Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Signs of times

There are lot of assumptions made on this post. The primary of them all being that, people who work in IT companies, the so called software engineers, are well educated. If not want to stress on the “well” part, at least should give some concession on the “educated” portion of it. Then again, the very definition of educated will raise some controversial topic, that will digress the intent of the post. Back to the topic.

Whichever office I have been to, without any exception, every single one of their cafeteria, food courts and pantries will have certain signs, carrying the biggest font available, plastered on every vantage point leading to and on the corridors leading to the hand wash. The message is albeit a simple one – “PLEASE DONOT WASH YOUR LUNCH BOXES HERE”. In some places, I’ve even seen such messages plastered on the gap between the mirrors in hand wash. But in most of the wash basins you would find the water to be clogging with leftover food. Mostly the ladies are the culprits to this offence. I’ve even objected to some, when they are actually caught on the act, for which they will casually and at times forcefully, say that, keeping an unwashed lunchbox will cause stink and by the time they reach home to wash, it would be difficult to clean. I’ve no issues with people cleaning their boxes, as long as they have the sense to use the dustbin to put their leftovers. Why should they waste food in first place is a different topic altogether. Some people, literally dump the contents of their boxes on the wash basin, without the decency or thought of how others will be able to use it. Spare a thought for the cleaning crew, who have to do the dirty job. On one hand, the company might be providing cutting edge tech solutions for business across the world, yet employing manual scavenging to clean their own cafeteria, dirtied by their own resources.

The heights of this issue today was, when I saw a sign board near the water cooler, mentioning..no..pleading rather, to not wash their tea cups using drinking water!!! Do such people even qualify as literate? Will anyone do such nonsense at their home of washing the utensils on Bisleri water, when it costs Rs 80 per can?

In all probability the answer for all these transgressions, might lie solely on what we teach or get taught as “education” in our institutions. Without basic discipline and sense of maintaining cleanliness in our place of work, forget about people caring about environment and other things!! Quite shameful to even think that it has come to this stage and is perpetrated by a crowd that is supposedly the cream of the literate layer. Probably managements should include this also in the KRA’s of the employees and track how they help in maintaining a cleaner work place.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Of words and meanings

There was an episode in “Young Sheldon” series in which, a specific word triggers memories from his childhood as to when he heard it the first time and the associated incidents. Guess, for many it is quite common to have such “historical” words, especially the swear ones. I too have my share of it, but mostly the non-cuss ones.

Few days back, there was a conversation in which one of the person called the other one, though absent but figured prominently in the chat, as sensitive. I was lost for a moment on what was being discussed further, for I was taken back to the very first instance of when I heard the word. It was during ninth or tenth standard vacation when one of my friends called me as “hyper sensitive”. That was two words about which I had no clue. I thought for a while that he was swearing at me an insult, but didn’t want to take any chance before checking the meaning on my dictionary. The description didn’t help much and I let it go for a while, after which I asked him directly, what did he mean and more importantly from where he learnt that word. He said, since I am too touchy and quick to get offended and angry over trivial things, I am hyper sensitive. I would’ve gotten angrier had it not been for the sincerity in his tone and proceeded to the second part of the question. Till date, when someone says a new word, new for me, the first thing I want to verify is from where they heard/read it and immediately google to find its meaning.

Words, are nothing short of magic for me, especially those that I am learning about for the first time. It is an amazing thing to create one letter by letter. Who would’ve been its creator? How come they decided that such a combination of words should be pronounced and should be used for so-and-so meaning and above all, how it catches the fancy of everyone else to adopt to that convention is nothing short of a scientific theory for me. And I love the history behind them. Like how the word “quiz” came into being. May not be an authentic one, but the way in which someone scribbled the word on the walls of the city and how people wondered about what it meant and finally it dawned on them is a tale of its own.

