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Saturday, December 31, 2011

FOR THOSE "CRAFT"Y PEOPLE

Pick of DOITYOURSELF websites and blogs


Few things are more rewarding than creating with your own hands, whether its crafts out of paper, cardboard, glue and paints; knitting, crochet or embroidery; or even simple woodwork. The process of working on such projects can be calming, therapeutic and extremely gratifying. And like most other hobbies, the internet is a great place to look for people who share your interests. So if you’re looking for a new hobby, or even something to feed your creative genes, there’s no better place to start than with a few of these links…

>> craftgawker.com

In existence since 2009, Craftgawker is arguably one of the best places on the web to start your search for craft tutorials or inspiration to begin similar projects of your own. The resource takes the form of a photo gallery that allows you to “visually search and discover” Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tutorials by category, tags and popularity. All the tutorials on the site are suggested by craft bloggers. A team of Craftgawker’s editors then review the suggestions and accordingly choose the best work to display.
Users who register and create an account on the website are allowed to save, tag and post notes on their favourite crafts by clicking on a heart icon displayed under each picture. If you’re looking for fun projects to do on a lazy Sunday, this is the place to go to.

>> childmade.com

Childmade is another site that displays tutorials from around the internet. Maintained by work-athome mom Sherri, this site carries the simplest of tutorials that can be done together by both adults and kids. Besides the DIYs that she scours from around the interwebs — more than 8,200 ideas and completely searchable — Sherri also displays a few of her own nifty designs. So if you want to start simple, this is one place you might want to consider. You could also subscribe to her weekly newsletter that features the best, new and latest tutorials on the site.

>> en.origami-club.com

No story on craftworks could ever be complete without mentioning Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. And if you loved those craft sessions in school, you will simply fall in love with this resource. The website sorts tutorials based on themes that include animals, fruits and vegetables, sea creatures, flowers, clothes, and even numbers and symbols. And no matter what your proficiency, whether beginner or expert, there are enough of fun projects for everyone.
Click on any section and you are taken to a page that displays images of each of the finished paper-folding designs. Select any one and you can choose between a diagrammatic instruction set and a step-by-step animation. A great site if you’re looking for activities for you and your little rascals.

>> craftpop.com

There are sites for crafts and then there’s Craftpop — an online directory that lists hundreds of websites on various forms of DIY, including beading, how to make beauty and bath products, candle- and soapmaking, card-making, crochet, knitting, mosaics, paper arts, scrapbooking, seasonal craft ideas, and even wedding crafts. Click on any of the sections and you are taken to a listing of the websites; each with a description of the resource along with a rating out of 5 stars.

>> craftster.org

Craftster — with its esoteric tagline of “No tea cozies without irony” — is an online community of over 2.5 lakh ‘crafty’ people. The eight-yearold site covers projects ranging from jewellery and trinkets to pottery and purses, glasswork and quilting, crochet and sewing — and then a few others. Besides, it also includes business advice and opportunities for craftmakers as well as contests for members. It gets over 1 million visitors per month and is one of the most famous resources in the genre.

SAVIO D’SOUZA TOICREST19N1111

TECH SPECIAL -- THE WORLD OF TABLETS

New entrants make the tablet solar system shine brighter.

TabTop PC

A good brand name usually does the trick for most devices, even if the device itself is not that good. But if there is no name to bank on, then the device has to rely on its own merits. For many, Milagrow might not ring a bell, so the company has ensured that its first product, a very Indian tablet, is good enough to make it a household name. They have packed so much into their 8-inch tablet that the company is selling it as the world’s only “TabTop PC”.

So what is unique about this tablet? Milagrow claims this is the first tablet to sport a micro USB, full USB, HDMI and SD card reader as a content transfer option. Then you have a SIM slot, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth as well as LAN connectivity using a converter. The multi-touch capacitive LED-backlit screen is as good as it gets, though it is a slightly awkward 4:3 shape. But the company claims this size is ideal for tablets and better than the more popular 16:9 screens, which are cheaper.

The tablet runs Android 2.3.1 Gingerbread, which might have become an underdog after the 4.0 version of the OS became available. But the screen and interface have been customised to keep boredom away. The TabTop sports 1GB and a DDR3 RAM, which ensure super-fast transfer rates.

The tablet is very good at multi-tasking. But make sure that this is not at the cost of the battery’s life. A double press of the home key on the screen opens up the app-killer, a unique feature of this tablet.

To cut through the confusion of the Android market, the tablet will come pre-loaded with the best apps. Users will just need to install the apps they need. The tablet also has front and back cameras, though the former is good only in sufficient light. The tablet supports full HD video and has speakers that clearly complement the picture in terms of quality. The TabTop weighs about 455 grams and comes in a nice leather case, which makes it look like a book. The 16GB version sells for Rs 24,990 and the 32 GB for 29,990. If it were a little cheaper, we would have had an outright winner here.

The Galaxy returns

Over the past year, we have been reading and writing about various iPad competitors. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is also in the same league, the difference being that maybe Apple also thinks of this Android tablet as a challenger. Samsung’s earlier tablet, the 7” Galaxy Tab, was the only one which could make any dent in iPad’s sales, so it is expected that the larger tablet will put up a real fight.

To start with, the new Galaxy Tab 750 is a bit lighter and larger than the iPad. But the comparison sort of ends there, for this device runs Honeycomb, the Android OS developed specially for tablets. This is not the first Honeycomb device in the Indian market, so the OS has no novelty.

There are no tweaks or customisations and it is up to the user to make the changes. I couldn’t find any new Samsung apps either and it looked too similar to Samsung SII smartphone with the old social hub and Samsung e-mail. And the tablet hasn’t been able to shrug off the phone tag, for I kept getting SMSes on my MTNL 3G SIM, (something you will never get on an iPad).

The tablet has two cameras — a 3 MP one on the back and a 2 MP one in front — both are up to the task of video chatting and non-professional photography. Like other Honeycombs, there is no home button on the tablet and everything is on the touchscreen. The keypad features Swype, like all the new Samsung phones, and this is really handy for a tablet once you get the hang of it. I loved the vibrate-on-keypress option which feels like the tablet is responding to your touch.

The device supports flash, and the browsing experience is really fast and obstacle-free, like on the iPad. The battery is good enough to last a whole day if you are careful to shut off apps that are working in the background. Users will also have to be careful about their data plan, for while the iOS forbids you from downloading anything above 20MB through your SIM, there are no restrictions here and you can easily overshoot your monthly plan.

One big drawback for the Galaxy Tab 750 has to be the Rs 33,999 for a 16 GB device. But it is still worth buying if you aren’t a great Apple fan.

Other options

HCL ME X1 is one of the cheapest tablets in the market now at Rs 10,490. The 7” tablet works on Android 2.3 and has a host of local applications. The X1 has an 800 X 480 pixel capacitive screen, 1Ghz processor, 2 MP Camera and 512 MB RAM with an internal memory of 4GB expandable to 32GB.

Fly Vision is another 7” Android tablet at a very affordable price tag of Rs 7,299. The Vision runs on Android 2.2 Froyo.

Tablet extras

Your personal cloud

If you have been struggling with lack of space on your 16GB iPad here is an out of the box solution. The GoFlex Satellite is out of the box in a literal sense, for this is an external hard drive that connects to your device, anything from an iPad to an Android phone — wirelessly. It does not piggyback off your Wi-Fi connection and creates its own wireless network. Once you have copied files on to the external hard drive using the USB port, you have to disconnect and click on the Wi-Fi button on the device. The signal immediately starts showing in the Wi-Fi list of mobile devices within a 150-foot radius.

But to stream songs, movies or other content on to an iOS or Android device you will need to download a free app from iTunes or the Android market, respectively. While the iPad can play MPEG4 files from the drive, you will need to install additional apps to play other formats.

The satellite is portable and easy to use. However, it is now available only in a 500GB version, which is quite a lot when you consider that iOS devices have a maximum capacity of 64 GB. Price Rs 11,500.

