Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fwd: What Technology wants:

"Groups or individuals will reject all kinds of technologically advanced innovations simply because they can. Or because everyone else accepts them. Or because they clash with their self conception. Or because they dont mind doing things with more effort. People will choose to abstain or forsake particular global standards of technology as a form of idiosyncratic distinction.
In this way the planetary culture slides towards convergence of techonlogies, billions of technology users will diverge in their personal choices as they edge toward using smaller and more eccentric selections of available stuff." - Kevin Kelly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A human being should be able to...

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Time Enough for Love

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Awesome Rant:

"It's like you were all hooked up to milking machines, and instead of complaining, you all painted your milking machines different colours, and put stickers on them, and argued over which milking machine was best.
I suppose these days, the entire entertainment industry regards most individuals as nothing more than a big consuming mouth wearing designer jeans full of money so what the fuck! So Transformers War for Cybertron.. Gather around and consume away you big jeans wearing mouth cattle things! "

Monday, July 19, 2010

PowerBall - Review

it was hard letting go of this gyroscope. I found myself still missing it a year after of getting my hands on a review unit. It's one of my favourite toys and I reccomend it to anyone with opposable thumbs. 
There's a considerable sense of wonder about this, you can generate enough electricity using your hand to light an LED that is powerful enough to illuminate a small radius around you, the Powerball is a well calibrated gyroscope - you need to hand-start it up to about 1500 RPM using a charger cord.. crunch your wrists in a circular motion, and you can make this thing go faster and faster. At high speeds, it's weight is quickly multipled by many factors, and the 250 gram ball can exert the force of a dumbell.. Here's how the company describes it: You set this rotor in motion using a cord or your finger and build its speed by subtle rotation of the wrist. It contains no motor or no batteries. The faster you spin the inner rotor the more inertia it generates and the more resistance it subsequently inflicts upon the fingers, hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.
There are many options and versions, including an all-aluminium one that weighs 350 grams. There's one which makes a lot of noise, and one that has an LED light, another one has a RPM readout meter. I got the one with the LED light as it would function like a torch while I'm out camping. I don't know if I'm qualified to comment on its therapeutic benefits, I feel a general improvement in forearm strength and touch typing after going for a few rounds with this. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Why Apple Is So Sticky

Why Apple Is So Sticky: "011. Whitmore comes up with a cumulative investment in those devices of about $15 billion today, growing to $25 billion by the end of next year. 'This averages to ~$100 of content for each installed device,' Whitmore writes, 'suggesting switching costs are relatively high (not to mention the time required to port). When Apple's best-in-class user experience is combined with these growing switching costs, the resulting customer loyalty is unparalleled.''"

(Via Slashdot.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

iA » WIRED on iPad: Just like a Paper Tiger…

A criticism of why a multi-column layout does not work on the iPad..

iA » WIRED on iPad: Just like a Paper Tiger…: "They complicate the mental navigation model: For example, what happens if I scroll left on the second page of an article? Do I go to the second or the first page of the neighboring article?

(Via .)


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Intel Abandons Discrete Graphics

Intel Abandons Discrete Graphics: "Stoobalou writes with this excerpt from Thinq: 'Paul Otellini may think there's still life in Intel's Larrabee discrete graphics project, but the other guys at Intel don't appear to share his optimism. Intel's director of product and technology media relations, Bill Kircos, has just written a blog about Intel's graphics strategy, revealing that any plans for a discrete graphics card have been shelved for at least the foreseeable future. 'We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market,' stated Kircos, 'at least in the short-term.' He added that Intel had 'missed some key product milestones' in the development of the discrete Larrabee product, and said that the company's graphics division is now 'focused on processor graphics.''

Testing new Blog interface

Lost is finally over.

I saw a little bit of lost back in 2006, and finally it's over. I haven't seen a single episode of it yet, I was waiting for it to get over so that I'd have a clear estimate of how many hours of my life I'd be wasting on this tripe.

