We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Disruptive research ....virtual windscreens

What are fundamental innovations or disruptive technologies as its often said ....?

For e.g. while driving on a Californian highway in a car I was surrounded by a flood of the passing cars. At night there head lights were annoying and blinding. A thought came in my mind....

What is the best innovation that has happened in the light industry? All the changes that we see are incremental changes where more powerful light bulbs are used, self adjusting lights are used, focus is adjusted automatically on curves etc. But the main restrain about all this is, its still incremental change in the way people see. 

Lights are used so that people could see out of darkness. So the fundamental problem is not lights or better designed lights. The fundamental problem is people's inability to see in the limited range offered by lights. So the solution is to provide people more better abilities to see the surroundings. 
Could a car light no matter how better designed it is, would be able to do that? I think no. 

A disruptive technology here could be projecting the surrounding of the car in a virtual reality kind of environment on the windshield of the car itself. So as the car moves it senses its surroundings using sophisticated sensors and displays it on the screen. A cool idea. 

Another major problem is the obstruction of viewing while taking turns, or during overtaking due to the A,B,C pillars of the car. What if these pillars did not exist? How would car driving experience look like? What if we make these pillars from transparent material? Again a cool idea. 

So all these thoughts came rushing to my mind during my first long car ride (200 miles) along the Californian coast travel. 

I happened to meet a friend at night for dinner where I discussed my ideas with him and he is like. Dude, did you see the latest Jaguar Tech screening that came some days back. They describe there new technology called "virtual windscreen" and transparent pillars which describes just these same concepts. I managed to find a YouTube video below. 

Being able to identify a problem and seek answers to solve the solution is the crux of any scientist and that is what a long journey of PhD trains you for. I am happy to see that I can identify real life problems and possible solutions. Its a great feeling to have matured to this stage. 

More problems as I keep exploring and possibly more solutions to make things better in a disruptive innovative way ....

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why does a User want bug free Operating system installations .....

Installing new Linux based operating systems was a huge pain not so far ago. I remember chasing Suse distribution dependencies and the nightmare it involved.

Ubuntu scored a major hit with users with its sleek out of the box installation, and ease of the package management using auto-dependencies resolution.

However, still there are problems. I happened to install Ubuntu-14.04 on my laptop two months ago, and had a huge problem with getting basic things to work, for e.g. sound was missing so I had to search endless web-links to find the correct hacks.

Identifying correct nvidia-graphics driver was a pain, so the same story repeated. I spent a huge amount of time to get the system to a working state.

Luckily this was a 32 bit installation and when after  installing Android SDK its emulator failed to launch due to its dependency on 64 bit architecture, I was forced to remove my 14.04 installation and upgrade to a latest 14.10 installation with 64 bit support.

What a pleasant package this major release is. It does almost everything out of the box. No pain hacks to get things working. Below is a link which describes some main tasks that could enhance the user experience once the installation is done. Some major relief is in the area of.


1. Track-pad is auto detected, so the annoying problem of keyboard errors due to touching of track-pad has gone. This is a God send gift...literally.

2. Audio works out of the box.

3. Nvidia-drivers are detected in the package manager.

4. System tools work out of the box.

And many other annoying little bugs that were present all across 14.04 are gone.

Thank you very much for making my life simpler Ubuntu. I so much appreciate it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

You could be The leader .... at the traffic junction ....

I remembered the good old India days, almost before I left for MS in USA, after watching the video promo of "Satyameva Jayate". 

The video shows how your behavior at Traffic signal can tell a lot about your personality. In crux, at night when there is reasonably less traffic, while most vehicles pass red lights, a single car stops, and after the car has stopped as a chain reaction, other vehicles also eventually stop at the signal. And then Aamir khan says, this guy who stopped first will watch our show, while the others who just passed by will not....He is watching from a balcony overlooking the signal. 

What reminds me about this video, is this is the exact same thing that I used to do back in India to make people stop at Traffic signals. No matter if there is any body at the signal or not, I would be standing there with my motorbike until the signal turns green. Some vehicles would pass by me, but eventually watching me stopped, many vehicles would stop and wait. 

Simple acts like this, can bring out the leader in you to tackle the social problems that India faces. People just want a representative to follow, and if your intentions are good, they will follow you. What matters is the ability to stand out from the crowd, stay put no matter what happens, and show that courage to take the first step. And then you will have followers.

