Sunday, January 25, 2009

5.21 - A Story

A man walks into an empty elevator of the 15th floor of a tall building on a cold evening on 1/25. He is well tucked up in his jacket, gloves and earmuffs, so he feels comfortable. He has just said his goodbyes for the day to his co-workers. He presses the ground floor button and waits, what seems like eternity, for elevator to take him to the streets below quickly, so that he can catch a train and head back home to his wife and kids. He knows they are waiting for him eagerly today as they have made plans for a movie and dinner.

As the elevator begins to descend, he begins to experience a strange hot sensation, he thinks that the heater must have been set unusually high, and reminds himself to tell the front desk manager about it. The elevator stops at the 9th floor and woman and a man enter the elevator and give him a surprised, almost bemused look. He has seen them a couple of times in the elevator, he greets them, they return greetings, still looking bemused.

As the elevator makes its way down, he notices that they are not wearing their coats, but dismisses the thought to ask them about their coats because he assumes they must be going to some place inside the building so probably don't need their coats and jackets.

Elevator finally reaches the ground floor without halting at any other floor. At the front desk, he sees Mr. Curtis at the front desk. Mr. Curtis is the front desk manager. Mr. Curtis greets him with his usually flashy smile.

"Good evening Mr. Curtis, just wanted to let you know that the heating in the building seems to set usually high. I am sure you can do something about it. See ya, and have a goodnight", he prepares to turn around and leave when he notices that the man and the woman have turned around and are looking at him. Just then Mr. Curtis calls after him.

"The heating is not on in the building Mr. Kreecher, we have the low cooling on though"

Mr. Kreecher turns around, confused, the man and woman have now gone through the revolving door into the streets. Now he and Mr. Curtis are alone in the lobby.

He says "And why on earth would you have cooling on instead of heating in the middle of winter?"

"Middle of winter!? surely you are kidding me Mr. Kreecher" laughs Mr. Curtis

"No, no, I am not, and I didn't get the joke. Tell me about it" says Mr. Kreecher with complete seriousness, he is now feeling really hot in his outfit and is agitated, and Mr. Curtis is taken aback by this sudden change in the Mr. Kreecher's mannersim.

"Well Mr. Kreecher" says Mr. Curtis "surely you know we are in summer"

"Summer? what summer? look at the calendar above you, its Janua..." his voice trails off as he looks at the calendar himself.

it says 5/21.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How to upgrade your Laptop Hard disk

[Replace old hard disk with a new one with all data intact]

Well, to be honest, this is not something for the faint hearted. Let me say that first before I am accused of not warning everybody. :-)

If you are thinking of doing this yourself be sure you have these pre-requisites

    • You need to be reasonably well versed in recognizing hardware components of a laptop.
    • You need to understand what each component does and how to handle them (anti-static and all)
    • You really need to understand what is SATA, PATA, IDE ports what's the difference between them.
    • You need to have a good tool-kit to, preferable de-magnetized. Tool-kit should be capable of taking out screws from cranny places.
    • You should know about various disk formats such as FAT, FAT32 and NTFS and know how initialize and format a new disk.
    • Last but not the least, you need to have a decent cloning software. Without this, you will not go anywhere

So here you go. This is what I used for upgrade

1. I used a simple Philips screw driver tool-kit

2. I had an old Hitachi 80GB, 5400rpm, SATA HDD (hard disk drive) on my Toshiba M45 laptop. I was desperately in need for more space and faster disk. Also my old hdd was very noisy so I needed a quieter hdd. So I decided to replace this with a WD Scorpio 250GB , 7200 rpm SATA drive.

3. I used Apricorn ( DriveWire HDD adapter kit. This comes with 2 very essential things

a. An HDD adapter, which can take in a SATA, PATA/IDE hdd and provide a USB 2.0 interface which you can attache to laptop's USB port

b. EZ GIG II cloning software for cloning your old hard disk so that you retain all your data and software in the new hdd after you upgrade

Now lets start with the upgrade!

STEP 1: Figuring out HDD interface

1. Understand what kind of interface you current hdd has. Whether its SATA, PATA/IDE. This will tell you what hdd to buy. This is the most important first step. Here is how the SATA, PATA/IDE interface look


2. In order to do this you can either go through your laptop manual or open your laptop. I suggest you open your laptop to check what interface it has. This is because, sometimes the laptop manufacturers put generic config information in your manual which may be different from the actual config your laptop has, secondly its fool proof (my manual said that my laptop had PATA drive and when I opened it up, I found a SATA drive!).

3. IMPORTANT : Ensure that you have removed the power cord and battery of the laptop, otherwise you can destroy your HDD. Ensure that you ground yourself (either by touching something metallic or by having anti-static wrist band) before you touch the HDD. As a precaution, always handle the HDD by its sides.

4. To open the laptop hdd bay, turn over the laptop and locate the hdd bay. This area under on some laptops has a figure of disk etched (mine didn't), if not then check your manual to see where exactly the hdd bay is located. Open the bay cover by unscrewing the screws that keep the plastic cover in place.

5. Remember, the laptop hard drives are really thin, so they are almost always housed in a enclosure called a caddy. This is done so that the hard disk can be placed securely in the laptop, to protect the hdd and it also works as a heat sink. The hdd is generally secured in a caddy using star screws. We will discuss more about this when we are actually replacing the hdd.

HDD bay under the M45 laptop. HDD is inside the plastic cover circled.
Inside HDD bay (HDD taken out).
HDD inside a caddy

6. Once you remove the caddy containing the HDD, you should be able to see what interface your hdd has. Once you know your HDD interface, order a good HDD of the same interface from an online store (, have great deals).

Ensure that when ordering HDD its a 2.5 inch HDD for laptop. any other form will not fit in your laptop.

STEP 2: Formatting your New Hard Disk

Pre-requisite: You have purchased a new HDD to replace your old one.

1. Once you have your new HDD, first thing you need to do is to connect to the computer so that you can format it. Of course you need to connect it externally. For this we will use the DriveWire HDD adapter as shown in the figure below. Ensure that the power cord to the adapter is really tucked in tightly. Ensure that your PC is not running on battery and is connected to a power source.

100_2489 (2) Apricorn DriverWire HDD adapter
Another view of DriveWire Adapter with HDD connected.

2. Once you have the drive connected as above, you need to format it. You can format the HDD from inside your Disk management in the Computer Management console. Ensure that you format the new HDD whatever format your old HDD is (FAT/FAT32 or NTFS). I will not go too much into how to initialize and format disk because that's a separate topic in itself.

Computer Management console
Disk management - you can format your disk using this windows tool.

3. The formatting operations may take upto couple of hours depending on the size of disk. My 250GB HDD was formatted in 1 hour. After you have formatted the drive, Proceed to STEP 3. below

STEP 3: Cloning the Old HDD to New HDD

Pre-requisite: You have installed the EZ GIG II software on your laptop. This is in the CD which comes with the DriveWire adapter

IMPORTANT NOTE: My Laptop had Windows XP. Apricorn EZ GIG II software can be installed on XP. If you have Windows Vista the Apricorn Software will not install on it, so you will have to boot the PC using the EZ GIG CD and perform the operations. Apricorn technical support has confirmed that they do not have a version of EZ GIG II yet (as of 25-Jan-2009) which will install on Vista, so booting through CD is the only way on Vista. To boot from your CD you would need to change your BIOS settings to tell the computer to boot thru CD.

This step is required because you would want to retain all your software and data which you have in the old hard disk to new hard disk. Ensure that your PC is not running on battery and is connected to a power source.