The tablet pen

A few years ago, with the advent of the touchscreens, the stylus gradually became redundant. But the stylus has been making a comeback as more people turn to tablets for creative ventures. Wacom has been a leader in making gadgets that make life easier for artists and designers. So it was only natural that the company would come up with a stylus for the iPad. The Bamboo Stylus feels like a real pen and works like one, especially when used with the popular Bamboo Paper app (free) for iPad to take notes or make quick sketches and annotations. However, the iPad app is not pressure sensitive and you will need to download costlier apps to create something more intricate with the stylus. The 20-gram stylus is compatible with other tablets featuring capacitive touch technology similar to the iPad. Users might have to replace the nib occasionally . It costs Rs 1,750.

Keyboards

Many believe a touchscreen tablet isn’t good for typing. But now, thanks to external keyboards, you don’t have to limit yourselves to short missives while using the iPad or an Android tablet. Logitech gives you the lightweight keyboard option for both types of tablets. The keyboards come with a stand for the tablet and are easy to set up. The iPad keyboard costs Rs 3,470 while the Android 3.0 option sells for Rs 3,360

Nandagopal Rajan

Friday, December 30, 2011

CAREER SPECIAL..WHAT TO DO IF YOU GOOF UP

To err is human...but is there a protocol on how to react after you’ve made a blooper?
Achievements are quickly forgotten but the goof-ups stay with you,” laments Reena Kataria, a personal tax professional handling almost 150 expat clients. During her first year with a leading consultancy firm, she misplaced an ITR sent by an Indian living in the UK, which led to his missing the filing date. The returns filing season is a period of frantic activity and the fact that she was new to Outlook Express made matters worse.
The first she heard of her mistake was when the aggrieved expat raised the matter. But when she found the “lost” mail, Kataria owned up gracefully. The goof-up cost her a positive appraisal and her company 9,000. Three years on, it’s all water under the bridge, but tax filing seasons still bring along those old jokes and lighthearted taunts from her seniors.
You probably have your own workplace boo-boo experience, be it a slight error of judgement or a major mistake. “Goof-ups are common and are a part of the learning cycle. Most organisations are tolerant enough to forgive harmless errors. However, repetitive erroneous behaviour is not taken lightly,” says Ravi Shankar, senior vice-president (human resources) at HCL Technologies.

Is it Carelessness?

The most common errors Shankar encounters are typos in the emails and proposals sent to clients or colleagues, which usually don’t lead to adverse consequences. His suggestion: take a break after you have structured a proposal or an email. This makes it easier to spot mistakes that you tend to overlook in the first read.
Apart from a spell check, make sure your email is complete. Preeti Alagh, who worked for an MNC, shares her experience with a “boss from hell” who was fanatical about grammar: “I would draft an email, proofread it again and again, making sure it was proper and professional, and then would forget to attach the PPT,” she says. The boss in question would then send back a stinker marking the “super seniors” in it, even before she had a chance to recall the email. Fortunately for her, she quit the company before learning the impact of such goof-ups on her career growth.
Says Namr Kishore, head of marketing at Manpower Group: “A calculation error can be rectified by damages or compensation. But it’s a different matter, if an error affects the brand in the eyes of a client or a customer.”

Don’t Shy Away

There is no other way to deal with a goof up than to own up. “We expect employees to be open and share mistakes that have happened. We believe this is the first step to correcting a mistake. Employees are also expected to come up with a plan of action that will avoid similar errors to occur again,” says Subhro Bhaduri, head of human resources at Kotak Mahindra Bank. If there’s a learning associated with it, a goof-up need not be a gross waste of time.
Bhaduri is a veteran of sorts in dealing with erring employees — the entire BFSI sector, in fact, is particularly susceptible to grave errors of judgment. But, as Bhaduri says, in a large firm, goof-ups are inevitable.

Own Up, Don’t Defend

According to Kishore, most organisations are progressive enough to give due benefit of doubt to erring employees. “Making a mistake is not a crime but defending a mistake is definitely one,” he says.
Vijay Dua committed this crime while working as a customer service representative with one of the banking institutions in India. On a particularly bad day, an agitated customer showered the choicest abuses on him, and an enraged Dua banged the phone down. That’s a strict no-no in the industry. Says Dua: “The customer had my employee number and in no time, the matter got escalated. I defended my stand, but thankfully, my manager understood. He just requested me to handle such matters delicately in the future.” And delicate he was — the next time he encountered a similarly agitated customer, he held on till the customer was done with his ‘verbal diarrhoea’.

Importance of a Good Track Record

Perhaps the most important criterion that determines an organisation’s response to a mistake is the erring employee’s track record. In a way, it measures the seriousness of the goof-up. According to Rajendra Ghag, executive vice-president, human resources and administration at HDFC Life, a repository of each employee’s activities and performance reveals whether a particular error is a rare instance or a routine occurrence.
The industry that Ghag works for is infamous for incidents of mis-selling, which makes it difficult for him to distinguish the inadvertent errors from the intentional ones. While he maintains that organisations generally don’t prefer to escalate such matters, sometimes it’s a matter of setting a deterrent. “At times we have to take strong action on serious errors even if the employee is innocent. This is just to send the right message to others,” he says. Incidentally, Ghag ends up sending 10-20 warning letters each month.
The essential learning here? The next time, or the first time, you goof-up at your workplace, don’t fret or hyperventilate. At the same time, being nonchalant is not a good idea. The rule of thumb is to own up and learn.

HOW TO GET OVER GOOF UPS

Own Up
If you realise you have committed an error, let your seniors know before they find out themselves

Avoid the Blame Game
Don’t blame others or circumstances. Evasive answers are never appreciated

Point a Solution
Suggest ways to rectify your mistake. Your seniors will welcome your sense of ownership

Take it as a Learning Experience
Understand where you went wrong and take extra care in future. Repeating the mistake will bolster the case against you

(:: Sunanda Poduwal SET20NO1111)

The Age of Low Cost ( 4)

NUMBERS BUILDING UP


About 9.3 million computing devices were sold in India in FY11, according to MAIT. While desktop sales are growing just 10%, Net book sales are growing at 100% this year. Tablet sales have really started only this financial year, and already more than 100,000 units have been sold so far. "We expect the fastest growth in the smaller devices," says Bharadwaj. HCL expects that the market shore of low cost netbooks and tablets will grow from two per cent of all PCs sold to 30%-40% of total computer sales in just a couple of years. Such devices are invariably the best selling tablet in the portfolio of any company. Samsung N100, a 12,000 net book launched on August 15, is the company's `rock star' product. About a third of the N100 sales are in small towns like Patiala and Nagpur. Ecommerce is also helping push sales of computers in smaller towns. For example, about half of the sales of online retailers come from remote locations where customers. Two problems remain. First, these devices should not only be cheap, but also useful. That means a whole bunch of locally relevant applications needs to be built in order to improve the utility of such devices. "There's an expectation that all people are literate to use a computer. Tablets will definitely add mobility, but are there relevant programs or native language applications?" quips Jesse Paul, CEO, Paul Writer, a marketing advisory firm. Paul says that unless such devices help a taxi driver make a booking it won't be too relevant for him. Or can a small merchant do accounting on it? She points out that application developers don't come from a bottom of pyramid background. Hence, they may not quite know what will work for the masses. Adds Sivakumar of ITC, which is experimenting with tablet applications for farmers: "Because of lower education levels and poor infrastructure (for mass roll out) these devices need features like multimedia, video and photo shoot and transmission, battery time and ruggedness. An eco-system that supports solutions will help in adopting computers." Education, where industry sources expect high demand for low-cost devices, will be a big testing ground. "They (low-cost tablets) will benefit only a small percentage of overall schooling in the country -- only 4-5% of 1.5 million schools," says Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation. "For mass education computers are irrelevant, unaffordable and unusable." The Premji Foundation works in teacher training and developing curriculum and impacts 2.5 million children. It developed school course in 175 CDs in 15 languages between 2002 and 2007. About 25,000 schools in 10 states use this. However the foundation has discontinued converting courseware to digital formats. "The process of learning does not happen via computer but via good teachers. But computers can be great for teacher education and adult education," says Behar. Second, manufacturers earn profit margins of only 3%-4% from the computers they make. It is even lower (2-3%) for low cost devices. "Companies will need massive volumes to sustain. Only companies with nationwide sales and services play might succeed," says Vishal Tripathi, senior research analyst, Gartner India. While R&D has worked hard to get all frills computers at low costs, some of the business and user models might take longer to emerge. Mass computing may not happen in a jiffy, but users are closer to it than five years back.

