Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Westworld is seeking new borders


The HBO show Westworld is now running it’s second season on TV. Its got critics and fans hooked, as well as I think the makers of every other TV show out there. Ambitious, and growing with ideas, it seems the creators are surpassing their own limits of creativity. Although it still says it is inspired by Michael Crichton’s movie, that is where the current similarity ends. It has left the premises of the original movie script and is now going where no other TV show has gone before.

Awesome !

I was a little dissappointed at the end of the first season, when the show decided to kill off Robert Ford (Antony Hopkins),  the park’s surviving original creator. I took it as a sign that the writers had run out of ideas, and found this was the only way to shock the show’s viewers. Also, that turn was faithful to the Westworld movie. But as the majority of fans predicted, the show has decided to bring back Ford, in a new , much more powerful meta form. Add to it the presence of many other parks, including the Shogun world, and now the possibilities seem endless. I am sure even Michael Chrichton could not have predicted how these new generation of writers could have built on his original idea of broken-theme park. 

With every episode, the show not only puts forward new twists and spectacular acting, but also asks deep questions: on artificial intelligence, conscience, about playing god. The greater context of right and wrong, and cause and effect. And about life and death. I caught myself thinking if our world was also some kind of simulation controlled by a higher power….Bah ! Humbug !

The first season talked about conscience and becoming self aware. It was centered around Dolores, the oldest host in the park, and her attempt to understand her artificial world. But now the second season discusses artificial life, and life and death. The park creators are trying to come up with a way to beat death, by moving people's consciuosness into a sentient being, allowing the mind to live forever in an artificial casing.

These are not new ideas. Ever since sentient beings have died, others have wondered if there is way to beat death, and gain immortality. There are numerous legends of waters, fountains and prayers which provide immortality to the consumer. It now seems that modern and future technology could provide a way out.  Current technology can build the exoskeleton so simulate a human being, but without an intelligent mind with a personality, it is just a shell. Pretty sure somewhere out there , right now, somebody is investigating how the human mind can be captured in code.

I am hooked ! Looking forward eagerly to what new ideas these writers are going to through at us in the coming episodes. And what how far it’s new borders are.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

GMail’s confusing icons


For a long time now, I have hated GMail’s icons on the main toolbar. Specially on the app. It doesn’t make sense, and they are confusing. I wonder who are the numbnuts who came up with them, and on what basis.

Thankfully, others too have felt the problem. And somebody else wrote about it. Read on.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Theres now a car in space !!


Nowadays there is a crazy amount of non-sensical news out there, that sometimes the really awesome stuff gets skipped over.  Somebody might have dared Elon Musk way back in high school, and I think he did this just to get back. SpaceX, his private aerospace company, this week launched their heaviest rocket yet, in what is any company’s coolest PR stunt , ever. They actually launched a Tesla Roadster car in space ! Complete with a dummy driver, named Starman. How cool is that ?

But the real accomplishment of this event was how the two boosters of the rocket returned, and landed back on earth. Two of the boosters were recycled and programmed to return for a simultaneous touchdown at Cape Canaveral, while the third, brand new, set its sights on an ocean platform almost 500 kilometres offshore. This is the technology they are trying to advertise, the cost savings when re-usable engines are used. Its sticker price is $US90 million, less than one-tenth the estimated cost of NASA's Space Launch System megarocket in development for Moon and Mars expeditions.


The car could be traveling between Earth and Mars' neighbourhoods for a billion years, because it did miss its target of going to Mars.

Thank you, Mr Musk. This video of starman in space is ultimate food for Nerds !

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The best television is now online


I am talking of video content here. Movies,comedies, thrillers, even documentaries and mini-series. While the quality of television programming on traditional channels is steadily decreasing, some of the best video programming is now moving online. It used to be just youtube, but now with netflix, amazon prime , chrome cast and all those other paid subscription services, the online viewer has more options to choose from. Who would have thought. As always, I have been a late adopter, I have been using Primevideo for the past three months now on a yearly subscription of 500 rupees. That amount is nothing, the real cost comes from the internet bills, but thanks to competition in the telecom industry, that too has become cheap. These new subsciption programmes only make sense if you can get on an unlimited broadband internet service for cheap. I have been watching lot of original prime programmes, along with movies not only from hollywood, but across languages and countries as well. And you know whats the best part ? Because they rely on paid subscriptions, there are no ads. Ever.

This is definitely the future.

