Archive for August, 2005

Vivekanand Institute Mumbai wins 2005 IEEE Student Branch Web Site Award

August 31, 2005

Vivekand Institute in Mumbai (http://www.ieee-vesit.org/) wins the First Prize for IEEE student branch web site.

It is a proud moment for India. I am particularly happy that the less-endowed Institution like Vivekananda Institute managed to win the prize. It only shows that access to resources is not a limitation for excellence.

The site has excellent, but aesthetically done graphics, complies to W3C standards, WAP-enabled, and, has versions in multiple languages; they even help blind with a special version of the site!

It should serve as a clarion call to the established Institutions that they can not “relax”; and, a reminder to the small, upcoming and less endowed Institutions, that they too can compete and win, if they have the grit!

The award winners are as follows

First Place VESIT Bombay, India
Second Place Auburn University Auburn, Alabama
Third Place University of British Columbia British Columbia, Canada

Runner Up Places

Instituto Tecnologico de Veracruz, Mexico
Ryerson University, Canada
Middle East Technical University, Turkey
Katholieke University Leuven, Belgium
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Politehnica University of Bucharest, Romania
Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria Lima, Peru
New York Institute of Technology, Manhattan
California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo
University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, Illinois
Universiti Tecknologi Malaysia
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Thadomal Shahani Engineering College, India

Delhi Bombay has 72 daily flights but just 7 daily trains!

August 29, 2005

How bad policy decisions can be.

We are a nation with 200 Million poor people. The Government of the day swears by “serving the poor”. The Railway Minister is the “champion of the downtrodden”. But the hypocrisy has no better proof – while there are 72 flights a day between Delhi and Bombay there are just 7 trains a day! That such a cruel joke is perpetrated on the Nation when crude oil (India depends on import for 70+% of its consumption) is soaring at $ 68!

We have systematically killed a great organization like Indian Railways. We had the second largest Railway network that was functioning so well for decades.

By the successive populist measures (all that it means is that Railway Ministers treat Railways as their personal property, put their men everywhere and run all the trains to their constituency, use Railway money to bring out full-page advertisements with their pictures every other day) a great organization has been reduced to a system that has frequent accidents, never on time, unclean stations and corrupt “babus” all the way from the top.

If the Government really wants to serve the poor the first thing they should do is to restore Indian Railways to its glorious days. They have manufacturing capacity to add 10,000 coaches a year (Railways have no money to order); Railways are “eco friendly”; Train travel is “people friendly”. Railway Stations can become centers of commercial activity (hotels, shopping) and great resting places, that in turn can promote inland tourism; all at a fraction of the cost of air travel

Dust, Heat, Intermittent power, no phone lines – limitations of the “bottom of the pyramid” converted to opportunity by Intel

August 26, 2005

Intel Developer Forum at San Francisco on Aug 23, 2005, like every year had great product announcements. Intel CEO Paul Otelini talked of microprocessors designed with focus on low energy consumption – notebook computers consuming 5 watts, desktop 45 watts and servers 85 watts – soon. There was another announcement too – “community computer” a reference design of a PC that addresses the “emerging market” needs; typical in India; humidity and dust, high temperature (no cooling), intermittent and low quality power and no access to landline phones in the vicinity.

The fact that Intel focused on such a uniquely Indian problem and also nearly solved it including affordability, is satisfying indeed. More satisfying is the fact that it was done at Intel Bangalore, and Rakesh Godhwani who taught part of the course at IIIT-B this Summer was one of the Project leads!

Google Desktop has amazing performance

August 25, 2005

After 48 hours of installation my Google mails were indexed; my local content got indexed too!

What amazes me is the sheer performance! Before I type “Jyot” all the mails relating to Jyotsna Bapat showed up!

Also, unlike the earlier interface in the new design things show up as you type; no need to type and “click”. Keep it up Google

The first war of “raw speed” is won (aided of course by bandwidth, high speed disks, performance, and of course, your great algorithms); but Google has to win the second war, relevance; how nice it will be, if I get the just three mails I want, the 3 web sites I need or the three great papers that are useful (and not the millions); may be Google should start discarding or put a “threshold” of “quality” before Google will touch a “source”; such a process itself can be done thru “peers” in a democratic way. Of course, Google would know it better!

Google announces Ver 2 of its desktop search tool

August 24, 2005

On August 22, 2005 Google launched its beta version of Google 2, its second attempt to dominate user’s desktop (Windows only as of today; not even Apple Mac is supported, let alone Linux desktops). It is many things rolled into one – kind of a Portal, Search tool, Scratch pad, RSS feeds..

I have 24 hours of experience with it; I just “love it”.

Unlike the previous, one it installs as sidebar; with my 17” monitor it is neat.
It “aggregates” my blog sites (I had to install RSS aggregators in the earlier version).

I had forgotten a pack of 100+ photographs of my visits to several town in Tamil Nadu in December 2004 (just managed to escape Tsunami, thanks to His Grace, by minutes); I forgot about them; but the new tool shows a “slide-show” without I having to do anything! Cool

I get Weather data of West Lafayette (home to my “alma mater” Purdue University), though I would love to get Bangalore and Kanpur weather.

