Computing for the next billion – I

October 20, 2005 at 5:30 pm

As promised to one of my childhood friends, Gowtham, today I am going to write about the vision of Novatium. This post is going to come in parts. I haven’t exactly planned them out so I won’t be able to tell you how many parts. Let’s just begin.

Rajesh Jain is the man behind Novatium. Novatium is his brainchild. And this is where I work!

Rajesh Jain made big news during the peak of the dotcom craze. He sold a bunch of websites to a company called sify for Rs. 499 crores. [Roughly $110 million] An entrepreneur by choice. An intense patriot. Rajesh is a down-to-earth person and very pleasant to be with. To know more about him browse through his blog. Alternately, you click on the link titled “Emergic” in the list of “Blogs I read” to the right of this page.

I have had the privilege of having attended a meeting with Rajesh when he was down here at our office premises in Chennai. It was during the early days of Novatium. Rajesh was here to attend a board meeting. He made a presentation on his idea of Novatium and how it would look, say, 3 to 5 years down the line. Rather, he concentrated more on the what we need to focus on to get there than paint a fantasy for us! Didn’t I tell you he was down-to-earth?! ;)

Let me start with a simple question. How many of you own computers? Whoever is reading this either owns one or has access to one. There is a miniscule number of people who read blogs through mobiles. Do you know that there are approximately 600 million people in the developing markets who don’t have access to a computer? The problem with access is not that there is no channel there and hence they don’t have access. The issues are many:

  1. Wintel monopoly: Whenever Windows upgrades its OS you need to upgrade too. You don’t have an option. And Windows recommends you to have Intel processors in your computers. Otherwise, your system will become slow. In such a seller’s market, there is only a certain limited reach that you can afford. And you cannot continue holding your customers at ransom for a long time.
  2. High TCO: [TCO - Total Cost of Ownership] Till recently, the l0west priced computer was Rs. 19,500/- [Approx $450]. And it was definitely out of reach of the common man whose disposable income is just about enough to satisfy his top three priorities of food, clothing and shelter. With the launch of multiple series of low-cost computers, there is a certain segment that has now graduated from no-computers to computers, but still there are other issues that are not answered just by lowering the cost. Like the ones we are going to look at next.
  3. Manageability: For the common man, the PC is still a complex device. You and I are so much used to its complexity that we are able to manage our way through it. Otherwise it is still not very user-friendly. Windows claims to be user-friendly. But it takes a lot of courage to get used to the number of crashes and data loss that happens during the course of your work. And that’s still the software. The hardware components look so mind-boggling with so many wires running in and out of the CPU that you had rather stay away from it! By making it available for Rs. 10/- I am not going to solve this mental mindset, can I?
  4. Technology obsolescence: During my engineering [under-graduation] days I owned a computer that ran on a Cyrix 233 MHz processor . We used to run softwares like AutoCAD, etc. on this. We bought the computer for Rs. 30,000/- [Approx $700] and at the end of our engineering days we sold it for Rs. 9,000/- [Approx $225]. But it’s not about the money alone. We had a tough time finding a buyer for such an outdated processor. If you notice, it wasn’t outdated by technology. You could still run all your essential softwares on this processor. But it was outdated by the growth of technology. There were better and more capable processors available at the same price. Imagine at what rate you will have to sell off a sub Rs. 10,000/- computer?!
  5. Security: Your data is sitting on your hard disk that is extremely vulnerable to worms, viruses, and what not?!! And everytime there’s a new virus, you need to run to the website or call up your local dealer so that you download the relevant patch for it. Does it sound easy? Try doing it. I develop cold feet everytime I hear of a virus doing the rounds. And take backup of my Hard Disk on CDs like crazy. So, technically your data can go kaput whenever a capable programmer can write a good virus. Let’s look at the commercial part, ever bought a license of any Anti-virus software? Know how much it costs? It will cost you more than your entire computer! Security doesn’t come cheap! If I show you a spreadsheet I am working on right now regarding the lifetime cost of security software you had rather lock up your computer inside a room and forget about it! ;)
  6. Novatium has developed a hardware technology platform that will solve most of those issues mentioned above to your satisfaction. The remaining issues will be solved by the server computing paradigm that we are adopting. We see a future where the world operates computers like electricity without bothering about the back-end processes. You really don’t need to know whether there is a Pentium 4 processor or an AMD processor or whether there is 256MB RAM there or something lesser. You just need to work at an acceptable pace on whichever application you want to!If you are finding this something similar to Sun’s punchline of “The Network is the computer”, then you are spot on! We are the ones who are going to make it a reality. How exactly are we intending to do it? What are our strategies? What makes us believe that we can do it? All this and much more in my next post. Till then, upgrade your knowledge about Network computing and thin clients. My subsequent posts are going to concentrate heavily on these subjects.

