Mac Mini with Windows XP.


I hadn’t installed the Bootcamp and dual boot on the Mac Mini..The primary reason for my shift away from windows is to experience Mac fully, and having a dual boot would’ve tempted me to go back to windows for some common functions – When you have used an OS day in and day out for so long, you do get into a comfort zone and I needed to break that.

But, today I tried the bootcamp, and the experience was massively frustrating.

1. It just doesn’t feel the same. May be I am sort of used to Mac logic by now.

2.The ultra-cool Bluetooth Keyboard and the Mighty Mouse don’t feel the same with Windows XP. This is a major no no for me. I have come to love the small little Mac Keyboard, and can do everything I can do with the larger keyboards. But, with Windows, I miss many keys…  Ins/Del and so many other keys that Windows uses regularly. I do have a slim USB keyboard, but as I said, I might as well use my Regular PC.

3. While Windows zips through running on the Mac, there are some weird glitches. I had a bit of struggle to get the entire thing going. Getting the Bluetooth Kbd/Mouse wasn’t automatic, and when you switch on from ‘standby’  it takes a bit of time to recognize the keyboard, and it wasn’t recognizing the mouse at all. After a bit of messing around I figured it works only after you press the mouse once. This is not how it worked with OSX. Strange.

4. The Nvidia drivers and application messed up my screen and set it to 800×600 4bit mode. I wasted some half hour trying to figure what happened. Replacing the drivers didn’t work. I had to completely remove all drivers, reset the system and reinstall mac drivers from scratch. Ofcourse now it works.

5. Haven’t yet tried mounting the HFS but, apparently there is read support now with Snow Leopard. While that’s useful, I’d like to use the volume without the restriction. I think there are paid software, but don’t want to get there.

6. While I don’t like the Mighty mouse a lot, one nice thing I like is the side scrolling. And that isn’t supported under Windows.

7. I had put about 200GB for the Windows partition, but now I realize this isn’t useful at all. I think I’ll have to reinstall with perhaps a small 40-60GB partition, and use it in extreme circumstances only. Apparently Parallels can run a boot camp partitions within OSX. Perhaps that’s a better way to go. I was using virtual box, but, that’s not what I want.

Overall, I guess I’ll stick to OSX on Mac Mini. This system wasn’t meant to do Windows and it shows.

Any one who’s planning to buy a Mac Mini to do windows  –  Your money may be better spent on buying a regular PC (may be something like Dell Studio Hybrid, but then that’s not available in India as of  now).

Wonder what PC manufacturers are doing? Mac Mini has been around for 3 years now.. Not a single worthy competition!

————- LATE NIGHT UPDATE —————–

The Windows I had on Mac Mini Died. It is the Anti-virus I installed – AVAST, which works fine for me in all other windows system. Not even 24hrs of bootcamp and now It can only do safe boot, but every time I get back to regular boot it is hanging. And that does it for me. While I can retrieve this,  I don’t want waste time try to revive windows.  I’ll just throw this out and stick to having a virtual windows within Mac..

Sticking to Snow leopard is far easier and better! Perhaps I’ll give it one more try when Windows 7 is supported well on Mac Mini.

peacock's tail?


Do we all suffer from Peacock tail syndrome? A BBC program called “upgrade me” had an interesting proposition that people upgrade their gadgets (an other technology thingies) with the same psychological mind frame of a peacock.

You see, Peacock’s tail serves no purpose other than to show off during the courtship. Peacock by displaying a very well maintained long tail is making a statement – “look how strong I am”!!!

Being a tech junkie myself and having so many friends who are gadget junkies, I can’t help but wonder – Do we use all these gadgets like a peacock’s tail? A way of saying “look I am important because I have such a latest gadget”?

I can recognize such behavior all around us. People buying most expensive car that they can (or at time can’t) afford. People living in homes that are beyond their means. Wearing clothes which are patently “LOOK AT ME”.

But, tech?

Difficult to say. Most of my relatives (in fact almost all of them) can’t distinguish between an ordinary phone and a smart phone. They won’t care much about the complex web of protocols that makes internet happen, all they know is they have to click on Firefox to get somewhere.

How would you impress someone, with things they won’t understand?

Only other possibility is that I am trying to impress my peer group.. Could that be so?

The reality is almost always I am behind my peer group in most tech acquisition, and normally buy it after the ‘peak of expectations’ in gartner Hype Cycle. But, do others in my peer group trying to make a statement?

I don’t think so either. Most of the peer group I have are all technically savvy people who are genuinely interested in technology. They see use for  new technology and can think of so many things they can do with them that most others can’t.

So, if they bought a expensive designer phone (like Vertu mobiles), I’d say ‘yeah’ there goes the peacock tail.

Peacock’s tail is purely a biological farce. It has absolutely no use but as an attention grabber.But, almost all of the tech my friends buy are put to good use.

But, every so often I feel we do develop a variation of the syndrome – Like the iPhone I got. I have come to realize that I was just as happy with any other smart phone (having used Blackberry, Palm & Nokia). But, I still wanted iPhone. I don’t think the purpose was to show off to others as much as satisfy my own curiosity and tech lust.

Lesson:

The concept of peacock’s tail does hold a good lesson for a good software product design. It isn’t sufficient to design a product that does its job, it should also provide that extra something, that makes people want to own it.

Make people want to upgrade from the previous version, which already does almost everything they want to do. iPods and iPhones are nothing but just good examples of such terrific product designs.

They do offer fantastic tails to people like me, even though the ownership of these gadgets are impressing no one else but oneself. 🙂

Spinning Beachball of death


I had thought I would be safe from BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) that Windows would subject me to a couple of times a year. Having switched over to the Mac as my primary home system, in the hope that I don’t need to worry about such irritations and unproductive waste of time, i was in a shock when, after a few months of usage, yesterday I was hit by SBOD (Spinning Beachball of Death). The boot up screen with an apple and a spinning wheel was constantly going on for hours, without giving a clue as to what was happening.

After a bit of reading and messing around with various tools, I got the system back up. However, it entailed the waste of a Sunday.

Some lingering questions remain:

1. Wonder why a Journaling file system like HFS+ should get a problem like I did.

2. When i went into Verbose mode of booting, it would go on booting till it came to an error “disk0s2: 1/0 error” and then keep repeating that error. I wonder – Why Apple can’t give a meaningful message when it apparently gets a file system error, instead of showing a spinning wheel forever?

3. When I went into single user mode (a unix prompt), I could see the file system mounted. I did the familiar ‘fsck’ to see if there is any file system errors, and it came back saying everything is normal. Typically when Linux has a boot up issues fsck would either fix it or indicate something being wrong. Apparently fsck can’t detect system related problems in Mac.

3. I had to use the Mac Install CDs to get to Macintosh Diskutility to check the File system. And it too indicated file system was ok. I asked it to check the Permissions and it came back with some 20 errors. Apparently my permission database was the one which was messed up. This would be somewhat similar to the Windows Registry mess up..

4. I asked my permission database to be repaired, and it went through a time consuming process and came back and told me it is done! I reboot and problem not solved. Go back to the disk utility, it still reports Permission database verification problems. Apparently the tool can’t fix it, but it still tells me it has done it. Why?

Since I had exhausted all options of fixing the error I wanted to rule out a Hardware problem, and went in to a Very time consuming advanced hardware tests routine. After 2.5hrs it came back saying everything is normal.

So, I decided to reinstall the OS, retaining existing data “Archive & Install”. And that fixed the problem somewhat. i.e. it consumed some 8GB of space (perhaps for retaining the older kernel somewhere) and putting in new kernel in place. Couldn’t figure why that needs to be done if permissions database is corrupt. I’d guess there can be a way to rebuild permissions database or recreate one from scratch. But, couldn’t find a way other than fresh install!

Bottom line: MacOS can be as time wasting at times as Windows.

State of Mind.


Union of India is divided into 28 states and 7 Union territories.

I deliberately omitted the word ‘administratively’, in describing this division!! If it is an administrative division, then there shouldn’t be so much tensions  between the states, and so much confusion in the way our taxation and governance works.

Couple of weeks back Karnataka High Court ruled it Un-constitutional to impose an Entry Tax on Vehicles bought outside of Karnataka, and ordered a refund of taxes collected. The High court observed that “The object of our Constitution makers was free movement and exchange of goods throughout India…”

Is it indeed the case that we have Free movement and exchange within India?

