Monday, May 01, 2006

The reservation system: an antidote worse than the disease

Democracy is about Equality. When we consider all fellow citizens equal why do we give designated scheduled castes and tribes, privileged treatment?

Pre-Independence reservations were provided to religious communities. Today reservations target the rights and representation and empowerment of some ill-defined sections of society.

Every democracy must address the issue of equal rights and opportunities. Most of India is backward. Religions and castes present a rich diversity. Wealth distribution is highly unequal. At traffic signals, beggar children solicit alms while rich limousines wait for the red signal to turn green.

Discriminatory antidote
India’s reservation policy seeks to reverse the results of an ancient caste system. But it violates the cardinal principle -- transparent equality within a democracy. Purporting to empower and protect the deprived, it provides reservations for higher education, jobs and political representation. This sows the seeds of deeper division in people’s minds.

Will inflicting new wounds on the high-born today, heal the old wounds of the low-born?

There is an acute shortage of medical and engineering educational facilities. A biased privilege for the scheduled castes or tribes, decisively destroys fair opportunity for the careers of young and bright students.

On the one hand, people who benefit from such biased treatment and special privileges, merely on the basis of their birth in scheduled castes or tribes, learn to demand more and more. Caste sentiments perennially dwell in their minds.

On the other, those deprived of opportunity despite good marks and credentials grow to bitterly hate the scheduled castes and tribes. Discrimination and hatred passes on to the next generation.

Back to square one!

Vested interest in backwardness
The more backward you are the more advantages you get. So many definite and undeserved benefits create a vested interest in staying backward. People want to be considered “backward” and expect an unfair bias towards themselves in everything.

Reservation is exploited as a means to gain more benefits. Newer backward groups and sections of society are being spawned everyday. One such example is the demand for separate reservation for Muslims and Christians.

Political parties are given to championing some particular community, denigrating leaders belonging to other castes and religions. This corrupts the voters’ minds.
Only an SC/ST/OBC leader can truly protect the interests and aspirations of his own community.

Since the reservation is meant for the minorities and the oppressed, shouldn’t the percentage of seats reserved be restricted to their percentages? Tamil Nadu’s reservation of 69 per cent, either suggests that backward classes constitute 69% of that state, or mirrors the vested interests behind increasing the limit for voters.

Secondly should the privilege of reservation benefit people who are already economically well-to-do? Showing privileged treatment to the rich ‘backward’ caste businessmen defeats the whole purpose. In fact, people from these upper layers steal the reserved seats from their other backward counterparts for whom these reservations would have actually made a difference.

We should strive for an egalitarian society, not for compensating damage inflicted to the scheduled caste’s ancestors in the hoary past. There should be a terminal date fixed for expiry of all reservations.

This will need bold statesmen to fight for equality and educate the people that continuing to divide and discriminate based on caste or religion will only harm the country’s interests in the long run.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

My favorite Anti-Microsoft quotes by Scott McNealy

"The only thing that I'd rather own than Windows is English,
because then I could charge you $249 for the right to speak it." - Scott McNealy

"Microsoft is now talking about the digital nervous system...
I guess I would be nervous too if my system was built on their technology." - Scott McNealy

"Microsoft's .Net strategy is ".Not, .Not Yet and .Nut" " - Scott McNealy

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

End of a Silicon Valley Era

Scott McNealy, visionary founder CEO of Sun Microsystems has quit his job after 22 years.

A silicon valley era has ended.

Scott was one of my closely watched heroes, along with Steve Jobs, Andy Grove and Larry Ellison. Very few CEOs of major corporations have served as CEO for over two decades. I first met Scott during my 1997 stint with Tata Technologies Pte. Ltd., Singapore, and was impressed by his charisma.

Scott McNealy received his MBA from the Stanford Grad School of Business.

At Stanford aged 28, he met Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy and Andy Bechtolsheim and joined them in starting up Sun Microsystems in 1982. "SUN" originally stood for Stanford University Network.

During the early and mid-1980s, companies like Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, 3COM, and Oracle Corp. defined a new wave of successful Si Valley startups.

