Being ‘Flex’ible

I have a dream. I am taking small steps to realize this dream. The dream is to build a on demand, online e-education framework. The framework should take care of all the details of running a successful online education/training program. It should be extensible, usable and most importantly simple.

I have been toying with this idea for a long, long time. Sangita is a witness to my dilemma for a long, long time. My main problem/opportunity is that I want to build it using mostly open source technologies. And education/training involves, audio, video. I explored a lot of technologies that would do this. I was a fan of Open Laszlo for a while. But it is not mainstream. I love the employees – I met so many of them when I went for a meeting couple of months back in SF. But the documentation is feeble and mailing list is not that active. So finally today I dropped Laszlo off my list.

I have been hovering around Flex since it came out with version 1.0. But I was never convinced with it as it came along with a lot of bells and whistles which I didn’t need. Even after Bruce Eckel turned into a Flex evangelist, I didn’t go for it because me and my friend Jorge were worried about being locked in Adobe’s proprietary grip.

But today I have decided that I would be a little flexible with Flex and go ahead and try it. I have a 15 day trial version of Flex developer and I intend to learn Flex in these 15 days and create an amazing application which would have never been possible with DHTML & Ajax. Once I do that, I will decide whether I should go with Flex or not. I will keep updating my blog with my new learnings.

Guru Poornima

Today is Guru Poornima.

Sankaram Sankaracharyam Kesavam Badarayanam;
Sutra-Bhashya-Kritau Vande Bhagavantau Punah Punah

I adore Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu, Bhagavan Vyasa and Sri Sankaracharya. I again and again prostrate to Sri Vyasa who wrote the Vedanta Sutras, and to Sri Sankaracharya who wrote the commentaries thereon (Guru Vandanam)

You can checkout the significance here. I also realized that Sri Sathya Sai World Youth Conference have been going on. It never occurred to me when the preparations were going on, couple of months ago in US, to attend this event as I knew that I would be in India. But now, I feel like I should have. Anyhow, I am happy that Daniel got a chance to speak and get close to Swami. 🙂

Daniel in Parthi

e-seva the iTunes of bill payment

Apple has a history of not to go with anything that has to do with streaming. Looks like Apple doesn’t believe in streaming. It has 3 technologies out there, which prove this point.

  1. Music – You need iTunes to download music on to your computer and then later put it on your iPod.
  2. Movies – You still need iTunes and then you can put it on your iTv and watch it on your TV
  3. Communications – You still need iTunes and then you can put stuff on your iPhone

So, it clearly shows how Apple deals with media. And there is a reason why Apple chose that way, it works. Period. This central place (iTunes) to manage all the media is the principle behind Apple’s way of doing things.

Lately, I came across similar principle here in India while paying our bills. In India (at least in AP, I am not sure of other states) you can pay your electricity, water and telephone bills through a service called “e-seva”, which literally means “electronic service”. It’s nothing but a wide set of offices dispersed throughout the city – and you can take your bills there to make a payment. Kinda like one place to pay off your bills. Just like iTunes.

I was wondering why didn’t the people who designed e-seva put the whole thing out there for normal people to access? Why can’t I go to the e-seva site and pay off my bills online? Couple of reasons come to mind –

  1. Internet penetration is not that dense
  2. Online payment requires, some sort of bank a/c or credit card – which is just picking up in India. India is still a largely cash based payment country.
  3. Language could be a barrier. A lot of people don’t read or write English which is most of the Internet is made up of.

But for now the e-seva system works fine. May be once all the above issues are resolved then may be I can make auto-payments of my electricity, water and telephone bills online as I used to do in US. May be once we all get 100MB pipelines to internet, Apple will offer iTunes’ online version which basically streams movies, audio etc. Till then e-seva and iTunes are just fine and work.

Worries of India

It’s amazing to see people in India who have access to the age old knowledge of “self” through Vedas, Upanishads and various mythological stories – that they don’t operate from that knowledge. More and more I come across people whose thoughts, words and actions are buried in worry. They act out of fear. They speak out of fear and constantly worry. The focus on what they don’t want is so immense and thick that they fail to realize that they are actualizing it. Some of the top worries I come across when I meet people.

  1. If you are single guy under 25 – worried about getting a job/right job
  2. If you are single guy over 25 – worried about going abroad and earning dollars
  3. If you are single girl under 25 – worried about finding a rich boyfriend who can take her out to Bottles & Chimneys
  4. If you are single girl over 25 – worried about finding a guy for marriage (Possibly a guy in #2)
  5. If you are a parent of a guy and poor – worried about son’s education
  6. If you are a parent of a guy and rich – worried about son’s worth in dowry
  7. If you are parent of a girl and poor – you are screwed
  8. If you are parent of a girl and rich – you are royally screwed
  9. If you are a parent and your kids are married off – you are worried of your son not taking care of you
  10. If you don’t have kids – you are worried about not having kids even though you know all the above are true!

So, one thing I do when I meet people like these are to say something good about the present situation. Being thankful about what they have and also try to talk about what they want rather than talk about what they don’t want. Sometimes people think that I am a weirdo because I didn’t add more worries to their collection.

Amazing Day

Today was such a wonderful day! I accepted a offer to work for a very cool company in Hyderabad. The whole thing was so cool and neat. I went up their offices to meet HR and the Management. I never expected them to be such a cool company. My idea about Indian software companies has changed now. I always thought the most Indian companies missed the principle and looked more towards practice. Following blindly the west. Now, here comes a company which has it’s own niche and looks like it stands out. Only time will tell how well we will match – but for now I am excited and looking forward to work on some exciting things.

Education – A bridge to bright future

Every parent I come into contact in India talks constantly about their kids’ education. In India education is held very high. Educated people are treated well and respected. With just 61% of literacy most Indians put a lot of emphasis on education. The most notable fact is that majority of Middle class people are well aware of the fact that only education can pull their families out of their financial troubles and save them from slipping into poverty.

That is the reason why the tuitions market in India is flourishing. When I leave for my J2EE class in the morning at 7am, I see throngs of students waiting for the bus. Everyone mostly aged between 15 and 25. They usually go to a Institute for some tuition and then go attend their college. Majority of these tuitions are computer based. SAP, Testing tools seem to be in heavy demand now. Some are aiming for US and UK. I have a cousin who is dreaming of US and preparing for TOEFL. His parents can’t afford to send him even if he gets through TOEFL well. They need at least 1.5 lakh Rupees (4000$) for his initial flight and applications etc. Once he gets a visa and admission into a college there in US they may have to spend more money. These parents are borrowing money at high interest rates from local lenders to send their son to US for education. Because deep inside they believe that once their son gets a good education, he will pay back all that money and pull them out of their poverty.

Education is the bridge which helps majority of middle class Indian people to pull themselves out of poverty.

London to Hyderabad

The flight was from Dubai and I was expecting a lot. The 7 hours flight started with a big trouble with my luggage. In UK the luggage carrying restrictions are different and they only allow one carry on baggage including your laptop. So, I tried checking in my carry on bag and it was over weight. After a lot of struggle and a lot of arguing with Emirates, I gave up and sent back some stuff along with my brother-in-law who came to drop me off.

As soon as I got into waiting lounge at the gate, I realized that this flight was filled with families with kids. Oh my. A lot of Asian population who take connecting flights from Dubai to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc. It took about 10 minutes before a kid went into this horrific fit of crying. He was literally screaming and wouldn’t stop. I swear to God, he cried like that for 2 hours of which 1 hour was in flight. A lot of people were openly covering their ears just give the parents a clue that they need to do something more than just to ask him not to cry. These are moments I wish parents carry some cough syrup with them!

Once on flight, my seat was next to the couple with kids. It was the front row with a baby bassinet in front of me. The guy who was sitting next to me was stinking with body odor. Not just your regular odor, but as I went to put my luggage in the top cabins 3 seats far away I smelled it there and wondered who it might be. Little I knew that I am the bakra who is going to sit next to him.

As I sniffed and kept clearing my nose – the guy didn’t get any clue. I am sure they have been traveling for a long time and may be didn’t had a chance to take a shower. Thanks to air conditioner, he felt cold later and put on a jacket which helped to dumb down the smell or may be it’s just that I got used to it. Eww.

I had about 3 hours of time in Dubai airport. I was surprised to see how small the airport was. I was expecting a lot from Dubai. After I made calls to India and let them know I am only couple of hours away from home – I did some duty free shopping. Just when I was thinking may be I can buy a watch for myself – my only carry on bag broke. The zip broke and it was wide open. I tried for an hour to fix it but nope. So, I opened my bag took out the ethernet cable I was carrying and tied the whole thing with it. I looked like a village dork with a bag tied up by some cable, but it worked. I also think that it might have confused the customs people in Hyderabad who stopped me for my electronic items.

Once on the flight to Hyderabad there was a lady who was sitting behind me who doesn’t like the idea of my seat being pushed back. After dinner(or whatever) I leaned back and she started knocking on it. When I asked what is her problem, she just spoke Arabic. I figured that she is having troubles with my seat. After no sleep for 20 hours, I was in a no mood t fight a belligerent arab woman.

Once off flight and clearing the immigration in Hyderabad I was marked “X” for the customs. This is where your baggage is screened and they mark “X” if they think that it might contain some expensive item in there. They customs guys called me aside and screened my luggage again. I couldn’t identify an item inside my suitcase, so I had to open it and show it to them. It was a toaster. Another item they had problem with was a Bose iPod player. I am pretty sure they had no clue what they are for. One guys checked my iPod player for a place holder for cassette or a CD.

Finally they let me go. As soon as I got outside, there was a smell. I don’t know what it was, but I guess it was smell of India and good lord lots and lots of people. Welcome to India

My Vision Book – An Idea

Success in this world depends up on Clarity. A lot of people don’t understand that if only they could just be clear of what they want – then they can achieve it. We live our lives wanting and fantasizing a lot of things. But very few make a list and out of them a minority makes a very specific list. After becoming aware of The Secret, I have been planning on to have a “Vision Book” for myself. Sangita already created one for herself and it looks so good. So here is an idea for creating a vision book site.

  1. A user would open an account and can select a book type.
  2. This is a book made in software but looks like any themed notebook from any country
  3. Once the book is created, the person can start creating pages. Vision pages.
  4. One goal may have many, many pages.
  5. It’s all about getting visual. If you have ever done scrap book then you get the idea.
  6. Then the user chooses to install a browser extension
  7. So whenever I visit a site, I like something – it could be a video, audio, image text etc – I can take a snapshot of it using my browser extension
  8. Once the snapshot is taken, the user can insert it  anywhere in his vision book and rotate it, play with it.
  9. It would be cool if the snapshots are in SVG format then the user can stretch it or skew it and it would still be the same.
  10. In the end, it all about sharing and spreading the vision. So, the user can choose to share his/her Vision book with his friends.
  11. If the user wants to print the vision book – it can be printed at Ink2