A new H2G2?

August 21st, 2009

In the recent past it was discussed that Eoin Coifer (of the Artemis Fowl series) would be writing an authorized sixth book to the ever-increasingly-misnamed trilogy in five parts that is better known as Douglas Adams’ The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The book, And Another Thing, seems to be the greatest/worst thing since the discovery of DNA (if you don’t get the joke — Douglas Noel Adams was born in the same year that Watson and Crick discovered DNA). Most sequels to famous books/series end up being pale imitations of the originals, and in some cases just completely lousy. So I have been looking forward to this book with mixed anticipation and trepidation. I loved the Artemis Fowl series (the first three books — the later ones seems tacked on), but H2G2 is a tough act to follow. Wouldn’t it have been better to complete the third Dirk Gently book first?

In any case, Nicolas Botti was one of the (un?)lucky few who was given the opportunity to read the first half of the book — some three months before it is due to be released. His review states pretty much what I expected.

Is it funny? If you read Hitchhiker to have a good laugh, maybe you’re going to be disappointed. I didn’t find it very funny. There are some good funny moments (mainly at the beginning) but Colfer’s ideas being less original than Douglas’, you are less surprised. And he has not the same grip on comic timing than Douglas had.

However, he ends by saying that,

I don’t want to give the feeling that it is a bad book. It is not. But maybe I was expecting too much.

Still, I’m going to read it the day it hits the stands!

Categories: books, funny, reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments

Browser Shootout – Part III

August 3rd, 2009

Quickly on from Part I and Part II, here is part three of the great browser shootout. The browsers we are looking at are:

All the tests are done on a fully updated Windows 7 RC on a IBM ThinkPad R52.

The first tests I do is to start up the browsers and check the time till they are fully open and I am able to view a site. All the browsers were set to a blank home page so that this would not affect the load time. After they are open, I check the memory usage.

Then I load one by one the following sites:

For gmail and hotmail, I don’t measure the time to load the login page, but rather the time from login to the time I can see the inbox. In the case of hotmail, this is not the inbox but the main “activities” screen.

All the times taken before this are in seconds and you may take +/- 1 second error.

Following this I run the Acid2 and Acid3 tests. Considering that all the browsers here are Acid2 compliant, only the Acid3 has any meaning. Acid tests are a measure of the browsers ability to support HTML and CSS standards as defined by the W3C. Acid3 requires support for JavaScript as well.

Then I loaded up four different JavaScript test sites. At this point I again checked the memory usage. For Chrome and Internet Explorer 8, I will give the total usage of all the processes in memory.

The JavaScript tests were then run:

The JavaScript test from the V8 Browser comparison is a numerical score – higher the better; the other JS comparisons are in milliseconds – lower the better. The mootools test is actually a test to compare different JavaScript libraries, Mootools own as well as JQuery, Prototype, YUI and Dojo. This test acts as an indicator of real-world usage, since many sites use one of these libraries to run their JS. Note: IE8 failed the Dojo test completely.

Without further ado, here are the results of the tests.

image

Of course, IE8 handily wins this one. The slow time of Opera may be due to the fact that it is still in beta.

image

This is a logarithmic scale, otherwise it would be difficult to show the usage. IE8 is a huge memory hog, using 824MB when loaded, nearly 4 times the usage of the next highest which is Safari 4. Chrome easily wins this with a usage of only 127MB at max.

image

Most sites load pretty much the same on each browser, except on IE8 which consistently takes more time than the other four. Even hotmail, Microsoft’s own, is fastest in Firefox! Gmail also loads fastest in Firefox, but only by one second, well within the margin of error. Overall, Firefox comes in handily in first place, followed by Chrome and Safari 4 almost neck and neck. But these three browsers are easily the fastest and the difference in times to load these sites is so negligible in real usage, you can’t tell the difference.

The Acid3 test is very close. Opera, Safari and Chrome all do the 100/100. Firefox gets 93, but IE8 gets only 20! Although there is a problem with Chrome where you may see a “Linktest Failed” for a few seconds even after everything is complete until the page clears up to meet the reference.

image

The v8 suite is Google home-grown to torture test the JavaScript engines of the browsers, but considering the lead that Chrome has over the other browsers, one wonders if it is actually designed to highlight Chrome, considering the other JS tests don’t show such increases.

image

Again this graph is a logarithmic scale. All the times are in milliseconds. Here you find that IE8 is visibly the slowest in all tests, while Firefox, Chrome and Safari all are bunched together. If you go in for specifics, except for the SunSpider test (won by Chrome by a short head) and the Prototype test (won by Opera surprisingly), Safari 4 wins all the JS tests – whew!

So that’s the end of the tests. Finally, it comes out that all the browsers are pretty much equal when it comes to performance, except IE8. But even IE8 is head and shoulders above IE7 and IE6, so you should upgrade to this even if you are not willing to move to any alternative browser.

Which browser do I use? Primarily, Firefox because of the extensions I use – but I often use Chrome and Safari. I’m personally not a fan of Opera but that’s just me – it’s a very nice browser. Of course, there are still some sites which are nothing but IE compatible – so I still haven’t gotten the icon out of my quick launch.

Do drop me a line with any questions or queries.

Categories: browsers, Comparison, reviews, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Browser Shootout – Part II

August 3rd, 2009

Following on, after a long break, from my browser shootout – Part I can be found here – I finally got around to doing the tests themselves.

Before I go on to the shootout, let’s look at some of the standout features of the browsers here.

All the browsers now work towards standards compliance, which means, hopefully, that if you write a page which is standards compliant, it will work the same in all browsers. All the browsers now have newly (re)designed JavaScript engines. This means that sites which are JS heavy, like Gmail or the new Yahoo Mail, are rendered much faster than earlier. 

Two browsers, Chrome and Internet Explorer 8, maintain separate processes for their tabs, which means if one tab crashes, the whole browser does not go down.

Chrome, Safari and Opera have a speed-dial feature (sometimes called top sites or recently browsed), where when you open the browser it shows you a set of thumbnails of the sites you visited most recently. Safari’s implementation is the best, because it updates the thumbnail even before you click on it, so you have a near real-time view of the site even without visiting it.

Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome all support HTML 5 in some measure, including new features like support for <audio> and <video> tags. Firefox has a lot of support for HTML 5 video which you can see on this page. Unfortunately, you must you FF3.5 to view it.

Opera has a nice feature where you can see the thumbnails of your open sites rather than just the plain tab-bar, but this can be added via an extension to Firefox as well. Safari’s tab implementation is a little wonky. Normally I would expect that clicking on a link which is marked “target=_blank” (which on non-tabbed browsers would open a new window), should open the link in a new tab, but in Safari it works the old way unless you Ctrl-click. No other browser does this.

And the standout feature still is Firefox’s extensions and themes. None of the other browsers have anything close to this. The range of extensions is simply mind-boggling. In fact, you would hardly need half-a-dozen other stand-alone applications, because there would mostly be an extension for it. From chat clients to weather updates, world clocks, HTML validators, FTP tools – you name it it must be there. Or you could create one yourself!

Of course, Chrome will be adding a lot of this stuff soon, but there is a lot of catching up to do.

The tests themselves are a mix of loading speeds, memory usage and JavaScript speeds. Read about them in Part III.

Categories: browsers, Comparison, reviews, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments

Browser Shootout – Part I

July 15th, 2009

Recently, Mozilla released the latest version of their highly successful browser – Firefox 3.5. In the last few months we’ve also had releases of Internet Explorer 8 from Microsoft, Chrome from Google and Safari 4 from Apple. And coming soon is the latest version of OperaOpera 10.

Before we get into the tests themselves, I thought I’d start with a brief history of the browser world and describe how each of these browsers got here.

In the beginning, Sir Tim Berners-Lee said “Let there be the world wide web” and there was. Actually, the beginnings of the web are a bit more complicated, but his basic idea was to have a collection of interlinked sets of data (pages, images, documents etc) using a simple protocol. This idea was used by Lee to create the world’s first web browser (also called WorldWideWeb and later renamed to NeXus). In 1993, the NCSA Mosaic web browser was created which soon spawned the then ubiquitous Netscape Navigator web browser. Oh how I miss the good old days of the big ‘N’!

Microsoft, which initially seemed to have lost the game, responded by bundling it’s Internet Explorer browser with it’s Windows operating systems. This shut Netscape out of the picture almost completely, and IE went on to reach a near 100% ownership of the browser market.

But again, Microsoft lost it’s way, and with the advent of new technologies and what with worms and viruses and trojans (Oh My!), which made use of the tight integration between the browser to spread, people were looking for alternatives.

Mozilla, which was a spin-off non-profit organization of Netscape, then created the Firefox Browser, which was fast, standards-compliant and extendable.

In the background, we had a Norwegian company, Opera Software, which also was building browsers. Unfortunately, it’s desktop browsers never became a hit, but it’s browsers for mobile phones and other internet access devices are very popular.

When Apple launched it’s Mac OS X, it also created the Safari browser. Originally, Safari ran only on Mac OS, but later was ported to Windows with Safari 3. The latest iteration is touted to be the world’s fastest browser (currently, of course!).

And search king Google, was also not resting on it’s laurels. Even though it gave a bunch of money to Firefox, it felt that it needed to do more in the browser market and released Chrome.

Internet Explorer 7, which by now had become the internet’s favourite whipping boy for not following standards and being buggy, was soon overhauled by Microsoft last year and they promised a new standards compliant browser – Internet Explorer 8.

So now, we have five different browsers each with a different history and different features all competing for the prize of the best and biggest browser on the web. In Q2 2009, the market share of these browsers was:

image

As you can see, IE still has the lead with nearly 66 percent of the market share, according to NetApps. But there are rumours that IE market share has dropped quite drastically in the last month, but the numbers are yet to be analyzed.


Coming up next… Browser features!

Categories: browsers, reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Windows Vista vs Windows 7 RC vs Ubuntu 9.04

July 9th, 2009

This post has been a long time coming. I installed Windows 7 RC the day after it was released, and Ubuntu the next day. Since I have an older laptop, I wanted to see how well it each would work.

My laptop is an IBM Thinkpad R52 - before the Lenovo buyout. It has an Intel Pentium M processor (1.7GHz), 1.25GB RAM and a 160GB hard disk. The disk is not the original disk, but is a Samsung ATA drive.

 Here in India, it is important to note that many of us eke out the most we can manage out of older hardware. I remember installing Windows 3.1 on a XT PC with 1MB RAM… aaah, those were the good old days! :)

But back to this comparison. The laptop originally came preloaded with Windows XP Professional. Unfortunately, it also came preloaded with a whole load of crap that IBM believed was essential to a good computing experience (NOT!). So, when I upgraded the RAM with an new 1GB chip, and I put in the new hard disk – I also decided to install Vista.

I am not one of those who does not like Vista. Yes, it sucks in a lot of ways, but in many ways it doesn’t. It is the natural progression of the Windows Product Line, with a few stupid ideas thrown in. Let me not really rant about those here. But oddly enough, it ran faster than XP (maybe because of the lack of IBM crapware).

There is an interesting aside to note here, though. On all my XP machines, I have noticed that after a few weeks/months of usage, it starts to slow down. And no matter how much you try to clean up the system, defrag, regclean and everything, it still never gets its sprightly edge back! Maybe it’s just me, but with Vista, after 8 months, I still am at the same speed I started out with – it’s not fast, but hey – it’s consistent.

So, now I decided to install a triple boot system (Vista, 7 and Ubuntu).

Installation

No points for guessing what happens here – Ubuntu wins hands-down! 36 min for the Ubuntu install. Unfortunately, the first disk I burned came out corrupt – even after the verify, so I had to burn a second disk. But, even if you include the total burning time, it still came to only 50 minutes (including the time to figure out the disk was corrupt).

Windows 7 RC came in a distant second – 1 hour 23 minutes and Vista came in nearly 10 minutes later at 1 hour and 31 minutes. And of course, this was not the end of the installation for either Windows OS. The drivers, the drivers… the drivers nearly drove me MAD! In fact, there is still some device on the Windows 7 system that it hasn’t yet figured out although I’ve thrown everything I had at it. But it finally works, so that’s bearable.

But the problems don’t end with installing the drivers. This laptop has an Intel 900 GMA chipset, so there is no WDDM display driver for Vista or W7RC. And there is never going to be one. And this bug I lay squarely at Microsoft’s door. If Ubuntu and even a hacked Mac OS X can run all their graphics properly on this chip, why did MS have to raise the bar so high? So, now I don’t have all the fancy whiz-bang stuff that both these OSes are supposedly famous for!

Boot Time

Again, Ubuntu wins the day. It takes just 27 seconds to get to the login screen while Vista takes just shy of two minutes and W7RC takes 2 min 39 sec to reach the point where I can enter my password. All of them, however, just take an additional 10 seconds to get to the main desktop.

The nicest part about Ubuntu was that it gave me a proper progress bar. I always knew how much of the boot process was complete, unlike with the Windows OSes. Why they can’t get this simple thing right is beyond me.

One thing I didn’t quite figure out with Ubuntu, though, was why it always turns on the Bluetooth on the laptop when booting up. I always have to manually turn it off. Hmm…

Shutdown

It still goes to Ubuntu, but not by such a large mark. Ubuntu – 10 sec, W7RC – 11 sec and Vista – 21 sec.

Battery Life

I did this by running a simple video in VLC with all the brightness at maximum and no shutting down/standing by of anything. Windows 7 wins this one – nearly 2 hours. Vista comes a respectable second with 1 hour 49 minutes. And Ubuntu comes in last with an hour and forty minutes.

Usage

This is the part where the OSes character changes. I have certain problems with Ubuntu which prevent me from choosing it (out of the box) as my primary OS. Firstly, the fonts suck. They are far too large. Secondly, Evolution (the Outlook equivalent) has too much space occupied by the chrome and less by the email/appointment/task that I am looking at. Thirdly, I don’t want to have to download a 500 MB of updates every three days. Can’t we just collate the updates? Fourthly, the Bluetooth thing – see above. And finally, the Thinkpad keys don’t work correctly.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these (except maybe the Evolution problem) can be fixed with a little tweaking – but not everyone can tweak the OS that easily. Even I had trouble with the keymapping. If all these could be fixed out of the box – Ubuntu would be the best OS on my laptop. Of course, I’d have to give up Photoshop (sorry, GIMP doesn’t really cut it yet) – but that would make it possible.

Windows 7 just doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. Mostly because all the nice things about W7RC require that I have a laptop with a WDDM driver. So I don’t get all the fancy mouseovers, the nice popup stuff and all that. And since I don’t get all of that, it doesn’t have enough to make it more worth my while than Vista. There are all sorts of nice ideas included in W7RC like the pinned menu and the fast shortcuts and the idea of doing away with the system tray, but a lot of the stuff needs to work on my system before I could enjoy it. It works on my desktop, and I like it there, but on this system – naah. (I like the new Solitaire though – finally cleaned up after 15 years!)

So, finally we come to Vista. Which is the system I use primarily and I like it. Yes, there are a lot of things to dislike about it – the stupid implementation of the UAC, the backward compatibility breakages (especially with stuff like VNC), the lack of the WDDM drivers. But overall, it works. It works fast on this system – faster than XP at least (and since I don’t have a standalone XP license, I cannot put XP on the system). I like the new explorer – it gives a lot of flexibility and overall it has enough eye candy (even on this system) to make it nice to look at.

But I keep switching between Ubuntu and Vista. Depending on my mood, I guess. However, W7RC is relegated to the outhouse for the moment. Although, I am planning a browser test next – IE8, FF3.5, Chrome, Safari and Opera. And I’m doing this test on W7RC! Stay tuned.

Categories: Operating Systems, reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The question is – does it work as a poem?

February 19th, 2009

Demetri Martin has taken a bunch of palindromes and strung them together to make a “poem”. It’s interesting, and has it’s virtues – but I’m not so sure it’s a good poem after all! What do you think?

A 224-Word Palindrome – Neatorama

Categories: funny, life, reviews | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Continuing with the TyTN II

October 28th, 2008

Continued from here…

One of the things I was worried about when I got a slider phone was whether it would be sturdy, and here I can most unequivocally state that there is nothing to be worried about. While I haven’t tried throwing it about or banging it on the floor, I have not been overly cautious, and there have been no squeaks or rattles at all.

