Friday, January 28, 2011

The Search for the best Video compression

I woke up a little too early this morning, and took the time to do some photo and video managing.

Handling videos is always a problem – the files from the camera are usually way too large –  like, 915MB for a 12 min video!

So the obvious thing to do is to convert them. So the search for the best possible quality with the lowest possible ‘MB’ footprint begins. Mine has been continuing, like… forever! I then looked to Youtube for inspiration – they now have great quality streaming videos, and obviously they must be very meticulous about the file size to ensure maximum users can watch. I checked and they can put 2 mins of good quality (default) video into 3.65 MB! Wow!

The video codec used there is .H264 – a relatively new, apparently open-source codec that’s now being adopted across the world especially for HD Video. Before we had DivX and then a proprietary-less XviD as well… this seems like the next thing.

So after some trials and errors I’ve zeroed in on a compression setting that manages to keep my videos in good quality – good enough to play back fullscreen without cringing too much – and low enough size. Although I still can’t manage to get down to Youtube’s ratio without sacrificing quality – I guess it even depends on the processor – they must be having some powerful stuff doing the encoding! I’m using FormatFactory free software, and the setting is: [AVI HD AVC(H264) 480x360]

Some screenshots:

Start FormatFactory and select the ‘All to Mobile Device’ under Video on the left sidebar


Drag in all your files on the next screen. Don’t press OK yet! Click on ‘Output Setting’.


At the next screen “More Devices”, on left pane, Under ‘HD AVC(H264)’, choose “AVI HD AVC(H264) 480x360” and press OK.

Now you come back to your videos list. Press OK to start converting. See the other settings – where you want the output files to be, etc. I prefer to have them in the source folder only.



So, I got a 12min video down from 937MB to 65MB! And quality.. well, I can’t exactly show you the videos, but here are screenshots:


MOV05835 [AVI HD AVC(H264) 480x360].avi_snapshot_00.20_[2011.01.28_07.02.50]

So it’s not too grainy, decent enough, and the MB footprint reduced to less than 1/10th. The final video is about 5MBs per minute. So as of now this is the compression setting I’ll recommend. But the search, as always, continues ~~

Oh, and get the K-Lite Code Pack to play any and all videos with any video player on your computer.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Troubleshooting the Wikipedia For Schools Offline Edition + Call to Action

DSC02634That big term shall henceforth be referred to as WFSOE (wow, sounds like a cool game! As it should!)
In my pilot drive at Shantabai Ladkat school in Nanapeth, Pune, I came across some issues when installing WFSOE on some older computers: The indexing process never took off. Now, indexing is what kicks in the first time you open a .zim file in the primary form of Kiwix (the software used here.. look, just go with it, ok?) – it’s necessary if you want to be able to Search thru the WFSOE. So that’s a dilemma : a whole encyclopedia and we can’t even search our favorite topics! So, started looking around.. and thanks to a comment on my original post on WFSOE, I started downloading the pre-indexed, ready-to-DVD version of WFSOE that the awesome folks at prepared:
Note: Don’t start downloading it yet – it’s freakin’ huge – 2718MB direct download! And, as in many such ventures, I detected a problem only AFTER fully dloading it over 3 days! I can’t say whether the issue is there in the original file hosted on or if it crept in during my downloadathon, but that’s just it – huge file direct download = Russian Roulette. This blog post is the story of that issue, how I hacked my way past it, and the solutions for anyone who wants to download a good, awesome, readily working version of WFSOE. To make things interesting, we’ve got screenshots galore!
Expand this article to read thru it… long length!
If you’re looking for the wiki page, (short URL:

If you’re just looking for the Call to Action, go to the very end after expanding.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wiki and Walky Weekend in W(m)umbai

Hi All!

Sharing some pics from Mumbai Dream Run last Sunday.. it was more of a carnival than a run, with lots of shouting and dancing thrown in!

You'll find more pics adding over the coming week on ; and I'll post videos too on
I started out with Team (an online micro-credit social investment platform), but half an hour into it lost them (I was, ahem, distracted..)

...and then joined the Teach For India group instead!

