Monday, December 19, 2005

The stampede at Chennai

This is the second stampede at Chennai in less than 2 months, in the same situation, probably triggered by same kind of mischief.

I wonder how people value their health, body or life - for Rs 2000, they lose their sleep, rush in a crowd to hurt themselves and run on the throats of others who fell down. Amazing! This isn't a crowd that jostle up to have dharshan of their favorite Gods or heroes. This isn't a crowd that got trapped in a narrow lane when Gen. Dyer ordered firing or even the ones that have the catch the last bus to their village. They aren't as hungry as they were a few weeks ago, when rain water entered their houses and made life miserable as hell. The mindless act for Rs 2000 caused so much grief to so many families. Will the ones who trampled on the people below be feeling guilty?

The Government seems reasonably cautious after the first one struck at Vysarpadi - some 20 km from Chennai last month. There were announcements and some policemen were posted in that location. Still, thousands of crzy folks can't be controlled by a handfull of policemen.

The same romour mongering has happened here. God knows what their motives are.

As per Dinamalar, the school gate was locked on Saturday but was broken open early in the morning by the crowd. Are the ones who broke the lock and the ones who were crushed the same? Or the ones who spread the rumour responsible for breaking the lock. No one will know.

Even when the Commission appointed by the Chief Minister finds it out, what is the chance that the culprints will be brought to book? Those findings will again be used by politicians to take advantage of the situation.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bhagavad Gita for Managers

Managing 5 products, 10 responsibilities, always short on resources - from people to time. That is my current state. The mind works overtime and feels tired that nothing could be done to satisfaction. I turned to the Gita for some solution. The following is the conversation that restores my humility and peace of mind.

Me: How can I finish all the pending work? What if the products fail even after I put in the efforts?
Krishna: Put your heart and soul on the tasks and not the outcome. Your role stops there and you have no control over what happens finally.

Me: But, what if the product fails?
Krishna: What is the problem? The world doesn't end there. Investors continue to look for newer products, people who may lose jobs will just move to new jobs. You will continue to work. There is nothing wrong in failure.

Me: If failure is just as certain as success what is the point in my efforts?
Krishna: I said - there is nothing wrong in failure, I didn't say there is nothing wrong in inaction. Your job is to work with your heart, do everything that you could do and leave the rest to me.

Me: If I hire more people, I may be able to complete all the tasks. But I don't get the right people.
Krishna: The answer is the same - you keep looking for the person who you want to hire. When you want him to work for you, you just want him to work for you; don't lie and don't give false promises.

Me: But I am not successful in hiring.
Krishna: The reasons are not entirely under your control, for that matter not under my control either. Each one has his own mind, the people around him influence, they have their minds and so on. So, don't think of controlling a situation, you can't. Just play your role.

I am now relaxed and know exactly what I want to do.

Monday, December 05, 2005

VS.NET Express Edition

I began evaluating the new VS.NET 2005 Express for C#. I ran into the first road block when I try to connect to an existing SQL 2000 server. Apparantly the express edition doesn't allow for connecting to other databases through the UI. If I want to connect by coding, thankfully it allows it.

Then I bumped into the following problem when I tried adding a Table to a dataset.
Even after 5 years of .NET, looks like the IDispatch interface still survives.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Wooing a good software developer

Another day at work with running around for maintaining status quo. My boss dropped in and said in polite terms that if I continue to do it, I'll be as ineffective as my predecessor. Points noted. He also suggested that I do some PR job to get software developers. Our HR needs more training. It is ironic that I need to train the recruiters on recruitment. I chose to postpone the training and decided to try my hand at PR for recruitment.

I managed to call this developer who works for a CMM / ISO company and gets a good salary. I have to encourage her to forget the bland office with a promise that life here is better. I am convinced that life here is better with unlimited internet, all these youngsters bubbling with enthusiasm. My experience with CMM / ISO companies had been at best forgettable. I was on bench for 6 months when I decided to quit. I'm digressing. Back to this software tech lead, she said she doesn't have time to hear me or talk about her. It sounds like a serious techy girl, I am determined to get her in my team. She wanted an email from me with details of the company etc.,

I painstakingly typed half a page just introducing the company and gave a teaser on the software development team. My write up doesn't sound great, but this is my first job at this simple PR. If this girl replies, I will be convinced that I can write / blog more. This is going to be a bloggable experience.

If you happen to bump into this page, come back to check the status of the hire.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

State of Trichy and Srirangam

I am becoming a cribber on traffic and roads. Probably it is not just me. If you happen to endure 10 minutes of Auto in Srirangam area, you would be one too. The roads aren't paved for over a year. The reason I hear was the civic authorities were not sure if the drainage system they had built up will work or not. If it doesn't - which seems to be a high probability - they will have to dig up again; why bother with paving the roads now. They are right too - don't we complain that every thing a road is paved, someone digs it up within a week. But with Trichy, this has taken far too long.

