Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Quick Firefox Tip

As you might know (c'mon, you're one of 5 people who read my blog), I work for Deviantart Inc., and there's a lot of PR work involved. This means that I have to frequently visit user pages, which have URLs like username.deviantart.com. Its a pain to type this over and over again, especially since I'm used to hitting Ctrl+Enter for http://www.sitename.com (type sitename, hit Ctrl+Enter, and Firefox/IE will add the rest for you). Here's a trick you can use for deviantart pages, blogger blogs, and anything else with a similar URL type:

  • Click Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks > New Bookmark.
  • In the 'location' field, type 'http://%s.deviantart.com' or 'http://%s.blogger.com', without the quotes.
  • Add a keyword thats short and easy to type/remember. For deviantart pages, I use 'da'. So, to go to my page, i simply type 'da abe-x' (without quotes) and hit Enter. Similarly, for blogspot pages, I use 'bs'.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

PC Nightmare!

Litestep is an excellent shell replacement for Windows, with a lot of nifty features and much room for customization. A shell (for those of you...) is something like a large program that runs many sub-programs within itself. Windows runs its own shell, explorer.exe, and Explorer runs all the sub-programs, like your browser, media player, etc.
Now, I work for Deviantart.com as their Gallery Director for Skins & Themes, meaning I handle artist relations among those who create skins on this massive digital art community. This means checking out tons of skins, themes, dishing out advice, help, doughnuts, and what-have-you. Now, we accept submissions of Litestep themes, and one of them looked so good, I just had to try it. I also claim to be pretty adept with PCs, seeing as how I've been using them since I was this high. So I headed to the website, downloaded the installer, got my theme, and got down to work. Now, once you've got Litestep installed, you'll notice a different taskbar, your windows will look different, the way you access programs will change, and so on. The beauty of this is that you can configure it to work the way you want. It requires a lot of coding, but I just wanted to see what my PC would look like with that neat theme. I allowed Litestep to replace Explorer as my default shell.
Once I applied the theme, however, the computer froze.
So I rebooted it.
Then it said I needed to download some additional software in order to get Litestep working properly. But I couldn't do that, since my cable internet had to be logged into before I could be online. And this login box would show up only after I got past this download box, which only had the options 'Download' and 'Cancel'. So I hit 'Cancel'.
Once I cancelled, I realized that if I didn't download that stuff, I wouldn't see any icons, taskbars, or anything that would allow me to use this computer. I would simply have to stare at a Litestep wallpaper. And cry.
On my friend Sudhanva's advice, I tried starting up in Safe Mode, and Last Known Good Configuration, only to find that I would still have to deal with that download issue. I resembled a mime actor depicting loss, tragedy, betrayal and dumbfoundedness all at once. A low-rank mime actor at that.
Finally, I decided to boot up normally one last time, and planned to just hit keys wildly till something worked out in my favour. I cancelled the download process that wouldn't happen, and hit Ctrl+Alt+Del, just like I had done so many times before. Then, I had a brainwave: Task Manager > File > Run > explorer.exe.
This action opened up a folder view of 'My Documents'. I hastily redirected it to 'Desktop', which had a shortcut labelled 'Explorer as Shell'. I double-clicked, and regained my freedom, sanity, and my wonderful PC.
Moral of story: Don't try this at home. Not for n00bs! I wish Litestep had some kind of rescue button somewhere. Would have saved me a lot of pain. Ah, well...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Chillout is the new Electronica

I've discovered a lot of great new music over the past couple of months, that can loosely be generalized as 'Chillout'. I'm talking about downtempo world music, jazz-influenced pop, indie-rock-tinged electronica, latino-glazed-hip-hop and such. Its mostly very freestyle stuff, and I'm sure a lot of it falls under other genres too, and many movements. Still, you get the idea. Here are some artists I highly recommend (albums in parentheses):
  • Nitin Sawhney (Philtre, Human, Prophesy)
  • Zero 7 (Simple Things, The Garden)
  • K-OS
  • Air
  • Bill Laswell
  • Royksopp
  • Cornershop
  • Massive Attack
  • Fiona Apple (Extraordinary Machine)
  • Talvin Singh (Ha)
I was introduced to many of these bands by a friend from college, who is half-Nepali, half-Indian, somewhat US-bred, and well-versed in underground/dance/trance/house/groove/hip-hop and other such genres of music. Its amazing how much great music is out there, that is solely for the purpose of serving as the background score for your engaging in doing nothing. Don't get me wrong, these artists know exactly what they're doing; some of those I've mentioned above are very into fusing regional sounds with drum & bass, blips and bleeps, traditional beats and myriad strains of violin, organ, and samples. Hit up your Torrent client for some of this stuff, and I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised. Look up isohunt.com for 'Pure Chillout', a 40-track album that should give you a good idea of what I'm so excited about.