Thursday, July 31, 2008


Everyone of us in this corporate world of IT has sat through boring presentations now and then. All presentations start off with the presenter introducing herself, going through boring slides and slides of information (some of them very very verbose!) and some rather banal charts, graphs and figures. Yawn!! If that's not enough they exceed the time limit given to them and assume that the audience is still interested!

In my 5 year career in IT, I have been lucky enough to sit in a very few interesting and lively presentations. The one thing common that I have found in most of them (my personal observation only!):

  1. The presenter is humorous and has a pleasant personality. However boring the topic is, the presenter is the key to making it pleasant. Trust me, I have sat through a 3 hour presentation on Project progress and never once yawned :), all thanks to a fantastic presenter.
  2. Slides are succinct and do not have a lot of verbiage. One thing that I have noticed in most presentations is that people tend to read the slides. If the presenter is trying to make a point, there is no reason for her to write it down in the slide. It just takes away the attention from her!
  3. Great presenters stick to deadlines. 15 minute presentation? Finish it in less than 15 minutes. Period. You are wasting the cumulative sum of everyone's time. If you can't present in the time allotted to you, it just means you aren't prepared. Audience are giving you their most precious resource (their attention!) and you aren't prepared for it?

Well, I am no good at presentations myself, so technically I do not practice what I preach. But then, I am making a conscious effort in the right direction, and if there are any like minded people, I thought I as well help.

So, what triggered this blog post you may ask? Well, I sat through a presentation today and it was funny to see that the presenter referred to another presentation made by Dick Hardt in OSCON 2005 (almost 3 years back!). This happens to be one of my *most* favorite presentations of all time. 15 minutes of presentation on a rather *techie* topic delivered flawlessly. Best example of the 3 points that I mentioned above. I know the video is rather long, but you have to see it to believe it!! I have embedded a link from Youtube here, but you can always stream the video from Identity 2.0 website.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breakfast dreams

I am no guru of Motivation theory, but if there is one thing I know for sure, I need more than motivation to get me up on time in the mornings. Now with the grueling routine that I am currently in, its getting all the more harder everyday to keep on snoozing and then rushing up my morning act later :).

Ever since I discovered the joys of a breakfast (that's after the healthy eating fad caught on me) I figured that if I am going to have a mouth watering breakfast, then I have all the more motivation to get up and out of my deep slumber. Every country that I go to, I always have that one breakfast that I really love. So in the US it was always "Kellogg's Frosted Mini-wheats (Strawberry Delight)" dipped to perfection in a 2% Reduced fat bowl of milk heated to exactly 180 seconds in my ancient microwave and in India it was "Nutri Choice biscuits and tea".

Here in Singapore I was craving for a good breakfast for a week, but now I finally found my motivator: 2 Kaya toast and 1 Kopi-C :) !!! Maan, its heaven. Kaya is actually a coconut egg jam, and trust me it tastes real good (mind it, this is a starved Girish speaking :) ). As far as Kopi-C is concerned its just coffee made with condensed milk and sugar.

Now every night I sleep (tucked under my curtain) dreaming about the Kaya toast and Kopi-C that I am gonna have the next morning, and nowadays I just snooze for 20 minutes :) !!!

Kaya Toast and Kopi-C

Monday, July 21, 2008

My language problem

I agree, I have an accent. An Indian accent. To be very precise a Maharashtrian English Accent. "You understand me no?" But this accent has survived me through malls, job interviews, customer service phone calls, and of course client interaction in the United States and greater part of India.

Yesterday I went to a mall in Singapore looking for a blanket/comforter/quilt. The lady at the counter just refused to understand what I was trying to buy. I drew it down for her, I told her in the slowest way possible and I even wrote it down. I had reached to the extent of showing her a superhero and pointing her at his cloak. Finally after half an hour of explaining (which involved singing and dancing as well!), she figured what I wanted (or I thought so!), and got me something packed in a plastic bag from her shop. Just to be sure I tried to open it and the lady gave me the most gruesome stare and went "Nooooooooooooo" till she almost lost her breath. Trusting that all's well I came home, only to find that she had given me a ... curtain.

Now curtain it is that I use to comfort myself every night.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Being from the land of the Taj Mahal, confessing our love by making bold statements comes naturally to us. So be it getting a tattoo with your girlfriend's name on your forearm to defacing priceless historical artifacts with you and your fiance's name, we have done it all.

Recently I had been to Ratnagiri, and I got to experience undying love (or the likes of it) very closely. Here is the story, and before I start, the standard disclaimer follows:

All persons in this blog post are fictional and any resemblance to any person or animal living, dead or somewhere in between is purely coincidental.

