Prophesizing about it

I’m currently reading a book called Great French Short Stories. It is a collection of famous short stories by famous French authors. The first story is “The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaler” by Gustave Flaubert and I read it a few days ago. The story is interesting, if predictable. The main play of the story is between three competing prophesies, which all seem to come true, but as always, one is truer than the others. Now, prophesies are sometimes a very easy tool for authors to use. They’re a sort of Deus Ex Machina, making it easy to come to a foregone conclusion without much explanation. Of course, how much the author leans on the prophecy to cop out of writing the story is important, and Flaubert doesn’t lean too much. The story grows, largely ignoring the prophecies and silently fulfilling them, till the last and most important one.

This is where I feel there’s a flaw. Not in the story per se. The story is quite nice, but in… something.

See, I’ve mainly seen prophecies in science fiction and fantasy stories. In science fiction, prophecies are like ‘fixed points in time and space’, as Doctor Who calls them. They’re independent of external factors, least of all ‘God’. In fantasies, prophecies come from darker sources and often are convoluted. A prophecy may not get fulfilled in the exact way as it is said and the author often takes a roundabout way of explaining how the prophecy was indeed fulfilled. Anyone who’s read Harry Potter or watched Alt+Shift+X explanations of Game of Thrones knows this.

But Flaubert has written what to me seems to be religious fiction. In this, all prophecy and all of the story line flows ‘from God’ and thus, while the conclusion is inevitable (the title of the story is a strong hint for the ending), there is, for the longest time, the illusion of free will and coincidence in the story, thus leading to some chaos and some probabilistic chance that the prophecies might not get fulfilled. Flaubert shows off these vagaries beautifully, all the way up until a fatal line towards the end of the second part of the story. The line is –

Since there were no animals, he would willingly massacre humans.

Here’s my problem with this line –

  1. Flaubert has knowingly or unknowingly given away the climax. We all know what it’s coming to, thanks to the prophecy, but how and when would it happen is supposed to be a mystery all the way up till it happens. So why introduce this idea that since this did not happen, therefore, the prophecy will be fulfilled. We don’t need that!
  2. This line itself seems to show that there is no choice here. Yes, this moment is leading to the fulfillment of a prophecy, but till now, the protagonist fulfilled other prophecies unknowingly and as a side-effect of their actions. Why then, must this one prophecy need to be ‘set up’ and executed in this uncontrollable manner? Perhaps what Flaubert is showing is that this prophecy is controlled and executed by God and so there is no scope for variance. That it will happen just so, in hindsight. This line is why I want to put this story not in science fiction or fantasy or any of the other myriad forms of stories, but in religious fiction. The acts that follow are almost involuntary and directly cause the fulfillment of the prophecy, instead of indirectly, and after this, the only recourse available to the protagonist is repentance and turning towards God. It were much more natural if the entire story were unchanged and this one line removed, because in my eyes, this story tells us that God has directed this evil of “massacring humans” in order to then redeem the protagonist. Why must the rest of the story be by chance and natural while this part is supernaturally controlled?

People who have read this story, what are your thoughts on this?

 

Side note – Once every year or so, I remember that a long time ago, I purchased a device called the “Chromebook Mario” from someone on eBay when I was living in Boulder. He did not seem to have any use for it and wanted to part with it simply because one of the keys was broken and that somehow made the device ‘less pristine’. I got it for cheap. I remember that I still have it, so I find it, charge it, fire it up and play around with it. I do a lot of things in the browser, but not everything, so it can never be my primary device. It’s just an interesting thing to play with. What surprises me is that every time I fire it up, it has updates for me and yet, every time, the speed and performance I get from ChromeOS seems to not have changed. My logins change and need syncing, my extensions change and need setting up, and then I reboot the device to update the software.

But it comes back quickly and works like a charm! Kudos to Google for making this excellent device and supporting it for so long (I currently own a Mac on which Chrome specifically warns me that the browser version I’m running is no longer supported and I need to update the OS and then Chrome to get the latest security features). I wrote this post on the Mario and can perhaps use it as a writing-only device, if only it didn’t also have all the trappings I’ve come to associate with the Internet (the first tab I always open in a browser is my RSS reader).