Satyameva Jayate .....Long live the truth and my country. 

A social experiment ....Which is a more tough job, being Doctor or being an Engineer?

The title is a bit misleading. I quote it just to give a glimpse into the kind of dilemma jobs related to the professions like Doctors vs Engineers face.

Any profession that deals with human element directly in day to day activities, I quote it as a Doctor's job. For e.g. medicos, psychologists, physiotherapists, therapists etc. etc. Any thing that has a flare to deal with emotions and psychology.

Any profession that does not deal directly with human elements on day to day basis, I quote it as an Engineers job. For e.g. Engineers, scientific researchers, ......

When human elements get involved as a part of your job, many times the sufferings that the person is going through, makes the job difficult to deal with. For e.g. when a doctor treats a medical emergency, and the relatives know the skills of the doctor could make or break the critical situation, Doctor's role becomes critical. Having extreme control over one's emotions is extremely critical in such situations. When a psychologists treats his patients, listening to their sad stories is a part of the job and controlling ones emotions is a critical part to not mess up with the situation. Treating patients as subjects, and not getting emotionally involved is a critical part of these kind of jobs, because a lot of personal success also depends on how emotions could be handled to keep the situations in control.

An Engineer type of job then could be said to be not involving these kind of stresses, as one deals with machines, and there ought to be no emotions involved, no attachments generated, so the stress generated due to these factors is much lower. Its a different story that the stress due to other factors such as intense deadlines is a different aspect. However, overall emotional maturity of an Engineer should be relatively less compared to the people involved in the Doctor's kind of job, simply because these kind of jobs simply do not need that skill set.

Is it the case then that many engineers are also very less adapt in social situations, where emotions are involved? For e.g. how would a very smart engineer behave in a situation that needs extreme emotional control, while dealing with a subject. For e.g. lets consider the Engineer decides to enter into a social experiment. (Many engineers are actively involved these days in philanthropically activities etc. and have to deal with socio-economic problems and related situations.) Many times these kind of dealings bring it with, unusual circumstances where after a prolonged encounter with a subject, the Engineer might lose his emotional control and get attached to the subjects, that he is experimenting with. Now, mind you, the Engineer is very smart and he knows what he is doing, but after staying in the similar situations constantly, one tends to lose focus of one's larger mission and tend to get localized in local situations. As an Engineer it is very difficult to realize this kind of situation and get out of it asap, because the involvement in such activity brings a certain attachment, and the subject does not remain the subject any more, but becomes a part of the social structure around. Coming out of this local situations then becomes a nightmare, and this is where the jobs like Doctors win, because these people have developed an immense experience to work in similar situations, while staying emotionally strong.

The world needs both Doctors and Engineers to do the kind of work, that needs to be done, done. What is important is how people involved in one kind of job has better advantages in certain situations, than others. And how the people who do not have such advantage could be made stronger to deal with these kind of social situations ......

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blog incarnations ....A journey of 7 years ......

Life moved in a very fast lane since I finished my bachelors (undergrads) in 2004 ....

I happened to come across my first blog today during some random search ...Internet never forgets things ...., http://mg-therider.blogspot.com/ which I had created when I was exploring outdoor activities with my friends, during my initial job days ....

Then I stopped writing there and created another blog, once started in Masters program at UC Santa Cruz, USA. It was titled "My thoughts ...." I described my personal experiences etc. and my thought process about the new world surrounding me...The blog was to a great extent my emotional connection and gave vent to my feelings as they were being shaped by surroundings in a new distant land called USA. I also wrote lot of academic articles guiding students etc for their masters program... I handpicked some of these articles and moved them to my current blog.

Then I killed that blog once I was back in India, since I felt I was maturing and the blog did not serve the purpose it was started with, and then I started a new blog "Learning never stops...." more on the intellectual aspects of things, that I was planning to explore, new ideas, new technologies, new frontiers and challenges on socio-economic revolutions that I was planning to do while in India, and  the latest technologies, and my thought process on related things ...So this is the blog that you see now ....

So the times have changed fast ...I do not remember how fast life moved since I started my MS program, and when I matured from being a jumpy 25 year old kid to a maturing adult of 32 years that I am right now ....

I felt like sharing this photograph of mine, which shows me in a sporty look when I was 25 years old, which I used to love so much... It was taken during a motorbike ride to a nearby hill station. I was an avid motorbike rider...

