – now anyone could write and publish themselves online, on their own web page (blog). I started blogging in 2005, on Blogger. I called it Guru’s World. I liked the Blogger platform overall. But then I wanted more control; I wanted my own domain name; and being a software engineer, I wanted to work on something more geeky … something that would help me learn programming (or something else that was related to my field) while I unleashed the writer in me. The answer lied in the open source WordPress. Upon acquiring the domain name SawantShah.com, I setup WordPress on it, called it “Zenning My Way Out” (just “Zenning” after about 2-3 years, and just recently renamed it to “Sawant Shah”), and I started blogging on this site in March 2008.

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stackoverflow-logo-1

StackOverFlow win!

Yay! I made two achievements on StackOverflow.com with my first two answers there. One, I earned a “Teacher” badge for Active site similar to CSS Zen Garden? And two, I unlocked a few privileges that come with earning points there.

By earning a reputation of 21, I can now participate in meta, got new user restrictions removed (can post images, post more than one hyperlink in a question or answer, post any hyperlinks in my profile, contribute answers to protected questions, ask or answer questions too rapidly), create wiki posts, vote up (this is the privilege for which I actually started answering in the hope to earn enough reputation to vote the good answers up), flag posts, and talk in chat.

So, now that I have started to rock the StackOverflow’s Q&A space for programmers (w00t), you can keep a tab on me there through my StackOverflow profile.

[Me happy at 4:30 am Pakistan time. w00t!]

Western Digital My Book 500 GB Review

If, like me, you are running out of space on your desktop/laptop hard drive, or you require a central storage space to store all your digital stuff – hi-res pictures, HD videos, movies, music, etc – then you certainly have been thinking about getting an external hard drive for yourself. The market is inundated with manufacturers marketing their external hard drives in the sleekest of cases. And it’s not just the conventional storage brands anymore – Western Digital, Seagate, Iomega – offering a range of external hard disks, but the non-storage players have entered this arena too, including HP and Toshiba, offering competent products.

Western Digital My Book Essential 500 GB

image Out of all the options available in the market, I decided to get myself the My Book Essential 500 GB from Western Digital. Apart from its big storage, it looks stylish in its black shiny body, with just a small blue LED light on the side.

Some of the things that I loved about the Western Digital My Book Essential:

  • The design: its sleek, black shiny body looks stylish
  • Cooling vents: To keep the drive cool
  • Quiet operation: To hear a sound, you have to bring your ear closer to the vents
  • Smart and energy efficient: Turns itself on and off with your computer
  • Instant plug-n-play: No need to install any drivers or software to use it
  • Book style design: Collect two or more and they cuddle neatly together like books on a shelf

 

Reliability, Accessibility and Design

Most of the external hard drives end up doing the same thing anyway: provide external storage for backup or extending purposes. Thus, the decision in the end probably comes down to reliability, accessibility and design.

Reliability: Most of the reviews of the WD My Book Essential I read (on Amazon) termed it as reliable. Though there were occurrences of the drive dying out, but the reviewers got it replaced from Western Digital easily under the warranty.

Accessibility: The drive is ready to be used as soon as you unbox it! As for carrying it around, it is designed for the home/office and thus, designed to be stationary at one place (although you can carry it around, if you wish to).

Design: 10 years ago, we could have argued that design should not be a deciding factor for buying a tech gadget. But after Apple scored with designing the best products in the last decade, design has become a crucial part of gadgets today. The My Book Essential scores pretty high on this front with its simple, yet stylish design. Place it on your book shelf or table and it will fit perfectly there.

Setting-up WD My Book Essential: What’s included?

Box-packed Western Digital My Book Essential 500 GB The drive is plug-n-play: Just power it up and plug it in (in that sequence).

The My Book Essential 500 GB includes setup files of a few backup utilities – both for Windows and Mac. The main backup software included is the Memeo AutoBackup. Sadly, its a trial version, which is quite odd, since I read elsewhere on the web that other WD external drives (including others in the My Book series) include the full-version of Memeo AutoBackup (with its serial key printed in the manual).

The file system on the drive is FAT32 by default.

 

Spice-up your external hard disk!

You can spice up your external hard disk experience by converting the file system to NTFS and installing an alternative free backup software. I will write about them in detail in my next post.


Tumblr excites me, as it makes blogging easier and fun!

I recently started a blog on Tumblr called Sawant’s Scrapbook and I have to confess, it’s a very slick blogging experience! Tumblr excites me!

Currently, Zenning (this blog of mine) is being served by WordPress, as it has been since its inception. So, even for a pro user of WordPress like me, Tumblr shows me that blogging can not only be easier (yes, easier than WordPress even) but it can be a lot more fun too!

From their about page:

Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors, to your theme’s HTML.

It’s so much more easy (and did I mention fun?) to post on Tumblr that I am blogging there much more frequently than I do here at Zenning.