Open the Apricorn EZ GIG II application by clicking on Start-->All Programs-->Apricorn-->Apricorn EZ GIG II and follow the steps mentioned below

a. Click on Clone Disk


b. Click Next on this screen


c. Select Custom and click next


d. Select your source HDD. This is the HDD which is currently in your laptop. Ensure that you select the correct HDD. After selecting source HDD click Next


e. Select the destination HDD. This is the drive which you attached using the DriveWire adapter. It should show up as USB interface. After selecting destination HDD click Next


f. If you have formatted the new HDD as above in STEP 2, then the EZ GIG software will think that it contains data. So it will show a warning screen that if you really want to delete partitions (deleting HDD partition will wipe your data). Select "Delete Partitions from the destination hard disk" option, because we know it doesn't contain data as we just formatted it. Click Next


g. I am not sure why EZ GIG software even shows this screen? This is basically to tell you that its going to retain all data in your old hdd (the one currently in your laptop). I don't understand the logic of having one radio button on this screen! selection of which you cant change! And anyway, we would always need the old disk to be intact, just in case. Anyway, just click Next and proceed to next screen


h. In this screen, you get to choose how your new drive structure. Just choose "Proportional" option, because you would want the data to span as per the size of the new hdd. This will create a single partition. (If you are an advanced user, you could try choosing Manually Resize partitions, which gives you more control on how the partitions look)


i. This is the last screen, it will tell you all the step that will be taken to clone your disk.

Once you click on Proceed, the PC will reboot. On reboot, the the PC enter into a special mode (like it does when you do chkdsk /f and reboot) and the EZ GIG II software will start the cloning operation.

On my PC, for cloning my 80GB HDD to 250GB HDD, it took about 1 hour to complete its job. One the cloning is complete, it will show a Congratulations message and the it will ask any key to shut down the PC. Once the PC is shut down, you can disconnect your external DriveWire attachment.

IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT BOOT THE PC with the cloned HDD attached to the PC through DriveWire. This can screw up your system. I am not sure how, but this is what the Apricorn manual claims.

Once the cloning is done. Proceed to replace your Old HDD with New HDD in your laptop

STEP 4: Replace old HDD with new HDD in your laptop.

1. Disconnect all the wires and remove the battery

2. Open the HDD bay as described in STEP 1.

3. Remove the Old HDD from the Drive bay. Be careful not to apply too much pressure in trying to release the SATA/PATA connection. Pull the HDD gently out.

4. Remove the old HDD from its caddy by unscrewing the caddy screws from the sides, these screws hold the HDD in caddy. These are generally present on the sides of the caddy, though it may differ from laptop to laptop. Some laptop have caddies with no screws, just a push-in adapter kind.

SATA HDD inside the Caddy. Notice the screws on the side.
 HDD Caddy 
A PATA HDD in a caddy

5. Once you have removed old HDD, keep it in safe place. Put the new HDD in the caddy and secure it with screws.

6. Insert the caddy with new HDD in the hdd bay and connect properly



7. Close the HDD bay with the bay cover.

8. Connect the battery and plug in the computer and power it up. As the PC boots up, the Apricorn EZ GIG software will give a short message saying completed successfully or something similar and then the PC will continue its boot sequence.

9. Once the PC boots up, you are good to go! You have successfully upgraded you HDD!! Enjoy!

Cheers and have a great day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Trip to Washington

Suni, Adi and I went on a 2 day trip to Washington. It was probably the best trip we ever had together. And the only reason I can attribute that to is that, we really ensured that we enjoyed the moment rather than thinking about the "fringes".

Fringes are the things which seem extremely important for exactly one second. If you take them out of your mind for that second then they are no longer of any consequence. But if you give them importance, then they will start controlling you. Fringes come in may forms, like if you are 30 seconds late for the bus. Or if your kid takes 13 seconds more to tie his seat belt than usual.

So now you have been warned - BEWARE of the "Fringes". :-)

Enough about the fringes, let me tell you about the trip.

Our first stop was Independence Hall, Philly. We saw an old looking bell which fascinated Adi a lot because it was broken and he couldn't believe why they didn't fix it!


Our next stop was Baltimore sea port. It was one of the most scenic ports I have seen. Very nice indeed.