Long long ago in the treacherous land of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, there lived a king Vishal. He was known for his valor and for his painting ability. One day while he was out hunting, he came across this beautiful princess Priya. It was love at first sight. He just couldn't stop admiring her. To impress Priya, he took her to the nearest pier constructed by the Government of Maharashtra and declared in white paint "Priya I love you Vishal" (English grammar at its very best!). People from far and wide could see his love for her (and now I epitomize their love by posting this magnificent artifact on my blog) ...

Priya I love you Vishal - from a distance Priya I love you Vishal - from close

Then one fine day Priya got bored of him (after all Priya wanted some "space" in her life) and Vishal wasn't the kind who would leave her alone. So she said to Vishal "Duur ho ja mere najro se" (which literally translated in English stands for "Go far away from my vision..."). Exit Vishal, enter Somnath. Again it was love at first sight. They ran around trees, sang songs, and again as luck would have it reached the same pier where Priya had come with Vishal before. Now, the romantic soul that Priya was, she told Somnath "Vishal ne hume itna pyaara toofa diya, ab tum kya doge?" which translated stands for "Vishal gave me this lovely gift (by defacing the pier!), what are you gonna give me?". Somnath was a genius. He figured that rather than being bigger and better, he could be more artistic. He drew this big heart with an arrow passing through it (how original) and wrote Priya's name followed by his. And just to be different he wrote it in the devnagri alphabet. I bet he immediately broke down into the Unchained Melody but in Hindi ... "Oh mere pyar, meri priyasi, muzhe bhukh hain tumhe chuune ki ..." and the rest is history (I guess I have also figured out by now that I am very bad at translations :P). Kudos to Vishal and Somnath for defacing historical monuments and tax payer's property in the name of love. We all are very proud of you.

Priya and Somnath

And before I end, I found this (different) love triangle between Heena, Maya and Vijay, which looks like Heena and Vijay were love birds before, and after he broke up with her, he found his new love Maya. To make Maya feel *closer* to him, he squeezed her name between Heena and his own! Eternal love, I must say!

Heena Maya and Vijay

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chaos Marketing

Coincidence. My reading of "Unleashing the Ideavirus" by Seth Godin had to be on the same day as the dumbest marketing fiasco of recent times unfolded in my city.

Here is the plot: Advertise like crazy and tell the world that you are going to give away Rs. 1000 (almost 25$) free to every Tapan, Dinesh and Hari who drops in to a XYZ shopping mall and gives his/her fake address and name to one "so-called" financial company. The news spreads like wildfire and before the advertiser knows it the entire junta of Navi Mumbai (2007 population estimate - 2.1 million) with their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and every distant relative, friend and enemy they can catch hold of, descend upon this poor mall. Chaos prevails. Truck loads of people from other distant towns also come for this prized bounty. Things get out of control, people get angry, throw stones, destroy the glass facade of the mall and then go around town burning vehicles. Wow! Don't believe me? Read the story here. Brilliant marketing I say. Imagine the amount of negative publicity that poor firm could garner (forget the costs that it is going to bear for all the damage that happened later :) !!).

ING Direct had a similar scheme in the US (don't know if they still have it!). You refer a friend to ING Direct and in return you earn 10$. Amazing idea. The reason it worked there probably was because it was done online, and one had to open a bank account to get the amount. Also you can't really fake your identity while opening a bank account! Though am bad at convincing people, I actually got 3 of my friends signed up for a whopping profit of 30$ :) and I guess within a month every person in my organization had an ING Direct account.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Open source

Most of my friends know that I keep on ranting about open source. I wouldn't do justice to this fact without listing down at least a few open source apps that I simply adore. I have always believed that open source is the solution to the problem of piracy. Most of us (read 'poor people') are not in a position to afford expensive software. Rather than getting on the wrong side of the law by using illegal copies of proprietary software, its always best to use their open source alternatives. Some of the software listed below do their jobs better than their commercial alternatives. Yeah, and since you guys already know about Firefox, I am not even going to list it here :) !!

