Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cloud services for your virtual infrastructure, Part 1: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Eucalyptus
6 tips for optimizing a native XML database : Common sense guidelines for using XQuery with native XML databases
Develop a store locator application using IBM DB2 pureXML and ASP.NET : Create a Web app to browse and maintain store information and plot coordinates on a map
Java development 2.0: Hello Google App Engine : Quick Web application development leveraging Groovy, Eclipse, and JDO
Java development 2.0: REST up with CouchDB and Groovy's RESTClient : RESTful concepts and a document-oriented database in action
Java development 2.0: Gaelyk for Google App Engine : A Groovy-based framework makes rapid development on Google App Engine even faster
Social Networks using Web 2.0
Combine social media APIs and XML-based data formats : Program to social media provider APIs using XML dialects
Process XML in the browser using jQuery : Navigate some major pitfalls to gain the benefits of the popular Web application API
Next-generation banking with Web 2.0
Integrating a Dojo client with an SCA application via SCA HTTP binding
Create an alerts system using XMPP, SMS, pureXML, and PHP : Develop a Euro currency exchange rate application with automatic updates
Building smart Web applications for a smarter planet

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Build a pureXML and JSON application, Part 1: Store and query JSON with DB2 pureXML
JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a popular textual notation in Web 2.0, is used to represent objects (or data structures) as serialized text when clients and servers exchange information. Some applications benefit from persisting JSON objects to maintain state across sessions. In this article, learn how DB2® pureXML® can store, manage, and query JSON when you adopt a simple JSON-to-XML mapping.
Build a pureXML and JSON application, Part 2: Create Universal Services for pureXML that expose JSON
The pureXML Universal Services for JSON (abbreviated to JSON Universal Services in this article) are a set of database operations, including insert, update, delete, and query, exposed as Web services. These services enable an application to persist JSON in pureXML and to query it easily through HTTP with WebSphere Application Server. Get started with configuring and testing JSON Universal Services in this article.
Build a pureXML and JSON application, Part 3: Create OpenSocial gadgets for pureXML
With the Web 2.0 technology of OpenSocial gadgets, developers can easily include their applications in popular Web sites, such as iGoogle, MySpace, Hi5, LinkedIn, and others. In this article, explore OpenSocial gadgets through hands-on construction of an application that leverages the pureXML® capability of DB2®. This article is the last in a series of three that illustrates how to build a pureXML application whose user interface is a gadget that you can deploy in any OpenSocial compliant Web site. Follow the steps in this article to build a user interface that stores and retrieves the JSON data described in the first article through JSON Universal Services created in the second article.

Validating XML in PHP :Ensure data integrity and validate XML documents against an XML schema in PHP

Leveraging pureXML in a Flex microblogging application
Part 1: Enabling Web services with DB2 pureXML
Part 2: Building the application user interface with Flex
Part 3: Using pureXML Web services to publish microblog entries to an HTML page

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Link Listings
Case Study: Web 2.0 SOA Scenario
Meet CAM: A new XML validation technology : Take semantic and structural validation to the next level
U2 Compact Framework : UniObject for .NET Compact Framework for a smarter planet
Data scoring: Convert data with XQuery : Do quality analysis on conversion results
Build a RESTful Web service using Jersey and Apache
Integrate your PHP application with Google Contacts : Read and write contact information from Google Contacts with XML and PHP
Introducing Quercus, a Java-based PHP framework
Implement a real-time server push in Ajax applications using socket-based RIA technologies
Two new Microsoft Security Developement Lifecycle (SDL) tools: MiniFuzz File Fuzzer and BinScope Binary Analyzer
Microsoft has announced two new Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) tools here:
MiniFuzz File Fuzzer
MiniFuzz is a basic testing tool designed to help detect code flaws that may expose security vulnerabilities in file-handling code. This tool creates multiple random variations of file content and feeds it to the application to exercise the code in an attempt to expose unexpected application behaviors.
Because fuzzing is effective at finding bugs, it is a required activity in the Verification Phase of the Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). With the release of MiniFuzz, we have made a simple file fuzzer available to assist developer efforts to find and address more bugs in code before it ships to customers.
BinScope Binary Analyzer
The BinScope Binary Analyzer is a Microsoft verification tool that analyzes binaries to ensure that they have been built in compliance with Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) requirements and recommendations. BinScope checks that SDL-required compiler/linker flags are being set, strong-named assemblies are in use, and up-to-date build tools are in place.
BinScope also reports on dangerous constructs that are prohibited or discouraged by the SDL (e.g. read/write shared sections and global function pointers). For a more detailed enumeration of the checks performed by BinScope, please see the BinScope documentation. BinScope is available in two forms: as a standalone executable and as a Visual Studio add-on.
Jeremy Dallman, of Microsoft, explains both tools in this post.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Finding the way through the semantic Web with HBase : Use HBase and Bigtable to create and mine a semantic Web
Creating juxtaposition tables, Part 1: Use Flex to create JTables
Meet the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) : Explore Internet communication with XMPP architecture, applications, and examples
Using the Technorati API : Create automated blog searches

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Introducing Apache Mahout : Scalable, commercial-friendly machine learning for building intelligent applications
Using the Technorati API: Create automated blog searches
Explore multithreaded programming in XUL : Retrieve search results simultaneously from Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft's Bing
Top 10 tips for writing successful Software as a Service : Essential skills for ensuring that your SaaS project finishes on time and under budget
Integrating SOAP Web services in WebSphere sMash applications : Using the REST to SOAP extension
GMaps4JSF in the JSF 2.0 Ajax world

Monday, July 27, 2009

“I thought of that while riding my bike”

“I thought of that while riding my bike” - so said Albert Einstein when asked about the theory of relativity. How many of us have “thought of that while riding my bike”?

All too often - in these days of crunchy deadlines and in a world that never sleeps, where someone on the other side of the world wants an instant answer, even though it’s 3am where you are - we don’t get the time to “think of something while riding our bike”. Sometimes we need to crack a problem or issue, or come up with a new idea or product and the creative juices just don’t flow. We lock ourselves away in a room with no windows, with artificial light, a blank piece of paper and a bright whiteboard and we try to come up with the solutions and ideas. It doesn’t work, does it? Rather than the lightbulb above our head glowing, our brains switch to neutral and the ideas grind to a halt - or at least that’s how it is for me.

Maybe we should do something different to spark the creativity - go for a walk, swim in the sea, watch the clouds, go ride our bike….. I’m a keen road cyclist and on a long spin, once I’m into my cadence rhythm, I find my mind becomes clearer; I’m able to think things through, come up with a plan, assess the strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities. The solitude helps me think. I’d struggle to do this in a plain room, with a plain whiteboard.

Ref: The Six Ninja's blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

To tell you the truth

by Indrajit Hazra.

Let me be honestly brutal. The only way I can negotiate with this world without majorly losing out on what it has to offer is by dropping a little lie here and mixing a bit of facts with fiction there. I just have to ensure that I’m not branded a liar.

But what if I’m being told to be in a situation where lying is no longer an option? What if everything I say are fact-checked and then played back to me for my reaction? What if I am made to undergo a psychophysiological detection of deception (PDD) examination — what in my grandma’s generation was known as a polygraph test?

