Thursday, June 28, 2007

Software Coolies, Hear Me!

Software Coolies of India!

That's what most of you are. Just software coolies.

You carry head-loads for different clients; they come for your services at various times of the day and night. What do you get out of it? A payment on completion - for your labor. Even the software companies don't make much money out of this! They're just like a coolie union. Pressed on one side by more competitors, and on the other by 'cheaper customers'.

Stop Cribbing! Get off your hind-sides!

The only way to create wealth is to make something that someone wants. Start your own company, don't blindly do offshore services. Do that for survival if necessary. Create products. For any market which you know, or which you have the skills to target.

But who am I saying this to? You folks just want your cushy 'government jobs'. Regular pay. PF. No risks.

Just remember, you are a software coolie - no risk, no reward.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Manhattan SUCKS

No. This is not the Manhattan in New York. I've been there, or so my parents say. I have no memory of the event.

This is the Manhattan card provided by Standard Chartered Bank in India. If any of your friends, family, neighbours, class-mates, enemies, non-friends, non-enemies, ever seem to be falling into the trap of getting a Manhattan card, stop them at once. Even if you have to summarily execute them. That would be more peaceful than dealing with the absurdities that the Manhattan card folks put you through.

First they put a late charge on my account because I paid by check two days before the due date. What?! I paid before the due-date didn't I? Oh there's some fine print, if you're paying by check you have to pay three days before the due-date. Ok. That's some pretty slimy fine-print, even BSNL and BESCOM take checks in their drop boxes on the due date. In fact even after the due date. So they cancelled my charges after about half a dozen calls. I vow never to use the card again and forget about it.

A year later I get a bill for Rs. 2484. I never used the card. It was supposed to be 'life-time free' so I had to call to find out what the hell happened. Apparently there was some Rs 80 charge for some crap. Which bounced and ballooned and grew up to Rs. 2484 in a few months. And the statement said "You have been put into the Defaulter's list. This is a very serious matter. which will affect your credit-worthiness." Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Another round of calling, to get things canceled. Thankfully, without too much effort, they said they'd reversed their screw-up and all the charges.

Well not all. Apparently the last month's charge couldn't be reversed. So I had another round of calling. Then called to cancel the card. Was told it was canceled. So I forgot about it again. Mistake.

I get a statement today saying I owe them 4 paisa! And "You have been put into the Defaulter's list. Blah.." And along with a 'Small Amount Credit' for 4 paisa. Which seems to mean that on next month's bill I'll have a zero balance. Whew!

But wait! Now I get a threatening SMS! "You have a payment due of Rs. 0.00", it says. "You better make the payment of Rs 0.00, or else ..."

To summarize - Manhattan SUCKS. Standard Chartered SUCKS.

I called up, and emailed. Got replies that my card was already marked "Canceled" and I have a zero balance, and I'm not on the defaulters list. One silver lining is that the customer support seems to be able to do stuff, and have always been helpful.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Living in a Vacuum

No. I don't mean a metaphorical vacuum. I mean a physical one.

I was feeding my roaring information addiction tonight and I came across this very long and interesting /. post.

And there's a comment which speculates on living in a vacuum. Presumably you'd have some kind of respiratory device to help stay alive. But perhaps it's work without even lung action - directly dissolving the oxygen into your blood.

Pursuing that further, maximal exercise uses some 2.6liters of O2 a minute. So we need to figure out a way to have some form of surgical implant to dissolve 2.6L of O2 a minute into blood, and remove the roughly equivalent amount of CO2. Perhaps the lungs could be filled with some form of fluid which does this function. One lung for O2 entry and the other for CO2 extraction.

For the heating or cooling of the body some form of "Rapid Thermal Exchange" would take place. Or perhaps the same device would both cool and exchange O2/CO2. Imagine the lung fluid itself also performing heat exchange.

In fact if there is a scrubber and enough energy generated, the CO2 could even be reformed back to O2. But I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader :-).

Then there would no longer be a bulky space suit required, perhaps even a thin wet-suit kind of outfit would suffice. There's the issue of background radiation, but that'd would be solved by a thin layer of metal foil for the alpha and beta. And I'm not sure what the concentration of gamma is in space. Apparently in a year an astronaut on the ISS gets about 27 times the average someone gets on the surface of the Earth. Which is well within safety limits anyway.

And we could use this outfit not just in space - we could use it on the surface of the Moon or or Mars.

The side-effects would be interesting too. No more romance novels with 'Sighs of discontent'. No need to breathe in and out every few seconds.

Given the rate of scientific advance, how far do you think this form of breathless respiration is going to take? My bet would be on less than 20 years, closer to 10. Any takers for a long term bet?

And Dr. Freeman Dyson on life in vacuum.

Friday, June 08, 2007

GPLv2 Vs GPLv3 - for the technophobe

A friend of mine asked me,
"What's the GPLv3 issue?"
That, to put it mildly, is a long story :-)

The purpose of the GPL is to 'free the code'. That is any code under the GPL and modification made to the code will always be available to end-users to study, modify, re-distribute, and use with modifications, referred to as the 'fundamental freedoms' .

However there is a loophole in the GPLv2 which allows some HW companies to follow the letter of the GPL - give the code to their users, while breaking the spirit of the GPL - not allowing the users to modify the code and use it.

Also, the GPLv2 did not have much about software patents and protection of patents, which was also a loophole which allowed companies to obey the letter while breaking the spirit.

