Sunday, January 8, 2012

Catch me with Katerina Kaif

Saturday, 07 January, 2012 , 01:50 PM
If you ask me which area we, as Indians, need to focus our energies on in 2012, I, after carefully weighing the pros and cons of the very many issues of national importance, will point to that one sphere of strategic significance: Dancing in public.
I know what I am talking about. I speak with the immediate memory of having made a stupid clown of myself when I tried my hand at dancing at a New Year bash. Now I understand that might have been the problem, I should have tried my feet at it.
And there were many like me who couldn’t shake a leg to at least passably match any rhythm. Yes, you are right: Most of us were middle-aged, exactly belonging to that generation that had grown up seeing Bhagyaraj dance on screen.
To those not clued in on the Tamil cinema of the 80s, the period of Bhagyaraj’s rise as a hero, he, in his peak days of commercial stardom, exhibited the dancing skills of a fax machine.
The jiving sensation of 80s cinema was, of course, Kamal Haasan, who had this rare skill to match the diverse musical styles like disco, classical, folk, with essentially the same set of movements.
The highlight of his terpsichorean repertoire was (and is) is to perform a handstand while insouciantly tapping both the feet in air, which is also exactly the routine one would suggest if one’s aim is to kick the dust off one’s shoes in the most clumsy manner possible.
Talking of dance, the 80s filmi generation cannot but bring up Thangamagan, in which Rajni was pitted in a pulsating jiving competition with Poornima Bhagyaraj. To cast Rajni as a dancing sensation itself requires an impossible leap of faith, exactly like the one required to pick a dancing star like Hrithik Roshan to play the role of a paraplegic.
Now Poornima, even though she was far from qualifying for the adjectives ‘svelte’ and ‘lissome’, could have just turned up and done nothing, and that would have been good enough to beat Rajni in the contest. But the hero had to win in that pulsating duel of music and moves. After all, this was a Tamil movie.
Anyway, the battle reaches a fever pitch, with the heroine matching the hero in every step and style. But our hero has one final killer sashay that can brook no response from the heroine: He yanks out his shirt and spirals it away in a jubilant joust to an accompanying crescendo. The heroine is crestfallen and is unable to come up with a fitting riposte. Game, set and match to the hero.
Yes, undressing officially became a dancing routine with that film.
The generation before ours had Sivaji Ganesan. The thespian that he was, Sivaji could dance standing still while he emoted out all the dance movements just on his face.
And then there was MGR. Dancing, in his uncomplicated times, was defined as running and sprinting.
MGR, in that song in Anbe Vaa (Puthiya Vanam…), was not so much dancing as much as competing with Usain Bolt. If MGR had not bothered to shake his head and wave his arms alongside, it is most likely that he was the first person to have been part of choreographed cross-country run.
Across meadows and valleys, across alleyways and train tracks, and even across cities and States, MGR zipped along on his feet with boundless energy. It is quite conceivable that movie-making was shifted out of studios in those days just to keep pace with MGR’s hot-footing methods.
Also, in MGR’s times, the most famous dance routine was the: Twist, which, as any dance master will tell you, is that classical jazzy jiving routine that organically ensues when you have live eels crawling in your pant pocket.
Cutting back to the present, and to the New Year parties, which is where many of us cut a sorry figure, the main problem is they unfailingly play Sheila Ki Jawani, a rambunctious song conceived for and choreographed on Katerina Kaif, who has a figure that can be acquire if only there is a technical possibility to photoshop people in flesh and blood.
When we 30 or 40 something paunchy men and podgy matrons attempted to keep pace with that song, it looked as classy and skillful as it would have if Sheila ki Jawani was actually thought up for Kanthimathi and Vinu Chakravarthy.
They also shot a video of us shamelessly boogieing, which, when I think about it, might turn out be the sole positive. It was silly and cheesy stuff, exactly the kind that goes viral on Youtube these days.
When you catch it on the net, do look out for me. I’m the guy with the French beard and Katerina’s pout

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Google Acquires 217 Patents From IBM

The Google-Motorola deal granted Mountain View access to the phone-maker's broad portfolio of patents which got even larger with the recent acquisition of 217 additional ones from IBM.

While the new patents could further defend Google and its partners in lawsuits involving intellectual property, among the newly acquired ones seem to be a couple which could help Google develop further offerings. Email management, online calendars and transferring web apps between devices are just some of the many different patents now owned by the Android-maker. Add to those patents related to "presentation software, blade servers, data caching, server load balancing, network performance, video conferencing, email administration, instant messaging applications" and the list could go on.