Well, for starters, I just won’t agree to undergo the test, would I? But that refusal itself is bound to send out a message that will travel faster than it takes a text message to reach from a Vasant Vihar mobile to a mobile in Vasant Kunj. Like a man running away from the cops, I will be considered ‘guilty’ even before it’s established that I have been fibbing. So the only way out is to hone one’s lying skills.

Which is why Yudhisthirs petitioning the Delhi High Court and howling against the prime time game show Sach Ka Saamna should chill. Participants on the programme are not Guantanamo Bay orange-suited residents who have been pumped with temazepam and forced to listen to Amitabh Bachchan reading Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poetry. These are people who, lusting after filthy lucre (a perfectly reasonable human endeavour), agree to come and sit on the hot seat after a polygraph test to answer questions such as ‘Did you, after your marriage, sleep with your driver while returning from a Gurgaon party that involved throwing in car keys in a big salad bowl?’

As you can gather by the line of that question — and I’m only exaggerating a bit — Sach Ka Saamna’s big ticket questions are overwhelmingly family-wrecking in nature. Which brings us to the real issue that’s made people howl against the show “promoting obscenity” and — here we go again — “propagating values against Indian culture”.
Telling the truth is not an Indian tradition. Lies have thrived among humans simply because in the long run they work. The scary bit is being caught lying, and worse, being caught lying in public. Imagine a Congress MP being asked by Sach Ka Saamna host Rajeev Khandelwal the jackpot Rs 1 crore question: “Would you trade your mother for Soniaji?” Even being truthful here would be very tricky.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Napoleon's March

Probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, this map by Charles Joseph Minard portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the Polish-Russian border, the thick band shows the size of the army at each position. The path of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in the bitterly cold winter is depicted by the dark lower band, which is tied to temperature and time scales.


A Brilliant Visualization
An excellent example of how magic can be created with data

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

45+ Excellent Code Snippet Resources and Repositories

40+ Tooltips Scripts With AJAX, JavaScript & CSS

45+ New jQuery Techniques For Good User Experience

70 Expert Ideas For Better CSS Coding

70 New, Useful AJAX And JavaScript Techniques

30 Handy Cheat Sheets and Reference Guides for Web Professionals

Build Wikipedia query forms with semantic technology : Create simple Web forms that drive semantic Web standard queries to take advantage of exciting new databases

Job Hopping

I have changed jobs a lot in my career of around 15 years. According to this article that might just have been a good thing for me.

"Software industry culture has an unwritten rule that if you don't like a job, or if you think your company isn't going anywhere, you leave. Instead of hanging around the office whining, you walk out the door and find something better and cooler to do. Because skilled tech workers are hard to find and interesting companies abound, employees, not employers, call the shots. This was true at Apple in 1984, and it's still true at Facebook today.

Worker mobility gives the tech industry fluidity, velocity, and energy. It creates a culture in which people routinely jump from one job to another, looking to get in on the next must-have product or service.

As it happens, that lack of loyalty has been a key driver of the software industry's rapid innovation over the past three decades.
AnnaLee Saxenian, author of Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, puts it this way: "Job-hopping, rather than climbing the career ladder within a corporation, facilitates flows of information and know-how between individuals, firms, and industries. When combined with venture capital, it supports unanticipated recombinations of technologies and skill." In other words, we have Twitter today because a bunch of engineers who were trained at other companies quit their jobs and brought their expertise to Evan Williams' side project. It's like biology: In an ecosystem where microbes are promiscuously swapping genes and traits, evolution speeds up."

Another crazy week

by Manas Chakravarty

Monday: Protests erupted today in Daman, Diu and other areas near the Gujarat border on the Gujarat government’s failure to enforce total prohibition in the state. “Gujarat is the birthplace of Gandhiji and liquor must be banned there,” said a pub-owner in Daman, ushering in a busload of tourists from Gujarat into his pub. A local Gandhian observed the protests with tears in his eyes, as he told this reporter that even the smugglers in Daman were all for prohibition in Gujarat — an instance, he said, “of how Gandhian values can find a place even in the most hardened heart”.

Tuesday: As torrential rains flooded Mumbai’s streets, terrorists at a camp outside Lahore looked decidedly glum. Reports say that terrorists training for another attack on Mumbai have gone on strike, complaining that working conditions in Mumbai left much to be desired. “At the very least,” said a young jihadi, “we should get a flood allowance”.
Meanwhile, the LeT chiefs have been trying to find a few rain-free days when an attack on Mumbai could be carried out. “We must study the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean because it affects the monsoons,” said a learned terrorist. But a young terrorist said all they had to do was follow the Mumbai Met Department’s warning of heavy rainfall. “Those days”, he pointed out, “are invariably bone dry”.

Wednesday: After the hullabaloo in Parliament over the TV serial Balika Vadhu, legislators are demanding that the popular cartoon show Tom & Jerry should be banned. “The cartoon is very violent with episodes featuring Jerry slicing Tom in half and Tom using everything from dynamite sticks, axes and poison to try and kill Jerry. This can severely affect a child’s psyche,” said a child psychologist. A policeman pointed out that the proper procedure if either Tom or Jerry felt aggrieved would be to file an FIR at the nearest police station and allow the police to investigate. “At the very least, Jerry should file a writ petition,” added a lawyer.

Thursday: The government was ecstatic today as the rate of inflation continued to be negative. Asked about the sky-high prices of vegetables and pulses, an economist said that wasn’t inflation. “That’s a mere price rise,” he said, adding that the great economist Milton Friedman had said that inflation is always a monetary phenomenon and that money supply growth was decelerating. “Besides,” he added, “prices of purified terepthalic acid, springs and jelly-filled telephone cables have come down”.

Friday: The US government congratulated India today on re-opening the dialogue with Pakistan. “When terrorists attacked us, we behaved immaturely by invading the country harbouring them and attacking another country on fake evidence. We are very happy India is behaving in such a mature manner,” said a State Department official. An Indian government spokesman said he was happy the US was happy.

Saturday: No buses were burnt in Kolkata today. In protest, the opposition has called for a bandh next Monday.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why Incompetence Spreads through Big Organizations

Promoting the people most competent at one job does not mean that they'll be better at another, according to a new simulation of hierarchical organizations.

There's a paradox at the heart of most Western organizations. The people who perform best at one level of an organization tend to be promoted on the premise that they will also be competent at another level within the organization. I imagine that most readers will have had personal experience at the way that this hypothesis fails in practice.

In 1969, a Canadian psychologist named Laurence Peter encapsulated this behavior in a rule that has since become known as Peter's Principle. Here it is:

"All new members in a hierarchical organization climb the hierarchy until they reach their level of maximum incompetence."

That's not as unfair as it sounds, say Alessandro Pluchino and buddies from Universita di Catania, who have modeled this behavior using an agent-based system for the first time. They say that common sense tells us that a member who is competent at a given level will also be competent at a higher level of the hierarchy. So it may well seem a good idea to promote such an individual to the next level.

The problem is that common sense often fools us. It's not so hard to see that a new position in an organization requires different skills, so the competent performance of one task may not correlate well with the ability to perform another task well.