I do not trade in stocks; but I get the stock prices of my “favorites” (Infosys and others) effortlessly.

I get a scratch pad that is real bonus for avid browser like me.

Since I have 1 GB of e-mail the indexing is still not over!

I am sure Microsoft and Yahoo will fight it out!

Finally “Information” wars are on (not “Information Technology” wars!)

Sasken IPO over-subscribed 78 times

August 22, 2005

In an interesting development Sasken that went for IPO (Initial Public Offering) was over-subscribed 78 times! Even on Day 1 it was over-subscribed 12 times. It is excellent news for “tech” companies in India.

Rajiv Modi founded Sasken took the difficult route of “tech services”, “IP” and “products” unlike the services companies in India. It had its share of “bad luck” too in the difficult days of Telecom (2001-2003). It had to abort three times its plans to go for IPO. But it always had amazing people (many star faculty members who were earlier with IIT Bombay). It is heartening that it could raise about $ 25 Million thru IPO.

It is nice to see EETimes reporting this news!

Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) become a corporate entity today

August 20, 2005

The “club of brokers” that existed as a “closed” entity for 150 years, becomes a professional corporation that will embrace “open transparent” corporation BS Ltd., (might even get listed in BSE soon) from today (Aug 20, 2005) – a long way indeed.

BSE started the 30-shares based index ”Sensex” that has become a barometer of corporate confidence in India. National Stock Exchange (NSE) that came much later had embraced technology and moved to completely online trading; BSE had done the “catch up” game. In overall volume BSE still has a significant volume.

It is a natural coincidence that the transition to the new structure was formally done by none other than Narayana Murthy, Chairman, InfoSys who pioneered Corporate Governance in India and whose brain-child InfoSys got the No 1 Rank in Corporate Governance Survey conducted by Economic Times (announced just yesterday!)

NASADAQ posts Indian Tri-color on August 15, 2005

August 19, 2005

It was nice to see the front part of NASDAQ stock exchange sporting a huge tri-color Indian flag and the signage “NASDAQ Celebrates Indian Independence Day” on its Market-Site – a seven-stories high high-tech cylindrical electronic display outside its Times square Building in New York City, the global financial capital – on August 15, 2005. It is a very satisfying moment for all of us – the proud Indians.

NASDAQ is the world’s largest screen-based securities market that is home to thousands of global high-tech companies that include our own Infosys, Rediff & Sify as well as the IT majors Intel, Microsoft and Oracle.

Bangalore is the 4th location for NASDAQ after UK, Japan and Brazil.

The only other time when NASDAQ had an Indian theme was when Vivek Kulkarni, IAS, the then IT Secretary of Karnataka managed to get the Karnataka picture on Market-Site in the year 2002

BSNL to add 60 million mobile subscribers in a year

August 19, 2005

With lot of fanfare, the IT Minister Maran in the presence of Karnataka Chief Minister and the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister launched the scheme of 4 million lines immediately in each of the four regions (South, North, East and west) over the next quarter, and addition of 60 million new mobile connections in one year. The move was hailed not just in India but even elsewhere; Nortel, the telecom giant, that was late entrant to Indian telecom market, hailed it as the biggest order for Nortel ever; they even carry the Indian Telecom story in the front page of their web-site!

The IT Minister must be complimented for taking such a bold initiative.

The Indian consumer’s who was “starved” for telephone connection for decades, is “gulping” it in the past couple of years. I waited for 3 years for a landline connection at Kanpur in mid-eighties; I waited for a year in Bangalore in mid-nineties. It is a sea-change today that we can get a phone in flat one hour that too with multiple choice of service providers, handsets and billing plans. We have come a long way indeed!

India added about 30 million phones (all types) in over 100 years (till 2002), but adding 2 million a month these days; and, the Minister talking of 60 million in a year is commendable.

But one also has to face the reality; when ALL service providers are just adding 24 million a year currently, is the goal (however laudable) of BSNL alone targeting 60 Million realistic? BSNL had serious problem of managing their SIM card supply even a year back (with just 200,00 customers). Are they ready for such a huge jump?

A serious problem for public sector is the eternal vigilance by CVC and CAG (that often find fault will “silly” procedures unmindful of the challenges); Ministers come and go but the officials are stuck with such “silly” processes. One hopes that the powers that be address this important issue; the sooner the better, not just for BSNL but for ALL public sectors. Often CAG and CVC are used by politicians and bureaucrats to settle the score and punish in the process, honest and upright officers. This must stop at least in the 21st century!

Changing perception of westerners about India

August 16, 2005

In his recent article in Times of India, “from pity to fear” the renowned historian Ramachandra Guha has very nicely articulated the fact that western perception of India has changed from one of contempt to one of acceptance, some time even appreciative. However, he is quick to add that reality is quite different.

In his characteristic style he summarizes reality thus “It was mistaken then (in 1947 when India got independence) to see India as swiftly going down the tube; and, it is mistaken now to see it as soon taking its place among the elect of the earth; India will merrily muddle along in the middle, as it has always been