Monday, May 28, 2007

$100 Laptops

Does Intel fear the $100 laptops? Such is the title of an article on CNN Money which you can read here. These $100 laptops, manufactured under the brand name of XO laptops as per a project called OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Programme, aim at bringing the power of computers and the Internet into the lives of children from developing nations. An analysis of the technical specifications for the laptop can be found on ars technica.

A project which has the whole computing world watching and anticipating with bated breath with all the big software and hardware companies showing considerable interest (read this piece here for more on this), the XO project is possibly the most radical idea to come out in computer sciences since their speedy inception - an idea that is as fantastic as it is difficult, an idea which has been borne out of a single minded dedication of the people involved to create a non-profit machine which will help children across the world take advantage of the computer revolution that has failed to touch their lives till now.

Sure there are detractors...and the competition is only just heating up, with Intel bringing out its Classmate machines which will be prices just a little higher but probably provide better computing capabilities. (A comparative study of OLPC's XO laptop and Intel's Classmate can be found here on CNN Money.)

So how does this bode for the world of computing? It all depends, of course, on the sales that OLPC can make - something that should be clear by the end of 2008. Indeed, it is a testament to the potential of these laptops - whether for being a harbinger of an educational revolution or for being a great opportunity in marketing computing solutions and products across the globe - that everybody from Google to Microsoft to Dell is involved/trying to get involved in this project which initially meant to work on and open source platform (Linux). For me, after reading this stuff, I just hope that the target of this project isn't overshadowed by some marketing war that comes up between OLPC and Intel with regards to their respective products or by the politics that may get in the way of the XO sales (a very distinct possibility since governments are involved).

All said and done, this is a beautiful concept which deserves to achieve fruition beyond the wildest dreams of its creators. After all, it will bring a smile on the faces of children across the globe, won't it?

And a last word on this: Apparently, India is planning to create a $10 laptop, aimed at outshining the OLPC endeavours, though I wonder whether it's a genuine attempt or just a hoax to gain some publicity.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Thing About Reminiscence

"That's why we have the blogs my friend....for all the crap in the world.....let it spout freely like the blood from Ceaser's mouth in Calphurnia's dreams"

Well, let me start this post with this quote by Saurya. And yes, check out the logic he's dishing out on his blog these days. You'll like it, not in the least because of the humour, that I can tell you.

Okay, now to the issue at hand, which is obviously related to the title - probably a side-effect of me being too uptight or me craving symmetry, reason and relation in everything I do - Reminiscence. Obviously, with the year having come to a close (the academic year of course), every second person from BITS I talk to/chat has gone into what I call the 'bleary-eye' mode, with attitudes varying from elation to downright disappointment - elation of having shrug off the tag of being the newbies on campus and curiously, disappointment of having experienced (but not noticed) one year go by like a blur, which of course means that our BITsian life has one less year remaining...Am I making any sense there?

See, the thing with reminiscing is it's probably most suited for occasions when we've finished with some thing, for good that is. So, if the world does turn on its head and starts spinning from east to west, making me bring to reality the least probable event that would see me reminisce about my first year, it surely won't be happening in the next three years...and even then when I do become a psenti-semite spending his last few days at college or better still, as a fresh pass-out, I'd probably end up pursuing more pressing interests rather than reminisce.

Ah yes, I said it! Reminiscing should be reserved for times when you feel you've achieved something. It should be about looking back on a job well done, learning from the way you approached the task and trying to incorporate that approach in your future endeavours (oh look at me, spewing fundas like a guru!) But yeah, that's pretty much how I feel about the entire thing. So next time you see me sitting about deep in thought, understand in advance that it's the present and the future, rather than the past, in my thoughts.

Of course, if my blog does have elements of reminiscence in the posts, I'll take the most hypocritical route to any question of that nature and say, 'Do not look at past posts for that is evidence of reminiscence themselves...Besides, I haven't reminisced in the past posts...I've merely gone into a retrospective mode...Broaden your minds and look to the future posts,' though of course why anyone needs to broaden his/her mind while trying to read the crap I'm putting here is anybody's guess.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What I Learnt Today: 22nd May 2007

  • Humans manage complexity through abstraction. For example, people do not think of a car as a set of tens of thousands of individual parts. They think of it as a well-defined object with its own unique behavior. This abstraction allows people to use a car to drive to the grocery store without being overwhelmed by the complexity of the parts that form the car. They can ignore the details of how the engine, transmission, and braking systems work. Instead they are free to utilize the object as a whole. (quoted from some e-book whose title I've no idea about)

  • Have you ever felt the value of something only when you're forced to do without it...Sort of like people realizing how invaluable Paul Scholes really was to Manchester United only after he sat out half of the last season with his eye problem? Well, that's the sort of thing I'm facing these hols. Gone is the joy of solitude, the peace of lonely toil and the ecstasy of a free-spirited will looking to roam the skies. Instead, it's been replaced by more mundane things like waiting for a good movie to be broadcast on TV, thinking about what great dish Ma is going to whip up next and worrying about when the maintenance guys will heed the calls to keep filling up the water tanks more frequently (or maybe it's just that water is more scarce these days, so he can't help but fill the tanks less frequently)

  • A label list that extends for more than a single screen view doesn't look too good, so it's better to do away with it. That and Blogger being the great tool it is, I can put it back any time I feel the need.

  • The best stress-buster is shallow thinking. The more you think about something, the more tense it can make you. I envy all the guys out there who've been accused of having the emotional range of a teaspoon (in J K Rowling's words) by others. At least you won't be giving in to stress sometime soon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Experience of A Lifetime!

Well okay, I am exaggerating...and believe me, exaggeration is the proper word for it...well, what I'm referring to is my journey from Pilani to Jaipur on the night of 11th May - more precisely, the stretch of journey from Pilani to Chirawa in a Rajasthan State Transport Bus. Wait a minute! Did I just write 'in'? Wrong! I meant to say 'on'.

This is what happens when you have way too much luggage and too little space inside the bus to accommodate the the conductor insists on piling on more and more passengers - paying no heed to the creaking parts of the bus, indicating a considerable strain on the bus' load bearing capacity. Indeed, it was out of compulsion rather than due to a weird and highly strung sense of adventure that we - that is, Dhruv and I - decided to act as watchdogs for our luggage and sit atop the bus along with fifteen other crazy men for whom such a daring act of reckless courage (as it appeared to us, of course) was a part of daily commuting.

The experience could well be described as something that brought the both of us closer to heaven - both figuratively and literally. Indeed when I think about it with the gift of hindsight firmly embedded within my senses, I thank my stars for the adrenaline rush that I felt when I began climbing the mini-ladder at the back of the stationary bus at the Pilani bus stop. It was this adrenaline rush that prevented a outpouring of fear while I calmly sat there on the roof - enjoying the blanket of stars above on that moonless night, reveling in the silky touch of the night and mentally philosophizing over the silent night.

Thankfully, the 15 minutes of madness or adventure (whichever you choose to call it) were over in a jiffy and we retook our places within the bus.

And in case you were wondering what happened to our luggage, it was still there on top of the bus throughout the journey, but our luck held and we got everything back safely once the bus pulled up into Jaipur bus station.

As they say, all is well that ends better.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Curious Paradox

I've been back home for a day now, and the strangest part is that there is a strange ethereal quality about the outside world now - outside world as in the world outside of BITS - a world that is not bounded by Gym G to the east, C'not to the south, SAC to the west and the Central Library to the north - a world that is not confined to BITS and BITsians alone. It sort of affirms what I've come to realize about the isolation of Pilani and within it, BITS.

I mean, within BITS, it's only the happenings on campus that really matter or make a difference to my daily life. Probably, for the last year or so, the only kind of news that I've kept myself abreast of is regarding football and Manchester United FC in particular. Of course, I don't mean to say that I could not have followed other developments had I wanted to do so, but that is exactly my point.

Within BITS, I've never felt the inclination to follow politics, crime, business and whatever other things I've never been disinterested with. It's been all about me, my friends and my interests, with my family being my only link with the outside world. And just as well, it has made me realized the importance of focus - focus on my aims, my ambitions - focus on achieving something and labouring towards it. In short, BITsian life has helped me to remove the shackles that I unknowingly bound myself with - shackles that prevented me from exploring myself as an individual, shackles that constrained my potential - now I know if I decide to fly off into the sky looking for the sun, nothing in the outside world will hold me back.

Probably, it needs this detachment from the outside world to actually move on and succeed in that very world! And in this paradox lies the gist of this entry...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vacation Time

Was talking with Harshad the other day about blogging in general...and we got into a nice discussion about how a blog should, instead of being like a diary, be a reflection of one's thoughts only. It doesn't make sense if a blog reads 'Went to the supermarket now', 'Have to watch TV today' and all that. Of course, blogging topics are going to be related to daily life but I'm not going to go into that debate now, especially since I wrote about it in a earlier post which can be read here.

Anyways, the semester has ended and I'm faced with two and a half months of free time in which I wonder what I shall do. One thing on my to-do list is to catch up on some reading from the world of literature. After all, when you've read only five books in a period of four months, it does indicate that you've to read more. The last book I read was 'The Inheritance of Loss' - a nice, little endeavour by Kiran Desai, but I do wonder whether it was a book worthy of the Booker Prize. Certainly, it takes on the same sorrowful themes that are repeated throughout all books at some point of time or the other, and lends it the credence of infallible human spirits. Whether that is what it takes to win the prize, I do not know.

Now that I'm free, I guess I'll have more time to blog more...So, let me end this post on that note itself.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Do Two Random Thoughts a Blog Post Make?

I am sitting here with the Compose window open before me and I don't know what to write. There are thoughts which aren't quite taking shape and words that do not quite convey those thoughts. I guess the trick for any aspiring writer is to acquire the ability to make his words speak exactly the way his thoughts flow. That is the challenge - to induce as much drama as the mind makes out, as much emotion as the thoughts allow and as much suspense as the brain deems necessary. Am I at that stage yet? Obviously not, but I hope to be...some day...

Two things that I can think about right now of the top of my mind are -
1. The workshop test, which was okay, but has Prob & Stat following it immediately.
2. Manchester United's loss to Milan in the Champions' League.

Let me dwell for a moment on the latter then. It seems like the away bogey has struck Fergie's team again. But I think we have a bright future to look forward to. Ferguson was quite wise in defeat and acknowledged the need for his new generation of starlets to gain more experience. It's gonna take some time, but I reckon that we'll all see Manchester United lift the European Cup again in two years' time. It's not hope but it's the realization that two years will see this team grow in stature and ability.

I guess such random thoughts do make a blog entry after all. Hopefully, the next time I sit down to post something, things won't be so random and the thoughts won't be so discrete!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Oh the Sweltering Summer Heat!

Suffering through 45 degrees (celsius that is) for the first time in my life, and let me tell is thoroughly unbearable...

Of course, the heat is supposed to get even worse, and better still, even though I'm going home in about ten days, the weather back home is as bad. It will be a long first summer in Vidarbha, methinks.

Anyways, off to study Workshop now. It's a brilliant course which really makes you believe you are learning something. But then again, you don't fancy staying in the hot cauldron of your room studying workshop while half of the batch is comfortably sitting in the air conditioned confines of the IPC, preparing for Engineering Graphics (EG). That's why I say, 'Workshop may be brilliant but give me EG any day, any time'.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Time to Reckon With

It's compre time now - the comprehensive examinations have officially arrived. Today was the time for Linear Algebra and Complex Analysis. So with all the 'z's' finally out of the way, it's now the time for manufacturing and manufacturing techniques...

It's like a weird hush has descended upon the campus with everyone busy mugging for the compres. Obviously, I'm one of them...God knows why this 'ghoting' phenomenon is infectious!

Anyways, the reward facing us is two and a half months worth of summer vacations. So, here's hoping to a good series of compres and a fun vacation after that...

P.S. Manchester United are playing Milan on 2nd night. A 3-2 lead from the home leg is quite dangerous...Let's see what the guys can conjure...