  1. TrueCrypt Everyone of us has something personal something important that we would like to hide from the rest of the world. People who think that they have nothing to hide, are simple being naïve. I bet most of us don't want to share our Salary Slips, Credit Card Statements, Increment Letters, Resumes, Bank Statements and stuff like this with strangers. However when it comes to storing this data securely, we casually fling it into our tiny portable data storage devices and flaunt it everywhere we go. So much for security. You lose the drive, and the guy who lays his hands on your drive has a treasure trove of your information. This is where TrueCrypt comes in. The best on-the-fly encryption utility that I have used. It creates a virtual encrypted partition where you can store your data. Once you enter your password, the drive is just like any other drive where you can drag, drop, copy, paste, view or delete files from! Magic ....
  2. KeePass Passwords are a sensitive topic. I can bet 95% of the people reading this blog use the same password for all their email accounts, and probably a different but singular password for all their bank accounts. If this is not enough they securely store their list of passwords on a spreadsheet hidden deep inside their Folder hierarchy or worst still, on a piece of paper tucked inside their wallets (omg!). KeePass is the open source alternative to your not-so-secure way of storing passwords. Using industry standard encryption technologies, your passwords are encrypted in KeePass' database, and even if you manage to lose your portable drive with a KeePass database, rest assured that your passwords are safe (unless of course you were working for a top secret military agency, and people are ready to spend billions to use brute-force to crack your passwords! But then, on second thoughts, you wont be reading my blog, you would have better things to do :) !!)
  3. Notepad++ After that heavy dose of encryption and security (meant to scare you indeed!), coming to simpler things in life. I find 'Notepad' as a lean text editor, which can hardly do any text editing other than using it as a temporary clipboard for copying and pasting stuff around. If you need a serious editor with things like column editing, macros, compare tools and a zillion other plugins to do some very cool stuff, Notepad++ is the answer. A simple utility that you can carry around in your portable device, it can do magic with text editing! Use it, and I bet you will feel sorry for having wasted your time after Notepad :) !
  4. 7-Zip Most of us grew up with the assumption that archives can only be opened with WinZIP. An ubiquitous utility found on almost every computer that I have ever used, it is not free. Come 7-Zip to the rescue. Much smaller and simple to use than WinZIP, and can handle all the archives that I have ever come across (included RAR files and ISOs!) 7-Zip is the best archiving utility that I have used.
  5. VLC Media Player Music is everyone's religion, and who doesn't use a music player on his/her PC? But then the problem with so many media file formats is that most media players support only a limited number of them. I found VLC Media Player to be the best amongst them. It has support for maximum file formats that I use, and its a simple, no-jazz kinda media player that I simply love :) !!
  6. PDF Creator I don't have a printer at home, and I do believe in the philosophy of 'save paper'. Well so saying, there are a billion small things that you want to save as a backup for future reference. An on-the-fly PDF creator is something that I miss in Windows. But then here is where PDF Creator comes to the rescue. Sitting like a simple printer on your machine, you can print anything out of any application and viola, PDF Creator will give you a beautiful PDF of it .. WYSIWYG at its best.
  7. PDFTK Builder And the perfect example of technology driving more technology is this. How many times in your life have you wondered "I wish to create a single PDF of all those pages of the single document that I have scanned!" or "How am I gonna extract just this one page out of this 49 page PDF document?". PDFTK Builder can let you play around with your PDF documents like you never did before. And best of all .. its free!
  8. Open Office Though all of us need to make documents/spreadsheets or presentations at one point of time in our life, most of us aren't rich enough to buy a licensed copy of Microsoft Office for the petty work that we do at home. Open Office is the best alternative that I have used for Microsoft Office, and it has never once failed me!
  9. Gimp Yeah, everyone needs to touch up photos, create some amazing visual effects and generally do stuff with their photos and images that paint can't simply handle. GIMP is the most amazing and powerful image editing software that I have ever used (I haven't used Adobe Photoshop, but then, I ain't rich enough to buy it anyways!). I have been able to do most of my work with images using GIMP, though I must agree it has a big learning curve!
  10. Infra Recorder Before the advent of cheap portable disk drives, all our data went around in CDs. I always had this problem of using a good free software for disc burning. Though Nero was coupled with the external CD writer that I bought, I never had any disc burner software for my Laptop, till I stumbled across this amazing utility. I have always used Infra Recorder for all my burning needs, and I never had a problem!

So that's it, my list of 10 favorite open source apps (that are relatively unknown!). I am no geek, so if you are looking for Open Source alternatives for your favorite software, check out this site .. and it should help you on your quest to freedom!

Updated 7/22/2008:

For those of you who are not comfortable using TrueCrypt, here is an excellent article that takes you through a step by step process to install an encrypted partition on your portable drive.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Life's changing

Have been making some major changes in my life, and today happened to be one of those turning point days. Yeah, I left the organization that I worked in for the last 5 years. Hmm, walked out with a heavy heart, but I guess it was time to move on. I have made some of my very best friends out there (and incidentally also most of my blog readers :) !!). Gonna miss you ...

So I have now 17 days to my disposal before I take on the next big thing (in my life that is!). Its time to update my "About me" section :)