Which Brand do you trust ?

Forrester has come out with a survey on brand trust in the consumer elctronics space.

From the survey, Bose is the clear leader. Microsoft comes way down (20th of 22 companies).

Srisailem - A cage car trip

18th I went on a different trip - this time in a cage ... errr.. I mean a car.

A colleage of mine (Jinny) was impressed (??) by my tripping around on the bike. So, she wanted to go and see the country side - but in her car. Oh well, lets go I thought - not often I get to ride drive a car.

So, the plan was made and the location set as Srisailem after consultation with my walking encyclopedia friend GR ( he works in NRSA and has a pretty good idea of offbeat places to visit).

As usual, got up late. We were supposed to leave at 6 - got up at that time ! :-) Got ready and around 7am hit the roads in the cage. Getting out of Hyderabad was easy as another friend from BN (Partha) had given good directions ( follow the gachibowli road till you come to foodworld, take right). We were out of the city in half an hours time. This part of the city is relatively less crowded than the Mumbai-Hyd side. Roads were good and we made good time. The road has small signs for Sriselam and its relatively easy to find your way.
Kids trying to sqeeze the cyle between the bus and our car

The problem on this route is that there are no good eating joints - so it would be better if you carry your own food. In a car thats the advantage and kurkures came to our rescue ;-).
The road after Hyderabad
We reached Mannanur without much misadventure. Stopped at the checkpost there - to register our car number ( and the official on duty there asks for chai-pani) . Came back to the car ( I was driving) and the car would not start ! Oh boy !! Here we were - middle of someplace in a modern car and it would not start ! Tried looking under the hood ( does not make much sense) and someone suggested that maybe the battery had conked ! Jinny went to get some help and came back in a jeep with a mech - who checked the battery - which was fine. Ultimately some 4 guys pushed the car back and I was able to jump start it (in reverse). From that point on , we drove without shutting down the car even when we stopped to take pics !!Road through the Forest Ranges
Up-up and Away!No Stopping the car!
The road passes through some arid jungles - a totally different feeling - especially when ther roads are empty !

Srisailem Dam
Reached Sundipenta ( a few kms before Srisailem) where we were to meet Mr Tulasi Rao, but he was busy in the conference so decided to check out the temple in Srisailem . Reached srisailem and stopped for a bite when I got a call from Mr Rao that he was sending a man to take us to the temple there.

As far as temples go, I don't know the history, but to me it looked much like most of the temples in south - a bit less crowded. However we had to do a rush tour of it - the floor is granite - and it was burning for those not used to walking barefoot !
The Temple

Tribal Museum
Srisailem is known to the general public for its Temple and dam. The lesser known fact about it is that there is a Biodiversity lab there where they carry out the census of the flora and fauna of the place. Had a long talk there with Mr Tulasi Rao and his team and got to know the new discoveries of some snakes and other reptiles which were supposedly not in this area. Also got to know that they have discoverd a new species of Tarantula there ! Way to go !

Had a second helping of lunch there and started back around 4PM. Passed back through sleepy roads and villages, and got some great sunset-shots along the way !

The trip back was uneventful (jinny driving in the hills - a new experience for her) - except for a red car. We used to overtake it - then stop for a pic - letting the car overtake us - and then overtake it again . This went on fine till the 3rd time - when the guy got psyched and over took us doing 100+ ! Unfortunately for him - his mom and dad seemed to be in the car - and they somehow managed to slow him down - and Jinny overtook him again !

Nearer to Hyd, I took the wheel and drove back into the traffic - which was so bad that cycles were overtaking us ! :(

Reached home at 9. There endeth the trip. Next time I will probably go for an overnight stay as I want to check out the nature trails around the place.

Check out the complete Picture Gallery on Flickr

Google's Blog Hacked !

Google's blog got hacked today ! Not often it happens that someone hacks into google, but this time - there is no doubting. I took this screenshot of the errant page - minutes before the blog was shut down.

I guess google should hire this chap :-)

Update : Google has this explanation on their site - which says that they had mistakenly deleted the blog !! Ouch !! But is it true or a coverup ??? Maar diya jaye yaan chood diya jaye?

Last Day in Microsoft

Last day for the blue badge.

Last day in Microsoft. :-)

If you got a surprise dont blame me. Life has its way of playing out ! Now where next is the question ... and I am still undecided.

