Welcoming a New Year, bidding farewell to another.

2012. A year of triumphs, loss, failures, adventure, excitement, travel and above all change. The longest year of my life, clocking in at 365 days, 13 hours and 30 minutes, will come to an end in less than 12 hours.

2013. Welcome.

INOI 2012

INOI 2012 was held on 21st January 2012. The problems can be found here. The solutions can be found here. I have written the efficient solution of only the first problem. I will write the second one soon.

A piece of advice from a not so experienced person

The past few months I’ve spent applying to universities in the USA. Not many, but a few that will or have already given me scholarships. But I’ve come out of it (not that it’s over yet) a bit wiser. Here’s what I have to say to everyone in 12th standard (Or 11th for that matter).

No matter what you plan to do after 12th – IITJEE, AIEEE, CET, NATA, NID or the other numerous entrance exams – you should apply to at least one university in the USA. MIT.

Why you ask? The essays.

 

The essays – especially the MIT ones – ask you questions about yourself that make you think about your qualities, strengths, weaknesses, bad times, good times, your background, interests, hobbies, achievements, and a host of other interesting questions, all taken in perspective. At the end of it all you end up having made a thorough evaluation of your life until then. That is something quite illuminating – or at least it was for me – and made taking decisions a fair bit easier.

Whether you get in or not is not the question here. MIT is – as an accepted fact – very difficult and unpredictable to get in. It’s something like a raffle. But with a guaranteed benefit – A better insight into your life until now and what you can do to improve upon it. That I staunchly believe is a very valuable piece of info at this turning point in life.

An open letter to the Telecom Minister of India

Note: To understand some of this you will need some info. The lesser the frequency the better is indoor coverage and total covered area. That is 900 MHz waves cover more area than 1800 MHz waves.

Only 3 operators per circle on average have 900 MHz spectrum for GSM. One of them is always BSNL. All others use 1800 MHz. eg. In Maharashtra, BSNL, Idea and Vodafone use 900 MHz. Airtel, Tata Docomo, Uninor, Aircel, all use 1800 Mhz. Hence they have poorer coverage.

3G uses 2100 MHz. Hence coverage, at least in India is not so good. (update 5/1/12 : idea and Vodafone seem to have decent coverage for 3G )

CDMA is a more efficient technology that GSM, but operators have to pay 7%(figure accurate for reliance CDMA. Not sure about others) profits to Qualcomm, hence operators prefer GSM. However, since CDMA requires lesser spectrum, all operators have managed to fit in the 800Mhz band. Hence coverage of Reliance CDMA and Tata Docomo CDMA and even mts is better than its GSM counterparts.

3G is better than CDMA. At least in capacity and speeds. When implemented on 900 MHz, 3G is better than CDMA EVDO and has even better speeds.

Dear Mr. Telecom Minister,

I have just read the news that BSNL now seeks a Rs. 4000 Cr. Subsidy (All of which is taxpayer money) to cover operational costs. I also read your response to it, saying that you were going to use the ‘Carrot and Stick’ model to turn the ailing public sector company around. It might probably work, but what we really need is some deep thinking on the very purpose of such public sector enterprises and whether such proportions of funds should be utilized on them.

As I was taught in Std X economics, the function of public sector enterprises is not solely to make profit (though that is desirable), but to provide facilities which would otherwise be difficult for the private sector to provide at a reasonable cost (if at all).

Looking at what functions BSNL serves today, it is quite apparent that it doesn’t serve many purposes that the private sector can’t provide at a reasonable cost. The functions that I am aware that it serves, that the private sector can’t provide are :

  1. Rural Broadband Connectivity
  2. Pan India (Including remote areas) mobile connectivity (2G + 3G) – Only operator able to do this because of exclusive access to 900 MHz GSM spectrum Pan India.
  3. Introducing new expensive technology based connectivity, which is not yet market tested (at least in India). Eg. Fiber to the Home.
  4. Introduce existing technologies at lower price band, thus pushing private players to do the same. Eg. Dataone broadband.

However, the organization has lost focus .Being a government enterprise, it has unrestricted access to all types of wireless spectrum. And hence there is haphazard planning. You are hence wasting our money. It is our money Mr. Sibal. Please take care of it.