Probably it is one of the many reasons that, in the age of twitter and character limitation driven world of words, I still prefer the medium where I can blab my head off, trying to describe simple things in as complicated sentences as possible. It sure feels good to type and not quite sure on the tediousness of the read J

The Chalk man by C.J Tudor - book review

Thanks to Brags and his never ending supply of good books to share, that off late I get to enjoy some really good thrillers, about which I would’ve never ever known, if not for him. He introduced me to Peter Swanson, Keigo Higashino and now to C.J Tudor. Halfway through the book, as always, was curious to know how it ends and I googled to find out how others have felt about the book. Was stunned to know this was the debut effort by the author and more surprisingly the author is a lady!!! Before you jump onto your feminist guns, would suggest you to have a read at the book and then come to your own conclusion. The way she has narrated the story from POV of a guy and the amount of detailing that goes into his relationships with his friends and acquaintances, the terminology used and above all the twisted storyline and violence, altogether lulled me into thinking that it must be a male author.

One thing that scares me is the rise of such dark themed stories off late and their enormous success. Gone are the days of a simple robbery or a single murder calling for the best brain in business to detect and catch the criminal. Murders are more pronounced and deliberate and detailed in these stories and the motive is far more revolting and scary to say the least. Be it Swanson or Tudor, their storylines are gripping to say the least. Those who read their books, are like people who complain about the spine chilling scariness associated with horror movies. If you are seeing the movie, you should very well be prepared for what is going to hit you. Likewise for novels of these genre. They are not grey or subtly dark but full blown, out and out, evil that resides on certain characters and there is no two thought process about what is right or wrong. None of the characters tend to be preachy on what could’ve been, had things been any different and are unabashedly dark. Some even tend to relish it and all this potpourri of darkness gives an eerie feel to these genre of novels. There is a very strong undercurrent of Stephen King’s influence on most of these novels and their success surely is set to rub off on more such adaptations.
The chalk man, has all the ingredients of a horror movie setup – a dystopian village, which is neither in the past nor in future, though technically the events happen in 1986, a disgruntled set of people who range from borderline psychotic to psychotic. A story of five childhood friends and how events related to 2 love stories, that unfold on their village, change their lives forever. You would associate such a theme with B grade tamil/hindi movies, with low budget village setup and gaudy computer graphics. But the way the author lets your mind do the camerawork, the effects are as gory or as evil as you can think of. The narrator has so many flaws and psychologically strained that, over a period of time, even a simple conversation involving him sounds an alert, with something sinister waiting to happen. The way the story switches over a period of 20 years between 1986 and 2016 gives it a stark appeal and adds to the eeriness. The very first chapter is not for the weak hearted,  especially the casualness with which its dealt with and the ending, tying it up to the beginning, will surely send goosebumps.

Gils verdict – For those who put a simple query, do you recommend this book or not, my response would be akin to those who’ve just got down from a risky adventure park ride or a terrifying horror movie. You wouldn’t recommend it in your sane mind and yet would kick yourself and revisit , cursing all the way through. There are certain kinds of stories that, if said openly that you like them, would raise questions on the mental state of the reader. This is one such book, which is like dark chocolate, with way too much darkness. The way the author easily throws up, one murkier plot after plot and ties them all with effortless ease in the end, makes one wonder, how in the world can it be her first book!!? Would surely await for her next installment, but would be better prepared next time.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Blot on the city

Very rarely does the events around me bother me to this extent. But this particular nuisance has been a thorn on my conscious since my college days – the curious case of Presidency/Pachaiyappa colleges. I was offered a good course for my UG in Presidency and even though everyone were dead against me joining the college for its bad reputation, I thought as long as I can manage my studies and stay away from the trouble elements, I should be able to manage and more over didn’t had any other choice. The first 5 days of the semester showed the challenges up ahead in crystal clear format. The very first day, first class, while Maths professor was writing down the syllabus for that sem, some guy came and announced that students have to participate in strike against existing fee structure and requested the professor to co-operate. The professor, came with us all the way till bus stand and warned us not to venture into the beach for he told that seniors are ragging juniors. I was confused and shocked. When he knew for sure that ragging session is ongoing on the beach, why he didn’t raise any complaint and also was dead worried about my future if that was the case on the very first day. The next 4 days there were no classes and the entire week was lost. Luckily for me, I got into a good college pretty soon and Presidency became a bad memory.

