<![CDATA[Bits and Bytes]]>http://rajorshi.net/Ghost v0.4.2Tue, 15 Jul 2014 03:12:03 GMT60<![CDATA[Quest for the next blogging platform]]>Let's face it - Wordpress is passe.

Though immensely popular, Wordpress has been criticized of late for being too "large" and complex for the requirements of a simple blog. Indeed, it is advertized as a CMS and a publishing platform and is capable of doing way more than you'd like, or want your blogging platform to do. However, the reason for its popularity is its ease of use nevertheless. It's pretty straightforward for the average Joe to use a hosted Wordpress solution and publish a blog, complete with excellent themes and comments, without paying a dime (if you host it on wordpress.com for instance). There are several reasons why I don't quite like it - although I don't exactly hate it either:

  • Quite heavy on resources, see the image below
  • The default comments system - though simple and good, is sometimes very spam prone (oddly, I faced this even with the presence of Akismet)
  • The backend is a LAMP setup, and I find a relational database an overkill for a simple blog (that should ideally be a set of static files)
  • Very easily hacked! This is a serious problem with lesser capable Wordpress hosting providers.

Wordpress Speed

The current setup I'm using (hosting and domain provided by Godaddy) works, but is turning out to be quite expensive. I didn't realize that most coupons are not applicable to the renewals of Godaddy - and the very basic Linux hosting renewal package costs a bomb (INR 5300, ~ USD 100)! All I need is hosting for a simple blog.

Enter GitHub + Octopress

Let's face it - GitHub rocks! I'm a huge fan of the entire GitHub ecosystem - and they've really taken the open-source world by storm. They have a neat product called GitHub Pages which offers free websites "for you and your projects". Although GitHub pages are static only (meaning you cannot run Wordpress on top of it), it features native support for the Jekyll static site generator. Hence, it supports the Jekyll based Octopress blogging system natively as well.

So one weekend, I set up a "Hello World" blog on Octopress. Phew! That was quite a challenge. Octopress is serious when it claims it's a "blogging framework for hackers". In the end, here's the performance of my simple blog (hosted here):

GitHub speed

Note: the above performance would degrade in a real life situation, with images and so on - however would surely be faster than Wordpress. Having gone through the setup (which should be another blog post in its entirety), here are some pros and cons of this approach:

Pros

  • Generates a static site - hence is fast
  • I love Markdown - very semantic in nature, and perfect for programming blogs
  • Everything is git version controlled - which seems nice!
  • Pre-built integration for the stuff I need - Disqus comments, Facebook login, GitHub repo links and so on.

Cons

  •  No web interface for posting - decidedly inconvenient
  • Very complicated setup for the Ruby unaware (me!). I've never been into the Ruby ecosystem and the tools (rake, bundle, gem, rvm, ...) are, frankly, a bit overwhelming for a newbie
  • Even creating a new post needs about 5 commands
  • Though git is nice, I find the Octopress structure on git a bit weird (main containing the website, and source branch containing the Octopress code)
  • Themes are a bit weak, especially compared to Wordpress

That's it for now. Octopress seems a promising alternative, but I want to study two additional platforms before migrating rajorshi.net:

  1. The new kid on the blog (sic): Ghost. An additional tool (buster) is required to generate a static site that GitHub pages mandates
  2. My own simple static site, generated using Pelican or something else.

Stay tuned for more updates ;-)

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http://rajorshi.net/quest-for-the-next-blogging-platform/ed5bf902-09a9-498e-8d93-d13e27d5d94aMon, 12 May 2014 18:22:16 GMT
<![CDATA[Transcend 128GB SSD: Laptop Upgrade]]>After debating for a while on whether to go for a new Haswell laptop,  I dropped the idea completely and decided to upgrade my existing Core i3-2310M based Toshiba C655 laptop with the cheapest available SSD! This post details how to upgrade performance at a very less price of your existing laptop/desktop - especially if you already have a system with a decent processor under the hood (for example - the Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processor - 1st generation or later).

As part of this, I'll also show how to use your old hard disk as a portable one, instead of throwing it away.

Step 1: Rationale and acquisition

To start off, my laptop came with a standard 5400RPM Toshiba HDD, the CrystalDiskMark stats of which are:

HDD Performance

.. obviously pretty abysmal speeds.

