Wednesday, October 06, 2010

An ultra-cheap, flight-based foreign tour from India. A wild dream or an achievable reality?

Of course it is possible! What an absurd question, considering the word cheap isn't objective...

Anyway, today me and my cousin had a debate on whether or not an okay foreign tour (starting from DEL) is possible in under INR 20,000. I was vehement that it is indeed possible, whereas my cousin asserted that INR 20,000 is too low for an acceptable foreign tour. The underlying question was whether or not making an ultra-cheap foreign tour (in under INR 20,000 per person), assuming it's even possible, makes more sense than spending a similar or slightly less amount to visit a place within India.

I've visited three foreign countries till date. And my experience strongly suggests to me that there should be at least a few foreign destinations which can be had from Delhi for under INR 20,000 per person. I spent a few minutes on Cleartrip to check ticket prices of flights from DEL to various foreign destinations nearby, and I'm largely convinced that acceptable tours (of two nights and three days duration) under INR 20,000 should be easily possible.

Specifically, return tickets from DEL to Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, Muscat, Kuwait and Dubai are priced reasonably (click here for screenshots of prices seen on Cleartrip), and a bit of frugality should allow one to have an acceptable overall experience, while spending less than INR 20,000 per person (the per person cost is even more achievable if more people are added to the group).

Friday, October 01, 2010

A lack of an apology following an epic blunder is one of the ways to spot a shoddy "tech-journalist"

This "tech-journalist" at TG Daily published an article in which she committed an epic blunder - she attributed to Microsoft a technology being developed and promoted by Google. Is this an excusable mistake? In my opinion, no. Because she has mixed Google and Microsoft in the same article, and any sane person would've realized that mutually exclusive events don't occur together. Perhaps she was an intern. Whatever.

Now. When NYT or WSJ make a correction to an already-published article, these houses make sure that the edit is promptly highlighted. And this admission actually raises one's respect for these fine publications. On the other hand, when an outlet such as TG Daily makes an epic blunder, like it made today, it quietly changes all the instances of Microsoft to Google, and doesn't make any admission whatsoever. A thief always leaves some trails, they say. So did TG Daily - it forgot to:
  1. Update the tags
  2. Change the URL, which still includes Microsoft
  3. Delete all the comments that blast this article and its intern author for this epic failure
Bottom line: Absence of admission and stealthy damage-control is one of the surest ways to spot a low-standards organization and a clueless and shoddy "tech-journalist".

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The increasing enticement for fraud with multiple insurance covers for a car

I recently got our Honda City insured from Honda Assure (I chose National Insurance as the insurer) for INR ~12,000. I asked the agent if it is possible to give multiple insurance covers to a car. He nodded in agreement, assuring me however that I don't really need multiple covers. Then I asked him if one has the obligation to let each insurance company know that the vehicle has been insured from other insurance companies. He answered in negative, but appeared a bit surprised at my questions.

Anyway, his answers had me thinking. Five simultaneous comprehensive insurance covers (say from Bajaj Allianz, ICICI Lombard, National Insurance, Reliance General Insurance, and Tata AIG) would cumulatively value our Honda City at INR ~2,150,000, and I would've to shell out only INR ~60,000 to get these covers. Not to say that I'm thinking on these lines, but a theft of this car would - in case all five of the companies approve my claim - get me much more easy money than is the cost of even a new City.

This looks odd. If it were this easy, people would've been abusing this scheme for eons. Getting their car stolen and then making insurance claims to the multiple insurers to get undeserved money shouldn't be that easy, after all. I don't know if this is really possible, but if it is, people might already be misusing this scheme to make easy money.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Adaptive keyboards and my years-old idea

A few days back there was an article on Microsoft Adaptive Keyboard in Punjab Kesari (okay, I usually stay away from this newspaper but occasionally have a quick glance through it). Intrigued, I had a read and realized that it was similar to something I had sketched when I was in class 11.

Class 11 was the first time I had my own computer. That was the time when every deficiency that I would feel in my computing experience would give me a new idea. And I would write each of those ideas.

One such idea came to my mind when I played Recoil (by Electronic Arts). You have multiple weapons in Recoil, and you switch between them using numeric keys on the computer's keyboard. Initially, I found it annoying to remember which key stood for which weapon, so I scribbled something like this on my notebook:

There should be a keyboard, each of whose keys is composed of a tiny LCD that can display colors. These LCDs will allow the keyboard to be "dynamic", meaning that the functions of keys can be changed depending on the "context", or the "environment" being operated using the keyboard. For example, when playing Recoil, the numeric keys shall stop displaying numeric digits, and each of the keys shall start displaying the icon of the weapon assigned to that key, making it both convenient and quick for a human to switch between weapons, without having to remember anything (except, of course, the icons).

Although an abstract idea is no match for an actual implementation (even if the initial implementation is only a prototype), it's flattering to see that folks at Microsoft have developed something similar to what I thought of over 8 years ago.

When an American company with no real understanding of Indians tries to market...

...its wares in India using an advertisement, this is what happens:

Whoever designed this advert, did he not know that:
  1. Indians don't know what a QR code is.
  2. Most Indians use phones that are neither smart, nor feature.
  3. Your car is in the low-price segment. Do you really think that potential buyers in this segment own phones capable of processing QR codes (and of displaying rich content)?
  4. Most Indians haven't used the Internet on a full-sized computer. A negligible fraction uses it on their phones (both because the costs are high and the speeds are low).
Whoever approved the idea of adding a QR code in this advertisement doesn't have ground knowledge about India.

An unbeatable benchmark for Web browsers

"I'm pleased to announce the timeless version of HomoSapienTest, an eons-old browser benchmark. More than Kraken, Sunspider, V8, and Dromaeo, HomoSapienTest focuses on only the real workloads. I believe that the benchmarks used in HomoSapienTest are the best in terms of reflecting realistic workloads, and give every other artificial benchmark a kick in the groin." - A parody of text from Release The Kraken, Mozilla Blog

There are so many performance tests available for Web browsers. Unfortunately, none of these appears to honestly indicate the real-world performance of contemporary Web browsers. Different vendors like to report the performance of their respective browsers based on the results of only select benchmarks - ones that make a vendor's browser appear snappier (for example, Apple uses a relatively unknown test called iBench, because it projects Safari 5 as the fastest). Unfortunately, all of these tests merely try to be representative of reality.

But who decides what this reality is? Humans, of course.

No matter what these tests say, a human is almost-instantly able to decide which browser is the faster one, and whether or not the level of performance is acceptable. Let Mozilla beat the Firefox-is-fast trumpet a million times. Let Microsoft beat the IE9-the-fastest trumpet a billion times. Fact remains that - and this can be felt by a human in mere seconds - that IE and even Firefox can be unacceptably sluggish on many machines that are just a few years old, whereas Opera and especially Chrome can provide acceptable performance on such systems.

I'm not sure if there have been research studies that compare the numbers produced by these artificial benchmarks to thumbs-up and thumbs-down ratings given by human users to different browsers. If a benchmark's results can match the ratings given by humans, then it can probably be called a good benchmark.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Punjab's corrupt and frustrated traffic police... and how their excesses would be avoided in future

I was fined today on the following two counts:
  1. Red light jumped
  2. Driver not wearing seat-belt
I plead not guilty to both the allegations - I didn't commit either of the offenses. I am 100% sure that I crossed while the light was green. I don't drive without the belt on. But can I prove that I did not jump red light, and that I was wearing the seat-belt? No. Not yet, at least.

It's fairly safe for me to predict that in the not-so-distant future, cars (whatever form they take by then) will include some sort of instrument that mimics the functionality of a flight data recorder (FDR) installed aboard every modern commercial airliner. With real-time tracking of multiple parameters of every vehicle, situations such as the one I faced today will be a thing of past. Using Galileo/GLONASS/GPS/Etc., the device will record a vehicle's precise location at all times during the flight, and a driver will be able to review his past positions before claiming that he did not jump the red light (actually, even this won't be required, as fines will probably be charged automatically, and there will be minimal human involvement in enforcement). Similarly, this device will record whether or not a seat-belt was worn.

The broad idea is that as we move into the future, human decisions - many of which can be plain incorrect - will increasingly be removed from worldwide systems and supplanted by error-free decisions made by machines. Tracking will ensure that the data required for appeals is available (although I don't expect machines to make mistakes fining rogue drivers).

Think and it's already done :(

It has happened many times that I got a thought, one which I deemed non-trivial, and I checked on the Internet, only to find that someone, somewhere had already either penned that thought, or had executed it.

Disappointment. But also an assurance, that my train of thought moves in the right direction.

This happened most recently on 19-Sep-10. I woke up in the morning, and had a thought that Microsoft should tie-up with Facebook to gain access to the valuable Like data building-up in Facebook's databases. Such a move would not only provide Bing with a few days worth of free marketing and elevate the perception of Bing among users' minds, but would also potentially make material improvements - both perceptual and real - to Bing's search results.

I queried on Google, and to my disappointment (and assurance, as said before), there were very recent news stories talking exactly this. Despite implied claims by Ballmer and Microsoft's executives that the relevance of Bing's results is at least as good and perhaps better than Google's, my first-hand experience is that Bing has a long, long way to go before its results start feeling as relevant as Google's results are today (and Google would've become even better by then).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Comparison of insurance with online advertising

The following thought struck my mind today.

As a post on Chitika Research points out, a very small proportion of Internet users pay for the remaining users (and for themselves). This fact is the bedrock of online advertising, and of all the free applications and content that have become available on the Web.

In contrast, in insurance, most users - who make few or no claims - pay for the very small proportion of users who make significant claims (and this small proportion contributes too). This shows the interesting difference between insurance and online advertising in terms of the proportion of feeder customers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Microsoft is back to playing lock-in games with Pinned Sites feature in Internet Explorer 9

This post is based on an unverified assumption that the Pinned Sites feature in IE9 is "closed", that is, it's a proprietary Microsoft feature, and cannot be implemented in other browsers.

Sometimes I wonder whether I admire or despise Microsoft Corporation. The company houses brilliant-minded individuals and churns out high-quality products. And the same company also uses evil practices to choke competitors and lock customers into its products. Windows API is perhaps the best example of the latter.

Pinned Sites is the latest in a long series of intelligent, but customer-locking features launched by Microsoft.

Official description of Pinned Sites (Source: Microsoft)

This clever feature - a wolf hiding in a sheep's clothes - is marketed in the familiar customer-friendly tone typically used in Microsoft documentation. But most won't see the predator hidden in this feature. The feature essentially locks the icon of a Pinned Site to Internet Explorer 9, instead of working in a browser-neutral fashion. Windows 7 users using this feature will see icons of their favorite Web destinations in the taskbar of Windows 7, and will click these icons to reach the desired destinations - in Internet Explorer 9.

The genius part of this feature is that it exposes that the Web browser is merely a means to an end. From the user's perspective, the icons in Windows 7's taskbar apparently remove the browser from the equation by taking a user directly to the desired destinations. Also, this feature - I don't know if others realize its importance - allows tight integration of Web based applications with the OS, helping to bridge the gap between Web applications and traditional applications. The evil part of this feature is that it can unknowingly force users to use IE 9. On their parents' machines, kiddies will create one-click icons to the Web destinations of choice of their parents, and the parents will thus forcibly use IE 9. Websites might strike deals with Dell, HP, Sony, etc., that mandate placement of one or more Pinned Site icons to these websites, in exchange for a few bucks per machine, forcing most users who use these websites to use IE 9 (most users try the easiest/quickest methods they can think of, and they can think of only little, and Pinned Sites clearly is for such users).

I don't know if an antitrust complaint will be filed by a competitor (Google, Mozilla, Opera, etc.), but I believe it should be - this genuinely helpful feature should be browser-neutral.

Update (19-Sep-10): I totally hate the fact that this feature allows traditionally-platform-agnostic websites to create platform-specific extensions (currently only for Windows 7). I'm probably not able to imagine Microsoft's long-term goals with Pinned Sites (and other features in the pipeline), but I'm worried that such features might start locking websites to Windows OS.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

GMAC should convert GMAT Paper Tests into a new book, complete with detailed explanations

After having tried 5 of the 9 ETS-created GMAT Paper Tests sold by GMAC (I possess all the 9), I'm convinced that:
  1. The level of most Quantitative questions in Paper Tests is quite low
  2. A lack of explanations is felt each time you get a question incorrect, but can't find out why (especially in Verbal)
  3. Paper Tests can't be used as a representative of the real GMAT, since Paper Tests aren't CAT-based, and because the level and number of questions differs significantly from the GMAT of today
  4. Despite all of the above, Paper Tests are helpful because the questions are high-quality, the answers are battle-tested, and the problems are real GMAT problems (from the past)
The four observations above lead me to conclude that GMAC should create a fourth book called The Official Collection of GMAT Paper Tests. A lack of explanations make the USD 75 Paper Tests look like a lot, lot less value compared to the USD ~73 bundle containing all three Official Guide books. So, The Official Collection of GMAT Paper Tests should include detailed solutions for every problem in the Paper Tests (including AWA problems).

I'm convinced that this fourth book, if released, has the potential to register significant sales, because addition of detailed explanations for all of the 900+ past GMAT questions will be sufficient to convince potential buyers into purchasing the book. Besides, an orange-yellow book will look great sitting beside the current trio!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No software version of Google Mini or GSA!

I like both Google Mini and Google Search Appliance. However, what I don't like is that they're available only as standalone hardware devices. That means, no software version to deploy on one's own servers! And that also means possibly-avoidable increase in costs.

Why hasn't Google provided a software version? Possible reasons:
  1. To prevent reverse-engineering of its search algorithms
  2. To provide consistent/predictable and reliable performance
  3. To avoid the problem of piracy

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Are we living with a sub-optimal mathematics? Is it possible for us to design a better mathematics?

I'm no mathematician, but I believe I have a fair understanding of basic mathematics and I can reason decently. Here's a rant about some things I don't understand.

I don't like the following facts:
  1. We have complex numbers, imaginary numbers, and negative numbers
  2. Division by zero is not defined
  3. Tangent of π/2 is not defined
  4. Square root of a negative number is an imaginary number
  5. A finite value for π hasn't been reached
  6. 0! has arbitrarily been equated to 1
  7. ...
Is it possible that fundamental flaws in the basic elements that constitute our mathematics and in the principles that relate these elements to each other are reasons why we have to resort to self-created filler solutions such as complex numbers, imaginary numbers, "not defined", etc.?

I sometimes feel so. I sometimes doubt the need of 'zero'. I sometimes feel that negative numbers should not exist at all (i.e., numbers should only be positive). Not sure, but I sometimes feel that it might be possible to construct a better and error-free mathematics from scratch, in which every operation is defined, and everything is reasonable.

Is the (unadulterated) composition of Earth's atmosphere ideal for life? Is "better" air possible?

The following figure represents the normally-accepted composition of the Earth's atmosphere.

Assuming that the above figure represents unadulterated and unpolluted composition of the air we breathe, I wonder, is this composition the best that can be (for humans)? Can an artificially-made gaseous mixture (with constituents and their proportions different from the constituents and proportions of natural air) beat natural air, in terms of health benefits, longevity, etc.? If yes, how can we conveniently and economically expose humans to "air 2.0", so they can experience its health benefits?

Monday, September 06, 2010

BA's alliance with Kingfisher looks like it'll help BA more than it'll help Kingfisher

A quick look at fares from India to Europe and vice versa reveals why the recent codesharing alliance between British Airways and Kingfisher Airlines will probably help the former more than the latter.

In summary, the alliance allows:
  1. BA flyers to fly to various Indian cities on Kingfisher's Indian network
  2. Kingfisher flyers to fly to various European cities on BA's European network
When BA flyers arrive at BOM, DEL, etc., Kingfisher will fly them to the smaller Indian cities that BA doesn't serve directly. This will provide these flyers with increased convenience in terms of baggage-transfer, booking, check-in, etc., and thus help both BA and its customers.

When Kingfisher flyers arrive at LHR, BA will fly them to other European cities that Kingfisher doesn't serve directly. At this point, it might appear that Kingfisher (and its customers) will get a benefit similar to that obtained by BA (and its customers). However, a quick look at the fares from BOM, DEL, etc., to LHR and to other European cities reveals that carriers of the Middle East usually offer significantly lower ticket prices for flights from India to various European destinations, compared to prices offered by BA and Kingfisher. BA's and Kingfisher's ticket prices usually tend to be higher than those offered by airlines of the Middle East (this is based on the hundreds of times I've checked ticket prices between different cities of the world).

What, if anything, does Kingfisher stand to gain from this alliance? Why will a price-sensitive Indian flyer - and most Indians are very price-sensitive - fly to a non-LHR European destination on a (probably) costlier Kingfisher+BA plan (with LHR as the hub), when a Middle East carrier is willing to carry him to the same destination for lesser money (with a Middle East destination as the hub)?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

One possible future of computing

One possible future of computing will be composed of the following:
  1. ARM-based chips
  2. A lean OS, with itself is silent and stays in the background
  3. An optimized Web browser (or an evolved version of what we know as a Web browser) as the platform for applications
  4. All applications are Web applications, in the sense that they were all initially served from the Web, update off the Web, execute at least part of their code in the Web, and are functionally integrated inseparably with the Web
  5. An application need not be served off the Web each time it is launched. If it can be proved that the latest versions of all parts of the application already exist locally, it'll be executed from the local cache
  6. Most code executes on the Web, and only some code executes on the local device
  7. Applications do not require porting from one OS to the other. Only the Web browser needs to be ported from one OS to the other (thus mimicking JRE)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Why is CSeries being compared to 737 and A320?

When Bombardier was developing the CSeries, it had a choice:
  1. Go against 737/A320
  2. Stay away from 737/A320
Now we know what the CSeries is, and Bombardier appears to be in a weird situation - its aircraft doesn't actually overlap with 737/A320 - these aircraft differ considerably in terms of range and revenue seat-capacity - but people all over the world (especially the guys at GLG News) are busy criticizing the CSeries as being inferior to 737/A320. Why are these people even comparing CSeries to 737/A320?

