< September 2006 >
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Tue, 26 Sep 2006:

I was feeling really bored, so I wrote this greasemonkey script - nocomments.user.js.

Should be enough, I suppose.

This game lends itself to certain abuses.
             --- Calvin

posted at: 18:06 | path: /hacks | permalink | Tags: ,

Jargon is the refuge of the elitist, but I will stoop to it - to hide behind a word, my ideas. Performance Inversion is that dark fate that awaits a "Can Do" person in the hands of an unscrupulous [1] taskmaster. Something dark and deadly which destroys your work ethic and pushes you ever closer to a burn out, while still under-utilizing your real talents. In relatively mild quantities, the problem solves itself, thanks to that great human ability to forget. But for some more unfortunate souls, it throws them into a bottomless pit of effort, in a spiral of work and more work.

Performance: You are stepping into an existing team, filling someone else's boots. Invariably, your first few weeks will be typical bootcamp. You are pushed to deliver and most of us, do deliver in that initial phase putting in extra effort in return for the manager's confidence. But having gained the confidence and trust, the work cycle settles down into a more sustainable load, by mutual consent from both parties.

Distribution: Not everybody in the team works at the same levels of productivity. There are a few who have bursts of extreme results, while some of the more settled folks deliver a constant, steady stream of work. Most managers would like a decent mixture, so they have enough afterburner fuel in the former while the latter keeps chugging. Work comes in and the work load sort of averages out for everyone, a few extra bits given & taken, in general everyone ending up with their fair share - no more, no less.

"Can Do" XPloited: The former category of "in reserve" people are those who are more commonly known as "Can Do" people. Nobody sane (or at least has heard of "Mythical Man Month") will dare to plan for these people to work at full throttle. But a few still break this cardinal principle to keep the wolf off the door, for a few months more. After all, what good are developer resources, if not for working.

'Tis an act of betrayal, worthy of Macbeth and more. But unlike the lady of the play, the blood seems to wash right off the hands - maybe she should've tried the sweat and tears of engineers, instead of perfumes from arabia. Anyway, if someone had yelled out "abort mission!" at that point, I'd shake them by the hand and buy them lunch. For otherwise they have to be eternal optimists who never learn (incompetent) or of the feudal weasel family, whose concern for the serfs is legendary - either way, let them expense lunch.

Blame Spread Thick: Having been told to do the impossible, the developer has a faint idea that he/she is going to be pushed to the very limits of his/her ability. In some sense, the "Can Do" people enjoy that experience. But then something goes wrong, some dependency fails to deliver, the whole plan's a pile of toilet paper as far as the project's concerned. And a landslide of backlogs land on the developer's shoulder and the difficult task becomes mission impossible (where work should've been a walk in the park instead). To compound insult to injury, he/she is called in by senior management to explain the delays. Watching the man responsible for the mess (in your opinion) sit on the other side of the table with a reproachful look, doubting your commitment, is too much for anyone with a straight backbone to bear.

Character Shows: But you still eat crow, swallow the remnants of your self-respect and buckle down. You work insane hours, on weekends, skip meals, eat junk food and work work work. By an amazing coincidence, you manage to drag the entire module back on schedule, mainly by doing the dependencies yourself and doing QA's job when you're done coding. Having got your workload to a manageable level, you wait for the release, the associated kudos and a general pat in the back.

Inversion: And when you think it can't get any worse, it does. So the boss shows up at your cube, and says "Ummm,yeah ... $_nameless_ is quite behind schedule. You're the only one ahead of your tasks, so I'm moving a bit of work off to you". Not only are you not getting credit for finishing your work, but you are getting more work just because you keep doing it. All this while, $_nameless_ has been shirking work, lazing about in the food court and generally enjoying life. So, faced with the basic injustice of the situation and remembering the last lecture about "communication", you walk back up to your boss's office and enunciate - "No, I'm not doing that". Boss takes offense to your "Not my job" reply and lectures for half-hour on team work and "one for all, all for one" philosophy.

