Ahoy there! This is my personal blog which I use as my memory extension and a medium to share stuff that could be useful to others.

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When Wireless LAN (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth and other wireless technologies that use the RF Spectrum featured on many of the gadgets we use, we were thrilled to know that we weren’t tied to network cables, wired headsets, etc. and enjoyed the new found wireless freedom. However, a large part of our daily lives still involves using wires – from all the electrical appliances at our homes to the laptops and mobile phones we charge on the go. How often have you felt annoyed at the clumsy web of wires beneath your desk or the several adapters/charges/transformers that you need to carry around with you to charge your laptops, mobile phones, GPS, etc.? How often have you forgotten to charge your mobile phone only to hear that annoying beep which signals that it’s running out of electric juice? How often have we observed that when we purchase a small electronic gadget, the bulkiest and heaviest part of the packaged product is the charger or the battery? WiTricity technology (Wireless Electricity Delivered Over Distance) could eliminate all these annoyances and could revolutionize our wireless world.

 

Marin Soljačić (pronounced Maa-ren Soul-ya-CHEECH), an Assistant Professor of Physics at MIT, spearheaded the development of a technology which uses fundamental principles of physics to transfer electrical energy wirelessly over non-negligible distances. In 2006, Marin and his team presented the theory behind the technology in the Annals Of physics and in 2007, this technology was proven in experiments, details of which were published in the journal Science . This technology was called WiTricity and soon a company called WiTricity Corporation was started to commercialize the technology that was proven in MIT labs. Recently, the TED Global 2009 event at Oxford, UK included a demonstration by Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity Corp. which has created a lot of excitement among science and technology enthusiasts.

 

 

 How does WiTricity work?: The image below, courtesy of WiTricity Corp., illustrates how this technology works.

 

how_witricity_works

 

 

How is WiTricity different from Wi-Fi?: Wi-Fi (and Bluetooth, microwaves, etc.) use radiation propagated with frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum. On the other hand, WiTricity uses magnetic near-field resonant coupling (the principle of electromagnetic induction used to transfer electrical energy from the primary to secondary coils in a transformer with the important addition of matching resonant frequencies of both source and destination for maximum power transfer over non-negligble distances). The nineteenth century physicist and legendary inventor Nikola Tesla planned to experiment with the transfer of electrical energy wirelessly, but aborted his attempt due to lack of funds. After around a century later, Marin’s MIT team have finally made wireless electrical energy transfer possible.

Intel is working on a technology called WREL (Wireless Resonant Energy Link), based on WiTricity.

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A couple of weeks ago, Google’s VP of Product Management and Engineering Director announced that Google was working on an Operating System called Google Chrome OS, scheduled to make its first appearance in netbooks in the second half of 2010. This announcement caused the IT world to buzz with excitement and within a couple of days since the announcement, there were already several articles on what Google Chrome OS might do to our Software world as we know it. Well, it’s been a busy time for me lately and I finally got some time to jot down my thoughts on this major announcement.

Ever since I had my first brush with Linux, I’ve tried several versions and distributions of it to attempt to seek a permanent alternative to Microsoft Windows. Although Linux distributions have evolved a lot over the years, there are still the odd problems with hooking up certain devices and still there’s more progress required in the GUI to really challenge Windows’ dominance in the Desktop OS market. Well, being quite familiar with UNIX, I can use the CLI shell to work around these glitches, but I still believe these Linux distributions have a long way to go to push Windows off its throne in the Desktop OS market and make Linux the first-choice OS for the average PC user. According to W3 Counter, as per June 2009 statistics, Windows Operating Systems make up around a whopping 89% of the total market share, while Linux accounts for a mere 2.11%. The primary reason – Microsoft Windows was the first OS to make it into the homes, schools and offices of the general population the world over, largely in part due to Bill Gates’ astute business acumen and Microsoft’s excellent marketing. The Mac OS and UNIX variants were confined to a small band of faithful followers (universities and geeks).

However, with Google announcing a free, Linux-based OS that focuses on speed, simplicity and security, perhaps the folks at Redmond ought to sit up and take notice. Before Google arrived with a big bang via their search engine, www Search was dominated by the likes of Yahoo! and AltaVista (now owned by Yahoo!). I was an AltaVista user until somebody asked me to try Google.  Google was not the first search engine, but it still made such a huge impact due to its simplicity, speed and accuracy of search results, such that those like me who tried Google never turned away from it, thereby making it the market leader in search. Now, Google seems all set to do the same in the OS market and I’m excited to see the results. Microsoft recently tried to challenge Google in the search market, with the launch of Bing. Only time will tell whether Google will be binged or whether Windows will be chromed!

5046_gogle

 

Some repercussions which Google’s Chrome OS could have are:

(1) Eat into the market share of Windows Desktop Operating Systems, thereby being a direct threat to Microsoft’s primary revenue churner.

(2) Wipe out several of the free Linux distributions already out there. Currently, Linux distributions are quite popular on netbooks and the Google Chrome OS will be first launched on netbooks.