Peter pointed out that in large organizations where these practices are used, it is inevitable that individuals will be promoted until they reach their level of maximum incompetence. The unavoidable result is the runaway spread of incompetence throughout an organization.

Now Pluchino and co have simulated this practice with an agent-based model for the first time. Sure enough, they find that it leads to a significant reduction in the efficiency of an organization, as incompetency spreads through it. That must have an uncomfortable ring of truth for some CEOs.

But is there a better way of choosing individuals for promotion? It turns out that there is, say Pluchino and co. Their model shows that two other strategies outperform the conventional method of promotion.

The first is to alternately promote first the most competent and then the least competent individuals. And the second is to promote individuals at random. Both of these methods improve, or at least do not diminish, the efficiency of an organization.

Interesting idea that would be fascinating to see in action. What would be a suitable prize for the first CEO to implement such a policy?

Ref: Technology Review: the physics arXiv blog

Thursday, July 02, 2009

PHP object orientation - Separating concerns : Building more modular PHP applications
Translate Atom to RDF : From syndication to semantics with ease
The new role of XML in cloud data integration : Using XML to integrate Salesforce data with enterprise applications
An introduction to custom application development on the cloud using : Fundamentals and Workbook

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Chocolate Lines

"Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar in four pieces with your bare hands- and then just eat one piece "
"There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love chocolates and communists"
"It's not that chocolates are a substitute for love.Love is a substitute of chocolate. Chocolate is far more reliable thana man"
"Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies."

Ours to question why

The first excerpt is written by Karan Thapar. I have always thought him to be a little stupid specially after his television programs and also his other articles where he had written about benazir bhutto as if she would have solved all the problems between india and pakistan if she was alive and at the helm of pakistan. I on the other hand think its probably the best that lady was killed or else pakistan would have by now used its entire terrorists against us while the americans would be eating out of her hands. I have not forgotten that while she was at the helm pakistan was the most vocal regarding kashmir.
So when I read this article, it came as a very nice surprise.----

At first, I was taken aback that the president of France should have spoken about the burqa and in an address to the parliament at that. But the more I read, the more sense it seemed to make. Presidential addresses ought to be about issues that transcend the daily struggle of politics and Sarkozy had framed the burqa in bigger, more important, terms.

“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” the French President said in his Versailles speech. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women. I want to say solemnly that it (the burqa) will not be welcome on our territory.” Perhaps, more than any other, this sentence was received with rapturous applause. In fact, Sarkozy’s comments on the burqa captured the headlines, even though this was the first presidential address to the French parliament after Charles Louis Napolean Bonaparte 136 years ago and despite the fact that Sarkozy’s 45-minute address touched on many subjects, including the economic crisis.

Beyond his indisputably correct comments on the burqa, what struck me about Sarkozy’s speech was how different it was to the sort of fare we, in India, have grown used to. Neither our politicians, nor our president talk to us about issues other than politics. Either for reasons of misplaced political correctness or because they haven’t thought through the matter themselves — and I bet it’s the latter — they avoid moral issues. This, I might add, is both sad and a mistake.

Moral issues need to be questioned and debated. They must not be buried under the weight of custom or under fear of the controversy any comment could provoke. If politicians feel strongly about them they must speak out. Not just because silence would be deception but because that’s how a debate is started. And democratic societies need to question and debate.

Let me also add that just because a politician speaks doesn’t mean his or her point of view will be accepted. Sarkozy knows that only too well. So let not an exaggerated opinion of themselves become an excuse for timidity or reticence. However, because they are politicians and are practised speakers they could frame the issue intelligently and create a platform for equally thought-provoking responses. And that is important.

But will we ever hear Manmohan Singh, L. K. Advani or Sonia Gandhi speak to us about issues such as the right of women to drink in pubs, wear jeans in colleges and lead normal lives after widowhood? I hope so. But I doubt it.

The second one is written by Indrajit Hazra whose articles I really like probably because his thinking matches mine after all he is also a fellow bong.

Ever wondered what goes through the head of Ashok Srivastava each time a young woman in jeans walks past him? It’s demanding enough for the Convenor of the Uttar Pradesh Principals’ Association to stay composed when any jeans-wearing young woman walks by. But imagine the serious conflict raging inside Srivastava, a good man of the kind we don’t meet often enough these days, if a jeans-clad college girl with a dexterous figure — with the wind blowing through her hair — and humming ‘Jaadu hai nasha hai’ walks by in slo-mo.
Well, I can’t see his perfectly normal heterosexual reaction to a young, attractive lady wearing figure-hugging trousers being any different from yours (if you’re a man, that is) or mine — except, perhaps, in intensity, which in turn depends on the frequency of spotting women in jeans on a regular basis (not that much for Srivastava, I would presume) and one’s own hormonal balance.

What is different, though, is how Srivastava wants to deal with his biologically-driven affection for women in denim: by not having them anywhere near him. (In some societies, of course, a more effective method would be to punish women in jeans so as to make them stop existing altogether.) As far as I’m concerned, you don’t have to be a hick or a pervert or even the head priest of the Guruvayur Temple to be distracted by the ergonomic quality of jeans when fitted on to a charmingly-shaped lady. The nature of the limbs-hugging jeans, after all, is to highlight the physical attractiveness of the wearer. (Thus, the total pointlessness or more of, say, President Pratibha Patil wearing a pair of Levis 901s.)

No woman — or man, for that matter — wears clothes to look unattractive, not according to their own set of aesthetics, that is. Their objective may be to look ‘smart’, ‘traditional’, ‘radical’ or a permutation-combination of all three. But the basic premise, even of someone like Sushma Swaraj, is to present oneself as ‘attractive’, a diluted-by-evolution-and-social mores version of the original biological purpose of looking attractive: advertising one’s sexuality.

The woman-in-jeans, of course, elicits different reactions in different settings. A jeans-wearing girl walking along Flora Fountain in Bombay will be seen as a different entity from the same girl in jeans cycling along a Gorakhpur alley. It’s as different as an attractive lady in a sari in Delhi is from an attractive lady in a sari on the streets of, say, Melbourne.

So, much of everything that surrounds the business of women in jeans boils down to what men make of it — and what women make of what the men make of it. The pitch against women in jeans, of course, will never be in the following form: “I am reacting hormonally to those girls in jeans under that tree. Please ensure that they don’t wear such tight clothes and force me to think of things other than the price of plums!” Instead, the rationale is always on this line: “Other men — lascivious ones — are reacting hormonally to those girls in jeans under the tree. Please ensure that they don’t wear such tight clothes!” Here’s Ashok Srivastava’s version: “It has been seen that eve-teasers generally target girls wearing jeans or modern clothes.” The truth is that I don’t think he’s wrong. One man’s women in hip-hugging jeans can be another man’s women in bodice-hugging salwar-kameezes.

The latest jeans imbroglio won’t be the last jeans imbroglio. Men will — comfortably or uncomfortably — get turned on by this iconic, all-pervasive apparel that accentuates the wearer’s hips and buttocks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where the mind is with fear

Excerpts from two articles in hindustan times written by Manas Chakravarty and Indrajit Hazra.

We are a non-violent people. We hate it when people resort to violence. In Lalgarh, the tribals have all along been very peaceful. True, the primary health centres in their villages didn’t have any medicines and doctors from the towns rarely visited them. So what’s new? Many people saw their sick loved ones die as they made the long trek to the district hospital from their villages over the dirt tracks that pass for roads. But there was no violence.

Finding drinking water in the summer has always been a problem in the villages. Ponds have had to be used for both drinking water and for bathing. Children have often suffered from diseases as a result. But the tribals of Lalgarh are used to their children dying early. They never complained.

Most villagers in the region are caught in a vicious poverty trap. Malnutrition is rife. Doctors from Kolkata who recently visited the place said that what the people needed was not pills but food. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen once said that hunger was “a quiet violence”. He meant that if a state can’t feed its people it’s guilty of violence towards them. But he was just twisting words to suit his theory.

Indians are malnourished not just in Lalgarh, but all over the country. A recent Unicef report said that 405 million people in South Asia suffered from chronic hunger. India’s rank in the Global Hunger Index of 88 countries is 66, below several African countries. So there’s nothing special about Lalgarh. Also, in spite of being hungry, the people were peaceful. Being peaceful is the most important thing.

Every election, the Lalgarh tribals voted the Left to power in the hope that these self-proclaimed friends of the poor would help them. But in spite of the promises, nothing happened. The money from the anti-poverty programmes never reached them, the police occupied the buildings that were supposed to be clinics and the irrigation canals dried up. They watched in silence as the local party bosses built mansions and businesses for themselves and their cronies.

For more than 60 years after independence, they patiently waited for better times. And it’s not that the country wasn’t doing well. Some of them went to the grand city of Kolkata and came back with wondrous tales of shining malls and air-conditioning and taps that never ran dry. They were right to wait. For as we all know, it’s just a matter of time. Once the Sensex goes up enough and CEOs start earning several crores a year and India becomes a world power, then money will trickle down and reach places like Lalgarh. True, generations may be destroyed before that happens. But that is not violence.

Some things do seem to suggest, at first glance, a hint of brutality. Take the routine manner in which the police pick up tribals for questioning and then torture them. But that’s required for the police to conduct their investigations. How else will they protect the people from the Maoists? True, tribals in Lalgarh lived in constant terror of the police and of the party thugs. But that is not terrorism.

Of late, though, the people of Lalgarh have been behaving very oddly. They drove the police and the party bigwigs out of the area and torched their houses. They have started digging wells, setting up schools and running health clinics, without any help from the state. They have formed a Committee against Police Atrocities which wants electricity in their villages and roads and bridges to be built. Worse, they even want the politicians to apologise! Very strangely, after all these decades, they seem to be running out of patience.

What on earth is going on? Outsiders must be inciting them to violence. We are a peace-loving people and must stop this violence at once. Don’t worry, our tribal brothers, our troops are on their way to save you.

--Manas Chakraborty

The conditions that have led people to fall for the seductive charms of violent revolt were being pressure-cooked for years. An administration had long forgotten to recognise, never mind keep, its part of the bargain with the very people who had given the CPI(M)-led front its generational power and the pelf that comes with it.

Take the case of Kuna Sabar, a resident of Darra village in West Midnapore’s Belpahari sub-district. On December 22, 2007 — when a million miles away in Calcutta, people were frantically speculating about the return of Sourav Ganguly in the Indian cricket squad — Sabar died of hunger. If his cause of death (confirmed by a doctor) wasn’t shameful enough for a government that took pride in prioritising the concerns of its rural masses, the subdivisional officer’s response to the death was horrific. He said that documents showed that Sabar had bought “8 kg rice, 2 kg wheat and 2.4 kg sugar” from the ration shop “between December 2 and December 16”. Effectively, he was telling Sabar’s widow that his death must have been her husband’s fault.
Sabar is just one statistic. During 2004-2005, a year before the Left Front won the 2006 assembly polls by a landslide, dozens of ‘hunger deaths’ across Bengal were recorded by the Asian Human Rights Commission. And these sordid deaths were overwhelmingly because of utter administrative failures. Till January 2008, only 34 people in West Midnapore, for instance, had received the minimum 100-day job and corresponding pay under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The remaining earned wages for an average of 11.6 days.

In a universe where bureaucrats, academics,policemen, the cogs and wheels of administration and governance are deeply entrenched in ‘party affiliations’, accountability can only be a silly theological notion for bourgeois ‘management types’. It is this affliction of apathy — and of genuinely being stumped about why people might be enraged about pointless deaths, of living in life-defying poverty — that really makes for something rotten in the state of Bengal.

What applies to administrative ignorance (an evolutionary byproduct of administrative apathy) holds true for a police force that simply doesn’t know anything about crowd control or how to tackle a riotous mob. Either the police do nothing (as they did when the Maoist-goaded People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities in Lalgarh first marched to the CPI(M) zonal headquarters in Dharampur last week to destroy any signs of the CPI(M)/administration and attack party workers), or they shoot first and ask questions later (as they so memorably did in Nandigram on March 14, 2007).

Only in Left-ruled Bengal do you get armed partymen being regularly and openly sent to ‘capture and liberate’ towns and villages that have fallen in the ‘wrong hands’. The police arrive at the scene later, if the comrades and their local commissars have failed to do their job. As this is being written, the state government has finally let the police and security forces enter Lalgarh to ‘reclaim’ it from the Maoist ‘invaders’. It will remain unclear for a long while whether this reclamation is being conducted at the behest of the CPI(M) or the people of Lalgarh, considering that the concerns of the two are different and almost diametrically opposite.

--Indrajit Hazra

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

During Microsoft Teched at Hyderabad, there was a contest for the top architect which I contested.
The following images are of the slides I sent and the text is basically the audio I sent.

High Overview


Microsoft Solutions Architecture


The first slide is a high level overview just for illustration purposes, so I won't delve into that. Let me speak of the Use cases which is in the 2nd slide.Here as I state a user or rather an authenticated user can vote, Mark Self as Candidate, sponsor someone else as candidate, view candidate info and so on. Ialso have another actor Candidate who extends from user and can upload content. I also have a external system who gets data and functionality from the system. To do so it pays to the system which I have assumed is done via a Payment Partner. The system also takes money when a user marks self as candidate and sponsoring another person.This is another assumption i have made.
Now to the solution Architecture, I have proposed a N tier application(in code) with complete seapration of UI, business logic, and data access logic. I follow the business facade pattern and will have a generated Data access layer where every method corresponds to one stored proc. Now one thing people might not like is the site having both a web client and a rich internet client. I like rich internet clients a lot and I think its usage could be a great plus in this site. I have suggested a web client to go with a rich internet app as well as it can then run on mobile browsers and on those browsers which do not have rich internet client framework.The rich internet client as well as the external services can connect directly to service layer to get the data.
Now if we go to the microsoft technology based architecture slide you will see that I have replaced all the technologies spoken earlier with the Microsoft technologies, Rich Internet Client has become Silverlight, the web client app has become ASP.NET MVC ( to mobile enable it , you just need to add the mobile browser definition files).I'm a great believer in software factories and so I have used the web service software factory with WCF in the service and business layer, the ADO.NET entity framework takes up the job of data layer along with data access application block which is heavily being used along with other application blocks in enterprise library cross cutting all layers for exception management, validation, logging, security, etc. I have proposed SQLserver as the dbas we are using .net and Microsoft's SQL client provider is super optimized for SQL Server.MS is supposed to come out with a rich internet client technology for mobile but as it is still in the pipeline( not even a beta release), I would like to first build the ria and even after it is ready if ms does not have the ria client for mobile browsers, I would create the web client, and my experience tells me that it will not require a heavy resource as the business logic has already been created.Finally security in WCF, to connect to silverlight u need to use basic http binding , so the security will have to happen at transport-level, HTTPS, IIS-based auth for the entire application and authentication outside of silverlight, but for b2b scenarios I suggest consider using messagebased brokered authentication with X.509 certificates with certificates the certificate issued by a commercial certificate authority.
Now for the deployment diagram, a little costly but I believe this is the best.
First there is the hardware firewall which will handle DDOS attacks, TCP flood, Malformed Packets efficiently as there is a dedicated processor in Hardware Firewall that handles all the filtering. If i use just Windows firewall and too many malformed requests come in, my Web servers CPU will be too busy saving me from those attacks then doing the real job like running my .NET code.My fire wall connects to a router or switch which has load balancing capability that evenly distributes traffic to my web servers. I had thought of firewalls with load balancing capabilities built in and with enough NIC to connect all my web servers but finally decided on the present architecture as i feel every device should do its own wotk and also this is perfect if the site is a hit and requires scaling up. I have seen many networks and web sites which have gone down for hours even a day because they did not have a backup, so I suggest each device should have a backup. So if the firewall goes down or has to be patched up, my backup can do its work.Note, the physical architecture is two-tier,the decision to have two tier architecture is due to speed. Since we don't store super critical information, we don't need to worry about Security as much as we would do if we were building a financial application.The servers should always run 64 bit windows as otherwise you cannot fully utilize the 4 GB RAM or more than that.The 64bit version of .NET framework is stable enough to run heavy duty applications. Some people have had bad experience running 64bit Windows on their personal computers, but 64bit servers are pretty solid nowadays. Web server layer contains three web servers in load balanced mode. Each web server hosts the exact the same copy of the code and other artifacts of the application that we have.Also our main users are coming from RIA and external systems which are any way going to be connected to the service layer but even if we only had a web client application, I would still do the same as a separate application layer has been proven to be a bad practice for high performance websites particularly the ones developed using ms technologies.even if you say that the webserver has no idea of the sql server,in modern applications, almost all operations are exposed via services. There's very little ad-hoc SQL query. So, this means, if someone can compromise the web tier, all the service methods are exposed to hacker and calling those service methods are not more complicated than calling SQL Server. IIS generates humoungous sizes of logs, and also we have the application logs been genrated by logging application block, my suggestion is to keep a large amount of space in the drive where the app is located as might need to store several weeks worth of IIS logs incase our internal systems to move those logs to somewhere else for reporting gets broken.
Now the webservers are also connected to the internal router. the db servers sit behind it. I know that some people would say that a firewall is required to keep the webservers in dmz but my exp is that this firewall becomes a bottleneck for all traffic between web and database servers. What I do is use a router and open only port 1433 to pass anything through the router from a web server to any DB server.I have been told by many security experts that if you can hack and get the web.config,everything else whether dmz or anything else is of no use.I have suggested windows clustering witha active /passive cluster but if the site scales up, we can make it 2 active /passive cluster. I have also suggested SAN for the main db data as windows clustering needs it(very costly i know, but if the site is big just worth it) but only local raids for backups and reporting data. Finally I have suggested MDFs and LDfs kept in spearate disks with RAID10 for storing MDFs where the read data is normally kept and RAID1 for LDFs which contain the high write scenarios.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ashokan Rock Edicts

There are Asokan edicts scattered over more than 30 places in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the Brahmi script. The languages they use are ancient Magadhi and Sanskrit, though one bilingual edict in Afghanistan is reportedly in Aramaic and Greek! There are 14 big rock edicts, seven big pillar edicts, minor pillar and rock edicts and the Kalinga rock edicts.
Rock Edict 2 says, ‘Everywhere within Devanam-piya Piyadassi’s realm and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, Pandyas, Satya-putras (Konkan), Kerala-putras, as far as Tamraparani (Lanka) and where the Greek king Antiochus rules, and among his neighbours too (Northwest Frontier), Piyadasi has arranged for two kinds of medical treatment: for humans and for animals. Wherever suitable herbs are not available, I have imported and grown them.’
Yes, better health, infrastructure and so on. But above all: law, order and justice. Asoka’s first rock edict says: Esahi vidhi ya iyam, Dhamma palana, Dhamma vidhane , Dhamma sukhiyana , Dhamma gotiti
‘For this is my rule: rule by the law, of the law; prosperity by the law, protection by the law.’

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Microsoft® Operations Framework (MOF) 4.0 delivers practical guidance for everyday IT practices and activities, helping users establish and implement reliable, cost-effective IT services.
Also check out Planning for Software-plus-Services: A MOF Companion Guide.
User Experience 2.0 : Any User, Any Time, Any Channel

Monday, May 11, 2009

"The other day I had this idea, what if I were to take all the concepts I write, speak, and consult about and turn them into a concept map. That might help me explain how things like messaging, unit of work, and exception management work together and why. It also shouldn’t be too much work. Or so I thought.
I started out with a blank piece of paper, and this is what happened:" -Udi Dahan


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gaming The System

I read an excellent article at wired in their security matters section by Bruce Schneier.

Uncle Milton Industries has been selling ant farms to children since 1956. Some years ago, I remember opening one up with a friend. There were no actual ants included in the box. Instead, there was a card that you filled in with your address, and the company would mail you some ants. My friend expressed surprise that you could get ants sent to you in the mail.
I replied: "What's really interesting is that these people will send a tube of live ants to anyone you tell them to."
Security requires a particular mindset. Security professionals -- at least the good ones -- see the world differently. They can't walk into a store without noticing how they might shoplift. They can't use a computer without wondering about the security vulnerabilities. They can't vote without trying to figure out how to vote twice. They just can't help it.
SmartWater is a liquid with a unique identifier linked to a particular owner. "The idea is for me to paint this stuff on my valuables as proof of ownership," I wrote when I first learned about the idea. "I think a better idea would be for me to paint it on your valuables, and then call the police."
Really, we can't help it.
This kind of thinking is not natural for most people. It's not natural for engineers. Good engineering involves thinking about how things can be made to work; the security mindset involves thinking about how things can be made to fail. It involves thinking like an attacker, an adversary or a criminal. You don't have to exploit the vulnerabilities you find, but if you don't see the world that way, you'll never notice most security problems.
I've often speculated about how much of this is innate, and how much is teachable. In general, I think it's a particular way of looking at the world, and that it's far easier to teach someone domain expertise -- cryptography or software security or safecracking or document forgery -- than it is to teach someone a security mindset.
Which is why CSE 484, an undergraduate computer-security course taught this quarter at the University of Washington, is so interesting to watch. Professor Tadayoshi Kohno is trying to teach a security mindset.
You can see the results in the blog the students are keeping. They're encouraged to post security reviews about random things: smart pill boxes, Quiet Care Elder Care monitors, Apple's Time Capsule, GM's OnStar, traffic lights, safe deposit boxes, and dorm -room security.
The most recent one is about an automobile dealership. The poster described how she was able to retrieve her car after service just by giving the attendant her last name. Now any normal car owner would be happy about how easy it was to get her car back, but someone with a security mindset immediately thinks: "Can I really get a car just by knowing the last name of someone whose car is being serviced?"
The rest of the blog post speculates on how someone could steal a car by exploiting this security vulnerability, and whether it makes sense for the dealership to have this lax security. You can quibble with the analysis -- I'm curious about the liability that the dealership has, and whether their insurance would cover any losses -- but that's all domain expertise. The important point is to notice, and then question, the security in the first place.
The lack of a security mindset explains a lot of bad security out there: voting machines, electronic payment cards, medical devices, ID cards, internet protocols. The designers are so busy making these systems work that they don't stop to notice how they might fail or be made to fail, and then how those failures might be exploited. Teaching designers a security mindset will go a long way toward making future technological systems more secure.
That part's obvious, but I think the security mindset is beneficial in many more ways. If people can learn how to think outside their narrow focus and see a bigger picture, whether in technology or politics or their everyday lives, they'll be more sophisticated consumers, more skeptical citizens, less gullible people.
If more people had a security mindset, services that compromise privacy wouldn't have such a sizable market share -- and Facebook would be totally different. Laptops wouldn't be lost with millions of unencrypted Social Security numbers on them, and we'd all learn a lot fewer security lessons the hard way. The power grid would be more secure. Identity theft would go way down. Medical records would be more private. If people had the security mindset, they wouldn't have tried to look at Britney Spears' medical records, since they would have realized that they would be caught.
There's nothing magical about this particular university class; anyone can exercise his security mindset simply by trying to look at the world from an attacker's perspective. If I wanted to evade this particular security device, how would I do it? Could I follow the letter of this law but get around the spirit? If the person who wrote this advertisement, essay, article or television documentary were unscrupulous, what could he have done? And then, how can I protect myself from these attacks?
The security mindset is a valuable skill that everyone can benefit from, regardless of career path.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I used to work on LAMP before moving to the microsoft platform. Sergey Solyanik did the same and his post on the subject is just... hum.. pragmatic! Here are my favorite parts of the post:
(...) "First, I love multiple aspects of the software development process. I like engineering, but I love the business aspects no less. I can't write code for the sake of the technology alone - I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.
Sorry open source fanatics, your world is not for me! "(...)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Navigate the cloud computing labyrinth Make an educated decision about the best cloud computing platform for your application
Is there value in cloud computing? Cloud computing and its impact on the future of architecture
The role of Software as a Service in cloud computing
Connecting to the cloud, Part 1Leverage the cloud in applications :Take advantage of the hybrid model
Make dashboards with XQuery Present business data with a Web-based dashboard
EXIST Open Source Native XML Database
XQuery 1.0: An XML Query Language
XML Path Language (XPath) 2.0

Monday, March 30, 2009

The tale of two ladies

Two news items last week caught my eyes. One on a minister and another one on a sr manager in a software firm.

'Last time I checked my calculator-cum-clock, there was a biggish difference between ‘five minutes early’ and ‘90 minutes late’. I also know by instinct and experience that five minutes early gets me a different kind of look from my boss than the one in which I arrive 90 minutes late. It now seems that my being able to tell the difference between the two time durations is a gift. Last week I realised that there are some unfortunate people out there suffering from the debilitating side-effects of Ministerialitis — the crippling ailment that makes Ministers and
other VIPs believe that the world revolves around them. It is with this knowledge that I feel humbled by the fact that when I’m late, I know I’m late. Especially, when I’m late by a bloody hour and a half.

So my heart goes out to Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury. Being a Minister makes most mortals — especially those whose Ministerial functions involve social development and much radiant smiling — extra-susceptible to believing that they are popular enough to be forgiven for any sort of transgression.'-Indranil Hazra

The second story is about getting duped by a tantrik.The woman, a computer engineer and employed as manager in a city-based software company is also daughter of a retired assistant commissioner of police.The tantrik operating his black magic business from multiple locations in the city had placed advertisements about his ‘powers’ in newspapers including a vernacular daily stating that performing a certain puja would solve all problems. After noticing the advertisement, the victim had approached him. However, he had convinced her into believing that he was capable of fulfilling all her wishes and duped her into believing that sacrificing a rhinoceros would remove all obstacles and help her find a match within a week and also promised the victim that he would go to Uttar Pradesh to catch a rhino.The lady is said to have paid Rs 2.95 lakh to perform the puja.

The victim paid another visit to Shah a week later but he was not traceable. She then lodged a complaint with the police and the police caught the scamster obviously because of her father's connections.But what of the woman? How could she believe that a rhino sacrifice would help her find a man?

What puzzles me with this case, as with any other case pertaining to tantriks and babas fooling innocent victims, is what exactly was the crime here ?
If it is sweet-talking a victim into parting with cash, then every advertisement, sales and marketing gimmick does exactly that.
If it was giving false promises without any logical reasoning, then every puja that is done has no guarantee anyway.
If it is the fact that she did not get married after doing this, then there would be more than billion cases against gods and goddesses in India; and a few millions against self-proclaimed godmen and sadhus.
If it is the fact that he killed a rhino, then it looks like he didn’t take the pains to go to UP and kill a rhino after all. So he comes clean on that account.
If the amount of Rs. 2.95 lakhs is the issue, then is Rs. 100 okay ? Rs. 1000 ? Rs. 100000 ? What is the cutoff before it is booked under IPC section 420 ?
All I feel is that the law shouldn’t be a cushion for human stupidity; and if this tantrik is a criminal under the law, so are all the above people.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hope you’re having a wholesome breakfast today, Mr Prime Minister.

I have been reading for some time the excesses of government in this country on common man. I intend to search for such articles and put them here. I read an article by Indrajit Hazra in Hindustan times on a true non violent struggle by Irom Sharmila Chanu who hails from Manipur.

"If you’re really serious about fasting, there can be no better motivator than the Government of India. Our good old national institution has worked wonders by pushing someone to forego a proper meal since November 2000.
Irom Sharmila Chanu is the kind of person who usually makes me deeply suspicious of human goodness. I mean, what kind of person would go on a hunger-strike for eight years, demanding the repeal of something as abstract-sounding as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)?
Irom Sharmila’s story is as much about one Manipuri woman’s battle against the worst possible adversary — irrelevance — as it is about practising the lost and powerful art of satyagraha, non-violent protest, against the very people who make a huge reverential show of this invention by another Indian political activist. Irom wants the AFSPA to be repealed from her home state, Manipur.
So what is this thing that goes by the acronym-resisting name of AFSPA? It’s a law that was enacted in August 1958 that grants the military extraordinary powers to arrest without a warrant, give out shoot-to-kill orders and destroy property in ‘disturbed areas’. Most magically, it protects military personnel from prosecution against any crimes. Passed as a short-term measure to take on separatists, it became a protective cloak for extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and ‘disappearances’.
On November 2, 2000, ten people standing at a bus stand were shot dead at Malom, Manipur, by members of the Assam Rifles in retaliation to a bombing by insurgents. Irom Sharmila saw the pictures of the dead in the next day’s newspapers and lost her appetite. Since then, she has been trying to get the AFSPA scrapped in Manipur by the only way she thinks will get the attention of the powers-that-be in Never-Neverland Delhi: by going on a fast.
Well, she’s been dead wrong, hasn’t she?
Arrested and released and re-arrested over the last eight years on charges of attempted suicide, Irom has managed practically nothing, even as she has been force-fed a liquid diet through her nose all these years.
In 2004, after the custodial killing of Manorama Devi (remember those naked Manipuri women with the banner carrying those ‘inviting’ words, ‘Indian Army Rape Us’, outside the Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal?), the tremendously decent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up the Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Committee to look into the act. The committee presented its report to the PM a year later in which it stated that the AFSPA “should be repealed... The Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”
Apart from lifting the Act from municipal areas in Manipur, the AFSPA firmly remains in place in the state (even as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stated last month in the state assembly that he would repeal the AFSPA in J&K “if the situation continued to improve”).
Irom Sharmila was released last Saturday, the day before International Women’s Day. She was re-arrested for attempted suicide on Monday, the day Jayalalithaa didn’t eat a morsel. Yesterday, Irom Sharmila turned 37 in prison.
Hope you’re having a wholesome breakfast today, Mr Prime Minister."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Politicians and horse trade is passe, politics and horse races are in

Read an excellent article by Manas Roy in hindustan times.
With the polls around the corner, questions about the unholy nexus among money, criminals and elections are once again being raised. One way to clean up the process could be the State funding of elections. But while that may level the playing field and help a few deserving candidates, the problem is where will the state get the money? Nobody wants to raise taxes. We like clean elections, but we don’t want to pay for them.
Thankfully, I have a simple scheme that will not only solve the whole problem of election funding but will also ensure that we have a 100 per cent voter turnout.
How can the public be persuaded to part with money to set up a fund for fighting elections? Obviously they will only cough up the cash if they can get something in return. Why, for instance, do hordes of people turn up at the race course every weekend and part with large sums of money? Because they believe they have a sporting chance of getting a return on their investment.
And in the process, they also contribute to the upkeep of the race course. I know, because I used to donate a substantial part of my salary to the Royal Calcutta Turf Club in my heydays. So all that we have to do is to replicate the race course business model for elections and voila, the election funding issue is solved.
One of the ways you can bet at the races is on the tote — short for totalisator. Here’s how it works. Suppose there are five horses in a race. Let’s say you bet Rs 100 on Horse Number 3, because you know its owner has come to the races wearing a three-piece suit, which means he wants to be photographed with the winning horse and the trophy. The horse is also running in the third lane, which, combined with the fact that it is running in the third race, makes winning almost a sure thing.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the math. Say 99 other savvy punters also bet Rs 100 each on Horse Number 3. Let’s assume that the total money bet is Rs 1 lakh. If Horse Number 3 wins, this total amount could be divided as follows: 30 per cent or Rs 30,000 to the government for taxes, 10 per cent or Rs 10,000 to the race course authorities and 60 per cent or Rs 60,000 to the 100 winning tickets. So you get Rs 600 for your Rs 100 bet.
Now extend this model to the elections. Every constituency could put up a list of candidates and ask the voters to bet on them. The Election Commission can then set aside a small percentage, say 10 per cent of the total kitty for an election fund, while the remaining 90 per cent will be paid out to those who bet on the winning candidate. Betting tickets could be sold from every post office and bank in the country. The amount of bets on each candidate could be broadcast daily on TV, allowing voters to judge the odds.
Apart from bets on the winning horse… er… candidate, we could also have bets on the runner-up. We could even have a jackpot, where voters correctly predict the winners in five contests. Bets could be for the largest party, the winning alliance, the choice of prime minister — the possibilities are endless. Forget election funding, the money could easily cover the entire fiscal deficit.
That’s not all. People will start taking a keen interest in the political process, attending every political meeting zealously, weighing the chances of the rival candidates, studying their form and attempting to sway others to vote for the candidate of their choice.
On election day, there will be long queues of voters, all of them eager to put their votes where their money is. Indian democracy will not only be truly participatory, it will also be great fun. In fact, it’s likely to be such a big hit we’ll be clamouring for elections every quarter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Functional testing for Web applications Using Selenium, Windmill, and twill to test Google App Engine applications
Use XQuery for the presentation layer Separate concerns without being tied to a particular language

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quotable Qoutes

Men make their own history,but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.
-Karl Marx

I have not failed 10,000 times, I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.
-Thomas Edison, inventor of over 1,000 devices including the phonograph

Whether India is to be yours or mine, whether it is to belong more to the Hindu,or the Moslem, or whether some other race is to assert a greater supremacy than either- that is not the problem with which Providence is exercised. It is not as if, at the bar of the judgement seat of the Almighty, different advocates are engaged in pleading the rival causes of Hindu, Moslem or Westerner, and that the party that wins the decree shall finally plant the standard of permanent possession. It is our vanity that makes us think that it is a battle between contending rights- the only battle is the eternal one between Truth and untruth.
-Rabindranath Thakur, 1908

The political civilisation which has sprung up from the soil of Europe and is overrunning the whole world, like some prolific weed, is based on exclusiveness.It is always watchful to keep at bay the aliens or exterminate them. It is carnivorous and cannibalistic in its tendencies, it feeds upon the resources of other peoples and tries to swallow their whole future.It is always afraid of other races achieving eminence, naming it as a peril, and tries to thwart all symptoms of greatness outside its own boundaries, forcing down races of men who are weaker, to be eternally fixed in their weakness.There is one safety for us upon which we may count, and that is, that we claim Europe herself as our ally, in our resistance to her temptations and to her violent encroachments; for she has ever carried her own standards of perfection,by which we can measure her falls and gauge her degrees of failure, by which we can call her before her own tribunal and put her to shame.
-Rabindranath Thakur, 1916

Sometimes I think the surest sign that inteligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.
-Calvin and Hobbes

Did you know:- Roman author Pliny had complained of the drain of gold to India in ancient times.

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
-Albert Einstein

Consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What is required to be called a professional?

Recently I read an excellent article written by Subroto Bagchi on what it will take to be a great professional in the days to come. This is a question that I have had as well. As he rightly says these days almost everyone has a digital SLR. Since everyone can take great pictures these days, photo-shop them, and freely upload on the Internet, what is the difference between them and professionals such as Dewitt Jones or Raghu Rai? This is a question equally relevant for doctors, architects, software engineers, lawyers and dress designers.
He states that according to Howard Gardner (“The Harvard professor who has written 20 books and received 21 honorary doctorates; the same man who questioned the role of IQ in determining intelligence. In fact, it was he who had propagated the idea of multiple intelligence.”): "whatever may be your profession, to succeed in the world ahead, you need to master the five minds of the future…"

"The first is the mind of the discipline. You may be a trained photographer or a qualified surgeon. It does not matter. Your professional qualification is not what will make you a professional. You need to devote yourself to your profession of choice for at least 10 years before you can understand its nuances.
Empirical studies indicate that, across disciplines, amount of time is a minimum requirement. You have to give yourself to the profession as against looking at it just as a means to a livelihood, a career or a job. You need to build affection for your profession and a long view of time.
The second is the mind of synthesis. The future requires the capacity to build abstractions. In other words, you need the mind of synthesis. It is about developing an understanding of ideas, concepts and problems in an interdisciplinary manner while building depth in one's own discipline. A great shot on the outskirts of Delhi requires an understanding of where Delhi comes from historically.
The third mind is the creative mind. Clients do not like the tried-and-the tested solutions any more because those solutions are simply not innovative enough. Precisely because they are tried and tested, they have become the past.
Competitive advantage is about creativity, and creativity is about taking risks. The creative mind is about building the capacity to answer what is new and what is different about the solution you are suggesting every time.
The fourth mind is the respectful mind. In the future, all problems will require interdisciplinary solutions. Whether it is about negotiating a nuclear treaty or removing a cancerous cell from the pancreas, if anything qualifies to be called a problem, then chances are high, the solution would have to be interdisciplinary.
That means experts from different fields will have to listen to each other, learn from each other, collaborate while they compete, disagree without being disagreeable and then put multiple minds together, build consensus and emerge with the strength of the respectful mind.
Why do you think one CEO fails and another succeeds in taking a militant trade union along? Why do you think one educationist prevails over others while settling the contents of a high school textbook on national history? Why one physicist is able to get agreement on making a certain standard universally acceptable in a transnational negotiation involving competing interests? Those who succeed have the respectful mind
Finally, great professionals of tomorrow will need to understand and master what Howard Gardner calls the ethical mind. This ethical mind is about the capacity to certify the completion of one's own work. That rules out most people who need someone else to supervise them. Whatever may be your profession, to be called a professional, you must master all the five minds of the future and only then can you be globally accepted.
But why should we worry about being globally relevant? Because the benchmark no longer remains local. The benchmark is now Dewitt Jones."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I read two excellent articles on politics and our role in them written by Siddharth D. Sanghvi and Swati Ramanathan.
Siddharth wrote “In India, politicians have come down with politics as if it's a sexually transmitted disease; an affliction, a bane. Under the guise of governance, genocide, rape, torture have become institutionalised in India, all instruments in our War against Terror.
Image associations with politicians scare me. Say Narendra Modi and Jagdish Tytler and I see flames. Say Raj Thackeray and I see broken glasses. Say Lalu Prasad and I see cowsheds of cash.
While all countries have corruption in their system, only India has a system within the corruption; our system is officially a sleaze ecology. For when our politicians are not whorishly auctioning their votes on nuke deals, they're brokering development contracts with builders' lobbies.”
Aristotle was right when he wrote that "to live an ethical life it is impossible to not engage in politics".
But as Swati says “ mere 9 per cent of the urban youth vote. This political abstinence by our youth, in a country with 47 per cent of our population under the age of 20, does not bode well for the future health of our young democracy. We are in danger of creating a permanent and large constituency of non-voters.
Engaging in the politics of our city, state and country, is engaging in nation building. Yet most Indians, young and old, prefer to stay away from politics, viewing it as a vehicle of corrupt power and crime. Engaging with government is anathema to most Indians.
Faced with a choice, we prefer to go over, under and around government, anything rather than engage with it. While we do volunteer for causes, the average Indian feels that he or she has little political or social impact beyond the occasional power trip to the ballot box."

British sociologist Herbert Spencer who coined the concept of social Darwinism argued that the same forces of natural selection guiding evolution should apply to human society too.I read a column by Indrajit Hazra where he wrote “You, model citizen with the well meaning furrowed brows, may well ask why there is no similar natural selection for our political leaders. Why aren’t the incapable, power’n’pelfwallahs simply kept out of the system? Isn’t evolution all about filtering out the bad and keeping the good, until we get the super-duper, long grained variety of political leadership.No, evolution- or in Darwin’s words, ‘descent with modification’- isn’t about constant betterment. There’s nothing qualitative about who stays on and who goes. One survives by doing whatever it takes to survive- and that’s determined by whatever we allow as survival tactics.So will being a performing politician become a necessary requisite for politicians? Well that’s purely up to us who’ll be doing the ‘selecting’ in the April elections. Ultimately, we’ll get the political leadership we’ll be allowing to survive down the years.”
Going back to what Swati wrote, “Looking towards the US again, volunteering is considered a bedrock of community building, inculcated through schools and colleges. In his campaign speech, Barack Obama promises a $4,000 tuition credit for students who commit time to community service.
More than 60 million average Americans commit volunteer time. Youth volunteering in the US is estimated to be 36 per cent between the ages of 15 and 25 and more than half of those volunteering firmly believe that they can make some difference to the community they live in.
The youth that volunteer in political organisations—13 per cent-believe they can make a difference on various social or political issues. Studies in the US indicate that youth are twice as likely to volunteer, engage in politics or vote, when they grow up in a household where someone volunteers.
The good news is that volunteerism as a concept is not new in our society and is deeply embedded in social structures, building a stronger sense of community and trust. We continue our social networks and support structures in our cities, but these networks are not concerned with politics.
The reality is that we cannot do away with politics if we are to solve our overwhelming social issues-poverty and crime, for example.
In India, we have long been used to a relationship of patronage, ruled by feudal lords, maharajas, and the Raj. We have yet to embrace the power of the citizen in a democracy. We are a billion voices with the power of a billion votes at our command.
Our right to vote is the privilege of our democracy and a civic duty. Yet, we have reduced our role to that of a complainant and critic of our governments. Most of us do not invest in our political identity or political beliefs.
In striking contrast to what we are currently witnessing in the US, average citizens and students in India do not campaign for political candidates, or attend public meetings, or concern ourselves with public policies. We see our role of "citizen" through a limited lens-paying taxes and obeying laws. Our political identity of "voter" is supremely undervalued.
We are comfortable forming networks to engage in music, religion, business, rotary, social service, but are uncomfortable about engaging in politics. We shun politics with an unusual righteousness and starve our youth of civic role models.
The protestation that corrupt candidates turn us off voting has become something of a convenient copout. Perhaps, we do not have good enough candidates because there are not enough good voters who care enough to cast their votes.
Clearly, our change is not going to be led by individual messiahs. But do we believe that one billion voices are powerless? Let's not get trapped into a nirvana fallacy, waiting for perfect conditions before we are willing to play our rightful role in India's political journey.
Our youthful demographic dividend has been hailed as an economic positive. Let's also consider it a democratic positive.
Turning 18 can become a milestone not just because it allows you a driver's licence, but also because it allows you the licence to vote. Will the youth lead our one billion voices out of political indifference?
We live in a country that demands so little from our citizens. Over 20 countries, including Australia, have introduced compulsory voting for its citizens. Singapore enrols all male citizens upon reaching 18 years, to a mandatory two years in national service under the Singapore Armed Forces.
Jury duty is mandatory in the US and can be deferred only twice. During times of war, all able young men have to register for the draft. We demand absolutely nothing of our citizens, of our youth, for the privilege of citizenship.
The spirit of service is what drives tall leaders around the world to do great things and average citizens to commit to causes of common good. It inspires individuals to look beyond themselves and empower others.
But in order to empower others we must be empowered ourselves. Let's begin with the simple act of voting.”