Monday, 31 October 2011

7 billionth baby and others...

It was an usual day yesterday, with the television channels screaming about a baby born in UP claiming to be the seven billionth baby in the world. While the TV channels are perfecting the art of hyping up inconsequential events, my mind was pondering over whether this is an event worth celebrating.

Seriously, this is Yeddyurappa celebrating to the 1first millionth prisoner in Parappana Agrahara. Everybody else is happy, except him of course.

This brings to my memory a few other inconsequential events people were celebrating.
Youngest one to have a Facebook account ....
Youngest to have a PAN card:
A few years ago, the government streamlined the issuing of PAN cards, which resulted in people getting PAN cards. There was a claim of a three year old baby having a PAN card.

Seriously, dont people have any other work to do. If you have had a baby, better spend the time with the baby. And, if you have got somebody else to do the errands, the record is not yours.

And now, to to the trillion dollar question.
As I lookup, it was in 1999 that we welcomed the 6 billionth person in the world. In 12 years, we have managed to raise the population by a whole billion. How are we going feed, house and clothe all these people.

The long-term solution is to invest in the contraceptive business. I can see the production of contraceptive double, treble and quadruple in the next few years.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Is the parliament or the government forced to act under duress?

There has been a lot of criticism about #AnnaHazare trying to change the course of the Government or the Parliament entering into his 12th day of fast. The Parliament is going to debate this point in about an hour.
I thought I will record my view here.

If Anna starts his fast on the 16th of August, the fast will enter its 12th day on the 27th August. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that. A 3rd standard student can also answer that question.

The question is, what has the Government or the Parliament or the political parties, both the ruling and opposition parties done. Have they done enough groundwork.

It was a long-known fact that Sri #AnnaHazare was going to start a fast and an agitation on the August 16th. He was going to bring out a problem, a larger concern shared by a large majority in this country.

What did the Government do?
First, they tried to tarnish his image. And, then his team, and his supporters. They also tried to question the source of funds.
They even went to the extent of bringing in a conspiracy theory involving the United States of America.
They tried to arrest him on the first day to derail the movement.

#RajdeepSardesai: You were asking this question to Aruna Roy this morning.
You also run an organization, a news channel. How much do you plan for daily broadcasts? Oh, If this first story, doesn't work, let us take this second story, and even if that doesn't work, let us go with this backup option.

How much has3 this Government run by this eminent leaders planned? Did they plan for their option #1, option #2 and option #3 and so on. Are these leaders bankrupt of thought? And imagine these people are running a country, not a small company. God save India!

It took 11 days for the Hon'ble Prime Minister to come out and say, "Yes, Annaji, you have made a point! We have recorded your point.". After 11 days. Who the hell cares. After 11 days, the action is long overdue.

Let me tell you what is lacking here:
It is not sufficient to just solve the today's crisis. Corruption has been plaguing this country for decades. It took 40 years in this inefficient parliamentary system to bring the Lokpal bill, and we are still debating about it.

And still when, AnnaHazare asks for resolution on three sticking points, the thoughtfully bankrupt leaders interpret is as a Parliamentary resolution. Go to the common man, and ask him what a resolution means.
They bring on a resolution, and say there is no vote.

It requires a whole-hearted initiative from the Government, from the Parliament to act on corruption. Not Lokpal. I repeat. Corruption, not Lokpal.

Otherwise, we'll do an eyewash debate today, and three months later, there will be another movement, another fast. And India will rise again!
Above the political parties, Above this government, Above the parliament!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Free Wifi at Canadian airports

At the moment, I am waiting for my connection at the Calgary airport.
While I am waiting, I a connected to the free Wifi network in the airport, and checking my email, facebook updates, and blogging.

This is in stark contrast to the condition in Heathrow airport, where I had to run pillar-to-post, to find out how to pay for the Wifi access. And in the end, gave up because my credit card wasn't accepted.

First of all do you need free wifi?
Not everyone travels around often. And for the limited usage, no one will spend a bomb. And for those frequent travellers, there is always wifi available in the business lounges.

