Category: Milestones (page 1 of 2)

Particularly noteworthy, carefully handpicked, finest articles from the hall of fame of the website.

Mountain roads: photo book in print, available on Amazon

Earlier this month I wrote about my new photo book, a simple 7″x7″ paperback featuring a collection of 25 carefully handpicked black and white photographs, revolving around the theme of mountains.

I do not quite remember where I read this, but someone advocated printing out your photographs — at least select ones — even in the digital era, because printed photographs have their own charm and heightened value (even if the latter is only in our minds).

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Time to be super-productive

Having begun my month-long iPad-centric lifestyle experiment and having found myself somewhat free this morning, I proceeded to install Denys Yevenko’s Pomodoro Time Pro app (free version also available) and try my hand at the famous efficiency technique.

What I realised was probably not eye-opening, but it did make me completely rethink my time-management approach.

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An e-mail reply from Tim Cook

Steve Jobs was known to reply to every e-mail he got, often tersely, but reply nonetheless; or at least he would direct it to concerned employees to handle issues immediately.

The practice has stuck with Tim Cook taking over the company as CEO. I, for one, have come to look at Tim in the same light as Jobs, as a capable leader, a dedicated worker and an analytical mind seeing whose decisions and lifestyle we can all take home something. And a couple of days back, he replied to an e-mail I sent.

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On Physics and Hinduism

At the entrance to the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN) stands a 2 metre tall statue of the Hindu deity, Nataraja (see above). To the unaware, it looks like something out of place: something that does not belong in one of the world’s largest scientific research institutions. But it is only one instance of the compatibility between physics and Hinduism.

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Launching Physics Capsule, the online magazine

Long back I was part of an online science update project called The Scientific Papers. Those of you who have followed me there know it ran pretty successfully for three years before I decided to shut it down. Until now, my only presence online has been here, on my personal website; but starting June the 24th, that is about to change.

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Blookist — not just another blogging platform

Visit Blookist and the most inspiring part of their website is in an obscure place — the address bar. “You don’t need an excuse to be creative”, it reads. Still in beta, Blookist is a new kind of publishing platform. That was how its co-founder and CEO, Adrian Zuzic, described it to me when he got in touch recently, asking if I would be interested in reviewing their startup.

Blookist is the content-appreciative publishing platform we had all been waiting for.

At first, I was confessedly disinterested: was this just another Obtvse, another Svbtle, or another Ghost? At a time when blogging platforms seem to be cropping up at every nook and cranny, why did I have to pay any attention to Blookist? Was this another ambitious platform started with enthusiasm that would lose direction halfway through?

As I looked around, however, it was hard for me not to realise this was not a blogging platform; it was something more, something unique, and, most importantly, something promising. I signed up for free immediately and over the next couple of days began to explore this further. It had caught my attention. Read more →

Tissot Classic: watch connoisseurs’s Dream

As a watch connoisseur, a Tissot simply had to be part of my collection. This was especially after my older Tissot ran out of style with its spin bezel. There were a lot of choices to make among the company’s legendary catalogue, but few caught my eye as swiftly or as effectively as the Classic.

It is an unassuming piece with some impressive fitting and bold crocodile leather. Its stitch runs along the perimeter of its leather strap ending in a steel buckle with neatly folded stitches securing its lug ends.

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Social media etiquette: 15 rules for the modern gentleman

They say, in the real world, chivalry is dead; on the interwebs, especially social media etiquette, never existed. The present state of technology — and social interactions through it — is a little like when civilisations themselves began: there was no rule that prevented you from shouting, tugging hair, or eating off somebody else’s deer carcass. As man grew, so did unanimously approved methods of social interaction.

Present-day rules of etiquette have grown to be as complex as passing port wine compulsorily to your left and pouring a glass to the person on your right. This is a carryover from the days when such a practice allowed men at dining tables to keep their right hands free in case they had to draw out their swords. And if these habits have lived until today, when nobody carries a penknife, let alone a sword, why should similar rules of interaction die out with the advent of technology?

Another point of debate is that no such rules of etiquette have been formulated for interactions online or via technological media such as text messages. This perhaps happened largely because over half of all rules — especially every single one meant for the dining table — are no good for socialising online. And the few that do carry over from the offline world to the internet are underrated, overlooked or simply ignored.

Yet, such rules exist; and it is, perhaps, just a matter of reminding people about it. If so, this article may serve as a sweet rememberancer. If not, this article may serve as a timely guideline for the future.

 Rule #1 

Think before your say — there’s no going back

The most important social media etiquette is something that is more dangerous than in real life. It is to be aware of what you say. This can be an actual video conversation, or a simple comment left on websites or your social network. Many a time, you have no option to revert or delete, let alone deny. Unless you are really slow or boast an IQ of 10, you already know that all your comments are public — if they are not, then there is no use making them. The point, therefore, is that once you say something, it is more or less etched in html writing. Offline, you can say something and get away with it. If you deny it long enough, you can convince the world — including yourself — that you never said it; but once you leave a comment, it is there for the whole world to see. The next time you say something, think it through and tone down the harshness.

 Rule #2 

Calling isn’t dead yet. Neither is the post office.

An increasing number of people are using social media — including Twitter and Facebook —  to let their kith and kin know stuff. This includes invitations to birthday parties, funerals, marriages and vacations. And lately even what was on the breakfast menu and the fact that they are down with a bout of cough. The point in question? Nobody cares. As for the people who do care, you would be better off letting them know over the phone or by sending an invitation card the old fashioned way. Social media has its limits and one of the biggest is that it is very impersonal. So save it for public announcements or invites targeted for anybody you might have unintentionally forgotten to invite via phone or letter. And this is how far it has already gone:


Image courtesy: Lamebook

 Rule #3 

Correct spelling and grammar never killed anybody

Nowadays, there is an unchecked increase of LOLs, TMIs, YOLOs, LMGTFYs and other masses of seemingly random letters put together in ways that nobody can pronounce. While all this may make you appear tech-savvy before older generations in your family, it also gives people an impression that you have turned off your brain. Besides, people who LOL a lot to crude YOLO jokes that often provide TMI or those who write NTS about a fake PSA or something they OH so they have a trump card to PWN somebody later, cannot spell or understand standard English — or French, German, Chinese, Greek or Latin for that matter. Get the point?

Ask yourself, if there was no such thing as the internet, would you stand up on a dais and shout this out loud, on a microphone, to the public?

Read this article by the University Navigator for a more serious look at this topic. So the next time you write something somewhere online or as a text message, remember, using correct grammar and spelling never killed anybody. On the contrary, pointless abbreviation-rich lingo can make you a magnet repelling smarter people.

 Rule #4 

#TooMany #Hashtags #AreACauseOf #Headaches

Internet Relay Chats (or IRCs) first introduced hashtags which Twitter would soon popularise. Hashtags are simply words or phrases prefixed by the hash or pound sign, #. Hashtags are used to categorise a tweet, status update or chat message thereby making it easier to group messages on similar topics. For instance somebody may write a condolence to all victims of the Hurricane Sandy and tag it #Sandy. Further, a BBC news article may be published and then shared through Twitter with the tag #Sandy. And that evening a CNN broadcast may use the #Sandy tag to gather messages to display on TV. So, days hence, if somebody were to search for #Sandy, they would get a list of all tweets tagged Sandy. Of course, this can also be done for satirical effect. But too much hashtagging not only defeats the purpose, it can be hard enough on the eyes to help you lose followers thanks to your lousy social media etiquette.

Image courtesy:

 Rule #5 

Forum discipline: every man to his own thread

There was a time before Facebook when forums were the town centres of the Internet. While they are not falling down any slope just yet, they do not occupy as much time in people’s lives as a social network. This sometimes means trolls love forums. The number one discipline tip to remember on forums — apart from obvious ones like do not comment unless you have something to add to the discussion, do not create new topics which are not visibly open for discussion, do not comment cheeky rants — is, quite simply, do not piggyback one somebody else’s question. If you have something to say or ask and somebody has said something similar or asked a similar question, do not ask your question on their discussion thread; if your question is similar, but genuinely different in spirit, then create your own thread and start a new discussion.

 Rule #6 

500 friends don’t make you a celebrity

One concept of Facebook that sounds hollow — disregarding the subscription process it borrowed from Twitter/Google+ — is that of requesting friendship with somebody and getting an acceptance or rejection in return. This leads many people, new to Facebook or otherwise, to send of a few dozen friend requests to people they knew back in the Jurassic period, or — worse yet — to people they met five minutes ago.

Too many Facebook friends

Image courtesy: Mashable

These are not your friends but for namesake. Here is a quick test I designed: remember those 495 friends you have on Facebook? Name them all. The truth, of course, is that there is something between a complete stranger and a friend: an acquaintance. And the chances are, 470 of those people are your acquaintances, ten of them are family and the other fifteen your actual friends. So the next time you want to fire off a friend request to that person you spoke to on the bus back home, stop and think about it again. And if you have befriended (the word isn’t friended as some say) your lab partner from fifteen years ago and you no longer care what biscuits he had with his tea, it’s time to (what Facebook calls) unfriend him.

 Rule #7 

Consistency is the key

Some people seem to get bouts of social media adrenaline that leads them to share rapidly, post after post in quick succession, twelve status updates, eighteen Instagram photographs and twenty-five tweets all in the span of an hour. And then they disappear from the face of the internet for a day or two. While that sounds extreme, that is precisely how it looks to the people you are sharing stuff with. They streams get flooded with your updates, your tweets and your photographs to the point of their becoming frustrated, and your appearing like an irritating toddler who refuses to climb off their back. If you cannot consistently come online, schedule your witty updates; thank you.

 Rule #8 

Know what not to share

Here I have another quick test. Use this if you are thinking of sharing something on the internet. Ask yourself, if there was no such thing as the internet, would you stand up on a dais and shout this out loud, on a microphone, to the public? If you would, then share it; if you would not, that is a sure sign that you probably should not publish that online either. - I put more thought into what I write in tweets than what I write in holiday cards.

 Rule #9 

Understand tagging rights

Almost all social networks allow tagging friends (or sometimes complete strangers) in photographs you upload. Understand that tagging rights are reserved. When you signed up for that favourite social network of yours, that terms of use you accepted without reading, most likely advised you to get a person’s permission before tagging them in a picture. Although a recent court ruling allows people to tag you without permission, remember that legality and basic decency are two entirely different things.

 Rule #10 

Think before you re-tweet

Sometimes headlines are pretty misleading. They scream “Read me, I’m interesting”, and all they turn out to say is, “thanks for reading me: you just got fooled”. The next time you spot something on Twitter — and you will be surprised how many do this — actually click the link and read the article before re-tweeting. It may not exactly mirror your views, and if people see you recommending that (which is what a re-tweet suggests in the first place) your own stance may be mistaken, sometimes with dastardly side effects.

 Rule #11 

Never hijack hashtags

A common marketing technique, and a rather cheap one at that,  is what is now commonly called hashtag highjacking. It is quite a simple process: check which hashtag is trending on a social network and force that into your update, so people checking that hashtag or following it will be tricked into reading your article or visiting your product. It will work at first, but it will backfire on the long run. People may go from blocking you on that particular social network to blocking your website on their browser permanently. Here is an example. As I write this article, Leroy Jetson is trending on Twitter. (Yes, it is Elroy Jetson, but the Leroy joke stems from a TNT NBA slip of the tongue. You should watch that, it’s hilarious.) Anyway, I might tweet “Leroy Jetson’s 15 rules of social media etiquette” just to garner attention — or so I would think at first.

 Rule #12 

Bad news: likes, +1s, favourites are not condolences

A common habit I have seen on many social media networks is voting up bad news. While bad news is a relative term and the real problem lies with networks only providing a positive vote button, liking, pluss-ing, favourit-ing sacking, illness and deaths still shows you enjoyed it, not that you mean to pass condolences. If you truly have to say something, unlike in an active discussion where “Yeah, you’re right” comments rarely help, in such cases as deaths and the like, even a quick “RIP” or “So-and-so will be missed” will mean a lot. And surely a lot more than a like or a +1 would.

Doing it all it wrong, big time: Good intentions, but no different from hitting +1 on a news about Madiba’s passing.
Image courtesy: This tweet by @FarrukhHussaini

 Rule #13 

Spoiler? NSFW? Always provide warnings

Sometimes people may be in a working environment where even attempting to access certain links may be frowned upon. Other times, people may just not want to access certain links. Further, say you want to review a film, you ought to be kind enough to warn people if you will be giving away major plot points.

A simple Spoiler warning or an NSFW head to your social update will go a long way in saving your followers either embarrassment or frustration or both. For instance, this post below is interesting and funny, and that link provided may give me more such memes, but since the poster has been kind enough to make an NSFW mention, I’ll think twice about visiting it, or perhaps I will not visit it at all. This is always better than clicking on it for a nasty surprise.

 Rule #14 

Keep that geolocation in check

Many people have the habit of tagging every cafe, landmark and city they visit. Sometimes they visit a place just to tag themselves with it. And there is no(t too much of a) problem with that, except that sometimes these smart people also make it a point to mention who they are with. It is courtesy to ask whoever accompanied you whether you can tag them or not. Often, they do not check into a place because of a reason, and tagging them straight away is invasion of privacy. No written laws exist against this, not even in usage terms for websites, but once again, decency above law.

 Rule #15 

Say no to vaguebooking

Vaguebooking is a term that first came off Facebook, but is no longer limited to that network. It is on Twitter, I have spotted it on Twitter, and, if I was on Facebook, I could have named that as well. I am yet to find it on Google+, thankfully, but where ever you find it, it is just as irritating as anywhere else. What is vaguebooking? Updating vague statuses to gain attention. Like little kids.

Image courtesy: Lamebook again.

Well, that’s what you get for vaguebooking.

Your turn

Serial entrepreneur, Ilya Pozin, came out with his 12-step checklist to make sure your social media interactions are, to state it very simply, decent. Here are five I liked and strongly support:

  1. Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?
  2. Did I spell check?
  3. Is this appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated in some other way?
  4. How many times have I already posted something today?
  5. Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?

You can read the entire list of 12 steps on his article on Forbes. Then also share with me what your thoughts are. Do you already follow the fifteen points I have mentioned? Do you disagree with some, or do you have even more rules that your have set yourself to follow? Share it with the world And remember, chivalry isn’t dead. It just followed wherever being ladylike went. That was a friendly jab and meant no harm. At all.

 Cover image: Flickr/Jason A. Howie 


Remember Bunbury? My single-panel comic returns in 2014

You might remember Bunbury, the single-panel comic I had started back when I first laid my hands on my first generation Galaxy Note. Over time, I began to work less on it, but now with my Note 3, I have found I can do a lot more, and after drawing a couple of caricatures (you can see it in my Google+ album) I quickly decided to start it again.