For now, I am utilizing my tumble blog as a scrapbook, where I post about anything and everything that I happen to land upon (mostly short posts)! It’s like my place of zen! My idea pad! My lab!! Whereas I will be posting the longer posts – the ones that are more analytical – over here at Zenning. I am pondering over the idea of merging the two, or at least, aggregating the two together.

The only drawback of Tumblr that I have so far come across is that comments on your blog can only be posted by Tumblr users! Now, that’s a major drawback for a service that is positioning itself as a competing blogging/micro-blogging platform against the likes of WordPress and Blogger.

But despite the drawback, I am in ♥ with Tumblr.

Do check out Sawant’s Scrapbook and follow me on Tumblr.

My experience with a local web startup yellO

yellO

It’s been some time since I blogged. I am running so short of time nowadays. Friends feel ignored; my projects are pending; almost no time for socializing. The main reason of my busyness is a project called yellO that I have been part of since March ‘08 (full-time since August ‘08). This unique and one-of-its-kind portal (and magazine) of local services in Pakistan is finally ready for show time!

It’s something big!

We have been working on yellO for almost an year now. It’s been an exhilarating experience for me to be part of the development, design and strategy formation processes of one of the most authentic and superb piece of web application/portal to surface from this part of the world.

We had tough days. We had boring days. We had frustrating days. We had days on which we almost thought to give up on it since we were too bored working on the same thing everyday for so many months! But now that yellO’s development is complete (for launch) and it’s all ready to go live, I am really satisfied with the outcome. And quite excited too!

The Visionary

I remember that I was a bit reluctant when Samir – the visionary behind yellO – had asked me to join team yellO. I had other offers too at that time and they were offering better package than what I was being offered for yellO. But in the end, it was Samir’s passion and fervor, and his desire to bring positive change in the world – the same ideals that I myself follow – that sealed my decision in favor of yellO.

The Team

The most important component in realizing a vision is the team that is responsible for turning an idea into reality. And the team assembled for yellO had all the characteristics of a winning team!

Adeel, the lead developer, and Saad, the lead designer, have both remained an indispensable asset for yellO. Zulfiqar has been an amazing artist and (print) designer. Aamir has been great at handling graphics and publishing stuff. Mudassir is new but he’s learning to walk the tight rope of the Linux administration world well. Young Shahrukh is intelligent and full of curiosity, and he is a great asset for the community building part of yellO. In the past, Ali Raza, Asim, Waleed and Faraz have worked for some time on yellO before parting in search of other opportunities.

As for me myself, I have been responsible for handling all the stakeholders, mentioned above; making sure that we followed the timelines and that everyone was working in congruency. Also, I tend to the strategic aspect of yellO as, officially, I am the Strategy Director for yellO.

All in all it has been a great fun and an exciting experience building a major venture like yellO.

Join yellO today and start adding and reviewing interesting places on the map.

The Story of Wateen’s Billing Screw Up!

It has been some time since I blogged. There are a couple of reasons for my absence and lack of posting. The most important one being: Wateen’s screw up!!

Wateen, the only WiMax operator in Pakistan, had been working quite well for me since I subscribed to their services at the start of this year, so much so that I had been all praise for it off and on amid a plethora of criticism against them. But all of that changed come 6th of September.

I was out of town from the eve of 5th September till the eve of 7th September (weekend). Upon my return, when I tried to get back on the virtual world from my home through Wateen, I started getting “User is Invalid” message. That marked the start of a 5 weeks period, during which I called their support center so many times and was only given complaint #’s after complaint #’s (with a few reassuring words) but without any solution.

The problem was: A humongous telephony bill that was laden with a three days spree of bogus calls amounting to a whopping 12000 rupees!!

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Extreme Tracking Stops Sales in Pakistan?

Today, I headed to Extreme Tracking to get a stats tracker for this blog of mine. Yes, I am one of those who can never have enough of stats; I want more!

I have been an Extreme Tracking user since almost a decade now (no I am not that old, I just started out young on the web).

But as I headed for registration, I got this message:

Extreme Tracking: Unfortunately we closed down our sales in Pakistan

Unfortunately we closed down our sales in Pakistan.

Say what!? :|

Since when did that happen? And why would an online firm, that deals with tracking website stats and provides free tracking services, would block its ‘sales’ in any country?

It’s obvious that they blocked me from registering by tracking my IP address. I thought about emailing them and asking why they have blocked users from Pakistan to register for an Extreme Tracker? But first, I wanted to register, and so I did … by using a proxy server. ;)

Once I passed their ‘IP’ check and entered their registration page, look what I found:

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Wow! Now here, they not only have given ‘Islamabad’ as a choice in city selection, but I was also able successfully signup by choosing ‘Islamabad’, without getting told that I am not allowed or something.

The question remains though that why have they blocked Pakistani users from getting a website tracker with them?

Is it because they are a Netherlands based firm (as seen from their given address in the first screenshot), and thus the cartoon controversy and the movie on Islam controversy, is playing a part here?

Aah … that’s probably it! Or am I just being paranoid?