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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Documentary - The Lost Temples Of India

Thanks to Varnam and LazyGeek, Got to see this wonderful documenatary about some of greatest temples of India, mainly the Tanjore temple,Temples of Hampi, Sri Rangam and the temples of Khajuraho. "The Lost Temples Of India" will take you back in time and try to reason out as to, how they bulit these really amazing, complex temples? How they managed, what now looks like a logistic nightmare involved in building these temples? Also the documentary puts forward a intresting viewpoint as to why most of foreign travellers when they come to India ignore the south Indian temples.

Good one, though its a bit long. Watch it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

When hell descends to earth..

I am sure all of us remember the Endosulfane controversy few years back. Today one of my colleague sent this link. Its a malayalam documentary on the mayhem pesticides have created in Kasargod district, Kerala.

I happen to see this, first thing in the morning, as soon as I stepped in to my it sent shivers down my spine. I would not wish such a life even for my worst enemy.

Watch this documentary of real, innocent people who are damned and are living a cursed life.

(Video from Sarany)

I wonder what is the state of affairs in this town now? I really hope the government/NGO's has pictched in to help alleviate some pain and agony of these people.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Farecast - Good example for Datamining

Last month I along with friends went to Tirumala. As part of the travel plan I took the responsibility to book tickets for the trip. A dolt which I am of first grade, I blindly went to the nearest travel agent and booked the tickets. I paid 800 bucks per person. So when we boarded the bus and were having a casual chat with "neighbours", we were in for a big shock, we had paid at least 150 to 200 bucks more per person. Congratulations. Ok guys now a interesting question;

Q) How to draw cartoon of Prashant?

yeah, I was the bakra. But that gave way to a interesting thought. Is there a way to find the cheapest priced ticket on any given day? Soon we were on the bus, had fun and completely forgot about that idea. But it kindled back to life today when I read about Farecast. They have found a data mining solution to the exact problem I had faced.

Farecast helps you decide if you should buy air ticket now or wait for some more time, so that you get the best deal. They have patented a Data mining algorithm which mines data of close to 50 billion price observations and fits in a predictive model. This model is then used to give suggestions to end used whether they have to buy the ticket or not. The user interface is very intuitive and easy to use. The indicators that hits the user to buy or not to buy the ticket are easy to recognise.

This is really cool stuff. This is perhaps the best example of data mining I have ever come across, probably because after the Tirumala trip I can relate myself with it .

You can know more as to how it works from this page. Also the founder of this start up, Oren Etzioni, formerly Creator of MetaCrawler(I think) has co-authored a white paper of sort called "To Buy or Not to Buy : Mining Airfare Data to minimize Ticket Purchase Price". Really cool stuff. You can get hold of it here. If you want to know more about the startup, you can find it here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Philanthropy: fun to say, cool to do

three people all set to change the world

Apart from the ballot box, philanthropy presents the one opportunity the individual has to express his meaningful choice over the direction in which our society will progress.

- George G. Kirstein

Warren Buffett, the investment wizard, made his choice clear when he committed 85% of his staggering $44 Billion(value as of today) personal fortune towards philanthropy. A major pie of it will go to Bill and Melinda's Gate's foundation and rest will be distributed to other philanthropy foundations.

In a world where greed and avarice has become the cornerstone of social structure, here we have a person who simply signed a cheque with nine digit figure towards philanthropy and he does not regret it. That's seriously laudable.

Philanthropy as it is defined is being involved with basic innovations that transform society, not simply maintaining the status quo or filling basic social needs that were formerly the province of the public sector. Now who better can bring about this "basic innovation" other than Bill Gates, the software czar, who at the helm of affairs at Microsoft revolutionized computer industry. He has also decided to "hang up his boots" from his day today activities at Microsoft and get in to philanthropy full time. It can't get any better. So

Bill's brain + Melinda’s compassion + Buffett's Dollars = Work that will put the best of governments to shame.

Terrific team and enough resources in hand, I am sure Gates foundation will redefine "social responsibility"

You can catch up with news of Buffett's record breaking, single largest monitory donation in the history here and here. Also catch up with a interview with the wizard himself here. Also with pride can say that we are not far away when it comes to philanthropy, this beautiful post speaks of how Tata's are redefining "Corporate social responsibility".

Philanthropy, fun to say, cool to do. So go ahead and do your bit in making this beautiful planet a better place for all.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Winter Corp Survey - Oracle rules in VLDB space

Got this from one of my friend...its relatively old, but quite interesting. Winter Crop through "Winter Crop Top ten program" studies and identifies world's largest operating databases. They have compiled the results for year 2005 in this document. Based on the finding for the year 2005 they haves released this white paper.