Also nearly bumped into two old friends from the TCS contingent..  ;)

Ajay - Right after the Carnival ended, we headed like a pack of hungry dogs to Jazz buffet restaurant in Marine Drive... and I got to implement most of the recommendations from your humorous speech on Buffet meals. Wishing you were there... those waiters never saw it coming! ;)

One note about the Jazz restaurant - they've strategically placed all the Desserts at a spot where there's very little place between the table and a wall section. Only thin people can squeeze in to take it and even that's an effort! Smart!!

Also attached a pic from Wikipedia 10th anniversary Mumbai meetup that took place on Saturday (and one of the reasons why I wasn't around last Sat)

At the meetup, when the right time came, I made a pitch about the wikipedia for schools project, how I installed the offline version at an under-resourced english medium school in Nanapeth, Pune and the impact it's had..  and  the response was so great, with university professors and tech bloggers lining up their laptops to copy it and expressing interest, it's turned into a movement now that can potentially spread all across India!

Check out

We also learned about Google IME - which installs any Indian or other language into your computer and is being used by many senior citizens with no technical knowledge to contribute Indian language articles on wikipedia! It uses an auto-suggest concept the same way we add recipients when sending email.. no need to type the whole word, and it learns the most often used words so you get faster each time. Tres comfortable, even for rapid switching between English and the language. Do check it out if you're interested in creating vernacular content or helping your folks do it.
(read through the installation instructions once)

And between these events, equally exciting, was to-and-fro across Mumbai using the best transport imaginable - the Mumbai Local!
On Friday night, I was in the middle of a crowded bogie when I found from a phone call that I was supposed to get off at Andheri instead of Borivli.. and just then the train reached Andheri. Everyone said there's no way I can get out here in time, but with a huge squeeze-through effort, I managed to alight, with all parts intact at the nick of time. 1 second late and the train would have been too fast moving out and I'd have crashed! Now I know how a baby feels after being pushed out of a womb!!
Oh, and a Kudos to the automated ticketing machines with touchscreens - Damn easy to take your ticket now, I didn't have to wait in any line at all.

One thing I appreciated about my Mumbai Local experience was that the people care about each other, despite all the rush. And it works - people with big bags just pass them on to the middle of the bogie and call for them when their station is coming - implicitly trusting every one of the 20 or so people who pass it along. Whenever I asked a question out to the crowd, I was given a detailed and helpful answer, and then they even acted to help me at times without me having to ask them. And there's groups of people interacting, brainstorming all the time. I saw a TED video once about how coffee shops in England where people could interact for long hours and weren't forced to buy stuff, could be the reason behind her huge leap forward in science, knowledge and trade over a century ago. I have a strong feeling the Mumbai Local is doing the same for Mumbai.

Also did a night-over with college buddies on Friday night.. one of them had come straight from the airport after a long onsite stint and we all met up after a long time. On Saturday night, met family friends after many years and got a huge bear-hug from Nilaxi Aunty which was even more crushing than the trains! I was so lost in chit chatting with them I totally forgot to take photos! :(

So, it was an eventful weekend in Mumbai and with the wikipedia for schools project, we may just have opened a Pandora's box (a good one!) for more things to come!

Oh, and for TFI friends.. I introduced myself at the wikipedia meetup as a Teach For India Fellow -- good publicity -- Wanna take it forward??

Nikhil Sheth+91-966-583-1250

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Google IME and Wikipedia (हिंदी में)

नमस्कार | मैं निखिल हूँ.
और मैं अभी google IME का इस्तमाल करके हिंदी भाषा में लिख रहा हूँ |
(English translation : I'm using Google IME to write in Hindi.)

इसका एक screenshot नीचे है :

इसका सबसे बड़ा फायदा ये है की हमें पूरा शब्द लिखनेकी ज़रूरत नहीं पड़ती | यह खुद ब खुद तोल मोलके शब्दों की लिस्ट सामने ला देता है |
जितना ज्यादा इस्तमाल हम इसे करें, ये उतना अच्छा होते जाता है.

