Computer Science Association, BITS Pilani

October 29, 2009

Using GMail better

Filed under: Geeky — Shyam Sunder @ 8:29 am

GMail has become one of the most extensively used e-mail programs both for general as well as enterprise use. The most exciting aspect of it being that it offers all its great features for free! As college students we would have started creating GMail ID’s for the purposes of:

chatting with one’s family
staying in touch with old friends or
simply for the sake of opening new social networking accounts

But many of us would have overlooked some features that are present in the inbox page of GMail which make our life more comfortable. So here are seven tips that should make using GMail an enjoyable experience:

  1. Leave your inbox as less cluttered as possible
  2. Tasks and Calender
  3. Use Google Docs
  4. Surf the best articles using Google Reader
  5. Multiple Accounts
  6. Documentation
  7. Use GMail Theme

The above points have been expanded below with illustrations. This would definitely get you exploring various other things in GMail for yourself (which is thoroughly enjoyable).

1) Leave your inbox as less cluttered as possible: Use multiple inboxes? Honestly, there is nothing more disgusting to look at! Instead use labels and filters extensively. How? Read on

  • Suppose you are a part of a Google Group which sends you a lot of e-mails every day then apply a filter on it. The option is available in the “show details” part of the mail header: filter messages like these. Just click on it. The best sequence of actions that can be taken for further mails is: i) skip the inbox ii) apply label iii) apply to already existing conversations.
  • The down arrow on the labels (in the labels section on the LHS of your inbox) is to customize the label colors. Choose your pick since that will help to distinguish between different labels in case you are using many.
  • Labels and filters can be especially helpful if you subscribe to mailing lists: dictionary.com, FORBES India, etc. You can put a filter and apply a label so that you can check out the mails when you have time.

2) Tasks and Calender:

  • Need to arrange a meeting with someone? Or have to remember test dates? There is nothing more useful than a calender. It is more like the calender we would have used during our school days for marking exam dates and assignment submissions.
  • Just mark all the dates and important things to remember and click on print. A new window will open which will let you save the calender as in PDF format that you can refer to time and again!
  • Tasks are another light-weighted useful feature which you can use as easily as you would use a To-do list in a mobile phone. And what’s more all your tasks appear on the calender as well so you would have no excuse to miss out on anything.
  • Once you set up an alarm you would receive a mail telling you that a particular task is due.

3) Use Google Docs: These have come under severe criticism from time-to-time; but honestly what is the best way to

  • share a document with multiple users
  • create a questionnaire and maintain the entered information
  • quickly be able to get multiple users to work on a sales presentation at the same time

No prizes for guessing: Google Docs it is!

4) Surf the best articles using Google Reader: It is the best alternative to

  • subscribing to mailing lists or
  • visiting a blog/website to check for updates or
  • sending links of articles you like to family and friends through GTalk or mail

Google Reader lets you get information from various websites simply by adding feeds (Atom and RSS) and what is more you can decide who to share it with and in return also read shared items from their list. It is increasingly becoming similar to Twitter nowadays with strikingly familiar phrases like:

  • ‘follow more people’,
  • ’21 people are following you’,
  • ‘like this item’, etc

5) Multiple Accounts: The tip is to bring everything to GMail. You have more than one account? Get all the mail delivered to an account you prefer to use. It cuts down your job of looking at multiple email ID’s. You can also send mail from that particular account. This is a must do if you use too many accounts and can’t keep track of which to use when! 😀

6) Documentation: Part of a college association that stresses on the need for formal documentation? Now it so happens that documentation work comes right at the end of the semester where you would rather find yourself studying than compiling what you have done in the year. You can make your life much simpler by simply going to the mails/chats which you used to communicate details or plan out work and click on “print”. This will open up a new tab consisting of all the conversations and they can be used as a reference; especially useful for internal documentation.

  • You can save the page as PDF using MS One Note or Adobe PDF
  • This bookmarklet is a useful tool for converting webpage to PDF but doesn’t seem to work well with GMail so prefer the above.

7) Use GMail Themes

  • There are a lot of themes to try from and they are visually more pleasing when you compare to the disastrous Orkut themes.
  • It will let you approach GMail in a different way each time 🙂

If you are already  at ease with using various facets about GMail or if you are beginning to discover GMail, please write about it and drop the link in the comments. Either way, we would love to hear from you. Happy mailing!

October 26, 2009

Copyright issues College Associations Need to Worry About

Copyrights secure the owner of a creative effort the exclusive right to control who can make copies, or make works derived from the original work. It is a legal protection given to authors, artists, and composers to prevent reproduction, sale, or adaptation of their work without their consent. The copyright owner has exclusive rights for printing, reprinting, copying, selling, and adapting the copyrighted material. Rights included in copyright may be inherited or transferred much as other property. They may also be protected against infringement in the courts.

