Friday, October 29, 2010

How To publish direct download links to your Google Doc

google_docs_logoScenario: You have a google doc whose contents you’re sharing with your friends and the world (ie, it’s publicly viewable)
This is a great alternative for publishing or sharing something big when you don’t have web designing skills or the time to set up something like a blog, or in sharing something among members of a team like the minutes of a meeting, or if it’s a one-off thing.
In case the document (can be a spreadsheet or presentation or drawing too) is big and you want to give the opposite person a way to save it for seeing later, then here’s how. Click on the expand link below to see the step-by-step procedure.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Notion Ink

Notion Ink - makers of the Adam tablet - widely hailed to bring a potential revolution to the world of computing.
The first company I'm coming across - that too being a tech startup in India wih no prior experience like this, which is making full use of crowd-sourcing - from colors to logos to feedback on construction and design, they've gotten thousands of fans (and eventual die-hard loyal customers) from across the globe involved with the Adam Tablet long before production!

Whether they actually conquer the Tablet Wars or not, Notion Ink will long be remembered and respected for making this paradigm shift in product development - to involve the end consumer and being open about everything right from the beginning.
Godspeed, Notion Ink!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The TED Talks Torrents Project

"There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? 
I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" - Robert F. Kennedy
Problem: Talks pages don't load up many times from my home
internet connection now. (Pune, India, BSNL broadband in case anyone wants to analyze). I have to refresh the page several times just to get it on. But their direct Talks download links from the RSS/podcast feed works fine. I’m not sure of the max download speed you can get on them, though. It’s upto 60KB/s which is the max my connection can take. I wonder what’s the speed for someone downloading them on 8mbps or higher connections. If you can clock it, please post it as a comment here along with which ISP you’re using like I’ve mentioned. Back to the problem, could it be that TED website is getting inundated with the increasing viewership??

Casual comments: They ought to start releasing all their Talks through torrents now, so that new converts (read: people who just came across it and gotta catch ‘em all) can download the/a whole bunch using a torrent, without affecting the performance of’s servers. Already we have an aggregated list (though it’s not exhaustive) – this should go one step further. If TED doesn’t, then some teenager somewhere will create a code to spider through the list of Talks, trace down the videos attached to them and download them en masse. I haven’t seen anything like this yet (I haven’t looked), but just saying this is a logical consequence and is bound to happen at some point.

Foresight: Once this code gets out and gets thousands of users, it’s surely going to crash TED’s servers in a few days or just hours. Compared to all the costs involved in fixes and downtimes and IP-restrictive patches (a retrograde move, denying a user more Talks after a quota has been consumed- like you’re limiting knowledge! People will walk away!) and the cost of massive expansion on bandwidth capacity, just making a Torrent of all the Talks and having the whole world share them peer-to-peer, will cost next to nothing!

Ponderings: Technically, the Talks ARE released under Creative Commons license – the video files can be reproduced and shared all over as long as the actual content isn’t manipulated. But someone like me or you doing this independently wouldn’t be able to include, or would have to work too hard at, the features I want in that torrent:
  1. With the Talk’s video file there should be an accompanying HTML/other doc, documenting whatever info is there on the website, including description, links to the speaker’s bio and his/her contact links, and full transcript. Also maybe a separate XML having meta information (ex:tags) that’s easily readable by programs. 
  2. The subtitles feature is present only for TED’s web player. When we download the Talks, no subs! Someone has made a site where you can get the subs, but it’s too cumbersome to do for so many Talks I’ve already downloaded! has the database linking each of its talks with the relevant subtitles. The Torrent feature would include the subs with the Talks just like they do in DVD’s.
  3. All versions of the Talks : mp3, low-res FLV, ipod-level mp4 and HD – should be made available in the same place.
How great would this be! It would easily become the biggest and most downloaded and shared torrent on the web, replacing all the allegedly illegal ones! (I maintain my neutral stance – I have objections to modern copyright laws.) Initially TED could host it on a drive of its own, and then in a few weeks as more and more people download and share it,TED could just close off and not need to bother about past Talks anymore!

Proposal: With this, I’m going to propose: the TED Talks Torrent project – what I want the fascinating team at TED, or a bunch of volunteers, to get working on ASAP!
  1. Just like their amazing success with the multi-language subtitles, launch an initiative to have a definite .torrent, with a magnet URL, created for every TED Talk. The torrent should contain all the Talk’s audio as well as all available video versions (typically FLV, Ipod MP4 and HD), plus a text or html file having links to the speaker’s bio, the Talk’s short description as appears on the website and video feed and the full transcript. And of course, all available subtitles in the best available format (.sub? .srt?)
  2. Suggestion: The TED website’s backend team can code an automated script to parse the database and do all of this for them in a short time, as they already have it all linked together in each Talk’s webpage. It’ll be easier to do this internally rather than having a regular visitor deploy a spider that can easily make mistakes and waste time. Nevertheless, if they don’t, we will.
  3. As in the subs project, an army of volunteers can be recruited for free from the site’s visitors to audit all the torrents, raise flags and make corrections wherever needed.
  4. Now at every Talk’s page, in the layer that appears when one presses the download button, simply include a link to the .torrent file, or the magnet URL or both! They seem to have space over there for that anyway!
  5. Also create a unified torrent that has all the Talks, possibly split among folders by event, category etc. Have some way of automatically updating that torrent every month or so as new Talks are added to the hive. Maybe we could have a script running which aggregates all the .torrent files together, same way RSS feed aggregators work.