Charlie Brooker's Screen burn: Lost & 24 | Television & radio | The Guardian: " 

"I gave up on Lost (Sky1) some time during the first season, having decided it was just a bunch of irritating people going 'woo' on a rock in the sea. An episode detailing Charlie the rock star's backstory, replete with hammy flashbacks to a wildly implausible version of Manchester, was the final straw. But since then I'd heard from devoted fans, who insisted that despite a few major wobbles somewhere round the halfway point, it was actually well worth watching."

Monday, March 15, 2010

TED X squared!!

TEDxAhmedabad - 6/26/2010
TEDxASB – 4/21/2010
TEDxBangalore - 3/13/2010
TEDxCalcutta - 3/21/2010
TEDxChanakya - 6/20/2010
TEDxChennai - 10/10/2010
TEDxCochin – TBD
TEDxDelhi- TBD
TEDxFoothillsofAravalli - 4/3/2010
TEDxHyderabad - TBD
TEDxIITKGP - 3/20/2010
TEDxIITRoorkee – 3/27/2010
TEDxIndore - 4/11/2010
TEDxJodhpur - 5/16/2010
TEDxKarnataka – TBD
TEDxKids@Riverside - 11/14/2010
TEDxKonkan - TBD
TEDxKundapur - 5/8/2010
TEDxMumbai – 4/3/2010
TEDxNirmaU - 3/25/2010
TEDxNSIT - 3/31/2010
TEDxPatna - 12/12/2010
TEDxPilani - 3/13/2010
TEDxPondicherry - 8/14/2010
TEDxPSNACET – 12/2/2010
TEDxPune - 10/10/10
TEDxVIT - 3/27/2010
TEDxYouth@Bangelore – TBD

Friend pastes this list of TEDx events being held in India.. and asks why we aren't going to any of these..

The Mumbai TEDx is at Bluefrog..

Saturday, March 06, 2010

In case you miss me!

This blog's gone a bit dormant, most of my keystrokes go into twitter, google buzz,, and my pet project..


Monday, February 08, 2010

Product reviews on the cloud

Finding low-cost, high value tech products that aren’t neutered in anyway is an endless and often fruitless quest.

I should know.

A decade ago, my budget desktop PC would radiate enough heat in my room that I often pondered about fitting an exhaust fan in my window. It was powered by an AMD Duron processor, which never set itself on fire, as some warned me - but it would run so hot, that it required me to sit half naked, in lungi or chuddies. I am sure those in Europe and North America saved a bit in heating bills, but here, back in India, this was not happening at all.

Until 2005, the gigahertz race between Intel and AMD pushed the power draw of desktop processors to outrageous levels - these PCs needed dedicated cooling. That’s until they made the transition to multi-cores. The CPUs chilled out a bit after that.

I am now using a netbook that runs on the same OS that I used a decade ago - but it barely warms my lap - the CPU fan kicks in every once in a while.

But it is designed with a two-year lifespan, and has very limited upgrade options – even the RAM slot has a “warranty void if seal broken” sticker on it. (screw that)

Sadly, most consumers, especially the more hardcore ones, care less about a product’s carbon or environmental footprint, and more about price and brute performance.

But I can imagine that they do care dearly about their electricity bill, and a product’s lifespan.

At some point in the future, I foresee someone coming up with a web site that makes it easy for anyone to calculate or compare the total expense incurred in running a PC over its stated lifecycle. Including power consumption. This information is not available to us currently as it is very difficult to measure, but maybe Google Powermeter will help us out with that. What we need is a cloud based app that monitors a PC’s uptime over its lifespan. Combine something like a hosted version of AIDA with newegg style user reviews and driver update news, and you’ll have a site that provides real value to everyone involved.

Such a site would help measure a computer’s lifespan, as long as the user community volunteers to poll in such data into a single web resource until the product’s lifecycle. With all that data, it should be possible to measure every computers effectiveness and the failure rates of its individual components over its lifecycle. A facebook for computers. Computers that never ping back over time can be commissioned to an eventual virtual graveyard. With all that data, over time, we would be able to tell how long a computer lived, on average.

