Random Thoughts, Cricket, Movies, Music ...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Weekly Wrap Up - 07/29/2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Salaam Bombay !

As most of us know by this time, Mumbai has been lashed with torrential Monsoon showers, that has resulted in the loss of so many lives. I cannot but help feel sorry for them. My cousin brother Ganesh (a.k.a Swami) stayed and taught in Mumbai for more than 8 years and he wrote a lovely email about the place and the spirit that it has.

Here is the excerpt from the email:

The last four days all of us who have watched any of the Indian TV channels, be it NDTV, Aaj Tak, DD, or whatever, have been (electronic) witness to the results of near-catastrophic or shocking events in many forms: the Honda incident at Gurgaon, the deluge (rain would be too mild a word for the occasion) in Mumbai, the fire at the Bombay High oil rig, and so forth, to an extent where news of a street accident where a couple of lives were lost, might seem camomile ! The news of the explosion in the Shramjeevi Express did not seem as shocking as it might have been, so immune have we become to news of casuaties.and loss of life !

I believe one event that has seen the true triumph of the human spirit in the face of natural calamity, amongst these recent events, is the response of the people of Mumbai to the unprecedented rains and subsequent flooding that paralysed life in "the city that never sleeps" ! The stoic unwillingness to yield submissively to havoc wrecked by the forces of nature, the grit and determination to find a way out (and home), of all those who were stranded at one point or another (children returning from school, adults homeward-bound from work), the helping hand lent by those who could, to those who could not, help themselves, speaks volumes of the spirit of these people to rise to the occasion in the face of the "potent" combination of Nature's fury and a lack of preparedness on the part of the government to deal with such calamities.

I lived in Mumbai for some eight years, and have myself seen many a monsoon fury lash this city time and again, and have always marvelled at the spirit of the people living there, to "bounce back" from such calamities. I have lived in other cities in India, too, most recently Bangalore, and I hope and pray that the kind of calamities that have struck Mumbai, never strike other cities, for though one may hold the government to task in Mumbai, for being unprepared, they are are still in far better shape infrastructure-wise than in a place like Bangalore, where the infrastructure is so pathetic and the government civic agencies so incompetent, that it would require a superhuman effort from the people here to even try and deal with such situations.

Here's to all you spirited Mumbaikars - may you never have to face such a calamity again !

In the end, I just have to say - "Salaam Bombay" !

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

1 year Blogging anniversary

I was wanting to write this on the exact date of the anniversary (June 25th), but it somehow slipped my mind. Anyway, it has been more than a year since I have started Blogging and I must say that it has been a pleasurable experience. Sometimes, I do not get the time to Blog - work, studies, inertia, lethargy - you name it. But I have tried my sincere best to keep posting at regular intervals. I want to thank all of you who have read my Blogs and also been grateful enough to send me some feedback - I really appreciate that.

Hopefully, this year I shall be able to Blog more and more - hope to keep meeting all you wonderful people out there.

Happy Blogging !

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lucky Seven for Armstrong ....

One more year, one more Tour de France, one more gruelling 21-day tour on bike came to an end in Paris around a couple of days ago. Not surprisingly enough, the winner was Lance Armstrong - he has now won this tournament 7 times in a row. If you think about the course of the Tour de France, it is quite amazing to know how a person can do this year after year and that too a person who had to overcome physical hardships such as cancer. Achievements such as these truly embody the spirit of the human being and I really salute his sprit and determination. Hope we get inspired by this true life story and do something amazing in our lifes.

Way to go Lance !

Monday, July 25, 2005

Aussies go 1 up

I had mentioned in my last Audio Blog that the 1st test was shaping up to be a fascinating game. Well, it didn't end in that way unfortunately. England went down tamley to the Aussies and well, who do you think were the tormentors ? - the same old pair of McGrath and Warne, who ended up with 4 wickets each in the 2nd innings. Although Warne may be cursing himself for taking the catch for the last wicket (it effectively meant that he would have never taken 5 wickets in an innings at Lords and so his name wouldn't be amongst the greatest cricketers in the Lord's pavilion), he surely would have been delighted with his performance, considering the enormous pressure he was in because of his off-field personal problems. No such issues with McGrath, who just keeps getting better with age.

As for England, I think they need to go back to their drawing boards again and chalk out their plans and strategy. Whatever it is that they had is abviously not working. Although experts may be gunning for the necks for some of the players, I don't think England really needs to panic. So, here is my mantra for England for success against the Aussies:

  1. Play aggressive against them at all times - 5 days in the test, 3 sessions in a day, 2 hours in a session ... down to every ball. The moment you relax, the Aussies will sense that and will claw their way back into the game. Clue: Look at the video highlights of the exploits of Sachin, VVS, Dravid against the Aussies in the last couple of series and you will get the answer or better still, talk to Sanjay Manjrekar, who was brought to earth because of his ever defensive yet solid technique. You need to have "fire with fire" attitude.

  2. England's top-order needs to click especially Strauss and Vaughan. In the last series against the Aussies, Vaughan had made a mockery of the Aussie bowling attack. So, getting him out so cheaply this time is really a bonus for the Aussies.

  3. Improve the fielding - 5 dropped catches and that too a couple from the wicket-keeper. As Geoffery Boycott would say, that is "Ruubbish" and against the Aussies, it is sacrilage. Be tight and tidy in the field - make the Aussies fight for the runs and push them in a not-so-comfortable zone and wait for them to do the mistakes.

  4. Play with a clean mind and never mind the reputation of the bowler - if you think the bowler is that famous Shane Warne who bowled the "Ball of the Century", then you will never do good. But if you think that he is the same bowler, who was pulverized by Sachin and Co, then you are better off. Summary: Forget reputation, treat the ball with respect, not bowlers !

  5. Take a cue from Kevin Peterson - his attitude was heartening. Debut test, Lords, McGrath and Warne on fire - yet he managed to do well. That was primarily because of his aggressive attitude. He didn't allow the Aussies to be on top of him at any time.

  6. Keep bowling the same way as before.
I don't know whether this is the right mantra or not, but I sure do know that England needs to improve in some of these areas, if not all. Can they do it ? - well, that is the answer that the whole of England (and the world) is anxiously waiting to see.

Here is to another great game of cricket.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Tiebreaker in Twenty-20 cricket

Twenty-20 cricket is gaining in popularity a lot - the fact that most of the international teams now play "friendlys" with each other is a testimony to the fact that this form of the game is here to stay. I am not really a big fan of bang bang cricket, but if this is what is going to make the game more popular, then I guess, it is ok. I just hope, we still produce players such as Sachin Tendulkar, whose batting can mesmerize you and take you to another level and bowlers such as Shane Warne, who make you feel that spinning is not all that diffcult. Anyway, I shall leave that for some other discussion.

What is interesting about this form of cricket is the "Tie-breaker" rule. It is similar to that in soccer, where players in each team try to score goals. Ultimately, the team with the higher number of goals win. In cricket, the competition is among the teams to find out who can hit the stumps the higher number of times. Don't believe me ? - check this highlights package out.

I would be interested to know whats your view on Twenty-20 : send me a note.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Weekly Roundup - 07/22/2005

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Parents visiting

As the Summer Quarter at Business School nears to an end, Susmita and I have more than 1 reason to celebrate that fact. The day after the quarter ends, our month and half holidays in the school kicks off (YIPPEE) and then very next day, my parents are arriving on a 3 month trip here. (YIPPEEEEEEE). Oh boy! - I feel really excited at the prospect of my parents coming and staying together with us. It means great fun, great outdoor trips, great movie times together and of course some yummy home cooked Tamil food :). Not that I miss that too much, but it is still good to know that we don't need to worry about what to cook when we come back from work - ha ha - you could say that I am spoilt, but I guess, I am like that :-).

Friday, July 15, 2005

Google Maps for the Moon !

Google unveiled yet another amazing piece of work from its Labs - the Google Map for the moon. Needless to say, they had to work in collaboration with NASA on this for the images and satellite projections. It is really cool to see how the different places on the moon look and also where did the different expeditions to moon land. Check this one out - it is really neat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bono Therapy - what is that ?

I read recently the Indian Cricket team, under the guidance of Greg Chappel is undergoing Bono Therapy as part of their prepartion for the coming season. Now, that got me totally stumped. Firstly, I have never heard about this sort of therapy and secondly, I don't know about any other team in world cricket that follows this therapy. Well, it could be Chappel's masterstroke or it could prove to be a total disaster. In any case, it does sound something different - read about it if you want to.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Grokster vs MGM - an analysis

On 27th June, 2005, the US Supreme Court made a historic ruling that Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technology developing companies are legally responsible for the illegal acts of their users. This landmark ruling stems from the legal action brought against two US software firms, Grokster and StreamCast, in 2001, by 28 entertainment companies, including MGM, Walt Disney, EMI and Time Warner. Two lower courts had previously ruled that the Grokster and StreamCast could not be held responsible for copyright infringement carried out using their software. That decision was based on a precedent set by another Supreme Court decision in 1984, which absolved Sony from liability for copyright infringement carried out using Betamax video tapes, because the tapes also had legitimate uses. Although P2P networks could also have legitimate uses, the Supreme Court ruled that Grokster or StreamCast made no effort to stem illicit use of their software. Although this ruling definitely marks a victory for the music and movie industry and will boost the bottom line of legitimate song download sites such as ITunes, Rhapsody etc, I believe that this will be harmful to technology businesses in general because it will have a negative impact on commercial innovation by deterring companies from creating products that might potentially be used for copyright infringement and also because of the legal uncertainties involved.

The music and the movie industry are the biggest beneficiaries from this decision and so are the legal music download sites such as Apple’s iTunes and Real Networks’ Rhapsody. The music industry can now hope that consumers who have been sharing music illegally will now revert to legal means of downloading songs e.g download a song for 99 cents from Apple’s iTunes store. The movie industry, on the other hand will be hoping that this will give them a shot in arm for the next generation of movie going experience such as Internet downloads, legal on-demand-downloads etc.

I, however believe, that this decision will be a big blow not only for consumers but also for many small and promising startups currently developing some fantastic software for file-sharing. The current ruling by the Supreme Court extends the Sony Betamax ruling of 1984 by saying that a company could lose its copyright protection if it actively encourages copyright infringement. In other words, a company that is developing software for legal file-sharing purposes now has to be concerned whether the users of its software are using it for legal purposes or not. Although this might sound a very good idea, it is a very difficult thing to do - it raises the possibility of startup companies having to defend their new technologies against expensive litigation. Also, the VCs will be now be a little wary of investing in such firms – although they might still like the technology being developed, however the fact that the company will be under the strict jurisdiction of the law might make them a little nervous. While it might take courts years to define the precise boundaries of the ruling, many entrepreneurs don't have the luxury of waiting. The next generation of peer-to-peer services, such as BitTorrent, which allows the rapid transfer of large files, will have to be developed under the shadow of the court's new "active inducement" standard. So will innovations such as podcasting -- the creation of radio shows for downloading onto digital listening devices such as iPods. Almost all of these nascent technologies have two things in common. First, their widespread commercial implementation is still far in the future. Second, they can be used for both legal and illegal purposes. As such, at this point the only thing that's clear is that these technology companies will have to watch their step more carefully in every phase of business development, from funding fresh ventures and designing products to communicating with customers. Also, startups may have to invite lawyers in on product-development discussions from the beginning to help draw up plans and work with engineers on research and development.

Secondly, another tricky concern for innovators and entrepreneurs now is how to respond once they become aware that their technology may be being used for rampant piracy. In the past, companies were safest when they didn't admit to knowing about the thievery. The ruling states that mere knowledge of copyright violations isn't illegal. But such awareness, when combined with other actions, such as ads or statements by employees or executives, could leave a company vulnerable to lawsuits if it doesn't take action after receiving a warning from a music label or studio that illegal copying was occurring. According to Larry Lessig, an intellectual-property professor at Stanford Law School, "It might take 10 years of litigation to get a clear sense of this (liability issue)”. In Internet time, 10 years of chilled innovation will prove costly.

Thirdly, the ruling opens up some tricky questions for us to answer - email and IM can be used and often are used for illegal purposes – so, are companies such as Microsoft, AOL and other mainstream companies at risk because of this ruling? – Yes, because their software is used for illegal purposes; No, because these companies do not encourage users from using their software for such purposes. The point that I am making here is that the ruling leaves the door open to more litigation with a vague standard for liability. The Grokster decision has created "a gray area in which lawyers will thrive," says Gary Little, a general partner at venture firm Morgenthaler Ventures in Menlo Park, Calif. As a result of this ruling, my guess is that ads such as Apple Computer Inc.'s "Rip. Mix. Burn" or Microsoft Corp.'s "Swap Pictures, Music, Video and More" pitch for its instant-messaging service won't be imitated!

Lastly, I believe that this blow against Internet piracy may not be the magic bullet that the music/movie industry hopes will end its problems. A survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that the swapping of music and film files doesn't just happen over file-sharing networks. Some 19 per cent of downloads now happen through someone else's iPod or MP3 player, around 28 per cent take place via e-mail and instant messages. Also, quite apart from file-sharing, one in three CDs sold worldwide is pirated, according to the International Federation of Phonographic Industry. Copyright theft through DVD piracy is equally worrying for the film industry, especially in countries like China, Indonesia and Mexico.

In conclusion, this decision will definitely drive many existing commercial file-swapping companies out of business. Also, this may ultimately make it more difficult to get any kind of file-swapping software. On the other hand, the entertainment companies probably will face a long, slow fight to persuade consumers to alter their habits. An estimated six million people in the United States are using file-sharing networks at any one time and a total of tens of millions of people use such file-sharing networks overall, according to estimates from BigChampagne, which studies online activity. Young music fans have had five years or more to become accustomed to the easy acquisition of free music files that can be easily burned to CDs, transferred to portable music players like Apple's iPod and shared without restriction. Holding technology companies liable for truthful marketing will only encourage disingenuousness. Business models based on customers' vices may be cynical, but they won't go away because the law frowns on them. Consider the effectiveness of alcohol prohibition in the United States. The Supreme Court's decision is understandable, given the law's reliance on precedent. But it fails to account for the unprecedented development of the Internet and computer technology in recent years. Computers are designed to copy and manipulate digital content. Remove that ability and they're no better than televisions. The right to copy needs to be thoroughly reevaluated in light of what technology has made possible and what market demand suggests could be profitable for all involved--if only content owners weren't intent on overvaluing their assets.

So, what would a better system look like? A model such as Apple's iTunes, at a price point that makes sense in an era of instantaneous global distribution, with micropayment-based peer-to-peer file sharing. For example, users would get, say, 5% of the $0.50 sale price of every song downloaded from their computer. Content owners and artists would get paid, as would marketing and infrastructure providers such as Apple. When everyone gets paid, everyone is happy. Just look at Google. It has violated the copyright of every Web site out there by copying and indexing its content. But in return, it offers traffic, which can be monetized. The entertainment industry would do well to realize that sharing could be more profitable than suing.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Jungle Run - Half Marathon

I ran the Jungle Run Half Marathon over the weekend and boy! - it was indeed quite a painful experience. Of course, I wasn't in the best of shapes, but I thought that if I manage to keep my cool and just not think too much about the course, then I should be able to make it easily. However, both my assumptions went off the window the moment the race started. It was a really hot day to start with - so, there was no way in which I could keep myself cool. In fact, before the 3rd mile, I started to feel a little dehydrated. Secondly, the course was not an easy one too - it had quite a bit of uphills - in fact, a few metres into the course is a really tough hill and that kind of sets the pace for the whole course. When I crossed that first hill, I knew I was in for a long grind :).

But in spite of this, I think I did a reasonable job. I kept my focus on finishing the race and not worrying about the time. I was tempted to stop and relax at various stages in the race but I didn't fall for that seduction :). I managed to complete the Half-Marathon in 2hrs:33 mins, which was WAY OFF my best, but it did prove one thing - if you are out of practice, then you are definitely going to lose your speed and stamina.

So, the next step - I need to improve my fitness. Only time will say whether I am successful or not in that venture.

Keep running

Friday, July 08, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Google Toolbar for Firefox

Folks - good news ! The Google Toolbar for Firefox has been officially released as of today. You can get it here. It has pretty much the same features as the latest IE toolbar except of course for things like the popup blocker, because Firefox already has a pop-up blocker inbuilt within the Browser.

Enjoy it !


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

July 4th weekend - Kolkata nostalgia et al

The 4th of July weekend has just passed and it was quite an interesting weekend. The whole of Saturday, I spent in debugging some issue with the laptop and doing some household chores. On Sunday, we had some friends over - we had decided that we would all get together and cook Moghlai Paratha. Everyone wanted to eat but only one knew how to cook ! - the men folks for reasons unknown were relegated to drinking Margaritas and then cleaning up the kitchens while the better halves slogged hard in the kitchen to make sure that the parathas came out well. And boy! - they came out really really good and clearly reminiscent of the snack bars in Kolkata.

In the evening, we all went together to see Parineeta, a movie based on the classic Sarat Chandra Chatterjee novel. The story is based in Kolkata in the 1960s and the director has made sure that Calcutta (as it was then called) is captured in all its grandeur.

So, at the end of the day, most of us were really getting a nostalgic feeling about Kolkata. Moghlai Parathas, Chai, Biscuits, Parineeta, romance .... all this made the weekend quite a memorable one.

-- Thyaga

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Audio Blog - 07/03/2005

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Tango Charlie - what were they thinking ?

We saw a movie called Tango Charlie and at the end of the movie, the only question that I had was what was the director thinking when he made the movie. Of course, I also felt quite stupid sitting through the whole length of the movie - sometimes, I amaze myself indeed :). I don't think there is anything great to write about this movie.

The whole movie revolves around Tango Charlie, the nickname for Bobby Deol's character, Tarun _something_. He is a soldier and he is posted in all parts of India to combat terrorism - Bodos in the NEast, Naxals in Hyderabad, Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat and finally in Kargil. The concept is good - I just wish they had implemented the concept in a better way.

My recommendation - stay away from it if you can :) !

-- Thyaga