In 1984, Scott took over as CEO from Vinod Khosla.

Sun Microsystems helped the microprocessor chip to oust the mainframe out of the corporate computing world. It helped spawn the new tech world as we know it. One of Silicon Valley's most innovative companies, Sun was an early promoter of UNIX. It developed the Java programming language widely used on the Internet today.

Diametrically opposite the vanilla executive who manages based on business-process ideas, Scott McNealy scratch-built a successful company with passion and a belief system.

In the dot-com years, every Internet startup relied on an array of Sun servers.
Sun used to tout itself as the "dot" in dot com. McNealy coined Sun's slogan, "The network is the computer". He pushed to make all technologies interoperate. He even named his dog "Network".

But Scott McNealy failed to change his company's strategy swiftly enough to absorb the new-tech world's profound changes.

And when the dot-com bubble burst, Sun failed to recover.
Its stock price went into free fall from more than $60 per share in Sept 2000 to single digit in Feb 2002, never to recover. The stock closed Mon. 24th April 2006 at $4.98 per share.

Computer makers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer also ate into Sun's market share.

In recent years, McNealy tried touting the open source software movement.
Although open source is becoming increasingly popular in the business world, few companies have made big money selling services for free software.

He put in 80-hour weeks.

The corporate culture, Scott McNealy created encouraged humor. It also treated business as war.

From the beginning of his tenure, Scott McNealy took the giants of the industry, such as IBM and HP, head-on. For many years, he beat them. He outlasted many, such as Digital, a pioneer that was absorbed by Compaq and in turn absorbed by HP.
But ultimately, he didn't change quickly enough to keep the job he loved.

Companies needed cheaper systems, with fewer bells and whistles, but Sun continued to charge high prices and offer high-end systems. When he didn't change strategy, Dell and others selling low-cost servers gobbled up the market.

Scott McNealy was the epitome of old-school Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurial, brash and tough talking and taking huge risks. Sun would not have been the innovator it was without Scott McNealy at the helm.

A diehard opponent of Bill Gates he strongly spoke out vehemently against Microsoft's monopolistic initiatives. Nevertheless, Microsoft grew ever more dominant.
Scott McNealy spent too much focus on Sun's competition with Microsoft for the last decade, instead of focusing on Sun's customers and natural competitors, like HP, IBM and Dell. He missed a key industry turning point: the threat of the open-source Linux, which gained tremendous market share in many erstwhile Sun-dominated markets.

A tenacious CEO, he stuck with failing strategies for too long. Someone less charismatic and populistic might have changed course sooner.

Scott McNealy leaves Silicon Valley legacies of fighting tenaciously for his business and of fostering tremendous innovation. Stepping down from the driving position of CEO, Scott will continue as Chairman of Sun Microsystems. He will now focus more on talking to large Sun customers and less on managing the company day to day. Scott McNealy is very good at standing tall in the marketplace, telling the Sun story.

May his tribe soldier on!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Technorati Profile

Saturday, April 15, 2006

World's first major face transplant

Back in 1997 at the Jurong multiplex, Singapore, I saw a movie "Face/Off".
An embittered FBI undercover agent played by John Travolta, captures a criminal (played by Nicholas Cage) who lapses into a coma. Their faces are surgically exchanged so that the hero can deceive the villain's brother into telling him where a nerve-agent bomb is located.
Face/Off was made by the great Chinese action movie director: John Woo.

Well that was science fantasy.

Now the news (China Daily report) is
that the Chinese have successfully done a partial face transplant
on a 30-year old man with a badly disfigured face.

A black bear had badly mutilated his face two years ago.

Yesterday, Friday 14th April, doctors performed the 14-hour cutting-edge medical procedure
at Xijing military hospital in the central city of Xi'an [N34.272751°, E108.982295°]. Mr. Li Guoxing was given 2/3 of a new face: a new cheek, upper lip, nose, and one eyebrow from a single donor.
Doctors expect the wounds to heal in a week.

The hospital performed the surgery free of charge as the patient was too poor to afford it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Digital Reality

Nature has given us purpose-designed and strategically located receptor neurons (sensors) for Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. These sensors (nerve endings) produce electrical signals that travel to the brain, conveyed by our nerves. Different sections of the brain interpret these signals.

Life perceives the world, through this electrical brain activity.

These perceptions cumulatively give us the entire experience of the world we live in. They mediate our perception and experience of “reality”.

Our memory is made up of electro-chemically stored impressions of these signals.

Mankind has learned to synthesize, edit, communicate and store electrical signals.

Man-made information processors, can edit, store, transmit across distances and present these analog signals (continuous spectrum of values) to other human beings. To do that the machines must convert these signals into discrete numbers, especially binary numbers. This conversion is called Digitizing.

Accordingly, we have digital pictures, digital motion-pictures, digital sound and music.

The digital versions of Touch, Taste and Smell are today lab experiments. Commercial gadgets to present the feel of touch and smell are on the way.

Now the entire experience of reality can be electronically mediated by Man, creating a virtual sense of embodiment.

The speed of the movement of information far exceeds the speed of any physical movement. The telephone and the telegraph have spawned the digital computer and digital communications, the artifacts of the post-industrial, Information age.

Electrical signals are converted into digits (in particular: binary digits or bits).

The Internet has allowed these bits to move globally at the speed of light.

Beginning in the early 1980s, computers and information processors have rapidly dropped in cost. This has led to the Digital Revolution and the world-wide web of interconnected computing devices.

Changes in technology are influencing changes in society, as these technologies are widely adopted by mankind.

The digital revolution has marked the transition from the storage of information on fixed material objects (books for words, tape cassettes for sound, film for images), to the storage of all information in binary digital format.

The binary digital format is readily stored on a variety of media. Equally important to the revolution, is the ability to easily move the digital information between media, and to get it at remote places, or distribute it to remote places.

The digital revolution will probably continue to change the world until some new technology comes up by 2020.

Social implications
Some controversies have started to occur, which we could not have imagined in the past.

By having digital copies of records stored in databases, and having those databases accessible over digital networks, the digital revolution has essentially put an end to privacy as previous generations understood privacy.

As the revolution moves forward, virtually every aspect of life is being captured and stored in some digital form. The British government plan to record biometric details of the entire population on a National Identity Register.

Digital cameras have become inexpensive. They have even become a commonplace, pervasive feature of personal mobile-phones.

Mobile telephone service providers provide value-enhancing services such as the SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia message service).

While SMS ushered in the whole culture of "texting", MMS permits the distribution of full-motion video with sound.

India was recently rocked by a couple of MMS-related scandals.

A pornographic video of a 16-year old Indian girl child (former Miss Jammu, Miss Anara Gupta ) saw widespread circulation over MMS and Video CD. The child was accused, arrested by the police and released when forensic experts claimed that it was a digitally modified video. The video may have been synthesized in mischief. The girl’s mental torture and violation of privacy was real. No forensic expert could genuinely determine whether the picture was Anara’s or not!

We can use software on personal computers to modify digital photographs in hitherto unimagined ways.

Software like Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro and Gimp are easily available to all and sundry.

It has become trivially easy to digitally merge a respectable woman’s face to the picture of a naked female engaged in scandalous acts. By implication, this could drag the respectable woman into a scandal.

Digital cameras, even phone-based ones are here to stay. Scandals cannot undermine the usefulness of digital cameras, nor send them back in time to the period they came from.

Software is routinely used to modify old film songs into the Remix tracks of the present.

The original artistes and the old world record companies that own the original material are outraged. But our youth, routinely make millions of illegal copies of music and distribute them among their friends.

Sharing of files over the Internet has dissolved tens of thousands of miles for geographically remote computer users.

TV shows, full movies, copyrighted music and software are trivially easy to share.

Technology, created companies like Napster, to facilitate free distribution of copyrighted digital material. Napster was prosecuted out of existence by the organized music industry.

But not before it left hordes of descendants like Kazaa and BitTorrent that continue to let people share digital content.

The pace of changes in the Law cannot keep up with the frenetic pace of increasingly ingenuous ways discovered, to circumvent it.

