Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Bhuvan - A Review

Swami Nikhilaananda said:

"Bhuvan - an Indian project with a great potential..."

A lot of people heard about a venture by ISRO to create better quality maps using their advanced satellites, but then didn't hear much about it later. The name of the project is Bhuvan, and it is touted to be better than Google Maps. So, let's see a little about Bhuvan (my experience)

Bhuvan - Gateway to Indian Earth Observation

The link to the Bhuvan website is here - http://bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in/index.aspx

For starters, the project looks really good, but I don't believe that it is still completely ready to replace Google Maps. In fact, it is far from it. The moment you visit the site, you have an option to Enter Bhuvan in 2D or 3D mode. If you click on the 2D mode, you are taken to a page where you can view the whole world in a flat map-like mode, and you can navigate and zoom in, just like in Google Maps. However, you will pretty soon realise that the maximum zoom level is far from satisfactory, although Bhuvan claims to have a much better zoom level (see towards end)

This particular 2D mode is not really interesting. What's more interesting is the 3D mode. To use that, you have to download an executable from their Downloads page. Also, you should be having Windows XP/Vista and Firefox. When I tried to run it on Windows 7, it didn't work, and their application crashed. It will also insist that you have Firefox installed on your system. Also, note that it doesn't run on Mac OSX nor Linux (and is mentioned on their website, and they also say that they will support it subsequently). The 2D version being a web based app, is browser independent and OS independent as well.

However, when you use the 3D application, you will see that it is a lot more impressive, and shows great potential. But even in this mode, the maximum zoom level doesn't seem to be going below around 2000m. At that height, you can make out clusters of buildings and some roads and water bodies.

Is the zoom really limited to that (around 2000m altitude)?

I don't think so... I am not sure though, I have sent them a mail, and am awaiting their response.

Do you think it is better than Google Maps?

As of now, no... But, it is not a completed project, and it shows a lot more potential than Google maps. It has a host of features including disaster services, weather services, land services, navigation, GPS/GIS and so on. So, definitely a great potential. Also, they have clearly mentioned that it is "Under Testing" at the top. So, till the project is completed, let's have patience. But I believe that this will be a great project and a milestone as well. I hope they allow developers to add on to their tools and provide APIs if they are not already doing it (which I think they are)

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Happy Picture

Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"They say that a picture is worth a thousand words... It's true!"



Whenever I find some time, I draw a random doodle on the whiteboard in my office place... This one was dedicated to one of my friends who was really excited and happy. So, I decided to draw a happy picture. This is not exactly the original one (that one was colourless and drawn only by me) and this one is slightly modified by others two - hence the erasing marks. However, someone found this picture giving them so much joy that they also shared. So, here I am, sharing this happy picture for whatever it is worth...

Yeah, it's a worthless doodle in the absolute sense, but for a guy who is really truly happy, it perfectly captured his mood.

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Original unmodified pic (but looks like the camera was shaken during capture)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Earth Hour - Why it is useless

Swami Gulagulaananda angrily shouted:
"World Earth Hour is a sham, and I refuse to be a part of tokenism. I will continue to propound aggressive pursuit rather than an hour of foolishness"


World Earth Hour:
A marathon movement started by WWF (Not the wrestling federation) to generate awareness about environment by turning off all your electrical appliances for an hour on a day in the year.

Tokenism (as defined by WordWeb)
A policy of formally complying with efforts to achieve a goal by making small, token gestures; especially to hire a minimal number of ethnically diverse or disadvantaged people



Swami Gulagulaananda's view
The world is rapidly progressing, and with progress, people are getting richer and can buy a lot more things than people could before. I remember, as a school child, that an air conditioner was a big deal, owning a two wheeler wasn't very common and owning a car (White Ambassador or a Fiat Padmini) was considered as being rich.

But fifteen years later, I see that the world around me has changed vastly. Owning two cars also is common, people have many vehicles at home, all air conditioned, and have air conditioners at home as well. And the cars? You know the fantastic range of vehicles that are available, and people can *afford* to buy multiples of those.

Do we understand what we are doing?
People were not very environment conscious before. They are now... And some times a little too conscious - and not in the good way. Why? It's because they don't understand what it is to be environment conscious and do weird things because someone else is doing it. Let me give you a simple example... Vehicle idling - It is one of the main sources of pollution. Vehicle idling is keeping your engine running while waiting at a signal. It is annoying to see vehicles unnecessarily wasting fuel, polluting the environment and blowing smoke into other people's faces. So, consciousness was spread by asking people not to idle their engines. They also introduced timers in signals to facilitate this. Now, you will know how long you have to wait, and there is no point to idle your engine anymore. While this may seem to rid the problem, a lot of people don't know a fact - Starting a vehicles consumes a lot of fuel suddenly, compared to running. So, you should shut your engine off, only if you are waiting for more than 60 seconds for a four wheeler, and more than 30 seconds for a two wheeler. But overzealous people shut their engines off simply when they see red lights, only to turn it on within a few seconds. In the process, they are damaging the environment more than helping it.

The point from the above example that has to be taken home, is that a complete understanding of what and why needs to be had, before doing anything... Just doing an act for the heck of it, will not benefit anyone anyway.

Come on, Earth Hour is all about raising awareness

[Caption: The Quebec legislature, during and after Earth Hour 2009. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)]

Taken from this website

<-- This pic shows what kind of hypocrites observe this event The strongest argument that is made by people who are pro Earth Hour is that it is all about bringing about awareness. "Hey, it's not all about the amount of energy saved in that one hour. It's a gesture - It will make people aware of it."

If you are a person who believes that the amount of power saved during Earth Hour itself is significant enough, then I am not going to argue with you... I don't want to waste my breath...

However, if you are a person who believes in the argument of gesture, then let me tell you this - I will give you another example. There is a very famous proverb when it comes to Democracy, and that is "Public memory is short." And what this means is something that is known to everyone. A politician does a scam, and media creates a hullabaloo about it, people start tweeting and blogging and going on campaigns. Some time later, everyone forgets everything... and the same politicians win by huge margins. How is that? Why is it that the blogging, tweeting and huge media ruckus didn't leave any impression on the minds of people?

And this can be extended to anything... Ragging is a great menace. People die, sad photos of parents are shown, two students get thrown out, jailed even, people stand around lighting candles... Then boom. Shortly, we read another incident of ragging.

It's all about Momentum
Why is it that the polio movement in India became a huge success? The reason is that the Government did not tell one day "Ok, people, get your kids to the polio booth and get vaccines..." and then leave it at that. They aggressive pursued it. They kept on saying "Polio booths are available, go there". Doctors and volunteers actually went door to door and urged people to get their children vaccinated. And it worked... You have to aggressively pursue something, and only then it will have an effect. Not doing something one fine day, and then leaving it after that. They didn't do it for a week. They did this all round the year.

And this can be anything else. Anything else, includes power saving and concern for environment. Imagine you want to get six pack abs and bulging biceps. So, I go to the gym and aggressively work out for an hour, two hours maybe? And then rest of the year feast on cheese burst pizzas. Will I get my abs?

What should I do then?
Now we arrive at the right part. It's not about bringing awareness on one day, and forgetting about it. We need to aggressively pursue this.

Steps that can be followed, but won't be followed:
  • Go for a power saving vehicle like TVS Star City instead of riding a Karizma. Will you do this? It's more fuel efficient and gives a lot better mileage, but guys want power and want to show off...
  • Don't go for Hummers and SUVs. Go for fuel efficient smaller vehicles.
  • Travel by public transport instead of your own bikes and cars. You will be able to bring about a huge reduction of pollution and traffic congestion - But hey, it won't go till your house, and won't come the time you want it. You may have to travel in a crowded bus or wait for thirty minutes. But you won't, will you? To hell with the environment at such times

Steps you SHOULD follow:
  • Replace incandescent bulbs by CFLs and tubes.
  • Close the door of the refrigerator when not in use (keeping it open even for few seconds means that it is rapidly losing coolness and will have to regenerate it all over again
  • Read more about how to save energy by researching other web sites :-)
  • Try to consciously and aggressively pursue this all through the year
  • Stop being a hypocrite, don't toe lines of people because a million other people are doing it, think independently if it is INDEED bringing about changes.
Read a pre-Artistick cartoon and reduce energy consumption

[Click on the image to enlarge]

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Nuclear Energy - Boon or Bane?

Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"Good were the days when people played Duke Nukem,
Now people just say Dude Nuke 'em"

Nuclear energy has been a controversial topic and a topic of debate from ages ago. In this post, I would like to analyse this from a layman's perspective.

Countries are growing rapidly, both economically and by population. And a commodity that seems to be needed more than ever, and the need for which will continue to grow unabated is energy. Energy is needed to do anything - Whether it is to recharge your cell phone, or to power huge machinery, it's a fundamental requirement.

And all these days, we were using thermal power for most of the energy. With passage of time and with growing demand for energy and a rapidly declining stock of coal, natural gas and oil, search for alternate sources of energy has become a high priority. And one of the top contenders is Nuclear energy.

Of course, there are other sources, but the problem is that they are not viable. Coal, natural gas and oil are fast depleting, emit a lot of smoke and gases and will not be taken into account in this discussion. So what then?

Solar seems to be a very appealing source of energy, but if the cost of panels is going to be as prohibitive as it is now, then it will never be used for anything beyond Solar Water Heaters. The solar panels are extremely expensive for the amount of energy that they give, and that is therefore not widely accepted. Of course, other problems such as "What to do when the sun don't shine?" (except kissing - for those who didn't get it) exist

Water is not a continuous source of supply, and is available in very limited places such as water falls, and building dams seem to require relocation of entire villages which will result in other problems. Geothermal energy is again limited to very few places, and doesn't result in a lot of energy. Going for sea water (tidal) is also not a great idea, since the salt seems to create a lot of problem.
Wind may seem to be really appealing - Perhaps we should try installing huge arrays of windmills in deserts and along the coast... I am not sure if it will still suffice.

As we see above, most of them are not viable because of cost, non availability, not being steady or not being sufficient. Therefore, the only alternative is nuclear. But nuclear has its own disadvantages... The best example for anti-nuclear is Japan. If a meltdown gets triggered due to a natural disaster or a terror threat, or some other way, thousands of people will be affected for hundreds of years. But at the same time, we cannot simply say that we should not go for it because of its inherent dangers, because of the huge demand supply mismatch that glares at us.

Therefore, to summarise, I believe that till a better source of energy is found, nuclear energy is the way to go ahead. Of course, the location of the reactors should be chosen wisely, and enormous safety precautions should be taken... But overall, I believe that nuclear is the way ahead.

---
An Opinion Poll on Facebook
I asked:
[A] "Nuclear energy for power is dangerous but required because nothing else can match huge release of energy after coal/oil"....
[B] "Nuclear energy costs too much, as demonstrated by the recent Japanese tragedy and shouldn't be used"...

Which of these do you support? A or B?


Responses
Prajwal M Sudarshan: ‎[A]

Prashanth Harshangi: ‎[B]

Mac Nirmal Lobo: ‎[A]

Hemanth Pai: ‎[A]

Pavithra Chowdappa: ‎[A]

Abhishek Kodankiry: ‎[A]

Chiranth Ashok: ‎[A]
Reactors should be built away from big settlements though...

Vinayraj Govindarajan: ‎[A]
But with sufficient knowledge and resources to handle crisis situations! u see its like knowledge..its not inherently bad....but u must also know how to use it!

Gurudatha Pai: ‎[A]
Clearly its A. Engineering is all about tradeoffs and business is all about risks. I read an article which says Japan was "worse than worst case" accident. The plant did what it was designed to do - automatic full shutdown. It is the residual

Dhanabal Lingasamy: [B]
There are other renewable energy which can be used instead of nuclear energy. Government needs to concentrate on those instead of big nuclear deals which are harmful and full of contradictions.

Manjunath Deepak Nayak: ‎[A]
Hey Niks, if a plane crashes do u stop flying? same way these accidents come under Force Majeure, i.e uncontrollable acts of Nature, effects can b minmised by proper design & selection of technology...

Avinash Ajjammanavar: [A]
Lets roll back into the past when Onion's price rose upto 70 rupees/kg (dont know how to get the rupee symbol) but we still managed to get some for our needs the same applies here i think so

To clarify myself, though dangerous for the pocket money but nothing can replace onion for the taste , @ the end of the day , paapi pet ka sawaal hai

Krithika Chandrasekaran: ‎[A]
Provided people realize the extent of added responsibility. What happened at Japan was no one's fault. this shouldn't prevent usage of existing technology. Only thing is our usual chalta-hai attitude of handling equipments or maintenance cannot and must not be allowed. Our "babus" have to realize that India has so many people squeezed in just so much place... so even a small disaster will cause great havoc

Vinay Jm: ‎[B]
More fund should go for solar energy. I think new ideas will develop if have no other options. Let solar technology come up. I can see so many A's here, but answer would have been B if japan incident happened in India and we were the victims. Few things can not be understood however emotional you are unless you are a victim.

Aditya Padaki: [A]Until an equivalent and safer technology which produces same energy per cost as nuclear is discovered/invented (if at all :P), I would go with [A]. But I would also vouch on spending extra money to ensure safety and security of such infrastructure
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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Vodafone customer care has a good sense of humour

Swami Nikhilaananda tweeted:
" @VodafoneIN - *face-palm* "

When you are using some service online, there is normally a checkbox before you hit submit where you agree to receive mails "Special Offers" and other newsletters. A good web site is one that has this checkbox disabled by default, and before hitting submit, if the user wants to receive it, he will check the box. However, most people don't like getting unwanted mails flooding their inboxes, and end up not selecting this box.

So, what some services do is that they keep this checked by default. This is not a good system for the end-user because a lot of them just hit submit without seeing that they are unknowingly authorsing the service to send them mails. Unchecking it each time I perform an operation is tedious, tiresome, arduous, labourious and what not.... So good systems should not enable this.

Vodafone has one such checkbox that is enabled by default. So, every time I recharge my phone online, I have to uncheck it. So, I tweeted to Vodafone saying that it is a better idea to remove it. I even provided a screenshot. See the screenshot and their response below...

[Click on the images to enlarge]

Screenshot that I provided


My tweet, followed by their reply



I have provided all the details, and they have still replied with some non-sense... I believe their customer care sucks 95% of the times... I have had a very bad experience with them. That resulted in a series of Tweet Insults for Vodafone. You can see it here

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Vodafone Customer Care Sucks

Monday, 14 March 2011

Fanaticism and Truth

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"When you are a fanatic, even the simplest truths appear untrue"

I don't want to talk a lot about this - The statement made above should suffice and prove to be self explanatory. However, if you can follow Kannada, watch the video below. I personally enjoy watching a lot of Kannada movies (not the latest ones, but the ones that were released up to around five years back) and am an avid fan of Udaya Movies and similar Kannada channels. I enjoy all kinds of goofy antics of various actors, some times even slapstick (not if it is too annoying) and a whole lot of other areas...

However, watch a short clip that I happened to stumble across when I was browsing through some Kannada clips. This dialogue IS crappy according to me, because there is nothing remotely funny. But go through the comment threads and see what people have written. Some insult Kannada (which is wrong), Kannada movies in general (which is wrong), some defend Kannada (of course, right) and some who support the movie clip (which makes me wonder...)

Thursday, 10 March 2011

How Media Messes With Your Head

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"Often, partial information is very dangerous... And what's more dangerous is misrepresentation of facts"

Ok, it's been quite a while since I have bitched about Times Of India being immature. So, here I go... But before you think that this is yet another rant, let me tell you that this is just a case in point and that the same is applicable for any means of mass media of any brand.

The following is a snapshot of today's TOI front page article. Just read the first line and you will know what I mean.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

The first line starts off by boldly making a statement that "your effort to defend yourself against a stray dog attack - or for that matter any animal - may land you in jail for 'violent action' "...

Notice the word *Defend* that has been used, not attack. It is understandable that you are penalised for an unprovoked attack on a dog that was just sitting by itself, minding its own business.

But the word defend inherently means that you were attacked first, and it is illogical that you are not allowed to defend yourself... What are they trying to say? We should just try to run and in case the dog bites us, try to convince the dog to not bite us (or perhaps try to distract it with a bone? Good idea...)

It's totally stupid and nonsensical. And if you think what's the newspaper's fault here, let me explain. People who shoot and kill people in self defence are pardoned. People! And pelting a stone at a dog is not? Ridiculous... Either full research has not been done, or people at TOI need a refresher course on their vocabulary (and perhaps a free copy of Roget's Thesaurus and Oxford Dictionary each)

Imagine what happens if you give misleading information about something a little more serious and sensitive than this? It can lead to a lot of problems (You guys can think about it - assignment for today)

Artistick goes on to give you a small cartoon on how media can mess with your head with selective information in this cartoon...

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Bug in Application Protection

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"Every system has vulnerabilities... Sooner or later someone will find it and either report it or exploit it"

RuimanInfo has created a fantastic app called Application Protection that does exactly that the name says - Protect apps. I use it mainly to protect my inbox so that prying eyes won't be able to read my messages. The way in which this app works is simple - When someone tries to open a protected app, a password screen gets thrown.

However, I found that there was a way to bypass this screen for messages. If you install Google Translate app, there is a feature in that app to send an SMS using a translated language. Now, when I open inbox using conventional method, the password screen is thrown as usual. But, when I try to send an SMS through the Google Translate app, immediately the inbox gets opened by bypassing the Application Protection screen. I don't know if this is a bug with this program or with Google's app... But this will make your inbox vulnerable. Please be sure that you don't have Google Translate app if you have Application Protection to protect your messages. Also, check if the same issue exists with other apps.

I have contacted RuimanInfo about the issue and am awaiting their response.