Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

Rape and the Victim’s Trial by the Media

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Gurgaon gang rape: Let me tell you all about this girl…

Firstpost has a good piece on how the Indian police and media go after the victim of a rape and expose her identity ignoring all established human right laws and judgments on privacy by the Supreme Court.

It is imperative that the governments both at the center and in the states work together to establish how the police deals with the media to control flow of information in cases such as these. Also, the government, which is ever too eager to play up the value of censorship, should sit together with the representatives of electronic and print media, and establish guidelines which prevent the identity of victims to be disclosed.

Also, we as citizens of a democratic country need to respect others’ rights. When people see that a girl working in a pub beyond midnight got raped, they somehow manage to rationalize it.

What was the girl doing so late? She brought it upon herself. What was she wearing? Was she drunk? Was she roaming out with friends?

Such chatter will take place at most places. Lets understand that none of this is our business and none of this justifies rape. What is morally right varies a lot in this country of a billion people. But when something happens which is illegal by law, our morals shouldn’t cloud how we respond to it.

Update: The Times of India is reporting that the Gurgaon police has invoked an archaic law which prohibits women from working in a shopping mall, pub or commercial establishment after 8pm without prior permission from the labor department. The Police has put the entire onus on safety of women on the shoulders of mall and pub owners. Instead of ensuring safety of women and maintaining a rule of law, they want to prohibit women from having equal opportunity to work. The fact that such laws exist and are used by our police is a shame to our democracy.

Why Viral Invite Systems Suck

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There is a growing trend for websites to ask us to invite our friends and followers to their web app, so that we can be bumped ahead in their early access queue. It is called the viral-invite system, which was probably started by Forkly. Heck, Launchrock built a startup out of this idea. I am glad that Launchrock has been successful and will probably use it to create a better landing page for my own startup, Allotrop.

But, I don’t like the idea that startups make us push for them before even letting us see a sneak peek of their product. I thought I am the only one who feels so, but then I read about Eric Ries’ experience at IMVU in his book The Lean Startup.

Context: IMVU had called a 17-year old girl to their office to try out their product. She liked building a 3D avatar of herself, and then they got her to download an IM client.

Excerpt from the book 

“Okay, invite one of your friends to chat.” And she says, “No way!” We say, “Why not?” And she says, “Well, I don’t know if this thing is cool yet. You want me to risk inviting one of my friends? What are they going to think of me? If it sucks, they are going to think I suck, right?” And we say, “No, no, it’s going to be so much fun once you get the person in there; it’s a social product.” She looks at us, her face filled with doubt; you can see that this is a deal breaker.

Let me use your app. If it is good, I will ask my friends and followers to join voluntarily. Till then, I am happy at the back of the early access queue.

Indian Air Force Finally Goes for Dassault Rafale

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After a 11 year long bidding process, the Indian Air Force has decided to award the contract for 126 Medium Multi-Range Fighter Aircraft to Dassault Aviation for Rafale. Defence purchases in India have a murky history, and one expects that this deal has been made in the best interests of the country and the brave air-warriors of the IAF.

[caption id=“attachment_148” align=“alignright” width=“512” caption=“Dassault Rafale”]Dassault Rafale[/caption]

I assume that these new planes will replace the old MIG 21 fleets among others, which has consumed so many lives of pilots in the past decade.

The Wikipedia page on the MRCA deal has a lot of history and context in which these jets are being purchased. Its worth a read.

As per news reports, 18 of these planes will be built and delivered, while the rest will be manufactured by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Hopefully, the knowledge acquired from building these planes will help HAL in the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, which has run in to rough weather countless times.

I was going through the history of Rafale, and it was interesting to see that this project was started in the early 80’s as a joint European fighter. France had disagreements over the requirements, and it broke away from others to build Rafale. The other European countries built the Eurofighter Typhoon.

To efficiently compete and lead in the years to come, the Indian government needs to heavily push higher institutions of great quality while also ensuring adequate financial support in the research projects.

The American F16 and F18 are more familiar to us by their many cameos in various Hollywood  movies, but we seldom see these other great jets. I found a promotional video for the Rafale on Youtube. Enjoy !

Photo Credit: Flickr/aereimilitariorg

Jobs on iTunes for Android

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We thought about whether we should do a music client for android. We put iTunes on Windows in order to sell more iPods. But I don’t see an advantage of putting our music app on Android, except to make Android users happy. And I don’t want to make Android users happy.

Steve Jobs in his biography

I am near the end of reading Jobs’ biography and I am pretty confident that I didn’t see such hate for any technology other than Android. Its ironical how his own thoughts on Windows and Android sound the same.

Although it never came to my mind earlier,  Apple may at some time start thinking about becoming the content platform by letting Android and Windows Phone devices sync to iCloud. No one except Amazon in books, has a better digital content store than Apple.

A digital content store may become the entry point in to Apple’s ecosystem.

Although services like Kindle, Spotify and Netflix are quickly growing to challenge iTunes Store. It will be interesting to see how a post Jobs Apple takes up this challenge.

Laptop Buying Advice for Web and Mobile Hackers

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There is a post on the 37Signals blog saying how the choice of operating system doesn’t matter much for a hacker. Unless you have another machine for you, I don’t agree to this. I am currently developing on Linux and looking to switch to a Mac. Linux is a great environment to hack but the problem with Linux is its utter lack of apps. Designers won’t touch it because of lack of Adobe CS. The Skype client is horrible. I have shifted to Google Docs, but is no match to Office right now. Rhythmbox was very basic and Banshee, the new default on Ubuntu, is extremely slow and poorly-designed. Forget about using apps like Evernote, or getting a native Spotify app.

Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro and I will talk about it. The intent behind shifting to Unity may be good, but it is a pain. Switching between windows is a nightmare. Not to say, that stability has gone for a toss. On my current machine with 2 GB of RAM, Ubuntu 11.10 is slow. (Its a highly relative term, but we do understand what slow is - laggy, unresponsive etc) 

Plus, hardware support is still a huge issue. Hibernate never works for me on Ubuntu. And I have spent countless hours making the new ‘zero-cd’ style usb internet dongles work, without much success.

Unless one is developing on something which requires Windows, or is a huge gaming fan, you should avoid Windows. It will have no or lesser support for various projects especially in web development, because most of the community has shifted to Mac and Linux.

For mobile programming, Mac is a clear winner. iOS programming needs a Mac and you can code on Android and Windows Phone too, by installing Windows on it. On Linux and Windows, you are cut off from the most important mobile ecosystem.

Mac will be expensive compared to a similar configuration machine from the likes of Dell and Lenovo. But if you can afford it, go for a Mac. While you are doing your work, you want to focus on that.

There is a disclaimer. Some hackers like to tinker around with the OS at the hardware level. Or see and get involved with the innards of operating system. For such people, Linux is a boon. You are not going to learn more at any other place than Linux. It is up to you to decide whether you are such a hacker.

Right now, I will recommend the 13 inch Macbook Air for the general use case. There are rumors of a larger Macbook Air coming, so you may want to wait for that.

Think Different

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I am currently reading Steve Jobs - by Walter Issacson and came upon the making of this ad. It is easy to identify with this ad today knowing all that Steve did to transform so many things, but, to think of it at a time when Apple was in a horrible shape and had its brand value eroded was such a great idea. This was 1997 - when Steve came back to Apple after it acquired NEXT.

This remains my favorite ad ever.

Text of the ad :

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Apple Inc.

You can head to Wikipedia to read more on Apple’s Think Different campaign. Kudos to Steve and the Chiat/Day ad firm for coming up with this.

iCloud Ads Don’t Make Sense in India !

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India is one of the few countries where Android tablets are doing well (Android tabs suck because of lack of apps though.) . Also, because the Indian market is so price-conscious, I doubt we have huge sales of iMacs and Macbook laptops here.  So, it is confusing why would Apple push iCloud so heavily in India then. iCloud works well when you have multiple Apple devices, something which is not that common in India.  And when you are at it, why not address the outrage at 4S pricing in India.

Installing Android SDK on Ubuntu 11.10

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The first step in installing the Android SDK is installing the Sun (Oracle) JDK. Java 7 is out now, but I will stick with the recommended Java 6. Sun JDK is not available in the Ubuntu repositories, so you need to install it using this method.

  1. Open Ubuntu Software Center, using the Super (Windows) Key and searching for Software Center.

  2. Search for Synaptic Package Manager and install it.

  3. Start Synaptic (using the same Super Key + search term method)

  4. Click on Settings/Repositories.

  5. Click on “Other Software” Tab and click ADD. In the APT line copy this: ppa:ferramroberto/java

  6. Click Add Source and then Add Volume and close.

  7. Back in Synaptic window, click on reload. Once reloaded, in the quick filter field type java6.

  8. Click and Mark for Installation these items: sun-java6-bin, sun-java6-jre, sun-java6-jdk, sun-java6-plugin.

  9. Click Apply. Packages will be downloaded and you will have to accept the License Agreement. You are done with installing Sun JDK.

  10. Now, go back to the Software Center and search for Eclipse. Click on Install. Alternatively, you can download Eclipse IDE for Java Developers from this link.

Now lets install the ADT Plugin for Eclipse. Detailed instructions are provided for doing so on the Android Developer website, but I am copying them here anyways for easy reference.

