Impact of Technology on Working Environment

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Eradicating the poor?
Applying the “shampoo sachet” paradigm to affordable housing, rather than evictions and demolitions
Professor C K Prahalad's much celebrated book entitled The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid was launched on the Independence Day two years ago. The book is about how to eradicate poverty through profits. For more than a decade, Prahalad has urged business leaders and leading capitalists to see the poor as individuals and consumers. The poor represent a huge market waiting to be tapped. If you sell products and services in small portions, at affordable prices, your business can multiply a hundred fold. This is the kind of thinking that spawned an industry of shampoo and pickle sachets. Of course such innovations that serve products in micro quantities are nothing new. After all, we are the only country where cigarettes are still sold in “singles” at paanwallas. But technology now makes it possible to extend this concept to health insurance (daily premium of Re 1), microfinance (loan of Rs 1,000) or telecom (a refill of Rs 10 on your cell phone). Can we now apply this concept to housing as well? In some small way that may already be happening. We have seen sprawls of low income housing coming up in distant suburbs like Nala Sopara and Virar, which are fast becoming dormitory towns. Various slum rehabilitation schemes across the city are now successfully putting up one room tenements costing less than Rs 1 lakh. Thus low income families can now legally own a dwelling for an affordable price, although the number we need to build are mind boggling. But what about a provision of housing “services” in small doses? What if someone just needs to rent a place for a couple of months, and is willing to pay, say a rent of Rs 500 a month? Is there a legal thriving market for this? Can we expect a shampoo sachet revolution in low cost rental housing in cities like Mumbai? This question is relevant in the context of this week’s Supreme Court judgement which said that encroachers have no right, whatsoever, on public land. In essence the SC said that poverty is no excuse to become squatters or pavement dwellers. Unfortunately in the cities, if you are very poor, your dwelling place is almost surely illegal. Legally speaking, the poor have no right to occupy public lands, and certainly they cannot occupy private land (unless they buy those Nala Sopara like tenements). But unfortunately there is simply no market for renting a room at Rs 10 a day, even though the idea is economically feasible. There are several reasons why the shampoo sachet framework does not work for housing, and mostly it is because of various laws related to housing, rent control, TDRs, property tax, stamp duty and so on. The current SC verdict also seems to be inconsistent with another famous SC judgement from 1984, involving eviction of pavement dwellers in Mumbai. In that case, the court was more sympathetic to the plight of the pavement dweller, who is typically a migrant from an even more impoverished hinterland of the country. It observed, “The right to live and the right to work are integrated and interdependent and, therefore, if a person is deprived of his job as a result of his eviction from a slum or a pavement, his very right to life is put in jeopardy. It is urged that the economic compulsions under which these persons are forced to live in slums or on pavements impart to their occupation the character of a fundamental right.” It thus made right to shelter a fundamental right. In that same landmark judgement the court had stayed demolitions and rather boldly said that, “A state which has failed in its constitutional obligation to usher in a socialistic society has no right to evict slum and pavement dwellers who constitute half of the city's population.” It is clear that removing the poor from the streets of a city cannot solve the poverty problem.

Ajit Ranade on the wheels that make Mumbai run, money and economy

Members of a family collect their belongings after their home in a slum area in Delhi was demolished
(Mumbai Mirror/13th May 2006/pg30)

Sci-fi gets real!
From communicators to cell phones, from Dr Bones’ sick bay to modern health facilities – thanks to Star Trek, man is finally going where he never thought he could go before...
The irreverent documentary How William Shatner Changed the World, to be telecast on the US edition of the History Channel, features the actor examining the ways Star Trek technology inspired real-life innovators, whose inventions include communicator-like flip phones and medical equipment reminiscent of the starship Enterprise’s sick bay. The documentary studies how Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi series helped energise scientific explorers who created gadgets we could only dream about when Star Trek aired in the 60s. Shatner chats up researchers who, to quote Kirk’s Vulcan sidekick Spock, found fascinating the tricorders, communicators, medical scanners and other devices Roddenberry put in the hands of the 23rd century Star Trek gang. Viewing this brave new world of technology, then staring around a real world where clunky c o m p u t e r s filled entire rooms and talking longd i s t a n c e meant tethering yourself to a rotary phone, these impressionable young minds set out to make what they saw on TV a reality. “They were deadly serious about Star Trek, “ Shatner said. “Scientists are a strange group in that they catch glimpses of something that is mysterious and wonderful. They can’t quite put their finger on it, so they grasp at something.” “It’s a step-by-step process. You climb on the backs of giants. Only rarely are there leaps. Scientific advances mostly are incremental. So here we are 30, 40 years after Star Trek, and it looks like it was extraordinary, the advances we’ve made.” While we’re not yet having our scrambled molecules beamed from place to place, the documentary reviews Trek-like technology that has come into being, including cell phones resembling the show’s communicators, laser scalpels and other non-invasive medical gear. The show also features talks with researchers inspired by the show to miniaturise computers, study time-travel and search for alien life. ‘AN IRONIC VIEW OF LIFE’ Based on Shatner’s book I’m Working on That, in which he explored the connections between Star Trek technology and real science, How William Shatner Changed the World takes the tongue-in-cheek approach Shatner often applies to over-serious fandom of the shows. As scientists recount ideas and inspiration they gained from the show, Shatner struts, blusters and soliloquises about the impact of the show, hamming it up as he did as Captain Kirk. “I’ve always had sort of an ironic view of life,” the 75-year-old Shatner said. “My belief system is that when this is over, it’s over. What I believe is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That’s science. “And that works for me. So that if this is it, you better take it at its right proportion. That there are serious things, but most things are temporal and ephemeral, and you should cultivate that attitude. That joy and love and all the verities are what counts. So I try not to take too many things seriously, and if I find myself caught up in the seriousness of the moment, I’m able to cajole myself out of it.” While best known as the fearless Capt Kirk, Shatner does not share the rosy view of technology and humanity’s future that motivated Star Trek creator Roddenberry. “Technology has brought us to this point of self-destruction,” Shatner said. “It’s the dichotomy of our curiosity and greed, which are hardwired – greed, because we had to survive because we were always hungry, so we had to gather things, and curiosity, which brought us out of the trees. “In small amounts, they’re the difference between us and the animal world. In large amounts, they’re causing the destruction of everything. And I think technology has put us in a position of destroying the planet as we know it, and us along with it. I’m very pessimistic about the future of mankind based on all the things that are going on now and our lack of will to correct it.” AP

Characters from Star Trek having a video conference on a flat-screen display at a time when neither was thought of

Legendary characters Spock and Captian Kirk, played by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner respectively pose in front of a model of thier starship, Enterprise
(Mumbai Mirror/29th March 2006)

Meet Babybot: The robot that learns just like a baby

Meet Babybot: The robot that learns just like a baby
LONDON: Scientists have developed a robot that learns to interact with the world in the way a human baby would. The robot called Babybot has been created by roboticists from Italy, France and Switzerland. It experiments with objects and learns how to use them, the online edition of New Scientist reported. The robot, which could provide researchers with fresh insights into biological intelligence, consists of a torso, a pair of cameras for eyes and a grasping hand. It has an in-built desire to physically experiment with objects on the table in front of it and an ability to assess different forms of interaction and learn from mistakes. For example, if the robot fails to grasp an object securely, it tries a different strategy next time. An unbidden skill developed by Babybot was the ability to roll a bottle across the table, the report said. Its “brain” is actually a cluster of 20 computers, running several neural networks. This is software that mimics a biological neural system and learns in a similar way – by establishing and altering the strength of links between artificial neurons. By adjusting the neural network software and observing the robot’s learning behaviour, the roboticists can test different neuroscience models. “We started with knowledge from developmental psychologists and neuroscientists,” said Giorgio Metta of Genoa University in Italy, a member of the research team. “What we are doing is the same as what neuroscientists do, but from an engineering perspective,” he explained. “The goal is to build a humanoid two-year-old child, which will have all of Babybot’s abilities,” he said. IANS

(Mumbai Mirror/7th May 2006/pg30)