Shelley Singh

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FOOD SPECIAL..MUSTARD OIL

MUSTARD OIL'S POWERFUL FLAVOUR MAKES IT AN IDEAL MEDIUM FOR INDIAN COOKING

Our sense of smell is notoriously easily tired, but can be revived by smelling something strong. Professional perfumers often use coffee beans for this purpose, but if I'm in the kitchen I sometimes open a bottle of mustard oil from a ghani, a traditional Indian oil mill, and take a deep whiff of that pungent, prickly aroma, with the irresistible aftertaste —which can be so strong you actually feel you've eaten something — of good home-made pickle.

I think raw mustard oil smells delicious, but I might be in the minority here. In the past we were fine with fats that had a distinct taste and textural character of their own: the deep rich taste of ghee, the subtly sweaty aroma of coconut oil, the nuttiness of exotic oils like argan, pumpkin seed or hazelnut, flaky pastry made with lard or crumbly pastry made with butter. But at some point we seem to have acquired the notion that our cooking fats and oils should lack all character and turn into tasteless, odourless entities that ideally pretend they don't exist at all.

Mustard oil would seem to be the antithesis of that. Murky yellow, with a flavour that can be so pungent it could probably stop a charging elephant, mustard oil can seem so untamed and wild that it is no surprise to learn from KT Achaya that in the Chandimangal, a 16th century Bengali poem, "The tamasic nature of Lord Shiva is reflected in the fact that his food is cooked not in ghee, which is a luminous sattvic product, but in pungent mustard oil."

Sattvic snobbery could be one reason why, as Chitrita Banerji notes in her excellent Life and Food in Bengal, "In 19th century Calcutta, many of the great feudal families would die rather than serve food cooked in mustard oil, which was considered only fit for the poor." No doubt, such families would view the value now attached to mustard oil in traditional Bengali food as a further sign of declining times, but I'd rather see it as Bengal's progressivism that it was able to overcome faddish barriers, to focus on the real taste and health benefits of mustard oil.

Mustard oil is, of course, used across North India, but I associate it most with Bengal partly because that's where I got my first taste of it used raw. Growing up in South India, I was familiar with mustard seeds fried at the start of cooking, which makes them nutty and slightly bitter, but not hot. So when a fellow student at IIM Calcutta made me try some jhal-muri I just thought I was getting some Bengali bhel puri, and wasn't prepared for that lick of sinus-stirring heat that exploded from the mixture of puffed rice and onions. Despite the similar structure, this wasn't bhel puri at all, and the reason was that drizzle of mustard oil that I had hardly noticed the jhal muri maker putting on at the end. After that I was addicted. I happily experienced the homely satisfaction of mashed potatoes and other vegetables mixed with a little raw mustard oil. Fish, fritters, omelettes and luchis fried in it made me realise that mustard oil had multiple personalities. Most of its uses involved heating it, which denatured its pungent chemicals, though never entirely. You would think it had been quite tamed, but after eating you would be aware of a phantom pungency that lingered quite pleasingly on your palate. Cooking with mustard oil was like watching a body builder play with a baby — those big muscles might be capable of surprising delicacy, yet this reminded you all the more of their latent, crushing power.

When I started cooking myself and using mustard oil, I realised that these multiple nature extended here too. Some were almost incandescent, releasing their pungent smells as you opened the bottle, whereas others were so bland they hardly had any heat. Bengali friends in the US in particular complained of the latter, which I was told was because it was blended with tasteless soya oil. But the trick, I was told, was to look in Indian stores for the real stuff, disregarding the warnings always posted on the bottle stating that it was only for external use, like massages or oiling your scalp and hair. That was just meant for wussy Americans who couldn't believe that something that smelled so strong wasn't dangerous.

The smell, though, is just part of the natural chemistry of mustard, which belongs to the vast family of Brassicas, which include cabbages, turnips and other vegetables that all contain pungent chemical defences. In mustard, the chemicals are so strong they can harm the plant itself, which is why they are prudently kept in a condition where they don't become active unless crushed and moistened. This is why mustard powder is sharp to the taste, but only becomes really strong when mixed with water and left for a while. KT Achaya, in his study of ghanis, notes that while water is usually added with any seed, to help the oil separate out, for mustard oil even more is added, to help develop the sharp flavour.

These pungent chemicals are volatile though, which is why they mostly vanish on heating, and also over time. They can be isolated to create a mustard essence which is used in various degrees to flavour blander oils. There are also three main types of mustard — black, yellow and brown, all with differing levels of pungency, and all grown in India. So mustard oil pungency can vary depending on which seeds are used. It is the brown seeds, Brassica juncea, which are mostly used for oil and which have the particular flavour of pure mustard oil. The best way then to use mustard oil is to find a brand, ideally from a ghani, with a level of pungency you like, and then stick to it, always buying small quantities.

Detractors of mustard oil point to two issues — the fact that it contains erucic acid, which is said to cause problems in test studies on rats, and that it has been often adulterated in harmful ways. But the data on erucic acid is not conclusive at all, and it is possibly balanced by the high levels of linoleic acid, which contain the very healthful omega-3 acids (linseed, or alsi, has more, but it is hardly as interesting to eat). There have been some high profile cases of adulteration, but this is countered by buying from reliable brands (Vandana Shiva has also made characteristically lurid allegations about the adulteration being a deliberate ploy to encourage imported soya oils).

I am not a nutritionist or scientist, so I tend to avoid getting into scientific aspects of food. But with mustard oil I've read as much as I could find simply because, from across India, I've heard of people switching away from it for apparent health concerns. But I also think because we seem to assume these days that blander means better. Yet the truth seems to be that mustard oil is high on health benefits, lasts well (the reason it is used for pickles) and has a great, distinctive taste that is worth getting to know. Rather than reducing its consumption, it is exactly the sort of traditional Indian product we should be learning to value all the more.

VIKRAM DOCTOR ETCD

23D1211

TECH SPECIAL ...The Age of Low Cost (3)


LOW COST GAME

More applications and content will make low-cost computing more relevant to consumers. But cost is crucial too. Many expect Mukesh Ambani to be a game changer. ET recently reported that Reliance Industries will unveil a new range of 4G-enabled tablets at 3,000. Such a price point would have been ridiculously low even one year ago. But prices of components like the hard disk, RAM etc have come down enabling manufacturers to come out with innovative offerings. Says NIIT's Thadani: "The real breakthrough has come from Moore's Law: processor power doubles every 18 months and costs come down. There's more power packed in each new generation of computers." Alok Bharadwaj, the president of , Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) attributes low cost computers to economies of scale and an average decline of 15% a year in component prices. Adds Apratim Sharma, country product manager, Asus India: "We observe 15-20% yearly drop in cost of same hardware'. You can get a hard disk that went into high end laptops 2-3 years back at lower costs in netbooks or tablets now, he adds. Asus just launched a 10 inch net book at 9,999 with a 250 GB hard disk, 1GB RAM, web cam, WiFi and Bluetooth. "Three years ago a similar device would have cost double," he adds. NIIT's Thadani still remembers the first PC they bought back in the 1990s. It cost 1.5 lakh. It had 10 MB hard disk and 5 MB RAM. "Now, you get a far more richer device for less than 10,000," he adds. Last week HCL Infosystems launched a 10,490 tablet complete with a touch screen, 1 Ghz processor, 2 MP camera and 512 MB storage. Says Harsh Chitale, its CEO: "Now, with more value at lower costs computing in India will take off in the next 12-18 months. Tablets could do to computing what sub- 5,000 phones did to telecom." Computer penetration in India is very low and tablets account for just 2% of PC sales. "Once you have a device priced at six to eight weeks of annual income, computer adoption will take off," says Prashanth Adiraju, director, new platform business group, Intel Technology India. "We are at that stage now." He believes that 90 million households in India can now afford buy a computer with less than a month's income. Ten thousand rupees is emerging as the new price point for netbooks. But tablets are becoming available at even lower costs. A typical low cost tablet would come with a 7 or 10 inch touch screen, a free operating system, fast processors, graphic cards and internet connectivity. Datawind, a Canada based company that launched the $35 (about 1,750) Aakash tablet (subsidised by the government for students), says the actual cost is $49. Datawind has been able to get it at this price point due to cheaper hardware and free OS, Google's Android 2.2. Google gives the OS free and makes money via user downloads. Says Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO, Datawind: "Prices have come down due to open processor architecture. Earlier it was an Intel-AMD monopoly." At present the screen is the most expensive part-about 22-25% of the cost. Though costs may not decline further, performance could improve a lot more. "It's like a 100 meter race. After hitting these levels ($35) there's very little room for further price cuts," says Rachna Nath, executive director, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). "But each new version will come with better hardware at similar or lower costs." Adds ITC's Sivakumar: "Functionality of today's devices is far superior to the options available earlier." And this will only get better. "Telecom backbone is also more evolved today."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