The city is making big progress towards becoming a huge garbage dump than anything else. Periyar Nagar, Ganapathy Nagar area which used to have a lot of high profile people of Trichy is unliveable now. The gutters are overflowing, roads do not exist and garbage is all over the place. No one seems to care or complain. Total decay of people and systems is very visible in this particular area.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Rain in Chennai

Many in Chennai seem to have a premonition about the Oct 26-27 rains. A few months ago, writer Sujatha wrote about Mumbai rains and guessed that it might be the same with NE monsoon for Chennai this year. The local government seems to be slightly more prepared than their usual mode. So, heavy rains were expected and it did rain. Thank you Nature!

On the preparedness of Chennai Corp, it seems they have improved. Some three years ago, on a nearly similar situation, people were stranded for hours together at Anna Salai. It took me 2.5 hours by bus to reach Adyar from Vadapalani. I was lucky that day.

This time, police and Corp officials were seen on many roads. Water clogged roads were promptly closed and diverted. South Chennai has been fairly well managed. On North Chennai... it is altogether a different story. I had been to that part of the city for just 3-4 times, didn't stay long enough on those occasions to like the place. That's for another blog.

Coming back to the rains, the met office seems to have called it right. Luckily for the Chennaiites, the rains intensified overnight and didn't have them stranded during peak hours. Mr. Ramanan of the India meteorological office has a luck with his words. Every time he would come on TV and announce that there will be "more" rains, it would stop raining. Please note the "more" - the Met office never managed to or the TV news people never met the Met guys to predict rains. Mr. Ramanan and his team should thank the depression that stayed put near Chennai for almost a day.

As much as water clogging, fallen trees contributed to traffic problems. I see mostly Gulmohar and its family of trees (or what we call as தூங்குமூஞ்சி மரம்) are the ones that were uprooted most. They grow fast and probably don't have very deep roots.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A clause of the query contained only ignored words.

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/community/chats/trans/sql/sq0529pm.mspx

What a dumb message! If my query contains an ignored word, why the hell SQL Server can't ignore it.

Thankfully, Yukon fixes the problem. A work around is given in http://staff.interesource.com/james/

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bad old days are back here in India

Get set for the mother of all strikes

We had seen relatively few strikes when NDA was the ruling coalition. When UPA came to power, the communists and socialists came out too - like the cockroches that come out when the place is dark. And they are naturally followed by strikes.

During NDA government, the Supreme Court banned strikes; Tamil Nadu government crushed striking state government employees. The employees managed to get no sympathy from the common man. The strike fizzled out. I'm sure the state government employees will not think of strike for another 10 years. By that time, a new generation of lazy sloths would be there and will not remember the lack of sympathy and will probably announce a strike. Or there may be better set of responsible people who will be serious about their work - some wishful thinking.

Strikes by polical parties are also low in number - you will have to give some concesssion to communists - can't call a bunch of lunatics as a political party. BJP and Shivsena paid a huge fine to Maharashatra state government when they had a strike. At least they are aware that it is illegal to strike, but still want to do it as a mark of protest and are prepared to be punished.

Let's see how each state behaves in handling the striking employees this time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

How Microsoft can 'kill' Google | The Register

How Microsoft can 'kill' Google | The Register

Enough had been said in Slash Dot on why this won't work. I strongly feel that Microsoft is beginning to lose.

In spite of the power and ability to crush competition, Microsoft hasn't been able to defeat Quicken in accounting Software domain. Way back in 2000, a Microsoft Money team member admitted that they would never beat Quicken.

What each team in Microsoft has is paronia. That has kept them beating rivals like Netscape. With just a sense of paranoia and no innovation, it is hard to stay ahead. And innovation with out paranoia doesn't help either as we saw with Netscape.

Om Malik’s Broadband Blog » Google Made Opera Browser Free

Om Malik’s Broadband Blog » Google Made Opera Browser Free

Just proves that good products don't have to have a sales team sweat it out for bringing in revenue.

Monday, September 19, 2005

My old blog on processes

Posted over 2 years ago on rediff blogs.

"CMM, ISO and all such process stuff Indian companies claim about are a big illusion. The way I see it is - all these 'so called' standards are thrust upon the naive Indian businessmen by the white man to continue to control the third world.

But the big picture isn't all that bad. Looks like it is pay-back time now. Big American companies pay a fortune to have the 'process' they introduced in the projects executed by Indian companies. The general assumption is process == quality. In some dumb organizations within these companies documentation == process.