The ease of modification of digital content has thwarted its admissibility as evidence in a Court of Law.

Virtually anything perceived by one human being can be digitally captured, modified (morphed) and recreated as a new (sometimes even conflicting) perception for another human being.

The real stars of today’s cinema are Special Effects.

Software programs can realize impossible perspectives. Matrix bodies moving faster than any kind of bullets. Warps, morphs, streamed visions simulating hyperreality – Movie mythology married to cyberpunk technology

Morphing is a special effect in motion pictures and animations.

It changes (or morphs) one image into another through a seamless transition.

It is mostly used to depict one person turning into another as part of a fantasy, magical or surreal sequence in, for example, a science-fiction story.

Before the computer stepped in, movie producers achieved such a depiction through a traditionally film-technique called cross-fading.

Since the early 1990s, computer software has taken over, creating more realistic transitions.

Steven Spielberg’s company Industrial Light and Magic was first to create computer-generated morphing. The first movie they did it for, was Willow, in 1988.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade followed in 1989 to decompose a human being into powder.

Morphing was technically improved in 1991, with the Michael Jackson video, Black or White. The movie, Terminator-2: Judgement Day used computer-generated morphing extensively to turn a pool of metallic fluid into many different human beings.

Massive creativity has been unleashed by morphing technology which sees inexpensive creation of advertisements for television. Today, morphing is common enough to be automatically done without human intervention. In TV shows it has routinely replaced the scene dissolve.

Ubiquitous Computing
Traditional computing ties down the user to the computer desk. Embedding tiny computers into the environment and everyday objects would enable people to move around and interact with information and computing more naturally and casually.

This is a current trend.

Ubiquitous computing (also called sentient computing) enables devices to sense changes in their environment and to automatically adapt and act based on these changes.

The sensors allow location-aware or context-aware applications to be constructed.

Man, the highest evolved of all Life on Earth, is an information hungry creature.

We have today instant access to more information, knowledge and collective human wisdom than ever before.

Truly, computers and communications today – the artifacts of the Digital Revolution -- are mediating the Human experience.

May we use these tools wisely to advance our species and leave behind us, a more civilized and evolved world, than the one we were born into.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

A quick introduction

Hi, I am Baji Jagannatha Ram Rao.
I was born and educated in Bombay (since 1996 called Mumbai).
Aside from eight years spent overseas my workplace has mostly been Mumbai.

After completing my BE in electronics & communications engineering in 1980, I have enjoyed a fulfilling twenty-four year career to date which included ten years with Tata Consultancy Services and five years with Larsen & Toubro Ltd, executing software projects with IBM in upstate New York, Hewlett-Packard at Lake Stevens, Wa, an electronic design automation company in Los Gatos, Ca, Bell-Northern Research Canada, Europe's largest cargo-container stevedoring and transhipment company in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Sweden's leading electricity and heat supplier: Vattenfall Group and Matsushita Systems Engg, Japan.

In the late 1990s I was COO of Mindteck (India) Ltd.
and CEO of e-SmartNET, a division of Zicom Electronic Security Systems Ltd.
We delivered services in the exciting domain of embedded systems.

In 2002, I founded Bajirao Technologies Pvt. Ltd., a medical informatics startup based in Chembur, Mumbai, India.

Having worked almost a quarter-century worldwide since 1981, my compatriots and I got India, globally recognized in infotech. Aren’t we rightfully proud!

Love reading Tracy Kidder’s

“The Soul Of A New Machine”,
Rich Bach’s “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull” and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”.

Love to travel and visit places.

Personally, I have a passion for automobiles. Eight years overseas gave ample opportunity to own and lease many interesting varieties. Among these were a Ford Tempo, a Pontiac 1000, a Dodge Aries, a Ford Maverick, a Mercedes 190-E W201, a Ford Sierra, an Opel Rekord, a Ford
Taunus-Cortina, a Ford Mustang, a Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon (my land-yacht), a four-wheel-drive Mahindra MM540, two Daewoo Cielos, a twin-cam 16-valve Daewoo Nexia.

I used to run a weekly spot-the-car contest