Chicken Soup for the Armchair Revolutionary

Was watching a popular Marathi news channel y’day after long time. Medha Patkar was being interviewed. What a lady! 30 years of struggle against all kinds of injustice. As usual humble, down to earth, calm, composed and articulate. Her dedication towards her cause gives me goose bumps. If you ask me who is most qualified person in entire India to represent Indian people, I would say Medha Patkar. Be it the fight for Farmers, Tribals, Slum-dwellers or the fight to save environment, land, forest or minerals I doubt if she has ever rested in last 30 years.
Meanwhile in commercial breaks they were showing all kinds of ads. Being election season, Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena ads amused me a lot. Big words like Vikas (development) were repeated several times in Congress/NCP ads. BJP, Shiv Sena ads were focused on big personalities and their big words. The ads are made professionally and a slight naivety and you would fall for the ads. Tons of money is being spent on these ads. Most people don’t know the truth behind funding for these ads. And parties would never want them to know. Their interests are best served in keeping common people in dark, so that their conspiracies can grow in the shadows. They like keeping government schools and hospitals in poor state so that their private interests can be served best. A lot of politicians have doubled their fortune in very short time. Seems like they are the best entrepreneurs in India -:)
And then, there are observers, spectators, fans, critics and analysts. They have been commenting on the entire Indian socio-political scene all the time. They are either sitting in their coach or a chair in the news studios.
For them the scene is more or less like a movie or a cricket match. Just like they get excited when Dhoni hits a six, they get excited when their favourite politician wins. And when Dhoni goes for duck they are disappointed, similarly when their favourite politician does something that media disapproves and gives him a zero, they get disappointed. All this time, they haven’t left their couch or comfort zone and their commentary hasn’t stopped.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rocket Science and the Rat Race

Was watching Satyamev Jayate’s episode on corruption. There wasn’t much in it that I didn’t know. But the theme of every Indian being a millionaire struck some chords. Pity that I didn’t know I was born rich as an Indian. Its just that riches are collectively owned by an entity called Government, which in democracy is supposed to be of the people, by the people, for the people.
But these days it means of the politicians, by the bureaucrats, for the crony capitalists.
So everybody pays taxes. A farmer, a business man, a professional or even a beggar. Be it sales tax or income tax, an average Indian pays taxes somewhere between 10% to 30%.
That means every Indian works 1 to 3.5 months of an year for government. Thats somewhere between 30 to 100 days. But how much care do we take that this money, that we pay out of our salary is put to good use? We never bother ourselves about those 30 to 100 days of work! Being middle class, we always worry about spending every penny. We always worry about putting those extra savings in good investment so that we can earn good returns. We are good at working hard at our job so that we can get those promotions and salary hikes. We switch jobs for better prospects and those extra raises. So every time our salary rises, income tax rises too.
Although unhappy at the rising income tax, we don’t really bother about where that tax money goes. Thats not really our cup of tea.
Be it inertia, lack of courage or whatever reason, we give up on that tax money for which we work so hard.
A lot of friends agree that Aam Aadmi Party is really serious about routing out corruption. They believe in their fight and want them to succeed, but when it comes to supporting actively or by donation, their inertia sets in. Their noncommittal attitude comes in.
By simple math, if we spend a month’s salary to change the system and bring in a corruption free government we can save tons of money over the rest of our life. Corruption free government would also mean controlled inflation, better infrastructure and better quality of life like most western countries enjoy. Is it a rocket science, I think not. But but it seems we live in certain psychological bondage that doesn’t let us think big.
That’s why we remain in the rat race all our life. And the elites keep becoming richer as we keep working those 30-100 days for them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Principles not Persons

Was watching a TV debate on an important issue. In couple of minutes, the panelists started doing Tu-Tu Main-Main. One said “2002” other said “1984”, One said “Ashok Chavan” the other said “Yeddurappa” and it went on and on and eventually the so called debate got converted into a shouting match. I closed the browser window.
Very typical scene on Indian TV these days, nothing new about it.

Then there was Facebook post by a friend showing a news piece exposing certain scam in Gujrat. In reply was other post making some allegations and derogatory comments for Kejriwal.
Then in reply was some cartoon insulting Modi. Which was replied by another cartoon insulting Kejriwal. And it went on.
They are all so called Facebook friends but there was no dialog or debate happening. It was again just Tu-Tu Main-Main.
Very typical scene on social media these days, nothing new about it.

Sometimes I wonder if we have forgotten about doing a constructive debate; or we never learnt it in first place? Its easy to do Tu-Tu Main-Main, it easy to shout, its easy to call names and be abusive, but does that lead anywhere?
Of course we are angry about the political establishment, of course we are inspired by Anna Andolan that things can change, of course we see hope in Modi and Kejriwal. First time in our life we are so excited about politics and the elections. This is a welcoming change but can we afford to loose the perspective?
Can we agree to disagree and still be respectful to each other? Can we stop being rude and not be aggressive or abusive? Lets not be so desperate for the change that our infighting gives another chance to the elite class to divide and rule us. Lets not be sycophant and accept everything that media feeds us. Lets use our brains. Lets try to scrutinize everything that they want us to believe. Lets apply our minds and analyse things scientifically.
Looking back at the history we wonder how can a person like Hitler happen in a country like Germany? The history shows that how dictators have always exploited believing masses by conspiring in hiding the truth and spreading false propaganda. If we be patient and trust in truth, the truth has an uncanny habit of popping up at wrong times. And times have proven that emperors have no clothes. Gone are the times of emperors, lets not allow the new breed of emperors in the garb of politicians and corporations to rule us. Let us be watchful. Lets not fool ourselves by believing that one certain politician will fix the system. Lets take things in our own hands and act for the principles that we stand for.
Parties and leaders will come and go. Principles will remain forever. We are lucky that our founding fathers have laid down solid democratic principles. Support only those who stand for the principles you believe in.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

iPad in Education

English LaunchPad

Since the iPad has launched I have seen a surge of educational apps that make the iPad, the perfect device for education. Apple eventually saw this trend and started promoting education category just like games category (in US app store). I was lucky enough to have some of my educational apps featured in this promotion. Apple even provides 50% discount to educational institutes for purchasing apps in bulk.

Now that the rumor has it Apple is going to have an event that will focus on eTextBooks and education, I am excited that this might be the next big thing for education, book publishers, teachers and of course developers.

I have watched young kids discovering all the features and function of an app on iPad intuitively. Some young kids have amazed me by their know-how of the apps that even I did not know. This just proves that iPad is kid’s best friend ever, and if we see an iPad in every home (just like the idiot box) in near future, I won’t be surprised.

If iPad 3 is going to have retina display, I’m sure I’m gonna love reading on the iPad (I still prefer reading on my iPhone!). If we get a feel of real paper like printing on iPad, it would be the best thing to happen for eBooks. Interactive ebooks (audio, video, animations, notes etc) with practice exercises with progress tracking could easily help to master any topic in any subject and it would  easily revolutionize the education completely.

It just happened that we recently made an app for English learning called English LaunchPad which includes some of the ideas from the future of the education.

The problem education has suffered so far is to teach how to self-learn. Once a student is taught to self-learn, he/she really needs no teacher. One can go on the infinite journey of exploring any subjects one is interested in. Most students fail in education because they are forced to learn without evoking their interest. iPad could provide the opportunity where students are given everything they need and allowed to explore whatever they are interested in.

For decades technologist have been trying and hoping to revolutionize  education and have failed. Perhaps, the time has come!

Posted in Geek's World | Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Siri : The future is here.

For years, I have tried to talk to computers and I have realized that they simply don’t get it.

I have tried over a dozen of desktop and mobile apps to see if computers understand what I say. Apps from Google, IBM, Microsoft and many other apps from small developers. None could understand what I say, including Apple’s. The accuracy was less than 50%. I had given up on the idea that computers can understand what I say.

But with Siri’s introduction, Apple is poised to change it forever.

The initial reviews are pretty impressive and I have started thinking about how Siri and iPhone will change the way we interact with computers once again.

Apple has previous changed the way we interact with computers again and again. From command line inputs from keyboards and graphical user interface with mice to touch interface on iPhone. Siri will enable humans to directly talk to a computer and get things done.

As Siri is still in beta. What Siri is capable of doing now is just the tip of iceberg. Its just beginning of the great future ahead. We would be seeing a lot of new apps coming from Apple that would integrate with Siri. Some examples are Reminders app, Movie trailers app, Newsstand app and so on. While third party app integration will soon be a reality, till then Apple will be making a lot of Apps that Siri would be interacting with. I am sure Apple is non-stop working on making Siri the only thing that would do everything.

Its interesting that how Apple has always been thinking of our mothers and grandmothers. Typing on keyboard to get things done is really hard for old people. Mouse is better, Touch screens are lot easier and Siri would be the easiest way ever to interact with computers.

I would not be surprised if Siri would soon become part of desktops and tablets. With its integration with desktops and tablets, Siri would soon become the de-facto standard of interacting with computers. I wouldn’t say that keyboards and mice will disappear, but users will move away from them as much as possible. Just like most people prefer mouse over keyboard, a lot of people would choose Siri over keyboard and mouse.

I would assume that Siri will take quite a good amount of time to become mature. When Siri is mature and robust, Apple would eventually figure out third party app integration with Siri. If that happens, there would be explosion of the apps that would integrate with Siri. And  with that Apple will write another chapter in the history of computers and the way humans interacted with them!

Posted in Apple, Geek's World, iphone apps | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses