Sunday, September 26, 2010

How to Play FLV files anywhere on your computer

This is funny.
When I was using winXP, I'd installed this amazing codec pack called CCCP (Combined Community Codec Pack). At under 10mb, it supported all the video formats including FLV without any problems. And I mean I could play ANY video file in ANY software - windows media player, winamp... you name it, this baby would play it.
When I switched to Win7, the OS itself natively supported playing all sorts of .avi and .mp4 files that I threw at it. But not .flv 's. I installed CCCP there, but even then it wouldn't. I re-installed it, tried some other some codecs too. No avail. To make matters worse, VLC would play only the video and no audio for some reason.

But just now when I clicked over to the CCCP settings in the Start Menu and did God knows what, but suddenly I can play all FLV files anywhere in my win7 laptop.
So.. why is this funny?
Because I've spent half a year playing all my .flv's in a shoddy 3rd-rate flv-player that can't track most files properly, doesn't have volume boosting/normalization, lets the screensaver come on while I'm sitting back and watching, doesn't have any decent hotkeys and makes the videos look pathetic with jagged corners in fullscreen, that's why!

So, guys, if you wanna play .flv files in your system, make sure the CCCP settings (2 consecutive windows) look exactly like the screenshots here. Expand this post to see them

Monday, September 20, 2010

My RangDe Profile

Check out my RangDe Profile!

And here are my angels! (I'm an "angel" investor.. get it? ;)


Still working on part 2 of Sugar in the Milk, but just had to sneak this in...

Sugar in the Milk

The following conversation is real. It took place when I was about five or six years old.

My mom and I were in the kitchen, going through the usual evening ritual - she'd boil the milk for us kids, make coffee for herself and tea for dad. We did this everyday. Today, just as she had poured the milk in our mugs, I asked her a question:

Me: Mom, why are you adding sugar to the milk? Is it necessary?
Mom: Not really, it's for making the milk sweeter.
Me: I've seen on TV the diabetes uncle telling to not put sugar, is it bad for him.
Mom: Yes, too much sugar can be bad for you.
Me: Why do we put it in at all? Only for the taste?
Mom: Yes. It's not essential for health.
Me: How would it be without the sugar?
Mom: I don't know. I need it with my coffee, but with your milk anyways we put just half the spoon. You want to try your milk today without the sugar?
Me: Ya!
Mom: Ok.

So that day I had a mug of milk without sugar. Tasted great. The sweetness within the milk was good enough for me. It had a unique taste that I found better than when we added sugar to it.

Then onwards, since the age of five or six, I've always had milk without any sugar. It's not that I don't like it.. you can ask anyone who knows me - I'm a full-blown sweet hogger and I even have jaggery with meals whenever it's available. But with milk, I feel like adding sugar depletes the taste, so I simply don't.

Everyone else around me took sugar with their milk - even my siblings. That was ok, this was the way I liked it. I asked my mom if it was Ok. She said it of course it was! Why should I do something I didn't want to just because everybody else was doing it?

I did not need to follow the crowd.

Maybe there are some things in life that are just like this sugar.

Maybe we are adding it, or doing it, just because we see everyone else around us adding it or doing it. Maybe because of this, we have assumed that it is necessary. That it has to be that way, that we can't have the milk without it.
But I proved that wrong at the age of five (or six, can't remember!). I did not need the sugar. I could enjoy the milk on my own terms.