Since my laptop is already pretty old (3+ years), I did not go for the highly rated Samsung 840 EVO SSD series. I instead opted for the (cheapest as of now) Transcend 128GB SSD340, at a pretty good deal of around INR 4000 - around $66 (including cashbacks from Snapdeal).  Here's the retail box it arrived in:

SSD box

The box also included a 3.5" hard disk bay should you want to install the SSD on a standard desktop instead of a laptop.

Step 2: Taking out the old hard disk

I was apprehensive about this part but it proved to be very easy. After removing the battery as a precautionary measure, all I had to do was unscrew the portion of the laptop back cover housing the HDD, and then unscrew the internal 2.5" enclosure that the HDD was mounted on. If you're a bit unsure, see this excellent video. All you need for this step is a Phillips screwdriver. (If you don't have one, I highly recommend the Chinese Jackly screwdriver set that you can find online for about 150 rupees - it has a magnetic handle, and almost all types of shanks that you'll ever need - and is of surprisingly good quality).

Here is the view of the laptop with the HDD removed:

HDD removed

And here is the 2.5" enclosure removed from the HDD:

Laptop enclosure

Step 3: Inserting the SSD

Again, as easy as screwing the enclosure on to the SSD (all screw positions are apparently standard - yay!), and mounting the laptop onto the hard drive bay:

Inserted SSD

 

Step 4: That's it!

And you're done! Start up your PC and install Windows or whichever OS you prefer. Note: personally I always recommend performing a fresh install - but should you have a lot of data / programs and are unwilling to reinstall everything from scratch, most SSD manufacturers include a utility to clone your existing HDD onto the SSD - but this step needs to be done before the swap.

Here are the stats post the setup, on a clean Windows 7 install:

SSD performance

The Windows 7 experience index shows a whopping 7.8 out of 7.9 in the disk data transfer rate index !

Win7 performance

Step 5: Bonus - use the old HDD as a portable HDD

For this, you need a 2.5" SATA to USB external hard disk enclosure. I bought an el-cheapo one from a brand named Ranz which works perfectly. This also comes with a small screwdriver, and a USB cable. You need to insert the HDD into the SATA connector, and the whole thing into the casing:

External HDD

  • and voila, you have a "free" portable hard disk that works perfectly as a regular USB drive!

That's all for now. SSD prices are at an all time low now - you can get a pretty decent upgrade for your laptop or desktop for about 4-5000 INR. My Windows 7 SP1 boot time reduced from around a minute to about 15-16 seconds (to desktop) :-)

Happy upgrading!

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http://rajorshi.net/transcend-128gb-ssd-laptop-upgrade/bad324f8-73d3-47ea-8ad8-744c9dbfd74eMon, 05 May 2014 17:53:22 GMT
<![CDATA[Hello world - Raspberry Pi!]]>After a long (long) hiatus, I'm back at blogging!

This post is a quick note on the geekiest gift one has ever received - the Raspberry Pi complete kit (thanks to my friends who really know me)!

The complete kit came with all the basic necessities required to boot up the Pi, assuming you have a monitor with HDMI input.  This included the following:

  • The Raspberry Pi model B (512MB RAM) SOC
  • 8GB SD card with Raspbian and other distros ready to boot
  • 5V power adapter and USB cable
  • HDMI, Cat5 and GPIO cables
  • The very sweet MultiComp clear case

The very first realization I had was that this "compete" kit did not include an HDMI to VGA adapter. Oh well, VGA monitors are obsolete anyways. However, I have an old Samsung 15" CRT that I desperately wanted to use for this. I'm eyeing this cable (note: el-cheapo HDMI to VGA converters apparently do NOT work), but I set up the Pi with my Toshiba 32" LCD television instead.

On the bright side, my existing Amkette Cruizer wireless keyboard and mouse combo worked flawlessly with the Pi - a pleasant surprise indeed. This is what the Pi looked after the initial setup:

Raspberry Pi Case

And finally, here's the Raspbian desktop:

Raspberry Pi on TV

I need to modify the resolution or settings since the windows expand beyond the television size, but that's for another hack session with the Pi :-)

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http://rajorshi.net/hello-world/9a1eca61-478c-4242-a19e-5bace4276e8cSat, 15 Mar 2014 14:54:39 GMT