Showing posts from 2012

Song Review - Power of Love

Posted by Rajan Manickavasagam
December 29th, 2012

Rating: 5 out of 5
Usually, covers of old songs pale in comparison to the original. The recent rendition of 'Power of Love' (originally by Frankie Goes to Hollywood) by Gabrielle Aplin goes against the convention and how! Gabrielle is a young and upcoming singer from Wiltshire, UK. She has been famous on Youtube with covers of other songs.
The song is a haunting ballad with the strong vocals accompanied by the piano. Her voice is controlled, smooth and restrained. Throughout the song you expect her to break free with the vocals, but the restraint remains to the end, making the song stand out.
This song was also used by the UK retailer John Lewis in their Christmas TV advertisement, with telling effect. It also captured the no. 1 spot in the UK charts and has been in the top 10 for a couple of months now.

Hope we get to hear more from Gabrielle in future. Meanwhile, listen to the song from the link below.

Tech - Battle for shopping 'eyeballs'

As we enter the peak shopping period across some countries around the world, competition is increasing to capture customer's attention. For the past few years, there have been various techniques used in online, mobile trading channels​ to attract customers. Companies have resorted to building widgets, affiliate tools, price comparison websites/apps etc. The impact of 'showrooming' is only becoming too apparent in markets around the world.
Recently, the 'pitch' to the customer is getting even more aggressive. Some recent notable developments - Windows 8 allows searching within applications (through the charms feature) - Search now baked into latest version (12.10) of free operating system Ubuntu - some countries, default homepage of Mozilla Firefox browser has link to shopping add-ons like Invisibl…

Tech - Evolution of Google Search

In my previous article, I compared the evolution of google and bing. Now, google seems to be going deeper into it's knowledge graph. 
The changes are becoming apparent for multi-word searches where a context can be derived. Try searching for  'daniel day lewis movies', 'tolkien books', 'murugan idli shop in chennai', 'london theatres'. The search results are completely transformed. I have to admit, I personally like the results. The results have a bit more coherence and context, not just a list of links to sites. 
As with everything, there are both pros and cons to the knowledge graph.
Use curated content in the knowledge graph to offset the current lack of integration with popular social networking sites like twitter and facebook.Mitigate the risk of content moving behind paywalls (example - news) or state intervention (as being proposed in France, Germany).Cons:
Building and maintaining the knowledge graph will be a more complicated task than …

Savour the time

Savour the time Turin is one of Italy's foremost industrial and cultural centres. Befitting that status, the slow food movement started from this city. Turin recently hosted the international slow food festival.
Today's recipe is a tribute to the slow food movement. As much as the food, it matters that you also savour the time you spend making it. Sambar is a pretty common dish in south India. Here is a variation with some mango in it.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.
Published 25. November 2012
Ingredients1 green chilli2 tablespoon vegetable oil1 chopped red onion1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste1 sliced drumstick2 diced small aubergines1 diced raw mango1 diced tomato 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)1 teaspoon of turmeric1 tablespoon of sambar powder1 teaspoon of red chilli powder1 cup of moong daal (split yellow lentil)1 teaspoon of asafoetida1 tablespoon of crushed black pepper  InstructionsSoak the moong daal in two cups of water for 10-15 minutes.Throughout the cookin…

The true independence day

All countries celebrate an independence or a national day. The week went by with India celebrating yet another independence day, it's 65th. 
Flags were flying on all the roads and vehicles. Patriotic music blaring from the speakers in apartment complexes (and this from people who look down on poor people doing the same). All of this contrasted with people of the north east fleeing from cities back to their home state because of some rumours. The irony could not be any more stark. Some Indians did not have the freedom even to live, work and study in their own country.
Today, more and more people live in countries and cultures away from their own. And that is leading to a growing appreciation and tolerance of different communities, cultures, people, languages, customs and even food. As an old tamil poet once said "All the people are my people and all the villages I consider as my own".
It is probably a utopian dream. True freedom for all is - freedom from injustice, freed…

Summer Soup

Summer Soup Usually in the summer months, I prefer light food. Soups fit the bill perfectly. I tried a soup with a fruity twist to it.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.
Published 29. July 2012

Ingredients1 green chilli2 tablespoon olive oil1 chopped red onion3 peeled garlic cloves2 diced carrots20 diced pieces of pumpkin3 slices of musk melon1 tablespoon of olive oil with dried basil8 pieces of chopped ginger 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)1 tablespoon of crushed black pepper 1 peeled and sliced cucumber InstructionsHeat the olive oil in a pan.Sauté the onions, green chilli and garlic for a few minutes.Add the carrots, pumpkin, cucumber and musk melon. Cook them until they are softAdd the salt and black pepper and cook for a few more minutes.Remove the vegetables from the heat and allow it to cool.Blend the vegetables in a food processor. Add water or milk based on the consistency you want. Serve the soup in a bowl.Garnish the soup with the basil infused olive oil and chopped ga…

