Friday, June 30, 2006


One of the benefits of all this broadband penetration and connectivity is the option of working from home. It is pretty convenient – I’ve been a bit off-color all week and the workload’s not getting any easier. Completely drained out by the evening, I head home, take a nap, get some food and log in after dinner and work till I’m too tired to (Unfortunately, not. I work till my work’s done).

I’d been pretty bad at this earlier, and I went through one job where I didn’t have remote access. Now that the convenience is back, I’ve learned some lessons that I’m applying well to this:

  1. Environment is everything: I don’t have a work table (my apartment’s too small to have one of a configuration I’d like). But my dining table, albeit small, is always uncluttered. Except during dinner, my laptop is always on it, ready to be powered on. Sitting upright in a work-like mode helps me get work done ( I could lounge in my papasan chair, but that’s reserved for reading blogs and the news) . My CD player’s right next to the table, so music’s always handy.
  2. Planning: If I leave work early in the evening with no concrete plan as to what I want to accomplish when working at night, I get nothing done. So I get the hard things where I’ll need advice or help from team-mates finished before I leave office. Home time is for flying solo.
  3. Tools: This is more technical. My job entails me physically re-booting machines often. "shutdown –f –r –t 0" is your friend. I also commandeer multiple boxen, and the right tools to do so matter. I have installed a neat console manager (internal company-use only, sorry) for managing multiple remote desktops on my primary machine. This means that whenever I have access to my primary machine, I can pretty much start working on all the machines I want to.

Till I get my health and my sanity back. Ciao.

*non-standard acronym for "Working From Home". Commonly used on IM clients to indicate to colleagues/friends that you're not in office but working from home.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Random Music Musings III - Reruns of the Floyd

I always wonder why, if a song that I've heard scores of times before (on CD/ tape) plays on radio, it makes me happy. There's a sudden sense of discovery associated with it, especially if the song is slightly off the beaten track. (needn't be, but it helps.) I feel the same way when a good song I know plays in the background of a movie. (Also see: Cameron Crowe). I also sing along to songs playing in restaurants while I'm supposed to be eating food, but that's just me.


Book on the top of my "to-acquire" list:"Music Lust" by Nic Harcourt. KCRW impresario and break-giver to acts like Norah Jones and Coldplay, Harcourt lays out his favorite artistes and albums. The book is organized in an interesting manner using different themes. A theme includes "twins" because he is a father to twins. This book promises the world and more. With a title like that and his pedigree and taste, he can't go very wrong.


Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon" rocks. And how! The more I listen, the more I learn why it is a seminal work. Sonically and lyrically, a masterpiece to top all masterpieces.

The superimposition with Wizard of Oz? Over-rated and over-hyped by conspiracy theorists. Some mind-altering substances may definitely have been part of the hype machine.

Watch the laser show at your closest laser dome though. Seattle and Pittsburgh (my two major US domiciles) both have laser domes attached to their science centers with shows based on DSOTM.

Previous music musings: I , II

Friday, June 23, 2006

You haven't lived till


1. Heard Eric Clapton/Blind Faith's "In the presence of the Lord" at full blast.
2. Tasted the tiramisu at Dilettante's
3. Taken a curve on a road at at least twice the rated limit.

More in this series on the way...

Monday, June 19, 2006


I’ve been looking with some interest and bemusement at the way the Tablet PC is evolving. The idea is to have an interface that is as human-friendly and intuitive as possible. The pen paradigm used in the Tablet makes a lot of sense in that way – for Gen X, brought up on pen and paper, the stylus works great to take quick notes. Good handwriting recognition software is already available, and any quirks in interpretation can be ironed out.

However, I (and many other people I know) fall in the category of people who can actually type faster than write. Growing up on computers (since age 10) has resulted in a comfort level with computers that grows more with every new generation of children entering schools. This is a set of people more comfortable not only with QWERTY keyboards, but also with the seriously limited keyboards of cellphones – where you have to press a key thrice to get to ‘C’ or to ‘F’.

There is obvious value in the stylus, of course. Diagramming is one obvious use. Doodling to get your creative juices flowing is another one that pops to mind.

I don't own one myself, but I'm curious to see ways in which using a Tablet may be better. One thing about good design is that you realize its power as you use it more and more. Case in point: GMail. Another case in point: The new Office 2007 Beta 2.

Unless I can get my hands on a Tablet to use for an extended period of time, I guess I really won't know either way.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Dinner-time conversation with a friend got me thinking – very deeply. The topic was related to work/ compensation. He said( I paraphrase) - when I was a student just a while back, the prospect of earning this much money seemed great. I wondered what my friends (who were already working) did with the money they earned. Now that we’re here, it’s obviously not enough. Everyone wants more. But I’m not unhappy with what I’m earning. Bonuses, stocks, pay raise, it’s no big deal.

It was refreshing - a relief to hear someone with a real sense of perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. Work matters – doing it well is worship in some ways. Excelling and getting due credit for it isn’t a bad thing. I really believe that the satisfaction you get from a job well-done is pretty good motivation for keeping at it.

But there’s more to life. Money is a means, not an end. A German car for the love of driving is one thing, but a German car as a status symbol is completely something else ( there’s a reason I put the 3-series right next to the Camry and the Accord – it’s such a clichéd thing to own). So are ridiculous McMansions with space for 10 while being occupied by two people and a dog.

Money is over-rated I say. While I'm at it, for the record, I also say that I want a Bose sound system, an SLK and a condo overlooking the Sound.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Net neutrality

Two things that I have reasonably strong opinions on are colliding strongly in the net neutrality argument.

First a bit of history.

Net neutrality means that the network service providers get no control over how data flows over their network. They are dumb carriers of whatever bits the end-points (us customers’ computers, servers, mobile devices) put on the network.

This is based on the classic End-to-End Arguments paper by Saltzer, Reed and Clark. (a personal favorite for its elegance, simplicity and the complete awesomeness of the idea).

To explain, a telephone network is a smart network where the intelligence is all in the network, while the end-points only work as originators and terminators. In the case of the Internet, it is the other way around - all the smartness is in the end-points, while the network only routes packets from point to point.

However, the network providers wish to change this. Pay more, get higher quality of service. The question is: can these providers be trusted?

My economic opinion is: let the market take care of itself. But, as a customer and a technology professional, I am very skeptical of the network providers playing it fair here. The network provider business is hardly a free market, with the entrenched telco and cable providers holding an unfair advantage over newer entrants. There is no way for a new upstart to come in and make a great business out of promising net neutrality. For many tech-unsavvy customers, this concept is unknown and they'll have the problem of having to choose between options they really don't know much about. Which is if they get a choice in the first place. The ridiculous amounts of money we pay for the joke we call broadband in the US bears testimony to a lot of things, including the fact that we don't really have a choice when it comes to our high-speed access.

This "smart network" leads us down a slippery slope. If the providers say that they can give better quality of service to certain kinds of traffic, this means that they can distinguish between traffic. Can these people then hide behind the common carrier argument for Peer-to-Peer traffic? They'll have to clamp down on illegal filesharing since they've just proved that they can know this kind of traffic. They may be loath to do this, because, admit it, it is one of the reasons many people get broadband in the first place.

What is to stop a provider from discriminating against independent service providers? If Comcast makes sure its video site runs superfast while Google Video runs, well, a tad slowly, on the Comcast network, Comcast makes a lot of money, while Google will be forced to pay money to Comcast (which will earn money for no reason but the fact that it is the only cable broadband provider in my area). Vonage has already complained in places of their service being sabotaged by service providers with their own VoIP offerings.

As I said, the devious mind can think of a number of ways in which this net non-neutrality is a bad thing. That being said, I'm still trying to figure out if free market economics, with technology may actually result in a positive outcome for this. Lets see where this leads.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fortune is carrying a special section on team-work and what makes great teams click. The most fascinating article by far is the article on the peloton, the pack of cyclists that make up the bulk of the contingent doing the Tour dé France. It is a story evocative of the Godfather, omérta, and "all for one, one for all" semantics.

And if you thought Lance Armstrong was only about very low heart rates, the stamina of ten men and the mental toughness of a hundred, think again.

Check it out here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Tune in My Head

I'm amazed by how evocative music is for me personally. A couple of weekends back, a friend riding shotgun with me was rummaging through the pile of CDs in my car. He put in this CD compilation I'd burnt maybe a year and a half back. The title was "Assorted Mix".
Fat lot of help that title is. This was before I started labeling my CDs more seriously. I now have titles like "September '05" or "San Diego - Las Vegas road trip". That is much more helpful.
This compilation "Assorted Mix" is very random. It crosses genres (Eminem to Blondie to Linkin Park) and time-zones ( though the music's mostly from the '90s).
However, even as I was driving down WA-520 and I-5, there were times I'd see myself at different places in different states of mind. There I was, in my room in C-block, worrying over my word-lists on a lazy sunday afternoon, and probably wasting too much time chatting with Alhad. Then I was in grad school, sitting in a lab by myself, wrapping my head around some esoteric networking concept, thinking if Eminem meant me when he said "Success is my only motherf*$%ing option, failure's not". Linkin Park's "In the End" was another favorite in those maddening and frustrating times.
I've mellowed down since the times when only rock music was an outlet. I've been listening to a wide variety of music over the past year now - electronica, world music. I've taken a stab at trying listening to *gasp* Indian classical music (the gasp is because it's me doing this attempt).

Time to burn a few more mix CDs.