Monday, May 30, 2016

History of the Internet

 

Yes. We have finally reached there. The internet is now that old, that it’s history now has to be documented. Generation Z today take the internet and all its services for granted, that they have no idea how it began and how far it has come since the dial-up days.

The good folks at Internet History Podcast have put up podcasts detailing the birth and evolution of the internet to it’s current state. Its all there, everything from the creation of Netscape (remember Netscape ?) and AOL to the first search engines (Yahoo.) to all its numeous media sites. I specially found the episode on Yahoo interesting, given their current state of turmoil.

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Its turning me nostalgic again. You will have to spend hours through this site to get the full picture. Happy browsing.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

പൂട്ടിയ ബാറുകള്‍ തുറക്കില്ലെന്ന് എക്‌സൈസ് മന്ത്രി

 

Excise Minister T.P. Ramakrishnan on Thursday said the LDF Government's liquor policy would focus on abstinence to bring down the consumption of liquor gradually even while reiterating that the closed bars would not be opened.  Mr Ramakrishnan told DC that the government would soon launch a people's campaign to create awareness.

"We are for abstinence. Our efforts would be directed at reducing liquor consumption in society in a phased manner. As far as shut bars are concerned, there are many which are functioning as beer and wine parlours. So we have to look into all these aspects before taking a decision on our policy. People will be taken on board for state-wide campaign,'' he added.

The LDF leadership believes that not even a single bar had been closed in the state. Most have been converted into beer and wine parlours where beer and wine with high alcohol content was being sold. According to Left leadership, spurious liquor was being supplied through various outlets.

Moreover, a number of studies had pointed out that the use of drugs, psychotropic substances were growing alarmingly in the state. Houses, vehicles have turned into bars rendering the previous government's liquor police totally ineffective.

“CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury had also made it clear the Left Government's  policy would be to further reduce the impact of liquor consumption in Kerala society which has already demonstrated new social problems. The efforts would be aimed at further reducing liquor consumption," he added.

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Making the first announcement after assuming the office and putting the concerns about the excise policy of the new government to rest, the government has declared that it has no intention to reopen the closed bar hotels.

Talking to reporters, excise and labour minister T P Ramakrishnan said here on Thursday that the government will not reopen the closed bar hotels. He said that the governments policy was to reduce the consumption of liquor. For this, the government will launch mass campaign. He said that the LDF had declared its stance in the manifesto, from which the governments policy is clear.

Though there are promises in the manifesto on alcohol and curbing the drug menace, the promises are too shallow without any concrete framework, even the excise department officials feel. According to excise officials, the consumption of drugs has easily increased for two reasons- less availability for alcohol and ready and cheap availability of drugs like ganja. Officials say that a detailed survey will have to be undertaken to find out the intensive users of drugs, who will have to be subjected to medical treatment.

The officials in the cutting edge level in the filed have found that the users of drug themselves are later becoming the sellers. So the officials say that unless the distribution chain is cracked down at the root, the awareness or a peoples movement for awareness will become futile exercise.

Meanwhile, there are also sources who believe that the government might adopt a new liquor policy from the next financial year, that would give more stress on awareness campaign and not prohibition, that may lead to relaxation of current policy of not granting licenses to any hotels below five-star category.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Thrissur is India’s chit fund capital

 

 

Kerala's banking sector had its roots in local 'kuris' and when RBI started regulating banks, their numbers came down from 163 to a mere handful by 1970s. However, during the same time, Kerala witnessed a mushrooming of kuri companies - especially in Thrissur, which could be called the chit fund capital of India as one among every six chit funds in India is from Thrissur.


Two decades ago, chit funds from Kerala had shifted their registered offices to other states as the state legislation was tough. "They first moved to Bengaluru and when Karnataka started implementing the Central Chit Funds Act, they shifted to Faridabad," said Mathew Puthukattukaren, director, Dharmmodayam, which was registered in 1919 as a company with the then Cochin state.


"Those companies operating out of Faridabad had opened a namesake office. According to local rules, they were able to register the companies under the Local Shops Act, just like any other shop," he said. This reached such a farcical level that few years ago a British newspaper Daily Mail had reported that a two-storey building in sector 7 of Faridabad was home to 130 chit funds from Kerala.


Once Haryana was brought under the central act in 2012, the exodus of registered offices reversed. According to the documents of the ministry of corporate affairs, by the end of October 2014, India had 5,836 chit fund companies and 2,148 were registered in Kerala. Thrissur had the maximum : 1,090 firms.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bengaluru’s Going To The Dogs

 

Bangalore is in international media, due to its stray dog menace. Bengaluru made global news when a stray dog chased Ethiopian marathon runner, Mulle Wasihun at the TCS World 10k.

