Know Everything!

stock-vector-jack-king-queen-of-spades-vector-28951519When I was doing my undergraduate I was used to be regularly questioned by my friends on my interests in information technologies being a Chemical Engineer. I used to reply back stating that I am trying to find a link between the two. Though at that time my interests were not really based on what I claimed, I found my job requiring skills in both the areas and hence helping me perform better.

Today I find knowledge of ‘finance’, ‘history’, ‘psychology’ and ‘economics’ are essential to move up. Many technical people want to stay focused in their areas of interest which are mostly very narrow and expect to gain expertise in that field. But the whole idea can be challenged. Lack of knowledge in subject areas which seem totally unrelated can be a hurdle to professional growth even on technical areas of focus.

Knowledge of ‘history’ and ‘culture’ is very important to understand why your counterpart in an overseas affiliate behaves differently, knowledge of ‘finance’ is very essential to understand why and how top management decisions are made, knowing ‘psychology’ can help handle your sub ordinates better. Applying technical judgments in business world will fail miserably. Many technical people feel decisions are forced upon them because they fail to understand business needs and in a globalized environment they feel deserted when they fail to understand the history, culture and psychology of their colleagues.

Even technically many people want to ‘focus’ their expertise only on certain technical areas. Either they consider other areas not as challenging as their areas of expertise or they feel even their focus area is too much for their lifetime. And even to reason this behavior, knowledge of Indian culture and psychology is important. In Indian society ‘engineering’ enjoys higher status as compared to basic sciences, literature… And if you apply some ‘statistics’ you will find that this is purely linked to the higher average pay engineering graduates enjoy. Whether the JOBS really do any ‘engineering’ is a BIG QUESTION! I personally felt science more challenging and difficult than engineering. And today when I read the ‘history’ of ‘science’ itself it is difficult to make judgments on the validity of engineering we are doing now which are again based on science.

From childhood this idea has been drummed into us again and again: stay focused, jack of all trade makes king of none etc.. It might be true if our objectives are broader considering our lifespan on earth. Pathetically these objectives are too narrow or too ‘technical’ that it prevents achieve these objectives. Most of the seemingly unrelated subjects are highly correlated and technologies have very small lifespan. Hence to be successful it is essential to ‘KNOW EVRYTHING’

Note: The word ‘technical’ is not used with the right meaning in this blog. Even I was stamped non-technical by few people. To them technical is IT and rest of the world is non-technical 🙂

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Endhiran – Tamil Cinema 2.0 : DOT!

image ‘Where there is a will there is a way’ – Applies to Endhiran and also getting a ticket to Endhiran on second day of release. Getting a ticket to Endhiran itself was an experience. Having never planned to buy a ticket and searching for the ticket on second day of release for evening show is real madness. With all the media hype pre and post release it is near impossible to book a ticket online. But to our (Me and Priya) luck we found 2 tickets at INOX Jayanagar. We were appreciating our luck without common sense. Oops! No matter how many times we tried that ticket could never be booked. We drove to the theatre to find out if these tickets could be released for us. To our surprise we found a dozen people complaining about the locked tickets and get them issued to them. They were complaining several issues including the jammed INOX website and SMS booking. It was easier for INOX management to complain the Ayodhya verdict for the issues they were facing with online and sms booking.

We called the manager and told him that the ticket got blocked because of us and asked him to release the tickets to us. After several arguments he insisted to come 2 hrs before show when he will have the authority to release the blocked tickets. I left my mobile number with him. We came 2 hrs earlier to the show just to find that the manager was having problems releasing the tickets. Then came in one gentlemen with a bundle of tickets (around 10) as his plan for watching the movie with his friends got cancelled. People surrounded him like a swarm of bees but we managed to get two tickets to the evening show.

We entered the cinema hall at last. When you watch a movie or review them, especially when they are Indian and Rajinikanth’s there are few things you need to switch off (Logical Analysis and Common Sense). A film is meant for entertainment and purely entertainment. It would be your mistake if you try to apply the laws of the physical world.

