The Worm sees nuke salesmen crawling all over India!

A free-wheeling look at current events without an editor to hinder me!

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Friday, October 06, 2006

Should Afzal be hanged?

Honestly I cannot make up my mind whether this man should hang. Agreed he and his fellow conspirators mounted the biggest assault on Indian democracy by organizing the terror attack on Indian parliament. If a handful of brave security personnel hadn't risked life and limb, the terrorists may well have entered Parliament House and killed MPs and ministers.

There could have been a prolonged hostage drama with the Kashmiri militants demanding and getting several of their jailed colleagues released. The Rubaiya Sayeed episode from more than 15 years ago would have been replayed magnified several times. The soft underbelly of the Indian state would have stood widely exposed for the whole world while a handful of desperadoes ripped it open.

A shaken NDA government at the Centre would not have let Pakistan off the hook as easily as it happened subsequently. There would have been much more pressure on the remnants of the government surviving the assault for an all out war notwithstanding the threat of a nuclear exchange.

Cynical as the people of India are about her politicians, most of the country's citizens would have rallied behind a call for jihad against Pakistan and its minions spreading terror in the country.

So clearly, the attack on the Indian parliament and the subsequent stand-off with Pakistan took both sub-continental neighbours to the edge of Armageddon.

The image of the jihadi masked under facial follicilitis however melted away when the articulate bespectacled visage of Mohammad Afzal appeared on a television channel confessing to have masterminded the attack. Well-cut clothes and clipped Queen's English did not betray the rigours of interrogation nor the fear of the unknown. Only the fact that so many security personnel lost their lives at the hands of this man evoked revulsion in his ideology and methods.

However the man's refusal to file a mercy plea before the president after being sentenced to death showed a strength of character that would have been eulogized if only he had been on the Indian side of the fence in a different era. Like the three youths who found their way into history textbooks after they were hanged for throwing a bomb in the Constituent Assembly. Same place. Last century.

Don't rob his Windows or Bill Gates will break your comp!

Hey, the title of this post is no joke. Bill G and company have been beefing up their arsenal even while their techies have been putting together Windows Vista, Microsoft's new Operating System. Tipping Rs 200 to a maintenance engineer to install the latest version Windows and MS Office in your computer won't be such a smart thing at all. Ol' Bill Gates is watching and he will sneak quietly behind you smash your new computer to smithereens!

Windows Vista which is likely to hit the market in January 2007 comes bundled with anti-piracy technology that automatically shuts down the computer if the Operating System and presumably Office are not registered. You get 30 days to register from the first time you log on and on the last day, the system goes kaput.

Click here for the gory details:

Knowing Microsoft there is no guarantee that even registered versions of Windows Vista and Office won't conk out. What if your hard disk had crashed and you had to install WV afresh? Will the registration key work? And what if you had dumped the old hard-disk for a new one, will you have shell out a bomb to B. Gates once again for WV?

Looking at the track record of MS, any ten year old downloading computer games can send the systems crashing. No prizes for guessing why computer engineers in Bombay sign the most annual maintenance contracts in the months of April and May.

So should computer users shell out Rs 15-20,000 for the WV apart from a new machine since even computers bought in 2005 cannot give the necessary horse-power? Stingy old BG will never offer to upgrade WV for free even if he has to clean up a room full of bugs in Version 1.0. So there, save an arm and a leg to buy Version 2.

All this trouble when you can buy a genuinely free, that is un-pirated, version of Linux for just Rs 50. Most people have grown up in a Windows environment, so even a flavour of Linux like Ubuntu which comes closest to it faces plenty of resistance.

There is a whole Free Software Movement out there for honest people who want reliable software for free but won't rob Bill G. They have made little headway though since Bill G didn't break people's computers yet.

But with the MS guys pumping iron in anticipation of the big fight against the pirates, its time computer users took a second look at Linux. Free Software gurus should ideally rope in the guys selling assembled computers as the first line of defence. They are the ones who proliferate pirated version of Windows. With the launch of WV however assemblers stand to lose the most. Worse still big computer manufacturers aided by sweetheart deals with Bill G may start a price war against the assemblers.

To begin with, linux users groups across the country must help assemblers acquire expertise in installing and running the Tux. Hopefully by the time WV strikes in the New Year, assemblers would be able to guide buyers in the use of user-friendly flavours of Linux.

So yes my techie friends, those of you who have a lot to say on Internet forums its time to walk your talk. The decisive battle for the Free Software Movement is at hand. Are you ready for the action?

Monday, October 02, 2006

More muck being raked at the Mumbai Press Club

Members of the Press Club of Mumbai have their knickers in a twist yet again. This time its over the issue of bogus members.

Okay not all of them are non-existent people appearing on voters lists like they do regularly in UP and Bihar. Or rather a few might be since we don't all seem to know some of the guys quaffing the amber liquid at the next table. Most denizens of the Press Club are only found at this drinking hole and seldom at spots where working journos usually flock to get stories, but that's running away ahead of the story....

So it transpires that few of our former colleagues who left journalism for greener pastures cannot really detach themselves from the Press Club. People who joined PR agencies continue to retain their old memberships since there is no live membership review committee to update the rolls on a regular basis. Others simply fall between the gaps since the rapidly evolving nature of the profession and technological changes have made it so difficult for everyone to define a journalist.

So a journalist-turned-businessman running trading websites can continue to call himself a journalist only because some content leaches out of the websites. Another who runs a small publishing company continues as a press club member because he has styled himself as Editor. Both gentlemen could easily call themselves CEOs of their respective ventures, but obviously the title of Editor or Editor-in-Chief carry a lot of 'bhav' in society.

Similarly there are also members who write for the marketing supplements of newspapers. In the old days their jobs were handled by copywriters at PR and ad agencies. Obviously the change has come with the transformation of mere news to content. To journalists, photographers and proof-readers have been added graphic artists, designers employed in the edit department. And television journos, cameramen and people who are called scheduling editors. (Thankfully, they haven't yet recruited ingress/exit editors who salaam the big bosses as they enter and leave the office, but we might as well be getting there!)

So as we can see there is a lot of scope for many people to call themselves journalists.

Obviously, the membership review committee appointed by the Press Club General Body have huge task at hand. Can four men scrutinize the credentials of every one of the 500-odd journalists who are members? I think not.

I suggest the Managing Committee list every single member's name, photograph, affiliation, place of appointment, and date of membership on the Press Club's website. Obviously, the bogus ones can easily be weeded out by the vast majority of members than by four or five busy people.

Should the review committee go about functioning in a secretive manner, the present Managing Committee ushered into office after dirty electioneering campaign would be open to allegations of favoritism and worse.

So guys, buck up and become more transparent.

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