Friday, January 30, 2009

Hirakud and Heavy Engineering

I had an opportunity to visit Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur. There are a few thoughts that occurred to me.

One thought is the constant efforts of the Human being to tame nature. The Dam was built to contain floods which happen in the Mahanadi Delta. This effort is only partially successful as evident from the recent floods in 2008. We may or may not have tamed the nature but surely we are destroying it. Normally at this time in Sambalpur one should be freezing. The temperature is unbearably high at this time of the year. At this rate, one gets a feeling that all human activities including building dams will one day make the earth un-liveable.

I had a look at the powerhouse in Hirakud which produces clean electricity. The turbines, the generators, the sluice gates are huge and marvels of heavy engineering. You get to see iconic names like English Electric, MAN, Hitachi on the equipments. And missing were any Indian names. While we in the IT industry thrive on smallness of our design, the Hirakud presents a picture of everything mammoth and gigantic. IT has become synonymous with technology obliterating (in the popular perception) the existence of the other forms of engineering. While India has become a powerhouse in IT arena, we still have a long way to go in the Heavy Engineering towards becoming a world leader.

The Dam has a life of about 100 years and it is already 50 years old. As children we studied about the Hirakud and Bhakra-Nangal Dams and we thought that these are eternal structures. Hirakud has reached middle ages and perhaps will cease to exist in our life time. It is a very poignant thought that some thing as mighty as this will vanish before our eyes.

The Dam was built in eight years. Unbelievable, but it is true. This is a tribute to the spirit of newly born India that we could achieve such feat in such a small time.

There are lessons for us here. We must learn to celebrate the spirit of engineering. We must learn to co-exist with nature. We must achieve the speed at which Hirakud was built in constructing our campus. And, Build an Institution which will relevant in changing times.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


My favourite image viewer was Irfanview for several years. It can view pictures, crop, resize picture, create a slide show etc.

Couple of years ago, I adopted Picasa from Google. Picasa could organize pictures on your system like itunes did to music. It could create a slideshow while playing a background music. Most important feature is it can upload pictures on the Internet and create slideshows for the web. Last year in my rotary club , I presented the secretary's report as a picasa slide show with a Yanni piece in the background. It was an instant hit and got me outstanding secretary award in the district.

Photostory from microsoft was another nice software. It creates a movie out of pictures with a background music. When my wife Sanjukta presented secretary's report for the Innerwheel Club , I used Photostory to create it with some latin flute music.

A couple of month's ago I came across Fast Stone Image viewer. This can project a slide show on an extended display. I use my Samsung LCD TV as an extended display to my notebook. The presentation is very good.

When we started our new website, I told Susmita to cycle pictures to break the monotony of the website. She was curious to know how to do the photo editing. I told her about Irfan view, picasa etc. To get great effects, you will have to use Photoshop or some such software. Photoshop is really hard to master for amateurs.

Then, I came across a really cool piece of software Photoscape. You can do all kinds of stuff like put frames around pictures, round the edges, correct for backlight, stitch photos etc. I was floored by its abilities and simplicity of use. Susmita now uses this to give a facelift to the pictures in our website.

I have always believed that the good things in life are not expensive (like air, water and street food). It is absolutely true in case of software. All the cool pieces of software mentioned here are free (except Photoshop).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

M.Tech Admissions

We have started the M.Tech Admission process from today.

In different times, different levels of education are considered as the basic standard. During 1950s, passing Matriculation was considered as a very high qualification. Many mentioned their degree as MA (Matriculation Appeared but Failed). Even appearing for an examination was considered as a qualification. A person with matriculation would find a job easily in those days.

When we were doing engineering, B.Tech. was the final degree for many. Today, B.Tech. has become a basic degree for students. In good times, B.Tech. alone fetches a good job. However, as you grow, your are faced with the glass ceiling. In bad times, you may not get a job when you have completed your B.Tech. Degree. At that stage, one needs to differentiate from the rest with a good higher academic degree.

Hence, MBA and M.Tech. degrees are helpful. Acquiring the degree from a good institute which believes in rigorous education is more important.

By design, we have tried to bring rigour to our M.Tech. degree through a number of courses, seminars, projects and other pedagogical means. It is our objective to ensure that the two years should be a very memorable part of one's life.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BBC Click

I have followed a BBC programme Click Online. Now it is called as click. There is one section in the programme called webscape. This segment describes interesting websites. I have come across very interesting websites through BBC Click.

Last week it talked about a website . This website makes you an abstract digital artist in no time. The result of this website is amazing. You can save your master pieces in jpg format and use it else where. There is flickr site which has hosted some of these bomomo created images.

I was wondering what technology Bomomo is using. It did not appear to be flash or a java applet. It probably uses Ajax. I was impressed with its versatile and interactive abilities.

There were a few impressive websites with similar functions as bomomo. One such site was which provided a online sharable white board.

Using technology to enhance learning has been going on for ages. Present day technology perhaps has not been exploited enough for learning purpose.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How many beds per room

When we were discussing about the hostel design, One issue which came up is how many beds per room.

Both Prof. Ajit K Das and I have studied in single rooms (Single bedded really) in IIT Kharagpur. In IIMB, it was single rooms all the way. In XIMB, it was common to have single rooms.

However, we had studied in an era with few students (In my batch in IIT, we had 30 students in Electrical Department). It was also an era when Government made the education virtually free. Today, it is very different. The strength in a class is high. Hence, today in IITs, single rooms are no longer available. Investment per bed turns prohibitively high if you choose a single bedded. Hence accommodation charges will be high if we choose single bedded hostels.

Do different types education need types of hostels? We felt that under-graduate students will benefit from company in their room. A chum in the room will provide emotional and other forms of support which will be needed for young kids just out of home. However, post-graduate students being mature perhaps will benefit from solitude and privacy.

Hence, we felt that multi-format hostels capable of accomodating single bed and more than one bed would be a good idea. We will have a combination of single bedded, double bedded and triple bedded rooms to meet needs of different categories of students

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fraud at Satyam

Yesterday when I met Vishal Dev in IDCO, he asked me what is happening at Satyam. When I came home for lunch and switched on the TV, I realized what he meant. Satyam has committed the biggest Enron style fraud in the recent history. Ramalinga Raju has resigned as the chairman of Satyam.

Software Services Companies always (I think justifiabily) rode the moral high horse: no corruption, no frauds, no scams. This was possible as they did their business abroad.

They grew at breakneck speed. Look at the number of people working in TCS, Infosys, Wipro. The tyrnover, the profits grew at amazing rates for decades. The shareholders, the employees and others benefitted most and expected the companies to perform like this eternally.

How do you meet such high expectations? Satyam found the answer in cooking the account books. I hope that other companies are finding more ligitimate means.

Institute like ours focus on technology educations. I think time has now arrived to expose the students to the other side of technology: moral and ethical business practices, corporate governance. I hope that the future curriculum will educate the students to be good corporate citizens.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Green Campus

Last Sunday, TCS unveiled their campus in Bhubaneswar. I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Muthuraman, Mr. Ramdorai among others. In his address Ramdorai talked about the Green Building of TCS.

A few weeks ago, the Director of the Regional Museum of Natural History mentioned that in one year time the varity of butterflies has grown to over 100 in their campus. The butterflies live a full life cycle from caterpillar to butterfly. (The director was a Botanist)

IIIT campus has to be green: it should have plants and lawns. The buildings need to be green: we should consume less energy and emit less carbon dioxide. It should be an inviting place: it should invite intellectuals, and animals and birds. Since I hated zoology and botany when I was studying Biology, I really have no clue about the flora and fauna. We are consulting the people from the forest department and horticulture department to understand the idea of greening the campus.

I hope that IIIT campus will impress visitors its with its calm, green and full-of-life features rather than the steel-and-glass imposing structures and don't-come-near-me features.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Website

I love services of Google. I liked Google sites for its numerous features but specifically for its ability to integrate other google products like google docs, picasa etc.

Our website was getting a little monotonous with never-changing content and a little boring look. So I thought let's change the website using Google Sites.

In the last week of 2008, I played with Google sites to create the new IIIT website. My son Rahul who was on vacation was accomplice in this process often by being critical of the aesthetics. I spend my new year eve working hard on the website while others were partying hard. The Bloochip guys were unhappy because we were dumping their CMS for Google Sites.

I announced the arrival of the website to the Students. They loved it especially the parts where their photos appear :). Prof. Ajit K. Das liked the pages where there were photos of the Cricket Match (because his photo appears there?).

Ph.D. Programme

IIIT now has a decent faculty : 6 numbers. 3 of them hold doctoral degrees. Other three are on the verge of completion.

We feel that it is a good time to start our Ph.D. programme. It will be consistent with the objectives of the Institute. The programme should have a slow start rather than a kick start. It should be a low key affair rather than a fanfair.

To start with we should start with may be a couple of students. The entire institute will work with them to make it a worth while programme.

Rather than a symbolic programme, it will be a programme which will bring us respect among our peers for the quality and the rigour of the programme.