Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

More than what you say you feel

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Life, Tech, Thoughts
Tags:

Am sure everyone often pauses and thinks deep into crazy things at times. I just had such a moment. I was just thinking about inventions that have transformed the world as we know it today and I was also contemplating on some things that could make our lives a lot better.

We all know humans have five important abilities (what we often refer to as five senses). Some people do often claim they have the additional sixth sense which is arguable – Let’s not get into that here. The five abilities that humans have known to have mastered so far:

  • Ability to hear
  • Ability to see
  • Ability to feel
  • Ability to taste
  • Ability to smell

Thanks to our fore-fathers and their life changing inventions, we now live in a world in which it is possible to share some of these senses with others; even with someone who may be sitting right across the world. With the invention of telephones and radios, people were able to share what they hear to people far away from where they were. Imagine the delight a grand parent would have had the first time they could hear their dear grand children’s voices. Though at times it may not possible for them to physically be there to see those little ones blabber off to glory, the voices over a long distance telephone call would make a world of difference to them.

Then there was the ability to share what one saw. Inventions of cameras, televisions, webcams, etc. have transformed societies and living styles. I feel lucky to have been born in a generation in which I can capture what I see and share it so easily with anyone who needs to see it. “Pictures speak a thousand words” as they say. Imagine trying to explain in words about your recent trip you had to the most breathtaking place without the ability to share what you see!

I was just thinking how different my world would have been without the abilities of sharing just these two senses with the people I care. Then I was contemplating what was next? What about the next sense of feel/touch? Would it be useful for a doctor/surgeon operating remotely to have the ability to feel the texture or harness/softness of the tumor he is operating on remotely? Would it make a difference to a solider who is thousands of miles away in a battle field to have the ability to touch and feel his new-born baby? The world of communication would be lot different if this was possible; won’t it?

I was thinking on how could it be possible to share such a thing digitally right across the world. Since I use Photoshop many times, the coloring schemes came to my mind. Using the color picker tool I can point to anywhere in a picture and know what exact color it is in. This would give me digitized values of that particular color in various color schemes. RGB for instance is one of the most commonly used color schemes. Providing values to indicate how much of Red, Green and Blue is used, computers now have the ability to show many millions of colors. So if I have to tell a friend of mine that I am seeing a Red rose, I now have the ability to indicate to him/her how red the rose is. In other words we are now able to quantify sight in a way.

If we apply the same kind of scheme/logic to the sense of touch, there may be many more vectors/variables. Some of them I can think of right now:

  • Hotness/coldness
  • Roughness/smoothness
  • Hardness/Softness

What about digitized values for these parameters? With the combination of these values it would be a good starting point to at least share/simulate what it feels like to touch something. Am sure there would be lots of inventions and technologies in industrial and military field by now which would do similar things but it’s still not available for commercial/personal use. Getting to this point is one step closer to the ultimate step. Once humans have fully understood and mastered the working of human brain; may be we can take this to the next level. The information about what we touch and feel through our skin reaches our brains through electrical signals via nerves in our body. If someday, we fully understand what these exact signals are and how this information is sent across to the brain, we can use the digital values in the form of something like the touch scheme I described have above and translate the digitized information into brain signals to make the recipient feel something he is not actually touching.

Wishful thinking you say? 🙂

Advertisements

It’s a murky and gloomy morning. You wake up and switch on your computer and login to the virtual world. You are eager to see if anyone has purchased your new creation in the virtual world – The new outdoor lounger.

 

As your computer starts up you think about the advertisement you had set up to sell your creation.

The new outdoor lounger – set comes complete with table & umbrella as well as 2 loungers. Great for any pool area or deck. Modifiable so you can color anyway you like.

Was it good enough to make a sell, you wonder!

 

Finally you login to you Second Life and are really elated to see that someone has purchased your Outdoor Lounger. You have made L$300. That’s now enough Linden Dollars to buy that virtual private island you were eying since quite some time now. You make final checks on the virtual property and virtually interact with the property holder and crack a deal. The Linden Dollars exchange hands and now you are the proud owner of the private island on the web.

 

Seems like fiction? Well, this is the modern World Wide Web (www) for you. This is actual reality and it is happening and working as you read this. There are millions of registered residents on Second Life and presently many of them are creating new gizmos to sell in the virtual world, many are interacting with exciting people, making friends, some are attending Harvard Law classes, some are virtually experiencing the new car on the block, the list is endless.

 

On the market, Linden Dollar vs US Dollar stands at 271.3 L$/USD as of 26th June, 2007 9:16pm PDT. US Dollars spent in Second Life over last 24 hours $1,680,771 as of 26th June, 2007 7:29pm PDT.

 

Hard to digest?
Well then digest these:

 

  • Toyota is the first carmaker to enter Second Life. It has been giving away free virtual vehicles of its Scion brand. Read more>>>
  • Microsoft Uses Second Life to Promote Visual Studio. Read more>>>

 

When you hear names like Toyota and Microsoft, you know it all ought to be serious.

 

All this time, I have been talking about Second Life, an Internet-based virtual world. A creation of Linden Research, Inc. Follow this link get a second life>>> 🙂

 

There is a changing trend in the world we live in and we are unknowingly getting used to this change. More and more of our activities are shifting towards the internet. Nowadays the powerful desktops or laptops we were using to crunch our complex tasks has now virtually become a medium to plug into the Internet and all our work is being done with online applications.

 

Be it the latest MashUp site, your web desktop, your online spreadsheets, your blog; be it anything on Web 2.0, it has all become a part of our daily life now. Now, unknowingly we are getting used to the new trend on the raise – The Web 3.0.

 

Artificial intelligence, Distributed computing, Semantic Web, Scalable vector graphics, Second Life are all part of Web 3.0. More and more stress has been put on transforming the web into a 3D space. As we brace ourselves for the new 3D experience of the Internet, I often wonder – Are we ready for it? Is India ready for this change? Is India up to pace with the technology?

 

Web 1.0 was dial-up, 50K average bandwidth, Web 2.0 is an average 1 megabit of bandwidth and Web 3.0 will be 10 megabits of bandwidth all the time

Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix, at the Technet Summit, Nov 2006.

 

If you are a techy guy, you would have understood by now that the most basic infrastructure required for accessing something this heavy is your Internet Bandwidth. I was reading an article recently in the Times of India which had reported a study on how India fares when it comes to Broadband penetration. According to the report, at present the broadband penetration is at an alarmingly low level, at around 4%. This speaks a lot about the hardware infrastructure presently available in the country.

 

Every common man who wants to get a Broadband connection now in India now knows how hard a task it is. I wanted a broadband connection to my house and had to scout around and went to various providers available. All had the same response. There were not enough ports available and there was already a big queue in place. I finally decided to go with BSNL and applied for it. After a 6 month long wait, I finally got the broadband connection I was looking out for.

 

So this makes me wonder. Are we sitting on a good enough hardware infrastructure to experience the full power of what the modern day web has to offer? I wonder if there is anything being done to improve it. Are providers in India already thinking about the potential of the broadband market? Is there enough help from the government on this front?

Why employees leave organisations?

Posted: August 25, 2006 in Life, Tech, Thoughts

Every company normally faces one common problem of high employee turnout atio. People are leaving the company for better pay, better profile or simply for just one reason’ pak gaya ‘. This article might just throw some light on the matter……

Early this year, Arun, an old friend who is a senior software designer, got an offer from a prestigious international firm to work in its India operations developing specialized software. He was thrilled by the offer. He had heard a lot about the CEO of this company, charismatic man often quoted in the business press for his visionary attitude. The salary was great. The company had all the right systems in place employee-friendly human resources (HR) policies, a spanking new office, and the very best technology, even a canteen that served superb food. Twice Arun was sent abroad for training. “My learning curve is the sharpest it’s ever been,” he said soon after he joined. “It’s a real high working with such cutting edge technology.” Last week, less than eight months after he joined, Arun walked out of the job. He has no other offer in hand but he said he couldn’t take it anymore. Nor, apparently, could several other people in his department who have also quit recently.

The CEO is distressed about the high employee turnover. He’s distressed about the money he’s spent in training them. He’s distressed because he can’t figure out what happened. Why did this talented employee leave despite a top salary? Arun quit for the same reason that drives many good people away. The answer lies in one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization. The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in a book called First Break All The Rules.

It came up with this surprising finding:

If you’re losing good people, look to their immediate supervisor. More than any other single reason, he is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And he’s the reason why they quit, taking their knowledge, experience and contacts with them. Often, straight to the competition. “People leave managers not companies,” write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. “So much money has been thrown at the challenge of keeping good people – in the form of better pay, better perks and better training – when, in the end, turnover is mostly manager issue.” If you have a turnover problem, look first to your managers. Are they driving people away? Beyond a point, an employee’s primary need has less to do with money, and more to do with how he’s treated and how valued he feels. Much of this depends directly on the immediate manager. And yet, bad bosses seem to happen to good people everywhere.. A Fortune magazine survey some years ago found that nearly 75 per cent of employees have suffered at the hands of difficult superiors. You can leave one job to find – you guessed it, another wolf in a pin-stripe suit in the next one. Of all the workplace stressors, a bad boss is possibly the worst, directly impacting the emotional health and productivity of employees. HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find public humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not leave, but a thought has been planted.. The second time, that thought gets strengthened. The third time, he starts looking for another job. When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss crucial information.

Dev says: “If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don’t have your heart and soul in the job.” Different managers can stress out employees in different ways – by being too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, too critical, but they forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will quit – often over seemingly trivial issue. It isn’t the 100th blow that knocks a good man down. It’s the 99 that went before. And while it’s true that people leave jobs for all kinds of reasons- for better opportunities or for circumstantial reasons, many who leave would have stayed – had it not been for one man constantly telling them, as Arun’s boss did: “You are dispensable. I can find dozens like you.” While it seems like there are plenty of other fish especially in today’s waters, consider for a moment the cost of losing a talented employee.There’s the cost of finding a replacement. The cost of training the replacement. The cost of not having someone to do the job in the meantime. The loss of clients and contacts the person had with the industry. The loss of morale in co-workers. The loss of trade secrets this person may now share with others. Plus, of course, the loss of the company’s reputation. Every person who leaves a corporation then becomes its ambassador, for better or for worse. We all know of large IT companies that people would love to join and large television companies few want to go near. In both cases, former employees have left to tell their tales.

“Any company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of every employee,” Jack Welch of GE once said. Much of a company’s value lies “between the ears of its employees”. If it’s bleeding talent, it’s bleeding value. Unfortunately, many senior executives busy travelling the world, signing new deals and developing a vision for the company, have little idea of what may be going on at home.That deep within an organization that otherwise does all the right things, one man could be driving its best people away.

– As said by Azim Premji

Hot House!

Posted: March 31, 2006 in Me, Tech, Thoughts

29th March, 2006. The day finally arrived. The Hot House event finally got off. Started with all the speeches and talks about what would the work be. The best thing was that everything was precisely timed. No person could take more than the allotted time – not even the CEO. The count down clock started as soon as they took the stage and they finished their talks within the given time. Time had so much value these three days just because the amount of work was humongous and everyone had so less time.

By the time we all could reach there, the room was filled with lots of people. I could see around 50 people, all deeply engrossed in what was told. Just by the sight of the people around there, I could the say that the average IQ level of the people around in the room was way up there… real top notch. The very sight of this made me sweat! I tried to focus on what was being told because if I had to survive the next 3 days among these people I had to concentrate and understand what was to be done.

6 teams were to be formed each having a chosen business lead and a technical lead and they together had the task to form and lead the team. Forming of the teams were the most fair and fun kind I had ever seen. Each team starts with a fixed amount of money. They chose the best people for more money or retain money with less experienced people. The best performances at the end of each day would be given money as well. The team with most money at the end of 3 days would eventually be adjudged winners. So, the choice was to be taken by the leads. Go for the best people who would cost more and have confidence that they would make back their money with good designs or save money and hope that other don’t do well!

All people attending the Hot House had filled up their profile to specify how comfortable they were with each of the technologies listed. During the bidding process only these profile information was displayed without any reference to who it was. There were no names taken until the final bid was made. Each bid for a person would start at 100 pounds. The price of the profile keeps dropping every second. As soon as the leads think it was worth, they would lift their team’s card to place the bid. The team member is chosen this way and that much amount is deducted from the team. This was awesome fun and hilarious at times. We never knew which team we were till the last bid was made.

After the teams were selected, we wasted no time and assembled on our respective oval tables. Planning started with trying to analyze what the general skills of all the team members. Then the problem was analyzed and different solutions thought off. After nearly half a day of frantic planning, we could finally start coding the prototype that we had to show at the end of each day and the final big prototype on the final day.

I was lucky to be have one of my friends in the same team I was in. We had worked on some mock work as preparation back in India. We were in the same team then and were in the same team again. The work that was expected by us in the event was similar to what we had done in the mock. So that was a great start for us. That really boosted our confidence up. We had to do nothing new. All we had to do was be good at what we already had done. We both decided we would work the same way we worked in the mock. She designed most of the overall flow and I took care of the web-service communication which involved using Velocity for creating XML sending it across the network using HTTP, read the response XML of the web-service, parse it using XSLT and give it back to the flow. We had been doing this exercise since a week before. So we were way too confident about doing well as a team. All went really well on day 1 except a minor glitch. We did manage to put up a reasonable show on end of day 1.

Day 2 started off with a surprise. There were more teams added just to reduce the team size of individual teams which had grown out of proportion to the plans. Since my friend and I had similar skill sets, one of us had to part and join a new team. It was finally decided that she had to move but by then we had got the basic framework ready which made it really easy for both of us to work in both teams J

The rest of the work went on smooth and we did finish what was originally planned. By end of day 3, our prototype was up and running fine. But I guess the lady luck was never with our team. The prototype which was working perfectly on our machines faltered miserably during the final presentations. After all the hard work, the web-service din’t respond as expected and it displayed a huge error message on the big screen. L

Anyways, what was over was over. I had come here to have a good experience and learn a lot. At the end of the event, I think it was all worth the effort put in for the preparations and the actual work. I got to meet so many interesting people, top designers from many companies and top most management of our clients. It was really amazing to see the amount of quality work been done in so many different ways in so less time.

Great way to pull out fresh ideas real fast and effectively! I just loved the concept. The way forward from here… the BT management was going around visiting teams during all three days and analyzing the solutions and the work that was being put in. Now they would pick the best people, form a team and appoint a lead as one of their designers and actually come out with one complete solution in a 90 day work cycle. Looking at the kind of work that was done, anyone who would be selected would have the opportunities of their lives to work on something that’s really huge and interesting. Though I don’t have much hopes of making this team, I hope at least some of the people who had traveled with me from MBT would finally make it to the team.

All the best to whoever makes it…

All for the love of it

Posted: November 28, 2005 in Life, Tech, Thoughts

Started with 360.yahoo.com. Tried Blogger, LiveJournal and a lot more. Every time I feel I can settle in with a blog post site, MBT Firewall comes in and swoops away the site access! One fine morning my browser displays the dreaded message – “Surf Mumbai Denied Access”. I hate that message. Really really hate it. I have to start all over again. Search for a new blog post site that is not in the firewall block list. Customize the setting to my liking and start afresh 😦

Felt like giving up this time until Swaroop told me about WordPress. Hopefully access to this will stay for a while. 🙂