Feedafever for ~Free

I’ve been reading Chris Anderson’s “Free” and while I pay for the occasional service or app, my endeavor is to get as much as I can, for free.

Fever, an RSS reader that’s clever, quick and time-saving, is a recent purchase that I’m finding to be just amazing. What’s more amazing is that the product is worth $30 but I found someone who didn’t need it any more so he sold me his activation key for much lower… Continue reading

Feedafever for ~Free

I’ve been reading Chris Anderson’s “Free” and while I pay for the occasional service or app, my endeavor is to get as much as I can, for free.

Fever, an RSS reader that’s clever, quick and time-saving, is a recent purchase that I’m finding to be just amazing. What’s more amazing is that the product is worth $30 but I found someone who didn’t need it any more so he sold me his activation key for much lower…

Anyways, the look and feel of Fever is great and despite the really small app ecosystem, I’m really enjoying the app. The only problem? I’m a fan of RSS and follow just about any blog or feed that I find on the Internet. That’s kind of why I needed Fever – it has features such as sorting the feeds based on their relative “hotness” and presenting it in a very coherent format. But all those feeds being polled so many times were causing a bit of a problem – too much storage and too much bandwidth.

Continue reading

Jailbreaking is still frowned upon

In the past few years, BYOD has flourished and people have been unlocked from old, clunky Blackberries and attached to Apples and various candies. But with all this openness has come a problem – that of jailbreaking.

Jailbreaking the iOS or rooting your Android device are frowned upon by the enterprise because of the apparent security problems and the costs of supporting un-supported functions that these devices can do. In that sense, a new idea is emerging – that of Android being the standard. Android is open and allows anyone to pick it up and start modifying it to its needs. What does that drive companies to? Using Android as a standard and expecting their employees to do the same.

The main contention is that jailbreaking is in itself a security flaw. Thus, it’d be very easy for the employee to install the wrong tweak from the Cydia store and lose all the company’s vital data. Or, in case the employee is not careful, they can brick their device while jailbreaking and then expect the company’s IT department to support them.

Most of the problems that the enterprise quotes against jailbreaking is not valid anymore.

The process of jailbreaking is perhaps 99.9% safe now, with only every a couple of devices reporting bricking of devices due to unconventional installs. The mass of the common public just downloads a program, connects their device, clicks a button and they’re done. Also, this process is purely software based now, so the chances of really bricking your device? Zero. Why? Because if something goes wrong, you just start iTunes and hit “Restore”.

What about the security issues? Let’s talk about the jailbreak devs themselves. All of the devs involved are working for free. No one is truly paying them to do it, except the few donations they receive. That means that they do not have any hidden interests in the process. Do you trust OpenSource or software developers on Github and SourceForge to not steal your identity or corporate data? Do you use Ubuntu at home because, “hey, it’s free”? Then there’s no reason not to trust these devs to do the right thing and not use security flaws to steal your data. In fact, the iOS 3 hack involving jailbreaking the device simply by downloading a PDF file from the Internet helped Apple fixed a bug that could have been misused by anyone else. The devs welcomed Apple’s security update that fixed that jailbreak.

Finally, what about the tweaks that people install? Well, when it comes to getting the right installs with no bugs, I trust only one name – BigBoss. It is a repo hosting provider that hosts paid and free tweaks in Cydia. The point? It’s a safe environment where tweaks are tested before being allowed to go to the general public. And if a company is really serious about setting up a BYOD environment, they can work with these repository hosting providers to test and approve tweaks that work on the iOS.

There’s a general misconception in the public and in companies that since Android is open and so freely available, it’s easier to support Android. Not true. Android devices are heavily fragmented. Amazon’s Kindle Fire cannot do many things that an Asus tablet can. That functionality may also include SSL, Wireless security and other encrypted email. To support so many devices and so many versions of the same OS can be a much bigger pain for Enterprises.

Instead, if we look at iOS, non-jailbroken devices are freely supported by Apple (how do you un-jailbreak a device? Simply restore the OS, Apple has no way of verifying that it was ever jailbroken) and jailbroken devices will still have the same platform as the first one. There is no fragmentation in Apple devices, no multiple versions of their OS running on devices of varying hardware capabilities.

End Game? Apple devices are a lot easier to support, fix and troubleshoot than other options. Time to change your perception.

Google-

I have practically no use of Google+. My common friends are sticking with Facebook and twitter, my tech follow ups happen mostly on twitter and rss feeds and I’ve not joined a single hangout ever. Instead, a lot of strangers keep adding me to their lists.

I am not saying GP isn’t growing. It certainly has good numbers on its side. But somehow, it all doesn’t make any sense to me.

Hopefully, in the future, I’ll see more on GP, else I’ll just let it stagnate.

VMware buys Nicira for $1.26 Billion

The big news for today is VMware’s acquisition of Nicira for $1.26 Billion. For those who don’t know, Nicira is a pioneer in Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Openflow. SDN is a technology that allows the virtualization of the network, thus abstracting the network and allowing a company to create multiple virtual networks based on their needs.

This is big news because of two reasons –

1. This opens doors for VMware into the networking world. Traditionally dominated by Cisco, Juniper, Brocade and a few others, the networking industry is now ripe for major disruption. There is a lot of buzz with the Cloud and SDN and now these buzz words are becoming a reality. By buying Nicira, VMware, traditionally a server virtualization company has stepped into the networking world, allowing them to take their expertise of virtualization and apply it to data centers. This way, VMware controls major portions of the data center world, from servers to the networking itself. The acquisition seems befitting too, considering that Nicira is often called the VMware of the networking world.

2. Nicira is not just an Openflow/SDN company concentrating on networking. It is a backbone to another project called OpenStack. OpenStack is a complete data center solution that has components that help a datacenter control the servers that store information, that do large computations and those that provide networking. By acquiring Nicira, VMware has enabled itself to be an end-to-end solution for datacenters and thus expanding their presence in that market.

 

This news comes at a time when the entire tech industry is in a flux, with many companies taking on new roles that are not traditionally theirs. If anything, this proves that the future of the networking industry is big and led by companies you wouldn’t expect to take the lead.

 

Further Reading –

TechCrunch’s news about VMware/Nicira acquisition

Marc Andreessen talks about Nicira on Forbes

WordPresser: An HTML5 iOS blogger tool

WordPress is a great blogging tool. It has a lot of potential and in it’s more recent updates, it has grown from simply a blogging tool to a content management solution. I use wordpress on this blog for two purposes – blogging and tweeting. You see, twitter is a great service but the 140 character limit is a pain. There are thus a lot of services that allow for longer tweets. But I prefer using my blog for long tweets using the hash tag #LongTweet.

To tweet quickly from my iPhone, I want to use the WordPress app for iOS but it’s not adequate. So, I’ve built WordPresser. It’s a web app that uses HTML5 and XML-RPC to post to your wordpress.org blog. The link you need is – WordPresser. Open this in your iPhone or iPod’s Safari (opening it in any other browser doesn’t do much). Once you’ve opened it, save it to your Homescreen, it’ll save as a web app with the name “WordPresser”.

Before you go further, there are two things you need to do with your blog. One is conventional, the other, not so much. Continue reading

Who Innovates?

Recently, I read an article labelled An Open Letter to the Prospective Indian Employer. This May 25th article was a scathing response to the India Ink OpEd called “An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Class” in the NYTimes by Mohit Chandra, a partner in KPMG, an advisory services firm. Both letters, apart from demeaning the value of employers to employees and vice versa, talked about a couple of traits that are missing in the Indian workforce. One of these traits is innovation, or thinking out of the box. While the KPMG partner claimed that the ability to think out of the box was hard to find in Indian students-convert-graduates, the responder claimed that companies do not do enough to encourage people to ask questions and think out of the box. Continue reading