Random Thoughts, Cricket, Movies, Music ...

Friday, June 25, 2004

Gmail - Pros and Cons

I have been using the Gmail (beta) for quite some time now and at this stage, my gut feeling is that its not quite there yet to be launched as a commercial product, especially coming from a company such as Google, where quality is just of the supreme order.

Apart from the fact that Google wants you to use its Email Service, one of the primary reasons why you get a Gmail account is that you could do some Beta testing for the service and report Bugs. On 1 such occasion, where I decided to do some good for Google, I found 2 Bugs (which I thought were really basic ones) - of course, it might have been an oversight on their part, but its kind of strange that they might have overlooked such things. It seemed as if things had been released in a hurry. Of course, the product is still in Beta - so, I guess, Google can be excused.

Time and again, I have also found the server to be slow (compared to the other online Mail providers such as Yahoo! and even Hotmail). The server just hangs up on me and gives the error message, asking me to try back in 30 seconds.

All these apart, Gmail definitely has some really cool features, which are quite innovate actually. Since you have 1 GB of space, you can virtually forget about 'Deleting' the emails and start thinking about 'Archiving' them. So you can always retrieve an old email, archived some 2 years ago, by using the Search facility, which of course is powered by the Google technology !

Secondly, there is this powerful concept of Labels, which is the equivalent of Folders. The major difference between the 2 is that you can apply multiple labels to the same email. In other words, you can keep the same email in multiple folders. Neat eh ?

Lastly, the concept of organizing an email and its set of replies as a conversation for the ease of reading, is quite credit worthy. Of course, this is directly borrowed from the multitude of BBS & Newsgroups site on the web. But then, its really amazing to see this technology being put to use on your emails in the Inbox.

A lot has been said about the fact that your emails would be scanned and corresponding ads would appear in the email. But then, what I don't understand is why is there such a hue and cry about it. After all, this is going to be done by a machine - not by a human, who is eye-balling your email ! I do understand the privacy issues out here, but if Google goes not use this information for any other purpose, other than just serving up ads, I think, its OK. In any case, the ads serving technology is still far from being accurate - a recent survey in New York Times revealed that the Gmail ad serving technology was hardly found to be accurate. You can read more about it out here.

I am sure, Google will make quite a few changes to Gmail before its official commercial launch. Google needs to be careful in taking any steps this year - after all, its IPO this year is the most sought after event in the Stock Market ... to be really sure about it, you can always search on Google and find out the answer !

Keep Googling !

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Wireless Connectivity @ Home - What a Relief !

In the 90s, the Internet was considered the ultimate in technological discovery. Then came the Wireless Networks and today, they have become so much a part of our lives. Especially in my home, the laptop with the Wireless Card, is the most sort-after thing, after tooth paste ! Be it morning, be it night, be it in the living room, be it in the bathroom, we just need our wireless laptop !

So, it came as a huge disappointment when our Wireless card stopped functioning for some reason. The combined knowledge of 2 computer science engineers could not help solve the problem. We applied all possible known tactics, including rebooting (both soft and hard), powering off the Router, slamming the laptop a bit etc ... but nothing seemed to work.

Today, after 2 weeks of no wireless connectivity, we decided enough is enough and called up Dell Support. After all, thats why they charge arm and a dozen for their laptops, compared to the cheaper models of other companies. Sure enough, we were talking away to the Support personnel, who gave us a very simple suggestion - reinstall the whole OS !!! Reinstall for just a simple Wireless Network Card !!! - unthinkable !

We shut the phone down and tried to debug the problem ourselves. Finally, after tinkering around with the card properties, we found that the Encryption Key was not correct and so, it was not connecting to the router. The joy on our faces had to been seen, when we could start surfing the Web again through the laptop.

I used to shudder when I used to think about a day when I could not check my email :) - today, I shudder to think of a day when i cannot use my wireless connectivity. It makes our lives so comfortable and convinient. Wireless is the way to go and I believe this will indeed shape the way we lead our lives in the future.


Leavey School of Business - Santa Clara University

The decision is finally here. Susmita and I are joining the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, this Fall. (September). This is a part-time course (you can chose to do it full-time, if you can :)). There are 24 courses to be completed and you can probably complete 2-3 courses a quarter. That makes it 8-12 quarters, or 2-3 years. Lets hope we can finish it in sane time.

One good thing is that I get to go back to school with Susmita, who was with me in IIT, KGP. We can relive some of our college days - at least, thats what I hope to do. One huge advantage of Santa Clara University is that it won't require too many changes in our lives. We don't need to relocate, set up the house again, leave our jobs etc. Of course, another incentive is the fact that both our companies are sponsoring our MBAs. Intel has this really terrific program where they sponsor your higher education - no strings attached. My company has told me to take it 1 quarter at a time, depending on the Budget contraints. Either way, we would both have gone for our MBA.

