Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tum Chalo to Hindusta Chale - TOI Lead India "Tree" (India will be what we are..)

No words necessary to describe. The video speaks for itself!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Genuine attempts lead to Fame, over course of time too

My previous roommate started this site called Sanskritvoice.com a little while ago. We used to discuss about websites, making money from them, or business models. It was then, I asked him, what he was doing this site for, money or fame. And he replied that it was a passion that he had for the Sanskrit language and was trying to do, what he could. He wasn't doing it for money or fame. Recently he got profiled in NDTV. This only goes out to prove that, you should concentrate on what you are passionate about, money or fame will slowly follow your passion, perhaps a little later, though I doubt if money will follow in this case. Check out the video where he got profiled..

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What happened to the $1. Can you explain? - A simple math brain teaser that leaves you thinking..

So you think you are good at Math and at simple calculations. Here we go. Try and solve this..

Three guys came to a motel and asked for a room with 3 beds. The manager said that the room rent was $30. They said they will check the room and pay for it. So the boy took them to the room, they liked it and each paid with a $10 note and the net amount came to $30. The boy went back to the manager and gave him $30. Then the manager realized that they had discounts at that time and that the room rent was actually $25 for the day. Since he was honest, he gave $5 (5 1 dollar notes) to the boy and asked him to return that money to those guys in the room. While going to the room, the boy thought that they cannot share the amount of $5 equally and since they didn't pay him the tip last time, he thought that he will take $2 and give them back $3 so that each gets $1 back. He silently slipped $2 into his pocket and went to their room and gave each guy $1. Everyone was happy.

But here is the question about it.. Initially the three visitor guys gave $30. Each paid $10 and got $1 back. This means each paid $9 and so the total they paid is $27. $2 were stolen by the hotel boy. We have the count for $27 + $2 = $29. What happened to the remaining $1 ???

How much do you understand your auto loan - Can you find the fault in this calculation?

A small discussion with my room mate brought up the subject of auto loan that I have on my car and why I should / should not pay it off. I have some savings in my savings account and I have an auto loan on my car. If I open a CD (Certificate of Deposit) with Indymac bank they will give me an APR of 5.5% and my car loan is financed by a Credit Union at 5.5%. The argument that my roomie was making was that I should pay off the car loan instead of opening a CD. His reasoning was that, though the car loan and the APR on the CD were the same, I am actually losing money, because on the interest that I earn on the CD, I have to pay a tax. And since I am single and fall in the higher tax bracket, I will end up paying 25%(+) on the interest earned. Which means that I will actually be making around 75% of the 5.5% which is around 4.13% which means that I am losing around 1.37% (5.5-4.13) on the whole amount that I am planning to open a CD with. In a way, it made sense for a brief moment.

But then, further investigation showed that it is not a valid argument to me. Here was my case that I presented. Let us say you have $10000 with you, and you have two choices, put it in a CD for two years at the rate of 5.5%, or pay off your loan which is 5.5% and ends in 2 years. If you don't pay off the loan now, you keep paying it in monthly amounts of $440.96 (Calculation from Bankrate calculator) with your salary. If you put it in CD for 2 years, you make a simple interest of $1130.25 (550+550). Let us say, you pay 28% tax on it. So your net interest earned from that amount after paying taxes off is 72% of 1130.25 which is $813.28 and the total interest you pay on the car loan for these 2 years is $582.96 (Calculation from Bankrate calculator). So I argued that I actually am making $230.32 (813.28-582.96) extra by not paying off the car loan.

Sounds logical right, but the above calculation is wrong because it was one-sided. The reason is, if I pay off the car loan with the $10000, then I don't need to pay them the $441 that I was paying every month, which means that I can put it in a savings account like ING Direct for an APY of 4.3% or an APR of 4.21%. This means that the total amount I make in two years with this monthly savings would be $11541 (Calculation from dinkytown). This means I make an interest of $1541 in two years. After cutting the tax at the rate of 28%, I will be left with around 72% of 1541 which is $1109.52. This means the total I save is this 1109.52 plus the interest I would have paid for the car loan which is 582.96. So the net total I would have saved is $1692.48 So by not paying off the loan today, I am actually losing is $879.20. So the conclusion of the whole calculations is it is better to pay off the car loan, if you have the cash instead of saving in your bank account and having the loan aside and paying monthly payments.

Agreed this calculation has some flaws because of some assumptions. It assumes that the rate from ING Direct will be 4.21%, but since it is variable it can go up or come down. Also, we are assuming that you will have continuous money from your salary, and that you will actually put aside the car loan amount payment in a Savings account instead of spending it on the next cool thing like the Iphone :) It also assumes that you would pay the money off instead of having it in your savings account, which you can withdraw in case of an emergency. You obviously can't get a car loan again on your car in case of an emergency right :) It also assumes you have 10k or the total amount of your car loan with you in your savings. But anyways, under the given set of assumptions, it makes sense to actually pay off the car loan rather than put the amount in the CD or Savings account. One more thing, you can consider is taking the amount from a special offer like 0% APR (be careful with the Balance Transfer fee in the fine print) on Balance Transfer from a credit card company like Citi and paying off the loan, provided you have a good credit history. That way, you don't pay the interest to the auto loan provider and you can pay off monthly amounts to the credit card company. And when the balance transfer offer ends after one year, take another card and transfer the balance to that. All this provided you actually have time to do some research on these and wish to save some dollars :)

Feel free to challenge the above calculations or present counter arguments :)

PS: There is a big fundamental mistake in the above calculation, and the net amount you actually save is $272.19 and not $879.20 as mentioned above. Can you prove this?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What do you work for? Money, Fame or a Happy Relaxed retirement??

A lunch time discussion yesterday got me thinking about what do I actually work for.. At lunch, my team lead told us about his friend's Mom who expired at 60. And he was like, I would be pretty disappointed with myself if I die at 60. His reasoning was simple. One works till about 60 years thinking that he/she will retire at 60, and then with all the money saved, he can just relax, buy a great car, and relax and do nothing on that private yacht just sitting down on a chair in the yacht on a sunny day relaxing. But let's say, you work hard and toil till 60 thinking of that day, that you would have enough money to just sit and relax, and guess what, you just die at 60. Then what's all this hard work worth?



You may say, I am doing this for my children. But the point is, you will be tuning the minds of your children, the same way your parents did to yours, as to how important it is to be in top 10 percent in the class, as to how it is important to be educated well enough to lead happy and secure life. And you know what, they will toil just like you do, and the vicious cycle always keeps continuing. No, I am not telling you Rich Dad-Poor Dad story to forget saving to your 401 (k) and paying your bills like the Poor dad and start investing like Rich Dad. Either ways, you are toiling towards something, which you are never gonna enjoy actually. You earn when you should be enjoying, and by the time you have enough money, you do not have age to enjoy your life. The long term benefits are indeed way too long to achieve.

