Wednesday, November 18, 2009

背伸びをするな

During the later half of the year, I almost burnt myself down. Partly owing to my self created hyper-unrealistic schedules. After coming to Japan, especially after marriage, till the first half of this year, magically, I managed (for quite sometime) to work to those packed schedules, but slowly I started feeling like that inside my head there is no more space for my brain to maneuver. Steadily, I realized, my performance started to take a nose dive. It became notable during my Tennis sessions, I lost concentration to such a level, that, I even thought of quitting it, a month or so back.

But then, I sat back, and decided to look back, at what is really happening to my life. I am not a super-man, neither have I ever thought that I am one. Despite knowing this fact, I am a bit lenient when it comes to adding “bits” of something new to my schedule. Curiosity, at its peek, I wanted to try every single thing that comes my way. Few things that I have been doing or have tried in the past couple of years goes like, Photography, Japanese language studies, Tennis, Table tennis, Marathon, rock climbing, besides studying a hell a lot of new technologies.

I enjoyed each one of the activities, and I wanted to master them all. It seems that realization follows once something notable happens, mostly with a negative effect. For me, realization came, when I realized (after being pointed out many times), that I was not even listening to others properly. At some point, I just heard only half of what people said. For example, after returning home, my wife starts explaining the things that happened during the day, and most of the times, I would not have listened to her, even a bit. I soon realized, I was not able to listen. It was something like the hard-disk inside my head became “disk full”. Not something pleasant.

Not being sure about the cause of this, “listening disorder”, I just started to check, I called off some of hobbies one after the other, table tennis was the first in the list, just because I was reasonably good at it. And then slowly, reduced the number of times I ran in a week, and also reduced the number of books that I was reading.

Results started showing up, incredibly fast. Tennis performance improved, incredibly fast. I could listen to my wife with ease, though I acted as if I could not hear ;-) … So … 2009 taught me a good lesson ~~~~ I have to take few things at a time, and never, “Bite more than what I can chew” …

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mac or Windows …

Back in year 2000, I got a chance to use an iMac for work. The first impression was, “looks were far better than its underlying software”. I found it extremely difficult to use, the mouse, opening and closing applications, ejecting an USB disk, opening a drive and browsing for files inside folders, …, it was tedious for a normal user like me. Our company was trying hard to write device drivers for this beautiful (yet not so useful) computers. I thought, that an iMac would (only) fit well on a front-office. May be harsh, but that was my impression. I thought, Apple made beautiful yet unusable products. I was impressed with the iBook too, an Apple product, it looked very cool, and that was all I could say about it.

The impression has not changed, yet, probably because, I never got a chance to work with Mac again. And on top of that, I was (very) happy with windows.

I had been a system software engineer, churning out, firmware, device drivers, and a lot of test applications, everything in or using Windows. I find it fast and easy to work in windows, even today, working with a hardware team developing almost everything in Linux, but I still use Windows ;-) …

Long back, I had my own complaints, like “the BSOD”, that popped up more often than the dialog boxes that I had created. The kernel issues, (mostly documented, and some undocumented), caused nightmares. But, things that you coded, would mostly work, and if not, debugging support was good. It helped *normal*, *non-geeky*, software engineers write working and commercially viable applications and drivers.

That apart, in my earlier job, Mac related developments were reserved for geeky engineers, who were, probably, above normal. I would say they were hackers, who would find undocumented stuff, prodding the web, or reading sample code, or in the worst case, reverse engineer some of the already working code. Mac had virtually no (good) debugging support, and simple issues would take developers days to fix. Not only the development in Mac, only geeks could use it.

Mostly after the iPod’s success, Mac came into Limelight…

Bad time for Microsoft started (continued …), with the much hyped Vista, ending up not even better than XP, Windows users were fed-up and started looking elsewhere. Jobs is very good at attracting people hating MS, because, he hates MS more than his love for Apple. And good time for Apple, Many people, were bored to see the “same old windows screen”, which changed little after ~95, thought a hell a lot changed beneath. They also loved the Mac’s looks and sometimes started living with the interior. It’s purely my guess, sometimes we just get married just for the looks, and then live with the (odd) issues. Apple, flush with the cash, from iPod sales, pushed Mac to new levels. The best move was to junk the expensive and power hungry PPC and move towards cheap and low-power Intel. Eventually, they are poised to be a serious contender for Microsoft.

Will Microsoft bet its fortune on Windows 7 …

One main difference which is Microsoft’s strength and Apple’s weakness, is the ease with which a PC running Windows can be configured. Addition of a hardware support is easy, a reason why, it beats Mac by 9 to 1 in sales, even today. But this weakness in Apple is slowly becoming its strength. As hardware additions becomes difficult or impossible, Mac is more stable as there are no third party drivers. Hackers spare Mac and target the PC, and this would prompt Microsoft to release patch after patch, and suddenly the system would become damn slow, just because of all those patches.

Though I said all this, I want to try using a Mac. I would say, I really want to be a geek ;-) … For the time being, its expensive, and out of my reach. Somebody please gift me your used Mac ;-) …

Note: All the impression about Mac are mine, and I guess it might be mostly outdated.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Hanshin Vs Yakult ~~~

Me, Shanthi and Anto, went to see professional baseball in Koshien, rightly so, it is called the “Hanshin” Koshien stadium. It’s home to the much hyped professional baseball team, “The Hanshin tigers”.  We knew that they were idolized in the Kansai region, but we found out that it was far more than idolization. There was a “special” non-stop express train 「臨時特急」from Umeda 「梅田」station to Koshien「甲子園」station. I would say, “hanshin” special, as it was filled with **only** hanshin fans. The “hanshin tigers” costumes predominantly came in yellow and pink. I though pink was for the female fans, but I saw some men who were wearing pink.

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I heard that it was recently renovated. I though the toilets were cleaner than the one’s found in JR Kyoto station. We went on a Saturday evening, and the stadium was packed. We actually got the tickets as a gift from Hatano-san, we go to the same Catholic church. It was just near the 3rd base, called the “3rd base IVY seat” 「3塁アイベーシート」. We entered through the 11th gate. As we were just entering the gates we could get a peek of the packed crowd as seen in the following photo …

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Though we are kind of inclined towards “the giants”, we supported “hanshin” on that day for a couple of reasons. ① The ticket was gifted to us by Hatano-san, and ② we were not supporters of “Yakult”. In fact we did not know them. The stadium was full, and the practice had already started by the time we entered the stadium. Though the tickets had the seat numbers clearly written on it, we were lost in the huge crowd. So, we requested the ground staff for help, and he was kind enough to lead us to our seats. We were sitting very close, and the view was very good. For me, it was like watching baseball in a very big screen television, very big. I would say life size ;-) ….

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I learnt that it was equally dangerous to sit close to the batters, when a foul ball, hit the stairs below the one in which Anto was playing. Everyone around started started shouting … “abunai, abunai … abunai …”, which means dangerous. It all happened so fast that I did not have any time to react. I was relieved that it did not hit him, as the ball was travelling lightning fast. After that we made sure that he is not exposed to the ball. In short, it was a nightmare for ~~ 50 milli seconds ~~

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Apart from the clean toilets, and nice and comfortable plastics seats, I was impressed with the beer selling girls. They were carrying the *extremely cold* and fresh Asahi super dry like a shoulder bag … very impressive. And yes, they were wearing the Hanshin pink ;-) … I enjoyed the JPY 600 beer. It was about 2.5 times expensive.