One patent in particular -- U.S. Patent 7,865,592 -- refers to "using semantic networks to develop a social network". In plain English, it could help a member of a social network find other, similar and "like-minded" users. This could give Google+ a boost especially through the new abilities in finding experts in a specific field that aren't otherwise visible in your networ

Apple’s First i-Phone Was Made in 1983

The first iPhone was actually dreamed up in 1983. Forget that silly old touchscreen, this iPhone was a landline with full, all-white handset and a built-in screen controlled with a stylus.

The phone was designed for Apple by Hartmut Esslinger, an influential designer who helped make the Apple IIc computer (Apple’s first “portable” computer) and later founded Frogdesign. The 1983 iPhone certainly fits in with Esslinger’s other designs for Apple. It also foreshadows the touchscreens of both the iPhone and iPad.

Images of the 1983 iPhone have been circling the web for a while but there has been renewed interest in Apple’s early designs and history thanks to a peek inside Stanford University’s massive trove of Apple documents. The archives are a close-guarded secret but Stanford is starting to grant access to select journalists and organizations. The archives were donated in 1997 after Steve Jobs rejoined the company and document much of the design and personnel changes that took place in the 1980s

The 1983 iPhone is just one of many prototypes buried in Apple’s past. There’s even a device that looks eerily similar to an iPad. Despite the phone’s age, it actually looks like a cool concept that could easily be updated into a modern consumer product by replacing simple stylus screen with an iPad-like interface.

Mashable has reached out to Stanford to get a private look into the material. Stay tuned for more, but in the mean time, take a look at some pics of the iPhone that never was.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Avan Ivan Movie Review

Starring: Arya, Vishal, Madhu Shalini, Janani Iyer
Direction: Bala
Music: Yuvan Shankar Raja
Production: Kalpathi S Agoram, Kalpathi S Ganesh, Kalpathi S S

Bala’s highbrow emotional dramas have gained critical acclaims from all ends and actors being a part of such films have felt it as a blissful opportunity that takes them at a jet-speed progression in their career graph. Of course, Sethu, Nanda, Pithamaghan and Naan Kadavul have been the ample evidences that gave a major break for the actors Vikram, Suriya and Arya. Naturally, the surprising look of Vishal as a squint-eyed lad made it clear that the actor is one to go through the process this time and so is Arya, who has already experienced the Midas-touch of Bala with Naan Kadavul.

In Avan Ivan, Bala does not go far from his usual paradigm as he sticks ardently to the formulas of his previous movies. However at the same time, the filmmaker seems to have opted for a slightly different climax from his previous movies.

Set in backdrops of Theni, Avan Ivan is about the relationship between two boisterously playful half-brothers Walter (Vishal) and Kumbudren Saamy (Arya) who are like poles apart constantly involved in nagging but are still fond of each other, and a Zamindar (GM Kumar).

Although we have the signature as ‘A Film By Bala’ during final credits, it’s worth mentioning that the film completely belongs to Vishal. His power-packed performance leaves us astonished. Thanks to Bala for travelling into unknown territories of Vishal’s panorama. The actor is in stark contrast from his previous films and if you’re curiously looking out for his best shots, it starts right from his introduction song, where he shakes his legs dressed up like a woman. But the ultimate master-stroke is where he exhibits Navarasas on the podium as he walks away carrying great appreciations for nine different facial expressions. Not to miss his breathtaking action sequences, it is much evident that he must have gone through toilsome moments for these sequences.

Unlike Vishal, Arya doesn’t have much scope over performance, but manages to remain under spotlights with his rib-tickling comedy tracks and dialogue delivery. His rollicking behaviorism throughout the film and reaction to an unbearable shock during climax are clap-worthy moments. The versatile filmmaker-actor G.M. Kumar as the world-weary Zamindar steals the show with his effortless performance. The scene where he expresses his anger towards Vishal and Arya is a sample. G.M Kumar also joins the list of very few actors who dared to go bare in films.

It’s too ludicrous to see smart girls falling for the unrespectable guys and is so disappointing to have an intellectual filmmaker delineating such characters. Janani Iyer and Madhu Shalini do not have much to do and yesteryear actress Ambika exerts her proficient act as a mom, who smokes beedi and demands her son to save up some liquor for night.

The writing, which lets down the movie big time, turns out to be erroneous, as the screenplay remains vague and directionless. One could literally become puzzled and impatient over the proceeding of the story until a twist that appears only during last 30minutes of the movie.

On the technical front, Arthur Wilson’s cinematography carries rich flavors, and the exotic locations of Theni are a visual treat. Disappointing to see few promising tracks - ‘Avanpathi’ and ‘Oru Malayoram’ missing in the movie. Yuvan’s background score does influence the visuals with violin, veena and strings being well orchestrated.

Overall, Avan Ivan remains as a package of brilliant performances by actors, but stumbles halfway down with its writing.

