This blog discusses the experiences of a consulting professional currently working at EmPower Research, a firm that provides decision support services to clients through offices in NYC, San Francisco and Bangalore, India.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
allow passengers to make mobile phone calls during flights. Emirates said
the first permitted mobile phone call was made on a flight between Dubai and
Casablanca. The aircraft, an Airbus A340, is fitted with a system which
stops mobiles from interfering with a plane's electronics. Emirates plans to
extend the system to more aircraft and later this year add BlackBerry and
other data services.
According to the airline, the mobile service will only be activated when the
aircraft is at cruising altitude and the cabin crew will be able to monitor
and control the use of the system. Passengers will be able to receive and
send text messages, but the crew will be able to prevent voice calls at
certain times, such as during night flights. Passengers will also be
requested to keep their phones on "silent" mode, said the airline.
Emirates said it decided to introduce the use of mobile phones in its fleet
after experiencing high demand for the phones already installed in aircraft
seats. The airline had to obtain approval from international air safety
organisations before adopting the system, which was developed by the
AeroMobile Company. "We have gone to considerable lengths to ensure that all
safety and regulatory issues have been fully addressed", said AeroMobile
Chief Executive Bjorn-Taale Sandberg. Emirates flies to more than 60
countries and is owned by the government of Dubai.
No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG.
Version: 7.5.519 / Virus Database: 269.21.8/1337 - Release Date: 3/20/2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Decades back, one of your predecessors splendidly captured the post-gold standard and the consequent free float of the US dollar scenario rather succinctly when he termed the US dollar as 'our currency, others' responsibility.'
It is this responsibility cast on outsiders like me that compels me to write this open letter to you.
As I write this, I am fully conscious of the fact that we are living in exceptionally troubled times. I am equally conscious of the fact that being the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, you are in effect the central banker to the entire world. Surely, it is an unenviable position.
Your actions, sir, not only impact the United States economy, it does have the potency to impact the global economy. That explains, partly, if not wholly, the 'why' to this letter.
Yes, I am indeed aware of the sub-prime crisis that has engulfed the entire global financial sector. I am sure you are fully aware as to how your predecessor, Mr Alan Greenspan -- one of the most influential economists of our times -- described the sub-prime crisis in his book -- The Age of Turbulence. According to him the American economy was 'facing not a bubble
but a froth -- lots of small, local bubbles that never grew to a scale that could threaten the health of the overall economy.'
Yet, as events turns out, I suspect, Alan Greenspan is wrong. But the point is not merely the judgemental capacity of Alan Greenspan. Rather, it reflects poorly on the American regulatory mechanism. After all, wasn't he the product of a system that was repeatedly touted as
fail-proof; at least in surveillance, supervision and regulation? And my worry is that you too are a product of the very same system that has compelled him to be wrong.
Saving US economy from the US Fed!
In fact, the starting point of the present conundrum was the American assumption about globalisation. In hindsight, your assumption that the world was 'flat' seems to be incorrect. In fact, it was skewed, tilted, slanted -- anything but flat.
Based on such simplistic assumptions that you can prepare a global order for the world, you unleashed a war between interest rates and the index, between spenders and savers, between exporters and importers, and between producers and consumers. In this war, your countrymen -- or institutions that were controlled by Americans -- mostly wrote the rules.
More importantly, the US Fed sided with the index, consumers, spenders and importers -- all in the name of free market, capitalism and, of course, globalisation.
And you thought the world had no other options but to follow your model. It is in this connection I am reminded of the title of the famous book, Saving Capitalism from Capitalists by Raghuram Rajan, the noted economist.
I only hope and pray that your actions do not lead to a situation where we need to save the American economy, the US dollar and, by extension, the entire global financial system from complete collapse from your actions or inactions. Save the US economy from the US Fed!
Your actions over the past few months wherein you have reduced the benchmark interest rates from 5.25 per cent to 2.25 per cent now is akin to a village hakim (doctor) in India, prescribing his only concoction as medicine to patients suffering from sterility to those in advanced stages of pregnancy.