The GPLv3 tries very hard to fix these loopholes. It intends to refresh the spirit of the GPL, and ensure people can't abuse these loopholes in the GPLv2.

1) First read Tivoization for what the loophole in the GPLv2 is, and how Tivo used it to break the spirit of the GPL. There are more references on that page which are well worth a read.
3) I couldn't get such a clear reference to the patent issues - but this article explains a bit.
4) The GPL is actually quite simple and clear to read! Read about the gplv3!
Read the gplv2 license.
5) What defines the four fundamental freedoms?

Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE COMPLETE OR ACCURATE. Just an introduction to what the GPL is and the source of difference between v2 and v3. If you are really interested post here, after reading the references, and I'll respond as I can. Reading the references should take between 4-6 hours minimum :-). And if you want real legal advice - talk to a lawyer.

Richard M. Stallman. No discussion on Free Software would be complete without reference to him. Some might even say Him. He's the man who leads the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and has made Free Software his life's work. The code he's written is used daily by millions of people. He's also a very controversial person - typically because he's very blunt, stubborn, and precise in the way he speaks and uses words.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Argument by Authority

I like G.B.Shaw quotes, as you may presume reading "about me".

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

George Bernard Shaw quotes (Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Religion, Caste, Sikhs, Rajasthan

Sikhs are supposed to be caste-less. Sikhism was founded as a heterodox alternative to the hitherto incompatible Islam and Hinduism. Guru Nanak did not ask his followers to renounce their religions - instead he asked them to realize that they were all followers of the same God. That's the theory. Where is Sikhism today?

A big caste-divide. Separate langars for Dalit Sikhs and other Sikhs. Sikhs who have other caste names. A mostly Dalit Sikh organisation which seems to have tried to go back to the basics - although the Mercs of the leader seem incongruous. So what do the Sikh leaders do? Destroy the Dalit Sikh organisation of course. How can they tolerate such a blatant display of what they're supposed to be?

Moving on to Rajasthan for one comedy and one tragedy.

Some over-zealous BJP functionaries portrayed the CM as 'Annapurna' along with a trinity of the BJP bigwigs. Now the BJP folks have shown their righteous indignation at this sacrilege, and the wife of Jaswant Singh, BJP's ex-Cabinet Minister has filed suit against the perpetrators of this evil act that is designed to inflame religious sentiments. Time-pass!!!

Now for tragedy.

The Jats who were OC, were moved into the OBC category. The Gujjars who were OBC lost half their seats to the newly minted OBC Jats. They wanted their share of seats back - and logically they figure they can achieve it by becoming ST. The BJP promised the Gujjars ST status. Small snag, only the Central Govt can designate a community as SC or ST. The UPA central govt. is in no mood to fulfill the poll promises of the BJP.

Let's throw into the pot the Meenas who are currently ST and are worried that they'd lose their share of seats to the Gujjars.

And a conflagration ensues that would put to shame any civilized state.

Such is life with religion. Get rid of foolish, archaic, beliefs. Get rid of societal friction.

Let's try to move into the third millenium shall we?

Cycling away...

One of the things I'm planning to do is cycle long-distance. My icon for this is Kiruba, who cycles 26km a day to and from his office in Madras. I'm nowhere in his league - at about 3km a day now.

He also participated in this mad enterprise - cycling from Bangalore to Madras over a weekend - 353.49km! Two days of intense, gruelling, pain-filled exhilaration! These Romans^WGuys are crazy! *Miming Asterix going tap, tap, tap*

So in my feeble attempt to start off, I decided to pedal the 19km to my cousin's place today. Started off at 06:03, reached their house at 07:23. Had a 'yelaneer' break in the middle - that's tender coconut water for you non-Tam folks. I have a non-geared Hercules Thriller, and the Bangalore roads with their ups and downs are not kind. The lack of any really long roads also takes a toll - stopping and starting is a pain if you have to do it every few hundred meters. And braking immediately after a downhill slope because there's a traffic signal or an intersection is heart-breaking :-(.

Now I've got to cycle back. Not decided if I should go early tomorrow morning (Monday), or leave in an hour. Traffic and heat versus being able to sleep in my own bed. Probably go in the morning. That'll also let me be on the Net tonight.

I guess people should try to have some kind of physical goal - to put their bodies through its limits occasionally. That helps me take my mind off work, and makes me so tired at the end of the day - all I can do is sleep. Otherwise my idle mind is the Devil's workshop!

One medium-term goal is to go for a week's trek in the Himalayas. This'll probably happen reasonably soon, given that two sets of my friends are planning for this in the near future. One guy has almost finalized a mid-August trek in Leh. I've been trying to plan for something with the other set, but nothing seems to be materializing :-/.

Another medium-term goal is to backpack/hitchhike through south Tamil Nadu and perhaps Kerala for a couple of weeks. Having been in Madras for nearly all my life, I want to walk through villages and rural areas and see things for myself. Don't know if I'll get company on this - most of my friends seem to be getting married off in great haste :o)

Don't know whether I'll be fit enough for these things, so have to make sure I get some regular physical exercise to build up stamina. And that for now is only cycling. I think I should plan for some regular cycling every day - a few tens of kilometers should do the trick. Let's see if I can do that and keep it up. Perhaps cycle till MGRoad and back, or down Bannerghatta road for 10 or so kilometers.

Get a physical goal!