Wednesday, June 30, 2004

TIGER .....

Apple CEO steve jobs showed a preview of the new release of the mac OS named "TIGER" a couple of days ... the video and audio conferencing apps as well as the spotlight file searching engine seemed quite cool .... check out the video of his presentation. Tiger certainly seems to have a head start over Microsoft's LONGHORN which only comes out in 2006.

yet, the prices continue to remain too steep for the average consumer to take his minds off the lower price PC, and spend a lot (i mean a lot) more on a macintosh.

proCricket ....

the new americanized version of the game is set to launch on jul 2, taking advantage of the long weekend here in the states. here is a link to their official press release. what surprises me is the fact that the ICC is actually disowning the league. i think the new rules should be quite exciting, and certainly worth a try. basically, it essentially is removing the middle 25-30 overs of a one-day innings and leaving only the start and end fireworks. but unlike in baseball, where there is truly a competition between pitcher and batter (since batter gets three strikes, but has to run every time he hits the ball) - cricket is just too much batting firepower. ofcourse, its entertaining, but not enough competition between bat and ball. its only competition between batting of one team and the other. even those are not on the field at the same time.

also, in my opinion, cricket is one sport which certainly has lagged behind the times, and is still stuck in some time warp half a century ago. it is the only team sport that comes to mind that does not allow a substitution. yeah, they allow a substitution of fielders - but a fielder cannot score. i truly think its about time the ICC wakes up and allows sbstitutions in the team during the game. a proposed idea is the twelve man team with the best 11 taking the field (something like baseball). i think it would certainly benefit teams like india, who are always one bowler short ....

but one area where cricket seems to be ahead of most sports is the use of technology - cricket has allowed the use of cameras for making decisions a lot more than most sports. even the "spotshot" that ESPN uses in tennis matches (only the viewers on TV see it - it is not used in making decisions on court) has been adapted from the hawkeye technology that first started with cricket. football (american football) is notorious for bad decisions, and only the NFL allows tv replays. MLB should certainly start using cameras to determine outs at bases. esp. in today's sports where so much is at stake, there is certainly nothing wrong in making sure the decsion is right, esp when the technology is available.

and going back to the original topic, i certainly dont see proCricket hurting the sport - if at all, it might infuse some fresh and new ideas and hence better entertainment into the sport .....

Friday, June 25, 2004

new messenger on the block ....

i just upgraded to the latest version of yahoo messenger a couple of days - and it just rocks! its almost a combination of the best aspects of msn messenger and the old yahoo messenger and then some more ... all packaged with a snazzy cool looking interface. i particularly liked the "yahoo launch"capability, as well as the ability to directly invite users to yahoo games.

one of the coolest features is the "audibles " - check it out for yourself ... the only thing that seems to be missing is access to yahoo travel. a certain someone i know who works for travelocity was particularly peeved at this, since yahoo has a tie-up with TVLY. what pissed him off even more is that the msn messenger has a travel buttion that opens on to the expedia website :) - not that it matters to me particularly.

my tvly pal also pointed out to me how high school kids in india probably chat with each other over the internet and use these very same yahoo messenger with all its audibles and all ... almost made me start thinking about my own high school days - getting to see a computer was a cool thing - let alone knowing anything about the internet, chatting, etc. its been barely a decade since i got out of high school ... but a high school teenager's life seems to have changed dramatically since ... they probably turn in their homeworks by email!! or call up their friends over the internet ....

on a totally different note, Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 opens all over the US, but unfortunately, no theatre in my town is screening it :( - so its either wait for the DVD to come out, or go to some nearby city and watch it there!

while on movies, spiderman 2 opens next weekend - and in india, marvel comics has come up with their own indian version: peter parker of queens is replaced by pavitr prabhakar of mumbai, fighting rakshasa, the desi version of the green goblin !! wonder if there is a mary jane equivalent, hopefully she wont be paaro

