Read the Printed Word!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My E-Bookshelf

I have often wondered as to why is it that we see no icon on the desktop called ‘My Book-Shelf. ’when ‘My computer‘ is so universal. Is it because computers have replaced books ? Can they ever do that?
In my own case, the very first computer, I owned was an AT286 Machine, which just displayed a DOS prompt. Even then, as I recall, I had one folder (called a directory , those days) where I kept such files which was for any kind of reference. Since Windows 3.1 days then I have always had an icon on my computer desktop, which took me to my digital resources like Dictionary, Railway Time table, CDA Hand Book , a few Tamil books etc. Today, I have a Linux Machine with the “Calibre’ meeting all my needs of 'reading off the screen', which includes some reference material, some fiction and some news feeds.

While it may be true that we do not need a book shelf in every office or home PC, a E-Bookshelf on every computer is not only necessary, but very much practicable. Today with the rising popularity of open source resources, we have a huge volume of rich contents in the public domain. To manage all these resources we have open source e-book management software applications like Calibre. All you have to do is to download an application, configure it and start surfing the net for resources of your interest. Mind you, not for a moment, am I suggesting piracy. There are any number of projects like Project Gutenberg which are involved in digitizing classical works. There are sites like which are giving away good E-books for free and they charge only for the print edition.
Even if one is not interested in classical poetry or for that matter any kind of serious literature, a book shelf is required even if it is purely for resources of utility nature, like CDA Hand Book, Railway Time Table, Dictionary, or may be ‘Golf made Easy’ .
I only wish, a ‘My Book-shelf ‘ Icon becomes a reality, at least in Schools and other Educational Institutions even if it is not as omnipresent as ‘My Computer’.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Booklet printing and The Spirit of Ubuntu

These days we tend to do more screen reading than traditional book reading. While it is okay to read blogs, news-feeds etc off the screen, certain materials like tutorials and how-tos need to be studied leisurely.

Taking printout on A4 sheets is ok, but it is still not so convenient. To have a good feel of reading, the material should be of book-size, with ample margin for binding and  should be held open with a thumb or thumb and the little finger. I have always been loking for an app which can do booklet printing. The other day I found just that.

You can just right click on a file and generate a booklet in a size of your choice. what's more , you save a lot of paper.

There are many apps which only a minuscule few may want, and big IT companies don't care. An open source software enthusiast, who needs such a feature, looks  around, to see if it is available. If not available  he proceeds to develop one, alone or with other like minded people.

And once a facility is developed, the real fun is in freely sharing it with the whole world. That is the spirit of Ubuntu, a far cry from the software giants who toil hard to produce stuff people don't need and toil harder to sell it to them at exorbitant prices.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Moga Mul (மோக முள் )

      Saw the movie mogamul   . Sure it is slow moving , but makes you think at  every twist and turn. The song 'sollayo vai thiranthu just about sums up the main theme . Archana Joglekar looks beautiful and the mother daughter duo live their roles as  tamil-thanjavoor marathi caught in a cleft.
       If a movie can be so  touching, the book has to be more so. Whoever said, 'a picture is worth a thousand words' ? after all a picture also has to give rise to words, or can we think or appreciate a picture without words, with just visuals; may be the youngsters these days can.  Words let you imagine a picture, may be a different picture every time you read the words or reflect on the words, depending on the mood , and your own stage of growth. This is one book of Thi jaanakiraman I had not read. Thanks to flip cart, it is so easy to procure tamil books, even from a town like Mhow.

        I took a week to finish the 600 odd pages. In fact , I deliberately read slowly, so that it can be savored for a longer time. A book has to be 'put downable' so as to let you chew the cud leisurely, relishing  and reflecting on  every chapter. Each character has been portrayed so live, complete with warts and all. It is total Thanjavoor and Kaveri; a place I have never been to , yet I feel so much part of. In fact my thanjavoor is as seen through Thi jaa's books and of course from my father. Some of the words and phrases you come across in the book are no more in vogue. After a long time I came across 'haithari kodagal' an exclamation that I have heard only from my father.

        Kaveri and Carnatic music  gently flow all along the story. There is that subtle humour, characteristic of the region. One can sense the spiritualism, talent  and  brilliance in individuals and also the appalling cruelty in some of the social customs and  practices.

       A young girl is married to an old man; then there is the character 'thaiyyu paati' who steps off the road, every time someone approaches to avoid bringing bad luck to people. She was married at three, widowed at four and for the next seventy years she has lived like this. This one sentence brings to mind a thousand pictures of cruelty to women in this society.

      Predictably, the book is better than the movie. While there is lot of romanticism in the movie, the book is more realistic, may be a little pedestrian, which is what real life is.
      Another book that can be read more than once.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Magnificent Mary

'Magnificent Mary' ; Five times world Boxing Champion is hardly known in her country. Can it happen in any other country ? I heard of her only during the Summer Olympics in London, long after she became a world Champion while I can easily the number of runs Srikant scored in the 1983 World Cup. I feel ashamed.

Even after the Olympic medal, it requires a Bollywood film 'Mary Kom' to make her a household name today. While it is great that the champion , her sport and her home state Manipur, are better known today, through the movie, it is sad that it would be Priyanka Chopra's face that would be associated with the name 'Mary Kom' , at least among the general public.

