Thursday, April 28, 2005

Is IITK supporting Piracy?

Just received an .XLS file of a course's marks from a Professor here at IIT Kanpur. As I was going through it, a thing struck me. No, not that I had performed badly in the exams! If I didn't have Microsoft Office software on Microsoft Windows OS, how would I view that file? This is not a unique case. We have Microsoft Powerpoint Presentations, Microsoft Word Documents, Microsoft Excel Documents, etc. being frequently distributed by institute authorities (Course intructors, DOAA/DOSA offices, etc.). Several issues arise here:
  • It is being assumed that each user (student, instructor, other institute residents) has the means/tools to use a format of file, which is supported by Microsoft Softwares. Now, this leads to copyright issues of a commercial software. All users can't afford a valid copy of MS products, which results in widespread piracy. It is a fact that piracy is rampant in the campurs. But, are the official authorities encouraging/supporting/assuming piracy in the campus? Afcourse, there are Open Source Tools available (Open Office etc.), but if I send a .ppt file to somebody, I assume that he owns Powerpoint to open that file. Also there are technical issues regarding the quality of format conversion etc.
  • Shouldn't be the format of files be platform independent, especially if these formats exist? I know it's going too far, but aren't the authorities promoting/supporting MS products in the campus?
  • Lack of awareness among the authorities regarding the copyright issues and widespread piracy in the campus. Even in the CS department, most computers in the lab have Linux as the OS . Linux is run most frequently even on the dual-boot machines. In this scenario, I find it amuzing that some CS professors still distribute course material in MS Office formats !!
  • Quality of documents: I doubt whether MS office is the best software for documentation. Latex for reports/presentations, Open office, Prosper can solve the purpose. And, there are commercial softwares available to convert MS Office documents to pdf format. Institute will have to buy these, atleast it will make whole thing legal.
Piracy and copyright violation are big issues in developing economies like India's. While software vendors make hue and cry regarding their revenue losses, some have even claimed that piracy is an ideal model for these countries to access the latest in technology. Without going into this debate, I seriously believe that people in IITK campus (infact, in campuses all across country) should campaign for distribution of information in electronic formats, which are platform independent (.pdf, .ps etc.) . This will have several benefits:
  • Platform compatibility. So, I don't have to switch from Linux to Windows just to view a document :)
  • Uniform format for Information in the campus
  • Increased awareness against piracy (it is atleast illegal, whether good or bad is debatable :))
  • Educational institutes across developing nations are moving towards open source softwares. IITB is an ideal example for this. It leads in Open Source (Linux) usage and awareness. May be this will be the first step towards it in IITK and lead to increased awareness/usage of Open Source softwares. Afterall, best way to curb piracy is to use freely available softwares ! May be this could also result in few sleepless nights for Bill Gates :)
IITK, use .pdf/.ps instead of .ppt/.doc.....

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kashmir Issue: Think out of the box!

Unlike Agra'01, Delhi'05 was much more pragmatic and eased out event. I still remember news channels holding 10 min. debate on the way Musharraf shook hands with the Indian PM! This time around, the expectations from the visit were pragmatic (which is the nearest soother replacement for 'low'). Nice to see that Indian media is finally coming out of age.
At the end of the visit, we can sum up the position of two sides as:
India: Stop supporting terrorism, build upon CBMs like buses, trains, visa regulations, free trade etc. to increase people-to-people link, no re-drawing of borders.
Pakistan: Solve the Kashmir issue first, think out of the box to solve this issue, supports the "struggle for independence" of Jihadis, rest(CBMs) come later.

Well, nothing new in these views/policies. Both sides have failed over the last 58 years to recognize the problem of Kashmiris. I really feel that both sides should think out of the box to sort out this issue, with an active participation of Kashmiris. Here are certain issues that have been constantly neglected/forgotten/hidden by two sides:
  • Kashmirs (Indian and POK) are one of the most backward provinces in terms of economy, infrastructure and various social indices. Unemployment is a huge problem, tourism is suffering due to the state of insurgency, industrial growth is lackluster, and corruption is paramount. There can be several reasons for this situation, apart from the demographic disadvantage. Lack of planning, prolonged militancy, insecurity, etc. But the most important reason for me is the lack of participation of the locals in governance. We will never know whether people go out willingly to vote or at a gun-point. Both governments have failed to take locals in confidence.
  • Demographic, religious, and cultural divisions of Kashmir in the form of Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh regions. The basic rule of Religious majority, which was followed at the time of independence does not hold any more due to widespread migration of Hindu pandits.
  • Lack of "proper" representative of Kashmiri people. Hurriyat no longer enjoys clout in Kashmir. Kashmiris lack a strong presence on negotiation tables in Delhi/Islamabad. I must clearly state that the Central Governments at Delhi/Islamabad DON'T represent Kashmiris.
  • Most importantly, what does a common man in Jammu, Srinagar think about the issue? Keeping aside my patriotic feelings, I feel that a large section of people in Kashmir feel themselves closer to Pakistan owing to cultural, religious, historical and emotional reasons.
Both sides must now rethink their positions, and think creatively to address these issues. Similar problems have been solved previously in world history. Possible solutions include: turning LoC into international border, joint administration of Kashmir, providing adequate autonomy to Kashmir with supervision of both countries, implementation of joing development projects for Kashmir, etc.
These solutions require strong political will from both the sides. It's amazing how the fate of about 5 million Kashmiris lies in the hands of other 950 million Indians, most of whom don't understand the issue at all! It is this set of people who will immediately question the patriotism of the person proposing such solutions.
If a political party thinks out of the box, and takes a risk, history will be made. Sure, it may loose next elections or even after that. There might be a "wave" against it, But, have confidence in the new generation. New generation is eagerly waiting for this issue to be solved, so that concentration is on improving the standard of living of people, instead of # of submarines other country possesses. This generation is the one which will ensure that the party returns to power 5-10 years henceforth. The stakes are high, benefits are higher.

