Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The future of 'computing' & the fate of our civilization

A brilliant article, must read:
Unto us the Machine is born

The author's perspective on where the future is headed was indeed amazing. On the same note, a simple realisation struck me. The genesis of our planet is widely speculated to be from a single atom or molecule. Now, after 4.5 billion years we are speculating a scenario wherein a "Collective Brain" concept would rule the Earth. The irony is simply astounding, we start from the most basic 'unary' entity and are finally moving towards a similar concept of 'oneness' but essentially made of a billion or trillion elements!!!
Is this advancement or shrouded pandemonium?

Monday, November 21, 2005

My prize winning entry for the "Story Board" competition

The dark shadows cluttered the ceiling with the rhythmic motion of breathing. It was a small room that just about wrapped around the five souls that inhibited it. Additionally to eat into the space was “Hamid”, the canine companion which shared our cozy space. It was the early hours of morning with darkness yet to remove its shroud. The soft snores filled the air and the clock added to the motion. This hazy feeling matched the state of the affairs in my life which seemed convoluted in all possible directions. There are certain phases of your life when your existence becomes a container of questions and puzzles that perplex your senses. It was the feeling of sitting on a cloud, ignorant to the discretion of whether the motion originated from the movement of the cloud or due to the spinning earth that housed the cloud. Lying beside me were people who were strangers, yet my only hope for any kind of accomplices who would standby me. Their physical complexion was dissimilar to mine, which was true of all Jewish people who inspite of being fair skinned had a touch of pinkness to their skin that made them stand out of the crowd. Me, being a true American gal, with a moon glass spectacles and tiny spots of pimple on my face, looked like a true misfit into this family. But I never was a part of their lives a fortnight ago, for I was amidst different surroundings; just that the exact memory of it fails me. My extreme efforts to recollect those thoughts go in vain with a splinter of a headache hurting my forehead. But of late, strange events had graced my otherwise obfuscated existence. My supportive ‘patrons’ had apprised me of my fleeting transitional states where I spoke as a different person and refused to recognize any of my present inmates. I also feigned a different gait in my motion. My benefactors had now concluded that I was a person who suffered memory loss during a tragic accident from which they had rescued my life. But these recurring flashes of memory, which I regained for a short period time of time was tough to explain. There wasn’t really a coherent pattern to the appearance of such flashes and the time period for which it persisted varied as well. My life now shuttled between these meta states refusing to settle the storm of questions raised in my mind. I eased back on my pillow trying to drown the queries in to my sleep. But, ironically, that evaded me as well. Just when I finally managed to conquer sleep, a weird pain hit my senses and I was falling into the memory pit, yet again…….


We are finally there. The snow capped mountains extending an icy invitation. Sharon was equally excited and jumpy on this Skiing trip. Our athletics coach, Mr. William, was busy mouthing out instructions on our accommodation and safety precautions to follow. This trip was a very different one considering the fact that we were about to be housed in “Hilton Ice” ski resort, courtesy a student’s father who was the Operational Executive for the Hilton chain of resorts, in this part of the world. This one time, we had managed to slip past the tyranny of the old wooden cabins and the discomfort that they oozed. My heart skipped a beat when I stood at the imposing foyer of the “Hilton Ice” which was easily the most impressive building structure I had witnessed in my entire life. Gray walls of steel glazed with reflective mirrors perched as windows was definitely a sight to behold. The blue clouds above admired themselves on these glass planes adding a touch of blue regal to the view. With gasped breath and awestruck eyes, I was dragged into the stranded elevator and the impatient operator waiting in it. Later in the warm interiors of the room, I sat beside the window admiring the towering peaks which had their tips covered white. What a beautiful sight…………..


It was day break at last. Was it a dream or just another fit of memory rushing back to me only for a small slice of time? Hahn, the loving patriarch of the family, chided me awake. He often caressed my head in an affectionate fashion. Streaks of sunlight were streaming into the room swashing it with brightness. It was a tiny deserted building in the corner of an US army base. Warriors fighting in Iraq were usually embarked on their flight to the troubled Arab country from this very base station. Men clad in grey uniforms were the most common sight to an onlooker in this place. Heavy trucks and tankers rolled in and out of the station at a brisk rate. The icy mountains of Andes were a good 100 miles away; the place where I was found in an unconscious state with minor injuries and bruises all over my body. The Jewish family, who were basically Nomads, took me along in their caravan and tended me back to health. I had begun to accept the present realities with nothing to really look back to, but the niggling memories troubled my peace and ignorance. Days passed into weeks and the latter into months. The war was at its peak with no respite or truce at sight, the latest developments were encouraging though. UN committee had intervened to bring about a ceasefire between the warring nations. A peace treaty was in the offing in the near future. The family I stayed with kept themselves busy by doing odd jobs and were content with their current settlement. Life was now pretty normal since my memory flash had not paid me a visit since quiet a few months now. I was mending a worn out tent cloth when the familiar pain came back to me and things started spinning out of control…………..