Some key highlights from the white paper;

1) The largest DW implementation on SQL Server is 5 times smaller when compared to one implemented on Oracle database.

2) The famous open source database MySQL does not figure in any of the categories, So does PostgreSQL, MaxDB or Ingres

3) DW have breached the 100TB mark.

4) Internet companies Yahoo and Amazon consistently figure in top 5 in almost all categories like database size, data volumes, Rows handled etc.

5) The average size of a DW is expected to increase tremendously in year 2007-08 with close to 12TB in 2005 to around 50TB in 2008. Also the average SQL queries per hour that will be fired against the database is set to leap from average 0.75 million queries per hour to more than 1.5 million queries per hour.

6) oracle has its database for almost all the popular enterprise OS.

Couple of things, I felt were a bit odd when it comes to this survey..
1) Its all Oracle
2) No trace of MySQL..

Second one is really surprising. Friendster and other companies have successfully implemented terabyte databases using MySQL and still it does not figure in the list, wonder why.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lunch at Golconda Chimney

This week my manager was in Bangalore and to celebrate this occasion(yeah..we hardly get to see him in person and when we do get lucky, like we did this week, we celebrate) we had been to this restaurant called Golconda Chimney for our team lunch and though I would share my two cents about the restaurant.

Name - Golconda Chimney

Address - 42/2 Airport Road, Whitefield, Bangalore East

Telephone # 91-80-28475532 / 6532

Offering - Multi-cuisine(North Indian, Chinese, Hydrabadi)

Rating :

Food -

We started by sipping mock tails...lots of choice is available when it comes to mock tails..We ordered Pina-colada(yep the one with out Rum :) ) and I went with a fruit punch. They served it pretty fast and in a neat "Hurricane glass". I had better Fruit punch in other places, but this was not bad, it had some punch in it.

As we sipped through our mocktails, starters arrived. We had ordered Veg platters. It was not very good and it also lacked variety in types of items served. Along with starters few guys ordered Veg Coriander soup. Again wasn't very good.

The main course was the normal North Indian dishes. It included Dal, couple of Paneer dishes, Roti's and Paratas. Rice item was Zeera rice. Again the taste was decent and nothing great.

Few guys had non-veg and got to know from them that the food was not all that great.

All-in-all an average experience when it come to food.

Ambiance -

Ambiance is decent. You have lot of open space and could be a problem if planning to have your dinner here. There is abundance of fresh air especially if you are sitting in the first floor, which made lunch more enjoyable. They have a decent garden with aesthetically manicured grass and plants. The furniture inside the restaurant is disappointing. Chairs look pretty old and are not very comfortable to sit. Music was mostly Hindi film songs and it was not very audible if you are having your lunch on the first floor.

Cost -

Golconda Chimney does not burn into your wallet. The cost is quite resonable. Our gang of 16 eating veg and non-veg costed us around 5K.

Customer Service -

Service was good and was very fast, though they some times tend to mix up the orders.

Concluding note -

Decent restaurant,but don't expect too much out of it. If you work in and around Outer ring road, you really don't have much choice either.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Flickr to open API's

Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Flickr said
Re API keys for direct competitors: this is something that we've never had any set policy on and this thread has sparked a lot of internal debate on the team: some people felt that it was unreasonable, some people felt like it didn't matter since Flickr should win on the basis of being the best thing out there.

I actually had a change of heart and was convinced by Eric's position that we definitely should approve requests from direct competitors as long as they do the same. That means (a) that they need to have a full and complete API and (b) be willing to give us access.

The reasoning here is partly just that "fair's fair' and more subtly, like a GPL license, it enforces user freedom down the chain. I think we'll take this approach (still discussing it internally).
How is that for fairplay.... It simply shows how confident Stewart is about Flickr and he is not alone :) .....Flickr rocks.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Dilbert collaborates using Cisco MeetingPlace

Cisco has always believed that the network is much more that a cluster of computers talking to each other through tangled mess of cables, for it, it serves as a platform for life's experience...In this regard..recently they pulled a great PR stunt. Get Scott Adams of Dilbert fame to endorse this awesome "rich-media conferencing" solution from Cisco called Cisco MeetingPlace.

Say if you are able to seamlessly integrate voice, video and web conference capabilities using your existing IP network infrastructure then what you get is Cisco MeetingPlace. It will make remote meetings as natural and effective as a face-to-face meeting thus giving tremendous boost in terms of productivity gains and lowering cost.MeetingPlace is not a new product. It has been in Cisco's IP communication system portfolio for quite some time now.