What’s in this for TED?

Coquo Ergo Sum

"I cook, therefore I am"

DSC02278Humanity’s first technology : This decidedly separates us from all the animal species : Cooked food!

How old is it? Well, all our teeth don’t have specialized canines or the herbivorous types – they’re much weaker and simpler, designed for consuming soft mushy food. Our digestive systems too don’t need to be half as powerful as other animals’ need to be. Why? It’s because with the onset of cooking, humans’ bodies stopped needing over-specialized teeth or digestive parts. So seeing how many generations it would take for these evolutionary changes to happen : Quite old! We can actually use this to document how a technology has shaped the path of a species’ evoluton. Yet, there’s more to this. Something even more significant.

Human brains are very large compared to any other animal, right?

This brain was able to expand because it had more energy available to it than usual.

The reason why the human body was able to provide more energy to the brain than what other animals could provide their brains, is…


The technology because of which vastly greater varieties of food could be taken, transformed and consumed as edible sources of energy! In one fell swoop, a human could provide its brain far more energy than any other animal could! Cooking, paved the way for human intelligence and civilization!

This, and more, demonstrated in Heribert Watzike’s TED Talk : The brain in your gut

Funny how this emerged right when we’re seeing so many cooking contests suddenly taking over the reality TV scene!

My take : Every single community, race, sect, country, and any and all groups of humans on this planet, cooks their food. If what Heribert and others like him have asserted is true (and at present I can’t find anything that opposes the logic), if we can fully grasp the significance of how it shaped civilization as we know it, then I now have for you a religion that could potentially unite all of humanity, with the kitchen as the temple, and the traditional cook of the family the priest. Suddenly, we can put religion back in the hands of women – the original Creators, and in one fell swoop eliminate all religious conflicts on the planet.

Think about it.

Order from Chaos: Taking everyday materials and creating something from them that is more than just its sum parts – not through just simple proportions, but through a mixing of energy and mass that transform each other, to create something unique and divine.

Life begets life: whether vegetarian food or non-vegetarian, living matter is broken down to its constituents to fuel more life. By recognizing the circle of life we are a part of instead of seeing a linear chain of consumption, our attitude towards our own waste and byproducts could undergo a sea change, taking away most of the planet’s pollution and waste problems with it.

A change of priorities : We would recognize the fact that when provided with surplus energy, human evolution chose to redirect it to the brain instead of the muscles – in effect giving higher priority to creativity and thinking than to brute strength and power. If our own body’s cells placed creation higher than destruction, then our collective’s policies could follow suit as well. We might just evolve out of war!

It’s always good to think of new ways to solve old problems, eh!?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Avaaz : We're winning...

Email sent from - a global online community dedicated to making our world a better place for all:

Dear Avaaz community,

Make a Comment NOW! Avaaz is on fire, growing like never before and winning amazing victories across the world. From Canada to Brazil to Italy to South Africa, our community is not just speaking out, we're winning, time and time again. Click below to read more and join a global live-chat to celebrate and dream up what comes next:
Something serious is happening. Not only is our community growing by 100,000 people a week, taking more than 25,000,000 actions online, and causing a stir like never before. Not only is the level of enthusiasm and appetite we're seeing for Avaaz sky high.

We're also winning. Time and time again.

Often we're choosing impossible battles, with very little time to win. But the rush of sudden, overwhelming engagement of massive numbers of citizens is, issue after issue, making the difference between success and failure. From the Economist to Le Monde to Al Jazeera, the media is remarking upon our "spectacular successes" that are capable of ushering in "a political revolution". Here are some examples from just the last several weeks:
  • Canada (420,000 Avaaz members), we just took on an alliance of a media empire and a prime minister to subvert the independence of the country's media in their favour, and won. 
  • Brazil (730,000 members) we took a civil society movement online and drove an anti-corruption law through congress that is putting large numbers of corrupt politicians out of a job - widely hailed as a political revolution. 
  • Italy (240,000) we rallied opposition to the Prime Minister's bill to tie the hands of Italy's corruption investigators - commentators hailed the victory as the first time in Italian history online mobilization had shifted the parliamentary agenda.
  • Argentina (60,000) we surged to protect crucial glaciers from what looked like certain destruction by mining companies, and won. 
  • South Africa (70,000) we built a massive public outcry against sweeping new censorship powers over the press, forcing the government to alter its media regulation law.
  • Germany (480,000) thousands of last-minute phone calls from our members helped stop the government from drastically cutting its aid budget. 
See more details on these campaigns below this email, or click below to read more, see press clips, and leave a comment on our global live-chat tool:

These were just the victories - in the last several weeks Avaaz also responded within days to the tragedy in Pakistan by donating over $1.1 million and granting it to local organizations to provide nutritious biscuits and milk to 30,000 children for 2 months, and help provide safe drinking water to over 3000 families. In Europe, Avaaz members made history creating the first 1 million strong EU citizens initiative (a democratic mechanism in the new EU constitution) seeking to freeze all genetically modified crops pending further health and safety research.

