Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of a decade

This indeed is the last day of a decade! Wow! And what a decade it has been, well I'm talking about myself here. I guess this probably was the most important decade of my life. I gave two of the most important exams of my life Class X and XII, got a sense of what fun in school is like when I got admitted in Kendriya Vidyalaya, and of course then came the entrance exams. I had always wanted to be an engineer. I had even enrolled for a preparatory course for IIT JEE. But things changed after I passed the Class X ICSE exams. My interest in Biology (which I had always considered to be a mindless-mugging-up subject) sky-rocketed and one fine day I figured out maybe medicine was my true calling. Add to that an awesome Biology teacher in school, Mr. Saha and the great 'Biology Sir' (whose name I absolutely cant remember as he was immensely popular by that name), and what I had was a paradigm change in my outlook towards the subject. Within a year I had come to the conclusion that medicine indeed was my true calling. What followed that realisation was hard work, burning the midnight oil and stuff, and by the time everything ended, I was really really really lucky enough to have gotten accepted in med school (or else let me put it this way, I bagged a seat in med school). I was finally gonna become a doctor! Tell you what, thats a crazy crazy feeling!

Well I guess life changed after that. Dunno why, but once you're a med student there's obviously loads of people who sort of want to become potential 'contributors', if you know what I mean. As Mr. Saha once most eloquently put it 'Success has many fathers, failures have none'. How very true it was!

Anyway, the years that followed were some of the most enjoyable days of my life. Med school is truly truly an awesome place no matter where you might be studying. The dissections, the 'trips' to the wards etc etc. Okay there are drab lectures, books which can only be used for weight-lifting and nothing else and screwy professors. But overall its in all senses of the word an 'experience' (Do check out my other blog post about those days here). And the fact that some day I will indeed get that hallowed 'Dr.' before my name is lets say, satisfying to say the least.

I guess I'm leaving behind an eventful decade. A decade which truly changed my life...forever.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My picks of 2009

These are my picks for the best 'revolutionary' softwares/OSes/web apps of 2009:

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1. Google Chrome - This is without doubt the most interesting product of 2009. Although it was released in September 2008, Chrome really came of age in 2009. There's now a Windows, Mac as well as a Linux version of Chrome and the usability and feature set of Chrome has virtually doubled in the past few months. Its looking like a much more complete browser now than it ever did! And well here's the thing, I was an ardent fan of Firefox (maybe I still am) but seriously, Firefox doesnt really have the 'nifty-ness' of Chrome and frankly speaking, the development of Firefox isnt really headed in that direction! And now Chrome has a really good set of "Extensions" (aka the "add-ons"), so you wont really miss Firefox!

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2. icloud - Cloud computing is the future, there's no debate about that. The thin line between desktop and online computing has been blurred forever thanks to cloud computing. Now you can access your favourite desktop apps and files no matter where in the world you are. And among all the other cloud computing 'sites', icloud is without any doubt the sleeker and the most popular one. This surely was one of the most awesome stuff we've seen in 2009 and we're surely gonna see more of cloud in the years to come.

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3. Ubuntu - Linux also came of age in 2009. This year saw the release of one of the most user-friendly Linux OSes ever, Ubuntu 9.10 (codenamed Karmic Koala). It shattered the myth that Linux was all about terminals, kernels and everything geeky. Linux as of now is as user-friendly (and in some instances, even more) than its Windows counterpart. The sheer fact that everything is customisable is the plus point of Ubuntu. Also, the impenetrable security of Ubuntu has also been the talking point. Ubuntu is coming up with its LTS (Long Term Support) release next year 10.04 codenamed Lucid Lynx which promises to be another revolutionary step in Linux.

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4. Twitter - Who'd have thought a 140 character stupid social networking concept would turn out to be one of the most most important path breaking achievements in the social networking scene! Twitter has used 2009 to usher into a social networking giant, competing with the likes of Facebook and Myspace. Sure Twitter has teething problems and annoying outages but the fact is for millions around the globe (and that includes celebs as well), Twitter has become a way of life.

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5. DivX 7 - An unlikely candidate you might say? Infact I might venture to say, the release of DivX 7 was perhaps the most important landmark achievement of 2009. What does that mean? Well in the words of Wikipedia, "On the 6th of January 2009, DivX 7 was released, which added H.264 video, AAC audio and Matroska container support, surpassing the restrictions of their previous formats." So now, you can convert your favourite high definition videos to a format which will compress them to a large extent (much larger extent than Xvid or DivX) without apparent loss in quality! If you have a video which you want to share with the world, size is now no at all a barrier. (Some might say H264 and Matroska existed way before DivX 7 released, but the fact is because DivX 7 has integrated these codecs, it will now receive a worldwide recognition and acceptance from users. What this also means is that come 2010, and we might see products aka Blu Ray Disc Players which will play videos which use the H264 codec! Should suffice to say, this is music to millions of videophiles across the planet)

That was my pick of 2009.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lindsay Lohan's 'tour' of India

So now we have Lindsay Lohan in India. And why is she here? Apparently she wants to solve or lets say highlight the trafficking problem in this country. Really? I mean, seriously, dont we have any better person to do this job? How on earth did BBC come to the conclusion that Lindsay Lohan is the perfect role model! Oh well, I guess the BBC just hopped in on Lohan's flight, or maybe she has convinced the media giant of her 'noble intentions'. Anyway, thats not the point.

My files (found the original; it's not much be...Image via WikipediaPoint is, screwed up people in the West, mostly celebs (or pseudo celebs like Lohan), think that all problems of the world are either in Africa or in India (ask her who the Indian Prime Minister/President is and I'm sure she'll fumble for the rest of her life; ask her what she thinks of India and I'm sure she'll come up with nothing more than 'curry', and maybe now, 'trafficking'). And they think they are the saviours of the planet and could come here and 'do good' and serve humanity whenever they are in trouble in their home country, and 'experience life on the other side of the fence', and then...? Erm, I guess they go back to the US, arrange for expensive interviews with media giants and somewhat recover their public image. Erm wait! I forgot to mention about the autobiography bit! So, then they come up with these 'great' tell-all autobiographies where they brag about saving people's lives, helping others, while carefully forgetting about their own messed up ones!

And who exactly is Lindsay Lohan? An actress? Hell...the 'dance-around-the-tree' Bollywood actresses do a far better job at acting than she! A socialite? Erm...what exactly is a socialite? I guess someone who has nothing else to do apart from partying, doing drugs and Lohan's case, having doubts about one's sexual orientation! For heaven's sake she cant make out what sex she gets attracted to! (I have nothing against homosexuals but I hate people who consider it a fad to be called a gay or a lesbian) One day she gets attracted to Samantha Ronson (her mom approves their relationship and stuff) and then she decides 'oh wait, maybe I'm taking this too far, lets get hooked up with someone in a better position to boost my non-existent career, someone like erm..Leonardo Dicaprio?' And then the stories of her and Britney Spears' crazy night-outs are legendary.

Having Lindsay Lohan as a do-gooder in India is almost like asking Amy Winehouse to be the brand ambassador for drug de-addiction campaign! For god's sake please let us have some 'real' people do the job than wannabe stars or starlets having no intention but to restore their long extinguished careers.

Image uses GNU Free Documentation License

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The hullabaloo over climate change

Its the 'climate change' season (quite literally)! Everyone's talking about climate change and its definitely the buzz word right now. (Check out this Google Insight page. It shows a huge rise in the number of people searching for the world 'climate change' over the last 90 days)

More than 15,000 delegates from 192 countries from around the world have gathered in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference. Fair to say, the entire humanity is looking at this event in the hope that it would help carve an amicable path to tackle climate change. A solution they hope will be acceptable to the developed countries as well as to the developing nations without hampering their path to progress and development. Yet this simple idea has run into trouble since time immemorial. The developed nations are unwilling to share the burden of climate change and are more intent on passing the buck towards the developing nations. While the developing nations are unwilling to trade development with the pro-climate-change agenda. And there we are, exactly where we were around a decade ago, still deadlocked in the silly old mudslinging and passing the buck game, while the temperature rises, the Antarctic melts and more and more people lose their lives to the violence of nature.

