Jungle Ride

Hey this was fun !

That's what I thought after I had come back from the ride. All during the ride I was like "Oh Shit ! Oh Shit ! I am going to fall... "

The ride plan materialized all of a sudden. Abhimanyu's bike was finally not in the garage and rideable. He wanted an early 6am ride to some place near Sohna Road which got pushed to 7am. Knowing him I targetting 7am to leave from home. ETA given by Abhimanyu moved to 7:30am on the morning.

I reached the gurgaon toll first - and after a few mins which I used for photographing usual stuff - bike, the sun rising etc, these guys turn up. We headed out after a few mins. Felt good to meet them after ages!

We took an internal route through Gurgaon to reach Sohna road - which was pretty pathetic. No matter what the govt says that it is the Millenium city, the city roads are probably worse than a Gaon's road.

Near the BSF camp there is a road which goes off into the jungle. We plunged in. This lead us past the BSF encampment and up a hill, where the road just vanished. After a few mins we headed into the jungle. Saw quite a bit of wildlife here - peacocks, tree pies, bablers, parrots. What a contrast to the cacophony of traffic just an hour back! Lovely!

Sumeet asked to turn on a tracker - so we downloaded one on my phone as it was the one with the most charge. Seriously man - these guys dont even charge their phones or carry water before a ride. And they shrug it of as "we are bulleteers" ! :P

First we went to a babaji's temple - but then the decision was to just go and ride in the jungle first. So we headed away into the jungle.

Damn, this road was ... well... not a road. I was thinking this is more like a road where I would like to treck, but taking a plastic bike - i was sure that today either I will fall or some part of my bike will fall. We pushed on through thorn bushes and clinging grasses.

Finally we reached a place where there was a good view. Also we were a bit skeptical of whether the road goes on or not. Just a few hundred meters back we had met a couple of villagers who assured us that the road does not go on. Stopped and took a few pics. We could see the tall buildings of Gurgaon shrouded in early morning smog. Picturesque to look at. Like Abhimanyu said later "Even Gurgaon looks good from far!".

We decided to check out the road down on foot to see if there was really any road, and soon came up to a dead end. Sumeet and me were talking about what animals would be in this forest, and Sumeet was of the opinion that he would punch a leopard if it comes here. lol !

We headed back and I was told that we would now head to a Shiv mandir and the road was even worse than the one we had been through. "uh-huh" I thought.

However, either I was becoming more experienced on these roads, or maybe because the other road was a bit better, we did not have too many scares on the way. We did get a bit lost in the jungle but the tracker helped us get back on the route after going around in circles - which I suspect was deliberate on Abhimanyu's part.

We reached the mandir after reaching a small open ground ( check the panorama ) and where Sumeet was reluctant to take his bike as there were cows grazing there who seemed to be quite fond of his Bull in the last adventure he had there ! Anyways we headed down towards the temple.

There was a group of families which had come from Gurgaon whom we met there. One of the guys was quite happy to see us there on bikes ( though he was a bulleteer ) . We had a good chat with him and he had got all the kids and families there to the spot as otherwise they all ended up in the malls. Apparently there was a road which ended quite near to the temple and then it was a short hike up.

Time to head back , and the group extended their hospitality to us by giving us some much needed food and water !

We headed back to the open ground an the entrance of the jungle where there was a sutta break and I found out that there is a photoshphere feature in the camera, though I did not really use it for a sphere but for a panorama.

The route back was now a breeze after the initial climb where our bikes wanted to come down and we wanted to go up. Abhimanyu's bike developed a love relation between his front mudguard and the wheel... so he had a bit of problem turning the bike. But all in all, we reached the road safely and then headed to Manesar's McD for breakfast ( though the breakfast menu was over by the time we reached!)

Then I peeled off from the group and headed back as the bulls were doing 60kph and that was a bit too slow for the highway.

Great ride. Thanks to Abhimanyu and Sumeet for springing this on me. If I had known about the road before, I may have had two thoughts, but this worked out well for me !

PGSQL Common Commands

This is my short list of the psql commands I need to use. PgSql is something of black magic for me at this time, and I do not have time enough to go into its nitty gritties so far. So, short steps to log in , drop database , create database etc. I am more used to MySQL and these commands are weird for me.

1. To login :

sudo -u postgres psql

If you get an error like:
psql: FATAL:  role "vibhu" does not exist

It means you are not using the correct psql user. For some reason, here the user is a user named postgres and that has administrative rights on the table.

2. To see the databases:
postgres=# \list

Self explanatory. Instead of show databases; just \list

3. To drop a database
postgres=# drop database somedatabase;

Do not forget the ; at the end. In example above 'somedatabase' is the name of the database.

4. To create a database
postgres=# create database somedatabase with owner vibhu;

Where 'somedatabase' is your database name, and 'vibhu' is the person who has ownership over the database. This I do as I do not want the admin user to be always working on the database.

5. Bonus : To reset the db on heroku ( I am using django on heroku )

heroku pg:reset DATABASE

The Overview Effect

A must watch video of the view from space, and the thoughts of the astronauts who have had the profound experience.

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

Some things to watch out for:

  • The description given by the astronauts
  • Thunderstorms from space
  • Auroras from space

Also check out the music :

On Hindutva

In the recent months, I have been bewildered by the news channels and politicians giving a negative connotation to Hindutva. Their angst seems to be pointed towards Modi as they feel that he is a threat to their rule, but in the churn they are also sullying the image of Hinduism - in the birthplace of this grand old religion.

I came across the Article When Germany is Christian, is India Hindu? and it really puts the reasoning in a much more coherent way than I would have been able to. I strongly suggest you read the article. Here are a few points that strongly resonate with me.

I find hard to understand – for example why many so called educated Indians on TV discussion forums become agitated whenever ‘Hindutva’ is mentioned. The majority of Indians are Hindus. India is special because of its ancient Hindu tradition. Westerners are drawn to India because of it. Why then is there this resistance by many Indians to acknowledge the Hindu roots of their country? Why do some people even give the impression as if an India that values those Hindu roots was dangerous?

That is exactly my thought when I see these debates of anti-Modi. I just cant understand how the association of being a Hindu is something that is now being branded as being evil ?

Hinduism comprises a huge body of ancient literature, not only regarding Dharma and philosophy, but also regarding music, architecture, dance, science, astronomy, economics, politics, etc. If Germany or any other western country had this kind of literary treasure, it would be so proud and highlight its greatness on every occasion.

This is something that I am also ashamed of. Before the start of this year, I had not even gone through the Gita - one of the most popular pieces of literature of Hinduism. Somewhere around the later part of last year I realized that most people do not even know what the Bhagwad Gita is all about - though they espouse one or two famous shlokas out of it. A little knowledge is dangerous and thats when I started reading it - 2 pages at a time - everyday. I am in my 2nd reading of the book, and I think I do not still understand the underlying message perfectly.

There is a “Copernicus Marg’ in New Delhi and Indian children do not get to hear in school that the rishis of the Rg Veda knew already that the earth is round and goes around the sun – thousands of years before westerners ‘discovered’ it. (Rg 10’22’14)

Here, even I did not know that. And I do lament the teachings we have had which do not talk about these things. I have recently got a condensed book about the vedas which I hope to read this year. Unfortunately, these books are not easy to get. 

All in all, I believe we have been paying just lip service to one of the grandest religions either by ignoring it or being fanatical about the customs. It would be better if everyone with an iota of thinking capacity should do what the rishis of old did - think and esquire into the truth. For one, I am going to be reading all these immense literature ( apart from the Ramayana and Mahabharata ). The Challenge is getting copies of these which are not influenced by the translators dogmas. 

If you know of good books or links, please do leave them in the comments below, and I will add them to the main article here. 


iPhone5S in short

If I have the money, I would buy it. But man... too damn expensive :'(

In short this is what the new iPhone5S has:

  • The slate color ... definitely the one I want. 
  • 64 bit processor: This is a game changer. People just talk about like how they are just changing to 64bit on the desktop and what difference does it make on the phone. I think its a big deal.
  • Fingerprint scanner: It is a feature that has been around in laptops for sometime - and the feature that most people disable first. Here's hoping that Apple really gets it to work on the iPhone5s. 
  • iWork available free ... good bye Office knockoff apps. This is a full step into enterprise domain. 
  • Camera ... ooh the camera. I wish all phones had cameras like this. Unfortunately this means that the 16GB camera phone is too less of disk space. And the slo mo capture where you can playback the entire video normally, but select a region to play in slo-mo - that is brilliant. 