I had been thinking about doing a MBA for quite sometime and as usual, I had been lazy about doing anything. I guess, I needed the push from Susmita and in the end, the long days of preparing for the GMAT and filling the applications all worked out well.

Hopefully, this decision will work out well.


Birthday Party

The last weekend, Susmita had organized a party to celebrate my Birthday. Boy! - it was so much fun. The food was yum, the people were great and it was just such a wonderful time. Check out some of the snaps

Of course, one gets old. But one should be young at heart - thats what matters. Oh well! - you must have heard this so many times now. Bottom line is - I am more year old. Am I more mature than 1 year ago ? - hmmm ... hard to say.


Karan Razdan - Rajni to Girl Friend

Remember our dear old Rajni ? - the famous social worker who used to enamour India with her charm, wit and courage. I am sure most of the Indians do remember her. Anyway, the serial was written and directed by Karan Razdan, a struggling writer, who shot to overnight fame after Rajni.

Anyway, the same Karan Razdan gives you Girl Friend, which, I am sorry to say, is just not worth seeing. It deals with the taboo topic of Lesbianism in India and well, the topic has just been handled without any sensibility. Instead of playing to the gallery and providing some provocative scenes in the movie, the director could have shown his view point in a more subtle way. That would have probably helped to make a point that he was trying to make (or wasn't he trying to make one ? ).

There is a strange analogy here - Indeevar -> Jeevan Se Bhari Teri Ankhen ... Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bole ... Got it ?


Rabindranath Tagore - Controversies

10 out of 10 Bengalis have heard about Rabindranath Tagore, 8 of those 10 have read at least something that he has written and 5 of those 8 remember what he/she has read sometime or the other. I don't know whether there is any other writer in this whole world who has had such a tremendous influence on 1 sect of people.

So, it was quite interesting to know, that 1 of his very famous compositions, 'Purano Sei Diner Kotha', a soft lifting tune talking of beautiful bygone days, is actually lifted from a Spanish tune. Of course, if you tell this to any average Calcuttan, then he will be up in arms - but then it is indeed true. You can hear the both of them out here

Another controversy surrounding Rabindranath is regarding the National Anthem of India. Some say that he had written it to welcome King George V in 1911. Of course, the purists deny this vehemently.

Of course, if you are famous, then controversies shall indeed follow you. Its true for Rabindranath too.

Cloak of Invisibility

When I young, I had read a classic H.G. Wells story of a guy who can turn himself invisible. I was really enthralled by it and I had wished that it was indeed humanly possible. Then came the Harry Potter series, where Harry uses his father's magical cloak to cover himself up to make himself invisible. It brought me memories of the H.G. Wells classic. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where The Invisible Man was one of the 7 Extraordinary Gentleman, was just what I need to spur me up.
It was just such a wonderful coincidence that 2 weeks later, I read in the BBC that a Tokyo scientist had discovered a Cloak, which had the power to make you invisible. This was not fantasy - this was for real . He had given a demonstration of this amazing discovery to a group of scientists. Of course, there is no magic involved - he just used a combination of some hi-fi reflection/refraction mechanism to achieve what he wanted. Here is the news article that I am referring to.

Phew! - I guess, with time, all our childhood fantasies will become real, eh ?

Monday, June 21, 2004

Wimbledon 2004 - Opening Day

Amid all the hullaboo of the Euro, 2004 championship, the Wimbledon 2004 started off on a quiet and a rather wet note. Most of the 1st day proceedings were interrupted by rain. But between all this, sun shone brightly on 2 very different types of people.

One, a champion in her own right, a person who has probably won almost all Tennis titles in her glittering career - Martina Navratilova. She is once again playing singles tennis at 47 after a gap of 10 years and well, she won her first game yesterday quite comfortably : 6-0, 6-1. Her Colombian opponent was just left wondering what hit her ! Truly, this champion is indeed like old wine - she seems to be getting better with age.

The second person to make a mark on the opening day was Goran Ivansivec, who has won only 1 grand slam in his life and that was on the Center Courts of Wimbledon in 2001. His career was been dogged with controveries and injuries. In spite of that, he is very much loved at Wimbledon, because of the character that he is. He adds a human element to tennis. Anyway, coming back after a long layoff, he coolly disposed off the 31st seed of the tournament and went back to his hotel room to watch the Euro cup between England and Croatia.

