27 September, 2009

Climate change up close and personal

One of my parents old friends visited us last week for about half a day. They used to live close by to our house in Ledo, Assam for about 7 years and have kept in touch ever since. They have since moved to Calcutta. Uncle has worked in tea estates all his life and continues to work as a director for a tea company with estates in northern Bengal.
It is always great fun to meet them. Some of my father's friends are from Telco, Jamshedpur or earlier. I was around 7 when we left Telco, which is why I dont remember any of them. However, with Raghu uncle and Shiela aunty, it is very different. I remember meeting them for the first time as well in Assam and most of the time I have spent in their house. They had a typical tea planter's bungalow. As with many tea bungalows in Assam, all of this had been built long before independence - a time when all the tea managers were British.The bungalow had 2 lawns, each the size of two tennis courts, a vegetable garden the size of a football field, a temple and a swimming pool. There was a separate cooking area and two staircases, one for the sahibs and one from the back for the servants. I was taught how to swim in this pool. Every summer, the pool would be cleaned and filled up. I would reach their house soon after breakfast and swim for a few hours with their son - Akshay. We would break for lunch (heavy) and an afternoon nap(deep). We would be in the pool again in the evening. Uncle and Aunty would also join us later in the evening. At times, even my parents joined. Those were long, happy days.
I asked him if he had seen any changes in the climate in the years in the tea plantations. His job is very close to nature. Tea grows in Assam well because of the climate. It needs a lot of rain (about 100cm a year) in well distributed installments, in a somewhat cool climate and needs great drainage so that the rain water does not settle. Because of this, the entire industry is also a dedicated climate watcher. Tea estates keep detailed daily records for rainfall and temperature. He said that the changes were very, very visible. The temperature regularly crossed into the 40s, where only ten years ago, the yearly maximum used to be around 37 degrees. Rains are now less predictable. He also said that animal habits were changing. Wild elephants and bisons strayed more often into the estates as their forests are getting encroached upon. Entire species of birds were vanishing. Some of the estates used to become a resting place for bees. Every winter, thousands of bees would fly in from Sikkim and make over a hundred hives all through the estate. They have not returned for over two years.
There would be millions of such stories of people who feel a tangible impact of climate change. I cant help but notice that city dwellers like me with oil powered cars and oil powered electricity feel only a negligible impact of climate change.
Speaking of earth-shaking changes, I have a big personal one to add.
I am getting married. The dates are not cast in stone yet, but the person is. She is an absolute delight to be with. I will upload pics when I have some. All my readers (all 5 of you) are invited to the wedding. More details to follow.

23 September, 2009

Diditz @ DEMO

Diditz made it at Demo today. It is an app made and financed by a few friends of mine. It comes as a standalone social network as well as a facebook application. It links up very well with existing communities and walls on facebook and helps organisers tap into search engine traffic to promote their events.

I think it is very cool. TC missed covering it but it still looks to go places.

19 September, 2009

I dreamed a dream....(the same dream again!)

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living...

(Susan Boyle sang it out and swayed so many people - me included - I had heard this song for the first time with some of my friends falling asleep on my shoulder in a theatre in London and impact was no where close to Ms. Boyle on a 14" youtube window)

Then I was young and unafraid
Dreams were made and used and wasted.....
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

I had a dream my life would be
So different from what I'm living....

Anyway, this post is about a dream but somehow thinking about dreams and i started thinking about the last few lines of this song. It is not a repetitive dream, but there is this particular theme (se1) around which I dream about everytime there is going to be some change in my life. I have mentioned this earlier (here and here). In fact, given my lucid dreaming tendencies, last night, when I was having another one of these dreams, I was not even surprised. It was more like a "here we go again" moment for me. But I thought I will write about it to make sure that I record this for future introspection etc.
Why this dream?
If my head was a personal computer, remembering something is like accessing a hard drive and then playing it after decoding the file. A dream is also about accessing the same hard drive, but using more fuzzy decoders and maybe even about accessing different parts of the hard drive. The point is that this is a closed system. There is nothing new going in, especially if you are dreaming about the past. The only inference is that such points in my life always activate this particular set of memories in my head.
Or not even that.

08 September, 2009

My Home Theatre PC - Oh yeah! (Part 1.5)

It has been over just over two weeks and things are looking very good so far with the system. My parents and my sister are getting used to it and I am very happy to note that even my mother is using the system as a PC to check emails and surf the internet.
The things left to write about are the power supply, TV card (not yet purchased), Software and final configration. I think I can not really write about all this just yet because the TV card is not here yet, the different software are being tested and the final configurations need DDR2 1033Mhz memory chips which I have not been able to get yet.
I went to Mumbai for the weekend and came back. The main purpose of the trip was to meet NK - even though that did not happen, I ended up having quite a good time. I met VM and some of her P&G gang, Chaku + Chaki + Sid (who is the friendliest kid I have come across so far), spent loads of time with Mama and also met up with the Pingus and the Aruls. It was a nice lazy weekend with both days beginning with a hearty breakfast at Candys and both evenings ending with a whiff of Laphroaig. Mama was good fun as always and I will miss him a bit when he gets married - though I am hopeful that things dont change much and I can still pileon as and when I want to.
I guess half of the men get married because they fall in love ( and with the six people involved being all in agreement at the same time) and the other half of men get married because they have no one left to hang out with.*
I like Bandra in the rains. Mama's latest pad is just off carter road on Pali hill and it is a very leafy and spacious (yes spacious) neighbourhood. I could reach the sea without encountering any sunlight, long stretches of the road completely covered with leafy green trees on both sides. People were all caught up in their own acts studiously trying to relax and unwind by lazing around, meeting friends, lounging at the promenade, walking slowly in the constant monsoon gusts.

I had to meet a potential future client at the Taj Lands end and the security at the gate reminded me of the Nov 29 terrorist attack. How quickly life has moved on since then for us, the audience, while the survivors would be having trouble facing each day. (posting a link for a well made  documentary which was aired by the BBC but did not receiveany media coverage in India).

We did a quick drive of the new Bandra Worli sealink with Mama cribbing about how India always thought small and never over the top (As the sealink has only 4 lanes while it should actually have 16). All in all, a great trip. I think I am going to be able to visit college also thanks to Mama's wedding in Kerala end of November. It might be a trip with Chaku and co which should be great fun and I am looking forward to it.

*I have tried to be in the first category but I guess I will end up in the second.

03 September, 2009

My HTPC (internal pic - 1)

You will say that this does not deserve a blog post of its own.

I beg to differ.
In the picture, a top view of the motherboard, the hard disc (centre bottom) and the cdrom cabinet (right bottom). Also visible are the 2 cabinet fans and the CPU fan (which covers the CPU).

01 September, 2009

My Home Theatre PC - Oh yeah! (Part 1)

My home theatre PC - or the centre of my world is finally up and running. It is a very long story and I will only give you highlights.

The aim was to own a PC which would do the following
1) Play movies/DVDs/CDs and also TV
2) Play music
3) Be a living room centrepoint and not a study room artifact (aka Look cool)
4) Be silent
5) Surf the internet
6) Have a remote in place of a mouse and a wireless keyword
7) Download everything
8) Record everything including TV shows (without ads)
9) Cost less than $1000
10) Run on open source but without any compromises

(Note how gaming is missing from the list above)

It took me 18 months to finally decide upon what I needed to buy. After that, I needed about 4 weeks to get everything in one place and about 5 hours to assemble it.This is what I came up with.
There is a lack of many such options in India except for some boxes which I saw on ebay. They were usually intel based and were not really close to the kind of system I had in mind. I was also not able to find too many systems in the US which I liked, though there is a lot of choice. I found this where the computers ranged from $429 to $3299, all were Intel based (nothing against intel but I think you can get the same computing power for lesser on AMD), had things which I rather not pay for (touchscreens, warranties, expensive video cards) and did not have things which I would have wanted to have.

The writing was on the wall - To get what I want, I had to make it myself.
I had to assemble my own computer. Computer engineer I am, but I am and have always been concerned with bigger issues
(Always tended more towards the later Vinod Dham and less towards his earlier days when he designed the pentium chip) and have been able to live for 4+8 years (college,since college) without assembling a single computer. In any case, I had to do what I had to do and I dived in for quite detailed research on the following items:

Motherboard and chip
You have to decide on the motherboard and the chip together. Gone are the days when all chips went into all motherboard for a particular type (long long gone). AMD and Intel both have their own families. Motherboards do a lot nowadays. They have on-board sound and video cards (which means that if you like, you dont have to buy these cards separately), support for a lot of input and output formats (HDMI, DVI, VGA, Stereo, Digital Audio and so on) and give power to cooling fans, Hard discs etc.
I chose an Asus motherboard - not top of the line, but with excellent reviews and with support for a 3.0Ghz AMD chip. The motherboard has three features which I really liked
- You can surf the internet, listen to music, play DVDs without loading windows if you like
- You can shut down parts of the CPU if you want to cut down power consumption
- You can run a memory chip of speeds upto 1033Mhz
The chip I selected was the AMD quad core Phenom 940. (What it means is a quad core chip with a speed of 3.0Ghz)

The PC cabinet has to to look good, make less noise, dissipate heat and support a remote while housing a lot of things inside it - chip, motherboard, power supply, hard disc(s), CD/DVD/Blue ray drive(s). The cabinets can only support motherboards of a particular size and form factor (ATX or miniATX) and also have a fixed number of hard disc and drive bays. They also can house a power supply of a given size and have a fixed number of fans for cooling. They have to have a particular design and noise absorbing components.
I chose an Antec cabinet - dull black, with separate internal compartments for power, HDD and motherboard, 3 fans, a small LCD display, a volume control knob and an i-mod remote.

(Still to write about - Power supply, TV card, Software, Final configuration)

London, Scotland, Bizdev and other stories.

All of a sudden, this one is one of three blogs which I have to write on. There is a blog on Envigo and I have been asked to write on a website called asiaonlinemarketing.com which is a novel way of subjecting a new set of unsuspecting audiences with my writing.
A lot happened this week and I am still figuring it all out. A lot has been happening in life overall as well. I was in the UK for two weeks - with a short holiday to Scotland in the middle. It was my third trip to Scotland. However, this time, I hiked and also went to a whiskey distillery (called Dalwhinnie) - things which I had somehow not been able to do earlier.
London summer was fun - though quite hectic because of the work. I have decided to visit London more often as I always end up getting some work from the UK for us.
Bizdev otherwise has been slow - sort of flattening out. I am speaking with NK - figuring out a way for some more work to come my way with him.