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Archive for October, 2004

complaints.com

I came to know about an interesting website last day where you can put your complaints about anything so that other people can see it and avoid the same pitfalls. There is a search facility also. For example click here to see all complaints about citibank.

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And the music speaks…

The music scene has been set ablaze by the release of new albums by well known artists.

Around The Sun
, R.E.M.’s first new studio album since 2001’s gold Reveal, is as emotional and ulti- mately uplifting as its “Leaving New York” single. With a renewed band dynamic and songs influenced by world events, Around The Sun surprises and satisfies and is both political and poignant. The average customer review at Amazon is 3.5 out of 5 stars based on 105 reviews and is at #9 in sales rank.

Rod Stewart has brought out his 3rd album in the Great American Song Book series – “Stardust…The Great American Songbook: Volume III“. There were mixed opinions on his first 2 albums in the series (both of them are in top sales list), and this one is no different. Although the sales rank is #1, the average customer review is only a mediocre 3.5 out of 5 stars (based on 13 reviews). There are 14 songs on this album and includes guest stars like Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton and Bette Midler.

The first original album, since 2000’s “Warning”, from modern rock superheroes Green Day, American Idiot is one of the most anticipated and controversial albums of the year. This is a punk rock concept album built around elaborate melodies, odd tempo changes, and a collection of songs that freely reference classic rock warhorses like the Beatles and Pink Floyd.All this said, I should say that I am no fan of GreenDay. But they sure have a huge fan following as the 300+ reviews on Amazon certifies with a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The sales rank is #10. With 21 songs, this is a huge album.

The sweet-as-honey voice of Celine Dion is gonna melt your heart with Miracle. On the album cover is the photograph of Celine holding a baby, taken by the famous Anne Geddes. With more than 175 albums sold, Celine Dion, still goes strong – the new album is at sales rank #11, and is getting good reviews too with average customer review getting 4.5 stars out of 5. I personally love Celine’s “Falling Into You” album.

After about 20 years, Duran Duran still rocks. Their new album “Astronaut” is a great piece of work and I love it. Not just me, a lot many people too thinks the same way and they get an average customer review of 4.5 out of 5 stars based on 85 reviews. The album has 13 songs and the sales rank is #15.

The Sultan of Swing is back with a great new album – Shangri-La. The fourth solo excursion from acclaimed singer-songwriter-guitarist Mark Knopfler, is perhaps his most rocking album since his halcyon days in Dire Straits. A four- time Grammy winner who has sold some 110 million albums worldwide with that group and solo and whose signature guitar sound, instantly recognizable vocals and smart lyrics have made him one of rock’s most admired artists Knopfler offers an idyllic earthly refuge for the sophisticated rock fan with Shangri-La. Mark Knopfler’s new album has 14 songs and gets an average customer review 3.5 out of 5 stars based on 64 reviews. Dont let that fool you – this is a good album by any standards. The sales rank is #23.

Bryan Adams brings out Room Service which aint something to rave about. Plain, old formula songs have killed the original songwriter in Adams, and, sadly, this one is no better. Although it gets a rating of 4.5 stars at Amazon, I am disappointed over this effort from Adams 😦 . Out of the 11 songs in this album only a couple are worth hearing. The sales rank is #364. Trust me, Adams is capable of making an album far far better than this..

Richard Marx
is back in business with “My Own Best Enemy” – with the same old style – syrupy, rock-tinged power ballads. Its a mediocre album in my opinion, although the reviewers have given it 5 stars. There are 12 songs in this album and is ranking in sales at #1000. The album cover features Richard Marx standing in front of a stone wall, looking back….

My favourite band is U2. They are going to release a new album soon – “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb“. I am eagerly waiting for it…

All in all, this is a pretty good season for music lovers. By the way, most of the album mentioned here are available on my share 😉

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Sales Rank and Review excerpts courtesy Amazon

