Archives for August 2007

In Halo 3 we trust

A Saving Private Ryan-ish sequence from Halo 3 out here. Don’t miss.

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Sleep

Such a guileless beckoning from the worlds of sleep
A blanket of hush upon the clamour of life
High and low, rise and fall postponed
Another day, perhaps another life..

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Data Visualization

Software engineers are not the artistic type. For every algorithm and data structure they learn and practice, there are a hundred soft issues that do not think about. By soft issues I mean usability, aesthetics and all the general goo that makes us like something as humans.

Bloody hard to define and have one consistent answer, since each human is unique in how they view and receive something. To design beautiful software requires both engineering and aesthetic skills.

One reason why, I think,  engineers find it difficult to deal with aesthetics is because we are tied to a language and world that is rational, logic-bound and where ‘to measure’ means to understand something. The part of us, to most, that feels and perceives has languished without use. But it is my belief that aesthetics can be learnt, may be we won’t turn up into Rembrandts and Michelangelos overnight but hey we could at least decide what is a decent software UI.

On of the ways to achieve this is by seeing and thinking about good UIs, not necessarily of software, to begin with. This is the same technique that budding painters follow, to mimic a masterwork, so that the nuances of light and shade and the experience of yielding such a work come through.

I found such a site today via here. Just to whet your appetite, here is a familiar one based on mind map..

 Or a interesting twist on the old geographical map

  

Or something that makes me go ‘bloody hell’!

 

I understand this is not like learning the alphabets of visualization or designing good interfaces. But I have believed that learning a new language does not mean we stick to the simple stuff, a little toe dipping into masterworks only stretches our conception of what is possible.

So, dream on!

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Java plays catchup?

Sun Microsystems plans to have a version on Java, termed Java Kernel, to be hosted in browsers, have the ability to download various pieces as needed etc. Basically, I guess, to have a small footprint, be host-able in a more efficient manner. Found here, via a link on CodeProject.

There is more detail at link here, from one of the devs trying to get this work. The primary point to note is that this is not a version of the Java runtime that is different from what is possible already for applets. It is more a slimming effort to reduce the baggage Java has been made to carry.

I don’t mean to belittle the contributions of the Java platform, but I think they are playing catch up to the MS platform, at least on the rich client-side experience side of things, which I would acknowledge they brought first via applets. And they just talk about the small size being the primary factor here. No talk of a dedicated initiative like the DLR for supporting scripting languages.

Of course there is a profusion of languages supported via the Scripting APIs on the Java platform, but I really don’t get a sense of how much traction these have in the real world. Perhaps the tyranny of choice is at work here?

All said, I think Microsoft has an edge in gaining developer mindshare with its latest offerings.

What do you think? Does Java have something to counter Silverlight, DLR, LINQ etc? Do these have tool support? Is it blessed by Sun?

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Zorro!

The masked hero is back! Now he fights conflicts in “Enterprise Computing”. Me thinks its an impossible battle but thankfully he has a blog to record all his adventures for posterity.

Head over there and check it. Apart from swords, he seems to have become an adept at wielding words! 🙂

Found this via Stevemar.

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Thoughts and Aphorisms – Bhakti – 1

My inaugural aphorism in the series I refer to in my earlier post.

The T&A book by Sri Aurobindo is a slim one but packed with nuggets of convention busting power. There are thoughts here that would alarm the bearers of tradition and structure. For any one who holds an elevated position in an illusory scheme of society, these words, of someone who actually did the Yoga rather than spout words, will not be comfortable. Anyway…

“I am not a Bhakta, I am not a Jnani, I am not a worker for the Lord. What am I then? A tool in the hands of my Master, a flute blown upon by the divine Herd-Boy, a leaf driven by the breath of the Lord.”

Commentary

Sri Aurobindo’s approach to Yoga was direct and action oriented, rather than be guided by theory or a specific system. This often reveals itself in the light he throws upon even the most common aspect of yoga. India has been the land of Bhakti. The likes of Adi Shankara or a Patanjali, epic intellects and giant souls each, have limited reach to the soul of this nation. It is the likes of Chaintanya, Jayadeva, Meera or the countless other illumined souls that throb with the rapture of an other-worldly delight that holds the attention of this land.

There are many who would interpret our emotionalism as excessive and without restraint. We cannot, it seems, hold ourselves back from expressing ourselves. You see it around you everyday- the shouting, the gesticulation, our politicians, our movies!

But this same emotion, when purged of egoism and tempered with the single pointed desire of the Divine, becomes illumined and suffused with delight. This delight knows no system, no theory, no formal axioms upon which it proves its case. Delight is self-existent, it is its own justification. It is perhaps the same spirit that makes a child play with some abandoned boxes, worthless in our clouded eyes but instruments of impossible fantasies in the child’s mind and heart.

