Thursday, June 23, 2005

FOI: China on the move

* Last year (July 2004) - TCL, a Chinese company that began in 1981 by making cassette tapes, suddenly became the world's largest television set maker, after its takeover of the television business of Thomson of France.

* Last month (May 2005 ) - Lenovo, China's largest computer maker, completed its $1.75 billion for IBM's personal computer business, thus creating the world's 3rd largest computer maker after Dell and HP

* Last week, (June 2005) - a consortium of investors led by Haier Group, one of China's largest companies, acquired MayTag Corporation, the American appliance maker, for about $1.3 billion - surpassing many American investors' bids.

* Today ( June 23rd 2005 ) - the Chinese state-controlled oil giant CNOOC ( China National Offshore Oil Corporation ), offered an unsolicited bid of $18.5 billion for the Californain Oil giant Unocal, whose 73% of natural gas reserves are located around Asia. This bid comes 2 months after Unocal agreed to be sold to the American Energy giant Chevron for $16.4 billion.
Whether Unocal agrees to China's bid or not, whether Chevron raises its bid to counter or not, this is going to provoke a major debate in Washington about the nation's trade policies with China. This is a symbol of China's growing economic power and corporate ambitions.

* Many more in the past, and many more to follow...

Are we in for a new world leader sooner than expected ?


Digital Antigraffiti - a nice theme

NYTimes uncut

This year the annual Webby award ( the online equivalent of Oscar ) awarded by the International Academy of Arts and Science, for the best art site went to Graffiti Archaeology ( , a pictorial study of graffiti covered walls as they evolve.

The creator of this site, Cassady Curtis, is a San Francisco animator , and he hasn't taken all those photographs on the site himself, but just stitched them together to depict history. This site is a pretty cool one to see, when you choose one of the locales decorated by the graffiti, you are shown a recent photograph first, and then you can move backward in time or hop around using the timeline at the bottom of the page.

I believe it was worked on using Macromedia Flash. I found it to be quite a nice theme, that not many would have thought of. Worth a look!


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mobile Video-conferencing - the next big thing

Video conferencing over handhelds seems to be the next big killer app in the wireless industry. Improved wireless device management tools and IP-based video-over-wireless applications were among the future technologies that the attendees at Mobile and Wireless World 2005 conference last week said they expected to see in a few years time.

Videconferencing would be a break-thro' application that would improve communications between people, like enabling them to share technical drawings and other visual information via their handhelds. But it is still in doubt whether the telecommunications infrastructure will be able to reliably support wireless video nationwide for many years. But people would definitely love to talk that way.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

FTP: Formua-1 U.S Grand Prix - 2005, a major debacle!

Yes, it turned out to be a weird and farcical grand prix, something that I've never seen happen before in all my years of dedicated F1 watching. Actually, I did not get to catch the action, or rather, non-action live, as I was travelling that night. And was I glad ? ... well not too sure yet.

How the mess-up unfolded, and my comments on the same, to follow:

Friday: Ralf Schumacher hits a wall after a sudden left tyre failure. For a normal observer, this would have looked nothing strange as it was coming from one of the finest examples to the Principle of Uncertainity. But from an inner angle, Michelin tyres were showing signs of wear.

Saturday: Michelin advises its 7 teams that its tyres cannot be guaranteed for the race, and, in my words, tries to blackmail the FIA by writing to them demanding introduction of an additional chicane to Turn-13. FIA rightly rejects. Why not ? Its Michelin's responsibility to bring suitable and competent tyres, rather than try to bring changes to the circuit. I gladly quote the words of Charlie Whitling, FIA Director in response to Michelin's unsportive request -

"To change the course in order to help some teams with a performance problem caused by their failure to bring suitable equipment would be a breach of the rules and grossly unfair to those teams that have come to Indianpolis with the correct tyres."

I believe that was well said, and experts agree. The track doesnt change dynamically, nor is it different for Bridgestone and for Michelin. They should have been prepared. What else for is there a Constructor's Championship apart from Driver's Championship, if such details are not encompassed within that?
How would it look like if a cricketing team on the eve of a much-awaited match writes to the ICC or the match authorities saying that, some of our bowlers have arm-injuries, so can we have a 25-over match, as aggravating their injuries would be a safety concern for the team. No! They should come with a fit team in the first place.

There were a few options made available to the Michelin teams, like repeated pit-stopping to change tyres, despite the one-tyre rule, as this was a genuine safety conern. But they were not considered. Meanwhile, Bridgestone stands strong :)

Sunday: The 7 Michelin teams withdraw from the race after the formation lap. All the remaining Bridgestone cars complete the race.

Schumacher emerges winner as expected and catches up with Alonso and Raikonnen, still finding himself in a position to compete for the Driver's championship. But as unexpected, (or, was it ? for me it was ) the finishers, including Schumacher and Barrichello were being boo'ed. This I believe, was irrational on the audience's behalf. Why I say this is, I don't get the logic behind mocking at the drivers who completed the race. I agree that Schumacher should not and most definitely will not credit this victory to his guiness history in Formula One. I also agree that if I were amongst the crowd I would have wanted by dollar back, but then what did the crowd expect from these drivers ? Withdraw too ? But why ? Is that fair enough ? In that case, they wouldn't have got to see even 6 cars race. So anyways the race was over. It is not any of these drivers' faults that the other cars could not race, and something so big as the FIA CANNOT make its rules so flexible to succumb to one party's demands.

So all the die-hard booers, I suggest you boo at Michelin, rather than at Ferrari and FIA.

This race was not just a cosmetic failure, has a lot of repercussions impending. What is the future of F1 in US, a market that Bernie Ecclestone was desperate to capture ? What is the future of Michelin ? And most importantly, what is the future of Ferrari in F1-2005 ? -----> Right, they're bouncing back !


The Dialup barrier - Netzero says 'NO MORE!'

Y!Biz uncut

Netzero, the most reknowned and most marketed brand of United Online, announces the launch of Netzero HiSpeed 3G dial-up service, which is going to break the speed barrier between dialup and broadband. This is going to revolutionize the way people surf the web, especially with the Instant On! feature which is an opt-in that allows users to set their computer to dial-in to our servers and prefetch email and other favorite content periodically at any time during the day or night. This facilitates them to access their pre-fetched content whenever they want to without waiting to connect! All these at rates still cheaper than broadband, and other conventionally slower dial-up brands of Internet service.

And most importantly, I worked on this project !


Monday, June 20, 2005

FOI: Outsourcing - is it a real threat ? - McKinsey

McKinsey Global Institute, a research unit known for its views on globalization says that the threat of outsourcing white-collar jobs from the United States, is actually being exaggerated.
Around 160 million service jobs - about 10% of the total world wide employment coule be moved to remote sites because these jobs do not requre:
  • customer contact
  • local knowledge
  • complex interactions with rest of the business modules.
Yet, after a survey conducted over dozens of companies in various sectors ranging from pharmaceuticals to insureres, it concluded that only a small percentage of this were actually willing to outsource. The report estimatest that by 2008, multinational companies in the entire developed world will have located only 4.1 million service jobs in the low-wage countries, which is only 1% of the total number of service jobs in developed ountries.

Some sectors like retail and health care will outsource very less or no jobs to poor countries. Even designers of packaged software which can be easily done by manpower in other countries, will outsource only 18% of their service jobs, becuase moving tasks to faraway sites is not as simple as it sounds.

According to McKinsey's study, it is very difficult to separate business processes into discrete chunks that can be sent away. Managers can be unprepared and unwilling to be working overseas. In some cases, the job might be too trivial to be outsourced. Above all, there may not be sufficient skilled workers in the developing countries available for competent tasks in multinationals.

So, the threat of outsourcing is not really a threat for the United States white-collar jobs.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

UNIX tips for the day - (1)

1. Standard Input to text editor
If you want a command line text editor to read from standard input instead of from a file, use the following:

$> ls -R pipe_symbol vi -

2. To add line numbers to the beginning of every line in a file
$> grep -n . input_file > output_file

3. Searching the man pages for keywords
If the system you are using is configured to support this, you can use man with the -k option to search descriptions of all the man pages . For example,
$> man -k poll

will result in the list of all the pages that contain the string 'poll'

4. Checking if a process is currently running
If you know the pid of the process, you can use the kill command to find out if it is running, without using 'ps -aef grep ' etc.
$> kill -0 pid

If a process with that pid is not running, it would crib saying 'No such process'

5. How do you sleep for less than one second in a C Program in UNIX?
Sleeping for less than one second in UNIX is called 'napping' ( short sleeps) . To achieve it, use usleep(), which suspends execution for n microseconds. If your system doesnt support usleep(), implement it by using select() / poll ();

int usleep(long usec) {
static struct {
long sec,usec;
} delay;

delay.sec = usec / 1000000L;
delay.usec = usec % 1000000L;

return select( 0, (long* 0), (long* 0), (long* 0), &delay);

Labels: polls its community

YBiz Uncut

With the reunion season impending, recently polled its community of friends and acquaintances from schools, work and military. Results revealed that 80% of those polled are planning to attend their reunion. And 57% are looking forward to seeing their best friends and old crushes at their reunion.

Click here for further Reunion Poll key findings.

Classmates had also recently announced to offer alumini rings from Jostens Lifetime which will include a broad selection of personalized high-school rings and select military rings, to help members show their school pride and affiliation. " and Jostens together have the new technology, service and support to provide a superior online shopping experience", is what the CEOs had to say about the blossoming parterneship.


Shares droop on Jefferies downgrade

United Online shares sinked almost 15% to $11.05 on June 1st afternoon. This happened after Jeffereies & Co. lowered its rating on the company to hold from buy in the wake of SBC Communication's decision to drop its monthly fee for digital subscriber line access to $14.95. As to how we should respond to this, Jefferies expects that we should embed the Web accelerator feature which currently costs $4.95 a month more than the basic package which costs $9.95. Or we should probably think of lowering the basic price as well.

Due to the same SBC effect Earthlink's shares also dropped by around 7.7%

Still waiting for the decision on the reaction...


FOI: Tamil Nadu scrubs Entrance examinations

Jesus Christ ! Isin't that one of the worst and most uncalled for decisions taken by the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu ?

Chief Minister Jayalalitha accredits this decision to the claim that rural students would stand better chances in making it to top engineering and medical colleges. According to her, the entrance examinations (TNPCEE, and medical inclusive ) have been creating a lot of stress on students and their parents. So, they are scrubbing it away, with the entrance to the institutes being solely dependant on the higher secondary examinations.

I do agree when they argue that the students in the metros have access to specialized entrance exam training centers, whereas the rural students are under-privileged in this regard. But the solution would be to setup such training centers, probably run by the government, to bring in more facilities to such areas rather than shutting down procedures.

When we weigh the pros and cons of this decision, the cons overweigh in my opinion.
1. Its a known fact that it is much easier to score in the higher secondary as the examination questions do not go off-textbooks. No other skill except by-hearting is required. But the TNPCEE entrance examination so far has been the more challenging to crack. It makes the student work and think.
2. So, the quality of students making it to the College of Engineering-Guindy (Anna University) is definitely going to go down. Its going to become like those schools that just take in people blindly based on the 12th grade marks, which mind you are even easier to manipulate, in states like Tamil Nadu. I tell this, because there have been instances.
3. The two examinations are definitely not of the same caliber or quality. It is not true that a student who exceeds in higher secondary would shine in the entrance exam as well. The 1998 state topper got a ~30/50 in the Maths entrance exam if i remember right.
4. What is the future of institutes like IIPE, Excel, ICE, Brialliants. etc ? which run the industry coaching students only for entrance emams.
5. How would it be if the IIT's shut down JEE, and reach a conclusion to take in people based on their higher secondary scores ? :-)
6. So, there would be no such thing called cut-off now, which used to include a factor of higher secondary marks in the majors and the entrance examination marks. So how would the students be ranked now ? based on their total marks ? or only marks in majors ? if the latter is true, theres going to be huge clashes.

Just waiting for DMK to bounce back...I hope they do.