Maybe at some point we can all take out a moment to introspect and find out the unnecessary sugar in our own lives? What if we asked ourselves: What is it that I'm doing just because the crowd is doing it too? Do I really need it? Could I be better off without it, with something else, or by doing the same thing in a different way?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Walkthrough: Become a social investor with RangDe in 10 easy steps

  1. Go to
  2. Create an account - 'Register' link on top right (you can just sign in with your gmail id)
  3. Browse thru the Borrowers - find whom you want to invest with.
  4. Enter the amount you want to invest (in multiples of Rs.100) next to the chosen borrower's profile, and hit 'Invest'
  5. Click 'Check Out' on the top.
  6. Click 'Continue' at lower right below the borrowers summary
  7. At the 'Support RangDe' page, you may choose to forgo the basic interest you would be getting, or put in some more .. this is strictly a donations page and you can skip it also, press Continue at bottom.
  8. Now at the Make Payment page, you can choose how to make the payment. If you already have some money returned from a previous investment, it'll show up here. I found Debit Card payment the best option, as there's also an additional protection of "Verified by Visa" on my debit card, and no transaction charges.
  9. In case you have a Gift Voucher code with you, can use that too. You can use all these modes of payment together. Press 'Continue' at bottom and you will have the regular payment portal.
  10. It's done! Now every time you come back to RangDe and login, you'll get to see whom you've invested with in 'My RangDe' section. Also you'll get email alerts periodically. Over the months you'll see the borrower repaying you in installments. Whatever amount is repaid, is immediately made available to you to re-invest or withdraw. (Example: I've invested since May, already have got Rs.300 back to re-invest, withdraw or Gift) So you can take back half this money in 6 months also.
Happy Social Investing!
Learn more about how RangDe works here.
Find them on Facebook here.
Click expand to see a video tutorial.

Starting a Toastmasters Club

The following is an addition I've made in LinkedIn in the District 82 Toastmasters group discussion titled "What are the best strategies to start a new club, which shall not die irrespective of circumstances ? Share your thoughts"

Hi guys! I now feel like an idiot after reading many good strategies.. we started a club in TCS Gurgaon in April 2009 and have literally lived through the phrase "Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread" ! We were just 2 junior-level employees committed to "the cause" - myself being the only one who had any working knowledge of "this TM thing" - all of 4 months and 2 or 3 speeches (!!). All I knew at the time was the roles in a meeting. Every week from April through June we held a demo meeting, and we'd get 2 people signing up and 1 backing out because of on-site or off-job (the good guys usually leave!).

After lots of stumbling and frequent guest appearances, encouragement as well as outright scolding (very helpful!) from the area, division and district governor, we accumulated a good enough number of comrades to call ourselves a "club"!. In June 2009, we told 23 people, individually, that 19 others had already signed up to be charter members and we just needed one more (everyone is so reluctant!) And it worked!!

Even after charter, it was hectic just getting the meetings on (including scraping the HR and Admin week after week for venue and having several last-minute dropouts), but once we were into one, the sheer experience just propelled us forward. I served as Vp-Ed and then President. We went through times when only 1 or 2 or 3 EC members would be around. But fortunately the intrinsic value of TM kept attracting more and more people (and sending a good number to onsite, MBA and job hops as well so it was net neutral!).

Over the course of a year, I learnt a valuable lesson as a club leader : We have to let go, put our faith in others and trust that things will work out. Planning helps a lot but it can never cover all the corners as effectively as faith, optimism and on-the-spot thinking can.

I'm proud to say that we've come a long way and achieved many awesome things out of sheer trial and error even though they seemed impossible at the outset. We've even hosted area and division level events and were able to give back to the fraternity. After an year+, I am now an un-involved past member, have left TCS and our club is being run by brand-new TM's who are taking on the leadership roles enthusiastically. In fact, club performance has improved AFTER I've left. (which proves the argument that governments and diapers should be changed frequently, and for the same reason!)

