Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tony Cozier: the authoritative voice of West Indian cricket

With the passing away of Tony Cozier in Barbados yesterday, the world of cricket commentating has lost a grand, melodious voice.

He was one of the great commentators who made up the BBC Test Match Special team. And, I grew up listening to him, among other like Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Henry Blofeld, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Johnathan Agnew etc. I still listen to Test Match Special.

Tony Cozier, being from Barbados, had the typical accent of that region, referred to sometimes as the Bajan accent. It was a pleasure always listening to him commentating, be it when a batsman cracked the willow and the cherry flew over the ropes, or when the bowler was right on target and blew the stumps away.

Here is a clipping, via Sound Cloud.


Tony Cozier had a phenomenal knowledge of cricket, and it came through in all his writings and commentaries.

West Indies cricket has a romantic charm about it, the Calypsos just being one part of it. Tony Cozier took us closer to that wonderful land far way from here, and entertained us. He was there when West Indies cricket was on top of the world, with Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Gardner, Colin Croft etc. He was there when the great team began to slide, and plummeted to embarrassing lows.

Tony Cozier's voice will forever resonate in memories.

Rest in Peace. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

More Railway stations get high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity

There are now 15 railways stations in India that have free high speed Wi-Fi connectivity. Interestingly most of them are not the big cities. There is no Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, so far.

Other than Mumbai Central, where the service was inaugurated in January, none of them are very big metros.

After Mumbai Central, the stations which got the service are: Pune, Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Ranchi, Raipur, Vijayawada, Kacheguda, Ernakulum Jn, Vishakhapatnam. From yesterday, people passing through five more stations benefit: Ujjain, Jaipur, Patna, Guwahati and Allahabad.

Google keeps it word

It's interesting to note that Google is, not only focusing on mid-tier cities and towns, but also, more importantly, Google is keeping its word; unlike most pronouncements by the governments and politicians.

The internet major promised in December last year that it will in association with RailTel, the telecommunication wing of the Railways, set up free Wi-Fi in 100 railways stations by the end of the year.

This announcement followed an earlier one in September by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the company's Mountain View headquarters, that the company plans to enable 400 railways stations with free Wi-Fi.

Google now plans to extend the project to cover key suburban Mumbai stations, like Dadar, Bandra Terminus, Churchgate, Thane, Kalyan, Panvel, Vashi, Kurla, Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, Borivali and a few others.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Uber drivers in Austin have to undergo fingerprint verification

A law in Austin, Texas, regulating the way Uber and Lyft cab services are run mandates, inter alia, that drivers have to take a fingerprint-based background verification, and wear 'trade dress'. It was put in place by the City Council in December 2015.

But there has been strong opposition to this strict security measure, from various quarters.

Proposition 1 -- to take down the law -- was put to vote and the results have come in. The people have voted to keep the fingerprint verification.

In response to it, Uber and Lyft have now suspended their services in Austin. Their argument is that their own screening is good enough, and a screening by a governmental agency will only make it harder for part-time drivers to operate.

Though this is a very local development in Austin, it's interesting, especially in India, where Uber services are very popular, though not always without controversies.

Drivers running cabs for Uber have got into many criminal cases, in not only in Bengaluru, Delhi and some other cities of India, but also in many places in the US, Europe and Southeast Asia. Though personally, I have never had an issue with a Uber driver, I have heard of people, especially women, having problems.

Secondly, Uber and Lyft had jointly spent $8 million in campaign advertisements urging people to support the proposition (against the law). On the contrary, a group that is opposed to the proposition spent just $100,000.

The results show that the people value their security much more than anything. Expensive advertisements may not really help. When it comes to issues that affect people directly they take independent decisions.

References:

In Forbes, Daily News, TechCrunch

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Celebrating Bengaluru's Namma Metro

The way we (Bengalureans) are celebrating the opening of the full stretch of the East-West corridor just shows how frustrated we are about the traffic. It was inaugurated on March 29, and it was thrown open to the public the next day.

