Sunday, July 25, 2010

A desire to "utilize" human brain's CPU cycles wasted during sleep

This thought has been ongoing in my mind for at least the last 2 years, and I'm finally writing it today.

When we sleep, our conscious brain sleeps as well. It goes from a voluntary state to an involuntary (perhaps "unconscious") state. The control on our thoughts - the ability to steer the brain's thinking - is lost during sleep.

I sometimes wish that it was possible to utilize the brain during sleep. That I could be physically asleep - with my body resting - while my brain continues to think. After all, it isn't always the case that one sleeps to get both physical and mental rest - we sometimes sleep when we're only physically tired, although we might not be tired mentally.

An ability to utilize the brain during sleep will expose billions of hours of human brain time each day. Just imagine the incredible potential this yet-unexposed brain time has.

CEOs could be asleep physically, while their brains could be awake, pondering about a competitor's strategy. Scientists could think peacefully about an issue puzzling them. Poets and musicians could compose their next creations. Engineers could hash the next breakthrough. Many tasks on my to-do list - such as think about net neutrality for some time - could be finished without wasting the day's time.

And I'm not even wishing for the full brain to be available during sleep - it's acceptable if only one half the brain is available for the first half of the sleep, while the other half is available for the rest. It's also alright if parts of brain keep sleeping from time to time to give themselves rest.

Unsure if this'll ever be possible...

Related content: Learning While You Dream, NYT, Apr'10
Related phenomenon: Lucid dream

Update [3-Jan-16]: The 1990 Arnold movie Total Recall is somewhat related to this idea.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Financial performance of the initial customers of Bombardier CSeries will be crucial to the future sales of this aircraft

Bombardier might not have been able to announce - so far - any new order for the CSeries aircraft at this year's Farnborough International Airshow 2010, and its current total of confirmed orders is insufficient for even a break-even, but this doesn't mean that game's over for the CSeries.

When deliveries of the CSeries begin in 2013 - assuming that all goes by the schedule - the actual, real-world cost-savings and performance that the CSeries delivers to its first customers will be crucial to the future sales of this aircraft.

Bombardier CSeries mockup (source: Bombardier)

If the CSeries is demonstrably able to bring growth/profits/turnaround to its initial customers, either by itself or by being a significant contributing factor, other airlines as well as lessors will start lining up in droves to add this airliner to their fleet. Conversely, if the CSeries fails to live up to its cost-savings and performance promises for its initial customers, it could spell a disaster for the future of this aircraft, from which it might never recover.

Bottom Line: The gains that the CSeries delivers to the initial few operators are crucial. The CSeries is an all-new aircraft from a company which has never made an aircraft of this size. The aircraft has no track record of proven cost-savings or performance, and it's up against an established duopoly with high-quality and demonstrably-profit-delivering products, in service with worldwide customers for many decades. Hence, it's unsurprising that in the very-high-stakes business of commercial aviation, the CSeries has so far found few takers. Importantly, the lack of many orders is actually less alarming than it seems - after all who would bet their airline on an unproven aircraft (which is not cheap)?

This makes the results delivered by the CSeries all the more important. Bombardier has to realize that its work doesn't finish with a successful delivery. It must try and ensure that the initial few customers deploy the CSeries in a way that they all profit decently from it, thus publicly certifying the aircraft's promised benefits, quashing the doubts of analysts and of the customers sitting on the fence, and making everyone eager to buy this fine airplane.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Apple iPhone 4's FaceTime feature should be extended to all Macs; FaceTime will be heavily used for real-time opinion solicitation

What if a guy with an iPhone 4 wants instant and drop-dead-simple video-chat with his girlfriend (who's at her home and only has access to her MacBook Air)? Shouldn't he be able to video-call her Internet-connected MacBook Air - using FaceTime - as if it were an iPhone 4? What if she only has an iPad or an iPod touch?

I strongly believe that Apple should extend FaceTime to the millions of iPad, iPod touch, iMac, and MacBook devices out there in the market (through iTunes or Safari). The current breed of iPad, iPod touch and iPhone (excluding iPhone 4) devices should be able to at least receive video from an iPhone 4 (at the other end), while all recent iMac and MacBook devices should be able to do FaceTime as completely and effortlessly as is possible between two iPhone 4 devices today (all recent Macs have an inbuilt camera). The future breed of iPad and iPod touch devices should incorporate the necessary hardware and software to allow full-fledged two-way FaceTime calls.

MacBook Air with inbuilt camera - opening the possibility of FaceTime

FaceTime could even be used as the standard way to video-chat between two Macs, or between two (future) iPads or (future) iPod touch devices (over Wi-Fi). Extending FaceTime to these additional Macintosh-based devices will ensure that millions of such devices owned by millions of people are already ready for this feature, helping to establish this feature, while ensuring that the feature-implementation is controlled by Apple in its (usual) clean/simple/unbloated and optimized ways.

Also, although FaceTime is being pitched as a way to do video-calling, I see FaceTime also being heavily used for what I call real-time opinion solicitation. When people will be doing shopping (clothes, footwear, gadgets, ornaments, etc.), they'll increasingly be calling up their colleagues/friends/relatives to solicit opinion on the thing they're thinking of buying.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Usefulness of a power-backup system can be increased using CFLs

By installing CFLs on a home's power-backup system ("inverter" or "UPS") - instead of the typical fluorescent tube lamps or incandescent light bulbs - one can increase the number of illuminating lamps that can be installed on the backup system, and thus serve a higher number of rooms in the home, without sacrificing on the amount of illumination and without putting extra load on the UPS.

I realized this when I got an 800 VA UPS installed in my home a few weeks back.

Monday, July 5, 2010

India lacks a fully modular DTH (DBS) TV service

At my home, we have a regular wired cable service provided to us by a local cablewalla. We pay INR 300 per month (total) for cable connection to two television sets (one on the ground floor, and the other on the first floor). We're four people in the home (one family) and the cablewalla knows this, so he doesn't charge us separately for the two TV sets.

His service is just okay, as in
  1. We get nearly every channel (but not all)
  2. The signal is generally available (but sometimes not)
  3. The clarity is just OK (not great though)
I was contemplating switching to DTH service available in India (from Airtel, DishTV, Reliance, Tata, et al.). To my dismay, after conducting some research I realized that at present, I cannot get all the channels that I want on both the television sets for a total of INR 300 (or even 400) per month using DTH service. What a shame!

There is no ready-made package available that fits my needs, nor was I able to create a customized package (using various combinations of the individual packages and add-on packs provided by the service providers). I was surprised and I realized that even though these service providers have ready-to-consume packages priced as low as INR ~125 per month, there is no way in which I can get all the channels that I want on both the TVs and pay a total of INR 300-400 per month.

Which channels do I want? Using this list (by Airtel) as a reference, I want all of these channels, and only these channels: 9X, 9X Music, Aaj Tak, Animal Planet, Animax, AXN, B4U Music, BBC, Bindaas, Bindaas Movies, Cartoon Network, Channel V, CNBC Awaaz, CNBC TV18, CNN, CNN IBN, Colors, DD1, DD News, DD Punjabi, DD Sports, Discovery, Discovery Travel & Living, Disney, ESPN, ET Now, ETC Punjabi, Fashion TV, HBO, Headlines Today, History Channel, Homeshop 18, Hungama, IBN 7, India TV, MGM, MTV, National Geographic, NDTV 24x7, NDTV Good Times, NDTV Imagine, NDTV India, NDTV Profit, NEO Cricket, NEO Sports, News 24, Nick, PIX, Pogo, PTC News, PTC Punjabi, Russia Today, SAB TV, Sahara Filmy, Sahara ONE, SET MAX, Sony, Star Cricket, Star Gold, Star Movies, Star News, Star ONE, Star Plus, Star Sports, Star Utsav, Star World, TEN Sports, Times NOW, UTV Hindi Movies, WB, Zee Business, Zee Cafe, Zee Cinema, Zee News, Zee Punjabi, Zee Sports, Zee Studio, Zee Trendz, Zee TV, Zoom

That adds up to 80 channels, less than the 93 channels in Airtel's cheapest package (Super Value Pack at INR 115 + taxes per month). Even if the higher individual cost of many of the channels in my list is taken into account, the total cost of these 80 channels shouldn't exceed INR 200-250 a month. A reasonable INR 100-150 for the second TV should allow me to have all my channels on both the TVs for INR 300-400 a month.

What's disappointing is that currently none of the DTH service providers in India allow a customer to pick only the channels he wants. One is forced to have pointless and undesired channels which one does not need or want, and pay for these. A possible reason for this is that some media companies price and sell their channels in groups/packs, rather than individually, making it impossible for DTH providers to allow these to be picked individually.

To summarize, it's both sad and alarming that an Indian customer can't pick only the specific channels he wants and pay just for these. Perhaps a future DTH operator will use this as a differentiating factor. Till then, I'm stranded with the local cablewalla.