Thursday, December 10, 2009

BBC World - Gaming in the Cloud

BBC World's technology programme 'Click' had a small item on "Taking Gaming into the Cloud" back in June. I had commented on the article after watching the episode, but I had no idea they actually posted it on their website. What a pleasant surprise it was to stumble across the post today!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wisdom in Decay

I aged an extracted tooth (not mine, in case you were wondering) for a couple of days and then photographed it the other day on black paper.

Took me around an hour and 100 or so photos before I got the perfect two shots you can see below.

I can hear you say "Ewwww!", but in my personal opinion, I think the final images turned out to be quite artistic!

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Wallpapers - Matheran, District 9

Matheran (Created 3 Oct 2009)

Matheran is a popular tourist destination, located around 100km from Mumbai. Went there with a couple of friends from college soon after our end-terms got over. It was a thoroughly refreshing trip, and the horse-riding (vehicles are not allowed in Matheran) was a fun experience!

This sky and the landscape in the above image are from two different photographs I took of the place, blended together in PSP.

District 9 (Created 15 Oct 2009)

A wallpaper I made of the very unusual, grungy, science fiction film District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. There are some who hated the movie, but I for one loved it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Antichrist Movie Poster Competition had this snippet the other day about a Movie Poster Competition for the upcoming Lars von Trier flick 'Antichrist' (starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) —
IFC is looking for you to design a poster for the film. The prize? They will use YOUR POSTER in actual marketing for the movie. If you're into design this could be a major way to beef up your portfolio. How many other chances will you get to design the one sheet for a major motion picture? And if you're not into design but just good with the Photoshop, this could be an incredible opportunity to show the floating head poster makers that the little guy knows how to do it best.

Since I had nothing better to do, I actually spent the better part of the day making a poster for the movie. The original image was really huge - 5400x8000px! But you obviously don't have the time to watch a 54MB file load, so here's a much smaller version —

But when CHUD turns evil,
True tragedy awaits...

So I finish up the poster, upload the huge file to my site and go back to the post about the movie poster competition to find the email address to send it to. And what do I find? That the competition has been CANCELLED, due to some legal issues with IFC. Argh!

Oh well, I must keep telling myself that I had nothing better to do at the time I made this.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Internet Filter Fail

I don't know much about Internet/URL filtering tools, but the one we use here in the hostel (Cyberoam) seems pretty crappy to me.

Oh well, so much for my IT assignment on "Does IT Provide Competitive Advantage and Improve Performance?".

Saturday, August 15, 2009

SIMSR Highlights - Induction to Midterms

The Swine Flu pandemic has caused quite a bit of alarm in Pune and Mumbai. It's freaky when you walk out on the roads and see half the people wearing surgical masks. Most public and private institutions have decided to close down for a week or two (how is that supposed to help?). SIMSR followed suit on 12 Aug and announced that it will be closed till 18 Aug. I caught a bus back to Hyderabad that evening itself, and reached the following day.

I noticed it's been more than two months since my last post, so here are some highlights from the recent past —

"The Big Debate" - UTVi Business News [29 Jun]

UTVi in association with CII-Yi organised a Pre-Budget Debate on 29 June at the National Centre Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai. The objective of the event was to chalk out a plan for the Indian Government to achieve a 10% growth target (more details about the event here). SIMSR was one of the several B-Schools invited to be part of the studio audience and participate in the discussion with eminent people from the indsutry.

The show was aired on 1 July (8pm-9pm), and since I happened to be sitting right in the front row, I got my bit of fame on national television. This I know because of the random "Hey, I saw you on TV!" calls from friends. I couldn't watch the programme myself as UTVi is not in the list of TV channels our college subscribes to. Damn!

Karthik's Engagement [2 Jul]

I almost forgot to mention this because the whole thing happened so fast! My brother Karthik got engaged on 2 July (congrats Karthik!). His site says "More information on that front will be revealed in due time", so I'll leave it at that here.