You asking about the iPhone5C ? Just an iPhone5 with a plastic body. Don't bother with it. 

Kindle Paperwhite - Review

My review of the Kindle Paperwhite is featured on the website : Next Big What !

Read it at :

Landscape Sketch : Church

A sketch of a Church somewhere in Europe. I was looking for something to sketch as it has been years and I was not really in the mood for doing any other work. An amateur attempt. Hope you like it.

Lazy Sunday Morning Ride

Just a few kms out of dwarka you come across fields and a different landscape from the concrete monstrosity of Delhi. 

It is still hot in Delhi, but not that bad that you cant ride. However, the humidity is quite stifling. Just a break of a few mins makes you bathed in sweat.

The recent rains were good for the fields I guess. And the field was the home of many birds.

From here I headed towards the Najafgarh canal, which I had gone a few months back in the dry season. The stench was less now due to the rains, and it was all green. Lovely to ride in this place just a short distance from my home.

Just think how great this place would be for a picnic if the canal was not abused by using it as a public drain. The boat was being used by a couple of guys to gather some of the floating vegetation, but imagine if we could boat on this stretch ? Maybe even have kayak races in the stretches like the one below ?

The blueness of the sky and the greenery of the vegetation was such a great feeling ! Many times the egrets flew across the front of the bike, and once a monitor lizard around one and a half feet slithered off the road in the distance ahead.

A Road

Its only when you off the usual paths that you find surprises like these. This road is in Dwarka, and the feel it gave me transported me back to my childhood memories of Dehradun. 

Apple WWDC 2013 : Gazing into the crystal ball

Edit 12/Jun : Updated with the actual announcements !

Quick note on the WWDC which is going to happen tonight. A lot of speculation is going on, and I just wanted to list down what I think is possible to be announced tonight. After the WWDC, then I will look back and see where I was correct ! Without further ado - my expectations:

  • With Intel launching the haswell chips last week, just in time for the WWDC, I expect the laptop and PC lineup to change to this new chipset. 
    • Got It ! 
    • The macbook air line recieved the new chip and now gives full day battery life - a day in apples term is 12 hrs for the 13" MacBook Air
  • We will also learn about the retina display IPad minis
    • Missed it! 
    • No talk about iPads at all.
  • OS7 is a given. 
    • Got It. 
    • No brainer here. 
  • OS7 will still keep skumorphic design in the apps. I dont expect apple to be more like windows flat textures. 
    • Missed it ! 
    • Apple is going to remove skumorphic designs with a vengence ! However, it is not flat like windows. 
  • A streaming music service - I dont know whether it will be called iRadio ? 
    • Got It ! 
    • It is streaming music. 
    • It is just called Radio and is within the music app. Makes more sense than having it as a radio. 
    • Still does not support FM though :-/
  • An update to the maps software showing how it is better than before. However, if you checked the Google I/O a couple of weeks back and their Maps software, I think apple will still have a long way to go before catching up. 
    • Got It ! 
    • The new 3d flybys seem impressive. Eiffel tower with the rotation around it is pretty cool. And as mentioned in the video - you can see through the tower - which is a lot of data processing happening. 
    • Still no idea how it will work in places like India ;-)
  • I do not think an iPhone mini will be announced. If I was apple, i would not dilute the iPhone brand with a cheaper version. However, seeing that iPods are now available in all sizes, maybe someone in apple is thinking in this direction. 
    • Got It ! 
    • No talk at all about a smaller iphone.
  • Apple TV will now also stream the music
    • Umm. I dont remember this. Was it mentioned ? Need to check the keynote again. 
  • No new product lineup (I hope I am wrong here)
    • Sort of ! 
    • The MacPro was announced - which is a whole new beast of a computer ! What a design ! 

My Earliest Memory of Delhi

Sometimes, a talk about a place triggers a memory long forgotten.

Yesterday, it was about my first recollection of Delhi. We were travelling by car and crossed the new flyovers of Delhi around the ISBT and dad was talking about the delhi of old. My grandfather's house used to be in Mori gate.

I remember the scene quite vividly. It was on the banks of the yamuna in the early morning. The ghat steps led down into the water. Behind was a jamun tree and I remember eating those jamuns. The month would have been summers as the tree usually gives the fruits around that time. In the morning light the soft rays of the sun beamed through the branches and the leaves.