So, what does it really mean to have a CMM level x or an ISO certification?
Customer satisfaction? May be.
More business? Very likely.
Real quality? Doubtful.

Quality is not something that process alone can bring in. Before this becomes a commentary on Zen and the Art of .... and before my PM comes and asks for estimates I'll stop now."

I think CMM has lived its life and is time for the next hype.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Gov. Jeb Bush's son arrested in Texas

Gov. Jeb Bush's son arrested in Texas

Some 30 years from now, he is sure to run for Presidency. I hope, he won't be a danger to himself then, but not sure he won't be a danger to others - that's a trait that runs in the family.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dealing with the Government again ...

I happen to visit Anna University to meet with the HOD of CS Department to discuss a research project that can be of some use to me. The appointment was at 10:30 and I was there at 10:15. I didn't expect her to be ready to meet me earlier. I didn't expect her to be ready to meet me at 10:30 too. So, I was there, the lady at the front desk said that the HOD is out for a viva and won't be back till 11. The options I had were - wait till the HOD returns, leave a note that I was there or just leave the place sulking. I began writing a note and was careful that I did not accuse or pass an unpleasant remark at the sense of punctuality or the indifference of the staff out there. You got to be careful with academician and make sure you don't hurt their ego. Though she can't fail me in my exams, I had nothing to gain in accusing others. So, I was as polite as I possibly can be.

Before handing off the note, I wanted to try other options. I tried to contact my wife who happens to work there. The front desk staff was courteous to make a call to find out where my wife is. She called someone at the third floor and replied me that she's not there. Now it is up to me to walk upto the third floor and find out. It was amazing to find the front desk person so indifferent. But I got to see more. I walked up to the third floor, couldn't find my wife's office. I enquired couple of people who appeared to be her co-workers. Their reply indicated the following - "I don't know, I don't care if you loiter out here till you drop dead".

I meekly returned to the first floor and hoped something useful can happen. It did. My wife was expecting me as she had arranged for the meeting and came down from second floor to check if I got to meet the HOD. She had been in a lab class there. She went to the room where the HOD was attending the presentation and announced my arrival. The HOD came out after a few minutes.

My conversation with the HOD didn't help much. I realized for the hundredth time, that in India, research is research and business is business and the twain shall never meet. Do they ever do a research that was useful to anyone, other than get a Ph.D to someone? As far as I know, in recent times Ashok Jhunjunwala of IIT is the only one who realized that research must be useful to some.

I plan to collect the research topics done in a few Indian universities and IITs and post them someday. Let the country know how useful our intelligentsia are to our country.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Instant message status messges

Some folks of my team at my earlier job have good messages as their IM status message. I will omit the mushy ones and like to quote a few good ones.

"I will give my right hand to be ambidextrous" - Benjamin (not exactly my team member, but the tech dude at the client side)

"Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape." - Anand - poor guy was trying to adjust to a 11 AM -10 PM work schedule.

"Behind every successful man stands a surprised woman." - Naveen - many will be surprised at his success. ;)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

(You'll Never) Tie Me Up, (You'll Never) Tie Me Down by Ram Nagarajan on Sulekha

(You'll Never) Tie Me Up, (You'll Never) Tie Me Down by Ram Nagarajan on Sulekha

In my second job of a contract worker at Bank of America office at Chennai, I had to wear a tie. I wrote to my uncle
"ஆபீஸில் டை கட்டிக்கொள்கிறேன், கை கட்டி வேலையும் செய்கிறேன் (I was a drifter until then.) கால் கட்டுதான் பாக்கி."


He promptly replied in green ink (he was the Head Master of a school)

"கை கட்டு கால் கட்டு என்று என்ன சொல்கிறாய் என்று புரிகிறது. ஆனால் இப்போதைக்கு வாயைக் கட்டு; வயிற்றைக் கட்டு."

America: Welcome to the Third World

America: Welcome to the Third World

The society in countries like India have learnt to cope with disasters as inefficient governments time and again fail to be prepared for calamity or handle a disastrous situations. An individual seems to show more empathy towards his fellow sufferers in India than in US. This is true only during disasters. On a normal day, an Indian is as selfish as a human can be.

Systems were built in US, values were not. Indian governments haven't been successful at building system or values. Thankfully they haven't been successful in breaking the values either.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More on Bangalore Traffic

Enough statements and jokes are made on Bangalore traffic. On a recent trip, when talking to coworkers at our Bangalore office I came to know that an ex-CM has objected to the subway system that was about to begin construction.

