Prashant's Weblog
Random Brain "Droppings" of yet another software engineer

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Duke Nukem - Third person shooter that rocks

Yesterday after office, I happen to "dust" my comp's Hard had been long time and close to 100GB of "dust" had accumulated..while doing so, I found a zipped folder and the name was "Duke Nukem". Holy crap! I had full version of "Duke" installable and I never knew about it.

I have played quite few games(its reduced drastically since a year or year and a half), Max Payne, Half Life, Colin McRalley, NFS, Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein etc which are technically more advanced and have better graphics, but still "Duke' doesn't fail to enchant me. Be the gravel tone of Duke when he says "I hate pigs" or the way you go bang bang against the pigs and rescue this sizzling hot digital babe from "Glopp Bombs", the charm of this "third person shooter" still captivates.

So sending a un-maskable interupt to all the jobs I was doing and planning to do, went ahead with installation of this game. Click, click and finish. Game installed successfully. Let the FUN TIME begin..POW, Biff, Bang, Bang, thing is clear..Duke Nukem still ROCKS :)

My best part of the game? I was not able to play much, but from whatever I have played, the best part should be rescuing this hot babe ;) ..

so here we go...

After the first successful rescue MORE "NUKES"!! :) ..

"I love you Prashant Duke, You are my hero"(Shucks! reel life :( . When will this happen in real life)

woooo...BABY, thats some pose

All in all, a great third person shooter... go for it..It may not scale up to the level of Half Life's or the Commando's, but it will sure leave you yearning for more.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Reservation for OBC - Cartoons.

When reservation for OBC was announced, It faced stiff opposition from people. Emotions ran high, people protested vehemently against it. While the medicos and engineers took to the streets to protest, there was another kind of propaganda happening against the reservation and it was in the form of electronic mail. So here are few of cartoons and pictures that were widely leave a comment if you have seen more.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

McDonald's ad

Just opened, near Kimaya Kothrud.I'm lovin' it.

Credits: Leo Burnett, New Delhi; Copywriter: Rondeep Gogoi, Art: Sumonto Ghosh, Illustrator: Sumonto Ghosh

This is a real gross one ...I am not sure what they were trying to portray, but it sucks big time. I really don't get the such a gross "paintwork" on such a sweet little child to sell their clown!!, instead they could have published the photo of the art director who came up with this idea, I am sure he/she will make a better and natural clown. If the art director thinks he/she is the reincarnation of David Ogilvy, and whatever he/she has done is epitome of artistic creativity, I would say, sorry buddy, this is one little creepy,sad and sick thing you have done.

(Source of the pic Adsoftheworld)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

SQL Developer - Six features which I think are really cool

For a backend database developer, the GUI tool used for database development makes the difference if development experience is good or frustrating.

I have been using Toad, PL/SQL developer for some time now. So when Oracle released production version of SQL Developer, I thought let me dirty my hands with it. Even though I haven’t explored the whole gamut of options that it provides, here are the few things that I felt are good in the tool;

1) Its Free.
One thing I dread professionally and pray it never happens is, the organization I work for, decides to stop using Toad. After working on it for couple of year now, I have become so much dependent on GUI that if I was asked to write a create table query in SQL* Plus, I take shelter of Google to lookup for syntax. So Oracle's declaration that this tool will be available free of cost is a welcome statement.

2) Reporting infrastructure
SQL developer has pre-built reports, close to 70 of them, which can report on various important event/statistics of database objects.

3) Snippets, Reports and Right click context menus which can be fully customized.
Its not uncommon for database developers to have their own repository (excel, Word) of snippet collection for a quick reference when memory lapse occurs. Now not only SQL Developer has integrated this "snippet concept" in to the tool, but also has given the user the ability to add his own snippets to the list by writing few lines of XML code.
Same with the reports, you can extend the existing reports or go ahead and create, save and share your own reports. Also contents of right click context menu can be customized depending on what you want to see. Cool right!

4) Extension and plug-in.
I believe this is the best part of the whole tool. Why? Look at Firefox, one of the biggest reason why IE was not able to beat it browser market was because Firefox was always one step ahead of IE, thanks to plug-ins.
So SQL Developer can archive same success because you can write extensions and plug-ins to extend the functionality of the tool as per your requirement. Awesome.
Already two of the plug-ins are under development and you can check them out here and here.

5) Drag the object into the SQL worksheet and it will write the select statement.
As a developer, the query which is written most often is the "Select" statement on a table or a view or a materialized view. Now SQL developer anoints that grief by providing a feature where in if you drag and drop a object into the work sheet, the tool will write the select statement by itself.

