42

A small warning before you read this post. This particular post is the result of reading way too many Sci-Fi books and watching even more movies from the same genre. But it is about a notion that I like to entertain from time to time. So if you disagree with what’s about to follow (and I am pretty sure you might), just remember, it’s just one man’s idea of what could be.


The movie TRON and its long awaited sequel TRON Legacy entertain a fun concept. That the ubiquitous computer houses a digital world of its own, where programs are walking talking replicas of their human creators, living in fantastic digital domiciles and travelling along grids of computer hardware.There is, in essence, a whole other form of life existing in a space no larger than a nano-centimeter (maybe even less!)


Now, what if this concept was extended to our own world. Confused? Let’s say just like the human-looking programs in the TRON universe, we too are nano-scopic life-forms to another class of higher beings or creatures.


Before you completely dismiss the idea on the basis of scientific possibility and all sorts of laws and theories, consider this. 500 years ago, we were certain that the earth was at the center of the universe, 50 years ago, we were absolutely certain that the atom was the smallest particle in existence and just a few years ago we thought the Pluto was a planet. Our concept of reality and our idea of the world around us keep evolving as we evolve as a species. So, isn’t it just possible that our minds probably cannot accept such radical notions simply because we cannot comprehend the enormity involved.


Douglas Adams, in his Sci-Fi comedy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hints at this concept when he states that our entire planet is (rather was, since the planet is disintegrated within the text of the first few pages!) in fact a giant computational matrix with the inhabitants, us, serving as integral organic computational components. If you ignore the part where he mentions that a race of super-intelligent mice had commissioned the massive-computer, the concept isn’t all BS.


Throughout modern history there have been numerous concepts and theories proposed by scholars and thinkers regarding the reality of our existence. Many believe that our world may in fact be part of a simulation being run in a world far greater in scale and exponentially more technologically advanced than our very own. What if this was in fact true?


I can already hear the majority (read as ALL of you!) writing this post off as a madman’s rambling. To you I say, just stop thinking in terms of rationality and step beyond our “limited” knowledge of the universe (or multiverse, whichever concept you subscribe to) and think about what is being told here. Isn’t there just a teeny-tiny possibility of this actually being true?


For those of you scratching your human heads over the title of this post, here’s the background – 42

3 Reasons Why The Nexus One Is NOT a Failure.

The Nexus One

Google latest attempt at penetrating the mobile phone market was met with dismay with the final Nexus One phone being sold from it’s web store in May. There are varying opinions as to why the “superphone” did not last the so called ‘Phone Wars’. Obviously the phone has already been labelled a failure and branded as another Google mistake. However, as a user of the said device and an a rather avid technophile, it is my opinion that the Nexus One is indeed a success story in its own right. Here’s why –

The Face of Android
Every major mobile app has three distinct flavors; an iPhone (or iTouch) version, a Blackberry version and an Android version. Now the first two are pretty easy to spot. I mean there is only one iPhone model out there! And the Blackberry, well yeah, its pretty easy spot those as well. But there are so many phones running the Android OS, it gets difficult to choose one as a poster boy. That changed with the launch of Nexus One. The over the top launch of the Google Superphone gave the “Robot-powered” mobile OS platform a distinctive face. Almost every app website will sport the image of the Nexus One next to the Android version link. The N1 has become the new face of the Android OS.



Set The Bar for future Smartphones
The Nexus One is truly THE smartphone. Look under the hood and you’ll see the true genius behind the beauty. A 1GHz processor, state of the art AMOLED screen, noise cancellation microphone and a dozen other features that were still just concepts for some phones, the N1 raised the bar for future smartphones. Now almost every smartphone launched in the market shares similar technical specifications.


Gave Android A Boost
Let’s face it. The Android OS wasn’t exactly the most popular or the most favored mobile OS platform for quite some time. With the anticipation and hype attached with the launch of the Nexus One, the Android OS began getting a lot more recognition. In the months following its launch, many new devices were launched from the stables of htc, Samsung and Sony Ericcson that sported different flavors of the Google powered mobile OS. It’s latest avatar, the FroYo solidified its stand as the mobile OS of choice for many. The evolution of the Android OS in the coming months promises to be even better.

It’s sad that the device didn’t get the recognition that it truly deserved. But like I said, even in its passing, the ‘superphone’ has managed to up the ante for mobile devices across the entire spectrum. For the time being, this blogger is proud to be one of the few lucky consumers who owns this little piece of History in his hands and is more than satisfied by it.

For further reading about the Google smartphone, look up the Wikipedia link.

TED – Ideas Worth Spreading

Recently I came across a Website that really changed the way I look at my profession. For that matter, it really transformed my perception about the nature of different professions and how they are in fact related to one another, no matter how diverse. But before I go into the details of the website, a little background about what the web-site is promoting.

TED or technology Entertainment Design started as a conference, held in Long Beach, California way back in 1984, which brought together people from the fields of, well you guessed it, technology entertainment and design. At the face of it this combination seems odd. But this odd mix of people sharing their own stories about their work and their experiences snowballed and today the conference, which is an annual affair is sold out a year in advance, has speakers from many other backgrounds and has inspired millions.

The premise for the conference is simple. Innovators, leaders, experts from each field share their ideas. These ‘stories’ are aimed at not any specific audience or a privileged few, but at all of us, you, me, and everybody. At the core of TED is the belief that an idea can come anywhere at any time and from anyone. Also that idea can spread at the speed of light and has the potential to move mountains. The TED conference is a medium for those who wish to share their ideas with the world in an effort to improve society as a whole.

The TED philosophy –

  • An idea can be created out of nothing except an inspired imagination.
  • An idea weighs nothing.
  • It can be transferred across the world at the speed of light for virtually zero cost.
  • And yet an idea, when received by a prepared mind, can have extraordinary impact.
  • It can reshape that mind’s view of the world.
  • It can dramatically alter the behavior of the mind’s owner.
  • It can cause the mind to pass on the idea to others.

Many of the ideas are in the form of stories or anecdotes. Speakers come from different walks of life. To give you an idea of the range of topics, here is a list of recent speakers at the TED conferences held in the last few years:

  • Eve Ensler -Creator of the Vagina Monologues
  • Peter Diamandis – Runs the X-Prize foundation
  • Abhay Deol – Bollywood Actor/Producer
  • Bill Clinton – Former US President
  • Jane Goodall – Renowned anthropologist
  • Nandan Nilekani – Founding member, Infosys
  • Al Gore – Former US Vice President, Nobel Laurette
  • Bono – Singer, Activist
  • JJ Abrams – Hollywood Producer/Director

It is quite apparent that the spectrum of speakers at the TED conferences is pretty colossal. But these are just a few of the speakers that have contributed in the last two and a half decades of TED.And each speaker brings to the floor his or her unique story.

The beauty of TED lies in its simple format. Over a course of 4 days, 50 Speakers get a fixed time slot of 18 minutes each to share their stories. The stories range from the hilarious to the inspirational. But each story is enriching in its own way.

TED is now a global phenomenon, not restricted to the conferences at Long Beach, California. In fact, the latest TED conference is being held right here in India at the Mysore Campus of Infosys and is playing host to many national and international personalities.

This brings me to the website that I mentioned earlier. In an effort to ensure that the stories/ideas of the many speakers don’t get lost in the annals of time, TED launched TED.com, a ‘clearinghouse’ of knowledge, where ordinary people like you and I can view the inspirational videos of the speakers from past TED conferences.

I am sure that most of you watch some of the many many inane (albeit funny) viral videos that are ubiquitous on the net. Every other day someone is posting a link to some funny or ”Awesome’ video file on YouTube or the likes. While these videos are a great stress-buster, they’re more likely to be forgotten or have little value-addition to our lives or to the society as a whole.

On the other hand watching a video of any of the speakers from past TED conferences on TED.com is an enriching experience. Not only does it introduce us to new stories of people from across the globe and across industries, but also provides a new perspective on many global and local issues. Do yourself a favor, watch at least one TED video in a day (it takes not more than 20 minutes). I guarantee, within a week, you will start looking at the world in a new light.

You can go to the TED website and start viewing these videos instantly. Or you could fill out a simple registration form and become part of the TED community. Advantages of being part of the Community include being able to interact with other TED community members, mark you favorite TED videos and themes, share your idea with others and much more.

To get a taste of what TED is all about, view the video below:

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

But why? Why go into all this trouble of getting people from disparate backgrounds to come and speak about random topics and experiences?
Well each experience, each story, each idea is random in isolation. But when you rise above the boundaries of individual backgrounds, these ideas are connected. Every idea is the result of someone’s imagination. That someone may be limited in his or her thought process and may not see the impact or the reach of his/her idea. But when you throw your idea out their in the open, it starts taking a life of its own, it starts breathing, it grows and it germinates many more ideas. No matter how different our professional and personal backgrounds may be, we are still connected as a human race and hence so are our problems and as a consequence the solutions to those problems. The TED conference, in my view, is a wonderful testament to that notion and thus is great legacy that we can leave for future generations to carry on.

For further information on TED visit the following links
http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/5
http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/42

In Praise of Google

10^100! This was the inspiration behind the identity of one of the most successful IT companies in recent history. Yes I am talking about the infamous Google Inc. Founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google, today, is a phenomenon deeply-rooted in pop-culture.

Google’s origins are akin to the start-up stories of many of its brethren. Both the founders were college students who set off to revolutionize the Tech world with their innovation, a search engine that analyzed the relationships between websites and which ranked results according to the number of times the search term appeared on a page. Their product (aptly called Google Search) soon became a preferred search engine among users across the Tech spectrum. Finding out details about anybody is as simple as Googling (A term used in most tech and social circles indicating searching for details using the Google Search Engine) that person. A simple search throws back at you more information than you bargained for!
Through a series of new product developments, acquisitions and partnerships, the company has expanded its initial search and advertising business into other areas, including web-based email, online mapping, office productivity, and video sharing, among others. 


One reason that Google has been able to carve a home for itself among the techies across the world is its anti-corporate image. Google Inc. is synonymous with a laid-back casual work-environment where employees are encouraged to work on non-project ideas as often as possible. This hippyisque attitude of the company, in the age of suits, has largely appealed to the techie populous, which has grown up on the philosophy, ‘Live and Let Live!’. It seems ironical that a corporate entity actually generates huge sums of revenue when it in fact promotes such a non-capitalistic ideal!  


Google Inc.’s work culture, albeit criticized, is perhaps the most envied by every newbie techie. Casual dress code, flexible hours, fully stocked restaurant-style cafeterias, a pet welcome policy, video games, the list just goes on! No wonder, they have one of the most stringent placement programs known!
Google has succeeded in burrowing a hole in all our web-based requirements. Right from the Search engine, to Office software (Google Docs), to planners (Google Calender), to Maps (Google Earth), to imaging tools (Picasa), to Email (Gmail!), Google has left no stone in the cyber-world unturned. 


With a mission statement that reads “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, Google, with its wide array of products and services, is certainly going to continue breaking new ground in the IT Universe.

Oracle Buys Sun – Another one bites the dust!

Database giant Oracle announced Monday that it will buy Sun Microsystems for $9.50 per share—roughly $7.4 billion. The two companies reached an agreement after an unsuccessful bid by IBM fell short at $9.40 per share.Oracle will use a combination of cash and borrowed money to pay for the purchase, which will cost Oracle $5.6 billion after taking into account Sun’s debt and cash holdings.
Oracle predicted the merger will increase its annual operating income by $1.5 billion and add at least 15 cents per share to net income in its first year.
Oracle is a software and services company, best known for advanced database management software used by many of the world’s largest enterprises. Sun produces both hardware and software. It produces Solaris, a popular version of the Unix operating system. Sun is also the creator of Java, a software language and development system that runs on hundreds of millions of devices, ranging from mainframe computers to cellphones. Sun makes server computers that use its own Sparc processor chips, but also makes machines that run processors from Intel Corp. In addition, Sun makes data storage gear, competing against HP and EMC Corp. of Hopkinton.Purchasing Sun confirms this shift by enlarging Oracle’s middleware business. More importantly, the deal means Oracle now goes up against IBM and HP in selling servers.
The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle can optimize the Oracle database for some of the unique, high-end features of Solaris. With it’s latest conquest, Oracle plans to offer a broad range of products, including servers and storage, with all the integrated pieces: hardware operating system, database, middleware and applications.
As became apparent with the acquisition of PeopleSoft in January 2005, Oracle has made acquisitions an important component of its growth strategy.Apart from the high-profile acquisitions which include BEA Systems, PeopleSoft, Hyperion and iflex, the behemoth has also swallowed whole numeorus other IT enterprises and has been expanding it’s tentacles across the IT spectrum.
Oracle last major purchase was BEA Systems, which strengthened the former’s foothold in middleware technologies. The BEA purchase meant Oracle was now selling middleware, or software that acts as a bridge between different applications. This put the company in competition against other middleware companies such as IBM.
The deal also has a significant financial implications. Already shares of Oracle stock closed down 24 cents at $18.82 after the news, while Sun Microsystems stock rose $2.46 to $9.15, both on the Nasdaq stock exchange. However the biggest and most obvious question is the extent of “Rightsizing”. Industry analysts estimate that Oracle’s cost savings from Sun operations suggest job cuts of up to 10,000 workers from Sun’s payroll of more than 30,000.

Oracle’s appetite for acquisitions may seem insatiable, but one has to marvel at the sheer size of this IT stalwart. What began as a databse company, today stands tall as a paragon of end to end solutions provider. As a matter of fact, that is the ultimate goal of this gargantuan beast, to provide an highly integrated and equally secure solution to all its customers.

But with this latest buy, has Oracle bitten off more than it can chew?