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Jaimon Joseph
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Web:the new battleground

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The venerable Congress Party's 'Chintan Shivir' on January 18, 19 and 20 in Jaipur, discussed among other things, a most perplexing problem. How to fight an army of Geeks. The Congress-led UPA government has belatedly realised that the use of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to mobilise thousands of urban protesters almost instantly, could be a far bigger challenge than their actual, political rivals. "Flash mobs are a new phenomenon... sometimes they gather to sing and dance, but sometimes they can gather to protest also," finance minister P Chidambaram said in December, adding, "We need to take note of it. I don't think we are fully prepared to deal with it. We need to devise SOPs (standard operating procedures)." The ruling party's concern comes after it was browbeaten by young protesters outside the corridors of power in New Delhi in December, to protest against the....

Tuesday , November 27, 2012

A look at the new Chinese leadership

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We know all about Barack Obama's recent victory, Michelle's beauty, Romney's chicanery and perhaps even the name and breed of the first dog of the United States. But do we know as much about the new President-in-waiting next door? Considering China is the world's second largest economy, the only superpower after the United States, India's largest trading partner and the only country in our immediate vicinity that could steamroll us militarily - perhaps we ought to have paid more attention to its recent change of guard. Pigeons in Beijing were ordered not to fly. As were remote controlled toy planes. Taxi drivers were warned not to roll down their windows (lest passengers throw out subversive literature). Balloons and ping pong balls were withdrawn from shop shelves (Inflammatory words could be scribbled on them). There was a near total clampdown on political discussions online. Meanwhile, the Great Hall....

Thursday , October 18, 2012

Building smarter cities

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It isn't everyday that an entire city is designed from the ground up. Ten years ago, New Songdo in South Korea was basically, a muddy, man made island. $35 billion later, in 2015, it will bristle with skyscrapers. Less obvious will be the fact that almost every square inch of the city - from traffic lights to room plumbing, will be covered by digital sensors, all reporting to a central control room - the brain of the city. Business, in some ways, is the art of peddling dreams. Just a few years back, making entire cities wi-fi enabled, was the dream being peddled to wide-eyed Indian city planners. Then came the idea of carpeting cities with closed circuit televisions, to tackle terrorism. Computer controlled traffic planning of course, became a reality a long time ago in cities like New York and Toronto. But now the action's moved....

Thursday , October 11, 2012

The Book of Jobs

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I'm not a fan of Steve Jobs. He lied, was rude and manipulated people throughout his life. When I told Walter Isaacson that, I half expected he'd slap me. After all, he's penned the man's biography and it hit bestsellers lists internationally. With a Zen like air that suggested I didn't know what I was messing with, he gently said, "Many of the great inventors we know today, were very complex individuals. Thomas Alva Edison was a complex man. Most of us have forgotten his personality. But all of us still use his invention. (The light bulb.) Then he fixed me with a clear eye and said, "I've found that people who've done business themselves, become big admirers of Steve's life and his leadership. Those who've never done any business, usually have issues with his personality". Bam. He'd blown me out of the water without batting an....

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Third Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit

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A few SMS messages, a couple of inflammatory photos. They triggered off the largest internal exodus in India since partition. We're talking about the north east crisis a few weeks back. There were allegations then of a foreign hand. Of an outside power purposely muddying the waters, fomenting civil unrest. It was called the cheapest, most effective form of cyber war. If those allegations were true and if the crisis had worsened, could India have launched a punitive military attack against the enemy? As a sort of slap on the wrist? Would that have been justified? Write me back - I'm curious what you think. Telecommunication technology being what it is today, it's quite easy to spoof one's location. Let's suppose the SMS messages and trick pictures were from Country A. But if its cyber wing was any good at all, they'd have taken particular care to....

