Monthly Archives: February 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview @Barcelona

I am not in Barcelona today, I wish I was there for the Consumer Preview launch of long awaited Windows 8 from Microsoft. I am super excited, the last I felt so was when I was waiting to get my hands on Windows 95 & then for Windows XP.

Microsoft decided not to do a live webcast, not sure whether the recordings will be made available later. I am writing this blog post by following the proceedings from the superb live coverage by The Verge. With in few months of their launch, The Verge has become my technical news site of choice, I seem to be visiting it few times every day.

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(Couldn’t help to notice the sofa used for sitting and demo’ing the Windows 8, the idea and the design of the sofa is strikingly similar to the one used by Steve Jobs in the original iPad launch. I see nothing wrong in getting inspired on good ideas, especially this one that is communicating the relaxed use-case for a Windows 8 device)

Microsoft talked in detail on their no compromise with Windows 8 – you don’t need to choose between Keyboard and Mouse or Touch, it can be both. PCs & Windows always have been about choice. I liked their USPs which show how Windows 8 is different from say iPad – features like side by side apps, sharing of information with Charms & Search within apps. I think these are certainly big limitations of iOS today and so pluses for Windows 8. Microsoft highlighted their point that “When you use one app, all the other apps get better”

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In the Windows Store all apps will be free during Consumer Preview, so immediately install Windows 8 and rush to Windows store for downloading.

I like the new devices they showcased today, especially the new lighter and thinner machine. They even showed a machine with a port that is motorized and comes out, cool isn’t it. In the picture below of a Ultrabook look at the display (top) it is so thin, I can hardly find it in the picture.

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Look at this giant screen below which was flipped from being Vertical to being flat to the ground in seconds, kind of like surface, super cool.

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I like the new Storage spaces feature, ability to keep adding new storage devices and all of them getting pooled into one giant storage with no need to backup, fit and restore. Microsoft has been trying to do something similar to this for ages with Windows and Windows Home Server, but never got it main stream. Over the years, my experience of using a Windows Software mirroring has been mixed. Windows To Go, the ability to run Windows from a USB stick is exciting & can turn out to be quite useful.

It was good to see availability of lots of Apps already, including Kindle (which they demoed) and Facebook & others (which only icons were seen).

You can download all the bits from the list below (Kudos to Microsoft Operations, all the downloads happened for me immediately & were fast, just few minutes of announcements, great work in scalability):

Finally, a full review of Windows 8 is here by The Verge & a Preview from Microsoft here.

Chennai Trade fair 2012

I like going to the annual Chennai Trade fair (38th India Tourist Industrial Fair as it is called) that happens every year in Island Grounds, Chennai – past postings for 2009 and 2007.  This year I have an added reason to go, to try my newly learnt Photography skills. I tried going there yesterday, being a Sunday it was crowded to the brim. No parking till Gymkhana club/Pallavan House, so I went home. But I returned today with a vengeance, armed with my newly bought Nikon TelePhoto Zoom lens (55mm-300mm). It was evening around 6PM when I entered with my son, place was sparsely crowded and spent next three hours going through Government department stalls, shops and kid rides. The place on the other side of Kuvam River was swamped with the militant “Chennai” mosquitos, so go fully covered and with a good application of mosquito repellents. 

I was surprised on how few Government stalls were really informative like the Fire & Rescue, Police. In the Fire & Rescue Department the staff manning it were friendly and took effort to explain about “Saving life in a Sewage Canal” and on the “Fire Triangle”, good kid friendly stuff.

If you ask me about rides I did – No Giant wheel or Roller coaster for me, what’s the point of spending money to get scared the hell out of me!

Chennai Trade Fair - Anna Kalaiarangam

Firemen from Tamil Nadu Fire & Rescue explaining on the Fire Triangle

Photo shot by my son, I am proud!

