Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

Internet in India

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This post is out of sheer frustration. Now, I have written enough about the (lack of internet facilities in my college. It is irritating because almost most of my works have an online component - or I put one in them. Its same right?? I had told my parents to get a broadband connection at my home in Ranchi. They shifted out of Patna a month after I joined college. After some discussion, we settled on BSNL broadband. Numbed by the lack of trouble-free net access, I was desperate to get one clean passage at home. But someone told Dad that BSNL is hopelessly bad over here in Ranchi. Net result: we revived our old Reliance NetConnect “wireless net” connection. It took 1000 bucks and now it is lifetime free.

If you are not in a mood to listen to any more of my diatribe, just read this: Never ever get a Reliance Netconnect and not let anyone else to take it Its the worst thing to have hit India after the shameless and obviously contentless news channels.

You simply can’t do anything on Netconnect. The speed hovers around 5 kbps. Yes - 5. I wasn’t able to open up my Yahoo mail account in 15 attempts. Forget it, if you have any bigger task on hand.

The problem is what are the options. Tata’s plug2surf though better is widely insufficient for the media-rich net of today. BSNL has huge reliability issues. Our landlord says that he has never been able to complete a job while working on BSNL. Airtel, Reliance and Tata don’t offer cable broadband in India. Even in metroes, there MBPS plans are simply unaffordable.

Wondering if a solution exists.

Indian Sports - the Mess Within

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The weekend holidays gave me a nice time to hang around with Pritesh. (Photo not available. Pritesh is a great friend of mine and my partner in our upcoming mobile notification project. But this post is not about me or Pritesh or our partnership. With all that I have told, the one more important thing is that Pritesh has played Table Tennis (TT) at national level. I came to know yesterday that he was actually India no. 3 while in Class 9 He has participated in three tournaments as yet and helped VIT to win or finish in positions unknown before for my not so sporty university.

He, by the way, suffered a very bad leg injury while travelling to a venue in Karnataka. Reason: My university didn’t made necessary arrangements and my friend sat in an unnecessary manner. I have just played TT once, but the conversation around me assures me of the fact that Pritesh at least deserves a proper chance to realise his full potential. But, that looks very remote considering the fact that he is really low-beat about the whole infrastructure and support that sports get in India.

I have always been very sad to see our hopelessly miserable record in all non-cricket sports. Though, I love cricket and don’t agree with the fact that it is responsible for the condition of other sports. We actually did a few calculations yesterday and found out that VIT’s Table-Tennis team needs a sponsorship of about Rs. 50,000-60,000 (both men’s and women’s) for playing comfortably. The University now gives players Rs. 100 per day (that excludes only accomodation, I suppose). It is absurd. It should be a minimum of Rs. 200. But, the problem is not with my institution. It is with the general attitude. Pritesh told me that host colleges generaaly shy away from providing proper facilities. I don’t count making students stay in classrooms and go a mile for toilet to be proper. The story is the same even at a national-level tournament. You get almost nothing.

On my relentless insistence, we found out that a sum of Rs. 30,000 will be enough for Pritesh to have his best shot to compete at international level. I have read so much about corporates talking about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). For all its high ambitions, the requirement for CSR is simple. Invest in sponsoring college teams or at least individuals. Sponsorship money really needs to flow in urgently. Because, every Indian is not lucky enough like Abhinav Bindra, whose father made a shooting range in his home for his son to practice. But the problem is that middle-class India also has certain standards. It can’t adjust with the pre-independence style of ill-treatment.

But, money is not the only problem. People need skilled opponents too. That means, there must be a critical mass of players for any game to survive. The other, even more important thing is that sports need glamour. If someone does good, it needs to be broadcasted, hyped……. whatever unless people understand it. I don’t see that any sport can ever have reasonable amount of support. Either its pure hysteria or complete “Who cares” attitude. The hysteria is better.

I really hope that some passionate marketing chief or CEO will read this post one day and execute his passion. All of us will love to see a bigger number on our medals tally. Both Pritesh and his unknown sponsor need to pull their socks up.

My First Blood Donation

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Mom got it right - what was I doing with blood donation!! You know, I am one of those who has had luckily few interactions with the needle and certainly doesn’t look forward to it. But, this Tuesday, when I suddenly heard that a senior is in need, I clinched a victory over my fear. The fact that five of us were going was relieving.

We had to wait for a long time to get our blood tested. The questioning first by nurse and then by the doctor was incredibly funny. Questions about medical history were okay, but ones like “paraya aurat ke paas gaya” (have you gone to an unknown woman?) – add to it the accent of South-Indian Hindi! We wondered the irony - let us get one first, then the question arises of another, right?

But, hospitals are not a place of fun - the myriad hospital romances not withstanding. Teh next morning, I and Abhishek witnessed an unconsolable women who most probably lost her spouse. It was not a scene which you want to see - anytime, anywhere. I also met the patient - not our senior as we had guessed earlier, but an Air Force man. I thought that its the least we can do for the Forces. We returned in afternoon – 4 of us this time. The process was not very painful, just very boring. Warned by Anuradha Ma’am - our caring Physics teacher, we were cautious. At the end of it, I was proud to have done it. Hopefully, the receiver will recover soon.

The XPS Goes Down

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After the repeated formattings, my XPS just gave up on Tuesday. It went dead- no activity at all on pressing the power button. I had to go for blood donation, so couldn’t look into it at that moment (which was after the Chemistry Lab).

(I am writing this after the idiotic restricted IE or the proxy connection lost all my work half an hour back)
After I returned in the evening, situation got tense. I had no clue what happened. A friend of mine, Vishnu (campus representative of Mozilla - cool no!) looked into it. He has XPS (in black, doesn’t look better than mine - Vishnu). We replaced battery, tried without power. Nothing worked. As Dell shuts down customer service at 6 p.m., I had no option but to wait. As I had to go for blood donation in the morning, it was going to be a rather long wait.

After I returned from CMC (Christian Medical College) in the morning, the customer service got it quick. A capacitor on my motherboard had got fried and since there were holidays on Wednesday and Thursday, I will have to wait till Monday. So much for XPS Premier Support!! Considering the fact that the Dell factory is an hour away, I can’t see the logic. Nor can I see a capacitor on a week-old XPS going dead.

I have to make a paper on GPS assisted mobile advertising and start work on very interesting mobile-notices software in the weekend. A bad time for XPS to go wrong. You have got it wrong Dell!!

My Marks & Wall Street - Unexplainable

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Thats right. I haver got a 50 in Physics, 47 in English, 44 in Chemistry and a decent 32 in Math. You will say (and Dad always says) that I wrote how bad my exams were. I wrote so, but the marking has been liberal. It easens things up a bit. If I can score well with the input time that I gave before this exam, I can do quite well by systematic studies.

Thats nice and will leave me with sufficient time for working on my projects, which is limited to reading a basic networking book only till now.

On the other hand, Wall Street - the center of world economy (though there isn’t one according to Friedman’s World is Flat theory) cracked. The companies that were the dream merchants - Lehmann Brothers, Merill Lynch and AIG have gone bust. These companies employed the world’s best minds. I wonder how none of them were able to figure out this mess. Its ironical how subprime crisis alone was able to account for all these dream merchants. The whole thing reminds me of a quote by Michael Dell that I read somewhere
“IBM does complicated buisness. They thrive on complexities. We at Dell try to simplify things for our customers.” There is a strong analogy with the current crisis here. Normally banks are supposed to take deposits from customers and invest them - earn revenue, pay interest and keep a share of pie for themselves as profit. These companies that have gone bust aren’t due to a sudden withdrawl of fund by customers. They have gone down playing in a maze of risk hedging, mortgaging, transfer and insurance of bad assets.

Wonder why none of the best buisness minds of the world ever gave importance to keeping things simple.

The XPS Week

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Sitting in CP Lab (Computer Programming) this Monday, I got a call from Blue-Dart to collect my laptop. The XPS actually scheduled to arrive today (Friday) had come 4 days early. It looks absolutely gorgeous in red. It has come with a Targus backpack and Creative in-ears. The perfomance is stunning and programs installed superfast.