These people have shown that form may be temporary ... but class is permanent !

Adios Amigos !

Friday, June 18, 2004

Javed Miandad controversy

Miandad has been sacked again - for the 3rd time. To be honest, it is probably the step in the right direction. In the recent series against India, the lack of preparation and the lack of modern equipment was clearly visible in the Pakistan team. The fact that Pakistan could still win a test bears testament to the tremendous talent of the team.

Bob Woolmer, the new coach, will definitely do wonders to the team, just as he once did for the South African outfit. The game has progressed so much technologically in the last few years and Woolmer was one of the first to marry technology to the game. In my opinion, Pakistan has finally taken the right step. Of course, it needs to be seen how well the sophisticated techniques of Woolmer and the raw, profusive talent of the Pakistanis can gel together. Interesting times ahead, indeed !


Lot of talk is going on whether Yuva is a hit or not. Even the director Mani Ratnam had a press conference along with the lead actors, to dispel the myth that Yuva was a flop.

I saw Yuva the other day and personally speaking, this is not the best of Mani Ratnam. Mani's greatest ability is to etch out a character very strongly so that a viewer can understand what is the motive behind the action of the character. This is one area where Yuva fails miserably. Mani's art of story-telling fails here. For instance, why is Lallan Singh so hot-headed, why does he betray his wife when she needs him most, why does Arjun change his mind to not go to America etc. Many questions remain unanswered.

Also, the music is not great. Probably, we are used to the fact that the team of Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rehaman will always be successful - be it Roja or Bombay or Dil Se : the music of all these films was absolutely 1st class.

In spite of the short comings of the movie, it still has quite a few positives. The cinematography is excellent - no other film has captured Kolkata so well. The events in the plot are also well-connected, which shows that the director never lost track
of the momentum of the film. The acting is good and I think, this is Abhishek's best performance. If lady luck shines on him, then this film could be for him what Zanjeer was for his Dad !

In sum, this is a decent film to watch. Personally speaking, this movie is not a hit. It looks like the Box Office too seems to agree to my views here :).

More later,

Chris Cairns Retires ...

The last week saw the Kiwis losing the 3rd and final test to the Poms. Of course, London couldn't celebrate their win very much - the much fancied England soccer team lost almost immediately to France in the Euro, 2004. Nevertheless, the cricket team deserved plaudits for their wonderful performance. For a team which was struggling to win against the lower ranked teams, this has been an amazing turnaround ever since the Caribbean tour.

In the midst of all this, one man - a very charismatic man, Chris Cairns had played his last and final test. Not to miss out on any action, he reminded every one of his brilliant cricketing abilities by a 9 wicket haul in the test. How much the Kiwis would have wished that they had another Cairns bowling from the other end. Of course, this was after he had gone on to break the World Record for the maximum number of Sixers in Test matches, surpassing Sir Vivian Richards. But then Cairns is hardly a person, who likes to think about records. Give him a beer and he will enjoy it with you. Give him a bat and throw the ball at him - he will dispatch it to the boundary.

But I think, apart from the sheer talent that Chris Cairns possessed, what will sorely be missed is his amazing personality. His heroic deeds of the bat, his playing to the galleries, his bowling the hearts out and of course, the controversies that surrounded him early in his career, will all be missed. As some one said, with the retirement of Chris Cairns, the world of cricket has lost some thing - Cairns has taken away a part of cricket with him. It remains to be seen who will be willing to fit into his shoes.

Till then ,

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Random Thoughts - 06/17/2004

Hello All,

Its been a while since I have posted anything. Hope you are all in the pink of your health and having a great time. We have started counting our days now for our India trip and obviously, its really exciting :). When people tell you the cost of going to India is just the cost of the tickets and nothing else - they are grossly wrong :). Every weekend in the past few weeks has been spent in shopping for our relatives in India and I am sure, the days in India will be spent in shopping for ourselves here !!! - in short, add a cool 3 grand or so to cost of the tickets to get the correct cost of going to India. Sorry, if I sound like a person who counts every $$ [I don't - my wife can vouch for that ! ] - but this was some thought that struck me the last weekend.

Anyway, the weather has just been gorgeous out here - warm and sunny days with the cool evenings. What else can you ask for. In spite of this being ideal for doing any kind of work/work-out, Americans here are currently facing one of their worst problems - obesity. As a result of this, there has been a deluge of Fat free stuff in the market now - more so, with the popularity of Atkins diet, old-timers who used to eat bread, are thinking twice before going into that aisle. All this is so noticeable here - the media hypes up any fad so much that people get obsessed with it. But anyway, things haven't changed for us and I don't see any reason why it should :).

O yeah, I don't know whether I mentioned this - I managed to get a Gmail account (Google Mail Account) through a referral - apart from the fact that it is FREE and it has 1 GB of storage, what I like about it is the ability to organize emails as conversations and also the ability to 'label' each email. In short, the same email can have 2 labels (or be inside 2 folders) - I think thats really cool. Of course, you can always Search through your emails - needless to say, the Search is indeed blazing fast ;-).

There is an interesting event this week - there is a dinner invitation for my Boss at one of the poshest restaurants of the Bay Area (Spago). Since, he is travelling to India this week, I get to keep the invitation and of course, I shall invite my spouse too :).

For all you lucky ones who managed to see Venus move across the Sun, hope you will have stories to tell of that when I meet you.


Memorial Day Weekend - Lake Tahoe, May 2004

Hello All,
Hope you are all doing great. We came back from a short vacation from Lake Tahoe and boy! - it was so wonderful and relaxing. We had gone with a group of friends and we stayed in this really big apartment (cottage-like) place. We prepared some delicious food for dinner, played games, went to casinos (for once, I came back on a positive note - ha ha) and did power boating on pristine and crystal blue waters of the Lake. It was really a very very relaxing weekend - I am still having a hangover from it - to be honest, I don't want to come out of it :).

Anyway, check out some of our snaps from this trip. I have uploaded them

I am feeling quite lazy to write as well ! - just want to go back home and go off to sleep :). I shall keep this short this time around - shall write in details later on.

Take care and keep in touch.


Indian Elections Euphoria

Hello Folks,

Hope you are all doing great. Now that the euphoria of the Indian elections has died down, people can now get back to their normal lives. Incidentally, the one good thing about the recent political situation in India was that it actually brought back into life my IIT KGP mailing list. Boy! - people came back to life with their political views - whether Sonia should be PM or not, why she gave up the position etc, economic reforms blah blah ... to be honest, it was great to get back in touch with all my Dept mates :). Anyway, its great to know that we will be having our most educated PM ever - thats really cool. Now, if someone can keep Laloo in check, we will be better off ;-).

The last week has not been really very good for me - i hurt my back while cleaning up the house last weekend and so had to walk with a constant pain throughout the week. Its much better now - thanks to Advil, Iodex, Ice Pack and the wonderful relief named Susmita ;-). One positive thing about being ill or injured is that you are definitely going to get pampered - ha ha !

Even in spite of being injured, I managed to drag Susmita to the cinema hall last weekend to watch Main Hoon Na - well, Shah Rukh has done these types of roles so many times. Yet, he does it again and somehow, people don't seem to mind it too much. He has really mastered the art of entertainment. O yeah, this movie is being heavily promoted here - it didn't release in the normal 'Hindi' theatres ... it was released in the normal American Theatres. So, in one hall you have Troy and in the other you have 'Main Hoon Na' !!!

Chalo, thats it from here - you guys take care and don't 'bend your back' too much to do anything ;-).


My First Posting

Its been quite a hectic weekend actually. I think, I have started to accept the fact that my weekends are busier than the week days. Almost, all the slots of the days (from early mornings to late night) are kind of reserved for some kind of activity or the other, such as doing laundry, getting groceries, calling India, catching up on the magazines which keep coming and coming, and over and above all, try to have a decent social life. Most of the times, we try to do all the socialising over Saturday, so that we can just be at home on Sundays, watching movies and of course, moaning the fact that the next day is Monday and that our weekend is all gone. Anyway, yesterday was one such Sunday, where we were invited to a Tamilian home for lunch. Greedy that I was, it was too difficult to resist ;-).

Anyway, hope you are all doing good. The election fever is really getting to everyone here - any Indian I talk to out here has to offer his/her 2 cents of advice on who will be PM ! Times of India has also become quite aggressive in its headlines now a days - a recent one being : "Less than 250 : Vajpayee will declare, Advani will bat on!"

Next weekend is the Bay to Breakers run. This is a fun run in SFO for about 6.5 miles. The best part of the run is that there will be lots of activities happening all along the course and so, one wouldn't feel as tired as one would normally. Till now, it looks like I am the only one who is going - I have tried to cajole all and sundry to run : looks like they all have other important things to do :).

O yeah, I don't know how many of you know this - there is this interesting concept called Blogging. Google owns this site http://www.blogger.com where you can post your Blogs and have others read it later on. For instance, I have put this email as a blog, so that you can check out what I mean and the URL is http://thyaga_susmita.blogspot.com/

Chalo, thats it from here - take care and have a great week ahead.