Advances in unmanned aerial vehicle technology makes these robots more dangerous than any human terrorist or soldier, say experts
It may sound like science fiction, but the prospect that suicide bombers and hijackers could be made redundant by flying robots is a real one, according to experts. The technology for remote-controlled light aircraft is now highly advanced, widely available – and, experts say, virtually unstoppable. Models with a wingspan of five metres, capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms, remain undetectable by radar. And thanks to satellite positioning systems, they can now be programmed to hit targets some distance away with just a few metres short of pinpoint accuracy. Security services the world over have been considering the problem for several years, but no one has yet come up with a solution. “We are observing an increasing threat from such things as remote-controlled aircraft used as small flying bombs against soft targets,” the head of the Canadian secret services, Michel Gauthier, said.. According to Gauthier, “ultra-light aircraft, powered hang gliders or powered paragliders have also been purchased by terrorist groups to circumvent groundbased countermeasures.” Armed militant groups have already tried to use unmanned aircraft, according to a number of studies by institutions including the Centre for Non-proliferation studies in Monterey, California, and the Centre for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow. In August 2002, for example, the Colombian military reported finding nine small remotecontrolled planes at a base it had taken from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (RAFC). On April 11, 2005 the Lebanese Shiite militia group, Hezbollah, flew a pilotless drone over Israeli territory, on what it called a “surveillance” mission. The Israeli military confirmed this and responded by flying warplanes over southern Lebanon. Remote-control planes are not hard to get hold of, according to Jean-Christian Delessert, who runs a specialist model airplane shop near Geneva. “Putting together a large-scale model is not difficult – all you need is a few materials and a decent electronics technician,” says Delessert. In his view, “if terrorists get hold of that, it will be impossible to do anything about it. We did some tests with a friend who works at a military radar base: they never detected us... if the radar picks anything up, it thinks it is a flock of birds and automatically wipes it.” Japanese company Yamaha, meanwhile, has produced 95-kilogram (209-pound) robot helicopter that is 11.8 feet long and has a 256 cc engine. It flies close to the ground at about 20 kilometres per hour, nothing but an incredible stroke of luck could stop it if it suddenly appeared in the sky above the White House – and it is already on the market. Bruce Simpson, an engineer from New Zealand, managed to produce an even more dangerous contraption in his own garage: a mini-cruise missile. He made it out of readily available materials at a cost of less than 5,000 dollars. According to Simpson’s Web site (, the New Zealand authorities – under pressure from the United States – forced him to shut down the project – though only after he had already finished making the missile. Eugene Miasnikov of the Centre for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow said these kinds of threats must be taken more seriously. “To many people, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) may seem too exotic, demanding substantial efforts and cost compared with the methods terrorists frequently use,” he said. “But science and technology is developing so fast that we often fail to recognise how much the world has changed.” AFP
(Mumbai Mirror/9th May 2006/pg30)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I sthe electronic smog from household gadgets endangering our health?

Is the ‘electronic smog’ from household gadgets endangering our health?
Your health may be at risk from a ‘smog’ generated by electrical devices, campaigners in the UK warn. Electromagnetic fields stemming from gadgets such as kettles, computers and microwaves, contribute towards a cloud of unseen emissions — even when they are switched off. Although each field is small and decreases with distance, there are constant background levels and these are rising. Radio frequency fields from mobile phone masts and TV transmitters add to the effect. It is believed that the smog puts some vulnerable groups at risk. Some say it could be a cause of ME and may explain so-called Sick Building Syndrome. Concerns about the smog’s effects have been recognised by the Health Protection Agency and the World Health Organisation. The agency recently set up a group to develop advice on the issue. Spokesman Dr Jill Meara said household appliances could be health hazards to some. She advised those with a condition called electrical sensitivity to stay away from such devices such as kettles and microwaves. Electrosensitivity UK, a selfhelp group for sufferers, believes three per cent of Britons experience symptoms, which may include lethargy, numbness in limbs, palpitations, dizziness and confusion. The WHO, meanwhile, has described electrical sensitivity as ‘one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences’. It ‘takes seriously’ concerns about the health effects, adding that ‘everyone in the world’ is exposed to the emissions, while ‘levels will continue to increase as technology advances’. The smog comes from devices such as home entertainment systems, cordless phones, electric blankets and toothbrushes, washing machines, mobiles and MP3 players. The wiring used in any device creates an electromagnetic field, even when it is turned off. When it is operating, there is a second field. Mobile phone masts and radio and TV transmitters provide a third layer. There can also be more specific forces associated with electricity power lines. It emerged recently that UK ministers are considering issuing public health warnings over the dangers of living near electricity pylons. In 2004, the National Radiological Protection Board warned the risk of leukaemia in children may increase with exposure to magnetic fields. Professor David Carpenter, of the State University of New York, believes the smog may be responsible for 30 per cent of childhood cancers.

Electromagnetic fields stemming from gadgets such microwaves, contribute towards a cloud of unseen emissions
(TOI/11th May/BT7)


Childhood stress, unlike adult stress, has very subtle manifestations, and hence is not often recognised by the parents. BT finds out more
Childhood and stress should actually be mutually exclusive terms, but somehow today, one group of individuals who are very much stressed out, are children. Try telling any parent that his or her child is stressed, and chances are that either they would react with shock, surprise, or maybe even burst out laughing. Unfortunately, children are no longer immune to stress and pressure — factors that have already taken their toll on the adult population. Adults mostly react to stress with anger, irritability, insomnia, loss or excess of appetite, headache, increasing their consumption of tobacco and alcohol, a diminished sexual drive, and eventually develop the stress related illnesses like blood pressure, acidity, heart problems, and diabetes. Children, on the other hand, often show non-specific symptoms like recurrent stomach pains, decreasing academic performance, falling ill a bit too often, grinding their teeth or babbling in their sleep, loss of urinary control, isolation, becoming quiet, vomiting, violence, and anger. What causes these children, who are supposed to be carefree and playful, to be stressed? There are a host of reasons for this. Unlike earlier, the joint family system has given way to the nuclear family, and this invariably results in children being taken care of by servants and caretakers. With both parents working, the absence of family members, like uncles, aunts or grand parents, is felt acutely, for they are in a much better position to offer the child solace, safety and security. Added to this is the intense competition that children face in their academic lives, as well as in their social lives. Along with school, tuitions, classes and after spending a few hours on viewing television and in playing computer games, the child is mentally drained and exhausted, by the end of each day. Another factor, which is rarely recognised by parents as a causative factor, is the change of residence or school. Sometimes, such a change is inevitable, as one or both parents are transferred to another city or state. The loss of one’s bearings, one’s familiar surroundings and one’s friends, often leads to deep emotional hurt and stress in these children. Many of them are not able to fathom why their parents have shifted them to an unfamiliar surrounding, and are not able to get over this change, even after years. In many other cases, it has been noticed that the parents, often at the behest of a friend, colleague or neighbour, decide to change the child’s school, as they feel that a particular school is better than the current one. This is often done without the consensus of the child. This shift of school is a major culture shock of sorts for the child, and he or she tends to be completely at sea, for quite a long period of time. The resentment towards the parents intensifies, and the child gets highly stressed out. So, how does one reduce childhood stress? First and foremost, the parents should understand that each and every child is unique, and quite different from another. Comparisons and competitions only serve to add pressure on the child. Parents must be perceptive about their child’s outlook, personality and potential. Enrolling the child in too many structured activities often leaves no time for just being himself or herself. The child often needs to just ‘be’ rather than ‘be doing’ something all the time. Periods of daydreaming often tend to act as ‘destressors’ for the child, and help in increasing their powers of imagination and creativity. Also, one must give a lot of thought to shifting one’s residence or the child’s school, for these can often have a very deleterious effects on the child’s mind. Taking the child’s opinion on matters that concern him or her, and arriving at a consensus often helps. And keeping all channels of communication open with one’s child, and being tuned in to the child’s dayto-day changes in behaviour, will go a long way. And in rare cases, taking recourse to a child psychologist also helps. Ten years ago, child specialists used to refer a child to a psychologist once in a blue moon. Today, the references have gone up to as much as one or two every week. It’s high time parents woke up and realised that children too have their own bag of woes.