CAREER SPECIAL..WHAT NOT TO SAY TO BOSS

10 Things You Should Not Say to Your Boss
When you are interacting with the boss, the most trivial thinking-aloud moment can turn into a nightmare — who knows how your words would be interpreted. So it is absolutely necessary to ensure that your foot doesn’t find a place in your mouth at the workplace, especially around the people you report to. Agreed, telling off your boss is a common fantasy and a temptation almost impossible to resist. But bear in mind, letting your guard down and telling the power-that-be exactly what you feel can have disastrous consequences. It could be just an innocuous statement, but you may come across as lazy, careless and/or disrespectful to your boss. So, if there isn’t a mental filter in place, or if the existing one has proved to be ineffective, here’s a list of phrases that most employers would hate to hear. Make no mistake, this list is not exhaustive and is in no-particular order.


That’s Not in My Job Description


Nowadays, companies hire those who can wear many hats. So, if a particular task doesn’t come technically under your job description, try not complaining about it — unless it’s completely off the track. “If your boss thinks you are unwilling or incapable of doing what you’ve been asked, you will be considered a weak player,” says Vinay Grover, CEO of Symbiosis Management Consultants, a headhunting firm.


I Can’t Do This Task


You maybe nose-deep in work but an instant refusal gives an impression that you just don’t want to carry out a particular task. “You should always give valid reasons first and then say no,” says Sunil Goel, director, GlobalHunt, an executive search firm. If you happen to be one of those who find it difficult to say no, don’t fall into the trap of saying an instant yes, only to go back on your word later.


I Just Never Got Around To It


It’s quite simple: if your boss has entrusted you with something, you’ve just got to do it. “I was given an interesting assignment to work on while I was on something else. Call it poor time-management, I was unable to work on the project. When my manager inquired, I decided to be honest,” says Nishit Mishra, a marketing executive with a multinational banking giant. Mishra had to hand over the assignment to a colleague; never a pleasant thing to do, and you’d agree.


I Don’t Know How To Do It


You may actually be clueless but you need not say it in as many words. Saying “I don’t know” shows a weakness and it also may be interpreted as an excuse that you just don’t want to do it. “Tell your boss that you are prepared to do the task but that you may require assistance or guidance because you haven’t done it before,” says Grover of Symbiosis.


I Am Overqualified For This


The task at hand might appear ‘lowly’. However, you are at work and instead of playing a big shot, you should just roll up your sleeves and get to work. “This is what your boss expects of you and anything less will show that you are actually not qualified to get things done,” says Ronesh Puri, managing director, Executive Access, a headhunting firm. Do it yourself or delegate it to someone else — come what may, but get it done!


Sorry, I Missed That Point


You might be nursing a hangover or missing your caffeine shot while sitting in a painful early morning meeting. No matter what, be clued in to what is being discussed. Don’t dream of the sundae you plan to have post-lunch when the boss is talking to you. “This phrase can do more harm than good. If you are coming up with such excuses then it leaves an impression that you are not attentive and are losing interest in your work,” says Goel of GlobalHunt.


I Need to Talk to You, It’s Important


Two simple rules that will justify the presence of this statement in this list. Rule#1: Your time is only half as precious (or even lesser) as your boss’. Rule#2: What is important to you might not be all that important to your boss. Consider both of these unsaid rules and you will end up making some qualitative changes like saying “slightly urgent” or “somewhat important”.


I Will Try


Your bosses don’t want you to try doing a task, they want you to do it. Trying is not an option here. Saying “I will try” will tell your boss that they cannot depend on you. It will not give them the assurance that the task will be taken care of. You wouldn’t want to hear what management trainee Swati Pillai was told when she muttered the unacceptable. “The company pays you for doing not trying.”


Ouch! Don’t Blame Me — It’s Not My Fault


In the face of criticism or a reprimand, your defense mechanism will inevitably kick in. However, avoid dodging the responsibility or blaming someone else. Of course, you would want to clear the air, but there’s a time, place and way to do it. Don’t defend when the boss’s voice is at a higher-than-comfortable pitch.


Why Do I Need To Do This?


This is Stupid! You maybe on back-slapping terms with your boss, but at the end of the day, he’s the senior. Anything that questions his authority and judgment is to be avoided at all costs. “If your bosses have asked you to do it, they must think it is important enough. By saying this you openly challenge their competency as a boss,” warns Grover.
(Sunanda Poduwal ET 25D1211)

THE AGE OF LOW COST (2)

The Age of Low Cost (2)
THE APPLICATIONS WAVE
Netbooks for text books - that's the switch technology training company NIIT has done in the last six months for all students in its premier GNIIT course. In the next six months it will migrate all its courseware onto netbooks and tablets. "Students won't carry books, but tablets to class," says Vijay Thadani, CEO, NIIT.
NIIT has also invested 200 man-years of work generating digital content for the curriculum for classes 4 to 12. Says Thadani: "The devices add richness to static content. For instance, Rani Ki Jhansi can come alive on tablets via video.
Graphs will be more dynamic. There's a tremendous opportunity to create a revolution with tablets." NIIT courseware is available in 14 languages. Educomp, another education services provider, also plans to migrate course content to tablets.
About 500 people are working on converting its content into digital formats. It already uses a combination of projectors and electronic white boards to deliver classes in 7,200 schools across the country.
"Now, we will give each student a tablet," says Shantanu Prakash, founder-CEO, Educomp Solutions. School students, even from poorer sections, could be big consumers of low-cost tablets.
The government is offering DataWind's Aakash, a 7-inch tablet, to students at a subsidised price of 1,750. "Specs of Aakash look ok for use by students," says Prakash.
Subho Ray, president, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) says that the device will catalyse the market if it finds its way into 5-6 lakh schools. "There was a vision earlier, but low cost computers were never given away to target communities.
At least now the government is giving away the tablets to students to try out," he says. Its not just schools, but tablets could make a difference to India's farm lands too. S Sivakumar, chief executive, agri business, says crop management advice can be personalized to individual farmers, if they can video or photo shoot the field conditions and transmit to experts via tablets.
"Through use of video/photo transmission, price negotiation process can be instant and more effective. Order aggregation for farm inputs will help in streamlining logistics and reduce costs," he adds.
Mass adoption, says Tuli of Datawind, will happen when such devices help users generate business. "Today a phone is a commerce tool for all segments of users. Same will happen with computers. When mobile phones hit the market no one thought your neighbourhood small merchant or a rickshaw puller will buy them. Today they all do."
- Shelley Singh

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BENGALI SPECIAL

Sticky Sweet Success
KC Das, the brand which gave India its first rosogolla, is happy holding on to its roots as it completes 75 years
Afternoon arrives at KC Das with a strange mix of chaos and resignation. From the probashi (non-resident) Bengali teenager curiously dismantling the tricky layers of a lobongo lotika to the weary office-goer listlessly swallowing luchi and chholar daal with practiced frequency, the ground floor of the Esplanade sweet shop is a delectable collage of Kolkata stereotypes. The modest glass counter is abuzz with Bengali impatience with queues, but the spread seems a tad austere in the context of the noisy customers trying to place their order first.
The sweet shop, which has recently completed 75 years, has a fast depleting array of rosogolla, pantua, a smattering of sandesh, malpoa and other Bengali staples, on display. It’s a story of traditional whites, ochre and an occasional deep fry-brown. “We don’t believe in hybrid sweets. We have a heritage of our own, which we are happy exhibiting,” says Dhiman Das, 39, director of the KC Das chain of sweet shops, explaining the absence of Western elements like butterscotch or a raspberry in their products.
The quiet pride and dismissal of competition is not unaccounted for. KC Das will probably always be known for giving India its rosogolla, a sweet almost synonymous with Bengal and all things Bengali. While Bollywood might have turned mishti doi into the unlikely star of Bengali sweet-dom, it was sandesh (the soft white dry sweetmeat made from chhena) that ruled the regional dessert scene till the late 19th century. Until a 22-year-old man, nearly jobless after his first sweet shop shut down, pinned his hopes on little balls of chhena dipped in sugar syrup to tug at the roots of the Bengali palate. Kolkata was still Calcutta, divided into three small villages — Sutanuti, Kolikata and Gobindopur. Nobin Chandra Das opened a second shop at what was then Sutanuti, now Baghbazar in north Kolkata. After several trials, rosogolla — a round spongy ball of chhena dipped in sugary syrup — came into being in 1868. Das, the story goes, would serve them free to customers. “You know how we are. We wouldn’t take to things easily,” laughs Dhiman, as he talks of his great-great-grandfather.
It was to the credit of a Marwari businessman that the rosogolla became popular. Raibahadur Bhagwan Das Bagla stopped by Das’s shop and his young son wanted water. “He was served a rosogolla alongside. They were so delighted by the new sweet that they ordered several kilos of it,” says Das. Home-ground dismissal dealt with, there was no turning back.
The brand, however, derives its name from Nobin Chandra’s son Krishna Chandra. “Nobin Chandra was an unorthodox moira (sweetmaker) and his son took after him. KC Das and one of his sons introduced another Bengali favourite, the roshomalai (small rosogollas dipped in thickened flavoured milk),” says Dhiman. What was probably more interesting was the introduction of vacuum packing in the Indian food manufacturing industry. “The first batch of rosogollas were canned in 1930. It was the first and only canned dessert available then,” he adds. A feat that probably turned the rosogolla into the most-used marker of Bengali culture. “It ensured the sweet traveled outside Kolkata and India, giving people from various ethnicities a taste of our culture,” says Dhiman.
The 1965 Milk Trade Control order in Bengal hit the brand hard, and it closed down for three years before reopening in Bangalore in 1972. Several branches and a factory-turned-research lab later, KC Das is a name to reckon with. The near-empty counters before dusk tell a story born of habit and brand recall. One of the few Bengali brand stories that didn’t fall prey to tales of Marx-chanters and dharna lovers.
PiyasreeDasgupta Tags : SIE30O1011

TECH SPECIAL - .AGE OF LOW COST (1)

The Age of Low Cost

The first wave of low cost computers never really took off. Now, a new bunch of such devices are flooding the market. This time a lot of new applications, software, content and delivery methods are enabling consumers to do what they earlier couldn’t – put the devices to good use for education and livelihood, writes Shelley Singh
Apuroop Sethupathy is now quite used to juggling between the HP Laptop in his bag, the iPad in his hand and an Android smart phone in his p.ocket. The 19-year old sophomore at the National Institute of Technology in Rourkela pursuing biomedical engineering uses the three gadgets for studying, entertainment and connecting with the world. They pretty much meet his needs. Yet, he's visibly excited about the 1,750 tablet, recently launched by the government and the slew of new computing devices Asus, Samsung, HCL, Reliance and others have rolled out in the last two months. Almost all of them are available around the 10,000 price point. "They are good for a web based lifestyle," he says. Sonali Garg, 19, a Chandigarh based Commerce student who shares a laptop with two other siblings is also eyeing these new devices. "We can buy tablets with saved up pocket money," she says. At far away Agartala, 20-year-old Bishnesh Das fancies them too. "These gadgets will do to computing what sub 3,000 phones did to mobile communications," he says. Similar attempts at building low cost computers undertaken about five to seven years ago flopped here. Remember India's own Simputer? Or Nicholoas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project? Intel, the world's largest chipmaker flew in anthropologists to create a device that's not only light on the pocket, but rugged enough to be used in the hinterland. In 2005 AMD joined hands with HCL to launch a 10,000 PC. The devices were low on cost and high on promise, but they failed to get buyers. The devices were minimalistic (low on memory, hard disk, RAM, processing speeds) and didn't offer internet connectivity. They failed. So why should things be any different this time around? Seven years later, the devices available now come with better technology and performance. Not only are they lowcost, but they also offer more value for every rupee paid. But more than that, what's changed the equation now is a whole bunch of new applications, software, content and delivery methods that are now enabling consumers to do what they earlier couldn't - put the devices to good use for education, livelihood and entertainment. It took the country three decades after the first PC was launched to get to an installed base of about 50 million computers. The next 50 million devices could get added in only 3-4 years if the new wave of applications and content marry well with the new low-cost devices. Even then, India with a base of 50 million personal computers now would lag behind China (300 million) and the US (394 million). There is still plenty for room to grow.
WILL CONTINUE

Monday, December 26, 2011

FUTURE SPECIAL ..AEROTROPOLIS

ALL ABOARD THE AEROTROPOLIS

Airports have always been a city's outlying curiosity. But in the next 10 years, they could just become the heart of the city, the place around which you meet, work and live, with urban planners and governments advocating the idea of the 'aerotropolis'. An aerotropolis is an urban complex with layout, infrastructure and economy centered on the airport. Just like the traditional metropolis with a city centre and rings of suburbs, the aerotropolis consists of an airport city core and outlying corridors and clusters of aviation-linked businesses. Many of these businesses are more dependent on suppliers and customers around the globe than local residents. "As globalization and time-based competition increase, the aerotropolis will become a magnet for firms requiring speedy connectivity to distant markets. It will also become a major urban destination in its own right where air travellers and locals will work, shop, meet, eat, exchange knowledge, conduct business, and be entertained without going more than 15 minutes from the airport," says John D Kasarda, director, Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. Kasarda, who has been advocating the idea of the aerotropolis since 1991, says that India has a rich aerotropolis future. The Hyderabad aerotropolis is planned on 5,500 acres of land with aerospace, hospitality, logistics, convention, health, education and entertainment ports. "The Hyderabad aerotropolis is exemplary. A great deal of thought and planning has gone into its design and development. India is developing many new airports on greenfield sites and modernizing existing airports. The aviation ministry's support also points to more aerotropolis successes in future," says Kasarda, who published Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next earlier this year and was a consultant on the Hyderabad project. He explains that London and New York airports are surrounded by commercial and residential development that is not really related to the airport. In contrast, South Korea's New Songdo aerotropolis, which has grown around Incheon International Airport, has high-speed trains and six-lane highways connecting neighbourhoods and business districts. Rents at Amsterdam's Schiphol aerotropolis are higher than anywhere else the in Netherlands. "The aerotropolis represents the urban physical form of globalization. Airports will shape business location and urban development in the 21st century as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th and seaports in the 18th," says Kasarda.
TOICREST12NOV11

WHCH IS THE RIGHT iPHONE FOR YOU?

