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Archive for January, 2008

The decline in the US dollars in the past few months, and increase in the cost of a barrel of crude oil to nearly $100 has given glimpses of the US dollar decline on it’s stronghold.

Dollar and euro

It is not just the Indian rupee that has gained in the recent past, but the currencies of many Asian countries including China, Indonesia, and Philippines. The exporters in India are struggling to keep up with the profit margins, the suffers are mostly the small scale exporters. The bigger IT companies are somehow keeping it up, and are trying to diversify their markets and also planning of making future deals in other currencies like Euro.

Oil is the key, with dollar declining the reserves of billions of dollars in the oil rich countries of the Gulf are feeling the heat, not just due to the desert temperature. Their billions of dollars reserves are losing their value. So they are in a way pushing towards neutral currency, you can say, Euro. The biggest fear could be Chinese converting their trillions of dollars reserve to Euro. That could propel the Euro to exchange rates as that of pound sterling. Good news for the ones waiting with forex reserves of Euro, here i’m talking about the retail investors. The ones would have gone to EU for an on-site trip, and have some Euros saved from their trip.

The rise in Rupee or decline of dollar is affecting Indian IT companies, which earlier had the edge over US Multinationals with cost effective solutions. Now, IBM and Accenture are giving stiff competition to the likes of Infy, Wipro, TCS and others. How are these tackling the dollar debacle?

Near-shore offices instead of on-site travel, more freshers, and hiring from relatively less explored or untouched regions like Czech, Bulgaria, Argentina and Mexico. The Indian IT companies stock prices are declining like never before, and the IT Mutual funds have -38% growth in the last one year.

The fall in dollar is affecting the lives of millions in a variety of ways, eroding stock prices, lower profits, depreciating forex reserves and in many uncomprehensible ways. The weaker-dollar has a few positives as well, for importers. Buying Bose QC3 at a cheaper price was possible due to a dollar at 39.8 rupees. My plans of buying a DSLR also seems viable. But the negative impact comes in the form of a lesser hike i get the next year as the business in dollars gets lesser rupees for my company. Effectively buying my QC3 would be at the same rate, isn’t it? But the psychological factor helps.

Another positive aspect of the stronger rupee is for someone planning to do masters in the US. Obviously their reserves in rupees would be worth more than it was a year ago. Hence the tuition fees and other expenses would cost cheaper for them. There is also a flip side to this, after they graduate, if they work in US, the spending capacity in rupees would not be the same if dollars were worth more for a rupee.

In the short term, though it has more negative impact on India, i’m sure Indian IT companies have gained enough expertise in the domain to take on the giant multinationals like Accenture, IBM and others not just in IT services at low-cost but also in consultancy to take advantage in the long term. The India story is still good, as they say. :)

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Life is a sine wave?

I came across ‘Life’s a sine wave‘ quote on a random profile on orkut. I wondered, is life really like a sine wave?

I think it’s more like a sawtooth or square wave, with greater abruptness to the downfall.

Sine wave is the smoothest of the mathematical functions, the ups and downs in life aren’t so smooth. You’re rocking one moment and then in the gallows before even you realize. The sawtooth wave would be a good match, the rise is gradual. With the increasing harmonics of the sine wave, match the sawtooth wave closely. The image below could give you a good picture of what i mean.

Sine to sawtooth

You look at life going smooth as silk. You never realize that the harmonics are continually increasing for your abrupt downfall. The time you do, you are already in the pit. But we never give up, will work our way to the top again.

Life could also be like a square wave. You are slogging, working hard to go to top but things don’t seem to happen. You know you are in the pits and working hard to out of it and get to the top, but is never happening. You don’t see a ray of hope either but then you’ll be awestruck to know a spark put you to top. You get all that you dreamt of and worked for.

sine to square

Even here the fall is abrupt, and never as smooth as in a sine wave. More harmonics to the wave, more sharper the transition is, and not a smooth fall.

But life has it’s ups and downs, and for this you could call it being like a sine wave. Harmonics are equal to 1 only for a god-like person, with no distinct changes to cheer about or mourn for. For lesser mortals, life’s never like a sine wave.

Current Music:  Coming back to life – The Division Bell, Pink Floyd

Current Mood: Anxious

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I attended an afternoon session on Silicon and Embedded systems on second day of the three day event HeadStart at JN Tata Auditorium, IISc. Since my friend Harsha’s company Adventure Advertising solutions was the design partner for the event i could get hold of a pass for this event. There were demos of the products and services in embedded systems areas predominantly by startups, followed by a panel discussion.

The first demo of the afternoon was from Belgaum based Electronic System Level (ESL) Design start-up firm Vayavya Labs about their DDGen (Device driver generator) software. As the name suggests DDGen is a device driver software generator for embedded systems given the IC specs and the software application abstraction in a not-so-formal-yet language.

IIT-Mumbai alumni, Pradeep Bhatia, founded BioEnable was the next to showcase their product with active RFID technology to allow long-range tracking of vehicle, assets and people within office, shopping mall, factory, campus and parking lot. Though the technology as such is not very innovative but the actual implementation in the field with good success is very important.

iWave systems was next to demo their i.MX27 ARM core based iW-RainboW for enabling both consumer and industrial product designs with support for wireless streaming, media codec and security features. A rugged variation for military application was also showcased.

Next was the NSRCEL incubated Mango tech showcasing a unique & thinnest modular application & UI framework, which reduces engineering effort and time spent on development and integration. The solutions are for the entry level phone segment with highly rich user experience. The large base of low-end mobile phone users are their target.

Silicon & Embedded systems panel discussion followed the demos. The panel constituted Dr S Ramesh from General Motors R&D, Ganapathy Subramaniam, CEO, Cosmic Circuits, and Devesh Garg, MD, Bessemer Venture Partners. The discussion range from the talent crunch in the niche embedded system and chip design areas to the fab facility in India and its importance.

There was talk on the challenges involved in designing the algorithm and software for a multicore platform and also the opportunities in this area, bringing me a sense of pride in my work. :)

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Marion Jones, and Martina Hingis, two of my favorite female athletes of yesteryears, that is before Maria came to limelight, have hit the rock bottom with their doping controversy.

I still remember the 2000 Olympics vividly when Marion Jones shot to fame with three gold medals. The tall and gracious American with a lovely smile was a treat to watch. The elegance in her long jump was uncanny. She ruled the Sydney Olympics, and was the true champion on track. The first woman to win five medals at one Olympics.

Marion Jones winning 100m at Sydney Olympics

Marion’s childhood was marred by unpleasant events, with her own father, George Jones, disowning her. Her step father died of a stroke. The anger was vent on track with young Marion, at age 15, winning 200 meters race clocking 22.87 seconds, breaking the national high school record. Jones’ track future was jeopardized when she failed to show up for a random drug test (the letter notifying her of the test never reached her), and she was banned from the sport for four years. She took up Basketball, and starred even in that. Was brought back to track by her coach and husband CJ Hunter, whom she married in 1998 and divorced in 2001.

Her 2004 Olympics was a mere participation, i watched her intently without much happening. I was disappointed, wondered what happened to Marion Jones of 2000.

Only recently her use of performance enhancing drugs in the Sydney Olympics came to light. In October 2007 Jones announced her retirement from track. She confessed to making false statements during two different government drug investigations. On 11th January 2008, Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying about steroid use and a lucrative cheque fraud case. The IOC formally stripped Marion Jones of her five Olympic medals.

Martina Hingis JugglingMartina Hingis, Swiss miss and the princess of WTA. The youngest player to win Wimbledon Championships. She was a darling, with superb agility. Defeating Jana Novotná, Hingis won her first Wimbledon title. Unlike Marion Jones, Martina was born to two accomplished tennis players: mother, Melanie Molitorová, and father Karol Hingis. In 1993, 12-year-old Hingis became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam junior title: the girls’ singles at the French Open. Soon Hingis became the youngest player in the Open Era (1968-present) to win the singles title at Wimbledon when she won in 1997 at the age of 16 years, 9 months, and 5 days. She was also the first Swiss woman ever to win Wimbledon.

Martina came back from her earlier announced retirement to professional tennis in 2005 and won few major titles, including Australian Open mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in 2006.

Martina was banned for two years on January 4th 2008 after testing positive for cocaine at the All England Club. This was after she retired from professional Tennis in November 2007. Such a disgraceful exit for the wonderful tennis player.

These two superstar athletes having been at the pinnacle of their sport making such a disgraceful exit is disheartening. At least Martina’s cocaine usage could be excused as many believe cocaine would not enhance the performance in a sport like tennis, but Marion Jones’ use of performance enhancing drugs for winning the 100m, 200m, long jump and other events in Olympics is unpardonable and is a shame. Hopefully Marion Jones’ imprisonment will serve as epitome to other athletes discouraging them from the use any kind of banned substances in future.

Below is the clip of Marion Jones’ Sydney Olympics 100m race, very enthralling to watch even if you know she used drugs.

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The launch of Tata’s one lakh car has got more publicity and global attention than any other Indian product ever. A revolutionary step in the automobile sector, with many companies saying it can’t be made. Ratan Tata, the man behind this small wonder, said this has been achieved despite rising steel, tyres and other item prices, and ‘despite Mamta’ to keep up the promise he made four years ago.

Why only Tatas could make the 1-lakh car?

Suzuki and few other car manufacturers still maintain that a one-lakh car cannot be made by having a reasonable profit margin. Few others are interested in knowing the cost cutting techniques which made Tatas achieve this. Have Tatas done what Suzukis, Hyundais, and Bajajs couldn’t or have they compromised on the profit margin to make up in the bulk sales which the Nano could rake in? A business strategy with a risk only the Tatas could take.

Tata, having the Corus steel with them and being the 5th largest steel producer in the world, could get steel cheaper than any other automobile manufacturer in the world. This could keep the profit margin for Tatas higher than that for other automobile manufacturers. With almost every kind of product in offering, from watches, tea, luxury hotels, IT services to telecomm they know the Indian market, presumably the largest market for 1-lakh car, better than anyone else in the world. The nearest competitor for Tata’s Nano is in neighboring China a $3600 car, Chery QQ.

Hamara Bajaj, not anymore

Ratan Tata’s one-lakh idea came when he couldn’t help but notice a family on their scooter with Man riding, a kid standing in the front, woman holding a kid on her lap in the pillion. He wanted to make a safer scooter. Knowing about the failure of BMW’s safe scooter with seat belts and safety bars, which BMW had withdrawn, Tata wanted to make a full fledged small car at very low price. Thoughts of making the four wheel vehicle from two wheeler parts to modifying auto rickshaw making it a four wheel vehicle, they came up with some ingenious cost cutting and designs to keep up his promise.

Those were the days in late 1980s and 1990s when you’d see families riding on their Bajaj Chetak and Bajaj Super scooters. Bajaj’s ‘Hamara Bajaj‘ campaign being most popular and drew the attention of every middle class Indian. The coming decade could be Tata’s Nano, ‘Hamara Nano’ or ‘Hamara Tata‘.

Hamara Bajaj 1989 advert:

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Silencer

This was one of those weeks when you have loads of work, many would have faced, but also becomes the week when the silencer of your vehicle gets conked. The deafening noise the engine creates is so awful, and having to put up with this for about 15km drive in the busiest of Bangalore roads at peak hour is more embarrassing.

Wednesday my vehicle had started making strange sounds, though under acceptable decibel levels. I continued to ride it without heeding to its moaning. ‘Some problem with exhaust, i’ll get it fixed over the weekend’ i thought. Unfortunately i had to work over the weekend, which i came to know only by Thursday evening. The exhaust was wobbling a little, but still was ‘ok’.

Friday morning, i am riding by the Ulsoor lake at about 60kmph then, #$^$%&#$^$^$ boom.. I look back, the silencer of my vehicle is lying on the middle of the road. I take my vehicle to the side, and walk down the wide road with Buses and other vehicles throttling down at their top speed. ‘Aww.. this would be hot to hold by hand‘ i thought. Started kicking the silencer towards the side of the road with my Woodlands on, and towards my vehicle. Picked it up and drove to the office with few onlookers. The surprise on the face of the security at office was evident, i explained him what had happened evoking a smile on his face.

The noise reduction in the silencer is by destructive interference of sound waves, creating back pressure on the exhaust side of the engine. Without that the engine was rumbling. I had to drive for 11km to reach home from office.

My Bose noise cancellation headphones couldn’t have filtered such high loudness i’m sure. Even a deaf would turn around to have a look at what was making such a loud noise, no wonder almost everyone on the way gave awkward looks. The amazement on their faces was too funny to watch as i accelerated raising full throttle. I couldn’t control laughing. Surprisingly no police cared to heed to this deafening noise.

On Race course road traffic jam another commuter couldn’t control his inquisitiveness and noticed me smiling and asked what happened. I showed him the exhaust pipe i was carrying. He warned me ‘Police might catch you‘. I thought ‘Well, no one even noticed me for nearly 10kms.. you think they will catch me now!?‘ Just nodded to him and crawled through the traffic. One constable wanted to stop me near the next junction, but i didn’t even slow down and passed him as if he wasn’t even there. :)

My relief was when i turned the engine off reaching my home. Took Dio on Saturday to work, with security standing there and asking ‘new vehicle??’

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Orkut album hack script

Orkut still not safe enough to put your personal photos even to share only with friends. So use Flickr! ;-)

Fortunately(or unfortunately? :P) the script gives only the thumbnails.

Just when i thought it would be the end of flickr and such services with orkut providing album feature along with more photo uploads. After all Google engineers are not the smartest!

So before the ‘smartest’ Google engineers fix this bug use it.

How?

This works on Mozilla Firefox browser only, and not on IE.

Update:
Seems like the Google engineers have fixed the bug. Sorry, no donut for you now. :P

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