Every comic has an objective, and Bunbury’s is summed up nicely in its banner:



My earlier style was an off-the-hand scribble with a single colour, the red that you may already be familiar with.

Further, I used to use a triangle for a nose, as a minimalist indication of the direction that face was turning in, and kept surrounding artwork to a minimum.

The old style

While I am by no means stepping over the limit now, the new style I have defined is fuller, more colourful and uses a shading ideology to differentiate it rather than bodily features or character styles, the latter which will vary based on the panel and topic as is necessary.


Visit Bunbury

Well, what are you waiting for? I have taken down all except two of the older comics (just so there is some standing that Bunbury was started over a year or two ago) and I have added a couple of new ones. The new banner is as under, a slight re-working of the previous to make it bolder while retaining the same style and symbolism.


Clearly, the collection is growing, but it will amass more panels so keep visiting. In fact, start right away, why don’t you?


Featherwave goodies: The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks and new opening credits

2013 has been a good year for my short films. A lot of finalisation of Telltale was complete and that book was closed. Then my friend, Raghul, and I, under the Featherwave banner successfully produced our latest, and arguably best, work till date, The Abel Photographer.

New opening credits

Starting 2014, the second year for our planned Featherwave project/s, we welcome two new members on-board our small team. With The Abel Photographer, although the house debuted with its first short film, the opening credits were never judiciously worked on.

As a necessity, the same sequence was re-worked maintaining a similar idea but with very subtle enhancements. What lies beneath this video represent Raghul’s and my beliefs and approach to making a film.

It has been lengthened from 7s to 10s, includes a brief new soundtrack while maintaining the same geometry as the first sequence. This will be our permanent opening credit henceforth. It is very simple, so it does not fight with the film itself for more attention.

Update #1: corrected opening credit sequence

After I put up this credits sequence, I got a few emails from my readers. Thanks to some of their patience, I was able to point out the problem, which was one of two things: some of you only saw a black video, while most others found the title disturbingly invisible around the edges.

The second problem was because the video was getting sized wrongly on some browsers, mostly due to caching. It is very likely that you experienced one of these problems, and now that it has been rectified, I request that you spare another 10 seconds and appreciate it in its actual form.

NB This is in 3.2 kbps, our films will use a higher 5kbps version. (Why? Too huge to upload; bear with me).

On behalf of Raghul too, I thank you very much!

Update #2: the spirit behind this video

I was fighting against myself to speak nothing of this, but when over ten to twelve readers asked me the same (or a similar) question, I thought I would add it in here. The question, paraphrased, was an interesting one: what does the sequence represent? or, as one reader asked me, what was your thought-process while imagining this credit sequence?

Firstly, interesting and well-put. Secondly, the answer itself: if you observe the video rather than watch it, you notice three stages of development; under other circumstances, I would have chosen to represent this physically using several characteristics, but this time I decided to throw all the responsibility on a single property: colour.

The video goes from near-grey scale to blue to orange-yellow. It is merely a representation of what we believe in behind the scenes, the yin and yang, that a film must contain the good and the bad, the dark and the bright, the greedy and the generous, the horror and the joy, the question and the realisation; and a grey area between it all where the viewer stands, deciding the meaning for themselves.

While this is what intended/worked with, like all of Featherwave’s productions, this one, too, is open to your interpretation.

The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks

We have, lined up, an abstract-drama production to be filmed in early 2014. As most of our other works are doing their rounds, we’d like to give out the four soundtracks from The Abel Photographer short film to end 2013 and start the coming year afresh.

Abel’s theme

Abel is a fictional photographer in the film. A very famous, almost legendary figure, the entire story begins with Adam discovering one of Abel’s lost works. This is the late Abel’s theme.

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Adam’s theme

Adam Weathers, the main character in the film, is a photographer in professional capacity, who soon learns that he has a very long way to go after a realisation comes over him in the film.

Actor Raghul Selvam (Telltale) takes on the role of Adam Weathers. This is his theme.

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Fermez les yeux: the Judgement day theme

Abel’s lost photograph discovered by Adam is popularly known as Judgement Day. This piece, following the photograph, is stormy, inspiring and structurally complex to abstractly represent the picture itself.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Les poèmes sans parole: realisation

This is a minimalist theme that reflects Adam’s realisation; it makes him stop, think and understand much better exactly what it was he was trying so hard to do. The piece ends on a ringing note summing up the entire production of The Abel Photographer.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

We hope you enjoyed whatever bit of our work you saw, heard or watched. It has been a long time since I replied to some of your requests both through this website and elsewhere who so our film, who expressed their wish to listen purely to the music. You can download that as well:

From Raghul Selvam,

Actor and co-founder of Featherwave

Fresh off the closed tab where I saw Featherwave’s new opening credit, and I must say it’s simple and yet appealing. I keep getting reminded of the niche that our films are creating. This just makes me more excited about our future projects. The way we shoot and work together, is on a different level. Starting from the very less use of words on-set and the understanding between me and V.H. Belvadi is uncanny!

I am always the lazy one, trying to push the film faster and to get over with it as soon as possible. But V.H. is a perfectionist. He will get what he needs out of the shot in a very subtle way, as in, he knows how to get work done out of people. And I hope that will be helpful with the addition of the two new members of our production in Origami! I have no words or expectations as to where we might go ahead or how big this “Featherwave” will become. I, for one, am an optimistic, and I don’t think we would stop churning out films until our house turns into a big production house. I think V.H shares the same enthusiasm in films as much as I do. And I know he won’t stop short of my expectations.

I have heard a lot of short films do not care about documentations in India, and one of the new recruits was elated that she had to sign for a film, which meant legal rights and et al!

My efforts and intentions are big for Featherwave, and I hope V.H. Belvadi shares my thoughts. After all, we do share a lot in common!

And back to me for a few closing words:

There is a lot of truth in what Raghul says — we have good communication and understanding, and that goes a long way in making a film. And there is some lie — he is not as lazy as he thinks he is, although, yes, he does try to finish a film as quickly as he can and I can only attribute it to an enthusiasm we share to watch our finished work as soon as we can!

We intend to grow big, no doubt, but that can only be achieved by keeping up all we have so far and adding to it. Introducing two new members to the team is just a start. They are the many faces of Featherwave.

2014 promises to be a good year for Featherwave, and I for one hope that this is just a start of a successful journey for our humble four-man team.

And, if you have not seen it yet, do not miss the trailer for The Abel Photographer:

Have a great year ahead and join us for more short film fun!


From start to finish: details and tips on how to write a blog post quickly, yet thoroughly

As promised in my recent article, I am going to dedicate this one to detail my blogging method. Generally, how to write a blog post so that it saves time, not takes it all away. Many people have asked me specifics before, and, over conversations with other bloggers, I learnt that this is one of the most frequent questions established bloggers get: how exactly do you blog?

When you come down to it, the thing is pretty simple; but some dumb it down so much that it loses meaning. A lot of thinking does go behind a blog post, and my intention today is to explain to you exactly what I do and how I do it. Particularly, the physical process of turning an idea into an article.

If, in my last writing I was unclear that I would talk about the mental approach rather than the physical technique, I apologise. In this one, we will surely talk about doing things — typing and things along those lines, yes. And I hope to keep this article quite short.

(Also note that, in an attempt to address the largest possible group of people, I will be focusing on writing on a WordPress blog. Except for a couple of specifics, however, the process should largely be the same.)

An idea strikes

Like everything else, blog posts too begin with ideas. At the start, it is one at a time; then it floods like a barrage gave way.

That is when you will need two apps I strongly recommend to all you serious WordPress bloggers. Firstly, get the WordPress app (download for Android or for iOS — or download your blogging platform’s app; Blogger, Tumblr, they all have one). Secondly, get Pocket (download for Android or for iOS — other options like Instapaper may serve just as well, although not on your pocket).

It is a universal rule that you get topics to blog about when you are in no position to actually blog. So twist this rule of nature using the two apps above. Ideas that come from offline go straight into your WordPress app: create a new post, title it and leave a note to yourself in your blog. Here is the screenshot I had used in my previous post, just to jog your memory:

Title your post, leave your idea as a note to yourself in the post body. Do not forget to save it as a draft before exiting, lest your post be published.

Title your post, leave your idea as a note to yourself in the post body. Do not forget to save its status as a draft before exiting, lest your post be published.

When you have time to blog and you sit before your computer, voila, WordPress is updated.

Some prefer to use dedicated note-taking applications for this. But in this case I find that complex and unnecessary because you end up noting down in one app and having your phone around when you blog, and copy things over between your blog and computer (or even across apps within a computer if that is the case). The method I have explained above works beautifully.

But what if your idea strikes while online? You can use the Press This bookmarklet in your WordPress Tools > Available tools menu if you are on your PC, but, if you are on your phone, switching to your WordPress app may not be the most time-saving option.

You can instead save to Pocket using a pre-determined tag. I use the tag #ToBlog which is not intuitive, so I never use it anywhere else by mistake. When I need to look things over, I quickly search for all #ToBlog saves and I have the stuff I want.

Organise your dashboard

This is an integral part of blogging. Other services may call it different names, but as a namesake I will call it the dashboard (which is what WordPress users are familiar with).

To focus on your blogging, let no part of your dashboard cry for attention. I have gone the extreme minimalist way and re-designed my dashboard to look something like this (hold on while I jump to my administration home and take a screenshot — there you have it):

Screenshot (115)

The desk is the same as the WordPress dashboard, but it has been fully customised to suit my needs with lots of quick access links. Please click to view it large.

You may not be able to make yours look exactly like this without some unnecessary effort (for most personal bloggers, anyway) but the point is not so much in the looks as in the pending notifications, alerts, messages, errors and the like. Deal with it as they come. Approve comments, make them private or public, reply — the whole aside process.

Now you are set to write and do nothing else.

The writing process: how to write a blog post

a. Where to write

This is a big question to many bloggers. Some of us bloggers hated the original WordPress writing area. And most bloggers hated it because everybody else hated it too. The new version, with the distraction-free writing option, is something I am quite fond of. But I never use the distraction-free editor because I cannot add tags, featured images, excerpts without switching around and that takes time. (I sometimes do these things halfway through an article.)

If you still hate the WordPress editor, try an alternative such as JustWriteBlog for Chrome. I do not use it myself, but have tried it and found it usable on a regular basis. (Why do I not use it then? I do not see the need for an alternative to my desk — not yet, anyway!) Alternatively, ScribeFire for Firefox is an equally trusted and (perhaps better looking) option. It is also available for Chrome as well as for Safari.

b. Know your WordPress editor shortcuts

If you use an alternative editor to the default WordPress editor, skip this section; if not, you will have some fun here.

When typing an article, know that all the regular shortcuts work. But make sure the cursor is clicked within the visual editor area. Hit Ctrl+B to embolden; hit Ctrl+I to italicise; hit Ctrl+Z/Y to undo/redo; similarly Ctrl+C/V/X will copy/paste/cut; and Ctrl+A will select all text.

Deeper shortcuts include several things you can do with the combination of Alt+Shift+shortcut where the shortcut (key) can be any of the following: D to strikethrough, N to spell-check, U to start a bullet list, O to start a numbered list (that is O, the letter, not 0, the number), M for image, and Q for quoting.

This is what my editor looks like. As you see, it is not the distraction-free mode because I then lose access to the areas on the right here. Besides, I have re-designed it to be pretty minimal, so there is not a lot of distraction stemming from this screen. More details typed into the screenshot (including a type -- sorry) so please click to view large.

This is what my editor looks like. As you see, it is not the distraction-free mode because I then lose access to the areas on the right here. Besides, I have re-designed it to be pretty minimal, so there is not a lot of distraction stemming from this screen. More details typed into the screenshot (including a typo — sorry). To view it exactly the way I do, please click on the image.

You can also hit Alt+Shift+W to go full-screen (distraction-free editing) and once there, special shortcuts work, such as Alt++ to increase width of the text area, and, conversely, Alt+- to decrease it. If you messed it up, Alt+0 will return it to the default dimensions (and it is 0, the number, here and not O, the letter).

Hitting Ctrl+number will quickly format your writing. 1 goes to heading 1 style, 2 goes heading 2 all the way to 6; then 7, 8 and 9 will turn it into regular paragraph text, pre-formatted code or address text.

Also make it a habit to hit Ctrl+S to instantly, temporarily save as you write, so that you do not lose your work.

Mac users, remember the eternal lesson: Ctrl = Cmd. Also, not all of these may work on all browsers.

c. What single button do I use most?

I am a big fan of the preview button at the top-right. Some lucky people can hit Ctrl+Alt+I to preview instantly. This gives me an idea of how my post will look once it is published for the world to read. I do not have to return to bulk-edit my work after publication, because that would be a foolish thing to do.

Using the preview capability helps not only to keep track of the post length (sometimes 2,000 words seem short in the editor) but reading in the actual format and design that the article would ultimately be read in, in my experience, makes it a lot easier to manually spell-check.

d. Add any images

It is generally a good idea to add images to your writing. It acts as a buffer between large chunks of text and gives your reader some rest. Five images in a 500 word article is too much, but three or four for a 1,000 word article is a good measure.

I add images at the very end, because doing so while writing is not only distracting, but also time-consuming. This, of course, is unless I have to make references to any content inside the image.

e. Tag, file and save

Finally, tag your post. My limit (and a good limit, unanimously accepted) is no more than five tags. Two things to remember when you tag your posts are, first, whether each tag represents the whole article rather than a portion of it. If you have only two words that truly represent your article, tag it with just two words.

Second, avoid long, spaced out, phrase-like tags. These are not only unnatural but may backfire by narrowing down your results too much; on the contrary, try not to be too vague either. For instance, I have tagged this article with the words blog, wordpress and technique.

h. Copying from elsewhere

I know a few people write their articles on text editors like Word. When you copy and paste across softwares, things get real jazzy. But the dangerous part is sometimes code is added to your copied text that does not make a visual difference when you look at it, but its presence is quite harmful for robots indexing your website.

Once you paste, WordPress has a handy tool called the remove formatting button. In the kitchen sink (Alr+Shift+Z) it is the sixth button (next to the paste from Word button with a W). Hit that and, even if you noticed no changes, you are good to go.

Publish or schedule it

Ah, the end.

You can publish your article right away, of course, but if you were feeling particularly energetic and wrote three in a day, you would not want to throw them all out at once, so hit schedule to post at your preferred time and date.

