Jan 25, 2010

Half Billion Fixed Line Broadband Netizens

A visual representation of the internet

A half a billion users will have their own fixed broadband subscriptions this year.

"Overall the number of net new fixed-broadband subscriptions grew in 2009 to over 480 million, largely as a result of accelerating growth in emerging markets and we expect this number to reach 500 million this year. China, Russia, Mexico, India and Vietnam were among the countries that recorded the greatest leaps in fixed-broadband subscription numbers last year,"

- comments Rob Gallagher, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media and Lead Author of the Next 100 Million report.

Note that this does not include all the mobile net subscriptions that are poliferating or just dial-up accounts, so actual number of net users would be even greater.

Country-wise figures for fixed-broadband subscriptions at end-September 2009 are:


Jan 19, 2010

Aditya or Eddie (or even Andy)

Names can be as malleable as clay, especially if their original solid form is more than 2-syllables.

While western English names have a ready-made shortened form - Robert becomes Bob, William becomes Bill etc. - Indian names, outside of families, are usually spoken in full. Still, Generation X onwards, many young Indians have also adopted this practice, such as Siddhartha becomes Sid. In India my name did not survive in the two locations where I stayed. Among my friends I was known as Eddy in Chandigarh, and Andy in Bangalore, and many tangential variations.

I kept my name intact in New Zealand, hoping for a new start, till my recruitment consultant advised to pick a shorter version - so Aditya became Adi became Eddie.

Predominance of English usually decides the direction of the name conversion. What happens it was in the opposite direction, see in the great video below brought to my notice by Prasanna, or as we call him - Praz.

Also, a Texan's sincere attempt attempt at learning the Indian name pronunciation:
How to Pronounce Indian Names

Jan 7, 2010

Top Trends Timeline 2010-50

An Australia/UK based futurist, Richard Watson of Nowandnext.com has, with some collaboration, drawn up a very complex timeline of trends for 2010 and going into the next 40 years.

2010-40 trends

Though a I enjoy visualization of concepts, this map is not that easy to discern at first glance. It takes a bit of time to spot the pattern, and further to absorb the content. The original full diagram is available here.

Like a Metro/Subway/Underground map, there are lines that trace a certain category or subject such as Healthcare & Medicine or Geopolitics through a minefield of trends, marked as dots/circles. The more important the trend the larger the circle, and is more likely to contain more intersecting lines. Starting from the centre region which corresponds to the 2010-15 period, there are outwardly radiating regions of time up to 2035-50. Perhaps it should be called a time-map.

Many of the trends such as speech-recognition, cloud-storage, and declining fertility are already here in some form, while others further out in the timeline still belong in the domain of science-fiction - DNA repair, invisibility cloaks, Animals suing humans.

Watson invites any comments or suggestions on his blog page here.

Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century

I went to the cinema to expecting to see a different Sherlock Holmes, a character repackaged to cater to a new market, in a crude manner that detracts from his original essence. Didn't happen.

The new Sherlock Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., is a much more dynamic character - younger, more adventurous, bit less of the English gentleman than previously depicted. Nevertheless, the core of the character hasn't been lost - the eccentricity, self-assuredness, intense concentration, and even human weaknesses. Jude Law would not have been my choice for Dr. Watson, but he's pulled it off quite well, next to Downey's Holmes. So, if you are a fan of the classic A.C.Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, you probably won't be disappointed.

Jeremy BrettThe marked difference was in the the look of Holmes. The new movie has not shied away from redefining the portrait - gone is the combed back hairstyle, the sharp jawline and chin. Downey doesn't look anything like the classic Holmes, who has been played best by actor Jeremy Brett (see on the right) in the almost complete series by Granada Television. Jeremy Brett was probably the first to capture the full theatrical intensity of the character, watching him was like following the original sketch in the books. In fact, my friend Prasanna aptly remarked that the villain in the movie is a closer look to the classic Holmes. Not commonly known is the story that the look of Holmes didn't come from the author A.C. Doyle but from his first illustrator.

The story of Sherlock Holmes first began in 1887, with the story A Study in Scarlet, published in Strand magazine, London. The Sign of Four was published in 1890, and the series The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes began in 1891 ...

With the stories serialized in The Strand came the first illustrations, and it was Sydney Paget who was to fix the the features of the tall, thin, bony character for generations of enthralled readers. The story is that Sydney was actually commissioned by mistake, instead of his brother Walter, whose work the magazine knew through his illustrations for Rider Haggard and Robert Louis Stevenson. If so, this quirk of fate was balanced by a kind of poetic justice on Sydney's part, for he used his brother's lean features as his model for Holmes. And later after Sydney's death in January 1908, Walter himself illustrated one of the stories, The Adventure of the Dying Detective. What Holmes would have looked like had Walter got there first we can only guess, for, like all the other artists commissioned to continue Sydney Paget's work, Walter did not stray far from the image of himself Sydney had fleshed upon the bones of Conan Doyle's creation.
- Preface, The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes

Holmes has been seen that way ever since. There have been many actors in to play the detective, all bearing resemblance to Sydney Paget's illustration.

However, more than that, the reason Sherlock Holmes has avid followers around the world and across generations is his personality. In a sense he is very much a 20th century man, before his times, even bit of a rebel. His firm foundation in scientific principles led him to be accessible, yet his public performance of a mind-reader and magician is highly entertaining. He's a magician who, in the end, reveals his tricks of the trade, leading all who read the accounts to think that they can follow the indicated lead. He's a fictional character that has inspired creation of countless other similar fictional characters. It becomes more than just a story.

The new movie with all the benefits of modern technology (and big budget) fills in the larger picture as well. The musical score suits the setting. There are panoramic views of the London of the late 19th century, with references to the social, technological and industrial upheavels taking place ..

Arthur Conan Doyle's birth year, 1859, fell 22 years into Queen Victoria's 64-year reign, a time of unparalleled growth and optimism for the British Empire. Resources and labor taken from colonies worldwide had made England prosper, and the time of serious independence struggles lay in the distant future. Business flourished, technology blossomed, and London grew at a great rate - from one million people to six in the space of a century - creating problems of urban overcrowding familiar to us today: poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, crime. While the great divide between rich and poor and the economic and human strain of maintaining the colonies exacerbated social problems that were as yet insoluble, Victorian Britons, led by Victoria's husband Albert, put their faith in technology and science. The contrasts and conundrums of this fascinating time provided Conan Doyle with the raw material and the backdrop for Sherlock Holmes: a man of science, undistracted by the gentler passions, who moved easily through the disquieting urban space, using his wits to solve its moral and practical dilemmas.
- Sherlock Holmes, Victorian Gentleman http://sherlockholmes.stanford.edu/history.html

Come to think of it, there are actually many parallels to the enormous changes taking place in cities of the today's emerging nations. Many of similar patterns and contrasts can be spotted in places such as New Delhi. It could be a new setting for a modern fictional detective.

Jan 6, 2010

Tallest building on Earth

The latest tallest building on Earth, Burj Khalifa (formerly Burj Dubai), was inaugurated in Dubai in a glittering ceremony of fireworks, lights, and musical fountains. The building touches the milestone of 828 meters (or 2,717 feet) with 162 floors. Construction started on 21 September 2004, and has been completed on 4 January 2010. The opening ceremony can be seen here

A comparison with some of the existing tallest man-made structures (not counting projects in planning or construction) produces the diagram below. If you want to consider New Zealand's tallest structure, the Auckland Sky Tower at 328 meters, you can put it at approximately the size of the Eiffel Tower on the diagram. India's highest buliding is currently the Imperial towers in Mumbai at 60 floors and 249 meters.

Having the good fortune to have seen almost all the structures in the diagram(except for the Taipei 101 & CN tower), I look forward to seeing this one.

Here's another detailed diagram comparing world edifices reaching above 400 meters benchmark. The current completed buildings are in full representation, while the in-progress constructions are shown as line drawings.

It's probably unlikely that the Burj Khalifa will remain the highest building with so many newly emerging nations and conglomerates also eyeing that coveted title. Burj's predecessor the Taipei 101 (509 meters) only held the title for 6 years, not allowing the Shanghai World Financial Centre (492 meters) to even get a chance. Previous to that the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur (452 meters) were the highest for 6 years, and the Willis Towers, Chicago (formerly Sears Towers) was the highest for 24 years.

However, it will be difficult to match the longevity of the building that held the title for 3880 years - the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops). Here is an interesting, though very detailed diagram of the tallest buildings of the 'old' world.

Image credits: Wikipedia.org & flickr.com