It is obvious that the politician has no clue on whether subways are better than monorails or any other rail option. Like a dog on a haystack, he will not use it nor will he allow others to have it. But who gets benefited with this block? Not the Bangalore companies - the lost productivity on traffic jams hurt them. One obvious group that will be benefited is the automobile industry - including the two wheeler manufacturers. They would use the affluence of people to sell more cars / motor bikes than have the wealthy middle class use a mass transit system. Broadly speaking, the automobile industry can bribe a politician to make more profits and outsource work to Indian companies to reduce cost on software and services. They make money - period. Politician makes money and doesn't care about what happens outside his farm. He's fine too. Software companies make some money on the outsourced jobs, but the margins reduce due to traffic related problems - so they make some money but not to the level of car companies or politicians. IT workers make some money too and he feeds into the system of automobile based economy with his earnings. So, everyone seems to be making some money on a problem. So, why bother with an MRTS.

Speaking of MRTS, the one at Chennai is allowed to perish slowly. The MRTS connects Chennai Beach to Thiruvanmiyur. The service upto Thiruvanmiyur takes about 20 minutes and the frequency is 40 minutes as the train runs on a single track and has no way of turning to other track as construction is not complete. The system boasts of huge stations with escalator, elevators and what not. But not enough attention is paid to maintaining them. Even after 1.5 years of opening, some stations still have construction going on at snail's pace. The stations do not have enough people to clean them; not enough is done on popularizing this faster mode of transport. Left to this state, they (who?) can slowly reduce the frequency of trains and allow the system to die in a course of time.

This has been done at a few places I know of - the train service between Karur and Trichy, to benefit bus operators in the region; the bus service in Pune - to benefit the automobile maker near Pune. I have heard of the design of overhead passes in US cities was done to prevent large vehicles like buses to run on those routes - obviously to benefit the auto industry.

In all the above cases more jobs were created, more money was flowing. People enjoyed the comforts of the alternate mode of transport.

Why am writing this with a complaining note? What is there to complain? Aren't people happy with the whole setup?

Are two hours of wait in traffic worth the money people earn in Bangalore? Is inhaling in the CO saturated atmosphere worth the comfort of a two / three wheeler ride in Pune? Are dangerously fast buses in Trichy better than a planning your day for commuter train schedule?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Meeting a writer

On my recent trip to Bangalore, I happen to see Mr. Jayakantan at Chennai Airport. I had nothing to talk to him and didn't want to invade his privacy just because he is a celebrity.

Some 23 years ago, writer Sujatha had visited a friend's mom's friend's club to preside over a function. We were eager to know what would happen to Muthukumaran when he was shot by the British soldiers in the story ரத்தம் ஒரே நிறம். I chose not to meet him as I didn't feel like. My friends did and their thrill died down in a few days. May be smart people like Sujatha or Jayakantan are more interesting when you are a friend than a fan. Fans are friends of the characters and not the writers who created them.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

$50 laptop sale sets off violent stampede - Tech News & Reviews - MSNBC.com

$50 laptop sale sets off violent stampede

Hey - I can imagine this happening in a third world country only in case of extreme starvation. Boarding a suburban train in Mumbai wasn't this violent!

Friday, August 12, 2005

There are signs that I'm becoming a PHB

I wanted to get familiar with NHibernate - a fine tool for object RDB mapping. After about two hours of work, all I have is a simple mapping of one table to a class. Most of the time, I keep searching for a nifty tool to map the DB columns to a class and auto generate the mapping XML. I haven't began understanding the representation of relationships.

At this stage in career -
  • The mind began slowing down, can't multiply 13 and 17 without a calculator.
  • Attention span is reduced to a micro second.
  • Eyes look for key words to click on a web page.
If you don't know what PHBs are you are likely to be one.

Mr. Sampath

I almost finished reading Mr. Sampath - The Printer of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan. I do want to write about it, but this is no review.

Mr. Sampath is a great novel. R.K. Narayan was one the best story tellers of recent times who wasn't recognized enough in India. Literacy is around 50% in India and less than 10% know English and of that 10, 9 won't have the habit of reading books. So, statistics prove that English authors have less chance of recognition as compared to Hindi. For that matter, a great literary person in any Indian language other than Hindi doesn't get the due recognition. I'm digressing.

Coming back to Sampath, it has everything to be made into a good movie. If someone dares to make a movie from this story, that will be ironical. But I have heard of this movie Mr. Sampath with Cho in the lead - but not sure if it is based on the novel. I'm sure they would have made a mess of it as they did with தனிக்குடித்தனம். A novel on paper gives so much freedom to the reader to visualize the situation. If it is made into a movie or a TV series, the director's visualization is what is in the movie. If it doesn't match the majority of the folks who read the novel, the movie is criticized.

The famous Nag brothers of Kannada Cinema did an excellent work when they made RKN's novels and short stories into TV series.