Oru Naal Oru Kanavu

October 19, 2005 at 12:30 pm

The movie is a waste of time. Don’t ask me why I watched it.

Srikanth, who has only one decent movie in his track record continues with being a one-movie wonder. He has good looks and so girls drool over him. That ensures the opening for the first half of the first show of every movie of his.

Sonia Agarwal, well, she is there. So what? Should I write about her?

A host of irritating side actors, all trying to look like this malayali+tamil cross breds cracking hackneyed jokes.

The director, well again, I was told was very good in his previous movies. I can promise you, if you watch this movie, you will not believe what I heard about him before. Right now, thankfully enough, I don’t remember whatever I was told.

From somewhere, they have been able to convince Maestro Ilayaraja to score music. And as always the Maestro doesn’t dissappoint. There are a few memorable numbers, but the movie put me off so much, I don’t even remember the songs! :))

Forget about the other aspects of this movie. There are none actually. Someone who had lot of money wanted to do something about it other than burning it on Anna Salai, so he thought he will make this movie.

Extremely dumb people like me venture out to see such dumbest movies. Please read this review and consider two things:

  1. Don’t brand me as a fool for watching this movie. A request.
  2. For heaven’s sake don’t go to the theater that’s playing this movie for watching this movie. Understand?! ;)

Good you understood! :) I didn’t when my friends gave me the same advice.

Ah.. Aah..!!!

October 19, 2005 at 11:00 am

Khushi, Vaali, New and Now “Ah.. Aah..!!”. S. J. Suryah thought he has graduated from being an excellent director to being a director-cum-actor. But can somebody tell him that “New” ran primarily because it was Simran’s last movie. No, not that he was bad or anything just that we are better off with him wielding the microphone than being on-screen. I have my grouses against SJS. He doesn’t look good. He overacts. He is loud. And above all, his body language is repulsive!

Getting back to the movie review…

The story revolves around the hero and heroine living in together. Like all SJS movies, the theme will come as a ethical, moral, cultural, etc shock to most of the audience. It starts of well, with issues like trust, understanding etc. being highlighted very well. Slowly gets into SJS’s favourite pitfall – Lust. The hero and the heroine get separated at the interval because of some misunderstanding and stupidity mainly on part of the hero. How they kiss and make up with the usual melodrama but with an unusually interesting theme makes the rest of the story.

SJS does a good job of direction. Though it can be called overdoing, the style with which he started the movie and flowed into the high-energy title song was a very confident way of doing it. The confidence shows in the delicate handling of physical attraction and emotional attraction. He has separated the issues and given it a very good treatment. He has clearly grown as a director over the years. Shows lot of promise. Unless he casts himself and puts me off, I am going to watch his movies.

Nila, a Simran [SJS's crush! ;)] look-alike, could have been much better. She could have atleast lip-synced those tamil words properly. It looked like her lips were stitched together! Even Trisha seems to do this. And so does Ilayathalapathi Vijay. Why can’t they talk freely on-screen? Nila can get better. But I don’t think like other SJS’s discoveries she is going to reach the top.

