Saturday 1 December 2007

Richard Stallman's Speech on Intellectual Property and Software Patents

Here are some extracts of an interesting speech by Richard Stallman (RMS) on Intellectual Property and software patents etc. An interesting read...

Prof. Jyothi John, Head of Computer Engineering Department introduces Stallman:

It's my privilege and duty to welcome the most distinguished guest ever we had in this college.

Mr. Richard Mathew Stallman launched the development of the GNU operating system in 1984, the goal being to create a completely free Unix-like operating system. The organisation that was founded in 1985 to further this purpose is the Free Software Foundation.

Stallman is a visionary of computing in our times, and is the genius behind programs such as emacs, gcc, the GNU debugger and more. Most importantly, he's the author of the GNU general public licence, the licence under which more than half of all free software is distributed and developed. The combination of GNU with Linux, the kernel, called the GNU/Linux operating system, now has an estimated twenty million users worldwide.

Stallman's concept of free software talks about freedom, rather than about price. His ideas g a long way into ensuring development of software for the welfare of society, collectively developed by programmers who do not "lock up" their work, but rather release it for others to study, modify and redistribute.

Stallman received the Grace Hopper award from the Association for Computing Machinery for 1991, in 1990 he was awarded MacArthur Foundation Fellowship - other recipients of this prestigious award include Noam Chomsky and Tim Berners-Lee. In 1996, an honorary doctorate of Technology from the Royal Institute, Sweden was awarded to him. In 1998, he received the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award, along with Linus Torvalds. In 1999 he received the Yuri Rubinski Memorial award.

Today, Stallman will be talking about the danger of software patents. In fact this is one of the most important aspect of the freedom of programming because the aspect of software patents may make all programmers potential lawbreakers because unknowingly they may be violating some of the patents registered by some other company.

Stallman's speech:

After that introduction, I am sure many of you want to know about Free Software. But unfortunately that's not what I am supposed to speak about. In fact, this topic, software patents, is not very closely related to the issue of Free Software. Software patents are a danger that affect all programmers and all computer users. I found out about them of course in working on Free Software because they are a danger to my project as well as to every other software project in the world.

There is a very unfortunate phrase that you may have heard. It is the phrase "intellectual property". Now, there are two things wrong with this phrase. One - it prejudges the most important policy question about how to treat some kind of ideas or practices or work. So, whatever it assumes that they are going to be treated as some kind of property. Now, this is a public policy decision and you should be able to consider various alternatives to choose the best one. Which means you shouldn't name the whole field, name the question with with a term that prejudges what kind of answer you use.

But second and and even more fundamental, that term is actually a catalogue for totally different areas of law including copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and various other things as well. Now these areas of a law in fact have almost nothing in common. What the laws say is totally different from one to the next. Their origins are completely independent and the public policy issues that they raise are completely different. So the only intelligent way to think about them is to pick one of them and think about it; think about them separately.

So the intelligent way to talk about them is never to generalise about them but to talk about a specific one, you know, talk about copyrights or talk about patents or talk about trademarks, but never lump them all together as intellectual property because that is a recipe for simplistic conclusions. It is almost impossible to think intelligently about "intellectual property" and so I refuse to do that. I just tell people why the term is a mistake and then if you ask me for my opinion on copyrights or my opinion on patents it will take me an hour to tell you it. But they are two different opinions and my opinion on trademarks is something completely different as well.

So the most important thing for you to start with is never mix copyrights and patents as topics. They have nothing to do for each other. Let me tell you some of the basic differences between copyrights and patents: a copyright deals with a particular work, usually a written work and it has to do with the details of that work. Ideas are completely excluded from it. Patents, by contrast - well, patent covers an idea. It's that simple and any idea that you can describe - that's what a patent might restrict you from doing.

Now, copyrights have to do with copying; if you wrote something that was word for word the same as some famous novel and you could prove that you did this while you were locked up in a room and you have never seen that novel, this would not be copyright violation because it's not copying. But a patent is an absolute monopoly on using a particular idea. Even if you could show that you thought of it on your own that would be considered totally irrelevant. It doesn't help you.