हमारे कंप्यूटर में ही एक भाषा की तरह ये install होता है, और इस तरह हम कहीं भी अपनी भाषा में लिख सकते हैं |
भाषा बदलने में भी कोई time नहीं लगता, जैसे इस फोटो में दिखाया गया है.
बस वो नीचे का 'अ' दबाइए (या CTRL+G) और वापिस english पे आ जाइये, फिर वापिस हिंदी पे | ये मेरे लिए बहुत important है, क्यूंकि मुझे शुद्ध हिंदी नहीं आती ;)
हम नीचे का keyboard button click करके complex अक्षर भी दाल सकते है | जैसे की श्र, ऋ, ॐ, ज्ञ, ऽ

इसको आप यहाँ से install कर सकते हो :

उनके Help Section में अच्छी तरह से सब बताया गया है.
मैं मुंबई में wikipedia की दसवी सालगिरह (15 Jan 2011) पर किये गए function में गया था, VJTI college में. वहाँ मैंने कुछ नए दोस्त बनाए, उनमे से Mr. समीर शाह ने मुझे इसके बारे में बताया.

(होलाल्केरेजी, निखिल (मैं), समीरजी)
समीरजी एक retired software engineer हैं , जो विकिपीडिया गुजरती में खूब योगदान कर रहे हैं, येही Google IME का उपयोग करके | एक और senior citizen मेरे अच्छे दोस्त बन गए, Mr. होलाल्केरे लक्ष्मिवेंकतेश, जो कन्नडा में योगदान कर रहे हैं | उन्होंने का बराहा software use किया है google IME की तरह ही है.
तो भाषा की सीमा पार करके आप भी अपनी मात्र भाषा की विकिपीडिया पर लग जाइए, बहुत मज़े वाला काम है !

हिंदी :
गुजरती :
मराठी :
कन्नडा :
और भी अनेक भाषाएँ हैं इधर!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wikipedia for Schools project

Inviting one and all to a very ambitious project : Wikipedia for Schools - the Indian leg


I've created a WIKI page for this grassroots movement - all info on that now, in a much less confusing form!


Let me just quickly put in the essentials here...

Welcome to

You can download and install separately kiwix and the huge .zim file from here, or take the torrent for the whole thing. It is recommended that you take the torrent.

Direct link for torrent file
The magnet URL for the torrent is: magnet:?xt=urn:btih:MY657CRWERM4QHKMIVQXW6Q3SPZLQELA
Alternate direct download:
(Using Opera Unite, this is a direct bridge to my computer)

In case it's not working, please contact yours truly here or on twitter or facebook,  or anyone else in the seeders community that is going to be formed once this gets out.

Background : On the 10th Anniversary of Wikipedia on 15th Jan 2011, at an event held in VJTI, Mumbai, one of the big goals stated was to take the offline version of wikipedia for schools ( to all the computers across the nation that kids use but that don't have internet connection. One of the wikipedians happened to have it on his portable HDD! There was immense interest expressed by everyone gathered and we all made a committment to share this and spread it as far and wide as possible. This is the first step towards that.

Aim :
Many schools and computers in childrens' homes across the country don't have internet connection. So our aim is to copy this encyclopedia - wikipedia for schools - to each and every one of those computers, so all the kids have a chance to tap into the number 1 knowledge resource of the world!

If you're going the torrent way:
1. Download the .torrent file and open it in your torrent sofwtware. Start downloading.
2. Read the READ ME FIRST  text file in the folder that you download.

If you're going the other way:
1. Download the kiwix software, either from here or check out

2. Download the huge wikipedia for schools .ZIM file. There's a folder for it here and it's got the file split into parts of 100 MB each. They simply have to be joined together once you've downloaded them all. See the README file in there for instructions. (Note: They're still getting upload as this is being written, so you might not find them there immediately)

3. Copied instructions from the torrent here on.. it's the same:

4. Run / double-click on kiwix.exe (the executable with the black kiwi icon)

5. From the top menubar, click File > Open

6. Locate the .zim file you want to use, press Open / Ok.

7. Now you will probably see a popup asking you : "Do you want to index your ZIM file now?" -- press OK.

8. This indexing is a 1-time activity that may take some time. You'll see the progress on the bottom right. May take 10 mins or more. It is necessary to complete for you to be able to search for articles.