A R Rahman is the superstar of this movie. “Mayiliragae”, “Woodpecker”, “thigu, thigu”, “Varu girai” and the title song [of course!] are each gems in their own right. These songs, like all Rahman compositions, took time to grow on me. This man A R Rahman exceeds expectations like no-one can. Special mention I must make of Naresh Iyer and Hariharan for carrying off these intricate songs so easily. Sadhana Sargam, a Rahman regular, is brilliant as usual. And Rahman backs himself for the extremely peppy title song. After “Fanaah” in Yuva and “Azaadi” in Bose – The Forgotten Hero, this is Rahman’s next rendition. The energy he infuses into the song is infectious. Also, Rahman’s BGM is worth a mention. This man has grown amazingly well. He was not the best BGM composer we knew till sometime back. And today, he is composing musicals and conducting symphonies. All this shows in the BGM! Long live ARR!

The cinematography was good. With the blue tinge coming out well at the appropriate places. The camera angles, though unconventional, did match with the mood of the movie and in some places actually helped creating it. The scene where SJS and his friend are havinga drink & talking about illusion. Suddenly Nila appears behind SJS. The camera shows her upside down and that’s how confused SJS was! The editing could have been crisper. Dialogues could have been toned down, but that’s SJS’s style. Can’t do much about that. Costumes were funny at times. And in any case, SJS doesn’t look good to me in anything.

The movie is worth a “dekko” if you can stand SJS on screen. You shouldn’t be the hypocritic type who says where are live-in relationships in India and all that. Just get to Pune or Bangalore and you might actually enter into one! ;) That’s how rampant it’s becoming! The music could be a good crowd-puller but finally it’s the parts in between that you have paid money to watch. So take your call. I find this movie a better watch than the pretentious Ghajini.

No Entry

October 18, 2005 at 6:00 pm

A multi-starrer of sorts. Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Fardeen Khan, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta and Esha Deol. If I hadn’t seen the poster with my customary extra-attention I would have thought the director was David Dhawan. It is Anees Bazmee. Of Pyaar tho hona hi tha and Dewangee fame.

It’s not a melodrama as the previous Bollywood multi-starrer movies have been but a comedy throughout. There was one stretch of 20 minutes in the second half where I laughed my head off. To the extent that my stomach developed cramps and tears filled my eyes. My friends were too busy laughing to notice me laughing like crazy.

There is nothing very dirty about this movie as the posters wrongly project. You can sit and watch this movie alongwith family. There is a telugu movie which I guess was the inspiration for this movie. “Pellam ooru vellithe”. People feel free to correct me. I remember somebody telling me the story of that film and it sounded similar to this one.

Anil Kapoor is first grade. An actor who hasn’t ever got his due. Salman Khan is comfortable with comedy and it shows as it had in his previous “Maine Pyar Kyun kiya”. Bipasha Basu has to look sexy and who better than her to do it?! ;) Fardeen Khan, I don’t think this lad can act at all. He looks so stiff. Lara Dutta does well. Esha Deol, she should go back to making candles! Apart from “Yuva” & “Dhoom” where I actually noticed her, in every other movie of hers I actually forgot who played her character.

This is a movie that can be watched. With the family. Have a hearty laugh for 2 and a 1/2 hours. And go back home with a smile on your face.

Ghajini

October 18, 2005 at 5:30 pm

A much-awaited tamil movie. Released on the scale of movies like “Chandramukhi” and “Anniyan”. Starring Surya of “Kaakha… Kaakha” & “Pitamagan” fame and Asin of “Amma Naana Oka Tamil Ammayi” & “M Kumaran s/o Mahalakshmi” fame. Well, Asin is extremely famous even otherwise! ;) As my dear friend Arjuna will tell you! The director is A. R. Murugadoss who has gained Godly status after movies like “Dhina” and “Ramana”. So, the movie had an unimaginable opening!

After lot of coaxing by my friends, I decided to venture into this. I like Surya and the personality that he projects on screen. He does it to perfection. And so he did in Ghajini too. Just that his costume designer, hair dresser and choreographer need to be sacked with immediate effect! There were some places where he was supposed to behave like a person with a short memory but he in turn he behaves like a robot!

Asin was charming and beautiful as usual. Nothing new there. She carried off an author-backed role with aplomb. The movie was enjoyable only when she was on screen. Sadly, they kill her half way and the other half is a torture to sit through. Even Surya cannot hold your attention. The director, or should I say “God” instead, has messed up badly.

The story though sounds very interesting is actually very boring. The music, barring two songs, is average. The background music was loud and noisy. The cinematography is worth a mention. The editing could have been better.

The casting director should be asked only one question, “Why did he pick Nayanthaara for this role?” See, with Rajni in a movie nobody is looking at who the heroine is [unless of course she is Ramya Krishna or Soundarya!]. So the logic that she has a superhit in her bag doesn’t hold any water! She would have lost a few kgs after all that running and running she has done in the movie. Hopefully, she looks decent in her next movie.

The movie is running on some amazing word-of-mouth publicity. Yeah, I was also a victim of the same strategy. I can safely tell you that if you don’t watch this movie, there’s nothing you would have missed. Go get yourself the DVD of “Kaakha… Kaakha”, get under the blanket with a hot cup of coffee [with rain outside it'll be romantic!], and if you are lucky a companion, and watch it instead. This is the solution if you are a Surya fan. Otherwise, there’s nothing which can make you sit through the entire 3 hours.

Iqbal

October 18, 2005 at 5:00 pm

Nagesh Kukunoor who is the director of movies like Hyderabad Blues, Bollywood Calling, Rockford & Teen Deewarein has come up with “Iqbal”. Subhash Ghai who went public with his “Mukta Arts” has realised that if he alone continues directing movies under this banner then he will earn brickbats from investors! ;) So, he has wisely roped in Nagesh to push up the Share value.

The commercial angle apart, the movie is based on the story of a deaf and dumb young boy realising his dreams. A straight from the heart movie with Nagesh’s sophisticated sense of humour evident throughout. Naseeruddin Shah shows why he is considered as one of the living legends of Indian cinema.

Shreyas Talpade plays his role to perfection. The girl who plays his sister’s character actually steals the show. She holds her own in frames with Naseeruddin Shah. Kapil Dev makes a guest appearance. The father and mother of the boy are familiar actors who do a good job.

One satirical scene is where the boy practices cricket with buffaloes standing in for fielders. And they name them as Gavaskar, Kapil, etc. The scene is hillarious.

Nagesh Kukunoor shows that he can raise the level of his cinema with every movie he makes. Teen Deewarein was possibly the best I have seen yet though. But he shows a lot of promise. I am not going to miss any of his movies. A director of rare calibre.

Don’t miss Iqbal! I know the review is late. But then, you can still get a VCD/ DVD and watch it. It’s worth it.

A few movies that I saw recently

October 18, 2005 at 4:30 pm

Over the past one month I have seen a considerable number of movies across hindi and tamil.

Iqbal [Hindi]
Ghajini [Tamil]
No Entry [Hindi]
Anbe Aaruyire [Tamil]
Oru Naal Oru kanavu [Tamil]

As is my habit to let everyone know what I think about these movies. Here we go.

Being aware and living

October 15, 2005 at 2:00 pm

Emotions are deep. We, normal human beings, are mostly unaware of their depth. Even the so-called “stable” people are some times taken aback when they feel the depth of emotions.

What we might know is that these emotions exist. Sometimes even the existence of a certain emotion within us might come us a surprise. Being aware that there are emotions that exist within us is sometimes termed as “knowing self”. But do we know the complete depths to which they exist? I am afraid not.

We live in a world of rationale and logic. Whatever happens we try to assign a why to it. Answer the self-inspired question. Slot it into something comfortable in our mind and get on with the next moment.

We are fooling ourselves. The world we see is rationale and logic. The world is not all rationale and logic. What we see, we try to assign rationale and logic. The world we see is rationale and logic.

What I know is nothing. What I don’t know is more than what I know. And a combination of this is what forms the World. I am not getting into issues of control and action here.