1. Free movement of people.

On July 28th, I landed up in Delhi Airport needing to go to Ghaziabad. When I came to the Pre-Paid counter, a board saying taxi’s won’t go to Ghaziabad and Noida. I enquired with the ITDC counter there and they didn’t have any taxi’s. The helpful lady at the counter told me I won’t get a direct taxi to Ghaziabad, and adviced me to take a taxi till Anand-Vihar and then cross over to the ‘other side’ of the road and take another taxi or Auto rikshaw.

I told her I am just trying to get to a place about 40km from the Delhi Airport, not to Pakistan, she smiled and said, there aren’t any alternative way, unless I have done prior transport arrangement!!  In Bangalore, I regularly commute 40km from my House to airport, without any impediment. I know of people who do 60km from Airport with the regular airport taxi. The only reason why the taxi’s can’t go to Delhi-NCR destinations, is becuase they are in another state. You see Delhi state only has about 30km radius, locations beyond that belongs to various other states.

So there I was, within India, getting down at Anand Vihar, crossing over the road as directed by the helpful cab driver – carrying my two bags and then getting on to an Auto on the otherside of the highway to get to my destination!!!!  Luckily I didn’t need a passport to get to the other side of the road in to Uttar Pradesh – Perhaps that’s what our governments mean by being “FREE”.

Most of the states have Motor vehicle acts, that permit the use of a out of station vehicle within a state for up to a month, beyond which you are expected to pay taxes (road tax, entry tax etc.) Beyond one year you are expected to register the vehicle locally!  Did you say number portability in Mobile phones, how about portability in a technology that is a century old? How about being able to move location without bothering about Police Harassment? If I haven’t stolen a car, and have paid tax in one state, I shouldn’t be harassed for the lack of co-ordination between the govt’s of respective states in Sharing that tax revenue.

Neither does it make any sense for cities, that have state borders in close proximity (say within 50km) , not to have an arrangement with neighboring states to facilitate free movement of goods and people between those destination. But, that’s how it is between Bangalore and Hosur for example.  Not many taxi’s will be able to take you to Hosur from Bangalore, unless you made a prior arrangement! This is plain ridiculous.

2. Free Movement of Goods.

Most goods carriers and public transports have to pay multi-state taxes, instead of any one state.  They have to bribe their way at checkposts as those are ‘harassment posts’, even if you are entirely legit. There are innumerable checkposts that dot our highways all over the place, which are  a major ‘revenue source’ for most of our ministers and bureaucrats. They not only cause a nuisance on the highways by narrowing our highways for non-goods vehicles, while waiting for a stamp and a signature by the overlord of that check post, they also slowdown the movement of goods within the country.

Getting goods bought in one state to another is another major story. Have you ever tried to transfer a laptop, legally bought in a city to your branch office in another city through a courier service? If not – here is a clue. It isn’t a straight forward process. Your transporter will need a way bill for taking it, and you’ll need to provide the ST registration for the office with proof of it being a branch office to do that. In case you don’t have it, it is tough luck – Your transporter will be harassed for carrying a laptop for which a state tax isn’t paid!! So, only shady operators will accept laptops, not the reputed courriers.

Again – Did anyone say we are a FREE COUNTRY???

3. Idea of ONE INDIA

There is currently a huge ruckus going on about the unveiling of a statue in Bangalore of Saint Poet Thiruvalluvar. He happened to be  a Tamil poet, and for more than a decade now people have been objecting that statue – the reason – He is a Tamilian (Though he was an Great Indian).

The bargain reached – Tamilnadu will have to unveil a statue of Sarvajna (A Kannada saint poet). How is that for a reciprocal, confidence building measure. I thought we needed such meaningless maneuvers only with Pakistan. Why can’t a bunch of Indians have the liberty to unveil a statue in a place of their choice, assuming they aren’t violating any law??

Same goes for the  Anti South Indian or Anti North Indian violence in Mumbai. some very prominent citizens support the notion of job reservation for localites. But, that whole premise is agaisnt the notion of Free India, and is unconstitutional. Who is to say who is a mumbaikar? Only a person speaking Marati?

This country is truly divided into some 2 dozen states, that aren’t  United at all.  Perhaps, having understood this, our constitution makers justly didn’t call it the “United States of India”.

EVM tampering?


I wonder is it really possible to tamper with EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) on a big scale and steal an election.

Being an IT professional, I have no doubt it is possible to tamper with the votes, from an electronics/software point of you.

However the question really is about the logistics of it all. The country uses over 1.2million EVMs. That is 1,200,000 machines!

Each EVM will need to be seperately labeled each time to reflect the candidates. The votes will be tallied on the basis of the number associated with the candidate.

For example:

1. K Candidate
2. B Candidate
3. Z candidate

Note that there is no pre-fixed format for such allocation and to reprogram the EVM to rig the voting pattern a person will have to know the exact number in which he appears, and go to each and every machine to reprogram it.

It is a herculean task that’s impossible to manage by a small bunch of people. It’ll need at least one person per voting station, if it is going to be done on the day of the poll. When so many people are involved it can’t be done with any degree of secrecy.

So, the only other alternative is for people at the Election C omission to be involved. Or the people whom the C omission contracts this work to be involved. This is a more likely scenario.

I am not aware of how EC manages the programming of EVM. It would indeed be interesting to know the exact process. If this process is handled by a small bunch of people, then it is indeed possible for these EVMs to be rigged at a election stealing level. If this reprogramming (Or vote counting mechanism) is left to constituency levels, then to steal such an election will be worthy of a large espionage agency!!

All EC has to make sure is all parties are shown this process to be fair (not individual EVMs), and involve them in the process of programming or Tallying of the votes.

That shouldn’t be too difficult to do, and we will be spared of going back to the dark ages of ballots.

Chrome OS and Chromosome


Techie world is mighty excited about google announcement of an OS of its own. People think it will give Microsoft a run for its money. A lot of analysts have described why chrome OS will suceed and a lot more have detailed how chrome OS will fail.

Most of the reasoning are based on the technological capabilities, user tastes, economic might and general trends. However, none of these take into account what is the most predominant factor in the success of any business – a company’s DNA!

I believe that a company acquires a culture and intellect of its own over a period of time, which is not unlike that of a plant or a living being acquiring some genetic traits through the generations. People may come and go within a company but the company retains some learnings even from people who leave, through passed on knowledge. It is not unlike a civilization, which evolves over generations – accumulating its own traits.

Now, applying that to Business, what we get are companies that have strengths and weaknesses that are cultivated over a period of time. These are very difficult to alter or change overnight.

How would we react if  GE announced it’ll make an operating system?  Did I hear someone say – Ridiculous?!

Well, why Google making an OS doesn’t sound equally absurd? Because it is a tech company trying to make a OS?

Well the difference between GE and google with respect to trying to make an OS isn’t as stark as it seems. While comparing GE and Microsoft may be like comparing a horse and a cat,  Google and Microsoft may appear to be cat and a cat?  I don’t think they are.

I feel Google and Microsoft are entirely different species of companies, with a different kind of upbringing and a totally different Eco-systems feeding them. Their food cycle is different. Their strengths and weaknesses are different too.

Lets look at Microsoft. It grew up in an ecosystem of interacting with OEMs (IBM being the first) providing the Operating Systems for its survival. Over the decades it has perfected the art of dealing with that eco-system. When Microsoft was born there was a vaccum in that space and over a period of time microsoft grew in to that space and marked its territory.

Google was born in an entirely different eco-system. It dealt with an end-user problem of finding information and later grew that business to other areas like finding mails, maps and videos. That’s what it thrives in.

Just as microsoft finds it very difficult to break into Googles eco-system, google too will find it very difficult to live in Microsoft ecosystem. The viruses will give them enough trouble and they’ll have to endure and develop immunity for that eco-system to thrive. That takes time and some companies simply give up.

So, what google is attempting to do is break into an OEM driven eco-system. OEMs are tough people to please. They have a different dynamics and like to offer differentiation in their offerings, instead of purely commoditizing the offering. So, some OEMs may even ship Google OS as a novelty.

But, to sustain in that space, Google will need to support the OEMs, customize its offerings to various platforms that OEMs will choose to bring to market. Work with OEMs teams to support post-release troubles. All these needs dedicated teams, that will need to earn their keep. Google will find that its an entirely different game and others playing that game for long time are better prepared to play it.

If  it can sustain a decade or more at it, it may be able to play that game, but it is likely that Google will dump what it did on community and it’ll become one more flavour of Linux out there, like Nokia’s Maemo.

This is not to say Microsoft won’t have a challenge to Windows. But, it may not come from any one OS. It may be a combination of them, which will do most things on their own way, but support the WEB , Flash &Video, which is what more and more customers will care about.

Water Blues & Rainwater harvesting.


Water is a perennial problem in most Indian cities. This year it has been even more acute with the monsoon not being so good. It is a big wonder why this should be such a big problem, considering the amount of rainfall most cities get in India.

Calculations will make it much clearer. In India, an average urban dweller needs about 200liters of water for drinking + sanitation. This amounts to 73,000 liters of water per year.

Annual rainfall in Bangalore ranges between 850-900mm.   sq.meter x rainfall (in mm) can give us total annual water received for a given area.  1sq.meter = 10.72 sq.ft. So,  (1/10.72 * 850 ) will give us the amount of water a square foot received in a year in Bangalore. That amounts to close to 80 liters of water per square foot.

A person in Bangalore needs about 73,000/80 sq.ft of cachment area. That is about 913 sq.ft of area per person.

Bangalore is estimated to have a population density of about 7500 people / sq. km. Since one sq.km is about 10,763,910 sq. ft –  per person land availability is about 1,435sq.ft. in the city limits. Clearly, enough rainwater is received within the city for human consumption and some more for upkeep of the city’s gardens. In addition, Bangalore is close to larger catchment area of Cauvery. So,all it needs is an efficient way of storing and distributing this rain water.

While at city level things may not happen or may take a long time, at personal level  people can certainly do something about this. One simple thing people are doing is rainwater harvesting. One can calculate how much rainwater a residential property can generate.

A 2,400sq.ft area can receive more than 150,000liters of rain water per year. Storing this efficiently can provide enough wanter for 2 people throughout the year! Or enough water for a family of 4 for more than half year.

I believe all future housing projects should be forced to have a mechanism to store all the rainwater they receive. It isn’t too difficult.  For example – to store 150,000liters of water, about 6,000 cubic feet of storage area is needed. That’s 1000sq.ft area * 6 feet deep.With efficient, non-concrete storage, that only gets filtered water and no sun rays, won’t permit growth of Algae and other organic stuff.

Doing this efficiently can easily bring down water requirements from the rivers by half. In future, if we can also adopt good water recycling mechanism, cities like Bangalore can be self sufficient in water.

Matter of Left & Matter of Right


Immediately after french revolution, a National assembly was created to manage the state. In the chamber were the members of the religious clergy, Nobles(Conservative in thought,  with feudal outlook) and  also the new revolutionaries (labourers/wage earners who more liberal, less religious). They were known as First Estate (Clergy), second Estate (Nobles) and third Estate (Revolutionaries) estates respectively.
They were seated such that Nobles and Clergy were on the right side and the  revolutionaries on the left side.

Even to-date parties with religious/feudal & conservative outlook are called as rightist parties, and the ones that are less religious and more representing workers & peasants as Leftists.

The events of past week have been fascinating. Congress has been given an mandate to have a decisive rule for next 5 years. I feel this again reinforces the Indian voters general centrist thinking, which doesn’t want extreme leftism or extreme rightism in polity. The only time when BJP could come to power was when Vajpayee projected a more centrist views. The only time Left smelled power (other than the blackmailing they did in past 5 years) is when Harkishen singh surjeet and Jyoti basu were more pragmatic and were willing to tow a centrist approach.
Mr. Karat and Mr. Advani made a huge errors when they thought their ideological extreme would enthuse Indian voters. As a traditional BJP voter, I keep hearing murmurs within BJP that it should go back to its roots (that is to say – more religiousity and more RSS). I always felt that would be a mistke as BJP only became an acceptable ruling party when it shed the hardline Hindutva. BJP won’t get anywhere near all India power, if it backs (even implicitly) the ‘crazies’ like Mutalik or Varun gandhi.

Similarly, Congress will loose heavily if it tries to move away from centrist line and leans towards Muslim Appeasement. Its hard days began immediately after the Sha-bano episode, and led to the gain of then more centrist BJP.

People keep berating Urban Middle-class for not voting, thus yielding the political initiative to rural India. But, amazingly Indian electorate (Urban or rural), seem to vote more and more for same issues. Development, Peace and Stability. Atleast in past half dozen years, election after election, the Leftist and Rightist moorings are finding less takers.
India will continue to be a centrist, secular nation. Hope BJP realizes that and bounces back, because India certainly needs a right of center party to balance the left-of-center Congress.
The left parties will not be able to survive for long with their Ideology. If they dump their extreme ideology, there will be no difference between them and dozen other parties in India. Soon, someone else will take over their voters. Tough choice indeed.