Friday, November 21, 2008

The art of swimming

Me writing about swimming is like a Hippopotamus teaching you to fly. But then, my kindergarten teachers taught me that nothing is impossible in this world, and I am exploring the limits of it. For those of you who know me well (yeah that means all of you :) !!) the only sensible physical exercise that I can do (other than left-click and right-click of course!) is swimming. This is all thanks to my tryst with a manhole 5 years back and my subsequent knee injury (remind me to write about that fateful night someday when I am sad and down in the dumps (pun intended) :) !!).

Hippo in Water

So for the greater part of this year, I have been desperately trying to swim. This routine involves me getting in from one end of a perfectly calm swimming pool, and then subsequently creating a turbulence in the water fit enough to cause a tornado. People swimming around me seem to suddenly drift away and I bet, I look like a drain hole as pictured by a Google satellite from above :)

But then, persistence, thy name is Girish, and my quest to reach the other end of the pool continues. At times I have seen the sun rise and set above me and people suddenly looking older as I desperately try to still reach the other end of the pool. Theory of relativity at play, I bet :) !!

Finally, I decided to improve my swimming skills by asking the Internet. Yeah, and I figured one major issue in my swimming. You are supposed to roll your body with every stroke that you take while doing a front crawl stroke. What that means is that all times you are on your side and not flat inside the water. So while your left hand is stretched out your body is turned to the right. This was a MAJOR tip for me. I have been trying doing this for the greater part of this week, and I somehow seem to make it to the other end of the pool before the dawn of the next millennium.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Singapore and Project Better Place

I have been closely following Project Better Place lately (I mean for almost a year now :) !!). So what is Better Place? According to them - "Better Place is working to build an electric car network, using technology available today. Our goals? Sustainable transportation global energy independence and freedom from oil".

Sounds ambitious doesn't it? Well it sure is. But sometimes it takes more than guts to get things right, and somehow I feel this is the right time to venture into such risky projects. Only time will tell how their vision works out, but I sure wish that it turns out to be a big success! Also with some very solid partnerships (e.g. Renault-Nissan are building cars for Better Place) and some very novel ideas (the rechargeable batteries can be automatically swapped at their battery exchange stations to be spread out all around the country like gas stations today!) coupled with a novel business plan (pay for the service not for the car! If my understanding of the business model is correct, they are going to give the cars for (near) free and will charge for the service (number of miles driven?)) and the cost of charging the car at the charge spots) this project is surely a poster boy of innovative thinking.

After having lived in Singapore for about 4 months now and having spent a lot of time on the Singapore statistics and the Land Transport Authority of Singapore web sites, I feel .. Singapore is a viable place to have the electric car network that Project Better place is talking about.

First things first. Singapore is a small country (4.8 Million population - 2008) and total road lengths as given below:

  • Total length of expressways: 150 km
  • Total length of major arterial roads: 604 km
  • Total length of collector roads: 468 km
  • Total length of local access roads: 2040 km
  • Total road length: 3262 km

The number of cars in this country are less than 515,000. That works out to less than 9 cars per 100 people. Singapore always has had the policy to restrict the number of cars on the island by means of the COE system. Couple this with the fact that the average journey distance for a car in Singapore is only 9.6 km and electric cars can go a distance of more than 120 km on a single charge this country is the hotbed to try out innovation in electric car technology.

Finally, Better Place is trying to have the recharging stations powered by renewable energy. Singapore being a tropical country, has an average of 6 hours of bright sunshine everyday. A viable option for setting up solar panels to supply electricity for the charging stations! I wonder, as I am writing this article, if there are talks already going on between the Singapore government and Project Better Place :) !!

And why am I making you, my reader, go through all this? Well, I felt I needed to talk to someone about this, and like always I figured I can blabber only to all of you ;) !! Thank you for your patience :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Outsourcing done right!

I have been using Sify Mail well over 8 years now, and lately their web interface was really getting completely outdated. Added to the constant spam I was getting, it was really a frustrating experience to open up my inbox anymore!

This week I noticed a sudden change in my inbox. Though I am no expert at webmail, I have a feeling that they migrated their email to "Google Apps for business". Suddenly my inbox is a lot cleaner, my spam gets filtered properly, speeds have improved, mailbox size has increased and over all my Sify Mail experience is cleaner and richer again.

I bet they must have done a lot of research before they got to this decision. What really impresses me is that despite being an IT company, they did not continue developing and supporting a service like webmail in-house, but they outsourced it to a third party that could do the same a lot better (and I bet it must be much more economical for Sify too!).

Being an ex-IT company employee, I have seen many such in-house applications developed by in-house experts which do not stand up to the ease of use and feature set of easily available third party applications (both commercial and open-source!). However they continue to be used and supported (at the expense of a complete cost-center of talented employees supporting an aging application!). Supporting an application which has no future outside the 4 walls of the company is definitely a boredom inducer for the employees and very few of them stick around to support it! Not only are you making your other employees lose their productivity by using applications that simply suck, but you are also losing good employees in the team that is supporting this dead application! I bet investing in an alternative would be much more productive and economical!

I feel that all businesses should stick to what they can do best, and not waste their time and energies on things that others can do better!