The Great Train Robbery

I had a twitter fight few days back with a gentleman and the article is a result of that fight. Sadly, I do not know the name of the gentleman as he goes via a psuedo name and then again I’ve not taken permission from him to quote him in either way. So I will just state the observations I was able to make from the conversations we had. As people who read this blog regularly would know, I am and have been against Railway Privatization which is happening in India. And will be sharing some of the case studies from other countries as to how it panned out for them.

UK Railways


How Privatization Fails : Railways

The Above video is by a gentleman called Shaun who basically shared that privatization as far as UK is concerned is nothing but monopolies and while there are complex reasons for the same, the design of the Railways is such that it will always be a monopoly structure. At the most what you can do is have several monopolies but that is all that can happen. The idea of competition just cannot happen. Even the idea that subsidies will be less or/and trains will run on time is far from fact. Both of these facts have been checked and found to be truthful by fullfact.org. It is and argued that UK is small and perhaps it doesn’t have the right conditions. It is probably true but still we do deserve to have a glance at the UK railway map.

UK railway map with operators
UK railway map with operators

The above map is copyrighted to Map Marketing where you could see it today . As can be seen above most companies had their own specified areas. Now if you had looked at the facts then you would have seen that UK fares have been higher. In fact, an oldish article from Metro (a UK publication) shares the same. In fact, UK nationalized its railways effectively as many large rail operators were running in red. Even Scotland is set to nationalised back in March 2022. Remember this is a country which hasn’t seen inflation go upwards of 5% in nearly a decade. The only outlier was 2011 where they indeed breached the 5% mark. So from this, what we see is ‘Private Gains’ and “Private Gains Public Losses’ perhaps seem fit. But then maybe we didn’t use the right example. Perhaps Japan would be better. They have bullet trains while UK is still thinking about it. (HS2).

Japanese Railway

Below is the map of Japanese Railway

Railway map of Japan with ‘private ownership’ – courtesy Wikimedia commons

Japan started privatizing its railway in 1987 and to date it has not been fully privatized. And on top of it, amount as much as ¥24 trillion of the long-term JNR debt was shouldered by the government at the expense of taxpayers of Japan while also reducing almost 1/4th of it employees. To add to it, while some parts of Japanese Railways did make profits, many of them made profits by doing large-scale non-railway business mostly real estate of land adjacent to railway stations. In many cases, it seems this went all the way up to 60% of the revenue. The most profitable has been the Shinkansen though. And while it has been profitable, it has not been without safety scandals over the years, the biggest in recent years was the 2005 Amagasaki derailment. What was interesting to me was the Aftermath, while the Wikipedia page doesn’t share much, I had read at the time and probably could be found how a lot of ordinary people stood up to the companies in a country where it is a known fact that most companies are owned by the Yakuza. And this is a country where people are loyal to their corporation or company no matter what. It is a strange culture to west and also here in India where people change jobs on drop of hat, although nowadays we have record unemployment. So perhaps Japan too does not meet our standard as it doesn’t do competition with each other but each is a set monopoly in those regions. Also how much subsidy is there or not is not really transparent.

U.S. Railways

Last, but not the least I share the U.S. Railway map. This is provided by A Mr. Tom Alison on reddit on channel maporn. As the thread itself is archived and I do not know the gentleman concerned, nor have taken permission for the map, hence sharing the compressed version –


U.S. Railway lines with the different owners

Now the U.S. Railways is and has always been peculiar as unlike the above two the U.S. has always been more of a freight network. Probably, much of it has to do that in the 1960’s when oil was cheap, the U.S. made zillions of roadways and romanticized the ‘road trip’ and has been doing it ever since. Also the creation of low-cost airlines definitely didn’t help the railways to have more passenger services, in fact the opposite.

There are and have been smaller services and attempts of privatization in both New Zealand and Australia and both have been failures. Please see papers in that regard. My simple point is this, as can be seen above, there have been various attempts at privatization of railways and most of them have been a mixed bag. The only one which comes close to what we think as good is Japanese but that also used a lot of public debt which we don’t know what will happen on next. Also for higher-speed train services like a bullet train or whatever, you need to direct, no hair pen bends. In fact, a good talk on the topic is the TBD podcast which while it talks about hyperloop, the same questions is and would be asked if were to do in India. Another thing to be kept in mind is that the Japanese have been exceptional builders and this is because they have been forced to. They live in a seismically active zone which made Fukushima disaster a reality but at the same time, their buildings are earthquake-resistant.

Standard Disclaimer – The above is a simplified version of things. I could have added in financial accounts but that again has no set pattern. For e.g. some Railways use accrual, some use cash and some use hybrid. I could have also shared in either the guage or electrification but all have slightly different standards, although uniguage is something that all Railways aspire for and electrification is again something that all Railways want although in many cases it just isn’t economically feasible.