Impressions '09 [6-18 Jul]

Impressions was the culmination of a 2-week long induction process by our seniors. The first week was the 'serious' week, where we were given assignments related to areas of our interest. I was interested in doing something related to Branding, so I was asked to come up with ideas for the relaunch of Voices (a newspaper that is circulated to all the 32 Somaiya colleges) as an e-Newspaper.

The second week was the 'fun' week, where the entire batch was split up into groups and assigned to random events. I, unfortunately, was alloted the Group Dance event "Crazy Feet". So yeah, as incredible as it might sound, I actually danced on stage for the first time in my life! And surprisingly, people said I danced well. Apparently I even broke my 'intellectual' image (which I didn't know I had in the first place) at college after that performance. Not bad, eh?

Birthday Bash [20 Jul]

20 July was my birthday, and what fun I had! First there was the midnight celebrations in the Boys Hostel which went on till around 2am, and then later that afternoon there were celebrations with the entire class in the hostel mess.

A big thanks to everyone who called and wished, especially all you US folks! I know how irritating it is to get those calls connected.

Life at SIMSR

PPT is the way of life! You need a PPT for literally everything. If you're doing a book review, make a PPT. If you're doing a Statistics case study, make a PPT. If you're giving the Marketing news roundup of the week, make a PPT. Heck I even had to make a PPT on myself for one of the committee interviews I attended!

Faculty aren't mindblowingly great or anything, but they're good. Classes are fun, especially Operations Management. Our text books are pretty cool too — after all, it's not too often that you get to see stuff like the Rorschach Inkblot Test (from my favourite graphic novel) being mentioned in a Post Graduate text book!

We are locked down in our hostel by 10:30pm, and you're not allowed to go out after that. So much for treating us like adults.

Our room (215) is the Flip capital of SIMSR. Poor souls who enter our room invariably get flipped (as in lifted upside down) by our very own resident Hulk a.k.a. Anand, till their face becomes red with all the blood gushing downwards!

CS is an addiction. I've lost count of the number of "join cs" messages I get on IP Messenger everyday. On exam days the "join cs" messages are usually replaced with more polite, almost pleading messages like "anyone for cs... please..." and such. I have never played CS, so I wouldn't know if the game really is that addictive.

That's about all for now. Hopefully I'll catch a movie or something over the weekend before I go back to Mumbai (I leave on 17th), because a hectic schedule awaits once I get back!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sleeker, Faster and More Informative now displays an entire stream of recent activity, similar to what you see in social networking sites like Orkut or Facebook. So if there's a new upload or a new comment, you won't miss it. I wanted to aggregate activity on a particular item (like say, if two people comment on the same photo it displays both the comments together), but that became too complicated to implement.

For the UI, I used the jquery.scrollable plugin for jQuery. The ability to scroll through the content using your mouse wheel, arrow keys or the page-wise navigator is pretty neat! And since it's jQuery, it's unobtrusive and cross-browser compatible. Getting the functionality right was a simple copy-paste of the example you see to your left; customising it to seamlessly blend in with the rest of the site, on the other hand, was a major pain. Took me the better part of a day to customize the CSS and replace all the images to get the look and feel right. now also displays all the latest posts made on my blog in a neat and elegant fashion!

I had initially thought of writing a PHP script myself that would parse my blog's RSS feed and generate a list of the most recent posts, but a little crawling through Google and I came across a lot of little widgets that allow you to read a site's RSS feed and display them on a webpage very easily. They all had one problem though — they were not customizable at all. After some more searching, I found exactly what I was looking for — the Google Ajax Feed API. Very easy to use, very little code and highly customizable. Have a look at the final result on my site, it blends in so well!

Apart from the revamped homepage, there are a couple of other changes/enhancements as well —
  • No more Snapshots. Most people I know found the floating dialogs annoying and removing it improved page loads by a couple of seconds.
  • The Artwork Page now shows both the Traditional Art and the Digital Art together by default. You can use the Filter option to uh, filter content by Artwork Type.
  • There's a funky new About Page with all the content that first time visitors will be interested in.

