Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not so susegado

Fox History channel is running this TV series on 'What's with Indian Men?' and they are covering Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Jaipur. Considering the quality of content Fox provides in the history section, I was expecting something more than normal touristy stuff from this series but it kind of disappoints.

While Goans are supposed to be 'Susegado', they obviously don't have the highest per capita income in the country by being all laid back as has rightly been said by Reggie, the owner of 'Kalamari' resto as shown in the video. Its surprising that David from Tito's doesn't back that considering it is one of the most popular conventional night destination in Goa.

Remo speaks about Goa, the same way he always does :) Its good to have someone like Remo talk about not selling Goa out the way its been happening for most of the last decade.

They don't really get much about men in that. Also when did Boxing become a popular sport in Goa :O. Anyways an interesting watch!

The movie Dum Maro Dum also from Fox gives a much clear meaning of Susegado in Goa.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Whatever's LEFT

With the election results coming in, democratic resentment to corruption and lack of development seem to have reached a new high. The results of the two states, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, where the opposition romped home by massive margins can be summed up in Oscar Wilde's words: "Moderation is a fatal thing, nothing succeeds like excess."

A change in the government doesn't necessarily mean better governance. Corruption is systematic and almost shares a symbiotic relationship with anything to do with administration and governance in India. Its difficult not to be corrupt. What can be hoped for is a best-effort development model without wasting too much time on changing the system of corruption. It is a culture and we share a love-hate relationship with it.

If you have fudged your tax returns or bribed 5 bucks to get your certificates done faster, you too are part of it. Quoting from one of Vivek Wadhwa's posts - "Once you start compromising your values for short-term gains, there is no turning back." So lets be complacent, tweet about problems facing us, hold some candles and wait for someone to clean up our mess.

As if Rebecca Black wasn't enough of funfunfunfun, some people decided to leave their mark on Bangalore, literally. I just happened to pass by Church Street in Bangalore and got the below captures yesterday but now its back to an ideal street, thanks probably to some Ugly Indians.

The longest standing democratically elected communist government does sound hysterical but now it is history. Never really lived under socialism, but reading from history it seems like an excess dose of it is not too good. China is a good example of practicing capitalists, ideological socialists. Ideology is only good for speeches and as long as you don't practice what you preach.

What a grin! I bet its the Joker who along with Batman made a lot of Box office money.

I don't really know how it feels living in a Naxal area. Some say they are oppressed and just fighting for their freedom. Their violence is wrong but probably they just can't be complacent with the government we elect. Lets hope the left get it right and everyone is happy. Whoever did the street art stencil, good job! But alas, democracy still triumphs even if it makes a lot of people unhappy. Some advice -Drop your weapon, attend an anger management course and find a the root of your problem (or a better job).

Binayak Sen, a doctor by profession operating a non-profit to provide healthcare in rural areas, some of which also happen to be naxal infected (Infection is not a very nice word here, but even Love is infectious, so !) was arrested on charges of sedition by the government some time back. Country wide protests, support from international bodies like Amnesty and the UN made the Supreme court release him on bail. A mark of protest remains dormant now.

Every wall is not a Berlin wall, yet has its own story. Wonder what this one would have to say if one were to write its autobiography.

Its amazing how a city has a life in places you wouldn't really care to look. So if you are bored to death, just try discovering life in nooks and corners of your house. You can expect to get Bangalored.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BBC News - Germany top for foreign students

Germany top for foreign students
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

Germany has been named as the most supportive country for overseas students, in an international league table.

Among the attractions for international students is the increasing availability in Germany of courses taught entirely in English, so much so that students can complete degrees without ever having to speak German.

In the international zones of these classes, students from Germany, the United States and China participate in seminars conducted by German professors speaking in English.

View from abroad
David Ravensbergen, a Canadian at the Freie Universitat Berlin, says these multiple layers of internationalism can puzzle other students.

"They say: 'Let's get this straight. You're an English speaker from Canada, and you've come to Germany to study in English. And to study about North America. What's gotten into your head?'"

But Herbert Grieshop, director of the university's Centre for International Co-operation, says that languages should not be a barrier to such globalisation and that international English might be more useful than some regional varieties.

David Ravensbergen says the open access to German universities is a "well-kept secret"
"I wonder whether a Chinese student can understand us better than someone with a Yorkshire accent or some strange American accent," he says in flawless English.

The survey from the British Council which has placed Germany in first place is called the Global Gauge.

It comes ahead of a major British Council conference in Hong Kong examining university globalisation, called Going Global, which begins on Thursday.

The league table ranks university systems on measures such as openness, degree quality, how widely degrees are recognised, support for overseas students and how much students were encouraged to spend time abroad.

International policy
The UK was ranked in third place, with China coming fourth, ahead of the United States in sixth place, in a table showing 11 of the biggest players in the overseas student market.

The strongest overall performance was from Germany, which has promoted a deliberate policy of internationalisation.

There are more students from Germany studying abroad than any other European country and it wants half of its students to spend at least a term abroad, giving Germany one of the world's most mobile student populations.

The global market in overseas students has become a highly-lucrative business. The British Council estimates that it is worth £8bn a year to the UK economy.

But one of the attractions of Germany is that overseas students do not pay any more in tuition fees than home students.

Universities in many parts of Germany do not charge any tuition fees, which means in those places overseas students do not pay any fees at all.

No tuition fees
Freie Universitat Berlin, a top-ranking research university, has been part of this internationalisation project. It anticipates that a third of its students could be from overseas in the future.

"It's a well kept secret, that students are able to come here and there are very few barriers," says David Ravensbergen.

He is taking part in a seminar at the university's John F Kennedy Institute. It's conducted entirely in English - with language skills at a level where it is hard to distinguish between those who have English as a first and second language.

German students are encouraged to go abroad: Julia Sunaric has studied in Spain, the UK and China
He is also impressed by the way overseas students in Germany do not pay higher fees. In other countries, he says it can be a case of "internationalism for those who can afford it".

"One of the strongest motivators is finance. To go to university in Canada means taking on debt. It's essentially free to do it in Germany. It's incredibly appealing not to have to mortgage your future."

Sophie Perl, a student from the United States, also echoes the appeal of being able to study abroad, while paying less than at home.

"I think the biggest factor is financial. In the US a graduate programme would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in Germany it doesn't cost anything. And it doesn't cost more for foreign students than it does for German students."

Dr Christian Lammert, who is leading the seminar, delivers what he says is now a "completely international" type of course. Even the noticeboards in the corridor have information in English.


1. Germany
2. Australia
3. UK
4. China
5. Malaysia
6. US
7. Japan
8. Russia
9. Nigeria
10. Brazil
11. India
Source: British Council

Outside the window it's a cold afternoon in a leafy suburb of Berlin. The nearby tube station has a folksy thatched roof and there's a wurst seller nearby.

But inside the classroom it could be anywhere in the academic world, with English as the lingua franca and a multicultural group appropriately enough discussing multiculturalism.

The idea of learning in another language, in your own country, does not seem to be a problem for German students. "It's very common to learn in a language other than your mother tongue, so it's not anything special or weird," says Lena Verbeek.

There is a generational divide though. "For my parents it was something very new. Learning in an additional language was something they never dreamt of doing, as they studied only in Germany. It's becoming more and more international."

Studying abroad
There is also an assumption that German students will spend time at universities in other countries. Julia Sunaric, studying managing and marketing, has studied at universities in the UK, China and Spain.

The lack of tuition fees, even for overseas students, is a big factor, says Sophie Perl
"I don't think of it as that special, because other people have similar CVs. In Germany it's really common to study abroad."

She also says that German students are drawn to universities which teach in English, seeing it as useful for jobs in globalised businesses.

"When a university has a lot of courses taught in English, it's a kind of a prestige thing. If students have the ability and motivation to speak English, it's a good thing. People come here for the international image."

But what's in it for the university? There is no financial incentive - and overseas students need extra support.

"It's been deliberate policy. We wanted to internationalise. We thought that it helps our students, our research," says Herbert Grieshop, managing director of the university's Centre for International Co-operation.

Outward looking
The idea of internationalism permeates the university. It was set up in 1948 as a university for the western zone of the divided city and has always promoted the idea of links with the rest of the world. The university's showcase library was designed by Sir Norman Foster.

Herbert Grieshop says international English might be easier to understand than a Yorkshire accent
Mr Grieshop is speaking in a classic 1950s building, full of light and post-war optimism, and the open-arms policy towards overseas students owes much to a cultural faith in internationalism.

"It's good will, being a good neighbour. It's basic to our culture and our economy. We are an outward looking country."

"We think that global problems need global co-operation for research. And for our students it brings the sensibilities and the competencies they need in a globalised world market."

The university has not opened overseas campuses, but instead it develops partnerships through a network of overseas offices in countries including China, the US, Russia and India.

Pat Killingley, the British Council's director of higher education, says that an increase in international partnerships between universities has become a global trend. These partnerships can then become pathways, establishing a route for exchanges between students and staff.

For the UK's universities, she says overseas students are becoming particularly important for postgraduate courses.

"It's a hugely important trend, bringing students to the UK and supporting the research base. It's internationalising the whole system, she says.

It's a picture in which globalisation will "intensify" she says, expecting both more competition and collaboration between university systems.

Cross Post from -

BBC News - Germany top for foreign students

Friday, February 18, 2011

The One With The Bicycle Guy

Today when I stopped by a small corner shop to fix my bicycle stand, I noticed an interesting piece of reality. The guy who does the fixes went to get the spare and I was exploring his small (2 by 5 meters) shop. There were a couple of cans of 'Pan Masala' i.e Tobacco gums which I'm not sure he chewed or used to store stuff, a damaged bicycle (not surprising since he repairs such stuff) and a couple of trophies with the same thing applied to them as is applied to the forehead of religious deities and priests in some parts of Southern India as a Hindu tradition. He obviously worshiped the trophies the same way he did the gods. Besides that, there were a bunch of posters of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and the Indian cricket team players. No doubt he was a cricket fan. It was then that I saw a photo frame tucked behind the trophies whose color had faded and the edges worn out. It was the photo of a post-match victory team with a manager, the coach, the players and a trophy, a trophy similar to the one kept there.

When he returned with the spare, I asked him what all the trophies and the photo stood for and he told me his story of being a cricket player and fracturing his arm 4 years ago. He had won several tournaments but the accident changed everything. He had left studies for cricket and cricket had left him dead, almost. So he now fixed bicycles for a living earning a meager amount on a daily basis. He had a wife and a mother to take care of and they lived just behind the shop. The state of affairs wasn't that bad but definitely not as good as it would have been had he been able to continue cricket and reap some dividends out of the cash-rich Indian Premier league or one of the several other money driven cricket leagues.

This reminds me of the dialogue between George Cloooney in 'Up in the air' and Bob, the employee he fires.

Ryan Bingham: You know why kids love athletes?
Bob: Because they screw lingerie models.
Ryan Bingham: No, that's why we love athletes. Kids love them because they follow their dreams.

This cycle repair guy tried his dreams but failed. Maybe I'm wrong in making that assumption here. He seemed content and did not exactly regret what happened. That's why India is such a box of contradictions and its people even more unpredictably brilliant at living lives. Most people around here who have steady jobs no longer have real dreams, the one that they cherished since childhood. Maybe they are just being practical and have substituted their bigger dreams with many smaller ones like buying a house, watching a movie with someone, getting a better job offer, travelling to places and so on. Nevertheless it takes strong guts to pursue strong dreams and hopefully despite eating all that junk food, many of the generation will still be able to build those guts.

Now for some random stuff.

An ode to the valentine's day that was :) The Android bots signify that roses are no longer acceptable gifts for valentine, funky Android tablets are!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Google Summer of code 2011 is here

For students interested in contributing to open source projects and getting a really good summer experience, the Google summer of code program (GSoC) has been announced for 2011. The timeline is also open for organizations working on open source software development to participate with projects and mentors.

An excerpt from their announcement below:

This will be the 7th year for Google Summer of Code, an innovative program dedicated to introducing students from colleges and universities around the world to open source software development. The program offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source projects with the help of mentoring organizations from all around the globe. Over the past 6 years Google Summer of Code has had 4,500 students from over 85 countries complete the program. We are excited to announce that we will extend the scope of the program this year by targeting a 25% increase in accepted student applications as well as accepting a larger number of mentoring organizations. Our goal is to help these students pursue academic challenges over the summer break while they create and release open source code for the benefit of all.

Full link here

The presentation detailing the entire structure of the program and statistics for previous years is given at the below link:

Feel free to go through it and check out the SoC site for list of organizations, IRC rooms to discuss with possible mentors and peers and previous years projects. Feel free to email me on if you have any related questions.

--Pratik Mandrekar

Friday, February 4, 2011

Barcamp session - Information & Communication Technology for Development

We recently had a barcamp session at work and I held a session on information and communication technology for global development.

We discusses a few cases where technology has been applied to real life issues and involves people who normally did not actively participate in technology. The examples are from:
1) Mobile Money Service (M-PESA in Kenya)
2) Ushahidi - Crowdsourcing information for monitoring elections in India, Swine flue data, Egyptian political crisis
3) Digital Green - Participatory videos for improving farmers way of doing agriculture in India
4) Sana - A mobile health platform for remote diagnostics.

The presentation slides are attached below. Most of the things were actually discussed and hence the presentation may not be comprehensive but nevertheless touches on all points of the session.

You can contact me on

DISCLAIMER - All opinions are personal and have no relation whatsoever to the company where the session was conducted. The research is all aggregated from different sources and referenced appropriately in the slides.

-- Pratik Mandrekar

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pointer swizzling and Serialization

While reading up a bit on serialization I came across this nice little way of persisting a typical linked list node in C using pointer swizzling. 

A node like this:

struct node {
int data;
struct node *next;

cannot be persisted or written to a file system or database with the value of the pointer as the memory address pointed to be 'next' will never be predictable when the object is retrieved later. So create an enumeration of the nodes in the list and dynamically generate the 'next' pointer for traversing every time you re-create the list structure.

The persisted node will look like this:

struct node_saved {
int data;
int id_number;
int id_number_of_next_node;

Also one needs to take care of Endianess when serializing across different machines as some data types like floating point even when implemented with the same IEEE standard on both the machines may not be readable or interpreted differently when run on the two machines.

The official java api documentation for serialization gives a very good explanation of doing serialization with java. One mainly needs to the following to ensure proper serialization and de-serialization (in their words maintaining consistency in reading/writing flattened objects)
  1. Implement the Serializable interface
  2. Not everything is serializable. It makes no sense to serialize threads or some streams (Probably all). If you need to use them in your serializable class, ensure you mark them as transient.
  3. Override read/write methods of the object to ensure more control over how the state is maintained and later retrieved.
  4. Keep a constant SerialVersionUid field in your classes to ensure that persisted objects whose classes get changed still remain valid when deserialized across different versions of the same class.
  5. Reset or close streams to avoid caching problems. Two successive writes on the same object will not be cache safe.
  6. There are performance issues.

Wikipedia also gives a comparison of different Serialization formats for data (note the difference between data and programming logic i.e code).

Also a note on using threads in general: Avoid threads when not required because they are difficult to manage. Preferable use event drive programming for UI and distributed computing. Here is a popular presentation which tells in detail why. A simple set of examples giving the benefits of using threads in sorting, searching and matrix multiplication is given here. A more involved concurrent programming model in Java is explained here for a webservice example.

I came across this new project under development by a couple of Google folks called Camlistore. Its entirely based on storing blobs (Binary data chunks) and indexing a pointer to the blob and signing it properly to ensure privacy control. It also has a protocol for mirroring the content. It has a fairly simple archtecture but could be a useful standard for managing all of one's media (Dropbox + Greplin + Google Docs + All blog services) . It does seem similar to an application built above a NoSQL implementation like REDIS but has a nice standard SQL database feel to it.



Seems like people are using open source in Unmanned aerial vehicles too. Check the Open pilot project and the below video for some interesting stuff.


-- Pratik Mandrekar

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where does this bus go?

Got this while trying to book a bus ticket online from Bangalore to Goa. Seems like some overworked web programmers really don't like you to go to Goa!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Google Health and Application Development

Just a quick post:

Google health is a service which allows users to load their medical data (as well as people they would like to care of) into google records. You can create a new account or sign in with your gmail user account. It allows you to upload your medical data, get health related suggestions, connect to different health service providers and several other medical services most of which are provided by third party vendors and come at a price. There is a video you could take a look at over here. It also contains API documentation for developers who would like to build over the Google data model for based on google health data and services.

The below is a nice presentation shared by Bess Ho and team deveoping a mobile application called Chief Medical Officer based on google health data services for the Android/Iphone using titanium for development (Atleast the design documents mention it that way in the presentation).

Friday, July 23, 2010

The best Firefox environment!

The internet has been my main source of information and everything else that stems from it, fundamentally everything! In simpler terms its almost been the most important aspect of my life and for several readers of this post, I believe its true for you too. With computing being ubiquitous a lot more devices are coming into the market and the way we access the internet is changing. Yet there has been one constant force that has enabled me to access the internet: Firefox! Well I have used IE, Chrome and Opera for mobile but nothing yet beats Firefox atleast as a desktop/laptop based user-agent. On top of being the most used browser and the best one, its also free and open sourced and that makes Mozilla really awesome. I also think the following plugins make for a really incredible browsing experience:

Ubiquity - This one lets you gets a command line interface to show up anywhere, anytime in your browser and lets you do several things like perform mathematical operations on the selected data, finding the place on the map, sending emails or tweeting updates by automatically using tiny url's among several other powerful things focused around user mashups and a simple way to lookup things on the web or visualize data the way you want to. You can even create your custom commands. Is the most awesome natural language processing tool I have seen and used for over a year and half on the web.

Ubiquity for Firefox - An awesome bookmarking service acquired by Yahoo! that lets you aggregate all your bookmarks and lets you sync them across different computers or mobile phones. So you can get to access all the sites you would like to at any point of time and never lose any information by just a single click.

Yahoo toolbar - It was there some years ago. Then moved out of use and now, is back with a bang! The ability to add custom apps and preview your emails on gmail or check your facebook pages by just a hover click while you are surfing any page on the web really helps avoid the frantic attempts to open new tabs and going to the websites.

Firebug - When it comes to checking the source of the page you are visiting or designing web pages, nothing beats Firebig. An easy way to analyze complex components on the web, custom css, javascript and just examine any interesting components on the page you are viewing.

YSlow - From a developers point of view really helps understand why a page loads slow and what could be done to improve your site performance in terms of front-end engineering.

Foxtab - Need that 3D experience in your browser? Install foxtab and get a glimpse of 3D tabbed browsing. Also to dress up your browser in a style you like use Personas for firefox.

Flashgot - Don't like the way you can't really get that video you watch on facebook or youtube or some file that's taking too long to load in the browser? Well, Flashgot lets you download any media to your system with just a click; Be it flash videos or anything else and that too without leaving the current page or stopping what you are currently doing. One of the best download managers for media ever!

Of course there are a whole lot of plugins that I haven't explored and another set which have been phased out of my browser. Yet the above plugins are what make my browsing sessions truly awesome!!

...and to end with a preview of what firefox is coming up with soon:

An Introduction to Firefox's Tab Candy

Comments and reviews of more firefox related addons are welcome!

Pratik Mandrekar