Saturday, 30 March 2013

The grass was greener

It is insightful, to note that the amount of generated this year will be equivalent to the amount of data generated over the last two years which was equivalent to the amount of data generated over the last ten. Big data, therefore, now follows an almost exponential curve, and will continue to do so for the next couple of years at least.

The question that I would put to you(not that you'd be interested much) is where would it stop? And lets take the Wikipedia as an example. Yes, articles measuring the size of Wikipedia abound, and indeed, if the whole of the pedia were to be printed and put in a library(and yes, no one would do this), it would not only occupy the whole library but probably spill out onto the streets as well.  The key thing here is to remember that it's not the growth in absolute terms that's important, but the rate of growth, and if you'd look at the nicely shaped graph alongside, you would know that the rate of growth has decreased over the past few years. Yes you could differentiate the damn thing over x, take tangents and do a belly rub on your snoring Persian cat. But the truth of the matter is, there's only so much knowledge that we can encompass. And only so much knowledge that we would be able to convert into data.

So, is the amount of user generated content going to dwindle in the next couple of years. Yes, and no. Now while the explosion is probably soon going to be behind us, it is the amount of storage space which is going to increase. And as it does, it is going to become cheaper and easier to access that storage. You see, once the storage space increases(nanotech, newer ways to store data, removal of limitations regarding magnetic devices) it would be a catalyst to greater file size. The same amount of information would then be packed into a much larger area, and thus while the amount of user generated content might hold steady for the next few years after the boom, the size of the same would surely go on increasing. And increasing. And yes, some more.

What this means is that we should see the golden age of the hardware and networking giants soon, as well as the user generated content aggregation apps of this world. If I had the money, I'd probably open up a huge datacenter somewhere in a country like ours, mostly a deserted location with plenty of electricity available. And then charge people by the hour to use it. Strangely enough, it wouldn't be of much use to me very soon, as all of the storage devices we currently use would be obsoleted in a couple of years anyhow. The easy thing is prediction and the tough part is the ability to act on that prediction.

So its probably not the datacenters you should bet on, but the people providing the infrastructure for that data center. Technology keeps changing, but the demand for storage can only keep rising. The grass will always be greener on the other side of the great technology divide.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Motivated Bloggers.. and mostly just a T shirt

And on an extremely slow day,  what better thing to do than blog your troubles away?  A million different things if you're interested, but you're pretty much stuck with me and my drivel. Oh well, batck to the old parenthetically interrupted, neatly collated list of things that could have been or should have been. But the whole point of that is, you guessed it, to blog.

Which brings us to that most puerile of questions. Why do people blog? If this was a Chlormint ad, I would be getting slapped silly, I'm sure. Unfortunately, it isn't. Aur ab dobara mat poochna...

The reasons why people blog might not be as obfuscate as why other people(in considerably greater numbers) read blogs. However they are infinitely more entertaining. For you see, most people, like you dear reader, are bored, or slightly mental. In the head, no less.

Strangely enough, blogs come in a rather large multitude of variety, a fact which will form the crux of another post. (Yes the key to any successful blogger is to leave his audience expecting more). So there would inevitably be a bunch of different types of blog writers, and a whole smorgasbord of differently oriented readers. So, anyway, here goes. Why do people blog? answered in five easy steps.

<1>  They're bored. Or so full of themselves they're bored all of the time. The key to this is to find readers for your blog, which would comprise usually, of people who are more bored than you are. A tough task for anyone.

<2> They have a really important message to get out to the world. Like global warming, or the annual mass suicide of lemmings being delayed by a few days due to solar winds. This is the sort of topic which is usually greeted by a stony indifference, and apart from the usual social media activist finds very few takers.

<3> They are conspiracy theorists/ anarchist bloggers. Now these guys are surprisingly popular. More so because the whole culture of blogging is somewhat cliqued in nature. This sort of blog not only has a large number of participants, but arguably and most enviably the largest group of motivated re share bloggers in the whole world.

<4> They like their beauty products. And here we have an exclusive group of female bloggers catering to an exclusive(oh wait.. ALL) females in the world. Whoever thought that religion or conspiracies inspired cults you only have to venture into the makeup and haircare segments to discover the biggest cult of them all... women. Now you know how they pass the time.. eh?

<5> The mavens.. those smart guys who know what they're doing and want to share it with the world. Most of us haven't heard of their blogs, have no idea what it is they write about, and wouldn't know what hit us in case we actually took the rather drastic step of reading their blog,but follow it anyway. These are the sort of bloggers who created blogs, who write about the most important things in their blogs, and whose blogs are the most brilliant of any sort. Or prepare us for competitive exams. Whatever.

And I know the list is fairly limitless, I mean you have travel blogs and review blogs and blogs about the colour of the mole on Aishwarya Rai's uhmm..hmm... But hey, that's really of no concern to the people who write them. In the end, most motivated bloggers should in fact find themselves writing just because, well, they have to write.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire

In the age of such quality cinema as Himmatwala I present to you another... non- movie related post. Fortunately this post would also not cover the (almost)eponymous television series, or even the eponymous series of books. Then, dear reader, you would ask me in a sudden bout of ennui, what is this post related to. And I find myself typing in methane hydrate. And what, you ask?

Methane hydrate.

For the scientific ones among you, this would probably be a bit baffling, after all, methane, a thick foul smelling gas is not something you would expect to find in hydrated form. And yet, a complete family of hydrocarbons exists in a hydrated, solid form. So you could fully expect to find ethane hydrate and propane hydrate if you decided to go on a full fledged survey of the Earth's crust. Methane hydrate just happens to be the most common one, and this is in no small reason due to the comparative size of its molecule. Now methane is pretty much the smallest hydrocarbon you could think of, and any mineral formed by a eutectic reaction at high pressure would in fact involve some amount of diffusion into a lattice. So with the water lattice, and yes it does form a lattice thanks to crystallization at high pressures, methane would try to diffuse as far as possible into interstitial spaces. Think of this as trying to force mercury into a sponge. And ice of course has quite a few, especially as there isn't anything much to keep the ice together, unlike water which has a bunch of inter molecular hydrogen bonds going for it. This is also why ice floats on water(not the methane part... the mindless chatter after).

This means that a lot of methane would in fact diffuse into water which would then solidify under pressure to form something like ice, but something that burns. And you would respond with a so what? I do that with my camphor everyday.

So everything. Consider the fact that the reserves of carbon in methane clathrates(a fancier sounding name cooked up by bald men in aprons) is about twice the reserves of carbon in ALL fossil fuels. Also consider that this burns with almost no residue(there isn't much to it when you burn ice) and is also easier to transport than LPG and you have an energy phenomenon on your hands. This is energy that, if exploited properly could put an end to all our energy woes.

And if you're thinking that's too good to be true it probably is. It is tough to extract methane hydrate and the risks involved are considerable. Forget the environmental impact of fracking for shale gas, or exploiting the Alberta tar sands, this would be right up there as an ecological disaster if it were to go wrong. You see, methane is far more potent, global warming wise than almost anything. All the cars in the world do not contribute as much to global warming as the methane in the farts of livestock. Methane is the single most important reason for global warming periods in the past. And this would not be by a comfy 2 degrees on average, but by much more. Of course, methane is found in higher concentrations in ice beds, which means that as it gets hotter, more and more will be released as the ice melts, which would cause more ice to melt. And so on and so forth.

How we exploit this will probably be driven by the forces of economics than by any real scientific thought or common sense. Which is pretty scary considering the fact that the forces of economics are pseudo forces that would make Newton turn in his grave and mumble incoherently. As the price of oil continues to rise and the supply of natural gas continues to be so readily available as to be economically unsound the world will look for a middle path. A sort of compromise, if you will, between easy availability and difficulty of extraction. And we'd probably die in a big flood if the heat doesn't get us first.

Make sure you burn your fair share of ice first.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


One question that gets thrown up a lot is can Bollywood hope to compete with its infinitely more illustrious bigger brother Hollywood n its own terms. Yes not by making movies with budgets to rival the GDPs of some African nations, or by making dramas on boxing an ballet, but by making the same sort of masala fare that we have been dished out since the turn of the century(and last century as well). Can we create movies that are brilliant, and yet, uniquely Indian.

This would appear to be a moot question to many. Most would readily point out that we have in fact spent most of our lives seeing our fledgling movie industry copying its plots from some lesser known(and sometimes even better known) movies abroad. And the buck doesn't stop there, of course, not content with merely copying the storyline, some directors would even copy scenes and dialogues from the original. But hey, we don't complain. As a self critical antagonist in the (surprisingly) hit movie Gangs of Wasseypur remarked...Jab Tak Bollywood tak log chutiye bante rahenge (or reasonably audacious equivalent). Bollywood has always based itself of the smoke and mirrors stuff. Designed to sell movies, not make cinema.

Which is why there are many proclaiming that we are now entering the new age of Indian cinema. The sort of age where even a no holds barred gangland epic like Gangs of Wasseypur can open to a packed house and receive rave reviews. Original Indian cinema, which was previously relegated to the sidelines of mainstream public consciousness, has now emerged to grab the spotlight for itself. We now have the likes of a Dev D, a creative modern day interpretation of an extant classic garnering profits. We now have the likes of a biopic of a track and field specialist recouping its budget. Things look good for Indian cinema.

Except that those movies aren't really Indian cinema. The sort of production value  they have is still dwarfed by some of the more mindless films that sell blatantly due to star casts, and the sort of audience they enthrall is still limited to the urban working class. And the only reason why there is now a market for these movies is not because the movies are being made better or grander, but because the audience for such movies is growing at a rapid rate. As the bulk of India moves from being a bucolic farming class of people to an erudite technocratic service provider, the entertainment it consumes would naturally reflect in its shift.

Which is why Special 26 deserves a special mention. The movie seems to be typical Bollywood caper fare at first. Staid dialogues delivered in steadfast monotone, a pretty decent star cast, a sharp storyline punctuated by a song or two, a beautiful heroine in distress and so on. The only difference is, its not. Not staid, and yet, make no mistake this sort of movie is the bastion of Indian mainstream cinema. The difference is that Special 26 is not only based on real events, it aspires to lend a very intelligent plot to those real events. You see, Special 26 aspires to be the Ocean's Eleven of Bollywood. And yet, not quite. All the trappings of a traditional movie, with a sucker-punch thrown right at the end. A film that can be compared to its Hollywood counterpart not based on its storyline or even its cast, but on the sort of heights it aims to reach.

Movies like Gangs.. would always be made by rebels or by creatives. It is only now that mainstream is responding in kind, by evolving.