The airlines and the airport collect money from you, and I am sure, a small port goes to the airport. After having let you into the airport, it is alright to give you wifi access.

The only thing to be worried about is security, and there are quite a few ways to cover that. I have used my facebook account to authenticate my credentials in the airport, and it has worked well.And with cameras all around, tracking down somebody who is abusing the network should not be an issue at all.

With free wifi, I have been able to keep in touch while I travel.


Monday, 23 May 2011

Qik: Instant Video Sharing

I was trying to find a webcam replacement for use with skype or google video chat. The reason being: Ananya was turning crankier, having not seen me for the last couple of days. Of course, she'll get through it, but a video chat would have been of some help.
My computer doesn't have a webcam, and I forgot to bring my webcam. Dont want to buy one only for the sake of next two weeks, or next two days (incase I am able to borrow one from office tomorrow).

I had two cameras, my Nikon s8000, and the in-built on the Spice Android handset. Technically speaking, you should be able to feed the camera on to the computer, but how to get it to skype or another app.

After searching for a while, gave up the option of feeding the content directly from the camera. Another alternative I came across is Qik: Qik allows you to record video from any camera, and share it with others in a matter of minutes.

Signed up on their website, installed the app on the phone, and recorded it through the phone camera, and voila, it worked first time. 

I could see my video recording on my site live, and also as a recording. The whole process took less than five minutes. Great job, Qik team.

For now, Ananya will watch the live cam feed or the recordings.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Pier39 Restaurant Review

We happened to visit this restaurant in Jayanagar/JP Nagar on the Ring Road for lunch. It is part of the SFO hotel.

For those who have experienced TexMex food firsthand in the US in either one of the family-run Mexican restaurants or the larger chains like Chilis, or OnTheBorder, please set your expectations right. The Mexican food you get in Bangalore doesn't get anywhere closer to what get in the SouthWest in US.

Food: We ordered Chicken Fajitas (yes, the evergreen ones), a Fish Cake for the main course, and, another Tortilla soup. The soup came with a couple of deeply fried oil-dripping tortillas, that brought me down to earth. The soup otherwise was good. Let us simply say, I didn't have any expectations.

The Fajitas were served hot in a sizzler. The chicken could have been more tender, but otherwise no complaints. It was served neatly in a platter with re-fried beans, salsa and sour cream. For some reason, rice was served along with the fajitas on the sizzler. The whole dish was excellent and would get a 4.5 out of 5 on my toned down expectations. Half a point for missing guacamole.

Chandrika had fish cake, which was grilled seer fish. To say the least, seer fish never disappoints your expectations. Fish cake was also served with all the other accompaniments.

Drinks: Though they had a good selection of cocktails and liquor, neither of us were  ready to take alcohol. Having to drive back, mattered the most.

Ambience: They had a setup to reflect some underground station, much like the Pier39, with soft rock playing in the background. On a busier day, it would imagine the setup will rock. Hardly that would matter for us, who prefer the family run restaurants over the well-decorated chains.

Service was timely and courteous. The staff were very friendly. And remember the give you cloth napkins and keep up that expectations.

Moolah: A dinner for two would set you back by a cool 1000 buck. Addin another 500 bucks, if you want to have round of your favourite liquor. (Though, the menu card doesn't say so, all the charges add up to a hefty 14% VAT).

And the verdict: If your tastebuds are craving for Mexican food, this place is definitely worth a visit.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Still searching for a mobile phone ...

The comparision of the current mobile phone scenario with the PC scenario of the Late 90s and early 2000s has another dimension to it.

Remember those days, when assembling a computer worked out to be more cheaper than buying one off-the-shelf. This is true to most places, and truer to the developing countries (like India).
The premium being charged was hefty for the branded PCs, and the difference in performance was very minimal.

Due to the integration challenges, assembling of the same kind is no longer possible, but you have another way.