Perhaps, it is this that Sri Aurobindo refers to when he says that he is neither a Bhakta or a Jnani or one who follows the path of Karma. The system of Yoga, the 4 or 5 or how many every streams are mere categorizations of a vast body of spiritual knowledge. A man made taxonomy to comprehend and manage this secret science. But the truth, the living body of Yoga is beyond any taxonomy that is defined by the human mind. It is to this that Sri Aurobindo draws our attention. The system is not the Thing. It is not the Divine. It is the action done that draws Him closer to us, action under whatever system.

And note the way he answers question on what he is, after denying he falls under any of the systems, ‘A tool in the hands of my Master, a flute blown upon by the divine Herd-Boy..’. Lets get to the poetry of this prose later, for now check those lines again. What I see is a perfectly understanding surrender, in calling the divine as Master. When all is yielded to Him – thoughts, emotions, actions, desires. When every impelling has its root in him. But this might seem a very lopsided arrangement to some. How, why should my ego yield thus, some have said. To act without knowing consequence, such a heresy not to plan and know!

‘..a flute blown upon by the divine Herd-Boy..’. Here the distant Master is gone, no more the high impeller of our puny lives, in his place we have the Beloved, the most desired Paramour, the hearts only longing. We have the divine Herd-Boy, Sri Krishna, who in his play has spun this illusion to fritter a little of his eternity away. A little game to keep him occupied. And guess what, he has shared his secret with us, we too are in on the key, on the fact that this is just a game. And he plays his music through us. Not a distant action but intimate. More intimate than all the embraces and the utter self-giving of any mortal companion.  And all this with no external system or contraption to support it. Within yourself, without a scaffolding, without props, just you and He.

I did not intend the commentary to be this long, let me know if I should keep this short, sorry!

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Thoughts and Aphorisms

Starting today I shall be sharing an aphorism each from Sri Aurobindo’s book Thoughts and Aphorisms. Going forward I intend to pick quotes from other works, less overtly spiritual perhaps, but still something that, according to me at least, penetrates this tangle and lets a little of meaning to come through.

I utterly claim no expertise or familiarity of Sri Aurobindo or his works. Though a part of me has been smitten by him for the last 15odd years and frail attempts were made to pursue this path, I have perhaps regressed more than anything else.

For those who come with no introduction to Sri Aurobindo, I suggest they search around. This book itself seems to have been written between 1913-1915, according to the Publisher’s note. The language is simplicity itself, as compared to some other works of his, which can easily tax ones CPU if not paying attention. There is Mother’s comments on each of these and available on this site here.

Links to posts in the Thoughts and Aphorisms series

Bhakti

I am not a Bhakta…

I was much plagued by Satan…

I used to hate and avoid pain…

Jnana

Genius discovers a system…

Karma

What is the use of only knowing…

Limit not sacrifice to the giving up of…

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How hard do you think about trimming process fat?

Here is a great example of the kind of thinking that is critical for keeping your application’s service footprint lean. Larry Osterman poses a series of questions asking why your service process should be running, always?, is it necessary for all users?, in absence of any required hardware? and so on.

Perhaps we can extend this sort of thinking beyond just long running service processes. What about the way software is built? Do you really need all of a heavy weight process like CMM or whatever latest version it has, what about your business process, what redundant steps are you incurring which in turn impacts customer experience?

Go read the article, worth your time.

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Changing the world, YouTube style…

Here is one more proof that ideas in themselves are not good and bad. It is what they are used for which determines which side of the fence they are on.

YouTube, that popular purveyor of nubile young things in very little attire and general muck, has been put to good use. Via Seth Godin I found a set of videos on YouTube, titled ‘Videos that can change your organization’. Go check out the videos, there is some truly inspirational stuff in there.

It is amazing how many different pieces have come together to provide this experience. YouTube for content, anonymous users for actually uploading content, Squidoo for enabling content aggregation and SethG for actually aggregating the content. All done and ready for users like you and I.

This is the promise of the Web 2.0, wisdom of the masses. Refined and packaged for your intellectual pleasure.

Last Temptation

The situation I am in reminds me of Last Temptation, a classic of a book. The context is the inner torment that Christ goes through.On the outside one goes through the normal motions of life. And inside the abnormal has a field day. Everything is a source of remembrance of things lost, each act a renewal of past anguish, to exist is a curse. Of course all this without the high goal of Christ, which makes this whole endeavour even more futile.

And to contrast this with time when there was purpose, when every act was tinged with delight and divine purpose.

There is indeed the touch of tears in mortal things..