The other thing that I like, as I said earlier, is the WiFi. It makes using email and other internet enabled applications simpler and faster. But there’s an odd problem with WiFi on the Kaiser. As it was shipped out of the box, the performance/power setting for WiFi was 50/50, but I was unable to browse. Later, when I moved it to 100% performance, I had no issues.

But coming to browsing – when is M$ going to ship a decent browser with their mobile software? I want something fast but useful. When I try browsing with IE mobile, it sucks. Then I tried Opera Mobile, which is nice, but sucks because it is too heavy. Maybe when Fennec gets released, it will do for the mobile web what Firefox did for the desktop.

And as I see it, the problems with the Kaiser are mainly with the OS. Even the keyboard problem is a software problem – mainly. Adding a calendar event – go to calendar, click menu, new, and then enter the details. In PalmOS, just go to calendar, tap on a time and start typing. It’s quicker to create complicated events in WinMo, but for a basic event, Palm wins hands down.

It’s very similar throughout the OS – whether it’s contacts or tasks or messaging. And then there are such glaring inconsistencies. For example, cut and paste. In some applications, I can tap Menu->Edit->Cut/Copy/Paste. In some others I can just hold down the centre button of the d-pad and a context menu pops up, and in other cases I have to tap and hold on the screen for the context menu. Why can’t we have one consistent method (or preferably all three in all apps)?

The biggest advantage, though, with regards to the OS is the flexibility of installing a huge variety of 3rd party applications. Even though it is claimed that PalmOS has more applications available (especially free ones), most of them are now outdated and not maintained. WinMo applications cover a whole lot of ground ranging from ones that almost completely hide the underlying OS like SPB Mobile Shell, to others like Fring and Dashwire for communication, to proper RTS games like Age of Empires. And unlike with the iPhone, anyone can make software (the SDK is free to download) and you don’t need to use iTunes to add applications. And of course, Apple won’t be around to stop you from selling the app you make.

It’s much nicer to use the Kaiser than most other smartphones that I’ve seen, especially because of the touchscreen+keyboard combination, but it’s not perfect. It’s not as neat and clean as the iPhone, but it is functionally more powerful. It’s not as simple to operate as a Blackberry, but is more extendable. So, for now, I like it – mainly because there is nothing really better out there. But if it were up to me, I’d want a Treo Pro running Android (in about six months when the hardware and software settle down)!

Categories: reviews, technology | Tags: , , , | No Comments

My time with a TyTN II

October 27th, 2008

So, as my previous post indicated, I am now the proud owner of an HTC TyTN II (aka Kaiser) Windows Mobile phone. I am a big fan of Smartphones and for the last few years I have had a variety of Palm Treo devices ranging from a Treo 180 to a Treo 650.

So, with great trepidation, and not much choice about it, I have jumped the sinking Palm OS ship and jumped straight on to the Microsoft bandwagon. So this review deals both with the Kaiser (when I say Kaiser, I mean the TyTN II) as well as with the Windows Mobile 6.1 platform.

For those of you who don’t know (or to refresh your memory), the specifications for the Kaiser are:

CPU:          32bit Qualcomm MSM7200
CPU Clock:     400 MHz
ROM capacity:     256 MiB (accessible: 145.2 MiB)
RAM capacity:     128 MiB
Display Type:     color transflective TFT , 65536 scales
Display:     2.8 " 240 x 320 Touchscreen
Networks:     GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS850, UMTS1900, UMTS2100
Data:         CSD, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA
Expansion:      microSD, microSDHC, TransFlash, SDIO
Bluetooth:     Bluetooth 2.0
Wireless LAN:     802.11b, 802.11g
GPS Services:     Assisted GPS, QuickGPS
Main Camera:     3.1 MP
Secondary Camera:     0.3 MP
Battery Capacity:     1350 mAh
Keyboard: Sliding and tilt

If you’re not really technically minded, it means that this is a fast device, with a touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard which tilts up to make it look like a laptop. To top it off, it’s got connectivity anywhere in the world and it supports 3G, 3.5G and WiFi data.

For a person like me, the last one is really great, since in India we don’t have 3G and getting on the net from one’s phone otherwise really sucks.


So, the first thing I did on getting hold of the Kaiser was to upgrade the software from Windows Mobile 6 to 6.1. (Okay, okay, I’m a geek – sue me!). I was not really curious to see the difference between 6 and 6.1 and all the reviews said that 6.1 is far better, so there it was: I went to the HTC website, downloaded the update, plugged in my phone and voila everything worked – wonderful! Updates on the Treo were as easy, so it’s quits between the two.

One of the nicest things about the Windows Mobile OS is the home screen. It’s got a lot of stuff to see at a single glance and is easily customizable with a variety of plugins from a huge number of developers. I like the default HTC home page, but it is a little limited. Unfortunately, HTC decided that since they were going to ship a top-of-the-line phone they would not add the customizations that they had put on their slightly lower-end phone (the touch) like the Touch cube and the finger friendly optimizations. Luckily a number of developers have spent a long time working on porting all these applications, and now I have a really nice home screen similar to what you would get if you follow this thread on xda-developers. (btw xda-developers is clearly the best place to get started if you have an HTC phone).

Unfortunately, the phone dialer isn’t half as nice. On the Treo, the buttons were nice and big and SEPARATE! Here, the buttons are not nice, not very big and touching each other, so with my thick fingers, I often end up typing the wrong number. The good part about the dialer is that it tries to figure out my contacts based on the letters I type, so if I type 234, it finds ADItya sengupta. Since this is a clever device, if I type 273, it finds Aditya SEngupta. This is very useful, considering that I really don’t want to slide out the keyboard to find my contacts by name.

And this is the biggest problem on the Kaiser – the keyboard. As keyboards go, it isn’t bad. It has a nice tactile feel and the buttons are big and nicely spaced and you can feel the press of each button. But Windows Mobile sucks here. When I slide the keyboard, sometimes the screen rotates almost instantly, but sometimes I have to wait for it to realise – oh! the keyboard is out, the keyboard is out – and then run around madly wondering what to do next before it changes the orientation. And then, there’s the problem of auto-complete. Until I disabled it, auto-complete was making typing so slow that it s e  e   m  e  d to take forever to type a single word! I guess it’s useful if you’re using the onscreen keyboard or the transcriber, but using the hardware keyboard with it sucks. Also, the other funny thing. If I use the onscreen keyboard when the physical keyboard is hidden away, it still shows later when I slide out the physical keyboard!

On the Treo, on the other hand, the keyboard was much smaller and more difficult to type on, but it never needed to be slid left, right, up or down. It was just there, which made it easier to type!

Ok… this is getting to be a long long post, so let me cut it here. More in the next installment…

Categories: reviews, technology | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

One man can make a difference – NOT

October 26th, 2008

After 20 years, two TV movies and a TV show that no one ever watched, Knight Rider is back on the small screen with your favourite car KITT and Michael Knight. But not quite.

David Hasselhoff, the TV star everyone pans but still watches played the original Michael Knight. In his tight jeans and cowboy boots and with his overly ham acted performance, Michael was a unique character. Someone who was different, because they were – not because the script told them to be.  Justin Bruening just doesn’t cut it. He is stiff and starchy and carries a gun, something that the original Michael Knight rarely did. And of course, in deference to the original series, he starts off as Mike Traceur and then is “killed” and is reborn as Michael Knight (btw he is supposedly the original Michael’s son).

KITT has changed as well and how… Even though he now has Val Kilmer’s voice, he just doesn’t have the dry, sardonic style of the original William Daniels. And to top it off, the car has no personality (unlike the original Pontiac TransAm), because although it supposedly is a Ford Shelby Mustang, it morphs into a whole variety of other Ford cars and pickups, like a long running Ford commercial. And then there’s the voice modulator box. Unlike the original single glowing box or the later three bar design, there is a glowing orb, which just looks to weird, like an alien creature.

But the biggest problems with the show is the scripting and the story. Firstly, the original show was really about the car and it was technological, but it wasn’t un-accessible. Most of the stuff the car did was considered “Hey Cool, I wish my car could do that!”. But here it seems that everything is in the realms of half-reality and half-sci-fi where you wonder whether it exists, but you’re sure that you will never get a hold of it even fifty years later unless you work for the US Government or have as much money as Bill Gates (which reminds me, have you seen the really stupid Gates+Seinfeld MicroS**t advertisments? – a post for another date). Secondly, the story, at least for the pilot and the first episode, makes no sense. Some weird people do some weird things like cutting a guy’s thumb for his DNA instead of a blood sample! And the plot just meanders along at times while seeming over full at other times.