For the present, here's something I read on slashdot ( it was part of the comments) :

give a man a fish and he'll eat today, teach a man to fish and he'll eat

Alt :

* Give a man a fish, and he'll have fish for dinner. Teach him to fish, and
you've just blown away your entire fuckin' marketbase.
* give a man a fish,
and he owes you a fish ... and teach a man to fish, and he owes you royalties
for each fish he catches.... and if he teaches someone else to fish, take him to
court with your army of laywers.
* Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.
Try to teach a man to fish, and he'll bitch you're not giving him free fish.
* Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Try to teach a man to fish, and
he'll complain that "I DON'T CARE!! You take take of catching fish! I mean,
you're the sysadmin!"

Quake 3 on 24 monitors

So, what does a linux geek do when he wants to play ?

Set up a display with 24 monitors running off 12 linux computers so that he can play Quake 3 Life size !


RDB & Jessica Lal

If you are in India, then its unlikely that you would not have heard about Jessica case and how the accused were let off the hook, and then how after that the public took up on itself to highlight the case.

People are getting preplexed about it. How come that suddenly people are finding voice ? I mean, Indians have lived for so long with such a corrupt govt, going about their lives without looking around, that this kind of reaction comes as a surprise to the media.

BBC has an article on this case. Quote from the article :

During the seven years that India's snail-paced judicial system took to deliver an order in the case, almost all the witnesses turned hostile, resulting in the acquittal of all the nine accused, including Manu Sharma, a fortnight ago.
Not unusual, considering the rate of conviction in present day India is less than 30%. But what is unusual is the public outrage that has followed the acquittals. In an unprecedented show of solidarity for the family of Jessica Lal, candlelight vigils are held at the spot of the crime.

I call it the RDB (Rang De Basanti) effect. I doubt if the film had not been released a few weeks ago, that the conscience of the people would have woken up. Even if it had, there would have been some violence - the usual danga fasad. But what we have are candle light processions around India Gate. Reading about it in the news was a feeling of De Javu. It looked like straight out of the movie.

Its rarely that a commercial movie has an impact on the masses. RDB seems to have touched the chord.

Life is like a Map

Ever journeyed on your own ? I mean a bike trip or a car trip ? Looking at maps, planning the journey, actually undertaking it ?

Well, life is a lot like that.

And I got these thoughts on one of my trips - my longest trip till date. A lot of time in the bike saddle, through the length of amazing India, and its not possible that you don't get a bit Philosophical. You start thinking, comparing, drawing parallels. This bit of rambling thought is ... well a ramble. You will probably not understand it if you have never travelled on your own - for souls like you I would suggest going on a trip, and come back and read it again. For those who have been travelling - you can make out somethings, but this is steeped highly in Hinduism, karma and destiny - you may not agree with me!

Life is like a Map.

Open any atlas, and check out the routes. Life is about going on those roads.

The destination you pick up is your fate (destiny?). You know that you are going to travel the places on the map you have got with you. Sometimes you decide the destinations, but sometimes you are given the destinations. The inevitable destination is almost always always the end of your life.

Either you do what most people do - travel by air/bus/train, and you will reach your destination fast, in comfort, and see what everone else sells in guide books (maybe not even that). Or, you take an esoteric route, travel by your bike, cycle , car , and reach after lots of adventures, finding things you never knew existed. The first path is comfy, the second tough. The first is fast, the second slow. The first does not make you feel like you achived something, the second makes you feel pride in your accomplishments.

First is what everyone does, 2nd is what everyone wants to do. I talk about the 2nd kind of journey.

Pre life (schooling) is like a good atlas.

If you don't go to school, you are like a person on a trip without a map. You have to ask people for directions all the time, and sometimes end up going the other way.
Maybe you went to a good school, and now have a Lonely Planet Atlas. Details are there, you can plan your route with quite a good bit of accuracy. You can find places which you had heard about somewhere, and which actually fall in your route, and plan to check them out also as you go along.
Maybe you went to a really good school and have got a GPS, the latest maps which can tell you to a meter where you are. But India (life) has its own mind - and the maps are not always recent ones. In such times, you have to fall back to non-tech ways of finding your way. Remember, no matter how good your schooling, adventure has its own lessons.

When maps are made, the cartographers only tell you about what kind of road it is. Is it a National Highway, a State Highway or just any road. And that is the only information you have. You may start out on a road which looks good but suddenly you may come across a bad patch of road - and you have no idea of how long this patch may be. Maybe a few kms. Maybe a few hunderd. Life is like that also - its not smooth sailing all the way ... unless you know that route - which means that you have been on this road before. But life is one long trip on roads you have not travelled before. Maybe you do criss cross some of the roads - then you know what to do - but most of the time you are on a new road, a new scenery.

