Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two Decades

28th August 1995, a thin, tall, hesitant, individual had joined one of the upcoming IT companies in the Silicon Valley of India. Thin and tall, because that’s how the individual was built, as are most fresh graduates, stepping out of college. Hesitant, because he had no idea what to expect, this being the first job. At the back of the mind, first day of college was coming up again and again and that meant being scared of seniors and ragging. As he slowly ventured into the company premise, he was impressed with the office building, nice and clean, shining floors, security guards, immaculately dressed, standing at the gate etc.

The office bus had dropped bus full of employees, including this individual, at the company gate, ahead of time and hence there were not many people to be seen. The receptionist was also yet to arrive. Watching his each step, he slowly moved towards a room besides the reception, having seen some people inside. In a barely audible voice, he asked, “Excuse me Sir! I am a new joinee. Can you please guide me?”, almost certain that such a question will lead to getting ragged 100%. “Hi! Welcome to ... I am ... You need to go and sit in the room C1, where the new joinee induction will take place. The room is over there”. “Wow, this is some friendly person” is what the individual is thinking and after uttering thanks, he proceeded towards C1. During the day induction formalities happened along with 2-3 sessions from various people talking about the organization. The day went off smoothly.

The individual realized that there were many others in his batch, who didn’t know much about computers or programming and hence the organization had lined up a series of training sessions, covering aspects like hardware, software and even development processes. Well knowing the gaps in his skill set, the individual concentrated in all the sessions and ensured that he did all the practice sessions and reading properly. He wanted to ensure that he became a good programmer quickly.

In time he did achieve good success. His first project was in C language and he seemed to enjoy programming in C. Soon, the client asked for upgrade to C++, then visual C++ and so on. The individual was having a good time and he continued to do so in coming years. From project to project, he kept on adding deeper skills and progressed up the ladder as well. 

Starting as software engineer, he soon had become project lead and soon realized that his interests lay more towards being hands on on technology rather than managing the project. So he moved into the technical stream to progress as an Architect rather than project manager. He was fortunate to bag many awards and due recognition of his skills during the career. In time no one remembered that this individual had joined with no knowledge of programming.

Today, this individual, has completed a milestone in his career. He has completed 20 years in the industry. As he looks back, he has nothing to regret and if given a chance, he will probably want to relive his life as is.

That individual is, yours truly, me. I am still tall, but no longer thin, and definitely not hesitant anymore. I would like to take a moment and thank all my fellow colleagues (seniors, juniors, managers etc.), of all these years, that it was their support and belief in me that has kept me going strong. I wanted to take a few names, but then I run the risk of disappointing some, whose names I may miss out. Those people who have played significant role in my life, know about it anyway.

I cannot say that I look forward to the next 20 years in the industry. Who knows when I might decide to retire, but I surely do look forward to continuous learning and enhancing my skills, and my value to the organization I work for. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Microsoft Edge – living on the Edge

When I upgraded to Windows 10, I had in my mind to retry the Microsoft’s new explorer. I had long stopped using IE and shifted to Chrome as my default browser. MS had been claiming that Edge is a totally new browser, very fast performing etc. However a few days of use of Edge and I seem to be concluding that Microsoft should just stop making the browser and concentrate only on the OS and other applications.

On launching Edge, it opens up in a page called as Start Page, which has tried to do a Google like simple interface. So you get to see a search box titled “Where to Next?” (See image below).

There is a small circle towards the right of the page that seems to be my account picture. It took me a while to figure this out. This could have been a bit bigger to easily understand what this is. After a few seconds, the page loads MSN News and some other items like local Weather, Stocks (if configured in the Stocks app). The page uses the infinite scroll list concept, so as you scroll down, it keeps loading news from different channels and types.

Interestingly the page has no address bar visible by default where you can type a URL directly to visit a site. However you can still do that in the search box. Not highly intuitive, but works. The address bar, however is actually there, just not visible upfront. If you click close to the refresh icon on the top left, the address bar suddenly makes it appearance and now you can type a URL, if you wanted to.

I had a need to download some software from Microsoft site. MS recommends using MS Download manager for downloading the software. First time I tried, it didn’t seem to work. I didn’t see any popup that asked for installation of download manager as well. I then tried to directly visit the Download Manager site and install it. Later when I went back to download the software, I clicked on the download button, but nothing happened. I didn’t see any window popup, no status bar reflecting any downloads. So I ended up clicking the download button 2-3 times. Thinking that it still isn’t working, I then picked up the alternative option of download via browser. This time, I could see a file starting to download and the download tab opened up. Surprisingly, it showed me that 3 earlier downloads were already in progress. These were probably from the earlier clicks that I had done, but I had not seen anything happen. I stopped one of these and then accidentally cleared the list. Now unfortunately I had no way to stop the various downloads. So I ended up downloading the same 1.5 GB file 3 times L.

Another point I noted is that Edge seems to be a bit unresponsive to the click on the right top close button. I have to click multiple times before it responds to it. Even then the behavior seems unpredictable. At times it closes only the active tab and at times it closes all. I tried to search for a setting for this, but didn’t find it.

As for the display of pages, some sites that load and work fine across Chrome and Firefox, seem to have issues with Edge. Not sure what kind of CSS parsing engine MS is using, but this cross browser compatibility issue continues to exist. I didn’t notice anything significantly different in page load times. The gmail still seems to load faster than Hotmail, which is slowed down due to the various advertisements that Hotmail needs to display.

I guess, in short, I didn’t find anything of interest that will push me back to using Edge. So for now, Chrome, it is for me. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Don't ban a community, ban the acts

More than 2 years back I had written about the ever growing problem of banning bachelors from staying, in many of Pune Societies. The problem hasn't been resolved and I am definitely surprised how come those affected by this, the bachelor community, which is pretty sizable in number, hasn't acted on this yet, when we all know that this isn't legal. 

But the good thing is that Pune Police has finally decided to do something about this on their own and address this growing menace. The bachelors probably don't make as much nuisance as this self proclaimed ban by the societies has. 

I stay in a society that fortunately didn't fall pray to this rule. We had successfully counter argued against it and today we follow a simple rule. Anyone can stay, but any tenant (bachelor or family) if found creating nuisance, which is unacceptable behavior in a public place, will be asked to leave immediately. And we have been living happily with this rule for the last 10 years at least with hardly any incident. Yes, there have been one or two, but quick action against it and things are back to normal. 

Every society can make such rules. There should be an attempt to mingle with the bachelors and be friendly with them. I am sure they would be fine with it and would be more than willing, to then, listen to our concerns as well. When I was staying as a bachelor in Bangalore, we had such good relations with our neighbors that we would occasionally help their kids with the homework and they would invite us to tea/coffee. In our current society, at one of our annual events, we had allowed people to put up stalls. The stall that sold the most that day was one selling corn pakodas, and were prepared by 2-3 bachelor boys staying in a flat. They kept on running out of stock and would then run upstairs to prepare fresh lot. I between they had to even go to the market to get fresh stock of besan. 

Today for some reason, we tend to look at bachelor tenants as an outcast community. Why? They are staying away from their homes, for some reason. Surely creating nuisance isn't the top on that list. Once in while we all indulge and we should have an open mind towards it. But then there will be few bad elements everywhere. Many families would also fall in this category. But just because they come with a family label, they are better off than bachelors? We should definitely not ban an entire community but only those that are the ones causing the trouble. 

By forcing bachelors out for such reasons, and allowing families, what's stopping from an increase in a live-in kind of relation? Things that we see in movies! Need a place to stay, but need to be a family, so let's act as one. How convenient! But then, aren't we the reason for giving blessing to such an act by individuals? 

The Pune police is finally doing its bid to stop this malpractice on behave of societies. But I do also hope that bachelors will do their part by not misbehaving and making life difficult for their own colleagues and everyone else. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Twin Tragedy: Could at least one be averted?

When I heard the news yesterday morning about the twin train tragedy in MP, I could not help but wonder - Kamayani express was the first to derail and then later it was Janata Express. Lives were lost, which is terrible, but could at least the second derailment of Janata express be averted? 

In the era of GPS tracking and internet of things where we have billions of sensors helping collect and manage so much data, could proper user of these technologies help avert some of these disasters? The first train got derailed due to localized issue of flash floods and the land near the bridge giving way. This probably was difficult to predict and prevent against, but after the first train derailed, why wasn't the second train stopped before it too got derailed? If the time gap between the two was very small, then I guess nothing could be done. I tried to figure this out, but could not get much from the news, as most articles just mentioned about the two trains being derailed. 

Most vehicles today use GPS sensors to help track their movement. I think it would be fair to assume that our trains also use them. If that happens, then from the control room, was it not possible to figure out that Kamayani express had stopped moving at particular location and hence something is wrong. This could have been used to alert other trains in the area. But this means that someone was monitoring at control room. Given the time of accident, it wasn't too late in the night as well. 

But since round the clock physical monitoring isn't possible, internet of things can come to the rescue. What if the trains are fitted with sensors that immediately start sending alert signal the moment an accident happens? These signals could alert the station master and police in the near by area, maybe. The sensor could also broadcast to other trains about this, thus alerting the other drivers to drive cautiously? 

Manually alerting trains either via GPS tracking control room or due to sensor in the other train, may not be always possible. In this case we can also have a possible auto-breaking mechanism in all trains, to come to a halt automatically or at least slow down if an accident is broadcast in a near-by area. They can then proceed with caution and avert additional tragedies. Such automated assistance technologies can alert within seconds of a disaster and precious times and lives can be saved. 

One can even argue that why even have trains run on rail lines on the land and have the risk of them derailing, when their are options like magnetic levitation trains. 

Variety of technology solutions exist today and I am pretty sure funds will also be there to drive these changes, only if they are used in the right place and driven with passion to make a positive change. 

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