It will stay here just as a reminder of the good old days....

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Machine learning in the personal life ....

In Computer Science Machine learning is a field where based on past training set data algorithms self tune themselves to predict the future possibilities when similar conditions as already seen in the past arrive. Machine learning gets used at lot of places in the current Internet dominated world. For e.g. the ads that you see next to your Google search results are presented by monitoring your past search attempts and predicting what are the most relevant category of ads that you might want to see in future. There are many such examples. 

Common sense as we say in personal life is a lot related to Machine Learning kind of experience. However, machine learning works on some specific set of rules, unlike common sense which many times could be based on ambiguous statements which can not be correctly comprehended. That is one of the main reasons Computers / Robots are very good at doing highly specialized tasks but are very bad at common sense 
(or as we call it Artificial Intelligence) related tasks. 

Now coming back to the personal life. Interactions in social life in a new culture are many times based on machine learning kind of rules. We meet people. There are different phases our relationships with new people go through. We like some people while we dislike some. Those whom we like we continue to pursue, and as we move towards more intricate relationships where we start interacting more and more with these people, we start forming our own experiences, and patterns about how they behave, whether they really mean what they say and have the ability to stick to their words, or whether they say certain things just to please others always. An aware person tries to define patterns for these new relationships that are under development. 

Many times emotions skew the way people react, their needs to be in presence of other people, their communication ability etc. However, still one can form a pattern of what the category a person could be put into roughly. Over a certain period these patterns emerge very strongly and that is when we understand the true nature of a person, as we have gathered enough sample points to say with a certain level of confidence that this person is going to behave in this manner in future based on what I have seen him / her doing in the past in these different stages. 

Males and females show very typical and different patterns in this respect and on the basis of that one can really say they are different species altogether with different needs. 

What is attachment? An aware person is like the machine learning algorithm he knows what state he is in and what needs to be done to get to the next stage in trying to understand the other person and define the relation in the correct manner on the basis of what has been seen so far. An attached person is the one who is completely blind to the process of learning and is acting on the whims of his emotions without seeing the patterns. 

Why do westerners go through so many relationship break-ups and how can they handle so much emotional turmoil because in order to be in a sincere relation one has to trust the other person. In my opinion most of these relationships go through these machine learning kind of phases, where people are constantly trying to predict what the next stage would be based on past patterns. I think after a while the relations become an intricate machine learning kind of pattern matching thing, where people just do not care and move on if patterns do not match. Emotions run dry. 

A near perfect relation in this sense is then the perfect machine learning algorithm which can so finely predict the outcomes of people's emotions based on the already accumulated learning, and the trust that accompanies it. All other relations are like those imperfect machine learning algorithms which are flawed. 

Some random thoughts as I try to co-relate the Computer Science technology with the daily life ......

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Internet's own boy ...

I came across him when he committed suicide last year at the age of 26 years, while fighting the Computer Fraud related felony charges pressed by US government for downloading academic articles from JStor, a journal archival system. 

Then I read more about him. Tried understanding his work. 

An ardent Internet activist, one of the creators of RSS feed specifications, one of the Reddit founders, online campaigner and many more achievements in a short span of 26 years. 

He believed in the power of the Internet to bring an information revolutions for a knowledgeable society, to make this world a better place. His fight got more political during later years.

He was being charged for downloading copyrighted academic material from JStor, an academic journal from MIT campus. Jstor dropped the case, MIT took a neutral stance, however the government wanted to prove a point and make Aaron an example to deter future incidences of this kind, so they charged 13 charges under a Computer Fraud related act. After fighting it for around 2 years under a constant shadow of prosecution young Aaron finally succumbed. 

His death reviewed the debate on the misuse of such outdated laws and started the change to revive them. 

The documentary is a nice watch to get some understanding of the story overall. 

Aaron, only if the governments behave in a more sensible way to pave a way for a more transparent functioning of knowledge sharing, to build better societies, your soul would rest in peace...till then the fight would go on ....

Thank you ....

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How much smart is enough smart ....Is smartness contextual?

Are PhD's bound to be really smart people? I struggle with this question many a times. Largely because of the type of activities that I see many PhD's getting into.

A PhD is supposed to give a person exclusive depth of knowledge in a particular area. A PhD is supposed to bring out new knowledge and expand the horizons of already known knowledge.

However, how about common sense and general knowledge? Should a PhD who is so well equipped in a single subject not have interest in other subjects? For example lets consider a Science PhD student. The advantage of being a scientific PhD student is other areas of studies such as the Social Science, Humanities could be understood by these students, unlike the other way round. So a Science PhD student can understand what social science states by reading relevant books, but a social science student can not understand lets say what a Computer Science PhD subject states. If this is the case, do PhDs with Science background really take interest in other studies and try to have an impact in the general fields like common problems that many societies face? I know some Computer Science PhDs getting interested in socio-economic problems and trying to make an impact, but they are a very small minority.

A PhD in any subject is supposed to give the person the training to do research .  Research is supposed to be driven by curiosity and a drive to understand the answers to unknown problems. However, how many PhDs try to take it beyond their subject matter?

For example. as a PhD student one often rides bicycles. Some of these bicycles are really really crappy, so much that the amount of effort put in to go from place A to place B is enormous. Only if the student pays a little attention to get it in better mode, the outcome would be by and large much better. However, many times I have observed total lack of ignorance to such simple things. So the PhD student might be doing a PhD in optimization theory and publishing papers in related areas, but he might not apply it to solve his daily optimization problem of making a better cycle. Is that smart?

I have always come across these kind of examples. What kind of explanation could be given to such kind of a behavior? Is it that these things do not matter, as these people are so engrossed in their bigger vision kind of things. Really? I have no rational explanation.

This brings me back to my main question how smart is really smart. And how should smartness be quantified. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Academic Papers vs Industrial Products ...

Academic research vs Industrial Products ...What is the correct way to go? In this blog post I discuss related questions.

How to quantify the success of a researcher, vs the success of a person in Industry? Are academic papers the only way to justify the success of a researcher? What are the other ways to judge the merits of a successful industrial person?

Paper writing is an industry in itself. So what is the difference between this and the traditional industry?

I will write more soon.....

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indian renaissance

Will India ever have its renaissance moment? I came across this question while discussing the latest Indian developments....

Indians are getting prosperous, Indian middle-class is driven more and more consumerism driven, anti-corruption movements are happening, elections are getting largest voter turn around to provide a stable government and economic prosperity mandate, technology awareness is spreading even in Indian villages. In short India is going through a lot of churning.

The fundamental question to ask is will this churning bring out a totally new India in coming decades? Will India see its own renaissance moment in coming times? For a brief recap, Renaissance was the period in European history when there were artistic and cultural revolutions that threw away age old customs, and shackles to bring in new perspective to understand the role of art, science, religion, etc in society's perspectives. Out of this arrives new philosophies to look at the traditional way of doing things.

If we look at Indian history since Independence, one of the major societial revolution that we saw was related to technology transfer revolution where due to market liberalization outsourcing and software aligned technology jobs got transferred to India and gave Indians a new economic liberation as it opened up western society access in terms of technology. However, unfortunately this revolution did not percolate deep into Indian society to bring out rapid fundamental changes in terms of creating some fundamental values of its own in terms of home grown technologies which could be respected world-wide and aligned things. So in my opinion transforming the outsourcing technology revolution to aligned revolutions that would change socio-economic dynamics went missing in the Indian context.

What would be the implications of this in coming times on Indian society? Will the new government which has a huge stable mandate be able to turn India into a new fundamental socio-economic change that would bring renaissance kind of feeling to drive the current India to a new India?

Only time will tell...but I so hope that India gets its moment of Indian renaissance, so that this huge country with such a young population will be able to exploit its true potential....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Museums, Art, Science and Technology ....

I happened to have a pass for Van Gogh museum from Eurosys conference which was held in Amsterdam in April 2014. This was an incentive for me to visit this museum as I have not visited a single museum in Amsterdam so far. So finally I happened to visit it with another visitor today.

Van Gogh was a celebrated artist who created a massive art collection in just a span of 10 years, as he died an early age death at the age of 37.

While looking at the paintings I was constantly thinking of comparison of his painting style with other modern artists such as Picasso, Mattisse who brought their own style of art to modern art genesis.