So, does that mean that you should stop studying, or working and then start enjoying your life doing nothing. That is not what I am hinting at. You need to understand and plan, when you need to relax, may be take a year off in thirties and start fresh again, and again take a year off in your forties and relax probably. Yes, you might not get those lucrative pay hikes, and those well deserved promotions in your organization, but come to think of it, it is probably well worth it. If you can't give yourself 1 year out of ten years of your life, then who and what are you living for.. If at all, you live to see your golder seventies and glorious eighties, you will still not regret your taking off those years because you dared to enjoy you life when you had the zeal and the age to enjoy.. Think about it, it might be something that you could put in your achievements to cherish at a later age. May be this might not be the best solution, but it is one of the feasible solutions to balance your craving for a relaxed life and your hectic work schedules..

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

statement.setMaxrows in JDBC vs Oracle rownum in SQL

If you want to limit the number of rows retrieved from an Oracle database in a Java/Servlet application using JDBC, you can accomplish this in two ways. One is using statement.setMaxRows in the JDBC or using rownum in the Oracle SQL.

For example, lets say there are 1000 employee records in the EMPLOYEES table which has the columns: empid, first_name and last_name. In order to retreive the first 200 rows, in java you can say

....

Connection dbConn = db.getConnection();
Statement stmt = dbConn.createStatement();
stmt.setMaxRows(200);
String sql = "select empid, first_name, last_name from employees";
ResultSet rs = stmt.executeQuery(sql);

...............

This gets you a resultset with 200 rows and everybody is happy. You could have alternatively done that using rownum on your sql query itself without using setMaxRows() on statement like below:

....

Connection dbConn = db.getConnection();
Statement stmt = dbConn.createStatement();
String sql = "select empid, first_name, last_name from employees where rownum<201";
ResultSet rs = stmt.executeQuery(sql);
...............

Even this time, the resultset has 200 rows and everybody is happy. Now the question is, which one should you use and why. I may not be an expert in talking about this, but here are my observations...

If you are dealing with a table which has relatively less records like in thousands, then either way works just fine. But if you are dealing with potentially huge database which has like millions of records, then I guess using rownum in the sql makes more sense. This is because the impact on your Java heap space would be lesser.

According to JDBC, the implementation of setMaxRows is as given below:
-----------------------------------
The maxRows limit is set to limit the number of rows that any ResultSet can contain. If the limit is exceeded, the excess rows are silently dropped.
------------------------------------

For example, lets say there are 14 million records in a table, from which you want to retrieve the first 3000 rows. If you use statement.setMaxRows(), the JDBC call retreives the entire 14 million records from the database table and sets the first 3000 records on the resultset object. But the retrieval of such huge number of records puts a huge lump of data on your JVM, and you are dependent on the Garbage Collector for retrieval of this space. But if you use rownum in the SQL, then the number of rows retrieved from the DB by JDBC itself is limited and there won't be any heap space issues. I ran a trial session with our DBA and it was confirmed that the statement.setMaxRows() doesn't modify the sql using rownum automatically. We traced the session and it was retrieving all the million records. And I came to a conclusion that the heap space issues I was facing was due to the usage of statement.setMaxRows() instead of using rownum on the SQL. Also the speed of retrieval of rows when you limit by rownum could be more, though I don't have substantial evidence to state it as a fact.

If you are an expert in Java / Oracle Databases and feel that part/total of this post doesn't make any sense or if it looks like complete bullshit, then please feel to share your expertise on this matter / bash me in the Comments:)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Happy Days - A Nostalgic Retreat

Watched Happy Days (Telugu) movie in Irving Hollywood theaters this week. What a way to remember the happiest days of my life, viz college days. As the emotions of students joining the engineering college overflow mellifluously on the screen, one cannot help but bring these characters to real life experiences, with expressions like Shankar in the movie was like this guy in the college and so on. 4 years of Engineering - from fear of ragging to ragging of juniors in 2nd year, from a novice of life to a career planner of life, from few friends before engineering to numerous friends, from nobody to an 'Engineer' - thats the life you have experienced that unfolds on the celluloid leaving you with a tinge of smile on the lips and a nostalgic feeling in heart..


The story is simple. 4 guys and 2 girls come to CBIT as engineering students. The life that they encounter with love, friendship, career choices and emotions is the movie. The entire credit goes to an adept handling by Sekhar Kammula, who gives us back our precious college memories. I don't remember the last time that I had taken a moment to remember all my Engineering classmates and about my experiences with them. But after seeing the movie, I went back to my nostalgic memories. Yes, I went through ragging and yes I did rag a few juniors in college within limits, and I was one of the many students who used to scold our college and I did love the samosas in the fifth gate of our college with a mini Pepsi :) But in the last two years, I probably never spent a moment in remembering them to bring a smile on my lips, but seeing the movie, all I could think of the next whole day was my engineering college days.

The music by Mickey J Meyers is simply superb and the lyrics of the song Oh My Friend are just awesome. I would have listened to this song like 100 times so far. And the characters are simply lovable. The best is Tyson with a caring heart and sincere love for a senior. The next is Rajesh who cares a lot about his friends, my favorite among the girls is Tamanna and also Sonia who played the senior. And the theater in which the movie was showed was really good. Kudos to the exhibitors who maintained great standards. Once in a while, a movie comes that reminds you of memories that you cherish, and lets you associate yourself with the characters and feel their characters instead of seeing the actors in those characters. Happy Days is one such brilliant movie. A really good watch worth every penny spent :)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Impressing the executives in business meeting with corporate BS catch phrases

Ever seen this sales guy or a highly successful manager uttering highly effective buzz words which catch your attention not because they make sense in that particular context but because these words leave you thinking about the meaning that they are trying to convey. I am sure everyone of us have been there. I ran into this forwarded website which provides you with a list of these high tech buzz words.

Want to generate a quick corporate catch phrase. Click on the button below and get it in the text box below. Click the button as many times as you need phrases..



Your Corporate BS Buzz Phrase:



(Powered by Atrixnet)

To get a list of all the words used for this or to create a buzz word manually by yourself, visit the main site

http://www.atrixnet.com/bs-generator.html?bullshit=precise

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Greg the Architect and his world of SOA

Found this video on the TIBCO blog. Pretty interesting and funny. Need a sneak peak into the life of an SOA architect, here you go..

Monday, September 3, 2007

Fundamental mistake in Digg web page coding or fooling Diggers??

Everyone knows how famous Digg is today, on the web. So much that Time magazine rated 'You' as the person of the year because of the user power created by Digg. And Digg has opened gates for Developers by providing Digg APIs and contests for the best mashup. All these made me think great of Digg and the way the website is coded, but this fundamental flaw in coding the Digg page leaves me stunned. Is it an oversight or an attmept to fool the users??

Here is what I mean. Find the news dugg by any user on Digg by clicking on their link. I am showing the example with the news dugg by me.



As you can see at the bottom, where I circled, there are links to more than 10 pages with the Next button after 10 ... But if I click on 9th page for example, here is what I see..