An Austin State of Mind

Earlier this year, my wife and I visited America for the first time. The first pit stop was to meet family and friends in Chicago. Some of my initial impressions were as expected - big roads, bigger cars, even bigger skyscrapers and you get the big picture. No puns there! 
And then, we landed in Austin. As soon as stepped into Bergstorm Airport, the first sight that greeted me was the "Keep Austin Weird" t-shirts. Cities often try to project a polished or aspirational side to themselves, and here was a city unabashedly celebrating it's quirkiness. Then, there was the country music blaring in the airport, not some manufactured pop. Austin is known as the 'live music' capital of the world, there are  several live shows daily. I was already warming up to the city. Who says first impressions don't count.
Over the next few days, we stayed with family near Round Rock. As we drove around the city and suburbs, we got a feel for more of it's character. South Congr…

Banana Spread

Banana Spread Bananas are probably the favourite fruit for most people, I am no exception. I had a few bananas going very ripe, so I had whip up something quickly with them. Here is an easy recipe to make a spread out of bananas.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.
Published 12. July 2012

Ingredients2 ripe bananas1 teaspoon cinnamon powder3 peeled cardamoms2 tablespoon honey InstructionsRemove the seeds from the cardamom pod.Add all the ingredients and mash them using a hand blender.Ensure that the mash has a thick spread like consistency.Refrigerate the spread overnight.The spread can be used as a topping for bread, pancakes, cornflakes, oats or ice cream. Happy eating. Further details Serves 3-4 people. Preparation time is approximately 5 min. Cooking time is approximately 5 min.

Tech - Search: Curation versus Algorithm

For those who remember the early days of the internet, they will be familiar with the free web hosting sites like Geocities. Before Geocities was taken offline, it's content was archived and is now available for download as a 650 GB torrent. While this seems like a large amount of data, it is estimated that around 2,551,568,697 GB data per day was created in 2011! While the earlier days of the internet were largely image and text based content, data today is in the form of images, text, social media posts, videos, businesses, services and user generated content.
All this only increases our dependency on search engines. More than the challenge of indexing all the data, search engines are starting to grapple with relevancy of results. The added complication is that some of the social media and other sites are not publicly available to be indexed. The two main search engines - Google and Bing seem to be taking markedly different approaches. Fundamentally, the approach is relying on e…

Frittatas for breakfast

Frittatas If you are looking for an easy breakfast for a Sunday morning, frittatas fit the bill perfectly. It is healthy, filling and easy to make.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.
Published 20. May 2012

Ingredients1-2tablespoons olive oil1 chopped garlic1teaspoon pepper1 chopped onion1 diced carrot1 diced potato1 chopped mushroom1 chopped tomato1teaspoon of salt (or to taste)3 eggs1/2 cup milk InstructionsPre-heat the oven to 175 C for 5 minutes.Mix all the vegetables in a baking dish.Add salt, pepper and olive oil and toss all the vegetables.Bake all the vegetables in the oven for 10 minutes.Meanwhile, whisk the egg and milk together.After the vegetables are cooked, pour in the egg and milk mixture into the vegetables.Bake for a further 15 minutes and the frittata should be ready.Happy eating. Further details Serves 3-4 people. Preparation time is approximately 10 min. Cooking time is approximately 25 min.

Tech - Book review 'Designing Great Data Products'

Posted by Rajan Manickavasagam
May 15th, 2012

Designing Great Data Products
Rating: 3 out of 5

Many companies and commentators highlight the growing data that is created and consumed everyday. I was naturally curious to understand more about how companies can use all this data to their advantage. I came across this book - 'Designing Great Data Products' in O'Reilly. The title sounded great, but to my disappointment, it is a short book.
I anyway went ahead and read the book.The authors of the book are folks from kaggle, a company specialising in statistics and analytics. The book mainly talks about an approach called 'DriveTrain'. This  approach is about using data to drive actions.
The 'DriveTrain' approach consists of 4 steps -

Define a clear objective - I like this one. Please refer my previous post about problem definition.Levers - Identify the systems, processes etc that can be controlled.Data - Is there existing data that can be used? Or does additional …

Importance of defining a problem

Often a problem is defined on it's own, something like 'I want to reduce traffic jams in a city'. The advantage of having an open statement like that is that it can be interpreted in different ways and people come up with various ideas and solutions. But, the downside is that a lot of time is spent in coming with the various solutions.

Alternatively you could define the problem within a boundary. The same problem could be defined in other ways like - 'I want to reduce traffic jams in a city without building new roads' or 'I want to reduce traffic jams in a city without increasing public transport' etc. This way the problem and the constraints are known and therefore any further ideation, solution is more focussed. All this probably increases the chances of a solution being successful.

Another way to define a problem is as a contradiction. An example would be - 'I want to create a glass that is opaque'. Sounds impossible? But that's exactly how 3M…

Tech - Friction between control, content & connections

I chose the word friction deliberately for the title of the post. More on that later. Let me first explain what I mean by control, content and connections.

Control This is the ability by which people are going to control their access to all things digital and more. By digital, I mean - web, media and communication. Control is today offered by various devices - mobile, tablet, desktop, laptop, TV, music players and so on. The major manufacturers of these devices are technology and consumer appliance companies like Apple and Samsung. More and more, these devices are not tied into any specific kind of content or connection.Within the control space, there are those who provide just the hardware or software or both. Apple has always done both. The Microsoft-Nokia partnership, Google-Motorola acquisition, Samsung points to a trend that companies want to follow that model. Companies that do only one of them are at risk of being left out. There are some moves by companies in this space to own…

Tech - Give SQL a 'REST'

We have seen the world of services evolve taking many shapes and forms like SOA, REST and API's. REST seems to be on the way to becoming the de-facto language of the internet. Most often, we create application and business layer in Services and API's. However, the data layer continues to be tightly bolted with the database. There are now some alternatives emerging. There is an open source (MIT License) data access layer called restSQL.

Once set-up, it will provide a REST based access to the database. This means that all the SQL statements like insert, select, update, delete etc can be executed using HTTP GET's  and POST's. Like any other REST service, it provides a platform agnostic method of accessing the database. Since it is hosted as a web application, it can be scaled and managed like any other web application. Lastly, one needs to update the database drivers and configuration only in this layer and not all the clients accessing the database. Overall, I…

Chicken Kebabs

Chicken Kebabs Recently, I saw a cooking programme on TV showing street food. I thought, I will try own version of a middle eastern classic - chicken kebabs. It's perfect for a dinner with friends.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.

Published 06. Feb 2012

Ingredients4-6tablespoons olive oil1tablespoon  garlic olive oil1tablespoon chilli infused olive oil4 chicken legs1teaspoon turmeric powder1teaspoon red chilli powder1teaspoon mixed peppercorns1teaspoon cumin powder1teaspoon of garam masala powder1teaspoon of coriander powder1teaspoon of nutmeg powder1teaspoon of coarse black pepper1teaspoon of dried mixed herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary)1-2teaspoon of rock salt (or to taste)1 chopped onion2 chopped garlic cloves1 sliced ginger InstructionsIn a bowl, add the olive oil, garlic olive oil and chilli infused oil.Roll the chicken legs in the bowl and coat it with the oils.Use a mortar and pestle to grind all the spices to a fine powder.Coat the chicken legs with most o…

Tech - Search 'your' web

Google has recently been in the news for their latest update to search, called 'Search plus your world'. It is about showing google plus results in the search results. After the launch of google plus, it was inevitably going to be linked in with search. 
However, on the personal search space, there has been another startup making news. It's called - greplin - 'Grep' is from the old unix command. It is a 'freemium' service and the free features are quite enough for most users. You can link all your online accounts and all the information - mails, contacts, documents, tweets, facebook posts, dropbox and so on.
The centre of the page holds a search box along with a filter option.On the left, all your linked accounts and status show up.Above the search box, is the size of your personal index.There is an iphone app also available. With each of us using many online services (facebook, linkedin, twitter, youtube, dropbox, evernot…

Okra Fry

Okra Fry Here is the first recipe of this year. It's quite simple and spicy. Normally, I don't use much oil for any of my cooking. For this dish however, oil is the main ingredient. So, be prepared to use plenty.
Contributed by Rajan Manickavasagam.

Published 02. Jan 2012

Ingredients8-10tablespoons vegetable oil25sliced okra1teaspoon mustard seeds1pinch of asafoetida powder1teaspoon of turmeric powder1/2teaspoon of garam masala powder1teaspoon of coriander powder1teaspoon of red chilli powder1-2teaspoon of salt (or to taste) InstructionsHeat the 4 tablespoon of oil in a pan.Add the mustard seeds and pinch of  asafoetida powder.Add the sliced okra to the pan and start frying them.Add the turmeric, garam masala, coriander and red chilli powder to the okra.Saute the okra and keep adding the remaining oil.Finally, add the salt.Cook the okra in medium heat for a few minutes until fully cooked.
Serve with naan/chappatis/rice. Happy eating. Further details Serves 2 adul…