In the current mobile phone market, there are two types of players:
those who build their handset: the likes of Samsung, Nokia, SE, Apple, Blackberry, htc etc.
and then,
those who just put their nametag on it: the likes of  Dell, Acer, most Network Operators, and of course, the smaller players, like Maxx, MicroMax, Videocon, Spice, Karbonn, etc in India.

The first group obviously have a better brand name, and command better pricing power. 
In the second group, those who have a better brand, also do, unlike unrecognized brands.

Let us call the first group as Tier-1 player and rest as Tier-2 players (dark horses).

The lower end of the segment is pretty much commoditized. I wouldn't talk much about that.
Now, let us take a look at the capabilities. What does one expect from a smartphone nowadays:
Processing power: ARM is the preferred choice. So, its just a numbers game on the MHz. If you get a GPU alongside, that adds up to the MHz.
Real Estate: Of course, screen size is a factor. The bigger the screen better. As we speak, the really high-end hand sets are touching 512x800 (SE Experia Arc: 480x854, Lower end: 240x320).
Camera Size: Mobile cameras, because of their form factor, can never compete head-to-head with a stand-alone digital camera. Yes, not even the lower end point-and-shoot cameras. Most of the pictures are used for blogging and sharing. Looking at the real applications, Mpix is never a concern.

There are several other features, that add weightage. Most of them have either become standard, or offer very little differentiation.
  • Capacitative Touchscreens are On, and Resistives are on their way out
  • Network Capability: 3G handsets  are quite standard. However, in India, network capability lags the handsets quite a bit. 
  • Features that have become very standard include GPS, WLAN, Bluetooth, Music Players etc.
Coming back to the pricing power, it works other way for the customers. The dark horses offer an extremely good value-for-money proposition to the consumers.

To compare what is available in the market as of today,
- 1 or 1.2 GHz CPU (maybe a Dual core) + GPU
- 5MP camera or a specialized 8MP camera
- 200 to 500 Kpixel screens

- 500-800 MHz CPU with/without GPU
- 2-5 MP camera
- 100-200 Kpixel screen

In the mid-end segment, there are several handsets from the Tier-1 players. However, there are also a lot of dark horses from the Tier-II players. 

To name a few models, a good model from the likes of  Micromax/Videocon/Spice can give the Tier-1 players a good run for their money. 
Micromax A10 or aSpice Mi310 will beat the Tier-1 phones hands down. Both in terms of performance and price. I am talking about the likes of  LG Optimus one, HTC Wildfire, Dell XCD35 or a lower end Samsung Galaxy (I dont really know how many phones Samsung has under this name. Gosh, they should have atleast half-a-dozen only on this segment)

Imagine two people walking into a store and one buys a higher-priced Dell and other buys an unnamed handset with the same features and performance. It is most likely, that they both come from the same assembly line, and only the name plate differs.

In the high-end segment, obviously, the Tier-2 players are behind the leaders. But the game is about to change. I would say that they are about 3 to 6 months behind the market leaders, or may be more.

Like how it happened in the PC industry, the game is about to change. In about a year's time frame, the CPU horse power isn't going to be a differentiator in the performance. The difference between the mid-end and high-end segments will slowly fade down. 

Are  you willing to bet on the dark horses? I have decided to bet on one.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The prolific eater

We have an oleander (Telugu: Ganneru, Tamil: Arali/sometimes Kasturi) plant in our backyard. The oleander plant has very thick leaves, which I would assume would take more than a few weeks to rot and disintegrate, ie, recycle.

Every year during spring time, we have an unusual problem. We have to watch over the plant carefully every two days. Or otherwise, it would be completely flattened by these larvae, even if you dont pay attention for a few days. I have the task of relocating the larvae to other weeds in the vicinity.

What's intriguing is that, just one of these larvae is capable of taking down a small branch in a day.

Are garbage recyclers paying attention:
We  generate so much vegetable waste, and it takes a lot of effort to recycle the waste. Besides, anything being recycled (rotting) generates methane, which is a green house gas.

And these insects flatten so much, without creating much fuss.

For this year, I have decided to leave these alone. The prospect of a beautiful butterfly flying around is good enough!