This boy (name was Raja) in a shop posed for me voluntarily with a mask

 

The yummy chilly snack (பஜ்ஜி)

iPad in the enterprise & Windows 8

It is no news iPad has taken over the world by storm, with 55 Million units sold in just under 2 years this is phenomenal. For entertainment and consumption of content no other portable device has come closer to iPad. Microsoft & Bill Gates have pioneered and spent enormous resources on Windows Tablets for over a decade now, but they didn’t get one secret sauce right – the secret was ease of use and not power. I have a iPad2 and love the device for its simplicity & convenience. Apple got the formula right due to several reasons – correct timing, technology was available in 2010 to make it happen; iOS hides the technical complexity nicely, never showing or asking the user to make configurations or choices; the device is compact and the fact you can carry it effortlessly makes it approachable and friendly to non-techies. My mother who is in her 70s is averse to any technology more complex than a TV Remote (simpler one), over the years I have tried to make her use various devices so that she can consume her favourite Music, Movies & Family Photos. Whether it was XBOX with Windows Media Center or Netbooks or Google TV or even Apple TV she always felt a fear to spend more than few minutes to understand and try it. But with an iPad she took to it immediately, I think this was due to its use of natural gestures of using touch to control it. The same goes with Preschool kids, Doctors & Teachers.

Now its the turn of Enterprises to go with iPad. Over the last few months there are news of more Enterprises developing their internal & LOB Apps for iPad, 83% of businesses planning to deploy iPads. Apple shows many examples (pictures below) including GE deploying many of their enterprise apps for iPad, British Airways making an impact to passenger experience through use of iPad. All of these use cases are possible with other technologies (and Windows 8 has everything in theory to do these work loads better) but the fact is that iPad is doing it today & solving problems that no one saw before. Apple was initally slow but now is taking advantage of this momentum in enterprises, spicing up their business side with increasingly decent content on support & new resources.

And all this is not limited to Western world, I am hearing first hand from Indian Enterprises (Automobiles, Manufacturing & Media)  whose IT departments are planning to replace Laptops given to their CXOs and A-Level Executives with iPad for ease of maintenance. I am not sure whether this can be extended beyond corner offices whose occupants have their Secretaries carry a laptop and do all the productivity work. Even if MS Office (as rumoured) comes to iPad or to Windows 8 on ARM (WOA), you can’t be productive in creating Documents or manipulating Spread sheets without a Keyboard & Mouse, instead of trying that clumsy combinations you are better off with a regular PC/Mac for these workloads. Of course majority of the workforce in Enterprises do this kind of work from 9 to 5.

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Windows 8

Though many have criticised Apple for the walled garden approach of iTunes & App Store (I don’t like it at times like when it comes to Photos management), it is an important reason for the success of iPad. Microsoft in my opinion pioneered this integrated App Store model way back in 2002 with XBOX Live, but then over the decade they missed seeing the obvious and extending it to their PC, Phone & Enterprise software. Many in Media report this due to politics between divisions in a large company like Microsoft. I am happy that at least now in 2012 they are doing things right with Windows 8 & Windows Phone. Especially with WOA (Windows on ARM) and Windows Phone 8 Apollo (Rumoured) they seem to be not going for shortcuts but taking some big, audacious moves that I feel are right. We will have to wait and see how the market accepts them. I don’t see the race to be over yet in Tablets & PCs (may not be in Mobile where Android is leading in market share), Microsoft still has a good chance to play (and even lead this space) if they execute and deliver flawlessly. So far Windows 8 appears impressive but its not only the OS that is important, it is the entire ecosystem, especially their hardware partners to innovate and come with devices that people aspire for is key. In the Enterprise space with Windows 8 I feel Microsoft has an inherent advantage with their Windows Server, Active Directory, Exchange Server & other enterprise software all of which they can leverage in favour of their Tablets for Enterprises. But for consumers I am still clear on what’s going to be their compelling offering that will match & excel iTunes (Music, Movies and Apps), eagerly waiting for Feb 29th so that we may know more about this with the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Closing comments

All this battle between Apple, Microsoft & Google technology boundaries are being pushed at ever greater speeds and consumers are getting benefited enormously. And that’s for sure. Without competition any industry stagnates and it is more true for IT Industry. So let the guns roll, cannons be fired and the best minds win!

Applications of Tamil IT–A.M.Jain College

சில நாட்களுக்கு முன் சென்னை மீனம்பாக்கம் அகர்சந்த் மான்மல் ஜெயின் கல்லூரி தமிழ்த்துறையிலிருந்து ஒரு அழைப்பு. அந்த கல்லூரி எங்கே இருக்கிறது என்றே எனக்கு தெரியாது. அழைத்த முனைவர், வரும் வியாழக்கிழமை  கணித்தமிழும் பயன்பாடும் என்ற தலைப்பில் ஒரு கருத்தரங்கம் நடத்துகிறோம். உங்கள் நண்பரும் கணித்தமிழ்ச் சங்கத்தின் தலைவருமான திரு.மா.ஆண்டோ பீட்டர் பேசுகிறார், நீங்களும் பேச வேண்டும் என்றார்கள். நம்மையும் ஒரு கல்லூரியில் அழைக்கிறார்களே அவர்களை ஏமாற்றக்கூடாது என்பதால் சரி என்று சொன்னேன்.

அங்கே போனவுடன் தேனீர் அருந்தும் போது தான் புரிந்தது, இது பிரபலமான சென்னை எ.எம்.ஜெயின் கல்லூரி என்று, அசடுவழியாமல் முன்பே தெரிந்ததுப் போல் சமாளித்துவிட்டேன். சென்னைவாசியான நமக்கு சமாளிக்கவும் உதார்வுடவுமா சொல்லித்தர வேண்டும்!.

சென்னை எ.எம்.ஜெயின் கல்லூரியில் 16ந் தேதி மாலை 3 மணிக்கு 'கணித்தமிழும் பயன்பாடும்'

கருத்தரங்கிற்கு கல்லூரியின் புலத்தலைவர் (Dean) முனைவர்.ஜி.கே. பிரான்சிஸ் தலைமை வகித்தார். திரு.மா.ஆண்டோ பீட்டர் ‘கணினியும் தமிழும்’ என்ற தலைப்பிலும், நான் ‘கணித்தமிழ் வழி வேலைவாய்ப்புகள்’ என்ற தலைப்பிலும், தமிழ்த்துறை ஆலோசகர் முனைவர். இரா.இராசேந்திரன் ‘இணையத்தமிழ் வளர்ச்சி’ என்ற தலைப்பிலும் பேசினர்.

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என் பேச்சு மாணவர்களுக்கு ஆர்வமாகவும் அதே சமயம் பயனாவும் இருக்க வேண்டும் (அச்சத்தில்) என்பதால் மொழியில் தேர்ச்சியடைவதால் பயன்கள், அதனால் கிடைக்கும் வேலை வாய்ப்புகளைப்பற்றி சுருக்கமாக சொன்னேன். இன்று எல்லாத்துறையிலும் கணினித்திறமை எப்படி அவசியமோ, அதுப்போலவே தான் மொழியில் தேர்ச்சியும் அவசியம், குறிப்பாக அரசுத்துறையில், ஊடகங்களிலும், தொலைத் தொடர்பு நிறுவனகளிலும், விளம்பரத்துறையிலும், நுகர்வு பொருள்கள் விற்பனைச் செய்யும் பன்னாட்டு நிறுவனங்களிலும் (FMCG) வேலைகள் கிடைக்கும். தமிழ் தெரிந்தால் இங்கேல்லாம் தமிழ் எழுத்தாளர் வேலை தான் கிடைக்கும் என்றில்லை அது உங்களை தனித்து அடையாளம்காட்ட உதவும், அது தான் நம் வளர்ச்சிக்கு முக்கியம். இன்று குறைந்தளவு ஆங்கில அறிவு கட்டாயம் தேவை, இன்னும் ஒரு பத்தாண்டுகளில் சீனா மொழியும் கூட தேவைப்படலாம், ஆனால் என்றும் ஒரு அளவிற்கு மேல் நம்மை எடுத்துச் செல்ல தாய் மொழி தான் உதவும் என் சொன்னேன்.

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பொறுமையாக கேட்ட மாணவர்களுக்கும், என்னை அழைத்த கல்லூரி நிர்வாகத்திற்கும் என் நன்றிகள்.

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Shathapthi Express & Bangalore station

Travelling to Bangalore from Chennai has been one of the easiest by flight before 2001 and the resulted tight Airport securities. In those days, I have done many morning-evening same day return trips leaving home at 5:30AM and coming back home at 8PM. As Bangalore’s traffic grew exponentially and the change to the new Bengaluru International Airport happened, it made these trips difficult. It takes you to travel from Airport to City (or other way) about 2 hours even by Vayu Vajra buses, which I like. 

Today for a business meeting around 12PM, I travelled by Shathapthi Express (Train 2007) from Chennai that reached Bangalore at 10.55AM and returned back by Shathapthi (Train 2008) that left Bangalore city at 4:20PM. The journey was comfortable with food being served more than a full-service Airline all throughout the 5 hour journey. The coaches & toilets were clean, ride was smooth & seats comfortable. This is my third or fourth travel by Shathapthi to Bangalore & highly recommend it for travelling in this sector.

Shathapthi Express

During the return ride from Bangalore to Chennai, I watched the movie “The Help” in my MacBook Air, I love train journey just for this luxury, no need to shutdown during take offs and landings & you can charge your laptop without being in Business class.

While boarding in Bangalore City, I strolled into a small Railway Museum displaying olden days Railway equipment & tools. This is a good attempt by South Western Railways, most stations should have one to encourage kids to learn about history and design for future. Its a free entry, nothing kept here is fragile or expensive but still there were two railway staff manning the museum – proving Indian Railways tradition.

Token Pouch used as token by drivers - Bangalore City Station Museum

Calling bell to call station master - Bangalore City Station MuseumBlock Instrument - Bangalore City Station Museum

Every time I go to Bangalore City station and walk down between the platforms in the subway I feel like taking it a photograph – I like that long subway, it gives a feeling of exploration.

Subway between platforms in Bangalore city station

Lastly, this bright red coach painted with Mysore Sandal soap advertisement was looking so beautiful on the tracks that I immediately clicked it. I wish they paint all train coaches with more of these bright colours and nice pictures.

Bright red train coach in Bangalore city station

The Help

The movie “The Help” released in 2011 is one of the movies nominated for several awards for this year Oscar. I read about the movie in this article in “The Economist” about servant’s shortage in Brazil. The movie is based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett & is based on 1960s Mississippi in USA where how black maids were treated around the Civil Rights movement’s time period. This movie is one more in the list of Hollywood’s recent obsession to 1960s – remember the TV Serials Mad Men, Pan Am and movies like A Single Man.

Though Emma Stone plays the lead character Skeeter Phelan, a budding white writer who is trying to find her career, it is Viola Davis who steals the thunder in the movie. Viola appearing as an experienced black maid Aibileen delivers an imposing performance throughout the movie & is a perfect candidate to win an Oscar this year. Skeeter is one of the few people in Jackson, Mississippi who seem to be appreciative and sympathetic to the sacrifices the black maid in the city perform. Octavia Spencer coming as Minny provides the needed relief to an otherwise serious story, every scene she appeared I smiled.

Overall a good movie to watch & enjoy.

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The Dirty Picture

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From the time I heard about this movie “The Dirty Picture” acted by Vidya Balan, we (myself and my wife) wanted to see it. After the movie got released few months back we couldn’t make it to the theatre every time we planned to go. In the few months after the release many magazines including Hindustan Times Brunch has written good reviews about Vidya Balan’s excellent performance in the role. I purchased the DVD from FlipKart and saw it today, DVD has the advantage the Hindi movie will come with English Sub-Title making it easier for me to understand it. The movie made by Ekta Kapoor said to be loosely made on the life story of South Indian film sensation Silk Smitha.

The movie didn’t meet the expectations I had. Though Vidya has done a good performance, having seen Silk Smitha on screen earlier I couldn’t see any resemblance of real Silk in Vidya Balan. Similarly almost the entire cast didn’t match the Tollywood or Kollywood people it claims to portray. The settings & costumes were impressive, they have been painstakingly brought back to life the 80s Kollywood. The first half of the movie was boring, the second half was better when “Silk” goes to her high moments and falls back rapidly from it. The makeup of Emraan Hashmi who plays Director Abraham makes him look like Director Cheran, which I think is accidental. The screen play was average at most places with the best in the scene when Silk walks out after her Filmfare award, when the reporter Naina advices her “Don’t think too much, just be yourself”. We are able to enjoy the play of emotions between Silk and Abraham (Director) in the last portion of the movie. The sound track for the song "Ooh La La" makes you hum it few times.

Photography Workshop

I was always interested in Photography, but I made little effort to learn it. Just like many others I thought it was about buying a DSLR camera and a good lens for taking great photographs. Which I did few years back when I was visiting Tokyo, I went to Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara (this is 8 floors of camera paradise) and bought the latest at that time Nikon D80 with a 18-55MM lens. I learnt few tips from asking my friends and reading some articles in magazines that said for a good photograph you need to frame the subject correctly and lighting has to be correct. As you would have noticed seeing photos in this blog that my skills in this area are limited.  I bought some books on Digital Photography and a training DVD on how to use Nikon D80 – both are lying unopened in my bookshelf for last 24 months. On top of this the menus in the camera were daunting even for a Software Engineer like me, the minute I came across Shutter Speed or Aperture in the manual I got dizzy, so I put the camera always in Auto and kept complaining why my camera produces lousy pictures and wondered whether I need to buy a TelePhoto lens and so on…

Last week I came across this one-day workshop at Konica Labs in Sterling Road conducted by famous photograph Mr.K.Dhamodharan, who has been a part of the photography industry since 1985. In 2006 Mr. Dhamodharan went for a 9100km, 21 day photography expedition from Chennai – Kashmir – Kanyakumari – Chennai- an expedition that covered the length of the Indian subcontinent. Sounded interesting, so I registered by paying Rs.4000 (plus taxes) online and attended the workshop today.

I was not sure how the program will be, will it be too dry and over my head, who will be the fellow students. But Dhamu (as he is called) put the diverse crowd (which included two retirees, one homeopathy doctor, one animation designer, one Software Tester) at ease. Most of the sample photos he showed were from his own collection. The photos were accompanied by lively commentary of the people in them, their background & a bit of gossip. This made the mostly theory sessions fun and enjoyable, without this I would have gone to sleep. Dhamu covered the basic concepts of camera – Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO in brief, to the extend needed to appreciate them. He went on to cover in detail with lots of examples on framing, lighting, selecting background & foregrounds. Lighting can change the mood and bring in a different emotion to the same subject.

Dhamu stressed the importance of cultivating a third eye to visualize and to learn from disassembling professional photographs we see in magazines & Internet. A photo should always kindle some emotions on the viewer. Then it was about how to take Portraits, Couple and so on in brief. He also covered (surprise, surprise) on how to pose for photographs – the trick is to have a full mouth smile almost showing your teeth. Dhamu kept saying that Photography is one hobby that improves your self confidence a lot, you can also enjoy the attention and the privileges that it brings with it from people around you.

Though it was advertised as a workshop, the practical was limited to the last hour of the program, which is understandable in a 1 day schedule. Overall, if you can afford to spend Rs.4000 and have interest on photography I will recommend this program.

Now that I understand the basics, I have started shooting lots of photos and I think I need to buy a new camera with a Telephoto lens :- )

Below are first photographs I took during the practise session, yes it needs lot of improvement!

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Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva Temple, Pondicherry

Sri Lakshmi Hayagreeva (the Lord with the horse’s face) Haya-horse: greeva-neck:, in Hindu Vaishnava belief is considered as the presiding deity for all knowledge. This is one other avatar of Lord Vishnu apart from his Dashavathara, here Bhagavan (Lord Hayagreeva) restored the Vedas to Lord Brahma. Temples for Sri Lakshmi Hayagreeva are few, the most famous of them is at Thiruvaheendrapuram, near Cuddalore. In Chennai at Nanganallur and in Pondicherry at Muthialpet. I am humbled to say that my grandfather, Late Sri.V.Krishnaswami Sarma was an important force behind the construction of temples for LORD SRI HAYAGREEVA in Nanganallur (Chennai in 1969) and in Sri Ramakrishna Nagar (Muthialpet) Pondicherry in 1971.

This week (Sunday evening & Monday morning) I was in Pondicherry for the Kumbabishekam (ritual done after construction of a new temple or after extensive renovation) of Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva Temple in Sri Ramakrishna Nagar, Muthialpet. It is believed during the auspicious hour when the Kumbabishekam (pouring of blessed water on the Temple crown a.k.a Kalasam) is performed, the Devas and Angels from Heaven visit the place and while here bless the assembled. The crowd assembled here on the morning during the auspicious hour was overwhelming. I am glad I got an opportunity to be here.

See the photos below, they are taken with point & shoot (Canon IXY DIGITAL 900 IS) and iPhone4.

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Vadavooran

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Last year I had been to “Madras to Chennai” a fine play by Shraddha group. Impressed by the show I became an annual paid member. This new year 2012, there first production is a historical play – Vadavooran (வாதவூரன்). It is about Manickavachagar (மாணிக்கவாசகர்) who gave the great Tamil work Thiruvasagam (திருவாசகம்). The play starts from the point where Vadavooran who was the Chief Minister to Pandya King, sets out to buy fine Roman horses for the king. On the way while at the depleted temple at Tiruperunturai Avudiyar Koil, he realizes the Supreme Being (Lord Siva) and instantly decides to renovate and rebuild the temple. The king imprisons Vadavooran and punishes him severely for disobeying his orders. The play ends with great floods in Vaigai river and the King realizes his folly and Vadavooran becoming the enlightened Manickavachagar. Of course we all know what happened later (Thanks to Sivaji Ganesan’s Thiruvilayadal movie) – Lord Siva coming as a labourer carrying sand for a handful of a traditional snack of sweetened millet flour (புட்டு).

The play is presented in kind of Opera format. To make mortals like me understand the songs from Thiruvasagam, the organizers gave out free booklet with all the songs and meanings – thanks to them I could follow the 4 lines songs, which were not many. The songs were pre-recorded but rendered and enacted superbly. The lead actor is Swaminathan Ganesan, who has done a brilliant job of bringing the character to life. Especially the scenes where he is in inner turmoil between his royal duties and divine calling, Swaminathan brings Vadavooran before our eyes. The little girl who came as Vadavooran’s daughter performed well, kudos to her.

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The sets were done nicely, I could not help comparing it to the astonishing set and special effects done decades earlier in R.S.Manohar’s plays that my father took me during my school days, Vadavooran certainly is not in that league but nevertheless it is a great effort for recent times considering the effort and costs. They showed a dragon fly (தும்பி) flying in the stage by suspending it from a rope above, the engineer in me wondered why they didn’t use one of those miniature remote helicopters and then cover it with a costume. The audience were taken for a treat when they showed a real horse on the stage – that should have been difficult managing it and controlling with the changing light effects, great show.

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What impressed me most is the on time start of the play, in fact they started the brief introduction a few before 7:00PM. Thanks.

Shraddha doesn’t repeat its plays. So catch ‘Vaadhavooran’ tomorrow.

Review of the play is in the The Hindu here, Behind the scenes work and photos here.

Videos: In Tamil (முன்னோட்டம்), In English (Trailer)