Now, copyrights exist automatically. Whenever anything is written, it is copyrighted. Patents are issued through an expensive application process. There is an expensive fee and even more expense in paying lawyers, which of course tends to be good for big companies and the patent office says that it only issues patents for things that are unobvious. However, practically speaking, in many patent offices the criterion is unobvious to somebody with an IQ of fifty. And they have all sorts of excuses to ignore the fact that whenever any programmer looks at it his first statement is, "this is absurd, it's obvious." They say, "well, this is hindsight". So they have an excuse to completely ignore the judgement of everybody who really is a programmer.

Now, copyrights last an extremely long time. In the US today it's possible for copyrights to last for a 150 years, which is absurd. Patents don't last that long; they merely last for a long time - 20 years which in the field of software, as you can imagine is a long time. Now there are many other differences as well. In fact every detail is different. So the worst thing you should ever do is to learn something about copyrights and suppose that the same is true of patents. No, more likely it is not true of patents. If it's true of copyrights, it's not true of patents. That would be a better guideline if you had to guess.

...

Well, since we in the GNU project needed a data compression program and since we could not use compress we began looking for some other compression program. We found that somebody came forward and said, "I have been working on this algorithm for a year and now I have decided I am going to contribute it to you. Here is the code". We were a week away from releasing this program when I just happened to see a copy of the New York Times , which doesn't happen very often, and it just happened to have the weekly patents column and I noted it and so I read it. It said that somebody had got a patent for inventing a new method, a better method of data compression.

Well, that was not in fact true. When I saw this I thought we'd better get copy of this patent and see if it's a problem and it turned out to cover exactly the same algorithm that we were about to release. So this program was killed one week before it was released. And in fact that person, that patent holder had not invented a better method because in fact it wasn't new, but that doesn't matter. He had a monopoly.

So eventually we found another compression algorithm which is used in the program that's known as GISA. But this illustrates the danger that you face: even if you had unlimited resources, you couldn't find out about all the patents that might endanger your project.

...

When the United States entered the World War I, nobody in the US could make a modern airplane. And the reason was that modern airplanes use several different techniques that were patented by different companies and the owners hated each other. So nobody could get a license to use all these patents. Well, the US Government decided that this was an unacceptable state of affairs and essentially, paid those patent holders a lump sum and said we have nationalised these patents and now everybody go make airplanes for us. But the amount to which this happens, the frequency and the seriousness of it varies according to how many different ideas go in one product. It varies according to how many points of patent vulnerability there are in one product. And in that question, software is at the extreme.

...

More <here>

Copyright (C) 2001 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.



Tuesday 6 November 2007

QUARK 2008 is coming…. start thinking of ways to engineer perfection

You think you are perfect?

Get ready to define perfect.

Coz we are here to Engineer Perfection. QUARK 2008, our national science and technology festival is coming this february (9-11) and we promise that it will be 3 days of pure technical extravaganza.


QUARK refers to an elementary particle which is the fundamental constituent of matter. It is synonymous with the exploration of scientific knowledge and the unknown, upcoming face of science. This precisely echoes the spirit of QUARK ‘08, the annual technical extravaganza of BITS - Pilani, Goa Campus.

QUARK ‘08 is all about being basic and showing simplicity in an extra-ordinary way. It is a national endeavour and will feature premier colleges from all across the country. BITS - Pilani, Goa Campus provides the ideal platform for such a convergence of intellectual resources from all over the country. With the technical fest spread over three days QUARK ‘08 provides the most extensive brand marketing opportunity among college students in the region.

Check out http://www.bits-quark.org to keep yourself updated on current issues / opportunities and developments about QUARK. Stay tuned and get started. Because when we talk of perfection, there is no margin for error.

Inviting you, on behalf of the Organizing Committee, to the exciting and thrilling arena of QUARK ‘08,

Abhishek Kumar
Chief Organizer, QUARK 2008

Monday 17 September 2007

Of the era that was and the age that is, electronics

Its funny that I pen down a title like that (above) when what I really intend to do is write about my experience at Pilani during my summer internship.

In one way, May 15 - July 15 brought about a myriad of experiences, each unique in its own right.
Although this fact alone should have accounted for my jubilation when I first received my confirmation mail, the fact that it is one of our reputed research institutes got me excited.
Pilani is about 5 hours from Delhi - by road - and there is no other means of transport to get there. So, after a 5 hour grueling bus journey, I finally arrive at my destination: A land full of camels and the desert wind. The land of the Rajahs, as they say, and the town for education - Pilani. It took me a bit of time to adjust to the extreme climate, not to mention that adjusting with peacocks as your friendly neighbourhood stray animal was a pretty formidable task in itself! An oasis in a desert, It could put many fairylands to shame.

Of course the most striking factor about the place was the pace of its functioning. Time would literally stay still as you would take your own sweet time to adjust and go on.
Hardly a few days of stay, and I was already convinced that I had entered a new world.

And then, I was proved wrong when I entered CEERI - the real new world! A lot more than what it appears on first sight: A modest research institute established under the CSIR. The History attached with the place is compelling: A lot of technical breakthroughs without which the country would probably have had to shelve lumps of money for technology transfer; and of course, live without television! But again it was a new experience, a new way of life and a new world to enter.

A glimpse into the developments that are going on here, and I begin to wonder about the era that was and the age that is, electronics. Since the turn of the century we have had numerous breakthroughs and path breaking findings, even revolutionary progress; yet we seek to answer the same fundamental questions and are groping for the still more fundamental answers.
One begins to question the nature of revolutions themselves, based on the scope that they claim to affect.

"New hopes, new styles, and, most important, a new way of seeing. Revolutions do not come piecemeal. One account on nature replaces another. Old problems are seen in new light. Something takes place that resembles a whole industry retooling for new production. It is rather as if the professional community had been suddenly transported to another planet where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by unfamiliar ones as well." - CHAOS, James Gleick

And this is the situation that people at CEERI try to address and bring about all the time. We may talk about the next big breakthrough, the next big Silicon revolution, even pathbreaking findings that may allow us to look back and laugh at what we currently regard as the highest achievements we have made.
Yet, in the foreseeable future, I cant help but see a fraction of us smirk at those who laugh, for we still, as always will, remain in an endless pursuit of answering the fundamental questions that stare at us.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Beyond Images: universal facial recognition accross the internet

Polarrose is a swedish startup company which promises to allow the user to identify a face from all the photographs distributed over the internet.

This means that you would have to just give the photograph of the person you want to find and polarrose will give you all the photographs of the person, distributed all over the internet.

Imagine what would happen when you give your own photograph and find out a lot more about yourself distributed around the internet :D.

This has already stirred a huge privacy debate when the The Harvard Law Review, a journal for legal scholarship, recently published a short piece on the privacy implications of such online photo-tagging. See the slashdot thread for more.

PolarRose, however, believes that they are as harmful to the photo web, as Google and Yahoo! (& others) have been to the text web. By sorting the text web, these search engines exposed the wonderful resource of public documents that web had already become.
Polar Rose adds tremendous value to the photo web.
Quote:
Hundreds of millions of photos that are screaming to be sorted, viewed, and searched are not being so because no one took the time – or had a facility like Flickr or otherphoto-sharing sites – to add descriptions, names, or tags.
We want to sort this photo web to make each photo more valuable to the viewer, but also to the person who shot it.
Tell the story, make it discoverable.
And for those of you who are privacy maniacs, here's more:

We’ll end up finding photos that the published never really thought of as being public. The trick, however, is not to turn off the technology, just like Altavista or any of the subsequent search engines weren’t shut down or otherwise censored. The challenge is to facilitate a way to make sure that photos that shouldn’t be in our database, aren’t. This can be by restricting access or by telling us not to pick them up.

  • We don’t index private photos; photos behind a firewall, login, or on a user’s desktop computer. (We’ll do some partnerships where private photos will be indexed, but thus only for the individual user’s viewing)
  • We honor robots.txt and subsequent requests by a site owner to remove photos from our database.
  • We’ll never engage Polar Rose in the application of the technology in security or surveillance. It’s explicitly stated in the contracts we enter with partners.
My take:
I feel every new technology faces some opposition and resistance before any stage of acceptance.
Take Google for example..There were points in its history when people were convinced enough to fight for Google's shutdown simply because they believed the entirety of web should not be publicly accessible!
(Of course, they didn't bother to keep private articles off the web or behind a firewall! No, they want security by obscurity rather than true security and I think this basically reflects the foolish mindset of those people. It also reflects how any new innovation requires a change in mindset to be viewed in true perspective.)

