Thursday, September 29, 2005 

This too, shall pass

Image: This too shall pass

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it."

"If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?"

"It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of he poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: _gimel, zayin, yud_, which began the words "_Gam zeh ya'avor_" -- "This too shall pass."

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

Something to remind oneself of, everyday.


Amazing Science Images

A couple of images from the world of science. Culled from BBCs "top 10 science images of the year" collection.

Salt and Pepper: A picture of a grain of salt and a grain of peppercorn.

Image: Peppercorn and a grain of salt

Clippy: A picture of a paper clip floating on water.

Image: Paper clip floating on water

View the entire collection here at the beeb.

Monday, September 19, 2005 

I am India

My CEO recently forwarded a poem about India he saw in a magazine some 30 years back. He clipped it and saved it. Amazing how it remains as (maybe more) true today as it was then.

I detonated a device that rocked the world.
But I have yet to shake my sleeping millions awake.

My bigotry sundered a subcontinent in two.
But I have given man his most tolerant Faiths.

I grew up unlettered and illiterate I shall die.
But I have schooled a hundred million children.

My life is a trauma of permanent hunger.
But I have created protein from sugarcane bagasse.

I perish in my thousands of cholera and typhoid.
But I have led the team which discovered aureomycin.

My industry stagnates because I will not work.
But I have leapt a hundred technological years in twenty.

I walk in the footsteps of a man called Mahatma.
But I have loved the teacher more than his teachings.

Freedom was the paradise I promised my poor.
But they halved the reward by doubling their numbers.

I was born in a palace plundered and sacked.
But I have made of the ruin the home I love called India .

I am sad.
But I am glad.
I am.

Ours is a magnificent land.
We must build a magnificent future.

Think Ahead.

Very touching. The bit about Gandhi is especially relevant in these troubled times.

I do not know who wrote this. If you know, do comment below so I can properly credit him/her.

Sunday, September 18, 2005 

Why i love the open source folks :-)

Well, at least one of the reasons., the central server hosting linux sources, was recently moved to a university building in Oregon (This server is the equivalent of what in Microsoft would be a maximum-security, Mission-Impossible-style "apparatus", holding the Microsoft Windows source code). This is what the people in charge had to say about the move:

Last night, Peter Anvin took (hera) down and handed it off to his friend, Javier. This morning, Javier flew it up here to Corvallis in his Cessna Skylane. This is the first time the OSL has had a server hand-delivered by plane, and so we were giddy as schoolgirls.

For effect, let me translate this into what a press release from Microsoft/Sun/Oracle/etc announcing a central repository move would sound like:

On friday, Boring Corporation Inc announced they have completed a major reorganization of their core business operations, including moving the Central Repositories to a new, radiation hardened location, somewhere in the nevada desert. This move was conducted under complete secrecy and security, in consultation with the NSA. The plane used for transfer was a higher security version of Air Force One.

BCI also revealed this move will allow it to leverage its core competentcies better, enhance share holder value. Analysts expect BCI stock to rise in the coming few weeks. The server move was deliberately timed for close of business on friday to discourage any panic selling in the stock market.

The entire move cost an estimated $200 Million. This move will enhance productiivty and so allow to BCI to cut another 10,000 jobs.

I think i like the linux version better

Saturday, September 17, 2005 

Road Not Taken: My creed

My favorite poem, "Road Not Taken". Seems something I would have written if I werent so poetically-challenged

Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

- Robert Frost, 1915

Beautiful words for a life less ordinary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 

Why Gtalk?

After remaining quiet, slow but steady for many years after its inception, google finally charged up the flux capacitors and launched a dozen or so new products in a heartbeat. Practically all of those products leverage googles traditional strengths in the search and massive database area. Google has this amazingly scalable google file system which allows them to host and serve huge amounts of quasi-static content efficiently, quickly, and most importantly, inexpensively. Put together with their extensive use of AJAX technologies, which reduces the processing load on their servers and reduces the bandwidth bill, google completely changed the economics of massive web applications. They demonstrated it to perfection with their 2+ GB email service, Newsgroup service, Google Maps, Google Video, Blogging service, Photo hosting service etc. All of these have in common a few basic facets:

  • They require humongous amounts of server space
  • Content, once stored on servers, does not change quickly (unlike, say a credit card database)
  • These are services which people expect to not have to pay for.
  • These services bring with them a lot of eyeballs, and have infinite potential for viral marketing.
Given Google already had a good revenue stream through their enterprise search products and Ad serving business, as long as Google captures enough eyeballs (and serves them relevant Ads), the whole strategy was working out fine. Microsoft tried to increase the mailbox size in hotmail to somewhere around Gmail sizes, but they soon ran into architecture level issues, and have yet to complete a roll out of even 25MB spaces to all its users, let alone 100 times that as google provides. In short, its not easy to beat google on these turfs.

Then came Gtalk. This is a unique offering from google in many respects:

  • All other google offerings are best-in-class (or almost so): Gtalk is a sorry excuse for a textchat/voicechat client, with a feature set none of the zillions of Free chat projects on sourceforge would be proud of. No smileys, no user profile access, no ticker service (well, not that i am complaining, but u get my drift), no file xfer, no webcam.
  • All other google offerings involve they obtaining information about your web usage and then serving you with nice little unobtrusive ads based on your interest: Gtalk could potentially offer such an opportunity, but inserting ads in the middle of conversations would be "icky" and could back fire. There is, of course, no question of serving ads based on the content of voice chat (atleast with current technology).
  • As mentioned, all other offerings leverage the amazing GFS: Gtalk does not build upon anything which is unique to google, thus making it a "me too", in contrast to the other services which were worlds best practically at launch.
Thus, in my not-so-humble-opinion, the reasons for googles launch of Gtalk are a bit of a mystery. Here I will try and expound (rather pompish, that, eh? ) on what I believe their reasons could be:

  • Cause they can: Gtalk does not add a lot to their resource useage. Having a chat service adds to the already-ridiculously-inflated worth of a gmail account/invite.For people who like a massive mailbox, but also love chat/talk, this allows them to stay within the google fold.
  • Useful addition to their Gmail notifier: I never really took to the gmail notifier, seemed too much of a luxury to run a full application just to ping a mailbox. With Gtalk, the notifier comes built in, and there is a genuine value addition to keeping that app running at all times.
  • As a first step towards getting a permanent foothold on user Desktops: While desktop search and its new sidebar does that admirably for advanced and power users, it doesnt penetrate the general masses. Gtalk can help there. A later version of Gtalk can incorporate the sidebar(now that would be nice), thus allowing google full time access to the user finally (this having been their biggest weakness vis-a-vis Microsoft). Of course, how they plan to make money off it is still a question.
  • To commoditize voicechat/voip: While Google has a history of following open standards whenever possible, building their whole gtalk service on a completely open protocol is still a surprise, and something which none of its competitors has dared to do. Using the jabber protocol implies that right from the start, one doesnt need the official gtalk client to use the Gtalk network, all open source jabber clients are already Gtalk clients. This could lead to some very interesting hacks. But biggest of all, this implies that making any kind og money out of text/voice chat just got even more difficult. This could be just a disruptive attempt to wrest away a little bit of desktop control from Yahoo/Microsoft, even if google doesnt directly gain what it took away from these two.

What do you think Googles motivation is for Gtalk? Can they beat MSN/Yahoo? Are they even trying to?


Intelligence and Deja Vu?

I had a periphany: I generally "suffer" thru extremely frequent bouts of "deja vu", sometimes 5-10 times a day, usually very intense. Practically every other thing I see or do, I get a feeling I have thought or seen it earlier. I happened to discuss this with a few friends of mine, and I found quite a few who had a similar problem (with a similar intensity). I kept wondering about it.

Then, today I was reading something, and I had a mild attack of deja vu, which led me to think I had read the same thing earlier. That was obviously not possible as I was reading a recently published paper. I worked on the thought, and for a change I managed to have it crystallized. What I found was I had actually read another paper with a similar vein, but in a completely different scientific domain (that old paper was in Math, the new paper was in psychology). But this deja vu attack allowed me to mentally link up the concepts in these two papers and come up with a completely new insight (writing it up, yeah!).

This got me thinking, and I realized there was a pattern to the set of people I knew who suffered from frequent deja vu, and those who didn't. The ones who shared my problem were ones who I invariably regarded as "brilliant", like myself (so long, Ms Modesty Blaise ). These people were ones who you could trust to always come up with innovative ideas, sprout brilliant analogies, scored high at analytical reasoning and just had fun at work cause of all that.

Makes we wonder: Is Deja Vu just a conscious manifestation of a sub-conscious brain process that helps us analyze, correlate, create analogies, make intuitive/non-linear leaps? Is there any known/possible relationship between how badly one suffers from Deja Vu, and how "analytical" a person is, or is it just me trying to call a bug a feature?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 

Hydrogen briquet?

How fortuitously timed given the gasoline price situation: The energy source of the future: Hydrogen Tablets!


Communications and World Peace

A friend recently forwarded this amazing (award winning) ad from an Italian Telecom major.

Truly. Just Imagine!

About periphany

  My digital pensieve.
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