The pink could be seen dotted in between the yellow. Actually I thought the color was a bit strong, very much like the highly emotional kansai people. I really liked the pink hat … Cowboy style pink hat. Lady cowboy, cowgirl.

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Anto, always likes to play with guys much elder to him. In the stadium he found a couple of guys, probably in their teens, and he was trying to make friends with them. At first, those guys tried their best to ignore, but had to give-in to Anto’s perseverance. Here he can be seen trying to shake hands with them. It was an innings break and so those guys had some time for Anto too …

DSC_0523 Following are some of the shots that impressed me. I was busy looking after Anto, watching the match, drinking my beer, and gazing at the high tech stuff in the stadium like the LED displays, but managed to take some snaps.

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Anto saying cheese …

It was fun, despite our support, hanshin lost …

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Great grandson of an engine driver …

Hmmm … actually our family had something to boast about, my dad, my dad’s elder brother and my dad’s dad were railway engine drivers. Though I would have loved to be an train engine driver, I ended developing some device drivers, something to do with driver, and living up to our family tradition …

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Actually all engine drivers tie handkerchief in their head like how Antony is wearing … So I guess my dad would be happy seeing his grand kid in this pose. In a way, I was happy too. For me he looked like an “engine driver”. But he may not end up wearing a handkerchief even if becomes one …

Talking about drivers, he makes some very nice pose with the cooking utensils, so when I see him with the vessels I used to tell Shanthi that he may probably become a “nice chef”. To just enrage her, I sometimes use the word, “cook”.

Actually, the other day, we went to the barber shop, for Antony’s hair cut. The barber for some reason told us, that Antony will make a nice barber … Visibly Shanthi was upset. For my part, I was calculating his monthly income if he becomes one … ;-)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Part II

It seemed that he just wanted to leave Teja’s house, I guess he just wanted to go to a place where he can find mom, or probably he just wanted to play. If it is mom that he was looking for, then I will be in trouble, so I decided to divert his attention and took him to the common play area in the apartment. Luckily, there were 3 more kids already playing there, all three seemed to be of the same age group, probably around 10, and playing football.

For some strange reason, Solomon likes football, probably due to the size of the ball. He immediately started cheering those three, and started pointing at them with both hands and was “seriously” telling me something. I only wished I could understand. He was telling something like clu-clu-la-la-pa-pa-la-la-… and making a lot of facial expressions. He was probably saying that he could play better, once he is 10, or was it just my impression. For once I thought that those facial expressions were transmitted from my DNA …

An old lady who passed us by, stopped and talked to him for a while, he was not particularly interested in her, but … intently looked at her, probably wishing that she can tell, where his mom was. We spent around ~25 minutes sitting and watching. All this time Solomon continued to talk to me. Suddenly for some full 25 minutes I thought taking care of Solomon was fun, and somehow easy. After 25 minutes he started making his moves, he wanted to go for the ball. After all he is a boy, I thought. I would let him go, those three kids never cared for him, but Solomon only cared for the ball, and he even managed to reach the ball twice, and once he reached, he would take it and give it back to those kids. He would clap his hands after giving back the ball. Solomon cheers himself every time he does “something good”, for example, when he “correctly” throws the garbage into the "dustbin”, or if he can switch on the television. But sometimes his thinking of “something good” does not match with “what is really good”. For example, he would cheer, when he throws something down the balcony. Amusing for him not me (and also Shanthi).

Suddenly, another girl of the same age group of those three kids showed up, and all four went away to the another part of our apartment building. It seemed that they were practicing some new kind of “kids skate board”. Solomon was not very much interested in the skating stuff, probably this not from my DNA. I love skate-board …

We came back to the play area to find their foot-ball. He was very happy as he can have the football all for himself. We both started playing with it for some 10 minutes. He looked exhausted, but continued to play. So to get him some rest, I carried him and we both went round the apartment once. While we were walking around the apartment, his face changed again, probably he started looking for Shanthi again … So, I decided to take him to Teja’s house again. This time I wanted to feed him something.

We both went back to Teja’s house. She was already eating, so I thought it would be easy to feed him. Once I started feeding, he started taking some 3~4 mouth-full very fast. And suddenly after that started spitting the food. The frustrating part of taking care of him, sigh! The smooth ride with him for sometime had come to a grinding halt. Though he looked a bit tired, he wanted to go out again and started crying. At this moment, Shanthi called to inquire the status, he was still crying slightly. Shanthi was a bit worried that he was probably crying all time. Bad timing.

My friend, Nanda, decided to try and amuse him with soap bubbles, and it worked out. At first he was afraid of the bubbles, but after seeing Teja playing with it, he joined her in the fun. Both of them were pumped up and they were laughing very loudly. Again, while all this was going on, I relaxed. I was worried that he was not eating, but happy that at-least he is enjoying. This bubble stuff went on for more than 20 minutes.

These days Teja is in “toilet training” and do not wear diapers, so when the soap bubbles were all around, Teja suddenly stopped when she saw some of her excretes on the ground and started crying. In-fact she was not wearing her under-pants too. Solomon was clueless, he looked at me with a strange face. For a moment I was clueless too … But I decided to give Teja some space and took him outside the house again.

We both headed out to the play area, again. Those three kids were still playing on the other side of the apartments. The had left behind the balls they were playing with. So, Solomon decided to play with the ball. He took the ball far away from me and would throw it,  I ran and picked it up for him, he enjoyed this sequence. So we repeated this many, many … times. Both of us were very tired. It was already ~3:10 PM, I was hungry. So I decided to take him back to Teja’s house. This time though, immediately after reaching Teja’s house, he started playing with her. I decided to relax for sometime while he was playing with Teja. For a moment I thought that he was not thinking about this mother, and … at this moment the calling bell of rang …

When Teja’s mom, Lavanya attended the door, it was Shanthi, I could hear her voice. In a flash I thought it was a moment of relief. But when I realized that I had taken care of him for more than 3 hours. I was happy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Three hours with Solomon … [Part I]

I like challenges, but taking care of Solomon for three hours when his mom is away was no trivial. For long, she wanted to visit a salon and waiting for Solomon to grow up. Shanthi’s flower-arrangement-teacher [Rieko] had promised to take her to her friend’s Salon. After consulting with me, they decided to go on last week Sunday at last. Rieko-san told me that Shanthi will need about an hour, and once inside the Salon, I will not be allowed with a kid anywhere near her for it was too dangerous [I could not imagine why?]. It’s dangerous probably due to the blades, steam, etc … Anyway, the best and challenging part was, taking care of a 1 year old for ~1 hour. But when the time came for them to leave, I decided I will stay back home with Solomon, which means that I will have to take care of Solomon for 3 hours [1 hour each for Rieko and Shanthi + travel time] …

When it was time, I took Solomon to the parking lot, to bid good-bye to Shanthi and Rieko. They were leaving in their car. Till the time we all reached the car he was happy, probably thinking that we are all going together, somewhere. Once we reached the car, I stopped back with him, and Shanthi got in, he was still smiling, and when Shanthi and Rieko started waving their hands and telling me to take care of him, the expression in his face changed. I could not decipher, but it was strange and cute. For once, it seems that he thought his mom was playing “hide and seek”. So when we returned home from the parking lot he checked every single room, including the toilet, bathroom and balcony. After 10 minutes he stopped his search, I would never know what made him stop. At this point his facial expression changed, it was like, if not in the house, then where IS she? … I was enjoying all his strange faces. Super-imposing my guess over it. For a moment I thought I will pull out my camera and snap these moments. Those faces left a very deep impression in me that I decided not to disturb the inner picture with a photo (selfish me …)

My goal: Make sure, he does not cry for a minute, and just repeat the trick (loop for) 180 times. It looked simple. The time taken for me and Solomon to return home from the parking lot and his search inside the house had consumed some 12 minutes. We had earlier decided to take him to his friend, Teja’s home, which happens to be in a different building inside the same apartment complex. So to start off, I spent around 2~3 minutes in making him wear his shoes, going to the elevator, playing with the elevator buttons … We took another minute or so walking to Teja’s house. All these times his strange face remained. Looking at his face, I started feeling sorry. I only wished if I could get a peek into his feelings. After reaching Teja’s home, he started looking around for his mom, again. I guess he would have thought that she is playing a big time hide and seek … But it was not, he found out that she is not in there, too, so he wanted me to take him out, immediately. I was hoping he spend around 30 minutes in Teja’s house … sigh !!!

(will continue in Part II) …

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Masked madness ...

Sucked into the group behavior, when panic stops the brain cells from functioning, when all the news continuously tell you about the 150 people who are affected by swine flu, and when your office administrative staff formally tabulates your family health status every other day, when your mother inquire about the flu-outbreak, I am a little confused. Frightened will be right word. Should I take some precautions? Can I take some precautions? I decided to take some, starting with a mask.

Yesterday I left office after 8 PM; the medical shops near my office were closed. I knew that the convenient stores sell masks, a bit expensive, but they sell. So I went to a convenient store near my office and found out that they used to sell 3 types of masks and ran out-of-stock on all three. OK, I guessed that most of my colleagues would have bought them on the way back. But wait, if I said most, which is around 3000, which means, we need masks for around 3000 people. That is a lot of masks. With the panic going on, I should have known that masks will never be available, I gave-up after visiting the 22nd shop. Well, till the madness stops, even normal people who need masks against hay fever will have to … wait.

Did I just say madness? :-)

So after this failed attempt scrambling for a mask, I realized that blood was indeed flowing to my brain. Being a techie, I thought I will do some cyber-scramble. I checked Amazon and a few more websites. And after some 45 minutes of browsing for a mask, I gave up. There seems to be too many geeks in Japan, every single mask in Amazon was out-of-stock. The mask makers will have a ball. Will they?

Tired of searching, I thought what will happen if I don’t wear a mask. I even started thinking, if indeed masks are any helpful. They may help, but not prevent, entirely. It seems that we need special masks, that which will prevent virus from entering them. And it seems that those masks are expensive and rare. Today, I saw many people wearing normal masks. And many of their noses protruding out … What can I say …Time’s the healer. Are these masks just a moral support?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Managed code seems to be catching up …

Warning: This is an article intended only for the geeks, so stop here if you are not one.

I first started writing embedded software in assembly. I would not even term it a language, because, every single instruction was translated into an op-code, 1-to-1, nothing less. The firmware (stylish name for embedded software) developed using assembly was in total control. I mean it, total. There was no abstraction what-so-ever between the programmer and the hardware. At any point of time, every single register, every GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) ports were in our control. All our named variables were global. This control somehow translated into our confidence, sometimes arrogance. Those days we assumed that programmers who lacked knowledge of the hardware developed firmware in C. On one fine day, I got impressed with the compensation offered by another company that was developing firmware in C. Getting impressed with the salary; I quit the holy-assembly, mostly for-ever. But long after that, even today, I think those early assembly days were the best. Or … is it yet to come.

Development in C started badly. I knew C, in mostly like a paper driver who can drive, by the books, obviously I lacked experience. During my job-interview, I correctly answered most (all) of the questions on assembly language and got ~70% for C. The guys who interviewed me thought I would master C quickly. Somehow, I managed to score 4.8-out-of-5.0 in a test conducted by brain-bench for C. Those guys even sent me a certificate, embossed in golden color, now the best part, it was free. But over a period of five years, the golden emboss faded, but I learnt more of C. I started developing applications using C, then wrote some device drivers for windows, and finally after a couple of years of slogging, mostly maintaining others code, I started developing some really cool C code. I heard that C was more portable; it was, to an extent. I also learnt that embedded software is all about creating nice-and-compact-and-fast data-structures, and learning some cool compiler directives that will give you complete control over placing your code and data. In a way, I understood, I was writing some so-called-portable source code, in a high level language. I swear, in those days I never tried its portability though. I realized that for larger embedded applications, C was a good development platform. I always heard from my seniors, and also believed for myself that, c++ and embedded software were enemies. I would have sworn this over a bible, even without any experience programming in C++. I hated the language.

I was told to port the OS and write embedded software using Linux. Back then, I was a DOS-and-Windows guy, who never really understood, that free software, like Linux, will actually work. I assumed that the “Open source Linux”, will never be as cool as windows. When ever I go to the testing lab, I stared at those good looking Mac boxes wondering if, it was an ice box for beers. Man, I hated its mouse. In Linux, there were no MSDN type manuals, mostly not even some basic documentation. One more secret reason I hated it was; there were many junior programmers in my company, who knew more than me. And so, I comfortably termed it as a “not so practical” language. I quit the Linux development, and also the company and moved on to some other RTOS in some other company. For a long time, with the momentum in C, I continued with C, till I was asked to look into an ECMA compiler for a Television set, possibly to re-write it. Back in 2007, the ECMA compiler for Linux was written entirely in C++. For countless number of days, I just read and read the source code. As far as C++, my brain was closed. My gray-cells won’t change, even if I wanted to.

The C++ development continued and after developing in C++ for almost a year I learnt that I was not a C++ guy. I could not think in C++, partly owing to the many abstraction levels between the C++ codes and the converted assembly. When I wrote firmware in C, for each line of the source that I wrote, I could easily visualize the assembly instruction. Essentially I can see through the C code. But in C++ I could not, worse, Frankly, I did not try. And that was the end of C++. In a way, till today, I did not need it.

I thought, I can earn a living writing embedded software using C, till I retire. But my safety net was shattered today when I learnt that “managed code”, like C#, .NET, etc are on their rise. I knew about C# from the time it was released, back then, I had assumed that it was meant only for those application developers. I even picked up a fight with one of the guy who was talking about “boot-loader development based on managed code”. Frankly, I do not understand how, a boot-loader can ever be developed using “managed code”. Worse, I do like the idea of developing a boot-loader in C# or .NET. I do not see any advantage. I am an emotional guy who likes to live close to the hardware, and like less number of abstraction and hence need to write code that can do just that. And as of now, I think C is the one. But it seems that at the end of the tunnel, C#, .NET etc are pushing very hard. I can feel it. Someday, I may learn it, and probably would even master it, if-only I feel it is useful. Oh my gray cells, won’t you please co-operate.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nostalgic flash ...

From time to time I go through this, “nostalgic flash”, as I have come to name it. I call it a flash as they creep in from nowhere, and many times divert my concentration from the work. Today, was yet another day, I was busy at work during the dull part of the afternoon, waiting for the clock to tick 5, and suddenly a “nostalgic flash”, and it flashed-in a couple of guys, whom I considered, were very good students, they excelled in their studies and grades.

We can define a “nostalgic flash” as the time, when my mind is wavers over a time period, and a few “nostalgic human faces” just flash.

Often, nostalgic flash is accompanied with an urge to contact the faces that flash-in.

I studied with those guys sometimes during the mid to late ~80’s. So I only know their names and their father’s names. I got a chance to meet one of them once after I completed my schooling. While I undergo a nostalgic flash, I just remember faces during a particular period of time, for example, the time period when those guys studied with me in my school. Sometimes nostalgic flash takes me for a ride, to those days when we went out together, to those roads we used, our bi-cycles, the mischief, small talks, and this list is usually varied. Astonishingly nostalgic flash lasts only for a short time, may be 15~20 minutes. But my mind would have flashed about many things. And once I am out of a “nostalgic flash”, I would have just experienced a lifetime.

Sometimes, it makes me feel sad, even miss those guys. I use to feel sorry for all the lies I would have told them, or for the troubles I got them into. After this flash ends, I used to wonder, how silly I was, would vow to win control over the “nostalgic flash” and ultimately remove it from me. I don’t like a “nostalgic flash”, especially when I experience it in the midst of my day’s work.

Today I was reading an article on “lay-off” which emphasizes on “social networking” as a way to find new jobs during lay offs. Back in early 2005 I lost touch with much of my contacts from India, owing to my transfer to Japan. Till 2006, December, even with the high overseas call rates, I managed to maintain contacts with a select few of my good friends. Presently it’s almost non-existent. Probably this article on “social networking” stuff triggered today’s nostalgic flash or what? …

I googled to find something about those 2 guys, who appeared in today’s flash and found a linkedin page for both of them. I would like to send them a message. By the time I decided to send a message, the “nostalgic flash” was over. It was my manager, he was complaining about a license that I was using, and meant for some other department. He wanted me to fix it, immediately. Now, I had to “come out of the nostalgic dream”. Thrown out! I decided to send those guys a message after fixing the issue. But after I fix the license related issue, I got into my famous “procrastination mode”.

I decided, in principle, with no timeline in my mind, to ping them “sometimes”. With the insane schedule that I am into these days, the “sometimes” usually waits for another timely “nostalgic flash”, especially when it happens when I am close to my computer, or a telephone, and also have some free time. Compared to 2005, rates for overseas calls have reduced by more than half. So money is not the issue here. Time, which is becoming more and more a rarity in my day-to-day life, has definitely taken a toll on my social network. Is it probably one more reason that I get into more and more “nostalgic flashes”.

I get to think that Indians are more nostalgic than anyone else?
Is it my limited knowledge on other nationalities?

At least I don’t remember many Hollywood movies based on nostalgic themes. In my mother tongue, Tamil, most of the movies reflect nostalgia, emotion, fear, and all the stuff that I consider evil. There was a movie, “a nostalgia exploiter” called “Autograph” which was a huge box office hit. T’was no surprise, I enjoyed the movie. In fact I saw that movie many times and even bought the DVD to see it secretly. I am sometimes ashamed to reveal that I am nostalgic. Probably, it reflects the emotional me.

Now, phoo …, am I emotional. I guess I am, but does this trigger a “nostalgic flash”?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Accidental wave or what? …

After Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Motorola, IBM, … is google going to be “the next great company”. Riding on the internet search, or to be specific the connected community band-wagon. Guys at Xerox PARC created computer network for an entirely different reason. It makes me wonder, is google yet another case of an “accidental empire”, or did the “Sergei & Larry” combo really though this is coming. Personally they come next only to “Jobs & Woznaik” combo, probably,…

Guys at the Palo Alto Research Center, PARC, created most of the innovations that “happened” in the computing arena, I would emphasize, the personal computing arena. For me it is difficult to understand, that Xerox, that created PARC, did not reap *any* benefit from innovation from PARC. The concept of Mouse, GUI, Networking, and much-much more came just out of a single lab. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, used the researches from PARC to the max.

For some reason, many geeks, hate Microsoft. They just think, Microsoft, is a selfish company that just wants to make money, and care a shit about any research. From the time IBM started using MS-DOS (which was not developed by Microsoft), many people think, and probably they are right, that MS, like some of its founder is crooked. I cannot think of anything big that came out of Microsoft. They just perfected some of the technologies that lay around. And suddenly, with the advent of internet, the open source revolution, it seems that, finally, its times for the giant to bow--->out.

As we all know, Google, that started as a search engine company, right, but now …, with a heavy purse they are into many things, slowly hurting Microsoft. In those early days, Microsoft, would simply over-power any software company that competed with them. The trump card was always their operating system, the monopoly. But now, it seems that the gold lies in the internet, and for some reason, Microsoft lost it, I mean, lost it to Google. Now, only trying hard to patch up by buying yet another ailing company yahoo. Google, it seems is trying to do everything to kill MS. Hitting its cash cow, MS-OFFICE with “GOOGLE-DOC”. I personally tried using “GOOGLE-DOC” and I can tell you, that it is no way near MS-Word, or Excel. As of now, GOOGLE-DOC lacks even some basic feature. But if Microsoft is afraid of this, I think there should be some reason. Now “googling” is a verb that means searching.

Will Google kill Microsoft, I don’t think so. Microsoft will probably die on its own, as they have ran out of ideas and started chasing the leader. This time, their chase, might well end in vain.

Apple, that got noticed by many non-geeks, only after the i-pods, was a company that was envisioned by a passionate guy. They created some nice looking computers, which were less visible to the main-stream world of cheap home computers, but only till apple released the legendary iPod. If a single product can change the fate of a company, it was iPod. It was yet another accidental moment, the rush of spark inside Rubinstein when he saw Toshiba’s tiny hardwire, has created a wave. Sometimes I wonder, if apple is just starting to forget its core business. Probably, they are also strengthening their PC business. Guys from apple think it is “Mac business”. They frown when they hear the word PC, as it a copyrighted thing that belongs to MS. Yeah, in a way, it belongs to guys in IBM. Who sold out their PC business to Lenovo. And riding on something else.

Recently I have been reading a lot about the history of computers and software. And I just think, it was all created accidentally.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Flower arrangement by Mrs. Truly …

Last week flower arrangement by Shanthi different and nice …

DSC_0894

And this simpler one …

DSC_0898

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rajini style …

I got (actually bought) the Tamron 17-50, F2.8 lens recently. I was touting about this lens for a long time … I bought this sometimes back, but I did not have any time due to my work … Today I just though of posting this “Rajini style” of Anto … :)  DSC_0837

Down under there seems to be less money … or is it?

Recently I felt my career was moving well below the bottom of the OSI layer. I started my career poking around products like, drivewizard, swissknife, etc … All of these software extensively used the ASPI (Advanced SCSI Programming Interface), defined initially by Adaptec, now unceremoniously discontinued. Though these applications directly interacted with the storage media, they were user-land applications, privileged not more then the “internet explorer”. The IDE was VC++. My job-title was VLSI design engineer. And I was longing to be one, but was just happy or had no choice but to write these application. I got bored in 3 months time, and protested with the management, who were gracious enough to allow me to write firmware. I did not last long in this company, as the company of my dreams came calling … SCM Microsystems

It was here, my real career started, I started working on Manufacturing test application, then I wrote WDM (Windows Driver Model) device drivers, and after toiling with drivers and applications for almost 2 years I started writing embedded software for 8052 based digital media readers. From then on, I wrote embedded software for more than 7 years, spanning SCM Micro, ROHM, EPSON, Canon, OMRON, … etc … until recently I started working on Image processing and very recently … VLSI design. Yes, 10 years after being offered a job as a VLSI design engineer, today I am designing (testing to be precise), some neat next generation hardware. I am a learner, and so it gives me immense satisfaction when I find that I am learning something new … Off course all satisfaction due to learning will make you happy if it helps your bank balance. The trend in India is, embedded software engineers are paid better than application developers, and VLSI design engineers are paid better than embedded software developers. I just thought that this trend might continue if I go even a step down, start working on ASIC backend … Placement and routing :) …

I was only shocked to learn that, in Japan, VLSI design engineers are not paid any more than embedded software engineers. And worse, some guys working with say, iPhone, earns more than a guy slogging with gates and verilog. So I was stuck … the satisfaction of this new education may not help my bank balance. But it gives me immense satisfaction, when I can say, I know how (High level software code) is turned into (Assembly language code), I know how the processor will react to the assembly language code, and I probably can implement the hardware to execute the assembly language code, and know the gate arrangement, … I wish I know the transistors that make-up all those gates … phoo … I have reached the bottom, almost …

When I was working for Onspec, I have often heard about this guy Larry Jones. I never got a chance to meet him though. I heard he made a whole working processor using transistors, and showed every engineer from the company who visited our US office. Back then I use to think, what a genius of a guy … Probably in some more time … yours truly is another Larry in the making … Thanks Shockley

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Happy aren’t they …

Yesterday, I was sitting in my office’s 4th floor cafeteria, which overlooks the office gates and an adjacent railway tracks. It was exactly 5:00 PM, and majority of the employees were already leaving. Thanks to the slowdown, companies no more allow any overtime, so employees are made to leave early. But for the big time manager others (are made to) leave. The railways tracks heads towards Kyoto on one side, and Nagoya on the other. I felt a bit nostalgic when I saw trains filled with people.

Many questions flashed, are those people happy to go home? How about their spouses? Do they actually go home? or hang around in cafe or a bar, before going home. Do they miss their overtime? Looking at their faces I could not tell anything. Probably the gates were very far for me to look at their faces. Anyway, as always they were all briskly walking out of the gates.

Looking at many people leaving, I was happy for them. Somehow I always thought, the Japanese missed out many things when it come to their family. They work very hard, and will be very happy when they are busy at work. They hate to be free, or leaving early. So it seems that the government made it mandatory for companies to mark a day or two in a week as no-overtime day. I only wish these people go home on those days, but most of them go straight to isekaya’s where they drink, drink and drink … till they are drunk and go home late. Probably well after their usual returning times. The government’s plan has helped those bar’s nonetheless …

For me, my company neither pays me overtime nor under pays me when I work for less than 8 hours. Its flexi-time and I always enjoy going late and returning back early :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Temptations …

Recently, I am suffering from a kind of temptation, that makes me wonder if this temptation is right or wrong. It mostly happens when I am trying to lookup for something in Wikipedia. The other day, I started reading about Doug Englebart then → Vannevar Bush then → “As we may think” then → hypertext, at this point, I stopped. This temptation to read as much as I can, is filling my head with a lot of things. Some of thing may be less useful (garbage). Its interesting to know varied things, but all of us have limited knowledge, limited energy and finite amount of time. Recently, I am busy with Work (and at work I study VLSI Design, Perl, Image processing, … everything is new to me). Hobbies include photography, blogging, reading others blogs, learning Japanese, and tennis. Strange it may be, but I feel, I am reading way too much and I feel most of them is not so useful.

The Google reader is a nice tool for keeping track of the latest news or your favorite blog posts. The number of unread articles mounts to something like 200, if I miss to open the reader for a couple of days. My reading slows down on weekends, and on Mondays I just “mark as read”, most of the news articles. But somewhere deep down my mind, I feel a slight remorse flushing those articles. I manage to read some of my favorite blogs though. I feel like someone has painstakingly compiled those articles and flushing without reading … is kind of injustice …

At this point, I asked myself a question, what and how much can I read. It was a tricky question. Because from my childhood I had been advised to read more, and now I want to prevent myself from reading more. It was a strange feeling. I started wondering how big shots like say Bill gates manages his emails. It was really funny to know that he receives 4 million emails a days, off course mostly spam. But even then, that's a lot. Ballmer once said,

Speaking at a Microsoft event in Singapore, Mr Ballmer said: "Bill Gates (is first) because he is Bill Gates. Bill literally receives four million pieces of e-mail per day, most of it spam."

"Literally there's a whole department almost that takes care of it," he said.

Coming back to the topic. I mentioned in the beginning this article written by Vannevar Bush’s, “As we may think”. Though it did take away a couple of hours from my life. It was a nice read. I thought V-Bush was trying to be more like an oracle. He was predicting how things wound shape up in the “computer age”. The one thing he kept on repeating was, “the way in which people would refer to technical articles would change dramatically”. For example, back in good old days, if I decide to publish a paper I would travel to the library, and search for the relevant journals. And then read through each and every topics available, and then try to read some of them that seems to be relevant. The “keyword hit” normally took a long … long time. He predicted, and correctly so, that people would have access to information “readily”.

This readily available information is too tempting, is what I think. The inquisitive cells in me, wants to read more, and more. The hypertext web-pages looks like a maze of never ending links, that obviously enables me to know new things. Now, I start to think, some of the knowledge is not needed.

These days, we are also overwhelmed with information. For example, today, I was trying to read some article about a specific detail in verilog. And the number of results was just astounding (around 30 that exactly matched my query string). Just looking at the title most of them looked good. Now, how would I know which one is better. Reading one of those webpage would take me around 30 minutes. I will have to go through each one of them, till I am satisfied. In the worst case I would need about 15 hours. That’s a couple of working days. Phoo … fortunately, the 3rd article matched my need. And it took me around 2 hours to understand the issue that I was facing.

Now, how can we rate these article. If the world continues with these flurry of information, how and who will rate them. If we cannot rate it, will the user have a problem with more choices than none. Is it in a way same as no choices?

 the_problem_with_wikipedia

(courtesy www.xkcd.com)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

These mundane tasks …

IT Engineers get bored if asked to work in a single project for more than a year. I am not immune to this syndrome either. Its boring to work with the same technology for more than a couple of years. I know someone, who wrote JPEG decoders for ARM7, DM270, and after his work with DM320 he vowed not to work on JPEG decoding again. I know few guys who get bored soon with a certain technology and want to work on new technologies. Is it a bane of R&D, or is it the extra inquisitive cells, or is the fast paced world, or is it the changing food habits, environment…, the list is longer. IT stalwarts, like, Doug Englebart, Alan Kay, …  who live to this day feel that innovation is in itself dying. So, are we inquisitive without innovating?