Clad in warm jacket and other winter clothing we carried across the skis to the lift. Sharon insisted that we start from the Bleak Curve which was track for advanced level skiing. Inspite of my worst fears, I put up my brave front to push aside all the foreboding augurs. But once we hit the snow on our sleek skis, the fear was replaced with torrid excitement which just drove me into action. After a couple of unsteady moves I gained confidence and gathered speed. Soon the trees and flags started zipping around me. I was thoroughly enjoying myself when I turned into a steep curve that just pushed up my momentum further. Slowly, I realised that everyone else was left far behind and I was on my own. My mother’s words of caution and grumble now started resounding in my ears. I, suddenly, felt left far away from home and looked back in desperation. At that very instant, I realised the track was ending into a high cliff jump end. All my efforts to steer away went in vain and I simply flew out of the edge. The fall in the air seemed to last forever when I suddenly hit the soft snow and rolled on to crash into an old tree. Fading sights engulfed my vision when………….


I realised I was screaming while sweating profusely. Hahn rushed to my side to comfort me. He was quick to realise that I had yet another memory reoccurrence. He helped me push some liquid into my throat and carried me home. Things now were much clearer to me. I was finally able to fit in the missing pieces of the puzzle to retrieve my past. I couldn’t really remember the specific people or names from the past, but the sequence of happenings that had traversed me into the present state had dawned on me. The fact that a family out there was fanatically searching for me or worse, mourning my death, was now slowly sinking in. I yearned to make contact with my roots and was hoping another memory ride would educate me on those facets. But alas it eluded me with a smirk and shoved me into the bandwagon of time.
I was woken up with shouts of joy; everybody seemed to be rejoicing over something. Amidst his euphoric outburst, Hahn managed to convey the news that the war had ended and peace was finally salvaged. The army post was buzzing with activity in the fervent anticipation of the homecoming for all the brave soldiers. All the fences and walls were plastered with the posters which depicted Uncle Sam shaking hands with the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussien. It was quiet a comical sight but the final amicable outcome was most welcome. I sat on a stone near the air strip contemplating on what these happenings could possibly herald in my life. We had a couple of airships landing here since morning, ferrying jubilant and relived soldiers back to their home country, the Land of Opportunities, as they call it. I was longing for a similar kind of homecoming where I could rejoin my family. But I guess it would definitely be a strange sensation to meet my true parents whom I wouldn’t be able to recognize or relate to. Or maybe I would regain my memory when I do see them. Strange are the ways of GOD. Another copter now landed into the airstrip with a dozen soldiers huddled in it. They soon jumped out of their captivity and moved around to the thunderous welcome they got from the people in the army station. I continued watching them with idle curiosity when one of them stared at me for quiet a long time. The soldier soon started walking in my direction. I continued to gaze at him wondering what he would expect from a stranger like me. His face brightened with recognition as he walked closer and rushed to hug me. Bewildered I stood dazed not really knowing how to react. He gushed, “Jane, what on Earth are you doing out here. Don’t tell me you have travelled all the way here to welcome me back home. But wait, you wouldn’t possibly know that I would be back.” He face was brimming with joy, but the slight frown arising from his array of question was tough to hide. I continued to stand speechless and just stared back at him. The gleam disappeared on his face and he was shaking me coaxing me to speak. Thankfully, Hahn appeared there at the right moment accosting the soldier. They had a lengthy and confused argument from which I preferred to stay away.
Finally, the soldier whose name was Bill Thompson, as I learnt later, was a friend of mine who went to college with me. He was enrolled in the army as a supply civilian and had gone ahead to fight the war for America. He was able to put together pieces on my strange appearance here from the outputs of Hahn and my limited memory. He was going back home and volunteered to safely escort me back home. With no better option, I decided to go with him hoping I would be soon restored to my family and the link to my lost memory. My patrons reluctantly bid me farewell and promised to meet me soon.
As I drive away homebound in a train today with my friend Bill, I put these befuddled thoughts into paper hoping it will make sense to me someday. My jolts on paper matching up with those of the wheels on the tracks, hoping for the future to dawn facts about myself to me…………………


Maruti Suzuki Swift - impressions from the first 1000 kms

“Ok, waited long; both me and this review for the aurora”.
Well that was a bit of exaggeration in describing my wait for the Swift which was anything but ‘swift’. To move on, this is my honest opinion/review about my Swift which has now done close to 1000 kms on the ravaged tarmacs of Bangalore. I have not tried to be prejudiced for it being ‘my car’. Here we go,

Car specs
The hottest hatchback to hit our roads since Palio. The heap of bookings speak aloud, need I say more. Here is the general specs of this machine

Model: VXi
Color: Azure Grey

Engine: 1298 cc SOHC
Cylinders: 4
Number of Valves: 16
Maximum Power: 87bhp @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 113Nm @ 4500 rpm

Dimensions: 3695x1690x1530 mm
Tyres: 165/80R14
Boot Space: 232 ltrs (min)
368 ltrs (max)

Turning radius: 4.7 m
Ground Clearance: 170 mm
Top Speed: 160 kmph (IMO 165kmph)

There has been a lot of talk about Maruti plonking in an outdated engine. I will get to that later. Generally speaking, an old but tried and tested performer that churns out a good amount power while adhering to its frugal drinking habit. This old warhorse has been remapped and revived for duty on the Swift. There is absolutely nothing to complain about its performance and definitely lives up to the expectation. The additional weight that Swift imposes on it is felt but only slightly. Obviously, 85+ bhp/tonne is definitely a good figure.
There has been quiet a bit of outcry about the latest engine not being offered and so on. Lets get this straight, the VVt engine that’s offered in other countries would very simply push the price range by a minimum of 1 lakh pushing it into the same fate as Ford Fusion. The pricing of Swift in those countries, consequently, doesn’t make it a cheap hatchback either. You pay for what you get and it is as simple as that. In the same vein, if the history behind The Getz engine is dug up, then it would dawn on us that its roots go back to the same engine that did work on the older Accents. Remapping and reworking is a part of any engine’s life cycle and is inevitable. So I would not typecast an engine based on its age of existence. On the contrary, I believe it should be strictly based on its performance and reliability. The Swift’s engine scores high on both these parameters and is a peppy performer.

Ride & Handling
True to its sporty image, the car hits the road with a lot of zeal. One of my honest observations is that the car is very much under powered in the 3rd gear and is left gasping. But beyond 40 kmph mark on your speedometer it is different ball game. It just gallops ahead of competition with amazing ease. It could rival even the sedans on this frontier. But if you are trying to accelerate in city traffic it could leave you a trifle disappointed.
The suspensions have been engineered based on the feedback from the rally exploits of the Suzuki team and it is very much there to be seen. It has got a sporty feel to it and may not be as soft as you would expect it to be. But if it bad roads, this suspension is more than willing to handle it with élan. So it basically boils down to what you expect out of it.
The car has been solidly engineered unlike most of the other cars from the Maruti stable. The build is solid and the monster displays it on the road. The car is absolutely steady even at speeds exceeding 140. Having driven most of the other cars from the Maruti, let me assure you, this car is simply in a different zone and boy, do you feel safe in it – absolutely. The bigger wheel frame (14”) supports it well and the 185/70R14 on the ZXi is a real killer, terrific. But I have to content myself with its smaller sibling (165/80) for now. L

Ok, this is a highly subjective domain. But in my opinion, “Simply out of the world. A revelation on Indian roads”. The car’s looks definitely has a lot of character.

I have read a lot of comments about the ‘cheap’ interiors of the Swift. But I beg to differ. It is a very neat and uncluttered console on the dashboard. The ergonomics in the design also scores high. The only shortcoming, IMO, is that the sideboards on the doors are highly bland. Ideally, would have preferred the fabric accented styling like in Esteem. But I guess everything can’t be perfect. Well, I have plans of painting certain parts of the sideboards with “Sparkling Silver”; that should enliven things to a good extent.
The Aircon is simply brilliant and works up real quick time. The power steering is also a joy in the city. But the EPS needs a bit ‘getting used to’ and sometimes may feel disconnected.

Serious Shortcomings
The “wrap around” design gives the interiors a dark effect.
The rear visibility is seriously hampered by the smallish window on the back. This would very much hurt the drivers in India who rarely use the mirrors while reversing unlike the counterparts in the foreign countries. The ‘Europe’ centric design shows here.
The boot space is nothing to write home about. But the consolation is that, it has got a deep boot and if it only bags, they can be stacked up in quiet large numbers.
If the driver is 6”+ in height then there are some serious problems for the rear seat passengers.
Waiting period definitely is a huge dampener. But there are assurances of increasing the production.

How does it stack up against competition?
The Getz definitely offers better room in the rear and boot. But in every other department, Swift easily outsmarts it. Be it zippiness or road handling, Swift is definitely ahead. But if the car is for a family of 5 who require generous room and luggage space, then Getz scores. I think Getz is a very fine car but for its pricing.

Truly a worthy competitor to the Swift. Though launched a good 4 years back, this car can truly match up on every frontier. But with the legendary Fiat ASS (After Sales Service), it is definitely a huge factor going against it.

Corsa Sail:
With a new pricing, Sail looks like a good alternative. But except for the boot space falls flat in every other department in comparison. Especially the aircon and front seating are absolutely mediocre.

Overall Summary
In simple words, the car is “Value For Money”. And coming with the ASS (After Sales Service) of Maruti, clearly makes it a winner. Have driven it for about 1000 kms and is now due for the first service. The FE (Fuel Economy) figures are very impressive. I got an overall average of around 15 kmpl for the first 900 k (55% on highway, 35% in the city, 10% in the ghat section). So basically it averages 13 kmpl in the city and 18 kmpl on the highway, both without AC. With the aircon ON, FE should drop by 1.0 or 1.5 kmpl. The dealer Bimal, Indiranagar also did a great job in the delivery though they made me wait for a good 3 months.
All in all, a nice product own and drive. Happy driving….