And when you come to a bad patch , or a puncture, there your mettle shows through. There you discover yourself. Are you a whiner or do you really work to solve the problems ? And like a bad stretch of road which becomes ok after sometime, remember that life is also like that. Though you don't know the state of the road ahead of that bend, it may become better. You never know. The best travellers don't let themselves get bogged down with the road they are on. They have fun, and go ahead, always knowing that sometime or the other the road becomes better.

Bad roads ? Rains ? Take it easy. Ride with the knowledge that this is not the palace for going fast. Sunshine ? Empty roads ? You can let it rip - with a finger on the brake lever - lest something unexpected comes up.

Life's memories are around the bad parts, and a few flashes of the adrenaline of going at 150. If you just concentrate on the roads, you may miss out on the beauty around. So, when on a bad road, look around, you may be amazed to find yourself in a very different place. And remember it will not be bad for always.

Like life, travel becomes quite a lot less tedious and easier with friends around. These friends are like you - think like you - enjoy the roads like you. And the friends who are with you in the bad patches, who gets the mechanics from the next village become more than just friends.

When you get lost what do you do ? Do you just keep blundering around or do you stop to ask people around you for help ? No matter that they may not know the language - but you stop and ask. So, why do we not do that in life ? Why do we draw back in ourselves when lost, when you can ask people around and find the right way. I guess its cause we ask the wrong people. We don't ask the locals but the traveller in the buses. Know whom to ask.

Reaching the destination is just the end, its the journey that matters. You can go as per what everyone says, get someone else to drive you there with the other people , and have no memories except for the stops at eating joints, maybe a tour guide. Or, you can go yourself, plan your own path, ride your own vehicles, and reach with an impression of a lifetime. Sometimes sleeping in hotels. Sometimes riding through the night. Sometimes sleeping outside. Loving every moment, and having GBs of memory to share.

Life is like a Map.

