Celebrate the Genius

Photograph: Wired Magazine

What does one say at a time like this that has not already been said. Between the social media networks and the conventional media a lot has been stated. What comes out strongly is the great respect that everyone had for the man. You may love or hate Apple as a company, but nobody has anything to say against Steve Jobs. Not his arch rivals, competitors nor those who disagreed with his methods. Respect for his genius is universal.

He is right up there with all other geniuses past, present and future. Be it Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Alva Edison or Albert Einstein and everyone in between. Not to mention those who will soon join the fray in the future. While he is considered an icon of the technology industry, touched the music and movie industries in ways that few had imagined, the true genius is the magical effect that his work brings. People laughed when he called the iPad a magical device, yet it transformed the life of a 3 year old autistic boy who uses it to communicate with his world. The 10 year old girl who was at the bottom of her class due to impaired vision, now has a new lease of life because of her iPad. Old age homes where senior citizens are now using several of these devices to keep themselves entertained, communicative and back on the path to recovery are not aspects of the technology that people had even imagined. They mocked it, and yet it is doing just what Steve Jobs had intended it to do. It is being magical and transforming lives. Only a genius would have realised that this could happen.

It is impossible to pay a fitting tribute to such a great man. The Apple website put it so elegantly and simply just like his designs and philosophy. People would have expected Google to make a doodle for the man, yet their tribute was subtle. Amazon was discrete in their tribute. Wired magazine in their tradition of design and excellence has one of the best tribute pages out there. I do believe that the best homage would be subtle and sombre. Steve Jobs was a very private family man and despite being remembered for his achievements and genius, he will always be remembered as a great human being.

The one quote that sums it all up brilliantly —

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it — President Barack Obama.

May God bless his soul and give his family, friends and the millions of fans, the strength to bear this great loss.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

Social Media for Outreach

A brief behind-the-scenes look at what goes in to setting up a workshop.

Camp – Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi (July 6-8,2011)

A large part of this week was spent by me at CSE. Initially setting up for the workshop and then conducting it. While I am no social media expert or consultant, I normally like to show users some of the technology behind the tools they use or would like to use. Of course, I have to do this in such a way that the session does not seem technical but seems rather human and understandable. Not an easy job, I can vouch for that. My plan was actually a very simple one. I would introduce the participants to some of the things happening on the social media scene and then move on to a completely hands-on workshop getting them to develop a simple website using a CMS, using Mediawiki and hence having the ability to contribute to Wikipedia and finally end with some analytics to measure their success or fine tune their online presence. The CSE website had a very impressive course outline explaining what the course would be about and the intended audience.

However, when I landed up to setup my workshop server I found that a sudden burst of interns having descended upon CSE meant that all desktops and spare computers (there’s no such thing as a spare computer) were immediately deployed. This meant that I did not have a machine for the workshop. After a minor struggle, a hard disk swap and some bruised egos I did finally get my machine. For the setup I needed WordPress and Mediawiki. For really quick installs and virtual servers I tend to use Turnkey Linux I already had the WordPress appliance downloaded with me and had it up and running in a few moments. The problem was I needed this installation to work in multi-site mode so that the participants could make sites working in groups or individually as they preferred. In the past, I have used WordPress MU, but for some time now this functionality has been available in the newer versions (3.x) of WordPress and I was keen to try that. I live dangerously, no point doing something if you are not going to try something new and learn in the process. For some strange reason, my initial configuration for multisite did not work and I finally had to scrap the appliance and start afresh. Must go back and investigate what happened but in the meantime work had to be done.

I went back to the trusted old Centos and did a minimal install, this normally takes less than 10 mins. I added the Centos-Testing repo to get the latest version of PHP and with that installed the rest of the process went rather smoothly. The wordpress “network” was ready. I installed a bunch of themes and a few plugins and network enabled them and we were set.

The participants who attended were from all over the world, we had two people from Nepal, two from Sri Lanka, one from the Republic of Congo, one from Nigeria and the rest were from all over India. All the participants were basically from the communications or media departments of their respective oragnisations and had little or no control over their current websites. In fact, they are dependent on either an internal IT team or an outsourced web design firm. They did feel a little trapped beacuse of this and were looking forward to being more in control.

[slideshow id=1 w=320 h=240]

Day 1 was WordPress day, by the end of the day we had seven websites with varying degrees of complexity, lots of nice designs, photos, features etc. Some even embedded videos and slideshows. Was totally great. Around lunchtime, I did overhear some of the participants say it was very technical, but by the end of the day the results were in front of them. I got them to make quick presentations and the rest to critique and they were all happy.