Which is the right iPHONE for you?
For the first time since the iPhone came into existence, Indian consumers have three different editions of the device to choose from.
Tips on how to choose the one that suits you best
An iPhone a year, though it be a trifle dear” seems to have been Apple's maxim when it comes to releasing versions of its iconic iPhone. The result has been that there has never been more than a single iPhone released in a year right from 2007, which in turn means that customers have generally not had more than two models (the new one and its predecessor) to choose from. This is especially the case in India, where of the five iPhone versions, one did not get released at all, and two (the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4) came in relatively late. The result: Indian consumers who wanted a legitimate, non-grey market iPhone often had to choose between a slightly old and an even older model, with generally not too much separating them in terms of price. That has changed with the relatively quick arrival of the iPhone 4S on Indian shores (and stores). Now, if you are looking for an iPhone, you have three options to choose from, and the price differential is staggeringly significant — the lowest priced of the three costs less than half of the highest priced one. What's more, all three remain equally relevant for users looking to get their slice of the iPhone experience, as they are all running the same OS as the most recent edition of the device. So if you are looking to jump on to the iPhone bandwagon, this might be a good time, as you are unlikely to have this kind of choice before.


The iPhone minus


THE PHONE?


For more than four years now, the iPod Touch has been the go-to device for all those who wanted their iPhone fix but could not afford the device. Available at a price that has generally been less than half of the latest iPhone model, the iPod Touch shares most of the specs of the iPhone (including the retina display), although it has a much more limited camera, and of course, no phone functionality (it connects to the Internet over Wi-Fi). It can still run most of the apps that run on the iPhone, is even slimmer, and when you consider that you can get the latest iPod touch for 13,500 as compared to 44,500 for the latest iPhone, well, you understand why the device has such a huge following. Definitely an option for those who want the iPhone experience, but are not too worried about calls or photography.


Got an iPhone?


Get a Plan!


Airtel has similar postpaid plans for all three iPhones, ranging from 300 to 2,000 per month Airtel's plans are more centered around data usage, while Aircel's offer more in the way of calls Aircel has separate plans for each of the three devices - it offers the iPhone 4S at monthly rentals of 950 (for the16GB model) and 1150 (for the 32GB model), has a 399 and 699 per month rental plans for the iPhone 4, and offers the iPhone 3GS at 299 and 599 per month Each operator claims that their plans are heavily discounted, allowing users to recover part of the cost of the device over one or two years Since all iPhones sold officially in India are unlocked, you can actually opt for any GPRS/ EDGE/3G plan - many of them actually work out a whole lot cheaper than some of the 'tailored' plans Bottom line - Don't get mesmerised by the 'special plans.' In many cases, a 'regular' GPRS plan will work and turn out to be a whole lot more affordable iPhone 3GS Still getting around 20,990 onwards When the iPhone 3GS was released in 2009, Android was just beginning to make its presence felt. So the very fact that the device is not just alive, but also kicking a fair deal of smartphone backside is a tribute to it. It might seem a blast from the past in terms of specs – a 600 Mhz single-core processor, a 3MPcamera and a display with a 320 x 480 resolution — but it still manages to run iOS 5.0 complete with the notification bar, still looks awesome with its curved back, and, here's the killer, is capable of handling the vast majority of the applications found in the iTunes App Store, and what you have is not an obsolete device struggling to keep up with younger contemporaries, but a phone that still offers enough bang for the bucks it costs. The fact that the 3GS comes with the lowest price tag ever to be carried by an iPhone in the country, makes it the perfect device for those who want to get a feel of an iPhone without blowing a big hole in their wallets. Get it if: You have never used an iPhone before and you love messing with applications. Steer clear if: You are looking to try out some really high-end games or shoot lots of pictures and videos.


iPhone 4


Not the latest, not a veteran 37,900 onwards Today, the iPhone 4 finds itself caught between the relatively low-priced iPhone 3GS and the rather expensive iPhone 4S – both in terms of price and performance. While it represents a considerable step up from the 3GS in performance and spec terms – it has a 1 Ghz processor, the amazing retina display, and a very good 5.0-megapixel camera – it is not quite in the same league as the new iPhone 4S, which has a much better camera and Siri, the virtual assistant who responds to your voice. The fact that it is priced closer to the iPhone 4S also means that it gets into contention as a superior device for those with really deep pockets. That said, there is no doubt that when it comes to performance and looks (it is slimmer), it represents a huge step forward from the 3GS and runs almost every app on that iTunes App Store. It remains a very good smartphone, although thanks to the emergence of the 4S, it no longer can claim to be the best of its kind. Get it if: You want to upgrade from 3GS or want a good smartphone with a budget of about 35,000. Steer clear if: You are an iPhone fan and want the latest and very best for your money. iPhone 4S The pricey performer 44,500 onwards Its arrival in India has been cheered and jeered in equal measure. The cheers were for its relatively quick arrival and the fact that, while retaining the sleek and smart looks of its predecessor as well as its retina display, the iPhone 4S packs in a much more powerful processor, a spectacular camera and of course, the virtual assistant who responds to your voice, Siri. The jeers were for a price tag that was the highest that had been seen on a regular edition smartphone in the country for a while now. While it would be foolish to deny that the phone is an expensive proposition, it would be equally daft to say that it offers nothing new for the price. The new dual core A5 processor makes tasks like gaming and video editing much more smooth and the 8.0-megapixel shooter is among the best we have seen on a handset. Top that off with Siri, and the trademark iPhone app-interface combo, and you have a formidable device, albeit at a formidable price. Get it if: If money is no object and you want the latest powerful smartphone with stacks of apps. Steer clear if: You are not enamored of virtual assistants and if you rarely take pictures with your phone. - Nimish Dubey ET 7D1211


Saturday, December 24, 2011

TECH SPECIAL ..NO NEED TO REMEMBER ANY PASSWORD

Log in, just don’t use a password
Scientists Training Computers To Recogise Owners By Touch Of Their Fingers
Somini Sengupta
Passwords are a pain to remember. What if a quick wiggle of five fingers on a screeen cold log you in instead? Or speaking a simple phrase? idea is far-fetched. Computer scientists in Brooklyn are training their iPads to recognize their owners by the touch of their fingers as they make a caressing gesture. Banks are already using software that recognizes your voice, supplementing the standard PIN. And after years of predicting its demise, security researchers are renewing their efforts to supplement and perhaps one day obliterate the old-fashioned password. “If you ask me what is the biggest nuisance today, I would say it’s the 40 different passwords I have to create and change,” said Nasir Memon, a computer science professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn who is leading the iPad project. Many people would agree. The password has become a monkey on our digital backs — an essential key to our many devices and accounts, but increasingly a source of exasperation and insecurity. The research arm of the Defense Department is looking for ways to use cues like a person’s typing quirks to continuously verify identity — in case, say, a soldier’s laptop ends up in enemy hands on the battlefield. In a more ordinary example, Google recently began nudging users to consider a two-step log-in system, combining a password with a code sent to their phones. Google’s latest Android software can unlock a phone when it recognizes the owner’s face or — not so safe — when it is tricked by someone holding up a photograph of the owner’s face. The touch-screen approach of Professor Memon in Brooklyn works because, as it happens, each person makes the same gesture uniquely. Their fingers are different, they move at different speeds, they have what he calls a different “flair.” He wants logging in to be easy; besides, he said, some people find biometric measures like an iris scan to be “creepy.” In his research, the most popular gestures turned out to be the ones that feel most intuitive. One was to turn the image of a combination lock 90 degrees in one direction. Another was to sign one’s name on the screen. In principle, the gesture can be used to unlock a device, or an app on the device that safely holds a variety of passwords. Despite their resilience, passwords are weak, notably because their users have limited memories and a weakness for blurting out secrets. Most people need dozens of them, and they tend to pick ones that are so complex they need to be written down, or so simple they can be guessed. Recently, criminals have become adept at stealing passwords by sneaking malicious software onto computers or tricking users into typing them into an illegitimate site. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have sought to address the frustration with passwords by allowing their usernames and passwords to open the door to millions of Web sites, a convenience that brings obvious risks. A thief with access to a master username and password can have access to a host of accounts. Rachna Dhamija, a California computer scientist turned entrepreneur, sought to combat those weaknesses by breaking up the password. The user first logs in to the service that Ms. Dhamija built, UsableLogin, and signs in with her own partial password. Behind the scenes, the service verifies that the user is on an authorized device, and pulls the third piece from the cloud, generating a unique password for any Web site that the user wants to log in to — Facebook, for instance. In other words, one piece of the password rests with the user, another is stored in her device, and a third piece is kept online.
NYT NEWS SERVICE

