Tech and Culture

Google Earth – Can it be used to find Osama ?

Google Earth was released for free last week. After having bought technology from Keyhole, Google has released a basic version of the Google Earth software for free without any recurring charges. There are enhanced versions available for different needs that feature better satellite images and higher quality printing.

Even in its basic form, the Google Earth software can be used in many different ways, and is highly customizable. Check out this website [] for addon files that can be used to really show off this software’s abilities.

It is still a beta so I guess a lot of features would be added on later, but imagine being able to search for people using the software with only their names or phone numbers. That would be truly mind-boggling. Then, imagine implanting a “geo-tracking” chip inside every human on earth, and being able to pull up their location in real time. We could catch criminals so easily ! Ofcourse, different users would be given a different access level based on their role in society, but in theory this system should be able to curb crimes.

I will have a drink to Google’s success tonight. Let’s hope it changes the cyberscape for the better…

Tech and Culture

Look Ma, I run a blog …

After a not-so-short conversation with Vel, I started wondering about the blogging phenomenon that has swept the cyberworld in complete awe just like current Google stock prices have. The term blogging really caught up with the masses after the 2004 US Presidential election that for the first time featured a faultering conventional media. Blogs run by republican and democratic supporters did a very fine job of bringing “real news” to the world.

One has to wonder; is this phenomenon just a fad? How long is this fad going to last? Is it really going to change how we assimilate information? I don’t view blogs as anything more than a website that is easy to update fairly regularly and is much more interactive than a static website in the sense that it allows for some level of reverse interactivity. A blog is just a website, after all. Throw in a few tools like trackback pings and RSS Feeds, and you have a ring of information.

Is this a fad? A short answer is yes. There are millions of blogs out there. Everyone has a blog. How many of these are actually useful? Very few. I think we’re facing some sort of information overdose at present. The problem lies in actually assimilating all the information out there. This is why search is so hot these days. Then there is this whole issue of trust. A blog is a piece of personal opinion. Unlike traditional media outlets, blogs can not be monitored for factual accuracy. Search engines, especially Google&reg, are designed to assign more weightage to negative information when it comes to ranking pages. Clearly, this is a computer science issue here.

I think we need to learn something from E-Commerce technologies when designing the next generation news and information aggregators. Autonomous trust is a keyword in E-Commerce, and this needs to be adopted in dynamic information search algorithms. So, if you have a network of trustworthy blogs giving a certain repertoire of events, they should be deemed credible. Simply assigning priorities to blogs based on traditional link-based page ranking is not a good idea for blogs.

This fad is here to stay, although we will see shifts in how we actually log our thoughts on the Internet. Podcasting is hot now. Something new will enter the scene later. The bottomline is that the pervasion of the Internet has made all of us information producers in the virtual world. It is our responsibility as citizens of the free cyberworld to make this information flow as trustworthy and reliable as possible.


Mr. President, what do you think tribal sovereignty means ?

I just came across this clip on a message board. You have to watch it !

President Bush is asked a question about his views on tribal sovereignty, and he replies by saying that a tribal sovereignty is just that, sovereign. There is laughter everywhere. He says the relation between the federal Government and the tribes is a relationship between “sovereignties”.

Disclaimer: I have no personal opinion about this clip except that I find the laughter in the background really hilarious.

Tech and Culture

Making sense of Bollywood movie piracy …

I watched Kaal in the evening today, and logging back onto the Internet got me thinking about the effect of the Internet on the Indian movie industry. As everyone is aware, it is possible, and rather easy to download the latest movies from the Internet. Ofcourse, since I do not formally condone piracy, I will keep the discussion on techniques and tools to do this out of here.

It is a sure fact that total numbers representing piracy of Bollywood movies are dwarfed by those of Hollywood movies, and the distributors of Hollywood movies do in fact lose a lot of money on account of piracy. On the other hand, in the case of Bollywood movies, piracy actually leads to proliferation of the industry to other cultures. For example, after the ban of Indian movies in Pakistan a few years ago, the only way to obtain Bollywood flicks is through piracy. As such, Indian movies are very popular in Pakistan, and that country also serves as one of the main “godowns” of bootleg prints re-manufactured for distribution.

Outside India, in the US, although there are cities with impressive cinema hall facilities to watch movies on the big screen, for the most part, expatriate Indians still depend on VHS tapes and DVDs to get their dose of desi entertainment. This mode of entertainment does not serve well to pass on a pie of Bollywood to a typical non-Indian who is either indifferent to anything other than Hollywood, or depends on International film festivals organized at prime locations for broadening his movie experiences.

This is where piracy through the Internet really contributes to extending the reach of our film industry. Anyone with a broadband connection can, practically, download top quality rips of Indian movies to be viewed later at their convenience. My rationale is that in such small international markets, piracy is going to happen one way or the other due to lack of infrastructural support. Keeping online piracy unabated does not really affect Bollywood’s bottom line a whole lot. On the contrary, free access to Indian movies often times motivates expatriates to actually invest in India to make quality movies on themes they deem appropriate for the international audience.

Back home, piracy has always been present, but has never been curtailed with a very high level of zealousness. This is because going to movies is an entirely different social and cultural activity in India. Movies are watched to bring the family together on that odd weekday. Such an event is often times actually planned a lot in advance. It is like a celebration of sorts. Hence, as long as a movie has any appeal, people will spend money to watch it at a cinema hall. Watching it in front of the TV or on the computer just doesn’t cut it. How are you going to throw in the popcorn, the pre-movie shopping, the samosas, and the fun evening out if you sit in your home to “celebrate” a movie.

Hence, I am of the opinion that unlike its Hollywood counterparts, Bollywood should not be rigid about enforcing copyright and anti-piracy laws for its movies. Maybe we could then show the world how not to make the average college student unhappy, and make profits at the same time…


I think India is going in the right direction and if India were a stock, I would buy it

These are words from Thomas L. Friedman in an interview that appeared in The Financial Express last week. Normally, I read Friedman’s “lectures” on globalization with a grain of salt as I do not believe that it is possible to make a positive or negative case for it without observing the economies on a micro level. But, this interview, which was published a little while after his column “Bangalore: Hot and Hotter”, made me really ponder about how globalization has actually helped India win a proverbial war against social and political stagnation.

The stock market is at an all time high, and is actually showing a somewhat linear curve at present. Definitely, if India were a stock, it would be really prudent to buy as much of it as possible. The economic growth fuelled by the very pro-liberalization attitude of our politicians (in general) has made India the preferred investment destination of the world. Ofcourse, being rich in natural resources and having a good agricultural economic model helps. The population growth over the past years has actually placed the current generation in perfect position to leverage the advantages of globalization. There is no dearth of educated smart people willing to work a 35 hour day.

One of the biggest changes I noticed in India during my trip last month was how the youth is running the show in every field. Economic liberalization and public sector disinvestment pushed by the center has forced a “renaissance” of sorts in how companies portray themselves. The corporate ethical code is mature and enforced well, and the standard of living is very high thanks to the availability of labor and the extensively variable social stratum.

All this positive growth has motivated the common Indian man to dream big and achieve bigger. Just look at the business section of any website like and what do you see! “Tata Steel is world’s best steel producer”, “India‚Äôs largest FDI deal signed”, “Now, Indians are a confident lot!”, “From tandoori dhaba to Versace”, “Sensex ends at all time high of 7,145”; these are the headlines that are fueling motivation and pride. Something that has eluded us for so long…



Welcome to Odyssey!

Starting now, I am moving to the WordPress software to manage my Blog from the program by PluggedOut. The main advantages of WordPress are a better support, more visible clarity, better options, improved theme support etc.

I would still maintain the old blog at this location.