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The city has a really big stray dog problem. Unfortunately, there seems to be no solution to it.

India Experienced Its Hottest Ever Recorded Temperature of 51C

 

It just got in here.

 

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Left,Right ,Left

 

The results have come in. And its a red wave in Kerala. Repeating the countless earlier patterns, the incumbent UDF government was removed and a new LDF run government will be put in the state. Perhaps no where else in the world would the results of an election be so predictable.  I guess outgoing Chief Minister Chandy saw this coming, and had the last laugh. In his final months leading up to the election, he ran helter skelter across the state inaugrating various establishments like the Kochi Metro, and new airports. He was able to leave his name, and legacy for generations to come.

Now the number one question troubling the people of Kerala is, will the new government reverse the liqour policy put in force by the previous government ? Will the closed bars be reopened ?

And what is that orange dot in the assembly ?

 

 

 

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Rain drenched Election day

 

Today it was the poling day for the state of Somalia Kerala for the Assembly elections, 2016. And it has also been raining. Steadily. Medium to heavy rain was reported all across the state. But the rain didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the voters anyway. If theres one thing living in Kerala has taught me in all these years, its that a rainy day is just another day in the life of a malayalee. We welcome it with open arms.

It was felt nice being a part of the election machinery of the country. The Indian consitution does not give the average voter too may powers, this is perhaps the only time where a citizen can bring about some change in the system. This chance comes but once in only 5 years, and sooner, if things are really that bad. This particular year, the stake are abnormally high. Whatever result is proclaimed two days from now, its going to be a sure surprise to the whole country.

So what are the thoughts going through the mind of a voter now ? Waiting in the rain ? Here are mine.

The incumbent Congress party has actually done quite well in its term. There are allegations of corruption against them. But then, there are always allegations of corruption,  before every election. It was the same before the last one too. I think these things have now become such commonplace that it no longer comes as a surprise to the average Indian. But if one examines the pattern of who has one over all the years, the chances of the incumbent party winning is very minute.

Which opens up the possiblity of a Left led government. Kerala is the last chance for this party to come to power, they have already lost in Bengal, and they only have a government in tiny Tripura. Problem is that the ideals of this party (if there are still some left) are directly against the laws of economics. They are against capitalism and foreign investment. No problem there. Except without foreign ties, India can never call itself a developed country. Daily wage rates in Kerala is highest in the country, and labourers from north India, called ‘migrant labourers’ by the media, is now the core workforce of the state. The state is turning out to be a mini-Gulf for these workers.

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One could analyze the election patterns around the world, and may not have seen such a fishbone diagram for its depiction. This graph shows how Keralites have changed side to the extremes during every election. But the last election was a photo finish.

Kerala has painted itself into a unique corner. On one side, it has the highest human development index for any state in the country.  That should mean that the standard of living here is much higher. But this is primarily because of Kerala’s innumerable remittances from migrant Keralites of the middle east. With a failed industry, and a failed agriculture, Kerala depends on imports from other states for everything from food to services. That always means that these things come with a higher cost. Groceries are more expensive. Even staple food grains. And all the vehicles and raw materials required by a state…they are all imported from another state, and thus cost more.  No party seems to have an agenda to boost agriculture and industry in the state.

 

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Its well known that all electrical & electronic applicances cost more at the store in Kerala, which is why a huge number of buyers were buying these things online, and when the state government found out, they tried to impose a penalty tax for these goods. The Kerala High Court had to quash this later.

The only industry which could be exploited was tourism, which the government promptly did. But the state Congress govenment’s decision to ban liquor has now adversely affected this as well. Media says that the decision was warmly welcomed by the women of the state. Which is important, because unlike the rest of the country, Kerala has a reverse sex- ratio. There are more women than men, so that is a majority movement here.

When UDF was power at the center, incumbent UDF state government enjoyed a lot of benefits. But now with BJP at the center, the equation is no longer feasible.

All in all, its a mixed bag. Like I said, the result , whatever it is , will be a huge surprise.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kapoor and Sons

 

Have you ever went to watch a movie expecting something, and got something else completely ? I mean, there are lot of movies marketted and adverstised  with extreme hype, and then the movie does not live up. It would turn out to be dissapointment, or just your average movie, just marketted for the multiplex. Countless times ? Well I recently had this experience again, but completely in the other direction.

I am talking of the 2016 bollywood movie Kapoor and Sons. Lately all bollywood movies staring young actors are being marketted as young, party kind of movies, with lof of drinking, pubbing, synchronized dancing, bedroom scenes and filthy double meaning dialogues. This movie too has young actors playing the leads, and two party songs, and all the marketting was targetted at them. The stupid sounding club song, and a love triangle was the focus of all the ads. Due to this, I never felt like watching it when it came out. But watching it now on DVD, I am blown away.

I watched this movie without reading its reviews.This is actually a very good family drama. Of an Indian family living today, circa 2016. Not a privileged family living in a metropolitan city. But a middle class family living in the beautiful hills of Coonor , TN. Rishi Kapoor plays the fantastic patriachal grandfather. There is a father and mother, and they have two sons, born during the eighties. The eldest is a successful writer, the younger one is still struggling, but he’s almost there. They live in a beautiful bungalow in the hills, snuggled between hills, embracing the local culture. This is the kind of family everyone wants to have. A picture perfect family.

Except, its not. Like every family out there, this one too has problems. Family problems. Within the first 15 minues of the movie, we see cracks. The grandpa does not act his age, and always pretends to fall down dead ! The parents marriage is in choppy waters, he might be having an affair. There is friction between the sibling brothers. The elder , more successful son (Rahul, played by Fawad Khan) is the favourite of the parents. The younger (Arjun, played by Siddharth Malhotra), seems jealous of Rahul’s success, and of the extra love and care Rahul gets. There is some financial turmoil in the family. They all see each other very rarely. To the world outside, they seem like the perfect family, but personally, they would rather live separately.

And the story of the movie is of they learn to resolve their differences, iron out the issues, and come together again.

Grandpa Kapoor knows he is at the verge of death, and he wants to take a family picture with this family. This is the breakdown scene. Here, secrets are revealed, all wounds open, and some new truths are uncovered. The biggest plot point is that the successful elder son may have stolen the novel of his kid brother , and gained success after that. The presence of Tia (Alia) creates a new rift between the brothers. Harsh, the father, might be having an affair. And the mother is furious that his perfect elder son is in fact, gay. That breakdown scene is the centerpiece of this movie. It is setup, shot and closed fantastically. It starts to rain just after the whole family breaks down.

The story moves smoothly, the cinematography and background music complement each other beautifully. There is some melodrama, but nothing over the top. There are only a few scenes , about 7-8 in total, scenes at the home, some at the hospital, and some others in the hills. But they tell a wonderful story.

This is a really nice, relevant movie for India in today’s world. I would not call it a family movie, because some of the dialogues might make children uncomfortable. But its a must watch. Kudos to the director Shakun Batra, and the team for creating something relevant out of all that mess in bollywood today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#PoMoneModi

 

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Angry Twitterati in Kerala launched a blitzkrieg on Twitter, with the hashtag #PoMoneModi (Get Lost Modi), after Prime Minister Narendra Modi compared the infant mortality rates among Scheduled Tribes in Kerala with that of Somalia.

The tag #PoMoneModi, derived from Po Mone Dinesha, a dialogue in Mohalal-starrer Narasimham, was trending on the micro-blogging site with over 25,000 tweets. This was even as Mr. Modi, who is second most followed world leader on Twitter, was preparing to address his third and final election rally in Kerala on Wednesday. Another hashtag, #Somalia, is also trending with around 15,000 tweets.

The Twitterati, mostly Congress and Leftist supporters, tweeted and re-tweeted the hashtag, berating and lampooning Mr. Modi for his remarks.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Gregory Jacob, the inspiration to Jacobinte Swargarajyam

 

There is a fantastic little piece here on the man whos life inspired the hit Malayalam movie, Jacobinte Swargarajyam. Go on and the read about how the real life tribulations of Gregory and his family reached Vineet Srinivasan, and lead to the creation of this awesome, feel good movie. Gregory comes across as a an exteremely optimistic, God fearing, and humble being. And Vineeth, he did a fantastic job directing the movie, which would have otherwise turned into a  documentary newspiece.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Myntra’s App-only U- Turn

 

Big Tech news today is Myntra’s decision to relaunch its desktop web site, reverting their decision to have only a mobile app as an interface. Looks like they maybe losing a lot of business with their app only strategy, and this u-turn is to make up for lost business.

 

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Media is celebrating this as a victory, for the decision to go App only was received at that time as ridiculous, and customer unfriendly. It was surprising that parent company Flipkart would try to enforce their viewpoint on millions of reluctant customers, just to maybe speeden up development on their UX side. Personally I have never liked the mobile form factor for online browsing of products. The space and layout of the vertical larger desktop screen provided more options and flexibility. Neither the company nor the customers were ready for it.

So anyway, its good to know that inspite of smartphone penetration, the importance of desktop systems cannot yet be written off.