30 December, 2016

Enough with "2016 was shit"

It is funny how everyone on social media has started to put those "2016 was shit" posts. I understand that 2016 was shit but so were 2015 and 2014. Every year in the past was shit.

Wasn't 1914 to 1918 shit during the first world war?
Wasn't 1919 shit when 1000+ people were killed in Jalllianwala bagh massacre?
Wasn't 1939 to 1945 shit during the second world war and the holocaust?
Wasn't 1943 shit when the Bengal famine killed 3 million people?
Wasn't 1947 shit when the partition of India killed more than a million people?
Heck, the whole 1600 to 1947 were shit during British Raj

Yeah 2016 was shit. Probably 2017 is going to be shit too

19 November, 2016

How to dance?

I have always been one of those kids who never used to dance. When forced, I just used to do leg-leg-hand-hand dance for a few seconds and opt out the moment I could. Deep inside, I used to feel like dancing, but it was the shyness and poor skills that used to hold me back. I was so shy of dancing that I used to screw up every time I tried. And yes, I did dance awful.

Well, I still dance awfully. Probably, the worst way someone can dance. But, I DANCE! I am not afraid of dancing anymore. I still get shy initially, but I don't find it that difficult anymore to jump on to the dance floor and start moving to that beat. So how can you get the MJ, the Prabhu Deva, the Hritik out on the floor?

Read on..

By the way, I am not going by this popular definition of dance .

"Dance is human movement created and expressed for an aesthetic purpose." - Sondra Fraleigh

I am going by the layman's definition which to "Move your body baby!" to music. Meaning, dancing on occasions like a club, parties, weddings, etc. Not on the stage, no, I am not an expert (only did it once in school).

So following are some tips to get yourselves to dance

1. C2H6O

To be honest, some amount of this alternate water (read alcohol) helps to an extent. Hammer yourself with a couple of beers or some shots and the liquid courage will start to work. Some studies suggest that a slight intoxication does increase rhythm.
 Or is it a placebo effect? Anyway, too many drinks will lead you to make a fool out of yourself. So find the placebo, or the right amount of the devil's soup to drink.

Thanks for reading. The above is the only way to get yourselves to dance. STOP! I have some more, read on.

2. Do not care!

Actually, this is the key to dance. Do not care about anyone, do your thing. Remember you dance for yourself to enjoy, not for the others to see. If you wanted to dance for others to see, go on a stage to dance. "Log kya kahenge?" (What will people think?) - This statement has ruined more occasions that any other thing in this world. If you don't care what people think, I assure you will actually enjoy your dancing. And when you enjoy something, you get better and better at it. In fact, alcohol (read above) actually does the exact same thing. It makes you think, "I don't fucking care, I am gonna dance".

3. Observe what others do

People mostly dance in groups. Remember, there are always a few good dancers on the floor. Observe them how they move, steal a few steps on the fly. I have actually made dance buddies when dancing on the floor, stole the other guys moves, and then we were dancing in sync! And people like dancing in sync with others, it looks good and is easy as well. So copy!

Actually, watching video songs helps quite well (Bollywood). Just remember a few steps from the video songs, and trust me, you don't have to break dance, just a few hand, leg, neck movements that go well with music.

Break the dance floor!



19 August, 2016

Let your children play

India is a nation of 1.3 billion people and yet it only gets a handful of medals at the Olympic games. In the current games being held at Rio, India currently ranks at 70 with 1 bronze medal and a couple more medal hopes. Any medal won by an Indian sportsperson is celebrated with great fanfare by the country. A few people mock at Indians celebrating crazily for a single medal bagged at the games. Those few do not understand the value of things that are rare and precious. Things that make a billion people happy and things that are hard earned with so many difficulties. The Olympic medals are such precious things.

Yet, we have to accept the fact that India, a country of a billion people fails miserably at sports. The only sport we are champions at is Cricket. A sport that is considered a religion in a country of cricket fanatics. Even in cricket, we were behind Australia for many years. While the Aussies, from a country with a meagre population as compared to India, excel at many other sports and do quite well at the Olympics.

India's failure is blamed at the lack of sporting infrastructure and investment. To excel at sport one needs better infrastructure, equipment and most importantly, high quality training. Given the right setup, Indian athletes are capable of challenging the best of the world. The best example is P. V. Sindhu who is just 21 years old, trained with Gopichand who is a well known Badminton coach and trained in an excellent Badminton academy in Hyderabad. Sindhu has qualified for the finals at Rio Olympics.

So yes, we need investment, a lot of investment in infrastructure and training equipment. But most importantly, we also need a sporting mindset. The problem with Indian parents is that they only want their children to be successful in academics. I have been a victim of this mindset. I was a sports person till the 10th grade. I was quite good at roller skating but my parents stopped me from skating after I had a bad fall and was injured. In fact, they should have encouraged me to continue instead of getting scared of my fall. Even in cricket, I had to stop playing after my 10th grade because my parents enrolled me in IIT coaching (read the story here). I had to stop playing because according to Indian logic, academics are the most important thing in life and everything else is useless.

So stop pressuring your kids to just study. Of course studies are important, but that should not come at a cost of compromising other things like sports, exercise, and other extra curricular activities. Let your children go outside, to the ground, or to the gymnasium. Let them develop an interest in a sport. Later, encourage them to go ahead. Do not stop them. Our school system also does not encourage sporting activities. American/European schools have a lot of facilities, and more importantly, have a culture of sporting. They have annual games, school teams and many other events that encourage the students to play and take part in sports.

If you are a teacher or a parent, "let your children play"

24 April, 2016

Happy Birthday Sachin Tendulkar!

"Let me know when Sachin is in 90s, I want to see his century", said my dad before he went to fix the air cooler outside our home. How could he be so confident that Sachin will score a century? But he was right about, Sachin wen't on to score a 100!

I was born in 1991, and I never saw the initial years when Sachin started to play cricket in 1989. My dad's generation is the one which saw the budding years of the "Little Master" and saw him giving hope to a billion Indians in those days. When I started understanding cricket in the early 2000s, Sachin was in his glory days. Like me, there are many many people who got inspired by this great player.

Sachin is a player who is loved world wide. A humble human being. A pride for those 1.2 billion Indian people who stick to their television and come to cricket stadiums just to watch the master play the game.

Sachin is truly an ambassador of this beautiful gentleman's game of Cricket. Happy Birthday to the God of Cricket!! Eagerly waiting for Sachin - The film!


08 February, 2016

Startup?

This is the story of the only venture that I tried to start up. Unfortunately I failed! But I learned a lot. I will probably try again, someday, in a better way. I am writing this because it might help someone. So, here it goes.

It was 2011, I was in the end of fourth semester of my engineering bachelors, an idea stuck me. It was not so novel, but it did give me vibes of a potential profitable business. The idea was to sell video lectures on DVDs and create a platform for delivery of educational (video/written) courseware offline through removable (optical) media.

The inspiration

In 2010, I had attended C programming language classes of a renowned professional in Nagpur. After the C language course ended, he handed all the students a CD with an activation key which contained a course for C++ programming. That one CD was free, but if I had to buy a new one, it cost 500+ rupees at that time (which was very costly). So I installed the courseware and activated it. I and my two friends got an idea to save money and we tried a lot to find vulnerabilities in his software and we did partially succeed in extracting the video lectures. I also wrote my own front end that played his videos and organized the index properly. Because of ethical reasons, we never distributed the material (and we did notify him about the problem in his software).

This is when I got the idea to create my own platform to deliver video courses offline. A platform which was more secure, that would have a proper process to distribute content over removable media. The courseware was supposed to be monetized, hence the security to prevent illegitimate copying. Plus, Internet connectivity in India was still very poor in India, and it is still one of the slowest.

Discussed with Chand and Vishal and we started off.

The Survey

We surveyed several students and asked them if such system would benefit them and got positive responses. The plan was to enable students a quick and easy way to get comprehensive material offline, and the authors to create high quality content and earn profit.