Those guys who worked in good old days, for example my father, who worked in the same job, repairing steam engines for a couple of decades, and when the steam engines were shelved, he worked as a train driver for a decade. In his professional life, he did not do anything new, for decades. He for once never complained to me about seeing the same type of steam engine everyday, or watching the same railway track passing by, while driving the train. They were probably bored, not to the point of complaining to their bosses, or relatives. And never did they seek a job change. Its not only with my dad, its probably true for many of our dads. Public servants, for example a postman working in the same locality for a decade. Does he think, his job is mundane. And even if he does, what will he do. What can he do? … They do not have those professionally trained HR people to counsel them when hit with boredom. How did they manage the mundane routines … everyday.

If those drivers, bartenders, chefs, and all of those non-IT, non R&D workers can cope up with the same work for decades. Why not IT people. Imagine, if you are given a job of watching stars that fill the sky, and paid a handsome salary, will you take it up. Probably, if you don’t have any other else that pays, and start starving. Are we making a point here, are we getting bored, just because we are highly paid, and always have option to change. Imagine the case, a starving child, lets say in Africa will definitely eat any palatable food that is offered. Now, is it applicable to a child from a developed nation. These days, we can choose from options, to quit, to find a new job. Those wooing job portals, the job consultants, the greener pay packages, always attracts us. Even after all these options, the universal anxiety follows entropy.

I have developed a strong respect to those people who did their mundane jobs, with perfection, for decades. They did it, probably out of their own will, and less for some kind of recognition. The rewards in the form of salary for those people are comparatively less. Is it one another reason they are not bored. Is the pay-work imbalance boring the engineers of these days. What is it?

Worse, some software engineers complain, when asked to document, or test some application that they developed. They think that developers develop, and test engineers test. Technical writers document. It will be great, if we learn to do the so called mundane jobs with perfection, is this where leaders are born?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daffodils – by William Wordsworth

最近、日本語でブログを書こうと思っていましたが、自信が少なくて中々出来なかった。

今日は、詩人のWilliam wordsworthが作ったDaffodilsを紹介したいと思います。Daffodillsって喇叭水仙です。

ある日Wordsworthさんが海岸に行ったとたん、沢山喇叭水仙を見ました。喇叭水仙が風で動いているのを踊っている様に感じて、Wordsworthさんも喜んで、Daffodilsを書きました。

英語版 単語

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

wandered→ roamed
o’er→ over vales→ valleys
crowd→ lot, many
A host→ (large) bunch
beneath→ below
Fluttering→ movement in the wind

twinkle→ shine
never-ending→ very very … long
margin→ shore
glance→ look
Tossing→ shaking sprightly→ happy

Out-did→ beat sparkling→ shining
gay→ happy
jocund company→ joyful company
gazed→ looked little thought→ without thinking 

oft→ often
pensive mood→ deep thoughts
inward eye→ mind
bliss→ joy
pleasure fills→ happiness 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Latest from Shanthi ...

Shanthi learns flower arrangement from Rieko of Hanapot. Usually its on Fridays. Yesterday she made a nice horzontally and veritically arranged flowers, which was captivating. So I decided to put in my blog,



Also, sometimes back (I forgot when), she made some earthenwares by herself. It also has all our names written in it. For me it looks more like monolithic age pottery ;-)





Thursday, February 26, 2009

英和説-1

去年の日本語能力試験を合格してしまいました。良い結果は日本人の友達が日本語を一生懸命教えてくれたのである。なので”現物で支払う”と思って、英語を教えようとした結果は英和説 [EIWASETU]

今日の言葉は“Pay in Kind”
日本語で直訳はしたら、現物で支払う

先に、日本語で例を見てみましょう

ある事情ではJohnと田中が話をしています、

John:この日本語の文章を訳してくれない
田中:もちろん、見せて
「田中さんはJohnさんが持っていた文章を訳しました」
John:ありがとう田中さん、報いたいですが
田中:現物で支払ってね~
John:えぇ。
田中:何時か、私に英語の文章を訳してくださいね

上記の会話を英語に訳して見ましょう

John:Can you translate this Japanese document for me,
John:You know I cant read Kanji
田中:Certainly, can I see …
「Tanaka translates the document for John」
John:Thank you very much, how can I pay back?
田中:Pay in kind
田中:Sometimes, translate some English document for me

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Definition: Language

One of my friend recently talked about "Japanese fortunetellers," and it seems that many Japanese visit fortunetellers often. My friend happens to visit a fortune teller who also happens to be her friend. How nice, she gets to know her fortunes for free. Normally, me and my Japanese friend exchange language (Japanese - English), and we choose a topic for debate and learn during debate. Last week, it was "Japanese fortunetellers". Some of the things she told were really interesting (and sometimes funny).

School of fortunetelling: It seems that there are many schools that teach fortunetellers. And as one can understand the fees seems to be very high.
Language used (frequency spectrum): It seems that they communicate in the Electromagnetic spectrum, with cosmic bodies, some of which seems to be knowing our fortune

The words Language and Frequency spectrum, impressed me and led me to some more (re)search. It seems that, all living and non-living things in this universe are communicating in a form or other, we can understand if we can listen to it. Literally it means, the objects around you, like for example, a tree, insect, sun, moon, your umbrella, pen, pencil, eraser, ..., etc are all communicating to you, in one way or the other. We can involve ourselves, only if we know its language. Sounds strange, right!

How do we define a language,
Definition-1: A systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols (this definition is inadequate for our fortuneteller)
Definition-2: A language is a dynamic set of sensory symbols of communication and the elements used to manipulate them. Language can also refer to the use of such systems as a general phenomenon. (this is from Wikipedia).


After reading a few definitions on languages, I had to make up my mind that our definitions are limited to human languages. Even for this (small) subset, our definition seems to be inadequate. For example, we use a lot more than symbols and sounds to communicate. Or does it again depend on the definition of symbols. Kind of getting complicated, and philosophical.


It also seems that (good) fortunetellers can infact read your mind. Some speculate this as a trick called "cold reading". But some people say that the oracle read your mind not from symbols, but by the frequency of your thoughts. Now what is the "Frequency of thoughts"?. Physically it means the perceivable (electromagnetic) waves that emanate from our brain cells. Till recently, I was of the view that modern computers together with some super expensive sensors that can sense ultra low power signals from our brain, are decoding the grey cells functions. But, it seems that we can determine these signals with less expensive technologies. Foretune telling.


My friend went on to the extent of presenting me with a Japanese version of a book on cold reading. In Japanese it reads something like, "uranaishi", fortuneteller. I am trying to read it with my limited Japanese *language* ability. Progress has been very slow :-(


I dont believe in fortunetelling period. But recently I am reading more about some part of brain that human beings seldom think of using, and many saints and gods use it to perfection. And this brain can work wonders for those people. Probably these fortunetellers are using that part of the brain.

Monday, February 23, 2009

IF - Rudyard Kipling

Whenever I read a nice poem, I try to share it with people I love (know). In my schoolboy days it was mostly my mom. Today I read Rudyard Kipling's IF. I have heard about this poem when I was in my 10th grade, but never got a chance to read it. And it (IF) had to wait till today, and I guess, I happened to read it at the right time.

-- Enjoy, this wonderful poem --
[IF]

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cleared JLPT Level 2 ...


Yesterday I got the results. scored ~70% while the pass criteria was 60%. I was happy. But .. after letting the reality settle down, I felt, probably I do not deserve it, yet. My conversation skills is not yet to standards. Sometimes when I am in meetings talking to customers, I scamper for the right word and freeze :-( ... so these marks do not reflect that.