Can’t believe youtube has been around for more than 10 years now. But the amount of junk on the site is increasing. So many people are just reposting other’s videos, and opening up channels to rant (and review) about things. I think this trend is popular in India, people can only have so many ideas. But the content on paid services is , at least for the moment, curated and created by the sites themselves.

Just finished watching ‘The Night Manager’ on prime. There could not have be a more boring title for a  more exciting and thrilling televsion program. It came out a few years ago, but I despise the term ‘Manager’ so much, I ignored it. Turns out, its actually a very exciting ride, full of tall, beautiful people, talking in rich, British accents, even when they are cursing. And the locations, Cairo, Switzerland and Morocco ! But the real winners are the cast and direction.

Then there are other Amazon originals, like Mrs Maisely. It was not that funny, but they could not have done this on TV. My favourite charachter ? Abe.

Surprisingly, they have also made available some of the newest movie releases in regional languages. No malayalam movies so far. The most educated state is still staying away from the next generation of viewers. But the latest flicks in Tamil and Telugu are there.

The only reason Prime is so successful in India is the pricing. They have made their services affordable to the average Indian, whereas Netflix still thinks Indians can pay in dollars.By the way, did you know that Netflix is now worth 100 Billion dollars ? But in the long term, the charges should come down further, as increasing number of people go online for the better quality and the freedom to watch in their own time.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Remember Winamp ?


Today I came across a little older article, documenting the demise of Winamp. Remember Winamp ? During the last decade , it was the default MP3 player installed on every Windows machine ! With billions of skins , visualizations and other add-ons, it made every other MP3 player look lame. There were skinning tools, which could be used to create custom skins from photos. There were even tools to automate and control Winamp via bluetooth connections. And then, Web 2.0 happened. And portable mp3 players (cd/usb). And at the end..affordable smartphones. People no longer turn on their desktops to listen to music. They just get it online, and stream it via modern HTML5 browsers. Can’t believe its been more than15 years since Winamp came out.


It was fun going back in time, and sad reading about how mis-management tool Winamp down.


Puttaakee puttakkee, karimeen puttaakkee


I miss the 90s again. Those were fun times.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Aadhar is not progress


Read an impressive post on Mozilla’s Open policy  blog about why India’s Aadhaar is a step backward in citizen rights. The central problem in this context is clearly spelt out:

This is all possible because India currently does not have any comprehensive national law protecting personal security through privacy. India’s Attorney General has recently cast doubt on whether a right to privacy exists in arguments before the Supreme Court, and has not addressed how individual citizens can enjoy personal security without privacy.

The problem is compounded by the fact that is not that difficult to procure a fake Aadhaar card in the country, one of the most corrupted in the world.


So while honest citizens will be forced to provide proof of identity to receive government services, illegals and criminals will continue to feed off the system.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Today I read about ETOPS certification for planes


“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let twins fly long-haul over-water routes.” Those were the words of Lynn Helms—administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration during the Reagan administration. At the time, no commercial american airplane with two engines was allowed to fly anywhere farther than 60 minutes from a diversion airport. The belief was that, if one engine failed, the other could only safely fly the plane for about an hour, but this rule severely limited what smaller planes could do. On North Atlantic routes like New York to London, twin-engine planes could only fly in these areas but a direct route looked like this. The options were to either fly a twin-engine plane on an inefficient routing or fly a inefficient three or four engine plane. There was no place for long-and-skinny routes between smaller cities using smaller planes since airline couldn’t legally fly those smaller planes. This one simple rule changed the very way airplanes were built. Now, in the 60’s, this 60 minute regulation only applied to planes with two engines. Of course aircraft manufacturers could build quad-engine jets but those had to be huge for airlines to make their money’s worth with their high fuel consumption. The 747’s of the time could carry more than 400 passengers. They could therefore only fly on super high-demand routes like New York to London to have any hope of being full. In order to start flying more convenient non-stop routes from smaller markets, planes had to get smaller while still being legally allowed to hop the pond.

That’s where trijets came into play. With three engines, these planes weren’t subject to the same 60-minute regulation as twinjets. They could easily fly any transatlantic route. That’s why in the 70s or 80s, the long-haul jets you’d see at airpots were, for the most part, either 747’s or trijets like the DC-10.

This 60-minute regulation was inconvenient for Atlantic Crossings, but in the Pacific it actually changed how Hawaii developed. There are zero diversion airports between California and Hawaii so the route isn’t even close to covered under the 60-minute rule. As a result, airlines could only fly huge planes between the mainland and Hawaii which meant that planes could pretty much only fly to Honolulu. Puttakke puttakke karimeen puttaakkee. There was virtually no service between the other islands and the mainland which meant the other islands were severely isolated. That’s part of the reason why the tourism industry only picked up on the other islands in recent decades. Luckily, change was coming. The 60 minute rule originated from the days of piston driven propeller aircraft.

With these, it was far more common for engines to just stop working mid-flight. That’s why there were contingency engines. The regulations just didn’t adapt to the increased reliability of jet engines. Statistically, for every failure of a jet engine, there are 117 piston engine failures. Once the jet age rolled in, engine failure just wasn’t as much of a concern, so, in 1985, the FAA begrudgingly granted permission to Trans World Airlines to fly their twin-engined

767 direct between Boston and Paris—a route taking it up to 120 minutes away from diversion airports. This was the first example of a brand new FAA certification called ETOPS—“Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards,” or more colloquially, “engines turn or passengers swim.” Before an airline can fly a long over-water route they have to buy a plane with what’s known as an ETOPS type rating. Basically that means that the plane was built with adequate redundancies, communications systems, and fire suppression systems to fly safely if one engine fails. For example, the 767—the first plane to get an ETOPS certification—has a type rating of 180 minutes meaning it can fly anywhere as long as its 180 minutes from a diversion airport.

But just because a plane has a type rating doesn’t mean an airline can fly it ETOPS. They have to have a special maintenance plan, a special flight crew, special cabin crew, special dispatchers, special fuel quantities, and special passenger recovery plans since, just because there’s a runway doesn’t mean that a plane can safely divert since the emergency doesn’t end once the plane lands. Cold Bay, Alaska, for example, is a perfect diversion airport for routes between Asia and North America. It only has six commercial flights per week nowadays but as a former Air Force Base it has an enormous runway. The only issue is that the town of Cold Bay has a population of 108—its tiny—so any diversions automatically double or triple the amount of people in the small town. There certainly aren’t enough hotel rooms or restaurants to house and feed stranded passengers so, if airlines plan to use Cold Bay as a diversion airport, they need to make a plan for how to house, feed, and recover passengers within 48 hours of landing. Last year an American Airlines 787 was flying from Shanghai to Chicago when its right engine had an issue halfway across the Pacific Ocean. The plane quickly took a left turn diverting to Cold Bay. Even before landing the plan was implemented as flight attendants served a second meal service early. Just a few hours after safely landing in Cold Bay, American’s mechanics took off from Seattle bound for Cold Bay to start fixing the plane while Alaska Airlines, American’s partner, sent a 737 from Anchorage to pick up the stranded passengers. Meanwhile, flight attendants served the third set of meals they had stocked while waiting on the ground and the coast guard opened their heated hanger to passengers.

Just 10 hours after the emergency landing, passengers were on their way to Anchorage where they spent the night before taking an American 757 to Chicago. That was a perfect example of how the passenger recovery plan worked. The quick response and defined plan helped the airline get passengers out safely and quickly. Now, because of the solid engine reliability, numerous redundancies, and well-designed passenger  recovery plans, airlines and airplanes can now receive insane ETOPS certifications. The 787 Dreamliner, the plane that diverted to Cold Bay, has a type rating of 330 minutes. That means it can fly up to 5.5 hours away from a diversion airport. Certain routes over long-ocean stretches in the southern hemisphere were theoretically possible in the past with four engine planes but were economically impossible since airlines could never fill the large planes on the low-demand city pairs like Melbourne to Santiago.

With the ETOPS 330 certification, LATAM Airlines can fly their small 787 economically on this relatively low-demand route across the South Pacific. The Airbus a350 is even rated for ETOPS 370—it can fly 6 hours and 10 minutes away from diversion airports. This plane can therefore fly everywhere on earth except directly over the South Pole. Because of this simple rule change, three and four engine planes are largely a relic of the past. Boeing and Airbus’ largest jets are both their only four engine planes in production—the 747 and a380. Nearly all North Atlantic traffic today is on twin-engined planes as smaller and smaller planes get ETOPS certifications. Air Canada, for example, flies their tiny 120 passenger a319 with ETOPS certification daily between St Johns Airport and London Heathrow. British Airways even sends the even smaller a318 between New York and London City Airport. These routes would have been unimaginable 30 years ago but the reliability of the airplanes of today mean we need not fear flying small planes over big oceans.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Uninstalled redundant Apps


I just figured out I had a lot of redundant apps on my phone, and I could take them all off, and still carry on. There are a lot of apps there competing and providing the SAME features, and they just stay on the phone and take up space.