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Annie Lennox – The Diva

I first listened to Annie Lennox more than 7 years ago, while I was in Odessa. The song was ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, a haunting song that still continues to be a favourite of mine. I was immediately hooked. The CD belonged to my friend, with whom I lost touch after I returned home from Ukraine, but the music still remained with me for a long time. I tried to buy Annie Lennox albums after coming back, but none was to be found.
Then several years later I managed to download it from internet. I still remember myself, waiting for more than an hour watching the song getting downloaded in Napster (those good old Napster days ;-)), praying “God, dont let the connection break in between” (dialup days, babe ;-)). I breathed a sigh of relief as the download got completed, and I got lost in the smooth as silk voice of Annie Lennox.
Annie Lennox was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 1954, on Christmas Day. Boy,she is 50 years old now ! During her time in education, Annie learned to play the piano, flute, and also sang in the choir. She would go on to play in symphony orchestras and military bands and attended the dance classes of Marguerite Feltges who, interestingly, introduced pupils to a form of Greek Dance known as ‘Eurhythmics’! During her teenage years, Annie gained an interest in motown music – listening to the sounds of The Supremes and Marvin Gaye. An interesting statement she made of this time was when she attended a party and was given the opportunity to DJ for the night. She decided to play A Whiter Shade Of Pale repeatedly, because it always went down a storm, and of course, Annie later covered this track on her Medusa album many years later!
She married mutiple times and sung in many bands. But her real fame came when she went solo.In April 1992, Annie released Diva – her first solo outing and which, for the most part, garnered critical acclaim. It reached #1 in the UK charts and stayed in the charts for 70 weeks. In the US it reached #23 and stayed around for over 70 weeks! The album included such hits as Why (which won an Ivor Norvello for music and lyrics), the upbeat Little Bird, and Walking On Broken Glass – all of which went Top 10.
In 1995, after another break to concentrate on family life, Annie returned to the limelight with an album of covers titled Medusa. The record spawned such hits as A Whiter Shade Of Pale and Waiting In Vain.
She continued her solo success with an awe inspiring and one off performance at Central Park in New York.
In 2003, Annie returned with a new album Bare (released in June), along with a sell out tour of North America, Canada and Europe. But the success of this was balanced with passing of her mother, Dorothy.In 2004, she contributed to the soundtrack of the final instalment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy – Return of the King. Her collaboration with Fran Walsh and Howard Shore, produced the film’s theme Into The West – which went on to win an Oscar. Annie had bagged many Awards including the prestigious Grammy multiple times. Annie is currently on a joint concert tour with Sting incorporating the US, Canada and Mexico……..

P.S. See some photos from Odessa here.

P.P.S. Listen to Medusa from Annie Lennox in my share. I highly recommend “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “No more I Love You’s”

Lyrics of Whiter Shade of Pale :

We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray

And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale
that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale

She said, ‘There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see.’
But I wandered through my playing cards
and would not let her be
one of sixteen vestal virgins
who were leaving for the coast
and although my eyes were open
they might have just as well’ve been closed

She said, ‘I’m home on shore leave,’
though in truth we were at sea
so I took her by the looking glass
and forced her to agree
saying, ‘You must be the mermaid
who took Neptune for a ride.’
But she smiled at me so sadly
that my anger straightway died

If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed


The source of Annie’s biography given here is condensed from www.annie-lennox.com

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Shield Me From Installation…

For the last 2-3 days I have been struggling with InstallShield. My task is to upgrade an installtion script written in an old version of InstallShield (probably version 5.5 or before). I thought that the upgradation would a piece of cake, but to my surprise the old script didint even compile in the new version of InstallShield (InstallShield X). I could see trouble round the corner 😉
InstallShield is a great product with a mind-boggling feature-set but still amazingly easy to use. With every new release they out-perform themselves in ease of use as well as better features. But here I am – a victim of their innovations – with an old script that wouldnt even compile in the latest version. But behold, the help that comes with InstallShield is one of the best examples of documentation that I have ever seen for a product. They have a pretty good section on upgradation of old scripts. After browsing this section for about 5 minutes I got the errors fixed and the script compiled. I cant help but praise InstallShield for such a great product and such a great documentation.
By the way, JetBrains have released Omea Reader that
reads RSS and Atom feeds, newsgroups and bookmark files in one, simple to use interface. Hurry and get a permanent license key for Omea Reader for free !!!

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Proof by analogies

Proof by analogy is fraud. This is true by its very nature and definition. You can always have one just for the sake of argument or for making difficult concepts clear. But we have to stop it there, dragging things anymore forward is foolish, even dangerous. Software development and associated processes have always been the playground of prudish intellectuals. Many “magical methods” were discovered by them, and they declare that they found the “silver bullet”, but these methods couldnt stand the test of time.
One such thing has been the waterfall model for software development. The concept draws an analogy from a car manufacturing assembly. The whole process procedes in different phases in a step-by-step manner. You complete one phase, go the next, and never goes back to a previous phase. Nothing could be more wrong than comparing this to the software development process. I dont believe that any , but the most trivial, project has been successfully completed using the waterfall model. Anybody who has done any kinda software development can certify this.
People who draw on the car manufacturing analogy forget that an initial prototype development takes place first. This is iterative. The prototype undergoes many changes before the final model, that the designers are satisfied with, is finalized. Many projects today follows this method and creates a prototype first, but this is mostly superficial. Software development bodeies cannot afford to build applications twice (actually it is not that they cant afford it, it is because they dont want to spend the time and money on building better software).
I am sure that a lot many people would be surprised (and wouldnt agree) if I say that there aint a thing such has waterfall model in software development. But I am convinced that software development is an iterative and incremental process. Each stage of the process is revisited repeatedly during the development and a continous refinement of the endproduct takes place.

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Much ado about Null

There is a proposal to include Nullability in C#. This is the ability to set NULL values for all types including value types (primitive types). This can be very useful when dealing with databases. Ofcourse there are other ways to handle NULL and value types without direct language support, but none of them are without shortcomings. For eg, we can use -1 for unsigned integers, but such an approach is useful only when such an unused value is available (and identified). Another way is to use a boolean indicators in separate variables, but this does not work well for parameters and return values. We can even use a set user-defined nullable types, but, then again, this works for only a closed set of types.
C# plans to have nullable types that doesnt have any of theses shortcomings by providing complete and integrated support for nullable forms for all value types. We will use the type modifier ? to indicate a nullable type. For eg, int? is used to indicate a nullable int. Note that the underlying type will be int itself. We can implement a nullable type using a structure that contains the underlying type as well as a null indicator. There will be two read-only properties –
– HasValue of type bool and and
– Value of the nullable type’s underlying type.
The operation is simple. For non-null instances, the HasValue will have value true, and false otherwise. If HasValue is true, Value will return value of the instance, else an exception is thrown.

For those with a musical inclination can check my share for the new additions :
Bryan Adams – Room Service
Essential R&B – Love Collection (2 CD)
Leonard Cohen – Dear Heather

—-
Reference:
MSDN – Nullable Types specification.

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The Making Of An Engineer

Life at an engineering college is a mixture of sheer happiness and utter hopelessness 😉 The first days as a fresher are those of fear and anxiety. Seniors are waiting for freshers and you have heard so many stories about ragging. The intimidating look on the face of seniors can leave you with many a sleepless nights. All that change soon, leaving you with much less inhibition and even less money in your pocket ;-)).

You are enthusiastic about being an engineer, coz that was your life goal. You soon find that there aint anything much to get excited about. The classes are just as boring as they were in school and pre-degree days. Maybe even more… Then you start looking for alternatives to spend class hours other than listening to the blabberings of your teacher. The Labs are sheer pleasure when you sit back with great satisfaction looking at the girls in your group doing all the job and writing the Lab Record for you. Occassionally you will intervene to make some components vapourise by connecting the secondary of the step down transformer to where you should have connected the primary. The lab assisstants are glad that the CRO still works even though the bread-board is now a piece of molten plastic and metal. Having done your part to your satisfaction, you can now retire to just giving timely advices (from a distance).

Assignments are a big joke. You have a template ready that fits all subjects. Your girlfriend fills in the low level details in which you have no interest, after all you have that architect skills in you, even at that time. You always prefer to think in UML. Unfortunately, they dont allow assignments to be written in UML. Sad,but true.

The real trauma begins when the exam time comes. Not that you are spending all your time studying, but all the girls are busy with their studies that you dont get to see them much often. I wouldnt want even my enemies to be in such a situation. The study-leave is preparation time for your exam, and sure enough you spend it preparing… making reference notes in a microscopic scale so that each module can be fit into small papers that you can tuck inside your shirt. Quick references to these notes in the exam hall will help you pass the exam GRACEfully 😉
Exams are not easy. Not surprising, considering th fact they are deigned to make your life difficult. And naturally you cant transcend all difficulties in the first try. “supplies” were invented to overcome this problem. Many a “supplies” will be required for heavy duty papers like electromaagnetic fields, digital signal processing etc. At home you will hold “out-of-syllabus” questions as being the culprit ;-))

You soon discover the engineer’s 10 commandments of life:

1. Thou shalt study only during the preparatory leave.
2. Thou shalt never write thy assignments thyself.
3. Thou shalt begin writing thy journals only on the morning of submission.
4. Thou shalt treat all marks above 35 as bonus.
5. Thou shalt have at least 70 per cent attendance in the canteen.
6. Thou shalt pass GRACEfully.
7. Thou shalt always be an OUTstanding student.
8. Thou shalt give thy attendance without being present…PROXY pattern is ideal.
9. If thou can’t convince them , confuse them.
10. Thou shalt start every sentence with a four lettered word.

Time really flies at you soon find that there aint much days left and your engineering college life is coming to an end. It is both a relief and a pain. All those people whom you have come close to and have loved will soon be gone. The college in which you always felt at home is going to treat to you like an outsider. But life has to go on and you soon start looking for a job very soon you realise that there will never be such good times again. Now, looking back, I feel that I should have enjoyed life as an engineering student more than I did and now all I can do is fondly remember my best days of my life……….

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