Technically it would also be possible to measure programs applications are the most CPU hogs, have this averaged out over thousands of PCs so that these apps are weeded out by those running older PCs.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Synchromesh: Synergy, Enso, TabHunter, Mozilla Weave, Opera Unite, Ubiquity

If you have a wireless LAN network at home, there's a ton of cool shit you can do in terms of interoperability and customisation. These are some clever user interface enhancements that are available for free, and things that work well for me.

Mozilla Weave: It allows you to sync your firefox tabs, and reopen them another machine. Opera Unite does the same thing, but I dont use opera because awesomebar remembers everything for me and I dont think all that browsing history can be exported into Opera.
Ubiquity - This is also a very promising project that plans to bring a very natural commandline interface to the browser. It provides a lot of in-browser command line integration and allows for quick recall through a maze of windows.
Enso: Enso is similar to Ubiquity, but for the Windows user environment. The footer says that it was made in 2006, and is dedicated to the memory of Jeff Raskin.
Synergy: Allows me to set up a virtual KVM interface that lets me switch focus between multiple PCs using just one keyboard and mouse. I am partial to my Desktop PC's keyboard, right now.
TabHunter: Another Firefox app, this lets me jump to any of my firefox taps by hitting CTRL & Alt & T.
I also use TinyVNC sometimes to turn my torrent on or off from my iPod Touch.I use Logitech Remote to repurpose my iPod touch a multi-touch trackpad. Apple's Remote software allows me to control my iTunes playlist from anywhere in the house. It has one of the best user interfaces for recall and discovery, and all these apps are free.

That last minte thing that you must absolutely do before you go to sleep

Turn your Utorrent on.
I can now control my desktop PC using Tight VNC Server, just as I am about to doze off in bed, using Mocha VNC Lite on my iPod touch. Tested it out on my home LAN.

'What operating systems are supported by Tegra? | Tegra Developer Thread tells you all

Right now, support for a full Ubuntu filesystem is under discussion but there are no plans/schedule yet. However, support for a Linux kernel with installable X11 is actively being worked on and should be in the short future. Support for Android is coming very shortly.

Richard J. Seis
Mobile Developer Technologies

The coming initial Linux platform support pack is likely to include a 2.6.29 kernel, with a minimal Ubuntu-based busybox filesystem that includes apt-get support for expanding the supported packages easily. The support pack should also support the option to install a minimal X11R7.x server and accelerated drivers into the target filesystem. Other additional packages are being tested as a part of this release, but are not confirmed yet – we will detail those as the support pack continues towards release
Lars M. Bishop:
Developer Technologies Engineer,
NVIDIA Corporation

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A contrarian view of Indian public services

Begin forwarded message:

The Hindu, Jan. 24, 2010


Public services: a positive experience


Those working in the public sector deserve to know that their work is valuable and appreciated

We need to promote public services to counter any unfair criticism of their work

A friend travelling with me recently by the Coromandel Express from Calcutta developed chest pain and vomiting, which suggested a heart problem. The TTE sent a message to Vishakapatnam, the next junction where a Railway doctor examined him and advised us to go to the government hospital. There they took an ECG immediately and sent us to the casualty ward, where he was given immediate medication but cleared for resuming the journey. Lacking onward reservation, my friend was able to get a flight to Bangalore, his home town. Later tests showed that he did indeed have a mild heart attack, though not perceptible in the ECG.

Let me elaborate a bit on this episode. The railway officials were courteous and helpful. The well-equipped free public ambulance service "108" took us to King George Hospital, where the staff and doctors were also prompt in their services. There was no paperwork — the chit from the railway doctor being sufficient for all medical services. We were sleeper class passengers, in a strange town, with no local contacts or influence, and able to communicate only in English. Our train had reached at 03:30, we were in the hospital by five and back by eight, before going to the airport. Except for an altercation with a station porter regarding a wheelchair, the whole experience was essentially positive. Moreover, all this (ECG, injection, tablets) was absolutely free. Nobody even asked for a tip. The kind of service we received was easily worth a couple of thousand rupees or more!

The doctors at KGH rightly concluded that the symptoms and ECG results did not warrant our further detention in Vizag. More knowledgeable acquaintances say that had we preferred to seek private medical care, we would probably have been detained a few days, at enormous expense.