I think Polar Rose is doing a wonderful job and Id like to see the concept extend beyond faces to any recognizable object. And not only Images, videos as well. Imagine searching videos not on basis of tags or names or descriptions; but on content! That would be truly revolutionary.

I know Google is doing something in this regard (read something about their research on pictoral descriptors for indexing images...but cant seem to recollect where I found It - The web is huge entangled Jungle, with Google right in the very dense heart of it! Ill add in that article when I find it).

Any comments/more info is more than welcome...

Saturday 30 June 2007

Apple iPhone - less known facts & Technologies to Ponder

Apple is known for its innovative gadget design, and with the release of the iPhone today, it continues to live up to its hype. But theres a lot more to the iPhone than the hype associated with it.

Of course it is THE gadget of the time with features like the smart, multitouch screen and the advanced Web browser, and you'd do better to go and get one; but here are some less known facts and technologies under-the-hood that are generally under appreciated by the media and the public.

The iPhone has tiny, powerful sensors--an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, and an infrared sensor--that are able to pick up cues from the environment and adjust the phone's functions accordingly. Apple has decided to use these sensors for detecting when to convert the screen view from portrait to landscape, for adjusting the brightness of the screen based on the brightness of the environment, and for disabling the touch screen when a person holds the phone to her ear.



Independent research projects at MIT, Intel, and other companies indicate that phones built with hardware such as accelerometers, light sensors, a GPS, and a microphone could provide clues about people's activities and behaviors.
Such a phone could monitor exercise habits, track an elderly relative's activities, and let friends and family know if it is an appropriate time to call or instant message the phone's owner
At Intel Labs, researchers equipped first-year students at University of Washington with an accelerometer, barometer, a humidity sensor, a thermometer, a light sensor, a digital compass, and a microphone and were able to watch social networks form as subjects with the sensors interacted.
Eagle says it would not be difficult to write consumer software that would deduce a person's basic activities, which could be used to update the status listed on an instant messenger program or a blog, for example.


Wake-up people, the future is here! (for all those of you crying over privacy issues, id just say go-to-hell.)

More for you Here

Thursday 28 June 2007

Fedora 7 - Enter the new world (Download links at bottom)







Its been quite a while since Fedora 7 was released (10 days is really a long long time). Im really eager to get dirty with it, especially since I heard about a lot of the major changes going on in features.

And while I wait for the distro to download fully, I thought ill share some insight here.

The Fedora Project is a Red Hat sponsored and community supported open source project.
Its goal is the rapid progress of free and open source software and content. It offers cutting edge softwares for desktop usage. The latest version of the popular Linux distribution has a lot to offer users and developers.

You might want to take a tour of the new and latest fedora 7 here.

A small note: Till now the Linux distribution was called "Fedora Core"....The core is now off and its simple fedora 7. And its power packed with features that make ur PC a lean machine!













The Exciting new features:

1.) Spins
This is a first for fedora. Spins are basically like distros. We've got millions of linux distributions out there and those that are built from the fedora base(or rather, are variations of fedora) are basically clubbed into a group, of which each member is a 'spin'.

Technically, they are variations of Fedora built from a specific set of software packages. Each spin has a combination of software to meet the requirements of a specific kind of end user.

There are mainly 3 spin choices.
  • One is a GNOME and KDE desktop environment based bootable Live image for hassle free disk installation.
  • The other one is the regular desktop image intended for desktops & servers. The adv with this is that its got a well documented and neat upgrade path for those using fc6 (fedora CORE 6!).
  • And the last one is the set of dvds that have all the fedora repository you will need to install. (I said 'need' not 'want' :-P).
2.) A small boot.iso image for network installation.
Setting up fedora 7 in a lab is not a difficulty anymore!

