Dec 6, 2009

Denying Darwin

Saw this T-shirt in a mall and loved it. Pity they didn't have my size.

Could have so many interpretations - modern man denying his animal past, ...

Oct 6, 2009

Indian Mona Lisa

I saw this magazine cover and was impressed by the artists rendering of an 'Indian' Mona Lisa.

Note the Indian-style jewellery on the neck, wrists, hands, ears, nose and upper forehead. The garments display the rich design work favoured by Indian women. The make up is restrained to original Leonardo da Vinci, but with the touch of bindi, in the centre of the forehead. In the two insets in the main portrait is, first the original work, and below another alternate rendering of an Indian Mona Lisa - in perhaps Mughal-style garb and the whole painting being in Indian classical style.

Oct 1, 2009

Kuch bhi Jhel Jaye

My parents are getting their wardrobes fixed. In a tropical country, wood is rarely a long lasting building material. My Mum & I had a good laugh when we noticed the product byline on the plywood boards being used ..

'Kuch bhi Jhel Jaye' or कुछ भी झेल जाये, translated into simple english would be 'can deal with anything'. There's a lot lost in translation there.

Hindi, as it has spread over the huge number of communities in the India, had acquired distinct flavours across social strata. The 'street'-Hindi slang definitely, a more colourful cousin of the traditional respectful formalised Hindi, is gaining traction in the media and in people's conversation. The 'in-your-face' language uses cynicism and black-humour phrases to express the difficulties faced by rich, dense, low-resourced, and slow moving masses. It is an outlet of emotions, that many subscribe to. Therefore it is this language that now ad agencies use to form by-lines to their products, and connect to their target audience.

Coming back to our phrase, the verb 'Jhel', can be more accurately describe as 'to deal with or tolerate - without actually wanting to be in that situation in the first place'. Such as to forced to listen to somebody going on-and-on without stopping, would be a good example of 'Jhel'. In this case the plywood advertisers want to convey that their wood can deal and tolerate anything, be they termites, humidity or any other foe. By using 'Jhel' it becomes a humourous encounter.

Aug 6, 2009


Don't panic! You haven't come to a new web site.

Doesn't seem that long ago when I started this blog. 3 years, 1 month, and 95 blog posts later - it's time to do a rethink.

I finally built up the courage to do some radical work on the blog design. When I first set up the blog, I had chosen an old-paper and wallpaper background look, called "Scribe", created by Todd Dominey. It appealed to me as a contradiction to the high-tech medium on which blogs exist.

Scio Sphere

Over that time, I kept tinkering with the surrounding elements, namely gadgets, in the blog. I added complexity with enthusiasm, then hesitatingly retreated to simplicity. Most recently I added a gadget to display my Twitter updates, that seemed to bring the blog down yesterday, when the Twitter site once again failed.

Meanwhile in the web design environment, so much has happened. In the tug of war between functionality and design, it is design that is determining marketability as functionality becomes mature and standardizes. There has been an emergence of a digital fashion, user experience and web design chatterati with its endless, all-knowing, yet ever-changing recommendations.

Design in the end is not a science, no matter how much "experts" on this may try to convince you otherwise. However as artists, designers are to be respected.

Last time I had picked one of the standard blogger templates for the design, this time I was looking to pick an uncommon theme and modify it to my own taste. Browsing online, I was suprised at how much blog design has evolved and the number of specialist designers dedicated to this. It took me several days to go through the many impressive and detailed designs and form an idea of the range and possibilties.

To me the Charcoal theme, originally by Jinsona of, and adapted to blogger platform by Blogger Templates, stood out. I liked the design, but not quite the colour. For this I had to do a lot of modification work, that helped me familiarise with the design construction and elements.

I've always had a preference for dark colour backgrounds, and on computer screens it seems easier on the eyes. Strangely enough, it even seems that dark colour websites help save the environment by reducing energy usage (See Blackle).
As noted, an all white web page uses about 74 watts to display, while an all black page uses only 59 watts.
     - ecoIron Blog
I doubt if I have enough visitors to justify the redesign in environmental terms. The basic truth is that I changed the blog design to this, 'cause I felt like it. Hope you like it too.

