Volatile spurts

The blog that never was … almost

Archive for the ‘Others’ Category

Link your Aadhar card to your HP gas account

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One tends to be be quite sceptical when we have a government entity / public sector talk about getting things done online or over phone. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when I tried to link my Aadhar card to my HP gas account.

There are three options by which you can do so. Offline, through the website or an IVR. I tried both the online and IVR option an at least one of them seems to have worked.

Please visit https://rasf.uidai.gov.in/seeding/User/ResidentSplash.aspx to do it online.

Call the number relevant to your city from this list if you are a HP customer and wish to do this over IVR

http://hindustanpetroleum.com/hpanytime

You can check the status of your connection here.

Written by El Presidente

March 11, 2015 at 10:33 am

The marginal utility of WiFi (terms and conditions notwithstanding)

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Life at business school for me was mostly about trying not to sleep in class and ensuring that I had enough grades to get out of the place with a respectable pass. But as with most things in life, the business school experience was not consistently low, there were intermittent periods of learning too.

One concept that I found very interesting and which stuck on to my head for all these years is that of “marginal utility”. It essentially says that the value of something does not depend on what it does for you now, but what a little more of it can do for you.

It is this concept of marginal utility that immediately came to mind when there was this uproar about how the Aam Aadmi Party had cheated the people of Delhi by promising them free Wifi and later qualifying it with “terms and conditions” once the elections were over. The problem as I see it lies in what exactly free WiFi means to various segments of society and how is it going to be used by them.

For the person whose primary needs of connectivity is met, free WiFi could mean unlimited bandwidth and unlimited download that he can use to stream Hollywood movies onto his Mac. However, for the person who has had no access to the net before, WiFi would mean something else altogether, The marginal utility of WiFi which depends on what use is it going to be put to, therefore also depends on who is going to use it.

Now, the Aam Aadmi Party positions itself as the party of the common man. Therefore we need to see what is the marginal utility of Wifi to the common man, be it only for 30 mins.

  • Free WiFi is the the two hours saved by not having to stand in a queue on a hot summer day to buy a railway ticket
  • Free WiFi is not having to face the grumpy Babu who believes he is gods gift to human kind, that the pay he gets is simply to reach office and anything else he does is a favour.
  • Free WiFi is the ability to apply for your ration card without having to pay a bribe and to also have an instant acknowledgement of the same.
  • Free WiFi is to be able to lodge a complaint about a corrupt government servant without having to fear being traced back by your phone number.
  • Free WiFi is to be able to reach the police and let them know of your exact location by the simple act of hitting a button when you are alone on the streets and being attacked.
  • Free WiFi is being able to download your text books.
  • Free WiFi is being able to get your board exam results without having to pay someone Rs.20
  • Free WiFi is being able to search for and apply to colleges you would otherwise have not even heard of.
  • Free WiFi is being able to file an RTI query.
  • Free WiFi is being able to operate your bank account without having to walk all the way to the bank.

30 mins of free WiFi can transform the lives of the common man. It is this common man who voted for the AAP and it is this common man who is going to evaluate them on what they deliver.

As I see it, those waiting for the inevitable backlash against false promises will have to continue waiting for some time to come.

Written by El Presidente

February 13, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Others

Feminine tosh

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V.S.Naipaul stirred a hornet’s nest with his recent comments on women writers. What is ironical is not so much the nature of the comments themselves – “when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh,” but the defense offered by Alex Clark, a (female) literary journalist – “Is he really saying that writers such as Hilary Mantel, AS Byatt, Iris Murdoch are sentimental or write feminine tosh?

Grow up lady. ‘We are the same as you” is not the same as “we are as good as you” and you are never going to win your equality battle by agreeing in advance that feminine is tosh or even that something could be “feminine tosh”.

Written by El Presidente

June 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm

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Gmail priority inbox …

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… seems to address a need that I always had while providing something else that is equally useful.

The option of marking a mail that you want to come back to is provided in some form in all mail clients, but to display it right there on the first page makes a HUGE difference to me. This feature is an example of how important presentation is, and the kind of impact it can have on the usefulness of a feature.

