April 07, 2003

Alt+F4

I must admit the chilling intro on Slayer's Raining Blood is not a very pleasant way to wake up the neighbourhood, but that is precisely what was blaring from my computer's 'subdued' audio system as I woke up around 6:30 am and went about checking e-mail, the blog and the comments. Surprisingly, I am not suffering from my usual post-alcohol mind-numbing hangovers today. When the Lord giveth, don't ask why, you just taketh and runneth. Padre, we can settle the accounts later. Got to watch one of the best Formula 1 races that I have seen in my little long life yesterday, those who missed it, go watch the re-run now! The Grand Prix bikes have become really lousy now, though I'd love to ride that Ducati 999 before I get my dismissal letter from this world.

Speaking of computers, I was thinking about how I got mixed up with them in the past few days. Unlike most others who fiddle around with them a lot, the first computer that I got to lay my hands on was a 233 MHz Pentium I (a poor ignorant service guy accidentally released the jumpers on the mother board giving me an extra 33 MHz than what it was rated) with 16 MB of EDO RAM. Since I had no former training or interaction with the contraption, my learning curve often took me over innumerable instances of the "New Folder" littering the landscape of the file system and the occasional tryst with deleting the odd DLL file that would make it spew out cryptic warnings, errors and in the worst case scenario, refuse to boot at all.

The curiosity took a 'constructive' turn when I found out about 3D animation and the pleasures of creating things with the luxury of the Z-axis (not to be confused here with the famous axis of evil) by my side. The unpleasant truth was that I could not do 2D animation, since I had a very unsteady hand. If I had to draw a dog I would have to start with an elephant and with some luck it would look like a cow that was mutating into something else. Of course, the cover of intellectual high-handedness helped a lot. Like the time when I made a clay model that was a take from one of the classic Russian books, it was a man with a dog's head smoking a pipe. It impressed everyone with the 'deeper' intellectual meanings, but only I knew that the dog's head was the closest my clay modelling 'talent' would allow me to get to creating a man's head.

The 3D animation career came to a premature end after I created a 90 second movie that had two boxy robots blowing each other to smithereens over a rather tacky looking bridge. The post production was brilliant with four different camera angles seamlessly merged into the plot. I had almost written my acceptance speech for the Oscars that year, but sadly two things intervened. The first was that any professional training in the field required a course fee that was almost a lakh of rupees. Second was that I was introduced to UNIX. Yes, UNIX and not Linux. The institute where I had enrolled to become a 'software developer' had a beautiful 64 bit MIPS processor powered box running AIX. The sheer geekiness of the command line just blew me away, totally obscuring the fact that I could not make head or tail of it. The situation is pretty much unchanged now.

In the process of installing Linux (Red Hat 6.1) at home (never read the freaking *ahem* manual you see), I wiped off my key to the Oscars from the hard disk and ended up going through the install screens almost 25 times in one night before I realised that it was just finishing off the install when I thought it had hung. Thankfully, the aspiring software developer's miserable struggle with the binary numbering system (even the decimal one makes my mug runneth over like the Mississippi in spate), semaphores and trial and error approach to coding in C, came to an end barely 30 days into the course when I cleared the journalism course entrance and interview, due to some conspiracy that is now my life's aim to unravel. The truth is out there somewhere stuck in a traffic jam, you see. Honk, honk!

The first two years of the new millennium were relatively computing dry, since I did not have a computer of my own than the various ramshackle systems that one ended up using at work, till sometime last year when I brought home this baby. True to my polygamous nature, she now runs Windows 98 (just for the boot disk), Windows 2000 Server (My personal favourite) and Red Hat 8 (Can't determine the last time I booted into that one), she is all three seasons in one day (With suitable apologies to Gordon Summer aka Sting).

Somewhere along the way, the Internet happened. It was earth shattering an event for me, only matched in impact and awe by the onset of puberty. Once the realm of pornographic materials from all corners of the earth was examined and studied at great lengths, the sheer volume of information that was out there began to suck me in and of course the world of chat rooms. From IRC to Yahoo to Java applets of all shapes and sizes, I tried them all, making friends with people as strange as a Finnish psychology student in Gothenburg University working in a zoo run by mentally retarded people to freaking out my colleague who did not know it was me who was making life tough for her in the room.

I guess even the best things have to stop at some point or the other. The "Quit when you are ahead" phenomenon in action, I guess. I am at a point where I have to decide if I want to do something serious with technology or continue to waste my time with the casual flirtation. After an honest evaluation I think the answer has to be to get out of it. There is nothing that feels as good as spending time in the real world as I have been discovering of late. I am not dismissing or demeaning the time I have spent online or the friends that I have made in any way, in fact all the good friends I have made (except one) in the past four years have been from the net. But I guess I have tempted fate more than enough and it is as simple as that. But it is only moderation and not termination, so I am going to be around, though a lot lesser. This process cannot be killed that easily, you see. ;-)