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Showing posts from 2005
bliss of ignorance

In my oscillating cycle of interest, now I am switching back to non-fiction – that too more related to building skills required in my trade. This is leading me into some self help style books which I wouldn’t want to read normally. But the current book I am reading has great tips on promoting oneself, how to build more visibility, build a good brand, network and loads of tips – it is written by somebody who has cracked the secret of getting inside the skip of people without their knowledge. It is probably one secret which could give you ability to sell anything and get you those millions. Being cynical about this maybe a case of sour grapes.

But letting people like me in on those kinds of secrets is like giving me a clue to recognize people who use those tricks. For example, I started blogging to just write about what interests me at the moment – I had known only one use of it then. It can also be used as a tool for the “entrepreneurs” to deliver value and get recogni…

today's article: self-healing programs

Today I read about IBM’s self-healing programs.
I don’t expect it to be as smooth as it is made out to be, but this is adventurous. I was first of all wondering why terms like autonomic computing, artificial intelligence, regenerative systems etc gives a kind of thrill like a fantasy or science fiction. Anyways, it need not be a macro phenomenon, but the principles could be applied in minute way in routine applications as well. Systems doing preventive maintenance sort of checks (like the on-board diagnostics of car and “check engine” warning light) – it should be possible to put in pre-coded periodic self-checks. Systems trying to do some basis error correction before throwing it out to the user (the very first data format error need not be thrown and program aborted – it could try to correct the format and continue). Systems could learn from how it is used and present better ways – frequent navigations, frequent combinations of data made available. Systems doing self a…
las vegas

It was all about cold weather, TV, lots of lights and travel for the past week. It was a long weekend for Thanksgiving which got appended by one additional holiday and with one additional sick leave, I got almost a week off. Weather is playing tricks here – one day it stings any exposed part and couple of days after I can walk out without a jacket.

First two days went in Harry Potter’s latest episode and lots of TV. Finally I ventured out to West side of US – Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. Las Vegas was as expected – lots of pomp and glitter. You can feel the Presence of Money like God. We stayed in Fremont Street which was like a relative cut off from the family with new money – it must be still doing okay with night lit up like day and all night music. It is a crazy town with all sorts of people doing all sorts of things – crazy ones and those who want to go crazy for some time before retuning to normal world.

Drive to Grand Canyon was probably one of my best so far – really pic…

user interface prototyping

Read an article in Slashdot on tools for UI prototyping. This question used to come up many times during project initiation phases, but due to lack of time, never gets done properly.

I have used Microsoft Excel in the past and found it useful to give an idea to users about how the application will look. It has some advantages:-
• Need not write unnecessary code during prototyping. Sometimes things may wither at prototyping stage itself, so the time spent at this stage may not be that useful.
• Faster prototyping – the interest may wane if we linger on the prototype for too long.
• Easier to change – It should be possible to change the prototype (after all it is only a prototype, so it shouldn’t take a day to make the changes that the user specified). Better yet, it should be possible to change the prototype while sitting with users.
• Hands-on by users – It should be possible for users to comment or even change the prototype by themselves. Cell comment in excel may b…
spanglish and sideways

I watched two movies recently – spanglish and sideways. Spanglish for the second time - first time was in a marathon movie session in a flight. This movie has even Adam Sandler acting decently – I mean, the guy made too many bad choices (films like Waterboy, I couldn’t even watch the ads). But he gives a controlled performance, within limits and makes it bearable. I think Tim Robbins and Tom Hanks are of that variety – not overdoing it, but wins it by keeping it simple, the handicap of not being flamboyant is used as strength. Movies which are filled with lot of quirky stuff, strange characters and situations (which makes me think how they came up with it in the first place) are fun to watch. Supporting cast in this movie was very genuine and was given some meaningful lines – they were not invented to push the story forward or fill in time.

Sideways – I thought it was a real ride, stuff for which people should be going to movies for. Paul Giamatti is a real worker…

software plumbing

I used to be impressed by the dexterity of the maintenance men who come around to fix things around house – about how neatly they accomplish things like fixing a leak or checking the wiring etc. Most of them have ability to make the things work with a quick fix, common sense and knowledge of the tools to use to fix something and they don’t make a mess.

This post is not about the house maintenance, but about putting together a software solution to the immediate need, having the knowledge to select the best tools for the job and to reach a quick solution, not building a house from ground up. In “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, there is a passage about making a replacement part made from a soft drink can for a friend’s expensive motorcycle – when you tell them that it is made from tin can, they may not allow you to put it in. I think it is a natural tendency to buy the packaged/branded/expensive product from a super store and expect that it is the best solution.

T…
lost in translation

Is it possible to express the same feeling in two different languages and mean exactly the same thing? I was reading a bit of translation last week and was thinking how distorted it gets. Book translates a polite but strong, formal but bit sensitive writing in English to Malayalam – I happened to see the English version also and there is noticeable difference. Also I read something this week that messages conveyed by human beings has the context info or meta message (message about the message) also embedded in it, we are able to understand the metamessages with a lot of experience. Variety of information is required to fully understand the meaning of something that is written – we would need some cultural background, syntax of language and local usage and even some idea about geography. Translation of a Malayalam novel like “Chemmeen” by Thakazhi, a complex story set in coastal kerala, might look very odd in English. Somebody who hasn’t seen fishermen in Kerala coas…

Ajax

I have been meaning to start checking out Ajax with a little hands-on for quite some time and today I had my “hello world” with it.

AJAX: Getting Started: gives a quick way to start testing. XMLHttpRequest seems to be the key to this. Rest is all about constructing the presentation layer at runtime using javascript than to change the content from server.

Rasmus' 30 second AJAX Tutorial - A wanderer's journal: Pretty much the same as above. I saw this argument at multiple places that Ajax is nothing but hype and people were using DHTML + XML way back etc. I am not yet sure about the extent or power of Ajax, but I liked the idea behind it. It seems to me as something that can be termed as “perception change” – the idea that request-response processing can be done without interrupting the user interaction is great.

Today morning I attended a session on innovation management – it was said that creative ideas which works can be extended, like computers invented for …

local search APIs and mashups

I was working like crazy for last couple of days with Yahoo and Google search APIs. I was trying to qualify/clean sales lead records using the local search for businesses. I naturally expected Google to do better, but their webservice is really Beta, it is not really able to do local searches and give me back the result set with address information – it can only give back the search result snippet. At the same time, Yahoo exceeded my expectations – it gave me a resultset with address, phone number, URL and a details URL which is really cool- it shows the map for business, category of business etc. I am able to specify sort criteria – relevance, distance or rating.

This experiment sort of initiated me to the power of webservices as well – within matter of seconds, I was able to run a list of 1000 businesses through Yahoo local search API and get results back with standardized addresses, phone number, URL etc.

I attempted this because I saw another one which was using G…

Open source initiation – still going on..

Not dead, but not exactly running yet.

• I had registered in three projects – one of them almost dropped me since it is going at an amazing pace, I can’t even think about catching up now. I will have to be patient, setup tools and familiarize, do something small on my own. Two others are still alive.
• I am using Eclipse a lot these days and in the process of falling in love. I have poked around many of the features and almost familiarized it, but still haven’t formed habits around it.
• Need to learn refactoring techniques and concepts. So far, refactoring hasn’t been in the picture, even if I had written a piece of code which I know is not the best. But now I am more or less interested in writing something and getting it working fast, then if I can find fun in improving the code, it will be great.
• Installed MySQL 3.1. After a long time, I am meeting another database. I had brief encounters with IMS, DB2, SQL Server before making Oracle as the One. Even though I kn…
attention span

I can imagine myself as Spaceman Spiff, the intergalactic explorer. I start my expedition from a corner of the world by opening my mozilla firefox and clicking on bloglines | my feeds in my bookmarks toolbar. There are 800 unread News items, 115 Tech and unrelated, 734 del.ici.ous feeds, 25 Misc, Sports 25 and checking out 2 and some more folders which I have don’t have energy to list. Luckily I am not much interested in photography and flickr. When there are 38 Dilbert and Calvin & Hobbes to be read and I just go and click on it to remove the annoying (38) from reminding me, I feel desperate. How often can you wipe your slate clean, condemn all those wonderful things to oblivion and start fresh again? I am one who attends to every mail in my mailbox as soon as it comes in, even if it is to mark mail from Roberto Somebody about easy mortgage as junk mail or deleting CNET news on sight. I lost track of the newsletters to which I have subscribed – I no longer do that e…

open source initiation - continued

Continuing with my open source initiation, I am still preparing with setups and tools installation for couple of projects hoping that I will use them and learn – hope it will not end up like a preparing and rehearsing for a marriage only to find out that it is not going happen.

Anyways, just putting down the tasks, notes and my thoughts so that this will serve as my future reference:-

- Installed WinSCP as the file transfer tool and WinCVS for CVS client. I am still working from WinXP machine; hope someday I will be able to repeat such installation for a Linux machine.

- Installed Oracle JDBC drivers, this time a new jar (for 9i). I had
worked with classes111 and classes12, but didn’t know that a new one, ojdbc14, has come out. I am sure even that has been overridden by 10g drivers. Another generation gap thing going on.

- Installed Maven 1.0.2, build tool. I am still overwhelmed with the number of frameworks churned out from Apache project; it will take some time to…
grown up

Today morning, in context of a session, following was presented by a colleague:-

According to a UCLA study, at age five, we engage in creative tasks 98 times a day, laugh 113 times, and ask questions 65 times. By the age of 44, however, the numbers shrink to 2 creative tasks a day, 11 laughs and 6 questions.

Furthermore, the UCLA study found a 91 percent negative response rate among adults exposed to new ideas.

I thought even 11 laughs is bit exaggerated. Anyway this is a symptom to watch out for.

open source

After a lethargic period, I have started some more activities which kind of elevated me to another excited level:-

- I have registered in couple of open source projects. Work hasn’t started on anything yet, but I am excited to be in between those terms which were so vague to me so far. I have been reading so much about open source development for last couple of years, but never mustered enough courage to wet my feet. Initially I thought it was only for linux hacks which is a whole different world to me, I had started looking towards that path (reached only the stage of buying the brochures, but didn’t even plan the trip). Now I have enrolled in couple of projects which were looking for Java developers. I am sure it will be a good experience, but hope I can find enough time to work, at the moment I don’t think energy should be a problem.

- Installed Eclipse (another one of those candies I wanted to have for some time) and browsed around. I think having a good IDE goes a l…
Today I listened to an inspiring and very interesting talk by Adam Bosworth given in Salesforce.com’s annual event – Dreamforce. It is titled Intelligent Reaction. Summary of the talk is that companies should react to customer needs and use the customer data to evolve rather than going with a grand plan. It is in line with couple of things I am following nowadays – Agile development and Using customer/transaction data to make better decisions (I wonder whether there is a term for it).

I caught a lot of phrases maybe clichés but good to keep focus, so spewing it out here – talk to people, listen carefully, Iterate, evolve, intelligent reaction vs intelligent design, start small, lots of releases instead of one grand plan, change with times, follow your customer in real-time, learn and change, nothing is perfect.

This is the changing way of software development, but I wonder how many organizations adapt to this. I think it is probably easy to track the usage, listen to …

Extreme Programming vs. Interaction Design

I am interested in learning more about extreme programming, but haven’t been able to read in detail or practice any part of it so far – I will get back to that sometime soon. Interaction design – that’s a term which I came across for the first time and at the outset it sounds like a fuzzy concept to me. Following are some of my thoughts (quotes from article are in Italics):-

• I think the deepest tacit assumption is that we have a significant organizational problem, but we can't fix the organization. I believe that in order to create quality software, you have to change the organization.
• It's my experience that neither users nor customers can articulate what it is they want, nor can they evaluate it when they see it. Neither the people who buy software nor the people who use it have the capability of visualizing something as complex as the behavior of software. They also don't have the ability to analyze what appropriate behavior is.

I started my career wi…
I have come across couple of situations in last few days where guys boast about their achievements, talents in a manner that evokes a temporary dislike like a bad taste or a sour smell. Maybe sometimes it is essential for a person to establish himself and make it known to others, if need be by telling it himself, that he is capable. Somehow it feels endearing if a person who is talented speaks about through action than by actually thrusting out his chest and bragging about it. How does it feel when a friend in a casual conversation just lets it slip that he is the indispensable to his company because he is oh-so talented? It is slightly awkward if it is in a direct conversation because I don’t know how to respond to that with a straight face and these situations are not rare. It maybe our ultimate need to feel appreciated or the times are such that without marketing no products can sell.

I had come to an agreement with the theory that ego is not a bad thing and it is self which should …
Today’s greatest idea: Why don’t I maintain my thoughts on the articles I read? I do sample some out of the flood of online articles published everyday and may have some thoughts of my own which I may follow up later on – for all that matters, something might stick with me for a lifetime and add to my ongoing quest to expand the perspective. So starting today I decided to keep some notes here, let me see how long I can keep this up.

Versatilists
I have been toying with the theory of jack of all trades vs master of something for some time now – I haven’t made up my mind yet and may not ever. This one is giving a name to the types – Specialists, Generalists and Versatilists. Being a specialist, knowing something in depth and to be fully confident will be a great feeling and probably we will all do this with the subjects which appeal to our passion. It need not be the field I am working in, it could be anything. I maybe interested in Ford Mustang, I may know its history, it…
Autumn is sneaking up on us. Slowly it is announcing the arrival - yellow tinge on leaves, temperature is dropping and sun is setting early now. The good days of summer are almost over and this gives me a kind of desperation. I think this time of the year is always going to bring this feeling - of having lost something too soon or something slipping away. Even when I enjoy the fall colors, it comes with a sense of imminent loss. I am not looking it up, but I am sure they would have categorized and named this feeling under some sort of anxiety.

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Scribbled down some things sitting through a long meeting and other random bits (true rambling):-

Seek, find and chase opportunities. Nowadays it won't bother to knock even once.

Have a hold on yourself like a pet on a leash. It may misbehave, try to take a piss on somebody's yard, bite an innocent bystander - but take a step back and check/force yourself to behave as you think you should and probably…
I was reading an article in Reader’s Digest on trends that are changing life – one trend they spotted is personalized media in the form of customized news, blogs, personalized TV etc. In my line of work, they call grandfather systems which we are upgrading to newer technologies as legacy system – like that, the legacy media keeps reporting about blogging and internet as a new phenomenon in a funny way. One of their arguments is, if you are filtering news and customizing it based on your preferences, you might run the risk of some sort of tunnel vision. You choose what you like or the system start choosing what it thinks you like (sounds like science fiction). I don’t really have a problem with that – in fact I would like to build that into systems to have capability to monitor my actions and help me out by pulling up suggestions about what I am looking for. It is more human approach – if I go to a shop and ask for product which is not there, a good salesman will try to pitch for other…
everyday is a winding road..

Nowadays I drive for almost an hour everyday between home and office. Drive is quite relaxing actually - with three different single lane routes to choose from, each offering different view and feel. First is a very curvy road with many ups and downs, so it is labeled as "ride". It has two schools, one or two colleges, some farms, almost half the way covered completely by tall trees on both sides of the road and few lavish houses. Sometimes deers cross the road, once with its kid walking across the road very casually, mom waiting for the naughty kid to catch up. This road could get nasty if it rains. Another one is almost all the way covered by trees, less curvy, some stretch feels like proper forest. Last one is more or less going straight through two or three hills, going up and down, with one or two golf courses and horse stables in between and a very nice view of the whole region. Except for morning rush hour, I get all three roads to myself m…

formal learning

I am considering going for Sun Certified Java Programmer – just trying to come off the inertia. My core competency in programming can be ascribed to Java, but I never studied it completely using a book or a proper training course. I am involved too less in actual software development these days and sometimes that frightens me to think that I would soon loose the authority/hold on whatever knowledge I have and become redundant. It is actually very difficult to start studying for something without expectation of any external reward.