Having known tamil cinema one would be curious to know how certain contrasting features were matched (Science Fiction and Masala, Scientist and Rajini, Rajini and Aishwarya). Kudos to director Shankar. The film goes so well that you never think about these till the end of the film. First the movie is not a normal Rajini movie as one would expect. It is a different experience, a Hollywood movie with Indian masala flavor. It is purely an evolution of Tamil Cinema taking it to the next level as in one of the very few punch dialogues in the film (Upgraded Version 2.0). But it is difficult to match with first grade Hollywood movies as seen in many reviews. The special effects are superb for Tamil movies but not without flaws. The stunt scenes in the train are excellent. The climax action scenes are good but exhausting. If something is very bad about the movie it is the editing. One could judge well ahead if a song is about to begin and which song would that be. For a film at this budget poor editing can no way be justified. The song sequences do not go along with the movie. The BGM is not noticeable and is poor.

With all its flaws Endhiran is still superb. With a three year waiting and huge expectations it would be really a challenge. It still impresses for all the hard work, the constraints of Tamil Cinema, the performance of a sixty year old man, the dreams of director Shankar, the vision of Kalanidhi Maran. It has given a message, A movie at this budget is commercially viable and could be made successful. It is has opened the gate for a new breed of Indian movies.

It has also proved that piracy is not a constraint for a good movie to be successful. I still remember when I paid 15 SGD in Singapore for Sivaji none of my non Indian colleagues believed as by the rule and by their experience no movie ticket can cost beyond 10 SGD. And for Endhiran I have legally paid something near by that price. DOT!

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More on Stuxnet – Some Views

 

Stunxnet is beyond imagination. Bloggers claim its targets are beyond process, power and nuclear plants. Siemens systems are also being used in Space as well as Traffic control systems like railways. If you have seen Die Hard 4.0 you can have your imagination rolling!  Now its clear why hackers targeted Siemens systems. But still I have my doubts.

One of the blogs claim it could have even attacked India’s INSAT-4B satellite. Jeffery Carr on his blog says “On July 7, 2010, a power glitch in the solar panels of India’s INSAT-4B satellite resulted in 12 of its 24 transponders shutting down. As a result, an estimated 70% of India’s Direct-To-Home (DTH) companies’ customers were without service. India’s DTH operators include Sun TV and state-run Doordarshan and data services of Tata VSNL.

What does this have to do with the Stuxnet worm that’s infected thousands of systems, mostly in India and Iran? India’s Space Research Organization is a Siemens customer. According to the resumes of two former engineers who worked at the ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, the Siemens software in use is Siemens S7-400 PLC and SIMATIC WinCC, both of which will activate the Stuxnet worm.”

The blogger has indicated that the PLC’s were used in Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre. Might be that these PLC’s were used as safety systems for gas handling. Whether these PLC’s were used to control satellites is a real question.

 

And there has been lot of talk about SIL. SIL only represents reliability of the system and not security.

 

What is a SIL? (ref: http://www.dyadem.com/services/additional-engineering-services/sil/)

A SIL is a statistical representation of the reliability of the SIS when a process demand occurs. It is used in both ANSI/ISA-S84.01 and IEC 61508 to measure the reliability of SIS. Both ISA and IEC have agreed that there are three categories: SILs 1, 2 and 3. IEC also includes an additional level, SIL 4, that ISA does not. The higher the SIL is, the more reliable or effective the system is.

SILs are correlated to the probability of failure of demand (PFD), which is equivalent to the unavailability of a system at the time of a process demand.

 

There has also a lot of SIL4 discussed on these blogs.

What is SIL 4? (ref: http://www.gmigasandflame.com/sil_faqs.html#SIL4)

SIL 4 is the highest level of risk reduction that can be obtained through a Safety Instrumented System. However, in the process industry this is not a realistic level and currently there are few, if any, products / systems that support this safety integrity level.
SIL 4 systems are typically so complex and costly that they are not economically beneficial to implement. Additionally, if a process includes so much risk that a SIL 4 system is required to bring it to a safe state, then fundamentally there is a problem in the process design which needs to be addressed by a process change or other non-instrumented method.

Quotes one of my Colleagues who is Safety Systems professional “To attain SIL 4 the system has to be non micro processor based and hence more secure. It is true that it is more secure as there is no software involved. However practically SIL4 are not used currently”

This discussion on Siemens website supports it (http://www.automation.siemens.com/WW/forum/guests/PostShow.aspx?PageIndex=1&PostID=181715&Language=en)

However there has been some work on SIL using Linux (Ref: SIL4LINUX). And some claims on Software supporting SIL 4 (www.firmafrance.com/Documents_Produits/Produit3396.pdf)

 

To conclude the SIL standards really do not ensure how secure the system should be from hacking attempts.

