Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Somethings from your school days always stay with you.   Like my English Teacher, who didn't like us using numerals in essays; we had to spell out the number, and those who didn't lost marks, with a red circle around the number.  She also didn't encourage usage of things like etc, and eg .  I still  figuratively look over my shoulder when I defy her in blog posts occasionally today. 

While abbreviations were not encouraged, acronyms were simply non existent.  The only acronyms I remember from those days are LIC (Life Insurance Corporation) , USA, and UK. 

I  was struck with acronyms when I functioned as a programmer in the very early seventies, when it was not yet pompously called IT  err, Information Technology.

There was no element of willfulness a la today, in naming things, and we programed in Autocoder (full name), COBOL,BASIC,FORTRAN, and PL/1, which had full meaningful expansions in English. Coding sheets and papers were the norm, we punched cards, the programs gave polite messages that told us we were dividing by zero, or flying out of range ; we punched cards again, and ran again. Life was in order.

At some point, the mainframes gave way to personal computer systems, and life has never been the same. The speed with which things changed was phenomenal .  Dbase happened. At least that made you think of "Database". Then someone went haywire and did a smarter version called Foxpro.

And the random naming started.

Bill Gates randomly decided to call his Operating system (OS) as Windows. For those brought up on a diet of Command Prompts, and Disk Operating Systems (DOS), it took a while understanding. But I wonder why he didn't call it Tabletop, or Doors, or Rooms. Steve Jobs took things further, by simply starting Apple and Macintosh. 

The days of acronyms were shoved back, and random willful naming was the norm. I remember using something called LYNX, in those (graphical) browser less days, and it would show the individual counting of bytes as you accessed a page somewhere. Then the World Wide Web and Internet happened, and Hyper Text Markup Language( HTML) was king.  Someone even told me about a software for using that, and the software was randomly called "Coffee Cup".

I tried learning that. Then gave up, and learnt to use HTML by  the donkey method, typing in each tag , with the assorted opening and closing brackets and stuff. Even today, when blog posts do not do what I expect them to, in a preview, I go into HTML mode and change things in the editor.

Like the Congress Grass which has wildly sprung like a weed, today, there is no restriction on attributing names to softwares and systems.   There is LINUX , that reminds me of Linus from Charlie Brown,  and something called GNU. There is UBUNTU, which would be a lovely shoutout, if it were not a version of Linux. Some versions were called Red Hat.  There are softwares called  MAYA,  COMBUSTION; some like SWISH MAX , making it sound like a razor blade place; and even something called AUDACITY. There is  NERO, which has burning fires on its cover.  There is BLENDER, which has nothing to do with cooking.  And we don't even mention the thousands of acronyms and abbreviations that form file extensions and networking terms. 

As if this was not enough , cell phones happened, someone felt the do-or-die need to call, text, surf and photograph things from a single contraption; what was worse is that the general public fell for it, and  so we are now in a period, when we have lots to say, no time for it, and so  messaging lingo was born, at the cost of murdering the English language. Applications and softwares called Bluetooth, Android, Icecream Sandwich  were touted as absolute needs.

Lately, there is a campaign on Facebook asking for a new operating system for phones to be called Kaju Katli, in honor of the well loved Indian sweet dessert.

In this big onslaught of applications and systems, that endeavour to make people more like machines, we are now bringing up an entire generation that grows up smiling at machines rather than friends and neighbors.  I've seen folks attending social functions, clicking away on their phones in a corner  oblivious to where they are, deaf to folks who talk to them. LOL-ing, ROTFL-ing, saying YMMV. Now there is even a movie called OMG.  (We wont mention all those 5-6 word movies, mentioned as meaningless acronyms).

This seems to be an age for meaningless acronyms. Like GOM. for Group of Ministers that get assigned an inconvenient  problem topic to work on, NREGA , and  IGNOU, welfare and educational schemes respectively (the latter being and Open University Scheme).  

We really shouldn't go anywhere near medicine and its practice. Someone I know who had an angioplasty ,  had a stent put in his LAD with PEMA (don't ask me what that is), some folks get certified for FUO close to examination time, and you are supposed to breathe a sigh of relief when someone stares at your reports and scribbles NAD, illegibly.

The head spins and the mind boggles.