2006 Budget Highlights

  • Fringe Benefit Tax modified. Threshold limits raised, but FBT will remain as it is justified for ensuring horizontal equity.
  • More items to be brought under annual information return reporting to check tax evasion.
  • Proposals under direct taxes estimated to yield Rs.4000 crores in 2006-07 and under indirect taxes Rs.2000 crores.
  • Banking cash transaction tax introduced last year will continue. In one bank branch in Chandni Chowk, laundering to the tune of Rs.1,500 crore was detected.
  • More transactions to come under PAN.
  • Constituency allowances of MLAs to be treated as constituency allowances of MPs for income tax purposes.
  • Donations to only religious institutions will be exempted from tax.
  • Fixed deposits in scheduled commercial banks with at least five year maturity will get tax exemption for savings under section 80C of Income Tax Act.
  • The Rs.10,000 exemption limit for investment in pension funds under Section 80CCC has been removed but these investments would be brought under Sec.80C subject to a ceiling of Rs. One lakh.
  • 25 per cent across the board increase in securities transaction tax.
  • Cooperative lending banks and rural development banks to be exempted from taxes under Section 80(B).
    No new taxes on income.
  • No change in the rates of personal income tax.
  • One by six scheme for filing of income tax returns has been abolished.
  • Services tax net to be increased which include ATM operations, maintenance and management, share transfers, registration, international air travel excluding economy class, sponsorship other sports events, auctioneers, ship management and travel on cruise.
  • 25 per cent across the board increase in securities transaction tax.
  • Planning Commission to draw up a programme to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure in calamity-hit areas.
  • GDP growth to be 8.1 per cent this year with manufacturing growing at 9.4 per cent and agriculture bouncing back to 2.6 per cent with all sectors doing well.
  • With over 7.5 per cent growth in the last three years, it is possible that the average annual growth will be over seven per cent in the 10th plan.
  • Government's aim is to ensure monetary stability and managing external debt.
  • Rs 11,700 crore to be spent on rural employment in the current year.
  • Several indicators point to buoyancy in capital formation in the current year.
  • Highway construction speeded up, progressing at 4.48 kms per day as against 1.86 kms in 2004.
  • Ninety-six per cent of the golden quadrilateral would be completed by June 2006 and the corridor would be completed by the end of 2008.
  • Six lakh hectares of irrigation potential expected to be created this year. Rs 944 crore released this year under the Accelerated Irrigated Benefit Programme.
  • Allocation on education increased by 31.5 per cent to over Rs 24,150 crore and that for healthcare raised by 22 per cent to Rs 12, 546 crore.
  • Entire Rs 1,100 crore for rural electrification released this year and 10,366 villages to be electrified.
  • A massive immunisation programme will be launched to eradicate polio completely by 2007.
  • Larger budgetary support to Bharat Nirmal Programme. Rs 18696 crore to be given which represents a hike of 54 per cent.
  • Allocation for mid-day meal scheme to be enhanced to Rs 4813 crore next fiscal as against Rs 3014 crore this year.
  • Gross budgetary support for annual plan expenditure has been raised to Rs 1,74,725 crore for 2006/07 as against Rs 1,43,497 crore, an increase of 20.4 per cent.
  • Likewise for the central plan increased to Rs 1,31,285 crore next fiscal as against Rs 1.10,385 crore in the current year.
  • Eight flagship programmes of the UPA including Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid-Day Meal Scheme will get a total allocation of Rs 60,015 crore in 2006/07 as against Rs 34,927 crore in the current year.
  • Metro in Hyderabad to be considered.
  • Old age pension to be increased to Rs 200 per month for above 75 years of age.
  • Allocation for it put at Rs 1430 crore from the Centre and the state government to provide matching contribution.
  • Rajiv Gandhi drinking water programme to get Rs 4680 crore next year as against Rs 3645 crore this year.
  • National Health Mission allocation increased to Rs 8207 crore in next fiscal from Rs 6,553 crore this year.
  • Rs 14,300 crore for rural employment programme during 2006/07, out of which Rs 11,300 crore for NREG programme and Rs 3,000 crore for SGRY.
  • New towns to be established on specific themes.
  • Rs 28,737 crore has been allocated for gender budgeting under various heads.
  • Special schemes for STs and SCs for their development.
  • India to be made a manufacturing hub for textiles, steel, metals and petroleum products.
  • Maulana Azad Educational Foundation corpus doubled to Rs 200 crore for greater financial support to organisations involved in minority welfare.
  • A girl child will get Rs 3,000 deposited in a bank account after she enrols for eighth class examination and the amount would be given when she becomes a major.
  • One thousand schools for girls of SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities to be set up.
  • Separate window for tenant farmers to ensure loan share. Agri credit proposed to be increased to RS 175,000 crore next year as against Rs 1,41,500 crore, covering additional 50 lakh farmers.
  • Farmers to receive short term credit at 7 per cent.
  • Budgetary loan for PSEs has been fixed at Rs 16901 crore including RS 2791 for Railways.
  • The performance budget based on the first outcome budget presented last year will be tabled by the end of the budget session.
  • The outcome budget for 2006-07 will be presented before March 17 this year.
  • Agricultural insurance scheme to continue. Tea fund to get initial contribution of Rs 100 crore for tea growing states.
  • FDI flow put at 4 billion dollars upto November, 2005 without counting the re-investment and the liberalised regime this year is expected to increase the flow substantially in the coming year.
  • Central horticulture institute to set up in Nagaland and a national fisheries development board will also to be set up.
  • Rs 4,481 crore allocated for improving 20,000 water bodies in the coming year. This would provide irrigation to 14.7 lakh hectares of command areas.
  • Multilateral agencies to be approached for funding.
  • Two percent of the borrowers interest liability upto Rs one lakh principal of crop loans taken for kharif and rabi this year is to be reimbursed to farmers before March 31 this year as an exceptional gesture.
  • This would cost the exchequer Rs 1,700 crore.
  • Allocation for Rural Infrastructure Devlopment Fund has been stepped up to Rs 10,000 crore in 2006/07.
  • Textile upgradation fund allocation to be raised to Rs 55 crore in 2006-07 from Rs 455 crore following good response in the last two years.
  • Government also announced setting up of 12 textile industry parks of which 7 have been approved and ten more in the pipeline.
  • An allocation of Rs 189 crore provided for this.
  • A National Jute Board to be set up.
  • Like woolmark, there will be a handloom mark to certify its quality.
  • A window to be created for equity participation and viability gap funding for the growth of sunrise IT sector. The window to be kept open for three years.
  • Food Processing Sector would be treated as a priority sector for bank credit.
  • Services sector put on par with manufacturing sector.
  • SMEs in service sector to get the status of SSI in manufacturing sector. To fund them a corpus will be raised by SIDBI for Rs 2500 crore from the present Rs 1122 crore in the next five years.
  • An empowered group of ministers to be set up for the development of industrial clusters in the country.
  • India's foreign tourist arrivals increased to 3.92 million last year. Fifteen tourist development circuits identified for development.
  • Four new institutes of hotel management will be set up in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal.
  • Rs 1,500 crore to be allocated for Universal Services obligations Fund under the telecom sector.
  • A bill on cellular telephony in rural areas to be brought in Parliament by the Communications Ministry.
  • 40,000 more villages to be electrified under Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidhyutikaran Yojana.
  • 82 power projects are in various stages of implementation in the country to overcome power shortage. This when completed in 1 to 3 years will generate 33,000 mws of power in PSUs and 6500 mws in private sector.Of this, 15,000 mw of power generation is to be installed by March 2007.
  • Five mega power projects of Rs 4000 crore each is to be set up for which clearance is to be given by March 31, 2006. Of this, one each will come in Chhattisgarh and MP. The remaining three will be in coastal areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat.
  • NHAI to be reconstituted to make it more effective.
  • An Investors Protection Fund will be set up and funded by fines and penalties to safeguard the interests of retail investors.
  • FII investment limit in stock markets will be raised from 1.75 billion dollars to two billion dollars to deepen, strengthen and broaden the market.
  • Raise in the aggregate investment of overseas investors from one billion to two billion dollars.
  • Rs.50 crore each to be given to universities of Calcutta, Mumbai and Madras for celebrating their 150th year of existence.
  • Rs 100 crore special grant for Punjab Agricultural University as a centre of excellence for its commendable work in agricutural research.
  • 500 ITIs to be upgraded in five years. Work has already started in 100 ITIs and would be taken up in the remaining 400 institutes soon. Rs 97 crore allocated in 2006-07.
  • The defence budget raised to Rs 89,000 crore in 2006-07 from Rs 83,000 crore in the current year. Of this Rs 37,458 crore would be capital expenditure.
  • Special assistance of Rs 848 crore for Jammu and Kashmir for its reconstruction fund, including Rs 230 crore for Baglihar project. This will be in addition to 2006-07 state plan of Rs 2,300 crore.
  • Rs 10 crore allocated for preparatory work for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence of 1857 in a befitting manner.
  • To safeguard old art forms, Vedic chanting and Ram Lila have been declared UNESCO heritage and will be granted Rs five crore.
  • In the backdrop of C Rangarajan Committee report, Government urges for consensus in Parliament on subsidies in fertiliser, petrol and food.
  • The allocation to the states from the central pool of revenue as per the 12th Finance Commission has been stepped up to RS 1,03,710 crore in 2006-07 as against Rs 94,402 crore in 2005-06.
  • With the implementation of the 12th Finance Commission recommendations, state finances have substantially improved.
  • The compensation provision for loss of revenue to states with the implementation of VAT has been put at RS 3000 crore.
  • Revenue deficit to be 2.1 per cent of GDP. Fiscal deficit 3.8 per cent of GDP in 2006-07.
  • After 20 years gross fiscal deficit is less that gross budgetary deficit.
  • Plan expenditure has gone up to 30.6 per cent.
  • Peak customs duty for non agriculture products reduced from 15 to 12.5 per cent.
  • Customs Duty on primary and non-primary steel and alloy products reduced from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent.
  • Duties on mineral products reduced from 15 to five per cent, barring some items.
  • Duty on ores and concentrates reduced from five to two per cent.
  • Duty on refractories reduced to 7.5 per cent.
  • Customs duty reduced on ten anti-AIDS drugs and 14 anti-Cancer drugs to five per cent.
  • Customs duty on packaging machines reduced from 15 per cent to five per cent.
  • Four per cent contervaling duty on all imports to be levied with few exceptions.
  • Customs duty on bulk plastics reduced from 10 per cent to five per cent.
  • To protect vanaspati industry, customs duty to be increased to 80 per cent on its imports.
  • Import duty on all man made fibre has been reduced from 15 per cent to 10 per cent.
  • Excise duties on man-made fibres and filament yarn reduced from 16 per cent to eight 8 per cent, since it provides growth and employment.
  • Eight per cent special additional duty on aerated soft drinks and small cars withdrawn and they will attract only 16 per cent Cenvat excise duty instead of 24 per cent earlier.
  • Reduction of duty on footwear priced between Rs 250 and Rs 750 from 16 per cent to eight per cent.
  • Duty on specialised writing paper reduced form 16 to 12 per cent.
  • Excise duty on compact fluorescent lamps reduced from 16 to eight per cent.
  • Cess on domestically produced petroleum crude has been raised from Rs.1800 per tonne to Rs.2500 per tonne but the entire amount to be absorbed by oil producing companies.
  • Excise duty on cigarettes increased by five per cent.
  • Many tax exemptions in customs and excise to be removed barring SSI.
  • April 1,2010 has been fixed as the date for introduction of goods and services tax.