6) Multiple platform support.
One problem I always faced was, I had to switch to SQL* plus when working on UNIX. Now SQL Developer is supported on various platforms, so even when you are on Linux, UNIX or Mac, SQL developer works for you.

Software piracy decreases. Is it good news?

Economic Times has this article on the recent figures of Software piracy in India and elsewhere. Figures look very encouraging indeed. Software piracy rate stands at 72% in India, a drop in 2% over the previous year though the monetary losses due to piracy stand at $566 m, higher than what seen in the previous year.

So less of piracy implies more of software jobs, more taxes and good economic growth, I guess Software industry is all set to uncork and pop open the champagne as the piracy rates show south bound trend.

But isn’t this just one side of the argument...I would ask;
1) Would India be a software powerhouse as it is today, if piracy had been curtailed to half the level it is today?
2) Would it not affect the economy of the country adversely, if piracy in general is reduced to zero?

High piracy rates in India have done one have given every budding software engineer access to rich development tools at a very early stage, probably when they are studying or early part of there career. One reason for flourishing software industry in India is the availability of people with good software engineering foundation. Will it not be a fair argument to say that piracy has aided in laying this foundation.
Saying goes as "there are more pirated Windows OS on desktops than genuine free Linux". Now availability of a pirated Windows OS at dirt cheap price has made it that much more easier for people to connect to different people, exchange ideas, explore/learn/master new technologies and best practices, which in a way has contributed to the software industry to flourish.

Saying about China goes as "If we can make it Chinese can fake it". Piracy in China is known to be at legendary proportions (when compared to India). Piracy here is not restricted to software or music cd's, DVD’s etc. but it extends to products as well....Now what has this done to has made cheap goods available to local population, as its pirated, the cost of goods are less and thus have kept the inflation of the country low, which in turn has helped the economy. It has helped generate employment for local population. Going by unofficial figures, 1/3rd of Chinese GDP is driven by these counterfeit products.

So does that imply, we need to support piracy? Well no, rampant piracy is also a bad idea. Research says;
- the more the piracy the more crippling effect it has on your local software industry.
- The more the piracy, the greater will be the loss to the exchequer in terms of tax revenue loss.
- The more the piracy, it makes genuine software that much more costly and thus this extra burden percolates to other areas which use these software thus making the end products that much more costly.
- For every 10% increase in average worldwide piracy rate, close to 1 million jobs could be lost and it could cost close to $400 billion.

So piracy is kind of necessary evil. Too much of it, you sink and too less of it also will hurt.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The flying circus of Physics

Jearl Walker

Year: 1977(First Edition)

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Rating :

If you think Physics in not fun, you will reconsider that statement after reading this book. Once in a while you fumble upon a book which you instantly grab your attention. I had a similar experience with this book.

In the book, Jearl Walker enunciates a day-to-day situation and then at the end of it will tease you with a brillant question and then will challange you to explain the physics behind it.

Here are a few good one from the book....

say you are writing on a black board with a piece of chalk and then suddenly you hear a sqealing sound. Now what produces that sound and does it matter how you hold the chalk?

Does the timining of adding sugar or milk or cream effect the time tea takes to cooldown and what is the effect of adding a plastic or steel sppon to it?

and the best according to me....

If all Chinese(soon Indians will also qualify for this elite club) were to jump simutaneously from a height of 6ft, it can send shock waves strong enough to destroy part of USA by causing earthquakes. So if China has to develop this "geopolitical" wepon, what should be the frequency of the jump and does is matter if all the Chinese have to have stiff knees while jumping?

So if you are even wee bit intrested in Physics, then this book is a must read. I would say buy it, its worth it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Monday morning blues on Dalal street

kisi ka chutta, kisi ki daulat,
kisi ka sari zindagi ki kamayi
yahaan pe zindagi ki har khushi,
Bonds ya Infy ka share,
hey Sensex down, down......
hey sensex down, down......

with it, Mai be down, down....

Monday, May 22, 2006

Quota quotes

Yesterday I happen to see "Devil's advocate" on CNN-IBN, where Karan Thapar grilled HRD minister Arjun Singh. If you have missed the program, you can catch up with the text format of the interview here and video here.

As the interview progressed it was clear that the honorable minister is one person who has absolutely no clue what so ever as to what he is doing. Our minister does not know;

1) How reservation would help OBC's gain greater access to higher education.
2) What percentage of the population (i.e. percentage of OBC in overall population) would benefit from the reservation?
3) If reservation do happen, our minister is yet to "pick up a chit" to decide the figure for the percentage of reservation.
4) What would be the method to compensate Non-OBC candidates?