And of course, the biggest problem is the premise. The original series said that it was the story of “a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who operate above the law…”, but here it seems to be a FBI operation which doesn’t say much for the original Foundation for Law and Government which worked on its own in a kind of vigilante way with tacit approval from the Government. And instead of Michael, KITT, Bonnie and Devon in a world of their own, we now have a dedicated team of FBI personnel which means leaks and stupidity and a bunch of idiotic people who sit around and stare at KITT.

Does that mean I won’t watch it? No… but I will keep going back to the old campy stuff!

Categories: movies, reviews | Tags: | No Comments

A week of theatricals

March 11th, 2008

Not exactly a bunch of reviews, but Bangalore has seen a lot of good English theatre in the last week, and here’s my take on them.

Firstly there was Lucknow ’76 written and directed by Abhishek Majumdar on the 1st and 2nd. Then there was my Poile Sengupta’s play Keats was a Tuber on the 4th, 5th and 6th. And finally this weekend just past, there was Invisible River by Gautam Raja.

Seeing these three plays in short succession makes one feel that English language theatre in Bangalore in still standing and those (including yours truly) who were ready to perform the final rites, were a bit hasty.

It’s not that the plays/performances were without flaws but they gave one a sense that it was worth the while to travel an hour (or longer) in maddening Bangalore traffic to watch them.

Lucknow ’76 has an interesting premise. Working across two periods in the history of the city, 1876 and 1976, the playwright tried to show the similarities between British imperialism and the Emergency. His portrayal of the period in 1876 when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India was extremely well done. Unfortunately, the 1976 period was not nearly as well done, nor was it clearly linked together with the other story. Overall, it seemed like a good effort, but needed just a little more coherency. The acting was good, however, since there weren’t enough brochures around, I wasn’t able to figure out who played what role! The lighting was a little off the mark, tending to come in after the actors had moved. The music was performed live on stage with a single guitarist who also sang. Again, thanks to the lack of brochure, I don’t know who he was. He provided a good mood for the performance.

Two days later, was Keats was a Tuber. Directed by Ashish Sen and produced by Voices, the play was a revival of a over-ten-year-old performance, again directed by Ashish, with a mildly different cast. Pathy Aiyar took over from Preetham Koilpillai in the role of Raghu, while Stanley Pinto replaced Chippy Gangjee and Chandana Vasistha Aiyar played Damini. The production was not bad, with live music from Jagdish and Madhuri, but I was disappointed overall (having read the book… sorry script!). The play is primarily about the problems faced by Indians who speak English as opposed to their native language. Set in the English Department of a small town college, it talks of life and love and the English language. Shiv Kumar, as Mr Iyer, one of the lecturers, was stiff and wasn’t able to bring out any nuance. Ranita Hirji (Mrs. Nathan) the head of department, who asks Raghu (her nephew) to join the department to ostensibly fill up a three month teaching vacancy before leaving for higher studies abroad, was limited to being a college lecturer (formerly one in real life as well!). Stanley was good, Pathy was competent, Chandana was incapable of acting. Overall, I would have expected the play to be done differently (again having read the script), but it is upto the director! Then again, I felt that most of the audience seemed to have enjoyed it – which was the point.

Invisible River by Gautam Raja, directed by Ruchika Chanana, is set on the banks of the Ganga in Allahabad where a young doctor fighting against blind superstition is trying to clean up the river, while a young scientist is trying to prove that the river contains bacteriophages (virii that kill bacteria) which may help save lives. Starting off slowly, the premise pushes the play along with strong performances from Pritham Kumar and Veena Appiah. As I could see, the play would do well with a better child actor (and better lines for him!), while the entire concept of the Saraswathi being the invisible river is forgotten by the end of the play, even though it’s in the title!

Whew! Long post! I hope you managed to catch at least one of these performances this week. I’ll keep you updated if I hear that of repeat showings.

Categories: bangalore, reviews, theatre | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments