Waves brought by typhoon Nesat

Big Picture covers the typhoon Nesat that caused havoc in several Asian countries – India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Philippines.  While most of the pictures there attempt to show the scale of the destruction and suffering, I was mesmerized by this one, which displays the powers of nature.

World’s Most Dangerous Countries for Women

It’s been a while since I linked to the Big Picture blog. One of their recent posts thought struck a nerve.   It was covering the world’s most dangerous countries for women.  It’s difficult to imagine that these are not hundreds of years ago, but now !

Targeted violence against females, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, with Congo a close second due to horrific levels of rape. Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the global survey of perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide (the destruction of a fetus in the uterus), genital mutilation and acid attack. A survey compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of TrustLaw Woman*, puts Afghanistan at the top of the list of the most dangerous places in the world for women. TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five contents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six categories of risk. The risks consisted of health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.

China is coming

These days, when discussing globalization with my friends, the discussion often touches upon China.  And more often than not I hear skepticism when suggesting that China’s role is becoming more important and more influential.  While I am of the opinion that China is in its early stages of being a global superpower, many people seem to believe that China has some sort of limitation that it won’t ever overcome.  The mass production of cheap, low quality goods seems to be the sky’s limit.  I strongly disagree with that.  I’ve read and heard plenty about the quality of Chinese production going up.  And I don’t believe that China is limited by cheap labor alone.

Today, I read an article in GigaOm about Chinese geeks, who have studied and worked in US.  Many of them, it seems, are going home to start business in China.  Here is a quote form the article:

In China, the red-hot tech scene seems dominated by a small group of entrepreneurs who paid their dues in Silicon Valley before returning home to create successful Internet and software startups. Aside from finding fame and fortune, these “returnees” are also laying the foundation for a startup culture that will allow grassroots entrepreneurs to flourish as well.

Returnees — Chinese nationals who studied or worked the U.S. — head up just 3 percent of all tech companies in China, yet they represent nearly 70 percent of all startups that go public in the U.S. market (still the largest measure of success in the industry), according to an internal study by Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm GSR Ventures, which deals exclusively in China. The firm also found startups created by returnees were much likelier to become financially successful and hire more employees than startups founded by Chinese entrepreneurs who never worked in the U.S.

On the same note, I’ve heard similar things about India too.  You don’t have to know too much about Indians in technology – look at some conference presentations from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft.  Half of the people speaking will be of Indian decent. And one day some of them will go back to India to start their own business too.  Still think that China and India will serve the world with cheap labor  and call centers for the eternity?

 

Indian pole gymnastics

I’ve seen plenty of awesome gymnastics videos on YouTube, but this one still stands up there with the best ones.  I wish they’d do more stuff like this on the actual Olympic Games.  Maybe more people would’ve watched them.

P.S.: And, yes, if you were wondering, I watched this clip with while laying on a couch, with a can of beer in my hand.

Education for IT

For a while now I am thinking and re-thinking the misalignment of the computer science education system and the real world needs of IT industry.  And it’s not only me, and it’s not only in Cyprus.  I’ve seen it myself of course, but also heard it from many people around the world.  There are not enough candidates to hire, and the quality of the candidates even coming out of the top schools is very poor.  It’s not rare to see a candidate who has no idea what a loop is, yet holding not one, but two bachelor degrees from both UK and American universities.

While I understand that there are differences from school to school and university to university, and that Computer Science is an academic discipline, not a practical tutorial for the programmer wannabes, I still think that there is something wrong with how computers are taught today.  And there is more than one problem.  Here are just some of those that I could think of:

  • There should be a balance between theory and practice.  Computer Science graduates should have some practical value, not only theoretical.  They should be able to assemble and disassemble a computer, configure a simple network, and write a simple program, at a very least.  Without that all their theoretical baggage is useless.  Or so I think.
  • Technology in general and computers in particular have evolved a lot in the last few years.  And they continue to evolve.  Academia is too slow to react to the modern world and something has to be done about that.
  • Academia is too slow in adoption of the new teaching methods.  These days pretty much everyone has a computer and access to the Internet.  Anyone can use Google, Wikipedia, and other excellent tools.   But those excellent are only a the beginning of the integration with the official teaching process, even though some of them have been here for years.
  • The world itself is changing.  Younger generations differ from the older ones quite a bit, especially in their attention spans, the breadth of attention, and requirements for feedback.   They have a bigger need to see immediate effect than we had, and we needed that more than our parents needed.  The world is getting faster, snappier.  And I don’t see a reflection of that in academia.

So we with all those things I was thinking what can be done and how.   I don’t have a solution for any of these problems of course.  I don’t know what will work and what won’t.  But one thing that I was fascinated to see, for example, was this interview with Sridhar Vembu of Zoho.  These guys in India see the problem and even think that it’s magnified for them with an even faster rate of development and with lower access of the general public to the good education.  And it is absolutely amazing how they went about solving the problem, experimenting, and also the results that they have achieved!

Via O’Reilly Radar.

Google from the 700 MHz point of view

In the last two years, the well-known fact of Google offering free WiFi Internet access in Mountain View, California has almost been forgotten (except, of course, by people living in Mountain View and Googlers themselves).  At the time of news many were wondering about why Google is doing such a thing.  Not it all suddenly became obvious…

Slashdot reports that Google is preparing for a bid in the upcoming auction set up by FCC for a 700 Mhz radio frequency.  There are a few interesting twists about the offer – “open access” and “nation-wide”.  With these news, it’s hard to see the Mountain View setup as something else rather than a test platform.  With the recently released Android open mobile platform, the connections seem obvious.

The stakes for the band are high, and Google is planning to bid at least $4.6 billion USD dollars.  And they are paying this all out of their own pocket (not sharing with another company, etc).   Wh?  Because there are quiet a few things on Google’s agenda.

If you are like me, and need more information on this whole thing, here are a few pointers:

P.S. : Now those Indian telecoms have to re-think their position.

P.P.S. : In the completely unrelated news,  Ubiquiti Networks announced world’s first 700 MHz WiFi radio.  Here is the official press release.