This incident has reinforced my faith in public services. Contrary to popular perception, I noted that officials and staff in the railways, the ambulance service, and hospital performed their duty with competence and application of mind.

I know this is not a 'representative' example. It isn't meant to be one. We routinely hear only the other side of the story. With the same experience, someone else may merely highlight the faults, perhaps complain about conditions in the hospital such as torn sheets and dirty toilets. For a free public hospital, considering the kind of crowds they deal with, I am amazed we got such quick and effective service. These facilities therefore need to be supported and their shortcomings addressed (and not merely condemned).

It is also my impression that the same people who are vocal in denigrating public services will readily pay bribes to 'get things done'! But the same class of people do not complain when paying through their nose for shoddy services from private organisations. The larger private corporations do not care for customers other than those they perceive as important to their business. The small guy invariably has access only to a faceless call centre for making complaints. They make enough profits to run a slick PR system which can handle the few difficult customers without denting their public image maintained by huge advertising outlays.

Though public services routinely attract adverse comments, those working in the public sector deserve to know that their work is valuable and appreciated, though seldom expressed. Despite well-known short-comings like political or bureaucratic interference and organisational inefficiency, there are many who do a sincere job, sometimes with dedication under adverse conditions. It is they who have held this nation together for over 60 years, and their services are available to everyone equally, at least in principle. You will not find private phone or courier services reaching small villages, whereas the government is expected to make facilities like food, shelter, transport, health and education available to everyone, and it can only be done through adequate public funds by taxing "us" who can afford it.

If the well-off do not actively support public services, we will surely descend steadily into chaos. I would urge readers who agree with the viewpoint expressed here to patronise and promote public services as far as possible, and counter any unfair criticism of the work they do in a hostile  

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Social engineering techniques: How to hack gmail

I didn't know people were so gullible. LOL

me: Hey
karthik: Hi Radha
How are you ?
me: Hey, did you know this thing about gmail chat?
If I type in my password in chat, it will show up as *'s at your end.
my password is *******
See that?
Type your password and see
karthik: Which one GTalk
me: No, whereever you are typing
karthik: No
It;s not
My password is kasadakka
me: Just type it and press enter. It will appear as *s to me.
karthik: Are you sure
me: yes
karthik: Radha is it a prank :D
change it now before i ruin your life

Here are some security tips that I wrote up for a small article a month ago:

1) Use Sygate Personal firewall to monitor data if you do not have the latest Windows security updates.You are most likely to be the unwilling recipient of worms, viruses and trojans if you choose to go online on an unpatched, unlicensed copy of Windows XP.

2) If you do have a registered copy of Windows, there's Microsoft's free antivirus which is free to download and use. Security Essentials is both lightweight and effective.

3) Use a secure password. Good passwords are not found in the dictionary. A good password is six to eight characters in length, comprising letters and numbers.

4) You can use Winzip to password protect a folder, but for some heavy duty encryption, use the Open source TrueCrypt, available on

5) Be careful of what you download and run on your computer, especially if you use it for e-commerce and Internet banking. Spyware and trojan viruses could steal your personal data and credit card details.

6) In this age of cheap terabyte drives, you have no excuse. Back up your data. It will save you time and money should your system be attacked. There are many software tools to automate this as well.

7) Exercise common sense. It might feel fine to have your Birth Date on Facebook, but since this is usually a security question used by most banks, you might want to keep it to yourself.

8) If you do feel that your computer is behaving oddly, or compromised in any way, boot into Google's free Chromium OS, which now fits on a 1GB pen drive.

9) Hackers call phone skills and other soft methods of hacking social engineering. Identity theft can be easily done on the phone. As a principle, never reveal your password or account details to an stranger on the phone, especially if you receive the phone call. To resolve any issues, call the bank at their listed numbers.
10) If you have the Google toolbar installed, the page rank feature is a good way of verifying the genuineness of the hyperlink.
11) As a policy, banks seldom include hyperlinks in their email communication. All netbanking URLs support SSL, as do most services where security is important. Use it by typing https:// before entering the website name. .

Friday, January 29, 2010

Objectified - 2009 Documentary Review

I did not know that Objectified was made by the same guy who did Helvetica, but both are very impressive documentaries that discuss ideas and trends around design from some of its savviest practitioners.
Objectified gives airtime to the designers who make the every day stuff we use - from toothbrushes to motor cars. It's not text bookish, but has plenty of insight, some lovely nuggets around philosophy and buzzwords like the democritization of design, democratic products. A designer muses on a japanese poet's haiku on the "obsessive sketch". It reflects briefly on the fact that inspite of CAD machines and rapid prototyping, the original prototypes for most products, including motor cars, are carved out by hand. The documentary also gives about five to ten minutes of screen time to Apple, with a designer explaining how they designed the unibody enclosure that's used in Macbooks.
I liked the idea of designing things that get better with use. Leather shoes and jeans have that atribute, as does an operating system with everything installed and configured to your liking. (it's one reason why I never like to flatten and reinstall my OS)
It also looks at the problem that most designers philosophically face - that of sustainability. A designer recounts how his boss found a discarded toothbrush that his firm had made a few months after it was launched at a beach in the Pacific. Manufactured Landscapes takes a much better look at this. imho
I think this one guy nailed it best when he asked for a billion dollars to fund a marketing campaign for "things you already own". Ha. Maybe a $2 frisbee would give you a lot more joy than the iPad. I'm just saying.

It's all very well articulated and put together. A transcript of some of the chain of thoughts from one guy from the docu: I think it's both topical and relevant.
The basic idea was good design is
something you want, good design
is something that distinguishes you,
it's sort of a mark of progress,
if you are a person who recognizes good design it
distinguishes you from all the naive and
corny bourgeois of the past, the past being
everything up to that minute.
So you can now buy into that, you can buy into
progress, good design, good taste.
And they had it available to you in a very attainable
Often the way that a product comes into being isn't
because a bunch of expert designers
sat down and said, "What are the ten most
important problems we can solve?"
There's a company that's writing a check. And what
the company wants is new SKU's,
they want more stuff, and they want more people to
buy it. And that's the name of the game.
We tend to want new things.
They can do something that has a different look, a
fresher look, a newer look,
a new-now, next-now kind of look.
And the problem with spending a lot of time
focusing on what's very now and very next
is that it isn't very forever. And that means it doesn't
last, because there's someone else coming along
trying to design what's now and next after that.
And part of their agenda,
whether it's over-articulated or not, is to make
whatever used to be now,
Iook like then, so that people will buy the new now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Technology in this coming decade:

The current of Digit has an feature written by me, which serves as a five year timeline of emerging technologies in the computing and communications realm.

Here's an excerpt. For the rest, buy the damn mag cause it's really worth a read.

Computing in 2015
Forget 2012 and the singularity. We're going to try and envision the future of personal computers and technology in the year 2015.

To start off with this feature on future predictions, which will only deal with certainties, we would like to assure our readers that world is not ending in 2012. NASA, in fact had a news release dismissing claims about a phantom planet or galactic alignment which would bring the end of the world. "Even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible." says a news release. "Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy, but that is an annual event of no consequence."

However, it is difficult to gaze in a crystal ball and project a grandiose vision for future of all technology, what with the whole gamut of futurologists like Arthur C Clarke, William Gibson and Neal Stephenson jostling for space in this beat. And then there's Thomas Friedman, and the likes of him who explain the world of globalization, chronicling the next big killer app, hotshot CEO in double page photo spreads. Even though there are no five year plans outside of the realms of socialist governments, especially in the field of computing and consumer electronics. However, given that we live in India, and get 3G close to a decade after Japan got it, it would be fairly easy to predict the future of tech five years from now by looking at what is happening around the world.

What makes this task somewhat difficult, is that some of our readers might actually scan this issue and put it up for laughter and ridicule in the year 2015. So we will stick to the obvious, and try and be fairly authoritative about what we are saying here. Even though Bill Gates famously once said 512 KB of RAM should be enough for anyone.

We're dwelling here on the state of the communications and semiconductor industry, where intellectual property, software and interface patents, and walled gardens help retain precarious monopolies. One can't help being cynical when the invisible hand of the free market pinches your wallet. As of December 2009, we're yet to see a $100 laptop or a 10,000 rupee Android, Netbooks are still running on underpowered Atom processors with half the power of an Intel Celeron of the same clockspeed, while CPU companies limit features on their high-end processors by blowing polysilicon fuses out of it. While some first world countries like Finland have declared bandwidth a birthright, Internet connectivity in India is capped at 10 GB by some of the largest telcos, under a "fair usage policy".

The future of computing is already here in many parts of the world, it's just that most of us are yet to afford or experience it, or see it in the Indian subcontinent. Finding low-cost, high value tech products that aren't neutered in anyway is an endless and often fruitless quest. A friend of mine equates devices that require proprietary connectors to circumcision, and far worse - female genital mutilation. He claims to "support Cowon" because unlike other manufacturers, they have good support for video and audio codecs. He asks, "Why don't we have a hard drive version of the iPod Touch?"  For the same reason that we don't have a $200 tablet, yet, I tell him.

Post scriptum:
There is an excellent thread on somethingawful:
 brad industry discusses the future of media.
 I think as digital imaging technology continues to march ahead that photography will undergo a transformation similar to what happened to painting about a century ago. The old idea of photographs as documents will finally die, what we call photographs will come to encompass a huge range of image making techniques and processes, and visual literacy will become even more important than it is now.
General interest and mass market print publications will die or evolve into digital versions. Advertising dollars will continue to follow them. This has already happened to a large degree (look at how many magazines have gone out of business the past year). Print will not die out though, actually I think the opposite. There will be a renaissance in magazines and books in the form of small, niche publications that emphasize quality. This will be made possible as print-on-demand technology continues to mature and allows anyone to become a 'curator' or 'publisher' with minimal investment. Consumers will seek these out as a more personal alternative to the never ending, bite sized stream of digital information. Social media will be the driving force behind how these projects are created and promoted.
Large blogs will move away from the copy-and-paste + commentary approach as old media institutions die and will transition to become the new patrons of the arts as they commission original content to bring in eyeballs in much the same way that magazines do now.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Notes from a guest lecture at XIC

Threw in some TED videos for my guest lecture on blogging. At least, that's what it was supposed to be about.
It was a novel experience as I am not very used to public speaking, and it was my very first lecture. It was good fun, where else can you get to impose on a young audience clips of Adam Curtis, Charlie Brooker, P Sainath, have a student read out the Citibank report on Plutonomy, talk about Sea Shepard, Internet memes, augmented reality, and then have time to segue into kitten pics. Yes there were kitten pics.

I hope some found revelation in V Ramachandran's talk on empathy, and how it is channelled through mirror neurons in the brain, which he calls "Gandhi neurons".
Most of these students were already familiar with P Sainath, but obliged a video of him an hour into the lecture. Most did not know about Ohanian's talk on Splashy McPants (how to make a splash in social media) segued well after my talk about Sea Sheperd and their Batboat crashing drama and a discussion into why whales and pandas get an undue amount of attention. My answer: For the same reasons that kittens do.
I also talked about media memes, going viral, conspiracy theories, fringe belief systems, and think tanks. The power of personal computing technology as illustrated by the documentary Loose Change.

Oppenheimer Documentary on PBS

Some call him the greatest chess player in the world. He was a socialist who brought together some of the brightest minds on the planet and built the bomb that changed the world forever.
And after the deed was done, he quoted the Bhagawad Gita.

He was villified and outed by special interest groups that saw more profit in building more powerful bombs, who labeled him a communist sympathizer for opposing the construction of a hydrogen bomb. This documentary dwells deeply into his personal life, the achievements and vendettas that shaped his career.

My favourite quote from him:
"The open society, the unrestricted access to knowledge, the unplanned and uninhibited association of men for its furtherance — these are what may make a vast, complex, ever-growing, ever-changing, ever more specialized and expert technological world nevertheless a world of human community."
How glad I am that we have something like the internet and wikipedia, which has enabled us with the means to do just what he wished for.

More here:

A review of books chronicling his life: