General ramblings

Media’s Role in Mumbai’s Terrorist Attacks

I’m getting a little sick in the stomach, seeing Mumbai terror attacks coverage on CNN. Most of the times, their news is “stale”, in comparison to the news posted on Twitter.(Just search for #Mumbai). Citizen journalism is turning out to be more comprehensive, well-timed and exhaustive compared to traditional media. Lots of articles on the net that are talking about the power of twitter and bloggers. Lots of bloggers like Arun Shanbag, Vinu etc. have come into limelight because of their responsible journalism- they care for you and me. News channels cover these events only for their own good, to increase their TRP ratings etc.

I have only been a moderate user of Twitter- a couple of tweets here and there. Nothing more. This incident, however, has changed the way I feel about Twitter. It has the potential of becoming a stronger force to reckon with. A force fueled by ordinary people like you and me.

I came across a nicely put Google spreadsheet that has the list of people who are either injured/dead. My eyes welled up with tears. Two of my friend’s friends at Leopold Cafe and another friend of my friend’s younger brother, who was interning as a chef at Taj Mahal Hotel, were shot dead. I was speechless.

Of course, there are haters who talk about the side effects of Twitter and how lots of Tweets were only rumors. I have only one response to these haters- don’t news channels run their business based on rumors too? What’s new?

People have issued statements saying that “people need to tweet responsibly and stop airing all important news on Twitter; this can be used as a weapon etc”. I understand how this can be dangerous, but complainers need to find a way to deal with it! Restricting the use of social networking sites is tantamount to taking away our freedom of speech.

How many citizens sitting in the comforts of their homes and tweeting away to glory have actually done something (donated blood, tried to find information for people who are yet to hear from their loved ones etc.) is questionable. And I’m sure there are others who think this is a great party and a trendy topic to talk about. Leaving such people aside, I do hope that some good comes out of it.

Related Reading: In Mumbai, Bloggers and Twitter Offer Help to Relatives

Shefaly’s take

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General ramblings

Where is Ruhi?

I went “offline” in the sense that I completely stopped blogging. It’s not that I got bored of it or anything…just had a lot of other stuff lined up and didn’t know how to prioritize. 🙂 Thank you all for reading and commenting. It feels nice to be missed. I’m sorry for not keeping in touch though. I can really disappear if I want/need to.

The WordPress page’s layout has changed- quite a bit. Just noticed it a minute or two ago, when I was trying to log in. I wasn’t even sure if I’ll be able to guess my password at one go. Yes, it’s been that long. I started on this new job about three months back and it’s been an uphill battle to try and wake up by 7 am and be in office by 8 am. I’m proud of the fact that I’m almost always on time. And what is my job related to? IT of course.

My folks came over from India for a couple of weeks. I finally took my long, impending trip to New York City. I so wanted to watch Woody Allen perform at Hotel Carlyle. Lallo, you can be happy now. Good enough reason to visit NYC again. I could write pages and pages about my trip. Unfortunately, I really don’t have the words. Some of the places that I visited- Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Queens, Soho, Liberty Island and The Status of Liberty, Ellis Island, Empire State Building, Wall St, 5th Avenue (did lots of “window shopping”), ate Brooklyn style pizza in some Italian restaurants, walked by foot and traveled by the famous subways all the time, ate honey roasted almonds, learned how to read the complicated subway map, Trinity Church, Ground Zero (site of WTC) of course. It’s only when you are in Manhattan that you realize how easy it is to fall in love with this city and New Yorkers. Woody Allen, this trip was for you.

Also heard that J.K Rowling is releasing “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” for everyone. I’d already predicted this, in fact. Who’s buying the $100 leather bound version?

I did some movie watching too! My top favorites are The Dark Knight (9.5/10), Turtles Can Fly (9/10), Terminator 2 (9/10), and Omkara (8.5/10). And finally, I bought the entire collection of Decalogue by Krzysztof Kieslowski off Amazon.

Now for some NYC pics-

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General ramblings

Wiki Founder Breaks Up With Girlfriend Via Wiki

Generally, I don’t post gossip stuff. But this was too good and too controversial. Jimmy Wales, the creator of Wikipedia, first broke off with his girlfriend, Rachel Marsden through an announcement on Wikipedia. (Yes, this is worse than JakobandJulia).

Rachel Marsden, in turn, is selling two items of clothing, that belong to Jimmy Wales, on Ebay!

The current price of T shirt (while I’m writing this ridiculous post) is $102.50 and the sweater is $202.50, excluding shipping costs. Can’t believe that people are actually buying this crap. The woman is definitely smart. At least, she’s making some money from two pieces of clothing. There are 9 days and 3 hours left for the bidding to end.

This is the Ebay description:

Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia (http://valleywag.com/362730/wikipedia-creator-jimmy-wales-dumps-girlfriend-on-wikipedia). It was such a classy move that I was inspired to do something equally classy myself, so I’m selling a couple of items of clothing he left behind, here in my NYC apartment, on eBay. Jimbo was supposed to come visit me in a couple of weeks and pick up some of his stuff, but obviously that won’t be happening now.

Both of these items have been washed, twice, with Tide extra-strength liquid detergent. Otherwise, they would not be in salable condition. I took them out of GitMo style isolation from a plastic bag in my closet (where they were placed to prevent the ongoing terrorism of my olfactory senses) and washed them out for the purposes of this auction. Even so, this particular item — a medium sized, black “Starter” brand shirt — has two white stains (one on the sleeve, as shown in the photo, and one in the back) which I have been unable to remove.

PS: Sorry that my hair is such a mess — I’m in breakup mode right now and really couldn’t be bothered.

Go and bid guys! Don’t you want to be a part of the history? Heh.

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General ramblings

The Reason

Of my absence is this darling tumblelog that I made sometime back. I’m not being able to control my new found obsession. It’s so easy to post pictures, quotes, video, audio (yes, you can upload everything to their servers free of cost), and many other things in a couple of seconds with the help of a bookmarklet. It might very well bring around the death of blogging of one day. Okay, so I’m going over board. Not death, but Twitter, Tumblr, Pownce, Soup and other micro blogging platforms are here to stay, which is apparent from the number of posts that people make in their tumblelogs, compared to their blogs. And I seem to be one of them.

As much as I love blogging, there are times when I don’t blog about stuff (that I would really love to), because of the need to tailor my post to a particular length, or to include links etc. and all of this is very time consuming. I’m finding my tumblelog to be quite liberating in this way, in that there is no pressure. It’s more personal by nature and I’ve already made an awesome set of “followers” there. 🙂

Consider getting yourself one of these, if you like writing shorts posts. And we can be neighbors and follow each other.

Here’s a donut for you people- Take a look at all the lovely pictures/funny stuff that I’ve collected so far on this interactive page.

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General ramblings

Microsoft Fined $1.4 Billion in the Anti Trust EU Case

Finally, EU hits Microsoft with a hefty 899 million euros fine, because the latter, has been defying the court’s ruling since 2004. This case has generated a lot of media attention in the past few months and why not? Whenever there is anything to do with Microsoft, people in the media (including me) get excited.

So, why was Microsoft fined? Because-

The commission hit Microsoft with the new penalty, the sum of daily fines running from June 21, 2006 to October 21, 2007, because it said Microsoft had failed to charge rivals reasonable prices for access to key information about its work-group or back-office servers in contravention of the 2004 ruling.

Oh, and this too:

In particular, it accused Microsoft of using its stranglehold on PC operating systems to elbow rivals out of the more competitive markets for media players that play music and videos, and operating systems running back-office servers.

The European Union has also launched new cases against Microsoft targeting a broad range of software, including MIcrosoft’s Office suite.

And where did I read this piece of wonderful breakfast news? At Google News of course.

Microsoft’s second quarter Net Income was around $6.48 billion and for a company this large, $1.40 Billion will prove to be a lot of money, if you consider the intangibles and the future revenues that might (and will) fly out of the window.

Related Reading: Microsoft’s Core Competency

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Business, consumers, Family, Life, Privacy, RFID tags, Technology, Thoughts

Would You Like To Be Tagged?

No. This post is not about being tagged for a blog game. It’s about being tagged by RFID chips. Most of us know about Radio Frequency Identification Chips and their ability to change the way we operate. For those of you who don’t know, “RFID is a system of small electronic tags (comprising a tiny chip plus an antenna) that transmit data via a radio signal to RFID readers and related hardware and software infrastructure.” They have always been around, but it’s because of the recent outcry of privacy issues and the potential misuse that these tags are generating lots of news reports. RFID tags hold great promises for lots of industries, including retail chain management. In fact, Walmart is one of the main proponents of RFID tags, which will help the company correctly estimate product demand, prevent stock outs, determine lead time etc. RFID provides the technology to identify uniquely each container, pallet, case and item being manufactured, shipped and sold, thus providing the building blocks for increased visibility throughout the supply chain. According to this article

RFID promises to revolutionize supply chains and usher in a new era of cost savings, efficiency and business intelligence. The potential applications are vast as it is relevant to any organization engaged in the production, movement or sale of physical goods. This includes retailers, distributors, logistics service providers, manufacturers and their entire supplier base, hospitals and pharmaceuticals companies, and the entire food chain.

This is only half the story. Like any other new technology, even this invention has its good and bad points. I came across this article that talks about the good part, where the tags are being used to monitor the patients in hospitals, reduce baby mismatches and thefts, to provide extra security to nurses and prevent sexual assault in hospitals, monitoring disoriented disabled patients and people with severe illness etc. The US is the number 1 adopter of this practice, and UK and China are slowly adopting this method too. So far, so good.