Downloading the ADT Plugin

Use the Update Manager feature of your Eclipse installation to install the latest revision of ADT on your development computer.<>

Assuming that you have a compatible version of the Eclipse IDE installed, as described in Preparing for Installation, above, follow these steps to download the ADT plugin and install it in your Eclipse environment.

  1. Start Eclipse, then select Help > Install New Software….

  2. Click Add, in the top-right corner.

  3. In the Add Repository dialog that appears, enter “ADT Plugin” for the Name and the following URL for the Location:

  4. Click OKNote: If you have trouble acquiring the plugin, try using “http” in the Location URL, instead of “https” (https is preferred for security reasons).

  5. In the Available Software dialog, select the checkbox next to Developer Tools and click Next.

  6. In the next window, you’ll see a list of the tools to be downloaded. Click Next.

  7. Read and accept the license agreements, then click Finish.Note: If you get a security warning saying that the authenticity or validity of the software can’t be established, click OK.

  8. When the installation completes, restart Eclipse.

Configuring the ADT Plugin

After you’ve successfully downloaded the ADT as described above, the next step is to modify your ADT preferences in Eclipse to point to the Android SDK directory:

1. Select **Window** > **Preferences...** to open the Preferences panel.

2. Select **Android** from the left panel.

You may see a dialog asking whether you want to send usage statistics to Google. If so, make your choice and click Proceed. You cannot continue with this procedure until you click Proceed.

  1. For the SDK Location in the main panel, click Browse… and locate your downloaded SDK directory.

  2. Click Apply, then OK.

Now, go to Window - Android SDK Manager. Install the Android versions that you want to develop for. Android 2.1 is supported on majority of Android devices and you should target your app to run on 2.1 You can find detailed instructions about working with the Android SDK manager at the Android Developer website.

You are now ready to start developing your Android application. You can do a quick Hello World by following this link or go to the Dev Guide. If you are interested in a book to get you started, I will recommend Apress’ Beginning Android 2 (Amazon / Flipkart )

Will UID Project See the Light of the Day ?

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One of my favorite day-dreaming topics was a project that will assign every India a unique identity number. I believed (and still believe) that such a project would go a long way in improving the implementation of government schemes and improving national security. So, I was elated when Nandan Nilekani joined the present government to head the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). I am a big fan of Nilekani who is one of the co-founders of Infosys and has written  “Imagining India”, a great book on the different things hindering India and the opportunities in front of her.

UIDAI has been in news with pilot projects being kicked off in various places. When I went back home to Ranchi this summer , I was glad to know that the state government is pushing Aadhar (UID project’s name) heavily by making various student grants available only if the students and their families have UID cards. But, unfortunately, the great Indian red-tape has caught up with UID project. Business Standard reports : 

What a difference two years can make. In 2009, the Unique Identification Project spearheaded by the government’s then golden boy, Nandan Nilekani, was a much publicised and pampered one. Today, it has become everybody’s favourite whipping boy.

The Home Ministry has refused to use / trust the data collected by UIDAI and is insisting that data should be collected by its own National Population Register. This will mean that over INR 1000 crores ($200 million) spent by UIDAI will go waste. This seems much better than the scenario if both NPR and UIDAI go about doing parallel work of collecting citizen data. UIDAI’s estimated cost for the project is INR 18,000 crores ($3.6 billion) while NPR projects a cost of INR 14,000 crores ($2.8 billion) Not only will we be spending twice the money, but we will also end up with two possibly conflicting data sets.  If that is not enough, the RBI now says that a UID number will  not be enough to open a bank account, beating one of the main goals of the project, which is to increase financial inclusiveness.

I hope that the government sets its house in order and stops this embarrassing in-fighting between its own ministries and pushes ahead with this project. UIDAI will be an important step in improving India’s security and governance. Lets hope that the government doesn’t mess it up.

Android Is Not Free Courtesy Microsoft

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Sad Android Robot

ZDNet is reporting that Microsoft has signed a patent licensing agreement with Samsung for the latter’s Android phones and tablets. As hard as it is to accept, this has proven Steve Ballmer right where he said that “Android is not free. It comes with a patent cost”.  Samsung is not the first to sign such a patent-licensing deal. The other major Android manufacturer HTC and fringe players like Acer and Viewsonic also have similar licensing deals. I don’t know how much HTC or Samsung is paying Microsoft but people have quoted numbers ranging from $5 - $12.50 per device. After Samsung licensing Microsoft’s patents, I wonder whether Motorola Mobility/Google will be able to win the patent litigation case that they are fighting against Android. I hope that Google wins in the patent lawsuit that they are fighting against Oracle, because if manufacturers have to enter into another licensing agreement with Oracle, then Android may become even costlier than Windows Phone 7. Also, I think Microsoft will lower Windows Phone 7 licensing costs to match that of the Android licensing fee, which currently stands at $15 per device to encourage manufacturers to push WP7 more.