Archive for October, 2010

Laptop with wings please

It’s been such a long time since the laptop got a game changing feature. Except for form factor and design (and to some extent the trackpad!), nothing seems to be changing in the laptop world.  >90% of laptops are manufactured in Taiwan and quite a large extent of the design and innovation (or the lack of it) also happens there.

I decided to ask for more.  How about if we had a laptop that could do the following?

1. Print – I’d love for my laptop to print out my flight/train tickets (yeah, I hate having to buy and maintain printers just for tickets. I’ve stopped printing much else now a days)

2. Scan – I’d love for my laptop to scan things I come across quickly and store, categorize them for later references (scanning is on the up move but all the same, I don’t want to buy a separate device to do this)

3. Project – I’d love to be able to project my presentations without having to connect it to any external device, just click and shoot!

And while we are at it, can it please also have wings? Talk about advanced mobility solutions! Acer, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba – are you listening?

Readers, what are your demands from your laptop?

Kerala Demystified

Shashi Tharoor recently tweeted the link to a telegraph article by Ashok Guha called Kerala Conundrum. He has, in fact, captured the essence of the problem in a way that is both true and worrisome at the same time.

In his article, he starts off with the puzzle that is Kerala. All the indicators of education, infant mortality and gender equality are tilted in its favor and yet it is one of the states in which I have seen men the most frustrated and women the most humiliated in India. Given, its status as the best on many of these humanitarian indices the humiliation is further exaggerated. He says…

“The human development index, inspired largely by Sen’s work, highlights three aspects of life: longevity, education and the standard of living. More subtle criteria of capability have also been designed…When the relative performance of the different Indian states is gauged by these yardsticks, one state, Kerala, emerges as the clear winner on all counts except that of per capita income. It has the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant and maternal mortality, the best public health facilities, the highest literacy, the best performance in almost all educational indices, the best gender ratio, the best record in female education, health and empowerment and the lowest total fertility. With such a record of performance in areas regarded by outstanding thinkers as crucial to the quality of life, Keralites must surely enjoy the most satisfying lives among all Indians. Right?”

Then, what is wrong? I believe, giving wrong emphasis on scoring high on these humanitarian goals without emphasis on the end goal that is the development of the society based on economic principles due to a tragic twist of politics and general public apathy has led to such a situation. He also makes an interesting point of how Malayalis are a generation of would-be emigrants and in a constant hurried state of flight from our homeland to places where many of the human capabilities indices are below par, in search of employment and income opportunities. While, those who remain behind and are unable to break out of the vicious cycle are frustrated and depressed, leading to suicides and other atrocities in the state. Here’s what Ashok has to say:

“Right from the days of the rajas of Travancore, successive governments of Kerala have followed a policy based on the development of human capability. Unfortunately, this has not been matched by, nor has it induced, a similar expansion of Kerala’s industrial structure. Therein lie the seeds of Kerala’s tragedy.”

I think the article is worth a read if you are a Malayali and if you are not, it is still worth a read for setting the context on those indices that Kerala likes to flaunt so much year after year and its reality for its people.

Gmail Feature Request

Being able to add a “star” symbol to an email/bunch of them that I want to keep an eye on/check out later/think is interesting is great! But, the fact is I sometimes lose track of why I put the star there in the first place and it takes a few moments of raking my brain or looking through the email to understand what I was thinking.

It would be great if I could put a small note along with the star and attach it to the email, that can help explain why I “starred” it in the first place.

If someone from Gmail features team is listening, kindly help!

Untying the horns around my head

My architecture professor during Engineering days used to regularly wrap up his sessions with this thought, “I’ve taught you this session in a particular way and in the process tied horns around your head. So go home and untie those horns and look at the material all over again.” Frankly, I used to be amused when he used to say that. The reason? Simple, apart from the way he had taught it, I did not know of any other way of looking at the material.

As I have gained experience, I’ve added more dimensions of looking at the same problems, solutions and options in a way that could not have happened in the pre-experience, student era. Of course, some of this has to do with experience depth but some of it is just “a different setting”, “being able to listen to others viewpoints”, “different applications” or a “tough situation” where one has to apply ones knowledge, skill or perspective in order to make a decision or take action.

I’ve never stopped to wonder, how much beneficial this kind of exposure would be for children over a period of time to look at what they are learning as well as being able to look at themselves and their development in a different light.

What do you think? Would you like to share an experience that untied an experience around your head?

In the business of “Fix-All”

Chennai is an awesome city and it has the tendency to grow on you. However, it is not an easy city for an outsider, unlike Bangalore. Basic stuff like being able to find a house on rent, a plumber or an electrician require herculean efforts. For some reason, you have to “know” the guy who knows some other “guy” who provides these services. You can’t get them off the shelf, when you need it, the way you need it.

So, when two of my friends (ex-colleagues from Cypress) – Venkatesh and Vaidyanathan decided to start a service that provided home improvement services in an organized and efficient way, I realized they had a gold in their hand. Their business is called fix-all. Do check out their website and services. They have launched in Chennai, so far and are looking to expand all over India soon. Here’s wishing them all the best!

Triple Play – No Thanks.

My friend Sanchayan and I were having a discussion on how triple play kind of services were very far away from take off in India. What? Did I hear you say that IP Set Box people are still struggling? You are right.

For the uninitiated, let me put “triple play” in layman terms – it is being able to get your “TV, Phone and Internet” through a single line (and implicitly single service provider).

While, it is exciting to be able to link all these services up and be able to tap into benefits that the cross functionality gives me in terms of superior services and subsidized prices, I’d be living a pipe dream if I were to believe that it would unfold that way in my (read consumers’) favor. Why, you may ask?

Let me try to explain. Every time, I have to depend on a single source (or service provider in this case) in India to serve too many of my basic needs (and yes, TV, Internet and Phone are basic), I get worried. The chances of a single provider becoming complacent and hence not providing good customer service or trying to extract too much money from me for their services are high enough, notwithstanding the disruption to my day-to-day life that would be caused by them going under temporarily/permanently.

I’ve had an experience of this. This was on the day I was leaving Chennai, I needed to withdraw some cash to make certain payments. I had money only in one bank account and incidentally for the one hour that I ran around from one ATM to another (and not just the bank’s own ATMs, I must have tried 10 different ATMs in about 5Kms radius) I could not withdraw any money. I had to do some “jugaad” and manage the day. But, since then I learnt my lesson on that front.

Actually, I’m saying no thanks to triple play in the near future – the risks outweigh the benefits (if any were presented at all!). What do you think, would you like to adopt such a service/offer if Sun/Hathway/Airtel were to offer it to you?

May you live in interesting times…

That is what a very popular Chinese quote says. I was literally at the end of my wits a couple of days ago. There was an unscheduled power cut of nearly 4 hours starting in the night where I live in Bangalore. (And no, I don’t have power backup installed because we thought and still think it is a luxury!).

Ok, coming back to my point of the Chinese quote. I fired up the Google reader from my mobile and started reading all the different blogs that I had not had time for in the past couple of days. As time went by and I didn’t feel bored in a “powerless” state, I realized how important it was that despite the challenges somethings did work. I was thankful for living in interesting times where I had the wisdom of the world’s best at my fingertips even if the “power” situation was out of my control.

Would you like to share any incident where you felt the same – that “you are living in interesting times”?

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