Past few incidents about rising student violence on trains and buses have let rise those hidden memories and has made me even more worried about the present batch of students from these colleges. Few months back, some students were arrested for terrorizing railway stations and fellow passengers by brandishing weapons. Saw in news that some were arrested and there were no follow-up to that incident. Recently, some students had staged an armed attack on another college student, like how they show on violent strewn gang war movies and have even wounded him severely. There has been several cases of damaging public property, causing physical and mental agony to general public, disrupting traffic in the name of bus days and basically anything and everything that one wouldn’t typically associate with a decent college goer. Does all the students of Presidency/Pachaiappa are like this? Probably not. But beyond a while, it would make one wonder, despite knowing such elements abound such colleges, what does it tell about those who willingly or unwillingly get to join those institutions? The degree would still carry the seal of the University, but will the name of these colleges merit a mention anywhere else on the resumes of those students? Will the society see them in the same way as any other student from any other college? The video grabs of sparks flying, with some ruffians scratching the footpath of a sub-urban station from a moving train, with fellow commuters shrieking, literally sent shivers and felt like slapping some sense into those guys.

I am not sure about the history of Nandhanam arts, Thiagaraya and New college. But Presidency and Pachaiappa has been around for more than 170 years!!! Yes. They were some of the prestigious institutes that ever adorned this great state and till 4 decades back, they used to churn out some of the top minds on their domains. God knows what and where things went wrong and they are now on the list of notoriously bad places to ever be, let alone study and I am astounded how such colleges are even allowed to function as breeding ground for violence. Its high time the civil society took some stern action and probably even call for stringent punishment ranging from closing down these colleges or changing the entire management from scratch. They should be allowed to complete the present batches and no new batch should be allowed to start from these colleges unless they find a way to reign in the hoodlums and segregate the students from the vandals.

Being a graduate student is like the best period and first time someone steps into the mature world of adults and get to taste the freedom and responsibility of being one. If the very institute that is supposed to teach them all these things are becoming breeding grounds for anti-social elements, let them not be encouraged to operate. It’s about time to take severe action against the college management and they should be held responsible for all the havoc let loose by their students and if they are incapable, better lock these places down.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Time-ly tales

Feels like we started with Jan 1st yesterday and already this year is one month old!! That is the speed with which earth rotates nowadays. With medical facilities improving life expectancy, I guess its earth’s way of compensating for it, by going quick round the sun, making you age faster. I tried to think of some worthwhile stuff which happened last year and literally couldn’t think of any. Everything seemed to have happened in a whizz, with the only consolation being those books that I got to read.

One of my friend is a maniac of clicking pictures, especially of himself!!! I don’t know how he manages to find someone to take his pictures, but wherever he is, he always makes sure there is some snap with him on it and that too with the focus primarily on him. I once saw a picture of him sitting on some stairs and asked him about the pic and he said it was taken at Lincoln memorial. Funnily the picture couldn’t “accommodate” Lincoln and it was just him posing on those stairs. I asked him, how different it would’ve been had he sat on the stairs of his own house and took the pic, for unless he explains the pic no one will know the difference. He simply said, he will know the difference. I was stunned for a minute. All the while, I had been under the impression that, you actually need to capture the place where you visited as primary and whether you are visible clearly or not never mattered. But this guy changed my entire thought process in a single response. Everyone clicks pictures of the Taj. If having a picture of that monument, clicked by you, gives a thrill, having yourself clicked on that place gives a different kind of thrill for others!! I am not sure if there is anything to judge here, but the concept of “point of view” literally and figuratively “shifted focus” for me after that interaction. In his defense, he has a really good memory and is able to recollect each of those snaps and to believe it or not is up to us.