The priority inbox, which is the primary feature of this update also seems to be useful. There have been other approaches to marking important mail, but all of them allowed only rigid rules while the Google approach seems to be more fuzzy. The most important difference is that the user interface is designed to highlight the “priority mail” but does not encourage you to totally ignore those that is considers less important.

A long overdue but welcome mail feature from Google.

Written by El Presidente

September 5, 2010 at 6:03 am

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Driving the change

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The Khan Academy is an initiative of one Salman Khan, who operates out of a walk in closet of his Silicon Valley home. What started of as a part time activity to help his cousin with her Mathematics courses has now grown into a site that hosts around 1600 video tutorials and attracts more than 200,000 students every month.

I personally checked out four of the videos on quadratic equations and statistics and found Khan’s conversational approach very engaging and intuitive. While it beautifully compliments the already established education system in the West, it could be a disruptive force as far as the education scene in the less developed parts of the world is concerned. Which brings me to the point of this article.

The US is a world leader in both education and innovation. In fact a lot of its prosperity can be directly linked to these. In addition to these of course, the US education industry earns it a substantial amount of direct income from foreign students. Which is why it would superficially seem that this kind of democratisation of education would be detrimental to its interest. The best education would theoretically be available to the poorest kid in the remotest corner of the world, equipping him or her to compete with more well off peers in the West. In fact it would put some kids in the West at a disadvantage by introducing competition that never existed before.

So why would the US not build barricades to this kind of change. It could be a well thought out strategy or simple plain faith in Capitalism and the right of every individual to pursue his happiness (in the case of Khan, its the satisfaction he derives from what he does). What really matters though it how it plays out in the real world that we live in, and how it affects the US.

Lets for a moment wonder what would happen if the US did try to stop this kind of an activity. The immediate short terms benefits for the US are quite obvious. US schools and teachers would no longer have to compete with a website. US kids will not have to undergo the stress of an imagined threat from some corner of the world that they did not even know existed. The US would retain its historical advantage and students from all over the world would continue to spend money to get themselves educated there. For some time …

Eventually though someone somewhere else would come up with a similar website. It may be a couple of years down the line or maybe even four to five years. Whatever be the time taken, someone would definitely implement this idea. The idea would gain popularity for the same reasons that Khan model became popular and one fine day kids in the US would be taking lessons from the website, the way they are doing now.

There would be one significant difference though. The site would be an outside initiative and the US would have become a follower. And therein lies the key difference. The difference between being a leader and a follower.

Now consider the current reality. Khan’s academy would continue to grow and soon acquire mainstream prominence. Yes jobs would be lost, some schools would lose money. On the other hand, Khan’s academy will offer lots of oppurtunities for American businesses. Schools which were limited by geography to address only an American audience would now be in a position to address the whole world. While the per unit income from the education sector would drop, the exponential increase in the customer base (easy accessibility would add more students to the schooling system) across the world would create a huge market that till now simply does not exist. And yes, the country that would control this new and fantastic oppurtunity would be the US.

Which is why Khan’s academy makes sense in a lot more ways than the ostensible altruism that it professes. It keeps the US in the lead driving the change, while the rest of the pack huddles together trying to prevent and protect itself from that which is inevitable.

Written by El Presidente

September 3, 2010 at 12:35 am

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Earthquake

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Third time that am experiencing an earthquake in Chennai. Was watching the England – US first round match when it happened. Discovered a couple of things when I googled to check if there was indeed an earthquake.

A US government website, the USGS provides real time data on earthquakes across the world. Also provides information on what to do when an earthquake strikes.

Today’s earthquake incidentally was centered somewhere in the Nicobar islands and had a magnitute of 7.7 on the richter scale. Its been an hour since the earthquake and no news on any of the leading English news channels. But SUN, Kalaignar and Jaya TV are flashing the news.

Written by El Presidente

June 13, 2010 at 1:58 am

Posted in Others

And finally the first post

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Days, months, years later … finally the first post. So will it be the blog that finally is ?

Written by El Presidente

June 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Others