Friday, December 23, 2011

FUTURE SPECIAL..LIVING ROOM

THE ‘LIVING’ ROOM
Imagine coming home to a drawing room whose very pores breathe and soothe you after a rough day. There are sensors that can detect the carbon dioxide you breathe out, change the lighting to suit your mood and shush your grinding nerves. And the exterior of your home isn’t some stolid, ungiving structure — it is made of a living cladding that can nurture plant life and be altered without much heartache. It could even tell you when the walls need a new coat of paint or even indicate toxin levels by changing colours. This dream architecture that can change the way our cities grow, says Rachel Armstrong, senior research scholar at the School of Architecture and Construction in University of Greenwich, is not available yet but isn’t all that far from becoming a reality either. At the Venice Biennale last year, Armstrong along with Philip Beesley and Rob Gorbet, set up a fascinating Hylozoic Ground, lifelike installation that captures some of these ideas. The ground is a synthetic jungle, made of feathery plastic components that have been digitally fabricated and woven together into a living sculpture that responds to its environment and visitors through a primitive sensory network equipped with digital proximity sensors. “Hylozoic Ground is incredibly moving as an experience creating an intimate, immersive, life-like interior that connects with primordial, nurturing emotions reminiscent of being new born where audiences are smelt, licked and stimulated into awareness through a nurturing ‘being’,” says Armstrong. Living technologies, she says, are particularly relevant to India where there is a great deal of inequality in the quality of life and there is a need for a new kind of economy that is not based on industrial processes. “Essentially the West has offloaded its carbon debt to the East and this could be an opportunity for carbon fixing living technologies to provide a new economic basis and provide India with an opportunity to lead the world in these kinds of technologies,” she says. The futurist believes that it is vital in the future to create buildings that can adapt and evolve with changing population dynamics, resources and climate change with minimal use of energy resources. Not quite the property boom that will help builders profiteer but to which they have to be dragged kicking and screaming anyways, says Armstrong.
TOICRST 12NOV11

Thursday, December 22, 2011

FUTURE SPECIAL...FUEL 2050


FUEL 2050: BYE, BYE PETROL


Conventional fuels are only bound to get more expensive, and that’s where Dr Greg Offer comes into the picture. “In the short term, over the next decade, it will be hard for any new fuel sources to challenge our dependence on oil, except biofuels, but they have limits. However, in the long term, within 50 years, it appears to me that it is inevitable that electricity will take over. We don’t have a choice,” he says. Buying that Rewa seems like a sound investment now. Offer, who teaches at the Imperial College of London, states that the rise in oil prices is a straight offshoot of the developing world aspiring for the same level of mobility that the developed world enjoys. “In the long term, beyond 2020, we must shift to alternative fuels such as electricity (whether via batteries or hydrogen doesn’t matter), or face declining living standards in richer countries and limits to development elsewhere.


By 2050, I imagine that the range extenders will probably be fuel cells, and the fuel may be bio-methane or hydrogen made from renewables. There will probably still be some combustion engines in specific niches where both very high power density and energy density is required, but because aviation will still require liquid chemical fuels there may be little left for road transport.” Calling the American transport system a fuelintensive one and not one that should be copied, Dr Offer puts his faith in public transport. “I believe public transport, in particular subways for major cities, and high speed rail interconnecting cities would be a sound investment, alongside fuel efficient private vehicles and a national road network.” Dr Offer applauds Ratan Tata’s vision ofr an affordable car. “The Tata Nano is an excellent example, but what I would really like to see is an electric Nano, with the same vision of affordability. That could change the world.”


TOICREST 12N1111

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TECH SPECIAL...WATER FROM AIR TO IRRIGATE PLANTS

WATER OUT OF THIN AIR

A student has created a simple device that can suck out atmospheric moisture and convert it to water which can be used to irrigate plants in drought affected areas

ASwinburne University of Technology student Ed Linacre has won an award for his Airdrop irrigation system. That can literally draw water out of thin air in drought ridden areas. From his research, he found water vapour was so abundant in the atmosphere it plays a vital role in trapping the heat necessary for life on Earth, but it was evaporating from the soil where it was needed by farmers to grow crops.
INSPIRED BY A BEETLE
The design was inspired by the Namib beetle that has the ability to survive by consuming the dew it collects on its hydrophobic back. Linacre’s research suggests that 11.5 millilitres of water can be harvested from every cubic metre of air in the desert.
HOW IT WORKS
Air is drawn in through the turbines which is powered by a solar panel on the top of the device. The air is sent to about 2 metres under the soil where the temperature is about 5 degrees cooler. The hot air is circulated through copper piping and becomes cool enough to condense. While the air escapes the cooled water gets collected in a reservoir at the bottom of the device. A submersible pump is used to drive water through the irrigation system.
10,000 POUND AWARD T
he first prize of 10,000 Pounds to the winner and another 10,000 for the university by the 2011 James Dyson Award was given to Ed Linacre. He plans to use the reward to build a more efficient version of AirDrop that can draw even more water. There were two runners-up to the prize, the first one called KwickScreen was a quick and easy to room divider which could provide cost-effective privacy. While the other runner-up called Blindspot was a updated version of the white can used by the the visually handicapped. It has a major emphasis on socialising letting user find nearby friends and using GPS and Bluetooth to explore unfamiliar places.
(MM10N1111)

Monday, December 19, 2011

HEALTH SPECIAL - FOR ALL THOSE WHO KEEP STARING AT COMPUTER

Five Ways To Keep Eye Ailments at Bay ..For those who work looooong hours in front of computer
THOSE WORKING long hours in front of computers often suffer headaches, itching, burning, blurrness and tiredness of eyes. As the usage of computers grows, so does Computer Vision Syndrome. Take note of the issue before it gets serious,

1 Keep Blinking
“These kind of problems, essentially, occur as we deprive our eyes of a basic action while working on computers — blinking. A human eye typically blinks 10-12 times a minute but the need to concentrate on the screen leads to reduction in that process, leading to dryness in the eyes,” says Dr Noshir Shroff, medical director, Shroff Eye Centre in New Delhi. Neglecting this for long can lead to inefficiency and lower organisational productivity.
2 Ensure Proper Lighting
Every corner of the room should be evenly lit to avoid stress on the eyes from one source — the computer. Also, the distribution of light should be vertical. “The best way is to have luminaires that light the ceiling along with the peripherals. Also, eyes should not be exposed to direct light. Companies that have modern lighting arrangements with reflections of light on surfaces illuminating the surroundings, offer a healthy environment to employees,” says Sunil Sikka, president, Havells India.
3 Take Frequent Breaks
Working for long hours in front of the machine leads to fatigue in eye muscles. Individuals who work in sectors like IT, media or financial research, need to focus on the screen for long durations, which strains the eyes. “They should try taking a 15-minute break every hour away from the system to keep their eyes relaxed,” suggests Dr Shroff.
4 Use Eye Lubricants
Dryness in eyes causes irritation and constantly staring at the screen increases this problem. There are a lot of ‘artificial tears’ or eye lubricants in the market, which can be used tokeep eyes moist.
5 Exercise Regularly
“There are plenty of exercises for the eyes that help build stronger muscles. Washing eyes at regular intervals is a good option to keep this vital organ healthy,” says Vikram Tandon, head, HR, HSBC India. In today’s work environment, when more work happens online, it is hard to wish away these problems.
ET8NOV11

Saturday, December 17, 2011

FUTURES- POSSIBLE, PROBABLE

FUTURES- POSSIBLE..PROBABLE
DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING?


“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.” — R D Laing If there’s one thing that separates humans from other creatures on Earth it’s foresight: the potential to proactively anticipate what might be, and act a ccordingly. Yet, caught up as we are in our daily chore of busying out an existence that’s more often than not fuelled by mechanised rites of passage and tunnel vision, most of us hardly have the time to think of anything but the present. In fact, such is the nature of the continuously predatory bustle of living that even reflecting on the past is sometimes an indulgence in overtime. In comparison, contemplating the future is a downright luxury. Yet, surprising as it seems, the future is what the present is all about and every need, plan, strategy and procedure is geared only for that one inescapable eventuality which will ultimately overtake us. That’s because contrary to Sidney Sheldon, tomorrow always comes and rarely does it catch us prepared. Which is a shame, for if it did, we’d be that much more informed, equipped and adapted to deal with it. Fortunately there is now a nascent but rapidly expanding branch of learning which can prepare us for that great and inviting unknown that always lies ahead and a lot of us can be guided to see the advantages of extrapolating from what is taking place today and pooling that data for a near-foreseeable tomorrow. For the truth is, the future is a venture which blind animal evolution never charted but which evolved human beings have to seriously believe in if they are to become denizens of another day down the line too. It’s called futurology, or futuristics, which since the early 1950s has evolved from a nearly random and haphazard forecast-based approach used mainly for strategic defence and fiscal planning to a full-fledged academic discipline with a focussed methodology. Today, there are several organisations all over the world that are dedicated to a systematic approach to studying the future and several reputable institutes and universities (including some in India) offer courses in futuristics at the postgraduate and doctoral levels. Futurology is a broad field of inquiry that explores and represents what the present could become from a multiple interdisciplinary perspective including inputs from economics, sociology, geography, history, engineering, mathematics, psychology, technology, tourism, physics, biology, astronomy and theology. Practitioners of the discipline who previously concentrated mostly on extrapolating from present trends to predict future scenarios are now beginning to examine whole systems instead, along with the uncertainties and seedings built into them. This helps to better visualise the possible, probable, preferable and wild-card futures — the so-called “four P’s and a W” model of futurology. A “possible future” of course is a non-starter for the simple reason that in a near infinite universe with near eternal time around anything logically consistent that can happen will evidently happen. Everybody knows that and astrologers and others of that ilk capitalise hugely on it. So do gamblers who wager of the possibility of winning. A “probable future” on the other hand makes better sense since this is where the study of whole systems leads to predictions that are more realistic and reliable. Alvin Toffler was perhaps one of the first to employ the methodology when he described the three types of societies based of waves that clearly carried the seeds of a subsequent wave. First there was the huntergatherer culture which made way for an agrarian society that then led to the industrial revolution and which, in turn, nurtured post-industrial nation states. Probable futures is also what drives economies and societies today by examining meta-megatrends that extend over multiple generations such as rate of population growth and climate change. Which is how we know global warming and ecosystem damage is a distinct prospect in the decades to come. Many business gurus and science fiction writers too fall in this category of futurism. For instance, the business futurist, Frank Feather who famously coined the prescient phrase “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” way back in 1979 and Arthur C Clarke who correctly predicted that the whole planet would one day be interconnected via a global system of orbiting telecommunications satellites. Interestingly the TV series Star Trek has also been responsible for unintentionally spinning off a huge potential of probable futures which scientists are only now beginning to take seriously. One of them — matter transfer (as in “Beam me up Scotty”) — is a physics reality today, albeit at the atomic level at present. The most important paradigm shift in futurology, however, has been the move towards studying the “preferable future”. It’s different from a predicted future because a preferred future is a future we desire to achieve whereas a predicted future is one which experts predict. For example, it’s all very well to forecast that with the sophistication and rise in high resolution satellite surveillance, street level photomapping, intimate social networking sites and shared personal databases, individual privacy will soon be a thing of the past — but is that what we want? Or that the heat-sink effect is sure to melt all the Arctic ice one day and flood coastal cities all over the northern hemisphere. Is that a future we actually desire? Obviously not, and this is where futuristics is beginning to play a pivotal role using a powerful new tool called “backcasting”. It’s a process where futurologists start by defining a desirable future and then work backwards to identify policies and programmes that will connect the future to the present. The fundamental question backcasting asks is, “If we want to attain a certain goal, what actions must be taken to get there?” In other words, it’s a method in which the future desired conditions are envisioned and steps are then defined to attain those conditions, rather than taking steps that are merely a continuation of present methods extrapolated into the future. Because this, as we have seen in many cases, simply gets us nowhere in a hurry. Finally there’s the “wildcard”, the W after the four P’s. Wildcard events are defined as “low probability high impact events that, were they to occur, would severely impact the human condition.” They’re generally catastrophic one-off occurrences such as a total stock market collapse, global pandemic or an asteroid impact, yet often a series of small intensity wildcards can also have a cascading effect on the same system. True, scientists are aware of near-Earth asteroids which can crash into us but the chances of that happening in the near future is extremely remote. However, futurologists who factor wildcards in remind us that knowing an event is unlikely to happen doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a mechanism in place to deal with it if it does. After all who wants to go the way the dinosaurs did? In our long history we’ve invented so many things. From wheels to washing machines, agriculture to antiseptics, cooked food to compact disks, dugout boats to drive-in theatres, spears to space ships...and so much more stuff in between that are all in the past now. It’s about time we got around to inventing the future. It can only come back to us as a present.
MUKUL SHARMA TOICREST 12N1111

IITs HAVE SLIPPED

IITs’ve Somehow Slipped into Comfort Zone
As one of the top National Research Professors, Dr. Goverdhan Mehta is a member of the Prime Minister’s scientific advisory council and heads the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) too.


A veteran IIT and IISc faculty, Mehta says India’s top technology institutes need to revamp urgently if india wants to catch up with the developed economies where innovation culture is established. He also asks companies like Infosys to build stronger industry-academia links.


"On unemployability of Indian graduates ...


I am more worried about our general purpose, bachelor degree programs. It’s a burning issue; I do not believe we have tried enough to understand the magnitude of this issue. The government is looking to recharge the higher education system, create new regulatory framework, and also at the same time reform and rejuvenate the existing system. So, all this is in the right direction. The problem is that we are going to touch 20% GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio) and have ambition to cross 30% GER, closer to the developed nations. If that ambition is to be realised, we will be producing more than 5-6 million general purpose graduates.


You increase the GER and therefore more and more graduates who have no disciplinary capabilities and skill sets. We have this large pool of young, ambitious people, who in their own ways have strived hard, but how do we empower them to create a future for themselves?


Somebody has to bring about a complete change, and reengineer the system. On Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy questioning the quality of IITs’ engineering grads ... I don’t think we have understood the magnitude of problem. The problem is not only with giving them employing them but also with training. If you do not inculcate the ability to think out of the box, it is going to be difficult.


IITs in my view have somehow slipped into comfort zone because they are recognised to be very good by their products. There is also, in my view, some problem with the leadership. The problem is not specific to IITs, there are large number of corporate and government entities that do not have proper leadership on top.


IITs need a very strong mentorship programme. We have enough people in our country who have great experience and a vision for the future who can be mentors. So, I think IITs have to do a considerably enhanced work, in terms of research output and the innovation that they do.


Comparing IITs with MIT and other global peers ...


Lot of innovation comes from people of Indian origin but not necessarily from Indian education. We need to differentiate between a successful Indian working in different parts of world creating waves and people doing the same in our institutions. We need to accelerate the process of change.


You can’t compare MITs with IITs. MIT budget is IIT budget multiplied by 10. But if you are an innovator, you know it very well that we can achieve many things with less inputs. Their achievements should be projected not only among the engineers , but everybody. How do we know about MIT?


MIT doesn’t go and publicise, but everybody knows their about their achievements through their innovations and inventions.


On what it will take to create an ecosystem like Stanford or MIT at an Indian tech hub ...


The element for this has to be the vision, leadership and the time. In my view, we have all the other things. If we want that ecosystem, we need to create that energy in the environment. Our IIT graduates, when they go abroad for summer internships, in three months they are able to do remarkable innovations. IITs have been moving in that direction, but not enough.
(ET15D1211)