Friday, October 23, 2009

On Windows 7 and loving it!

As I mentioned in one of my posts earlier, I recently upgraded to Windows 7 Professional. Unlike the installation of Windows Vista which warned me that several of my software are not going to be compatible with it (most importantly, my anti-virus at that time), Windows 7 did not come up with anything of that sort. By setting device installation settings to Automatic, Windows 7 was able to locate the drivers for all plug-n-play devices (my camera, wireless mouse and most importantly, my legacy HP deskjet 3653 printer). It was a pain to get that same printer to work on Vista and I had to install drivers manually for the wireless mouse and keyboard.

As far as UI is concerned, the look-and-feel of the OS is pretty much like Vista except for the taskbar where you can now "pin down" your most frequently used programs. And by hovering the mouse over any open programs that are pinned to the taskbar, you can see a live thumbnail of the window courtesy of a functionality called AeroPeek. Another cool feature connected to the taskbar are Jump Lists, which allow you to access commonly-used features in a program by right-clicking on its icon in the taskbar. They are essentially a replacement of context menus for the taskbar and make your life a lot easier. For example, I can right-click on Windows Live Messenger on the taskbar and change my status. You can drag-and-drop other items on a program's jump list depending on what you access the most.

Besides being noticeably faster (in terms of general use, booting, shutting down and hibernating), one of the things I'm really glad they got rid of are those annoying UAC pop-ups that popped up every second asking your permission to run one thing or the other. Windows 7 also conserves more battery power for your laptop. It dims the display after 2mins of idle time. If you specifically increase the brightness of your display when running on battery, Windows 7 remembers that every time you disconnect the power chord (Vista didn't).

In other changes, Calculator, WordPad and Paint get complete makeovers. WordPad and Paint get those cool ribbon bars from Office 2007, and WordPad has the added functionality of opening .docx files now, so no need to install Office 2007 compatibility packs for opening Word documents anymore. Several more usability features have been added in Windows 7 that allow you to snap windows to size instantly or clear the desktop of all windows by a quick back and forth motion by grabbing the top of a window. See these awesome ads for a demo of these features and more.

There's an automatic desktop wallpaper changer built-in allowing you to set your chosen desktop backgrounds at specified time intervals (default is 30 minutes). You can also finally change the background of your logon screen. Last but certainly not the least are libraries for arranging documents, pictures, videos etc. No longer are you restricted to put all your stuff in specific folders on the C drive. Libraries are the aggregation of your chosen files from all across the storage media in use. Gone is the hassle of remembering file and folder locations since you can access them at anytime through the libraries. The libraries also appear on Open/Save dialogs of all programs which makes file-management a piece of cake!

Ok thats all I could think of for now. In short, Windows 7 refines a lot of the things we saw in Vista while improving on its basic functionality. Boot times, resuming from hibernation etc. are noticeably quicker and everything works just fine. There's no reason NOT to like it. I'm certainly loving it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Paranormal Activity

There's a lot of talk going on these days about this new scary movie in theaters, called Paranormal Activity. I had heard about it from a friend last month and saw the trailer (also embedded below), and found it quite intriguing. The movie then was playing only in select theaters and the closest place from my home was a good 40-50 mins away and the only show was at midnight. I didn't really wanna go see it because frankly I thought it wouldn't be worth the trip. Fortunately, on my recent trip to Seattle to visit family and friends, I was able to finally see this movie and absolutely loved it!

Ok first off, I know the movie has a lot of mixes reviews and people don't think it's THAT scary blah blah. But I really really liked it despite all of its obvious flaws (whether it was the acting, the handheld camera or whatever) . The reason I like it so much is the creepiness factor, which can scare the shit out of you (to put it mildly). And another strong reason why I was able to connect with the movie instantly was the fact that I have experienced some paranormal activity before and firmly believe that this sort of stuff exists (although, not to the extent depicted in the movie). Some of my friends (who thought the movie was terrible) say none of this is possible, that ghosts etc. do not exist and that it is human psychology to justify seemingly unexplainable phenomenon as paranormal. Also, they deny it on the basis of science for e.g., nothing can cast a shadow without being visible etc. etc. You get the point. My argument is simple: Science does not explain everything, and it never will. There are things (and forces) at work in this world which are beyond our control and there can be instances when we come across such phenomenon when we somehow interact or come across those forces, although admittedly it is very rare.

Also from a religious standpoint, we KNOW that there are other forms of life on this planet. Be they be the Djin, ghosts, or some other evil entity, it is believed that they exist. Since the connection to religion is inevitable, this gives agnostic people another reason to deny the existence of these things citing that there is no proof, scientific or otherwise (sightings etc.).

Oh well, it is a long debate and I'd rather not talk about this stuff too much. Here is the trailer for this movie. If you haven't seen this movie, I suggest you go see it asap! Oh, and good luck sleeping after that! :)

In memory of Salman Mehmood

Salman Mehmood (@skdev) - a fellow blogger from Karachi - passed away yesterday after battling the deadly meningitis for many days. He was also a thalassemia patient from birth and had been fighting the disease all his life. I did not know him in person, like most of my blogger buddies, but us bloggers (especially Pakistani bloggers) are a close-knit bunch and we get along pretty well. He was one of the people I interacted most with on Twitter, and to now think that he's no longer there is shocking. I do not have any words to console his sister (@blessedAyesha, also a fellow blogger) other than to say that I haven't seen anyone be so brave in the face of such tragedy. Her constant updates on twitter let us all know how Salman had been doing for the past couple of days. And lord knows, we all tried, and prayed as much as we could but what has been written has been written, for the best.

May Allah (SWT) bless Salman and give his family the courage to bear this unimaginable loss. Frankly, I have no idea how I would have held up in the face of such tragedy. May God give us all courage to face the loss of our loved ones, which is another harsh reality of life that every single one of us has to face up to one day. Rest in peace my friend. God bless you.

Related Links:

A Prayer for Salman
- by Aly

Salman will always live in our hearts - by Alzeee

Salman Namah - his blog

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Updates have been long overdue on the blog, and plenty has gone on since my last post. I was busy with studies and research stuff and did not update the blog much, but here's hoping I can write more from now on (time permitting of course). First and foremost, I managed to complete and submit my very first research paper to a conference in France next year. I'll hear back from them in December whether the paper got in or not (fingers crossed for that!)

I also had a quick little trip to Seattle during Fall break. As always, it was very nice. Did some hiking (see picture on right, I was there where that arrow points!). I only wished there were some hiking trails close to where I live as they can be perfect way to lose weight. Oh well.

It's that time of the semester when assignments and projects creep up on you. You get midterms out of the way, and concentrate on your projects going into the final 5 weeks of the semester, and it gets real busy at the end. A good motivator for me is going to be my trip home this December. Yep, I'm going back to see friends and family AGAIN in December. Can't wait.

My book reading is going well. I finished the best-selling novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini on my flight to and from Seattle. I can see why the novel is so popular as it captures the trials and tribulations of man and a country lost in conflict. His personal story, from Afghanistan to USA, is narrated extremely well by the author. I'm definitely going to go on and read his other best-selling novel A Thousand Splendid Suns soon. Right now, after much pondering, I have decided to give one of the trek novels a chance hoping that they won't ruin the storylines and endings I have ingrained in me from the tv series (DS9 in this case).

In other news, I now regularly play football (soccer) on weekends to have at least some sort of physical activity during the week. Last weekend I also upgraded to Windows 7 RTM, which is available to us students for free courtesy of MSDNAA. Needless to say, I'm loving it so far. I'll definitely be doing detailed posts on these topics soon. All in all, life is good and time is flying by like never before.