Please feel free to leave your comments — I'd love to hear what you all have to say! Oh and by the way, the drawings are courtesy Karthik (much thanks!), the comics were made by me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Goodbye Bangalore, Hello Mumbai!

Picking up from where I left off in my CAT 2008 post, both K J Somaiya and TAPMI announced their final selection list by the end of April, and I made the final cut at K J Somaiya!

I was happy with the result and all, but then came the important decision I had to make — to go ahead and do the PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) course, or stick on at Wipro and get some more work experience. Now this was a difficult decision to make. I quite liked my current job and there was no particular reason I wanted to leave, and more people I spoke to actually advised me to gain another year of work-ex at Wipro and join a better institute (reminds me of the 'Go for a Masters, or not?' article posted at Slashdot a while ago).

I was brooding over the matter for a couple of days, and these questions were running through my head —
  1. Are you ready to go through another year of preparation, while balancing the 11-13 hour work days?
  2. Are you confident of scoring more than 95 percentile next year and getting admission into one of the Ivy League institutes?
  3. Few years from now, would you still like to pursue the technical line?
  4. Are you sure you would be a good project for the next two years, considering that many of your batchmates are either on the bench or have been asked to come to office twice a week taking a 50% pay cut?

My answer was not a confident 'YES' to any of them, and after much consideration I decided to take up the course at K J Somaiya.

I informed my PM the following day (he didn't see this coming at all) and submitted my resignation letter. I was to be relieved by 22 May, so I had around three weeks to complete the transition to the people who would take over my role after I left, finish up some of my own tasks and complete the resignation/separation formalities.

21 May was my last day at office. I sent everybody a farewell email much in advance (to be on the safe side in case something like this happens). My team mates organised a small farewell for me later in the day, and they presented me a bag and said, "Here's a little something from us so that you don't forget Wipro" — apt words for what was inside. Much thanks!

The next day I travelled to the Sigma office at the other end of the city to complete the separation formalities. By around 3pm I was no more a Wiproite. Oh and speaking of long distances, it turns out I've covered quite a bit of Bangalore during my short stay of nine months! Check out this screenshot from Google Maps (the circled areas are the places I've been to) —

Karthik came to Bangalore on Saturday to help me shift all my luggage; never realised I had so much stuff! Went out for lunch with friends in the afternoon, wearing the shirt they gifted me (thanks guys!).

Caught the bus from Madiwala in the evening and reached Hyderabad yesterday. I'm going to miss the Cloud team at Wipro, the friends I've stayed with for the last nine months and all the fun times we had, but I look forward to what Mumbai has in store for me. The PGDM programme at K J Somaiya starts mid June, so I'm going to relax the next couple of weeks. After all, once the course starts I'm going to have a pretty hectic schedule over there!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Mega Update at

I've just made a major update over at with all the new photos, wallpapers, drawings and videos that I have created over the past year. The following sections of the site have been updated —

Except for a couple of new photos, I don't think there's much new for people that frequent this blog. For those who don't, I hope you enjoy viewing all the new content! Comments welcome, as always.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

CAT 2008 - The GD/PI Saga

In an unexpected turn of events, I scored 95.12 percentile in CAT 2008 (results were declared on 9 Jan 2009)! With the kind of work at office, I wasn't able to devote any time to prepare for the exam this year, so was surprised when I managed a 20 percentile increase in my score from CAT 2007. So anyway, I applied to two institutes — K J Somaiya and TAPMI, got call letters from both of them. The selection ratio in these institutes, however, is around 1:20 (meaning 1 out of every 20 persons called for the interview process actually gets selected), so can't be certain if I'll make the final cut. Anyway, just thought I'll post my GD/PI experiences at both places (who knows, some aspiring MBA candidate might actually find this post useful) —

K J Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research (SIMSR)

CAT Cutoff Percentile: 93.11 (no sectional cutoffs)
Date: 8 March 2009, 8:00am
Venue: People's Education Society Institute of Technology (PESIT), Bangalore

Reached the venue well before time (by 7am itself), so had to wait outside for half an hour till I was let in. People started trickling in slowly, and by around 8.20, all the 200 or so people who had gathered were directed to the auditorium. Our registration numbers were called out one by one and our documents were verified — the CAT admit card, score card and ID Proof.

Then there was a short presentation about the insititute, followed by a Q&A session with the Director and Placement Coordinator. A lot of people were keen to know how the recession was affecting the salaries/placements this year. To questions about sports and other extracurricular activities conducted by the institute, the Director replied that all extracurricular activities are planned and organised by the students themselves.

Once the Q&A session was over, sheets of paper were distributed to everybody for the next step in the selection process — the Written Ability Test. We had 15 minutes to write a 300 word essay. We were given a choice between two topics — "Has Google replaced the traditional library?" and "Business ethics has become just a fashionable word" (something along these lines, don't remember exactly). Five minutes were up by the time I decided to go with the first topic; I quickly jotted down whatever points came to my mind and submitted the paper.

After all the papers were collected, our names were called out in batches. We were divided into 12 panels (of around 15 members each) and asked to proceed to our allotted rooms for the Group Discussion. The GD was case-based, on e-Governance — had to evaluate if India was ready for it, what challenges it faces etc. Was a good GD; even with 15 people it thankfully did not turn into a fish market.

After the GD round, we were given a 10-minute break to relax. The panelists shifted rooms, and then the Interviews began. Since I was serial #1 in my group, I was the first person to be interviewed. Now I'm really bad at remembering the series of questions I was asked, but this is pretty much how it went —

P (Panel): So Varun, tell me about yourself
A (Answer): Told them about my work, my educational background etc.
P: What exactly is Cloud Computing?
A: Utility-based, scalable infrastructure. Took their official website as an example and explained how a cloud solution would help them optimise resources and save money. [I don't think I was able to make them understand the concept completely though]
P: Could you tell me in brief about your final year project and what differentiated you from the rest that got you got special recognition from Wipro?
A: Explained the whole Magnum Opus initiative and how 30 people out of 1500 people from all over India were inducted into the "Magnum Opus Hall of Fame" for their outstanding contribution to the project.
P: OK Varun, you seem to be technically sound. But can you give me some instances where you took on a leadership role?
A: Told them about the events I organised in college etc.
P: Why do you want to specialise in Marketing? [Justified]
P: From what you've said so far, you seem to be thinking about yourself and your career growth. When Wipro has invested so much in you, don't you think you're betraying the company by leaving?
A: Justified that I can always join back Wipro after finishing the course, I would come back with a better skillset and be a greater asset to them than I am now.
P: What magazines do you read? [told them]
P: But don't you think as an entrepreneur you'd also need to know some basics about finance? Atleast things like reading a balance sheet.
A: I haven't had much exposure to Finance in my academic courses so far, but I stay with a couple of friends who do a lot of trading in the stock market and stuff, so I do keep picking up things from them.
P: OK Varun, was nice talking to you, thank you. You can ask the next person to be ready. We will call him in a short while.
A: OK will tell him. Thank you.

Was a short interview, around 15-20 minutes. Wasn't a stress interview for anyone as far as I know. I was done with the entire process by 12pm.

T A Pai Management Institute (TAPMI)

CAT Cutoff Percentile: 92 (no sectional cutoffs)
Date: 16 March 2009, 8:45am
Venue: TAPMI Campus, Manipal

Reached Manipal a day before the interview. I stayed at Janani Lodge (had initially booked a room at Hotel Lake View over the phone, but after seeing the dingy condition of the place when I got there, I reconsidered). The next day, at the new TAPMI campus, the entire process began at 8:45am. There were lists pasted at the entrance indicating the division of panels and the corresponding rooms for the GD/Interview for each. Alternatively, you could check out your panel details from a computer terminal by entering your TAPMI registration number. There were 8 panels that day with around 20 people in each. First, there was a short presentation about the institute and about the proceedings of the day. Here we came to know that the selection process was trimmed down to just three stages this year — GD, a written ability test and an interview (till last year the selection process consisted of a GD, a written summary of the GD, an extempore round, panel interview and finally an interview with the Director).

After the presentation, we headed to our corresponding venues for the GD round. They divided each panel into two groups. In my group, 4 people did not turn up for the process, so there were just 6 of us. The topic for discussion was "Is Slumdog Millionaire overhyped?". We were given 10 minutes to think and 20 minutes to discuss. Was a good discussion, the moderators even commented that they enjoyed our discussion after it was over.

For the next round, we were given around 15 minutes to write a 300-word essay on "Nothing is ever over until you decide it is". Once this was over, they collected photocopies of all our certificates (academic and extracurricular). Then we were asked to report at the venue for the interview. I was serial #3 in my panel, and #2 was absent, so I was the second person to be interviewed. It was a long interview, so I'll just list the questions asked this time —

P (Panel): So Varun, how's everything going so far?
P: Briefly tell me about yourself.
P: What are your views on George Bush?
P: Do you even read? [my opinion of Bush was for the most part positive, hence this question]
P: Watchmen huh... what's the story about?
P: Swap US and Russia with India and Pakistan. Which would be which and why?
P: Name 3 of your role models in life?
P: Tell me in 3 bullet points why you admire Azim Premji.
P: What's your father? What's his background?
P: [Lots of questions on the Satyam fraud case — Ramalinga Raju's motive to buy Maytas, his 3 failures as a leader, the current bidders, the takeover process, everything]
P: I have some Satyam shares, should I keep them or sell them?
P: How long will it take for share value to return to its original value of Rs. 510?
P: Where do you see the IT sector 5 years from now?
P: You said you're interested in photography right? Can I ask you any question on photography?
P: What are the 2 most important things for you in a photograph? [and some related questions]
P: What are the other calls you got?
P: How did that interview go?
P: How do you think this interview went?
P: Do you have any questions for us?
P: OK Varun, thank you.

The interview was for 30 minutes. I finished the entire process by 12:30pm. Relaxed the rest of the day, had a nice dinner at Saiba (Tiger Circle) and caught the 9:45pm bus back to Bangalore on 16th. Reached home early morning the following day.

So that about wraps up the entire GD/PI saga. If you've read up to this point, you either have an MBA interview coming up yourself (in which case I wish you all the very best!), or you have tremendous patience. Whatever the case is, thanks for reading. You probably need a break now, so go check out some funky Chrome experiments, or some Buffalaxed videos like this one.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Art ^4

First of all, a very Happy New Year to you all! Have a great year ahead.

This being the first post of 2009, I'm sure you were expecting another New Year's video or something like that. Sadly there's no video this time; Karthik and I wanted to make one, but we didn't have any ideas. There is something else in its place though, something you don't see too often over here — a new drawing, a new video, a new wallpaper and some new photos, all in one post!

So without any further ado (and any further hype), here we go —

#1 The Drawing

Took me over five hours to draw, shade and digitally colour this thing, but the end result makes it totally worth the effort! This drawing of Iron Man is easily my best drawing till date.

#2 The Video

You saw the finished version of the drawing, but what did it look like before the colouring? What did it look like when the initial outlines were made? I put together a small video that contains glimpses of the entire process of making the final image you see above.

#3 The Wallpaper

Now this is what I call turning office work into a piece of art! The code in this wallpaper is not some fancy junk like you see in the movies, they are actual installation screens of popular open source products we use at work. The glossy background is a heavily edited image of the sky I had taken enroute to Pondicherry.

#4 The Photos

The first image "Open Wide" was taken at the Crocodile Park, East Coast Road. The second sepia shot titled "Father and Son" was taken at a beach in Mahabalipuram.