Indian Railways

Indian Railways itself recently made the move from Cash to Accrual couple of years back. In-between for a couple of years, it was hybrid. The sad part is and was you can now never measure against past performance in the old way because it is so different. Hence, whether the Railways will be making a loss or a profit, we would come to know only much later. Also, most accountants don’t know the new system well, so it is gonna take more time, how much unknown. Sadly, what GOI did a few years back is merge the Railway budget into the Union Budget. Of course, the excuse they gave is too many pressures of new trains, while the truth is, by doing this, they decreased transparency about the whole thing. For e.g. for the last few years, the only state which had significant work being done is in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) and a bit in Goa, although that is has been protested time and again. I being from the neighborly state of Maharashtra , and have been there several times. Now it does feels all like a dream, going to Goa :(.

Covid news

Now before I jump on the news, I should share the movie ‘Virus’ (2019) which was made by the talented Aashiq Abu. Even though, am not a Malayalee, I still have enjoyed many of his movies simply because he is a terrific director and Malayalam movies, at least most of them have English subtitles and lot of original content.. Interestingly, unlike the first couple of times when I saw it a couple of years back. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t sleep a wink for a week. Even the next time, it was heavy. I had shared the movie with mum, and even she couldn’t see it in one go. It is and was that powerful Now maybe because we are headlong in the pandemic, and the madness is all around us. There are two terms that helped me though understand a great deal of what is happening in the movie, the first term was ‘altered sensorium’ which has been defined here. The other is saturation or to be more precise ‘oxygen saturation‘. This term has also entered the Indian twitter lexicon quite a bit as India has started running out of oxygen. Just today Delhi High Court did an emergency hearing on the subject late at night. Although there is much to share about the mismanagement of the center, the best piece on the subject has been by Miss Priya Ramani. Yup, the same lady who has won against M.J. Akbar and this is when Mr. Akbar had 100 lawyers for this specific case. It would be interesting to see what happens ahead.

There are however few things even she forgot in her piece, For e.g. reverse migration i.e. from urban to rural migration started again. Two articles from different entities sharing a similar outlook.Sadly, the right have no empathy or feeling for either the poor or the sick. Even the labor minister Santosh Gangwar’s statement that around 1.04 crores were the only people who walked back home. While there is not much data, however some work/research has been done on migration to cites that the number could be easily 10 times as much. And this was in the lockdown of last year. This year, again the same issue has re-surfaced and migrants learning lessons started leaving cities. And I’m ashamed to say I think they are doing the right thing. Most State Governments have not learned lessons nor have they done any work to earn the trust of migrants. This is true of almost all state Governments. Last year, just before the lockdown was announced, me and my friend spent almost 30k getting a cab all the way from Chennai to Pune, how much we paid for the cab, how much we bribed the various people just so we could cross the state borders to return home to our anxious families. Thankfully, unlike the migrants, we were better off although we did make a loss. I probably wouldn’t be alive if I were in their situation as many didn’t. That number is still in the air ”undocumented deaths’ 😦

Vaccine issues

Currently, though the issue has been the Vaccine and the pricing of the same. A good article to get a summation of the issues outlined has been shared on Economist. Another article that goes to the heart of the issue is at scroll. To buttress the argument, the SII chairman had shared this few weeks back –

Adar Poonawala talking to Vishnu Som on Left, right center, 7th April 2021.

So, a licensee manufacturer wants to make super-profits during the pandemic. And now, as shared above they can very easily do it. Even the quotes given to nearby countries is smaller than the quotes given to Indian states –

Prices of AstraZeneca among various states and countries.

The situation around beds, vaccines, oxygen, anything is so dire that people could go to any lengths to save their loved ones. Even if they know if a certain medicine doesn’t work. For e.g. Remdesivir, 5 WHO trials have concluded that it doesn’t increase mortality. Heck, even AIIMS chief said the same. But both doctors and relatives desperation to cling on hope has made Remdesivir as a black market drug with unoffical prices hovering anywhere between INR 14k/- to INR30k/- per vial. One of the executives of a top firm was also arrested in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, the opposition M.P. came to the ‘rescue‘ of the officials of Bruick pharms in Mumbai.

Sadly, this strange affliction to the party in the center is also there in my extended family. At one end, they will heap praise on Mr. Modi, at the same time they can’t get wait to get fast out of India. Many of them have settled in horrors of horror Dubai, as it is the best place to do business, get international schools for the young ones at decent prices, cheaper or maybe a tad more than what they paid in Delhi or elsewhere. Being an Agarwal or a Gupta makes it easier to compartmentalize both things. Ease of doing business, 5 days flat to get a business registered, up and running. And the paranoia is still there. They won’t talk on the phone about him because they are afraid they may say something which comes back to bite them. As far as their decision to migrate, can’t really blame them. If I were 20-25 yeas younger and my mum were in a better shape than she is, we probably would have migrated as well, although would have preferred Europe than anywhere else.

Internet Freedom and Aarogya Setu App.