So in this latest initiative called "Corner Cafe: Dilbert Comes to Your Desktop", approximately 90 Cisco customers and partners brainstorm with Scott Adams and watch as he developed their ideas and instant feedback into a Dilbert cartoon strip. You can watch the video of this happening here. Cool stuff right!

Monday, June 12, 2006


I am a great sucker for adventure and action movies. Be it Frodo & Sam approaching Mount Doom to destroy the ring in Lord of the Ring or Luke taking Jedi training from none other than Yoda in The Empire Strikes or Neo's war against the virtual world in the Matrix or Arnold going berserk with his gun in Terminator.. The thought of guns firing, bombs exploding, planes crashing and ships sinking, have always excited me. man...the Adrenalin rush they bring in woooow ...

So when I heard that in "Poseidon", a ship sinks in the cold north Atlantic water and that too in first ten Min's of the movie..I how cool is that..I got to watch this movie. So I did watch the movie last Saturday and the ship did sink in the first ten Min's and so did the movie. What followed was something so "Titanic" (read it as really boring). One loser bunch stays back in so called airlock chamber, which later cracks and all drown and the other bunch of people climb up , few die on the way and the restZZZZzzzzzzzzz. The End.
You really don't see the emotions, you don't see that "shock" on the face when they see a wave hundred of meters high or the "horror" when they see dead bodies floating around. They walk around like they are in a mela and yeah they do seem to get some superhuman strength to do some extremely-difficult-for-common-man feats, when they are completely under water. I wonder how? Isn't North Atlantic water suppose to be really cold?

Anyway, all is not get to see some really good special effects, that's really cool and its typical Hollywood..but had the special effects been supported by some "substance", the movie would have done really well.

So go watch it once, if you haven't. And yes, Don't forget a jumbo pack of popcorn and a big bottle of soft drink, else you will not know what to do in between :)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Finds from a future archeological dig :)

Found this really amusing...Thanks to Gaurav Saxena who sent this one by mail.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Apple shuts down office in India

I was reading this article in ET, which talked about the chickening-out act of Apple from India. Now why IBM and most other IT majors were able to see software talent at lot cheaper cost in India and not Apple is something worth finding out....But what I see in Apple's case is a new trend that's starting to catchup in India..Fire employees at will.

According to TOI, these were some of the statements from employees who were sacked;

On May 15, Apple officials addressed us and were highly appreciative of the workforce and the task it would execute in India. I wonder why they never said anything even then
- Employee who was sacked from Apple's software division in India.

It started off with building dreams. We were not given any warning. They just told us the operations would now head back to the US
- Employee who was sacked from Apple's software division in India.

"I wonder why they never said anything even then"
"They just told us the operations would now head back to the US"

hmm..I said to myself,this never used to happen in India, this is not USA! So are the golden days when you can retire in a job with out worrying about being fired coming to an end? Are the days when even if the company had to fire people(when its not performace related) they used to give them some time or even help then get a new job, over? Is Apple's case premonition for trend that we will be seen, lot more often? my opinion, the answer is YES, the golden days when the only thing you had to worry about was getting into the company, if not over are seeing the dusk. But does that justify what Apple did? Ask me and I would say no. I am not buying into there argument of engineers here being "pricey". That's probably the most ridiculous argument. Is Apple management so short-sighted that they entered a market with out analysing the cost it would incur to hire people to run the unit or was the estimation so bad that the cost overshot the projected values by such an extent in just two months of operations that they had fire everyone and shut down the unit? Their logic really does not make sense to me..

Layoffs are bad, both for the company morale and its image, especially if its not ingrained in its policy framework. I agree that Apple has set foot at the wrong time when the software market in India is at its peak and acquiring a full time, good engineer at this point can burn deep in the wallet(its height of foolishness), but I will be surprised if Apple did not realise that before it set up its office, If Apple was not sure if revenue stream generated from its India operation could sustain these should have probably gone for other models like partnership instead of hiring full time employees or else HR could have done lot of things better, they could have signed a "differential labor contract" with employees, where its made clear to the employee that there is risk of layoff in case there revenues don't pickup or they could have gone for no layoff policy with possible pay cut if things don't improve. So by making layoff part of the company culture they could have made things lot less painful. Its not reported that Apple did any of these. That's really sad.

anyway many of the 30 sacked employees have joined there former employers, that's good, hopefully rest of them should do as good, MARKET IS HOT :)