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

hotmail is here ... CFD .... kanishka

after yahoo and rediff, hotmail is finally answering the call and will increase quota for free email accounts to 250 MB. it was only a matter of time before that happened. personally, i dont much care about it - but i am quite fascinated about how companies are rushing to counter gmail's 1GB to make sure that they do not lose subscribers over it. the email war certainly has benefited consumers. but hopefully, all the corporate forces do not unite and suddenly all decide to stop free email access - and make it a paid service only. it probably wont happen but its fun to come up with doomsday and conspiracy theory scenarios :)

on a totally different note, yahoo and hotmail are having their own way of retaliating to gmail - by blocking (or filtering as SPAM) invites and emails sent from gmail accounts. there are other reports too. apparently, its not just gmail but also with orkut invites. but it all sounds a little preposterous to me. yahoo certainly did not do this a few weeks ago, when i got a gmail invite - it was not filtered as spam. but hey, who cares anymore ... there is enough web-based storage right now to dump all the binaries in the world. it might almost be worth it to use it as a permanent (read ... till it becomes a paid service) backup drive .....

on a totally different note, the summer solstice (the longest day) came and went ... the sunrise here was at 5.34 am and sunset at 8.03pm. atanu's discussions at deeshaa continue to get more interesting .....

first post related to transport phenomena on this blog ... sauber is investing more money into a CFD dedicated supercomputer. FLUENT is providing the software.

Its 19 years to the day that Air India Flight 182 (Kanishka) was blown up over the Atlantic Ocean killing all 329 passengers on board.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

population control - the debate at Deeshaa

I have been visiting Atanu Dey's Deeshaa blog over the last couple of days trying to follow his idea discussed in the The Market for Reproductive Rights article . It certainly has stirred up a hornet's nest on the site, with a lot of folks putting forth arguments against it. Atanu has responded by putting forth a challenge - that he will convince the reader by force of his arguments, the validity of his arguments. I am not going to take up that challenge, but I hope someone does, and I certainly intend to keep a close eye on how it progresses.

In the meantime, I have been trying to explore more of the ideas about India's development that Atanu puts forth at Deeshaa. This one certainly caught my fancy - especially the part about the relative roles of agriculture, manufacturing and services in a developing economy like India, versus those in a developed economy like the United States. The example certainly seems believable - but how does such a transformation occur? To be precise, how can such a transformation be brought about in India?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

100 Greatest artists ....

Was just watching "100 greatest artists of hard rock" on VH1 in the evening today. It was a cool show ... the top 40 or so was an awesome list - listened to a lot of these bands in college back home in India - had almost forgotten about some of them ... it was cool remembering the songs, the artists, and a lot of college memories associated with those songs.

Most of the bands were what would be considered as "classic rock" lots of acts that survived through the 70s and the 80s ... ofcourse I dont necessarily agree with VH1's rankings, but that's fine. here are some notable mentions:

96. Meatloaf (urghhh!)

90. Rainbow (ex-Deep Purple Richie Blackmore's band) - my favorite is "Temple of the King"

85. Whitesnake (another ex-Deep Purple guy David Coverdale) - always brings back "Fool for your loving" to mind ..

76. Bon Jovi (76 is too far down for these guys)

71. Lynrd Skynrd - Sweet Home Alabama

67. The Rolling Stones - couldn't care less, never liked them much

61. Jethro Tull - ROCKS!

HEAVY HEAVY METAL 50s : Anthrax, Slayer, Pantera, ...

32. The Doors - another perennial favorite

28. Rush

The best of British heavy metal: Iron Maiden (24), Judas Priest (23) and Deep Purple (22) - these guys were awesome

21. Pearl Jam

18. Ozzy Osbourne (thanks to Sujit for introducing me to the Ozzman!)

15. PINK FLOYD - these guys would be somewhere close to #1 in my rankings.

13. Queen: another top 10 pick for me

9. GNR

6. Nirvana

5. Metallica

4. AC/DC - never really fancied them much

3. Jimi Hendrix

2. Black Sabbath

1. Led Zeppelin - top 10 in my books, but certainly not #1. A couple of months ago, I happened to hear "Stairway to heaven" played by a brass band - no vocals - only trombones, tuba, trumpet, saxophone and the flute - an amazing rendition by the Rocket City Brass Band.