By merely prescribing rate cuts repeatedly since September 2007, to an outsider it would seem that the US Fed is keen to attack the symptoms rather than to address the systemic malaise.
In a scenario where the wave of bad news keeps coming regularly, with rumours of financial institutions going belly-up hitting markets continuously, and with markets alternating between crisis and calamity, one is not sure about the efficacy of the interest rate cuts effectuated by you.
More importantly markets are not responding to your line of treatment.
Or is the diagnosis of the entire problem wrong?
All of us want to know -- in case the problems persist -- whether you will cut the benchmark interest rates to zero? Assuming that the pains in the markets are not mitigated even then, what is the monetary, or for that matter, policy instrument available to deal in such a scenario?
Crucially, even six-months after we first heard about this crisis, despite all the surveillance, systems and procedures, we are yet to figure out the aggregate value of the sub-prime losses. Despite all the tall claims about the efficacy of your regulators, why is that we are still kept in the dark? Is it that they are unable to fathom the problem?
Or is it a comprehensive failure of the entire system? I am scared as experiences from 9/11 demonstrate that American surveillance systems are indeed suspect -- both on fiscal and physical matters.
Is it a mere $100-200 billion, as it was reported originally and thereupon dismissed as inconsequential by some? Or is it $400-600 billion as reported by UBS or Goldman Sachs subsequently? Or is it $1 trillion as reported by economists like Roubini and others? Or is it something more that compels you to be silent?
Lack of trust compounded by silence
Whatever it be, an official statement from you clearly defining the extent of the problem, would be in order. At least that in my opinion, sir, would put an end to the uncertainty that is plaguing the financial markets all across the globe. And, sir, as you know, markets abhor uncertainty, for lack of trust is highly corrosive.
Nouriel Roubini captures this paradigm brilliantly when he states: 'The lack of trust in counterparties -- driven by the opacity and lack of transparency in financial markets, and uncertainty about the size of the losses and who is holding the toxic waste securities -- will add to the impotence of monetary policy and lead to massive hoarding of liquidity that will
exacerbate the liquidity and credit crunch.'
Sir, the problem that is confronting the US economy does not only concern liquidity, profitability, capital adequacy or solvency. It concerns credibility of the system leading to lack of trust. And your studied silence is compounding the issue.
When rouges go berserk
But this is not a mere issue of even a trillion dollars as others opine. As the Fed chairman, I am sure you are aware of the magnitude of the problem. Let me elaborate.
Sir, you may recall that it often said that when normal men go berserk they are called rouges. When rouges go berserk, it is called the global financial system -- a system that is defined, dominated and denominated by the world of derivatives.
Sir, as you may be aware that derivatives are creatures of the world of 'virtual finance' that dominates the world of 'actual finance,' several times over.
With the best of financial minds engaged in devising complex and exotic derivative instruments, regulators across continents are oblivious to the net impact of these instruments (aggregate value estimated to be in excess of $500 trillion in 2007 when the world GDP is approximately $40 trillion only) on global economy.
In this world of virtual finance, currency, commodity, and stocks have been uniformly converted into financial assets. And as every market gyrate violently, risks would materialise, then crystallise and get actualised, the cascading effect of this highly leveraged game in the world of 'virtual finance' on the relatively tiny world of 'actual finance' is indeed mind-boggling.
Sir, no wonder you are silent on the extent of the potential damage -- both on actual and virtual finance. And this is eloquent testimony to the fact that the markets are beyond your control, your surveillance and your regulations.
Sir, I am sure you would know that even on the morning of November 9, 1989 (A different 9/11) one could never have predicted the fall of the Berlin wall that evening. That in turn signified the fall of Communism. Though analysts had predicted its fall for over two decades, the abruptness did catch everyone by surprise.
Sir, the world does not want to be caught once again by such nasty surprise. Already economists like Martin Wolff (in the US) and Gurumurthy (in India) have predicted large-scale intervention by the 'US public sector' to bail out private finance firms from collapse. The recent bail out of Bear Stearns was an indicator of what lay ahead.
But this solution seems to suggest the conversion of the US into a perfect socialist state -- socialism for the rich, mighty, privileged and those who were reckless with others' finances.
In the alternative, the US runs the risk of going the erstwhile USSR way with the only variation that abrupt collapse of the US, unlike USSR, could have profound impact on global economy.
Either way it would seem that you are following the Russian model. What a fall for a country that was held to be a model for free markets and capitalism! Surely Karl Marx would be chuckling at your predicament.
Sir, your silence on all these matters is funereal. And the list of those who doubt the very viability of the US economy is growing by the minute. Let me confess with a heavy heart, sir, today, I have joined that bandwagon.
With best regards,
M R Venkatesh
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
With FaganFinder.com, you can use one search field to search several dozen
sites that contain rich image repositories. FaganFinder acts as a kind of
front end to the image-searching tool of your choice. Type a search term,
select the site you'd like to explore, and click Search. FaganFinder passes
your search term to the site you've chosen, and you're presented the
The Web is alive with the sound of music — or just with sounds. The trouble
lies in finding what you want. No major search engine is going to help you
to find lots copyrighted music to download without paying for it, but
there's plenty of free music available online if you know where to look.
Start by looking at Songza (http:// www.songza.com). This unique search tool
finds an amazing number of music from both major artists and unknowns.
Included among search results are sometimes rare or bootlegged songs that
have somehow found their way somewhere onto the Web. Songza not only finds
recordings from musicians that you know but also makes suggestions, based
upon your searches, about which music you might. You can also click the 'top
played' tab to see what other users have been listening to. Songza provides
a fascinating and enjoyable way to experience music on the Web. The Web is
slowly but surely becoming a replacement for the television.
Witness the number of videos that adorn the pages of everything from news
sites to Internet forums. Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to locate
a specific video when you wanted to? The answer is Blinkx (http://
www.blinkx.com), which bills itself as the world's largest and most advanced
video search engine. Whether you come away from Blinkx agreeing with that
assessment, one thing's for sure: you can use the Blinkx to find a lot of
videos, very quickly. Blinkx is attractively laid out and, like Google and
other search engines that now offer video searching, makes it easy simply to
type a search term and find some videos with one click.
Tried these out and they rock….
Hope you enjoy them too!!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
More than 20,000 new gadgets and technologies from more than 2,700 companies
were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show.
The BBC News website's take on the devices and gadgets that caught the eye
throughout the show.
Eee GOES WIMAX
The lightweight and small Eee PC from Asus has been one of the tech hits of
the last 12 months and more than 350,000 machines have been sold in the past
It has won admirers for its four gigabyte solid state hard drive, small form
factor and attractive price. It runs the Linux operating system, but can
also run Windows XP.
The company has now announced new models - 7, 8 and 9 inch - but crucially,
they will have Wimax built in - giving it increased wireless capabilities.
In truth, there are not that many Wimax-enabled areas anywhere in the world,
although 70 different countries are trialling it.
But Intel is betting heavily on Wimax as the winning next generation
wireless network and so Asus has taken the plunge - at least, in North
The entry level Eee with Wimax will cost about $999, according to reports.
FEEL THE FORCE
If you have ever wondered what it feels like to fly a fighter plane or drive
a formula one car, now is your chance.
TN games has designed a wardrobe for gamers that recreate on screen action
in the real world.
The vests are based on technology that was originally designed for use by
doctors to remotely examine patients.
The vests, connected to the computer by USB, consist of a light weight air
compressor that pumps air into bladders.
A version designed for first person shooters contains eight cells that are
able to recreate the direction and force of bullet fire.
Another version recreate the G-forces felt whilst driving and flying.
When the player accelerates, the cells inflate in the chest. Faster
acceleration causes the cells to inflate quicker, whilst braking causes the
back cells to activate.
The firm has also designed sleeves, leg covers and a helmet that plug into
the vests to deliver what it says is a "full body gaming experience".
One of the problems of recording TV programmes on to video tape was that
when watching them back the viewer had to fast forward through the adverts.
The same is now true of programmes recorded digitally through a TV tuner in
But a company called VideoReDo has developed a piece of software that
automatically strips out the adverts.
A trial download of the TV suite software which includes the ad remover is
available for free.
It works by looking for clues that what is on screen- such as the black
screen between adverts - before cutting out the relevant section.
The original version of the software - which includes a video editing suite
- is nearly three years old.
But the newest version incorporates useful features such as the ability to
record the edited programmes to DVD.
According to the firm the next version, out later this year, will let users
encode the video to a format suitable for viewing on iPods.
Children's toys went hi-tech at this year's CES.
Woowee, the company behind the best selling Robosapian robot, launched a
series of robots packed with gadgetry.
Its wi-fi enabled Rovio robot packs an omni-directional webcam which can be
controlled remotely using any web accessible device, such as a cell phone,
PC or games console.
The wheeled robot also features a stripped down GPS system that allows it to
locate itself and navigate around its environment.
The company has also launched a new version of Robosapien.
Tribot is a three wheeled machine controlled by a tilt sensor that is able
to tell jokes, read stories and play games.
The firm's line-up also included machines that dumped the cold, hard
exteriors normally associated with robots in favour of fur and cute
Known as the Woowee Alive series, the cute animals, which include pandas,
polar bears and tigers all feature animated faces, and realistic noises
activated by touch and tilt sensors.
The lion cub also has other lifelike behaviours - leave it on its own for
five minutes and the cub purrs itself to sleep. Pick it up by the scruff of
the neck and its legs go limp.
Other hi-tech toys included a flying robot packed with infra red sensors to
allow it to fly autonomously.
RADIO FOR THE DEAF
Millions of people around the world miss out on the joys of radio because
they are hearing impaired.
But a new initiative by National Public Radio, technology firm Harris
Corporation and Towson University aims to change that.
The consortium is developing radio for the deaf, a counter-intuitive
sounding system that translates speech radio into text in real time.
At the moment the voice to text conversion has to be done by typists but
could one day be automatic.
The information is then broadcast alongside the voice transmission and
displayed on a screen on the radio.
The consortium will transmit the first live broadcast at CES using a
prototype radio that has a screen large enough to display big swathes of
They expect the first commercial radios to be available to wards the end of
The number of wires running behind the television has been reduced by one.
LCD TV manufacturer Westinghouse, working with networking firm Pulse-Link,
have shown off what they say is the world's first integrated wireless HDTV.
The 47-inch television looks like any other but has an in-built receiver
that takes a signal from an ultra wideband transmitter plugged into a high
definition DVD player.
The setup at CES was streaming the James Bond film Casino Royale from a
Samsung Blu-ray player.
The firms claims that the secure connection has no lag and is able to stream
a range of high definition formats including the highest resolution TV
format available today, known as 1080p.
The first sets are aimed at business but the technology will soon make it
into the home when the technology becomes cheaper.
The mobile phone has changed the way people communicate, but a consortium of
Japanese researchers and companies are banking on the device to do much
The P2P Universal Computing Consortium (PUCC) has developed a set of
networking standards that allow mobiles to remotely control domestic
appliances from afar.
At CES the consortium showed off an iPhone application that allowed a user
to control a flat in Tokyo.
The user could switch lights on and off, control the air conditioning and
even turn the washing machine on.
The technology is already available in Japan where users of the NTT DoCoMo
network can keep an eye on their home from afar.
The consortium has also shown off healthcare applications including a
wireless nappy for use by bedridden patients and a heart monitor that allows
a doctor to monitor a patient from afar.
Later this year the group will release software that will allow anybody to
build applications using the standards.
No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG.
Version: 7.5.519 / Virus Database: 269.21.7/1331 - Release Date: 3/16/2008
No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG.
Version: 7.5.519 / Virus Database: 269.21.7/1331 - Release Date: 3/16/2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Now I plan to make up thanks to my latest gizmo, the BlackBerry Curve.
Here's wishing me luck!!
Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel