The Future is Here!

Last week I saw a video about Electric cars / GM’s volt (see video at end) … which also talks about Green energy / Solar panels etc.
Then today morning I read this bit from my friend Nitin, which finally triggered this long due post.
It led me to think that all this hoopla about Electric Cars / Green Energy is probably not mere noise … there is a fundamental change that is happening which most of us are unaware about.
A change which is probably good for everyone – it is good for environment, for the energy consumers. Maybe bad for the oil companies, but think of it they have a huge market and limited supply say 50-100 years. So even if we start transitioning to green energy now, it will take at least 20-50 years to convert whole world to Green Energy, which per my understanding is the time left to us till we run out of fossil fuels.
Anyways, the best part that I liked about below video is, when they explain possibility of turning energy consumers to energy producers. See the bit between 6:00-7:00.
Let’s say homes have solar panels installed and during a hot summer day the “smart home” realizes it has everything charged up and doesnt need anymore solar energy. Now rather than “switching off” energy consumption, it will start sending out the energy to other energy users.
Final result – the consumer (we) may end up getting 2000-4000 $ per year for electricity generation, rather than paying for electricity … isnt that wonderful and amazing?
The future is here!

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Internet Speed – India vs USA

It is probably not fair to compare the two, still.

I read this article on about Google plans to experiment very high speed internet connection upto 1GB/s at selected US locations (see video at end).

Also saw this screenshot by the blog owner, Arun Prabhudesai, about the dismal Internet speed at India (screenshot below) … as we can see the internet speed is hardly 0.4MBPS. (and this is broadband high speed connection, not the dialup types which we used to use 8 years back that kept loading forever)
Now, Last time I was at delhi, they used to charge around Rs 700 (I had Airtel broadband). (around 15.5$) … although unitary methods should not be used for such cases but still by simple maths this turns out 30$ to use 1MB/s speed in India. (15.5$/0.5)
I thought to check internet speed at my home @ Pennsylvania to see how it turns out.
It turned out to be 20 MB/s!!
Now, I have comcast here and I pay around 45$ per month (incidentally, I used to pay 20$ promotional price for first six month.)
So in this case, it comes out around 2.25$ to use 1MB/s in US.
Summary – from elementary mathematics it sounds like we pay 10-15 times more in India, and we get a dismal service… still we have made some progress so far, so hopefully will improve upon in future.
Less said the better, we do have a long way to go.
PS – here is the video-

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Is there really any difference at all?

I am not a political expert (certainly not in American Politics), still…

George Bush vowed for War in Iraq.

Barack Obama is rooting for War in Afghanistan.
George Bush had government do uncontrolled spending, causing huge national debt.
Barack Obama – doesnt have a choice, has to todo same thing to bring economy back on its knee.
… I can keep on going, but they say pictures are worth thousand words …
Below are the pictures I noticed, Barack Obama’s one was the one I noticed few days back on facebook [here].

George Bush’s picture is the one I noticed today. [here].

I gave you the links above so that you can check yourself that these are genuine pictures, not tampered with at all!! :)

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A problem with UIDAI project – no clear directions after launch (integration with MAJOR systems)

I am not sure about this, but seeing this video about the Unique ID project headed by Nandan Nilekani – raised few questions in my mind.

First watch the video-
Note – there was the funny part at the end where seemingly there was some technical glitch from news channel and we had some “doordarshan moment” when the anchor was totally unaware that he is live… but I am not talking about that. :)
In the first part of this brief interview, Nandan clearly mentions the deadlines of project:-
* 12-18 months for Pilot (that is around end of 2010)
* Around 5 years (2014-2015) will be when the project be “implemented” which means around 600 million Indians will get UID (that will be roughly 50% of India’s population at that time). I am sure the project will go beyond that to cover 100% of India’s population, although Nandan did not define that timeframe … but I am ok with it, because it is difficult to predict that schedule at this time.
Note the tone of professionalism and clear vision coming from a “Minister” – that is the reason we need more technocrats/educated people at these critical positions. It is definitely a soother and great change from the traditional – totally opposed to the vague answers we get from our minister sahibs. Even if the usual Indian minister gives you a deadline – you will have to ignore that – because it will have no base or substance to back that deadline. (example – Pranab Mukherjee saying in 2009-10 Budget that VAT will be implemented by April 2010 – which everyone knew is not going to happen because of the coordinations involved between various state governments and central government. I believe his motive was not to misguide us – but he just wanted to put a date so that everyone at least have a vision about the horizon.)
Anyways, let us not diverge and come back to Nandan – in the later part of the interview he was asked “what kind of applications is he looking at – where UID could be used?” – once again Nandan very clearly explained it – UID is just a unifier, not the real application. He defined the scope of UID project and said that other systems (like Passport, Ration card, NREGA) will have to come forward to use this number.
So far so good – but I think what lacked here (and all other publications/news I have read so far about UIDAI) is how/when/what will be those integrations with other systems be done?
Important- without those integrations, UID project has no significance. See this video-
Note – UID will become just a “status symbol” without those integrations, I mean it will be of no real use to have UID. (I also do not agree with one woman’s complaint when she lost her voter ID card and demaned UID should be accepted. I dont agree to that. UID is just a supporting system, not a replacement for Voter ID, per my understanding.)
Also, I do agree it is not in Nandan’s project scope to talk about those integrations. But from Nandan’s tone, it sounded like those projects will need to be totally “owned” and “driven” by those respective system owners.
I dont agree with that.
In my opinion, UID has two distinct customers –
1. Indian Citizens (who will use the card)
2. Various Governance Systems (who will also use the number, they are real UID clients)
From my limited IT experience, I know that an integration project is successful only when both the parties become the owners, that is when both the parties see the benefit coming out of the project. In our IT projects, it is usually vendor-client relation. The client benefits from the functionality, while the Vendor benefits from the revenues of the implementation.
So if only one of the party owns the integration, that integration project will have lots of problem. The final solution will be delayed, it will be defective and it will be full of issues.
So I think their are serious questions that need to be answered here-
* What other MAJOR systems will be integrated with UID?
I said MAJOR – because the list is endless. Potentially all government systems could and will be integrated to UID.
* Who will own and drive those MAJOR integrations?
Will it be UIDAI? Will it be respective system owner? or will it be joint ownership as I explained above?
* When would those other systems be integrated with UID?
In my opinion, just like UID launch project .. those MAJOR implementation project also should clearly define plans and deadlines. Say – year 2020 as deadline for passport-UID integration, 2025 for Ration Card-UID integration … I am just cooking up numbers to explain my point.
* How will other systems be integrated with UID?
The approach will also need to be well thought of to avoid duplication in effort, and saving time and money. It will be better if that approach is thought of now.
Say – what will be the implication of those integrations from a common man’s perspective – Would a common man need to go out and get UID in 2014, then go out and get PAN card updated with UID in 2016, then get passport updated in 2017, then get ration card updated in 2017 (assuming that is when those integration projects will be implemented)
Imagine coordinating with 1 Billion people on these implementations on year to year basis … that is a food for a big mess. It will be a BIG wastage of time and resources if 1 Billion people has to come out every year to get one of their cards updated. Think about logistics to manage that!!
So – why not plan it now?
One possible solution – launch UID to general public in two phases – first the UID creation and second UID integration with Major systems.
So those 1 Billion people will need to come out TWO TIMES –
* First to get UID – government will do biometrics required for UID.
* Second time they will furnish to government every information related to them – passport #, PAN#, ration card# etc – or better if government can himself pull out that information (which could be messy actually) – but everything will be done at one shot.
This is just one idea, I am sure if Nandan’s team gives 10 minutes to those integration projects now, they will find 10 better solutions.
Maybe these things have already been decided at government level but not made public yet, and will come in due time. So I guess we will have to wait and watch for now.
Updated Later
I read this writeup later, which I think was released by UIDAI themselves (probably leaked?)
Anyways, it does answer few of my questions vaguely.
Read this-
The Registrars that the Authority plans to partner with in its first phase – the NREGA, RSBY, and PDS – will help bring large numbers of the poor and underprivileged into the UID system.
So, the first phase itself will include integration with few systems! Good news!
Jut like I mentioned in my post that there are two distinct clients of UID, this document also says similar thing (they said three – third one being government as a whole)
For residents : The UID will become the single source of identity verification. Once residents enrol, they can use the number multiple times – they would be spared the hassle of repeatedly providing supporting identity documents each time they wish to access services such as obtaining a bank account, passport, driving license, and so on. By providing a clear proof of identity, the UID will also facilitate entry for poor and underprivileged residents into the formal banking system, and the opportunity to avail services provided by the government and the private sector. The UID will also give migrants mobility of identity.
For Registrars and enrollers: The UIDAI will only enrol residents after de-duplicating records. This will help Registrars clean out duplicates from their databases, enabling significant efficiencies and cost savings. For Registrars focused on cost, the UIDAI’s verification processes will ensure lower KYR costs. For Registrars focused on social goals, a reliable identification number will enable them to broaden their reach into groups that till now, have been difficult to authenticate. The strong authentication that the UID number offers will improve services, leading to better resident satisfaction.
For Governments: Eliminating duplication under various schemes is expected to save the government exchequer upwards of Rs. 20,000 crores a year. It will also provide governments with accurate data on residents, enable direct benefit programs, and allow government departments to coordinate investments and share information.
The other thing which I remember I read/saw somewhere else also that this is being developed as revenue generating / service oriented model.
Revenue model
By providing identity authentication, the UIDAI will be taking on a process that costs agencies and service providers hundreds of crores every year. The Authority will charge a fee for its authentication services, which will offset its long -term costs. Registrars and service providers will also be able to charge for the cards they issue residents with the UID number. Such pricing will be within UIDAI guidelines.
There are still questions to be answered – like when it will be integrated to the systems that affect me – the middle class of India – like passport, ration card, voter id card etc.
But I am sure people are already thinking. So we need not be worried. (let’s hope for the best!!)

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How to get into your own Bathroom!?

It’s a long due post (I drafted long back – 12/13/09, but never completed), so here you go……..

I had a terrific dinner tonight (home made tandoori roti and chilli chicken, thanks to Smita, my lovely wife).

So after finishing up the dinner I went to bathroom to wash my hands and what I see –
“We have locked ourself out from the bathroom, it got locked from inside!!”


I was not surprised really (because it happened with us 2nd time, umm 3rd actually, 1st time it happened with bathroom, 2nd time with bedroom) … but I was disappointed – why me? … come on, not again. :(
So I went back to kitchen to inform Smita, and umm, wash my hands too. When I told Smita, she smiled back at me thinking I must be kidding (things like this doesnt happen on Sunday night 9:30pm… right?) … wrong! … Smita looked at me again and saw I am not kidding – what!!! again!!?? …. I said (like it’s my fault) – umm, yeah (with a sorry tone) …. and I added to my defence – “so, umm, who went last time to bathroom” (that was not relevant i know, but I couldnt come up with anything else to defend myself)
so, what next? well, the good thing about it happening for the third time is I have the emergency phone number for maintenance guyz … but last 2 time both me and Smita observed how they unlocked the lock using screw driver etc… and Smita must be reading my mind, so she asked to do try it ourself if we can unlock it.
I still feared if we’ll break anything we will be charged humongous amount (I have heard about similar stories) – so maybe we should better leave it for professionals – but then I thought maybe we can give it a try, why not, we will stop at the point when we feel we are breaking anything.
So, both Smita and I went back to bathroom door with a screw driver, now another problem – it was a philips screw – so it needed that four headed crossed philips screw driver!
So I thought to accept my defeat, but then I saw my wife coming up from kitchen with a “Peeler”
I thought to myself, ok right! like that is gonna work!? … hah! … my wife started giving it a try, but we felt we are doing it wrong… so I said – leave it … let me call maintenance.
As the luck’ll have it – even Maintenance guy doesnt wanted to come out 10pm – He asked 50$ for coming – when I asked in most humble voice isnt it supposed to be free, he said that is during the day, not during like middle of night.
He further added we should try opening the lock ourself. He explained some technicalities too over the phone – which all went over my head. Sensing my tone he said – “why dont you just give it a try, I will give you a visit tomorrow morning anyways to see if it worked out for you” – I thought that sounds reasonable. So said ok.
Now, Me vs the Door – again – I manage to do the first part correctly – open the screws and push a part of lock back to fall inside the bathroom. But the 2nd part was to somehow “click the lock open with screw driver” – which even after 5 minute desperate tries with screwdriver – I was not able to do.
I remember searching on internet too – and I think I even found the patent page for the lock – but that all was not helpful.
I dont remember if it was Smita’s idea or mine (I think it was Smita’s idea) – but we decided to now try it on a Bedroom door lock :) …. since that door was already open – so I can look both side of the door lock – and can understand the mechanics – and if we mess up anything, the doorman is coming next day anyways.
So, I tried with bedroom door and figured out the trick. I went back to bathroom door, tried the same trick – CLICK – and the door opened.
I cannot tell you the joy when this happened (rather unexpectedly) … even my wife was so happy and proud of me – I just cannot tell you! … I guess even I felt like a Macho Husband! 😀 … LOL :)
So, anyways, all is well that ends well!

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There is No Free Lunch … There is No Free Windows 7 Upgrade!!!

So few weeks back my laptop got infected with highly annoying and stubborn viruses and spywares, which wont let me use the laptop the way I wanted to use. (constant google redirects, forced reboots … you know it all … right?) … they wont go away no matter how many anti virus softwares I will install.
Still I tried fighting with them for a week (which deserves another blog post) … then I gave up and brought out the brahmastra (The recovery CD) … and formatted everything. I had no inhibitions in formatting because my data was safe via windows live sync to another laptop which again deserves another blog post.
First – I had windows XP installed originally, but the laptop manufacturer (Lenovo) gave me Windows Vista Recovery CD for some reason – unknowingly or knowingly.
I didnt want to upgrade to Vista because of many software incompatibility stories I heard – But since I had no option so I said – what they heck, lets try it – ALL IZ WELL!!
Then someone on my facebook friends list said why dont try Windows 7, which was a great idea as I have read good review about Windows 7 … and I know my laptop manufacturer was offering Free Windows 7 Upgrade.
I went to Lenovo site and clicked on the so tempting link of “click here to request free windows 7 upgrade” and was redirected to a site which looked like a third party non lenovo site – Mentor Media Corp – so this free upgrade is being done by some other company? maybe? do I care? maybe? maybe not? what the heck – ALL IZ WELL? … But soon I realized this site had the MOST HORRIBLE WEB ORDER FORM i have ever filled – you know those forms which keep refreshing the page whenever you click a field – no matter which field you click- no matter how many times you click – still AAL IZ WELL – I said to myself again.
I clicked clicked clicked – and on final submission page noticed 17$ shipping – what? 17$ to ship a freaking CD? then why are they calling it Free in the first place? Isnt it a shameless lie to call it free and then charge you?
What the …. AAL IZ WELL AAL IZ WELL … I clicked the submit button.
And lo – “you have got mail” with something which they didnt mention up until now – I will need to send them “Proof of Purchase” – why didnt they tell me before in BOLD LETTERS – I am sure it must have been in some small text somewhere. What if I didnt have “proof of purchase”? Isnt things like should be told to customer before getting the order. I mean how many times I will need to tell myself AAL IZ WELL?
Anyways, I searched my gmail and found the original receipt for the purchase. So I zipped it and send to email address.
Then I waited and waited and waited for a week… up until today.
No email reply.
Finally today I realized this will not be easy and it is just the beginning. I searched on internet and read their support forum and found almost everyone is having issues. People are getting there “free CD” after 3-4 months!!!!!!!!!!!!!! … Whoa! 3-4 months!! is it stone age or what?
Hmm … my order status page is still showing “pending for proof of purchase” Since I dont see anyway out, so I just emailed them again my proof of purchase and will fax it too tomorrow.
Now I try to learn from these experiences – I dont know whether I will get chance to implement those learnings ever in my carrier, but still. I think it is good to learn from your own bad experience so that you can avoid it when you are on the other side – Reminds me of recent movie I saw this week “ROCKET SINGH” although the movie was nothing great but it had nice motto – only way to grow a company is to have good and sensible customer service. That is it.
Anyways, I think one of the main reason this chaos is because it is labelled “free” … So there is a huge rush of customers – which I dont know why didnt they foresee and prepared in advance. I think most big companies these days are totally insensitive to bad customer service. We have seen it all – Comcast, Bank of America etc in USA … Airtel, ICICI etc at India … it is the story everywhere. Like for Lenovo, it looks to me they are totally aware about the bad customer service but they have this implicit excuse “since its free, so it is the bad service .. take it or leave it”
I think they could have done some simple things to improve customer experience here like telling the customer beforehand about the order backlog … so that customer gets mentally prepared before placing the order …. and those who doesnt want to wait can order from somewhere else (even Microsoft is selling windows 7 for 200$ it seems)
Another option could be to have a “premium processing option” say charging 50-100$ .. so that customer have at least an option to choose better service for more money… or stick to bad service for less money.
I am sure if someone at corporate spends 10 minutes thinking over it – they will find 10 better solutions.
Anyways, I am still telling ALL IZ WELL to me and hoping I will get my free Windows 7 shipped to me in next 2-3 months. Let’s see.

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जाडे की धूप by सर्वेश्वर दयाल सक्सेना

I think I read this poem long time back, it’s about winter season and sunshine, by a noted Hindi poet – Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena [some of his other poems can be found here]

बहुत दिनों बाद मुझे धूप ने बुलाया

ताते जल नहा पहन श्वेत वसन आयी
खुले लान बैठ गयी दमकती लुनायी
सूरज खरगोश धवल गोद उछल आया।
बहुत दिनों बाद मुझे धूप ने बुलाया।

नभ के उद्यान-छत्र तले मेज : टीला,
पड़ा हरा फूल कढ़ा मेजपोश पीला,
वृक्ष खुली पुस्तक हर पृष्ठ फड़फड़ाया।
बहुत दिनों बाद मुझे धूप ने बुलाया।

पैरों में मखमल की जूती-सी-क्यारी,
मेघ ऊन का गोला बुनती सुकुमारी,
डोलती सलाई हिलता जल लहराया।
बहुत दिनों बाद मुझे धूप ने बुलाया।

बोली कुछ नहीं, एक कुर्सी की खाली,
हाथ बढ़ा छज्जे की साया सरकाली,
बाँह छुड़ा भागा, गिर बर्फ हुई छाया।
बहुत दिनों बाद मुझे धूप ने बुलाया।

– सर्वेश्वर दयाल सक्सेना

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2010 Sensex predictions of my own!

India Inc (Indian Industry) and Congress party has very different opinions about how the country should be run. India Inc wants the market to be open, free, competitive and the growth to be fast but Congress wants the growth to be slow and steady – what they call as “inclusive growth” (like involve poorest of Indians through schemes like NREGA etc).
Clashes in these ideas and agreements / disagreements over ideas will cause the busts and booms in stock market for next few years, till the point when both party understands other very well. (which will probably never happen?)
Anyways, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced date of this year’s budget presentation to be on 26th February which led me to remember past budget presentations and market reactions from the past.
I dont invest myself in market, but I do keep a watch and do my own predictions just to amuse myself, have been correct many times in my predictions (like runup of 2007, runup of 2009, 2009 election result 1 day record bull market). It could be because it is easy to predict sitting on sidelines, but whatever makes me happy!
Anyways, so I thought to document my market predictions for 2010 here just so that I can check later and amuse myself more, so here you go-
  • Sensex is currently at 17,500
  • I think it will keep going further in next two months and by end of February will be at 18,500+
  • I think Market will crash around 5-10% on February 26th. Budget presentation will not go very well with market, and they will get disappointed and start taking out money for few days-
    DISINVESTMENT – market expects disinvestment news as always which I dont think will come up in budget presentation.
    HUGE SPENDING – government will keep up (or probably increase) huge spending on schemes like NREGA … that will not go very well with market.
If I were invested – I would have probably sold some of my stocks a week before 26th and brought back 1-2 days after 26th (if prediction doesnt come true, will probably be no profit no loss, but if prediction goes correct I would probably gain 5-10% in 1 week, very rare is that market will like budget and will go up – so on uptrend shares can be brought back immediately)
  • Anyways, sanity will resume in few days, so after few bumps of budget, Market will come back to its position of 18,500 and then again keep rising slowly.
  • Finally, I think Sensex will touch 20,000+ level by end of this year.

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Futurology – what should I wear?

This is actually not so rocket science – (wear warm clothes if it’s cold, wear less if it’s warm) – so you dont really need a software application for that.
Runner’s World Calculator Chooses the Right Outfit for Your Next Run – Clothing – Lifehacker: “If ‘run more regularly’ is on your tentative list of New Year’s resolutions, Runner’s World’s What Should I Wear? calculator can help you choose the appropriate running gear for your next outing.

You plug in the temperature, wind speed, and sky conditions, then add how you prefer to feel when you run (cool, in-between, warm). On the face, it’s a somewhat silly webapp (wear warm clothes if it’s cold, wear less if it’s warm). Still, for a lot of people, running is an extremely difficult habit to pick up, and if you’re starting your routine in the dead of winter, the last thing you want is to make your jog more difficult—so if you’re never quite comfortable once you’re in the middle of your jog, it might be worth a go.

What Should I Wear? [Runner’s World via Kyle Pott]”

But it still led me to think long term implications of applications like these on our daily life – I think the best part will be when all these applications will be integrated to each other like to have an application to recommend us what should we wear?
“What should I Wear” Software –
Are you fed up deciding which clothes to wear? … YES!
Have you wasted your valuable time deciding this ? (probably hours/days if you happen to be girl, no pun intended) …. YES! YES!

A database/software storing name/type of all your clothes.
It also stores which clothes you wore on which days.
Plus, this application is integrated with the “weather” application also – so it will be damn easy for it to calculate and recommend “what should you wear” – based on the weather outside and also based on the data of which clothes you wore recently (so that you dont keep repeating wearing same thing again :) )
For boys – it will also recommend that these clothes need to goto laundry now (since you already wore them 10 times!! lol) … probably your wife can setup that configuration (number of max days to wear) – that will make her happy too!!
Hmmm … I should patent this idea!!!

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Remembering 26/11

Few poems I read while I was reading through my blog RSS.

Mushroom Clouds

Bullets at the station
Grenades at the Taj
Burning burning
symbols of Raj
Panic at the cafe
mayhem on the streets
talking heads
and their relatives
Mushroom clouds
Mushroom clouds
Mushroom clouds in the sky
Ballots at the poll booth
people of hate
they get reelected
such is our fate
patience wears thin
the rising din
the sad look in her eyes
Mushroom clouds
Mushroom clouds
Mushroom clouds in the westward sky

Mumbai, I Bequeath My Death
Aaj ki raat bahut garam hawa chalti hai
Aaj ki raat na neend aayegi – Kaifi AazmiTonight a very hot wind is blowing
Tonight I won’t be able to sleep – Kaifi Aazmi
I bequeath my death to Mumbai, its many streets, its many lanes
And a sun that never rose on that day
There were no shadows from Bollywood hoardings
Neither from the ghettos of Kurla and Worli
Nor from the mortal divide of a stranger innocenceI bequeath my death to the beggar who died outside the Leopold Café
They shot him and his past; his coins fell from his present
They shot my past too at the narrow street next to it
Where I had once kissed a girl in a fevered evening
And dared again in a night of untoward violenceI bequeath my death to the fireflies at queen’s necklace
That never arrived that day
And to the single Kalashnikov bullet
That stared shamelessly at me
From a footprint in the darkI bequeath my death to many a death
Many a hurt
And the sky that bled
In a single shroud, a single season,
A single wordI bequeath my death to Mumbai poets
Kaifi Aazmi, Arun Kolatkar and many others
And those who died in their end thoughts
They died again and again
With me on that day.

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