As I look through my favorites list, almost all the acts are 70s and 80s classics .... what to do ... i am like this only!

after gmail and yahoo, its rediff ....

wow ... the competition in the email services market is really hotting up, with rediff following yahoo mail's 100MB upgrades by providing 1GB of quota, not to mention 10MB allowable per email, permitting larger attachments.

when the gmail announcement came out, everyone thought it was the best April Fool's joke - now the consumers are glad it was not ... and now the whole ploy about google trying to be exclusive about giving out email accounts by invite only might prove to be too arrogant. there are plenty of providers now for those who need larger email quotas, and you probably dont even have to migrate to a new email system :) ...

there are sites like Why GMail is so creepy - yet for the most part, users didnt care a damn about google building a database of keywords and using them to put out text based ads. all they cared about was a decent login name and more importantly 1GB of space to dump their emails. google never had any problem attracting users, infact people were clamoring for accounts, and invites. but i think google will lose the advantage, they had the upper hand in the market by being the first one to give this humongous storage - people agreed to all the "draconian" rules, but now even after nearly 3 months, google has not opened up. yahoo and now rediff have caught up, and now there is no longer an attraction to have a gmail account. i think this might be a perfect example of a wasted head start. we can only wait and watch.

as an aside, hotmail seems to be losing out - it has been conspicuously quiet so far. yet, im sure it wont be long though, before hotmail steps up and joins the race too ...

the best part about all this is that its absolutely free for the consumer - dont have to shell out a dime......

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

competition really does benefit all ....

i had mentioned in an earlier post about how the introduction of Gmail by Google with 1GB of quota had thrown the email services market into a frenzy. yahoo was also planning to introduce extra quota upto 100 MB. i logged in today to find my email quota at yahoo increased to 100MB - instead of showing "you are using 60% of your 6MB quota", it is now showing "you are using 3% of your 100MB quota" - yippeyahooo ..... !!!!

also, the T1 line for access to the internet from work was busted today ... so the whole day was spent without internet access ... made me realize how much the internet has become a part of life ... 10 whole hours without checking email or accessing the web - that too while being in front of the computer all the while was just a little too overwhelming!

Monday, June 14, 2004


Here is a picture of David Beckham with Zinedine Zidane after England lost yesterday to France - Beckham has his wife Victoria's name tattooed on his forearm in devanagari!!! there is stuff written under that tattoo as well - but its too small to read in the picture ..... I wonder Beckham can actually read what's written !

Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad

more than 10 years ago, Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad produced a series of superb videos to promote national integration. These included the "Spread the light of freedom" featuring most well known sports personalities up to that point (these included the famous ones - cricketers like Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Srikanth, Chandra, Venkat, Prasanna; athletes like Milkha Singh and PT Usha, tennis stars like Nirupama Mankad, hockey players (if i remember right it was Merwyn Fernandes), absolute unknowns such as basketball player Abbas Montasir (that is what i have heard - he is the tall bearded guy, looks like Prof. Katre from Agrawal Classes in Mumbai - without the glasses) and other folks i cannot recall. It was a very big hit - and was produced by some of the top advertising minds in the country (Suresh Malik, who was then Creative Head of Ogilvy and Mather).
Following this was the "mile sur mera tumhaara, to sur bane hamaara" - trying to emphasize national integration - this time featuring not just sports stars but accomplished personalities from all walks of life - film stars (amitabh, mithun, jitendra, waheeda rehman, sharmila tagore, shabana azmi, hema malini, tanuja etc.), tv stars - the entire cast of "tamas", singers bhimsen joshi, dr. balamuralikrishnan, lata mangeshkar; sports - narendra hirwani, venkatraghavan, prakash padukone, arun lal; moviemakers mrunal sen and others, artist mario miranda, the list goes on and on ... and also the common man from various parts of the country ..... i recently learnt (thanks to jayadeep) about a cool video produced by a few grad students at MIT using the same theme and music - its available on the web at their website. there is a large version (~60mb) and a small version (~10 mb). i thought it was a pretty cool concept - and a pretty good effort for an amateur production. the ending is also cool with the robotic arm and the indian flag.
and then ofcourse there was the "des raag" feature, based on the "des" raag in hindustani classical music and featuring prominent musicians (vocalists, and instrumentalists) from hindustani and carnatic styles of music as well as dancers from all major traditional indian dance forms. it was a nearly 14 minute feature, but a thoroughly enjoyable one - money well spent by the government IMO.

after that the lok seva sanchar parishad almost fell by the wayside - we never saw any more of such masterpieces from it (i have been away from india for a few years now, would love to know if there have been any more). an article in the hindu talks about its importance from the point of view of social advertising. i'd think it would be cool to revisit the "spread the light of freedom" feature with todya's newer superstars - tendulkar, dravid, leander paes, gopi chand, dhanraj pillay, anju george, vishwanathan anand etc. not only would it be another opportunity for meaningful social advertising, it would give stars who are not day to day public figures a chance at real nationwide exposure. i dont even know wat our olympic heroes look like (ofcourse we would have loved to see them carry the olympic torch instead of film stars, but that is a totally different story). also, today's entertainers are a totally new lot, im sure they would love to participate in such an endeavor ... and i as a member of the public look forward to newer versions of the lok seva sanchar parishad classics ... heck i would be glad just to see the older ones :)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

the Reliance juggernaut - how far?

discussion following last week's documentary by thomas friedman on outsourcing to india brought out the point that there has to be a need for innovation in the IT industry in order to not remain "cyber-coolies" (sad as it may be, this term seems to be gaining acceptance more and more). that way, the industry will be able to survive even when the outsourcing bubble finally bursts for India and the west moves to cheaper markets. i am not at all advocating that Indian companies should not exploit the present need for outsourcing, but i am also suggesting that while the dollars roll in on service contracts, there has to be a sustained effort to try and build a platform for the days when this stream will run out of water.

a similar thought started after reading the NYT article on the Reliance Group - A Giant So Big It's a Proxy for India's Economy. the statistics are staggering - the Reliance juggernaut has been moving on at full steam quarter after quarter - beating expectations again and again and again - even in the face of a worldwide recession. exports have gone up - and today, the Reliance group is bigger than the entire indian outsourcing industry. they have diversified tremendously - starting with selling cloth - to making it (Vimal) - to making raw material (PTA) - to making ingredients (p-xylene) and - now refining - and finally culminating in oil exploration. the reliance oil find in the krishna-godavari basin was the world's largest of 2002. all this vertical backward integration has been accomplished by licensing the best technology available - and beating the competition purely by sheer production volume and obliterating competition. but again, there has not been an effort by the company to invest in R&D or technology development or innovation towards better products. critics (including myself) have kept thinking that some day this will catch up with them - but that does not seem to be anywhere in sight. the fact that reliance is politically probably the most well connected company in india provides help in that regard as well. the same tactic has continued over in the telecom sector where reliance got in tried and tested CDMA technology from qualcomm and beat the GSM players by some shrewd politcal manipulations.

so the point comes up - is there really a need for them to innovate? they are content that some company (UOP/Qualcomm/Motorola etc.) is taking care of business as far as investing money into R&D and developing technology - Reliance comes in with a tremendous amount of capital (thanks to investors who know the proven track record - and are not hesitant to invest in the reliance group ventures) and licenses that technology (normally while it is sizzling hot off the presses and before anyone else in the indian or even the world, [e.g. technology for the jamnagar refinery was licensed from UOP ahead of anyone else in the world] has seen it) and beats everyone in the market by sheer numbers. perhaps thats the way to do business - why waste time, money and resources on innovation and research - money can buy them love ... and a lot more money for their investors :)

Monday, June 07, 2004

Venus Transit

A historic transit of the planet Venus takes places in between the earth and the moon. Check the website for details.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Historic Days ....

today marks the anniversary of several landmark events - for both india and whole world. the state of the world (and india) as we know it today would have been quite different, if those events had turned out differently, or had not happened at all. needless to say, it was a day accompanied by massive loss of life ... and let us pause for a minute to remember those who laid down their lives to protect freedom (sounds a little cliched, doesn't it - but true nevertheless).

Operation Overlord (Battle of Normandy): June 6, 1944
This was the invasion of western Europe by the Allies to liberate it from Nazi occupation. It involved an amphibious assault - to date, it is still the largest amphibious assault in history today, involving nearly three million troops. Several Academy award winning movies have superbly captured the drama and gory detail of the Normandy invasion - The Longest Day (1962) with a superstar cast that included Richard Burton, John Wayne, Sean Connery and Henry Fonda among others; and Saving Private Ryan (1998) by Steven Spielberg - starring Tom Hanks. The intense starting sequence in Saving Private Ryan was a reminder of the horror and loss of life that occured in that battle. Other dramatizations include Spielberg and Hank's miniseries Band of Brothers

However, the success of the D-Day invasion can be attributed partly to the successful deception campaign - a massive operation called Operation Fortitude - dedicated to making the Germans believe that the invasion would take place at Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. Intelligence, they say, is key to winning wars (Iraq, anyone?), and WWII was the ultimate success story for the Allies as far as the espionage war goes. The successful turning of the German intelligence operation in England was key to this - always reminds me of Alistair MacLean's Where Eagles Dare, later made into a movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. The success of the Allies was a tailor-made topic for countless other novels and Hollywood movies. We can only wonder (or dread) what would have come to pass if the invasion had failed.

The next major anniversary - very significant for the Indian context was Operation Bluestar: June 6, 1984
Rediff has been carrying a major special to mark the 20th anniversary of the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Indian Army to flush out hundreds of heavily armed terrorists who had taken refuge there - an event that has forever influenced the main protagonists in the situation: Major General Kuldip Singh Brar, who commanded the operation lives in ultra-high security in Mumbai - even after retirement, facing the threat of assasination; the then PM Indira Gandhi - who was assasinated on Oct 31, 1984 and the entire Sikh community who was outraged by the action, and the victim of anti-Sikh riots that ensued in Delhi following the Gandhi assasination. A lot has been said and written about the Bluestar - books, internet articles, websites, but IMO, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that action was needed - whose fault was it that the situation got to the level it did is a whole different issue, but given that it did - there seemed to be almost no choice that the terrorists needed to be disarmed. Whether Operation Bluestar was the way to go, i do not quite know, and will probably never be able to know. But again, thankfully, terrorism in Punjab is a thing of the past - and Punjab is still a part of India - the granary of India. A tribute to all the security personnel - army, cops, paramilitary who died for us to see this day - and spare a prayer for all the civilians who lost their lives in the crossfire.

On a totally different note - congratulations to Prashant and Rupali, who are probably married by now in Mumbai. Your wedding anniversary certainly has a lot of historical company ....

Friday, June 04, 2004

Outsourcing Documentary - Review

Thomas Friedman certainly lived upto his reputation as an excellent reporter. IMO, the documentary gave an excellent perspective on what the scene is like at all levels of the outsourcing industry - from call centers to the real programmers. and an important aspect he touched upon was that of the majority of the population not being touched by the boom at all ... they touched topics like accent neutralization for call centers (this concept was too cool ... now i know how those telemarketers from india can speak like an american so well), training, easy money, changing lifestyles, paradigm shifts in ideals etc. etc. i wonder if the call center examples are representative of the rest of the 20 year old urban pool ...