Being aware of this truth helps me control and act in a humane way. Is this the ultimate truth or is there something else? I don’t know. If I have to know I will know. I am comfortable with this thought. It brings immense peace to my being.

I am aware that there are depths to my emotions that are unknown to me. There will be situations in life when those depths are touched. That’s when the unknown enters the known for an instant. It’s a certain delicate moment of our being when we are confronted with the depth which was unknown hitherto.

Sometimes, which is most of the times, I don’t want to do anything about the newly discovered part of me. There are a few rare moments when I have made the decision to explore it. The exploration is a journey. The journey doesn’t promise any benefits. What is a benefit?! The journey makes me more aware. I am more than what I was before the journey.The journey doesn’t bridge the gap between known and unknown. It cannot happen through such conscious decisions. Being aware & living are extremely powerful states of mind. And boundless too.

A R Rahman! I Love You too!

October 11, 2005 at 1:00 pm

4.30PM

Already at the Palace grounds! Outside the queue waiting for a few friends to arrive. Concert scheduled to begin at 7.00PM! No sign of rains. Clear weather. I could hear the sounds of drums. Probably, it was the testing going on. And I couldn’t hide my smiles. Wow! This is going to be my dream come true!

5.30PM

Inside the grounds. At our designated stands waiting with baited breath for the show to begin. For the first time I was about to see A R Rahman Live in Concert! Clouds gathering slowly over the venue. So what, there’s still one and a half hours to go for the show to begin, it will stop by then!

6.15PM

Rains starts to pour. Begins with a drizzle and quickly changes gears to come down as if it was destined to clean all of us at that moment itself! This cannot go on for long. God knew that I had come down from Chennai to watch this man perform live. God wouldn’t want me to return disappointed. But my friends looked up at the heavens and remarked with a oh-this-is-not-going-to-stop kind of a look, “Adi, this is it. The concert is doubtful”. Oh no! God?!

7.15PM

No signs of stopping. And as if with a vengeance it had just gotten heavier. So heavy that you couldn’t open your eyes. So, we took the opportunity to pray. ; ) With around 25,000 people praying at the same time for the same cause, can God ignore? Well, yes he can. And he did ignore us for the next half an hour.

Just then one Mr. Badriprasad, a Bangalore-singer, thought it was the right time to invoke the Gods further. After his prayer, it rained heavier than ever before for another 15 minutes. Badri you come out man. We shall see how you get away without paying for this!! But then, it stopped after 15 minutes. Badri, tu bach gaya re. [Badri, you are saved man!]

7.45PM

“Hi Bangalore”, said a voice. A voice for which we were all braving the rains and standing just to listen to this man. I would have fainted on hearing this voice if not for the rains that had woken me up completely.

“I apologize to God”, said the man in inimitable style, “It’s the holy month of Ramadan and God is showering his praise on us. This is his way of cleaning our sins. Give us one hour to set all this right and we shall be back. This show will be the best-ever”

Ooh man! I would have collapsed on the spot. It was A R Rahman talking to me. One hour?! I am willing to wait a lifetime to listen to you A R Rahman!

The Audio-Visual screen that formed the backdrop of the stage had given way. And the equipment had to be set up. So, we had to wait for an hour. We were perfectly okay with it. Not one person had moved when it was raining. There was no question of turning our back at this point.

8.00PM

Kailash Kher jumped on to the stage. He started of by saying that this was the best crowd he had seen ever. This was reiterated by every performer who came on stage. Bangalore rocks! The spirit of Bangalore was saluted! Hats off to us!

Then we had “Allah ke bandhe” by Kailash Kher. No instruments. Just pure vocals. The rustic voice in the urban Bangalore had just started the concert. He left the stage by saying that this show was going to be the best ever! It has to be! It has to be!

8.40PM

The man himself came on to the stage. Dressed in sober white as if to show the purity of the man and the music. Trousers, t-shirt and an over coat all in white. He was looking like an angel. He was, is and will be an angel for us! A R Rahman was on stage for the concert! The moment we were all waiting for was finally here!

