Three Men in a Conference Room

What’s worse than Three Men in a Boat? Three Men in a Conference Room [This could have been made into a MTV quiz question]. Full points for guessing that correct.

However, that’s not quite the best answer. It’s ‘Three Men who claim to do research in Computer Science but having many other varied interests sitting huddled together in a Conference Room when nobody’s watching and working on the giant problem of figuring out what it means to do a single unit of work’. That’s not very succinct. So, let’s just stick with ‘Three Men in a Conference Room’ (which pretty much describes it anyway). So, if you have been using your brains on steroids, you must have already guessed the protagonists of the story. Let’s call them – M, G and K.

When you are discussing extremely esoteric abstruse concepts like what it means do so some work, the conversation can take many turns, meandering around with flippant frequency, confusing everybody involved. Sometimes, verse gets thrown in:

K: So, we have to keep track of everything – the job, the task, the assignment, the activity, the process, the worker, the employer, the system, and (of course) the gig. Check the thesaurus — are their any others that we need to consider?

M: But, you forgot the solution. What are we doing the whole exercise for?

G: (non-chalantly) Job Kar beta, Solution ki chinta mat kar [Do the Job, don't worry about the solution -- an oft (mis)-quoted verse of the Bhagwad Gita]

M: And the activity is the meta-level concept and lives on

G: The tasks keep coming and going for each activity.

K: (Reminiscing) As Tennyson had said: For Jobs may come and Jobs may go, Activities go on forever.

M: (ExasperatedMinutes to write before I sleep, Minutes to go before I sleep

As you can very well imagine, this does not bode very well for human sanity.

The conversation meandered to outsourcing. We are such hypocrites because we teach children to do everything themselves, and when they grow up they are taught words like outsourcing and core-competency (Child: Mommy, hygiene really is not my core-competency. Maybe I can just outsource bathing to you)  – and we concluded with err… (ah, yes!) the conclusion that an extreme form of outsourcing would be when Apple Computer is stripped down to one person — Steve Jobs.

Americans beat Indians at their own game? BW got foot in the mouth!

BusinessWeek carried an article about IBM’s success in India, it’s ramping up of operations in India very quickly to 53,000 employees, and winning big in the IT outsourcing deals in the subcontinent, especially from telecom operators — which is a gratifying read. However, the email from BW in my inbox had a line that completely pissed me off:

IBM once looked like a lumbering giant next to India’s agile tech upstarts. But in scarcely five years, Big Blue has come to dominate the Indian market, with a staff of 53,000 in the country and huge R&D centers in Bangalore and New Delhi. Read this edition of the Asia Insider to learn how the Americans beat the Indians at their own game.

The article never said anything to that effect! My best guess is that some guy in the PR department at BW who was responsible for the uninteresting, mundane and morbidly boring task of sending out spam suddenly suffered from a bout of foot in the mouth.

First of all, I don’t think anybody has beaten anybody in this game of outsourcing. The money has come following the talent, and it’s not just IBM, but Accenture (India’s the second largest Accenture operations), EDS (which acquired Mphasis – here and here) and all other IT biggies are making bit bets on using Indian talent to fight Indian vendors like Infosys, Wipro and TCS who have been snapping at their heels. However, I am not sure if that can be termed a win of Indian talent or of the American business acumen. (Actually, I would not prefer an argument about winning and losing at all — since it is too early to predict anything — the Indian IT vendors who used to be mere outsourcing outfits earlier now want a larger piece of the pie, become consultants, and go after bigger money. For example read this, this, this – I didn’t try to get the best articles in the area, but just some of the recent news).

<!– Digression begins

Another interesting aspect, is the comparison of the Revenues, Profits, Market Capitalization and the Price/Earnings for some of the biggies. [‘b’ indiacates a billion US Dollars and ‘m’ a million US Dollars. Data taken from Google Finance today.]

Company Revenues Profits Market Cap P/E Ratio
Infosys 3.08b 850m 25.8b 27.33
Wipro 3.64b 711m 19.71b 26.67
IBM 91b 9.4b 152.37b 17.19
Accenture 18.22b 973m 30.21b 19.45
EDS 21.26b 470m 11.59b 19.11

It seems obvious that Indian companies are far more profitable than their western counterparts for every penny (or cent perhaps) of revenue that they make — and the markets reward them accordingly. If you look at the MCap column, you would realize why the biggies are unable to try their luck at acquiring some of the larger IT companies in India — because they are bigger than the western counterparts! (IBM of course, has many divisions, and it might be difficult to get data on their software services division). So much for winning and losing.

end digression –>

Until recently, I thought that foot-in-the-mouth was not a very communicable disease and spread only on contact with a creature named George Bush. I have, obviously, been proven wrong. Ronen Sen recently caught it, and now BW! Looks like its spreading faster than I imagined. Is somebody aware of necessary vaccination which I can take?