Verdict: Power packed performance, let down by loose screenplay.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

School bus in U.S. to run on recycled cooking oil

First hydraulic hybrid school bus in U.S. to run on recycled cooking oil

The first-ever school bus in the United States successfully converted into a green vehicle running on recycled biofuel is all set to drive on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. 

The Ford Motor Company-funded project was carried out by a collaboration of Atlanta schools. Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the U.S.’ top ten public universities, developed the bus, while Atlanta district public schools donated the 16-passenger bus for the project. 

The “Green Eco School Bus” is a traditional school bus converted into a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that consumes recycled fuel, such as used cooking oil. 

A hydraulic hybrid vehicle uses pressurized fluid as an alternative source of power. It uses a pump or motor that draws energy while braking. The pressurized fluid from this process provides the energy to the vehicle’s pump or motor.


The “Green Eco School Bus” is a traditional school bus converted into a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that consumes recycled fuel, such as used cooking oil. Photo by the Georgia Institute of Technology

The bus’ designers and developers, Georgia Tech assistant professor Michael Leamy and his students, are looking into converting other school buses as hydraulic hybrids, to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce transportation costs for schools.

The team is also conducting a cost-benefit analysis of a large-scale conversion of a school bus fleet to hydraulic hybrid powertrains designed to recover lost braking energy. 

“We expect our research will lead to cleaner, more efficient school buses that will help school districts like Atlanta public schools significantly reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Professor Leamy. 

But the main beneficiaries of the project, Atlanta’s public elementary schools, prefer not to stand idle and just wait for their eco-buses. Students at Mary Lin Elementary School are organizing a drive to collect used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel to fuel the bus. They gave the bus its finishing touches by painting it green, too. 

"Our students are eager to learn about new ways to care for the environment. The Green Eco School Bus turns a theoretical concept into a fun and exciting reality that stimulates their learning," said the principal of Mary Lin, Brian Mitchell. 

Meanwhile, the $50,000 Ford financing for the project was awarded under the Ford College Community Challenge Grant, or the Ford C3. The program invites 32 partner universities and colleges to create student-led projects that address a specific social problem. 

Five projects are chosen every year and given $50,000 each. Recent Ford C3 winners include an energy efficiency project called Generation Energy in 2009 by Michigan Technological University students. The project winter-proofed low-income senior citizen homes and won alongside other energy efficiency projects such as a bike-sharing and residential energy efficiency improvement using information technology.

Ford is working on energy efficiency projects with other universities. It partnered with the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to develop financial models that will help Michigan’s poorest cities upgrade facilities and reduce energy consumption and costs. 

The Cities of Promise project will use a revolving energy fund of $50,000 from the Ford Motor Co. Fund, which distributes the Ford C3 grants.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

US urges Green Card holders to become citizens

LOS ANGELESE: US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched a campaign emphasising the benefits of being a US citizen with the goal of convincing more than seven million Green Card holders to become naturalised.

"It's very important for people who are already permanent residents to consider citizenship for all the benefits that that will bring them," Mariana Gitomer, the USCIS spokesperson in Los Angeles, told EFE.

The Citizen Public Education and Awareness Initiative will include radio and television advertisements, written press and Internet dissemination nationwide.

The messages will be broadcast in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and English with special emphasis on the cities of Los Angeles and New York, and also on the states of Florida and Texas, where there are high numbers of permanent residents.

The first sentence of the message in Spanish, which will be spoken by an Hispanic woman, states: "I was born in Mexico and being an American citizen makes me proud."

"The campaign will last for three years and the funds, which amount to $11 million, are coming from an allocation made by the federal Congress in Fiscal Year 2010," Gitomer said.

"We're going to channel part of those funds to community organisations that help immigrants so they can help us to educate and convince people to become citizens," she added.

The USCIS spokesperson said that, according to the government's database, there are about 12.5 million permanent residents in the US, of whom 7.9 million are already eligible to get US citizenship, the majority of them being Hispanics.

In California alone, there are approximately three million people who obtained Green Cards more than five years ago.

"There are many reasons why people don't become citizens, some people don't know the benefits and feel that if they already have a residence card they can work, they can travel, then they feel they don't need citizenship," said Gitomer.

"But citizenship gives them the benefit of voting, obtaining a US passport to travel without restrictions, obtain better jobs," she said, citing studies that show that people who become citizens began to earn more money

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Microsoft Is Buying Skype for $8.5 Billion

Just days after reports that Google and Facebook were interested in partnering with, and possibly buying VoIP company Skype, Microsoft announced that it was buying the company for $8.56 billion in cash.

Last year, Skype had revenue of $860 million on which it posted an operating profit of $264 million. However, overall it made a small loss of $7 million, and had long-term debt of $686 million. This is the second time Skype has been bought out; after being started in 2003, it was purchased by eBay in 2005 for $3.1 billion. EBay then sold the majority of its stake in 2009 to a private investment group for $1.2 billion less than it paid.

