Monday, August 23, 2004

What? Another day?

We think we're immortal, don't we?

I mean, how many times has it been when you've gotten up in the morning and said to yourself - "Today's the last day of my life". Have you? Ever? (Please don't suggest I use Prozac. This is an intellectual conversation, not a humorous one!) Say you know for sure, today's going to be your last day. What would you do different?

Would you still hit that snooze button? Would you still plan your day ahead from the moment your eyes open? Would your brain keep goading you to get up while running down things to do for the day even before you opened your eyes? Would you?

Would you be always 30 minutes ahead inside your head until you reached your office desk? And then heave a sigh and switch on your computer and check your mail? Would you then get totally immersed in trying to resolve issues cropping up? Until about 10 in the morning when your brain says, "C'mon, let's take a coffee break"?

And then go through meetings acting knowledgeable when you knew they were a sheer waste of time? Would you then go through lunch talking about inconsequential things while fulfilling the most basic of human needs?

And then when it's late afternoon, would you start planning for the evening? What are the errands to run? What are the groceries to buy? Why not catch up on that movie you've been wanting to see? Would you go home and browse some more and switch on the TV?

And then, finally, when your head touches the pillow, what do you think? A good day? A bad day? What are the things to be done tomorrow?

Is this life?

Living, as it were, in the future, all the time? An automaton? Well worse. At least an automaton doesn't get frustrated!

So, my question is, if today is the last day of your life. What are you going to do different?

Smell the flowers? Feel the breeze? Okay, okay, we've all done that, haven't we? Sometimes it's a birthday, sometimes it's the New Year's Day. Sometimes, the first day of a well deserved holiday. But these don't qualify.

How would you do the same things that you would do otherwise differently?

Would you wake in the morning and sleep for another half an hour without feeling guilty? Would you get to work late and say honestly, "I was having such a wonderful early morning, peaceful nap that I didn't want to give it up". Would you enjoy the first coffee of the day slowly and leisurely so that the feeling lasts the whole day? Would you eat lunch not just for filling your stomach but to cherish each morsel you put in your mouth? Would you walk out of office in the evening and look up and think "What a wonderful day I've had". Would you have an evening of love and laughter and no technology?

And when you put your head on your pillow, would you smile and say to yourself "I've had a great life. I can die peacefully now".

If today was my last day, I would do things diffently, wouldn't I?

Wouldn't I?

Friday, August 20, 2004

Indian Software Management

Here's my two paisa on management!!!

Ok, not management in general, but what management is considered to be, within the realms of IT organisations, especially those dealing with software.

Unlike any other organisation of any shape or form, here human resources are the ONLY asset. It's possible to move any number of terabytes over a transatlantic cable, but not one will move without the right persons being at both the ends. Although this gets repeated ad nauseum, I still don't think it gets appreciated or recognised enough.

Surprisingly though, this does get appreciated at the team and project level. This is the level where actual planning, designing, construction, testing and implementing takes place. Basically, where actual work happens. But just at one level higher than this, when people start dealing with reports and charts, something happens! Egos start appearing, seemingly out of nowhere! Power becomes something to strive for! I don't know how this transition happens. Somehow, managements, especially Indian software managements, start getting bloated in the head. And suddenly, management stops being managing people to get work done. It becomes primarily managing egos of surrounding individuals to sustain one's own survival! This is the one thing that I failed to understand when I was in the 'management' cadre.

And where there's ego, there's politics. And where there's politics there's corruption. We think corruption is something like paying a bribe to get a driving license. But it's something far, far more sinister and insidious than that. It degrades morality, it kills ethics, and it drains the world of all it's colours and paints it only in grays. It dehumanises humans. (Sense of humour also gets degraded!!) Somehow, next time at the RTO to extend the license, it becomes a little easier to pay that bribe, it becomes a little easier to pay the customs guy at the airport, it becomes a little easier to lie.

And this is crazy, don't you think?

A long time back, Gandhi said, "What is morally wrong, can never be politically correct". This one quote that I repeat to myself again and again when I'm faced with a dilemma.

Today, I read a quote by Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, in an interview -
"Having another person's trust is more powerful than all other management techniques put together. I have no legal or explicit power. I only have the power of having people's trust - but that's a lot of power."

And this is the trust which the team places on managers.

I think there are a number of reasons why this trust gets broken. One of the main things ailing Indian software organisations, in my opinion, is the incessant urge to create more managers. I fail to understand why! After a few years in the (actual) work level, individuals are pushed into areas of management for some reason. I think the expectation is that if you're able to handle the technology, you'll be able to handle people who handle that technology. I think this, in essence, is a flawed argument. For some reason, the individual's own skills are considered secondary to being able to get someone at the management level!!

Okay, okay, I'm just talking out of my experience and that too only in one organisation, so my opinions might not be generic to other software organisations both in India and abroad.

But what do all of you think?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

India and Technology

Something is changing in this world.

Like Om Malik, of Gigaom, says, "The axis of technology has shifted to somewhere over the South China sea".

And when it comes to technology in India, that really gets me up! And I don't mean only in urban India, I don't mean boasting about wi-fi connectivity while sitting in a pub in Marine drive in Bombay, nor do I mean spending a lazy afternoon knocking down a few on Church street in Bangalore while watching the last sixer hit by Sachin on the cell phone. (Yup, you guessed it, beer is another thing which picks me up, but that's another story!) Anyways, these are just what they sound like - idle boasts and false pride. No, I'm talking about getting technology to the people, the people who really sweat, who really bleed, who really work. People who crave to do something better with their lives, not for their own sake, but for their children. People who see a better future in their kids than they can ever hope to have for themselves. People who know that the project they are involved in will never be complete in their lifetimes, who's results will be judged by future generations, and despite all that, still put in more than the get out of it. That is what moves me.

So when I came across two small items which didn't get too much headlines, my ears perked up. One was the largest wi-fi network in the world having been set up in Kerala. And the other was about the info-thela, or info cart, where wireless connectivity is being brought to the masses using a cycle rikshaws!

I had heard about innovative uses of wi-fi in India earlier. Take the instance of setting up wi-fi access points on Karnataka State Transport buses, so that every village they pass through gets connectivity! And wi-fi being wi-fi, the signals jump from one bus to another as they move in and out of range. And the best part? To service all access points you send one technician to the bus terminus, instead of sending tens of people across to static wi-fi access points set across the country! (And please, please don't ask me how they connect during the night. I mean, every person I've mentioned this to asks me that question!)

Apparently, Indian farmers nowadays check global prices of their goods every morning before they go to sell their stuff to the merchants! ITC, yes, the same ITC, which all of us have paid a lot of money to while smoking cigarettes (and which I still do!), has won the 'World Business Award' which is given to companies assisting development. Check out their e-Choupal site.

India also has set up the World's largest highways project. Although this particular one I do have a contention with, considering that we have such a wonderful network of railways (well, their website also needs some work!), but I guess when you have such a lot of people, maybe the railways are not sufficient!

By the way, when was the last time (ahem!) you checked out the website of the President? Or that of the Prime Minister's? Quite an education in themselves. The President's is my favourite, of course!!

Life building upon life. Innovation builing upon innovation. The future is not out there, it's in here. In life, in hopes, in dreams.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Seen yourself in a mirror lately?

Try it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just try this.... append to any web page's url and see what happens !!!!

eg :

.tijihbA -

Monday, August 09, 2004

Browse faster AND cheaper?

Sure, why not? Here are my suggestions:
1. STOP USING INTERNET EXPLORER! (With apologies to Microsoft!)
I have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft! They've filched some of the best ideas from others and have done a lot of marketing shenanigans, but without Microsoft, the world would not have been what it is today. All the same, they are entirely guilty of not improving their browser, once they won over Netscape. And considering that 70% of the world uses it, they should be more responsible.

My favourite is Opera as I've mentioned before. I can integrate my browsing, mail, RSS feeds, notepad, and whatever else I can think of in one place. Plus Opera's speed is unmatched. One of the best feature is to not download any images and only download the text. This itself makes the browsing way, way faster. Additionally, Opera caches the images downloaded once (think about the Yahoo logo) and reuses them instead of downloading it again. Additionally, when you do download images, they are downloaded first as grainy pictures and then the resolution slowly increases. Unlike Internet Explorer, which downloads them in a curtain fashion. So you can see an image and them stop downloading as soon as you know it's irrelevant. Additionally, you get one click control to unnecessary plugins like all those stupid advertisements. So browsing is not just faster, it's also more peaceful!!


As a tutorial, you can read '30 days to becoming an Opera lover'

The other browser option is of course, Mozilla Firefox.

Lastly, if you absolutely HAVE TO use Internet Explorer, get the best Internet explorer shell there is, (that is, it still uses Internet Explorer behind the scenes). It's called Maxthon (earlier MyIE2). It has many of the controls I mention above.

2. Broadband is overhyped!
Also, why would anyone want to pay for something 24 hours a day, when you use it only for a few hours?? Well, I agree it's fast, (and yours truly is guilty too!) but then there's a lot of other technologies out there which is not getting as much publicity or attention as required.

- Internet Accelerators
This is a method by which the Internet Service Provider (ISP), caches frequently visited websites, both at your PC as well at their servers. They also make the photographs of lower resolution so that they download faster.
This is one thing that would really help slow connections, in India or anywhere else.

Also, currently, there's not enough broadband content available. At the most you can watch some internet TV or videos, which are really irrelevant. After all, if we pay for electricity and water by the amount that's used, it doesn't make sense to use cable any differently.

- Bittorrent
This software, (I've mentioned this earlier also), is basically a Peer to Peer (P2P) file sharing software, like Kazaa or the erstwhile Napster. The only difference being that instead of connecting to one person who has the file that you need, it breaks it up and gets whatever piece is available from whoever. And as soon as you get a piece it immediately shares it with everyone else. The best bittorrent client is Azureus.

A good tutorial for Bittorrent is here

And here's one earth shattering idea - why not use the same concept of bittorrent not only to files but also to websites?? Why do you need to download the Hotmail or Yahoo login page, when your neighbour has just done it a few hours ago? Wouldn't it be great if the standard pages like Rediff, Google, eBay, Times of India pages could be shared among everyone online, rather than come from a central server every time?

I'm sure this is going to happen soon, let's see which of the ISP companies this idea strikes first!