Thursday, October 25, 2007

When it's 35 Degrees Celsius

The sunlight pouring in through the open window, my auditory senses are enthralled with a melange of melodic sounds from my computer and garish sounds from cars driving by. Cup of milk in hand, I am trying to shake the writer's block away but my muse eludes me. The highlight of this trip has been its soundtrack - India is famous as a country of many cultures, but it gets little credit for being a country of many sounds. It is rare, even at night, for the bustling city of Mumbai to be quiet. Either my Mac or my Zune have been a constant companion during my travels, and when the sounds of the city become monotonous, I create a soundtrack of my own. Release your inner ZJ...

The adjustment to the new time zone is almost complete, and one of the objectives of this trip is reaching fruition - I am sleeping better and longer hours. As this process runs its course, the crankiness borne of sleeplessness will dissipate, and I should calm down. As things stand right now, I stop myself in my tracks when I sense myself slipping into my Hitler garb, but it's still not early enough to avert every situation in which I exceed my bounds. It's time I took a chill pill though, and went back to being Happy Go Lucky; I wonder if becoming an adult comes at the price of loosing some "Happy-Go-Lucky"ness. If that is the case, it's an expensive tax to pay.

TidBITS Safe Computing: How Leopard Will Improve Your Security

Any article that starts with this paragraph is bound to get a lot of attention from the Security community:
"With the release last week of the feature list for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the security world is buzzing about some extremely important updates that should, if they work as expected, significantly improve Mac security and will make me less nervous about connecting to wireless networks in Internet cafes."
The big ticket security features mentioned in the article are:
  • Address Space Layout Randomization

  • Time Machine a la Backup and Restore

  • Application Sandboxing

  • Firewall Improvements

  • Application Signing

  • Guest Account that purges itself

Turns out that most all these features already exist in Vista, and though people on the web can claim that the Windows implementation isn't perfect, thanks to the SDL and the Windows Security Team, Windows is the pioneer when it comes to security technologies available in Consumer Operating Systems. The fact that there is no mention of the existence of all these features in Vista points to a double standard in the Technology Press. No one is calling out the fact that Apple has copied Microsoft, which is just egregious.

This round definitely goes to Vista.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Sad Truth - I am tethered to Email and Work

Work Email is omni-accessible - on my Phone, in my Office, over the Web, and at home. The sorry realization is that despite all my efforts to the contrary, work email has percolated into my very being. There is no other explanation for the cravings I experienced to read my email the first few days I made it back home. Come to think of it, this was an inevitable eventuality - I didn't have an Internet connection at home for many years, and while everyone around me was buying into the smart phone frenzy, I resisted and used the simple T-610 for as long as it was feasible. Then, I caved...

Back to the present - my steely resolve has mostly prevented me from giving in to the urge to navigate past It helped that I was in Bangalore for 3 out of the first 4 days I was back. The toughest phase is past me, and if I do check email now, it's on my terms!

This brings me to the oft discussed and hereto unresolved issue of work-life balance. What checks and balances can I put in place so that work does not travel with me everywhere I go? To those that know me well, it would come as no surprise that Sachin's wedding was just a front for my trip to India. I was close to my breaking point last month with the stress of my new job; the true purpose of this trip is to recharge my batteries and get some sleep. I haven't had much success with sleeping yet, but just being away from Redmond and the rat race that is intricately woven into its fabric has been detoxifying.

Monday, October 22, 2007

To Bangalore We Shall Go...

<This was written on the 19th but published today>

I couldn't sleep past 6am this morning; an expected outcome given that I had passed out around 10 the night before. My body clock stays warped for a day or two when I first arrive by the Arabian Sea, but within a few days, I am back to my regular shenanigans between 10 am and 2 am. Ready for the random fact of the day? If you use your laptop/cell phone in India, expect the keys to become sticky, and all white objects to turn a slight shade of brown.

I decided to check-in to my flight to Bangalore over the web, but I wasn't sure if the Indigo website would support this. I was pleasantly surprised with the experience, and barring the fact that I had to call the 1800 number to allocate a new pair of seats for Nikhil and myself, the operation was quite the success. I am sitting in this Bangalore guest house room singularly because of that bright idea. Read on to find out why; as for the airline, the site is

Complete co-ordination was needed between multiple members of the Mehta family this morning in order for two of us to be ready for our trip. Mom packed our bags with the help of Vikas and Tai, Nikhil drove to Nikita's to get a signed photocopy of her credit card, I got ready and guided the packing troops in their duties :). All was proceeding on schedule until I decided to pamper myself with a salon shave. Hey, it usually takes me 20 minutes to shave; considering I had mostly trimmed most of the hair down, I didn't think a professional barber would take any longer than it would take me to clean the fuzz. WRONG!

Almost thirty five minutes later, I sauntered into the living room, clean shaven and extremely late. The flight was to depart at 1:25 pm, and it was already 12:10pm when we left, which was cutting it very close. It is an hour long commute to get to the airport from Worli, and as the trip to the airport progressed, I readied myself to spend another 100$ on our tickets. Here is a play by play for your entertainment in the Manoj Mehta patented Mastercard-24 format: (12:15pm) Cab ride to the train station - 40 rupees in cash; (12:31pm) Train ride from Mahalakshmi to Vile Parle - 12 rupees in cash; (12:58pm) Auto rickshaw ride from station to airport - 50 rupees in cash. Arriving at the airport at 1:13pm and still getting on to the plane, PRICELESS.