The Idea

The idea was not just to create a software that would lock video courseware to a computer of a person who has bought the course. The idea was to create an ecosystem where our company will act as a publisher. We would provide tools to create video courseware and to export them in a secure format. We would then create keys for the courseware and sell it on DVDs. The purchaser would have to activate the course (via phone or SMS or online) in order to use it. Then, we planned to have a system were the students would be able to come for doubt clearing sessions to the course creators. The focus was to enable this offline, because of slow Internet. 

The Action

The first step was to create a prototype platform. This was needed to earn the confidence of content creators to create the first content for us. We managed to create a prototype but failed to win the confidence of content creators. The content creators whom we targeted were college professors since the target buyers were engineering students. Every professor I talked to either asked me about the money first, and then about how difficult it is start a company. We promised more than 80% share of the revenue that we could earn form their courses. But no one agreed citing that there is no guarantee of earning money and the product to succeed. I think it was fair on their part, we weren't even a registered company with no funds (just our pocket money).

So, we decided to come up with our own content in order to bootstrap the first version and to gain confidence of content makers. But oh boy, creating high quality content is a mammoth task. First, you have learn a lot about the subject to the extent of becoming an expert, then there is recording, editing, and production work. But, I did record a C programming course. But the speed was very slow owing to my engineering studies and preparing for campus placements. We somehow lost focus.

By the time I almost ended producing the first course, it didn't turn out very high quality. More that 7..8 months had passed by, I got a job in Infosys and completely lost focus. We did improve the platform slightly, and managed to barely finish the first course. We had also purchased a domain name and hosting space to host our marketplace. But since we had lost focus and had wasted a lot of time, the market was occupied with other services. Services like Udacity, Udemy, Coursera had become famous. On the offline side, a few companies had already come up with similar ideas and were actually doing good.

The wrap up

We decided to wrap up the work and upload the videos to YouTube for free. But we did gain quite a lot of experience regarding this. Firstly, we became really good tutors. I actually got a job as a Lecturer at a polytechnic, and later recorded a full high quality course for a US based online company. Chand, my friend, moved to create other technical courses and is now quite famous on Udemy.

During the final days, while I was also working as a Lecturer, Chand started an Internship program for MCA students and I took care of the PHP training part. We also tried to start a small scale institute for computer programming training but did not manage to get enough students. Then, I had to leave Nagpur for Infosys. Chand managed with the institute for a couple of months.

Lesson learnt?

Yes. What we need is a proper focus and a determination to complete things at hand. I failed poorly to convince potential authors. Furthermore, we did not do the project on war-footing, it was like a side project. Also, I did not explore the idea further to improvise it. I could have gone to experienced people. I had no idea about funding and gathering talent to build stuff.


That was our logo :)
So, that was the story about "Smartsage Technologies". It still lives in our minds. We will revive it someday!

Have you tried to start up your venture? I would love to hear that. Do comment.

24 January, 2016

A same password for every service?

Do you have a same password for every service that you use? The same password for office and personal emails? The same for Facebook and Gmail? The same for www.some-forum-site.com?

Well, it seems you could land in deep trouble.

Having a single password is a single point of failure. If your password gets compromised, all of the services that use your password are no longer secure.

If you keep your password written on a piece of paper and keep it locked in a vault, it is still not safe if you use a 'one for all' password.

Why? Well, do not consider a password analogous to a physical key. A password can be copied easily once it leaves your system to the server. Physical keys can also be copied, but it is not so easy and you need special equipment to do that (and a locksmith).

When you enter your password in the login prompt, you enter it in "plain text" (even though it appears to you as * * * *). It is sent to the server in "plain text". If you don't use HTTPS, it is transfered over the network in "plain text". Even if you use HTTPS, the server decrypts it to "plain-text". The point I am trying to make is that the other side (i.e. the server) can read your password once you send it from the login prompt. Eventually, you have to trust the other side.

Now what they do with your password plays a major role in securing your account. Trusted companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter do not store your password in "plain text". What they store is called a "hash" of your password. So while signing in, they compare the hash of received password with the stored password. If it matches, Viola! You are logged in!