Being a member of Linux user group, I proceeded to install Linux. I had the old Ubuntu 7.04 Gusty Gibbon. The installation went well, but it was not able to install the drivers for my NVidia graphics card. It wanted to go online and fetch them, but VIT dear thinks internet is a taboo. While using Linux, I realized that using it without net access is a very difficult job. It has been developed using internet and assumes that you have a nice net connection. I can’t understand how else Linux distributions can afford to not install non open-source codecs like those of MP3 or my Nvidia card. The only way in which Linux can gain mass aceptance is if it sheds its puritan appoach.
Like the startup pop-ups in Windows, Ubuntu asks me whether I want to install restricted drivers for my NVidia graphic card. One click and it will do so. So, why not give the option while installing itself to user that whether he wants restricted drivers or not. A majority will choose “Yes”.
Anyways propelled by the enthusiasm of the new laptop, I tried installing Fedora and it crashed. Some complications arose from Dell’s Media Direct software which is actually Windows XP embedded. It can play music, movies etc. without booting the system. But, there were complications to such an extent that I had no OS working yesterday evening and Windows refused to install.
I was a bit nervous for sure. Thanks to Akhil bhaiya, who is a 2nd year B.Tech CSE student, I formatted the whole hard drive and installed Ubuntu. Then formatted Ubuntu and installed Vista. I have formatted teh system 4-5 times in its first few days. Now waiting for Satish bhaiya (LUG 3rd year) to come and help me out.
The laptop is fun as Windows Media Center showed today. It looks great. I have installed apache, Oracle, PHP and all other software development goodies. Lets see how it all shapes up.

Exams N Airtel

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So finally after one mysterious cancellation, exams finally started from 19th. the first paper was english, which went well. Archana Ma’am will be glad to see the attention that VIT pays to the language. The next paper was Math and it was complete bloodshed. Probably the worst paper I have ever written leaving apart the Indian engineering entrance exams. My “What ra!!” teacher is to be blamed. But, so am I. That 12th standard strategy didn’t work. Probably, because I am not able to/willing to follow in class at all. I have tried though. Physics paper was easy yesterday and I hope it comes out well. I feared a repetiton of Math in Chemistry today, but thankfully, it wasn’t so. Two at a time would have been horrible. I have Computer and History to go. (Yes!!They “teach” history in VIT.)

Moving to other topics, I wonder at the lack of thought in Airtel Customer Care. They have yet not been able to guide me to run GPRS on my cell. But, that’s not the issue. I wonder when I once chose English as language always, why am I made to hear ads in Tamil, or send reviews and offers about Tamil movies. Can’t the system work out that I don’t get the language. Amazing!!

The lab is emptying up, So, I better finish this post.

My Dell XPS Is on Its Way

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Finally. I am getting my laptop - a Dell XPS M1530. This is the second big purchase of my life after the Western Digital external hard disk that I bought a couple of months back. That costed Rs. 5000. And, the XPS has costed me Rs. 67000/-. Yah, yah its fully loaded with 4 GB Ram, Intel Centrino 2 T8300 2.4 Ghz and a Nvidia 8600 Gt Graphic card. I have ordered it in red, just that something in my life keeps it fresh. No plans of whole night gaming, though. A lot of linux and software development work for sure.
As my Dad is, he expressed his reservations about such a costly laptop. But, then bought it for me. (Same as with my US college applications.) Trust me Dad, I will make revolutionary materials from this laptop. Thanks for your faith!!

Swype - Brilliant New Touchscreen Tech

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I have just come across Swype - runner-up of TechCrunch 50. (TechCrunch is one of the world’s best technology blogs). Swype allows one to connect alphabets on your touchscreen. It is amazingly cool and efficient. After all, its from the founder of T9 - Cliff Kushler (the dictionary on your mobiles). Just see thi video:

Images From VIT

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A lot of things have happened since my last post. Foremost, I have been running around for longer and have completely lost control over my academics. Does it matter? I have been busy organising Linux User Group meetings last weekend and this weekend. The Robotics work kept me busy before that. I am running out of time in cafe now, so you will have to do with some photos for now.

For the complete list of photos, go to my Picasa web album