I'm not sure if what we did would work elsewhere, but for me, here's the strategy to start and run a club that won't die out:

1. Lead by example.
2. Learn by doing.
3. Learn from others' examples. Attend other clubs.
4. Take baby steps and then the occasional leap of faith.
5. Be persistent and optimistic with tasks, but patient and neutral with people.
6. Any idiot can do whatever you're doing, so delegate away!
7. Planning helps, but never get religious about sticking to it. Let things be dynamic.
8. Never discriminate between members. There is no difference between a novice and an advanced speaker/leader during a meeting. Treat everyone equally.
9. Share all knowledge and decisions with everybody. Don't keep a critical dependency with any 1 person, including yourself.
10. Enjoy the journey with all its roadblocks. Don't worry about the destination.
11. Believe that the Toastmasters concept can carry itself forward, you just have to pass the baton and get out of the way.
12. Do not let permissions, authority or limitations hinder the club. (esp for corporate clubs!). You can always find a workaround.
13. There is always a plan B, even if you haven't thought of it yet.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Family Tree

I'm using Geni to create an online family tree - since it's virtual, it's flexible, I can keep on adding people as I find them and my family members can join in the process too!

Here's an embedded view of my family tree:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lateral thinking 101

Problem 1: A malnourished potted plant, suffering for lack of regular watering in the summer heat.

Problem 2: A leaky cheap AC we rented for the summer. It drips water off the extremity constantly while running, making pools of filthy water in the balcony.

Solution: Put the plant below the AC's leak spot!


A month on, the plant's thriving! We gave the fella DRIP IRRIGATION - that's even better than simply watering the plants :)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Story of a person living without money

I received this in an email from my friend Rima who's an avid writer.
Dear all,

Recently I read about a person called Mark Boyle. He has published a book named The Moneyless Man- A Year of Freeconomic Living. This person lives in Briton, in a place called Bath. This man grows his own food, so he does not have to spend money shopping, uses a mixture of cuttlefish and fennel seeds for toothpaste, and prepares washing detergent by boiling foraged soap nuts. He powers his laptop by solar power and has a hole in the ground for a toilet. He occasionally rummages through supermarket bins. According to him, you can find anything you want in super market bin and it is symbolic of the world we live in.

Mark was once a student of economics and now he lives a life in a caravan, as he saw Mahatma Gandhi’s film in the fourth year of his studies, which left a deep impact on him. So he began to read as much as possible about this Indian leader and his principles and quotes influenced him greatly, especially the quote, be the change you want to see in the world. After completing his studies, Mark worked for Organic food industry, but he realized that the industry suffered from the same problems of excessive packaging, uses a lot of plastic, massive food  miles and big businesses buying small one. He also realized that money disconnects people from what they are consuming and till the degrees of separation between consumer and consumed is decreased, nothing would change. Boyle has been living TV free too, as he realized that TV wastes a lot of man hours. (Recently when I was in India, I was talking to a young girl about her T-Shirt and I just mentioned that the work on it is beautiful, whoever has done it, must have spent a lot of time, she immediately told me that he was paid for it, without realizing that the person has really put in a great effort.) Boyle is saying in his book that he wants to reduce administrative work and want more people to work in primary industries such as farming. Recently he hosted a party for 700 people and 90% of the things came from supermarket bin. He found 700 jars of chocolate spread, which costs 2000 British pounds, but just because it had expired, they were thrown out. But no one understands that it would have not gone bad till 2020 because of its sugar content. He has found out from official sources that an average American throws 40% of his food in the bin, where as in Britain, it is 35% and he feels that when millions of people don’t get one square meal, wasting so much food is criminal. He says that as recycling was not a good word ten years ago, food wasting should also be seen in the same way, it has to be a cultural change more than the law changing it. He has published this book and whatever money he gets from selling this book, he will buy a land, where he will train people on how to live without money to live sustainably. After that, he will build a project for charity.

I really liked the idea. I don’t know how much we can implement it, but it is always good to see the other side of the coin. Let me finish this mail here.  Hope all of you are fine there.



I found more info on this article:

In the narrative, Boyle talked about getting so many of his things for free on freecycle. Well, if he can, then so can we!
Here is the Freecycle group in Pune:

Here's another nice site mentioned: - use this to share skills in your community for free.

Gift Economy

Would you like to show your appreciation for this work through a small contribution?

(PS: there's no ads or revenue sources of any kind on this blog)

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