Works not protected by copyright are in the public domain and may be copied and used freely by anyone. Copyright protection extends throughout the author’s or artist’s lifetime and 50 years beyond; upon expiration of the copyright, the work falls into the public domain.

Here are a few simple ways in which college (or university) associations (or societies) can avoid all the trouble and get work done without worrying about copyrights:

  • Be Creative. Or at least Innovative: Before dictionaries start claiming copyright infringement let us define the words as follows.

Creativity is doing something never done before and innovation is building something never seen before.

If you are creative you are not only innovative but also original. If you are building on something (derivative works) that is already present and exhibit it as something never seen before you are just copying original ideas. But, it is sufficient if you are able to innovate in this manner because it would be a lot difficult to see if really you have violated copyrights.

  • Publicize when required:

Now, when college associations conduct events we often need to exercise a lot of care as to the material we use or produce. For example, a case study event should not borrow cases from a book/website directly. Even if we do (for educational purposes, say) we should not put it up as our own work i.e., the matter should not move beyond the gates of the campus.

If you are not sure about the material in hand, then make sure you know the places where it is being put up: blogs?Website? Social Media (highly dangerous)

  • Create awareness:

People would not really violate the copyrights if they understood the consequences of it. So tell them about

  1. Copyrights
  2. Copyright Infringement
  3. Protecting Copyrights

You could do so from:

October 8, 2009

CSA Meeting

Filed under: History — csa2010 @ 8:25 am
Tags: , , , ,

Venue: SAC Amphitheater, Time: 9 PM

Like most of the CSA meets, this one too was initiated with a round of questioning each new recruit asking them their interests and plans for future. Many of them had common interests: while some in programming, some animation and some even in gaming!

The advice given

  1. Trouble seniors: Ask people to teach you whatever you want to leatn without bothering what their reaction would be.
  2. Meet people: Don’t confine yourself to your rooms, move out and get to know how people work, how they think. 
  3. Explore: As first and second years are not very much equipped with a lot of technical knowledge it is very important for them to keep searching newer avenues and that alone will aid them in understanding the subject
  4. Attend: Watch out for every single notice that comes and attend the lectures, events, workshops which are going on in the campus. Learn something new from them. 
  5. Manage: Whenever CSA organizes a event it is very important to know the minutest details of how it is organized. Hence your presence is mandatory in two ways: learning what is being taught and understanding the back-end preparation

We do hope to have such meetings from time-to-time and develop good team spirit. After all, Team work means More WE and Less ME. 

October 7, 2009

Mind Turner 2.0

Filed under: Events — csa2010 @ 7:01 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Audience consisted of students from all years and disciplines. Hands shot up and answers were fired: right, wrong and a shade bit funny. No matter which category the answers were predominant in, the fun element was clearly visible.

Then began the serious part of the session… The Quiz

Rules and Regulations of “The Quiz”

ü Max. of 3 participants per team

ü 3 points for general questions and 4 points for star-marked ones

ü A final jackpot, a Su-do-ku round.

The quiz started off with a simple logical problem involving lions and deer.
As the quiz proceeded the questions tickled the participant’s grey cells and made sure that a competitive tempo started building.

 

An excited audience

An excited audience

 

The questions posed were multi-disciplinary, ranging from Mathematics to Philosophy, Science and technology to Science fictions, Business to Bitsians etc. To answer them one required a general touch in fields pertaining not just to Computer Science but also many other areas.

There were some “Photo-Connect” and “Decoder” problems which required crisp logic to arrive at the solution. The questions framed were really good and intellectually challenging. However, there were some extremely enthusiastic participants who discouraged quizmasters from giving clues to some questions which they planned to give. This clearly reflected that we had an intelligent audience.

The Final Su-do-ku round was a new addition in this event which came as a surprise to the audience and added quiet a twist at the end. A Su-do-ku puzzle was given which amounted to 10 points and a hidden word which has to be found using the clues amounted to 15 points. Many toiled a lot in the jackpot round but it proved too difficult for many of them who attempted it.

Mind Turner


Conclusion

Mind Turner completed its 2nd edition under CSA 2010 banner successfully. We’ve seen an excellent start of events in this academic year encouraged by huge attendance and we look forward for more events of this kind in future. So here is to a wonderful upcoming Mind Turner 3.0 🙂

 

TURING TALKS III

Filed under: Events — csa2010 @ 6:52 am
Tags: , , , ,

6th of September, Sunday: The 3rd session of Turing Talks went underway, the topic being “Puzzles & Brainteasers”. It was conducted by Mayank Mohta, a 4th yearite and ex-Google Campus Ambassador. It was arranged in room no. 5106, LTC by CSIS.