Periods of daydreaming often tend to act as ‘destressors’ for the child, and help in increasing their powers of imagination and creativity
(TOI/11th May 2006/BT7)


By Seth Kugel
Ask internet users in Rio de Janeiro what they think of Orkut, the twoyear-old Google social networking service, and you may get a blank stare. But pronounce it “or-KOO-chee,” as they do in Portuguese, and watch faces light up. “We were just talking about it!” said Suellen Monteiro, approached by a reporter as she gossiped with four girlfriends at a bar in the New York City Center mall here. The topic was the guy whom 18-year-old Aline Makray had met over the weekend at a Brazilian funk dance, who had since found her on Orkut and asked her to join his network. Orkut, the invention of a Turkish-born software engineer named Orkut Buyukkokten is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon in Brazil. About 11 million of Orkut’s more than 15 million users are registered as living in Brazil—a remarkable figure given that studies have estimated that only about 12 million Brazilians use the internet from home. Expect Brazilian Portuguese dictionaries to add “orkut” to upcoming editions. O Globo, Rio’s biggest daily newspaper, refers to it without further explanation. And the Brazilian media routinely measures the popularity of music groups and actors by the number of user communities dedicated to them on Orkut. “Surto,” a popular comedic play showing in Rio de Janeiro, is peppered with references to Orkut. And the site’s jargon has entered the Brazilian lexicon, like “scrap” (pronounced “SKRAH-pee” or “SHKRAHpee”), meaning a note that one user leaves in another’s virtual scrapbook for everyone to see. But the sheer popularity of Orkut, which people can join by invitation only, has had several unexpected consequences. Almost as soon as Brazilians started taking over Orkut in 2004—and long before April 2005, when Google made Orkut available in Portuguese—English-speaking users formed virulently anti-Brazilian communities like “Too Many Brazilians on Orkut.” And, more darkly, Orkut’s success has made it a popular vehicle for child pornographers, pedophiles and racist and anti-Semitic groups, according to Brazilian prosecutors and nonprofit groups. Hatemongering on Orkut has also been decried in the United States and elsewhere, but it is in Brazil where the biggest effort is under way to halt the problem and confront Google’s seemingly tight-lipped attitude. SaferNet Brasil, a nongovernmental organisation founded late last year, tracks human rights violations on Orkut and has generated much press coverage of illegal activity on the site. SaferNet’s president, Thiago Nunes de Oliveira, a professor of cyberlaw at the Catholic University of Salvador, said the problem had exploded in the last few months. “In 45 days of work, we identified 5,000 people who were using the internet, and principally Orkut, to distribute images of explicit sex with children,” he said. In February, after several failed attempts to contact Google’s Brazil office, Nunes de Oliveira said, SaferNet Brasil filed a complaint with federal prosecutors in São Paulo. Prosecutors summoned Google’s Brazilian sales staff to a meeting on March 10 and asked them for help identifying users breaking Brazilian human rights laws. Google declined a reporter’s requests for a direct interview with Buyukkokten, but a spokeswoman forwarded some of Buyukkokten’s responses by e-mail. The Brazilian office, he said, handles ad sales and does not even work with Orkut, which produces no revenue. “Orkut prohibits illegal activity (such as child pornography) as well as hate speech and advocating violence,” he wrote. “We will remove such content from Orkut when we are notified.” But Nunes de Oliveira said that removing the content was not what they were asking for. “The incapacity of the authorities to investigate these crimes is principally the lack of cooperation by Google in identifying those users,” he said. He also worried that Google was not archiving evidence of crimes as it deleted offending pages. Thamea Danelon Valiengo, part of a team of federal prosecutors working on cybercrime cases in São Paulo, agreed. She said that prosecutors had asked judges to order Google to turn over information on users who perpetrate crimes. So far, she said, Google has agreed to send a lawyer to Brazil for a meeting in May. Buyukkokten wrote by e-mail that Google would cooperate with the authorities, but did not specify whether, for example, it would provide logs allowing users to be traced by their Internet address, as prosecutors have asked. A Google spokeswoman, Debbie Frost, said by e-mail that in four to six weeks, Orkut would deploy a tool that would “better identify and remove content that violates our terms of use.” In general, though, Orkut fanatics seem undisturbed by illegal activity on the site, which most of those interviewed said they had never come across personally. They were more interested in finding long-lost classmates and friends, one of the site’s most lauded abilities. Schools, workplaces, even residential streets have “communities” joined by people who have studied, worked or lived there. No one quite knows why Orkut caught on among Brazilians and not Americans, although the fact that it is an invitation-only network might explain why it exploded in Brazil. In a 2005 interview with the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Mr. Buyukkokten said it might be because Brazilians were “a friendly people,” and perhaps because some of his own friends, among the first to join the network, had Brazilian friends. NYT News Service
(TOI/13th April2006/31)

Google helps you make money too!
Bloggers and small web site owners can now get on to Google’s secret payroll. All they have to do is run ads by Google Adsense, says Kavita Kukday
Popular belief says metros are the only place to be to make money, but Deepesh Agarwal, thinks otherwise. Agarwal is the owner of a tiny cyber café in Mount Abu, a hill station in Rajasthan. Mount Abu is not a particularly affluent city—the average earning of the residents here is only about $300 (approx Rs 13,500) a year. But Agarwal’s monthly earnings match those of white collared executives in the metros—he makes a whopping packet of about $1,500 (approx Rs 67,500) a month. How? In his spare time, Agarwal runs a free software download web site that runs ads by Google Adsense on his homepage. Google Adsense is a program that pays web site owners for advertising space. When visitors click on the ads on Agarwals’s web site, Google makes profit from the advertisers and in turn, pays a percentage of that profit to people like Agarwal. But Agarwal is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people are making similar profits just by starting blogs, forums or other informational sites and getting paid for posting ads on Google’s behalf. Take for instance Jimmy Wadhera in Chandighar, who despite being grounded for health reasons, earns about $400 (approx Rs 18,000) a month from Adsense. Wadhera runs a web site called india4deals and advertises Adsense ads on all his pages to support his family. Ajay Dutta from Mumbai has a similar story. He and a group of friends run a free computer help forum called Techenclave in their spare time. The forum ran into trouble due to insufficient funds, but being on Google’s secret payroll has helped them salvage the site. “We recently began running ads between threads of discussions as part of Google Adsense and now we make enough money to get by.” They make about $300 (approx Rs 13,500) per month with Google Adsense, and are planning to use the money to make their site better. “Since its launch in 2003, the Google Adsense program has revolutionised web publishing, turning blogs and personal web sites into potentially lucrative ventures,” says Mahesh Murthy, CEO of Pinstorm, a search engine marketing firm. The service is easy to join. A blogger or a site owner has to simply fill up an online Adsense form. Google then starts scoring your content and places ads on the site just like the ones that appear next to Google searches. The ads are contextually matched to content on the web site, so if you are running a blog on gadgets, you would have technology-related ads, whereas if your web site caters to foodies, then you would have ads of food-related products. Anyone with a site is eligible. And there are tons of success stories from around the world—of small online entrepreneurs placing ads on their sites and watching checks from Google trickle in. “But the trickledown effect from Google does not stop at small-time entrepreneurs,” says Murthy. “A growing number of biggies are also profiting. Take for instance the job site that makes about Rs 1 crore a year.” “The program is a golden goose for Google too,” says Vivek Bhargava, managing director of Communicate2, a pay-per-click and Google paid search professionals company. Google revenues from AdSense were said to be about $2.7 billion last year. “Contextual advertising is the way to go these days,” he adds, “and this works for Google mainly because search advertising has a some limitations. That’s because the number of advertisements a company can display is limited by the number of searches its users conduct. By contrast, millions of small sites about all kinds of material are mushrooming on the web. This expands Google’s horizons greatly.” However, it’s not a smooth sail for everyone on Google’s secret payroll. One big area of concern is that of adblockers. “Our earnings are limited as compared to other smaller sites. This is mainly because our site is for tech enthusiasts and people visiting our sites are tech-savvy enough to use adblocking software,” says Dutta of Techenclave. Another concern is about being able to pull in enough crowds to the web site, “The content has to be compelling enough to drive the traffic,” says Murthy. So, say you are running a blog on Politics—you won’t find many people wanting to click on ads of Congress of BJP. But if you were running a gadget blog, many would want to look up the gizmos advertised on your web site even if it is only to check out the detailed specifications. But even then the fact remains that Adsense is bringing smiles to hundreds of faces in India for the time being. “No matter what anyone says, this is still a good enough opportunity that puts Indians on par to participate with other web sites around the world,” says Agarwal. TNN
(TOI/13th April2006/pg31)