The water at the ghats was quite clear. People were throwing in bits of aata for the fishes. I remember seeing a gang of eels there. I am not sure if I identified them as eels ( due to the wildlife books dad at home) or if dad was with me. But I quite clearly remember the eels writhering in the water fighting over the aata pellets.

I dont remember who was with me on that morning. I would probably be my bua or my dad or my dadi. No recollection of that. But the etherial beauty of the place I remember.

This is the kind of Delhi which the old people remember when they talk fondly of Delhi. This is the Delhi which we can never leave to our children.

Sadly, there are not many pictures of Delhi as a place as most of the pictures seem to be of politicians and british people. The one below is the closest to what I felt ( without the palace )

(Picture from 100 years of Delhi at IbnLive )

Now , my question to you - what were your earliest memory of Delhi ( or your city ) that you can recollect ? 

Royal Enfield One Ride

This weekend, did something a bit different than my usual rides. Royal Enfield had a concept of One Ride - getting as many Royal Enfields on the road. I dont own a RE bike, but with the promise of a bike from PPS, I went along. Reached the RE office at 7:!5am and found a TB 500 waiting for me :)

As far as rides go, it was not much. It was more like a breakfast ride. We went to the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary - though no one really went inside it.

Heroku Error H14 with Django

H14 Error on Heorku

Today morning I did a new push to www.bikenomads.co.in with images from the fantastic 2013 calendar.

And the website died :(

One minute it was working fine, and the next it died ! Showing a problem with the app, and if you are the administrator to check the logs.

It took me 2 hrs to fix this, as Heroku site is not clear on what to do in case of errors ( see here for list of errors in Heroku) . So, here's a short guide to fix it ( this guide is for a Django project but I think it should work out similarly for other platforms )

First , if the app is not loading , check the logs in heroku. So, I logged into the web console and could not find the error log at all ! Apparently you need to use the command line for the logs as :

$ heroku logs
and it showed something like this to me : 
2013-02-16T08:35:49+00:00 heroku[web.1]: Process exited with status 143
2013-02-16T08:35:51+00:00 heroku[router]: at=error code=H14 desc="No web processes running" method=GET path=/ host=www.bikenomads.co.in fwd="" dyno= queue= wait= connect= service= status=503 bytes=

The what ?! Web process exited ?? Then how will the site run ? I checked the web console and it did not show anything under "Dynos" ( I am also not sure if it existed 2 months back?) 

Check with heroku ps if there is any process running: 
$ heroku ps
That did not return anything. 

So, a bit of search over the net and stackexchange pointed to something called the Procfile - which I had never used before. Apparently, heroku picks up the info on what to run automatically, but sometimes it jinxes. It is safer to put the information into a Procfile . This problem seems to keep recurring for over a year, but Heroku guys have not fixed it or fixed their tutorials, and that is where it all starts going downhill. 

Now follow the steps below to fix it for your installation : 
1. Create a file called Procfile ( it is case sensitive - so capitalize P !) in the root directory of your application ( where you have the venv folder ) . On windows you will have to make sure that windows does not add a .txt extension . I use linux so it was just 'touch Procfile'.
2. Edit the file and put in the following details for Django ( other apps you will need to figure out depending on what is needed to run it ) :
web: python website/manage.py runserver$PORT
Note the spacing and the IP you need to give. If you miss out the last part, it will run on localhost which you will not be able to connect to from your machine. 
3. git add the file and do a git push heroku master to push this file to the server. We are not done yet even though the push says everything is fine.
4. Remember the heroku ps did not give any results earlier ? So, now you need to attach the process. Do this with the following command to add a web dyno :
$ heroku ps:scale web=1
Scaling web processes... done, now running 1
Check your website now and it should be working ! 

And check out my site : http://www.bikenomads.co.in 

Product Spec of a A Basic Phone

I was recently looking for a basic phone for my uncle ( and also for myself ) which would be cheap and have a long lasting battery life. I am yet to find something which suits me, but it got me thinking that there is no really good low end phone OS now.

What has happened in the last few years is that with the advent of the touchscreen, everyone wants to sell a touchscreen phone. Now, it makes sense when you have something which consumes a lot of data - e.g. for emails or browsing or facebook. And the low end phones - like the nokia Asha series - which are cheap to sell, have this touch tacked onto the phones. This is a pretty bad experience as things like scrolling etc do not work well.