Jul 8, 2009

What is a browser?

Living in our digital ivory towers, it is easy to forget how disconnected we technocrats are with the general public. Many of the concepts and jargon that comes naturally to us is just unintelligible to most. Here, Scott Suiter, a former Google intern explores if people know what a browser is ...

Google Operating System

This has been building up for some time. Google army of talented devleopers has been gradually pushing into areas of desktop computer applications. Google has Office suite - Google Docs, Browser - Chrome, Email - Gmail and I can keep going. In fact, I find that most of my computing requirements can now be covered by some form of Google service. As a software developer, I find that many of the online platforms and components are also being rethought and launched from Google. Now to support all this from your desktop/laptop is the first explicitly declared Google Operating System for personal computing (they already had Android OS for mobiles) - Google Chrome OS.

Google declares
.. So today, we're announcing a new project that's a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

There's no rush, it won't be available for over a year from. In Apple-reminiscent marketing-style they are trying to capture mindspace. Microsoft's next OS Windows 7 is due to be launched this October. Both these companies know that the key to sustaining the size of their businesses depends on being able to position themselves as the portal to computing and online experience. Microsoft controls PCs, Google dominates the online experience - both are trying to extend their dominance into the other's arena as these are merging. So far, Google has been making inroads into Microsoft's turf, but not vice-versa. An interesting point from TechCruch:
Obviously, this Chrome OS will be lightweight and fast just like the browser itself. But also just like the browser, it will be open-sourced. Think Microsoft will be open-sourcing Windows anytime soon?

The free OS, OS based on the net, and netbooks are concepts that have been visited unsuccessfully before - the future direction is not a given. Final word from the Economist:
Yet it is much too early to count Microsoft out. It recently launched Bing, a new search service, which has taken some market share from Google. In October, roughly when Google will make Chrome OS available, Microsoft will release the next iteration of its operating system, Windows 7, a version of which is supposed to run well on netbooks. And the firm is spending billions on a “cloud”, a global network of huge data centres, which will rival Google’s infrastructure and allow Microsoft to offer all kinds of web-based applications.

Will there be a clear winner? Probably not in the foreseeable future. The pockets of both firms are simply too deep. And that is a good thing: the epic fight between the two giants promises to speed up innovation. And that is what the IT industry needs to overcome the recession.

A colleague also showed me a prescient cartoon from Frederico Fieni

May 25, 2009

Job satisfaction depends on how you use your hands

Come to think about it, that I first thing I enjoyed about computers was the power that came with pressing so many buttons - it sort of makes sense. As we all become 'knowledge workers', our focus is shifting to our internal mental processes. We may seek the cure to our stress in alternate mental states, where instead it is probably just doing something physical that reconnects us with reality.

An article from a Ph.D. knowledge worker turned motorcycle mechanic:

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.


I once accidentally dropped a feeler gauge down into the crankcase of a Kawasaki Ninja that was practically brand new, while performing its first scheduled valve adjustment. I escaped a complete tear-down of the motor only through an operation that involved the use of a stethoscope, another pair of trusted hands and the sort of concentration we associate with a bomb squad. When finally I laid my fingers on that feeler gauge, I felt as if I had cheated death. I don’t remember ever feeling so alive as in the hours that followed.

More at

Apr 5, 2009

FoxTab: Firefox tabs SFX

Here's another interesting Firefox extension to navigate the plethora of tabs we open up in our browsers these days. It seems to offer the best visual special effect options in executing the transition between different tabs. A combined thumbnail view also allows the user to see what is in each of the tabs. A good thing is that by default it opens up inside your browser and doesn't take over your whole screen. That is, unless you want it to.

Among the effects are
  • A Windows Vista type Flip 3D
  • Apple iTunes style Cover Flow
  • Cooliris PicLens style 3D gallery wall

A better explanation is in the video below

To get this add-on for your Firefox go here:

Hmm ... come to think about, ideally the best and most useful tab navigator is one that navigates the brower tabs and the open applications in one interface. It would require combining the browser system with the computer operating system with some stylized transitions. Let's see if anybody comes up with that one.

Apr 1, 2009

Rockstars of Cricket

Another day to remember. An august gathering hosted by the High Commissioner of India for the visiting Indian cricket team in New Zealand. A pleasant dusk evening enhanced the outdoor setting.

The Indian cricket team has been visiting New Zealand again after a gap of over 5 years, and the changes have been significant. Led by a dynamic new captain, the team has found its confidence and has been performing phenomenally. In 2003-04 a tired Indian cricket team had been more or less steam-rolled in New Zealand. Not this time. It is the 'Black Caps' who are struggling to form a response.

The New Zealand media has been labelling this tour as a visit from 'Rockstars of Cricket', acknowledging the enormous following and gravitational pull of the Indian cricket scene.

Having met the Indian team in 2003-04 and now, the change in demeanour and body language is clear. The players seemed happier, more willing to mingle with others, less tired and clearly confident. Its always amazing how young some of these guys are. TV certainly makes them look 10 years older.

Here are some photos from the gathering.

The gathering, Bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad can be seen in the centre.

With Yuvraj Singh, one of the best international all-rounders and 20-20 star.

With Sachin Tendulkar, international cricket icon.

Indian High Commissioner Mr. K.P. Ernest meeting some of the team members

Mar 16, 2009

All right, Telstra and Google

Section 92a is probably dead in the water now, after Telstra clear pulled out of any negotiations with the Telecommunications Carriers Forum.

"You have got to have sympathy for the Government. They have inherited an ambiguous mess and you can understand why they might have hoped a code would make this go away. But we have had unprecedented customer concern and we can't try to make a bad law work."The idea our customers can be disconnected on accusation and not proof does not pass the 'fair test'."

Next, Google has also considered this important enough to make a submission

In its submission, Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.

As such, Google says "Section 92A puts users’ procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users’ internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement."

It goes on to say, "Section 92A undermines the incredible social and economic benefits of the open and universally accessible internet, by providing for a remedy of account termination or disconnection that is disproportionate to the harm of copyright infringement online."

Mar 8, 2009

92a suspended

Seems that all the outcry by the internet user and developer community reached the government and the section 92a amendment has been suspended.

Prime Minister John Key said the law change would be delayed till March 27 to give more time for the recording and internet industries to reach an agreement setting out how ISPs would apply the clause. If no agreement was reached, section 92a might be "suspended" and the act re-written.

More at

Let's see where this goes, there needs to be a disengagement between rights management and internet access as opposing sides.

Feb 19, 2009

Section 92a - Guilty by Accusation

As part of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) and Copyright regime's push worldwide for compliance, a law is being proposed to be passed in New Zealand. Section 92a, that amends the country's copyright law is expected to come into force on February 28.

What has drawn near-universal criticism, is the provision that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are to terminate the connection of anyone labelled a 'repeat infringer' of copyright violations. So just 'repeated accusations' are required, without further proof. Certainly a deviation of normal justice. The lack of response of the government to the criticism is drawing increasing ire.

At the Webstock conference, one of the game trading cards is used to highlight this.

Webstock Trading Cards - Stupid Law

At a protest NZ Internet blackout has been called. Hence you see my profile photo blacked out on most of social websites.

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. Join the black out protest against it!

Another potential side-effect is it adds another reason to the creative IT community in NZ to leave for other shores.

The legislation
News article on parliament protest.
Blog post on Geekzone

Webstock '09

This is the conference I look forward to every year. A huge amount of thought and energy by come of the most creative people in New Zealand web community goes in organizing this event. Sponsored by a plethora of companies and institutions such as Google. A typical attribute of the gathering is the rather forward looking and upbeat atmosphere which is easy to catch.

This year we have speakers include people from Apple Inc., Google, and Flickr. The forum provides a good community where they can share their insights and battle-stories and the audience understand, sympathize and learn from these.

They've finally induced me into starting a twitter micro-blogging account. I'll be putting live twitter updates when I can here, and will add further Scio-sphere blogs for some of the sessions later.

Conference website:
Flickr photos:
My Twitter: