Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fake flairs Flares: Air-Tiger simulation

It was about 8 PM today, and I was just going through my normal-day to day stuff when suddenly there was a large noise which sounded like gun fire. I rushed out to see what was happening, as everybody was shouting something to the effect of ‘Attack! Attack!’. The people who were outside told me that two low-flying aircrafts just passed on top of where we were in the direction of the sea. The whole night-sky is now illuminated by yellow flairs Flares seemingly coming from the direction of the Airport.

People started making few phone calls, to get to know what happened, and to see where everybody was. The flares in the mean time just stood there, calmly dropping off. I managed to click a few pictures ( found here)

Apparently thoppigala is under-attack, and everybody was theorizing that the flying tigers have responded.

But soon, the confirmation came from a few ‘highly placed sources.’ it was just a ‘test’. Apparently the boys at the air port were giving the new Minister Chamal Rajapakse a show, of “how everything’s supposed to work” on a Poya day if the tigers decide to fly. The flair Flare-show lasted for about 8-10 minutes.

Yet another day in the paradise isle.

Update 9.45ish : Another flair Flare thing..same story. An early christmas of sorts.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Market for the poor

Often you'd find free-market proponents counter questions like “so, what about the poor?” by arguing that if the market is free enough it would, given time, service the poor.

The notion is of course true, for most things. A profit seeking company doesn’t mind where their money comes from as long as it arrives. So you’d find cheap version (sachet packets) of common consumer items like soap or washing powder.

It is generally conceded that the so-called ‘luxury items’ rarely compete in this consumer market.

The Mint reports on an interesting scenario where the likes of Microsoft and Intel are cramming for space in the Laptops-for-the-poor Market.

“A programme to provide millions of low-cost laptops to students in poor countries is set to start production in September even as commercial competitors prepare to offer even cheaper models.

The idea from Nicholas Negroponte, a co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory, who proposed the project at the World Economic Forum in Davos two years ago, has moved closer to fruition.


“OLPC is in talks with Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Nigeria, Thailand, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda and many other countries—but nothing definite just yet,” she said.
The new computers will not carry the symbolic price tag of $100 (Rs4,100), at least not right away. The first models will cost $175 and OLPC hopes the price will come down to $100 by 2009.

Negroponte wanted to have an innovative, specifically tailored laptop—called the XO— that would be very small, hardy, user-friendly and use the free Linux operating system, not Microsoft’s Windows, which dominates the world market.

The sharpest critic of the project is the world’s leading chip maker Intel Corp., which has dismissed the XO as a “gadget” and launched a rival commercial product.
Intel’s “Classmate,” manufactured in Taiwan, costs $285 and the price will drop to $200 at the end of the year, said Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan.

Several thousand units have been shipped to Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria, she said, and the target is 100,000 laptops by December. Pakistan has ordered 700,000 for 2009, she noted.

Aghast at this commercial rivalry, Olpc’s Negroponte said recently that “Intel should be ashamed of itself.” He accused the US microprocessor giant of selling the laptops below cost to destroy the XO, a charge Intel has denied.

Soon OLPC will have to contend with even more aggressive Indian competitors. The group Novatium Solutions Pvt. Ltd, based in Chennai, just brought out a basic “NetPC” for Rs3,280 ($80).

The market for the poor has become so enticing that Microsoft is preparing to launch a scaled-down software bundle of Windows and Office for three dollars for qualifying governments. ”

[Selected Quote: See full Article]

Monday, May 21, 2007

Do we really need bus tickets?

Personally, I just want to just throw them away, but I don’t - for two reasons.

First, it probably affects global warming.

Second, the Western Provincial councilors got bored with debates on which road they should rename next and decided pass this new law which makes it mandatory for all the bus-people to issue tickets to all their passengers, non-compliance would mean hefty fines which I can ill-afford in these days of chintana-inflation.

Quite frankly I have no use for bus tickets. For the simple reason that when they give me the tickets, I’m kind of already on the bus. So what’s the point? It’s just an extra piece of paper I have no use for, except just binning-it. A difficult proposition in it self, because the Colombo Municipality has reached such heights in incompetence that there aren’t a lot of ‘bins’ available.

Now one can argue, there are in fact uses for tickets, after all the conductor-brother can be especially mean and say you haven’t purchased tickets when you already have, and in rare occasions those fellows who check for bus tickets (affectionately known as tikka’s) would get into the bus. Well yes, that could happen. Also theoretically I could get hit by a plane walking on the road, doesn’t mean I should buy myself a mobile radar kit.

The point in this, governments need usability testing. When bringing in new laws the geniuses who draft these laws must consider how people would actually use them and the implications on its users. If it’s too inconvenient, or doesn’t have a good enough benefit, people just won’t use them.

There are plenty of examples, how often have many of us not bothered to use that yellow line (kaha ira) when crossing the roads? Near my college for instance, there are two yellow crossings about 200 meters away on either side, most choose to just not bother and just cross in front of the gate. Now if they bothered enough to put one of those a bit more closer, perhaps people would actually use it.

Make it usable, or it would become irrelevant -something that can be clearly seen in the bus-ticket scenario, where increasingly bus-conductors are not issuing tickets for small rides. Joy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shall we kiss?

Shilpa Shetti seems to have a knack of getting herself into the spotlight. Previously, she was involved in the infamous ‘big brother’ fiasco; the latest incident involves Richard Gere (the guy from the movie, shall we dance) when he kissed her in public during an Aids Awareness event.

Now I have done my share of Aids awareness, never did anyone have the urge to kiss a female participant. I don’t know what Gere was trying to communicate through the kiss though; perhaps ‘guys, you totally can’t get Aids like this! Allow me to demonstrate!.. smooch..

Obviously the incident is something that perhaps shouldn’t have happened, but if there’s anyone who could top the insanity of the moment, its got to be the local nationalist boys.. yes. Bring out your bazooka’s brothers our culture’s on fire!.

God save, shiv sena!

On this topic, India uncut pointed me to an interesting post in churumuri :

“If fleetingly kissing a woman in public and with the avowedly socially conscious intention of driving home an obvious message against a scourge like AIDS is such an unpardonable affront to Indian ‘culture’, then what is the lurid act of urinating in the full glare of the public, even on busy roads, that most Indian men do, which results in the rather pathetic scene of the women in the vicinity lowering their heads and hurrying past the cheap spectacle with the man standing with his legs spread at a convenient angle?
So this is part of the great Indian culture we shout from the roof tops about, is it? Or is it enshrined somewhere in the inside pages of our voluminous scriptures?
What of the sexual harassment that goes on in crowded buses and trains where perverts thrust their pelvises into the backsides of hapless women clinging desperately on to every available piece of support inside on their way to a hard day’s work? This doesn’t activate the ‘activists’? ……
.. Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty and India is outraged. How much more morally bogus and dubious and counterfeit can we get.
That reminds me of the tag line of India: 5,000 years of history and culture. Or is it culture and history? " [Link]
I don’t know if I agree with everything in the post, but the fake cultural protectionism goes well beyond the territorial borders of India.