Kids are being 'robbed of their childhood'

Kids are being ‘robbed of their childhood’
By Sarah Harris
London: Teachers on Tuesday attacked the rampant consumerism which is “robbing youngsters of their childhood’’. They said young girls are being urged to believe it is no longer ‘cool’ to be a child and they should aspire to wear ‘sexy’ underwear and expensive trainers instead. Instead of enjoying their childhood years they are being bombarded with marketing which encourages them to grow up too soon. Many parents are also failing to preserve the “precious’’ innocence of growing up. As a result, families are increasingly giving in to “pester power’’ and buying youngsters inappropriate items for example, T-shirts and handbags emblazoned with the word ‘bitch’ . Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ conference in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, claimed that the growing trend is making life in schools more difficult. This is because children are being turned into fashionably dressed mini-adults who are fully aware of their rights but have little understanding of their responsibilities. They approved a motion claiming that youngsters should have a “right to childhood’’. Kay Johansson, head of art at Rhyl High School, Denbighshire, North Wales, told the conference, “None of this is helping teachers to do their job. We are increasingly faced with children who see no value in education because they know it all, have no idea of deferred gratification because they have it all and see no reason why they should respect adults because adults don’t respect them.’’ “Children are being robbed of their childhood. They are being forced to enter the adult world too soon and as a consequence they are missing out on that crucial period of time when the mind and personality develops.’’ Johansson, 58, who has a 22-yearold son, insisted that childhood was “the most vital part of human development.” But she had witnessed a “steady erosion” of this ‘precious time’ during her 37-year career. She said, “These days what I see is confusion. In the schoolyard where I used to see children playing games that would keep them fit, teach them social skills and stimulate their creativity, I now see groups of children standing around discussing who has the most expensive trainers or the latest mobile phone.” “They seem afraid to play. To be a child is so not cool.” Johansson claimed that children gain a glimpse of the adult world through the television and Internet. But if parents do not take time to explain what they see, they can get a “distorted” view. She warned that the “more and more that children gain access to the adult world the more they believe they are adult”. “This idea is happily reinforced by the type of companies that produce sexy undies and seductive party clothes for sixyearolds and cheeky ringtones for their phones,” she said. “However, what frightens me most is the way all of this is becoming acceptable. The way adult expectations of children are getting lower and lower.” Daily Mail Statistics distort the truth Recent trends have suggested that girls are rapidly becoming more violent while the bad behaviour of boys has not changed much. But the numbers are deceiving, some researchers say. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) shows arrests of juvenile females for assaults and violent crime from 1980 through 2003 rose from 20% to more than 30% of the total. The media have latched onto the statistic with glaring headlines. A book released in February carries the catchy title See Jane Hit and offers tips on how to deal with violent girls. An article last year in the Boston Globe was headlined ‘Violence raging among teen girls.’ Newsweek called the phenomenon ‘Bad Girls Go Wild.’ The real change is in how police and society deal with acts that used to be viewed as relatively minor, says Darrell Steffensmeier, a professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State. “Other national sources of information on youth violence do not support the increase,’’ Steffensmeier said on Tuesday. “Several changes in violence prevention policies by police or at schools have widened the net, boosting the arrests of girls.’’ In a study, girls accounted for 20% of the crimes in 1980 and 19% in 2003.The surveys involved national samples from the youth population and are independent of criminal justice biases, the researchers note. “Some commentators have blamed the perceived change on greater stress in girls’ lives,” Steffensmeier said. Agencies
(TOI/13th April 2006/page29)

I sip, therefore I am: Author studies life in coffee shops

I sip, therefore I am: Author studies life in coffee shops
London: A cup of coffee is just a drink. But a frappuccino is an experience. So believes Bryant Simon, a historian who is searching for the meaning of modern life amid the round tables and comfy sofas of Starbucks coffee shops. Simon, who teaches at Philadelphia’s Temple University, thinks that by spending time at Starbucks—observing the teenage couples and solitary laptop-users, the hurried office workers and busy baristas—he can learn what it means to live and consume in the age of globalisation. “What are we drinking, and what does it say about who we are?” Simon asked during a recent research trip to London. His research has taken him to 300 Starbucks in six countries for a caffeine-fueled opus titled ‘Consuming Starbucks’ that’s due for publication in 2008. Simon, whose last book, Boardwalk of Dreams, was a study of Atlantic City, New Jersey, estimates he has spent 12 hours a week in coffee shops for more than a year. “I try to limit myself to two to three coffees a day,” he said. He is one of several academics studying a type of 21st century cafe culture—Italian coffee in an American package—that has spread rapidly around the world. Founded in Seattle in 1971, Starbucks Corp now has 11,000 outlets in 37 countries, including 500 in Tokyo. The company expects to open 1,800 new stores this year and aims eventually to have 30,000 outlets, half of them outside the US. British historian Jonathan Morris said that even in Britain—a stalwart bastion of tea drinking where there are now almost 500 Starbucks stores—the chain has become entrenched in daily life. While British coffee consumption lags far behind most other European nations, sales of “premium” coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos are on the rise. “I’m not sure how much Starbucks is American any more for British customers,” said Morris, a University of Hertfordshire professor who is leading a research project called ‘The Cappuccino Conquests’ about the global spread of Italian coffee. Starbucks and other coffee houses, Simon believes, fill “some kind of deep desire for connection with other people.” But unlike the coffee houses of 18th century London or the bohemian java dens of 1950s New York, “Starbucks makes sure you can be alone when you’re out if you really need to be,” he said. “You get the feeling you’re out in public, but you don’t need to talk to anyone.” Simon’s research has made him finely attuned to the many varieties of the Starbucks customer, from the twentysomething female friends at a nearby table to the middle-aged man hunched over his laptop computer. “This kind of guy is renting space,” said Simon, a boyish 44-year-old who visited 25 Starbucks during four days in the British capital. “He bought a cup of coffee in order to have some space. These two women in front of us—where else can women meet in urban settings? I was at a Starbucks up the street, and there were kids downstairs making out.” Simon believes Starbucks succeeds by “selling comfort” in an anonymous, often dislocating world. He says he has lost track of the number of times people have told him that when they traveled to a strange country, “the first thing I did when I got off the plane was go to Starbucks.” He said, “There’s a deep sense of unpredictability in the modern world, and what Starbucks provides a lot of people is predictability.” However, there are regional variations. Starbucks introduced green tea frappuccinos in Taiwan and Singapore in 2001. They proved so popular, they’re now on the American menu. AP

(Times of India/13th April 2006/page 28)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Masti ki Paathshala

No need to send your kids to expensive hobby classes to keep them busy and ready for school at the end of the holidays. Educational software is a more fun option, says Kavita Kukday