So trusted websites do not store your password. Do they? Well you trust them so OK.

But there are websites which are developed by amateur programmers, who happen to store the passwords in "plain text". Yes IT HAPPENS! Such websites are very vulnerable because beginner developers tend to turn a blind eye towards security.

Now, you might have heard reports of hacker groups releasing millions of passwords from hacked websites. Many times they get these passwords in plain-text and release them in public domain along with user details. Believe me, this is very common and there are several methods attackers use to get this information.

Now, you happen to have an account on www.some-forum-site.com which gets compromised. Your password is now in public domain. If you use that password everywhere, you are gone! I mean seriously gone!

Should you keep a one-for-all password? No! Now go change your passwords!

14 January, 2016

What is your religion?

Ever since I have come to Europe, sometimes people have asked me about Hinduism. I get asked questions like are there many Gods? What book does Hinduism follow? etc. etc.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to answer questions about Hinduism. To be honest, I do not know about my own religion. Moreover, I was raised in a very moderate and not so religious household where nothing was forced on me.

But hey! Still if you do some research, by probably asking various religious "gurus", you would still find it difficult to understand this religion and narrow it down to specific 'points'. The reason is mainly because Hinduism is quite an obfuscated religion and is very heterogeneous. In fact, it does not fit the definition of a religion. It encompasses a variety of various "cultures" or "sub sects" which have a varied views on God and spirituality.

On contrary, religions like Islam and Christianity are well understood and known to their believers. Of course, it is all about interpretation, but people do follow a book of code and specific defined rules. Also people are aware about such rules. For example, Muslims and Christians believe in ONE GOD and forbid worshiping anything other than that God.

So, as I said that Hinduism does not have a single book of code and is a heterogeneous set of beliefs or values for achieving spirituality. Hence, below are a few points that give a very basic idea of this weird religion.
  • Many Gods - We have may Gods. The most popular ones are Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, Durga, Balaji, etc. My grandma once told me that there are 10 million Gods appearing in different forms. My favourite God is Ganesh, the lord of wisdom who has an elephant head and a human body.
  • Trinity - The three supreme Gods - Bramha (the creator), Vishnu (the maintainer), Mahesh (the destroyer, also knows as Shiva)
  • One God - Yeah, one God. It is confusing. The many gods mentioned above are said to be the manifestations of the 'Brahman', the universe. But hey they are still different Gods. Although many Hindus believe in oneness of God (i.e. the supreme deity).
  • No God - Yep! If you believe that there is no God, it is perfectly okay. You will be called a 'nastik' but that is completely fine. My grandma used to call me a 'nastik' when I didn't used to pay attention to prayers or refute the authority of God. But that still made me a Hindu, I guess.
  • Karma - Almost all Hindus believe in the concept of Karma. In other words, what goes around comes around.
  • Reincarnation - The human body is believed to be a temporary house for our 'soul' and your soul is put into some other body after your death (if everything goes alright). You could be something else than a Human based on the 'sin points' that you have scored in this life (may be an ant if you sinned less, if you sinned zero then probably a human again).
  • Heterogeneity - Hinduism is very heterogeneous. There are various forms like Vaishnavism (Vishnu worshipers), Shaivism (Shiva worshipers) and many others that I do not know of.
  • Cow - The cow has a special status and is considered holy mainly because it gives milk. You will often hear people saying, "Cow is our mother".
  • Code Book - There is no single holy book that dictates and defines the religion. There are however various ancient scriptures. These include the Vedas, Puranas, Gita, Ramayan, Mahabharat, etc.
So there it is. A few points about this religion. Please note that this is my understanding and others could give you a different point of view. I am not really a religious person and most of the people in India are similar to me. So what do I follow? Well, I can say some form of Hinduism. I am a 'nastik' but I do like the God Ganesh (he is cute). In fact, it is apt to say that Hinduism is more of a culture and society thing.

Finally, in my opinion the concept of a religion is boring and it does not give you the freedom of thinking freely. Sorry to hurt your sentiments, I don't really care :D

Do write about your religion in the comments. It is interesting though.