Final Straw: For an external observer (such as middle management), in a matter of months, you've gone from being a "Can Do" whiz kid to becoming a whiner who says "No" to work. They just can't comprehend why or how of the scenario and decide to take strong steps to discourage this behavior. In response to your glowing achievements on your self appraisal, they write out a "negative attitude to work" and give you an average hike. Your complaints to HR fall on deaf ears, used to listening to employees bitching about pay, quote salary parity to ignore you. Of course, the boss probably got a good hike for managing with (*sic*) employees like you. The inversion discontent spiral is now complete.

In a few short steps, one person has gone from being an excellent employee to someone who's polishing up their resumes. But the really sad part is that as long as the real offender is not punished, this developer is only one among a long line of people whose work ethic will be destroyed totally by mismanagement. There are a few other branches and variants to the above scenario, some worse, some better, but they all end up in the same gutter anyway.

All this only goes on to prove why I think of management as a dark art of sorts. It requires a lot of finesse and panache to pull it off, rather than mere authority behind you. You can't convert any average joe from a tech lead into a manager, at least not into a good one. There is a certain Je ne sais quoi which sets apart the good ones from the average ones. So if you have a good manager, you don't know what you're missing

And for the record - I only observe, I don't interfere.

[1] - Hanlon's Razor:
                Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny.
               -- Frank Hubbard

posted at: 17:42 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,

Mon, 25 Sep 2006:

'Tis time I ended journalling this trip.

The trip to Nubra Valley had taken a day less than we had expected, so the previous night had been mostly wasted in bed. So we were up early on 28th morning and were ready before 8:15. And Janina, who'd taken the same jeep with us from Manali, joined us on this trip, along with another girl. She turned out to be scottish and was doing a thesis on attitude differences across the generations in ladakh. We headed towards likir, only pausing to visit Pathar Sahib and a couple of stops where the Zanskar meets Indus.

Likir proved to be a tiny village on the Indus valley, all green and gold with fields of Alfa-Alfa. The gonpa is on a hilltop, with a golden buddha statue. The statue is known as Buddha Coming or something like that, because the statue's feet touch the ground instead of being the usual cross-legged position.

Post Likir, we headed along the Indus river bank to Thingmosgang, passing through but not stopping at Bazgo. Thingmosgang is a small picturesque village, nestled in a valley protected by the elements and fed by meltwater from the glaciers above. The gonpa was deserted, but the view from the top was beyond words. You are struck speechless by beauty of the green fields and terraces, from the vantage point of the monastery.

After we passed out of Thingmosgang, passing through Saspol, we stopped over at Khalstse, which is where our driver was from. Except for the three kids running around, the lunch was completely uneventful. We reached Lamayuru, in the late evening. The monastery is very visibly alive, with kids playing cricket in their saffron robes of monkhood.

We all climbed to the top of the hill on which Lamayuru stands and decided to watch the sunset from the summit. A couple of officers on an evening walk approached us, while we were up there. The officer, of the Sikhla (?) regiment advised us to go back through the Kashmir valley instead of back via Leh. The sunsets so far have been hardly anything to write home about and this one was no different.

We headed back to our rooms before it got too dark and tried to find us some grub. But after a bit of wandering, we decided that the best option we had was to eat at the guesthouse we were in.

I woke up early, though not early enough to attend the morning puja. Since we had plans to visit Bazgo and Alchi on the way back, we hurried out of Lamayuru. But we were stopped mid-way by some blasting work that was going on. After nearly an hour of dilly-dallying, we were finally let through and we proceeded to Alchi gonpa.

Alchi is probably one of the oldest gonpas we visited, so far. Photography was generally discouraged, which was perfectly OK with me there. The road to Alchi, however was quite interesting, it was almost absolute ruler straight, with a nice fork in the road to the monastery. And there was green barley all around the place. We found a nice restaurant with a view and sat down to eat a late lunch.

After heading out of Alchi, we retraced our steps to Bazgo. Bazgo looks like a mud fort in ruins, but when you look closer you can see the solid blocks of stone over which centuries of plastering has created the appearance of soft mud. It is being restored and most of it was closed for us. But the structure did leave a sense of awe about people who'd build such a structure in such an inaccessible place.

After all our adventures in Kargil district, we headed back to Leh to civilization, warm beds and honey lemon ginger tea. But the trip back was no less enchanting in the fading evening light.

After some butter tea, darpu and a bit of shopping, headed back to the hotel for dinner. I'd had bought some Yak cheese to bring back to Bangalore, dried apricots and a jar of apricot jam. Our dinner was hot maggi noodles, with a lot of vegetables. We bid adieu to our fellow travellers and hit the sacks early.

And then we took the flight to Delhi. End of journey.

What makes the universe so hard to comprehend is that there's nothing to compare it with.

posted at: 12:19 | path: /travels | permalink | Tags: , ,

We started off late with me waking up first, at 9 AM. But by ten O'clock we'd had breakfast and were ready to roll. The cab came to us after picking up everybody else. After leaving Leh at around 10:30, we spent the next two hours steadily climbing uphill to 18,380 feetto the highest motorable road in the world - Khardung La. Unfortunately, it has been converted into a touristy place with families and grandmothers climbing up melting snow or sliding down pulling down two sons, one holding each hand.

I did climb up to the top of the peak, nearby. The snow was slippery and I walked up by digging my heel in with each step into the snow. The way up was the easy part, as I would discover later. The view from the top wasn't that different, but I'm easy to please when mountains are concerned. I was feeling euphoric and was slowly making my way down when I realized that there was a faster path down than walking. I went down that hill sitting on my left foot and steering with my right heel. After all that excitement and a cup of cinnamon tea later, we headed downhill into Nubra valley.

The word Nubra means green and the valley was only slowly turning green under the bright summer sun. The glimpses of green in the valley was amazing after the dry desolation on the other side of the mountain range. We kept moving till we got to the village of Khalsar, which was our designated lunch spot.

In the village of Khalsar, I had the most amazing momos I have ever had. They were soya momos and with a simple chutney. I don't know if it was just because we were hungry, but we gobbled up as many momos as the lady could bake. After lunch, we headed out to the Shyok and Nubra confluence, which we would cross to reach Diskit. The bridge across the river is small, yet controlled by army personell.

Finally, we ended up in Diskit and dumped out bags and stuff at a slightly upmarket place called Olthang. While Vinayak & Co were visiting the gonpa nearby, I went walking along the streams which passed near our hotel. Rishi , on the other hand, was watching kids throw water at passing vehicles. One german lady who got wet, also got indignant. Probably needed a camera for the moment when she asked Rishi - are you a monk ?. After all this fun, we headed out for the dunes of Hundar before it became too dark.

Hundar is a stretch of sand dunes, with a stream (or river) flowing through the middle. After the standard shoes off operations, we had a few chases up the sheer slope of a dune. The sand was hard rock sand, quite unlike the beach sand I'm familiar with. Walking barefoot was probably a bad idea as I ended up hobbling across the thorny bushes on the way back. But more than compensated for that by just letting myself go into the warm (not cold) water. After a bit of splashing around, we headed back to the warm beds of the hotel.

27th June: At around 7 AM, I was woken up by the driver. He wasn't upto date with our plans and I was too sleepy to explain. Two hours later, all of us slowly started waking up. After a slush bowl of corn flakes with hot milk, we all pulled ourselves together and moved onto to the other side of the valley. We had to go halfway till Khalsar before we'd take the other fork in the road which would take us to Sumur and Pangmik.

After going down the Khalsar loops down to the valley floor, we passed through Sumur towards Panamik. Panamik is probably the northernmost point in Indian soil that I can put foot without a military permit and escort. The hot springs of Panamik, though were a disappointment. The springs were literally trickles down the hill with the smell of ammonia and algae covering the entire stream bed. But the top of the hill gave us an excellent view of the valley below.

After visiting the Sumur gonpa, we bid adieu to Nubra valley and began our return to Khardung La. We stopped over at Khalsar yet again to have lunch, but the momos had run out. As evening set in, the air was shimmering with the fading light of the summer day. We climbed up into the upper reaches of the mountain, racing against the clock. Since our plans had included a third day in Nubra valley intially, we were sort of cutting it close by shrinking it to a two day trip.

We went up Khardung la, just minutes before 5 'O clock. The entire snow cap was bright with the late evening light. As we watched the mountain grow bigger and bigger, we could see the thin line the hand of man had scratched on this mighty mountain - the scar line of a surfaced road. And up we went.