Sai is sitting in bed, giving us a fine view of her gullet, via the efficient medium of a big huge tantrum. “Mummy, its math time, I want to learn math right now!” Sai Ruparel is five years old, and absolutely adores studying. Surprised? Well mommy Ruparel has the answer: “It’s not the conventional math lesson she is asking for. She want professor Garfield to get on with his mathemagical adventures!” Digital media is fast evolving as a strong medium in the arena of toddler education. “Kids today learned to crawl alongside the PC, so they definitely have a leg up on parents when it comes to adapting to new technology. Plus they love to imitate parents, so instead of having them spend time playing mindless racing games, I opted for educational CD-ROMS,” says Veera Ruparel. There is no dearth of material. Hop into a toy or music shop and you find hundreds of CDs at affordable prices. The big names in the educational software section are Reader Rabbit, Jumpstart and Fischer Price, among others. The cutoff price for CDs for children is about Rs 200. Stay off pirated CDs sold on pavements, because more often than not, they are badly cut and the programs keep hanging or just simply don’t play. This can easily put off the child. You could also look at local libraries that allow you to borrow educational CDs, such as the British Council Library (BCL). Then, of course, there is the internet, which is a treasure trove of educational games sites. Click on or try the kids section of the NatGeo site ( and you’d be amazed at what you can find. “It’s amazing how designers of children’s digital media have created truly amazing software, hubbed around learning, without sacrificing fun or interactivity,” says Ruparel. Like Sai, Vaishree Goyal’s darling two-year-old twins, Anand and Anya, are already hooked on to the Muppets CD that teaches them logic, sorting and ordering, grouping and thinking skills. CDs meant for toddlers come with tiny exercises. So, Anaya can already identify most poisonous snakes, while Anand knows all the continents by heart. “Both are too young to handle the mouse, so I take care of scrolling. But they insist on clicking the ‘Enter’ button,” says Goyal. “Working with digital media is imperative these days. You just can’t grow up and say you won’t touch a PC. That makes it imperative that you learn to like them at a young age. Also, it’s absolutely necessary that you know the CDs or games like the back of your hand before you introduce them to your kids. Otherwise they will lose interest real fast,” adds Goyal. An important factor while buying CDs or looking up sites is to look for slick and easy-to-use designs. There is a lot of junk in the market and you definitely don’t want your toddlers to be weaned on the boring stuff and grow up to learn to hate digital media. Interactivity is a unique asset that distinguishes digital media from other conventional methods, so no point relying on uninspiring text-based design. Instead, spend a little more and go in for voice-based multimedia. Children, especially between the ages of two and 10, can lose patience very easily. That is another aspect that educational software helps your child with. Since most of this material is interactive, you’d see them concentrating for a longer period of time than with other activities. “Anand and Anya started with using the CDs for only 10 minutes at a time; now they happily go on for about an hour,” says Goyal. Here again there are two caveats: don’t let the kids go on for longer than a maximum of three hours just because they like a particular CD. And yes, it’s easy to turn your kids into brats by giving in to their demands of changing CDs often, so don’t do it—they have to learn to be patient. Amrita Vora, mother of 10-year-old Rohit and a teacher at a play school in Mumbai, agrees: “I use Jumpstart daily in my classroom and the kids beg for it! Rewards are important in teaching kids, but they don’t necessarily have to be materialistic. These educational games provide just that—they encourage the child to do well by giving points or graduate levels.” Another thing to keep in mind while choosing the software is to pick something your kid will be comfortable with. Say you have a choice of software for age five and age seven and your child is six years old. Make sure you take the one made for age five. This is about confidence building. If your child finds the software difficult, she might not even look at it again. As the child grows up, slowly start introducing her to the internet. Along with educational game sites, there are others you might want to look at, like Headline History (www.headlinehistory., where children become reporters in virtual newspapers set in various historical periods. “Disney is another hot favourite with children. It has several adventure games that help build social skills. It introduces a bit of playfulness and teaches you how to interact with other children,” says Vora. Then you could also look at the Nasa site (, which comes with the whole of space to play with. Among the fun activities available here are firing a cannonball into orbit (which teaches one of Newton’s laws of physics) and learning about the relationship between curved space and gravity. “Kids absorb education from multimedia twice as fast compared to the dull pen-and-paper medium. Weaning them on good software matters, because this technology is going to be running our lives,” Goyal insists. TNN Your Home Play School Affordable educational software CDs are easily available. Look in toy shops, libraries and music shops. Web sites like Disney and NatGeo are a treasure trove of great educational content for kids. Choose content, whether on CD or a web site, that's slick and easy to use. This will keep the kids interested. Make sure you know the CDs or games well before you introduce them to your kids. Opt for interactive multimedia over text-based content. This is a good way to increase your child’s levels of concentration.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Reliance ito ring in one world in a phone

Necessity is the mother of invention. Customers wish it,want it and lo! have it!

Reliance to ring in one world in a phone

Nazia Vasi & Partha Sinha | TNN

Mumbai: You are vacationing in California this summer. The food is good as is the weather. But lugging around two mobile phones—one GSM for folks at home to get in touch and the other CDMA for local US calls—is proving to be more tiresome than you anticipated. Well, help is at hand for harried travellers and peripatetic corporate executives. Its called the world phone: a single phone that supports both GSM and CDMA mobile technologies.
   Already supported by service providers like China Unicom, Pelephone (Israel), Sprint Nextel (USA), Telus Mobility (Canada), Verizon Wireless (USA) and VIVO (Brazil), now Anil Ambani's Reliance Infocomm is toying with the idea of introducing the world phone for its Indian customers.
   Once adopted, this device will enable Reliance globe trotting CDMA subscriber to hook on to a mobile network when travelling to GSM regions like Europe. Manufactured by LG, Samsung and Motorola with Qualcomm's CDMA-GSM (dual-mode) chipset the best part of this technolo gy is that the subscriber can seamlessly convert to either technology, GSM or CDMA without changing the number or the sim card of the phone.
   So how does the world phone work? Nikhil Jain, chief technology advisor at Qualcomm, India said, "We have de signed special chips compatible to both GSM and CDMA technologies. Phones inserted with these chipsets then have the capability to switch between technologies, whichever is available in a particular region.''
   Adding that, "I won't be surprised if few years down the line all the phones become multi-mode phones.''
   The world mode phone is available globally for anywhere between $350-450 (Rs 15,800-20,200), depending on a one or two year contract with the service provider. Tariffs are also high, compared to international roaming charges. Verizon charges anywhere between $1.29- 4.99 for a GSM call and 69 cents for a CDMA call.
,800-20,200)    Though relatively expensive it is truly the converged mobile device.   "The world phone, although relatively expensive, has tremendous potential,'' an analyst said. "It is truly the converged mobile device, which can do almost all your office work anywhere, at anytime.'' CONNECTING PEOPLE It is a single phone supporting both GSM & CDMA technologies It is coming to India with Anil Ambani planning to introduce it for domestic customers LG, Samsung and Motorola manufactured, Qualcomm's CDMA-GSM chipset fitted phone helps seamless conversion into either technology, with the same sim It is freely available globally under the price-band of $350-450 (Rs 15

Bangalore has most drunk drivers

See this news. Is it a fallout of being IT capital of India?...that with young folk with high salary in IT & ITES this is a norm?....please read on….

B'lore has most drunk drivers

Ashwin Raj | TNN

Bangalore: It ain't worth a hiccup that the pub capital of India is also the country's tipsiest city. At least that's what a dubious record notched up by the city's drivers suggest.    Bangalore registered the higest number of cases of drinking and driving in 2005—27,673. Swallow these statistics: the 100 alcometers in Bangalore is second only to Mumbai's, where the traffic police have 146 alcometers or alcohol detectors. Delhi police have less than 30 alcometers.    According to police records, while over 27,000 drunken driving cases were booked in Bangalore in 2005, 6,202 cases have been recorded till April 8 this year. In 2005, Mumbai police booked 1,176 cases of drunken driving. Delhi traffic police booked around the same number of cases during that period.    DCP traffic (east) M A Saleem said: "Each of the 36 traffic police stations in the city have three alcometers which are used regularly. Special drives are conducted against drunken driving, which is rampant during weekends.''    Drunken driving cases have been increasing steadily every year in the city and even frequent drives to crack down on the offence have not deterred many. Offenders can be imprisoned for up to six months or fined up to Rs 2,000 by court under provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act.    The cases register a spurt during year-end months of October, November and December, a trend that the traffic police attribute to the cold weather and the new year mood. LAW'S SPEED Motor Vehicles Act    Section 185 of the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, says that a person who has in his/her blood alcohol exceeding 30 mg per 100 ml of blood detected by breath analyser, or is under the influence of a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of exercising proper control over the vehicle, can be jailed for up to six months or fined up to Rs 2,000. For a second offence committed within three years of the previous misdemeanor, imprisonment may extend up to two years or fine up to Rs 3,000, or both

(Times of India/Mumbai/25th April 2006/pg12)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Now an esniffer to track lost mobiles

Now, an e-sniffer to track lost mobiles

By Nazia Vasi/TNN
(TOI/12th April2006/pg1)

Mumbai: If this detective takes off, it will be more popular than Sherlock Holmes: a software to trace lost mobiles. Inspired to create a mobile-tracking solution after his 16-year-old son lost his cellphone, P Sekhar, chairman and managing director of Micro Technologies, and his team began work on a programme to track phones. The code, downloadable at Rs 200 to Rs 300 a year on most handsets from Micro's website, allows the owner to track the exact location of his or her phone and the number of the new SIM (subscriber identity module) card that has been inserted. Sekhar explains the technology: "When a phone is stolen, the thief generally sells the device in the grey market. When a new SIM card is inserted, the solution embedded in the phone will send an e-mail or voice message to the original owner notifying him of the number on the new SIM card and the location of the phone. Most times, the third party tends to return the gadget procured from the grey market.''


The basic requisite is possessing a smart phone with GPRS activated on it. Most telcos offer this service for a fixed fee every month You then register online for LMTS (Lost Mobile Tracking Solution) at the Micro Tech website. A user name and password is sent to you for downloading the software Once the software is activated, a link is sent to your phone. Clicking on the link leads you to a site where another piece of software is installed on your phone. You type in the licence key into this software All you have to do now is go back to the website and key in who needs to be informed and how if your mobile is stolen.

E-sniffer limited to GSM phones Mumbai

As of now, when a mobile phone user loses his cell, the only action he or she can take is to frantically call the service provider and block his card—retrieving the handset itself is a lost cause. The new e-sniffer, called the Lost Mobile Tracking Solution (LMTS), is awaiting a patent. It was created with an investment of Rs 50 lakh, of which half has already been recovered in the four months of its launch in the Indian market. It would be safe to say that thousands of phones are stolen and lost in India every day, left behind in the backs of cabs, washrooms, restaurants and shops. In 2005, 20,000 cases of stolen mobiles (worth Rs 300 crore) were reported with the police. About eight crore mobile handsets were retailed in India in the same year. Sekhar, who plans to take this solution global in the next two months, is in talks with five of the largest mobile manufacturers as well as the police, who say that lost mobile complaints are on the rise. He estimates that the market for such a solution could aggregate to Rs 30-40 crore within the next three years. The LMTS solution is currently restricted to GSM phones in which the SIM card is detachable. The solution is retailed in India through Micro Technologies's large dealer and distribution networks and will soon be pushed through the mobile manufacturer route as well. A value addition Sekhar is in the process of perfecting is maintaining an online storehouse of each subscriber's data—the SMSes, calls and email in your phone.

Floating ports mooted

Floating ports mooted to ease congestion
(TOI/Mumbai/12th April3006/pg17)
By Manju Menon/TNN

Mumbai: Floating hotels, restaurants and resorts are passe. Now, get ready for floating ports which are set to dot the over 6,000 kilometre long Indian coastline.    Floating ports are ships specially designed to load and unload cargoes. And since, this work is carried out on the high seas and not near the coast, these have been popularly named floating ports although in shipping parlance these are known as the trans-shippers.    India, which is witnessing a boom in cargo movement, has a handful of such floating ports dotting the western coast including a dry bulk carrier operating for the Dempo-Salgoankar JV in Goa and two cement carriers belonging to Mum bai-based K C Maritime.    The latest to join the fray is the 250-metre long M V Goan Pride ship which is as long as two football fields. Built in 1982, the ship was bought last year by Katra Wilhelmsen Logistics, a 50:50 JV from Qatar Shipping for the Dempo-Salgaonkar venture.    The ship, a capesize dry bulk carrier, underwent major modification at Cosco shipyard in China for fiveand-a-half months.    The modification added 3,000 tonne of steel in the form of cranes, conveyor belts and special kinds of loaders. Now, the nearly Rs 100 crore ship is deployed near Goa to handle iron ore cargo.    "Such kinds of ships are very useful at places where ports have shallow drafts as these floating ports literally take the port to the ship,'' said Ramesh Vangal, chairman, Katra group. Most Indian ports have low draft making it difficult for large ships to approach them. Here, a trans-shipper hoards cargo transferred on it by smaller vessels to then shift it to ocean going ships.    "This way the trans-shipper not only reduces loading and unloading time but also saves logistics cost by 50 cents a tonne,'' said Divay Goel, director, Drewry Maritime Services.

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Realty fraud in cyberland

Realty fraud in cyberland

Crooks Put Hoax Order On Web To Cheat B’lore Landowners
Times News Network
(TOI/Mumbai/12th April 2006/pg13)

Bangalore: Gone are the days of lathi-wielding middlemen threatening land owners to give in to realty sharks. The real estate boom in the Rs 30,000-crore industry in Bangalore has spawned a new trend with crooks taking the cyber route to frighten gullible owners into selling cheap. A private developer recently put up a hoax BDA notification on a website to instil fear in the landowners. The resulting rumours ultimately put pressure on owners to put the property on sale for a meagre amount, even though it is worth hundreds of crores. A website with the address has put up BDA notifications spanning areas of north and south of Bangalore. The hoax notification lists hundreds of survey numbers across the city as notified areas and mentions 330-odd entire villages as notified areas. The realty scene in the areas mentioned in website has created more than a stir. While the land prices have crashed, the innocent landowners are being victimised by middlemen. BDA commissioner M N Vidyashankar said: The information regarding the notification is wrong and the BDA strongly objects to this. We have been receiving queries and complaints about this website. Since it comes under the purview of the cyber crime division of the police department, we are consulting our SP and the legal section. We will be lodging a criminal case against the people involved in this. We have information that some real estate agents are going around the mentioned areas with printouts of the website contents. They are promising to get the areas de-notified for some money. Some agents have gone to the extent of offering to buy the property at a better price, after pointing out that the owners would stand to lose land when BDA acquires it. Clarifying the issue, the commissioner said: We have set procedures that we follow before we notify any land. We first issue individual notices to the landowners and give them a hearing, then we issue a gazette notification followed by preliminary notification and final notification in the newspapers. We request landowners in the city not to be perturbed by such hoax information and not to pay heed to such rumours. The BDA further said that only information published on its official website is authentic and official. The site is updated periodically and all acquisition and tender details is available on the site.

Forgot to turn AC off

Forgot to turn AC off? Don't fret, send SMS

By Raheel Dhattiwala TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Ahmedabad: Remember the ad that got an anxious Shekhar Suman in some foreign land worrying about the fan he left switched on back home in India and the fat bill he'll have to pay for it? Well, had Suman met three teenagers of Nirma University (NU) students then, he would have spent Re 1 on switching it off—by SMS.    Three students of NU have come up with a system worth Rs 1,500 which can control anything from a washing machine to traffic lights, all thanks to the humble SMS. While the prototype that the students will make in the next few months will have a city-based application, they propose to develop it further to cover a larger area with NU willing to offer Rs 20 lakh seed capital to help them incubate their innovation.    Of 150 entries, this SMSbased control system designed by Punit Soni, Sunny Vaghela and Komal Shah bagged first prize at the university's national-level technical symposium held last month, which was judged by scientists from ISRO and PRL. While it's based on the not-so-new principle used in sending SMSes from mobile phones, this innovation widens the applications of the principle and is easy on the pocket.    Among its applications, is one where traffic lights can be controlled through SMS, say the young innovators. "Traffic lights operate on timers, which often need manual adjustments. Using SMS, officials can control timers from any part of the city,'' says Vaghela. It can also be used in universities and hospitals. "A doctor sitting in his cabin can check the heartbeat of his patient by sending an SMS to a CCTV in the patient's ward. Connected to the SMS-based control system, the CCTV records the heartbeat and intimates the doctor,'' Soni says.    The system is based on interface between a computer and a mobile phone. All you need is two GSM-based mobile phones, one personal computer and the controllable device, such as a fan, bulb, air-conditioner. Interface is made possible using commands given by the computer to the mobile connected to it. "One mobile phone is attached to the PC-based circuit, which is connected to the controllable device. The other, which is in your hand, is used to send the message to this circuit. The software reads the message and sends the command to the device,'' adds 19-yearold Soni.    "The entire apparatus, including the mobile, will not cost more than Rs 1,500. There will be no monthly bills if you go for the currently popular lifetime incoming free scheme,'' says Vaghela, also 19.    With the university having its own incubator for technical innovations, vice-chancellor N V Vasani assures full support. "We are ready to provide the students a seed capital of Rs 20 lakh, mentoring, industry linkages etc.''

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Labour shortage at hundreds of factories have led experts to conclude that the Chinese economy is undergoing a profound change, says David Barboza
(Times of India/Mumbai/ 4th April 2006/pg20)
Shenzhen: Persistent labour shortages at hundreds of Chinese factories have led experts to conclude that the economy is undergoing a profound change that will ripple through the global market for manufactured goods.    The shortage of workers is pushing up wages and swelling the ranks of the country's middle class, and it could make Chinese-made products less of a bargain worldwide. International manufacturers are already talking about moving factories to lower-cost countries like Vietnam.    At the Well Brain factory here in one of China's special economic zones, the changes are clear. Over the last year, Well Brain, a midsize producer of small electric appliances like hair rollers, coffee makers and hot plates, has raised salaries, improved benefits and even dispatched a team of recruiters to find workers in the countryside.    That kind of behaviour was unheard of as recently as three years ago, when millions of young people were still flooding into booming Shenzhen searching for any type of work. (image placeholder)   A few years ago, "people would just show up," said Liang Jian, the human resources manager at Well Brain. "Now we put up an ad looking for five people, and maybe one person shows up."    For all the complaints of factory owners, though, the situation has a silver lining for the members of the world's largest labour force. Economists say the shortages are spurring companies to improve labour conditions and to more aggressively recruit workers with incentives and benefits.    The changes also suggest that China may already be moving up the economic ladder, as workers see opportunities beyond simply being unskilled assemblers of the world's goods. Rising wages may also prompt Chinese consumers to start buying more products from other countries, helping to balance the nation's huge trade surpluses.    "The next story in China is how they are going to move out of the lower-end stuff: the toys, textiles and sporting goods equipment," said Jonathan Anderson, an economist at UBS in Hong Kong.    When sporadic labour shortages first appeared in late 2004, government leaders dismissed them as short-lived anomalies. But they now say the problem is likely to be a more persistent one. Experts say the shortages are arising primarily because China's economy is sizzling hot, tax cuts have helped keep people working on farms, and factories are continuing to expand even as the number of young Chinese starts to level off. Prosperity is also moving inland, and workers who might have migrated are staying closer to home.    Though estimates are hard to come by, data from officials suggest that major export industries are looking for at least one million additional workers, and the real number could be much higher.
   "We're seeing an end to the golden period of extremely low-cost labour in China," said Hong Liang, a Goldman Sachs economist who has studied labour costs here. "There are plenty of workers, but the supply of uneducated workers is shrinking."    Because of these shortages, wage levels throughout China's manufacturing ranks are rising, threatening at some point to weaken its competitiveness on world markets.    Li & Fung, one of the world's biggest trading companies, said recently that labor shortages and rising manufacturing costs in China were already forcing it to step up its diversification efforts and look for supplies from factories in other parts of Asia.    "I look at China a lot differently than I did three years ago," said Bruce Rockowitz, president of Li & Fung in Hong Kong. "China is no longer the lowest-cost producer. There's an evolution going on. People are now going to Vietnam, and India and Bangladesh."    The higher wages come at a time when costs are already rising sharply across the country for energy and land. On top of a strengthening Chinese currency, this is likely to mean that the cost of consumer goods shipped to the US and Europe will rise.    To be sure, China is not about to lose its title as factory floor of the world. And some analysts dispute the significance of the shortages.    "Reports of a shortage of unskilled and semi-skilled factory workers are overblown," said Andy Rothman, an analyst at CLSA, an investment bank. "Compa(image placeholder) nies are, however, having trouble finding experienced people to fill mid-level and senior management jobs."    Government figures say, minimum wages — which averaged $58 to 74 a month (not including benefits) in 2004 — have climbed about 25%over the last three years in big cities like Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai, mostly by government mandate.    Government policy is also playing a role. Trying to close the yawning income gap between the urban rich and the rural poor, the government last year eliminated the agricultural tax, and also stepped up efforts to develop local economies in poor, inland and western provinces, which have mostly been left behind.    Now, remote areas are starting to develop creating jobs and offering alternatives to young workers who once were forced to travel thousands of miles for jobs on the coast.    According to Goldman Sachs and other experts, the beginnings of a demographic shift have already been reducing the number of young people between the ages of 15 and 24, who make up much of the migrant labour work force. Similarly, the number of women between the ages of 18 and 35 began falling this year, according to census data.    The women are critical as China's factories like to hire many women from the countryside, who have been willing to migrate for three-tofive-year stints to earn money before returning home with cash and fresh hopes of finding a marriage partner.    China's one-child policy is also aggravating the shortages. With the first generation of young people born under the one-child policy now emerging from postsecondary education, many of them see varied opportunities not available to an earlier generation. (image placeholder)   Economists may continue to debate the severity of the shortages, but there is little doubt that the waves of migrants who once came to the booming coastal provinces are diminishing. As a result, manufacturers are starting to look for other places to produce goods.

NYT News Service

The Software Out There

This news article appeared in TOI/Mumbai.6th April,2006.
The news clearly shows power of collaborating efforts.
The Software Out There
By John Markoff

The internet is entering its Lego era. Indeed, blocks of interchangeable software components are proliferating on the web and developers are joining them together to create a potentially infinite array of useful new programs. This new software represents a marked departure from the inflexible, at times unwieldy, programs of the past, which were designed to run on individual computers. As a result, computer industry innovation is rapidly becoming decentralised. In the place of large, intricate and self-contained programs like Microsoft Word, written and maintained by armies of programmers, smaller companies, with just a handful of developers, are now producing pioneering software and web-based services. These new services can be delivered directly to PCs or even to cellphones. Bigger companies are taking note. For example, Google last month bought Writely, a webbased word-processing program created by three Silicon Valley programmers. Eric Schmidt, the Google chief executive, said that Google did not buy the program to compete against Microsoft Word. Rather, he said, it viewed Writely as a key component in hundreds of products it is now developing. These days, there are inexpensive or free software components speeding the process. Amazon recently introduced an online storage service called S3, which offers data storage for a monthly fee of 15 cents a gigabyte. That frees a programmer building a new application or service on the internet from having to create a potentially costly data storage system. Google now offers eight programmable components—elements that other programmers can turn into new web services—including web search, maps, chat and advertising. Yahoo! offers a competing lineup of programmable services, including financial information and photo storage. Microsoft has followed quickly with its own offerings through its new Windows Live Web service. Smaller companies are also beginning to share their technology with outside programmers to leverage their competitive positions., a fast-growing company that until recently simply offered a web-based support application for sales personnel, published standards for interconnecting to its software not too long ago. That made it possible for developers inside and outside the company to add powerful abilities to its core products and create new ones from scratch. One result is that sales representatives using Salesforce’s customer relationship management software to organise their workday can now make telephone calls using Skype, the popular internet service, without leaving the Salesforce software. The idea of modular software, where standard components can be easily linked together to build more elaborate systems, first emerged in Europe during the 1960s and spread to Silicon Valley in the 70s. Despite its promise, however, modular software has generally been limited by corporate strategies that have held customers and other programmers hostage to proprietary systems. Those limitations have eased almost overnight, mostly because of the open-source software movement, which promotes making information available to everyone. The shift toward sharing, which in its grandest conception has been termed Web 2.0, has touched off a frenzy of software design and startup activity not seen since the demise of the dot-com era six years ago. “These tools are changing the basic core economics of software development,” said Tim Bray, director of web technologies at Sun Microsystems and one of the designers of a powerful set of internet conventions known as Extensible Markup Language, or XML, which make it simple and efficient to exchange digital data over the Internet. By lowering the cost of software development and thus the barriers to entering both existing and new markets, modular software is putting tremendous pressure on the corporations that have dominated the software industry. It is also affecting Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists. Start-ups have begun to bypass the venture capital firms, relying instead on individual investors, called “angels,” or out-ofpocket financing, largely because new ventures are not as expensive. In many cases, the start-ups do not even require the traditional Silicon Valley garage. The new companies are “virtual,” and programmers work from home, relying on nothing more than a personal computer and a broadband Internet connection. Early examples of the trend were tiny companies with significant ideas, like the consumer internet software start-ups Flickr, a web-based photo-sharing site, and, which makes it possible for web surfers to categorise and share things they find on the internet. Both were acquired last year by Yahoo. For some, the new era of lightweight, lightning-fast software design is akin to a guerrilla movement rattling the walls of stodgy corporate development organisations. “They stole our revolution and now we’re stealing it back and selling it to Yahoo,” said Bruce Sterling, an internet commentator.
NYT News Service

Corporates bypass traffic, virtually

Corporates bypass traffic, virtually

Execs Cut Down On Travel, Interact Through Videoconferencing
By Darlington Jose Hector and R Raghavendra/TNN

Bangalore: When the intellectual capital is stuck in traffic, technology can bail you out. For proof, one just has to look at what Bangalore corporates are doing to speed past dead traffic. While biggies like Biocon and IBM have resorted to using Skype, a software which enables free calls over the internet, Wipro and Infosys are increasingly relying on videoconferencing to avoid jam-packed roads. Every month about 3,500 new vehicles are added on to Bangalores roads, which is already brimming over with vehicular traffic. With most corporates located far down Whitefield, Sarjapur and Hosur Roads, there is only a slim chance that one can catch up with a client in the central business district, and then go back to office to complete the days work. Hence, corporates are innovating to make sure that business does not suffer. At least no one wants to lose out on an opportunity just because of traffic chaos in the city. IBM has developed its own teleconferencing tool called the OnDemand Workplace, which can be highly customised to specific teams. With nearly seven locations across town, video and teleconferencing are the best way to communicate. In fact, this is so effective that we even sell it as a solution to our clients, said an IBM spokesperson. Wipro also utilises videoconferencing and teleconferencing big time. The IT bellwether is present across 14 locations within Bangalore and they have people handling the same accounts sitting at different locations. Hari Hegde, VP (operations support), Wipro, says: “We have found that usage of teleconferencing has doubled in Wipro in the last one year.” Biocon has been utilising Skype to good effect. According to company chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Skype has helped Biocon to cut down on travel, enabling executives to focus on important issues. According to Shaw, the calls have excellent sound quality and are highly secure. Smaller companies which do not have access to videoconferencing, are utilising avenues like professional web outlets. Reliance Infocomm CEO (Karnataka) Viney Singh says 90% of his videoconferencing business comes from Bangalore corporates who want to avoid peak traffic. People want to sip a drink, and converse over a conference call. The traffic is not something they want to deal with.

New terminology helps people come to terms with a wired age

New terminology helps people come to terms with a wired age
By Lisa Belkin
People are coming up with new terminology to deal with a wired (and wireless) age. And they have names for many of the new concepts in the wired world. The longest list comes from Eve Fox (I can fit only part of it here), a VP for electronic campaigns at M&R Strategic Services in Washington, who suggests a whole new language. She calls it "Blang,'' as in "Web language,'' and says it is spoken by "Web wraiths'' Tolkienesque creatures ( i.e., most of us) who feel chained to their computers day and night. Other Blang words include: Cybermoment: Confusion that arises when one person closes an instant-messaging window and the other person keeps "talking.'' Cylences: The long gaps in phone conversation that occur when a person is reading e-mail or cybershopping at the same time. Stripped: The opposite of wired, when your computer tells you that there are wireless networks all around, but not one is accessible without a password, or when your computer tells you it has a signal, but won't connect for reasons it refuses to share. Schoogle: A popular pastime, consisting of Googling the names of old classmates. Johnny Wong, a PR consultant from California, suggests "Unamailer'' to describe "someone who replies to e-mail with one-word responses. Right. Good. Thanks.'' Ray Symmes, a business consultant in Portsmouth suggests a simi lar term. "BlackBerried,'' he writes, is "a short and possibly patronising response to a thoughtful e-mail, suggesting it was received on a mobile device: 'Good anal. of world hunger. thks.' '' David Bernklau, a freelance copy editor and sometime statistics instructor from Brooklyn, is distressed at what passes for grammar and syntax online. "Cyberdysgraphia'' is his word to de scribe the use of the internet, especially e-mail, "without regard to grammar, punctuation and capitalisation.'' I can only imagine how cyberdysgraphics would botch the spelling of cyberdysgraphia. From Sesha Kalapatapu, a Houston lawyer, comes "chimping,'' which describes the hunched-over, thumb-tapping action of a BlackBerry obsessive. Kalapatapu notes that he got the phrase from his wife, who got it from a professor at the University of Michigan, who learned it from his teenage daughter, who uses it to describe text-messaging under the desk during class. Scott Freiman, for one, runs Second Act Studio in Irvington, New York, where he composes and edits sound for film. Among his suggestions: Earburst: A sharp pain in the ear caused by accidentally hitting the volume control on your iPod. Can also be caused by cellphone distortion. Capitalia: Using only capital letters in e-mail, as if sending telegrams. Wirenia: A hernia caused by carrying too many mobile devices on your belt. Richard Ellenson, too, feels fondness for technology even as he suggests the word Google-icious to describe the selfabsorbed pride people feel when Googling themselves. But the last word in this review of words belongs to Michael Levy, director of travel training for the New York City Transit Authority, who is legally blind. "The cyberworld appropriates words from other contexts," he writes. "The word 'virtuoso' comes to mind. It could now mean somebody who is more comfortable in the virtual world than in the real world.'' NYT News Service

(Times of India/Mumbai/24.04.2006/pg31)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

This one appeared today ie. 17th April 2006 in Mumbai Mirror.
We have been hearing & reading about robots but it is now that the world has started using robots increasing in non-industrial settings.

Birth of a robot

Medical institutes around the world are opting for robots to teach students, rather than using a real patient, there by lowering the risk of serious mistakes
Noelle’s given birth in Afghanistan, California and dozens of points in between. She’s a lifelike, pregnant robot used in increasing numbers of medical schools and hospital maternity wards. The full-sized, blond, pale mannequin is in demand because medicine is rapidly abandoning centuries-old training methods that use patients as guinea pigs, turning instead to high-tech simulations. It’s better to make a mistake on a $20,000 (Rs 9,00,400 approx) robot than a live patient. “We’re trying to engineer out some of the errors,” said Dr Paul Preston, an anaesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente and architect of the hospital chain’s 4-year-old pregnancy-care training program, in which Noelle plays a starring role. “We steal shamelessly from everybody and everywhere that has good training programs.” Noelle is manufactured by Gaumard Scientific Co, other companies make lifelike mannequins to train paramedics in emergencies too. But Noelle appears to be the only high-tech, pregnant model available.

Noelle models range from a $3,200 (Rs 1,44,064 approx) basic version to a $20,000 (Rs 9,00,400 approx) computerised Noelle that best approximates a live birth. She can be programmed for a variety of complications and for cervix dilation. She can labour for hours and produce a breach baby or unexpectedly give birth in a matter of minutes. She ultimately delivers a plastic doll that can change colours, from a healthy pink glow to the deadly blue of oxygen deficiency. The baby mannequin is wired to flash vital signs when hooked up to monitors. The computerised mannequins emit realistic pulse rates and can urinate and breathe. “If she is bleeding, there will be ample blood in evidence everywhere,” Preston said one ra

Microscopic motor

Nonotechnologies are technologies where characteristics are embedded on a molecular basis.

Nanotechnologies, although not yet visible except in making silicon chips, are going to change our lives in the years to come.

This story / news appeared in TIMES OF INDIA, Mumbai Edition dt.15th April 2006.

Microscopic motor for world’s smallest car

Last year scientists announced they had made the smallest car ever, a moleculesized vehicle that rolled on tiny wheels. But what good is a car without a motor? In another feat in the effort to truly downsize Detroit, the researchers have now installed a miniature, light-powered motor in their diminutive automobile. The nanocar is about as wide as a strand of DNA. Roughly 20,000 of them could park side-by-side in a lot no wider than a human hair. Such small devices will one day be used to transport drugs to specific destinations inside the human body, researchers say. They could also be used to manufacture tiny factories or help run miniscule computers. For now, the itty bitty cars are largely an exercise in nano-construction, a way to test assembly methods and materials. “We want to construct things from the bottom up, one molecule at a time, in much the same way that biological cells use enzymes to assemble proteins and other supermolecules,” said lead researcher James Tour of Rice University. The motor was developed by Ben Feringa at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. - Agencies




I am currently doing a dissertation for my M.Phil. (Future Studies) and my topic is " THE TRAJECTORIES OF TECHNOLOGY IMPACT ON WORKING ENVIRONMENT".

I have created this blog as a tool for gathering the latest news as appearing in Times of India (Mumbai Edition), which I can use in my dissertation for supporting arguments.

If any one can provide help in the form of news or article contribution or help in locating the resources will be highly appreciated.