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Friday, March 21, 2008

On Privacy

Comcast is an ISP and cable service provider in the US. It is experimenting with a new technology to recognize the person in the living room, and schedule programs and/or advertisements accordingly. They will install some sort of camera on the set top box which will recognize the person from body features (Comcast claims they will not have face recognition).

Bruce Schneier is a security expert. He says one needs a different mindset to be security-conscious. He contends it is innate, and cannot really be taught, although some effort is on at the University of Washington.

Do I need to spell out what I fear? Privacy, fortunately, doesn't require as much of an innate talent as security, but it does require a lot of common sense. Given Comcast's recent dealings vis a vis Bit torrents, I am afraid I'll have to say "No, thanks" when they come to me with that wonderful feature of customized TV programs, and of course, customized advertisements. It's not because I have anything to fear, but the mind boggles at the kind of misuse that kind of technology can be put to. Imagine someone viewing what I am doing in the privacy of my living room in real-time. In no time, I will be expected to behave in whatever manner is deemed "acceptable" at the time. But wait, that's not the worse part. Who's stopping anyone in law enforcement from hijacking the camera feed? Umm, did you say they need a court warrant, and if one is issued, there is sufficient evidence anyway? Right.

Why don't we worry enough about our privacy? Is there any sociologist explaining the phenomenon? The way things have been going, if Comcast does come up with the camera plan, I am afraid a majority of us will just welcome it.

Interesting times are ahead, my friends.

[Links via Slashdot.]

On "A Walk to Remember", and Tragedies in Pop-Culture

Usually I have a problem with tragedies, because they seem to be manipulating the readers' emotions to bring out the tears, and convey the image of a great book. Shelley uttered, "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought", and everybody else promptly got a formula for success. Of course every book manipulates the emotions, the problem with some tragedies is that they are also brazenly in-your-face about it. I find it a cheap trick to let one of the lead characters die at the end of the story, when keeping the character alive wouldn't have detracted anything from the story (my only grudge against Sholay, and suchlike).
Fortunately, Sparks' book needs Jamie to die; for how else is one to explain her peculiar devotion, her resolute miss-goody-two-shoes-ism? (Wow to me for that word!) One can feel that Sparks is tugging at one's hearts; that with the portrayal of excessive innocence on Jamie's part, he is setting the reader up for a crushing blow at the end. However, the cynical and suspecting reader is still not alienated and that is where the magic of Sparks lies.

[Prompted by Aparna's thoughts on the same book]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Death of a Stalwart

R.I.P Arthur C Clarke.
Thanks for the writings.

On Neutrality and iPhone SDK

iPhone SDK is already controversial.

I am not sure what to make of Apple's tactics. At some level, I find it unfair that Apple won't allow any competitive software to run on the iPhone; at the same time I wonder why should Apple play the altruist--it has an opportunity here to make money, so make it. Good for Apple, good for Apple's stockholders.

Apple anyway has a history of being closed platform. It is only recently that it moved to Intel, till then the Mac was a big beautiful box. With that kind of background, it is no wonder they guard the iPhone so zealously. However, I wonder if Apple is not missing a trick by blocking Sun's Java VM port for the iPhone. It seems, with the kind of restrictions Apple has put in place for developers using the SDK, that the only kind of software it is willing to allow are pure applications. No software that can even remotely be construed as a framework/enabler-of-other-software is going to be allowed. Smart move, I guess, as far as protecting one's turf goes. A large part of Apple's user base has also been supporters of the open software movement. It is actually very interesting how Apple always comes out smelling of roses in spite of its notorious antipathy towards any kind of competition. It will be interesting to how they react to this very restrictive SDK. I personally don't find anything wrong with monopolistic practices, as long as no coercion is involved; but I am not sure right now.

This kind of tactics has always invited regulators' wrath. Let us see what lies in store for Apple.