Coming back to Mr. Sampath, the novel has the characters that you can relate to - a silent observer, his practical and assertive wife, a greedy hypocrite old man, a brilliant problem solver and other kinds of people we get to see so often. The story is about the problem solver. The story goes through the ups and downs of the problem solver; doesn't miss out narrating any goof-ups by the problem solver.

Anyone who is over 30 years and lived most part of his life in India would have faced characters like the ones in the novel. A must read for everyone who appreciates good narrations.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Consulate Experience

Visiting the US consulate in Chennai is an experience that most of us don’t forget in lifetime. The experiences aren’t often pleasant like the waits outside the consulate on a humid day in April or a grilling from a consulate official. I had gone through them. But there was one that is slightly different where I was a neutral observer to events.

I entered the waiting hall for Consular Services in the US Consulate, Chennai at about 3 PM. I wasn't there for getting a US visa this time. I had just settled in Chennai after five years in the US. To close my bank account in the US, I had to get a notary seal from the consulate office at Chennai. So, there I was, waiting in a sleepy afternoon.

The waiting hall was rectangular with the entrance on a broader side and a counter opposite to it. There were chairs on the perimeter. The entrance was not in the middle of the room, so there were fewer seats to the left than to the right.

Two guys were sitting on the far side of the room. They were in some deep discussion and hardly noticed me entering the room. I went to the counter and waited for a few minutes before a lady came to the counter. I told her the purpose of my visit and gave the papers and my passport. She took them and asked me to wait.

I took the seat to the left of the entrance, next to a big brass statue of Ganesha. I liked to have one like that in my new home; but my living room is not big enough to accommodate such a big statue and our guests. People gift Ganesha pictures and small statues when they visit you to your new home in this part of the world. I had anyway planned to buy an apartment and invite my folks for the house warming function. So, I decided to settle for a large number of gifts of small Ganesha statues instead of one big statue.

After a few minutes, a couple came in. They were in their early twenties. They went to the counter, met with the lady and went back and sat on the right side of the entrance. Then a middle aged man and a young lady came in. The man looked like he has been in the US for a few years. He was tall, looked smart in Dockers trousers and polo T-shirt. He was wearing a thin rim or a rimless glass and had a receding hairline. There was nothing special about the girl except that she must be in her early twenties and seemed to be relieved on completing her education. She was wearing a normal looking Indian dress. They both appeared to belong to upper middle class in their respective societies. They went to the counter. The consulate lady had gone in and so they waited there.

The Dockers man began to talk to the girl. I thought his voice was too loud for his otherwise refined looks. He probably wasn't aware that his voice breached the wall of privacy and everyone in the room was audience to his conversation with the girl. I could make out the following in the mostly monologue. The girl is engaged to someone closely related to the Dockers man and she has a got admission in some US university. It seemed like the Dockers man has considerable influence on the guy engaged to this girl. He talked about the traffic in the place where she's going to and when the girl can start driving on a freeway.

Then an old couple came in. They looked tired and seem to be Punjabis settled in the US. The man was in slightly old and discolored half-sleeve shirt and pant. The old lady was in a sari. The lady sat next to the sitting couple. The old man went to the counter oblivious to the presence of two others there. He peeked inside the office and was too close to the Dockers man.

The man in the Dockers didn't like it. He was probably used to the system of “Only one person beyond the line” as in the Immigration area in US airports.

He said, "Can you please move from here?” The old man looked hurt. He belligerently said, "Why?” He didn’t question the sole rights of the Dockers man, but definitely meant it. The Dockers man replied, "I need my privacy". "Ah! A fresh green card speaking", I thought. Everyone sitting the room exchanged a smile at the mention of the word privacy. The old man said "No, I won't", without giving a chance for the other person to continue the argument. Dockers man was really upset and didn't continue. The old man stood near the counter for a few more minutes; the consulate lady was still busy inside the office. The old man was getting tired. He went and sat near his wife.

The Consulate lady showed up at the counter; the old man jumped and approached the counter. He said something to her and she asked him to wait. The old man returned to his seat. The Dockers man began his loud conversation with the consulate lady. He wanted some information on visa for the girl that I didn't care to remember. I thought the lady had no chance of knowing answers to his questions; instead he should have approached a H1B guy or an immigration lawyer in the US. The Consulate lady politely said, she can't answer the question. Dockers man wanted to talk to her boss. She refused. He let out his last weapon - that he is a green card holder and implied that he is not a lowly temporary visa seeker. He wanted to be treated like a … green card holder. She didn't yield. Dockers man was upset that he couldn't get something done in front of this girl. The girl didn't seem to mind not getting the information. It must have been a bad day for the man, meeting two that would hurt his ego in a span of ten minutes. The Dockers man left the hall huffing and puffing with the girl.