 I yearn for the days of pencil sharpeners, fountain pens, and searching for ink erasers .  I yearn for the days when names had meanings associated with who was named.   I yearn for the days, when you back slapped someone and guffawed, till tears came out of your eyes,   and didn't have to spell out in bad fractured acronymed English , what was happening.  I yearn for the days when you had a decent fight and argument, with someone, without having to speak in asterisks.      

However.  I just might.

On second or even third thoughts, agree to support a campaign for naming the new  cell phone Application/ Operating system after something I love.

Not Kaju Katli. Not even Jilebi. 

But Varan Bhat.  Just think, you could introduce version 1.2 with lemon pickle....:-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review of "The Krishna Key" by Ashwin Sanghi.

I received this book, "The Krishna Key"  by Ashwin Sanghi, as part of the Blogadda Book Reviews Program.

I had earlier enjoyed the "Chanakya's Chant" by the same author , and so  looked forward to this one.

I love the authors signature style of interspersing something from ancient times/history/scriptures, with the story as he tells it today.  It happened in Chanakya's as well.

This book was all about Krishna and the Mahabharata, and the stories replicating themselves in a modern world.  5000 years since Lord Vishnu's 8th avatar, Krishna , departed from this world, and one waits for the 10th avatar, that  of Kalki to manifest itself, as promised.

The story begins with a Dr Varshney , an archaeologist working in Kailbangan , who finds something, suspects/realizes  its importance, and keeps pieces of it with 4 of his researcher academic friends for safe keeping.  Dr Ravi Mohan Saini, the hero of this book, is one of them. The others get identified and killed with the killer leaving some signature signs. The other characters, are a tough lady cop, a mafia don, a leading criminal lawyer, and his  powerful daughter. The search for the Krishna Key involves, finding a base plate on which 4 clues (dispersed all over India) must fit it.  The message inscribed on the plate, and the huge search that gets undertaken by Dr Ravi Mohan Saini, Priya -his student in her 40's, the cops, and the person , who starts thinking he is Kalki himself.

While one enjoyed hearing once again, the very well told stories of Krishna and Mahabharata, interspersed  in between  to hint at similar events happening now,  one does get a bit overcome by the flood of historical research that gets thrown at us in the course of the book.  While the stuff about Dwarka and its past history still fitted in, at some point all the stuff about Aryan migration, Iraq, Sumeria, Kailash et al drew attention away.

One admires the huge research done by the author, and applauds his ability to link "today" to the "past "  bringing out the intriguing possibility of nuclear power existing in ancient vedic times, the magic of  the number 108  , the Greek travellers mentioning references to Krishna , and actually being able to pinpoint a date for the Mahabharata.

Initially the story is gripping. Then it's pace gets confused,  after  Priya reveals who she really is. There are too many things happening simultaneously, including Dons whose names are an anagram of Krishna, criminal bureau heads in league with him, the transformation in the lady police officer, and the continuous steady dose of  statements from Dr Saini as he keeps  analysing and explaining stuff like a typical academic.

The end is a surprise.

Overall,  one gets a feeling that the narrative is secondary to the amazing historical facts, discoveries and conclusions et al that the author puts forth.  There are also a couple of places where the personalities have got carelessly interchanged, and escaped the eye of the editor. 

Maybe I expected too much out of this book. But I liked the Chanakya book much better.

If at all, I would buy this books simply to be amazed by the  theories, archaeologically, linguistically, geographically,  anthropologically and historically  being put forth linking the ancient days to our world.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tryst with Technology

Your childhood and growing up years shape how you think throughout your life.  And mine was not so much about machines and contraptions  as prevalent today. There was more emphasis on doing things yourself, whether it was learning tables, analogue time reading, calligraphy practice, grinding stuff on a grinding stone, churning liquids, or  drawing maps and stuff.

With the result, that I was always the last person to accept new fancy hardware. I still maintain that chutneys ground on a chutney stone by a person have that extra ingredient compared to a blender-based grinding, and the less said about buttermilk churned in a mixie, the better it is, because it doesnt stand a chance against the hand churned one.

Even with 50% of the family working in computer related fields, we got a house desktop computer fairly late, in the mid 90's. By and by an HP deskjet printer appeared, which did both black and white and color printing. That being still the age of screeching line printers a work,   we thought the Hp Deskjet  was a marvel.

Till the youngest offspring, then in middle school, figured out how to print, and we were greeted one day , on our return from office, by an A4 size printout of Hrithik Roshan, slowly emerging from the printer in complete technicolor glory, accompanied by the fatigued printing sounds, as a color cartridge scraped the bottom. Words were said, cartridge costs were investigated, and priorities were reset.  Several years later, we were more habituated to the speeds of obsolecence, and an HP all-on-one deskjet made its appearance to complement a new desktop.   The children were older, more aware and respectful of inks,  cognizant of the myriads of softwares , and used the computer for documenting their projects etc.  I was spared of being a co-creator of  class submissions.

Today, as I drown in the waves of technology, folks are into laptops, smart phones, fancy cameras, and video and things are named after stuff with no connection to them: viz Bluetooth, Apple,  and so on....

With a mindset that audaciously clings to the old days, I recently got the HP all-in-one repaired. It  took a long time to find a part which was almost obsolete.

And so when Blogadda and HP organized a blogmeet to tell us about their new wireless,  high quality printers, I decided to attend.

In earlier times, one tinkled glasses, and chatted and listened. Today, one whips out one's laptop, Ipad, smartphone ,notebook , blackberry et al, and simply tweets to the world.  One also side by side suddenly clicks and take pictures using the same contraption. Notice , That I used the word "one";  it would simply suffice to say, that I struggled with the wi-fi on my laptop, was completely overcome with an Ipad for use, offered by the organizers, and kept fiddling with an offered smartphone that couldn't decide whether to perform in portrait or landscape orientation.

The meeting began with the Blogadda folks handling introductions, like a game. We described ourselves using certain keywords, which turned out to be the hallmark features of the new HP Printers, later introduced to us by HP's Mr Ghosh.

The new age printers are something you might find useful for the kids projects as well as making brochures for your business needs. And for those who love clicking, ideal for printing your own photos. 

TouchScreens and thinking printers, and if it is to cost me upto 70-90 paise a page , then this is certainly a very attractive deal !

How much might  you love the the HP Deskjet Ink Advantage 5525 e-All-in-One Printer ?

 As a bard said once, let me count the ways!

--You can  create and personalise photos, and projects at home with HP Photo Value Packs with low-cost Original HP ink cartridges, as low as Rs 499 !

--Use your memory card to print photos directly. Save images to a card without using a PC.

--Scan photos and everyday documents to your email, that too, without a PC!

--Access a library of free HP apps  using the 2.65-inch (6.7 cm) colour touchscreen.

 --Print, scan, copy, and connect to the Web

 --Easily print and share, using built-in wireless

 --Print from virtually anywhere using your smartphone or tablet using HP ePrint while you are on the go

 --Print directly from your mobile device to your HP wireless direct printer

This is such a refreshing change from the current dark ages where printers are attached to one stubborn PC and configured, and you rush around with pen drives containing stuff to be printed from other machines. This is such a change from worrying about having to replace expensive printer cartridges. And while the multifunctioning of the printer is a huge blessing, for quick copies and scans, this is such a change from having to go to the photographer's studio, to get a print made , of a .jpg of the newest grandchild to join the family.

This  HP Printer intrigues me. Maybe they also have printers that just print and dont do all the other smart things, like scanning ,xeroxing , faxing and so on !

I know I get frazzled amidst all these new contraptions, preening in their hightech avatars. But the qualities of this particular printer attract me.  Blogadda and HP had tweet competitions and other things, based on which a young man ended up winning an HP Printer ! Several of my fellow bloggers won HP hampers, and all of us participating folks received pendrives !

I just spent two hours this morning , at a local xerox place, that does computer printouts, getting a draft of a book done. It does have a lot of photos.

For once, with all my anxieties of being bamboozled by high tech stuff, I dearly wished I had this printer !

(This post submitted for the HP Blogadda post meet blog competition)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Grand S(L/C/P)am

Reading the daily newspaper was considered a BIG deal 50 years ago. No, we didn't have folks reading out snippets in the school assembly, which was more about prayers, songs, announcements and marching in and out to music.  There was no television, just radio, and news readers then were household names.

Life was simpler.  

We didn't have a scam a day. Whenever there was one, (I remember folks talking about Pratap Singh Kairon)  the concerned people actually resigned. Newspapers didn't have so many ads. That is probably why, at home, we had to daily write a passage  or passages, from the newspaper, for handwriting practice and comprehension, both. Which helped when they had general knowledge tests at school. Communication was by word of mouth, and primarily letters.  Telegrams were generally bad news. The rotary black telephone happened in my ninth grade and was not a substitute for cycling over to a friend's to check out homework details. 

50 years on it seems to me , that both population and communication modes are going overboard. And just like scams result from certain parts of the overflowing population competing and scrambling, illegally for monetary goodies,  spams are now the result, of there being a surfeit of communication methods. Letters, telegrams, telephones, emails, cell phone messaging, anywhere calling, twitter, social media. In my time we called out to folks who appeared in balconies, and conversations continued. Today, there are five OB vans and television reporters hovering in the background.

While simple, middle class, tax paying, god fearing folks like me, look on, mouth agape , at the scams being reported , several  a day,  it boggles the mind as to why , one receives the type of spam one does, which Google so successfully manages to detect.  

Like I am told I have the 1,000,000.00 GBP (One Million Pound Sterling) from the Coca-Cola Online Award 2012........

Like  I am supposed to have  won £90,000.00 Pounds and a BlackBerry Torch 9810 in the ongoing BLACKBERRY ASIA PROMO 2012........

Like the Minister Trust Funds of Benin Republic tells me, that I need to pick  my ($5,000) payment by western union, and I will receive it every day till I receive the 1.500,000.00 United State Dollars.........

Like I am congratulated for winning the British National Lottery  of 1,000,000.00 (British Pounds), drawing  held on the 30th August 2012 in London Uk.....

Like there are the  YAHOO LOTTERY RESULTS 2012, from Thailand, where I am supposed to have won, ONE MILLION UNITED STATE DOLLARS ( $1, 000. 000.00USD).

Like a letter from a husband and wife team who have won the  Euro Millions Jackpot Lottery of £101 million (Pounds) on October 11, 2011 and have voluntarily decided to donate the sum of £1,000,000.00 Pounds to me,  as a "charity" !

There is even a spam where  to entice me further , it says, "You have gained a Chevrolet Cruze Car, &  the sum of £300,000.00 GBP from CHEVROLET MOTORS.

While I struggle to surface for Mumbai's polluted air from under the onslaught  of these windfalls, and successfully manage to click on the "delete all spam" button, I recall reading about folks replying to Nigerian scams and getting cheated. I am puzzled as to how some folks make a career of sending such mails, some encrusted with malware in attachments, which they urge you to unload.

And then I recall hearing something which could be both scam and spam. Talking to someone who deals with computer virus removals and the required  packages, I was shocked to hear that some virus removal software companies, have a "new virus department", that creates new versions of viruses (some of whom travel in the spam), to which the companies then provide cures. 

Somewhat like Licence Raj.  Someone makes the rules stiffer, so someone can make fortunes specializing in "looking the other way".  Like delaying water connections to buildings so the tanker lobby will benefit.  Like looking the other way as road contractors make a mess of paver blocks, and shoddy mixing of cement with vague stuff.     

Like our esteemed political representatives, who have successfully stalled  every Parliament session this year, shouting about scams, defending scams and exhibiting reprehensible behaviour,  enabling a  quiet hurried passage of some other important bills which would have otherwise benefited from a debate. Like the only time debate happened on the Lokpal bill, someone snatched the papers from someone else and tore them to bits in Parliament on television, followed by some playacting by those trying to right the wrong.  

If someone in school had torn up a report card because he failed, the child would have been rusticated from school. 

But these are amazing times

While we shout about scams, spams, millions of rupees, lakhs and crores and so on,  go to your bank and ask for a bundle of 50 Rs notes, needed by those who pay in real time for vendors, transport and so on. 

They don't have the notes in stock.  Maybe it is an indication of something. One times it was the 2 Rs notes , then the 5 Rs notes, that disappeared. We simply will not mention the coins. Now a sheaf of 50 Rs currency notes not available in banks. 

Telephones are no longer telephones, unless they have net surfing, music , camera, video, GIS and other advanced acronymed facilities.   The bigger , the better.

 Someone once wrote a book called "Don't sweat the small stuff".  Someone also wrote a book called "Small is beautiful".

The sad part is, "small" as a concept, is slowly becoming extinct. 

There is "nano" but no "small"  anymore. 

Except things like kids , birds, and flowers....Because no one has been able to plant a bug in that amazing system designed with so many checks and balances .........