I am more and more getting interested in artists and their creations, since my Paris visit and the old artist in me has been re-incarnated since then. For those who do not know, I used to do a lot of paintings and even have a gold medal in All India level art competition during my teenager years. But then I stopped painting, and now I think that old frame of reference is coming back in terms of my photography. My photography is well appreciated and is also paying me back  as I sell my photographs to book publishers, stock photography sites etc. More here ... www.flickr.com/photos/mrunalg

The point here I want to stress is about Artists and Scientists. While I am an avid admirer of art, the sole point of discontent is where it gets used. An art is still a form of an entertainment, enjoyed by those who can afford time and money for it. It does not create a true value in terms of solving fundamental human problems which Science does. An artists is successful only if he is able to get a patron who enjoys the art creations, that was the case at least in old days, now there is Government support in some rich countries. In developing countries like India, there is a clear distinction between the class of society which enjoys Art, design and related things. This is always high class society who can afford it. A general class is always busy in their mundane life and chaos that they never have time or appreciation towards it. The difference with developed country population is in terms of accessibility of art to general population as the level of inequality does not exist to a large extent, so the concept of class does not exist. So art divides societies in countries like India. The artistic liberty which many artists seek for does not exists, because much of the society is still in the shadows of age old customs and traditions and the free culture and appreciation goes missing.

There were plenty of people in the museum. There was plenty of merchandise on sell right from Van Gogh tee-shirts to comic books. So Van Gogh had been made a commodity, his paintings were mass produced on canvas by printing them and they were for sale. I always wondered what is the best way to give back this kind o royalty to a dead person, because he rightfully deserves it, because most of these artists die very poor. Could there be some way to have Van Gogh get a share of all this fame so that he could actually enjoy it literally?

Another aspect of thinking was out of so many visitors how many get the feeling that "Oh, this is the kind of legacy I would like to leave behind when I would die ..." Am I working towards it? What do I leave behind and why would people remember me?

Another random thought while observing the nude women paintings were, the relation of artists with nude women. Most artists paint nude women, because the human body is an ultimate sculpture with all kind of curves, shapes, sizes and postures. Nikola Tesla the man behind AC power once said, "The women's role in an Artists life is very important. An artists draws inspiration from women around him. However, the role of women in a scientists life is very questionable. The kind of work a scientist needs to do has little room for inspirational angle from women's presence perspective. Women in most of the cases act as a source of distraction...." Tesla was a celibate and he never married, though there plenty of rich beauties dying to be in his company always....

Another random thought was the role of Technology in museums. Museums are many times used as a source of introduction to a new culture. However, the conventional mediums like text, audio need not engage the visitor during his visit. What if the visitor actually gets to feel the context in real life while looking at a sculpture, so some kind of virtual reality to let users get a real life feel to identify with the context. I believe tomorrow's museums would have such technologies embedded in them.

So all these mixed feelings came back while visiting  this museum. It was a nice reflection of lot of thoughts that run through my head always while visiting such places ....

Here is an interesting resource covering Van-Gogh's work and related material. Do have a look if interested. https://www.artsy.net/artist/vincent-van-gogh

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Abstraction from the perspective of Art and Science

While visiting the museum of Modern Art in Paris I was constantly thinking on what is the meaning behind all these art work which really does not easily convey the theme behind it. 

In my opinion art could be divided into two distinct categories the antique art (for e.g. renaissance paintings) vs the modern art. Antique paintings convey the theme directly, for example paintings such as Monalisa convey the depiction of European woman's portraits with its mystery smiles etc. The theme in general here could be human nature and its mystics. However, modern art is very very abstract in its nature. Many of the paintings I saw had just rectangles painted in the same color as the wall they were showcased on. Or one rectangle with a tilted side superimposed on a triangle. This the geometric perspective. Then there were many creations which used day to day objects such as a leather bag, a spoon etc. And then there were so many more which I could not understand. 

In Science too, abstraction is the theme. Science is all about asking abstract questions and then trying to find an answer to them. So the theme here is exploration of the observed abstraction and understanding why the observed facts are the way they are. So this is more of a top down approach where one starts with abstraction and then divulges into it. 

Modern art differs in this aspect I think where the big picture itself is so much abstract that most of the time understanding the theme being conveyed becomes an abstraction in itself, because the theme usually rests on the personal context of the creator. And it is not universal as in the case of the Science. Understanding an Art Work could therefore have too many dimensions from its creators perspective. The abstraction in Science gets conveyed using the method of publication of theory or experimental results. The focus here is to be as simple in conveying the abstract idea so that it makes sense. A modern art creation also differs here because it defies the sole purpose of simplicity by being extremely abstract in its nature. 

And there could be many more arguments like this ...