 

One more question! How come Windows in Iran. Noted this on Microsoft’s Website (http://www.microsoft.com/exporting/faq.htm)

Are there certain countries you cannot ship Microsoft products to?

Yes.  In general, Microsoft products may not be exported to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria.

 

For automation professionals who would like to know more on the infection process read Symantec’s Exploring Stuxnet’s PLC Infection Process

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Chinese Vegetarian

My first visit to China was short and all I could risk to enjoy local experience was to take the local train instead of an boring taxi. I wrote down the hotel address “Hotel Regent, 99 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100005, China” on a piece of paper and started from office along with my colleagues to the hotel. Ignoring warnings of my colleagues I dared to take the subway and got down at WangFuJing station. It was only then I realized I am in a real foreign country. Nobody was able to read the address from the slip of paper, neither they were able to identify the hotel name. And thanks to one gentleman who showed me the wrong direction. I almost walked two kilometers in the wrong direction when one European victim trying to locate his hotel helped me with the right direction. I managed the visit with continental and Indian vegetarian food so I didn’t have a feel of Chinese food.

It was during my second visit I ventured Chinese recipes. My Indian colleagues always warned me taking Chinese food worrying it might not be vegetarian and may not suit my appetite. But curiosity didn’t leave me. My Chinese colleagues took me to restaurants and helped me find the best vegetarian dishes. I was surprised to see them explain the restaurant personnel for at least ten minutes each time they order for me.  I could member only a lots ‘bu sha’s’. Curious I asked them what these ‘bu cha’s’ are. It is a form of ‘no’ and they were ordering something with ‘no meat’, ‘no fish’, ‘no sea food’, ‘no egg’, ‘no pork’ etc… I wondered if there is no single word for vegetarian. True, if they forget any of the bu sha’s you can expect the left outs to be there in your recipe. But it is really worth it, I should say chinese vegetarian is really that good. For Indians, Chinese vegetarian would be a surprise in China as all that we get in India named as Chinese is only Indian.

The tempting Chinese dishes forced me to try them myself even when my colleagues are not there around me. One weekend in the Hotel I stayed (this hotel was Chinese) I ordered fried rice that was supposed to be vegetarian as explained in the menu. When it was served I was surprised to see egg along with it. So explained her bu sha mutton, bu sha chicken, bu sha egg, bu sha seafood, bu sha fish. The item was brought back with pork in it. Oops! I forgot the bu cha pork. I explained her again and she asked me ‘like goat?’. No! I screamed, bu sha goat (mutton?). A few seconds later I recognized that she was mentioning me as goat for eating only the greeny stuff.

Next time in a restaurant I explained all the bu sha’s without fail only to receive a reply ‘bu sha food. Get out!’. They are quite sentimental about food. I still wanted to try. I carried a pocket dictionary with me which had the Chinese word for vegetarian. Guess what! no body could understand what it really meant even in Chinese. Now I understood why it was hard for my colleagues to explain vegetarian food.

Chinese McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC do not have vegetarian meals. I have to manage with fries and fruits pies. However surprisingly Domino’s has a all vegetarian pizza (http://www.dominos.com.cn/english/pizza/pizza.asp# Look for Tomato Vegetable) . He looked surprised at me and mentioned that I was the first to order that particular pizza in his experience. I don’t know how long he was working at Dominos but it’s a comment worth mentioning.

The best of all Chinese dishes in the ‘Gan Bian Dou Jiao’ (Green beans fried with ample dried red chilli). Spicy and lip smacking it was a part of my every order. Next on the list would be sauted mushrooms, stir fired vegetables and the pumpkin cake.  But beware! if you forget the bu sha’s you can expect some pork sprinkled on the dishes!

Chinese Vegetarian in an real experience! You cannot buy it, you have to earn it!

Note: People travelling to Beijing need not worry as there are some few Indian restaurants that serve good north Indian food (veg & non-veg). The Taj Pavilion at China World Trade Center is a good one.

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JA Bonus Miles – Do they make sense?

Jet Airways offers 500 bonus miles for booking online and 250 bonus miles for Web Check-in. All of my colleagues make good use of this bonus miles. It happens one day that I am in front of JA Airport office and book my ticket online with my Laptop, do a web Check in and then take a print out from the JA counter, enter the airport and take a boarding card during check in. I still get the bonus miles while I load the counters. Does it really make sense???

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