Friday , July 20, 2012


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There have been three quakes in and around Afghanistan, in the past one week. Each measured five or above on the Richter scale. Two quakes hit on July 12, the first had a 6.3 magnitude, the second 5.1 - both in the Hindu Kush mountains. The latest, 5.6 on the Richter scale, hit the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border on July 19. But like always, seismologists won't speculate if three medium ones within seven days could indicate a big one is on its way. Our current technology doesn't allow us to predict earthquakes with any great degree of accuracy. Scary, considering all that we stand to loose. While prediction might not be possible, updating websites surely shouldn't be that difficult? The Indian Metrological Department (IMD)'s website didn't have any information on the July 12 earthquakes for almost 30 minutes (Though admittedly, they stuck late in the evening, India Time). On July....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Indian connection to the God particle: From scientific expertise to Shiva's dance

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"Who knows for certain? Who shall here declare it? Whence was it born, whence came creation? The gods are later than this world's formation; Who then can know the origins of the world? None knows whence creation arose; And whether he has or has not made it; He who surveys it from the lofty skies, Only he knows- or perhaps he knows not." - The Rig Veda (X:129) It's being hailed as the biggest scientific discovery of the 21st century. After 50 years of searching - scientists have finally found the Higgs boson - commonly called the God particle. A Nobel prize winner, Leon Lederman, had actually called it the "God-damn" particle - because it was so bloody hard to find. Scientists tracked it down thanks to the largest, most expensive experiment in history. Some would say it....

Saturday , July 07, 2012

No web meltdown, no manic Monday

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If you're spooked by news reports of a major internet outage on July 9, Monday, don't be. According to the working group that's been tracking the specific viruses in question - only 21, 302 Indian computers have been infected. (http://www.dcwg.org/2012/). In a nation with more than 120 million Internet users, that's hardly more than a drop in the ocean. The bugs in question are DNS changing viruses - they've been variously called TDSS, Alureon, TidServ and TDL4 viruses. What they do is force your computer to go to unauthorised servers that cyber-criminals have set up - which can then rob you of your web passwords, empty your bank account, or simply show you spurious results every time you search for information on Google. What's DNS? It's short for Domain Name Server. When you type in a web address like www.facebook.com or www.gmail.com into your browser, you're typing....

Monday , March 26, 2012

Rumble in the Jungle: Part 4

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In the midst of India's new found romance with Africa (do have a look at previous posts in this series), I thought it'd be interesting to check how many African countries are returning the favour. While there are much more precise, financial ways of doing that, I'll dwell on the only one I know. How many of these countries have bothered to set up a website tailored for an Indian audience? I've been presuming that if these countries really, really need Indian investment, they'd try to make it very easy for investors to get information about their country and its business practices. To the best of my knowledge, there are 55 countries in Africa - 49 in the mainland and six island states. Of these only 37 have physical Embassies or High Commissions in India. Curiously, as many as 22 of these haven't bothered to set up a website....

Tuesday , March 20, 2012

What wonders hath Honeywell wrought

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The refrigerants in your fridge. The polyester & nylon in your clothes. The detergents you clean them with. The road you drive on. The medicines you take. The candles at your candlelight dinner. The lipstick women love to wear. What do they all have in common? In one way or the other, they're all made from the byproducts of petroleum refining. (I didn't believe it either. Scroll to the end of the article for a crash course in Chemistry). Turns out Honeywell's UOP is a world leader in designing products you and I can use, from the byproducts of petroleum refining. They've set up a $34 million, 2 acre campus in Gurgaon, near New Delhi. It's their fourth outpost in India, the only one devoted to developing new Performance Materials and Technologies (PMT). (Editor's note: Honeywell International is among America's 100 biggest corporations with separate wings that manufacture/....


More about Jaimon Joseph

I've always been scared around gadgets and software. And in awe of people who're good with them. After three years of science and tech reporting though, I think I'm starting to get the hang of things. Before this, I covered automobiles, health, careers and business, for seven years. Nice thing about technology is, it lets me poach into all those fields once in a while. I love this job. But I'm not sure how I managed to land it. I did my BA in Advertising from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and MA in Journalism from Madurai Kamaraj University. I wanted to be a cartoonist, a guitar player and a footballer but sucked in all those fields. I can play the flute and harmonica though. And I have an interest in machines that move - it was cars and bikes earlier but considering there's nothing revolutionary happening there, it's military stuff now. I'm the sort who drools over figures. Not the 36-24-36 types. But top speed, acceleration, fuel consumption, drag co-efficient. I drive an Alto though. And usually take the Metro to work.


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