The closest phone that I came to liking was the Motofone, but like Motorola is apt to do, they under-made the phone, and it did not do that well.

Motofone F3 - not quite there.

So, here is my specifications of a low end phone.

  • It will be a phone without internet access
    • There are many people who do not want internet access. They buy the phones and never enable 3G on the SIMs or if they do, they hardly use it. 
    • There are many places in the world where you do not have internet access. E.g. travelling in many parts of India. 
  • It will need to have a great battery life
    • I envisage that it should have a week's battery life. One of the most irritating things about phones nowdays it that you need to charge them atleast twice a day. 
    • Great battery life also means that if you leave the phone charger on a short trip, you do not worry. 
  • It will have a fast and responsive addressbook which syncs through your PC
    • After all, once you remove internet access, all that remains on the phone is the actual phone. 
    • Syncing with the PC means that your address book can be updated to google or whatever service. This will be through an installed program. 
      • Essentially this will be quite simple as the extract from the phone will be a simple vCard export which can be imported to various services. 
  • It will have a good camera
    • 5MP or so. Saves to a SD card so that it can be easily inserted into a card reader on the laptop or an external attachment. 
    • I find the camera is an invaluable addon to the phone for the sheer easy of access. 
    • Maybe can have a dedicated button to start the camera. 
  • It will not be touch based. 
    • For the limited functionality, touch is not required. 
  • FM radio
    • This is a good requirement as it really used by a lot of people. I do not know why high end phones do not come with FM radio.
  • Casing/Screen properties
    • Screen should be big so as to have a lot of display area. I would want 2/3 of the front to be screen. 
    • On not using the phone, the screen should show : 
      • The current time
        • Can be enhanced for multiple timezones / sunrise/moonrise/etc. 
      • The FM radio station if playing 
        • Only the FM should be controllable via a trackball/pad.
      • Missed calls/sms incoming status. 
        • When incoming call, the entire screen area should be having the details of the caller from the Phone book. 
          • Font should be easily readable from arms length.
    • On activating the phone: 
      • Same as on not using the phone, but now can select the different rows of activities to check them out. 
      • Pressing numbers should instantly start the phonebook lookup based on number and letters
    • It should be eInk
      • Colour eInk if the phone has a camera
      • Else b/w eInk. 
  • Waterproof casing for isntances of using the phone in rain. Normally, with today's phones we cannot. 
  • Touch casing of the phone so that if you drop it, it does not crack. 
Would all this be achievable within 5k INR ? 

Do you think that such a basic phone will have a market ? 

Tiger Tiger

Disclaimer : Major Philosophical Rant.

TIGER, tiger, burning bright  
In the forests of the night,  
What immortal hand or eye  
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?  

In what distant deeps or skies         
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?  
On what wings dare he aspire?  
What the hand dare seize the fire?  

And what shoulder and what art  
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,  
What dread hand and what dread feet?  

What the hammer? what the chain?  
In what furnace was thy brain?  
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?  

When the stars threw down their spears,  
And water'd heaven with their tears,  
Did He smile His work to see?  
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright  
In the forests of the night,  
What immortal hand or eye  
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
- William Blake

It is one of the most endangered species on earth. It is also the most royal ones. This was the 2nd time in my life that I have seen the tiger face to face in the wild - and both the times it has been in Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary - one of the few haunts left for the tiger. 

You can describe what you see. Take a few pictures in the gathering dusk. But you cannot share the feeling you get when you see the magnificent creature staring at you, as though looking into the depths of your soul. 

It was a transformational journey to the jungles of rajasthan and the chance meeting with the Tigers. You see, once you see them, you are left wondering what the heck am I doing ? Is the deskjob - where you spend the entire time of your life replying to emails - life ? Comeon, there has to be more into it. Its like the mist of gadgets, conversations, pressing demands lift, and you suddenly catch a glimpse of something beyond the mist, something you suddenly feel gives a larger meaning to life. 

Questions . Questions. Questions. 

Why do people poach the magnificent creature ? Cant they see anything beyond their greed ? 

Why do corporations and businesses want to denude and permanently destroy the jungles ? 

Why do we just keep doing our job without thinking of the bigger picture of life ? 

Questions that I have no answer for. But the seed of thought has been watered. Life is more than what we live in our apparently busy lives. Life is more than consumer greed and running after the next gadget. Life is happening all around us and we are ignoring it.