While browsing through Radio stations on, yet another never ending, ride to work, stumbled on “Summer of 69” playing in one of them. Certain songs have very fond memories attached to it. This one is very special, for it was the very first English song I was introduced to, by my colleague, in my first company and first ever time I heard a song being played from a computer other than radio or recorder!!! I had the lyrics memorized and was so proud(sic) of myself for a long time J My friends who had more exposure towards English songs, used to call Bryan Adams the curse of Canada. Not sure if it was because of his raspy voice or whatever the reason. To me, Bryan Adams will always be the first English music artiste I heard and liked instantaneously.

Is it going to bother Bryan Adams that he has a fan who was initiated into western music world through him? Guess not. But it gives me super thrill whenever I hear his songs, especially “Summer of 69”. Probably my “photo manic” friend is right to certain degree that, as long as you are happy within your space, with the solace of your own memories, why bother? Let the world run as fast as it can. As long as you have memories to masticate, we can live with our own pace and in our own time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Of Avvaiyar, Comics and life

There is a song by Avvaiyar, which talks about how events/duties if not performed at the right time, even if they were carried out at a later point of time, serves no purpose or they are as good as bad!! Though I couldn’t recollect verbatim, the essence of the lines were more about late marriage and its fallout. When I received my comics bundle few weeks back, it was the exact same feeling that I experienced. I finally did manage to get hold of the entire lot of reprinted editions of Irumbukkai maayavi (steel claw) comics, courtesy lion/muthu comics online site. It was a dream come true, 2 decades late to say the least.

It was a long pending childhood desire, that had burned to its embers, which got reignited after seeing a post on FB by one of my friends, who had proclaimed his joy on buying the lot. I immediately rushed to the site only to find the books out of stock. Tried again after a few days and this time the payment gateway didn’t open. Finally after several unsuccessful attempts, managed to make the payment and this time, the transaction ID didn’t generated and I had no way to track the shipment. I had almost given up on the books and was about to send a stinker to the site maintenance team when the courier arrived. Never have I opened a parcel so fast and when I finally had the books on hand, the feel was impossible to explain. Inflation had increased the rates by 200% in 2 decades. That was the first thing that stuck as the very reason why I couldn’t buy those books during my school days were that they were way too costly at that time. And I usually finish those 100 pages in under half hour and will pester my mom to buy me more. The libraries always had the same set of comics and rarely replenished them. In fact, I had the read the same comics, so many number of times that, after almost 20 years, I was still able to recollect those stories. I managed to finish all the 8 books in probably 2 hours’ time. Some of the stories, that I had read previously, those memories came rushing back. The way I used to read through the stapled pages, from nearby potti kadai without removing the stapler and unknown to the owner and how every time I went to that shop, irrespective of what I was sent to buy, the way I used to scan through every comics clipped to the cloth line. After a while, the owner decided to clip the books along with their plastic cover to avoid me reading through the stapler is a different story altogether J

The thrill with which I used to anticipate a Diwali release of my favorite comics hero and the eagerness with which I used to rush through the book the first time to see how the story ends and the amazement with which I used to wonder at the inventions and machines with which the villains wreaked havoc on world and how cleverly the hero saved them, was all, somehow dampened if not were missing. Not because of that having grown up or becoming old thing, though they could be a part of the reason. But the ease with which I bought the books, despite the high cost, somehow caused a pang on my conscious. It was not that my parents couldn’t get me those comics but they wanted the money to be spent on essentials and priorities. Am I setting the right example for my kid, by rushing headlong into things like this, just for the sake of satisfaction, which also wasn’t complete? May be not all yearnings, mean the same after all those years of waiting. When they are finally realized, at times, it really makes one wonder, would it have felt the same, had it been the case a few years back. What I thought would bring me joy, has only raised more questions and have added few more pieces to this ever increasing jig saw puzzle called life.

Unlike investments, life doesn’t get interest(ing) on maturity I guess.

Friday, January 12, 2018

ERP and block chain

The sales story that drove the ERP industry, and made many a multi-million dollar ERP sales person, was pretty straight-forward –
Build/Buy a relational database, centralize all your data;
Buy an integrated applications for all the business functions;
Share trusted data between and across silos within the enterprise.
Once that’s in place the enterprise’s operating leverage can be leveraged.
Now, if you step back and think about it, what are we doing in blockchain tech?
1.      For many (not all) use cases, we are again focused on business process flows, except this time we’re focusing between and across multiple enterprises.
2.      From a database perspective, we are focused on offering a single version of trustful data that multiple enterprises can share.
3.      From an application perspective, we’re creating new software co’s that integrate and optimize the process flows of multiple enterprises.
Essentially, we are back to eliminating silos and removing interfaces all by facilitating the sharing of trusted data. Except now, we have moved up an organizational level from focusing on optimizing the flows of a single enterprise to that of multiple enterprises, or as we prefer, focusing at the ecosystem level.
To further this idea, consider what central authorities are in most cases, they are interfaces between producers and consumers. For which, if you redesigned the process flows, you can potentially reduce/eliminate their cost. Now, that is not to say central authorities don’t play critical roles. What it does say is that their value is going to be tested versus better/faster/cheaper alternatives process flows and if they don’t match up, well, they’re disrupted. Simply stated, if peer-to-peer has a better value proposition we don’t think any level of intervention is going to stop the drive for optimization.
What Blockchain might mean for ERP
Theoretically, Blockchain and ERP have a lot in common as ERP is all about having a single version of information, and Blockchain too aims to create a single table of information which is shared by millions of users online. Due to this evident similarity, speculations that Blockchain might replace ERP in the near future have started surfacing.  However, speculators might be neglecting the core difference between ERP and Blockchain. Unlike in case of ERP, in Blockchain the information is decentralized and can be accessed by diverse enterprises at the same time. In Blockchain, the flow of data is transparent to all its participants but none can manipulate or alter the data without consensus. This particular attribute of the distributed ledger technology lends substance to the idea of integrating ERP with Blockchain. Such an integration can be instrumental in establishing trust between disparate companies.
Blockchain should be seen as a supportive application that can make the sharing of information between diverse parties more seamless, by providing a secure channel. The above-mentioned integration can help organizations in obtaining the existing data from enterprise systems and regulating the shareability of such data. The entities participating in a Blockchain can give selective access to their information. The record of each and every transaction contained in a Blockchain is verifiable, leading to obvious advantages.
Till today, a major chunk of corporate data resides in private silos. The advent of big data has helped businesses in obtaining greater insights from these data silos, but businesses have largely remained apprehensive about sharing such insights, fearing they will lose that competitive edge. Blockchain can quell such apprehensions by resolving the data access or sharing issue.
A few pilot projects in Aviation Industry are also making a strong case for an ERP and Blockchain integration. These projects have tapped the potential of Blockchain to track supply chains, parts shipments, and keep records of maintenance work. For Aviation Industry, Blockchain can establish consensus among disparate parties of Aviation Industry, provide information on the origin or history of data, and can be a source of immutable records.  In this industry, where highly complex equipment can move from owner to owner, having complete traceability is vital, and this need can be adequately met by Blockchain.
To understand why and how the blockchain may gain adoption, it is therefore useful to understand why many large organizations end up adopting an ERP system despite its high cost and complexity. The ERP typically replaces a bunch of much cheaper department level software. The logical question is why not harmonize the pre-existing pieces of software instead? For example, if marketing is using an invoicing software and accounting needs this data to account for the sales, all that is really needed is for the accounting software to accept data from the marketing software and use it. The reason this solution does not work boils down to organizational politics. In the first place, the accounting and marketing departments do not typically trust each other. Second, marketing would insist on providing the data in their preferred format and argue that accounting can surely read this and convert it into their internal format. Accounting would of course argue that marketing should instead give the data in the accountant’s preferred format which is so obviously superior. Faced with the task of arbitrating between them, the natural response of top management is to adopt a “plague on both houses” solution and ask both departments to scrap their existing software and adopt a new ERP system.
It is easy to see this dynamic playing out with the blockchain as well. There is a need for a single version of the truth across all organizations involved in many complex processes. Clearly, organizations do not trust each other and no organization would like to accept the formats, standards and processes of another organization. It is a lot easier for everybody to adopt a neutral solution like the blockchain.
A key insight from this analysis is that for widespread adoption of blockchain to happen, it is not at all necessary that the blockchain be cheaper, faster or more efficient. It will not be subjected to an ROI test, but will be justified on strategic grounds like resilience to cyber threats and Byzantine actors. A lot of challenges have to be met before realizing the idea of a regulated supply Blockchain. For instance, there is still no concrete mechanism by which the participating entities in a Blockchain can be notified of an event-completion in real-time.  Also, enterprises are still a bit wary of security and privacy when it comes to adopting this technology. The original Blockchain was entirely public, which is understandably not ideal for most business transactions. While most of these companies may end up opting for public Blockchain, it will be safe to say that in the initial phase, private Blockchain will be preferred for business operations, as in the private space tried and tested methods already exist for managing security and privacy.

From ERP(Enterprise resource planning) to ERP(Ecosystem Resource Planning)

Of the major ERP providers, SAP looks clearly ahead in blockchain experimentation. Through their SAP Leonardo platform, they are facilitating the integration over time of blockchain into both SAP ERP apps as well as custom apps developed on the SAP platform by partners and even individual corporate customers, with much of this experimentation revolving around provenance and supply chain management.

One good use case for the blockchain is manufacturing. In the blockchain, manufacturers can include who designed a part, its specifications, and the history of each iteration. Within this same chain, a manufacturer also can record where each instance of a part was made, and what machine made it.

An early test case is Moog, an aerospace defense firm. They are working with SAP on using the blockchain for digital manufacturing and 3D printing. Serialization and the unique CAD file for each custom-printed part can be stored in the blockchain for greater provenance, a boon for individual 3D-printed parts.
It also allows the installers and the maintenance and support people to quickly have access to a lot of information related to that specific part, including updates or recalls and all kinds of other things that might be of value to them.

Another experiment includes smart contracts on SAP Ariba platform, since blockchain technology enables triggers. If-then logic and notifications can be embedded in contracts added to a blockchain, creating more automated and dynamic contracting—as well as provenance and a history of the contract.

IBM Global Finance currently is using the blockchain for contracts, and the company has reduced the time spent resolving disputes by 75 percent since adopting the technology.

Microsoft and its partners are working to bridge enterprise gaps in blockchain technology, making it easier to get from pilot to production. With Blockchain on Azure, build apps that deliver the scalability and distributed governance enterprises need without sacrificing the security and immutability they expect. With a handful of user inputs and a simple single-click deployment through the Azure portal, you can provision a fully configured blockchain network topology in minutes, using Microsoft Azure compute, networking, and storage services across the globe. Rather than spending hours building out and configuring the infrastructure, we have automated these time-consuming pieces to allow you to focus on building out your scenarios and applications. You are only charged for the underlying infrastructure resources consumed, such as compute, storage, and networking. There are no incremental charges for the solution itself.


Where this all is going might be much bigger than provenance or smart contracts, however. Some predict that the peer-to-peer nature of the blockchain could transform ERP and businesses processes more fundamentally.

Currently, the ERP business model is centered around individual enterprises. Blockchain technology allows an ecosystem of companies to organize and share data where the primary metric is the performance of the ecosystem and not the individual enterprise, however.

Consequently, its believed that these blockchain-enabled ecosystems can be viewed as a new type of enterprise. Blockchain tech forces you to consider your role in the broader set of business processes that occur across the ecosystem of players in which you operate. It forces you to be able to justify your value add, otherwise you will be made redundant.

Enterprise resource planning might evolve and eventually include ecosystem resource planning, in other words.

While this may or may not be the direction of things for ERP systems, what is more clear is that blockchain technology within ERP is just around the corner.