Over time, I had tried to learn certain things on my own, mainly leisure stuff – went for guitar classes for two years while in college, tried to learn chess with text books etc. Programming should be learned by more practice than theory. One of my friends used to say that to learn keyboard (music), first you start hitting on the keys and learn for yourself what makes agreeable noises and then you will proceed to develop a sense of what feels …
news

Yet another topic that I do not have a strong opinion or clear perspective: politics. I must say I am mildly interested and sometimes my interest heightens and then for months I don't even read newspapers. When I was in college, I used to devour the local newspaper from first to last page - everything from politics, economics, sports and local affairs. I was in no particular hurry in the morning to get to college, I could park the breakfast on to the paper and go through every inch. But after I moved out of there, I have never managed to read a newspaper or magazine from cover to cover. I can attribute that to a lack of care about what is happening around me (unless something drastic which demands attention), bulky newspapers which are very clearly meant for a serious study rather than daily news, internet newspapers which don't have a definitive path to follow (side bar, top bar, snapshots, summaries and in between a small strip of news strewn with links - I am compelled …
luck

Yesterday was a hot sunny day - there won't be many days like this, but being incredibly lazy about making most of it, I mourn the passing of each day. In the afternoon, I called an old college friend - main topic of these calls has become gossip about old classmates - who got married, who else is on the line, tracking people around the globe. Nowadays I wait for being in the right mood to call friends. Most of the times I am really not in a mood to talk to anybody at all. I think I can muster enough energy to call someone when there is absolutely nothing else I can do - when there is not even crap on TV and I don't feel like reading. I can even be a bit talkative then.

Anyways, I took the car to go out for shopping, still talking to him on mobile and got out to the single lane road out of the apartment. It was a 35 mph road and I must have hit the customary 40. Suddenly out of nowhere, a van pulled into my path from left. Within a fleeting second, I hit hard on the brakes,…

Software Deployment

I read a bit on Environment Tests and Deployment tools and it got me thinking. In my mind if there is a picture of deployment tool, it is InstallShield. If I need to install an application in my PC, I would ideally like to get a package which tells me exactly which exe to double click to start installation (No, I don’t want to do 10 things before starting my installation), essential information I need to know (I don’t want to choose a thousand attributes which can be probably defaulted) and a neat and complete way to uninstall the application (it should remove every bit of itself – I don’t want to pollute my PC with unnecessary stuff). Now, the application I am developing can be deployed like this? Probably no. I assume my job ends when I have a perfectly working application satisfying all user requirements and more. Deployment should be easy and it is left to system administrators.

Deployment or Implementation would seem like an insignificant task for most developers.…
Sometimes I feel I am the most gullible, impressionable by anything and agreeing to both sides of any debate alternatively without being able to make up my mind about something. Either I can console myself that I am finding good in everything or I can accuse myself for being a weakling who cannot differentiate good from bad. That is what I am searching for - my day of emotional maturity - then without running around mirages of ideas, dreams and goals, I can relax in the comfort that my thinking is right and this is what I want. I have been thinking of one quote for couple of days - it is from "pretty woman". Mr. Gere says that rarely people surprise him and Ms. Roberts replies that "good for you. Most people scare the shit out of me most of the times" or something in the similar line. Yes, I think that sometimes - I haven't made up my mind yet about most things in life. I fancy myself as good at recognizing patterns and making theories - in work and outside. I …
I have a very peculiar behavioral problem – if I postpone something repeatedly, I may end up never doing it. I know very well about this but like with an invisible wall, I timidly knock against it, but just don’t seem to break it. Around three months back, a friend had called me during office hours when I was about to get into a meeting, I told him that I will call him back. Every weekend, I make a mental note to call him, but I put it off for later and finally I returned back from UK without calling him at all. I have minor to major activities in terms of seriousness in such hanging status – it is like going through life with a lot of frozen activities which I will probably never get back to. This blog was becoming one of those. So this post is to break the silence and get back.

Quite a lot of things happened in my life since my last post. My assignment in UK came to an end, I traveled back home, stayed there for three days and came back to US of A. It has been hectic for some time an…
Finally I got my hands on Da Vinci Code. Popularity of this book has become some kind of myth in recent times. Undoubtedly it has become a worldwide best seller. After it was recommended to me by a friend, most days I see some mention in newspaper or people reading it in trains. In my circle of acquaintances, only new films, TV shows and music gets discussed and never a book – this may be the rare one. How many times have you discussed a new book release, checked reviews and tried to read it hot-from-the-oven not like after 50 years from the time of publishing? I watched a TV documentary called “Real Da Vinci Code” which visited all the sites mentioned in the book and ended up refuting many of the claims made in the book. I walk by a 175 year old Mary Magdalene church every morning and have visited Rome, Vatican, Paris, Lovre and London in recent times – that must be all the reasons to read this book.

I did contemplate buying it, but somehow decided against it, tried borrowing from fri…
Somehow I could pluck myself away from the imaginary clutches busy work and went on a trip to Italy and Switzerland. We rummaged through Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice, Interlaken and Geneva in 6 days. Except for rather tired legs, it was smoothest trip irrespective of so much travel through trains, buses, flights and even boats. It couldn't have been smoother if not for Google and internet - booking hotels, finding places to see, buying even intercity train tickets and planning the whole trip without leaving home even once. We have truly come of age in our use of Internet.

Rome was another version of London and Paris with its share of monuments, art, museums, palaces and cathedrals. We went to Vatican first, stood in 2 km queue for security check, had our fill of Michelangelo and all others - they have painted, sculpted, sewn so much that after Sistine chapel everything starts to look the same. I don't have a very keen eye for art, but basically it looked grand. One thing I real…
beam of light through autumn trees
warm on the cheek, lighting up inside
feeling light on feet, wanting to fly
a song playing in background of my soul, faintly
is there a hint of involuntary smile?

joy without any reason, like for real
would have danced if I was a kid
live this moment, not fear the next
don’t think, just live, maybe that’s an idea
“just feeling happy, don’t know why”

tired of feeling blue, dreaming up all ghosts
conscious of self, meeting expectations
trying to be nice, acting polite
analysing, criticizing, cursing and lying
somebody tell this kid, “that toy is not so great”
Came across article in Guardian about “What are friends for?” something in the lines of which I also have been thinking about for some time. I was taking inventory of how many friends I think I have and why I don’t have “best friends”. I seem to have a steady supply of friends but then losing touch with them in the course of this long trip called life and finally becoming just a memory relived once a year accidentally. Around every corner, you find new acquaintance, out of desperation to be in touch with humanity you make them friends, and then they fade away into the jungle of life like somebody departing on a train on a long journey.

Long time ago, when I still hadn’t discovered the “reality” of adult life, I used to think that friendship is the ultimate thing in a sentimental kind of way. Life is sweetly happy when you sit around doing nothing trading joking with them. If you take a joke out that context and repeat to yourself after sometime, it looks so silly, but you have laughed …
I am becoming somewhat nostalgic about bright sunshine and blue sky. I can't seem to shake off the thought that precious moments or prime time of my life is getting wasted inside office, under artificial light, facing a wall cabinet or a cubicle separator, like a chicken waiting to hatch an egg. I happen to go out today morning, it was good day, cold but sunny. I felt bit envious of people who were walking in the streets - nobody is in a hurry to reach somewhere by some fixed time. It is absolutely liberated feeling - to travel in an empty train just looking out, without worrying about anything. I am having dreams about going out on a long ride with soft music playing in the background through deserted straight roads, landscapes changing from vast harvested fields, beautiful lawns with a sprinkle of autumn leaves on vibrant green grass or filled with mountains, valleys and occasional lakes - all taken out of movies, but it need not be that perfect. Nowadays my "happy place&qu…