Thursday, January 8, 2015


Seen in Ferguson

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Apple v/s Everyone else

Apple is famous for being nuts about secrecy—and for not having a sense of humor. So it was all the more entertaining when Gizmodo, a scrappy Silicon Valley tech blog, recently landed what its publisher called "the biggest tech scoop ever." It got hold of a top-secret, fourth-generation iPhone, ripped it apart, and published photos and descriptions of the device. (Guess what? It has a camera that faces you for video chatting!) Apple fumed and demanded Gizmodo return the phone, which an Apple engineer had left behind in a beer garden where he was celebrating his birthday.
Gizmodo gave back the phone, and that might have been the end of the story, but Apple just wouldn't let it drop. Four days later, police raided the Fremont, Calif., home of the reporter who had written the piece—and that sent the story spiraling out of control, with everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Keith Olbermann commenting on it. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show lashed into Apple, saying Steve Jobs and his team were behaving like "appholes."

It's the kind of attention that Apple, long a media darling, isn't used to. Apple's control-freak nature didn't matter as much when it was a plucky underdog. Yes, Jobs was a demanding boss and a finicky perfectionist—but he created great products. We rooted for Apple, and wanted it to survive. Apple seemed like the anti-Microsoft, a company that was on our side. But this year Apple will do nearly $60 billion in sales, and its market value stands at $240 billion—the third-largest in the United States, bigger than Coca-Cola and Pepsi combined. Any company that big can seem a little scary. So when police start breaking down doors over a lost phone, it's a PR disaster, especially for Apple. The company works hard to cultivate a counterculture image, with ads that have featured Gandhi and John Lennon, not to mention the "I'm a Mac" hipster. Yet lately Apple has started to look like the big bully of the tech industry, the kid who doesn't play well others. Over the long haul, that can put customers off.

The Gizmodo affair is only the latest in a string of skirmishes. Apple has fallen out with Google, a former ally, because Google moved into the mobile-phone market and has blocked Google Voice, a telephony app, from running on the iPhone. Apple is suing HTC, a Taiwanese phone maker and big Google partner, claiming that HTC's handsets infringe on Apple patents. Apple cracks down on its own engineers, and recently fired one for giving a glimpse of an early 3G iPad to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, who complained that Apple had been too harsh. Apple bullies developers, telling them which software tools they can use and rejecting apps that ridicule public figures or that, in the case of journalist Michael Wolff, are created by people who have criticized Jobs himself.

Finally there's an ugly war with software maker Adobe, in which Apple refuses to support Adobe's Flash program on its iPhone and iPad, even though most of the Web's videos require Flash. Apple claims its rejection of Flash is based on technical arguments, but it still comes off looking like the heavy, the big company desperate to crush a smaller opponent.

Same goes for the Gizmodo affair. The tale, as told by Gizmodo, goes like this: On March 18, an Apple engineer named Gray Powell was celebrating his 27th birthday at Gourmet Haus Staudt, a beer garden in Redwood City, Calif., about 20 miles from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino. Powell carried with him a prototype next-generation iPhone, and somehow left it at the bar.

Another patron, Brian Hogan, 21 years old, found the phone, which looked like a regular iPhone but had some unusual bar codes stuck on the back. He took it home and realized that the case was a fake, and that inside the plastic shell was an entirely different phone. According to Gizmodo, Hogan contacted the blog, a negotiation took place, and Gizmodo ended up buying the device for $5,000.

Gizmodo wasn't sure the phone was a genuine Apple prototype; it could have been a fake. But when the editors took the phone apart they discovered it contained parts stamped with Apple's logo. On Monday, April 19, Gizmodo ran its story, by reporter Jason Chen. Nobody at Gizmodo will talk on the record because of the ongoing legal proceedings. Apple, for its part, also declines to comment.

But on the day the story ran, Jobs himself called Gizmodo editor Brian Lam and demanded Gizmodo return the phone. Lam said Gizmodo would comply but wanted Apple to make a formal request in writing, which would establish that the phone was from Apple. After some back-and-forth, Apple sent Gizmodo a letter, which Gizmodo gleefully published. That evening, the same day Gizmodo's article ran, an Apple lawyer retrieved the phone from Chen.

After this, instead of letting the whole thing drop, an Apple lawyer, plus Gray Powell, the engineer who lost the phone, called the San Mateo County district attorney to report that a phone had been stolen. Why do that after the device had been returned? Apple won't say. But the purpose of reporting a crime is to encourage law enforcement to investigate, says D.A. Stephen Wagstaffe.

On Friday, April 23, a few days after Apple filed its report about the stolen phone, Chen and his wife came home from a dinner date and found police had broken in their door and were going through their house. The police, armed with a search warrant, took six computers. Gawker Media, which owns Gizmodo, complained to Wagstaffe that Chen, as a journalist, should be protected against such searches by a California shield law. Gawker demanded police return the computers. So far that hasn't happened.
Police have not brought charges Hogan, who says he regrets his mistake, or against anyone at Gizmodo. But the whole thing has sparked a debate about journalistic ethics. Some tech bloggers, including John Gruber and Jason Calacanis, argue that both the seller and Gizmodo broke the law. Others, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a legal-advocacy group, have sided with Gizmodo, saying police had no right to break into the home of a journalist.

Apple, for its part, seems to have realized that no matter who is right or wrong, having its brand associated with aggressive police action is probably not a great idea. So last week the company scrambled to draw attention away from the Gizmodo story by having Jobs publish an essay on the Apple Web site explaining Apple's reasons for shunning Adobe's Flash software. It worked, sort of. The tech blogs all ran with the news that Steve Jobs had come down from the mountain and published an essay. But the Gizmodo mess is not going away. Will it hurt Apple's business? Not immediately. If anything, the buzz could boost sales when the new phone ships, probably in June. Long term, however, Apple's brand could suffer. "I think there's going to be a backlash. It's all just dark and creepy," says Rob Frankel, a brand consultant in Los Angeles. Call it the price of success.

Source: Newsweek

Till then...

Smart Alec said: "With so many bloodying attacks, beautiful Lahore is becoming Lagore."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Resolve to not Resolve

There are two markers to the end of every calendar year and the beginning of a new one. They are afflictions that strike the best of us, making it impossible for us not to give in to their conceit. One, of course, is the much-used, much-abused New Year resolution. From the third week of December every year, otherwise perfectly rational people give in to the temptation of believing that the date of January 1 will somehow magick their bad habits away. The idea of renewal is irresistible, even to those who make the same resolutions year after year, only to fall into their regular routine of junk food and smoking before the month is out, thus bringing themselves nothing but guilt. I, for one, definitely fall under this category. So much so that accumulated guilt has prompted me to take the extreme measure of reviving my blog to share the guilt with this post.

The other, far more annoying, conceit is the end of year list. Ubiquitous as it was before the internet was ever dreamed of, it has taken on a whole new arrogance now that the Web has made it so easy for every Tom, Dick and whatshisname to shout out to the world how, clearly, Avatar is the best film ever made. No, really. It is impossible to navigate through cyberspace without at least inadvertently falling into the clutches of The List. Even serious, otherwise sensible newspapers, magazines and journals succumb to this end of year madness. Top 10 books, top 10 movies, top 10 books on movies... and these are only the most innocuous (if widespread) of the bunch. You haven't read a top-whatever list until you stumble across such gems as the top 10 birds that can kick your ass (perhaps the only 10 birds that can do it, particularly if one is... substantial), or the top 10 urinals, which is not information that ever needed to be tabulated. There are even lists on which the best lists are.
This obsession with lists cuts across boundaries, sexes; pretty much every divide. Why must we categorize things into our favourites and bests? And who chose the perfectly arbitrary number of 10, anyway? And why do we think the end of a calendar year is about anything but setting ourselves up for the same fall all over again? My theory is that it's our way of putting the past in neat little categories where they belong. Aside from me, nobody cares if i think the Star Trek reboot trumps Serenity in the best non-Star Wars space opera movie stakes, after all. I could create my list, somebody with too much time and not enough work would notice it and disagree, we'd argue and then lather, rinse and repeat in 2010.

Till then...

Smart Alec said, "At this rate, he may regrettably have to change his name to Shashi Tha-rue"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Angular Momentum

Can also !

Till then...

Alec Smart said: "Is it worth it if she throws up?"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dilli Ki Sardi :)

Now that the winter is truly here, and the warm clothes are out of the boxes smelling of mothballs, one has started enjoying the sun again.  Sigh, but I only have three more days here to enjoy it all :( . Shelling peanuts and struggling to break off pieces of gajak from the big cake, and soaking in the sun while playing cricket or soccer is THE thing to do during winters. The sun sets at about 5:30 p.m. nowadays, so sports in the dark nowadays can be cold and troubling. But running for the ball feeling the cold wind slap against your face really feels divine. This year the winter seems to be normal (though the government thinks otherwise, extending school holidays), and the temperature did fall a little bit in end December and the early part of January, but has climbed back again to make Delhi the best destination for tourists this side of the Suez canal, the carnage in Mumbai notwithstanding.

The fog is totally coming in nowadays making Delhi winters really what they are. Air travellers get hit by delays, but hey, the smell of winter, the chillness of the fog, the warmth of that cuppa of coffee, and the fuzzy good feeling of a Sunday wandering on Janpath is what Delhi winters is all about. I shall enjoy it to the fullest in whatever time I have left in this beautiful city.

Just to give you an idea as to how bad the fog can get here, I managed to click some pictures:

         This was at 10 pm. Notice the tree in the foreground and the lights behind  

               And this is at 12 midnight... voila... lights still there but where's the tree?

Till then...

Smart Alec said: "Like Henry Ford's cars, the Americans can have a president in any colour of their choice, provided he's Black."