Then sit back and talk to your readers. It’s the second most rewarding part of blogging.

 Cover image: Flickr/Christine and Hagen Graf 


Blogging manifesto, slow blogging and a cuppa

This is one of those tough-to-write articles that is tough just because you are trying to come up with ways to avoid following what follows. (No pun intended.) But when you write three blogs, including this, a satire column and a science blog, all at once, you try to streamline everything into one, if for no other reason, just to loosen things up a tad.

A lot of people seem to have enjoyed my satire, a genre of articles I myself love writing, and the genre of preference any day. A smaller, but more targeted, group of people have freely discussed my science blog as well. Both of these platforms have died as of last week.

Blogging v content creation

The website (and particularly this blog section you are on) is what I opted to serve as a common platform for all this. What I have been most fortunate in is having readers with enough courage to take news from news sources and who would rather discuss with real people. If you know the blogosphere well, you will realise that better insights come from single bloggers rather than team blogs churning out several articles a day. (Yes, I speak of The Verge, HuffPo, TechCrunch, Mashable, Engadget and the lot.)

I follow these as well, but I use my own blog to voice my opinion. And I value a richer communication that a comment on these larger websites where you voice is one in a thousand on a single page. Not many appreciate the value of this, but I am not here to judge them. It is their point of view (and sometimes a point to oppose just because they believe they have to oppose you.)

But, ultimately, let us not forget that all the abovementioned large-scale blogs began as the works of single people. And people read these blogs just as they would read a more established newspaper, because what counts is the voice, not the person it is coming from. That would be like not looking at somebody’s photographs just because they do not shoot for Reuters or Nat Geo — quite an empty argument I would not want to waste my time on.

Slow blogging

However, some, at this point, seem to choose to go big or, surprisingly enough, go small. Having spoken to many people yesterday (and at times with many people at once) including friends, family and select subscribers, and weighing their advice as I saw fit, I have picked the latter. In this regard, I have come to re-evaluate how and what I blog, what type of articles to reduce, what type to write more frequently, and finally, about three months ago, I joined the Slow Blogging movement — something I had been contemplating for two years now.

We slow bloggers believe that the content created by large group blogs are writing for writing’s sake, not in the spirit of literature or writing as an art form. This was, admittedly, something I used to practice more on my satire network than on this website. I, for one, agree with this old New York Times article I found while rummaging around my Evernote, which brightly says, “earnest descriptions of the first frost of the season are nowhere to be found.”

My blogging manifesto

To wrap it all up formally, I took some time to write down my blogging manifesto, which brings about a new approach to my blogging habits. Specifically, the manifesto aims at a blog that,

  • is more personal and transparent to read
  • is more rich in terms of its literature co-efficient
  • is built to make sure readers receive more for the time they give to read it
  • is a rejection of immediacy, as Todd Sieling puts it, meaning content is served slowly, well-baked than hastily burnt
  • is evaluated with a fine-toothed comb before publication
  • is built on the ideals of high respect for its readers

The manifesto is 50-points long and geared towards fulfilling the above intentions. Click the large, attention-grabbing button below to read it.

This will be that last post I write (unless absolutely necessary and justifiable) which deviates from the points of the manifesto. My next article, however, will conform to the 50-point manifesto more strictly while, ironic as it may seem, making blogging and reading more enjoyable.


P.S. I hope you’re enjoying the minimalism after the newest redesign and update on this site. Problems? Suggestions? Get in touch with me.

“Just write”, or, what is Swiss style all about anyway?

To mark my seventh year in blogging, as of 2014, I decided to go over my approach to writing posts, hitting publish and interacting with my readers.

Part of that necessitated stripping down my blog to the bare minimum — minimalism, as we know it — which I have always loved, (and which runs in my family, as I learnt on my last trip to Europe). Further, I have taken time to re-evaluate and re-think my approach to blogging.

Honestly, if you have ever caught your blog going stale, or through a rough time (and let us be honest, we all have) then you will be surprised how much good taking time off to come at it in a whole new way will do.

What is Swiss style?

If you have been following me for a while now, you will know I am a big fan of minimal design. I got so many emails about this that I decided to clarify things here.

Swiss style has little to do with Switzerland. It’s an avant garde art movement started in post-WWII Switzerland and quickly spread everywhere else. Key elements of this style, more technically called the international typographic style, are the use of left-aligned sans-serif fonts and lots of supporting photographs, like this photograph of me writing this article.

Blogging at my desk, with my laptop over an insanely precarious edge

Blogging at my desk, with my laptop over a precarious edge

I love typefaces as much as Lasagne Verdi al Forno. No, really, I do. Helvetica is one of my favourite sans-serifs, as you can probably tell by looking around this screen. And Swiss style (I call it that because saying international typographic style every time is tedious) uses sans-serif type exclusively.

In short, the style of this website as you now see it, is Swiss style. But, of course, various (albeit at a limited amount a time) solid colours are used as well. I like minimalism partly because it’s as difficult as it seems easy. It is hard because the thing boils down to deciding what to throw away; and, confessedly, I’m a hoarder, and I find it hard to throw something away because “you’ll never know when you’ll need it!” so minimalism lets me practice throwing away.

This page, and this blog and this site, in its current form, is about as minimal as I have ever got and I’ve really come to love it much like physics and music: the simplest stuff is always the hardest, the most correct and the most beautiful.

A note on Helvetica Neue

I’ve spoken so often about Helvetica, that I thought I would dedicate a short note on it’s ancestry and correct pronunciation.


Helvetica is a classic typeface which is a slight alteration on the original and the first widely-used, probably Swiss, type known as Akzidenz Grotesk from the 1890s.

To compete with this, in the 1950s Swiss type scene, a new typeface was released called Neue Haas Grotesk, or the new Haas Grotesk, since it was developed in the Haas Type Foundry and was based on Haas Normal Grotesk and inspired by Akzidenz Grotesk. Neue Haas Grotesk later came to be known as Helvetica.

Later, in the 1980s, a team of type designers sat down to give the letters in Helvetica, now more popular than ever, a more unified height/width ratio. This altered version of the typeface came to be known as Helvetica Neue.


Many people I know (and certainly more than half the world) pronounce these Swiss/German/French typefaces wrongly. So here is a quick guide to saying it right:

Akzidenz is not pronunced rhyming with accidents; it goes aak-szi-DANCE.

Helvetica, I have heard many say as hell-vet-ica. It’s actually (h)ell-VEE-tica.

Neue, is not pronunced new or nui; it’s NOY(a).

In each case the text in capital is stressed and letters in (parentheses) are sort of semi-silent. The r is throtal, like the french r, and rhymes with air.

No more comments

A second major (almost elephantine) change I have made is turning off comments. I no longer allow comments on this website. First of all, I almost always reply to comments via email. I get them in my moderation queue, I reply by email. I get them in my email, and I do likewise.

I did this mostly because I do not see the need of a comments stream. A fraction of readers actually ever comment anywhere; and moderating discussions that arise out of comments can be very strenuous. It is one of my principles: if it is strenuous, something is not right; if it is strenuous, it can hardly give delight. Nobody said that.

Black guy asks nation for change - the Onion

Change: (Oh, the Onion!) If you want to read the article, click here.
Image courtesy: Flickr/Unlisted Sightings

Now I have no interest in getting into an argument over the use of comments. Yes, they help discussion; and, yes, as Rich Polanco points out rightly, they help readers ask and explore questions they were probably hesitant to ask right away for whatever reason. But comments also come with a weight. As a blogger with a lot of other things on my plate, comments simply take too much of my time.

If you have something to say, use the multitude of sharing options I have provided at the head and foot of this (and ever other) article, and speak your mind in various social networks. Get the word out, get a-discussing with your social circles too. If you share it, I will know, and I will track the link like I always do and if I come across some interesting discussion going on, I will, most definitely, participate.

On Ghost

If you have followed me on Twitter, you will know I have said a couple of times already, how WordPress as a blogging platform was something I loved; and how the current direction WordPress is moving in is sidelining bloggers to make space for large CMSes.

I suppose it comes down to how nobody likes change at first, and how WordPress’ current progress might very well have been the intended one, but to satisfy my urge for a clutter-free, minimal blogging platform, a new kid just arrived in town:

Ghost is John O’Nolan’s brainchild, but really a product that many of us bloggers had dreamt up at the back of our mind. To put it more simply: Ghost is what WordPress started off as (and will hopefully stay that way).

Currently, Ghost’s installation, although based on a much more advanced and contemporary platform of node.js, is complex for the average user. It is something the Ghost team will have to change if they want to get things moving (and they are working on it, as they say on their website.)

But from what I have seen of Ghost, having installed it on my Linux machine, it fits scarily well into my imagination of a minimal blogging platform. I like to write my blog posts in html and Ghost’s Markdown supports it; not to mention that Markdown is, in my opinion, downright the best way to write an article if you want to spare yourself any distractions.

In fact, I like it so much that I have decided to move my upcoming Essays subsection/sub-blog (as I call it) from a fully set-up blog to a Ghost blog. For obvious reasons, my current website, i.e. this one, will stay on WordPress.

Joining the Internet Defense League is now an official member of the Internet Defense League, a non-profit political activism movement against government control/take-over of the internet. I believe that the internet was the last good thing to happen to humankind, and not least because no single government controlled it. Or, to put it blandly, why fix something that is not broken?

The IDL cat: brought to you by Fight for the Future.

Other member of the IDL are WordPress, La Quadrature du Net, Cheezburger, Overblog, Reddit, Open media, IMGUR, OTI, EFF and Mozilla, with whom this website has sponsorship/affiliation (move your mouse or finger to the bottom left of your screen.) Why? Because it’s right.

Looking forward

I have been blogging for seven of the twenty years that the concept of weblogs has been around, and for seven of fourteen years since it came to gain substantial mainstream use. That is 50% of the time.

I started off with a Vox and a Blogger couple running simultaneously, was dissatisfied with Blogger for reasons I will not go into, and moved finally to WordPress as Vox shut down and then to this admittedly larger website. So far, the writer in me has liked it.

I was excited when WordPress introduced the full-screen writing option, and have only been as excited about a back-end change when Ghost 0.3 was released publicly. Where do I want to go from here? I cannot say. I love writing, and sometimes it involves guiding readers, sharing my experience, sharing my opinion, introducing products, decently commenting on other’s articles (only because I respect it highly and think it deserves a post all by itself), taking readers through my everyday learning and then some.

I see no reason to stop. And I do not see anything better than blogging rising up in the distance either. I still tweet, I still write on Google+ and elsewhere, I still contribute to moderated debates; but blogging has been in a league of its own, and will continue to be, as far as I can tell, in the short, visible future.

It might be with new additions like my design (which took me a full month to make responsive!) and Ghost, which beckons me as an early adopter, and it may be with a lot of other changes which neither you nor me like; but it is really that blogging will remain blogging, and I will remain blogging.

I know it is still a month before we welcome 2014, but I’m generally excited by everything, which is exactly what I am as I unveil my redesigned website. And the best part of this redesign, and how it is different from previous iterations, is that things have been changed from the inside-out. The code running this huge system has been refined. Everything should not only be much faster than ever before, but also much sharper and much, much smoother and pleasanter.

To put numbers, my move from WordPress to was termed 2.0. In that spirit, the move made here is fantastic and substantial enough for me to declare that, with a Swiss design and ultra minimalism focusing my readers’ attention on content, with a more thoughtful back-end and faster front-end, this is 3.0

Well, then, I’ll see you on the other side.


Why the D600? A real-world user review of Nikon’s ‘affordable’ full-frame beast

After several months’ long wait period, I finally got my hands on the D600. (How can you not find that phone call exciting: “Sir, your camera has arrived.”) Finally! It was like the world was surging ahead. (Frankly, Nikon, why do you take months to deliver a camera? Open a factory in the West somewhere.)

QC issues are going around, so I’ll tell you why that did not bother me; comparisons are going around (all positive) and I’ll tell you why I chose this; some people chose to have minor quirks with this camera and I’ll tell you why they’re amateurs. Ultimately, I’ve been testing this camera for weeks now so I’ll tell you quite definitively what you’d feel if you held this brilliant camera in your hand and shot with it.

The contents of this quick review

Since this is article might turn out to be longer than usual, let me toss you a list of contents:

  • First impressions, handling, body etc.
  • Looking through the D600 and others’ other issues
  • Specifications that matter, or, why I chose the D600
  • Friendly cage match against the D800, 5D MkIII and 6D
  • Sample images and video

So that’s it. Let us dive right in.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”100%”]Shortly after I published this article, I realised the text may be too long for most of you so I’ve removed the sample images from the ‘sample images’ section and distributed them all over the article so you won’t find many images in the sample images section. The video, though, is still there. [/sws_blue_box]

First impressions, handling, body etc.

Having handled most of Nikon’s range — including the D5xxx, D7xxx and D800 — I think Nikon has hit the bull’s eye with the D600. It is not abnormally large like most full frame cameras are, and it is not too small for my hands. It’s no secret my hands are slightly larger than many, so Nikon’s lower end market such as the D5xxx and D3xxx feel awkwardly small for me, a truth I was reminded of when I recently meddled with my friend’s D5100. Such things are small but play a major role opposing good handling. But the D600 does it just right.

Also, the body, at three-fourths of a kilogram is not light, but not too heavy either. I find slightly bulkier bodies easier to handle and I find that they assist in maintaining greater stability while shooting. The D600 hits these check boxes for me.

"Sunset with thunder clouds"

“Sunset with thunder clouds”

The D600 in really not a technological marvel by itself because it introduced nothing new into the market; but it did do something no dSLR has ever done. It took the insides of the best of Nikon’s pro dSLR system (the D800 and D4) and threw them in a blender. That was then stuffed into a slightly beefy D7000 body and voila, the D600.

What this means is that the D600 offers the same features of the D4 and D800 in terms of performance and hardware layout and the D7000 in terms of dimensions and few more hardware layouts. Over use you will find, increasingly, that the D600 uses the buttons of the D800 rather than the D7000, except for the AF-ON button. Again, it doesn’t bother me as much as it does most others.

My tripod is calibrated to take a little over 3kg and while some people are paranoid and insist on leaving three times as much room, I am satisfied with two times; my heaviest body+lens combination is 1.5kg so a tripod with twice the capacity looks more than enough for me.

Over all, I love how the D600 is just right in many ways. Not too small, no too large; not too heavy, not too light; not at all amateurish (no effects and all that crap) and not filled with blazingly high counts (think D800’s 36MP — nobody needs that unless they’re shooting to blow up or shooting under tight lighting conditions like, perhaps, Peter Belanger.) I’m just saying.

"The barber's mirror"

“The barber’s mirror”

Looking through the D600 and others’ other issues

Let’s face it: everybody’s going to have a problem with something. (Even worse, somebody’s going to have a problem with everything.) And the D600 is no different. Just as it happened when the D5100 came out, then when the the D7000 and D300 and D700 and D800, some people have (although very few) problems with the D600 too. So I’m going to take a very brief moment to state their problems and why those problems do not bother me.

1. Slow shutter speed of 1/4000s

Oh, no, what a disaster! Now quickly run to your image handling software and tell me how many photos you’ve shot at 1/8000s.

In the real world, 1/8000s is so blazing fast you don’t need it except under two of 25,000 circumstances. In your 50,000 photos I bet there’s no more than five shot at 1/8000 and for the best of us, there’s probably none. I don’t think I have to explain further why the 1/4000s shutter speed does not bother me.

2. Only 39 AF points. That’s too little for a pro like me!

Again, calm down.

The D800 (blurred) vs D600 (sharp) AF points cover roughly the same area.

The D600 inherits Nikon’s breakthrough Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus — but from the D7000 and not the D800. This means it has 39AF points as opposed to 51. But this is not (and I’ll repeat this a hundred times) it is not the D7000’s Multi-CAM 4800 DX. This is the Multi-CAM 4800 FX, which is infinitely better, but for most people who judge cameras by the specs sheet, the 39 focus points have one major complaint: they’re bunched together.

Straight away I can tell you these guys are probably nowhere near being pro. Let me demonstrate with the picture above. How much more area do you think the D800’s focus points cover with respect to the D600’s?

3. Huh, what a lousy flash sync of 1/200s!

Granted, this can be a genuine problem because when it comes to flash sync a 1/50s additive can be of great importance. But, as long as we’re talking subjectively, I don’t use a slave flash (well, I don’t even own one!) so I could not care less about the flash sync. For on-board flashes (for which Nikon is pretty legendary) a 1/200s is all you need out in the real world.

"Rush hours pull my hair"

“Rush hours pull my hair”

4. No magnesium alloy bottom? What a bad deal!

The D600 is full top and back magnesium alloy along with a 100% superior weather sealing inherited from the D800 and D4 bodies. So, unless you plan on playing football with your dSLR (which you can by all means do if you’re filthy rich) please stop complaining.

5. I spy spots on my sensor

We just had to come to this, didn’t we? Whatever camera you own (especially if they are full frame ones) you will find oil and dust spots on your sensor, so start cleaning it when you find too many to handle in post processing.

Perhaps the D600 is more prone to this issue but it shouldn’t kill you so long as you know a little lightroom (that uber powerful software many people believe is far less powerful than Photoshop when, really, thy just have no idea how to use it) and care more about your photos than shooting blank walls and blue skies at f/22 and then over-sharpening it.

Remember, the spots are on your sensor, which means unless you’re focusing close shut or very, very near to your camera, you won’t find these spots at all.

Specifications that matter, or,

Why I chose the D600

Let us look at my needs (compare them with yours and you’ll see what I mean.) And I’m also going to take the liberty of throwing in a thing or two about a person I know, Raghul Selvam, to give you a better idea.

"Carry the children"

“Carry the children”

Usage and budget

I shoot more landscapes, have been withheld by gear at higher ISOs, I shoot nature, an occasional street and documentary and still life, combined with more natural and conservative processing. Raghul, as I have seen, likes to get up close and shoot things tending towards a macro-style of shooting combined with heavy, contrasty processing. Our needs are different and yours probably falls somewhere around these two that I just described. Now this directly affects the gear we need to make our photography more systemic.

Secondly, for me, was my budget. I had set myself at $3,500 (€2,700) so I had to gather the best kit at that range. The D800 and D600 are essentially the same except for magnesium alloy on two more sides, 1/8000s shutter and 36MP, none of which I am bent upon getting — I don’t need them and the chances are, you don’t either.


The D600 comes with 24MP which is 24 million pixels of true resolution, not the same as 24 million pixels on a D5200 or a D3200. The smaller sensors on those lower end bodies means they are actually carrying an unhealthy amount of pixels that will soon work against the photograph. This is also why I was happy when Raghul bought the much older D5100 instead, (with 16MP if I’m not mistaken.)

For a camera with a small sensor, the D5100’s 16MP is close to the sweet spot: it is still too much, (12MP is the perfection point) but 16MP is not as bad as the 24MP marketing standard on crop sensors. On the other hand, for a full frame (i.e. 35mm) camera like the D600, whose sensor is twice as large as the D5100’s or the D300’s, 24MP is the sweet spot.

"Waiting to cross the road"

“Waiting to cross the road”

Full frame glory

At the end of the day, given the same photographer, same external conditions and same subject to shoot, full frame cameras like the D600/D800/D4 will eat cropped sensor cameras like the D7000/D5200 for breakfast as far as image quality is concerned. It is even more so at high ISOs.

But that is not to say cropped sensor cameras are bad — far from it. In fact, Raghul’s photographic usage (as I’ve described it above) would benefit from a cropped sensor camera like the D5100. These give you reach and let you go closer to your subjects at shorter lengths, which is something he would greatly benefit from. This comes at the cost of noise, image quality and often, the dynamic range.

Comparatively, a full frame camera goes majestically larger in cover, can do at f/4 what smaller bodies do at f/1.8 and produces (in the right hands) unmatched noiseless photos, sharper images, better colours, better blur, and these cameras can do a lot more in little available light. But this comes at the cost of reach, going close enough (unless costly lenses permit,) and… well, full frame bodies are larger and bulkier and need at least twice as much shot discipline as cropped sensors.

"Put aside all the negativity"

“Put aside all the negativity”

As I said, it all comes down to need. For my shooting, I would greatly benefit from a full frame sensor; for his, Raghul would benefit from cropped sensors (even if he would like full frames once in a while.) You can very well ask yourself the same questions.

fps, storage, U modes, auto focus speed and more

The D600’s dual SD cards are a boon and, since I’ve always been averse to the D800’s CF option offering, the D600 is better here. There is also a crop mode that essentially makes the D600 a 10MP cropped sensor camera giving me reach, going close etc. as we saw a couple of paragraphs above.

I get a screen protector. (Heavens protect Nikon for deciding to get rid of it completely in the D7100!) There is the attractive (attractive as far as I’m concerned) speed of 11 photographs in 2 seconds continuously up to 100 photographs with a single shutter press. Impressive.

The U1 and U2 modes (basically, user modes,) allow me to set my most used settings/style of photography for quick access. One dial twist and shoot: as simple as that. And while we’re talking about dials, I don’t find the lock a problem every time. In fact, I think I even like it!

"Woman with the pitchers"

“Woman with the pitchers”

The auto focus — what can I say? It’s just as fast as the D800, or maybe a negligible bit off, but it is way more accurate than its 36MP bigger brother. We have already talked about the AF points spread so I will not go there again.

Size, man, size. This is where the D600 hit it off the field better than any dSLR ever made. It’s perfect. You need to hold it in your hand to believe it. One major aspect that made this size reduction possible was Sony/Zeiss’ sensor built especially for the D600. It is the second best camera sensor ever made. (We’ll see the entire list after the first cage match.)

Anyway, let’s go ahead to the next (exciting!) section.

Friendly cage match

Round one: D600 vs 6D — same class, similar price range, but matched?

The 6D was Canon’s rather quick answer to the D600 — as if they had it in their closet all along. Anyway, the question now is, is the Canon good enough to beat the D600, especially when it costs much more?

Quickly: unless you own a full Canon system, the D600 beats the 6D into the mud. Decidedly, for in-line auto focus (i.e. when the subject is moving towards and away from the camera instead of along the frame) the Canon 6D scores a mere 45-55% accuracy, equal to Nikon’s three year old D5100. The D600 comes out at 75%-80%, a clear winner.

Some other quick things that matter: the 6D has a couple of stops higher native ISO at 25,600 against the D600’s 6,400 just like all Canons v Nikons. The 6D takes 980 shots vs the D600’s 900. The 6D also has GPS.

"Fuchsia skies and dusty beaches"

“Fuchsia skies and dusty beaches” — Note how the D600 recognises fine details in the people’s clothing despite the extreme light from a set sun right behind them.

On the other hand, the D600 has a way better image quality at 94 points against the 6D’s 82. (Check out the box below for a better idea as to what this means.) There is better colour depth, more cross type points, lower noise, more dynamic range at 14.2EV against the 6D’s 12EV and there is less shutter lag, quicker start up, more fps, built in flash and continuous video AF.

The winner? Why don’t you decide?

[sws_blue_box box_size=”100%”]

Understand image quality measurements

Image quality is measured simply in points from 0 (unacceptable) to 100 (best) as an overall conclusion to several other tests, comparative to the present camera market. To give you a better idea of where things stand, here are the best image quality cameras among popular Nikons and Canons. The first three are the top in the entire camera industry while the bottom ones have several Pentax, Olympus and Sony systems performing better than them.

Usually, a one point difference is negligible, but anything above 2 points is not. So 84.0 and 83.0 are practically the same while 79.0 is quite lower than 81.0 and so on.

  1. D800/E – 95.0/96.0
  2. D600 – 94.0
  3. D7100 – 84.0
  4. D5200 – 83.0
  5. 5D MkIII – 83.0
  6. 6D – 82.0
  7. D3200 – 81.0
  8. D5100 – 79.0
  9. 5D MkII – 79.0
  10. 7D – 66.0

Round two: D600 vs 5D MkIII — Can Canon’s best take on the D600 and win?

Canon’s best dSLR, the 5D Mark III, costs almost $1,500 more than the D600, yet it has just a half stop better difference in terms of fps and a 1/8000s shutter speed option.

The D600 has over 2 stops better dynamic range, lesser ISO just like with the 6D, quicker start up time and half a stop lower noise (although that is mostly negligible.) The 5D’s biggest triumph is its 61 AF points with 41 cross types which makes it especially useful for tracking, but for landscape work, it is just as useless.

Once again, the winner is something for you to decide.

The final round: D600 vs D800

It seems almost cruel to set the D600 up against its bigger brother, the D800, but facts show that the D600 can stand up in the fight.

Well, the D800 beats the D600 (and every other dSLR ever seen) pretty badly when it comes to resolution. It also has a negligible 1 point better image quality and the exact dynamic range as the D600.

The D600 shoots one-and-a-half stops faster and about one-tenth of a stop greater ISO reach at low or negligible noise.

"A snake that pretends to be venomous"

“A snake that pretends to be venomous”

As you can see, the rest of the specifications are quite alike, which makes this an amusing comparison. So, unless you need 36MP, (i.e. you shoot with controlled lighting or have rock-steady hands or tripods fused to your dSLR) the choice is pretty simple: do you want a slightly smaller, lighter body which comes cheaper in terms of cost although without too many other sacrifices; or do you want a larger, heavier body with lots of megapixels and at a higher cost?

Speaking of the D800/E comparison, the E version which as a neutralised OLPF is somewhat replicated in the D600. Unlike the D7100, where Nikon has altogether removed the OLPF, the D600 still has one but it is much, much thinner than the usual size (such as in the D800) so this creates a halfway mark between the D800E and the newer D7100 — like I said, with the D600, Nikon probably wanted to hit all the “just right” spots.

Really, here there is no winner.


When it comes to taking the final decision regarding a camera, there is only one thing I really see barring everything else. Does the camera make me want to shoot? The D600 does. As far as tiny issues and problems go, I have learnt one thing: amateurs complain. Let them.

The D600 fits into my hand as if it was custom-built; it has all the requirements I was looking for — both hardware and software — it does not make me a pauper, and it helps me make great photographs. Judged and bound.

"Twittering amidst the miniatures of nature"

“Twittering amidst the miniatures of nature”

Sample images and video

Update: As stated above, the sample images that were in this section have been take off and put all over the article for you to take a break and enjoy while you read. As always, unless mentioned, you can go ahead and do whatever you wish with any of my photographs without my permission (although a tiny credit somewhere would be appreciated.) The same applies to the photographs in this article.

ENERGY: 24 megapixels of magnificence

I shot some video with the D600 — since I will probably be using it for my next short film — and I must say it is phenomenal. The specs say it is broadcast quality but I do not jump up and believe specs sheets. Yet, after having tried it, I must say I believe it and it is a huge step up from my point and shoot with which I filmed my previous two short films with Raghul as I will be doing the third with this. I am of course indebted to him for humoring me and agreeing to act in my films and supporting it all along (I doubt somebody else would have done that) so I can’t wait till the third one is out, especially now that we have a rather unique story we’re working with.

I will not go into exactly how I came to shoot this video, but let us just say what was required of me was to exhibit “Energy” in under two minutes. This is the end result of energy: it’s everywhere life is, it’s in colour, lights, breath, action, vision and music. That is what I wanted to showcase in this film. It’s worth watching (and it is under two minutes) and for somebody looking for the D600’s video quality, I assure you you’re going to love it. The lack of live view aperture bothers some but I have learnt to live without it.

Please turn on HD to watch the video at its best.

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If you own this great camera, share your thoughts; if you are looking to buy it, ask your questions; if you know nothing about photography and just love gear, you’re welcome. I, for one, could not have asked for a better camera than the D600 — it is worth every cent. [vhb]

Evernote Mobile – Part 1: Getting started

If you have not heard of Evernote, you definitely are living under a rock. Evernote is a powerful, cross-platform, note-taking and collaboration app. And if you read our recent notes-app comparison, you will see just how feature-rich Evernote is.

Now, on the other hand, if you have not yet got started with it for some reason, that is excusable. With this seven-part series, you are sure to be an advanced Evernote user (we call ourselves ‘Evernote junkies’) and — here is the real deal — you will be using Evernote not just as a note-taking app, but as one to improve your productivity and (seemingly) lengthen you day!

Evernote Mobile

I will only be talking about Evernote on mobile devices (be it iOS, Android or something else, Evernote is basically the same build-, design- and structure-wise) because its mobile app itself is so plump with features and targeted at several types of users that it is going to us seven interesting articles to cover.

I am going to be putting up  one every two or three days to help you digest the information effectively. So, today, let us start with a quick run-down of what Evernote is, what you can do with it and getting a basic understanding of how Evernote works.

Granted, this is for absolute beginners, but let us give all readers an even chance! If you are new to Evernote, this infographic below should give you a good feel for what it is and how it basically works.

Evernote at a glance for beginners - getting started - Infographic by VHBelvadi

In two days, get back here for an intermediate article, “Five tips and techniques to improving your Evernote organisation.” Until then, download Evernote on your mobile device and be armed. [vhb]