Now check this out.. honorable minister says;

-The case for reservation will be decided by the parliament.
-The percentage of the reservation to be given to OBC will be decided by the parliament.
-How to compensate non-obc, non-sc/st casts for the loss of seats due to reservation will be decided by the parliament.
-Also the solutions to address the issues that come as sequel of extending the reservations to OBC's will be decided by the parliament.
-Now if there is consensus on increasing the seats, then whether the increase will happen in one shot or it will happen over time will be decided by the parliament.
-If increasing of seats does not come through then the other methods of compensation will also be decided by the parliament.

I ask, if every aspect of this burning issue is decided by the Parliament, what will our honorable minister do? Now your guess will be as good as mine.

Update :
Medicos of Ahmedabad medical colleges staged mock operation on Arjun Singh - The idea was to study his brain !!

But they found it missing :)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bangalore University and the "Syndicate" Rekha

Saying goes as "History always repeats". Around 5000-6000 BC, Lakshmana in Mahabharat drew the famous "Lakshman" rekha to ward off any evil from hurting Sita(Read it as to prevent Ravana from "brutally attacking" women(sita)).Today Lakshman has reincarnated as our "Syndicate" and decided to re-draw the same kind of line, though christened diffently, lets call it the "syndicate rekha".

So what prompted this heavyweight decision? Well there was a sad incident of few lumpish, cerebrally-challenged, disgraceful jerks, who decided to show there non-existent virility by attacking few women in English department of Bangalore university. So as a "proactive" measure, our top brains at the syndicate, to prevent further such grievous attacks have made this collective decision of segregating students based on sex.

Now though I don't support the decision, what I won't do in this post is bawl about it, you will find umpteen number of blog that are better than me in doing it. When I read about this decision couple of days back..I could see the stage of clear helplessness the University is in. On one hand it is fighting a loosing battle to rectify its battered image and on other hand its plagued with problems like dwindling number of students, corruption and to add to the woes, now this this decision comes as a desperate measure to save already battered image of the university from taking further beating.

I am not sure, how segregating the students based on sex in the class room really be a panacea for the issue. I would be eager to hear the justification from the syndicate. I believe the root of the problem is that there is no proper "working" redressal system at the university for ladies, at least I did not hear of one when I was studying. It’s hard to believe that few thugs attacked women all of sudden, there must have been earlier incidents of incitation, probably like whistling or slight. Had the redressal system been good the issues would have been "nipped at the bud" and thus preventing it to reach this stage. Also I guess our primary and secondary education system should try a bit harder to instill in men, values like respect towards women :)… that would solve most of the issues.

Also for heaven sake, I wish top brass of the Bangalore university stops calling it self "Syndicate" the word brings back memories of Sicilian Mafia and Marlon Brando(what a actor!!) as Don Vito Corleone(what a role!!). As a parting imponderable...any idea why don’t they call themselves as "Association" or "consortium" or heck any thing other than "Syndicate"?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Imponderables: The Solution to the Mysteries of Everyday Life

Book Review* - Imponderables: The Solution to the Mysteries of Everyday Life

Author: David Feldman

Year: 2004

Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating :

This was pending for long time and the mohurat to read this came today because I did not get tickets to any good movie in PVR and parents refused to go out anywhere. So stranded at home, I randomly picked this book from the huge backlog of to-be-read books.

now how many time have you passed by doors that have the sign "ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED", but have you any time pondered if there exists a "NON-MAJOR" or "MINOR" credit card? Personally I had never done it. But David Feldman has done exactly that in this book, ask some really common questions plagueing us in our daily lives and he does not stop there, he goes further and finds not-so-common answers to these, so called, little mystries of modern life.

The book tries to answer some very intresting questions like Why is the right-hand side of a book always odd-numbered? or Why do people look up when thinking? or Why is film measured in millimeters rather than inches? or Why is the NBA shot clock 24 seconds? and some real good ones like Why do Corn Flakes and Sugar Frosted Flakes have the same number of calories per serving? or Why don’t we ever see baby pigeons? or Why do women open their mouths when applying mascara?

Though you will not be satisfied by the answers to all of the imponderables, but will be a good read over a weekend when you lazing at home and have nothing to do.

*All opinions about the book are mine

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cisco rendezvous with Dilbert

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Code madness

I happen to flip through couple of papers online while I was in office and what do I see, I see Da Vinci Code everywhere. I see it here, here, here, here and here. Damn what’s wrong with us..

Hindu's are angry with screening of Water, Fire. Hindu community is agitated over the fact that, in the Movie Fire, characters in lesbian relationship have the names Sita and Radha. Muslim community is not happy with a Muslim girl marrying a Hindu boy in Bombay. The din that was created on filming of Hey Ram and now Christian community is gung ho on banning the Da Vinci Code because it portrays Magdalene as wife of Jesus....