Anyway like my Hindi (where I hold a degree), I also have a certificate in Japanese. What is even worse, I sometimes confuse between Hindi and Japanese words, because I know both of them a little (50-50).

Friday, February 13, 2009

My favourite Japanese songs ...

Today I thought of writing down some of the Japanese singers I like. The first Japanese song that I liked was "Sakuranbo" by Otsuka Ai. I thought she was cute ;-) ...

And after that I also liked a few songs of Ayumi Hamasaki. But then I could not remember the title, or find it in Youtube. Few Japanese does not like her though :-(

And then I started liking Ken Hirai, he is good looking and his voice is also good. I liked his songs like "Hitomi wo tojite", "Pop star", ... nice voice ...

I also Konayuki by Remioromen, ..., I dont know much about music, though I think the music is very good ...

I like Angela Aki too, she is also very good ... the song was sung for the video game, FINAL FANTASY ... I also like her songs like rain, home (furusato..), ...

Recently I like Ayaka Hirahara, she also looks cute ;-) ...

The list is long, so I had to cut short ...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

SriLanka-13 Vs India 11 ...?

Cricket, India played a 5 match one day series against Srilanka. India won the series 4-1, besides winning the only T20 (Twenty-Twenty). It was very nice to watch the Indian team playing with a lot of spirit and confidence, against the Srilankan players and their umpires. It was not a slip in writing, yes their umpires. The newspapers mentioned that the umpiring was "just not upto standards", but if we are putting in an unparliamentary statement, they were just lobsided.

Sachin was given out LBW (Leg Before Wicket), 3 times in a row, all wrong decisions. The (little) young master is a great player and even a greater "human being", he just did not show any sign of frustration. I was just raging with anger. If the Srilankan umpires thought, as in good old days, Indian batting would collapse after Tendulkar's departure, then it was proved wrong. The *real* Indian batting started after Tendulkar's unlucky dismissals. Raina, Dhoni, Yuvaraj, Yusuf, ... impressed with their bat. Zaheer, Praveen and Ishant, impressed everybody with their length bowling. In Munaf, the Indians have found someone who can boul line and length everytime (some call him the Indian McGrath). Anyway, the umpires decisions did not affect the outcome in anyway. Team India just overwhelmed the Srilankans in all aspect of the game.

In the last game, the T20, the umpires went mad, I lost my cool, when the umpire did not give LBW a couple of times, when the ball was pitching in line and was about to hit the middle stump. I thought, as in the one dayers, the Indian team will win comfortably. But there was a (slight) hiccup in the middle overs, and it made me think for sometime that the umpires won it atlast. The SL-13, had some fun till the Pathan brothers decisively swung the bat in India's favour.

Truth always *WINS*, and this was proved once again in the India-SL match.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Setsubun [節分] prayers with Oka-san, & Oto-san

Last year I had a chance to attend the Setsubun celebration at the heian shrine with Jeff. But this year, I was not able to attend, since the festival was on a weekday, and setsubun is not (yet) included into the long list of Japanese holidays. Oto-san of Hanapot, had invited me to attend the setsubun celebrations with his family in the evening, so I accepted the offer. The plan for the day was to visit a couple of temples and then eat some special food.

After a busy day at work, I came back home a bit early and we started off by 7 in the evening for Dai-san's house (Oto-san's friend). On reaching Dai-san's home, we placed all our belongings and started for the temple. The first thing that struck me, there were a lot of shops selling things of the 60's that made even Oto-san nostalgic. They were selling things like Candy, Takoyaki, Fruits coated in candy, Candy with face in it, and all of it. It was as if I was attending an Indian festival, with a lot of shops lined along both the sides of the road, filled with Japanese people. Nice experience.

After reaching the temple (I didn't note the name ;-)) ... it was more fun. We made some special offering on that day. One such thing is shown in the photo. The inscription in the mud plate reads something like the following (from right -> left), Britto's family, made up of a 33 year old man (that is me), a 33 year old woman (that's shanthi), and a 2 year old man (boy, Antony Solomon). After lighting a few incense sticks and praying, we offered this plate along with some Mame, and some cash to the temple.

Shanthi was very busy filming the events, in fact she made a very long video of all the celebration. Please enjoy ...

Now, after visiting the temple shown in the video, we went to one more temple and prayed there for the ladies, and then walked back home.

After reaching home, we started ate maki-sushi, specially made for setsubun. We had to face North-east and eat it in silence, praying for a happy year ahead. I immediately grabbed the oppurtunity to pray for the global ecomony ;-) ...

(Both photos and videos captured using the Sony TG1 by Shanthi)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Developing free software as a profession?

For some time I was wondering how in the world, someone can devote all their time for developing free software. In planet earth, we need money for food, clothes and shelter. The couple of bloggers that I follow regularly are in fact full time bloggers (Jeffrey Friedl, Jeff Atwood), who also do some work to keep themselves busy, which (as of now) doesn't pay anything. So, recently when he wrote this blog, "Lightroom Plugin Development: What To Do When a Hobby Becomes Work", I was a bit disappointed.

One because, I wanted to be like them someday. Two because, atlast he was frustrated to work for free. I could understand his frustration because, I always have had a feeling, "how in the world can someone develop software for the community for free?", save the gratitute that people show. Everybody, including me, no matter how much they (we) have, always look for money, in return for the work they (we) do. I personally think, Jeffrey should be paid for all the good works he has been doing for Light-Room, either by Adobe, or by the people who use it. But, this feeling is because, he reflects some of my own feelings.

So I set out to find, how in the world, guys like Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, et al, get paid. For one it seems that Linus Torvalds works for some company, but I could not find how Stallman is getting paid, but he continues to live :-) ...

The one difference between people like Jeffrey and Stallman, is that, Jeffrey made only the deliverable public, this means, he can be only responsible for maintaining it. As everyone in Software Industry know, the first release is just the beginning, maintenance phase(s) follows. The length of this maintenance phase depends on many factors, but invariably very long. In any case, its too much of a responsibility for an individual, who has personal commitments too. To the contrary, the people in the GNU world, just delivered the source, and deliverables public. This allowed a community to maintain and take things forward.

I am not sure, if Jeffrey will ever make the plugin source public, this may reduce the responsibility that he holds. But if he just wants to make a few bucks to keep up his hobby. Now, I have a problem, I do not have a credit card, and so cannot pay online ;-) ... I will soon try to find a solution to pay him.

What do you guys think about this? Can programmers develop 100% free softwares for the community. Is it just another form social work for the computer geeks (who mostly have enough money) ...

Monday, February 02, 2009

The forest that cannot stand straight ...

Parishioners from the Kujo church conducted the holy mass last Sunday's at the Kohitsuji center for the disabled in Kameoka. On last to last Sunday mass announcements, I heard about the mass in Kameoka. I had been to the Katsura catholic church which is in Kameoka earlier. It is very beautiful. Thinking that we are heading for the same church, we got a ride from a friendly parishioner who had car. On an earlier occasion when I went to the Katsura church, I had missed out a fantastic photo-op, this time around, I was smart enough to take a camera.

It seems that I had missed out an important part of the announcements. The parishioners were in fact going to conduct a mass at the centre for disable in Kameoka. Now, it was a surprise for me and Shanthi, though we were happy to attend mass with those specially-abled people.