Internet Freedom had shared the chilling effects of the Aarogya Setu App. This had also been shared by FSCI in the past, and recently had their handle being banned on Twitter. This was also apparent in a legal bail order which the high court judge gave. While I won’t go into the merits and demerits of the bail order, it is astounding for the judge to say that the accused, even though he would be on bail install an app. so he can be surveilled. And this is a high court judge, such a sad state of affairs. We seem to be putting up new lows every day when it comes to judicial jurisprudence. One interesting aspect of the whole case was shared by Aishwarya Iyer. She shared a story that she and her team worked on quint which raises questions on the quality of the work done by Delhi Police. This is of course, up to Delhi Police to ascertain the truth of the matter because unless and until they are able to tie in the PMO’s office in for a leak or POTUS’s office it hardly seems possible. For e.g. the dates when two heads of state can meet each other would be decided by the secretaries of the two. Once the date is known, it would be shared with the press while at the same time some sort of security apparatus would kick in place. It is incumbent, especially on the host to take as much care as he can of the guest. We all remember that World War 1 (the war to end all wars) started due to the murder of Archduke Ferdinand.

As nobody wants that, the best way is to make sure that a political murder doesn’t happen on your watch. Now while I won’t comment on what it would be, it would be safe to assume that it would be z+ security along with higher readiness. Especially if it as somebody as important as POTUS. Now, it would be quite a reach for Delhi Police to connect the two dates. They either will have to get creative with the dates or some other way. Otherwise, with practically no knowledge in the public domain, they can”t work in limbo. In either case, I do hope the case comes up for hearing soon and we see what the Delhi Police says and contends in the High Court about the same. At the very least, it would be irritating for them to talk of the dates unless they can contend some mass conspiracy which involves the PMO (and would bring into question the constant vetting done by the Intelligence dept. of all those who work in PMO). And this whole case is to kind of shelter to the Delhi riots which happened in which majorly the Muslims died but their deaths lay unaccounted till date 😦

Conclusion

In Conclusion, I would like to share a bit of humor because right now the atmosphere is humorless, both with authoritarian tendencies of the Central Govt. and the mass mismanagement of public health which they now have left to the state to do as they fit. The peice I am sharing is from arre, one of my goto sites whenever I feel low.

Women state in India and proposal for corporates in Indian banking

Gradle and Kotlin in Debian

Few months back, I was looking at where Gradle and Kotlin were in Debian. They still seem to be a work in progress. I found the Android-tools salsa repo which tells me the state of things. While there has been movement on both, a bit more on Kotlin, it still seems it would take a while. For kotlin, the wiki page is most helpful as well as the android-tool salsa kotlin board page . Ironically, some of the more important info. is shared in a blog post which ideally should also have been reflected in kotlin board page . I did see some of the bugs so know it’s pretty much dependency hell. I can only congratulate and encourage Samyak Jain and Raman Sarda. I also played a bit with the google-android-emulator-installer which is basically a hook which downloads the binary from google. I do not know what the plans are, but perhaps in the future they also might be build locally, who knows. Just sharing/stating here so it’s part of my notes whenever I wanna see what’s happening 🙂

Women in India

I am sure some of you might remember my blog post from last year. It is almost close to a year 2020 now and the question to be asked is, has much changed ? After a lot or hue and cry the Government of India shared the NCRB data of crimes against women and caste crimes. The report shared that crimes against women had risen by 7.3% in a year, similarly crimes against lower castes also went by similar percentage . With the 2020 pandemic, I am sure the number has gone up more. And there is a possibility that just like last year, next year the Government would cite the pandemic and say no data. This year they have done it for migrant deaths during lockdown , for job losses due to the pandemic and so on and so forth. So, it will be no surprise if the Govt. says about NCRB data next year as well. Although media has been showing some in spite of the regular threats to the journalists as shared in the last blog post. There is also data that shows that women participation in labor force has fallen sharply especially in the last few years and the Government seems to have no neither idea nor do they seem to care for the same. There aren’t any concrete plans to bring back the balance even a little bit.

Few Court judgements

But all hope is not lost. There have been a couple of good judgements, one from the CIC (Chief Information Commissioner) wherein in specific cases a wife can know salary details of her husband, especially if there is some kind of maintenance due from the husband. There was so much of hue and cry against this order that it was taken down from the livelaw RTI corner. Luckily, I had downloaded it, hence could upload and share it.

Another one was a case/suit about a legally matured women who had decided to marry without parental consent. In this case, the Delhi High Court had taken women’s side and stated she can marry whom she wants. Interestingly, about a week back Uttar Pradesh (most notorious about crime against women) had made laws called ‘Love Jihad‘ and 2 -3 states have followed them. The idea being to create an atmosphere of hate against Muslims and women have no autonomy about what they want. This is when in a separate suit/case against Sudharshan TV (a far-right leaning channel promoting hate against Muslims) , the Government of India itself put an affidavit stating that Tablighis (a sect of Muslims who came from Malaysia to India for religious discourse and assembly) were not responsible for dissemination of the virus and some media has correctly portrayed the same. Of course, those who are on the side of the Govt. on this topic think a ‘traitor’ has written. They also thought that the Govt. had taken a wrong approach but couldn’t tell of a better approach to the matter.

There are too many matters in the Supreme Court of women asking for justice to tell all here but two instances share how the SC has been buckling under the stress of late, one is a webinar which was chaired by Justice Subramaniam where he shared how the executive is using judicial appointments to do what it wants. The gulf between the executive and the SC has been since Indira Gandhi days, especially the judicial orders which declared that the Emergency is valid by large, it has fallen much more recently and the executive has been muscling in which have resulted in more regressive decisions than progressive.

This observation is also in tune with another study which came to the same result although using data. The raw data from the study could give so much more than what has been shared. For e.g. as an idea for the study, of the ones cited, how many have been in civil law, personal law, criminal or constitutional law. This would give a better understanding of things. Also what is shocking is none of our court orders have been cited in the west in the recent past, when there used to be a time when the west used to take guidance from Indian jurisprudence sometimes and cite the orders to reach similar conclusion or if not conclusion at least be used as a precedent. I guess those days are over.

Government giving Corporate ownership to Private Sector Banks

There was an Internal Working Group report to review extant ownership guidelines and Corporate Structure for Indian Private Sector Banks. – This is the actual title of the report.

Now there were and are concerns about the move which were put forth by Dr. Raghuram Rajan and Viral Acharya. While Dr. Rajan had been the 23rd Governor of RBI from 4th September 2013 to 4th September 2016.

His most commendable work which largely is unknown to most people was the report A hundred small steps which you buy from sage publications. Viral Acharya was the deputy governor from 23rd January 2017 – 23rd July 2019. Mr. Acharya just recently published his book Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India which can be bought from the same publication house as well.

They also wrote a three page article stating that does India need corporates in banking? More interestingly, he shares two points from history both world war 1 and world war 2. In both cases, the allies had to cut down the businesses who had owned banks. In Germany, it was the same and in Japan, the zaibatsu’s dissolution, both of which were needed to make the world safe again. Now, if we don’t learn lessons from history it is our fault, not history’s.

What was also shared that this idea was taken up in 2013 but was put into cold-storage. He also commented on the pressure on RBI as all co-operative banks have come under its ambit in the last few months. RBI has had a patchy record, especially in the last couple of years, with big scams like ILFS, Yes Bank, PMC Bank, Laxmi Vilas Bank among others. The LVB Bank being the most recent one.

If new banking licenses have to be given they can be given to good NBFC’s who have been in the market for a long time and have shown maturity while dealing with public money. What is the hurry for giving it to Corporate/business houses ? There are many other good points in the report with which both Mr. Rajan and Mr. Acharya are in agreement and do hope the other points/suggestions/proposals are implemented. There was and is an interesting report by Reserve Bank of India called financial sector legislative reforms commission report volume 1 . If and when it gets deleted from RBI, I have put up a copy at my WordPress account, so we shall always have one.

Interestingly, while looking through the people who were part of the committee was a somewhat familiar name Murmu . This is perhaps the first time you see people from a sort of political background being in what should be a cut and dry review which have people normally from careers in finance or Accounts. It also turns out that only one person was in favor of banks going to corporates, all the rest were against.

It seems that the specific person hadn’t heard the terms ‘self-lending’, ‘connected-lending’ and conflict of interest. One of the more interesting comments in the report is if a corporate has a bank, then why would he go to Switzerland, he would just wash the money in his own bank. And if banks were to become to big to fail like it happened in the United States, it would be again private gains, public losses. There was also a Washington Post article which shares some of the reasons that Indian banks fail. I think we need to remind ourselves once again, how things can become –


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gK3s5j7PgA

Positive News at end

At the end I do not want to end on a sour notes, hence sharing a YouTube channel of Films Division India where you can see of the very classic works and interviews of some of the greats in Indian art cinema.

https://www.youtube.com/user/FilmsDivision/videos

Also sharing a bit of funny story I came to know about youtube-dl, apparently it was taken off from github but thanks to efforts from EFF, Hackernews and others, it is now back in action.

Reviewing Agent 6

The city I come from, Pune has been experiencing somewhat of a heat-wave. So I have been cutting off lot of work and getting lot of back-dated reading done. One of the first books I read was Tom Rob Smith’s Agent 6 . Fortunately , I read only the third book and not the first two which from the synopsis seem to be more gruesome than the one which I read, so guess there is something to be thankful for.

Agent 6 copyright - Tom Rob Smith & Publishers

While I was reading about the book, I had thought that MGB is a fictious organization thought of by the author. But a quick look in wikipedia told that it is what KGB was later based upon.

I found the book to be both an easy read as well as a layered book. I was lucky to get a big print version of the book so I was able to share the experience with my mother as well. The book is somewhat hefty as it tops out around 600 pages although it’s told to be 480 pages on amazon.

As I had shared previously I had read Russka and how had been disappointed to see how the Russian public were disappointed time and again for democracy. I do understand that the book (Russka) itself is/was written by a western author and could have tapped into some unconscious biases but seemed to be accurate as to whatever I could find from public resources, that story though I may return to in a future date but this time would be for Agent 6 .

I found the book pretty immersive and at the same time lead me thinking on so many threads the author touches but then moves on. I was left wondering and many times just had to sleep, think deep thoughts as there was quite to chew on.

I am not going to spoil any surprises except to say there are quite a few twists and the ending is also what I didn’t expect.

At the end, if you appreciate politics, history, bit of adventure and have a bit of patience, the book is bound to reward you. It is not meant to be a page-turner but if you are one who enjoys savoring your drink you are going to enjoy it thoroughly.

PC desktop build, Intel, spectre issues etc.

This is and would be a longish one.

I have been using desktop computers for around couple of decades now. My first two systems were an Intel Pentium III and then a Pentium Dual-core, the first one on kobian/mercury motherboard. The motherboards were actually called Mercury and was a brand which was later sold to Kobian which kept the brand-name. The motherboards and the CPU/processor used to be cheap. One could set up a decentish low-end system with display for around INR 40k/- which seemed to be decent as a country we had just come out of non-alignment movement and also chose to come out of isolationist tendencies (technology and otherwise as well). Most middle-class income families got their first taste of computers after y2k. There were quite a few y2k incomes which prompted the Government to lose duties further.

One of the highlights during 1991 when satellite TV came was shown by CNN (probably CNN International) was the coming down of the Berlin Wall. There were many of us who were completely ignorant of world politics or what is/was happening in other parts of the world.

Computer systems at those times were considered a luxury item and duties were sky-high ( between 1992-2001). The launch of Mars Pathfinder, its subsequent successful landing on the Martian surface also catapulted people’s imagination about PCs and micro-processors.

I can still recall the excitement that was among young people of my age first seeing the liftoff from Cape Canaveral and then later the processed images of Spirits cameras showing images of a desolate desert-type land. We also witnessed the beginnings of ‘International Space Station‘ (ISS) .

Me and few of my friends had drunk lot of Carl Sagan and many other sci-fi coolaids/stories. Star Trek, the movies and the universal values held/shared by them was a major influence to all our lives.

People came to know about citizen based science or projects/distributed science projects, y2k fear appeared to be unfounded all these factors and probably a few more prompted the Government of India to reduce duties on motherboards, processors, components as well as taking Computers out of the restricted list which lead to competition and finally the common man being able to dream of a system sooner than later. Y2K also kick-started the beginnings of Indian software industry which is the bread and butter of many a middle class men-women who are in the service industry using technology directly or indirectly.

In 2002 I bought my first system, an Intel Pentium III, i810 chipset (integrated graphics) with 256 MB of SDRAM which was supposed to be sufficient for the tasks it was being used for, Some light gaming, some web-mails, seeing movies,etc running on a mercury board. I don’t remember the code-name partly because the code-names are/were really weird and partly because it is just too long ago. I remember using Windows ’98 and trying to install one of the early GNU/Linux variants on that machine. Ir memory serves right, you had to flick a jumper (like a switch) to use the extended memory.

I do not know/remember what happened but I think somewhere in a year or two in that time-frame Mercury India filed for bankruptcy and the name, manufacturing was sold to Kobian. After Kobian took over the ownership, it said it would neither honor the 3/5 year warranty or even repairs on the motherboards Mercury had sold, it created a lot of bad will against the company and relegated itself to the bottom of the pile for both experienced and new system-builders. Also mercury motherboards weren’t reputed/known to have a long life although the one I had gave me quite a decent life.

The next machine I purchased was a Pentium Dual-core, (around 2009/2010) LGA a Williamnette which had out-of-order execution, the bug meltdown which is making news nowadays has history this far back. I think I bought it in 45nm which was a huge jump from the previous version although still secure in the mATX package. Again the board was from mercury. (Intel 845 chipset, DDR2 2 GB RAM and SATA came to stay).

So meltdown has been in existence for 10-12 odd years and is in everything which either uses Intel or ARM processors.

As you can probably make-out most systems came stretched out 2-3 years later than when they were launched in American or/and European markets. Also business or tourism travel was neither so easy, smooth or transparent as is today. All of which added to delay in getting new products in India.

Sadly, the Indian market is similar to other countries where Intel is used in more than 90% machines. I know of few institutions (though pretty much rare) who insisted and got AMD solutions.

That was the time when gigabyte came onto the scene which formed the basis of the Wolfdale-3M 45nm system which was in the same price range as the earlier models, and offered a weeny tiny bit of additional graphics performance.To the best of my knowledge, it was perhaps the first motherboard which had solid state capacitors being offered/put in a budget motherboard. The mobo-processor bundle used to be in the range of INR 7/8k excluding RAM. cabinet etc, I had a Philips 17″ CRT display which ran a good decade or so, so just had to get the new cabinet, motherboard, CPU, RAM and was good to go.

Few months later at a hardware exhibition held in the city I was invited to an Asus party which was just putting a toe-hold in the Indian market. I went to the do, enjoyed myself. They had a small competition where they asked some questions and asked if people had queries. To my surprise, I found that most people who were there were hardware vendors and for one reason or the other they chose to remain silent. Hence I got an AMD Asus board. This is different from winning another Gigabyte motherboard which I also won in the same year in another competition as well in the same time-frame. Both were mid-range motherboards (ATX build).

As I had just bought a Gigabyte (mATX) motherboard and had made the build, I had to give both the motherboards away, one to a friend and one to my uncle and both were pleased with the AMD-based mobos which they somehow paired with AMD processors. At that time AMD had one-upped Intel in both graphics and even bare computing especially at the middle level and they were striving to push into new markets.

Apart from the initial system bought, most of my systems when being changed were in the INR 20-25k/- budget including all and any accessories I bought later.

The only real expensive parts I purchased have been external hdd ( 1 TB WD passport) and then a Viewsonic 17″ LCD which together sent me back by around INR 10k/- but both seem to give me adequate performance (both have outlived the warranty years) with the monitor being used almost 24×7 over 6 years or so, of course over GNU/Linux specifically Debian. Both have been extremely well value for the money.

As I had been exposed to both the motherboards I had been following those and other motherboards as well. What was and has been interesting to observe what Asus did later was to focus more on the high-end gaming market while Gigabyte continued to dilute it energy both in the mid and high-end motherboards.

Cut to 2017 and had seen quite a few reports –

http://www.pcstats.com/NewsView.cfm?NewsID=131618

http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20170904PD207.html

http://www.guru3d.com/news-story/asus-has-the-largest-high-end-intel-motherboard-share.html

All of which points to the fact that Asus had cornered a large percentage of the market and specifically the gaming market . While there are no formal numbers as both Asus and Gigabyte choose to releases only APAC numbers rather than a country-wide split which would have made for some interesting reading.

Just so that people do not presume anything, there are about 4-5 motherboard vendors in the Indian market. There is Asus at the top (I believe) followed by Gigabyte, Intel at a distant 3rd place (because it’s too expensive). There are also pockets of Asrock and MSI and I know of people who follow them religiously although their mobos are supposed to be somewhat pensive than the two above. Asus and Gigabyte do try to fight out with each other but each has its core competency I believe with Asus being used by heavy gamers, overclockers more than Gigabyte.

Anyway come October 2017 and my main desktop died and am left as they say up the creek without the paddle. I didn’t even have Net access for about 3 weeks due to BSNL or PMC’s foolishness and then later small riots breaking out due to Koregaon Bhima conflict.

This led to a situation where I had to buy/build a system with oldish/half knowledge. I was open to having an AMD system but both datacare and even Rashi peripherals, Pune both of whom used to deal in AMD systems shared they had stopped dealing in AMD stuff sometime back. While datacare had AMD mobos, getting processors were an issue. Both the vendors are near to my home so if I buy from them getting support becomes an non-issue. I could have gone out of my way to get an AMD processor but getting support could have been an issue as would have had to travel and I do not know the vendors enough. Hence fell back to the Intel platform.

I asked around quite a few PC retailers and distributors around and found the Asus Prime Z270-P was the only mid-range motherboard available at that time. I did come to know a bit later of other motherboards in the z270 series but most vendors didn’t/don’t stock them as there is capital, interest and stock cost.

History – Historically, there has also been huge time lag in getting motherboards, processors etc. between worldwide announcements, and then announcements of sale in India and actually getting hands-on to the newest motherboards and processors as seen above. This had led to quite a bit of frustration to many a users. I have known of many a soul visiting Lamington Road, Mumbai to get the latest motherboard, processor. Even to-date this system flourishes as Mumbai has an International Airport and there is always a demand and people willing to pay a premium for the newest processor/motherboard even before any reviews are in.

I was highly surprised to know recently that Prime Z370-P motherboards are already selling (just 3 months late) with the Intel 8th generation processors although these are still as samples rather than a torrent some of the other motherboard-combo might be.

At the end I bought an Intel I7400 chip and an Asus Prime Z270-P motherboard with 2400 mhz Corsair 8 GB and a 4 TB WD Green (5400) HDD with a Circle 545 cabinet and (with the almost criminal 400 Watts SMPS). Later came to know that it’s not really even 400 Watts, but around 20-25% less . The whole package costed me north of INR 50k/- with still need to spend on a better SMPS (probably a Cosair or Coolermaster 80 600/650 SMPS) with a few accessories I still need to complete the system.

I will be changing the PSU most probably next week.

Circle SMPS Picture

Asus motherboard, i7400 and RAM

Disclosure – The neatness you see is not me. I was unsure if I would be able to put the heatsink on the CPU properly as that is the most sensitive part while building a system. A bent pin on the CPU could play havoc as well as void the warranty on the CPU or motherboard or both. The new thing I saw were the knobs that can be seen on the heatsink fan is something which I hadn’t seen before. The vendor did the fixing of the processor on the mobo for me as well as tied up the remaining power cables without asking for which I am and was grateful and would definitely provide him with more business as and when I need components.

Future – While it’s ok for now, I’m still using a pretty old 2 speaker setup which I hope to upgrade to either a 2.1/3.1 speaker setup, have full 64 GB 2400 Mhz Kingston Razor/G.Skill/Corsair memory, an M.2 512 MB SSD .

If I do get the Taiwan Debconf bursary I do hope to buy some or all of the above plus a Samsung or some other Android/Replicant/Librem smartphone. I have been also looking for a vastly simplified smartphone for my mum with big letters and everything but that has been a failure to find in the Indian market. Of course this all depends if I do get the bursary and even after the bursary if Global warranty and currency exchange works out in my favor vis-a-vis what I would have to pay in India.