Common guys, what in the world is wrong with us. Can't some amount of fiction sink down our throat? Now I am seriously wondering is the Movie medium so effective that all communities are ready to do anything to stop something that does not comply to there belief, being shown in the movie? I am really curious to know. I am curious to know, are our beliefs so weak that if something contrasting is shown or told to us, we all will simply agree to it and start following it, if not, why all this madness?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Blog Design change..

I guess the trek seem to have more side effects than I had expected. After I came back on Sunday night, I am not sure why but I suddenly had this urge to change the design/look and feel of my blog. CRAZY. yeah..I guess after long treks its common for neural imbalance to set in. The idea was to achieve the following;

1) To remove the "about the blog" section from the side bar
2) To add word of the day and thought of the day somewhere in the blog.

and the confessions could not have been far

1) I have NEVER EVER done any serious HTML programming before in my life.
2) My expertise in HTML does not go beyond the fact that I know HTML is an acronym for "Hyper Text Markup Language".

So with out thinking about the consequences, me like a brainless twat went ahead and changed the template code. Not that it turned out be a disaster, actually the blog looks more pleasant than I had expected it will turn out to be. So far so good.

Removing the "about the blog" section was quite easy, just flush couple of lines from the template code and its done.
Now the I was not sure how to go about adding word of the day and thought of the day. The first question was where to place these? My side bar has too many things already, so adding these to the side bar would make things worse...I had to scroll for eons to get to my word of the day, not a good experience. So the only place probably it would be good enough would be below the blog title. So went ahead added code to create a table of two columns below the blog title, added the java scripts to create the column content. Changed the border and background colours, so that its camouflaged, changed the font size and hit the preview button....voila...we had the word and though below the blog title. On my mozilla things looked great...

But when I tried it in IE 6.0 things were not quite the same..

I am not sure why this is happening. Considering my expertise in HTML, I guess it will take time for me to figure it out. I may not have achieved what I set out for, but this has kindled couple of questions in me..

1) What is the general process that web application developers follow so that they make there site compatible with myriad number of browsers available.
2) Is it common that 2 different browsers interpret the same code in two different ways? If so arent there any standards for browsers?

Any HTML aces who know the answers?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Weekend adventure - Trek to Brahmagiri

I am off to Brahmagiri for a trek, over the weekend, so will not be blogging for the next two days.

Brahmagiri -
1607 m, approx. 270 kms from Bangalore, located in south Kodagu. There is a sacred spot called Irupu the start point to the Brahmagiri range of hills. River Lakshmana-tirtha flows nearby. Legend says that Rama and Lakshmana, warrior Gods, passed this way while searching for Rama's concert, Sita. Rama asked Lakshmana to fetch some drinking water for him. Lakshmana shot an arrow into the Brahmagiri hills and brought into being river Lakshmanatirtha, the sanctuary shares with Wynad wildlife sanctuary on its south and Nagarhole national park on its west. This sanctuary is famous for tigers, elephants and India gaur.

Plan is to hike to the Brahmagiri peak and then go to Irupu falls and be in Bangalore either on Sunday or monday. This sounds to be great fun. Will post details once I am back. So all you guys have a scintillating and a crazy week end.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gmail - How good is the spam filter?

I have been using my Gmail account for close to 2 years now and for the first time today, I happen to have a "false positive" in my Gmail account. A legitimate mail from my trekking acquaintance was tagged as "Spam" and shoved into "Spam" folder.

I am quite impressed by Google's spam filter tool. For more than 700 days I have been using Gmail, it has done its job to perfection of filtering mails which contain profound How-to guides to expand or shrink size of private parts of body, highly educative information like how to get cheap credit or how to get software without paying for it, day today general knowledge oriented info like the latest price of Viagra, Valium, Cialis etc. man it sounds as though life would seriously be dull without these.

now this incident triggered a thought as to how other spam filters perform as against Gmail. Luckily Danny Sullivan of Daggle has done all the hard work and have compared the spam fighting capability of 3 spam filter services Yahoo, Gmail and Spamcop and compiled this report.