the documentary featured interviews with Azim Premji (WIT) and Nandan Nilekani(INFY). Premji's "Globalization is a two way street " quote hit the nail on the head I think - but i also think that India will also get to hear more of the same from the west when they decide that its cheaper to move the IT boom somewhere else where it is even cheaper. Although it doesnt seem to be any time soon. there was another term friedman used - "glocalization" - whereby the companies use local markets to sustain the economic boom locally. an example given was of the animation services company jadoo - in addition to generating cartoons and animations for US based client, they are also using local artists (trained to be software animators) to create animated features like "krishna" for the local (indian) market. but companies likejadoo are few and far between. during a discussion at work today, the issue came up - are indian software companies the "IT coolies for multinational corporations" - is that what the indian software industry is reducing to? i have always had this question - do companies like INFY/WIT/SIFY etc. have a "product" of their own? competiting in the global market is possible if there is a distinct edge over the competition. right now, the edge seems to be purely because of cost - it is a matter of time, before this edge erodes. but while there is an edge, are companies taking steps to have another compettitve edge - viz., that of innovation - having better "products" inthe market - instead of becoming backoffice providers to microsoft or ibm, become another microsoft themselves. then another issue comes to mind - the chinese (or koreans) were not content with being backoffice cheap labor providers - they wanted to become big, and they did - they are now perceived as a "threat" to the US economy. but the indian companies seem "content" taking a backseat role in the global economy. again, i am not a software engineer, nor have i observed the indian software industry from close quarters. perhaps, i am misinterpreting the attitude of indian companies. but i still think that come the point when the indian companies cannot offer the cushion of "cheap" labor, because someone else is cheaper ... at that time, it will be indian companies who have invented their strategy through innovation who will survive the run on the software services industry. this is very similar to the indian pharma industry. the indian patent act of 1970 gave them a cushion/protection from international competition for about 30 years, but once it was amended 2-3 years ago to bring indian patent laws in accordance with the WTO rules, the companies who had the innovativeness (ranbaxy, reddy labs, etc.) who will be able to withstand competition from the mercks, pfizers, bayers, and novartises of the world.

coming back to the documentary: personally, for me, this was the first "visual picture" of the outsourcing boom. i suppose the outsourcing phenomenon is certainly very huge in bangalore as compared to pune and almost non-existent (relatively speaking) in mumbai. there are about 300,000 people working in call centers in india, but i do not know a single person myself who has ever worked in a call center. so it was all a new thing for me.

Friedman did bring out the fact (although not so explicitly stated) that "India Shining" is certainly not what the BJP wanted the junta to believe ... and i suppose they got bitten in return by the same junta ...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Documentary on Outsourcing

A documentary on outsourcing from columnist Thomas Friedman(three time Pullitzer winner). Check it out if you have the time.

The Other Side of Outsourcing

A documentary with Thomas L. Friedman about the outsourcing of jobs to India. The program premieres Thursday, June 3, at 10 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel.

(The program is rebroadcast on Friday, June 4, at 1 a.m. ET on the Discovery Channel and on Monday, June 7, at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery Times Channel.)

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

spellings ...

i was reading a post last night on prashant's blog on spelling mistakes - got me thinking about an old article i had read several years ago about simplifying the english language by making it fonetically more relevant. thanks to google, i was able to track it down on the internet. the article puts forth a few "simple" rules:

if i deside to implement al ce rules (ai am alredy strugling to do so, alreadi mising several), cen as ce aucor seis, cer wud b kaos in ce klasrum. ai eim going to tri cis riting lik cis for sum tim. let mi se hou long ai kan kuntinu doing cis. it has alreadi taken me about ten minits to get cis part riten out. and i cink i am going to giv up.

but cis meihem in ce klasrum wud sertunli be kaotic and hilarious. cank god we do not tri to mak lif seimpler. i wud huwever sertainly lik to konsider ce removal of ce the leter "c" from ce alfabet in order to mak mor moni availabl to impruving ce lot of ce komon man in our kuntri. mi apologis for not bing abl to do adequat justis to ce topik.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

CNN .... and other anniversary coincidences

visited atlanta for the n'th time this past weekend on the holiday ... but visited the CNN center for the first time ... cool place, with a small guided tour of studio and production. incidentally, today happens to be the anniversary of the launch of the CNN channel in 1980 by Ted Turner.

also, a host of other coincidences with anniversaries:

while watching TV yesterday, surfing through channels, and listening to music over the weekend, here were some of the highlights:

1. watching the french open highlights from the past week - defending champ Justine Henin-Hardenne (born this day in 1982) lost ...
2. Alanis Morisette's Ironic was playing on the radio ... she turns 30 today ...
3. One of my all time favorite movies The Shawshank Redemption was playing again on some channel ... Morgan Freeman rocks ... he turns 67(!!) today ...

anniversary coincidences galore ....