Interesting times are ahead, my friends.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On Various Stories that Caught my Eye

Quite a few Blu-ray related stories doing the rounds.

1. Price of Blu-ray players shoots up. An entry level model costs around $150 more than it did before Toshiba officially backed out of the high definition video standard war. With HD-DVD out of the way, Sony's Blu-ray becomes the de-facto standard in the high definition market. With no competitor, it was expected Blu-ray players would cost more. It has happened, and a new equilibrium has been reached. Now that the world has settled on Blu-ray as the standard for high definition, I am waiting for a lot more manufacturers to start making Blu-ray players. Those who were undecided which technology to back don't have to worry about that anymore.

2. Sony's PS3 has been selling a lot more pieces than Xbox360, partly because of the supply problems faced by the Redmond Giant. Guess what is going to happen now that PS3 remains the only console to support Blu-ray?

3. Microsoft has decided not to include Blu-ray player in Xbox-360, instead it is going to focus more on Xbox Live, the online service around Xbox. It thinks users can download movies from the Xbox Live store, and thus wouldn't need a Blu-ray player.

4. GTA-4 is due for release next month. We had Halo-3 in the fall, now GTA this semester, what's lined up for next fall?By the way, EA has just issued a hostile takeover bid for Take-two-the publishers of GTA.

Interesting times are ahead, my friends.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On My First Tag

Hee Haw. I am finally a part of the blogosphere, because I have gotten my first tag. Yippee.
Courtesy ArSENik. Muaahahaaaahahahaaa. Buahahaaahahaaaa.

Without further ado, here I go.

Life Ten Years Ago
End of class nine. The much dreaded class 10 round the corner, just have to cross the ninth finals. Had passed up a huge career opportunity two years ago (would have been set for life. cha), and much worried about it. Not doing any great things.
Oh, there was this girl I had known for a couple of years. Baring my heart out to her seemed like a great idea, and was planning about the modus operandi. Did not happen. No idea bout her now.

Life Five Years Ago

Fourth semester of engineering course. Basking in the glory of obliviousness. Getting slightly suspicious if this whole engineering thing is a big mistake or not. Passing endless hours in the hostel playing a modified form of bridge. The other three remain great friends even now.
Oh, finally struck up enough courage to talk to the girls in the college.


Life Tomorrow

Ah, must go to college and work on the semester projects. India has gone to the Oz and won at that. How cool is that?
Oh, given up on girls finally.

Five Locations I Would Run Away To
1. Rome (Audrey Hepburn is roaming the streets drugged at night)
2. Paris (Greta Garbo is trying to sell some Russian antiques)
3. Vienna (Julie Delpy will alight for the night)
4. Barcelona (Kajol is on a Eurotrip)
5. Kolkata (Suchitra Sen has come to work in the city)

Five Bad Habits I have

(That I don't mind putting here :) )
1. Laziness
2. Procrastination
3. Denial
4. Spinelessness
5. Impulsiveness.

Five Things I Will Never Wear

Oh there is nothing I will never wear. My dream dress is:
1. Orange trousers
2. Electric blue sneakers
3. Fluorescent green shirt
4. Yellow belt
5. Maroon bandana

Five Biggest Joys at the Moment
Nothing really.

Something to Achieve by Next Year
A job. How mundane!

Something that Impacted me Last Year

Coming for MS. Frequent suspicion if this is yet another big mistake or not.

What will I miss About 2007
Motorcycle rides.

Five things I want to Do Before I Die
Here goes my bucket list.
1. Get to the finals of World Poker Series
2. Drive a formula 1 car on a formula 1 circuit (Not necessarily competitively)
3. Learn Russian, Spanish, German, French, Japanese
4. Play drums
5. Do the tango


Alright. Hee-haw. Time to spread the cheer. Only a few people read my blog anyway. But. But. That is not going to stop me from tagging others. Buahahhahaaaa.
Aparna
Kriti
Ranjit
Arnab