The talks were basically held with the simple motive of showing puzzle-enthusiasts the proper way to approach a problem as well as have fun while solving it.

The talks began on a light note by Mr. Mohta or rather Mr. Turing telling everyone to venture into the unknown by taking up challenging problems and experience that “Eureka” moment!

He emphasized that it should not be merely for an interview or for the sake of friends that you solve problems but one must take joy in the amount of brain-teasing a problem makes us undergo.

The session

After that, everyone was subjected to a great variety of puzzles: from the relatively easy ones to the toughest nuts to crack. The subjects of all the puzzles were amusing yet interesting. The bonus attraction being that anyone solving a riddle would get a chocolate!

The hidden motive behind this Turing Talk, as the astute would have deciphered by now, was to encourage people to participate in outside events and bring BITSian populace amongst the most enthusiastic competitors in all technical festivals henceforth. We felt that even if a handful of them get inspired by the idea and let their brain wander we’ve achieved our purpose 😀

Turing Talks I & II

Filed under: Events — csa2010 @ 4:32 am
Tags: , , ,

Computer Science and Information Systems, CSIS, BITS Pilani in association with Department of CCTV, BITS Pilani conducted two consecutive lectures on learning the software ‘FLASH’ on 22nd and 23rd August, at Lecture Theatre Complex, LTC, 5102.

With a turnout of 150 students in the first lecture and 80 in the second it showed that there were many people who would attend our lecture series. The audience was a mix of students from multiple disciplines including 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th yearites. The audience were informed that they will be required to bring their laptops in order to follow the lecture.

Those who could not bring the laptops were either adjusted in other groups or provided one. Also, those who could not bring installed versions of FLASH CS3 in their laptops were given pen-drives to do so.

I

After the initial adjustment, Mr. Satish of CCTV started the Turing Talks by starting from the very basics:

  • creating shapes and filling colour in them,
  • using the time frame and
  • creating key frames

Then he wonderfully explained shape tweens and motion tweens. The talk ended with the display of some fascinating interactive web pages/websites designed by the CCTV dept.

II 

On the next day, i.e. Sunday, he resumed the talks with a short recapitulation of the previous day’s lecture. Then he shifted gears to topics of greater complexity like the animations of a ball following a trajectory and masking a photograph.

All in all the talks were informative, interesting and got everyone to start appreciating the uses of FLASH. Many of the first yearites whom we interacted with after the lectures told us that they have understood the basics well. They were also curious about the next set of lectures and showed eagerness in learning more and more. 

@Turing
Not everyone can be Mr. Turing 🙂
Not all topics to be covered in lecture series are core compsci but there is a lot to learn in these basics as well.

Turing Talks

Filed under: Events — csa2010 @ 4:26 am
Tags: , ,

What is a lecture series without a name? Most of the Association members were truly inspired from the  Ted Talks and wanted to conduct lectures which facilitate great learning. 

We came up with the name of Turing talks. The person taking the lecture shall be called Mr. Turing for the day.  

 

In the further posts we will be taking you through the Turing Talks 1-5.

October 6, 2009

Hello World!

Filed under: History — csa2010 @ 7:04 pm
Tags: , ,

A familiar title to start with? Well, being the Computer Science Association, we feel nothing would suit us better than “Hello World!” as our first step in the blogging world. Now that we are here, its better to get a few things clear. 

What we are not going to blog about: 

  • Articles already existing on the web. We use Google Reader to share those. 
  • Coolest of links and latest of news from the tech savvy world. Our Twitter updates tell you as much. 
  • Constant updates that tell you when our next event is or which room number it shall be conducted in. We use the public Google Group for that. 

What we are going to blog about:

  • Our  newsletters which give you a BYTE of knowledge every fortnight.  
  • The history and reasons behind each event we conduct. Just a mention of the rules. This will be of course followed by a synopsis of that event. 
  • The ‘CSA’ perspective on the things that keep happening around us and get us interested. We share our opinions, our thoughts. 

A special attraction:

Apart from the three broad headlines we have mentioned, we will also be having contributions from various sources in terms of innovative project ideas. We, at the association, plan to nurture such ideas and take them to completion. Further, these projects would be displayed at APOGEE, the ISO 9001:2008 international annual technical festival of BITS Pilani, Pilani campus. This year’s APOGEE will be its 28th edition, one of the oldest and biggest technical festivals in India. 

Each blog decides to aim at a particular auidence: we are looking to target the average Computer Science enthusiast. Your feedback will perhaps be the most important thing for us, since no blog can run without its targetted audience showing some enthusiastic response. Rest assured, we will have a lot of fun in the days ahead.