The purchase was Microsoft’s biggest ever, surpassing even the $6 billion acquisition of advertising firm aQuantive in 2007. That alone makes it surprising; the company’s track record with large purchases is decidedly mixed. Danger, the exciting mobile technology company that produced the Hiptop, better known as the T-Mobile Sidekick line, was purchased for an estimated $500 million in 2008; the result of that purchase was the disastrous KIN phone and a complete failure to integrate the bought-in talent. The aQuantive purchase too had mixed outcomes, with Redmond unable to find a role for the Razorfish division before eventually selling it off in 2009; Microsoft continues to be unable to make a profit from online advertising.
Microsoft has in the last couple of years shied away from similar large acquisitions, sticking to buying smaller, easier-to-manage organizations, leading some to argue that this was a direct result of the digestive difficulties faced with the large purchases. A $7 billion Skype acquisition would show that perhaps Redmond believes it has resolved such problems.

Microsoft’s own software already has considerable overlap with Skype. Windows Live Messenger offers free instant messaging, and voice- and video-chat. It currently boasts around 330 million active users each month, typically with around 40 million online at any one moment. Microsoft has an equivalent corporate-oriented system, Lync 2010 (formerly Office Communication Server) that allows companies to create private networks that combine the communications capabilities of Live Messenger with corporate manageability. The underlying technology of both platforms is common, allowing interoperability between Live Messenger and Lync. The company also plans to integrate Kinect into Lync to create more natural virtual presences.

Skype, in contrast, has around a third the number of active users: 124 million each month. It also has fewer simultaneous online connections: typically 20-30 million. Its instant messaging and voice and video call features are broadly similar to those found in Windows Live Messenger, though arguably more refined.

Though the Skype user base is very much smaller than that of Windows Live Messenger, it does have one key difference: About 8 million Skype users pay for the service. Skype integrates telephone connectivity and is able to make both outbound and inbound phone calls, and while its online services are all free to use, these phone services cost money. Skype also has points of presence across the globe, making it easy to buy phone numbers in foreign markets to cheaply establish an international telepresence.

Skype certainly has some things of value. The telephony infrastructure would make a valuable addition to the Messenger/Lync platform. It could also tie in well with Exchange 2010, which offers voicemail integration. Adding telephony to Lync, Exchange, and Live Messenger is certainly a logical way to extend those products.

Perhaps more adventurous, integrating Skype-like functionality into Windows Phone would be something of a game-changer. Integrated multinational VoIP support would potentially be enormously disruptive to the cellphone market. However, as good as this might be to end-users, it would probably serve only to kill Windows Phone stone dead for carriers.

As much as telephony integration into Microsoft’s communications products and VoIP integration into its telephony product makes sense, it’s hard to make sense of the deal. The purchase price is a phenomenal amount of money to spend on a company that has long struggled for profitability, and it’s hard to believe that it’s truly the most cost-effective way of getting access to telephony and VoIP technology. Microsoft could build equivalent telephony infrastructure for much less, just as Google is doing for Google Voice.

Similarly, although Skype is in many ways a better instant messaging and voice- or video-calling client than Live Messenger, it’s hard to believe that it’s $7 billion better. The Skype client itself is written almost as if it were a piece of malware, using complex obfuscation and anti-reverse engineering techniques, and it would be disquieting for Microsoft to release something that behaved in such a shady way; at the very least, the client would surely have to be rewritten to avoid the obfuscation and outright hostility to managed networks that Skype currently has.

Even the access to paying customers is hard to justify. The terms of the deal mean that for each Skype customer, Microsoft is paying about $1,000. And on average, those customers are worth a profit of about $30, presuming most of Skype’s income comes from subscriptions and call charges. That’s a huge disparity.

Windows Live Messenger users have shown no propensity towards paying money, unlike Skype’s 8 million paying users, and it may be a challenge to convert them from nonpaying to paying. However, since at the moment they have essentially nothing to pay for, it’s difficult to use that as evidence that they wouldn’t pay if there were services worth paying for. Especially as there’s likely to be quite a bit of overlap between the customer bases: People aren’t giving Skype the money instead of Microsoft because they prefer paying Skype, they’re doing it because Microsoft simply doesn’t sell Skype-like telephony facilities. And Lync customers are already on the payment treadmill, so it should be far easier to extract further payments from them for additional services.

Ultimately, it’s hard to see how the Skype purchase is worthwhile from a technology or user-access perspective. The technology isn’t good enough and the users aren’t lucrative enough or plentiful enough to justify it. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen — and the prospect of keeping the company out of reach of Google and Facebook may just make the purchase irresistible.