Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for March 2011

Four years back, Eugene Blanchard wrote a text book with a not-so-interesting title “Introduction to Data Communications”. I am not sure how this book benefited the intended students, But recently it has become very famous among internet discussions, social network messages and blogs.

Reason? It’s License Agreement!

Usually we don’t read license agreements in full (unless and until you are a corporate lawyer). It doesn’t matter whether we buy a house, or a $0.99 software. License agreements are necessary evil, which most of us don’t understand. Just move to the end and click the “Accept” Button, or sign on the document and we are done!

But Eugene Blanchard’s book is different. It has a very interesting license agreement:

You are allowed to use this book, view it, modify it without permission of the author, provided that you:

 

  • Will try to be a better person today than yesterday
  • Will exercise your body as well as your mind
  • Will tell the persons dear to you that you love them
  • Will defend the rights of those who are unable to defend themselves
  • Will not hurt your family members emotionally or physically
  • Will respect your elders and care for them in time of need
  • Will respect the rights of others in their religious beliefs
  • Will respect the rights of others in their sexual orientation
  • Will act honorably in all aspects of your personal and business life
  • Will consider your family as the first and foremost most important thing in your life.
  • Will admit when you make a mistake, and make amends

(057)

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N. Chokkan …

25 03 2011

For 2000+ years, astronomers were assuming earth to be the center of our universe. They thought everything else (including the sun) moved around the earth, in perfect circular paths.

In AD1520, Nicholaus Copernicus proved that Sun is the center of solar system and earth revolves around it. But still, circular paths didn’t change. Everyone assumed that planets move in circular paths around the Sun.

However, when these astronomers measured the position of various planets from earth, at various times, there were some serious disconnects. The data looked very erratic and they couldn’t plot these points in a perfect circular path. They didn’t know why.

(Image Courtesy: http://commons.wikimedia.org )

Enter Johannes Kepler, from Germany. Since his childhood, Kepler was fascinated by stars and wanted to be an astronomer, but couldn’t.

Reason? He had poor eye sight. It was near impossible for him to look at the stars and make accurate observations.

Still, Kepler didn’t give up hope, He decided to collect observations / data from someone else, analyze them and solve problems.

Trouble was, no one wanted to give him their data. After all, astronomy is hard work, you need very costly equipments and lot of patience for making any observations, and giving up all of them to somebody else was unthinkable.

Yet, Kepler wanted to try his best. He joined as an assistant to Tycho Brahe, a great astronomer. He patiently learnt many things from his master and took care of all his needs.

Few years later, Tycho died. He left all his astronomy observations to his assistant, Kepler.

From 1601, Kepler used this data to analyze position of Mars from Earth. Naturally, he couldn’t plot those data points in a perfect circle. What could be wrong? Tycho’s observations are incorrect? Kepler couldn’t check it because of his poor eye sight. He had to assume they are right and invent some other way of solving this problem.

That’s when it struck him, ‘What if Earth and Mars move in a non-circular path? What if they move in different speeds?’

For the next few months, he analyzed these questions patiently, with the help of Tycho’s data and found that all planets actually move around the sun in an elliptical path, not circular. And they all move in different speeds, not the same. Two wrong assumptions of thousands of astronomers, broken by an amateur astronomer!

With a single data analysis, Johannes Kepler was able to solve a problem which was bugging mankind for hundreds of years. And he did it without touching the telescope. That’s the power of data. Combined with an analytical human mind, it can solve any problem, scientific, business, technical, social or even personal!

(056)

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N. Chokkan …

22 03 2011

Matt Cutts is a Software Engineer working at Google, heading its Webspam team. Before this he wrote the very popular “Family Filter” Functionality in Google search. (You can read more about Matt in his blog at http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/)

(Image Courtesy: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/photos/uncategorized/2008/03/04/mattcutts555.jpg)

In the last few months, Matt Cutts is very popular among net-izens for a non-Google reason: He is trying something called “30 Day Challenges” and recording his experiences / learnings online.

For example, in the month of December 2010, Matt Cutts decided to learn 30 new words. In November 2010, he wrote a novel in 30 days. In October 2010, he clicked a new picture every day. Earlier he took similar challenges like “No twitter for 30 days”, “No Microsoft Software for 30 days”, “No Coffee for 30 days”, “No TV for 30 days”, “Only cloud software for 30 days”, “Don’t respond to Email after 10 PM for 30 days”, “10000 steps a day for 30 days” and so on.

Obviously, he is not doing all these for popularity. Behavioral experts say it takes roughly around 3 to 4 weeks to build a habit and it looks relatively easier to try something for 30 days, than doing it lifetime!

So, If you always wanted to try something but didn’t start, this is a good shortcut. Take a 30 day challenge; declare your intention in blog / facebook / twitter; make sure your friends read it (So that going back is difficult ;)); and most important, record your observations on a regular basis; as long as you are open minded about the challenge, anything can be converted to a life long habit.

Not sure where to start? Ask your spouse / friends, Or you can refer to 100s of ideas from readers of Matt Cutts’ blog: Bike to work for 30 days, No Personal Emails for 30 days, No Sugar for 30 days, Read 15 books in 30 days, No Complaining for 30 days, Go Left handed (instead of right) for 30 days,….

(055)

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N. Chokkan …

11 03 2011

Few days back I was reviewing a resume from one of my friends, It had the following statement “Expert in HTML Language.”

Don’t see anything wrong? Read again!

The acronym “HTML” means “HyperText Markup Language”. Hence, when you write “HTML Language”, you are really saying “HyperText Markup Language Language”.

When I was sharing this funny thing to a journalist friend, she told me this is a very common mistake in English, and we do it everyday, unknowingly. These are the other popular examples she gave me:

  • PDF Format
  • PIN Number
  • ATM Machine
  • HIV Virus
  • LCD Display

After she mentioned this, I looked-up the full forms of these acronyms and realized it’s not PDF Format, because “F” in PDF itself means “Format” and no need to repeat it again. Similarly “ATM Machine” is redundant. “ATM” will do fine!

On the other hand, is it really necessary to nitpick like this? In this era of digital communication (Email / Text Messages / Minute-by-minute status Updates etc.,) language seems to be changing from a rigid medium, to a flexible (change-as-you-need) utility. Many argue that as long as the other person understands what you are saying, rules like grammar, spelling, punctuation etc., are just unnecessary. (Believe me, some schools in New Zealand already allow SMS Lingo in Examinations! Gr8!)

So, what do you think? Should we respect the language / common sense and stop saying “ATM Machine”? Or flexibility rules the day? How it will affect our personal / business communication?

(054)

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N. Chokkan …

04 03 2011


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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