Fair to say, in all these UN conferences, its the US which gets the priority or has more say when it comes to framing of new regulations. In this respect, the current US administration is certainly more 'green-minded' than its predecessor and President Obama does seem genuinely concerned about the issue. However when it comes to framing stringent, time-specific rules, its falls short of even coming close to a mutually agreeable solution with the other nations. And the developed countries always have the development vs climate change costs argument to come up with.

Since this debate has clearly divided the world into the 'developed' and the 'developing' nations, I would say its time that both parties showed some maturity in dealing with climate change.
The US needs to let go of the presumption that it has significantly reduced carbon emissions because it has not. It needs to come out of the assumption that developing countries as of now contribute more to emissions than itself because they dont. It needs to contribute whole-heartedly to global warming/climate change research and help the poorer/developing and even the other developed nations in sharing the research. It needs to provide the developing countries with all necessary financial support. I know its a lot to ask for, but havent the developed nations contributed (and is still contributing) the most to the enormous carbon emission levels today?
The developing countries need not sit tight and relax while the big brothers battle climate change. It needs to come up with a proper time specific solution of how it intends to tackle global warming. It needs to figure out a way to significantly reduce carbon emissions and perhaps most importantly figure out a path to continue industrial development without harming the climate any further.

At the end of the day its all a matter of good, old-fashioned 'intent'. Lets hope our leaders from around the globe come up with a proper idea of creating a cleaner, greener future for us.

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shocked, stunned and utterly bewildered (all over again)

Tiger Woods in 2007Image via WikipediaFair to say that I'm shocked. I've never felt so let down by anyone, let alone by people for whom I have a deep sense of respect.

First Andre Agassi and now Tiger Woods. Well although the Tiger Woods incident was a personal affair, it did hurt fans of the great player (and that includes me). All those family pics of trophies he lifted with his wife and kids by his side...

Oh well, I guess we fans place our expectations from at sky high levels. Only to realise later that these people are after all fallible humans, vulnerable to all the pleasures of life.

Will keep this post short. Really dont want to delve deep into this uncomfortable topic.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The mess that was CAT 2009

Students taking a computerized examImage by Extra Ketchup via FlickrI think I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say that this year's CAT was a mess! The most awaited exam went online this year with the examinees having the option to choose the exact date and time for appearing. Alas!

Thousands of candidates have been asked to reappear for their exams for some unknown reason, apparently a 'virus'. At least so says Prometric (the tech giant which is behind conducting the exam). You know the story! (If not check out this link from The Times Of India)

But here's the thing. India's most 'popular' exam (in all senses of the word) goes online and there's a 'virus' which repeatedly affects the system? A 'virus'? Erm...sorry, but just seems a bit too incredible to me this one. Most industry experts say that such a glitch should not have taken more than a day to fix! The real cause seems to be server problems. Or more specifically incapacity of servers at the exam centers. I mean, there's this huge exam and everyone knows how important it is, and there's this screw up of magnanimous proportions! I expect these to happen in local exams but in CAT? Most certainly not!

And now there's this 'fairness' argument which is being put forward. People who were able to take the CAT at the first go, might be at an advantage compared to candidates who could not. This could be a valid argument. And frankly it puts a real question mark on the entire exam really. Imagine the stress the candidates might be going through!

And the saddest part? The IIMs are thinking of going back to the pen and paper format. Although I'm more familiar with the pen and paper exam, online exams are much more 'neutral' or lets say, 'leak-proof'. Just because Prometric messed up their job doesnt really mean that online exams are a failure. After all, most major exams around the world are held online.

Hope the right lessons are learnt this time around and the rest of CAT this year and the next turns out to be error free and 'virus' free. And of course, to all those hard working folks appearing for CAT, all the very best!