Monday, April 18, 2005

BTP- Finally over!

Finally, my B Tech Project (BTP) got over today with the final presentation and report submission. Feeling quite relaxed after that!
My BTP was related to "Program Analysis for generating Sandbox Policies". It's a topic related to an application of the compiler technique of "Program Analysis" in computer security. My guides were Dr. Deepak Gupta (DG) and Dr. S K Agarwal (SKA).
Things getting a little technical here, but you got to bear that (afterall, it's my BTP!).
Just few thoughts regarding this year long project. The topic was certainly not what I intended to work on. I was more interested in system level application in computer security, but ended up with algorithm and theoritical work. Anyways, found the work interesting enough later on. DG was particularly helpful during the work, and surely enough he is currently, one of the smartest professor at CSE Department of IIT Kanpur. He is damn sharp and has a great research inclination. I, still remember his disappointment when I told him that I am not going to apply for Graduate Studies :)
Honestly, I should have worked harder on the project. But then, got busy with Techkriti and CAT. I have enough excuses :)
None the less, the demo worked in the final presentation. That's what matters.
What did I learn from my BTP? Coding and executing a lengthy project. As a computer science engineer, I still have a lot to prove regarding my coding skills, and more importantly, software development skills.
Overall, a nice experience !!
You can find my BTP report at CSE Deptt. Report Repository (I am sure not many will be interested).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Preparing for CAT: Few Tips

"IIMs have the most random, absurd and opaque selection procedure in the form of CAT". This comes right from my experience over the past 6-8 months. No body knows what conspires in the selection procedure, what each IIM looks for, etc. In this article, I will make an effort to help you about in your preparation for CAT. This year, only 6 IITK freshers made it to IIMs, which is really an exceedingly poor performance in comparision to any other IIT. I wish more people from IITK make it through IIMs, and here is my helping hand. Articles of others are also listed below.

First of all, I begin with my profile:

Gave CAT in 2004, got calls from B,C,K
Got an admission in IIMB
CAT %ile- 99.3
Deptt: CSE, Decent CPI, Good extra-curriculars
Job: Inductis
Note that I have only mentioned things which matter in CAT.

Before starting with tips for preparing for CAT, I would like to say something about "Why one should go for CAT ?" Here are few benefits from my side. Heavy salary packages. Yeah, for sure, but don't expect a $150,000 package!! Definitely, average packages at IIMs stand at about 7 lacs (that doesn't include salaries in dollars). An MBA degree afcourse, gives you an edge in your career graph growth. Why MBA just now, and not after job experience? Definitely, job ex helps. But, then why not now itself? You never know what happens in future. Go for the KILL right now.
I will now discuss various aspects of getting through CAT. This will be followed by my ranking of important factors considered during selection by IIMs. The ranking is highly subjective.

1. Preparing for CAT written test: Most believe CAT is about speed and accuracy. I believe CAT is about two Ps, Practice and Persistence. You got to practice hard, and you got to practice regularly. A serious preparation for 3 months is good enough. I didn't take classroom coaching, so really can't suggest whether coaching helps or not. CL and IMS Test series are good. Coaching can help you to learn few more tricks and techniques. Other than that it's all about YOU. I discuss each section individually.

A. Verbal Ability: This section haunts IITians. Don't get disheartened with your low scores initially. You can definitely improve. For improving vocab, mug up any word list(Baron/ CL).
Do it in the first month of your preparation. Vocab. is not all about meaning of words alone, but also about the context of usage. The number of questions related to this are increasing, and the trend is likely to continue. After one month, analyze how much you have improved. If vocab. is proving too difficult, switch over to RC. RC is all about practice. Work out your technique to handle the comprehensions of various types. Here are few from me, but you should always decide based on your strengths and comfort level.
INcrease your reading speed.
Don't try to read the whole passage.
Try to go from questions to passage, rather than vice-versa.
Go for accuracy. Try not to make mistakes. Afcourse, all this comes through practice.

