What would have happened if I went to college in the US

I wuld have probably dropped out. Yes, that’s right! I would have probably dropped out. I was in college during the peak time of the dot-com boom, and there’s no way I would have stayed in college and forgone the great opportunities in the economy back then.

Even in India, I was able to experience the rise of the dot-com era in a very spectacular way, and I am pretty sure that things would have been a lot different for me if I were in the US. Who knows, I could have been a millionaire by now, or a broke ex-CEO!

Sometimes, it feels good thinking about things that never were…

Out of School…into the real world

I have spent more time in school than the average person. You can say that I have spent more time in grad school than I did in college! College education in India is fairly linear in that once you get in, you know exactly when you’re going to graduate, and what you’re going to end up doing. In my case, I was destined to goto North Carolina State University to get a Master’s in Computer Engineering. Again, I took a prescribed path and graduated in 3 semesters with significant research experience that pulled me towards doing more research. This is where I took the off-beat path, and ended up getting another master’s degree from NCSU.

If there’s one skill I truly honed in graduate school, it is the skill to be “meticulously adaptive”. I have now developed the capability to work on almost any kind of project, any kind of technology, and basically bring it to completion. To me, graduate school is more about developing the right attitude than getting some knowledge. Of course, knowledge comes with attitude, especially if you set out to get a doctoral degree, which is essentially a seal certifying “total” knowledge of a subject matter.

Now that I am out of school (at least for quite some while), I realize that the real world is not very hard to adapt to for someone who has the same kind of experiences as myself (I will write about what exactly I did in my graduate school years at some other time). In the real world, it is a whole lot easier to exceed expectations, for one. Then there’s the whole work to get paid deal. You don’t have to consistently slog hard and exceed expectations AS A RULE to make a living. I enjoy working on more than one thing at once because it gives me the flexibility to refresh my brain during certain phases of one project, and I am glad to be able to continue this tradition.

I believe that success comes naturally to everyone. There’s no force strong enough to stop someone from getting what they truly desire. As such, everyone is successful in their own way. When I was in grad school, I used to dream about working for Microsoft. Maybe my desire wasn’t strong enough, and hence I am definitely not working at Microsoft, but I am working on things that make me happy. Now, I could have been happier working at Microsoft, but I just did not want that to happen strongly enough. Of course, there’s a certain philosophy to this, and I would write about why it’s always better to let circumstances mould our life than to try to engineer it, at some other time. Now, I just want to make it clear that by saying circumstances, I am not implying the benefits of lack of goals in life, rather, a careful analysis of one’s current state vis-a-vis their ideal state.

Do I think I made a bad move by not trying to find a job with my favorite company? Certainly not. I am on the right track, and am definitely getting as much in benefits as a regular Microsoft employee sans many negatives, and of course, with many cons. But, on the outset, I think I am handling the transition fairly well, and am actually trying to make some difference in the world I live in.

I think my graduate school experiences have moulded me into a person who has the capability to take on any sort of challenge in life, often times getting pulled towards them.

A cheaper alternative to Blockbuster

I just came across this company called Redbox that directly competes with Blockbuster video for DVD rentals and sales. Basically, the business model is about setting up kiosks at various McDonalds and grocers that enable self checkout of movies. The price is $1 for a day and the return is due at 7PM the next day.

It makes sense because Redbox started out as a McDonalds subsidiary and is 47.3% owned by the people at Coinstar, who specialize in coin exchanging kiosks across the US.

At present, the only locations served by Redbox kiosks are Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver, St. Louis, Houston, Hartford, Washington DC, Baltimore, and of course the Twin Cities. I admit I have yet to come across any of their kiosks simply because I don’t eat at McDonalds, but after looking at the free rental coupons online, I might just have to give it a shot!

It’s the initial setup that takes all the time

I am working on a new project, and what’s different this time is that since it’s not a coursework project, I am having to deal with requirements planning, engineering, and source versioning. Working in an academic setting usually means that the infrastructure is already in place, and you just have to start writing code. Hence, software projects have a short design to production time span.

In the real world, I am collaborating with others on project requirements, design documents, and various other nitty gritty. On top of that, I am having trouble deploying the JBoss Portal Server on my personal laptop. Once, that is done, I have to compile the source code I obtained from our CVS server to work with my AS. The actual coding is very straightforward if I could just get the AS running as I want.

I wish there was enough documentation out there for certain open source projects that would make deployment seamless. As for now, I am trying to justify spending time on something that seems so mundane on the outset.

Switched to Gmail for Domains

I have switched to Google for managing my domain’s email from my hosting provider. The main reason was the growing email traffic that was consuming a lot of storage resources.

My first impressions of the free beta service are good. The interface is clear, and resembles that of Gmail. Every user gets exactly 2GB of email storage space, and there are 25 free users per domain. There’s no other difference compared to the basic Gmail service.

What remains to be seen is how long this beta remains free. I am enjoying it for free, but almost certainly would never pay for email hosting. Gmail is the only Google service I enjoy using routinely, and this is the only service of its kind.

What seems to be lacking, though, is the capability to migrate emails from my web hosting provider to Google’s servers. As of now, I am thinking of backing up all my previous emails using Microsoft Outlook, but it would be great to have access to them from within the Gmail interface.

For once, good going, Google!

“I hope you decide to live in this country”

A very interesting thing happened yesterday as I was being a tourist in downtown Minneapolis with my parents. While we were taking pictures, a young American male, probably a college student, stops by and asks us if we were from India. He then asked us if we were in the US as visitors, or whether we lived here. The guy then expressed his strong positive feelings for his country, and said that he hopes that we decide to live here permanently as it is a wonderful place to live. Finally, he commented on how smart allIndians are, and how he keeps hearing so many good things about Indians.

I have been living in the US for the last 5 years, but this was the first time I met someone so happy to be in this country. Most of the times, I see people whining about all the bad stuff, but no one acknowledges the good that makes America unique.

I will remember this incident for a long time!