(3) If Google manages to convince the popular hardware manufacturers to bundle the free Chrome OS with their products, then the prices of laptops, netbooks and Desktops could plummet. This will surely be one of Google’s key strategies to eat into Microsoft’s market share.

(4) Some third-party software like anti-virus and firewall software could become redundant, thereby wiping out some parts of the consumer software market.

Some of the challenges Google faces:

(1) Changing the users’ habits by luring them away from something they’ve gotten so used to over the years. However, the fact that the word “google” is now virtually part of every language and the huge reputation the company carries will help Google attract users.

(2) Getting it right the first time. Google will not have the luxury of trial and error via betas for a product like an OS. If users get frustrated by having to “learn” to use an OS, they’ll simply move back to familiarity.

(3) Getting the OS to (in Google’s words) “just work” on different hardware platforms and with different devices.

 

Well, if Google does score a winner with the Chrome OS,  then the ultimate winners will be us, the users. I’m eagerly awaiting the first release of Google’s Chrome OS.

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My Tribute to Michael Jackson

I was a kid when I became mesmerized by Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. Back then, India’s only television channel, Doordarshan telecasted the Grammy Awards and I remember my family and I enjoying MJ’s performance at the 1988 Grammy awards. That performance is so fresh in mind, such that on watching it again today, it took me back to those cherished days. I remember my Dad buying the album "Bad" on audio cassette and my brothers and I playing the entire album very often and singing along. I remember learning by rote the lyrics for "The Way you make me feel" (still remember them!). Whoa! MJ simply was the best – the complete entertainer! Everybody tried to sing and dance like him. Years later, the King of Pop became involved in controversies and I was not sure what to believe (I’m still clueless). Sadly, MJ passed away on 25th June and his memorial service was held yesterday.

Michael Joseph Jackson, thanks a zillion for the wonderful songs, music and dance. You will never ever be forgotten. May your soul RIP.

 

Here are two videos with some of my favourite MJ songs:

 

(1) The 1988 Grammy Awards ("The way you make me feel" and "Man In The Mirror")

 

 

 

(2) We are the World (along with others)

 

 

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Watch your Plastics!

A few months ago, when I was researching baby bottles for my daughter, I came across several articles on the use of Bisphenol A in the plastics used to make baby bottles and its harmful effects on health. More research led to me alter my lifestyle and become more environmentally friendly. So, based on the various articles I’ve read, a brief description of what you need to know about BPA and how to avoid it is given below.

(1) What is BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound invented by Russian chemist  Aleksandr P. Dianin in 1891. The first reported synthesis of BPA was from Thomas Zincke of the University of Marburg, Germany. The suffix ‘A’ symbolizes Acetone as BPA is prepared by the condensation of acetone with two equivalents of phenol.

(2) What is BPA used for?

In 1936, Dr. Pierre Castan (Switzerland) and Dr. S.O. Greenlee (US) first synthesized BPA-based epoxy resins. Epoxy resins are widely used in adhesives, can linings, composite materials like those using carbon fibre, fibreglass, etc.

In 1953, Dr. Hermann Schnell of Bayer in Germany and Dr. Dan Fox of General Electric in the United States independently developed manufacturing processes for a new plastic material, polycarbonate, using BPA as the starting material. Due to its properties of optical clarity, shatter resistance and high heat resistance, polycarbonate soon found its way into our everyday lives as the primary constituent material in drinking bottles, optical discs, lenses, automobile headlamps, lab equipment, etc.

 

(3) Why do I need to bother about BPA?

As described above, BPA has invaded our everyday lives via the use of polycarbonates and epoxy resins. Several studies on BPA have indicated that at certain levels of consumption, it could cause endocrine disruption (interference with the normal functioning of hormones generated by the endocrine system), heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Some studies have also linked BPA to obesity and neurotoxicity.

BPA has been known to leach from the plastic lining of canned foods and also from polycarbonate plastics when subjected to washing with abrasive detergents, acidic liquids and high-temperature liquids.

Although there have been some reports that BPA used in polycarbonates and epoxy resins for common consumer products does not pose a health risk, there are two clearly divided opinions on the harmful effects on BPA with each one backed up by various studies, Canada has banned the import, sale and marketing of polycarbonate baby bottles and companies like Wal-Mart, Nalgene, Camelbak and Toys-R-Us have switched to BPA-free bottles and plastic goods. Surely then, the safest bet is to stay away from BPA.

 

(4) How do I identify which products have BPA?

BPA is predominantly used in plastics, being a constituent material of polycarbonate. First and foremost, you need to understand the various groups of plastics. Read this article to understand how to decipher the Plastic Identification Code(PIC). Plastic products with PIC #3 (PVC) and #7 (other) are typically associated with BPA. Since PIC #7 is a catch-all for all types of plastics other than those classified within PIC #1 to #6, plastics that do not contain BPA could also be identified with PIC #7. For example, leading water bottle manufacturers CamelBak and Nalgene use Eastman Tritan (a copolyester plastic that does not contain BPA) and their bottles are tagged with PIC #7.

Other than using the PIC to determine whether your plastic product is BPA-free, a safe bet is to choose plastic products which bear a BPA-Free logo. The safest and best option to stay away from BPA is to replace your plastic product with good quality stainless steel, wherever possible.

 

(5) How do I avoid BPA?

Given the widespread use of BPA, it’s unlikely that you can completely stay away from every product that contains the chemical. However, you can significantly reduce, if not eliminate the consumption of BPA. Here are some steps you can take to avoid the harmful effects of BPA:

  • Use either BPA-free or stainless steel reusable bottles for drinking liquids. Do not reuse mineral water bottles.
  • Do not heat food in plastic containers (irrespective of the PIC) in a microwave.
  • Do not use harsh detergents or the dishwasher to wash plastic containers.
  • Do not store acidic liquids and foods (eg. orange juice, meat marinades) in plastic containers.
  • Avoid using canned food/drink as much as possible.

 

What I have done to avoid BPA since I became aware of the controversy surrounding it:

First and foremost, I replaced my daughter’s feeding bottles with BPA-free versions from ASDA. Now, there is an increasing number of manufacturers making BPA-free baby bottles. Some examples are Tommee Tippee, Born Free and Philips AVENT.

I then ordered a CamelBak Better Bottle (BPA-Free) for use as a drinking water bottle at office and when it arrived, I observed that it had PIC #7, but no BPA-Free logo. So, I returned the CamelBak bottle. After a little bit of googling, I came across the stainless steel Klean Kanteen. I purchased two Klean Kanteens, an 18 oz Kanteen for office and a 40 oz Kanteen for use at home. I love the Klean Kanteens and no longer use any plastics at home or office for consumption of drinking water. Although the Klean Kanteen is an expensive purchase, it will definitely be cheaper in the long run and will contribute towards a clean, green environment through reuse. Before the arrival of my Klean Kanteen, I bought 500 ml mineral water bottles at least twice a week and after consumption, I chucked the bottles away into the recycling bin. Now, with my reusable Klean Kanteen, not only do I save money by not purchasing mineral water, I also ensure that I reduce my burden on recycling, even if in a small way.

 

References:

1.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A
2.    http://www.bisphenolafree.org/
3.    http://www.bisphenol-a.org/pdf/DiscoveryandUseOctober2002.pdf
4.    http://www.chemeurope.com/news/e/81778/
5.    http://www.kleankanteen.com/about/bpa.html

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I have been converted!!! When Twenty20 (T20) arrived on the cricketing scene, I was very quick to dismiss it as wham-bam cricket, a doom for bowlers, etc. I enjoyed watching the formats of the game already existing before T20 arrived – One-Day Cricket and Test Cricket. However, after a couple of IPL tournaments and T20 World Cups, I now know that I was wrong to judge T20 hastily and harshly and I now wholeheartedly embrace this format of the game. Here are the reasons why I think T20 is a wonderful format and is here to stay:

  • High-Octane Cricket: Lots of Boundaries and Sixes, stumps being uprooted more often, acrobatic fielding, rocking music during breaks, close finishes/edge-of-the-seat thrillers.
  • Time Saver: An entire T20 match lasts around 3 hours. The shorter the match, the more involved the audience will be. Also, you’ll still have a huge chunk of the day remaining to do whatever you want after being entertained by a T20 match.
  • Innovation: Would you have heard of deliveries like the “slow bouncer” and shots like the “Dilscoop” had it not been for T20 Cricket? Certainly No! T20 has made cricketers think on their feet out there in the middle –  the Dilscoop introduced by Dilshan (scooping the ball backward over the heads of the batsman and wicketkeeper) is an example of such innovation. The slow bouncer and slow full toss used by Lasith Malinga (one of the best proponents of these deliveries), Jerome Taylor and a few others is an example of excellent innovation with the ball. Well, T20 is set to get all cricket coaching manuals updated.
  • Challenge: In the T20 format, every ball matters. For every ball bowled, the bowler must try something clever to get the batsman’s wicket (no more bowling without the pressure of being hit for a boundary), the batsman must make contact with the ball to ensure maximum runs are scored (no more shouldering arms or being defensive with deliberate padding), the fielders must be always switched-on and do everything possible save every run (most matches are too close to afford even an extra run). T20 offers both a mental and physical challenge to cricketers.
  • Packed Stadiums: Any sport’s survival depends on its popularity among the masses. T20 has packed stadiums like never before. T20 is attracting people who once upon a time found cricket boring. T20 is also proving to be a good family entertainer (you can get the family out for just 3 hours of entertainment, can’t you?). Packed Stadiums lead to increased revenue (ticket sales and advertising) and this makes T20 a very attractive business model for the Cricket Boards (just hope the Boards use the money wisely to develop the game around the world).