Like IMO. I uninstalled it today. IMO provides video calling services, and they actually offered this way before Facebook and Whatsapp. I still feel IMO’s video quality is better that Whatsapps, specially on restricted bandwidth networks, but very few people know about it and use it. Now that Whatsapp provides full video chat, there is no point in keeping IMO around. Uninstalled.

Second one to go, facebook messenger. Seriously, its a lame app. The video quality is worse on slow networks, and takes up so much time to start and run. Mutlitasking sucks. Uninstalled.

And the last to go today….Dropbox sync. Dropbox’s sync works great on desktop systems. But on mobile, they take up a lot of time to run and sync. If you are not on Wifi, it just drinks up all the network and battery juice. Now that whatsapp provides desktop interface, I use that to share all documents I need. Awesome sync. Dropbox…Uninstalled.


So that leave me with a leaner, faster phone. More space for my movies !

Monday, April 3, 2017

Computer programmers may no longer be eligible for H-1B visas


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services quietly over the weekend released new guidance that computer programmers are no longer presumed to be eligible for H-1B visas.

What it means: This aligns with the administration's focus on reserving the temporary visas for very high-skilled (and higher-paid) professionals while encouraging low- and mid-level jobs to go to American workers instead. The new guidance affects applications for the lottery for 2018 fiscal year that opened Monday.

What comes next: Companies applying for H-1B visas for computer programming positions will have to submit additional evidence showing that the jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees. Entry-level wages attached to these visa applications will also get more scrutiny. The change appears to target outsourcing companies, who typically employ lower-paid, lower-level computer workers.

Lawsuits possible: Releasing this policy change at the start of the application filing window is going to rankle companies who used 17-year-old policy guidance to apply for this year's visas. Some companies may challenge the guidance on the grounds that USCIS didn't provide sufficient notice of the change.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Javascript sucks. So does multi-monitors


It was nice reading two different articles, about two topics, where the author had a viewpoint similiar to mine. One was about the javascript hype, or javascript psychosis. I have never understood the hype and attention which javascript has been getting these past few years. There is a overload of frameworks and libraries, and even companies like Oracle rushed to join the bandwagong by releasing their own javascript framework.




Check out a related video.


The other link I came across was this, where the author makes a clear stance for single monitor setups. Over the years, I have seen people (mostly on TV, but also IRL) looking at multiple monitor screens for their design/programming/hacking work.  They think they are multi tasking. But I am not one. I am an efficient single tasker. A single monitor to look at helps me maintain focus. And attention.  And a huge part of day to day work involves deep work, where I have to spend multiple hours looking at a single file. Specially helps when I have move my latop between rooms.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Too many wallets, not enough money.


The problem is cost

Looks like latest technology  startups are interested in are online money-wallets. You know, the system which allows you to keep some money in an online account, and use it for online payments. I guess, they identified something banks were totally unaware of , and built up a system to fill that up. But then, other startups too woke up, and started copying each other.  I only realized how crazy it had gotten when today I was trying to make an online payment, and got this screen.


Thats 10 different wallets !  Some I had not even heard of. So I got curious and searched for ALL the online wallet systems available in India. And I got this:


Yup. There are a lot of them. Even some mobile network companies (Airtel,Jio) have joined the race. Some banks have also released their apps. But I am not sure if they are solving the existign problems, or adding to users’ woes.

There has to now be some sort of regulation for these wallet guys. For one, there is now way to transfer money between these wallets, without first transferring to a bank. And some of them charge for those transfers. More on that later.

Second, money in the wallets do not accrue interest, like it does in your bank. That is one advantage the bank apps have.

Third, I am sure all these apps have security problems, specially on their andriod versions. Its only a matter of time before some or all of them get hacked. And the lack of IT security laws in this country means there is no proper protection to the end users.

And fourth, the ultimate problem is cost. These are all private players (except SBI). And they need to make their own profit. Which means sooner or later, they are gonna have to charge the customers for their service. What some online sites call “convenience charge”. Being in the IT business, guys like me know there are huge mulitlayered systems which power these online behemoths.  Even if they use open source, they will still need skilled programmers and support guys to power their frameworks. And all these are going to cost.

This is one advantage traditional cash transactions still have. There are no hidden charges. Unless they figure out a way to charge nominal to the customers, most of these apps are not going to survive.




PS: By they way, I have a PayTM account, the only wallet I used. Because they accept these at my company cafetaria.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Uber and Ola problem


In case you didn’t know, the Ola drivers are going on strike. Again. All over the country. And I guess rest of the world too, for Uber. What the strikers do not know, however, is that these companies are doomed. Their business models (if they still have one) is unsustainable , specially at such large numbers, and with costs going up everyday, they will have to price their services realistically. At which point, its game over.

Their strike might explain why I found the roads a little less jammed these past two weeks. It was relatively easier to drive around the city, even in areas usually congested. Never realized that these private cabs were causing a buildup of everyday traffic. So in a way, its good. More people should start using public transport like buses and trains.

Now I am not a fan of these new shared economy aggregators. Till date, I might have used Ola about 7 times. And that was always when we were travelling in a group, of more than 2 people. Even at the surge priced charges, I found it value for money, because the cost of the air conditioned BMTC buses in Bangalore is through the roof. And the actual driving in the city is a nightmare, better leave to someone else.  They do solve a problem, the ease at which you can get a cab booked from your vicinity. The ability to pay cashless. But they can’t actually make money. People are going to use these services only if they are affordable. Before Ola and Uber, when was the last time you hailed a sedan cab in India ? The three wheeled auto-rickshaw is the go to transportation of choice. Hiring a full taxi was only when you travelled for your company, in which case you can get it reimbursed anyway. Nobody hailed a taxi for day to day journeys.

Now the cab drivers now striking are demanding better incentives, and insurance and things like that. All of which will cost the company more. These are the very same drivers who once scammed their company out of crores. And there were those incidents of sexual assault on women too. Now that the tables are turned, they have resorted to protest.

But fact is that a more traditional model of aggrgating and pricing still works today. I was delighted to read that Meru cabs of radio taxis still operate without any problems. Meru is one of the first radio taxis in the city, and along with Fastrack, the only options till a few years back. But in their case, they own their vehicles, taking the burden of maintaining the vechicles off their drivers. That model still works. I guess Uber and Ola will have to explore something like this.

The only good thing which they introduced was their cab sharing system, where you share a cab with other riders travelling in the same direction. That has to be incentiviced. The government has to encourage ride sharing, and promote better public transport system. And a better city planning. Ultimately, the city has to be built for people, not cars.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bigger batteries pose bigger problems


Samsung’s PR disaster after recalling and replacing their Galaxy Note 7’s is all over the news. The blocking of the phone by the company is going to cost it money and users. But bigger batteries have always caused these kind of issues.

The story of Boeing’s disaster with the batteries on the huge 787 planes come to mind. There was a series of battery explosions in 2013 on 787 Dreamliners . You can watch this documentary to know more.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Someone has finally confessed to the death of Google Reader


I miss Google Reader. It used to be the first place I used to go to, once I completed my day’s work. Now I have switched to some other services not nearly as impressive in terms of features and speed, but that is the price you pay when you are using something for free. I used to use it with FeedDemon, another awesome RSS offline reader for Windows, allowing me to read stuff on the go. Never understood why Google would turn evil, and turn off such an awesome service.

Well today I see someone has confessed to being the reason of that death.



I wonder how he is going to live with this for the rest of his life.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

FullTextRssFeed is back . Again.


Today morning when I opened my RSS feed reader, I was intrigued by the higher number of articles to read. Then I noticed the new entries were coming from the dead feeds from Its  a free service which converts short summary RSS feeds to fulltext feeds, so you can read entire articles without visiting the feed site. This is specially useful to me, as I frequently try to read these from my company network, where my employer has blocked many good sites under other asuumptions.

Fulltextrssfeed feeds were not working for a very long time now, but its good to know they are back, and I can go back to my reading.

Monday, June 27, 2016

VLC’s Plugins


VLC, the favourite media player of Tech enthusiasts (geeks), has an awesome plugin feature. Yep, that’s right. And people have been contributing plugins to the movement. And one of the most useful ones of those plugins is the vlcsub plugin, which downloads subtitles for whatever video you are watching direclty from, automatically.

First, go get the plugin from here. Follow the instructions to install .



When you are watching a video, check the under the ‘View’ menu to see the VLSub option in the end.



Clicking on it opens up the subtitle finder window. You can either search by hash, or search by video name. The hash feature is simply awesome. It very accurately finds the righ set of subtitles for your video and populates the window.


And now you can simply click on one of that enty ,and click the Download button on the bottom row.




Presto ! The subtitle is downloaded and begins playing automatically. The subtitle is saved on your system with the same name as the video you are watching, but with an .srt extension. So it will be loaded automatically whenever you play the video again.




Ain’t that awesome ?

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.






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.