In Kolkata and enjoying it…

The best thing about being in Kolkata is enjoying an array of dishes that one does not manage to get in Pune. runab tries hard to whip whips up stuff that’s finger licking (and she will tell you that I am an absolute m0r0n in the kitchen) but bereft of her favorite spices and condiments that’s an uphill battle. But more on that later.

The reason I was in Kolkata was to attend the wedding of a friend (primarily her’s that mine) and by golly did we enjoy the finery of a “truly glittering Bengali wedding”. I guess there are some snaps that have been uploaded, so will post that link sometime later. Moving on. We visited Flury’s and our eyes popped out – when a dowdy dowager decides to turn into a seductress the normal reaction is “Ugh!!” – Flury’s took our breath away. The decor – the interiors – the layout and the delicacies – I have search for a better word than amazing (make a note: must visit it one more time). Found this charming little “বাঙালি খাবার” (ie authentic Bengali food) place called “তেরো পার্বণ” (Tyaro Parbon if you insist on being phonetic) which is on Purna Das Road. If you are in Kolkata I would recommend that you give “Bhajohori Manna” and “Oh Calcutta” the skip and tuck in here. Don’t go for the buffet (they insist on it but hey “you” are the customer) and instead choose a course that has rice – fish fry – prawns in green coconut – mutton – chutney to be topped off with some nice দই

So there was also a LUG meet yesterday and surprisingly I managed to out-yak the attendees. If someone does summarise it for the mailing list, I might as well post a link on it. There’s a whole gaggle of folks to meet and tasks to do. And of course food to devour including that biryani near Sayamindu’s house. I see runab getting alarmed at the diet – but hey it is a sin to be in Kolkata and not stuff oneself.

Oh !! I finally got to buy (Dekhi Nai Fire) দেখি নাই ফিরে – the unfinished (and possibly the best work) of Samaresh Basu where he collaborated with Bikash Bhattacharjee. Never knew that the Ananda Publishers shop had shifted to near Hindustan Park – nice surprise.

Pleasantly surprised by Airtel DSL Tech Support

One was surprised to find a Linux aware person on the other end of the call. The name was Vishal and he handled my call (for ticket # 9517543) at Pune this morning. Asked me whether I was using “Windows, Linux or Mac” and then told be how to do “/sbin/ifup” from a root console (beforehand asked me if I had root access) and also how to access the DSL modem using “Firefox”.

Nice thing for a change.

Radio Schizoid

Schizoid Personality Disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, and emotional coldness. The playlist at Radio Schizoid is however otherwise. Started by two folks who are regulars (well nearly) on #linux-india, the streams are nice and not quite run-of-the-mill. Check them out but read the FAQ.

Is the media an ass ?

Well what else can one say ? Dear FN in his true style posted this article excerpt on the India-GII list and thus (un)knowingly laid bare the sensationalist nature of modern media. For the record, Sudipta Sengupta posted the original article here and before we become all too anxious to blame Orkut or detect the evil machinations of a debased capitalist society all eager to wipe off our morals take a deep breath and relax.

The internet is a public place and the means of connectivity and easy access to a social network only amplifies the danger that is there in a public forum. There’s nothing stopping any media to start bashing me in print (although whether that’s going to help the print equivalent of TRPs is another different story) and in the same manner each one of us can be similarly made a villian on social network.

Now imagine the panic of the moral guardians when folks start uploading their “home videos” on sites and make them available for download free or otherwise. MMS extrapolated many times. So instead of an informed article on how to be wary on the social networking circuit what we end up with an overtly sensational article that might have suited fine on Tez TV. Speaking of which, one should have a straw poll of which of the news channels have the best means of presenting mundane non-news items in a sensational manner. The more I see of the current state of the channels, the sadder I get. With the influx of channels it was assumed that there would be an exponential increase in quality of content. What has happened is that we have had more of *twits who “think” they can handle the reporting bit.

And just in case you think that the advertising got any better – think again. Take a look at the recent Pril advertisement talking about the virtues of 1 drop of that stuff removing the grease of 2kgs of fries. Now one suggestion – don’t even try that at home 🙂

The absence of Presence

The Desktop is dead. Long live the Desktop.

We are not talking about the desktop as a hardware but the desktop as a metaphor. The desktop metaphor includes the by now familiar things that we observe on any GUI. The desktop/workspace is physically represented in this case by the display are afforded by the monitor (for example the screen I am using to write this has a small footprint by choice) and the concepts of documents, folders as one can have on the physical desktop are denoted by icons which link to the location on the datastore (HDD, Flash, DOM etc). The desktop metaphor evolved from the physical workspace and the filing cabinet ie the need to organise data in some hierarchy. The Desktop Manager (sometimes called the Desktop Environment) provided the simulation to the end user along with the required levels of usability and comprehension through a Graphical User Interface (or even a Command Line Interface). The metaphor has the over-riding limitation of being tied into the physical workspace ie spatial staleness. Sure one can have a set of file sync-ed up and with proper sync protocols update/modify them but that factor denies the full usage of mobility. The other area of note is that the things to do are tied to software centric usage or applications.

This is where the metaphor needs to be changed to evolve into the metaphor of Presence. What one does on a daily basis can be tagged as activities which center around presence eg presence on mail, IM, IRC, presence as denoted by edits on file/media, tagging of data. So the next metaphor would be driven by devices aggregating content and ensuring presence. The nature of presence might just be more than what social networking offers and could well extend the capabilities of tools like Mugshot which allow sharing of content and hopefully interoperability. One of the bigger hindrances is that data (in terms of text data or media files data) is not interoperable. But strangely enough with the requisite RFCs already existing it is only the will of the operators that will ensure that the data gets wrapped in a standard tag that allows archival, time-awareness and classification and thus can be accessed through devices. The devices need not be only client devices like PDAs or smartphones. They could just be the datastore enabled TV or the music/home-theater system that allows synchronous data transfer and updation. Most of the underlying magic is based on network-layer protocols while the remaining are presentation-layer and there are already prototype devices in the market that allow such a digital-life-real-life convergence.

It is this “absence of Presence” that I expect would get filled in the coming year(s). Through a more comprehensible usage of Open Standards and Protocols, content can be made to be over-reaching and presence and thus facilitative computing be made easy.

Some numbers…

The new year is upon us and here are some numbers:

  • 60% of mobile phone subscribers are first time mobile users
  • 27.69% of attendees at FOSS.in 2006 wanted to learn about the Social Aspects of FOSS
  • 17.55% of attendees at FOSS.in 2006 wanted to know about Localisation
  • 54000 cr INR is supposed to be the amount being invested by various players in the retail segment

While the above might appear to be unrelated, at one small level the data above are interconnected. Recall my rant about content some posts back, This is a build up on that. The pistons of the engine of the new web-economy would be content, standards and devices.

The significant amount of interest being shown in the retail segment by Walmart, Woolworths, Carrefour and Tesco along with Reliance, Tata and Bharti could only signify the need to provide service to the conscious customer by engaging them on their daily spend (groceries) and monthly spend (indulgence). What it also signifies is the eagerness to change the rules of the game by attacking the supply chain to ensure leveraging the cost kinks and churn money. Add to this the idea of microfinancing cellular phones (Nokia and Motorola already have this in place I guess) and you end up having a large base of customers who would be eager to use the devices to augment daily “activities”. The era of the non-smart phones wherein customer interaction or customer response was initiated by the (un)willing customer can change to content being made available and used in a “Find and Use” mode. Smart devices make it possible to wrap content around “activities” rather than the age-old metaphors of desktops and workspaces.

What is important is to ensure that Open Standards drive the content enablement of smart devices as well as the devices themselves are build around Open Standards.

Now, the important question: how many devices do we have out there that enable such open content driven “activity/presence” based model ?