Coming back to my initial concern I had regarding T20, the ICC T20 World Cup 2009 was dominated by great bowling and proved that bowlers also have a major role and can significantly impact the result of a T20 match (not just batsman-dominated as I expected). However, perhaps, the only cricketing domain which could be adversely impacted by T20 is “batting” for the very reasons cricket purists describe T20 as a lottery or vulgar. I believe that the concern here is regarding technical batting. Will the coming generations of batsmen focus on learning the big slog and heave shots rather than straight drives, square cuts, leg glances and other technical shots? Only time will tell. That’s why I believe Test Cricket should stay on forever as it’s the purist’s game and a joy to watch in its own right. But, Test Cricket’s survival depends on the number of fans who are cricket purists and enjoy this traditional contest between bat and ball. If this number dwindles with the advent of T20, then Test Cricket could be in danger. Personally, I wish Test Cricket stays on forever as I enjoy the gruelling battles in Test cricket. However, I see absolutely no place whatsoever for the One-Day format. I believe that Test Cricket and T20 should henceforth be made the standard formats of Cricket.

Congratulations to Pakistan for becoming the unlikely, but thoroughly deserving T20 World Champions at Lords yesterday!

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The Proteas have successfully defended the title of “chokers” in their semi-final match against Pakistan in the ICC World T20 2009 tournament today.

At the post-match presentation, Graeme Smith dismissed a question alluding to his team being chokers by saying that he didn’t believe that’s the case and it was just that Pakistan was better on the day. Well, yes, T20 is a format in which the stronger team or even the in-form team is not guaranteed a victory because anybody could suddenly play as if he’s in the form of his life over a short span of 3 hours and grab victory. And that’s exactly what Shahid Afridi did today to take Pakistan into the finals.

However, given the way the Proteas have played all their matches leading up to the semi-finals, you would have been deemed perfectly sensible for having purchased a ticket to watch South Africa in the finals. The Proteas themselves believed that based on the strengths of the current team, they had nothing to worry about that nagging “chokers” tag.

But cometh the moment, cometh a crunch match, cometh the pressure and it’s déjà vu – the Proteas are on the losing side yet again. I’m very disappointed to see the Proteas lose today’s semi-final. I sincerely wanted them to win the T20 World Cup 2009, because I believe they’re a world-class team who deserve a World title, having given cricket fans terrific performances over the years. Unfortunately, they choked yet again and irrespective of how Graeme Smith and his boys react to today’s loss, they’ve lost too many crucial matches and consequently World titles to shed the title of “chokers”. Perhaps, other tags like “jinxed” and “cursed” will creep in to join “chokers” and haunt the Proteas.

Pakistan was the better side today and earned their victory. Shahid Afridi finally came to the party and I’ve never seen anybody bowl so many yorkers in a match as Umer Gul bowled today. Looking forward to see who meets Pakistan in the semi-finals – another Asian country (Sri Lanka) or the unpredictable Calypso boys (West Indies).

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In the recent crucial ICC World T20 match between India and England which finally saw the defending champions India being knocked out of the T20 World Cup, Harbhajan Singh pulled out of his delivery stride a couple of times. In the final over, when bowling to Foster, Harbhajan pulled out of his delivery stride just before delivering the third ball of the over. At the moment he pulled out, it was obvious that the non-striking batsman (Mascarenhas) was a few feet outside the popping crease to backup the striking batsman for running between the wickets. Witnessing this moment made me wonder about the laws of cricket pertaining to running out a non-striking batsman while bowling. So, here goes:

Backing up a batsman: The non-striking batsman usually backs up the striking batsman by taking a few steps towards the striking batsman during the delivery to facilitate running between the wickets by having to cover less distance. This “backing up” could have a profound impact on games, given the several close run-out decisions made using TV replays.

What does the Law say?: Law 42.15 of Cricket states that “The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. The ball shall not count in the over.”  Appendix D of the Laws of Cricket defines a delivery stride as “the stride during which the delivery swing is made, whether the ball is released or not. It starts when the bowler’s back foot lands for that stride and ends when the front foot lands in the same stride

So, as per the Laws of Cricket, Harbhajan Singh could not have run out Mascarenhas even though Mascarenhas had left the popping crease as Harbhajan Singh had stopped bowling only after commencing his delivery stride.

And now for a little bit of history. Running out a “backing up” batsman has been around for a while. Though within the Laws of Cricket, it is considered unsportsmanlike. This action became famous when Vinoo Mankad ran out Bill Brown during India’s tour of Australia in 1947 and in fact a new term “Mankad” was coined for running out a non-striking batsman who was backing up. So, Bill Brown was mankaded by Vinoo Mankad :). Another famous incident which has been recorded in the annals of Mankading occurred when Courtney Walsh refused to mankad Salim Jaffer in the 1987 World Cup (this probably cost West Indies the World Cup).

The unwritten code of cricket suggests that a bowler ought to warn the batsman at least once before mankading him.

Why have a Law in a Sport, which when followed to the letter, alludes to unsportsmanlike behaviour ? Why put the onus of watching the non-striking batsman on the bowler?

Yes, there are laws and there’s the “spirit of the game”, but then where do you draw the line? If non-striking batsmen are over-enthusiastic in backing up and cover a few yards before the ball is delivered, it could make a huge difference and possibly facilitate scoring the winning run! The onus of identifying whether a non-striking batsman is backing up early or not should be put on the umpires (after all they have fewer decisions to make with the advent of the 3rd umpire). Nowadays, especially in formats like T20, most games are very close and it’s simply wrong to blur the thin line between victory and defeat in the name of the spirit of the game, when there’s a clear law in place. Perhaps, Law 42.15 should be modified to indicate that the umpires will watch out for early backing up by non-strikers and give them two warnings before declaring them out (for stealing some distance on a run) so that the bowlers may concentrate on their main job – bowling. Visit this Cricinfo article for some more information on Mankading.

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Recently, when I searched for the various options for milk deliveries to my home, I became aware of the different types of milk and more research gave me a whole new perspective of milk, the dairy industry and the marketing gimmicks that get the better of consumers.

Basically, raw milk is milk which we get directly from the cow (or goat, etc. – I will stick with cow in this post). i.e. the milk that leaves the cow’s udders is raw milk. Given below are some details on the typical processes that raw milk undergoes.

 

SL# PROCESS WHAT IS IT? WHY IT EXITS?
1. Pasteurization Heating Milk to ~72C for a very brief period (~15 seconds). To kill all harmful bacteria, but not all bacteria.
2. Homogenization Passing milk through tiny holes/tubes at a very high pressure. To break up fat molecules and separate the fat/cream from water in the milk. Provides more aesthetic value.
3. Ultra High Temperature (UHT) Heat milk to very high temperatures (~ 135C) and pack into sterile containers. To kill all bacteria. Long shelf life and no refrigeration required, until opened.

 

The most common milk available in supermarkets in the UK is standardized, pasteurized, homogenized milk. When I pick up a bottle of milk in the supermarket, I see “Standardized, Pasteurized and Homogenized” milk – like it’s all good for you. Let me explain this little ad on the milk bottles.

According to an article on the Journal of Dairy Science website, Van Slyke defines standardized (or adjusted) milk as “milk in which the original fat content has been changed, and also the ratio of fat to the other milk solids, by the removal of milk-fat, or by the addition of skim-milk, or by the addition of cream.” This explains the skimmed and semi-skimmed milk. So, standardized milk means tampered milk. i.e. milk whose constituents are modified.

Pasteurization of raw milk is required as a bacteria-free dairy farm and milk handling/transportation cannot be guaranteed (that’s why the sale of raw milk is illegal in many countries – all sold milk must be at least pasteurized). Pasteurized milk is also referred to as Fresh Milk. UHT is just taking pasteurization a step further for the convenience of storage.

Homogenization is done for aesthetic purposes (and perhaps for smoother taste). There have been concerns about homogenization in medical circles. In his book “The XO factor”, Kurt Oster suggests that homogenization of milk causes an enzyme in milk called Xanthine Oxidase, to break up and pass undigested through the human intestine and into the blood stream where it can eventually destroy arteries and lead to heart disease. Oster’s theory has not been proved till date, but homogenization is not required for safety and is a redundant process that simply takes us away further from natural, raw milk.

So, in that little ad on milk bottles, the only required process is Pasteurization, which does not alter the composition of milk (apart from killing harmful bacteria). However, Standardization and Homogenization alter the fundamental composition of milk and are redundant. Arla Dairies runs a TV ad for its Cravendale milk brand, with a catchy slogan like “Cravendale tastes so good cows want it back”. Cravendale milk actually goes through another “filtration” process which Arla Dairies claims removes even more bacteria (middle ground between pasteurization and UHT). If cows actually taste Cravendale milk, they may not even recognize it, given the amount of processing it’s undergone.

Finally, I decided to consume milk in a form which is as close to raw milk in composition, but safe for consumption. So, I started consuming Pasteurized, Unhomogenized milk (Gold Top) and it takes me back to my younger days – when my Mum would boil the milk we get and we’d see a lot of cream form at the top during cooling. And my coffees and teas taste better!

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Tangible User Interfaces

How about manipulating digital information with your hands in a more natural, instinctive way like we do with other tangible things? Devices called Siftables make this possible. As per the creators David Merrill (MIT Media Lab) and Jeevan Kalanithi (Taco Lab), “Siftables are compact electronic devices with motion sensing, graphical display, and wireless communication. One or more Siftables may be physically manipulated to interact with digital information and media.” So, while gestural user interfaces allow you to manipulate digital information on surfaces by using gestures (like SixthSense and g-speak), tangible user interfaces (like Siftables) allow you to manipulate information in your hands with gestures. Watch a demo video of Siftables below:

 

 

Visit siftables.com for more details.

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Spatial manipulation of digital information

Most jobs involving digital information are computer-centric. My job (IT) and that of millions out there predominantly involve exchange and manipulation of digital information and this ties us to our laptops/PCs/Macs, etc. and I/O interfaces like keyboards, mice, touch screens, etc.  How about doing the same stuff by working with digital information spatially? To do this, we would require a new type of I/O interface and what could be simpler and more intuitive to use than hand gestures! – so, we have it – gestural i/o. The SixthSense uses gestural I/O. A lot of research in the field of gestural I/O and Human-Computer Interaction has been performed by Oblong Industries together with MIT’s Tangible Media Lab. Oblong Industries is the developer of the g-speak spatial operating environment. View the video below for an overview of g-speak:

 

 

By the way, gestural I/O was not inspired by Minority Report, but rather the work done by Oblong industries/MIT inspired Minority Report. The movie’s Production Designer visited MIT Labs to determine how to depict a plausible future in the movie as required by Steven Spielberg. So, Spielberg wanted to depict 2054 AD as something which could be made real one day and I guess he was rather pessimistic when choosing the year 2054 as it seems we’re only a few years or a decade away from doing that stuff depicted in Minority Report.

Read this interesting account on the development of gestural I/O and spatial operating environments at Oblong and MIT.

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At times during my ritual household grocery shopping, I stand in front of a supermarket shelf containing several brands of a specific product (probably a new addition to the shelf), trying to digest all the information on the product labels and decide which brand to pick up. This task has been made somewhat easier after getting my BlackBerry Bold with unlimited internet usage, as I can now at least check product reviews on the www, thereby facilitating my decision-making process. But how nice it would be for me to have very quick access to the information I want with minimum fuss! – the SixthSense  may be just the perfect device to make this possible. Pranav Mistry, a Ph.D student in the Fluid Interfaces Group at the MIT Media Lab is the genius behind the SixthSense. Watch the demo of SixthSense below:

 

 

Visit SixthSense for more details. When this device becomes generally available, it will revolutionize the way we humans interact with the world around us and will bridge the gap between science fiction and reality.

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Purchasing a future proof laptop !?

Yesterday, I placed an order for a new Dell laptop after spending a weekend on research and playing around with different custom configurations on a few vendors’ websites. My main requirements for a laptop were powerful performance (for mini development environments, virtual machines), wireless connectivity and a variety of interface ports. I wasn’t  keen on extreme graphics or the latest display LCD, as the laptop won’t be used for gaming or entertainment. And last, but not the least, I wanted to choose a laptop which will still hold its own against the latest out there and meet my requirements for at least a couple of years (future proofing). So, with my requirements defined, I narrowed down my choice to two vendors – Dell and Lenovo (I’m in love with the build quality of ThinkPads). Finally, given my requirements and budget, I selected the Dell Studio XPS 16 and here’s some of the custom configuration which I selected:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.4 GHz, 3 MB L2, 1067 MHz) 64-bit processor
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM (upgradeable to a maximum of 8GB)
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm HDD with free-fall sensor
  • Intel WiFi Link 5100  and Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth PCIe Mini Cards

Visit the Dell Studio XPS 16 Gallery for images and more details (ports, etc.).

Having placed the order, I was satisfied that I had pretty much future proofed my laptop by opting for DDR3 (upgradeable to 8 GB), 7200 rpm HDD, eSATA, HDMI, Display Port, etc. As a matter of fact,  I placed an order for the same laptop on the previous day and later cancelled it. My cancelled order included an SSD instead of a HDD. I decided to replace the 128 GB SSD with a 500 GB 7200 rpm HDD after I read reviews and test results on reputed websites indicating that SSD is still a developing technology and only Intel’s SLC SSDs are good performers. Dell provides a Samsung MLC SSD along with the Studio XPS 16 (I’m annoyed that Dell do not mention this fact on their product configuration webpage). Being an early adopter of a technology can sometimes give you a kick in the teeth and I cannot afford to take such costly risks (SSDs are around 10 times the cost of HDDs for a given capacity).

Regarding connectivity for peripheral devices, the XPS 16 has USB 2.0 (480 Mb/s), IEEE 1394a (400 Mb/s) and eSATA (3 Gb/s). With eSATA, I will have the fastest external peripheral interface out there today on computers, but that won’t last long, as a couple of days ago, USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed USB (5 Gb/s) came closer to getting onto computers, with NEC’s development of the world’s first USB 3.0 controller chip.

Perhaps, a year from now, SSDs and USB 3.0 will be the hot technologies gracing computers and then my XPS 16 will have been left behind (I guess I can still use SSDs on Express cards as the XPS 16 has an Express card slot). Anyway, irrespective of your budget, you cannot future proof the purchase of a laptop/PC (or any gadget) for long due to the rapid advancement in technology – something which is both fascinating and a bit frustrating (unless you win the lottery). Well, I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new laptop!

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Another weekend, another exciting boxing match – Ricky Hatton Vs Manny Pacquiao. I thought I would be watching the fight right now instead of blogging, but Manny blew away the “Hitman” in just 2 rounds and here I am. I stayed awake all night to watch this fight LIVE and although I predicted a Manny victory prior to the fight, I am surprised at the clinical and emphatic manner in which Manny finished off Hatton.

 

Hatton (L) Vs Manny (R)

As with the Hatton-Mayweather Jr., fight, a lot of hype was built up around the “new” Hatton for his fight with Manny. And as usual, Hatton spoke a lot prior to the fight – about how Manny will be facing a fiery Hatton, how Manny will be fighting his biggest opponent, how Manny will be punished by body blows, blah, blah…. On the other hand, Manny didn’t talk much and was just focussed on the fight. 

If at all this indicated anything, looking at the kin of the 2 fighters as they made their ring entrances, you could see such a stark contrast. Hatton’s fiancée looked very nervous, whereas Manny’s wife seemed relaxed. Manny himself resembled a smiling assassin when he entered the ring. When the first round began, it seemed to me that Manny was backing off a bit and I thought he was trying to avoid “heavy” punches from the Hitman. However, Manny soon showed us that his quick feet and hands (southpaw) were going to pose Hatton a problem and soon there was a swing and a miss from Hatton which allowed Manny to land a clean punch, thereby knocking down Hatton for the first time in the match. Hatton was then knocked down a second time in round 1 and the bell ensured that the fight would stretch to two rounds. In the second round, Manny was able to easily jab Hatton. Then, came the big one from Manny – a brutal left hook to Hatton’s chin. Hatton fell to the floor as if he were poleaxed and he was unconscious. Hatton was sprawled across the canvas for a while, causing some concern. Fortunately, he was back on his feet later and fully conscious. So, the fight was over within 2 rounds and Manny left no doubt in anybody’s mind as to who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

In my opinion, I never considered Hatton to be even among the top 5 candidates for the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. My opinion is bashatton-manny2ed on the fact that Hatton has one and only one way of fighting – walk right into the opponent punching with brute force, no quick feet and poor defence. This boxing style actually bears closer resemblance to pub brawls and will easily be outclassed by technically superior boxing styles. Hatton himself said “The Mayweather fight changed my career. I had too many fights where there was no real thought in the way I was fighting”. Unfortunately, there’s still no thought and no improvement as seen in his fight with Manny. The brilliant Freddie Roach (Manny’s coach) found flaws in Hatton’s style, worked with Manny in the gym on exploiting those flaws and predicted a 3rd round knockout. Manny made Freddie’s prediction turn out wrong by knocking out Hatton in the 2nd round, but Freddie will gladly accept that.

Ever since Ricky Hatton won the IBF Junior Welterweight World Championship belt by defeating a 35-year old Kostya Tszyu, he was hailed as a boxing legend in Britain and the marketing and money-spinning machines worked overtime to build a fairy-tale bubble around Hatton. What actually seemed annoying to me was that Hatton simply did not respect his profession enough. He did not follow a boxer’s regime and keep in shape. Instead, it was fast foods and sort of a pub lifestyle. It seemed to me that Hatton thought he was the best light-welterweight fighter in the world without even being tested by world class fighters who were in their prime. And this bloated ego was very evident in all the bragging crap he dished out in the pre-match build-ups for his fights against Floyd and Manny – both truly great champions. Well, if there’s anything I can give Hatton credit for, it’s his ability to put bums in seats. He simply never failed to attract huge crowds even when fighting away from home. He’s got a huge fan base who’ve travelled with him for his fights. To me, Hatton is a people’s champ, but not a boxing legend.

What next for Hatton?: He should hang up his gloves and enjoy his time with his family. He’s fought hard, held the light-welterweight championship belts for around 4 years and made a lot of money. Now, it seems he’s hit a brick wall with regards to where his boxing ability can take him. He’s had a shot at 2 great champs and has been knocked out by both. Unless, he can radically transform himself into a new Hatton bearing all the qualities of a great fighter (new style, strict training regime, etc.), will it be worth him trying another shot to get back his title, but there is a very, very small possibility, if not zero, that this can happen.

What next for Manny?: Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Juan Manuel Marquez in July 2009. Manny has already had 2 gruelling fights with Juan (1 draw and 1 controversial win for Manny) and all boxing fans would love to see Manny take on Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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First, we had the floppy drives given to us by IBM – magnetic storage disks which came in sizes of 8-inch, 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch. I still remember thinking the floppy was cool during my Computer Science lab classes at school. As we entered the digital age, the greater was the need for more storage and we moved to CDs, USB drives, external hard drives, DVDs and memory cards. However, with the ever increasing amount of information being shared and the rapidly evolving media technologies, the storage media out there simply ain’t enough. When I bought my first 120 GB USB external drive, I thought it would satisfy my storage needs for quite a while. However, I soon found myself buying 2 more pocket drives (120 GB and 160 GB) and 2 SanDisk USB drives (2 GB and 8 GB) along with 4 10-pack boxes of DVDs/CDs. I could soon end up with a storage problem for my storage media!

Finally, a technology called Holographic storage/memory, which will greatly facilitate the storage of all our data/media is closer to getting into our living rooms. Watch this video below for an introduction to Holographic Storage.

 

 

 

While Holographic Storage is not a new technology (proposed by scientist Pieter J. van Heerden in the early 1960s, its mainstream use has been delayed due to efforts by various companies to mass-produce Holographic Data Storage Systems (HDSS). In my opinion, the best technologies are the ones which can make life easier at an affordable price. So, while a few companies have been building some HDSS, General Electric has focussed on developing a HDSS which can be easily mass-produced and used in the consumer market at an affordable price. And they’re close to realizing that goal with the development of a micro-holographic disc in their labs which meet the following criteria:

  • Same size as that of existing CDs/DVDs
  • Can store upto 500 GB
  • Can be played in Blu-Ray and DVD players
  • Much cheaper (10 cents per GB) than Blu-Ray discs ($1 per GB)

GE have said that they will first focus on commercial markets like movie studios, hospitals, etc. So, it could be a few years before this technology reaches the consumer market. Watch out for it! Read the NY Times press release.

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I was disappointed when I came to know that no UK TV broadcaster agreed a deal to telecast the Froch-Taylor match LIVE. Well, ITV stepped in at the last moment to telecast the matcvh “as LIVE” around 18 hours after the fight. Fortunately, Omnisport streamed the fight LIVE for £9.95 and I booked the fight just minutes before punch-off! And man, I’m thrilled I didn’t miss the LIVE telecast!

Carl Froch (L) Vs Jermain Taylor (R)

Since watching Carl Froch take the vacant WBC Super-middleweight title with a classic match against Jean Pascal, I knew that Froch will be an exciting prospect and I admired his tough chin and stamina.

So, this was Froch’s first big fight (against the former world champion Jermain Taylor who’s no pushover) and his first fight on American soil. Also, it was hist first defence of his WBC super-middleweight title.

Jermain started strongly and dominated the first couple of rounds. He looked more stylish and solid in defence than Carl Froch. And then in the 3rd round, he handed Froch his first knockdown in his career (Carl Froch was undefeated and was never knocked down to the canvas prior to this fight). It seemed that the skilful, former champ Jermain Taylor was ready to teach Carl Froch a boxing lesson and Jermain went on to dominate the first half of the fight. From the 7th round onwards, Carl Froch became more active, using his jab more frequently and taking the fight to Taylor, who by now was backing off a bit (Taylor has publicly acknowledged his issues with stamina and going the distance). However, Taylor was still doing enough to lead Froch on the judges scorecards. Going into the final round, Taylor was leading 106-102 on two of the three judges’ scorecards. Just before getting off his stool for the final round, Froch’s trainer told him “You’ve got to get a big round. Don’t blow it!”  and that’s exactly what Froch did. He threw several combinations at Taylor and moved him towards the ropes. In the last minute of the final round, Froch avaenged his 3rd round knockdown by knocking down Taylor. Taylor looked stunned and Froch knew that if he didn’t finish off Taylor, Taylor could still win on points. So, Froch continued dishing out the punches while Taylor just had his arms up  trying to defend while leaning against the ropes. It was obvious Taylor could not defend himself and Froch could punch him at will and so the referee made the correct decision of stopping the fight, just 14 seconds before the final bell! Froch had won his first defence, retained his WBC super-middleweight title and had arrived in the USA! Shame on the bloody disgraceful UK TV broadcasters who telecast LIVE boring Commonwealth/British title fights and Amir Khan’s over-hyped matches, but refused to do so for the Froch-Taylor fight. Now, perhaps,  they’ll line up to strike a deal for Froch’s next fight.

Well, it should not be down and out for  Taylor as he fought well and did not allow Froch to dominate the fight. The fight was actually going Taylor’s way until the last few seconds of the final round. In the end, it was Froch’s tough chin and stamina which helped him stage a wonderful comeback and nail down the victory. There may be a rematch on the cards, but it seems that Froch’s most keen to get Joe Calzaghe out of retirement and called out loud and clear for him. Joe avoided Carl before retirement, dismissing Carl as a nobody. Well, I’m interested in watching Carl Froch take on one of these fighters soon – Lucian Bute, Mikkel Kessler, Sakio Bika (featured on “The Contender” show).

Will Carl Froch be a great champion? Well, his tough chin, stamina and some powerful punching have impressed me, but his poor defence could prove to be his downfall. He simply does not keep his gloves up to defend and can prove to be easy to hit by skilful boxers. So, it  seems that his chin will determine how far he goes in boxing if he doesn’t improve his defence. He’s not afraid to sign up for the big fights. If he develops a solid defence and starts strongly (use his jab more often in early rounds), then he’ll be very difficult to beat. Perhaps, his first big fight in America made him a bit nervous and that’s why he didn’t start very well against Taylor, but in the end, two excellent boxers gave us fans a cracking nail-biter! Thanks guys!

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