Next Stop was Washington DC

A beautiful historical city, and very clean too! Complete opposite of NYC, unfortunately :-(

The whole tour from Air & Space Museum to Capitol Building to White House and then the Hotel....fantastic experience. Suni loved every bit of it and so did Adi and I did too. My only regret was that I didnt have my favorite DSLR with me. But my Kodak V610 (of which I had a very low opinion) did a much better job than I expected, except in low light where it was simply terrible.


Adi and I enjoyed Science museum, I especially enjoyed the site of all missiles which I have only heard of or seen in pics so far. It was awesome.

Puru & Suni - Washingtom

Monument is a unique structure. Very photogenic from all angles and at any time of the day!

Next day was for all the memorials.

The Jefferson Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, Korean War memorial...

 Jeffferson Memorial - Washington Lincoln Memorial - Washington
Korean War Memorial - Washington Lonely Path -2 - Washington

Apart from all this, the trip was more memorable because Suni and I enjoyed and cherished each moment of each other's company. Nothing in this world can beat that. :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

About the myth: great camera = great pictures

I feel modern photography is much more about knowing the nuances and fundamentals of digital photographic techniques - including photo editing techniques - than having a top of the range
The reason I say is this; whenever I show my photographs to people, the first reaction or question, invariably, that I get is - Which camera do you own?
So I answer, matter-of-factly – Olympus Evolt-330 Digital SLR camera (which is hardly even midrange DSLR!).
And the response I get to this is, again invariably – Oh! Cool! No wonder your pictures are good/great/beautiful etc, because you own a great camera!
While I don’t have anything against people forming an opinion based on inaccurate (if not totally unrelated) inference, but one thing that bugs me is this, most people think great camera = great photographs.
I can safely say, from my own experience and experiments (and none too flattering either!), camera and lens (Although, no doubt very significant in overall scheme of things) play a very little role in taking good pictures.
Some of my latest pictures are all taken from Kodak V610 basic POINT-AND-SHOOT camera (Picture#1 above) It has just 6.1MP resolution and is about 2 years old as of today (Jan-2009).If you compare these with the ones I have taken from DSLR (Picture#2 above), you will find very little difference in the quality of pictures. Except for few things like low light performance, white balance and resolution, you will hardly notice any difference. In fact, for an untrained eye, there will be NO difference.
So my point is this – incorrect knowledge about modern photography and application = bad photographs AND NOT great camera = great photographs. Even if you own the most expensive top-of-the-range digital SLR, you can still screw up a would-be picture perfect if you do not understand the some important points about modern digital photography.
The reason why I said “incorrect knowledge” and not something like “incomplete knowledge” or “inadequate training” etc is because I believe strongly that whatever knowledge you have as a photographer, if you own the correct knowledge and apply that knowledge correctly, your photographs WILL be good.
You don’t have be a professional to do a great job. You don’t need to own all the latest equipments with all the bells and whistles. Just right application of right knowledge should do the trick.
So my advice to people interested in photography is this - Get a decent camera, get a decent photo editor (there are many great free ones) , get the fundamentals right and GO for it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

About Me

I am a Software Engineer by profession. However my interest and love lies in Photography. I enjoy taking pictures and when I am doing it, I forget everything. This is one thing which gives me immense pleasure. I enjoy doing macro photography most. I enjoy landscape and nature photography too. Recently I have started with portraits and am really intrigued by the challenges.
My first SLR was Canon EOS 300, a basic film SLR. Experiments with it made me more curios and interested in the art. Recently I have managed to put together a decent kit. I am now enjoying the art even more.

Thanks to Suni (my beautiful wife), who has encouraged me all through, I believe I have become a decent photographer. She has been my pillar of support. She has been my critic (although I feel she is too soft on me). What I am today in life is because of her.

I have a Son - Advaya, a naughty guy - who is very keen on photography too, but right now he is not allowed to touch my cameras. But he does experiment with his point and shoot!