Monday, October 06, 2008

Do you observe rules this strictly?

Look carefully at the picture below.

Four pedestrians are waiting for the red light to change, even though the road they wish to cross has been blocked permanently due to security reasons, and the police are guarding it!


Picture taken near Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on September 26, 2008.

In the few minutes that I watched, lots of Berliners acted likewise!


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Friday, June 20, 2008

It’s size that changes the experience

We know that in the government, possibly because of the size, the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

Are are the rest of us better?

Do large, profitable and professionally-run organisations offer a smoother experience than the silos of a bureaucracy. 

Here’s my experience of the Airtel web site that makes me wonder.


Retrieving an MMS from the web

It started with the following message from AirTel:

There is an MMS message for you. at Your Passcode is: c6s8**

Okay, I knew these were pictures sent by a friend, so I followed the url.


The requested URL /mms/ was not found on this server.

IBM_HTTP_Server Server at Port 80


Activating MMS on the phone

Maybe the url had changed. We know it happens.  So I look around and find this:

Getting Started
You'll need a compatible mobile phone to send and receive picture messages. To Activate MMS, send "MMS ACTIVE" to 121. Requires MMS enabled handsets. If your friends don't have a picture messaging phone, you can still send them a picture message. They'll receive a text message asking them to go to a web address where they'll be able to enjoy your message online.

:: Airtel :: Postpaid Mobile - Mail & Messaging Services.


All right, I send the SMS to 121 requesting activation of MMS, but get this response:

Welcome to My Airtel. Make a selection
1-For Billing
2-For Payments
3-For Bill Plan
4-For Do Not Disturb
5-For Help



Trying something else


So I give up on MMS, but continue to look around and discover something different but useful:

Access via PC

Access Airtel Msgr via your PC or Laptop:Instant chat with friends with any mobile number in India. Airtel Messenger on your PC offers many reasons for you to get hooked on. Foremost, it lets you send messages to any Airtel mobile number in India , for free. GET CRACKING, MAN!

Download NOW!
Click here to download AirTel Msgr.


:: Airtel :: Postpaid Mobile - Mail & Messaging Services.


OH, but “download AirTel Msgr” link brought in a completely useless zipped folder called mysites! :-(



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A “must have” feature from Gmail Labs

You known that Gmail has powerful search built into it.

But after you’ve crafted that perfect query, do you throw it away? Not any more!

You can use an experimental feature in the new Gmail Labs to save the query for as long as you want. It is called “Quick Links” and is extremely easy to use.

How to enable Quick Links

  • Click on settings from within your Gmail account.
  • Select the last tab on the setting page, called “Labs”. It’s been placed there a few weeks ago.


  • Enable Quick Links from a list of dozen or so feature that are currently available. 


VoilĂ ! A Quick Links panel is now added to the left column in your Gmail account. It’s below the panel called Labels.


In this panel, you can place a shortcut to whatever view, search results or individual message you are viewing.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

Lesson for software engineers from a filmmaker


Picture from: Shekhar Kapur's Website


What could a filmmaker say to CEO’s attending a software conference?

Probably very little, unless you are Shekhar Kapur and unafraid of opening up your thoughts to scrutiny by strangers.


Giving up Control

Mr Kapur started by asking how a symphony is created? Does it happen by exercising control or by giving it up?

He didn’t provide an answer but rather hinted at it by asking more questions and describing his own experiences.

For instance, he recalled body surfing—something he did in his younger days. And he cited the experience of filmmaking, for which he is acclaimed now.

He says he prefers to work from loose scripts because the rigid ones leave little room for creativity. How do you create anything, when all you do is follow instructions?

His method is to be obsessed with the subject, and to do all the hard work and research in the preparatory phase. And then to panic!

This serves to disrupt the stranglehold of earlier preparation and frees him to live in the moment and make his decisions on the fly. It’s not unlike being in the zone, which is what breathes life into his work.

Just like with body surfing, his other example. You need to learn how to control your body in water. But you really surf only when you give up control.  It happens in the moment when you allow your body to follow the wave, rather than controlling anything. That’s when you cease to exist because you’ve become one with the wave.

It is, perhaps, also how symphonies are created. Beethoven’s fifth (my example), has a very precise structure in terms of group theory. But no mathematician has created a comparable work following the discipline of mathematics. And Beethoven, who created the masterpiece, is no mathematician and wasn’t following a mathematical procedure. 

We all know that Beethoven never really studied advanced mathematics. Yet he incorporates a surprising amount of math in his music, at very high levels. The beginning of his Fifth Symphony is a prime case, but examples such as this are legion. He "used" group theory type concepts to compose this famous symphony. In fact, he used what crystallographers call the Space Group of symmetry transformations! This Group governs many advanced technologies, such as quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, and crystallography that are the foundations of today's technological revolution. At this level of abstraction, a crystal of diamond and Beethoven's 5th symphony are one and the same!

Source: Chapt. One, IV.4, Mozart, Beethoven

Yes, the mathematics is there. But it was formed into the symphony when Beethoven let his imagination discover its structure, unfettered by any control. If there was discipline, it was went into training the musician and composer that Beethoven was, not in the actual act of creation of the symphony.

Okay, so what is the lesson for the software engineer?

Here, it is (and I hope Mr Kapur agrees):

Great software doesn’t come from following the detailed SRS that you or someone created. It is more likely to emerge when you do an obsessive amount of preparatory work, but respond to the requirements as you see them when the action begins.


Download Firefox now to participate in a Guinness Record

Help create a Guinness Record by downloading Firefox 3 browser on the day of its launch!

In the bargain you get:

  1. The safest access to Internet, and
  2. A large number of free, easily set-up tools you’d love. (Only if you care for them, of course!)

Here’s a convenient link to get you started:

Download Day

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Organise your life without lifting a finger!

There are two kinds of people: those who can--and do--maintain an organiser, and others who can't because of a genetic disability. I've been a long-suffering specimen of the second type.

No leather-bound volume with name embossed in gold could ever persuade me to fill more than three pages of appointments or other details. The Lotus organiser, MS Outlook or Google Calendar didn't help either.

Reason? The organisers help organise things, which is an extra step to doing things.

I couldn't make an appointment and remember to it look up in a leather binder. And while the electronic versions offer an alarm, one still has to key in the appointment.

But as you can guess, I've overcome my incapacity. Consider this:

My secretary schedules a meeting, after checking with your office, and it magically appears on my phone. Without GPRS and on my basic Nokia N72.


She creates the appointment in her own Google Calendar and invites me to the meeting. You could do that too, if you knew my email address.

The rest happens automatically, if you set up things as I explain below.

You need Google Calendar (free with Gmail or an independent Google Account) and MS Outlook to make it work.

Download and install the following software:

  1. Google Sync
  2. Nokia PC Suite

Both are easy to set up. Just follow the instructions.

Fill in your Gmail address and password and Set Google Sync for a two-way sync as shown:




Now Google Sync runs silently in the notification area to keep MS Outlook and Google Calendar synchronized.

And the PC Suite keeps Outlook synchronized with the N72, with just a double click on the rightmost icon shown below (also found in the notification area):


The other two icons in the screen capture above are Bluetooth and Nokia PC Suite, identifying from right to left.

If you don't have Bluetooth on your desktop or laptop, you can connect the N72 with a cable that came in the box.

About Nokia PC Suite in general, from their web site:

Nokia PC Suite is a free PC software product that allows you to connect your Nokia device to a PC and access mobile content as if the device and the PC were one.

Nokia Europe - Nokia PC Suite - Support


What could be your reason for not being organised now?


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are you a winner in the Blogosphere?

Before a story becomes news, it must be distinguished from other stories in the feedstock. 

Digg or Reddit do this separation of news from noise with machines worked by user communities; Google News or TechMeme, with algorithms.

"A" list bloggers, like Scoble, do much the same by hand. Like sifting through gravel for diamonds, it is hard work, but could be profitable.

I like the noise. Why? Because I can see patterns before anyone else. I saw the Chinese earthquake happening 45 minutes before Google News reported it. Why? Because I was watching the noise, not the news.

Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger » Blog Archive Why Google News has no noise «

However, what is news for Scoble is noise for many others. That's why all his stories don't hit the Digg front page. And, perhaps, the Digg front page itself is noise for most net users.

In this ecosystem where bloggers pick each other's stories, book mark them or share them, everyone is a linked as both a producer and a consumer.

Who are the winners in this ecosystem?

Don't know. For now, I'm thinking whether the question itself makes sense.


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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why does your conversation with mom end this way?

In last 9 months it's been watched more than half a million times! Most of the over 2000 comments are like:

ParfaitTic (5 days ago)

OMG! your observations about life are so ... so.. REAL :D ! LOVE ALL YOUR VIDEOS

Why do moms (and sometimes dad) behave like this?


Mom doesn't want you to eat Tuna against your wishes. This conversation isn't about fish, nutrition, mercury poisoning or anything.

It's a little drama fuelled by loneliness and guilt.

There are attempts to end the conversation: Mom, I don't like fish! (Please, can we stop talking ... er about fish and such other stuff?)

And attempts to keep it going: Fish doesn't have as much mercury anymore. (Yes, you don't like fish for some reason. But I want to talk to you, and fish is about the only thing I can think of at the moment. Besides, I can't discuss your career or your children or your love life, without feeling so much like an outsider.)

Sometimes an emotional scene over fish is better than emotionless silence between individuals.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The most productive 5 minutes of the day

On most days it's only five minutes, right after I wake up:

00:30 Stretch. Straighten the spine, persuade muscles to wake up. Ah, that feels heavenly!
00:45 Flop back.
Feel Happy. Recall the last day. Or contemplate life in general.
01:15 Focus. Now what was it that I'd decided to do? For the day or with my life?
00:30 Open eyes. Keep them open. Look around. Feel the morning.
00:45 Nudge my wife to see, if she responds.
00:20 Now what it that I had to do, again?
00:10 Sit up. Reach for the glasses. Switch off the alarm.


All right, let's get on with it!


Here's the trigger for my post:

The latest competition on Fuelmyblog is being sponsored by There are two prizes and two ways of winning either an 80Gb iPod Classic or an 8Gb Nano -Your Choice!

Fuelmyblog: Win one of 2 iPods

Go ahead and write about your 5 minutes. I shall be happy if you win.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to be creative or anything you want to be

Hugh MacLeod wrote a blog post called "How To Be Creative" that's been downloaded more than a million times!

Read it, or if you are pressed for time, he provides a summary:

If I had to condense the entire work into a single line, it would read something like, "Work Hard. Keep at it. Live simply and quietly. Remain humble. Stay positive. Be nice. Be polite."

gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards"

Monday, January 21, 2008

The One reason to trust Google

Tad Chef gives 12 reasons to distrust Google.

Do you use Google? Do you think they are nice and friendly? Do you assume that what is good for Google is good for humanity as a whole? I don’t. Here is why: The top 12 reasons to distrust Google.

  1. Google supports and implements censorship measures in nondemocratic countries like China
  2. Google search is almost a monopoly in some countries, it already is one in others (in Germany more than 90% market share)
  3. ...

Top 12 Reasons to Distrust Google | Collective Thoughts

I get to read his post because, based on my reading list, Google recommends his feed! That's the one reason why I like Google. They know best how to make the technology work for you.

Tad's reasons are worth thinking about. And you should heed his advice if you are the sort who believes the newspapers, or the UN Secretary General, or the Pope.

But for those who have a healthy distrust of everything, Google is the least untrustworthy of all authoritative sources.

And a whole lot more useful too!