Work really hard in VA, as it usually is the "Make or Break" section in CAT. You need a score of 20+ in CAT, as the cut-offs are usually higher for this section.

B. Data Interpretation: A section to score. Mr. Neeraj Prasad is a master at this. Mug up %ages, square root tables, etc. One important thing: this year's DI was not based on calculations, but on logical reasoning. I think the trend is likely to continue. This can turn out to be in your favour, as you can really outscore commerce guys here. So, practice logical reasoning well. A "Mental Ability" book for NTSE preparation might be a good choice.

C. Quantitative Ability: You are a master at this, isn't it? Well, rethink. CAT QA is about tricks, right question selection and accuracy. Minimize the number of mistakes, instead of maximizing the number of attempts. Also, don't give too much time to this section. Remember the individual cut-offs.

2. Before and during the Test: One month before the test, you should be ready with your methodology of giving the paper. By methodology, I mean the order of attempt of sections, time devoted to each, the order of attempting questions etc. It should be a well tested one. Now, comes the 'D' day. Perform BEST on this day. Be cool, but don't let your brain cool down. Keep working out problems till the last minute. Even a single mark can make or break the day for you. Don't ever think that you have done enough to get through. I did the same, and sat there relaxed during the last 10 minutes. Later, I found out most of others have done much better than me :(

3. How do IIMs give out the calls?
Nobody knows. But, a balanced scores in all the sections(usually 95%ile+ in each section, and overall above 99%ile) is required. Good score in English is required in A, C lays stress on QA. B gave out calls to 95%ile people this year !!

4. GD/PI: You will have 1.5 month to prepare for it. You can easily prepare for it. Start reading business magazines, go through your important deptt. courses, current affairs, hobbies.

GD: There are few well known tips such as speak 2-3 times with good content, rather than speaking crap 10 times. Control your body language, give everybody a chance to speak, be assertive, yet not aggressive. You will get better with more GDs. In the end, if you think you can't really speak well, wait for your turn, and make smart entry 2-3 times. You will be through.

PI: The most important thing is: Know your strengths and weaknesses.You will have to divert your interview to what you want to tell the interviewers. Before the interview, decide upon what you are going to tell the interviewers, and then just tell them those things. Afcourse, this comes through practice. I have given a brief of my interviews on my blog. Nobody asked me any acad question because of my CPI. Otherwise, you are likely to be grilled on your deptt. knowledge. PUSH in every good thing you have in your CV, be it your excellent internship (foreign exposure is weighted in IIMs), extra-curriculars, or a competition you have won. Regarding low CPI, you simplly can't defend it. Accept your mistake. Don't contradict yourself during your interview. One important thing is your career plan. Be pretty sure about it, as clarity of thoughts really helps you in interview. Be confident and cool.
Believe that you belong to that place.
Have few mock interviews definitely.

5. Important Factors for CAT preparation:

  1. CAT Score: Most Important. Do your best and get it as high as you can. 99.6+ will take youto a safe zone. I made a blunder in the written test, don't do it.
  2. CPI: Unfortunately, YES. You should have a decent CPI, i.e. above 7.5. If you are below this, score more than 99.8-99.9%ile in CAT. Then, you have a fair chance. So, don't be disheartened if you have a low CPI. You can still make up !!
  3. Extra-curriculars: Nobody looks at your certis. Fraud certis are freely available in the market, isn't it? Your extra-curriculars can help you to guide the interview and gain command over it. The important thing is that you must tell them the difference you made while engaging in an activity. But, remember, all this comes only after they have been through your grade sheet ;)
  4. GD: least important. If you are not good at it, just open your mouth 2-3 times in the GD. That is enough.
This ranking is highly subjective and debatable. Take it in that spirit only.

You must show a SPIKE in CAT to get through. This may be in the form of your excellent CAT score, or CPI, or extra-curriculars to some extent.

You can post your specific queries/comments on this article. Please give your mail id so that I can reply you back.

Happy belling CAT!!
Related articles to read:
Vyom Kr Gupta(Y1 Batch)
Vikas Kumar's blog
Why MBA?- By Nakul @IIML

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Got through IIMB!

At last, got through IIMB :)
Feeling great about it......after the wait list at IIMK, it was certainly a good result.
8 is certainly a lucky number for me, I got my job on 8th Sept, then got my IIMB result on 8th April...
Nothing more enjoying than celebrating the success with wingmates, had a champagne and then a drink party sponsored by bhatti.
Also feeling great for Malai (vikya) who converted his sole call...great work done by him......
Enjoying these moments.....