Forget about 9th page, if I click on 4th page, here is what it shows..



So, basically, I had dugg 3 pages worth of news, but even in the second page, it shows me links till 10 pages and more as if I had dugg news worth more than 10 pages. Any programmer who has done basic programming would know how easy it is, to control the number of links for pagination. Calculate the number of diggs a user has, divide it by the number of links you show on each page to figure how many links to show for pagination.

I agree that it may not be a show stopper and it might merely be a small bug, but with the Digg team implementing new comments system and opening up APIs, I would surely expect higher standards of coding. Not impressed much Digg team.. So as I said above, is this just an oversight or an attempt to show off a lot of posts to the Digg users. I would side with the former but still expect them to fix this..

The last 2 feet - Kindling the spirit of Entrepreneurship

Every other guy I meet these days wants to be an entrepreneur, at least initially. And most of them tried a little towards what they want but after some initial hiccups they just gave up, due to family responsibilities or something else or just because it's not their cup of tea. For those and for every one else who wants to be an entrepreneur or make it big in life, here is a small story.

Long ago, when gold diggers were hunting for gold all over, there was a town somewhere in Africa, in which a person named Abasi concluded with his amateur calculations that there was a huge gold mine in the middle of the town. He brought all the equipment necessary to dig and offered to share it with anyone who helped him in the process. Every one laughed at him and said he was crazy, for there would be no gold in there, since no gold was ever found in the neighboring districts ever. None came forward to help him but Abasi was not disheartened. He believed in what he calculated and set out to dig alone. Days passed, when he would toil in sun, rain and snow to reach the depth he thought at which the gold was present. The passers by, usually stopped near him, mocked him and ridiculed him saying they have never seen such a fool. He spent a good amount of time, money and energy when he hit a rock in the middle of his digging. He went on and on, struggled against all odds and continued but he found no signs of any gold anywhere closer. He kept telling himself that one day he would find the gold and all these people who ridiculed him will praise him for his tenacity. But after going down to a significant depth Abasi started losing hope, for, he was hitting one rock after another and there was no sign of gold being present. He couldn't even see the traces of a gold wire in the mud he was digging, though he used to process the mud at nights to check for even a slightest presence of gold, somewhere in there. But to his utter disappointment, he couldn't find anything. He started losing interest but he still went on and on. But one fine day when he hit a 16th rock he gave up. He thought his amateur calculations were indeed what they were, amateur. He decided that people who told him that there was no gold beneath were no fools and so he gave up, took his equipment and walked away. He was in so much grief, but he thought there was no point in wasting any more time and he quit.

Years passed by, but the pit that Abasi had dug, laid there, in the middle of the town as a mark of Abasi's failure. It stood as a sign of a person's foolishness who wouldn't heed to what the society told him and finally figured out himself after much toil. One day, a person named Khamisi from a neighboring town happened to see the pit and asked the people around what it was. They narrated him the story of Abasi who thought there was gold under and who was such a fool to not hear to other people and ended up wasting his time leaving it as a sign of his failure. Khamisi got interested in the tale and wanted to try out himself. Everyone ridiculed him, this time even more than they ridiculed Abasi, because it was proved that there was no gold there. None came forward to help Khamisi either but he started digging alone. He believed blindly that he will get the gold and after just digging 2 feet, he found the big box of gold and in front of the whole town which stayed agape, he walked off with a huge pile of gold..

This story is not about Khamisi becoming rich by taking off where Abasi left and going all the way to the gold. This story is about Abasi who lost the gold because he didn't have the dedication in him to carry on until he found the gold. He struggled against all odds, he went on though many people ridiculed and mocked him, he went on though no one came to support him, but somewhere down the lane he lost faith in himself and his belief. He quit giving in to what other people told him instead of following his own belief and that too when he was just 2 feet away from the gold. After spending so much time and effort, he could have carried on for the next 2 feet, but he chose to quit, the one mistake that every one of us quite often make...

Most of the young aspiring entrepreneurs give up and quit in the middle, because they are not aware that its just 2 feet that is the distance between them and their gold. Feuds between partners, lack of income potential in the business model and a bunch of other mistakes presented everywhere on the web to account for a huge percent of failure of startups are all just secondary. A startup fails because the founders have decided to quit before they took their dream to success. Though these entrepreneurs had initially decided to go against all odds and succeed, they give in to what the 'other people' like the investors or some stupid web review blog says and they give up and quit. Quitting is the single most mistake in my opinion that kills a startup, because everything else is just secondary. All you young entrepreneurs out there, if you come up with a great idea and believe 100% in it, then take it through to its success, and whenever you decide to quit, remember that you might just be 2 feet away from the success...

Here is a poster that always inspired me, though the author is not known, these verses have a great moral boosting spirit in them..

Friday, August 31, 2007

My score is 94980 in first attempt.. What is yours

This post on Digg got me interested in the Ramps game and since it said Physics, being a Physics fan that I am, I started trying the game. Took me about 30 minutes to finish all the levels and end up with a score of 94980. So again, my score is 94,980. What is yours ...



Link for the game is

http://www.myfreegamespot.com/game/22548/Play-Ramps.html

Update: Image has been updated to hide the passwords :)

Update 2 Here is my second attempt at the game. I crossed 100k but couldn't still beat some of the scores posted in the comments.. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Redemption of a man's lost dignity - Chak De India

One man, Kabir Khan captains the Indian team and takes it through to the World Cup finals, where they meet long time nemesis Pakistan in finals. He thinks its just a matter of 70 minutes and all there was is to go out there and give his best shot. Little does he know that his pride, dignity are at stake just because of his religion. Hell breaks lose on him not because he misses a penalty stroke in the penultimate moments of the game just like a zillion people before him have, but because he is a Muslim in Indian team and because he happens to have the sporting spirit to congratulate the winning team. Accusations of his being sold out to the country where he belongs to, take an uproar in the media and with the aam junta and he is forced out of the team and his ancestral home with a label as Gaddar (The traitor).

Spending seven years in anonymity Khan returns for a redemption of his lost glory. His aim, to convert the silver medal that he had, to a gold in the world cup.. As he mentions later on to the committee in an intense way, he spends these seven years in preparing for the interview with the Association. The path to the World cup is not easy for the Khan, because of the politics in the Association and more than that, the diversity in the team which has lost the identity of a 'team' by itself. Its the dignity of the person at stake and yes he delivers big time..

Thats the story of Chakk De India in short, but the way it unfolds itself on the celluloid in the direction of Shimmit Amin is excellent. CDI works big time not just because of the powerhouse performances of the cast, but because of the intensity of emotions portrayed during the duration of the movie. A girl is willing to desert her family for the love of her game while another is willing to do 'anything' for the position of the captain. Another girl is out there to teach a lesson to her boy friend according to whom the National game of India is just a stick and ball game. And yet another is out to prove her parents that she can make a mark in the world of Hockey. And above all of them who will do anything to get his dignity restored..

CDI may not reap harvest of profits for the Yash Raj films but it will surely stand out as one of the best attempts by the production house ever. Though I personally dislike Sharukh Khan for his over the top performance I cannot help but appreciate his performance in the movie. He is restrained, a wide gamut of emotions overflowing in him during the movie, from a coach who pits his girls against the men's hockey team for a chance to go to the World cup to the person who inspires the same team against the six times champion Aussies with a powerhouse speech. Seventy minutes is all you have in your life that could make a big difference in your lives, he tells the players, and you could easily associate that to yourself in all the crucial moments in life. For example, 3 hours is all you have in IIT JEE to enter the premier institutes of India or to spend the next four years in colleges which do not justify their existence as the Engineering colleges of India.

The girls perform equally well, Bindia as the senior player who has a wonderful game, but would refuse to play as the coach says just because she is a senior player in the team and wants the things her way. Watch out for her intense portrayal when she offers herself to Khan for the captaincy of the team. Though Vidya as the captain doesnt have great scenes in the movie, she does leave her impact when you leave the theater. Balbir, who transforms from a person who doesn't have a restraint on her anger to the person who uses it properly against the Argentinians in the Quarters. Komal, the bubbly young girl who wants to teach the Memsahib Prreti a lesson by making the maximum number of goals but passes the ball to her at the last moments of the finals for the sake of the nation. And above all my favorite among the lot, Preeti Sabarwal who almost loses her breath for a place in the team and is out to prove her boy friend Abhimanyu Singh that she has a career of her own as an independent woman and doesn't heed to the whims of the star cricketer. She is my favorite among the lot not because she is a gora memsahib as mentioned by Komal, but because of the enigmatic look that she carries with herself throughout the film. A look that portrays dis interest in the pettiness of Komal, a look that shows her determination for proving her might to her boy friend, a look of respect for the coach while at the same time disliking his ways, a look that leaves you haunting even after the movie is over as to what was really going on in her head while enacting the role and what emotion she was actually trying to emote more than others..

CDI might not fit in the regular Bollywood dance and routine but it is definitely worth a watch. I am sure the film would bring the same kind of inspiration about hockey as was brought by Rang De Basanthi in the youth about the country as a whole, but guess what, just as days pass by, CDI will not be able to retain the inspiration just like RDB couldn't. I still remember seeing a lot of Yahoo groups formed by youth of India who got inspired by RDB, but that was all it could go to, before it became just any other thing. Sure, CDI will generate excitement about our national game Hockey, and might retain it for a year or two, but in the wave of cricket that sweeps the nation by its feet, the national game will keep trying hard to justify its identity in the nation, until the Association and the government decide to do something to retain the lost glory...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Getting things done - Using memory where it is actually needed

This post of my previous roommate got me interested in GTD (Getting Things Done). Being the lazy guy that I am, I didn't get to read entirely of the concept and how to use it, but during a quick glance at wiki there was one statement that caught my attention. "If you could do something in less than 2 minutes, you must do it immediately. Procrastination is not going to help you. Another thing of interest is the fact that you should spend your time and brain in what matters the most, in doing things, not in remembering them or in thinking about what needs to be done.

This got me thinking and I realized that I spend more time in recollecting similar things again and again and many times end up not doing it. For example, whenever I do my laundry, most of the times, I forget to put my towels for laundry along with my clothes, and I usually end up going for a second round that is actually not necessary ending up paying $2 more. Not only that, every time I visit Walmart, I spend more time thinking about what I need to buy, than the time spent in finding the item or in getting it at the counter. Inspite of that, I end up missing something or the other making another trip all over again. Then I thought about how my Mom used to do it when I was young. She kept a book and before going to the grocery store, she would think about all the necessary items, make a list of it and take it to the store thereby saving the time to think of things at the store. I wanted to follow this approach, but there is still a problem with this approach. Every time, you will make a list, and during the making you spend your memory thinking of all the items that might be necessary. A small but significant amount of memory is being wasted in this process. Also there is a chance of losing that note book or if it was maintained in a excel sheet, maintaining a lot of them and tracking them is an issue. I thought about this for a little while, and I zeroed down on an approach and this has been working pretty good for me.

Here it is..

List down all the items you would ever buy from a Walmart or a Target in an Excel sheet or even better in a Google Spreadsheet. Look at your past couple of months receipts if you think you are forgetting some. Spend some time in preparing this list, since its only a one time task. Once you feel that your list is as complete as it can get, keep it handy. Every time you visit a Walmart or Target, check against the list and note the items that you are currently out of.. What does this save you. It saves you the cognitive process of recollecting what items you are out of, since you have all the items that you need in the list and you are checking against it.. This does save considerable amount of memory that you could probably use for some other tasks :) This was my approach. If you think of a better approach or you have a better approach that you follow, please don't hesitate to drop a line in the comments..

This is not applicable to just the Grocery list. This is applicable to anything and everything. For example, you can make a list of all things that you would ever need to take to a laundromat, and when you get ready to go there, check against your list, and you know what you missed... If you are a consultant and keep shifting frequently, then make a list of all the places that you need to change address in. The next time you shift, all you have to do is to check against this list. Google Docs is the best place to save this information because, your computer might crash or you might change your system but you will still have all your lists safe. If you are thinking, what if Google goes down, then all I could say is, (though I don't believe this would happen in the near future) Bad time, you need to prepare your list one more time...

Also you can apply this to your goals in life. Make a list of all the things that you want to do. If you could do something in less than 5 minutes, don't list it, just go finish that task and come back. Once you have set up your tasks and goals, arrange them in short term, medium term and long term and also based on their priority. When you have some time to do things, you should use that time to do one of these rather than in 'thinking' what to do at that point of time. This does matter because time saved is time spent effectively.. After all, it makes no sense in spending time in thinking of the same things redundantly like preparing a list from the scratch everytime.... You might come up with a rapidly different approach to your issues, but at the end of the day, the idea is focusing on the tasks than in thinking about the tasks to be done over and over. Good luck...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dil Hai Hindustani

What Indians think when asked what is one thing that is unique about India. A variety of things have been spoken in the video. Unity in Diversity indeed..

So what is one thing that you think is unique about India???

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Favorite Food Restaurants in Dallas

I haven't done any personal posts in this blog so far. But one of my best friends' anneK tagged me for the favorite food spots here and so here we go. If this post bores you to hell, then you know whom to blame now. For starters, I currently stay in the Dallas / Fortworth area, TX, but I will be moving out in a couple of weeks, so I wanted to mention my favorite food places here before I leave. That I am an Indian and like Indian food is no big secret since you can easily figure that from my name and my posts. So please bear with me if you find bias towards more Indian kind of food.

1. Madras Pavilion: I lost count of how many times I would have visited this place, and one thing that pulls me towards it is the fact that it is completely vegetarian. Their buffet boasts some of the best South Indian varieties and their menu is huge too. Their take at the North Indian dishes is not so good, but as far as the South Indian food is concerned, they are more or less authentic. The weekend buffets offer a wide variety of dishes and God, do I curse myself after every buffet for adding more carbs to my flab.. If you are strongly looking for a Gobi Manchurian or smooth Aloo parathas, then the place to go is Udipi Cafe, a little distance away from Madras Pavilion

2. Zaks Thai Restaurant: Formerly known as Thai Frisco, their Thai menu is pretty good. Though their Pad Thai leaves you asking for a more tastier version, the other varieties like Red, Green or Yellow curries are pretty good. With a Spring Roll and a Side Salad offered with most of the dishes, the meal fills you up to a decent extent. Don't go for their yellow Big Noodles though. I am still regretting my afternoon's decision of choosing it for lunch.

3. Olive garden: I guess there is not much debate about this place around here to be one of the best authentic Italian cuisine chain around. Being a veggie, I have very little options here, and honestly I have never tasted anything other than a Egg Plant Parmigiana but that alone is enough for enticing me towards the restaurant at least once a month. I don't know how much of an apetite The Minnestrone soup with the smooth French bread creates as an apetizer, but I sure am not complaining. Oh, and how can I forget the yummy Tira Misu there. It's delicious. If you haven't tried it yet, then you do not know what you are missing.

4. Taj Restaurant: I don't remember their full name since I only visited it twice, but this is more or less like an Indian fast food shop. Tastewise, I would give it number 1 rating, because everything there is excellent and pretty inexpensive. But the vicnity and the maintenance leave me asking for more. If you want to get a very good Dosa or Upma Pesaratt, then this is the place to go.

5. Banana Leaf Thai cuisine:
This is a slightly expensive Thai restaurant but the taste and the ambiance is very good. Watch out for their Pineapple fried rice which has so many fried cashews that would leave you wondering, how many calories you would have to burn that night to make up for it. If they would serve me any faster than they actually do, I would go there once a month definitely..

Now that you have my choices here and know where to look for me the next time my post offends you, let me sign off not tagging any more people to write about their favorite restaurants, because if they want to blog about their favorite food places, they don't need a tag from me to do so :)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Facing fears - essence of optimism for entrepreneurs

Growing up watching the likes of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf play great tennis in their hay days, the curiosity about the game in my mind only grew with me. While I wanted to try my hand at it in my childhood, I was always afraid of a remark from my friend. He said "If you play at a wrong angle, the game has the potential to break your nerves." God, did I believe that. Perhaps it's true and perhaps it's not. But that stayed in my mind and I never even attempted it. But seeing many people in my apartments playing it, I thought why would I be the only one to break my nerves. I played tennis for the first time yesterday, and boy, did it feel good. I felt I had more exercise than my daily walk on a treadmill burning 450 cals gave me. And also playing a game does makes the difference, because you are not doing it for the sake of doing it (like walking), you are doing it because you love to do it. And what great way to love some physical exercise other than a game like tennis.

The point here is not playing tennis or doing some daily physical exercise. The point is breaking the long associated fears in a person. if I did not take up a racket and stepped on the court, I would have died some 50 years later still thinking I would break my nerves if I played at the wrong angle. Or probably I would have done it some other time in these 50 years but I would have lost all the time in between. So I guess the right thing for a person to do is to actually go there and do it. Many of us hear many a thing from childhood which have such strong thoughts implanted in our minds that we should not do 'this' for this might happen. Until we do not try it once, we will have no idea or proof to base that upon. No, that doesn't absolutely mean that you should try jumping off a roof to clear your fear of heights :) I am only mentioning about smaller fears in life.

Many a time you hear many people say 'This idea will not work out' or that idea has no scope. Never believe them. Approaching any situation with blatant optimism is the right way. I once saw a guy wearing a T-Shirt which said 'I haven't failed. I only found 1000 ways that don;t work. That's the spirit we need to possess. Fear of failure should not stop one from actually attempting something. If we don't have optimism and belief in ourselves, we have nothing. You want to be an entrepreneur, ignore those thousand guys who tell you the idea you have won't work. Try it and check it, you might fail a hundred times, but the 101th time, you have an idea of 100 ways how not to fail. It was definitely not an idiot who said 'Try and try till you succeed.' Faith in yourself, your idea and your capacity to implement can only make you a successful entrepreneur. It's not just about entrepreneurship. It's about anything that appears daunting to you at the first look. Until you try it yourself don't let others' opinions dictate what you want to do. Time to break some fears isn't it!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

An Amazing Conversation - Is God there? - Atheist Professor vs. Theist Student

I cam across this forwarded email which had this amazing conversation between an atheist professor and theist student. Searched about it on net and found several interesting versions and discussions about it on online forums. The conversation is as below:

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An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty.
He asks one of his new students to stand and.....

Prof: So you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.

Prof: Is God good?
Student: Sure.

Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Student: Yes.

Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him.
Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm?
Student: (Student is silent.)

Prof: You can't answer, can you? Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Is Satan good?
Student: No.

Prof: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From...God...

Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes.

Prof: So who created evil?
Student: (Student does not answer.)

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?
Student: Yes, sir.

Prof: So, who created them?
Student: (Student has no answer.)

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son...Have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.

Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No , sir.

Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has.

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Prof: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn't.
(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don't have anything called cold.
We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that.
There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat.
We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness?

Student: You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something.
You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light....But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it?
In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?
Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God.
You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can
measure.
Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.
To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor.
Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
Prof: (The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize
where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour, are you not teaching your opinion, sir?
Are you not a scientist but a
preacher?
Prof: (The class is in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?
Prof: (The class breaks out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it?.....No one appears to have done so.
So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable
protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir.
With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

Prof: (The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: That is it sir.. The link between man & God is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving & alive.

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Pretty interesting conversation isn't it.. Click below to find some interesting comments on the above conversation that I picked up from an online forum from some atheist vs Theist guys..


CLICK HERE
.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Presenting India - for those who think it is a land of snake charmers !!

Here's an interesting conversation from the movie Namasthey London in which Akshay Kumar replies to an English man who writes off India as a land of snake charmers

"Namasthey, Sir my name is Arjun Singh. Because of 5000 year old culture, we Indians bow and say Namasthey like this and say Pranaam. When we greet one another we fold our hands in namastey because we believe that God resides in the heart of every human being. The kind of culture in which a lady of catholic origin gives up the chair of Prime Minister for a Sikh, and a Sikh takes the oath of Prime Minister from a Muslim President to hold the chains of a nation in which over 80 percent of the people are Hindus. Your mother tongue English is more spoken in India than anywhere else in the world. And probably you do not know that a lot of words in English have their origins from Sanskrit. Sanskrit's word 'Maatr' became Mother in English, 'Bhratr' became brother, 'Giamiti' became Geometry and 'Trikonnithi' became Trigonometry. It may interest you to know that in our land, we have 5600 news papers, 3500 magazines in over twenty one different languages with a combined readership of over 120 million. It is pretty large when compared to your nation. We have reached the moon and back, but yet you people still feel that we have only reached as far as the Indian rope trick and you care to still see a snake on our hands. In the count of doctors, engineers and scientists, Gentleman, we are only behind two other nations in the world. This was a talk of the brains, now let's talk of strength. The world's third largest army is ours. What is yours. And even then I fold my hands in humility before you and bow and say namasthey to you because we don't consider anyone to be smaller or weaker than us and we don't believe we are above or beneath any individual. Namsthey. "

Jai Hind. Jai Bhaarat..

If interested, check out other facts about India which are from a forwarded email by clicking below
CLICK HERE
.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

iGoogle lets you add more than 6 tabs - screws up on moving content from 1 tab to another

Earlier Google Home, now known as iGoogle added a feature quietly, that lets you have more than 6 tabs on your iGoogle page. Earlier there was a restriction on the maximum number of tabs you could have - 6. After creating 6 tabs, you would not find the linke for "Add a tab". I just noticed that in iGoogle, even after having 6 tabs, you can find the link for Add a tab. Moreover, iGoogle also has a new feature, that now adds content automatically to the tab based on the tab name you give. You can do this by checking the check box "I'm feeling lucky. Automatically add stuff based on the tab name". These are indeed very good features. Because earlier I wanted to add more than 6 tabs for a variety of feeds and I couldn't. Also I needed to hand pick my feeds, but now the tab name gives an indication to iGoogle on the kind of content I want.

But there is one place where I would say iGoogle screwed up. Earlier it was very easy to move a particular feed from one tab to another. Just hold the title of the feed and drag it to the next tab, and the feed moves from the old tab to the new tab. Now, I don't know if they removed that inadvertently or screwed up something in the code, but I can no longer move that. This is very irritating because, when you have a tab and feel that it has too much content, you would feel to move some specific feeds to another more specifically named tab. But now you will have to remove the feed from the older tab, add it again in the new tab. If the drag and drop feature from one tab to another wasn't there before, it would have been ok but I don't get the logic in offering a nice feature and later removing it...

Any guesses anybody??

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gandhi/Nehrus - when will the dynasty rule end?

As a child I always liked Rajiv Gandhi, I don't know why, may be he looked like a prince though he was bald, or may be he had that charisma that children would fall for!! I still don't know..

Call it Indira or call it Nehru or now call it Sonia, or now even Rahul, the country has to go through this family, never really understood why, looks like this is a monarchy in rule voted by OUR own people. Does India lack in individuals who hold the caliber of any of these?? Nope, absolutely not, its just that Gandhi or Nehru tag at the end which makes them win the elections and rule the country!! Am I a supporter of BJP. Absolutely not!! I am a supporter of intellectuals taking the country ahead..
But isn't it high time to come out of the notion as to what Indira or Rajiv have done... In a country in which you have to go through such difficult exam as IAS to rule a district, the entire country is ruled by people who come from a DYNASTY.. does anyone really know what Rajiv Gandhi studied or now even Rahul Gandhi has? That clearly is masqueraded in the sympathetic wave created for the family.

As long as people vote looking at the PERSONS rather than POLICIES, as long as people vote for CASTE rather than REMOVAL OF PROBLEMS the country will remian the same. So the question is how do we show the progress that we have. Thanks to able intellectuals like Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram the country is making progress, but alas they still have to lie in the shadows of these GANDHI's and carry on their WHIMS.
Way to go India, my MOTHERLAND....

Can't Rahul Gandhi learn about the lives of people in the rural areas by becoming an IAS officer instead of becoming an MP. Can he become one ever? Oh, I forgot, why does he have to, when he is a Gandhi. Now, one may say, the PAs and Secretaries offering advice to them and other ministers are all officers of IAS cadre. Now, let's say an officer X does offer some good advice for the progress of the country, how many ministers would come forward to implement the same, when they are busy doing 'collections' during the short tenure that they have..

It is high time, we have graduates as MLAs and MPs and Ministers. Without minimum education level set for the 'people's representatives' how do you expect them to solve the problems of the country, when they can never come up with a solution. I am tired of hearing the argument, that a common man, aam junta, cannot become a MLA or a MP then, why not? most of the educated people are common people too, they come from these areas of poverty too, at least they will have a minimum knowledge of what can be done for the country. It is time that intellects become leaders and rule the country towards progress. It is time that parties like Lok Paritran get their fair share in elections and become representatives of the people. Watching movies like Rang De Basanti and forming yahoo groups is not just enough. It is time people start 'thinking' before they vote. The vote should not be for Gandhi or Nehru or for Congress or BJP. The vote should be for progress and development of the nation. Will we ever see the light of that day ever? One can only hope..

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Learning from egos in the online world

Ever wonder, why people go crazy in the online world, swearing at one another in the online forums, abusing someone to an extent that they would change their user names and going against the sites' moderators and admins to such an extent that they would be banned, and a lot of times it doesn't make much sense to a neutral reader. Though this seems to be a very good topic of research for a grad student in Psychology, the logic behind it is pretty simple. Every body needs a feeling of importance. Call it ego, call it self-respect or call it any thing that you would like when attributed to you. The bottom line is people want to feel important. They want appreciation of their work. They want someone to assert the fact that they know, that they are an important part of this society and they are good.

It is only this fact of feeling important, that makes many people post thousands of pictures and posts in online forums and communities. It is this, that makes people take creative and weird videos and post them on Youtube. It is this, that makes many people get dvds, rip movies and post pictures and clippings from these movies to movies forums ignoring what could happen to them if they are caught of piracy. It is this feeling that makes people carry thousands of posts in online forums. And what do they ask for. They want you to thank them for what they are doing. They want you to tell them that they are creative, and that their work is the best. If you don't believe me, check it out yourself by joining in one of these forums and watch out for the so-called "Senior Members" or the biggies in those forums. Check out how far can people go in wasting their personal time to get that feeling of being important.

You might have a feeling that these guys are a bunch of losers. Of course they are not. These are people with families', great jobs in IT or other fields, who spend some time very frequently to get that feeling of importance in the virtual world. It doesn't matter that the other person hasn't seen them, it doesn't matter that if the other person is actually typing the truth, it doesn't matter if their online name has nothing to do with their real name and that the praise is for their virtual id. All that matters is the fact that what they had done is important and that someone else asserted that they are good and creative.

So, what does all this prove to us. If an unknown person with a virtual id could do so much for you in an online forum for your enjoyment, so that you would appreciate their efforts, what does it tell us of the people in the real world. You need not read Dale Carnegie's How to win friends and influence people to understand that people need a feeling of importance. Things like the online forums and many things around you teach this very effectively and practically to us. The next time you feel that a colleague in your office has done a decent job on something, go ahead and appreciate them. You do not need to flatter them, just tell them honestly what you feel about it. If you are a manager, tell some one who works for you, once in a while, how much you appreciate their work. Send them an email of appreciation. Most people quit jobs not because of the money or the challenges but because their work is not appreciated. Give people honest appreciation, and make them feel important. A person with a satisfied ego is bound to stay lot longer than a person who is substantially overpaid.

Also, you can use the same in your family relations. The next time your wife makes a good meal, tell her how good it is, tell her once in a while that you appreciate all that she is doing. This is also equally applicable to kids. When your kid ace in a course or do something good, tell them you are proud of them. In an effort to keep you proud, they will do what you want them to do even without your telling them. If you observe, all that is needed is honest appreciation, which takes you probably a couple of minutes, the effects can only be experienced than explained..

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cricket: A passion that binds the nation, India

I was watching Iqbal movie again today, I guess for the fourth time, and I realized the movie still moves me even after repeated watching. Then I wanted to analyze why is it that a movie with cricket theme moves me so much when I have been trying to dissociate myself from cricket slightly after betting scandals and completely after India's miserable performance at the 2007 World cup. I realized that Cricket is not something you can associate yourself with, or dissociate yourself with, when you want, because it has become an inherent part of our Indian culture, it is in our blood and genes, it is in our minds and heart. In essence, cricket is a passion that binds the Indian nation..

I still remember the days when we the whole of our family used to watch cricket, every time a ball was being bowled to Sachin or Azhar, we would be praying to God that it should be a four or six, for every ball that Javagal Srinath or Manoj Prabhakar bowled, that it should be a wicket taker. We would dance when Indian team would win, eat sweets and celebrate as if it was an achievement in the family. And the day India lost, every one would be filled with gloom, and would scold Indian team members for their failure and decide not to watch it again. But when the next match came, the process started all over again.

The passion for cricket just goes from parents to children as if it were a part of our culture and tradition. When I was in Engineering hostel during my bachelors, it was much more serious. We used to have a TV in the hostel and a big mat in front of it. People would start saving places on the mat an hour before the match and when the match started, it was like a festival. Whistles and claps for every Indian boundary and opposition wickets, boos for Indian failures, what not. The tension would accumulate, and if any of them supported the opposition for their performance, they would get a real beating from the rest of the frustrated fans. Never did it occur to us when there were matches, if the upcoming Finals or Project deadlines needed to be given much more importance. Well, it was cricket time, and rest was all insignificant at that time.

The credit for Iqbal being such a big hit or for Lagaan being such a blockbuster just goes to the successful blending of two things that Indians are so passionate about, Cricket and Cinema. Also, Iqbal highlights a couple of things other than the passion for cricket. The determination of a deaf and mute guy who raises against all odds to hold a coveted place in Indian cricket. The opening scene mirrors a common scene in India, a bunch of people watching cricket together and celebrating Indian victory and Iqbal's mom who is due for her delivery by then, still watches it along with them and celebrates and gives birth to Iqbal. No wonder the boy is born with such passion for cricket. The struggle then starts, with Iqbal being thrown out of Cricket Academy and convincing Naseeruddin Shah to coach him. The scenes that follow show his drive and determination, and with the able support of his coach and parents and his loving sister, he reaches the pinnacle of his career.

Every one of us would definitely remember the days we played cricket on streets, the days when we thought we could be another tendulkar, the days when playing cricket in 120F temperature was just normal, the fights with friends over someone being Out, what not. These are the memories we cherish for our lives. If only the Indian team could realize how much we worship cricket, they would never bow out of World cup so meekly. I still remember the banners that fans used to have during Indian matches. "If cricket is religion, Sachin is God." Is he really, or WAS he? There was this match in Sharjah, a finals between India and Australia, when Australia made a huge total around 280, and the commentator said, It looks like it will be a cake walk for Australia but there is only thing that could stop them, the Sachin factor and yes, the Sachin factor did defeat Australia, Sachin scored a brilliant century to win the cup for India. Gone are those days now, I guess, where Sachin merely stands a feeble shadow of what he once was, trying to hang on to the team at an age he should be retiring, just to keep that 80 crore ad deal alive (I last heard his ad revenue a year was 80 crore).. I am not the one who can comment upon his calibre, but hey, I am fan who has a right to know the reason for his miserable performance in the World cup 2007. Rest of the team, there is no point in trying to discuss them..

I guess the Indian team should be made to sit and watch Iqbal and Lagaan, they should understand that when they play, they are not just playing a match for ad revenue or for public image, but in fact they are carrying the hopes of 1 billion people, who don't work in offices, or study or watch movies during their matches and pray to God not just for their victory but for every ball bowled. If only they realized this, it wouldn't be long before we snatch the World cup from the mighty Australians and show the world our caliber...

Here is a funny interview video of one of my good friend, that throws a satire on Cricket

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How secure is your entrepreneurial idea?

Most of the techies out there who have a passion for technology, be it Java, be it .NET or any other, have a drive, a passion to be an entrepreneur. You look around you, look at the way things are going around in the IT industry, feel how much better you are than the rest of them, and you get reminded of the song, Anything you can do. But you are not let to do so, because of one reason or the other, the manager above you doesn't want so, or the politics in your team do not allow you to do so, or there is this guy who just opposes you to show off that he is better than you. Though I haven't fortunately experienced such stuff in my work environment, I hear this from many of my friends who face this on a day to day basis. This sows the crop for a desire, a passion to build better technology or to own your own company. And there starts the trouble.

The TV has been discovered, the computer has been, Google has been established and so is Digg. Now if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need an idea to start the whole process of owning your own company. The idea, that killer idea that can take the world by surprise, that idea which would take the competitors a little time to replicate in which you capture a significant portion of the loyal market. But how and where do you get such ideas from. Are they available for sale. Absolutely not. Are they written in books, again a blunt NO. The person who would get the idea will rather implement it and make hay than writing about it to the world. Even if someone were to write a book on ideas, it would still be of no use, because by the time you implement it, the next reader would already have done so. So where do these ideas stem from. From your observations and experiences. Did I say observation, yep. All you need is a sharp look at everything around you, to find out what else is missing around you that you can capture and bring out. I was reading Sabeer Bhatia's interview in this wonderful book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (presented by my roomie on my birthday), where he mentions how they got the idea for hotmail that eventually got acquired by Microsoft for $400 million. He and his colleague were collaborating on a project, when they needed to share ideas via email. But the corporate intranet had put a firewall around to prevent them from using personal email accounts. This is when they got the idea of the utility of a web based email.Now, we may think how dumb should the rest of the people be, to not have thought of the same. Well, thats the power of simple yet powerful ideas. They are all around you, all you need is to just capture them and utilize them

Now, lets say you got the idea. Do you go on keep announcing the same to every one around you, Nope, thats an absolutely bad idea. For, you have no idea, who might come up with a better system than you do long before you can even start implementing yours. This might be weird if you are very strongly passionate about technology and you want to be a part of an open source project. But otherwise, your idea needs to be sold to the right people. Until then, keep it safe, keep it secure, discuss it with your near and dear and friends, but not with that talented guy in the office, to whom you want to show off how more 'cooler' you are, than he is. I liked the approach that Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith implemented when they sold their hotmail idea. Sabeer initially had another idea, a database, where users would store the information they need online so that they could retrieve it from anywhere using internet, information like addresses and phone numbers. They would go to the VC's and would tell them about the database idea, and would study the VC. If the VC would ask about their experience and had little confidence about their ability, then would not even inform about the email idea. This worked because if they let their email idea, the VCs who had no confidence in them could have used their idea with someone else. All these guys had was the killer idea and they protected it from the wrong VCs. When they finally met the VC who expressed interest in what they said, rather than their experience and background, they revealed the hotmail and the rest is history.

So the point is, you want to be an entrepreneur, well and good. You don't have an idea, look around, there are lots waiting for you to explore. And if you do get an idea that rocks, think twice before using it to show off to someone else who aren't worth sharing it with. Share it with your friends and family and when you find the right VC who trusts you, rather than the experience and the background you have in the industry, go for it, who know you might be the next Sabeer Bhatia in the making...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Is Steve Jobs really a geek or a icon?


Disclaimer: The thoughts mentioned in this post are just the opinions formed from what I read from Wiki and from the book "Founders at Work". This post is in no way an attempt to malign Mr. Steve Jobs' image or his iconic status in the world"

I heard many a person speak about how great Steve Jobs is, and how inspirational he is to the youngsters who want to make it big in their lives. We had a computer lab in school, with around 60 Windows machines and 15 Macs. Very few people used Macs, and when the Windows machines got filled up, I went to use a Mac once. I then thought, what a poor design, why would anyone want to use this instead of Windows. But that was my ignorance speaking, since I had never really used any machine other than Windows. A common form of Lenz's law applied to human nature is that "Change is opposed". Perhaps I was only following my human instinct then...

When I started working, I found a colleague who liked Steve Jobs immensely and used to tell me about him. Also my roomie is a great fan of Steve Jobs and he makes no attempt in hiding that. This made me wonder, who is this guy and what's so special about him. The more I read about him and the more I listened about him, the more I found about the cult following he has successfully established and the iconic status he has been able to maintain in the computer and the entertainment industries.

Out of my observations, I find him to be a charismatic character. And he might not be a visionary, but he is definitely a person with a vision. But I doubt if he is a geek or even an icon... I might be in no way qualified to evaluate a person of the stature of Steve Jobs, but I would like to bring out the points that make me feel so. First and foremost, the launch of the Apple Computer comes to my attention. There wasn't much contribution from Steve Jobs to the creation of Apple Computer. He found a geek and a genius in Steve Wozniak who could fit in the minimum possible number of chips to make a PC Board.

As mentioned in Wiki


"According to Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari had offered US$100 for each chip that was reduced in the machine. Jobs had little interest or knowledge in circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the bonus evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Much to the amazement of Atari, Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, a design so tight that it was impossible to reproduce on an assembly line. At the time, Jobs told Wozniak that Atari had only given them US$700 (instead of the actual US$5000) and that Wozniak's share was thus US$350"


This clearly shows his nature. He wasn't interested in the creative challenge posed by Atari, but was definitely interested in the money part of it. He knew Steve Wozniak, who he thought could ace it, and he kind of outsourced the work to Woz and got it done. This shows his business mind, and probably his business acumen, but what he did with the money was not entirely ethical. He blatantly lied about the money the design generated and conned Woz of $2150 which was his genuine share. As a matter of fact, the design belonged to Woz, so he was entitled to $5000, but they had an agreement in place, out of which Jobs had to give him at least $2500, but he didn't.

Then came the Apple Computer. Jobs saw Woz's design of the computer, he was never interested in building one of his own to show off his potential, and he very well knew he couldn't. He saw an opportunity, and convinced Woz that they could sell the computers that he had made and made partnership with him. Agreed he met the right people and took care of all the marketing and all the business points of a stellar growth that Apple had experienced, but is he in any way responsible for the kind of genius tag that he is usually associated with, and the cool image that he maintains. If marketing the cool product developed by someone and establishing a business out of it is iconic and genius, then why is it that Bill Gates looked at as a villain at the same venue where Steve Jobs is looked at as a hero. Not that I support Bill Gates, in fact I am gonna write a post about him and Google soon too, but the point I am trying to make is that, if building a business is considered iconic and genius, then Bill Gates should occupy a better slot than Steve Jobs.

To his credit, Steve Jobs has done many a thing which can be considered his strong pros. He was a kid who was 5 years younger to Woz, but he knew that Woz had the right design to capture the market. He saw the potential in the product, he made money out of it. This is a true representation of his business acumen and probably a vision of the future business but in no way a representation of the vision of technology he had held at that point of time.

The second thing that captures my attention is the product Ipod. I seriously doubt if Jobs got the idea of an Ipod. I see in the ipod page on Wiki the following entry:


iPod came from Apple's digital hub strategy,[2] when the company began creating software for the growing market of digital devices being purchased by consumers. Digital cameras, camcorders and organizers had well-established mainstream markets, but the company found existing digital music players "big and clunky or small and useless" with user interfaces that were "unbelievably awful",[2] so Apple decided to develop its own. Apple's hardware engineering chief, Jon Rubinstein, assembled a team of engineers to design it, including Tony Fadell, hardware engineer Michael Dhuey, and design engineer Jonathan Ive, with Stan Ng as the marketing manager. The product was developed in less than a year and unveiled on 23 October 2001. CEO Steve Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put "1000 songs in your pocket."


The design belonged to someone else, the implementation belonged to someone else, and just because the team in Apple got the idea when Jobs was the CEO, he got the credit for one of the coolest innovations of this decade, the iPod. I seriously doubt if Steve Jobs had put the seed for the idea and harvested it. He was probably at the right place at the right time (He wasn't with Apple for some time). But, at the end of the day, the point is that iPod is not his discovery or his invention as was the Apple Computer. He was just a facilitator between the genii behind these products and the rest of the ordinary world, in making them famous and available to the general public.

Does this mean, that Steve Jobs is not as great as he is credited to be. Perhaps he is. We definitely have to agree that he is an effective business man and a strong charismatic person. But as Abhishek Bacchan puts it in Guru movie "Aapne mujhe paanch minute dhiye the, lekin maine saade chaar mein sab kuch khatham kar dhiya, thees second munafa, ise kehthe hain buziness" translated as "You gave me 5 minutes to put my argument. I completed in 4.5 minutes, 30 seconds profit, this is called business" (says to the Judge in the climax), Steve Jobs is probably an iconic business mind, who knows how to get the best out of an opportunity he faces, and he may be the best in marketing and in demanding a cult, but he is definitely not an geek or icon in the technical sense of it....

So, the next time you hear a guy who wants to develop a product that would blow the world off, and declares he is a staunch follower of Steve Jobs, don't think twice in correcting such sort of an oxymoron statement