Apart from above, Taiwan is supposed to be a pretty good source to get graphic novels, manga comics, lots of RPG games for very cheap prices with covers and hand-drawn material etc. All of this is based upon few friend’s anecdotal experiences so dunno if all of that would still hold true if I manage to be there.

There are also quite a few chip foundries and maybe during debconf could have visit to one of them if possible. It would be rewarding if the visit was to any 45nm or lower chip foundry as India is still stuck at 65nm range till date.

I would be sharing about my experience about the board, the CPU, the expectations I had from the Intel chip and the somewhat disappointing experience of using Debian on the new board in the next post, not necessarily Debian’s fault but the free software ecosystem being at fault here.

Feel free to point out any mistakes you find, grammatically or even otherwise. The blog post has been in the works for over couple of weeks so its possible for mistakes to creep in.

The Anti-Pollito squad – arrest and confession

Disclaimer – This is an attempt at humor and hence entirely fictional in nature. While some incidents depicted are true, the context and the story woven around them are by yours truly. None of the Mascots of Debian were hurt during the blog post ;). I also disavow any responsibility for any hurt (real or imagined) to any past, current and future mascots. The attempt should not be looked upon as demeaning people who are accused of false crimes, tortured and confessions eked out of them as this happens quite a lot (In India for sure, but guess it’s the same world over in various degrees). The idea is loosely inspired by Chocolate:Deep Dark Secrets. (2005)

On a more positive note, let’s start –

Being a Sunday morning woke up late to find incessant knocking on the door, incidentally mum was not at home. Opening the door, found two official looking gentleman. They asked my name, asked my credentials, tortured and arrested me for “Group conspiracy of Malicious Mischief in second and third degrees” .

The torture was done by means of making me forcefully watch endless reruns of ‘Norbit‘ . While I do love Eddie Murphy, this was one of his movies he could have done without :(. I guess for many people watching it once was torture enough. I *think* they were nominated for razzie awards dunno if they won it or not, but this is beside the point.

Unlike the 20 years it takes for a typical case to reach to its conclusion even in the smallest court in India, due to the torture, I was made to confess (due to endless torture) and was given summary judgement. The judgement was/is as follows –

a. Do 100 hours of Community service in Debian in 2017. This could be done via blog posts, raising tickets in the Debian BTS or in whichever way I could be helpful to Debian.

b. Write a confessional with some photographic evidence sharing/detailing some of the other members who were part of the conspiracy in view of the reduced sentence.

So now, have been forced to write this confession –

As you all know, I won a bursary this year for debconf16. What is not known by most people is that I also got an innocuous looking e-mail titled ‘ Pollito for DPL ‘. While I can’t name all the names as investigation is still ongoing about how far-reaching the conspiracy is . The email was purportedly written by members of ‘cabal within cabal’ which are in Debian. I looked at the email header to see if this was genuine and I could trace the origin but was left none the wiser, as obviously these people are far more technically advanced than to fall in simple tricks like this –

Anyways, secretly happy that I have been invited to be part of these elites, I did the visa thing, packed my bags and came to Debconf16.

At this point in juncture, I had no idea whether it was real or I had imagined the whole thing. Then to my surprise saw this –

evidence of conspiracy to have Pollito as DPL, Wifi Password

Just like the Illuminati the conspiracy was for all to see those who knew about it. Most people were thinking of it as a joke, but those like me who had got e-mails knew better. I knew that the thing is real, now I only needed to bide my time and knew that the opportunity would present itself.

And few days later, sure enough, there was a trip planned for ‘Table Mountain, Cape Town’ . Few people planned to hike to the mountain, while few chose to take the cable car till up the mountain.

First glance of the cable car with table mountain as background

Quite a few people came along with us and bought tickets for the to and fro to the mountain and back.

Ticket for CPT Table mountain car cable

Incidentally, I was thinking if the South African Govt. were getting the tax or not. If you look at the ticket, there is just a bar-code. In India as well as the U.S. there is TIN – Tax Identification Number –

TIN displayed on an invoice from channeltimes.com

Few links to share what it is all about . While these should be on all invoices, need to specially check when taking high-value items. In India as shared in the article the awareness, knowledge leaves a bit to be desired. While I’m drifting from the incident, it would be nice if somebody from SA could share how things work there.

Moving on, we boarded the cable car. It was quite spacious cable car with I guess around 30-40 people or some more who were able to see everything along with the controller.

from inside the table mountain cable car 360 degrees

It was a pleasant cacophony of almost two dozen or more nationalities on this 360 degrees moving chamber. I was a little worried though as it essentially is a bucket and there is always a possibility that a severe wind could damage it. Later somebody did share that some frightful incidents had occurred not too long ago on the cable car.

It took about 20-25 odd minutes to get to the top of table mountain and we were presented with views such as below –

View from Table Mountain cable car looking down

The picture I am sharing is actually when we were going down as all the pictures of going up via the cable car were over-exposed. Also, it was pretty crowded on the way up then on the way down so handling the mobile camera was not so comfortable.

Once we reached up, the wind was blowing at incredible speeds. Even with my jacket and everything I was feeling cold. Most of the group around 10-12 people looked around if we could find a place to have some refreshments and get some of the energy in the body. So we all ventured to a place and placed our orders –

the bleh... Irish coffee at top of Table Mountain

I was introduced to Irish Coffee few years back and have had some incredible Irish Coffees in Pune and elsewhere. I do hope to be able to make Irish Coffee at home if and when I have my own house. This is hotter than brandy and is perfect if you are suffering from cold etc if done right, really needs some skills. This is the only drink which I wanted in SA which I never got right 😦 . As South Africa was freezing for me, this would have been the perfect antidote but the one there as well as elsewhere were all …bleh.

What was interesting though, was the coffee caller besides it. It looked like a simple circuit mounted on a PCB board with lights, vibrations and RFID and it worked exactly like that. I am guessing as and when the order is ready, there is an interrupt signal sent via radio waves which causes the buzzer to light and vibrate. Here’s the back panel if somebody wants to take inspiration and try it as a fun project –

backpanel of the buzz caller

Once we were somewhat strengthened by the snacks, chai, coffee etc. we made our move to seeing the mountain. The only way to describe it is that it’s similar to Raigad Fort but the plateau seemed to be bigger. The wikipedia page of Table Mountain attempts to share but I guess it’s more clearly envisioned by one of the pictures shared therein.

table mountain panaromic image

I have to say while Table Mountain is beautiful and haunting as it has scenes like these –

Some of the oldest rocks known to wo/man.

There is something there which pulls you, which reminds you of a long lost past. I could have simply sat there for hours together but as was part of the group had to keep with them. Not that I minded.

The moment I was watching this, I was transported to some memories of the Himalayas about 20 odd years or so. In that previous life, I had the opportunity to be with some of the most beautiful women and also been in the most happening places, the Himalayas. I had shared years before some of my experiences I had in the Himalayas. I discontinued it as I didn’t have a decent camera at that point in time. While I don’t wanna digress, I would challenge anybody to experience the Himalayas and then compare. It is just something inexplicable. The beauty and the rawness that Himalayas shows makes you feel insignificant and yet part of the whole cosmos. What Paulo Cohello expressed in The Valkyries is something that could be felt in the Himalayas. Leh, Ladakh, Himachal , Garwhal, Kumaon. The list will go on forever as there are so many places, each more beautiful than the other. Most places are also extremely backpacker-friendly so if you ask around you can get some awesome deals if you want to spend more than a few days in one place.

Moving on, while making small talk @olasd or Nicolas Dandrimont , the headmaster of our trip made small talk to each of us and eked out from all of us that we wanted to have Pollito as our DPL (Debian Project Leader) for 2017. Few pictures being shared below as supporting evidence as well –

The Pollito as DPL cabal in action

members of the Pollito as DPL

where am I or more precisely how far am I from India.

While I do not know who further up than Nicolas was on the coup which would take place. The idea was this –

If the current DPL steps down, we would take all and any necessary actions to make Pollito our DPL.

Pollito going to SA - photo taken by Jonathan Carter This has been taken from Pollito’s adventure

Being a responsible journalist, I also enquired about Pollito’s true history as it would not have been complete without one. This is the e-mail I got from Gunnar Wolf, a friend and DD from Mexico 🙂

Turns out, Valessio has just spent a week staying at my house 🙂 And
in any case, if somebody in Debian knows about Pollito’s
childhood… That is me.

Pollito came to our lives when we went to Congreso Internacional de
Software Libre (CISOL) in Zacatecas city. I was strolling around the
very beautiful city with my wife Regina and our friend Alejandro
Miranda, and at a shop at either Ramón López Velarde or Vicente
Guerrero, we found a flock of pollitos.

http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/22.77111/-102.57145

Even if this was comparable to a slave market, we bought one from
them, and adopted it as our own.

Back then, we were a young couple… Well, we were not that young
anymore. I mean, we didn’t have children. Anyway, we took Pollito with
us on several road trips, such as the only time I have crossed an
international border driving: We went to Encuentro Centroamericano de
Software Libre at Guatemala city in 2012 (again with Alejandro), and
you can see several Pollito pics at:

http://gwolf.org/album/road-trip-ecsl-2012-guatemala-0

Pollito likes travelling. Of course, when we were to Nicaragua for
DebConf, Pollito tagged along. It was his first flight as a passenger
(we never asked about his previous life in slavery; remember, Pollito
trust no one).

Pollito felt much welcome with the DebConf crowd. Of course, as
Pollito is a free spirit, we never even thought about forcing him to
come back with us. Pollito went to Switzerland, and we agreed to meet
again every year or two. It’s always nice to have a chat with him.

Hugs!

So with that backdrop I would urge fellow Debianities to take up the slogans –

LONG LIVE THE DPL !

LONG LIVE POLLITO !

LONG LIVE POLLITO THE DPL !

The first step to make Pollito the DPL is to ensure he has a @debian.org (pollito@debian.org)

We also need him to be made a DD because only then can he become a DPL.

In solidarity and in peace 🙂