9. Meanwhile, you can click-browse through the encyclopedia while you're waiting for indexing to finish. In case you by mistake cancelled it, you can open it again and will be asked again..

10. Once indexing is done, it's ready! Now next time you run Kiwix, you'll get the last opened .zim file already opened and ready for searching.

Thanks for showing interest in this project!
Let me / us know if you're facing any problems!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Plato's Republic

This is a comment that I posted to an interesting blog-post :

21st Century Democracy & Plato's Republic

Loved the closing line!

I'm more of a leaner on the conspiracy side; The way Obama's campaign happened, had something very telling : a suspiciously universal support, even from the big corporates. Look at the funding done by them! That has never happened to any sincerely good effort. And the opposition was deliberately weakened like hell. It all looked like a set-up from the start, and the bankster bailout confirmed the suspicions : Here's a mole made to give the impression of "change" when in practice, the Obama Administration seems to have done the same things Bush was doing.

Even at home, I can't digest many things. The scandals seem to be just the tip of the iceberg. What's happening in the nether regions of the country, with industrialists seizing more and more lands, which is causing the Maoist disputes in the first place; and with the Nuclear Deal also... noble intentions, but by fully allowing suspect companies in who don't have a good track record?
And at Copenhagen and ensuing climate summits.. the way India gave up its own people's future in favor of industrialists' concerns ("Don't say you'll reduce Coal consumption, or the ONGC stocks will fall!") When we know that despite all the drawbacks, if the most populous nation on Earth would have taken a stand to stamp out any possible climate threat before proceeding with progress, the rest of the planet would have followed suit. (If a poor guy comes and drops money into a donation box, the rich ones standing around are automatically shamed into following suit). We have a historic opportunity to become the undisputed moral authority in the world by taking a stand (and given our lower consumption we don't even have anything to lose!) but we're blowing it away thanks to vested interests. And Manmohan Singh is not doing anything about it. Jairam Ramesh is someone who is - I'd make him the next PM and ask that Rahul boy to go back to playing Age of Empires on his computer.

Plato's republic idea is highly susceptible to a set-up. The kids may have been saved from their parents' brainwashing, but who would guarantee them safety from brainwashing by the elite? Parents will still always want a better future for coming generations and would instill that desire in their children. The elites of today, with their own children safely settled or secured, don't seem to be concerned in any way for our country's future. Which is sadly short-sighted, as we're all still on the same planet.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Topic on LinkedIn: "What is the most important thing that you have learned while serving your club as an officer?"

Good points.. pretty much echoes my feelings on the topic too.

Esp points 2 and 3! We all tend to forget sometimes that tolerance and forgiveness are more important virtues than most other things.
I'm blogging this for future reference!

Nikhil Sheth

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Official Toastmasters International Members Group
Date: Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 1:55 PM
Subject: New comment on "What is the most important thing that you have learned while serving your club as an officer?"
To: Nikhil Sheth

LinkedIn Groups

For me, lots of little learnings about process but a couple of big ones:

1). Give people space to work it out for themselves; let them know what your expectations are in terms of what needs to happen (rather than what you want to happen) and, critically, give them permission to ask questions. I've been amazed at the number of people who are nervous to do that, and that applies doubly if they come from a culture where you're not supposed to question things.

2). One of the best bosses I ever worked with had a simple philosophy: "When something goes wrong, I remind myself that 'no-one ever turned up to work with the intention of doing a bad job'". Adopting that approach makes things much easier.

3). Accept that "it seemed a reasonable idea at the time" is a valid reason for why things were done in a way you're not keen on.

4). If a thing could be done by one person, it might not have been worth doing. The best results come from mixes of skills - but ONE person normally hold the key vision.

Pressed for one of these, I'd choose the first. If they know they are in a safe place to make mistakes, people tend to build better teams.
Posted by Mike Diggins

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