Saturday, August 28, 2004

Microsoft Inside Out

I have always wondered what it is like for those Microsoft programmers to be working on software that hundreds of novice users, grandmas and users in Timbuktu use regularly as their platform to communicate,compute and care as far as their information needs are concerned.

This is a company that recruits pretty smart fellas as such and their software has to be resilient enough that somebody speaking esperanto should be able to communicate to a polish guy.How do they value their work ethics and what keeps them driving to write software.

In the last 2 months I have read three books that concern the MS organization as such.In MS there are three kinds of cadres that comprise the core namely the Program Managers(PMs), Software Developers and Testers.Each of these books are supposed to provide a viewpoint(my classification so take it with a grain of salt) from the inside out as to what it is like to work for the world's richest company that ships bits of the OS which definitely affects our everday computing experience.

Let me cut the chase and get to the point.

1.Program Manager View :Almost a MUST for every software house.Ironically this guy is a developer in the MS-Excel team but has some wonderful insights about Software Management in general.His idea is to take the pain out of the managing part and also general view of his platforms makes his blog a thought provoking read.Anti-Dilbertish views that are fresh. He is very popular though his blog which has a cult status and very deservingly is one of the best places for UI design as such.

2.Software Developer's View : This is a excellent book on understanding the challenges of developing "ShrinkWrap" software.It provides a nice view of "breaking the build" which is pretty common to any software development house.People might say he is pro-MS but the reasons for that exactly makes this a very worthwhile read. The person who wrote this book is re-hired by MS to lead the Windows Shell development for the Longhorn version. Now think about it.I am excited to know there is a shell that lets me automate stuff by scripting instead of the boring WinRunner kind of testing (I come from a Unix background and hence this prejudice)
He also claims that the future of MS depends a great deal on Testers.The most interesting argument in this book is when he takes on Netscape and delivers a point home which explains why Mozilla is trying to fight back the weight created by IE.

3.Tester's View: This is an insightful novel about Tech. Sector in general and MS in particular.
It has more about culture than the above two books.Pretty Poignant to see the state of people but in general thats the way it is.Offers good hints as to the expectations of a modern hi tech society.Very Relevant for today's society as MS's software in this century depends so much on these guys.

One common theme to all the above books is the importance of Peopleware (That is Hiring right people) in the success of Microsoft.The continued success of MS depends a great deal on its current leadership and constantly coming up with ideas.

I hope you derive as much insight about MS reading these as much as I did.Like it or not these are the guys who develop software that the lawyers suing Microsoft will also use.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Origins of Virgin(ia) Mary(land)

I and a colleague had a discussion on this topic when I asked him "Is the Virgin in Virginia the same as Mary in Maryland?" and he sent me this list in response.Pretty informative and a good resouce if you are preparing for Jeopardy
May come from Choctaw meaning “thicket-clearers” or “vegetation-gatherers”

Corruption of Aleut word meaning “great land” or “that which the sea breaks against”

From the Indian “Arizonac,” meaning “little spring” or “young spring”

From the Quapaw Indians

From a book, Las Sergas de Esplandián, by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo, c. 1500

From the Spanish, “ruddy” or “red”

Connecticut From an Indian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning “beside the long tidal river”

Delaware From Delaware River and Bay; named in turn for Sir Thomas West, Baron De La

Florida From the Spanish, meaning “feast of flowers” (Easter)

Georgia In honor of George II of England

Hawaii Uncertain. The islands may have been named by Hawaii Loa, their traditional discoverer. Or they may have been named after Hawaii or Hawaiki, the traditional home of the

Idaho Though popularly believed to be an Indian word, it is an invented name whose meaning is unknown.

Illinois Algonquin for “tribe of superior men”

Indiana Meaning “land of Indians”

Iowa Probably from an Indian word meaning “this is the place” or “the Beautiful Land”

Kansas From a Sioux word meaning “people of the south wind”

Kentucky From an Iroquoian word “Ken-tah-ten” meaning “land of tomorrow”

Louisiana In honor of Louis XIV of France

Maine First used to distinguish the mainland from the offshore islands. It has been considered a compliment to Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I of England. She was said to have owned the province of Mayne in France.

Maryland In honor of Henrietta Maria (queen of Charles I of England)

Massachusetts From Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, meaning “at or about the great hill”

Michigan From Indian word “Michigana” meaning “great or large lake”

Minnesota From a Dakota Indian word meaning “sky-tinted water”

Mississippi From an Indian word meaning “Father of Waters”

Missouri Named after the Missouri Indian tribe. “Missouri” means “town of the large canoes.”

Montana Chosen from Latin dictionary by J. M. Ashley. It is a Latinized Spanish word meaning “mountainous.”

Nebraska From an Oto Indian word meaning “flat water”

Nevada Spanish: “snowcapped”

New Hampshire From the English county of Hampshire

New Jersey From the Channel Isle of Jersey

New Mexico From the country of Mexico

New York In honor of the Duke of York

North Carolina In honor of Charles I of England

North Dakota From the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies”

Ohio From an Iroquoian word meaning “great river”

Oklahoma From two Choctaw Indian words meaning “red people”

Oregon Unknown. However, it is generally accepted that the name, first used by Jonathan Carver in 1778, was taken from the writings of Maj. Robert Rogers, an English army officer.

Pennsylvania In honor of Adm. Sir William Penn, father of William Penn. It means “Penn's Woodland.”

Rhode Island From the Greek Island of Rhodes

South Carolina In honor of Charles I of England

South Dakota From the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies”

Tennessee Of Cherokee origin; the exact meaning is unknown

Texas From an Indian word meaning “friends”

Utah From the Ute tribe, meaning “people of the mountains”

Vermont From the French “vert mont,” meaning “green mountain”

Virginia In honor of Elizabeth “Virgin Queen” of England

Washington In honor of George Washington

West Virginia In honor of Elizabeth, “Virgin Queen” of England

Wisconsin French corruption of an Indian word whose meaning is disputed

Wyoming From the Delaware Indian word, meaning “mountains and valleys alternating”; the same as the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania

Monday, August 23, 2004

In Custody

The origami nooks and folds of thoughts pushed down inside,
pockets deep and intricate where mazes often hide,
and grow,and bend,and twist,
and crease,and wait upon the day
when all the things we never tell ourselves come out to play.

Does Dedalus drop us a clue??

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Satyameva Jayate

All I did to celebrate this Independence day was "Clear History" of my browser.Anyways here is a little something that echoes my feelings for the dear nation :

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
-- Rabindranath Tagore


We have spent many centuries searching for the meaning of life, but in recent decades cell biologists have become even more fascinated by the meaning of death.Bear with me for a while to see the weird nexus between life and death.

Apoptosis , is a normal component of the development and health of multicellular organisms. Cells die in response to a variety of stimuli and during apoptosis they do so in a controlled, regulated fashion. This makes apoptosis distinct from another form of cell death called necrosis in which uncontrolled cell death leads to lysis of cells, inflammatory responses and, potentially, to serious health problems. Apoptosis, by contrast, is a process in which cells play an active role in their own death (which is why apoptosis is often referred to as cell suicide).

For those in the know of Unix signals very well understand the difference between Signal 15 and Signal 9 which is exactly the difference between murder and suicide.In the cell world the signal carrier is Nitric Oxide(NO) not to be confused with the chemical Laughing Gas(Nitrous Oxide which has one more Nitrogen Molecle)

Studies on Earthworms, the fruitfly Drosophila, and the mouse indicate that the molecular machinery of apoptosis is evolutionarily conserved and intrinsic to all metazoan cells.

Many existing anti cancer treatments act through apoptosis because the cancer cells have forgotten how to die and has to be controlled.

New treatments aimed at modifying apoptosis are being developed and are
likely to be used to manage common diseases in the next decade

Whats interesting is the this process of death is significant in the developmental process that usually begins once the egg has been fertilized (Embryogenesis!). The process of birth involves the multiplication of cells (Mitosis) and Apoptosis plays a crucial role in
the birth of a cell.Reminds me of the last words of Mary,Queen of Scots "In my end is the beginning"...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Urdu Hall

The following are the lyrics of the one hit wonder group called "Eagle Eye Cherry"
The track is titled "Save Tonight"
go on and close the curtains
'cause all we need is candlelight
you and me ... and the bottle of wine
and hold you tonight [ ohh ]

well we know i'm going away
and how i wish - i wish it weren't so
so take this wine and drink with me
let's delay our misery

save tonight and fight the break of dawn
come tomorrow - tomorrow i'll be gone

there's a log on the fire
and it burns like me for you
tomorrow comes with one desire
to take me away [ ohh it's true ]

it ain't easy to say good bye
darling please - don't start to cry
'cause girl you know i've got to go
and Lord i wish it wasn't so

save tonight and fight the break of dawn
come tomorrow - tomorrow i'll be gone

tomorrow comes to take me away
i wish that i - that i could stay
but girl you know i've got to go
and Lord i wish weren't so

oh thats right
save tonight - save tonight

Friday, August 06, 2004

Deconstructing Life as Jeopardy Contestant

I recently finished this hilarious and insightful book called MicroSerfs in which the protagonist
wonders "If a person were a Jeopardy! contestant, what would be his/her dream board"

So here is what I would like it to be :
  • Passions of the Mind
  • English Lit
  • Melody and Math
  • Hints of the Century
  • There's Something about the Y Chromosome
  • A Virus Called Unix and Its Variants

Monday, August 02, 2004

August Beginnings

"Nature does not know extinction.All it knows is transformation."
Wernher Von Braun, Quoted on the title page of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

The heralding of the month of August somehow augurs a good feeling in me.Its is a kind of rejuvenation of the spirit month for me.Like a Phoenix.It was on 1 Aug 99 I landed in Cincinnati,OH after my trip across the seas.Port of Entry so to speak for further vistas.

I had a partial death in the Spring of 2001 and had to return home with the probability of never coming back.Yet I made my trip here entering at JFK on 2 Aug 2001 with hardly any hope.I had felt what it means to be "depressed" for the first time in my life.(I carried it across the borders with me). There was no glimmer of resurgence in my tunnel vision then.I had to figure a way to hang on,stick it out and make something out of myself.

I stand now on 2 Aug 2004 .I cannot say I made this journey alone.I have been transformed as well as had an differential impact on almost everybody I met during the phase.Now I have come a full circle.I am going to back to school to enroll in the same professor's class whose course last time helped me find a good friend, a nice life and mutated my life from extinction to that of almost thriving.