Monday, January 5, 2009

Insanely Vile Response System

I recently dialled the Indian Railways Helpline to enquire about some services. The IVR system was so pissing off! Had to go through a labyrinth of options before I got to speak with the call center guy. And that too after i dont know how many rings. Lol and the girl who finally picked was an IVR system on her own. "Good morning sir. Welcome to Indian Railways. I am *inserts name here* at your service. How can I help you." And this sentence was spoken with so much speed that only the "help you" part at the end was discernible. A classic example of a student from one of those 'Rapidex English Course - Learn phast and phluent english in 15 days!' . 
Later that day and fittingly so, I also came across an article on a similar topic. Would like to share it with you to express my anger and point out the hopelessness of such similar pathetic and lamentable call center services.

I call them phoney phone care services. You know the kind I'm talking about. You phone your credit card phone number with an urgent question. That's when the whole phoney care begins. Press 1 to talk in Hindi, Press 2 for English, Press 3 for Hinglish, Press 4 for Swahili...once that is done the nonsense continues. Press 1 if you are blah banking customer, Press 2 if you are an illegal alien, Press 3 if you are a three toed midgetm and so on and on. Finally about one huor later you reach 'Thank you for calling Blah Bank, all our customer care operators are busy right now but your call is important to us, we love you and want to have your baby so do hold the line. Of course by that time you've forgotten why you called in the first place!

Now can you imagine what happens if this continues spreading like the virus that it is. Thank you for calling emergency ambulance services. Press 1 if you are having a heart attack, Press 2 if you are having a stroke, Press 3 if your kidneys are failing and if it's a headache, press your head! Once you get past that then it's on to Press 1 if your heart is beating at more than 100 beats a minute. Press 2 if you've had a heart attack before. Finally when you get through they say...thank you for calling. Your heart is important to us, all our ambulances are busy right now, could you reschedule your attack for 9 a.m. tomorrow morning?

Or how about, thank you for calling. Press 1 if it is a huge big fire. Press 2 if you are in the middle of the fire. Press 3 if you started the fire. You press 2 and then your options are Press 1 if your clothes are on fire, Press 2 if you have started choking. Finally you get through to the last section and hear...thank you for calling, we care about your fire but our executives have all been fired... pour a glass of water on the fire and call back in two weeks. 

Not to mention... thank you for calling the Anti Terrorist Wing. Press 1 if you think you've seen a terrorist, Press 2 if you are a hostage, Press 3 if you've seen a bomb being planted, Press 4 if the room service guy is carrying an AK47 and of course Press channel 8 if you want to see it all on TV!

How phoney can you get!

So rightly put.

Till then...

Smart Alec said: "So Mr. Graeme Smith, what do you have to say about your phenomenal series victory down under. 'Austr-ko le-lia !!!' "

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Method in Madness

I have always maintained that the mess on my desk has a perfect logic to it and in no way impairs my ability to locate what I need amidst the pile, though I do have to riffle-raffle a bit in the process. But my obdurate mother, who is obsessive about maintaining order, is always at me to have a defined place for each item and strictly adhere to this location protocol. Once, she cleaned up my desk while I was away celebrating with my friends after being liberated from the shackles of the half yearly exams; when I came back, it took me a day to locate the library book which I had been struggling to finish for months (yes, ‘months’ – considering how generous our librarians are!). I had stowed it away somewhere, and I knew that I would instinctively locate it when I got another bout of inspiration. “For Heaven’s sake!” my mother had remonstrated, “Why didn’t you look in the pile of novels which I had neatly stacked on the right hand corner of the desk?” How would she know that I always stow away unfinished novels behind the pencil jar next to the pile of toffee wrappers behind the previous year’s calendar on the left-hand far corner of the desk?


But I have been vindicated at last. Recently, I came across this article on the internet – which also prompted me to write this essay as now I knew that I was not alone – titled, “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder”. Its authors, Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman (who is no way related to either Thomas or Milton Friedman – notice the ‘ee’ instead of the ‘ie’) argue that neatness is overrated, costs money, wastes time and quashes creativity. Freedman says, “Most of us are messy, and most of us are messy at a level that works very, very well for us. In most cases, if we get a lot neater and more organized, we would be less effective.” They continue to add that many man-hours are lost when people obsess over organizing things, when the same time can be put to productive use. When I triumphantly showed this article to my mother and told her that it had prompted me to write a post on my blog on this topic, she retorted, “Hmph! I am sure the authors’ mothers feel otherwise. And mark my words, your post is not going to work. No use wasting your time. You would rather start early and study for your next semester.”


Effectiveness apart, the joys of mess are manifold. The wonderful thing about having a disordered pile on your desk is coming across a long-lost or forgotten thing when you are rummaging for something else. The other day I was delving into my pile for my favorite pen, when I encountered a half eaten bar of chocolate. It was the remnant of a packet that I had bought a week ago. Believe me, consuming that remaining bit was more delightful than crunching a new bar.

Till then...

Smart Alec said: "So Mr. Pietersen, would you like to play a match in Madras? Chen-nahhhiii!"