K-Top was nearly deserted when we arrived. There wasn't any of the swarms of tourists we had seen on the way up. After the customary cup of chai, we took our trip downwards and onto the warm comfy beds in Leh. Our trip to Nubra valley was a couple of hours short of completion. Not here the red and orange glows of the sea shore, but the the golden sun was turning the mountainside into a veritable feast for the eyes.

A dinner that went wrong, though the food was ok when it eventually arrived, and the day ended as it began - with me in a bed.

If the grass is greener on the other side, there's obviously more shit there.

posted at: 12:14 | path: /travels | permalink | Tags: , ,

Wed, 20 Sep 2006:

Currently, I am totally struggling with APC's shm memory. Usually with most memory issues, the system cleanly segfaults. But when the memory is part of a 128 MB mmap() area, a couple of bytes here or there show up way too late in the debug operations to detect and fix.

Now, a lot of the allocator code has things which allocate n bytes + sizeof(header) and return the allocated area - sizeof(header). The problem is that my previous watchpoints code cannot differentiate between these two, unless I put an explicit watchpoint on the location. Not to mention, it has no concept of free operation in conjuction with the original block.

Digging around in valgrind code, I found an elegant answer to the problem - VALGRIND_MALLOCLIKE_BLOCK and VALGRIND_MAKE_NOACCESS. Here's a mocked up version of my code, which seems to work out.

#include <valgrind/valgrind.h>
#include <valgrind/memcheck.h>

void *  alloc(size_t n) 
	void* x = malloc(n + 42);
	x = (unsigned char *)x + 42;
	return x;
void dealloc(void * ptr)
	free(ptr - 42);
int main() 
	size_t n = 200;
	char * a = alloc(n);
	a[0] = '1';
	a[-1] = 'x';

Now, the valgrind has red-zones, which are like canaries or sentinels for memory over-writes. I haven't figured out quite how to use them, but this should be enough right now, I think.

==28706== Invalid write of size 1
==28706==    at 0x80484ED: main (x.c:23)
==28706==  Address 0x4025051 is 41 bytes inside a block of size 242 alloc'd

And the line 23 is the a[-1]. Valgrind is just amazing. Ever since I've hit up on this tool, I've found that my debugging life is a lot easier. Now, to reproduce original bug and nail that son of a b*tch :)

They separate the right from the left, the man from the woman, the plant from the animal,
the sun from the moon. They only want to count to two.
                -- Emma Bull, "Bone Dance

posted at: 15:44 | path: /hacks | permalink | Tags: ,

Last weekend, I was holed up in Delhi attending (and giving a talk) at Freedel. I had given a talk at Freedel 2005 , which generally swooshed over everybody's head and left me disappointed. So this time, I'd picked a dead easy topic which I couldn't miss with - gimp plugins.

Me and premshree arrived there in an evening flight. I had picked the 4 PM flight, so that I could see the sunset from the flight and it was just to die for. To see the clouds outlined by the red borders of golden sunlight, was quite a sight. We were missing our mini cameras, unable to load up the big Nikon while flying. But let us forget the trip and focus on the take-homes from the conferences. Here are a few.

* inside airport
Premshree: Man, Delhi women are *hot*

* few minutes later, outside
Premshree: Shit, Delhi is *hot*

And yes, it was hot & humid.

FUNK: And a new keyword was born, been a while since Awesomeness. Now the latest cool (I mean, funk) word to say is - Funk. It has become literally the new F-word. All thanks to Premshree's diligent effort at shoe horning this word into any sentence in need for wordless words. So the whole funk conference was the total funk.

Then we had a couple of memorable quotes from cray3. The first one being the polite motto ("STFU, please") on her laptop as well as the "The daemons are no longer just in my head". But the "We will not be serving snakes on this plane" deserves first prize for the hinglish accent jokes.

Me and Premshree were staying at Kishore's place. And during a l33tness war during the party at OldMonk's place, Kishore won a few brownie points by asking - "And tcpdump is your mail client ?". Short of pissing off the organizers, we'd pulled off a GNUnify, topping the "Our sysadmin is a cron-job" by a few heads. OldMonk had a couple of quotes to his name as well, but I'll desist from mentioning them in such polite circles - very apt, but truly OldMonk.

And for the very first time, the audience clapped when my demo worked, rather than the respectful silence I'd been used to. So all in all, I'm glad to have talked ... I mean, funked out at this conference. Next year, it is going to be in Feb, which should prove to be cooler and even more funkier :).


Take my advice, take the next flight,
And grow some funk, grow your funk at home.
                -- Elton John, "Grow Some Funk of Your Own"

posted at: 09:22 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , ,

One of the lamest hacks, we've ever done is something called Debt-o-Matic. I know spo0nman has already blogged about this, but there's more to this hack than meets the eye. To start with, this was the first hack which went from decision to action in around twenty minutes. And then we *designed*.

Through out this period, I was being active and generally bouncing around. Sad to say, but I was the product manager for the hack - doing little and suggesting a lot. But I redeemed myself by producing a kick-ass logo for for our hack. And after all that, we finally had ourselves a product before the morning dawned and an idea left to finish.

Remember the good old days in college where we used to adjust debts by transferring debts around ? We wrote up something which would find circles of debt and remove the smallest amount from all of them, by virtually circulating it. Not rocket science, but useful as this system can do it automatically. But stating privacy concerns, we cut down that to a A -> B -> C scenario, which is trimmed into an A -> C scenario.

We never got around to building the audit trail and details view stuff because it was getting late for our flight to Delhi. And off we went, leaving teemus to submit the hack, but there still was nobody to present it.

In short, we had fun.

Forgetfulness, n.:
        A gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.

posted at: 00:42 | path: /yblr | permalink | Tags: , ,

Tue, 19 Sep 2006:

Maybe I was a bit too hasty to conclude, about spo0man's fate on saturday. The system does indeed work, though only on weekdays, which is evident in the prompt action on monday. Spo0nman is currently sitting in Belgium, re-working his slides. And true to form, he's bitching about something.

<spo0nman> t3rmin4t0r: you'd think that EuroOSCON would atleast have bandwidth
<t3rmin4t0r> spo0nman, you just validated my comment
<t3rmin4t0r> "Get the best and then bitch about it"
<spo0nman> t3rmin4t0r, its grey and cold.

Now to pretend that my blog had something do with it ... NOT.

I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.

posted at: 18:11 | path: /yblr | permalink | Tags: ,

Mon, 18 Sep 2006:

Rob Levin of freenode is no more. But lilo still lives on over the wires of irc for us.

[freenode] /who lilo
* * i=levin freenode/staff/pdpc.levin irc.freenode.net lilo G :0 Rob Levin
A man’s not dead while his name is still spoken.
                          -- Terry Pratchett (Going Postal)

posted at: 14:51 | path: /misc | permalink | Tags: ,

Sat, 16 Sep 2006:

We all sat down a couple of nights back to work on a hack - the Debt-o-Matic. But for spo0nman to have not written "I am going out of the country" in that entry, he would have had to be clairvoyant. He was headed for Euro-OSCON 2006 to talk about Nagios and about monitoring servers easily. Something he's thoroughly qualified to talk on, having done it day in & day out in the trenches, the on-call hard-hat in place, with a pager in one hand and laptop in other.

But right now, instead of packing his bags for his flight, he's in Delhi sweating it out (yeah, it is hot today) at Freedel with the rest of ILUG-D. With a visa, tickets blocked, hotels booked and yet he's not going to be on a flight tonight, polishing up his slides for the talk.

Nobody can force anybody else to pay up, but when an offer to pay for the tickets out of his own pocket is rejected, it repels me to even speculate about the reasons behind the rejection. If there is a financial crunch and the budget is trim, I can understand denying sponsorship for an employee going overseas. But if your own hard earned money isn't good enough to fix this, I don't know what is.

All said and done, the flight starts in 6 odd hours from now and he still hasn't got any tickets, despite the offer to pay for it from his own pocket. Personally I'd be happy to add my month's savings to that kitty as well, mainly because it is a matter of principle. A direct NO for the proposal at the outset would've been acceptable, but such a tease hurts like nothing else.

In all probability, his blocked tickets have expired by now and cannot be issued. And any attempt to escalate the issue will also probably have to wait till monday morning, which is when Euro-OSCON kicks off. All of which leaves hardly any point in the standard "Patience, my friend" from the-system-works-but-slowly department. Truly, sometimes justice delayed can be justice denied.

But the corollary to all this is even scarier. After all, if it could happen to him, it can happen to me. Go forward a few hypothetical months, substitute me for him and LCA for Euro-OSCON ... you get the point.

In conclusion - WTF !!!! ?.

The average nutritional value of promises is roughly zero.

posted at: 18:52 | path: /rants | permalink | Tags: , , ,

Sun, 10 Sep 2006:
Q: What are you rebelling against ?

A: What've you got ?

But I understand.

Rebellion lay in his way, and he found it.
                -- William Shakespeare, "Henry IV"

posted at: 17:01 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: ,

Tue, 05 Sep 2006:

APC released version 3.0.12. Because I've been sitting at home, close to a well stocked refrigerator and with no pool table in walkable distance, I've got a fair bit of work done on APC [1].

And some out of this world patches in the pipeline too.

Is it better to abide by the rules until they're changed or help speed the change by breaking them ?

posted at: 10:11 | path: /php | permalink | Tags: , ,

Nobody expected Steve Irwin would be killed by anything other than an aussie salt water croc [1]. I mean, this was the man who'd put down Eaten By Croc down on his epitaph by choice - struggling with crocdilians in all four continents. And it was quite a surprise when I woke up to this news that he was dead, from a sting ray barb through his heart [2] - a very painful way to die, indeed.

For someone who'd maintained a general irreverance to nature's deadliest creatures (most of which live in Australia, by some weird coincidence), I personally thought him to have aura of invincibility - a firm confidence that these animals mean him no harm, even when they were capable of snapping him into two bits without even trying. Crocodile Hunter wasn't just a nature documentary, it was reality tv with stunts and a fair bit of nature thrown in.

His antics might not have won him any respect from other wildlife experts, but he did manage to get a whole new generation interested in wildlife. If you watched a David Attenborough documentary about spiders and saw a spider in your backyard, you probably wouldn't hesistate to smush it out of existence. But if you'd watched a Steve Irwin special, you'd go looking for someone to throw it out. This guy put animals in your backyard, robbed them of their dignity and in some strange way, let us empathise with the animals. To the less ecologically sensitive masses, he put animals in a different perspective - one that made sense to them.

I'm sure he died doing what he loved, talking about things which could kill you, and him. I mean, I think that Douglas Adams is probably sitting up there wondering why he had to die while on the way to gym. Steve's got it much better, in comparison. Though it's Crocodiles:0 Stingrays:1 right now.

With condolences to Terri & the kids. Rest in Peace, mate.

[1] - /private/gator-baiter.avi

When I die, I want to be hit by a meteorite while I'm coding.

posted at: 01:21 | path: /misc | permalink | Tags: ,

Mon, 04 Sep 2006:

One of the rarest of the rare species that inhabit cubicles is that creature of myth and legend - the Team Player. Often naturalists hiding behind indoor plants near the watering holes of employees claim to have encountered the creature in the wild. But they are probably mistaken or lying, because it is widely accepted that no fossil evidence has been found past the piled carcasses of the Y2K mass extinction event. Ever since the job atmosphere has lost its ozone layer of job security, most of these magnificient creatures have succumbed to cancerous career growths or perished in hibernation between jobs.

Jokes aside, I'm here to debunk the myth of the team player. To study and expose the nature, being, migration patterns and if time permits, the mating habits of the common team player which is endemic to air conditioned cubicles of software companies.

For a borrowed concept from professional sports, the team player label has undergone a sea change before it has been used to describe a software engineer. Rather than deride the noble concept, which embiggens the smallest man, the target is the namesake euphemism which has replaced it in corporate vocabulary.

Managing a software project is no walk in the park and if Mythical Man Month is any indication, is often contrary to conventional wisdom. Essentially, most of the problems stem from one single assumption - that software is an industrial product. Building software is unlike any other industrial process and is more of a research & development activity than an assembly line of coders assembling components. Allowances have to be made for dead end attempts, work done to maintain status quo (aka Backward Compat), regressions and other anomalies.

Programmers, by definition, are only human. And humans have good days, off days and then those days when it doesn't pay to get out of bed. The productivity of a programmer is bursty and unpredictable. But predicting that is exactly what all the money in management is all about - creating schedules, timelines, plans and bullet points. And they'd rather have their task made easier.

So it is obvious that a steady, yet low, throughput would be considered more suitable to the management principles adopted from the industrial revolution, rather than the odd week of lucidity separated by a fortnight of stupor. The brilliant programmer who works in bursts falls out of favour, while the predictable programmer is pushed forward. The moral of the Tortoise and the Hare is vindicated in this modern race, where the hare is caught napping, though the jury is still out on whether 'twas the management's inaction which let the hare sleep.

The team player has come to be a euphemism for such a slow and steady worker - predictable and absolutely devoid of hidden reserves & surprises. Someone who would rather move with the team rather than run ahead and look back at others. To make no exceptions and just keep on working, despite lack of motivation or support from above is the clinching quality of the newly defined team player.

To put it more bluntly, being a team player (in context) is not for the benefit of the team of peers, but functions primarily as yet another variable removed from the game of uncertainity that is management. The ease of control is why this group is encouraged to form and survive, even re-evolve in new circumstances. By whom ? Take a guess. And where the species is missing, others are dressed up in the robes of team play-dom, under the flag with the device SCRUM.

The moment the system favours such team-players over strong contributors, the team will quickly lose its edge and motivation. The balance has to be maintained to ensure that the average output of the whole group exceeds the sum of the parts.

Finally, all the above discussions treat team players from the cynical point of view. But just because you are not a team player in the eyes of your management does not make you not-a-team-player in the eyes of your peers. As long as you can have fun, while working with them, help those who struggle and in general, not let your ego rule your decisions, you'll be one of the team - truly.

Otherwise, you're just a team player.

Captain, a starship also runs on loyalty to one man.
And nothing can replace it or him.
                         -- Spock, "The Ultimate Computer"

posted at: 01:46 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,

Fri, 01 Sep 2006:

As I type out these words, I'm sitting in Trivandrum, a few minutes' drive away from Kerala's democractic power centre - the AKG centre. And if I read the weather right, everything is in place for Free Software to take educational and government institutions by storm. But this wind of changes wasn't a communist movement or empty promises in the wake of RMS' visit. Months before RMS visited or even the current government came to power, there were undercurrents in the administration towards using Linux (*sic*). Now, they might have been invisible to a lot of the readers of The New York Times, but I've certainly talked about it quite a few months back.

As you can see from the date of the Kairali Linux project, that it pre-dates the current communist government. The good news is actually, that the work done over the past year and a half is actually going into use, even though the power centres have shifted during the last election. The official, face of the whole exercise is CDIT's Open Source Technology Team and they seem like a sensible lot. The following excerpt is from their website :-

As a responsible Government organization, C-DIT does not
wish to involve in tirades against any particular company
nor wish to practice free software like a cult.

Take that, you commie blaming NYT news reporters, confusing a good decision with political opposition to big business. And there's yet a personal angle to it too - in November, I had in my hands a pair of installation CDs. Look at the pretty shrink wrapped software with a big GPL disclaimer on the back panel, price tagged 99 INR.

It also came with a manual titled (translated) - Swathanthra Software and GNU/Linux in malayalam by the Kerala Bhasha Institute and C-DIT. The document is in pretty good detail, explaining how to do simple wordprocessing to playing music or setting up dialup.

This is all on top of the educational reforms removing product specific tutorials from the syllabus and making them electives. Yes, they teach about Word Processors not Microsoft Word. Like somebody recently said, it is about the same as Home Appliance science - but with Oo.org, it at least doesn't come with an extra license fee per copy. Anyway, it's not like there's any engineering college here that doesn't use linux as part of the course curriculum.

Now, at lease one concerned mallu has expressed his concern about the government's policy on F/OSS tools. But I'm quite unconcerned [1] - the whole operation looks to be in very good hands indeed.

[1] Whenever I run into a strawman, I think about the Wizard of Oz.

I'm free -- and freedom tastes of reality.
               -- The Who

posted at: 23:54 | path: /rants | permalink | Tags: , ,