Finally, the bogies are running to packed capacity. Not surprising, considering it runs across around 18 km from one end of the city to the other end, touching key spots like Indiranagar, M G Road, Vidhana Soudha, City Raiway Station etc. It's also proving to be a good feeder service for the Indian Railway and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation,

I only wish the remaining portions of the Phase I are also completed as quickly as possible. The government has said that it will be over by November 1. That would mean the North-South Corridor also be fully functional. And a good segment of the fledgling city will be covered.

Mercifully there are fewer protests against the Metro now, compared to the run-up to the completion of the very first segment from Baiyappanahalli to MG Road, which was inaugurated on October 20, 2011.

After so much dithering and long discussion on the pros and cons of having a metro, the detailed project report was submitted in 2003, work should have begun in 2005, but the final clearance in the form of Union cabinet approval came only in 2006. Then, followed endless protests and court cases. And for the construction of mere 6 km stretch of railway it took five years! Not that it could be done in a jiffy. But lots of time and money was needlessly wasted. Delay means cost escalation.

After the first phase was inaugurated, there was much less protests. Probably, many people understood that the metro is after all good for the people.

But still there are vested and selfish people stalling the project, on some silly issue or the other. Like, who should decide how many trees should be cut.

When we all know that the metro has to come one day or the other, why don't we get the thing up and running fast?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: Beyond Love Lines: Do You Know Jeevan Who Loved Nancy? by Krish

Beyond Love Lines: Do You Know Jeevan Who Loved Nancy?
The disclaimer is that author, Krishna Raj, is my schoolmate. Last month, we had an alumni meet, and during the event, he got a few copies; and all of them were sold out among the alumni.

The book revolves around the life of Jeevan, who had a crush on his neighbour and childhood friend Nancy. But he reads too much into every action her or absence of it, and mistakes them as love. There are many other characters too who come into the story.

Half way into the book, I realised how apt the title of the book is. The story is not actually about the love/ infatuation of Jeevan and Nancy. It is all about the militant uprisings in Kashmir and how Jeevan as an officer in the Indian Army deals with it. The entire relationship issues of Jeevan and others are narrated as flashback.

The author has done well weave the plot and many subplots, the present and the past, without confusing the reader too much. Probably, at a few places, the flashback portion could have been separated with asterisks, as has been done in a few other places.

The story also juxtaposes the ironic difficulty of Jeevan to deal with emotional turmoils with the life-threatening situations in the valley to which he squares so boldly and effortlessly. The novel is truly all about love lines and what lies beyond them.

I found the initial portions a bit slow and lumbering. The narrative is a very easy one, without heavy literary expressions or syntax. A good start for Krishna with his first book.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monday, March 28, 2016

The lady and the coin

A few days ago, I wanted an envelope to place a small gift in it and give it to a friend, at a farewell function. So, I went to a nearby gift store to get one.

On my return, after buying the envelope, just as I entered my apartment block, an elderly gentleman asked me which was the exit in the building. No sooner I had pointed at the door than he asked me where he could get an envelope. (It turned out that he too was heading for the same farewell function, and he too needed a gift envelope.) I told him there is a shop behind the apartment complex. And that I am just returning after buying one for myself.

While I walked a few steps towards the exit to show him the direction to the store, he popped a question: "Could you just come with me?"

The gentleman, who must be in his sixties, was very apologetic. I agreed to to go to the shop with him, but I also suggested he could use the envelope I had bought, and that I shall quickly go back to the store and get another one. Why should he walk all the way to the store, I thought.

But he said no, and cheerfully agreed to walk along with me. As we walked, I told me where he had worked in Bengaluru, and asked me where I lived, where I worked, how long I have been in the city etc. We just quickly got to know each other.

Back at the store, I asked the lady at the counter for anther envelope. The lady is the wife of the man owns the shop.

"Give me a simple cover," the man told the lady, who then offered one which cost Rs 3.

Seemingly satisfied, he took out his purse and offered her coins of Rs 2 and Re 1.

However, a few other coins too dropped on the desk, and the woman's eyes fell on a shining one.

"What is that coin?", she asked.

Before he could reply, came another question: "Can I see it?"

A bit taken aback, he put the coin hurriedly back in the purse.

But the woman was insistent and assured him that she won't take it, but only wants to just see it.

Then he took it out and handed it over to her. She examined it.

"Is it a silver coin?" she was curious.

"No, it's an American cent, a penny," he explained.

She didn't seem to have understood. So, I said, "It is a coin of a foreign country, and not ours."

Then in a sudden turn around, she asked, "Can I have it?"

Why she abruptly wanted to own it, I wondered.

I asked her, "I wonder if it's right to ask for something personal from a customer in this manner!"

She then turned a bit apologetic, and reasoned out. "When I go to Rajasthan, I can show my friends the foreign coin."

"But still, isn't it a personal thing?" I asked her.

She then quickly said, "Uncle might have more such coins at home."

The elderly man, probably not wanting to have with him something that someone is longing for, readily parted with the penny, saying there are many more such coins at home, and that his son works in the US.

As we walked back, the incident left both of us thinking why she suddenly wanted to have the coin for herself.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It is back to cloth bags

No more plastic carry bags in Karnataka. The ban came into force on Monday, March 14.

I am happy that the government is enforcing this rule very strictly, to the extent that corporation officials are visiting shops and confiscating the bags they have. Many shops have put up boards that it's illegal to use plastic bags.

Look at the plastic bags in garbage piles on roadsides. In fact, two years ago, the Supreme Court had urged people to be sympathetic to animals and called for a complete ban on plastic bags, as stray cattle ended up consuming them.

According to the The Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, 15, 000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day, out of which 9, 000 tonnes is collected and processed, but 6, 000 tonnes of plastic waste is not being collected.

Efforts like the recent one, wherein the Union government increased the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 microns to 50 microns, aren't really going to help. The government brought in this change because the thicker bags will be costlier, so that will be a trigger for people to switch to green products. But such efforts aren't going to yield any result. People will just start using the thicker version.

OTHER STATES TOO

In Gurgaon, the municipal corporation is offering discounts for people who shop with cloth bags, under 'Bring your own carry bag' drive.

Two years ago, California became the first state in the US to ban single-use plastic bags as a way to address litter, primarily in waterways.

Punjab and Tripura have banned plastic carry bags.

CLOCK COMES FULL CIRCLE

In a way, the clock has come one full circle. You remember the days when plastic carry bags weren't this popular, and all of us carried cloth bags, before we stepped out to shop?

Then, it was a more organized lifestyle too. No one shopped just because there wasn't anything else to do. Most people shopped because they wanted to buy something, not because they wanted to spent money.

Earlier, many people had a fixed day or a couple of days every week when they made the purchases, and they went prepared for it with a cloth bag. Today, we buy stuff randomly as and when we remember. That could mean shopping on way to office, or way back from office, or at any random time. Needless to say, we wouldn't have a bag to carry stuff back home. And quite naturally, the plastic bag culture set in with our haphazard and erratic shopping culture.

Not all shops have green alternatives, so we have to first remember to have a cloth bag in hand before we step out to the nearby provision store.

Just wondering if the ban will end up in increased online shopping.

Friday, March 11, 2016

DataWind sold more tablets than Samsung in India

DataWind quotes an IDC Report to say that it shipped more tablets in India during the fourth quarter of last year, than its competitors.

As many as 20.7% of the tablets sold in India during that period were by this Canada-based company that makes computer hardware, mainly for emerging markets. It had hit headlines in October 2011, when it manufactured Akash tablets for Government of India priced at just $60, under Rs 3,000 during that time.

According to the report, DataWind was followed by Samsung (15.8%), Micromax (15.5%), Lenovo (13.8%), and iBall (10%).

DataWind quotes another study to say that the company holds 58% market share in the sub-Rs 5,000 tablet segment (approximately $75).

An obviously ebullient Suneet Singh Tuli, president and CEO of DataWind, says the IDC report "demonstrates how our transition to local manufacturing and improvements in our sales channelshas allowed us to meet the phenomenal demand”.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Will you shop online if there are no discounts?

Most of us have shopped online - either on Flipkart or Amazon or Myntra or any other e-commerce site. But why do we shop online? Everyone says it's convenient. But my gut feeling is it's the price factor.

If we plan to buy something, most of us check the online price. The general impression is it's cheap online. Most of us fall for the discount (even if it'sn't very substantial), and click "buy".

Many people buy something online (even if they don't need to buy it) only because they have got a good deal. I know a few friends, who keep looking for them.

After giving lots of discounts, most of these sites, aren't making profits. They are just managing to stay afloat, aided by funds from venture capitalists, who are investing based on extrapolated growth curves.

The moot question is: if the online price is the same as offline, or not considerably less than offline, or if there were no more "daily deals", will people still shop online?

What is your take on this?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Li-Fi: Connect to the Internet using an LED bulb

Imagine an LED bulb doubling up as an access point for connecting to the internet and ordinary light being used as a medium to carry data.

A whole new world wherein a bulb would not only give us light but also help us access the web might not be too far way, if a new technology called Li-Fi (or Light-Fidelity) goes mainstream.

Prof Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh, who coined the term Li-Fi in 2011, demonstrated the new technology to a packed auditorium at the Wipro’s Electronics City campus on Wednesday. He streamed a video from the internet on a laptop using light from an LED bulb to access the web.

Prof Haas said Li-Fi is a disruptive technology that could transform business models, create new opportunities, and is poised to be a $113 billion industry by 2022.

He said that the RF (radio frequency) spectrum will not be enough considering the rate of growth of wireless data communication. The visible light spectrum is much larger. The use of the light spectrum for Li-Fi overcomes the issues in traditional wireless communication, like the shortage of spectrum and network disruption because of interference.

In Li-Fi, anyone who has access to light can access the internet. The system also allows users to move from one light source to another without losing their network connection. What about connecting to the internet in the night? The stream of photos can be reduced to a minimal level that won’t produce visible light but enough to carry data.

Prof Haas said though Li-Fi was poised to compete with Wi-Fi, it is not meant to replace it. “We are not looking at an either-or situation.”

Though the inability of light rays to pass through walls and similar structures is seen as a major drawback of this technology, Prof Haas has a totally different view. He said it’s an advantage since restriction by walls provides more security to the network and eliminates the risk of the signal leakage to eavesdropping.

The Li-Flame, described as the world's first true Li-Fi system, was displayed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March last year. The third generation of products have now been developed and will be on display at the MWC later this month.

WHAT IS LI-FI

Light-Fidelity is a new technology that uses light waves, instead of radio frequency waves, as a medium to carry data. An improvised LED bulb functions as a router

HOW DOES LI-FI WORK

  • An ordinary off-the-shelf LED bulb connected to an device, which in turn is connected to the internet.
  • Internet data flows in via the device into the bulb, and is carried by light waves.
  • At the other end, light waves carrying internet data falls on a receiver or a dongle which is connected to the computer.

BENEFITS OF Li-Fi
  • Visible light spectrum is available in plenty, unlicensed and free to use.
  • Double benefit of a bulb giving us light as well as internet access
  • Low interference leads to very high data speed
  • Li-Fi works under water as well
  • Not harmful, unlike RF that can interfere with electronic circuitry
  • Light won’t pass through walls, making eavesdropping nearly impossible
  • LED illumination is already efficient and data transmission needs very little additional power.
  • It can achieve about 1,000 times data density of Wi-Fi, since light can be contained in an area

PROGRESS CARD
  • July 2011: Prof Harald Haas coins Li-Fi at TEDGlobal
  • Jan 2012: PureLifi founded
  • Sept 2013: Launch of first product Li-1st
  • Dec 2014: Second product Li-Flame developed
  • Nov 2015: Prof Haas demonstrates Li-Fi using solar cells at TEDGlobal
  • Dec 2015: Latest product LiFi-X developed