I read another article at CNN, that talked about how a company in Florida makes human implantable RFID chips, the size of a rice grain. This can be used by doctors to track information from patients, who can’t even speak. Most of these tags are passive and don’t contain a battery. So the information that they contain, which is very small in size, can be read only by a reader, located a couple of feet away. However, its sheer power makes it a potential tool in the hands of corporations, Government and other bodies who can use it for their benefit.

Clothing stores such as Levi’s, Benetton have already experimented with RFID tags for the purpose of tracking inventory and to prevent theft. But a layman will not know that the pair of jeans or shirt that he bought had a tag attached to it. Suppose we forget to take it off and suppose the company decides to play the role of a trickster and makes the RFID tag powerful enough to read your movements and get important information, such as, the stores that you visit, clothes that you buy etc.- we have a potential invasion of privacy right here!

Uncle Sam can’t be far behind when it comes to providing new twists, eh? These tags are being used by the US Homeland Security Department to issue special “e-passports” to tourists from 27 countries, whose citizens can travel to the US without any visa. According to the US Government, these chips will help them better identify and track the movements of such tourists. Only three countries have refused to issue such passports- Andorra, Brunei and Liechtenstein (as of October 2006). Like the article mentions, I think that this is a very dangerous thing to do and can put the passport bearer in imminent danger. Is there any guarantee that the installed chip won’t be read by another unauthorized person? Issuing such passports is equivalent to giving arms to your enemy. It is a two edged sword. Of course, the Homeland Department says that no one else can read these chips except for the authorized personnel. But I don’t believe it. And what about those tourists who’ve been reduced to the status of chained animals? How safe would you really feel knowing that there is someone watching each step that you take. This is just the start and I’m sure in another decade or so, the situation will get much worse.

To assess the effects of an RFID on human privacy, some volunteers from the University of Washington have taken it upon themselves to wear these tags and record the information and then investigate the entire issue. According to this article, in a project called RFID Ecosystem, researchers will give RFID tags to 50 voluntary participants to put on either themselves on their belongings. The location of the tags will be recorded every five seconds, saved to a database and published to Web pages. What’s interesting about the entire experiment is that one tool is used to track a person’s movements in Google Calendar and the other tool is used as a “friend finder”, that sends information such as what the person ate, whether he’s sleeping, going for a movie etc. to participant’s cell phone, email program or even Twitter! This, according to me, is a step in the right direction and I hope it reveals some interesting finds.

All of this brings me to the main issue: How Regulated are these tags? You will be surprised to know that there are no “hard rules” that govern these tags. According to the RFID gazette, FCC regulations stipulate that it the manufacturer/importer is solely responsible for compliance and in case of non-compliance it is the manufacturer and not the retailer who faces stiff fines and disciplinary action. In Europe, several laws have already been passed that need RFID-tagged products to carry a label informing this fact and that consumer data can be gathered only after the consumer has been informed and their consent is necessary for using that data. I haven’t seen anything of this sort in the US…or maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention? I don’t know, but I have never read a label that declared that the product that I’d purchased had a tag attached to it.

Currently, the European Union doesn’t have any set rules that govern the tags. They are likely in the future, depending upon the industry practices though. As far as I know, introducing such laws will also take a considerable amount of time, if you take into account all the industry and political lobbyists. What are these EU people waiting for? Isn’t this the right time to look into this issue? This is a classic case of “Wait and watch”. They need to act before any serious consequences arise.

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Business, Finance, internet, Life, Technology, Thoughts, Web 2.0

Alltop

alltop.jpg

Guy Kawasaki introduced his news aggregating service, Alltop, sometime ago. It’s “inspired” by Popurls.com, another very popular feed aggregator.

Alltop has nine sections:

As you can guess, Ego features the rantings of “top” bloggers, such as Kawaski himself, Scoble, Fake Steve Jobs, Seth Godin etc. I am surprised that he’s given Mac a separate section. On second thoughts, I’m not really that surprised. But it does look a little unfair. If he’s given Mac a separate section, then why did he hesitate in giving technology and science two different pages?
The news sources that Alltop uses are quite good content wise. For example- The Science section has New York Times, BBC, Newsweek, Yahoo! Science News among others. Popurls is more focused on user driven content, such as, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Truemors etc.

Some cons:

  • I’m hoping that with time, he will let us customize the look of the site.
  • Don’t like clicking on different pages for accessing different sections. Probably I’ve gotten too Popurlized.
  • Also, if you notice, the page footer is quite annoying because it keeps moving as you scroll up or down the page. A static footer would have been much better.

Will it be a popurl killer? Probably not. The crowd that Alltop wants to attract seems to be quite different. Unless Kawasaki makes some changes to the basic layout of the site, I don’t see myself being a regular reader. That footer is way too annoying.

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