3.) Desktop Environment
This release features GNOME 2.18 and KDE 3.5.6.
Read more about them here: GNOME 2.18, KDE 3.5.6
Ill be sticking to the standard Gnome Env while I prepare to get my hands dirty. (Its already 36% downloaded....:)

4.) Xorg server 1.3 included and ConsoleKit enhanced...
Xorg server promises hot diplay device plug-n-play capability. ConsoleKit integration promises fast user switching but we'll have to substantiate that ;)

5.) Some other Misc points worth noting:
  • Firefox 2 includes a host of new features.
  • Fedora 7 includes a refreshing new "Flying High" theme, which is part of a continuous team effort from the community and the Fedora Artwork Project:
  • A new comprehensive graphical administration tool for SELinux, system-config-selinux is available by default in this release.
  • nVidia Card holders: Fedora has arrived! It now integrates the experimental nouveau driver within Xorg and the kernel. The nouveau driver, which is disabled by default in this release, aims to provide free and open source 3D drivers for nVidia cards. The Fedora 7 team seeks comments on this inclusion for feedback on further such attempts. Do put in a line if you find it useful! we might well have more driver integration in future.
  • This release integrates Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) technology with Fedora’s graphical virt-manager and command-line virsh tools. KVM provides a hardware accelerated virtualization solution, and users have a choice between KVM and Xen, along with Qemu, in this release.
  • In this release, the performance of yum, Pirut, and Pup have been significantly improved.
  • This release features integration of a new FireWire stack in the kernel for more robust device handling.
  • Python 2.5 is included in this release, and all of the Python software available in the repository uses it. (Ill be starting my Python-learning-drive soon :) )
  • This release of Fedora includes Liberation fonts, which are metric equivalents for several well-known proprietary fonts found throughout the Internet. These fonts give users better results when viewing and printing shared or downloaded documents.
6.) A Really exciting development (skip to the downloads section)
This is a truly exciting development.
Fedora now includes improved power management through implementation of dynamic ticks in the kernel
Humble as it may seem, it represents a generation of change in kernel development. Ill try to simplify what it means and the difference it will make.

There is a general trend among kernel developers to create a 'tickless' kernel for improved power efficiency. It abandons traditional time-keeping methods for a more power-friendly technique.

In simple terms...lemme put it this way. When you have multiple things(processes) running on your PC, there is a lot of scheduling that is being done .. and very frequently too. so then the kernel has to "check for work to be done" very frequently. And remember, our processors have capabilities ranging in gigahertz. So that means a Lot of checks are futile (no work to be done :( ).

The tickless kernel, instead of frequently checking for work to be done, schedules the hardware to interrupt when it knows a future job will require attention. Again simplifying it, you may say its like reaping the advantages of using interrupts rather than polling!

Ill write another detail post on this exciting technology some time later. For now, here are some download links:


Download Links






  • Fedora 7 DVD ISO download
    - Visit mirror to download Fedora ISO images (2.7 GB)

  • Fedora 7 DVD ISO BitTorrent download
    - Download from BitTorrent (requires a BitTorrent client)

  • Fedora 7 Live CD ISO download
    - Use Live CD (700M) if internet connection is slow or you just want to see how Fedora works and looks in its new flavour. You can install fedora from Live cd (Thats the best part about this time's release. Nice work, fedora team!).

Upgrading from Fedora Core 6 to fedora 7 with YUM package.

With its improved YUM performance this release, Here is a very interesting Article describing the Upgrade for those of you already on the fedora bandwagon!


Alright...time to get my hands dirty with fedora!

Friday 22 June 2007

The Holy Crusade: Its Google vs Microsoft again!





OK this is the latest that has hit the wires:
Microsoft Changing Vista Desktop Search

Microsoft's compromise with the U.S. Justice Department, detailed in a report released late Tuesday, allows Windows Vista users to set a non-Microsoft program as the default search engine on hard drives. Microsoft will also add a link to that alternate program in the Windows Start menu, but will not change the way Vista "Instant Search" technology works.

Recent concessions by Microsoft are part of a broader battle between the two companies. While Windows continues to dominate the desktop operating system market, Google's ability to make money from search advertising has left Microsoft scrambling to catch up. Google has also stepped into traditional Microsoft territory in the past year with a set of free, Web-based programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Tuesday's regularly scheduled status report came after Google filed a 49-page document with the Justice Department in April, claiming that Vista's desktop search tool slowed competing programs, including Google's own free offering. Google also said it's too difficult for users to figure out how to turn off the Microsoft program.


It is interesting to see how millions of us are closely following the so called 'crusade' between Microsoft and Google. In the not so forlorn past we can trace a similar analogy that prevailed between Apple and Microsoft.

Its easy to see that every attempt of Microsoft to provide default Ms tools to its users has created a hunch for many other software providers. consider these for eg:

Computer security software companies testing early versions of Vista last year also believed that the operating system might interfere with users' ability to chose products other than Microsoft's.

Also last year, Google told the Justice Department it was concerned that Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft's latest Web browser, made it harder for PC users to install toolbars of competing search engines. Regulators declined to intervene, but Microsoft still changed the way Explorer worked. And at the request of antitrust authorities in Korea and Europe, Microsoft released versions of Vista without the Windows Media Player.
The instant search technology so ambitiously flouted in the new vista release has been said to have existed in the Mac since prehistoric times (A very huge fan following would resist any of your attempts to prove otherwise). However, software developers have a different take to it:

Microsoft is enmeshed in a similar battle with the European Union, which has levied more than a billion dollars in fines against the software maker for depriving competitors of technical information, and charging too much for some licenses.

In response to claims that Vista's "Instant Search" slows other products, Microsoft agreed to give competitors technical information to help optimize performance.


Google had initially raised concerns about desktop search in December. The April complaint that drew public attention to the skirmish was filed just days after Microsoft called for antitrust regulators to scrutinize the search company's planned $3.1 billion acquisition of online ad service DoubleClick Inc. (That was a big story in itself).

More of an interesting read here.
Here is the Antitrust case filings (for those of you too interested!).

As I said it will be interesting to see how the two companies continue their skirmish. As users, of course, Its a pleasant ride all the way to the end. The more the competition, the more the options we have and the better it is. All we can do is spectate, comment, participate and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday 20 June 2007

A Lookback at Our Experience @ Imagine Cup India SDI Finals - The Beginning



Alright this was long overdue...So here goes a small adventure that I've been through this last semester@college. Its all about our (first)experience at the Imagine Cup competition held by Microsoft. For those of you who admit to be naive, you'd do better to click <here> and <here(details)> to find out more and the rest of you....read on with patience.

The competition has a strange knack of getting into the line of fire for various reasons by various people. Id love to talk about the Open source movement and alternatives to .NET as well as competition policies/privacy policies some day. But today is not that day.

'Twas the beginning of March (As far as my poor memory recollects) and I along with some friends & college mates was at the GRID lab...at the time discussing about current projects etc.
We were a team of 4: Roshan Sumbaly (Roshy - the senior), Shubham Malhotra, Gaurav Paruthi and O'course I, myself; and we were involved in a project related to GRID computing at the time. It is needless to say that BITS college life turns us into nocturnal creatures; and not being an exception, I could proudly say at the time: "Laziness is the most active thing inside me!".

Well, so as our discussions focussed on our techfest preps (QUARK - our own science & technology festival) we started thinking, inadvertently, about competitions. Having been to IIT Bombay's techfest earlier this year, we were in no mood to participate in another College festival (We had simply had enough of it for this sem at least!). We knew that the Ms organized compttn Imagine cup was coming up and upon inspection of the website, we realized that the theme this time was education.

What followed was a small brainstorming session (I would rather not call it a brainstorming session because we hadn't thought of participating whole heartedly - just to have some fun!). This continued over at DC @night and we finally hit upon an idea. The deadline was still out of sight, and, disconcerting as the habit is, it was remembered just the very day before round-1 submission deadline. I had to quickly make up a write up of our concept for submission and we managed to get it through just in the nick of time. Of course, who cares, we're just doing it for some fun; and even getting into the top 75 teams was enough as far as we were concerned. We already had a lot in our hands and mind you, QUARK 2k7 was approaching at the time.

The week that followed has been and probably will be the busiest week of my life@BITS. I was supposed to be the chief organizer of Quark (of course Hari Sudan was d head Org...and it was mostly upto him to manage the important as well as the nitty-gritty work. We were all there to assist and take responsibility). Roshan was the organizer too ... he'd, of course, the most imp role of gettin da main sponsors and organizing the main workshops, events etc etc. Shubham was the event management coordinator while Gaurav was the event manager of an event 'Lines of code'.


So, you see, we were all heavily involved in the safari ride that was to take place at BITS Goa in a week...and guess what? we were already stranded in the middle of the jungle! You see, organizing an event to be held on a national scale, that too the first time, is really a formidable job.

No, really!

As a spectator it seems easy and jovial but it soon becomes excruciating when the stakes are high. You get to learn a real lot from such an experience. It shows you that idealistic management is so different from practical management. So many new challenges at every step and a degree of risk involved with every decision. Of course, some of the crucial decisions were taken through a consensus....so we could take solace in blaming the rest of the committee if it didnt work out! All in all I think we managed pretty well for a first time. Of course we could have done better, but there are some things we couldn't help -things that jeopardized our budget plans. But we couldn't help it. Where there is power and where there are people, there is politics.

But hey, it was one hell of a battle. And we were one hell of a crew!

Oh..and did I mention, we had thought of participating in one of the 'Open Software showcase' events of QUARK with our IC (ImagineCup) Idea? Well, we had; but were forced to drop it due to stringent persuasion from the rest of the participating members of our college!

So! Round 1 results were out and we managed to clear the first round of the competition. Party Time! But wait...Deadline for Round 2 was approaching...and this time we were supposed to give an interview as well....That spells serious work! The next week or so saw lots of brainstorming over ideas and technologies and final project specifications. It was the one thing that kept us nocturnal creatures alive by the day and out of our den.

So the D-day arrived...I remember it was exactly the day before Quiz-II started. We had 'screwed up' our Quiz-1 thanks to QUARK..and we had absolutely 'No Idea' about the syllabus for Quiz-2 until now. Of course it would be utter blasphemy if I don't mention that Roshan was an extreme exception to this! (Im sure u get d point).
The Interview was scheduled to be at 3 pm...and we were toying around with our idea since 11 thinking of what we would be asked and what we should stress on. It went well...smooth and encouraging and we kept our fingers crossed.

As expected Quiz-2 went disastrous for us all.

Next thing we know we are greeted by a mail from Microsoft which says 'Youve Stepped Up!'.
We qualified to the Top 10 teams in India! Now this calls for a Party!

So now our real work had started. We were in the league...and on our way to the national finals.
Compre's were round the corner, no doubt, but we were attuned to this mode of 'Ignorance' which is bliss! And bliss it was...until the very end.

Ill be posting on the 'Finals Xperience' next. Keep tuned

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Engineering College Rankings - Outlook vs India Today

So its finally out.
Last time it was India Today and now its Outlook.
Im talking about the Great Coveted survey and rankings of Engineering, Medical and other colleges/universities in India. The June edition of Outlook features a grand cover story over this.

Among the top 50 Private Institutes/colleges, BITS Pilani (www.bits-pilani.ac.in) topped the list while BIT Mesra was second closely followed by other colleges including Vellore Inst of Technology (VIT), DCE, NSIT, Thapar etc etc.

A Point to note is that BITS Pilani opted out of India Today's survey because of a pending court case between them (India Today had cited wrong facts about the collg in the 2005 survey, as claimed by the university). However there are no qualms against Outlook as far as I know.

A lot of people rely on these rankings to decide their "destiny" during Engg entrance exams and counselling. A lot of other people have rubbished these surveys as mere rubbish and some even say that they are bogus and biased. There was a great furore over India Today's Survey and you will find various blogs and posts that convey a general sentiment among the public that the rankings were more or less "cooked up".

Well, In my opinion, It does not matter what the rank of your instt is, what matters is who you are. period. A guy who time-passes for his 4 years even at an IIT is no better than someone who makes productive use of his/her graduation time at any college.

The "final verdict" is to be decided by the populace alone...lets see whether this turns out to be "yet another survey" and finds the wrath of the people; or whether this turns out to be a more acceptable one!

PS: Here is the link 4 u to read (you need to create a free account on outlook to view these pages):
Link #1, Link #2

UPDATE: A follow up of this article is here: [http://xploretech.blogspot.com/2008/10/engineering-craze-in-india-and-college.html].
About: This is about the engineering college rankings (or the so called perception among people, of ranking). In my opinion, all the fuss is about confusion and misinformation. Half the students who get into engineering dont know what it is about, or what they want to do in life. What are the possible solutions? and why all this craze about engineering in India?

Celebrating Technology

Technology is Driving the current age. From everything that has ever been to everything that will ever be, It is the single factor that contributes most to it. The only thing thats constant is "change".

Ill be blogging about my adventures in technology and various tid bits that I manage to get along the way. You'll get to read more of a compilation, along with personal projects and experiences with lots of info on various upcoming technologies thrown in.

Lets Celebrate Technology!