And we shall overcome…

Lumbini Park, Hyderabad Abhishek was rather happy. His first semester mid-terms just having ended at his engineering college, he and a bunch of friends had taken a long train journey to Hyderabad to enjoy the frills and thrills of a big city. Life in a rustic small town in the state of Maharashtra can get rather dull, without too many sources of entertainment. They all need a getaway. A chance to see traffic, high-rises, to savour pizzas, and to ogle at pretty women sashaying in a mall. Even a ride in an amusement park is a fair deal. And there was a laser show lighting up the sky – what luck!

image At the same time Sheila felt a craving for aloo tikki. It had been such a long time since she crossed the Narmada and made her home in a place where she could not find roadside chat vendors, who would charge a pittance for a mouth watering snack. Having gone to Koti Bazaar to buy some GRE books, she always inevitably landed up at a chat vendor to relive those moments, that taste.

Abhishek and Sheila were both excited, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Hardly did they know that their luck had just run out. Some SOB had made sure that it was the last time they were amusing themselves with such trivialities. Who would tell them that it is safe no longer in India to walk around on an idle weekend.

The two blasts that ripped Hyderabad yesterday terminated Abhishek. Ctrl + Alt + D, as he would have learnt so early in his engineering lessons. And mutilated Sheila – she who had high hopes of studying abroad, of liberating her family. Smashed.

The Times of India writes:

The killing just doesn’t stop. At least 40 people were killed and scores injured in two powerful blasts in Hyderabad, one at an amusement park packed with weekend holidayers and another at a landmark eatery in the heart of the city on Saturday evening…

Weekend holidayers ripped open in a blast. The sad part is (via The Hindu):

A group of 45 students from the Amritavahini engineering college in Sangamera town, Maharashtra, on a sight-seeing trip to Hyderabad, took the brunt of the massive explosion at Lumbini park.

When I think about it, I cringe. Barely a year ago, I was myself in an engineering college. And since it was in a village setting, we often made trips to a big city (Calcutta) to satiate our thirst for city lights. And who doesn’t crave for chat? Those mouth watering snacks you can get for a pittance?

Even if we forget the suffering of the victims, the unbearable agony of their families, and the rude shock to their friends, forget about individuals and stare at a larger perspective:

Such vicious attacks prove that cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore, emerging icons of a vibrant nation, are firmly in the cross-hairs of terror groups which have made India a country with perhaps the highest number of civilian victims of terror (leaving aside war-torn countries like Iraq). [TOI]

I am not sure what our reaction should be. We mourn for those who suffer, but we need to show the perpetrators that we are not affected by them. Our lives should carry on — we flinch but we fight, we are devastated but determined. The growth phase that we have been celebrating lately — which has obviously been an eye-sore for many — can not slow down — not because of a bunch of freaks. We need to push further, undeterred, unrelenting, unwavering. The elephant, pulsating with energy, must show empathy, but not slow down. For that is what the freaks have been hoping for. For that is why she should not succumb. For that is why the country needs to learn from Bombay. For India is more than geeks, nerds, corrupt politicians, baniyas and snake-charmers. For it is also the land of milk and honey children extol. For it is that India for which we live. And fight. And, we shall overcome. Someday.

[Of course, the stories are made up. But not the reality]

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Feedburner down? (and what is feedburner?)

Looks like feedburner is down. I just went to check my readership figures and it showed Zero subscribers. In all humility, I accept that I don’t have too many readers, but I feel happy for every click I get (don’t the others?) and so keep checking the figures ever so often. Anyway, this is what feedburner shows me:

image

Definitely something fishy! Google, what are you doing? First the confusion in the Gmail Logo and now this?

Anyway, for those who don’t know what feedburner is: Feedburner is a service that lets you redirect all your readership through a single access point. Think of it as a gate through which the feeds would pass. Hence, you can do a bunch of stuff with your feeds:

  • Add stuff to your feeds, like advertisements, or burn amazon associates id to every book review you post
  • Make several changes to your feed format to make it standards compliant and provide other frills. It would also provide better uptime if you have a self-hosted blog
  • Clip your blog posts so that people reading it in a reader are forced to come to your blog and increase hits (*wicked curled lips*)
  • Publicize it better, with those cool-looking “617k subscribers” (not mine :P) type logos
  • Provide extra services like ‘Subscribe by email’
  • Of course, track you readership
  • One benefit which I love but is often glossed over is to be able to change your blog URL and still have people get updates on the same feed. You can essentially tell people to go to a different room at the gate, to lift the paradigm of my earlier example

Feedburner has a page on its site where it gives reasons for using it. It’s good a video too (though I haven’t watched it!)

Feedburner was recently acquired by Google. Google also added a new feed-redirection feature to their blogger service which lets people redirect their blogger feed. I wish wordpress.com provided that (you can do it in self-hosted wordpress though)

If you are serious about blogging, feedburner (or a similar service) is a must have. Provided they fix the aforementioned problem, that is.

[Others seem to have noticed it as well – WebFiles Simon Sandossu]

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Change in GMail branding – Have you noticed?

Looks Google is changing the branding of Gmail to Google Mail. It seems that Google lost rights to the GMail brand name in Germany and that is now being followed up in some other countries.

Since 2000, Daniel Giersch has held the brand “G-mail… und die Post geht richtig ab” [G-mail... the best way to go postal]. Under the G-mail brand, he operates a number of physical and electronic postal services with thousands of users, as he explained to heise online in March of 2005. Giersch therefore had a court issue a temporary restraining order against the use of “Gmail” before winning the main proceedings at the first-instance district court of Hamburg (Az. 312 O 475/05) against Google in April of 2006. Google appealed this ruling and has now lost the appeal

The legal dispute, which also detrimentally affected users, has also been extended beyond the German legal system. Currently, charges have been filed in Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland.

Looks like there has been another incident in the UK. In fact, there is a relevant BBC report dated way back in 2005. However, this is the first time I am noticing the change in India.

GMail before:

gmail

Google Mail now:

image

Funnily enough, the brand change seems to be in effect in one out of two of my email accounts. Perhaps they are slowly transitioning users to the new branding. Have you noticed the change in your email branding?

[There is another brand change story which is doing the rounds now-a-days — UTI Bank to Axis Bank – but that, of course, is for entirely different reasons]

[Email brand name change has been common lately with Hotmail transitioning to Windows Live Hotmail. This has beset the Redmond giant with quite a few problems because people have been worried about rather frequent name changes]

Shakuntala Remembered by Little Jasmine Theater

image I went to a performance of Shakuntala Remembered by the Little Jasmine Theater group. It was an English Adaptation of Shakuntala as originally written by Kalidasa using a number of translations. The story is about Shakuntala who is wedded to Dushyanta (a gandharva wedding, no less!) during one of his hunting sprees, but subsequently forgets about her completely and even humiliates her in front of the whole court.

The performance was actually a fusion of theater by Kirtana Kumar, a kalari performance by Anmol Mothi and guitar sounds by Konarak Reddy. Kirtana carried almost the whole performance and the narrative on her own shoulders, and Anmol mainly spoke with his body — moving it delicately with lyrical quality, in fact, his dialogs were in Malayalam (which is something I didn’t quite get the motivation for). Each of them were great by themselves, but the fusion didn’t happen. It seemed more like a pastiche stitched together hastily. It seemed like three artists performing separately, but not a single performance which it should have been.

imageAlso, there were a number of meta-stories around the main plot — of Vyasa and Narada and of Shakuntala talking to a bunch of wise men. There was a meta-meta-story about terrorism and of loss of self-righteousness in the yuga of kali. These felt completely forced. The connection to terrorism was just not there — for some reason the sutradhar kept talking about terrorism which to my ignorant self seemed completely unrelated to the rest of the plot. There could have been other ways to establish relevance to current affairs, some better than showing recent terrorist activities on a video at the beginning of a play about love.

However, in the midst of this, it dawned to me that mathematics was not one of the strong points of Kalidasa (or his translators). Shakuntala waited for Dushyanta for 12 years, which they equated with 4380 days (or some other number ending in zero). Since 12*365 ends in a zero (because 5 and 2 would be factors), and the number of leap years in a span of 12 consecutive years can not be more than 9 or less than 1, this number doesn’t seem quite right to me. Perhaps some algebra I don’t know about :-P On second thoughts, there can be a fallacy in this reasoning. Let’s see if somebody can point this out.

The mathematical digression, and the very poor joke aside, they play was a decent performance, but not the best that I have seen. They should have worked harder on the screenplay. It remained a good performance, and can not be called superlative, and will not make it to my spaces blog.

Some more coverage: here, here and here.

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Finally, a technical blog!

I have done it! I finally fought off all my languor to start a technical blog, something I have been thinking of for quite some time. The blog has been born out of my desire to see better analysis on technology rather than technical news reporting (or which TechMeme is the best place). The content of the blog will obviously be limited by the knowledge of the author – any field of technology today is so deep and there are so many open questions that it is impossible to do justice to writing about it without spending a year or two working in it.

As I said, I plan to write few posts, but hopefully those which have more meaning and more technical depth. I will not talk about new products or services, fads and fashions but rather try to give commentary on more fundamental aspects of technology. I do not work in the Internet domain, and hence, I may be out of date, out of context, out of sync or all of the above, but hopefully the blog will be of use to some :)

So, to kick off the new bog, there is a rather long post on Identity (the best topic I could think of), the laws thereof, and a discussion about some of the newer federated identity management systems. Here’s presenting to you:

kpowerinfinity on technology

[Almost a week of reading has gone into it. Wanted not to underline this point, but well, had to :) A kind spattering of comments will be helpful for both the motivation of the author as well as in deciding future direction.]

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