Tech: Links for 5th November, 2019

  1. “Wearable technology, wearables, fashion technology, tech togs, or fashion electronics are smart electronic devices (electronic device with micro-controllers) that can be incorporated into clothing or worn on the body as implants or accessories.”
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    Wikipedia on wearables.
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  2. Wearbles are bigger than you thought.
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    “Wearables are now bigger than iPad and will soon be bigger than the Mac. And the glasses are supposedly coming next year, and the $250 AirPods Pro just shipped.”
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  3. You’ve heard of Google Glass, presumably. But uh, one ring to rule ’em all…?
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    “Amazon is experimenting with putting Alexa everywhere, and its latest experiment might be the wildest yet: a new smart ring called the Echo Loop that puts Alexa on your finger.”
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  4. “And it goes without saying that the technology still matters: chips need to get faster (a massive Apple advantage), batteries need to improve (also an Apple specialty), and everything needs to get smaller. This, though, is the exact path taken by every piece of hardware since the advent of the industry. They are hard problems, but they are known problems, which is why smart engineers solve them. ”
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    The ever excellent Ben Thompson, writing about wearables in 2016. He was bullish then, and I suspect will be even more bullish now.
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  5. All of which, I hope, will help contextualize Google’s latest acquisition.

RoW: Links for 30th October, 2019

  1. Who, exactly, are the Rohingyas? A short explainer from Wikipedia.
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  2. “With repatriation stalled, Bangladesh is now exploring relocation. The country has thus far been patient and welcoming, but its willingness to host such a large refugee population is wearing thin. Dhaka now plans to relocate about 100,000 Rohingya to a remote island at the mouth of the Meghna river in the Bay of Bengal. Known as Bhasan Char, or “Floating Island” in Bengali, the islet is made up of accumulated silt and is hard to reach—aid workers worry that anyone moved there would be vulnerable to floods, cyclones, and traffickers.”
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    A problem that the world would rather not acknowledge.
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  3. “Myanmar, which United Nations officials say should be tried on genocide charges over the orchestrated killings that began on Aug. 25, 2017, is keen to prove it is not a human rights pariah.Bangladesh, struggling with overpopulation and poverty, wants to reassure its citizens that scarce funds are not being diverted to refugees.

    But the charade at Nga Khu Ya, with its corroded buildings devoid of any Rohingya presence, proves the lie in the repatriation commitment. The place is so quiet that a dog snoozes at the main entrance, undisturbed.

    Even the repatriation center’s watchtowers are empty of soldiers. There is no one to watch.”
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    They, the Rohingyas, are to be sent back to Myanmar. Except not.
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  4. “One day in the 1980s, my maternal grandfather was sitting in a park in suburban London. An elderly British man came up to him and wagged a finger in his face. “Why are you here?” the man demanded. “Why are you in my country??”“Because we are the creditors,” responded my grandfather, who was born in India, worked all his life in colonial Kenya, and was now retired in London. “You took all our wealth, our diamonds. Now we have come to collect.” We are here, my grandfather was saying, because you were there.”
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    Suketu Mehta in fine form on this topic.
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  5. “I want you to think of free movement across borders as not just a matter of humanitarianism, not just a matter of good policy, but as an issue of civil rights, in the same tradition as those of Milk, and King, and Stanton, and indeed others yet to come.”
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    A short blog post on a longer essay, which argues about instituting immigration as a civil right.

India: Links for 28th October, 2019

  1. “On the night of Laksmi Pujan, rituals across much of India are dedicated to Lakshmi to welcome her into their cleaned homes and bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. While the cleaning, or painting, of the home is in part for goddess Lakshmi, it also signifies the ritual “reenactment of the cleansing, purifying action of the monsoon rains” that would have concluded in most of the Indian subcontinent. Vaishnava families recite Hindu legends of the victory of good over evil and the return of hope after despair during the Diwali nights, where the main characters may include Rama, Krishna, Vamana or one of the avatars of Vishnu, the divine husband of Lakshmi.”
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    Always a good place to begin, Wikipedia. Even for Diwali!
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  2. “Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma over adharma. It marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they return. The date is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar. It is related to Diwali, celebrated by Hindus in other parts of the world, which also celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. Diwali, however, is held at the end of the year.”
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    Meanwhile, as they say, in Indonesia
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  3. “The whole thing was designed in such a fashion that when Hanuman’s tail was lit—in remembrance of an episode in the Ramayan—he “begins to fly in the air, setting fire to various houses in this Lanka of fireworks”. So intrigued was the Peshwa by this report that a similar contrivance was engineered even in Pune, setting the ball rolling for modern Diwalis with fireworks and displays.”
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    The perenially interesting Manu Pillai never disappoints.
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  4. “In Telugu, teepi gavvalu literally translates to ‘sweet shells’. It is made rolling a dough made from flour and jaggery into pretty shell shaped curls that are then deep fried and dipped in sweet sugar syrup. It a popular festive snack in Andhra Pradesh.”
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    Practically every Indian, no matter which part of they country they hail from, will squeal in playful outrage upon reading this – for every state has its own version.
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  5. “If we go further North to Himachal Pradesh, we could expect to get wada and bedami puris made on festive occasions for Diwali says Sherry Mehta Malhotra who cooks Pahari food for pop up events. This is served with lentils and a bread called siddhu. Siddhus are made with wheat flour and yeast and take a while to make and are always served with ghee. Depending on the stuffing, these ball shaped breads, could be savoury or sweet. The thing about Pahari cuisine, Sherry says, is that it uses a lot pulses and flours as a base as fresh vegetables are hard to get. Dishes such as siddhu and the badami pedas are had through the year as well, but taste extra special during festivals.”
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    And from a while ago, but still worth reading – food from across the country that is special during Diwali. If you have corrections, suggestions, additions, please – please! let me know.

 

Happy Diwali, all!

Tech: Links for 22nd October, 2019

Five articles on the evolution of mapping technologies:

  1. The evolution of GLONASS:
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    “GLONASS is a global satellite navigation system, providing real time position and velocity determination for military and civilian users. The satellites are located in middle circular orbit at 19,100 kilometres (11,900 mi) altitude with a 64.8 degree inclination and a period of 11 hours and 15 minutes. GLONASS’s orbit makes it especially suited for usage in high latitudes (north or south), where getting a GPS signal can be problematic. The constellation operates in three orbital planes, with eight evenly spaced satellites on each. A fully operational constellation with global coverage consists of 24 satellites, while 18 satellites are necessary for covering the territory of Russia. To get a position fix the receiver must be in the range of at least four satellites.”
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  2. … and the other term that people are rather more familiar with, GPS:
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    “The GPS project was started by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973, with the first prototype spacecraft launched in 1978 and the full constellation of 24 satellites operational in 1993. Originally limited to use by the United States military, civilian use was allowed from the 1980s. Advances in technology and new demands on the existing system have now led to efforts to modernize the GPS and implement the next generation of GPS Block IIIA satellites and Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX).”
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  3. Heard of Waze?
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    “Waze (formerly FreeMap Israel) is a GPS navigation software app owned by Google. It works on smartphones and tablet computers that have GPS support. It provides turn-by-turn navigation information and user-submitted travel times and route details, while downloading location-dependent information over a mobile telephone network. Waze describes its app as a community-driven GPS navigation app, which is free to download and use.The Israeli company Waze Mobile developed the Waze software. Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine founded the company. Two Israeli venture capital firms, Magma and Vertex, and an early-stage American venture capital firm, Bluerun Ventures, provided funding. Google acquired Waze Mobile in June 2013.

    The app generates revenue from hyperlocal advertising to an estimated 130 million monthly users.”
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  4. And here’s a podcast that ties all of this together – entirely worth your time. It is by Walter Isaacson, called Trailblazers, and all of the episodes are worth listening to. But this one in particular was well worth it: Navigation.
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  5. And it was only a matter of time (also reading this helped me go down this particular rabbit hole): Augmented Reality and Google Maps.

India: Links for 21st October, 2019

In honour of the delayed departure of the monsoons from India, five articles about what the monsoon is, and what it means for us here in India.

 

  1. “The unique geographical features of the Indian subcontinent, along with associated atmospheric, oceanic, and geophysical factors, influence the behavior of the monsoon. Because of its effect on agriculture, on flora and fauna, and on the climates of nations such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka — among other economic, social, and environmental effects — the monsoon is one of the most anticipated, tracked, and studied weather phenomena in the region. It has a significant effect on the overall well-being of residents and has even been dubbed the “real finance minister of India”.
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    Wikipedia is always a good place to start.
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  2. “Simulations of future climate generally suggest an increase in monsoon rainfall on a seasonal mean, area-average basis. This is due to the twin drivers of an increasing land-sea thermal contrast, but more importantly, warming over the Indian Ocean which allows more moisture to be carried to India. Typically increases in total rainfall over India may be in the region of 5-10%, although some climate models suggest more and some less. Climate simulations also show different patterns of rainfall change, so it is difficult to predict how rainfall might change within India. ”
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    The Royal Meteorological Society’s take on what is likely to happen in India in the years to come when it comes to the monsoon, and why.
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  3. “This Wednesday witnessed a rare meteorological coincidence. The southwest, or summer, monsoon, finally withdrew from the country, having overstayed and delayed its retreat by a record time. The same day, the northeast, or winter, monsoon made its onset, on time. The two events rarely happen simultaneously, though the three month-winter monsoon season is supposed to begin almost immediately after the end of the June-September summer monsoon season.”
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    The Indian Express on a relatively rare occurrence in meteorological terms.
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  4. … and the Livemint on the same topic.
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  5. “Along with their ancient perfumery, the villagers of Kannauj have inherited a remarkable skill: They can capture the scent of rain.”
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    I’ve probably linked to this before, but it is always worth a reread: on capturing the essence of petrichor.

EC101: Links for 25th July, 2019

Five economic theorems you may not have heard of. They are somewhat abstruse, but all are truly interesting. All Wikipedia articles too – like Twitter, grossly underrated.

 

  1. “In game theory, Aumann’s agreement theorem is a theorem which demonstrates that rational agents with common knowledge of each other’s beliefs cannot agree to disagree. It was first formulated in the 1976 paper titled “Agreeing to Disagree” by Robert Aumann, after whom the theorem is named.”
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  2. “The Alchian–Allen effect was described in 1964 by Armen Alchian and William R Allen in the book University Economics (now called Exchange and Production [1]). It states that when the prices of two substitute goods, such as high and low grades of the same product, are both increased by a fixed per-unit amount such as a transportation cost or a lump-sum tax, consumption will shift toward the higher-grade product. This is true because the added per-unit amount decreases the relative price of the higher-grade product.”
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  3. Revenue equivalence is a concept in auction theory that states that given certain conditions, any mechanism that results in the same outcomes (i.e. allocates items to the same bidders) also has the same expected revenue.”
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    Unless you are an avid student of math and economics (and, not or), feel free to Ctrl-F the word “Implication” and skip straight to that section.
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  4. Mandeville’s paradox is named after Bernard Mandeville, who posits that actions which may be qualified as vicious with regard to individuals have benefits for society as a whole. This is alluded to in the subtitle of his most famous work, The Fable of The Bees: ‘Private Vices, Public Benefits’. He states that “Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live; Whilst we the Benefits receive.”) ”
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    This is a painfully short article – I have set myself a target of using only Wikipedia links in today’s set, but I am breaking my own rule.
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  5. “In law and economics, the Coase theorem describes the economic efficiency of an economic allocation or outcome in the presence of externalities. The theorem states that if trade in an externality is possible and there are sufficiently low transaction costs, bargaining will lead to a Pareto efficient outcome regardless of the initial allocation of property. In practice, obstacles to bargaining or poorly defined property rights can prevent Coasean bargaining. This ‘theorem’ is commonly attributed to Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Ronald Coase during his tenure at the London School of Economics, SUNY at Buffalo, University of Virginia, and University of Chicago.”
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    Perhaps the most important, and certainly the most misunderstood of all the theorems above – and I probably misunderstand it myself!