Abhi 2.0 on Technology

Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan’s Tech Archive: Columns, reports and video

Tech Tonic #6: Summer Tech Projects

with 7 comments

Tech Tonic 5

Ours is the generation, straddling the analog, digital and now high-def. We remember taking photos with film cameras, watching scratchy VHS tapes, later VCDs and listening to cassettes before making the changeover to CDs. Stuff is getting outdated faster than ever before and keeping up with involves constant conversion of personal media into newer digital formats for convenience, archival value and easy access. If Con-version 1.0 was about converting VHS tapes and audio cassettes, then 2.0 involves disposal of what was once cutting-edge. The problem is that all this involves engaging in some fairly monotonous tasks that will never get done in the regular routine and cannot as yet, be outsourced easily. They’re best left to lazy days, whilst watching sitcom reruns, test matches or mindless movies that don’t need full concentration. Typical summer vacation stuff! Now most of us don’t have the luxury of two whole months like the good ol’ days anymore, but if you do, here are some summer tech projects I recommend. :

Apple has officially overtaken Wal*Mart & Best Buy as the US’ number one music retailer and while India has been slow to catch on to the legal download bandwagon, the future is pretty bleak for CDs. “Ripping” your CDs ie. converting them to a friendlier digital format like MP3 is relatively easy. You can use a program like iTunes if you’re an iPod user or the default Windows Media Player for one-click ripping. If you’re connected to the net, these programs automatically pick up song, artist and album information. You’re literally a zombie, ejecting, inserting and replacing CDs and before you know it, the music collection is fully wired!

With the new high definition format, ‘Blu-Ray’ players and discs, trickling into the market, VCD is officially TWO generations behind the curve, even as DVD reigns supreme. As most people upgrade to big-screen TVs, VCDs will look stretched and awful. The only displays that will justify their existence are the ones on small portable media players such as the iPod Touch or the Cowon A3. Ripping VCDs though is much more painful than CDs. You have to pop the disc into your PC and open the MPEGAV folder, in which you’ll see many files with .DAT extensions. Typically, the largest sized file will be the movie while the rest will be annoying trailers that VCDs usually force on you. Rip the movie into a compressed format such as MP4 using a program such as Free iPod Video Converter available at jodix.com. The next problem is that most VCDs are spread over 2-3 discs, which means you have to repeat this fairly time-consuming process for each disc. After half an hour or so you’ll have three MP4 files which need to be stitched together. Yamb is one of the simplest programs for this and can be downloaded free at softpedia.com or download.com.

Documents & Photos:
This is most worthwhile one. Buy a basic scanner, and just put your head down for a whole day – you won’t regret it. On most flatbed scanners, you can arrange four or five photographs in the preview and select them individually for final scanning. Some of the higher end visiting card scanners are easier to use for small 4×6″ photos. Most scanners will save multi-page things like passports or contracts into a single PDF file – all you have to do is remember to ’scan as document’ and not as ‘image.’ Trust me, the effects on quality of life of this one-time painful task are immense. About nine months after the fun and frolic, when nasty surprises come your way (I’m talking about tax deadlines, whatever were YOU thinking?) you’ll be grinning like a Cheshire cat!

I would highly recommend outsourcing these tasks to your kids, especially during hot summer afternoons, when there isn’t much to do. If you have some to spare, do get in touch – don’t worry, I have considerable experience in exploiting underage labour for technological pursuits. I remember one particular summer vacation just after first year of college, when I wanted all my hand-written articles and essays converted into digital format. Having just turned 18 and with more interesting things to do, I decided to offer my 13-year old brother the task. About a week of 4-hours-a-day labour for 50 bucks. My brother couldn’t believe his luck: “FIFTY whole bucks AND I get to use the computer? All to myself? Which means if I type it out fast I can use the remaining time to play games? Deal!” Sigh. No wonder, the Indian IT industry was my calling as a journalist – I’d understood the business model way before its time!


Written by Abhi 2.0

April 20, 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Hindustan Times

7 Responses

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  1. good 1 ya i did a lot of ur bitch work(my time with tech 2)
    But ya I think this project is a good way to prepare for the future, a day with no CDs, a day when music-online will run record labels out of business…

    g man

    January 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

  2. lol good work! i always keep track of ur column on brunch. particularly loved ur ending para in this one. keep up the good work 🙂 looking forward to more techtonic info!


    January 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

  3. wow. people actually still use CDs and VCDs and things? hmm. anyway, the most painful job I go through is general file organisation on my hard drives… when you have like six system drives, 4 portables and two general backup disks, it gets to an amazing level of confusion. and all that comes to like twenty partitions…

    and don’t even get me started on backups. what i wouldn’t give for something like the auto paper feeder on a photocopier which works on DVDs…

    digital photo organisation is another pain.

    then there’s cleaning out the PC area. finding what’s on all those unlabelled DVDs which seem to be all over the place.


    January 18, 2009 at 9:11 am

  4. Dear Abhimanyu,
    Greetings from Madras. I am an editor with Businessworld, the business weekly from the ABP Group.
    I am presently researching a story for the InVogue trends pages of the magazine.

    The subject is ‘The Titans of Touch’ — the latest, cutting edge touch devices already in the market or soon to be there, which are very exciting to look out for, and show the promise of winning a cult following.

    Could your provide me with your views on this subject, in the nature of a round-up review of the latest touch devices in the market? Due credit will be provided.

    Please do send me a quick reply in response to this emai — I will need your views by Friday.

    Thanks and best,
    Lalitha Sridhar
    Assistant Editor
    94451 88080


    April 28, 2009 at 3:22 pm

  5. what about the time when you did all my playschool worksheets/labels/banners etc on the comp for 50 bucks !!


    June 3, 2009 at 8:08 pm

  6. Hi i like your views about the product i wana purchase new cellphone can you tell me the best cellphone in 10 to 15 thousand i like the nokia phones


    July 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm

  7. Hi Abhimanyu
    This conversion of my dvd’s to the ipod is making me lose my hair! I tried what’s available at jodix… but it just gives me a text file…. perhaps since I am on a mac.

    Any good freeware you are aware of to move DVD’s (and indeed other formats) to itunes/ipod? i have tried VLC but it just has too much encoding jargon for me to handle!

    thanks in anticipation.


    November 20, 2009 at 1:27 pm

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