Day 2 was to be Wikipedia. So we started with some background on Wikipedia and how we are all happy consumers but rarely contributors. The problem came when they actually started using the internal Mediawiki server that we had setup to start creating and populating the wiki. The installation was a default install and had the basic editor, while the editor has buttons for some of the markup, it still displays the markup in the editor and that started confusing people tremendously. What seemed like “technical” the day before now seemed to be a breeze and this was way too complex! But the team from CSE worked hard and we finally had everyone back on track, by the end of the day the wiki was looking good, tons of information had been populated. We did have the scare of one of the users nearly wiping everything out, but did not have to deal with that. It ended rather well. Later in the day they got a session on using Photos and Videos for Advocacy from Sanjukta Basu which they all seemed to have enjoyed.

Day 3 was reserved for strategy and analytics. It started with the team from Blogworks featuring Rajesh Lalwani and Rajika Talwar on marketing and online media strategies, very insightful sessions and despite Rajesh’s promise of “boring sessions” the participants seemed to have really enjoyed themselves and found the sessions invaluable. We finally ended with some web analytics, I showed them statistics on the sites they had created and they were reasonably amused with that. Webalizer did a good job of collecting stats on the multi-site wordpress and the internal MediaWiki and it was interesting for them to see how quickly stats can be collated and interpreted. The last section was on Google Analytics and despite the fact that I was dealing with a new/changed interface using the stats from many of the CSE sites, we managed to show how useful looking at this information could be.

I did find some rather interesting stats on mobile usage. SymbianOS showed up as the number one mobile OS, with iPad lagging behind by just ONE hit! The carrier information too was quite fascinating to look at. I had not noticed how much mobile stats had been added to Google Analytics.

In all I would say a great workshop, fantastic time and as always lots of learning. I must also mention that I had some great help form the team at CSE, Kiran Pandey, Bobby, Saroj Sahoo, Gora Mohanty and several others at CSE.


TC Geeks And Blogsy

Much has been said about the iPad being a content consumption device. By and large it surely is. However, every now and then you come across some apps which make you feel that this device is equally great for content creation. The iPad2 launch had the introduction of GarageBand, which let’s you even create music on the iPad. Content creation is not limited to text, documents or other such boring stuff, but music, movies, artwork, your imagination is the only limit. I even came across some websites which are totally managed using an iPad.

In general, I am a lazy blogger, I’d like to write more and share more, but often the ideas get stuck in my head and never get written out. Every now then I do get the urge to write and sometimes when I am happy with what I have, I post it to my blog. One of the issues I face is being able to write anywhere and anytime and with minimum fuss. For this of course my laptop is the best resource, but sometimes one just needs a little scribble pad.

On a not so recent trip while returning from Mumbai to Delhi, the airlines I was on pissed me off so much that I needed to vent and what better way than to blog. What I had to say would certainly not fit in 140 characters. With the lack of space on our lovely low-cost carriers there is no room to open up a laptop, however, an iPad is certainly usable. So I promptly whipped out my iPad and started writing my saga. My fellow passenger was watching intently and kept egging me on as well. When we finally came to the point of take-off I switched off and waited patiently for the time I could continue my tirade. To my horror, even though I had set the file for local save, when I went back into the app, the text had all vanished. By then so had my anger and the desire to write faded away. The app I was using was WordPress. Turned out to be a bug which got corrected later, but my vent never saw the light of day.

Over the past few weeks, I came across this truly wonderful website which deals with tablet computing. At the moment, most of the articles/posts are related to the iPad and iPad2. But there are sections for RIM and Android, waiting to get off the ground. As more tablets start appearing, I am sure content for them will also start populating the site. Last week there was a post on a blogging app. Not only that, Shane who manages the site was generously giving away three copies of it. His terms were simple, come and read the post, comment and stand a chance to win the app. I am happy to state that with the two comments I made, I actually won! I received my copy of Blogsy yesterday and am raring to have a go at it.

While I will do a more detailed review of the app, for now I am just curious to explore the features it has and what it is capable of doing. Who knows this may be the push I need to get me to blog, with all excuses being taken away.

Humayun's Tomb

The photo was essentially a test of Blogsy to see what it does with images. In fact, truth be told, this entire post was just the first time I used Blogsy and I can tell you I already love it.

Now to go and explore Blogsy in more detail, and hopefully blog more often.


Powered by Blogsy.

The Conf Call Regime

Love it or hate it we do have to make these conf calls, while we cannot as yet automate participation, I do have a simple process of making the call…

Business these days demands participation at a global level. This of course poses several challenges least of which is dealing with multiple people across multiple timezones. Corporations found what they assume to be a simple solution, the inevitable “conference call”. Whether you work for a bank, an IT firm, a law firm or any firm for that matter, in order to collaborate with your colleagues you need to join these dreaded calls.

The process of joining the calls is not always simple, the number to dial is typically a toll-free number and therefore long or in many cases just an international number so still long enough. While the number itself can definitely be stored in the address book of the phone, the problem comes with issuing a conference ID and participant or moderator code.

I did not find a easy way of storing those so that it could be sent at the right time. These are DTMF code sequences which ideally need to be dialed and cannot be cut and pasted into the dialer. Besides, once on a call, most phones do not seem to have a method of sending DTMF tones other than bringing up the dial pad and allowing entry on that.

On my Nokia N900 I found a great little app called “conference manager” that allowed me to automate the process. It lets you define the number to be called, the time to pause for the welcome message and then enter the conference id or passcode. It works totally brilliantly. While I could not figure out how it was doing this, it did remind me of days of old, when dialing with a modem all one needed to do was insert a “comma” or a “pause” along with the phone number. A single comma would typically insert a 2 second pause.

Using the same theory, I decided to test this on my current phone a Nokia C7. Interestingly, on the dial pad the *+ key inserts a pause for you. First press gets you a *, second press gets you a +, third press gets you a p and finally a fourth gets you a w. The w used to be a “wait” on the modem and it basically waits till a key is pressed. I have not yet tested that but I guess I will eventually get around to that too.

C7 Dialpad

So heres an example of how I would dial a service (in this case, sabsebolo.com). The New Delhi access number is +911166194444 my conference ID is 1234567 and conference PIN is 1234 to store the entire sequence and have it dial automatically on my phone here is what I did:


It works like a charm.

I had tweeted about this a while ago, but when I never got a reaction to the tweet I realised that the 140 character limitation did not let me explain what I was doing and hence nobody understood the tweet. This morning Aseem sent me a tweet asking me for the syntax. The answer was this blog post. Hope this helps!

I did discover that on an iPhone there is no *+ key but there is a pause key in the dialpad and that inserts a comma. Would be curious to know what others experience with their phones.

While I don’t expect you to enjoy the calls, at least dialing in and logging on is painless and can be done hands-free!




How can I obtain an OTP?

To obtain the OTP you should first register you mobile number with your bank. It is advisable to get it done as soon as possible (before February 1, 2011). The process of registering the mobile number varies from bank to bank; hence its best to call the customer support of the bank that issued your Credit Card to know more.

Once your mobile number has been registered with your bank, you can obtain an OTP by following the process described in the table below. Your bank will send the OTP to the registered mobile via SMS.

Maggi Thukpa

A recipe acquired over time and perfected in Manali for a quick and healthy meal:

Boil Maggi in double the amount of water recommended per packet
While boiling add slivers of capsicum, cabbage, onion, carrot and beans
Add at least 1 green chilly
Garnish with generous helping of corriander

Serve hot and enjoy!

The Verdict Scare

Greetings from DELL

Dear Sender,

We are not working post 2:30PM as a security measure due to Ayodhya Verdict we would/would not be working tomorrow based on the leadership call which would be taken tomorrow morning based on the situation.

Regret for the inconvenience, for anything urgent please send an email to my manager ###################

We would be working Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM as usual.

Thanks & Regards

People are so scared they write such wonderful messages as an auto-reply.

Unix chmod XXX filename

Do Unix file modes bother you? Do you find it difficult to remember when to use which numbers?

I have been using the following table for a long time as a quick reference guide, works really well.:

0 None – cannot read or write or execute
1 Can execute, but cannot read or write
2 Write-only, cannot read or execute
3 Write-able/executable
4 Read-only, cannot write to or execute
5 Read-only executable, cannot write to
6 Readable Writeable file, but not executable
7 Readable Writeable Executable file

Eg acheter cialis 20 mg. to change a file to be readable, writable by the owner but only readable by group and world – chmod 644 filename

Raves, Rants & Rambles