One thing can be said with a good amount of certainty - that with CSeries, Bombardier did not intend to directly compete with 737/A320, because an aircraft with lower range and seat-capacity simply cannot compete with 737/A320, even if it provides a double-digit fuel-burn improvement. Any aircraft that wants to directly compete with 737/A320 must - in general - match or exceed the established players' range and seat-capacity (else it would be in a different segment, invalidating the comparison).

In summary, it appears that Bombardier is in the worst position it can be in. It developed a relatively less capable aircraft to, apparently, not compete directly with 737/A320, and people are busy complaining that the CSeries has less range and seat-capacity than 737/A320. What a pity!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Questioning the infallibility of solutions provided by GMAC for GMAT practice problems

I've largely liked The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 12th Edition. It's a high-quality, well-built book. A trustworthy book. Makes you feel that when GMAC says that 1+1=10, it's gotta be true. So is the case with - a well-built and trustworthy website.

Except that I've come across a very small number of questions, the GMAC-provided solutions to which have shook my faith in the infallibility of GMAC's solutions.

Example 1: I was horrified when I saw that GMAC has provided the following essay as a model essay - receiving the highest rating - for an Analysis of an Argument question, considering the following three statements about the Argument essay:
  • "In this task, you are not asked to state your opinion but rather to analyze the one given." - Page 759, The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 12th Edition
  • "Perhaps the most serious error one can make on the Argument essay is to disagree with the author's conclusion." - Page 534, Kaplan GMAT 2010-2011 Premier
  • "Violate the essay directions, either by not taking a position on an Issue or by taking one in an Argument, and you risk scoring a 2." - Page 539, Kaplan GMAT 2010-2011 Premier

Example 2: Among the GMAT Teaser questions on, QuestionID=25 succeeds in teasing me. According to GMAC, "The fourth choice is correct. It can be inferred from information given in the third and fourth sentences of the second paragraph: In addition, any institution that holds 20 percent or more . . . the value of the stock would plummet.". I say BS. The passage never says that the stock must plummet. It only indicates that the stock would plummet unless there's an explanation that can be provided.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A coincidence? Perhaps. But intriguing.

Today morning I was thinking about nondestructive testing in the context of civil airliners. I thought, it's important to nondestructively test each aircraft before it's delivered to its customer. That was about it. I forgot about it for the next few hours.

A few hours back, I conducted some queries related to ETS, GRE, GMAC and GMAT, and hit upon an interesting-looking article.

To my surprise, the Google-served ad below the article read Non-Destructive Testing, and linked to a company providing nondestructive testing systems.

How's it possible? I clearly remember that at least in the last 1 year, I haven't conducted any query related to nondestructive testing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A now-funny "clarity" about the meaning of Internet, in a Dec'94 article in NYT

"The E.T.S. warned that anyone releasing questions without permission would face charges of copyright infringement. Ms. Cole said testing service officials did not think that people were leaking questions from the computerized tests. She said officials have been monitoring computer conversations between college students on the Internet, the huge computer connection a network allowing communication by computer, to see if college students talked about cheating on the G.R.E., or whether questions were being passed via computer conversations." - Computer Admissions Test Found to Be Ripe for Abuse, NYT, Dec'94

It feels so good when I recollect one of the faint memories from class III or IV, when there was no Internet here, when NYT had to add words clarifying the meaning of Internet.

Does GMAC reveal the identity of an examinee to the readers of the examinee's AWA responses?

"Readers are trained to be sensitive and fair in evaluating the responses of nonnative speakers of English." - Page 760, The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 12th Edition

Does this imply that the nationality of a test-taker is revealed to the readers who evaluate a test-taker's responses in the AWA section (of the GMAT)? If yes, is this disclosure leading to the readers awarding ingenuine scores to nonnative speakers of English?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Apple's "Thoughts on Flash" are hypocritical

"3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited)." - iPhone Developer Program License Agreement

"We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform." - Thoughts on Flash, Steve Jobs, Apr'10 [link 2]

My biggest, and in fact the only problem with Apple forbidding Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool is that it allows - hypocritically - JavaScript and Safari on to the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch. Safari is a native application that links to Documented APIs. And it runs JavaScript applications on top of its native code.

If JavaScript can be allowed inside Safari, a native iOS application, then why is code written in a forbidden language, say Language X - which runs inside a native iOS application using a compatibility or a translation layer - prohibited? Since letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform, shouldn't JavaScript be banned too?

Double standards...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Results of various tests related to IQ, logic, memory, reasoning, speed, etc., that I've taken

This post is intended to summarize the results of all the cognition-related tests that I've taken recently, and to replace all the related posts that I've written previously (all of which have been deleted).

The following chart from the now-defunct MSN Encarta shows a standard distribution of IQ scores.

The following list summarizes my performance (screenshots here):
  1. (6-Jun-06) (Result: "129")
  2. Super IQ Test (by Tickle) (10-Jan-07) (Result: Detailed result currently not accessible on the website. The only information available on record is that I was termed a Creative Theorist)
  3. IQ Test (by the now-defunct UberMens International) (11-Aug-08) (Result: "154")
  4. IQ Test (25-Dec-08) (Result: "137")
  5. Real Superhumans (memory test) (24-May-09) (Result: Scored above both "Average People" and "Super Humans")
  6. Real Superhumans (memory test) (24-May-09) (Result: Identical to the first time)
  7. IQ test (13-Jun-09) (Result: "over 140")
  8. IQ Test (13-Jun-09) (Result: "140")
  9. Ultimate IQ Test (21-Jun-09) (Result: "123")
  10. Ultimate IQ Test (based on Mensa IQ Workout) (21-Jun-09) (Result: "148")
  11. What's Your IQ? (11-Aug-10) (Result: "146")
  12. How's Your IQ? (11-Aug-10) (Result: "80", on a 0-100 scale)
  13. Kaplan 20 Minute Workout (GMAT) (17-Sep-10) (Result: "16/16")

Friday, August 06, 2010

Why I'm sad at the death of Google Wave and what I believe about the future of its innovations

I remember those weeks of last year when a buzz started around Google Wave - with the Sci/Tech section of Google News filled almost each day with stories about Wave. For a few days, I kept myself from reading about it, so that I could focus on work, in the hope that I would look at Wave in detail over some weekend.

I first got to know Wave when I watched a few videos of Google's I/O developer conference. I clearly remember clapping many times as the video unveiled feature-after-feature of Wave.

I was fascinated. Some of the things I had been thinking about for a few years were the design principles of Wave - no forwarding of messages (it unnecessarily duplicates messages, wasting tons of storage space) or attachments (a single copy that's pulled-on-demand). More lovely features - comment/reply right next to the content that your comment/reply applies to (wow!), playback a conversation (think before you Wave), a context sensitive spell-checker/correcter (this is how you do spell-correction), permissions built right into the design, drag-and-drop support, real-time updates, Robots (what a bloody fantastic idea), and Gadgets (another '!' idea).

Wave was billed as the future of electronic communication - the way modern communication ought to be done. It blended the myriad of communication methods we use today, and there was no reason Wave couldn't absorb yet more of the discrete ways of contemporary communication (voice, video, etc.). Wave has potentially many applications - comments (on blogs, websites), collaborative communication, document creation, social networking (imagine Facebook's Messages or Wall features built using Wave), wikis, and so many other things we can't even imagine right now.

I saw tremendous power in Wave, and no matter how unfriendly it might have appeared initially, Wave is not a bad idea. Bloggers and so-called "tech journalists" might have invested thousands of man-hours on initially gushing about and eventually bashing Wave, what they didn't grasp (and still haven't grasped) is that Wave is a fundamentally novel idea. The current UI of Wave is just one of the possible implementations of its features and underlying design principles, and it's perfectly possible to redesign the UI while preserving Wave functionally, if the need be.

However, fact of the matter is that Google is discontinuing Wave. I personally believe that it's an impatient and a premature move by Google. A bad move. Discontinuation of Wave only months after its public rollout and only over a year after its unveiling reveals potentially dangerous impatience and a severe lack of persistence, more so for a product billed as the future of communication (with Xbox, Microsoft has demonstrated that persistence pays, and Bing has begun paying off as well).

I very strongly believe in the fundamental rightness of Wave's design principles and its many features, and I predict that these will be back soon, either from Google or from others.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Post the committal of a crime, who deserves 'justice', the victim or the victim's family?

I was outraged Monday morning when I read a news story in The Tribune which said that murder charges against three Punjabi men (and the death sentence previously awarded) had been dropped by a UAE court, as a compromise had been reached between the families of the convicts and the victim's family.

WTF, I thought!

A poor guy was killed by the three men, and just because the victim's family has agreed to accept so-called blood money from the families of the murderers (arranged by some apparently prominent Punjabi in the UAE), is the dropping of murder charges by the Sharjah court even legal, let alone morally justifiable?

I - a patriotic and proud Punjabi myself - strongly believe that they're completely unjustified.

By punishing the killers, who are we trying to give justice to? The victim, of course. It's he who lost his life. It's he who is no longer alive. And just because his family is poor and ready to accept money for their son's life, does it legally justify the dropped charges/ punishment? The court knows that the three guys committed the murder. And despite this, its dropping of charges seems to be equivalent to saying - Ok. We know you are killers, and we know that killers deserve the strictest of punishments. But so what if that guy died? We're not punishing you-the-murderers, because as long as the dead guy's family is fine with this monetary compromise you guys have reached, we're fine too! After all, if the families of victims of murder, rape, theft, etc., are able to reach a "compromise" with the convict, there really isn't any need for the court to intervene. There is no such thing as an "absolute law". This court isn't here to clean the society. It's here only to handle those situations in which the poor victim has no family. Got it?

Really, it's sick! A crime and a criminal is over and above the family. How can a court close this loop without giving justice to the victim?

UPDATE [APR'12]: This video about the murder of Indian fishermen by Italian marines echoes some of the points I've mentioned above.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Infidelity and the cable TV

The other day, I observed an 18 year old guy watching TV. He was primarily watching a Hindi movie (which he had seen N number of times previously), but that doesn't mean that he wasn't also watching other stuff as well. What that means is that as soon an uninteresting scene or an (obviously boring) song would come, in a fraction of a second he would start flipping through channels and settle at another channel which looked interesting-enough to serve him for a few minutes (till the movie got interesting again).

Every few minutes he would switch back to the Hindi movie to check if it got interesting again, and if not, he would flip channels again and temporarily settle at something worthy. After about 30 minutes of this drama, he stumbled upon a channel which was playing a Hindi movie which he liked more than the one he was watching. Without a second thought, he started watching this one, ditching the previous one. But that didn't mean that the infidelity with the movie ended. The flip-channels-whenever-sucks drama continued.

I believe that the above is a typical case with many (or most) of us. Does this practice promote infidelity (Uncyclopedia; Urban Dictionary; Wikipedia) in the real life? Does the ease with which channels can be switched decrease one's fidelity? Does the multitude of television channels available on contemporary cable services program individuals to be disloyal and opportunistic, in relationships as well? Conversely, do people who practice infidelity flip channels more often? I don't know the answer, but I feel this might be true, or there might be a connection (subtle, at least).

Translation suggestion bar in Google Chrome should add a 'Wrong suggestion!' button for feedback

So that a user can kind of indicate to the translation suggestion feature that the suggestion you've provided is invalid, because the language that you've detected in this page simply isn't present!

An example is the image below, where there's no Malay in the webpage. Instead of clicking 'Nope' (which can have many meanings, as far as feedback is concerned), I would rather click 'Wrong suggestion!' button to make the system learn, or to merely build a log of pages where the feature malfunctions.

When I used the work feedback in this post, I refer to the following classic feedback model.

Ideal feedback model (source)

Recollecting my mistake in CASTLE MathQ'2001

I jointly won the CASTLE MathQ'2001, a state-level mathematics competition held in late 2001, in which 900 candidates appeared. While I was happy that I scored the highest marks, even if jointly, I had a somewhat strong regret at that time (whose intensity, and perhaps importance, has faded with time).

I remember that on the test day, when the allotted time was just about to finish, I had reached at the last question of the question paper. I was probably at a back bench, so when the time-over alarm had sounded and the test administrator had started collecting the answer-sheets, I still had a few seconds left before my sheet was taken. I knew that I had moments left, and aggressive as I believe I generally am, it was my intent to extract even the last possible drops of marks from this competition, in order to maximize my position. I was in battle-fighting mode that day, I remember clearly.

My brain wasn't working as well at that moment as it had been working all through the test, and I concluded that in the few seconds left, I wouldn't be able to solve the last question to reach at an indisputable answer. What to do? Guesstimate? Or just leave? 1 mark for a correct answer, a negative 0.25 for an incorrect answer, and no marks for a blank.

Last page of my actual MathQ'2001 question paper

My winning certificate :)

Not sure why, but right before my answer-sheet was taken, I just marked the most-likely-looking option as the answer.

And it turned out to be incorrect. I lost an extra 0.25 mark that I wouldn't otherwise have lost. A narrow win became a joint-win. The first prize - a Vintron Biz123 desktop computer - changed into a joint prize. And I regretted this a lot (at that time at least).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In a life insurance policy, you never win!

"...In any kind of insurance you are betting against the insurance company & the insurance company is betting against you.

The insurance company wins if you don't die early.

You win if you die early - so effectively you never win..."

LOL! How true!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Russia needs new aircraft engines which are accepted by Western airlines and lessors

Based on my current knowledge about the state of civil aircraft manufacturing industry in Russia and Ukraine, I can say with reasonable confidence that engines (also known as powerplants) are one of the key barriers to acceptance of current (An-148, Il-96, Tu-204, Tu-334) and upcoming (MS-21, Superjet 100) Russian/Ukrainian civil aircraft among Western customers (Note: MS-21 uses a P&W GTF engine as its standard powerplant, with the option of Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine). Western customers just do not trust the current breed of engines made by Aviadvigatel, Progress, et al.

I hypothesize that the acceptance of Russian/Ukrainian civil aircraft will continue to be zero/near-zero among mainstream Western operators until Russia/Ukraine:
  1. Either develop all-new engines that are at-par with engines from CFM/GE/IAE/P&W/Rolls-Royce/Snecma;
  2. Or equip existing and upcoming aircraft with Western engines.
Of course, neither of the above steps will help alone unless Russia/Ukraine also address the (many) other technical and service/support barriers (and possibly political barriers as well) preventing large operators worldwide from betting on these aircraft.

Aviadvigatel PS-90 turbofan powerplant (source)

What qualities are desirable in aircraft engines? I can think of these:
  1. Low fuel burn
  2. Low emissions
  3. Low noise
  4. Low vibration
  5. Low weight
  6. Low maintenance requirements
  7. Low cost of the engine
  8. Low cost of spares
  9. High performance (meets requirements of the host aircraft)
  10. High durability/reliability
  11. High resilience/safety/tolerance
  12. Automatic early warning systems (in case of malfunctioning)
  13. High serviciability (cheap/easy to service and repair)
  14. High availability of spare components
  15. High compatibility (supports many of the currently popular and promising upcoming aircraft models)
  16. High modifiability/upgradability (easy to downgrade, modify, or upgrade the basic design for different aircraft types)
  17. High recyclability (easy and profitable to comprehensively recycle old/written-off engines)
  18. Easy manageability (fully automated/computerized engine with easy management/operation)
  19. Compliant with global standards for aircraft engines
  20. Supports any alternative aviation fuels being standardized for near-future implementation
New engines such as the Aviadvigatel PD-14, PowerJet SaM146, and Progress D-27 are steps in the right direction, but Russia and Ukraine need to do a lot more - including, possibly, a consolidation of major engine-makers (akin to the formation of UAC) - before their indigenous engines are considered as a threat to Western engines.

A consolidation of major Russian/Ukrainian engine-makers looks as promising as PowerJet-like collaborations with Western makers - it'll create a large pool of engineering talent, funds, infrastructure, IP/patents and other assets, and hopefully result in new powerplants that bring sleepless nights to GE, Pratt and Rolls executives...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Aeroflot should use only Russian aircraft in its fleet, and set an example for other airlines

I second Putin's disappointment (here, here, and here) at Aeroflot's fleet expansion plans that include huge orders for Airbus and Boeing airplanes, but none for any Russian/Ukrainian plane (barring the Sukhoi Superjet 100 order, which pales in comparison to the Airbus and Boeing orders).

Aeroflot has to realize (or has to be made to realize) that its role is wider than of a for-profit company in the Russian Federation. Aeroflot is the de facto national airline of Russia, and its fleet is going to be looked at by both Eastern and Western airlines. If Aeroflot doesn't rely on Russian-made aircraft, the disastrous impression that this will leave on the potential customers of Russian-made aircraft is hard to underestimate.

Aeroflot Il-96 taking-off from Salzburg, Austria (source)

I'm (cautiously) hopeful that the newest breed of UAC aircraft - An-148, Il-96, MS-21, Superjet 100, Tu-334 and other cargo/special-purpose planes can fulfill at least many of Aeroflot's requirements (and Aeroflot might want to lease a few aircraft till its Russian-made aircraft are delivered). Aeroflot should adopt these fine aircraft with open arms, maintain these well (and thus prove to the world that with proper maintenance, the latest breed of Russian/Ukrainian aircraft perform as beautifully as the stewardesses of this fine airline), and set an example for other airlines to follow.

Update (16-Jul-10): And lo, the opening sentence of this 15-Jul-10 story on Aviation Week says exactly what I'm trying to say above.

Update (18-Jul-10): Not very happy to read that Aeroflot has ordered a bunch of A330 aircraft

Parents of underage drivers deserve punishment

Whenever I see kiddies literally flying their bikes/cars/scooters as if these were Boeings, I feel that it's their parents who must be held accountable for the potential danger that these underage drivers create for themselves and others.

Yes, guardians/parents should get strict punishment - both monetary and social - for giving vehicles to teens.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sikh turbans must pass security checks at airports

Most Indians - especially Punjabis - are well aware of the existence of a large-sized subset of the Sikh population which is extreme, fundamentalist, radicalized and separatist. The Emperor Kanishka terrorist act of 1985 was a direct result of this subset, as have been numerous other large and small incidents (also see this, this, this, this, and this). Any regulation that relaxes security-checking for the turban opens up a potential security hole, especially since the turban is frequently large-enough to accommodate a small-sized bomb/weapon (large enough to bring down a commercial airliner).

And so, in my opinion, the turban - irrespective of which religion's individual wears it - must undergo routine/stringent security checks at all airports worldwide. Strong and loud voices by Sikhs that touching the turban is an insult should not deter the airport security agencies from thoroughly searching it. Religious sentiments of some cannot be allowed to come in the way of the safety and security of the public.

I, for one, want to feel 100% safe whenever I board an aircraft, no matter how much inconvenience it causes to me or to others. We can certainly do without another Emperor Kanishka.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why has Sony's launched an "updated" series of VAIO laptops with lesser value for money?

VPCEB14EN was available till a few days back at Sony stores, and carried a sticker price of INR 38,990. It's no longer available, and according to dealers, Sony has "refreshed" its lineup of VAIO laptops in India, and launched VPCEB22EN (also priced at INR 38,990) "in place of" VPCEB14EN.

Differences between the two models (based on official specifications for CEB14EN and CEB22EN):
  • 22EN has Core i3-350M CPU; 14EN has Core i3-330M
  • 14EN has ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 GPU (with 512 MB dedicated video memory); 22EN has Intel HD Graphics GPU
  • 14EN has 3 GB of DDR3 RAM; 22EN has 2 GB
  • 14EN includes "3D audio"; 22EN does not
  • 22EN includes "Gesture supported" touchpad; 14EN does not
  • 14EN includes full versions of Adobe Premiere Elements 8, and Adobe Photoshop Elements 8; 22EN includes 30 day trial versions of these two applications
  • 22EN includes Office Starter 2010; 14EN includes 60-day trial of Office Professional 2007
It's clear that 14EN offers higher overall value for money, with a (much) better GPU, more RAM, and full versions of two digital creativity applications (compared to a better CPU, gesture-supported touchpad, and Office Starter 2010 offered by 22EN).

In the cut-throat competition world of consumer electronics and notebook computers, every refresh or update I've seen either offers more substance for the same price, or a lower price for the same substance. Why then, did Sony reduce the value offered in a refreshed lineup of VAIO? Disappointing. A dealbreaker.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Disabling traffic enforcement cameras using paint

While we were in South Africa, many times we would slow down our car to avoid getting "snapped" by a speed camera. There were a few cameras close to our home, and these were a frequent source of irritation for us. We sometimes wondered - how to impair these cameras without causing damage to the devices?

A speed camera in South Africa (source)

After a few discussions, one seemingly good idea that hit our minds was coating the camera's lens with black paint - effectively blinding it - without causing any visible damage. This act should be done at night, so that the camera doesn't capture the perpetrator's face.

I wonder whether damaging/disabling/impairing traffic cameras is a frequent occurrence in the world.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I want a simple, solid phone. Please.

I'm tired of having to take care of my Nokia N72 all the time, as dropping it would most likely damage it. It's a good phone no doubt, but it's too overloaded and tender. There are way too many features in it that I don't need or want, and too many others that I need and want are absent. What I need is a phone that:
  1. Is solid, yet lightweight
  2. Has a set of only the essential features
  3. Looks elegant and manly
  4. Has a long battery life
  5. Has excellent voice quality and volume
  6. Has excellent network reception
  7. Is dust-resistant and water-resistant
  8. Is easy to use and ergonomically designed
  9. Is something I can depend on
I don't need MMS, or camera, or games, or calendar, or Java, or multi-color display, or GPRS, or a Web browser, or music/video playback, or fancy ringtones, or other fancy features. I only need voice calling, SMS, call-recording, multiple alarms, and a few other capabilities. Actually, I realize that none of the phones I've ever seen fit my needs perfectly. What I really need is something I can only design myself.

When I look at some of the phones of 90s and early 2000s (Bosch World 718Ericsson GA 628, Ericsson GF 788eEricsson GH 688, Ericsson I 888, Ericsson SH 888Ericsson T28 World, Ericsson T28sMotorola StarTAC 75, Nokia 8810, Nokia 8850, Nokia 8855Siemens S10Sony CMD Z1 plusSony CMD Z7), I wish that the makers of these phones start making and selling these again. So simple, manly, and graceful. Almost what I need. 

Such a graceful phone (source)

I want to own and use each one of these. By saving contacts and SMS data only in the SIM card, I can ensure that I'm not locked-in to any handset, and can place the SIM in any of these to ready it.

Update (17-Jul-10): Among the relatively more recent phones, I especially like Nokia 2600 and Nokia 3120. Both of these phones are really durable/rugged, and both have soft keypads that feel nice!

Nokia 2600 (source); Nokia 3120 (source)

The Apple MacBook I want to buy

As I'm thinking of buying a new laptop computer these days, I see that the MacBook selling for $999 has nearly everything I need (it's light, fast, durable/strong, beautiful, ergonomically designed, graceful, decently priced, and has a good feature set), except the following:
  1. 8 GB RAM (so I can disable the swap file, and use RAM disk)
  2. 40 GB Intel MLC SSD, so I don't have to worry about jerks
  3. SD card slot, so I can more easily transfer data
  4. GSM SIM card slot and appropriate communication chips, etc., so I can stay connected on the move
I really wish that the current MacBook - along with the above 4 features - was available in India, and priced at the equivalent of 1099 USD. I would've happily gone ahead to buy it...

PS: continues to impress me. In contrast to the tasteless and trash-worthy websites operated by Dell and HP, actually manages to inform and impress you.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Is it possible to sabotage someone's Google AdSense account with repeated clicks?

I first experimented with Google's AdSense service back in early 2006. One of the thoughts that arose back then in my mind was this - is it possible for someone - say someone who dislikes/hates me - to get my Google AdSense account banned/disabled, by deliberately causing repeated clicks on the ads (either automatically or manually)?

I felt that the answer should be yes. Ever since, I wanted to pen this concern on my blog. And today - after 4 years - when I (finally) started writing this post, I was (a little) surprised to see that many other people have already voiced concerns regarding this (here and here).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Renaming this blog...

I'm renaming this blog today. It's current name is "Rishabh Singla's Main Blog". Henceforth, it'll be titled "FirstStep (by Rishabh Singla)".

This name change was long due, as ever since I created a new blog on my own domain name, I was concerned about the word 'Main' in the title of this blog. This isn't my main blog (HyperBlog is), and so the word 'Main' was required to go from the title.

I've chosen FirstStep as the new name, because it reflects that this was the first blog on which I started posting more serious ideas and thoughts. It'll take some time to adjust to the new name, but this change is a much-needed one.

Some screenshots of SERPs with the original name are here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Opera Software should consider switching to third-party layout and JavaScript engines

After over 8 years of using the Opera browser, I'm in a position to say that Opera Software should consider switching the innards of its Web browser to an Open Source, third-party engine (preferably WebKit). I say so because based on my years of usage of this great Internet suite, as well as extensive reading of the business and technical aspects of Web browsers, I feel that Opera's key attractions are its:
  1. User interface
  2. Security and reliability/stability
  3. Speed
  4. Features
  5. Low resource usage (less valid with Opera 10.x)
  6. Standards-compliance
These attractions continue to hold true if Opera switches to third-party layout and JavaScript engines. Why then is Opera continuing to invest a significant amount of cash in the development of proprietary engines? Would it make more sense to redirect this money to increase the abysmally-low penetration of Opera's desktop browser? Or to speedup the development and refinement of new/existing features?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Has the quality of McDonald's McAloo Tikki burger gone down in the last few months?

I remember clearly (CLEARLY) that the quantity of the characteristic orange-colored sauce inside a McAloo Tikki burger (also called just Aloo Tikki burger) used to be quite higher than what McDonald's gives these days. Although the orange sauce would nearly overflow as one ate the burger, it made the burger softer and more easily chewable, even without ketchup. The burger they give today is dry. Sad.

(This one was bought from Sector-18, Noida)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Web counter replaced to StatCounter

I've replaced the hit counter on this blog, from Tiny Counter to StatCounter - the former's counter didn't show up quite often. I've started the count of StatCounter's counter at 21,115 - the latest count displayed by Tiny Counter's counter for this blog.

Why I bought Swift petrol, and not diesel

When I bought Swift in Oct'08, I had a choice between buying the petrol and diesel variants. The diesel variant was priced ~1 lakh INR above the petrol variant. Following factors made me go for petrol:
  • 1 lakh rupees translate into ~2,000 liters of petrol, which translate into ~24,000 km worth of driving (a reasonable estimate). I estimated that I'm going to drive ~20 km per weekday, and I shall need a total of ~600 km per month. Which means that by going for the petrol variant, I shall be driving for "free" for the first three years, by not paying 1 lakh rupees for the diesel variant. Notably, this calculation includes only the premium needed for purchasing the diesel variant, and excludes the additional cost of buying fuel.
  • Lower maintenance.
  • Lower NVH.
  • Low external noise (but not too low to not alert others).
  • Lower pollution.
  • Higher acceleration/pickup.
(My Swift looks almost like this; Image source)

My Swift's odometer currently reads ~9,000 km. Excluding my 6-month stay in South Africa, I've used the car for ~1 year now, and 24,000 km is still far away - which means that my car is still running for "free". And I'm a happy owner of this beautiful, modern automobile.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Pay-by-usage software pricing? Yes please!

This post (and its title) is inspired by:
Consider two individuals:
  1. User A: Needs certain features available only in Photoshop CS5, but uses them infrequently
  2. User B: Uses many features of Photoshop CS5 heavily
Should A pay as much as B to buy a Photoshop CS5 license? No, in my opinion. It's neither fair, nor value-based, to quote Duncan Jones.

(However, I'm against the "limited duration" and "limited number of times" models sometimes used to implement pay-for-usage. From my observation, these models act as a constant "concern/distraction layer" in the minds of users trying to complete a task, forcing them to also focus on their usage, hurting productivity/quality and killing the fun of using software. Examples include limited minutes on phones and data-transfer limits in Internet connections. You may give less features, but don't limit their usage.)

What solution do I propose? None as yet. I'll think about this some other day when I have more time.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Air India offers South African Airways' codeshared flight tickets at a price lower than SAA's price

I just came across this odd-looking pricing. Air India flight AI 7625 from Bombay/Mumbai (BOM) to Johannesburg (JNB) is operated by South African Airways (flight SA 285), and the ticket price for Air India is lower than the price for SAA. I don't find this normal. How can Air India offer a price which is lower than SAA's price, unless Air India is either making a loss, or is making no profit. Shouldn't ticket-booking websites detect such anomalies, and alert users (especially those who're buying tickets for SA 285) that tickets for SA 285 can be had for less, if instead they book on AI 7625? I think they should.

Update (23-Feb-2012): Once again, Air India offers Ethiopian's flights at a lower price. should flag this to users who try to buy the Ethiopian flight.

Update [29-Aug-15]: Air India has massively overpriced the Air Astana flights that it's offering under its name, as can be seen clearly in the two screenshots below. should clearly alert its users to such points in order to help them save money.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Every flight is a mission...

I love watching flying planes. For years now, I've been looking at planes passing above in the sky. I feel good when I see the bright blinking lights moving through the night sky. I wonder if decades back, anyone had ever imagined that in the 21st century, civilian aircraft will carry millions of individuals across continents and oceans at near-supersonic speeds. I wonder if they had ever thought that colorful blinking lights flying through the night sky will be commonplace in the 21st century...

I sometimes think: Even though air-travel has become routine in current times - with thousands of planes flying daily - it (probably) doesn't mean that the complexity and risks associated with it have decreased. Drinks, delicious food, warm hospitality and a multitude of entertainment options might make us forget it, but the truth is that we fly tens of thousands of feet above the earth's surface, where outside air and temperature are unsuitable for human survival, roaring and piercing through the sky at nearly the speed of sound.

And so I believe that every flight is a mission. A mission as crucial as a military mission, with safely transporting the set of passengers from destination A to destination B as the objective.

Update (15-May-10 and 1-Jun-10): I watched a few aviation-related videos on YouTube today. The following videos have strengthened my belief that every flight is a mission
  1. 747 very late take-off
  2. Ilyushin Il-86 late takeoff
  3. Amazing take offs at JFK airport
  4. Concorde captain changes his mind
  5. Crazy dangerous takeoff 767 in severe storm!!
  6. Spectacular Take Off CLOSE to the mountains (Juneau, Alaska)
  7. Cabin Crew announcement approaching thunderstorm flying at 40,000 feet