It was the turn of the old man and his wife. They had lost their passports and visas. The man took out old faded copies of the passports from a bag. The lady at the counter accepted them; gave him some paper. The couple returned to their seats and began writing down.

I was called next and got my work done with an irritated looking consulate official. Six years earlier I had got my first H1B stamped after a few days of wait at the gate. When I came out of the consulate, I felt a sense of achievement. This time too, I was so relieved. May be this is not about US or visa; but more like getting some work done with a government, any government. Think of the Dockers man who couldn’t get the sense of achievement even with his green card.

I will watch out for the same feeling after I get my ration card from TUCS.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bed-time Story

Like any other upper middle class 8-year old, my son is becoming a TV, Computer addict. I’m having a tough time making him pick up reading habits and I’m getting nowhere.

He wanted a Harry Potter video game and not the more popular book. I checked the price and was about to buy it for him, but thought of setting him some goals in reading before he gets his hands on the CD. The conversation went as follows.

Me: I’ll order the CD after you finish reading the comic book.
Son : (No answer)
Me: You got to read more that will help in your imagination.
Son: (No answer)
[I badly wanted him to accept a goal, any goal for reading.]
Me: I don’t get time to read books now. You got plenty of time, don’t waste it in TV and computer games. This is the time to read books and learn more.
Me: I tell you bed-time stories. From where do you think I got them all? I read books.
Son: (No response)
Me: Don’t you want to tell stories to your kid when you grow up. (He shows remarkable responsibility in caring for his future wife and child. So, I tried it.)
Me: How would you feel if I tell the same old Crow and the fox story everyday? Will you not be bored?
Son: (No response)
[I get irritated.]
Me: What do you get when I tell a story?
Son: I hear your voice when I start sleeping.

Now, I had nothing else to say.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Income Tax Calculation Software from Govt. of India

The Income Tax Department, Govt. of India has been kind enough to come up with a free software for tax computation. My expectations aren't high; I am not expecting a TaxCut type of product.I downloaded and installed 36M installable on my work computer and started the application. The first message I got was
---------------------------
Tax Computation 2005
---------------------------
This software requires the system date format as 'dd/MM/yyyy' for correct execution.
Press 'OK' if you want the date format to change to 'dd/MM/yyyy' for ever
---------------------------
OK Cancel
---------------------------

What do you expect if you hit Cancel? Not sure. I tried and the application just terminated. How clever!!

In the next run, I hit OK. This one is equally brilliant functioning.
---------------------------
Tax Computation 2005
---------------------------
System need to be Restart to implement the new date format.
Press 'Yes' to Restart now and 'No' to Restart later on.
---------------------------
Yes No
---------------------------

I wonder what kind of morons (other than the ones who frame the tax laws and man the counters) are employed by Income Tax Dept to write software.

Monday, July 18, 2005

One hour of roller-coaster

Recently I changed jobs. My 4 minute walk to office changed to at least half hour drive to office. In the 4 minute walk all I could see were, maniac students speeding on narrow streets in their CBZs and Pulsars. There were just a couple of non-fatal crashes, in all the 4 intersections in the last two years. The statistics isn't bad even for bullock carts infested village roads.
Everything changed with my new commute. I got to see a new dimension of maniac driving in the rush hour traffic in Anna Salai. I can't believe so many people are so desparately suicidal in Chennai.

I don't know how fast these people go as I watch them from a relatively slow moving auto-rickshaw that has a speedometer that I can't see and that stopped working long ago.

I have to think up new idioms and parallals to describe how scared I'm to be in a small vehicle in Anna Salai. Have you seen scared dogs during Diwali? I'm close. Everyone seems to be happy driving in such unsafe condition just as the kids playing with firecrackers.
I'm scared of roller-coasters and am not ashamed to say so. I can hardly manage a 30 second roller coaster without throwing up. My commute is now like an hour of roller coaster and I'm not enjoying it.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Mamallapuram - My best shot ever! Posted by Hello

Mamallapuram - The standard View Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Blogs, Geeks and Writing Skills

Blogs have undoubtedly improved the communication skills of so-called geeks. It feels good to note a number of techie writers like Chris Sells, Joel Spolsky write interesting articles not just on technology. But for blogs, I guess their sense of humour would have been restricted to official emails.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tamil LIP from Microsoft for Windows XP

I installed the Tamil Language Interface pack for Windows XP available as a download from Microsoft. One word describes the product - terrible. I would assume the intention of developing such an interface is to enable non-English speaking people to use the computer more easily. The effort seems to be aimed at something else that I can't comprehend. But for the text that appears in standard Windows interface in Tamil, there is nothing to call it as Tamil interface. The language (use of words), structure of sentences, icons and stupid literal translation make it absolutely painful to use it. There is total lack of imagination in translation. Looks like we need a book on user interface designs in Tamil and make the architects of this tool read it. It seem Malan was responsible for the effort. This is one tool that neither Microsoft nor Malan can be proud of.

I uninstalled the application exactly 1 minute after I installed it.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

NOVA | Magnetic Storm | Impact on Animals | PBS

NOVA | Magnetic Storm | Impact on Animals | PBS

"There's no scientific evidence that humans have this "sixth sense," though curiously, our brains do contain magnetite, the mineral thought to aid other animals' brains in detecting the field."

It is surprising to note that little interest is shown on impact of changes in magnetic fields on human mind. May be people find it amusing to watch confused birds and animals than confused human beings.

Like ghosts in the movie Sixth Sense, people see only what they want to see. They obviously do not want to see their 'so-called' negative side.

'Sachin's injury not career-threatening'

'Sachin's injury not career-threatening'
Yeah Sure, His game is.

More on the mind

Man has been foolish enough to assume that his frame of reference is absolute. With this assumption, he can go about questioning the existence of God, creation, life etc., A realization that these questions come from an individual's frame of mind will be a humbling experience. At that time, these questions will sound too stupid.

Far from being absolute, our minds are too narrow and shallow that they can't comprehend another's person's equally shallow and narrow mind. How else can we explain the strained relationships between couples, parents and children, friends and neighbours?

Isn't it absurd that a genius like Stephen Hawking had a divorce?

Mind

Look at the way human minds have evolved. I view the mind as a very large database of facts... well more or less facts. It builds the database based on the inputs from sensory organs. This is too simple a statement, but the way mind builds facts are a little more complex and have been described in Vedas and philosophies of east and west.

So, we kind of know that the mind is built up of facts - to use a better term - information. It is good for us, right? Not always. So, what's wrong? As the mind got strong with more information, we stop experiencing. All inputs from the sensory organs are directed to the big program called mind for more processing and for more information.

So, when we see a flower, we don't just see it. The mind takes over - and goes through its database for its color, family, the people you can associate with the flower, the ones who gave the flower, the ones who crushed a flower and so on and so forth. This is a simple example that all of us can understand.

Here is a complex one. See if you can relate to it. Your boss or the client yells at you for a mistake you have committed. In the absence of mind, we will experience it, feel miserable etc., With the mind, we reason it like - 'Yeah, I made a mistake so what?', 'It wasn't my mistake.', 'Didn't he / she do the same thing some time back?', 'I should of get out this company where people don't have respect for others.'

The point is, it is the mind that takes you through these kinds of thoughts hoping that it will make you feel better. Unfortunately, it is true for a short time. Like any other event, this is also added to the huge database along with the associated emotion and is there for checking whenever a similar situation comes up, causing trouble as long as there is mind.

So, what is the option? Do I mean to say that you are supposed to feel miserable? Yes and No. Experience the feeling and accept the situation. It also means you accept yourself as what you are - someone who messes up tasks. It takes away the conflict on who you really are and who you want to be. Plus the event is not stored with the emotion. The next time you remember the event, it is likely that you will not get the same old feeling.

It isn't easy to stop the information from automatically flowing to the mind. But it is possible.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My Microsoft Interview

There are pages and pages of notes on interviews at Microsoft. Here is mine.

I interviewed for SDE for the core group way back in 2001. My friends had warned me that the group is too picky and I stand a better chance if it were not the core group. I was foolishly optimistic.

The first interview went off well with a recursive algorithm for finding the number of paths from one corner of a chess board to the diagonally opposite corner. The second one wasn't bad either though I missed to use a clue in optimizing a binary search. The third one was with lunch. The interviewer was friendly. I came to realize that a lunch time interview at MS is more of an interview than a lunch. I was already hungry but couldn't do well with the lunch and the interview. I guess the fourth one wasn't bad. By the time I was there for the fifth interview, I was brain dead. My mind went totally blank for questions that are simple when I'm not hungry or thirsty.

I do regret not getting into MS, I feel the interviews were good and I wasn't good enough on that day.

MCA for Computer Educated Clerks

On the last day of college at Department Computer Science, University of Pune, our Professor Dr. Shankar gave a talk on our courses. The Government of India had asked him and another famous CS Professor (known for his language books) to formulate a PG curriculum for computer Science. Dr. Shankar created a course to create computer scientists, that was the curriculum we had. (Though not many from our Department went on to become Computer Scientists, even the students at the bottom of the class were good programmers even by the standards 15 years ago.)

The other professor created the curriculum which is now popularly called 'MCA'. In Dr.Shankar's opinion - that curriculum would create sophisticated clerks. What a prediction!

Of the current crop of MCAs coming out of every college hardly 1% is capable of writing decent programs; In addition to the street corner colleges, we have universities offering distance education (affectionately called as karas - for correspondence) and open universities offer MCA - of very questionable quality.

When you see an MCA in a resume, subtract 5 points; if you see distance education or open university subtract another 5; Conduct tests and evaluate based on experience. In the final score (out of 10), add this -10. That's what the person is worth.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Traffic in Bangalore

It seems traffic in Bangalore is a pet crib for most Bangaloreans. Chennai isn't far behind on the traffic chaos. With its less efficient traffic management and more corrupt traffic cops, Chennai must be worse. But thankfully, Chennai has a reasonable rail system and a road network that lessens the traffic woes.

I'm surprised at Bangaloreans, they keep getting bigger and bigger vehicles, with road space reducing everyday. Do they think of the traffic, losing patience and rising blood pressure when they go out to buy a gas guzzling SUV? Hope not.

I wish someone organizes some kind of race in testing conditions like Bangalore traffic. The formula 1 and dirt tracks are no match for a ride in Bangalore traffic. The existing types of race do not have the conditions one would face in Bangalore road. Bikes cutting 2-3 lanes in front of speeding cars, auto rickshaws crowding in front to get ahead in a signal, cows, horse drawn carts, cycles and the buses that have to fight for road space - driving with these conditions is total thrill.

If there are surprisingly fewer accidents in India, it is possibly because
a. The traffic is relatively slow
b. Indian drivers are highly skillful in controlling their vehicles and
c. A divine force is at work.

Friday, May 06, 2005

தமிழில் வலைக்குறிப்பு?

தமிழில் வலைக்குறிப்பு எழுதமுடியும் என்று ஆரம்பித்தேன். Blogspotன் எடிட்டருக்கும் என் கணினியில் உள்ள IMEக்கும் ஒத்துப்போகவில்லை. அதனால், Notepadல் ஆரம்பித்து பின் Blogspotன் எடிட்டரில் Copy செய்கிறேன். தமிழில் மிகச்சில மென்பொருள் கலைச்சொற்கள் பழகிவிட்டன. பல OpenOfficeஇலும், Office XPயிலும் நம்மை படாத பாடு படுத்துகின்றன.

Copyக்கு நமக்குத்தெரிந்த தமிழில் என்ன சொல்?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Continuation

This is a new concept in programming, I'm still trying to comprehend the use of it. One good reference is Sam Ruby's Continuations for Curmudgeons. One obvious use of it is in iterators. C# 2.0 offers to 'yield' a result and maintain the state of an iterator.

My doubts on this are-
What is the scope of the continuation? Does a function that offers continuation keep track of caller's context like thread from which it is called or the object context of the caller?

An obvious use of continuations is in paging of database query results. This is kind of like an iterator, and can be a lot more useful. Again, the question is - if databases can support a continuation like this, don't they need to keep track of the caller application and other context information?

I will post more when I understand more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Quality of developers

The title is a bit inaccurate. The folks we see normally are programmers, who can write code to get a problem solved. That's it. Not many go to the next level of doing it right by optimizing or ensure usage of right programming constructs.

Some 10 years ago, the quality wasn't this bad. The reason may be, VB wasn't there or wasn't popular then. With the advent of VB and Power-Builder, people who can drag a mouse to draw a button can be a software developer.

My project guide discouraged me from using debugger. That was a good 14 years ago. Then, the intention was to write clean code on paper before we sit in front of the terminal. There are still Java and VB developers who do not use debugger (for they do not know how to debug a program loaded by an app server like JBoss or COM+ package), but debug using print statements or MsgBox respectively. Getting them to use Log4J or trace statements is a big task.
And there are developers who would log every line of code and make it impossible to infer anything from a super-bloated log file. More than once I had setup scheduled tasks to clean out the log files created by bad programmers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Finding Software Developers In India

We interviewed over 20 people for software developers this week and chose just 2 or 3. They are slightly better than the usual average.

The bright gets hired by the big consulting companies and put on bench and smaller companies are left to sift through the millions of mediocre for a bright developer.

Two or three questions are enough to filter out the junk. These questions must involve coding. Expecting them to write a clean iteration is the first step. We can introduce some more complexity by asking questions that involve two loops. Most VB junkies bail out at this stage. The ones that cross this level can be asked to optimize the code.

If someone can write a clean iteration to detect palindrome and can communicate to a decent level, he or she gets hired. So, is the state of tech. jobs in India.

But how come the hundreds of good for nothing MCAs find jobs and manage to get some salary?