Some suggestions that I wish you would take into account:

  1. Implement a policy where Private operator customers like those of Airtel and Idea are able to latch on to the BSNL network where their respective connectivity is not available, especially in places like forest reserves, remote areas etc. BSNL network is unreliable in cities due to poor capacity planning and hence impractical to use as primary connection. But cell phone is also a sort of security measure which should be available to everyone even in the most remote areas. We shouldn’t have to carry a second BSNL phone just for that. Rural cell connectivity shouldn’t just be a luxury which is available only to those who don’t need a reliable network.
  2. Focus on technologies in which to invest. You can shut down the BSNL EVDO and CDMA service. It is useless. Instead pioneer 3G on 900 MHz waves and provide superior rural as well as urban connectivity. 3G is a very efficient technology and can handle a lot of users per base station. If implemented on 900 MHz, a single base station can cover a very large area and thus population. Thus you won’t need to expand copper network for rural broadband as well.
  3. Stop outsourcing network setup to 3rd parties. Once setup is done, no maintenance and upgrading of network is done and hence network quality suffers. Setup an in-house technical team which handles technical maintenance. For eg. The system to upgrade traditional SIM card to 3G USIM is broken in the Maharashtra Circle since 7 months. It has still not been fixed. That’s maintenance.
  4. Setup a team which checks reliability of network. In my city, there is no power backup to many GSM and 3G base stations. Every time there is a power failure, Cell connectivity is lost. SMS are not delivered on time. Calls don’t always go through. And when they do, the voice quality is not assured. 3G is not consistent. It gets disconnected.
  5. Also, stop hogging spectrum if you can’t utilize it. You control about 10 MHz of 900 MHz band GSM spectrum in Mah&Goa, but your needs are much less. Lease it to other private operators (You’ll need to make some policy changes for the same).

The BSNL customer care has improved a lot, but your incompetent policy making is really messing up the company. I know Mr. Sam Pitroda is the head of a committee which is trying to turn around the struggling PSUs (Including MTNL and BSNL), but political and policy hurdles are not allowing them to do so. There’s a lot of money and resources at stake here and it would be prudent for you to do something about it.

With the kind of resources and assets this PSU has, it can be the Cash cow of the government if handled correctly.

Yours Sincerely,

An Indian.

Monty Hall problem – Verified

Update : Code has been corrected.

Today I learnt about the Monty Hall Problem in my class. In short it is :

Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1 [but the door is not opened], and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

The answer is change the door. When you change the door, you have 2/3 probability of getting the car.

So, as my sir suggested,  I decided to simulate the problem writing a computer program. And it was verified! With the following program below :

http://pastebin.com/ye0wFGqK

When it was executed on my computer, the asnwers were: (It won’t give you the exact same values as it depends on a random number generator)

When 1 Billion simulations (Took 105 seconds to complete!) were conducted :

Wins when changed = 666659989
Wins when not changed = 333340011

Hence, verified.

 

A ‘Steve Jobs’ Story

Update : Rest in Peace Steve!

As Posted by Vic Gundotra on Google+

One Sunday morning, January 6th, 2008 I was attending religious services when my cell phone vibrated. As discreetly as possible, I checked the phone and noticed that my phone said “Caller ID unknown”. I choose to ignore.

After services, as I was walking to my car with my family, I checked my cell phone messages. The message left was from Steve Jobs. “Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss” it said.

Before I even reached my car, I called Steve Jobs back. I was responsible for all mobile applications at Google, and in that role, had regular dealings with Steve. It was one of the perks of the job.

“Hey Steve – this is Vic”, I said. “I’m sorry I didn’t answer your call earlier. I was in religious services, and the caller ID said unknown, so I didn’t pick up”.

Steve laughed. He said, “Vic, unless the Caller ID said ‘GOD’, you should never pick up during services”.

I laughed nervously. After all, while it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?

“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow” said Steve.

“I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”

Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject “Icon Ambulance”. The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon.

Since I was 11 years old and fell in love with an Apple II, I have dozens of stories to tell about Apple products. They have been a part of my life for decades. Even when I worked for 15 years for Bill Gates at Microsoft, I had a huge admiration for Steve and what Apple had produced.

But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.

To one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you Steve.

-Vic

That’s a really good story!

How to prepare for TCS IT Wiz

Well, I’ve been a participant in the TCS IT Wiz for the past 5 years and I have a decent idea of how to prepare for the TCS IT Wiz. You must read up on tech blogs like Geek.com, Arstechnica, Gizmodo etc. (It’s quite fun really). Another thing would be to go through Wikipedia articles of companies, codecs, anything related to tech. Make a PPT of that knowledge and write it in brief there so that on the day before the quiz, you can just revise quickly. Go through the booklet that TCS gives you and Google every damn term.

Well that’s mostly it. Preparing for this quiz requires patience above all.

Also, I’m gonna upload my very own archives. They can be found here.