Boxing probably is the most demanding sport. Any shortcoming in training or technique is severely punished, physically and emotionally right in the ring.

Mary Kom is in the wrong country, wrong sport, wrong gender, wrong Region and Wrong social class , to achieve any feat; well that is what is 'Against all odds...." .   I salute !

See what google suggests .........

Sunday, September 21, 2014

For God's Sake

       A book by an adman, alumnus of IIT and IIM; one more IIT guy excelling  in fields other than engineering.

      It is not about how God influences your life , but about how the idea of God affects business in India.

     Written in a lively , chatty, yet informative style, as a series of somewhat disconnected essays, it makes a nice office hours reading ! It is particularly good for random access reading, if I may call it so, jumping from chapter to chapter not in any particular order, switching gears as you go. A casual skimming over the table of contents  took me to  the chapter 'burkha ke peeche kya hai ?' ; the answer is not what I thought or what you are thinking nor 'dil' as in 'choli ke peechhe kya hai  'but 'designer-ware clothes'. It is a phenomenon that has led to hundreds  of garment factories in a country populated by millions of burkha clad women. 

     Then there are essays on divine arts, divine tourism, sacred music all contributing to the way Indians of all religious hues think, earn and live.

     If the western idea of secularism keeps  religions insulated from politics, business, education and just about everything, Indian idea of secularism is so inclusive that it demands some measure of every religion in every aspect of life !

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Reluctant Techie

My career , which was always on a ‘ conveyer belt’ gave very little room for any deliberate decisions ; from sainik school to NDA to army .
       One of the rare occasions when I was really required to make a choice was to choose between tech and non tech. The first time it happened was at NDA, and as a 16 year old, I opted for the technical stream. The classification test at NDA categorized me as ‘A’ the highest class in the technical group. I remember telling my DS , that I got A in all subjects, little realizing that, while it was the highest in Tech and English , it happened to be the lowest in Hindi; for whatever reason. So, I started my career in army with a triple ‘A’ .
       Survival at first term had more to do with physical endurance than anything else, least of all studies. The common mode of locomotion was front rolling and the bicycles we were issued with were riding on us more often than we ever rode them. Under the circumstances, I came down rolling from 'A' to ‘C ‘ classification in the second term and passed out with a CGPA of 4, (a four point someone). The three years of ‘technical ‘studies  was just a black hole to me . Try as I might , can’t remember a single thing I learnt in those three years in Sudan block and Science block. Whatever was learnt, good or bad was learnt outside these famous academic blocks.
        Years later, I was sitting in front of my DS at IMA (who retired as a well known Army Commander), who was trying to push me towards a technical arm. The interview went something like this.
Why don’t you go for a technical arm ?
Sir, I prefer Infantry.
You were a techie at NDA weren’t you ?
Sir, NDA techie is not much of a techie.
Anyway, you have slogged more than others. (doing math is slogging while push ups was fun !)
........................... ???!!! 
Why not artillery ?
Sir, I prefer dealing with men to handling guns.
Consider artillery again.
NO sir it is infantry
        In one of his lectures the same DS had said, “why do you guys want to go for docile tps like hill tps , cross swords with Sikhs and Jats , they are the ones who win all competitions. (he was a jat sikh from Gorkhas)
         Well, I opted for JATS.
         The first ten years of my career, I stayed away from anything that had to do with maths or science. We used to have a technical orientation course before going to staff college. As the name suggests, it was meant for ‘pongos’ like us, as the future generals were expected to be tech savvy. No sir, don’t you stuff me with maths and science for whatever reason; I will, anytime put tactical issues above the technical ones; don’t I have some bespectacled geeks under command? Predictably, I got a C grade in the course.
         Those were the days, XT Computers were just being introduced in offices. I went through the first year of my staff appointment blissfully ignorant of PCs. The turning point came when a GD sepoy, who was in-charge of the PC (well friends , we had just one XT PC in the whole Brigade Headquarters) informed all that the ‘files’ would not open and we had to do the VIP brochure , briefing etc all over again. The army cdr was visiting the next day. It was a long night of typing and proof reading and by the end of it, I had to know why the file wouldn’t open and had to ensure that such a crisis wouldn’t occur again.. Thus started the long road to my Education in the IT field. Subsequently, supersession helped; leading to a huge bonfire of all army pamphlets I had , (just to ensure security of info) and books on IT more than replaced the void in my bookshelves.
        The world of Info Tech is a great field, ever changing, ever evolving, a field of huge depth and width, a digital ocean , yet always willing to reveal its secrets and treasures to anyone willing to learn, willing to dive deep into it. You don’t need a teacher, classrooms or universities; all you require is the hardware and the NET. If at all you need any guidance , there is abundant help from fellow-netizens. Where ever I was posted I created projects for myself, developing web sites, applications and so on.
          Later I was posted to Infantry School as an instructor in the newly created IT Division. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot. I found myself as a techie among non-techies. A course mate of my mine, a signal officer not very tolerant to ignorance shared with me a conversation he had had at the bar . It went like this ..
…….. “Water here seems to be very hard, isn’t it ?”
Infantryman… “oh sure it is , even yesterday we had a hailstorm” and he was dead serious !
I could totally empathize, It is not easy to be out of sync in any environment.
         Strange are the ways God and …. The Army.. years later I found myself , as an infantryman, teaching a tech subject to officers of the Corps of Signals. About that later …….