The report looks interesting..Yahoo with 5% false match percentage..hmm..thats not very good when compared to Google's impressive 0% and spamcop's 0.2%. Also the number of spam messages caught by Gmail and spamcop is lot more than that of Yahoo. Probably one metric that I believe would be nice to have in the report would be "number of mails which were spam but were not tagged as spam by the spam filter". Can we get that metric from the data given? I guess no. If someone can..I admit now itself, I am bad when it comes to logic and math :)

As a parting thought, if I write, say Viagra - $10 in Mspaint and save it as image and then add this image to body of the mail, is the spam filter technologically advanced enough to read the image and tag it as spam? Something similar to what Riya does with photos. Probably will try when I will have lots of time to kill.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Google - where does it want to go tomorrow?

chaosrules, in his blog, speaks of the new ketchup cooked up by Google, Sketch up, which happens to be a new 3D modeling tool acquired from @Last Software. Following the link to tool, my first reaction was, you must be kidding. Google and another mainstream desktop software

So my immediate question was...what in the world has a 3D modeling tool got anything to do with Google and why the heck did it buy it...I did not see the connection until I read this..

Google SketchUp (free) is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling program that enables you to explore the world in 3D. With just a few simple tools, you can create 3D models of houses, sheds, decks, home additions, woodworking projects - even space ships. And once you've built your models, you can place them in Google Earth, post them to the 3D Warehouse, or print hard copies.

Now things made sense..lot of sense..think of it..if each user made model of his street or block and puts it on Google Earth, what a resource it would turn out to be for Google and this for just the investment on the tool. I say its a smart move.

Sketch up is the latest toy which Google has bought. On Digg, one user had the following to say..

At this rate they’ll be buying McDonalds next year

This broadly sums up the acquisition overdrive we are currently seeing at Google. Add to this recent rumours of Google WiFi service, Google "Dark-Fiber" network based broad band service, Google OS based on Ubuntu, Google office (Writely + openoffice), Google GDrive and now a free 3D tool! I am not sure what to make out of all this.This one really got me into thinking, what exactly is Google's strategy and where exactly is Google headed?

one explanation could be, Google strategy is three-fold. One aimed towards browser side of market, second the Desktop side and the third aimed at mobile devices. Google, I guess,has plans(or already developed) to develop tools for all 3 sides of the market and then slowly provide a seamless integration between Web,desktop and Mobile tools.

For example take text documents...Google has recently announced partnership with Sun to "promote and enhance", If you read between lines, It clearly says, don't be surprised if you see Google releasing desktop side office tools to create/edit/share text docs similar to MS Office suite. Also Google recently acquired Writely, which, shall we say coincidentally happens to be a web service to create/edit/share text documents including MS Word documents.
So aren't we seeing the wall between the desktop and web browser being breached? I guess this trend will not be restricted to just text documents, but will be spread to all types of files you create, be it music, images etc..
So the bigger picture will be something similar to this, Google will provide Desktop tools to create/edit files and then you can edit these on the web with another set of tools and then place them in a universally shared drive to be accessed from anywhere under the sun.
The next stage of progression would be to develop tools for your mobile devices, which will give us the ability to access the files (present either on the web, your PC or on the universally shared disk drive), share these files, edit these files and save them back, all this done on your mobile device. With Google's acquisition of Reqwireless, Inc, Zipdash, Dodgeball and Android, it wont be long before these mobile tools will start to pop up.

So I think creating synergy between desktop, web and mobile tools will be mantra for Google going forward, probably build "Google Live" on lines of Microsoft Live, probably at a grander scale. what do you say?

I missed out on Google Health in the "recent rumours" paragraph :)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pakistan - An albatross around India's neck?

Fund for peace has announced the Failed States Index (FSI) for the year 2006.

Based on "tens of thousands of articles" from different sources gathered over several months and reviewed by experts, every nation for which data is available, is scored on following 12 criteria

* I 1 - Mounting Demographic Pressures
* I 2 - Massive Movement of Refugees and IDPs
* I 3 - Legacy of Vengeance - Seeking Group Grievance
* I 4 - Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
* I 5 - Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
* I 6 - Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
* I 7 - Criminalization or Delegitimization of the State
* I 8 - Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
* I 9 - Widespread Violation of Human Rights
* I 10 - Security Apparatus as "State within a State"
* I 11 - Rise of Factionalized Elites
* I 12 - Intervention of Other States or External Actors

based on how they fair across the 12 indicators, nations secure a rank and a list of all nations ranked as above is "Failed States Index". Failing to act appropriately to contain/mitigate common political, social or economical issues will show up as high scores against there corresponding indicators, which in turn will push the nation up in the rank list.

A quick glance at the list and we will see that India as a country has done well, catapulting itself from 76th position in 2005 to 93 in 2006. Thanks to the consistent economic reforms which has resulted in economic growth, abated human rights violation, democratic processes etc. So far so good. The only worrisome fact is the performance of our neighbours. All except China fall under "Failed states" category. Even more worrisome is the fact that Pakistan's rank has deteriorated severely, It has moved from being 34 in 2005 to 9 in 2006.

So you ask why do we have to worry for Pakistan performance? Well, Its in our own interest to have a economically and politically stable neighbour. Look what happened when a feud broke between eastern and western regions of Pakistan when Awami League Party was elected in early seventies. Thousands of Pakistani refugees poured into India. This is not a isolated case,Urdu speaking Biharis in Bangladesh during the post-independence time..because of turmoil in the country a feeling of insecurity and discrimination arouse among them because of which close to a lakh of them moved across the International border to seek refuge in various states of India. So indirectly India bleeds when its neighbours strangle themselves.

Also economically weak Pakistan will be a breeding haven for Kashmir separatist groups. It more likely for person who is jobless, living in abysmally poor conditions to pick up arms than a successfully employed youth. So economically strong Pakistan is more likely to lessen the tension across our borders than a weak Pakistan.

Pakistan imports close to $12 billion worth goods and India's contributions is meager few million. So a huge opportunity to pep up the trade is present, which can only be harnessed by India only if we solve issues between us and Pakistan continues to do well economically.

Everyone is aware of Pakistan's precarious role in drug trafficking industry and a economically weak Pakistan will only add fuel to the fire. This could be severely detrimental to India's health in long run.

So though India has a long way to go before it is anyway close to Norway(Rank 146) or Sweden (Rank 145), I guess we need to take inspiration from the good performance we have put up and strive for better. Also surrounded by "failed states" is certainly cause of concern and something we need to keep a tab on.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Thermodynamics and what it teaches us about life

TOI reports that another grad student at the reputed IIT Kanpur has taken his life for not doing well in his courses..

IITK officials say;

the student might have taken the extreme step as he was severely depressed after coming to know that he had failed in two courses advanced thermodynamics and advanced fluid-mechanics

I say what the f**k ...I ask why such a dastardly attitude towards life and take your life, for what! for failing in couple of f**king courses. This makes me feel sick. This evokes more of feel of disgust than pity for him.

I guess we as a society have to take the blame. We have reduced education to a mere process of rote and vomit with a aim to get 100 marks and anything less being intolerable and good enough reason to send you to dungeon. In this process we have squeezed out all the fun out of it, we are merely learning skills to survive, when we actually were suppose to have learnt skills to LIVE.

Our (anti)hero was studying advanced thermodynamics...I seriously don't know what was he taught or what he understood in thermodynamics...look at the basic laws of Thermodynamics, do they just speak about heat,temperature,entropy...I say no, they speak lot more than those abstract concepts..for example

the first law..

The increase in the energy of a closed system is equal to the amount of energy added to the system by heating, minus the amount lost in the form of work done by the system on its surroundings.

does this law just speak of energy and matter, to me it tells says, buddy it never happens that you get something by doing nothing because matter and energy need to be conserved. So if the "results" are not as per your expectation, it only implies the "inputs" lacked the vigour and quality, this is something that can be rectified anytime provided you are alive.

The second law..

The total entropy of any isolated thermodynamic system tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value.

It simply says, given that you are at a energy state and go through a process,then you cannot return to the same energy state, because there is always an increase in disorder or entropy always increases. So when applied it to life it simply says that "failing" is just another "state" in a process and if you take the right inputs after failing and continue in the process there is no way anyone can return to the same state(fail again) again.

Third law...

As a system approaches absolute zero of temperature all processes cease and the entropy of the system approaches a minimum value or zero for the case of a perfect crystalline substance.

In short it says, the disorderliness is impossible to escape as it is possible to so only when you can reach zero temperature and it is impossible to reach absolute zero in finite number of steps. So the way of life is to have highs and lows(disorderliness) and fun is to live through them like all ir-reversible processes and not chicken out.

so for Shailesh Sharma, why did laws of thermodynamics remain mere sen tenses connecting abstract concepts? why did Shailesh Sharma, who was one among the elite cadre of budding engineers, fail to see the bigger picture of life? Who was responsible for tying the bridle with flaps to his head and preventing him from seeing the bigger picture? Was it the education system or was it the grading system or was it us, the society?.....questions galore..I have answers to none...But one thing I would say is what ever he did is one sick thing..

Ipod - New audio navigation

If you think speaking over the phone while you are driving your 4-wheeler or 2-wheeler is good enough recipe for disaster wanting to haven't tried changing a song on your ipod...with one hand on steering wheel, the other on ipod scrolling wheel, one eye on the road and the other on the ipod screen, you believe you are good at doing this balancing act, but not long have rammed into someone.

So to mitigate this to certain extent, Apple has a new patent for a process of voice tagging each song, genre, artist etc on your ipod. So the next time you are hunting for your favorite song while driving, as you scroll through the menus,ipod will announce the options on the menu you are currently on, so that you will always have both the eyes on the road.

Simple and ingenious isn't it?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Google Homepage - New UI standard?

The other day I was listing to podcast of discussion between Tony Conard, Toni Schneider and Mike. Tony Conard is the CEO of Sphere, which a new blog search engine and Toni Schneider is its advisor. Mike was the anchorperson. At one time, the discussion went into the UI design of Sphere homepage and this is what Tony Conard and Toni Schneider had to say;

Tony Conard and Toni Schneider-
early on we had a number and that was 28 and that was the no of words happen to be on Google Homepage(on that day) and our goal was to make sure we are 27 or less(on homepage of Sphere)

if you go to google it is very clear you have to put something in the white box and if you don't put something in the white box that site doesn't do a lot for you and we want to create a environment in which people came and it was very simple wordings indicating to them what it is we need them to do and we need them to put in a word there and then we can help them to find really great stuff along there interest

Mike -
how many words do you have on your home page

Tony Conard and Toni Schneider-
you know I counted the other day I think we are up to 35
hey I have good news..Google was up to 41

Good lord..I am all aware that Google interface is extremely elegant, but was not aware that Google homepage design is elevated to such a cult status that people have started to compare the number of words on there home page to that of Google's to decide if its good enough. Well Andy Rutledge does not seem to share the same enthusiasm about the Google homepage and he for sure has a comment or two to make.

Sphere - New blog search engine

Happen to check out Sphere today. It looks really cool.

"Sphere it!" ...this is really cool.. Also the first thing that stikes is the simplicity of the UI. It is lot less cluttered than the Technorati and Feedster

I can restrict the blogs based on time..

Search results grouped into three categories...I can also see the profile of the blogger appearing in the search results.

Graphical UI for setting up custom date range to filter the search results..

I can order the results by relavency or time.

Search results include rich metadata about the blog including the average number of posts, length of post and average links to the post. These would certaintly help me to make a rough guess if the post is authentic

In "related media" section I get to see other types of media(photos, books, podcasts ad news) matching my search criteria

Start your own wordpress or typepad blog without leaving the search page..

All in all, it looks real neat and the search results come out real quick. One thing that need to be checked is the relevancy of the results as compared to Technorati. Theoretically it is said that Sphere's ranking alogorithm is superior to that of Technorati's as the former uses lot of other factors other than just the number of people linking to the blog, to decide the popularity of the blog and to weed out spam blogs. Also news is that, like Technorati, Sphere also does not crawl and index myspace blogs :( .

So Sphere looks good with lot of new features. Now how much of a competition is it to Technorati is to be seen.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

high oil prices +no USA intervention = IT slowdown

Iranian deputy oil minister Hadi-Mohammad Nejad-Hosseinian recently foreboded that the price for a barrel of oil may hit $100. Now why honourable minister chose Delhi to transfigure himself to become Nostradamus is secondary thing, but the bigger question is, if minister's premonitions were to come true then are we again likely looking down on another round of slowdown in 2007-2008, like the one we have seen in 1990-91?

If we happen to look back in time,we can see three time frames 1973-74, 1979-80 and 1990-91 when the economies of many countries plummeted severely and one thing common during these chunks of time was the sky piercing price of crude oil as we have today, so is the history repeating again and if so whats the impact of it on IT sector in Bangalore?

Well...difficult to say if history will repeat. TOI had a good article on rising oil prices and how USA would make the difference between slowdown and no-slowdown. It said, if USA flexes it muscle power and use its influence to convince the "friendly"(read it as non Iran) OPEC countries to increase there daily quota of oil production things will get better. Also it said, things will be better if USA could quickly make amends to the things it badly screwed up in Iraq and get Oil flowing from Iraq.

Now how will all of this affect IT sector? it does and it does indirectly, the moment your crude increases, the cost of basic materials cement, Iron, Copper etc. shoot up..once they go up, they drag the prices of other commodity along with them, now as a country cannot print more money just like that, the number of commodities that can be bought per rupee decreases, in hi-fi terms we say "Inflation" has set in. So because of Inflation, demand plummets and as demand decreases and raw material prices increases, the inventory with a company increases and operating cost increase, margins and profits take southbound direction. With less cash in hand, companies don't have money to invest in new initiatives like Information Technology, with less investment in IT, less jobs get created and many existing jobs get "pink-slipped". Yeah continuing high crude prices would be like boarding pass for IT sector to time travel back to 2001(though 2001 slowdown was for different reason).