All this in just weeks, and following other serious victories in 2010 on protecting the bans on whaling and ivory trading, establishing the world's largest ocean preserve and much more. It's all proof that, when citizens stick together and take smart, strategic actions, democracy works!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cleanup Drive of Sahakarnagar-2 playground on 10/10/10

Inspired by news of enviro-social events taking place on Sunday, 10/10/10 all over the world, my sister and I thought of doing something local, that would make things better for us and our neighbors.

And so we have taken this initiative :
A Cleanup drive of the sahakarnagar-2 playground near our place! (Pune-411009)

Please follow this facebook event invite if you are interested:

The Sahakarnagar-2 Playground is the hub of all outdoor sports activities in the area and is famous among local cricket and football players. But recently it's gotten littered all over with pieces of paper and plastic.

We, the citizens in the locality and nearby and hopefully all players who will be there at the time, are going to clean it up! We have spread the word among shops in the locality and distributed a few flyers (but can't spread many, that would be paper wastage). Tomorrow I'll be doing a door-to-door among the buildings surrounding the ground in the morning. Hopefully we'll be able to get the kids in the area involved!

So if you're interested, do join us at 4.30 pm at the bikes-parking opp. Swati Apts adjoining the ground for briefing, and team formation. The whole cleanup ought to take less than half an hour if there are enough people gathered!
You can find the playground on google maps with this link:,73.848601&spn=0.003149,0.004308&z=18

Please SMS me on 966-583-1250 if you're interested, or call if any enquiries or if you can help.

I'd like to know where we can buy bio-degradable waste bags.

Also pls forward this to friends who might be interested.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Move On!!"

There are times in life when some people you know may not like to be held accountable for their mistakes; and they do not like to apologize for them either. They think doing so will weaken them.

When you show them their errors, bring out the truth that they didn't know earlier,
And ask them to resolve the problem, undo their mistakes, clear out their prejudices and apologize to the people they have wronged so there are no more hard feelings,

They tell you to "move on" or "get lost" or "get a life" or worst of all - ignore you completely - and go back into their tiny little shells.

How are you supposed to explain to them that it's them who's not moving on, by clinging on to a wrong belief, a prejudice, by hiding in the shadows and refusing to face the light?

How can you convey to them that the true path of moving forward is to uncover the truth and acknowledge it?

How can you remind them that fate is never kind to those who had no honor or accountability?

How can you explain them that the true measure of strength is to stand up and be accountable for everything you do, instead of dodging and telling the wronged person to "move on" or "get lost" ?

How can you warn them that what goes around comes around? That if they keep this up, someday someone they care for may develop the same misconceptions about them, ruin what was good and pure and then order them to "move on" ?

If you never really cared about these people, if they meant absolutely nothing to you, it wouldn't really matter. But what if you do care? What if they are like family to you? What if they mean the world to you? What if you don't want them to have to endure the same trauma they have mistakenly put someone else through? What if you want them to become better people instead of regressing?

Aren't we social beings? Aren't we supposed to look out for each other? Is it wrong to care for your own?
No, it's not. It's what makes us human.
So why do they admonish the one who tries to help them come around, who is trying to show them the truth?
I know it's not considered nice to tell people what they don't want to hear,
But I also know this : There is a difference between what someone wants, and what he/she needs.
If you can look beyond the wants and perceive the needs, you have a chance to really help someone.

Wants will keep changing with time, don't worry about it. Keep giving them what they need, what everybody needs - the truth. Hopefully, one day they'll learn to listen, respond, and then you can truly Move On.

Monday, October 4, 2010

CWG Delhi : The price of hubris

CWG Delhi 2010 : What an amazing ceremony!
image from

Shows us what all is possible when you're ready to go 10x over-budget and wipe out the taxpayer money meant to fund schools, hospitals, roads, food provisions in the poorest areas of the country and divert it all into a gala event to keep the middle class pre-occupied in visions of grandeur while indebting the country forever! Totally worth it, man! I'm proud to be Roman.. sorry, Indian!

Sorry for the sarcasm, but I'm not about to sacrifice my position on the matter in exchange of some eye candy.
Gareebon ki thaali se chheen ke tum naye kapde khareed laaogey, toh kya hum tumhe duaayein dein?
Translation : If you steal from the plates of the poor and buy fancy clothes, do expect me to bless you?
I don't know where I've heard this dialog, but it just swam up to my head and seems so pertinent. I just cannot, in good conscience, go along with the flow here. There are some times in life where you have to draw the line. This wikipedia article would be good for the uninitiated. Let me try to explain (if that were possible) the situation here. I hope you like analogies!

Gift Economy

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