Monday, August 29, 2005

The Terabyte divide

The best thing about technology is that it strides real fast. It also is the worst part since you buy an electronic product and two years down the line someone out there is going to show you an upgraded version available at a much cheaper cost. It’s interesting because there are going to a lot of people who’d be hit pretty hard because of this, and some will have a lot to gain. Leading the pack of the losers would music, movie and software companies, due to the staggering piracy possibilities.

I'm in two minds regarding placing an order for a 160 GB hard disk. A couple of my friends have procured it and are satisfied with the speed/storage performance, but there are a couple of others who prefer to 'wait' for the 250 GB disk. In the mean time, here's Hitachi's announcement of the 1 TB DVD recorder. That's 1024 GigaBytes. Nuts, I say! But then, I have no doubts regarding the supply of content to fill up all the space. And here’s the big fight between Sony and Toshiba over the next generation DVD format. One painful thing about all this is that there could easily be a 2-5 year divide between developed countries and ours before the technology catches up.

That aside, I go bonkers everytime I think about the technology in future. Ten years from now, it’s safe to guess that the specs would be something like:
  • 100 GBPS LAN transfer rate/2 GBPS internet connection.
  • 50 TB hard disks10 TB DVD or some high density writers.
  • And a compatible range of processors and multimedia equipment.
Imagine piracy with such specifications. Its common knowledge that you could go to Ritchie Street in Chennai or Palika Bazaar in Delhi anytime now and get a 5-movies DVD pack, or a 100 song MP3 CD or a single disk with some 5/10 games/software for something around 100 bucks, if you bargain well. But with Terabyte kind of technologies, you could get something like 100 movies and 2500 songs in single disks. That’s frightening. Who would be ready to buy an original CD or its equivalent containing a mere 5 songs? Guess that’s the interesting part thinking about future.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

On ...

I know updates are long overdue, but I was just not in the mood for typing out anything. Guess its an after-effect of the vacation.

In the meantime, Rediff has featured this blog in the Getahead section: Link.

I don't really know if its a small deal of a big deal since I don't know how many bloggers contact Getahead section and how many blogs are finally listed, but it was quite a suprise to me anyway for someone as big as Rediff to recognize what I've been doing as a hobby.

Will update in a short time...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Visit to the land of the La, Jammu & Kashmir

Ladakh is Tibetan for ‘the land of the La’, which translates to the land of high passes. It is not a place that photographs or words could describe. Everyone has to experience its beauty. I’ll try to make it short and leave the pictures to describe the rest.

First was the travel to Manali through Delhi and Chandigarh. The Manali-Leh road is one of the world’s most scenic, toughest, adventurous and challenging roads. Scenic because it goes through some of the worlds highest passes; toughest because of the road conditions – being open only for 4 months a year, it’s tough even to maintain something resembling a road at those heights; adventurous because it takes guts to drive in those places, letting the non-existence of roads, crossing streams, snow passes and landslides aside; and challenging because many get Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) because of the altitude.

We took a Tata Spacio and Chevrolet Tavera for the drive. The following picture was just before we crossed the Rohtang La pass (13050 feet). We were stranded for 15 mins due to this typical everyday-type landslide blocking the road.

One of the many lakes en route…this is a starting point for a Himalayan river.

These are the kind of roads you need to pass through… perfect SUV material.

Barlacha La… at 16500 feet was the most scenic pass of all the passes, with snow capped mountains on all side. But the approach road is also the worst of all.

At the end of the first day of the journey, we had to stay in these tents overnight. There are no permanent buildings here since the road is motorable only for 4 months and this is a cold barren desert – no vegetation, rains etc. The stay was one of the toughest things. Half of my company (4 out of 8) had breathing problems due to the altitude. Many experienced severe head aches.

This is one deep, scenic gorge by the side of the road - a run for the money to the Grand Canyon.

Following pix shows the 50 miles flat highway amidst all the mountains, at above 12000 feet; This one that has been featured in many ads including the latest Avenger ad. The people were Pashmina tribes, the only two people in the 50 miles stretch. They travel through foot! We had to stop since they were begging for water...

Jam and I at Tanglang la (17582 feet), the second highest pass in the world.

After two days of travel, we reached Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir - a dream come true. Leh is amazing – a green patch amidst all the plain barren mountains around, as though a place had been allocated by destiny for this purpose. It’s an amazing place with last traces of Tibetan culture in the world. We were surprised by the number of foreigners there since we were the only Indian contingent everywhere we went. It almost resembled a foreign country...

We then made it to Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass at 18380 feet. I learned that this pass is the only route to Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.

That’s me at Khardung La showing in the direction of the Siachen glacier.

At Hemis monastry, the oldest in the region. It is one of the most religious with 500 monks living, and is also a center piece of Buddism since Ladakh is supposedly one of the three remaining regions with vestiges of Tibetan Buddhism – the other two being Bhutan and Sikkim.

A view of the most beautiful Thiksey monastry, built on the style of the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet.

We also made it to the Siachen hall of fame in Leh. Awe inspiring stuff, with all the captured Pakistani guns, identity cards etc, along with heroic stories. Siachen is also one of the coldest regions in the world, with temperatures hovering between -5 to -50 degree centigrade. The temperature in the deep crevices, I learned, could go below -200 degree centigrade!

After two days at Leh, we made it back to Manali, and did some paragliding on the way.

We hired bullets - another dream - and ventured in the ghats from Manali to Kullu through what is called the Timber trail, through scenic apple orchards and villages like Naggar.

As Jam said, the whole journey was truly a photographer’s nightmare because every frame was worth capturing and the limitations are the time and the number of photos one is willing to capture. In the end, however hard you try, nature always wins; photos rarely capture the magnitude of the beauty, tranquility and the vastness of the space. However, we did try hard to capture the best pieces. We took 1800 snaps and 3 hours of video. If you are a person liking travel, this is the place to go. I would most likely visit the place many times again, hopefully riding a bullet or a vehicle myself. It’s worth every penny one spends.

P.S: Apologies for the delay in posting. Viruses, hard disk formatting, reinstalling etc took the toll.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Requiem for a dream

Yesterday was a weird day, and a rather heavy one. It was literally a mind fight to tackle all the things that were going on.

Foremost, we had a Legal Aspects of Business exam scheduled for today, and I had to start from scratch. I somehow managed to scrape through the quizzes till yesterday and today was pretty much the D-day. The feeling was worse since I really don’t have a track record of giving a proper fight to subjects that I don’t particularly like. This was one of them. All through the first year, we learned how to come up with different kind of answers for a question, while this exam was right opposite. Law. There was no two ways about it - everything to the dot, to the point… the perfect formula for spoiling the fun.

And fun was waiting for us in a silver platter. Right after the exam, we were to start our adventurous, adrenaline driven journey to Leh, through Manali, cruising through the world’s highest motorable road, through some of the chilliest barren cold deserts… a journey of a lifetime. Every bit of the plan had been finalized. The pictures of the mountains and passes I saw were all in my mind. Alternating amongst them was the thought of having to take the exam. As though it wasn’t enough, there were enough discussions in the college newsgroups about the best of the new movies in the campus, as soft rock music and desi-beats were wafting into my room from all directions.

I had 10 hours to go, 4 books to cover… and things like FERA, FEMA, Company act, Negotiable Instruments, Greek, Latin and Dutch were all in front of me. A plate of Maggi at 3 am in the night followed by two shots of Tea didn’t do me any good. I was still seeing circles and rectangles as I glanced through the pages. I then ripped some movies, and finally called it a day at 4 in the night. All I remember of the half-baked sleep was going through the Requiem for a dream music non-stop in my dreams. Some captivating music it is! Probably the best I’ve ever experienced.

I just couldn’t wait to complete the exam. After coming out of the exam hall with break neck speed, here I am, all set for the journey. All I hope for is a pleasant weather.

I wouldn’t be blogging or blog-hopping for 10 odd days. Catch you all later! Have truckloads of fun in the meantime!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Where is the big Indian democracy?

It's so easy and fanciful to trumpet around the world that we are a democratic country. Agreed that we are democratic compartive to countries like China et all, but the fact is that we have a really long way to go to achieve the full meaning of democracy. Whether we need a complete democracy or not is debatable, but transparency and freedom are certainly things that are the need of the hour.

Following are really bad examples that defame the name of a democracy:
  • Authors can't controversial books.
  • Movies can't be made with controversial titles or stories. We all know that there are a lot of things that are out of the way, but we won't allow producers to make movies out of it.
  • Even a Valentine day can't be celebrated because RSS doesn't like the sound of it.
One such instance is the movie The Final solution by Rakesh Sharma about the Godhra act and the carnage that followed in Gujarat. It's actually a Fahrenheit 9/11 style documentary, and no one knows if all the people who were interviewed were genuine, but what's obvious is the magnitude of hatred that's live among so many people. I just watched it a couple of days back after recommendations by some of my friends, and liked the boldness of the producer from frame one. Some bits and pieces of the movie are real eye-openers.

Some of the quotes:
  • An RSS activist saying: "Not all muslims are bad, but all terrorists are muslims and we got to give a fitting reply".
  • A 10 year old kid saying "I'll kill any Hindu after I grow up".
  • One activist saying: Christians have 200 countries to live in and muslims have 40 (?) countries but we got only this one and we got to make sure this is not taken away.
Really powerful words those. The way these arguments are put forward to the uneducated and uncouth crowd makes all the difference between liking and hatred. Tell that to people who are filled with adrenaline, out of work, with paltry education, and you could make them die at your feet. As shown in the movie, such trainings happen from age 10 and there are references to Nazi way of 'cleansing' in Gujarat school text books. Holy hell!

And what does such a movie get in return? A ban on Indian theatres! The movie has been shown all around the world and received hundreds of awards in international film festivals and it is banned in India, the place where it matters the most.

It's understandable that uneducated ruffians and hooligans are used as pawns for spreading hatred, but what is not understandable is why authoratative, educated people in censor boards ban such a film where the director has taken utmost care to handle the stuff in the way it has to be handled. All after the whole world has acknowledged the greatness of the movie. [Here's the BBC interview with Rakesh Sharma] Shame on us to call ourselves a democratic country!

Monday, August 01, 2005

A bloggers’ revolt against TOI?

Thanks to the tight schedule, I’ve been out of blog reading for quite a while. Infact, I didn’t follow many news articles about Mumbai. Ofcourse, I read the front page articles and realized the magnitude of what’s happened in our financial capital. But when I was back, I was taken by surprise at what Times Of India (TOI) has done. The only comfort seems to be the revolt that bloggers seems to be bringing about.

Thanks to Uma, a very casual and irresponsible act on the part of TOI has come to limelight again.

It’s not a surprise that TOI has done something cheap again. I’ve always been very critical of TOI after my first exposure to it during my two year Bangalore stint. During the peak of the Rajkumar episode when Veerappan kidnapped him, the sleazy images on top corners of the very first page with messages saying some model is pregnant or an actor is getting married for the nth time used to irritate me pretty badly. It was sheer irresponsibility. The whole of India was waiting with bated breath on the outcome of that incident. For people like me who hail from TN, the issue was even more serious since the outcome had the potential of starting a yet another backlash against Tamilians in Bangalore. That was the last thing we all wanted when foreign investment was at its peak in both the states. With all these things in mind, you turn the paper and what you get to see in the first page a semi-nude model! That’s when we shifted to a different paper.

The issue this time is very similar. Mumbai was lashed with a devastating, record-breaking rain, and TOI comes up with a beautiful half-page article saying celebrities were devastated more so since TOI didn’t reach their homes!

It’s true to a good extent that people would be expecting the morning paper to know what happened in other localities and probably in the rest of the country, but this certainly isn’t time for marketing, and this certainly isn’t the way to put things. The article has quotes from the likes of who felt the magnitude of the rains only when their beloved TOI didn’t reach them. And that’s in a space where many photos could be squeezed in. The issue has been vetted all over by an array of bloggers as listed in the same article.

In all, it’s irresponsible for a newspaper that’s the oldest in the country to do such a cheap thing. Hope the outcry of all the bloggers and others reach the ears of TOI, which seems to be pretty dumb to such issues of late.