Pune International Film Festival

Pune is playing host to an extensive International Film Festival. I was lucky enough to catch two cool movies.

If I were a rich man (France) a decent film about a french salesman who has had an extended run of bad luck. His wife is having an affair with his boss, he hates his car and there is just about no one who can give him a break!

Sky Hook (Yugoslavia) a real tearjerker film based on the yugoslav conflict. It’s about a national team basketball champion and his son Jovan. I thought it was really well directed, incorporating certain elements of the war to project gloom. It ends rather tragically!

When I watch an international film, I hope for something out of the ordinary. In this case perhaps I was somewhat dissapointed. In any case, Pune Rocks!!

Digital media center

This is really a project inspired by my long-time friend Wu. I want to build an inexpensive media center around legal media components. In essence, I want to be able to pipe digital content from my PC to my television or any other media device. I also want to be able to watch and record Television (for home viewing only – DVR style) using my extremely powerful PC.

Mercury News have a good write-up on where the concept of a media hub stands today.

Quote: Many of these entertainment hubs are still too expensive, such as the $1,000-plus Media Center PCs sold by many companies. But they’re getting cheaper, simpler, more versatile, and better connected. They still suffer from ease-of-use problems, incompatibilities and a lack of cheap services, said Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates proudly noted that more than 1.4 million Media Center PCs, equipped with Microsoft software and aimed at living-room use, have been sold since 2002. But that’s a tiny slice of overall PC sales.

“This has been a great year moving to the digital lifestyle,” Gates said in his keynote speech. “The PC has a central role to play where it all comes together.”

But the PC still gets blasted by rivals, such as Samsung Senior Vice President Peter Weedfald, as too complicated to use. “It’s just going to sit in a corner somewhere,” he said. “We think the cell phone is the true digital convergence device.”

Yet other sectors of the electronics industry are convinced that their own products will become the must-have entertainment hub for consumers:

� Levy Gerzberg, chief executive of chip maker Zoran in Sunnyvale, says networked DVD players have been selling well since 2003 and will be simpler to use than other hubs. Yet he acknowledges some problems. While consumers can take high-resolution photos on their digital cameras, they can’t display the images in high-quality form on their older analog TV sets.

� Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina unveiled a “digital entertainment center” Friday that uses the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft software. The Media Hub will act as a digital cable recorder, with a removable hard drive, where owners can store music and photos, and a simple menu to let consumers organize all their digital content.

� Jim Billmaier, CEO of cable set-top-box maker Digeo, believes that its Moxi cable set-top-box systems will be easier to use than complicated PCs.

� Philips Electronics holds out hope that sophisticated remote controls will command a big role in the living room, while Intel and Microsoft hope to get rid of the remote control clutter altogether.

� Digital TV makers such as Panasonic, Sony and Samsung are building so much smarts into TV sets that they believe that the TVs themselves will serve as hubs for digital homes.

Vinod Kulkarni adds:

Well, I was more interested in other blog on media center. Trying to
implement one, and here is list of problems faced:

– Be able to get a nice media-center-like box for the assembled linux
box. Most are big PCs. I could find one in Pune but it is still big in
– Make this box control TV, Music system – Home theater etc. Typically
you want to send controls to media center via single remote, and from
this media center, send IR signals (with IR transciever cards) that will
send device-specific codes for each device at home. For e.g. use single
button to power off all the devices. Check out this IR based project:
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/homehpfg/chapter/ch06.pdf (We started
implementing this, but realized that the guy hasn’t provided the actual
circuit diagram. So now trying to find a person with electronics
knowledge. )
– Make this box take all kinds of USB storage devices: Hard disks, cards
etc. This is easy.
– Use WiFi so you can sync between your main PC and media center.
Easy, but you require some simple UI. It seems there are devices that
can stream audio from PC using WiFi (with special WiFi-to-audio device
that connects to home theater). Not sure if we can build this or get
this one cheaply. It might use some RTP protocol over WiFi.
– Also beam the output of media center via FM radio, so any FM device in
house can pick it up. You actually get these devices, but remote-based
controlling is difficult. (They also require battery power, and
replacing batteries continuously is pain.) There was one slashdot post
on this recently.

Let me know your views!!

Don’t question my roots…

Yes, I would feel offended if someone implied that I was less of an Indian then the next Indian. Unfortunately, that is the very case that I face now that I am here in India.

On the flight back, my seat-mate had acquired his citizenship of another progressive nation, effectively losing his rights to being an Indian. His sons were also born into the position of privilege as their birth right and as through the choice of the Father. Question is, should your birth right be confused with your life Duty?

Well, Ashutosh Gowariker seems to think so in Swades. The movie conveys that it is primarily the individuals duty towards his Mother land that should bind him and mould his destiny. After all, she gave you her water, nourishment, opportunity when you were but an innocent, lost child. You owe her. Going and working abroad, be it high-tech or low-tech is like providing your neighbors house with water and electricity while your own home is dark and dry.

At this point, I wonder, my country of birth was never a concious decision on my part, therefore should I be so frivolous as to sell my loyalty on chance. In fact, I would not even sell my destiny to the stars that positioned themselves at my birth. Somewhere out there, I may have already made a few enemies. I ask for rationality and patience. Gifting the freedom of choice also means that an non-resident Indian’s son can decide that he really wants to be an Indian.

So I choose the middle path, to hang on to the illusion that I can make a choice. What then, you ask, remains to bind me to the yoke of my provider? It is a simple answer, us humans are bequeathed with an emotional capacity to some degree. If I love the green fields, the good food and the city of my childhood, there are things that I hate too.

Consider this, I went down to the post office the other day with a heavy parcel. I would have liked to mail out to a friend in Goa. The line at the counter was a good hour long. I stood in the line, patiently. After about 30 minutes, I noticed something strange. Another counter opened, it ‘seemed’ to begin accepting customers. I was tempted to move over, the conflict lay within risking my existing progress in the line that snaked its way to the original counter. Suddenly, the counter I was waiting for shut down and the people moved over to the tempting new counter. My lack of guile meant I was left out in the cold. No one would let me in, neither would any of the officials consider the injustice. I stood there seething, watching the line grow to 2 more hours worth of waiting.

The traffic sucks, there are rolling power cuts, people will more than ever manipulate the system, our politicians are exceptionally dirty. No one wants to think about how many crores of Rupees are lost in unwarranted government subsidies to undeserving enterprises.

And yet, I remember discussing this with my friends in LA, Google saw it fit to open a Bangalore center. Google, the mighty, the entity that claims to be the guardian of ethics and privacy in an industry that exploits the individual, descended upon the dirt and filth that is India and set its roots down. Of course, the astute will point out, there is talent to offer, and it is cheap.

I claim, there is also another element, perhaps a few of us Indians sincerely do want to give back to our Mother. Even if it means initiating the development of IP under the watchful eye of a videshi enterprise. While others may choose the path of least resistance, by offering their services and talent to outsiders for money, some will pick an even tougher path. I present, the myriad of small companies, slaving away to produce true IP that belongs to only them, in effect it belongs to India, true Swades. They ignored the temptation to prostitute and instead are betting their money that the world will buy what India has to sell. This confidence and self-reliance is what I am in love with, to what I swear my allegiance to.

And then, a friend of mine claims to want to leave this shit-hole. I sit down to write this article… momentarily stunned, what did she miss that I seem to see? Or is it that only the Donkey saw the light? Should I be angered if someone tells me, “Chalta hai, this is India, sab karte hai”?

Vacation time

Admittedly, my motivation to blog is way below anything else. I present, Santosh’s mind on vacation in Pune. I left the United States in a hurry hoping to get back home soon. However, luck deserted me midway. My domestic connection to Los Angeles was grounded in Chicago because the Pilots reported an anamoly.

I reached LA 2 hours later, rush to the international terminal – I told myself. I found my Air India flight had left, on time. In this instance, Air India seems to have pulled off a total blinder 🙂 what is the probability of an on-time departure for Air India? 10%? 1%? haha Merry Christmas.

Air India were kind enough to put me on the next flight out of LA, to Mumbai, this time over the Atlantic. The flight I missed was over the Pacific via Kuala Lampur. United pitched in with a Hotel and Meals while I waited for the flight. I was grateful, but I was bored, LA had nothing much to offer me for that one day. I spent most of my time on Venice Beach, reflecting, watching the waves roll in.

Later, that evening, I boarded the Air India flight out of LA, bound for Mumbai. I was happy to be well on time. My bags had been located, that definitely made my day. Lot’s of flirting with a pretty ticketing agent didn’t help me get an upgrade, but hey, I’m single so… that time spent is forgiveable.

A LONG wait at the gate – the flight was 2 hours late, I struck up a conversation with Barney, a law student from Michigan. His excitement was fuelled by the fact that he was flying Air India. He had heard stories that had mortified him, and so here he was, his maiden flight to India, on the national airline. This surprise perception, atitude melted away any cynicism and brought out the humour in the confusion of the Air India agents and other staff. They were trying their level best to pacify the waiting travelers and do their job. Kids were crying, youngsters were pacing, there was no doubt …. everyone were getting edgier by the minute.

The building tension was finally defused with the boarding call, buses moved the folks over to the boarding area where the Boeing 747 “Fatehpur Sikri” lied in wait. Strictly speaking, on any other day I would hate competing for cabin space :). But on this occasion, Barney and I got ahead by boarding when only passengers in the back row’s were asked to board. I might have issues with my conscience, but Barney didn’t and just decided, enough of waiting. The Captain of the crew kept announcing we were “moments away from takeoff”, I took those few minutes to email my friends a short goodbye.

My seat-mate could have been a charming, single 20-something, or just fun conversation, but they all deserted me. Instead, an overweight, oversized gentlemen jostled with me for elbow room in his economy class seat. I always knew I should have been religous at the Gym. If I had been, I would have pushed back with conviction.

At Frankfurt, the kind folks of the airport let us disembark (a first ever for me on an Air India flight). Thanks to T-Mobile deutschland I read the news and was stunned to read about the Sumatra Earthquake and the Tsunami that followed. It made me think, my troubles were so small now. More socializing followed, in German with the German airport staff, with some Gujrati gentlemen who deemed it right to warn me that I shouldn’t wear my Berry on my holster in Mumbai. Damn right, Mumbai is a nasty place alright. The restroom lines stretched across the isolated terminal. Have you ever seen so many Indians with their bladders full up :)?

Back on the flight, to counter-act the effect of the horrible hindi movies, petite Air India attendents dished out an awesome indian, vegetarian fare. Thats when I knew, I was headed for good Indian food :)… hehe I am a total foodie alright. Beers with Barney and my new Gujrati friends meant that time flew by quick.

At Mumbai airport, our bags just refused to come out for over an hour. They were probably engrossed in a conversation with the bag handling machine which had conveniently decided to throw a tantrum. I dreaded the green channel, I was carrying a load of stuff they could rail me for. Hehe, it took 10 mins to clear customs, no questions asked… shucks it must have been the dude on our flight who was smuggling in several cartons of ciggies and liquour that threw them off.

Now I’m here, in Pune, battling traffic, my loved ones’ deep and several problems. My parents repeatedly insist on intruding in on my private space which they haven’t done so for the past year. My mom almost admitted that its a power-trip for her (jokingly) hehe … Is it really a vacation? I don’t know yet, I’ll be in thousand oaks tonight.. I might find the answer there.