Getting on to the plane took a lot of two things - praying, stressing, and a little help from 2 complete strangers. The first one gave us 2 rupees so we could buy our train tickets. The other was the rickshaw driver who hauled ass from the station to the airport; he drove on the other side of the road, blared his horn, ruthlessly cut fellow drivers, and somehow managed to cover 2.5 crowded kilometers within 8 minutes (truly a mean feat of Bombay driving). As we entered the terminal, late as hell to begin with, Nikhil wanted to check our bags in, which I graciously accorded as the stupidest idea of the day, vetoed it, and instead directed our attention to the the security check-booth. Imagine my surprise when I was told that we were at the wrong check-point - halle-fucking-lujah. An alert airport assistant noticed our hapless situation, and led us to the right security gate where things proceeded smoothly until the cop wouldn't accept our printed boarding passes. Nikhil ran out and called the Indigo representative, who stamped our passes while simultaneously informing us that we had arrived in the nick of time - any further delay on our part and they would have departed without us. Phew!!

Bullets of sweat flowing down the sides of our faces, both of us took our seats as the air hostesses closed the airplane's gate. Through the "arduous" ride, we didn't feel hunger or thirst because of the continuous adrenalin rush. About the time we took our seats, our tiny celebration of making the "cut" was rudely interrupted by both parched throats and rumbling stomachs. That's when we started requesting bottles of water, and by the end of the flight, the two of us had gone through 12 bottles (250ml each). One of the air hostess' saw us, smiled at us, and kept bringing us water, sometimes without our explicit asking - the almost instant guzzling down of the entire bottle of water clued her in to how thirsty we were, maybe! :)

Our welcoming party consisted of a familiar face and a new one, but not for an instant during the ride to the hotel did I feel constrained. Gouri seems like a good sport, and if her friend is anything like she is, Gundapps is a lucky man. My opinion is that you can't truly love a person without spending time under the same roof; given my confidence in my friend's ability to love, I think this is going to be a very happy union.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Heretical Yankee In King Manny's Court

I had two hours to kill before the start of the second leg of my journey back to the Motherland. Tired of reading yet unable to sleep, I decided instead to flip through the channels on one of the many HD TVs outside Gate 33 at Incheon airport. Once you realize I was in Korea, you can better fathom my surprise when I stumbled upon a broadcast of game 4 of the 2007 ALCS. An avid Yankees fan, I wanted to see how the Red Sox were faring against the team that vanquished my favourite Yankees. By the time I left to board the plane, the Tribe had all but sealed the game at 7-2, which made me happy. I didn't expect to get happier as another run was tacked on for the Red Sox as I stood in the check-in line, but the homerun by Manny Ramirez was one for the ages...
"the wildly eccentric Ramirez watched adoringly as his homerun traveled majestically through the night sky over Jacobs Field. Never mind that this only reduced the deficit to 7-3 in the Indians favor. Never mind that this capped back-to back- to back homeruns that included blasts from Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. Never mind that it was done in the national spotlight of post-season baseball. Never mind that it was one of the most impressive homeruns that anyone could ever hope to see."
The ball covered upwards of 420 feet, and was hit in almost dead center field, which is an accomplishment even a die-hard Yankees fan can fully appreciate. The Red Sox lost, but even if they hadn't, I can put my personal prejudices aside, and sincerely congratulate Manny on both the towering hit and his post season records. And hells yeah, I'd like to see him in a pinstripe uniform...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Touchdown India

I am back in the Motherland, again! You'd think I was now habituated to the rigors of the travel halfway across the globe from Seattle to Bombay, but I am not. The exhaustion, the sleep deprivation, the distaste for airplane food, all those things never change. What I did change this time was how I spent my time while in the air - instead of wasting the entire time watching the TV screen, I caught up on my Economist reading, after which I solved a Quantitative section of a GMAT practice test. Nothing like getting caught up with what's going on in the rest of the World. Too bad most of the news is depressing!

While I speak about changes, Mumbai's International Airport has definitely changed for the better on a yearly basis. The changes are mainly cosmetic; alas, it is impossible to change the attitudes of the officers manning the booths or the fact that the carousel area is full of coolies looking to thug you out of your money for the most basic service, but I take solace in the positives rather than get worked up over the fringe negatives. The immigration process was a breeze - extremely efficient, and a far cry from the long drawn process it is at Seatac airport. Efficient isn't an adjective I'd associate with the baggage retrieval process though. The time I saved at the immigration desk was negated by the inordinate delay in my bags emerging from the aircraft. Now that I think of it, "You win some, You lose some", is a phrase that best summarizes my experiences in India. Let's see how this trip unfolds...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Zune 2007

The fruits of all my labor since March 2007can finally be shared with the rest of the world. Here's the new Zune product line:

In particular, here are the features I worked on:
- Retail Mode
- Sharing and Community
> Podcasts can also be shared via WiFi.

The new line launches in November, and if you are in the market for an mp3 player, you finally have a real alternative to the Apple juggernaut.