Looks grim right! but I believe chances of this happening are less. Before it gets to this stage, USA would intervene. why you ask? I guess 2 reasons...1) For its own good..US economy is slowing down and the Gov would do every thing to make sure the prevailing oil prices do not become a death noose for them. 2) Elections are nearing(2008) and Republican want themselves to be elected again, so I am sure republicans will leave no stone unturned to make sure that people don't use the high fuel prices as a pretext to vote them out.

what ever...I seriously hope Hadi-Mohammad Nejad-Hosseinian is wrong and he is just trying to scare off US. Hope India continues to grow at 8% (Golly!! 8%) ....ok 7% - 7.5% and all people have good jobs, healthy lifestyle and let peace prevail everywhere. Amen.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

walk-the-thought : Learnings from Interviews I attended

My recent job hunt has culminated with a good offer from a MNC here in Bangalore. I am satisfied with the offer as the nature of the job aligns with the my career plan(yeah I do have one) and provides me a decent package.

Now that things have settled down..I guess it was time to review the way things turned out during the various interviews I happen to attend..This was the exact aim of taking a walk around mini-forest(a huge park near my place) today...contemplate on the the way I faced my interviews and major blunders which I committed. Surprisingly there were lots of here we go with a few key learning I had ..

1) Prepare for the interview, don't assume you know things.

I learnt this in my very first interview. This was with a Indian services company. They were looking for skills in Oracle technologies. I was so over confident about myself that I went without preparation. Results were on expected lines, I was shown the door in probably less than 15 mins and the interview was a total disaster. So the moral is be prepared or be ready to get "I am a dolt" tattooed on your face and become a out-of-the-box, ready to use object-of-fun for the interview panel.

2) No "I am the lord of universe, I know all" attitude

Again learnt this in my first interview, being confident in a interview discussion is one thing, but many times we stretch the meaning of "confident" to a totally new level..

Interviewer - how do you rate your skills in Oracle on scale of 10

Candidate - 11 out of 10

Interviewer - my lord, tell me how do I make a table read only?

Candidate - ah! well! ...I guess don't execute any DMLs

Interviewer - Nice meeting you, Our HR will get back to you.

Set realistic expectation about your skills. Lot of times person sitting opposite is smarter and knows things better than you.

3) Personal Appearance

Personally I have never been rejected because of appearance. I make sure I am in formals when I go for interviews. But I remember a incident which happened when I was taking up a interview with one of the MNC in Bangalore. While we were waiting for our turn, a person walks in, his trousers were so loose that we were afraid it would fall off any moment, he was wearing long over size T shirt and had long hair. Later we got to know that our hippie was aspiring business analyst. The focal for the interview process looked at him and then simply asked him to leave. Things did not even get to the stage, where he was asked for his resume. So personal appearance does matter.

4) Ask questions

I always feel that one of the most crucial part of the interview is when the interviewer asks "do you have any questions for me". Few good, relevant questions at this time will exponentially increase your chances of a positive result. If you are mum at this stage, many a times even though the interview has gone well, you can as well bid farewell to your job. So given a chance ask few good questions regarding your role, growth, opportunities to explore new technologies etc.. it really makes a good impression.

5) Get the reasons for leaving previous organisation right

This is one more crucial thing that can be a difference between making or breaking the interview. NEVER EVER CRITICISE YOUR PREVIOUS EMPLOYER. Period. NEVER EVER QUOTE REMUNERATION TO BE A REASON TO QUIT.Period. Get the reasons right even if you have to make them up.

6) Express yourself clearly

I have experienced this myself. If you can state things in a simple manner you have won half the interview. I happen to give a interview with another Indian product manufacturing company. I was given a simple task to write a procedure to generate Fibonacci sequence and what did I do, I scribbled the right solution all over the work sheet in a haphazard way. So even though the solution was right I was not able to put it a simple systematic manner and hence I did not make it to the next round.

7) Never over emphasis on remuneration package

Even though both tacitly acknowledge that remuneration is one of the main reason, never over emphasise on money, it builds a bad impression.

8) Get the Body Language right

This happened to me when I Was having a interview with a IT firm in Bangalore. During interview I was extremely nervous and was not looking at the interviewer when speaking. I guess he observed me for a min and then asked me to relax and take it easy. So your body language speaks more than what you do through your mouth. While in a interview, sit comfortably, don't cross legs, don't slouch, no leg movements, no leaning on the desk, look at the interviewer when speaking to him, no huge hand movements etc..

9) Don't be late to the interview

Its good idea to be there at the venue at least 10 mins before the scheduled time. In case if you are going to be late, its usually good idea to call up the concern person and inform him the reason and give a estimated time as to when you will be there.