We went to the main hall and suddenly (Tatebayashi「立林」-san) mentioned in the photo below came into the room, I didn't know how he could manage to come in, on his own. I was surprised that he can steer his own vehicle. As you can see in the photo below, his legs were non-existent, hands unusable, I was wondering how did he manage to steer his vehicle.
I realized later, after seeing him closely. He was using his cheek and mouth to steer his vehicle. The following photo shows, Tatebayashi-san using his mouth to steer the vehicle.
He was very lively, his voice was loud but less clear, for me it was understandable. He inquired with the other Japanese person who accompanied us about my nationality, and after learning that I am Indian and my name is Britto, he immediately told me, "Namaste Britto-san". That brought a world of respect for this man. I wondered how on earth did he manage to learn the word Namaste. Just before the mass started, he started asking me a few questions, like which part of India I am from. He was not satisfied when I simply replied that I am from the southern part. He insisted on knowing the name of the city. And when I told him that I was from Madurai, he was visibly disappointed that he did not know Madurai. Anyway I am sure he will read about it.
Introduction of the Brittos,
The Church leaders Introduced Me, Shanthi, and Solomon, but he probably he did not know my wife Shanthi's name, so he left her name out.

During the mass, Tatebayashi-san, read the second reading, astounding. I followed each and every word he was reading, so correctly (AFAIK). The initial pity that I felt was no where to be seen, the respect grew further and further ...

After the mass, he asked for my wife's name as it was not mentioned during our introduction. When she introduced herself as Shanthi. He repeated told me to take care of myself, Solomon and Shanthi. I was more impressed to see him remembering names correctly. Ah! I forgot, when Solomon was introduced, he immediately mentioned King Solomon. On hearing all this, my heart was filled with respect, but it suddenly sank, just unable to know, why god created him like this. Tears welled up (after a long time), but I just did not want to break down in front of him, so I put a brave face.

The following incident was forwarded to me in

Where is God's Perfection?

In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional schools.

At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God's perfection?"

The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish, stilled by the piercing query.

" I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child."

He then told the following story about his son Shaya:

One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball.

Shaya asked, "Do you think they will let me play?"

Shaya's father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.
Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said "We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."

Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surpassingly, Shaya was given the bat.

Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact.

The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and together the held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung at the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman.

Everyone started yelling,"Shaya, run to first. Run to first." Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Shaya run home."

Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."


I just wish ... to meet Tatebayashi-san again ...

A mouth to feed, or a couple of hands that can work ...

For some times, some of us felt that the ever increasing Indian population is a cause of concern. I agree to an extent only, probably, the current Indian economic growth is attributed those huge number of young people.

In the same lines, I was thinking about the recent "right sizing discussions" going on in Indian IT companies. I was scratching my head on what can be done &%$#("? While I was reading through news articles ..., blogs ..., comments ..., and everything related to the topic on the internet, an idea popped up. If we start thinking postively that we have a couple of hands to work, rather than a mouth to feed idea, we may be able to weather this storm to some extent.


Now how does this apply to the current scenario.

Indian "IT services" companies have enough experience working on next generation technologies. We have mostly worked for the innovators, and little did we try to innovate something for ourselves. To give some more idea ...

The new age of computers is around the corners,
- RF ID technology is going to change the way we do shopping
- Interactive user interfaces will change the way we give commands to computers
- USB 3.0, is going to the change the way the computer CPU will look like
- Cloud computing is taking off, with google's online documents
- Power hungry worlds, wants to save every milli-watt they can
- Hybrid engines and technology changing the way automobiles operate
(this list is very big...)

Now, in all these, there may not be a major market immediately, but ...
Since we now have enough talented engineers to work, and more and more moving to free pool ...
* Can we start creating IP (Intellectual Properties) for future use, say USB3.0 IP?
* Is it possible that our engineers can innovate the next generation UI?
* Is it possible, that we create all software libraries for an 100% RFID based super market, from Hardware to DBMS?

In doing all the above things, we may not have earned a lot of money now, but, the IP are potential revenue spinners. The IP's may find use, when the market picks up.

Is it possible to show some market value for IP's?
Can we show them as our assets?
If the answer to the above questions are yes, then does it mean, we are saving money?
Is it a smart cost cutting?

One another method that WIPRO seems to be aggresively following is training all the free force.
I think, that is one another way of increasing the company's potential to take on the market when it picks up.

If only the management thinks that this may to be a smart way of thinking,
many talents will get a chance to innovate, for our own company.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing the inner game

Last Sunday, I got thrashed by Shin, my tennis teacher for not following the basics. He told me that I am getting carried away with my own style of Tennis, which is far away from what is called basics. When playing I started thinking about what he said, and tried to follow all that he told, but things just got worse, to the point, that I was not able to return a forehand cross court, either in my style or the correct style. I was so much out of sorts that I requested him for a break, which he was glad to offer.

That made me think about, coaching, learning, and of all doing things correctly that you already know. For example, I know how to play a forehand cross court, I have done it a thousand times flawlessy (right from the first time). It is just that in the due course I settled to a style that suits me. In doing so, it seems that I am way off target. Missing the basics. And last Sunday, when it got pointed out, it was difficult to change my comfortable style I lost something. Later I understood it was the so called "Inner game". Last Sunday, during practise sessions, hopelessly, I failed again and again ...

Now talking about Inner game, recently I had been browsing a lot, especially about software development in the 60s, 70s, 80s, ... and while doing so I came across this wonderful video, a lecture by Alan Kay. It is a 90 minutes video on user interfaces, dynabook and a lot more ...



Now the part I wanted to talk about, is an excerpt from this video. When Alan Kay talks about the teaching methods, he points to Tim Galleway, who used to be a great coach, and has written this good book called, "The inner game of Tennis". The book was very interesting that I immediately order it from Amazon Japan.

Now, talking briefly about this book, Tim differentiates any game that is played into two,
- The inner game (played in the player's mind) and
- The outer game (played by the player's body)
Interesting isn't it, he talks extensively about the inner game in his book. As far as the outer one, there are more books than the number of tennis balls ever made (that was just a joke). According to Tim, Inner game is played in the player's mind, that does not think, and when you start playing the game in your mind, you start winning. And when you start thinking (too much), you start loosing. Anyway, there are 2 videos that talk about this (they are embedded in this article at the end).

Now, talking about Inner game, and last week's session of Tennis, I thought I lost the inner game and starting thinking way too much, that it the end I just messed up "everything that I had been doing correctly". During my tennis sessions I have witnessed this many times, but mostly with others. When they were taught too much (or paid much attention), people just started playing badly. Is it because they are loosing the inner game. I think so.

The following videos is a proof to Tim's coaching success. I wish everyone I know enjoy it.


I also ordered a Japanese version of the book for Shin ;-). His birthday is on the 22nd of Feb, and I will gift to him on that day (though I am raring to give asap), and hope that he reads it through.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How to keep track of blogs ...

After I started writing blogs, I always wanted to write about 2 topics,

1. How to write a blog
2. How to keep track of a blog

These 2 topics had been in my todo-list for a long time, and today I am going to write about a few tracking tools that will make your life easy when reading a blog, or for that matter, websites that gets updated regularly.

One such useful tool I can think of is google reader. Please see the following link

http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2009/01/google-reader-for-beginners.html

Also take a look at the following videos,



Have fun tracking blogs ...