“I have learnt two things today”, said the eternally spiritual A R Rahman, “ One is that never host a concert in the holy month of Ramadan. And the second is that, I always thought you would listen to my music and throw the CD’s and cassettes away. But today I came to know that it’s not just that much. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart” Man! I had tears in my eyes when he said that! I wanted to hug him and say that our love for you is much beyond all this!

I couldn’t make out whether he choked with emotion or stopped intentionally. But I did choke with emotion! Then the crowd including yours truly responded with cries of “We love you Rahman!” and continued the cries with loud shouts of “A R!” “A R!” A R!” I truly love him!! I am mad about him!

8.45PM

A R Rahman came on to the front of the stage with a keyboard strung around. Never seen him so exuberant on the stage. He started with “Fanaa”. Quite aptly I must say. When he sung, “Hone do dard ko – Tabaah” I can promise you I felt the hurt of the rain go away with those powerful vocals itself. So powerful, pure and ecstatic was the voice! A R Rahman you are simply the best! I am lucky to be in the same era as you!

Well, after that I seriously lost track of time. Till the concert began every minute was counted. Every drop of rain was welcomed. Once A R Rahman says it’s God’s way of praising us, little can I deny it! ;) But with every drop, my belief that the concert will be on began to strengthen. Don’t ask me why, it just happened.

I don’t even remember which tracks were sung in what order. I was just jumping and singing and dancing and throwing my hands in air and shouting and doing whatever I wanted to do. Just enjoying myself completely. I had forgotten everything around me. It was just me, A R Rahman and his divine music! It was all as if in a daze!

I shall write about a few other things that stood out in the concert that I remember later. For now, let me come down to earth. Everytime I recount the concert experience to anyone I start jumping in excitement and happiness. Some people said if it hadn’t rained it would have been better. I felt it was the rain that enhanced the experience of the evening. It’s going to be my most memorable concert for a few years to come unless of course A R Rahman decides otherwise! ;)

Control over senses

October 3, 2005 at 11:15 am

[Via Appa - An article in The Hindu]

It is paradoxical that the majority of human beings fritter away their entire life in pursuit of sensory joys, which are short-lived, while they hardly aspire for Self-knowledge, which will give them eternal bliss. Even realising this irony will go a long way in enabling a person to keep the spiritual objective in mind while engaged in the world. In the BhagavadGita, Lord Krishna has stated that the senses are turbulent by nature andthey distract the mind when one practises self-control. So it is with effort that a spiritual seeker must master his senses and meditate on God.

In his discourse, Swami Omkarananda said the Lord had outlined thecharacteristics of a man of wisdom (Stithaprajna) in the Gita to enable theaspirant to develop these traits. Being an embodiment of bliss, a wise mandoes not seek joy outside. As he is poised in the non-duality of the Self heis aware that the diversity that is apparent to his senses is a delusion asa result of Maya. So he advocates Dharma without getting affected by thejoys and sorrows of the world.

Why is there so much emphasis in the scriptural texts on control of the mind and the senses? It is only by self-control that one can develop dispassion.Only when there is detachment can one embark on scriptural study by which Self-knowledge can be attained. Unless the mind is free from the turmoil created by sensations it cannot grasp the preceptor’s teachings. The Gita rationalises this prerequisite for spiritual life succinctly in a verse, “He who has not controlled his mind and senses can have no reason; nor can such an undisciplined man think of God. The unthinking man can have no peace; and, how can there be happiness for one lacking peace of mind?”

After studying the scriptures from a Guru, the spiritual seeker must seek solitude and reflect on the teachings, and engage in meditation. The scriptural texts do not say that he returns to worldly life. The example of Yayati will be relevant to highlight the importance of self-control. He enjoyed heavenly pleasures for over a thousand years before he understood that it is impossible to satisfy one’s desires. Like a fire fed by fuel burns brighter, desires only grow stronger when one tries to satisfy them. So a wise person must never become a slave to his senses.